I watched in dismay as the couple unleashed yet another flurry of verbal attacks on one another, seemingly unaware of the other's wincing and wounding.
Not that I was surprised at their verbal pokes and sarcastic digs. Both were wounded and expressed their hurt by chiding the other. She felt wounded from an affair he had a year earlier and reminded him of it frequently. He expressed little empathy because, in his words, “she won’t let anything go.”
“He could at least show that he is sorry for what he’s done,” Jessica challenged.
“I have said ‘I’m sorry’ a hundred times, and she does what she’s doing right now,” Gary said, pointing to her rolling her eyes and turning away from him.
“He doesn’t sound all that sorry, now does he?” Jessica asked sarcastically.
“I’ve said it and said it, and all you do is say I’m not being sincere enough and caring enough. I feel beaten down too,” Gary shared angrily.
I watched each pick at the other, both with justifiable reasons. Certainly Jessica had the right to be hurt and angry at his unfaithfulness. Such a betrayal cuts to the heart of a marriage and causes unbelievable damage.
Gary also made a good point, in that he had tried to apologize, with little apparent forgiveness. He felt helpless to stop her derision. Subsequently, feeling cheated and violated, both attacked the other.
Specialists in marriage counseling suggest that a couple in this situation must agree together that they are determined to heal. There can be no “bad guy” or “good guy.” They must agree together that they are going to heal, each owning their part in the struggle. Both must take responsibility---not one holding something over the other’s head.
Additionally, they cannot forget an incredibly powerful antidote: kindness. Both must repeatedly remind the other that they want to be in the marriage, that they care about the other and will work at meeting the other’s needs. They must discover opportunities to extend kindness to the other. Planting seeds of kindness will bring a harvest of good fruit to the marriage.
Scripture, of course, has much to say on this topic. Jesus said, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. And do not judge and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return” Luke 6:36-38).
These are difficult words, especially when you feel hurt and wronged. It is incredibly hard to not ‘take up an offense’ against someone who has hurt you. You don’t feel like being kind. You want revenge. But, revenge doesn’t work. Someone has said that bitterness and revenge are the poison pill you take hoping to hurt your mate (or someone else).
Here are a few additional thoughts about the power of kindness:
One, we must take responsibility for our attitude. While we may feel victimized, and may in fact have been victimized, we are responsible for our attitude. We can let external factors dictate our attitude, or we can choose to have a healing attitude.
Two, emotions are contagious. I’ve said this many times in this column. We can be angry, hurtful and bitter, and this will likely elicit anger, hurtfulness and bitterness from our mate. It makes no difference if you have “the right” to be hurtful. If you choose to be hurtful, hurtfulness will likely come back to you.
Three, we can always be kind and respectful. It takes great character to be kind in the face of adversity. But, a little kindness goes a long way in developing our character, as well as eliciting kindness in others toward us. Remember why you are with your mate. Adversity clouds our perspective, but we can always step back and remember—reattach to the fondness we have toward our mate.
Four, kindness changes us. It is not hard to understand why Scripture implores us to be merciful and kind to others. Just as bitterness changes us for the worse, kindness changes us for the better. There is a spiritual principle at play: as we do to others, so it will be done to us. Plant seeds of kindness and you will reap a spiritual harvest of blessings.
Finally, notice the reverberation of kindness. Kindness has a ripple effect. Notice how people are drawn to kind people. Notice how they attract goodness to them. I’m always delighted when a couple, previously angry and fighting, choose to set off a ripple effect of caring and kindness. Their hearts soften. They loosen up and their communication becomes more compassionate. Their connection to each other is reestablished, bringing smiles and warmth to the room.
Share your feedback or send a confidential note to me at TheRelationshipDoctor@Gmail.com and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on my website www.MarriageRecoveryCenter.comand YourRelationshipDoctor.com.You’ll find videos and podcasts on saving a troubled marriage, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
Publication Date: June 12, 2012