Have you considered your part in the problem? While it may be satisfying to blame everything on your mate, playing the victim, this is usually a very simplistic appraisal of the issues. What do you bring to the situation? What are you really like to live with?

Have you sought out expert advice on your problem? This does not mean talking to friends who are likely to side with you and take up an offense against your mate. It means finding an objective listening ear who will evaluate the full extent of the problem, point out troubling patterns of interaction and ways to handle conflict effectively;

Have you been careful to fully forgive past problems? Assuming there has been a change in behavior, and a repentant heart, you may need additional work to let go of grudges and anger, remembering forgiveness is a process, not an event;

Have you both made amends for past wounds? Making a sincere apology is certainly a beginning, but it may take much more than that. Deep wounds do not heal quickly and often require special counseling assistance;

Have you remembered that there are no perfect relationships? As you considered throwing out the old in hopes of something new, please remember that the grass may be greener on the other side of the fence, but it still needs to be mowed. There will be problems in every relationship and, as the Apostle James says, these problems can be a catalyst bringing us closer to the person Christ wants us to be. (James 1:1-2)

The prospect of reconciliation with someone who has hurt you can be daunting. Perhaps you have moved into a place of calm and safety, and like a startled turtle, are reluctant to poke your nose out again. Consider the story of the prodigal son in Luke 12. After squandering his father’s blessings, he humbly returned home. The father greeted him, immediately forgiving past sins and embraced him again. God does that for us — perhaps you can do that for your spouse. Perhaps it is time to talk. Latte anyone?


This article was adapted from Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage (Revell, $14.99, March 2005)

Dr. David B. Hawkins regularly counsels hurting couples as a licensed clinical psychologist and social worker. He teaches at Washington State University and has hosted radio and television broadcasts on abuse and domestic violence. He is the author of several books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage.

Do you need sound, Biblically-based advice on an issue in your marriage or family?  Dr. David will address two questions from Crosswalk readers in his weekly column. Submit your question to him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.