Should You Put Up with Your Spouse's Broken Promises?
- Dr. David B. Hawkins The Marriage Recovery Center
- 2018 7 Nov
While we may not talk about trust very often; it is a basic ingredient of a healthy relationship. We rely on others to do what they say they’re going to do, be who they profess to be, and follow through with commitments. Keeping promises is foundational to a healthy relationship. When trust is violated with broken promises, our relationship is likely to be in trouble.
Relationships are built upon trust. Broken trust is often accompanied by dishonesty and the relationship is likely to suffer. We will distrust the other, pull back emotionally, and potentially even end a relationship if this problem were to persist. There is a ripple effect with broken promises.
Consider Grace’s painful story:
Dear Dr. David,
My husband is doing something that really upsets me and I am ashamed to tell you what it is. He has promised not to do it anymore, but has broken that promise four times. What should I do?
There are several issues that jump out at me in Grace’s short message. First, she says that her husband has done something repeatedly that really upsets her. Any persistent issue in a marriage that is unresolved is likely to wear away at the emotional and spiritual fabric and integrity of the relationship. Problems need to be faced directly, dealt with effectively, and resolved.
She goes on to say that she is ashamed to share about the issue. Any issue that we keep secret takes an even greater toll on us. Scripture implores us to “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be healed.” (James 5: 16) Shame tears at the integrity of a relationship but is often resolved when brought into the light.
She adds that her husband has broken the promise four times. While we cannot help but be disappointed at her husband for violating her trust again and again and may question whether he is really sorry for his behavior, Grace has some responsibility to enforce boundaries—hard to do, without a doubt. Is she enabling his destructive behavior?
Let’s consider what Grace (and others) might do in this most challenging situation:
First, become clear about her husband’s behavior.
Too often we tolerate bad behavior because we haven’t spent the necessary time to become clear and embrace what we value. Having our values tested, often through painful experiences, can lead to us becoming clearer and firmer in what we believe and knowing what we need to do.
Second, bring the behavior into the light.
Issues remain murky when trapped inside our heads. We need support and feedback in order to gain clarity. We often need to talk to trusted friends, enter therapy, or visit with our pastor to know what to do in a particularly thorny situation. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” (Proverbs 15:22)
Third, determine, once and for all, what is tolerable and intolerable.
We must all decide upon our values, including what we will tolerate and what we will not tolerate. Of course, whatever we decide is intolerable must be, indeed, intolerable. We must develop a firm resolve about what we allow into our lives and what we will keep out.
Fourth, agree upon an intervention for his troubling behavior.
Whatever we decide is intolerable must be made clear first within ourselves and then shared with pertinent others. We must inform others of what we will and will not tolerate. It has been said, “We teach people how to treat us,” and this is largely true. We must share with others what WE are prepared to do if certain behaviors occur. Those consequences must be clear, prompt, and make a powerful statement.
Finally, agree upon a solid plan, complete with consequences and accountability for any regression.
Once we have shared our “intolerables,” we must be prepared to follow through with consequences. We must be prepared to take action, making it clear that we cannot remain in close relationship with someone who violates our boundaries. We may choose to allow someone who has disrespected our boundaries to make it right, offering amends to rebuild trust, though again any acts of restoration must be agreed upon and be significant enough to fully restore the relationship.
Have you had promises broken? How did it impact your trust and what did you learn from the situation? We would like to hear from you. We at The Marriage Recovery Center are prepared to walk with you through any challenges. Please feel free to contact me at MarriageRecoveryCenter.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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