I sat this morning listening to a couple bicker about whether his contact with other women at his office was “a major issue,” or “nothing to worry about.”
To set the stage, he has had several emotional affairs at his office. He vows he has changed and is no longer tempted to become emotionally involved with other women. He is sorry for what he has done and is willing to take action to ensure he is safe in the future.
“I know what I did was wrong,” he said. “I shouldn’t have done it and I won’t ever do it again. I want to work on our marriage.”
“Yes, but you did it once,” she said. “If you did it once you can do it again. I can never trust you the same way I did before.”
“So, do you want me to quit my job?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” she said. “Maybe. I want you to be willing to quit your job.”
“But there is no place perfectly safe,” he said. “If I’m going to cheat, which I’m not, I can cheat anywhere. I’m not going to quit my job.”
“That doesn’t make me feel very secure,” she said.
Back and forth they went.
He argued that his unfaithfulness was wrong, but was now over. He was willing to take precautions to guard against anything unhealthy happening again but one could say he was making a molehill out of a mountain.
She argued that his past meant he would always be in danger and could not be trusted. One could say she was making a mountain out of a molehill.
And so it went.
As you read this story you may be inclined to vote for one side or the other. You may be saying, “He deserves to be cut some slack. He’s sorry and is watching his behavior. She needs to let up.”
Or, you side with her. “He slipped up more than once and needs to be able to voice her concerns as often as she needs to make her feel secure.”
Rather than offer a vote, I suggest the task is for this couple to work together. Both have their perspective and both sides have merit. Notice, however, that both waste a great deal of energy bickering and trying to “prove their point.”
Scripture says, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9) Many other Scriptures talk about the importance of cooperating with one another.
Let’s discuss how this couple can work together on this critical issue:
First, agree that we need to come to agreement on issues. Remember that we are called upon to come to an agreement. Neither partner is “right,” and neither is “wrong.” Issues are most often something in the middle, with feelings needing to be understood, validated and addressed. Getting caught up in right/wrong is divisive and sets the couple up for becoming adversarial with one another.
Second, agree that cooperation and collaboration are key. The process is usually the problem. In other words, it is often how a couple talks to each other that creates the problem. When couples master the art of collaboration, they are better equipped to solve problems.
Third, agree on the solution, not focusing on the problem. Couples need to practice focusing on solutions. Staying flexible and brainstorming possibilities often yields great results. Focus on the solution, not the problem. Make sure that your conversation is “solution-focused,” not laboring on the problem. Make sure you remain positive, agreeing that you can solve anything as long as you focus on the solution.
Finally, agree to pray about the matter. Pray before you talk about any substantive issue. God promises to give us wisdom if we ask for it. Make sure you’ve taken time to sit together and pray over a concern. Ask God to give you hearts of humility and wisdom.
Do you find yourself in power struggles with your mate? Do you need a strong dose of humility, seeking to collaborate with one another? If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to me at email@example.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives.
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