The following is a question I received from a man who has been struggling in his marriage and working at trying to do what he needs to do to make it work. Granted, he was a contributor to the breakdown of their relationship, but has been putting forth the effort to right his wrongs. This question is so common that I decided to share my thoughts on the topic, knowing there are others who struggle with this issue:
When one party in a relationship decides to make positive changes, it can create a conflict in the other spouse, they may ask questions like; “Can I trust them? What do I do with my pain? Would things be better if I left?” Just to name a few. Often inner turmoil pushes the focus of blame on the other person. The question arises, “Is this ALL my fault?”
Just a quick question, my wife and I spoke yesterday and she basically told me she can’t promise me that things will work out between us, but she’ll give it some time. In your opinion, from experience, is it all my fault that we’re in this position (and having all of these marital problems)? That’s the image she’s describing, and I’m just wondering if that’s possible. Could it really be ALL my fault?
I will TRY to answer as directly as possible (for me). Is the blame in the breakdown of a marriage ever the fault of just one member of the party? Honestly, if that were the case, it would be the first time I have ever experienced it in my 20 plus years of counseling. A particular choice of bad behavior in a relationship might be perpetrated by one party or the other, but those individual choices tend to be symptomatic of a greater problem and that choice of “acting out” was their way of dealing with that problem. In other words, a person doesn’t just wake up one morning and decide to, let’s say, have an affair. Usually you can trace backward the breakdowns (poor communication, no edification, lack of attention, lack of conflict resolution skills, etc.) that were occurring for quite some time in the marriage that led to the one party justifying a behavior like adultery, as in my example. Once justified, the decision to act is only a matter of time unless the parties in the relationship make a joint effort to address the problem issues together, put forth the effort to change, lay THEIR (yes, plural) sinful behaviors at the foot of the cross (and do not pick it up again) and forgive the past; understanding that it took two people to create the original dynamic that lead to the offense(s). As long as blame has priority over the desire to seek resolution there will never be the investment necessary to bring a marriage into alignment.
I apologize for out “winding” you, but you ask an explosive question, my friend. Bottom line, I believe it takes two to make OR break a marriage. The key to making the changes necessary to salvage the marriage requires a willingness on both parties to take responsibility for their own participation that has led to the erosion of the relationship. God loves to work with honest and transparent people and I’ve witnessed him do nothing short of a miracle, but we ALL need to choose to participate in the healing and restoration process.
My recommendation would be to be intentional about your behavior and choose actions that show your interest in making the marriage work (emotions will lead you to destructive choices!) regardless of her making you sole blame or not. If you are determined and prepared, do not let the decision to separate be yours, let her take responsibility and risk the consequences of such an action. This will allow you the peace of knowing you did all you could to save your marriage and keep the family together. Lastly, and CERTAINLY not least, keep this situation bathed in prayer (including praying for your spouse). Just because you see no forward movement on the part of your mate does not mean that God is not trying to stir her heart. Sometimes the way things look on the outside are not representative of what is going on inside. At this moment she is protecting herself so as not to be hurt. Remember, she is in pain and is not yet willing to take a chance on you. It takes time to gather the evidence that your change is real and you will not do further damage to her. The fact that she, “…can’t make any promises,” and that “…she’ll give it some time”, indicates that she may not be entirely ready to throw in the towel. There may be some hope. As you know, I can make no promises either way, but stay close to the Lord and he will give you the peace, comfort and courage you need to come out the other side of this trial.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
Love your family, love those children. Be blessed my brother, I love you and I’ll be praying for you both today. – Pastor Eric
God takes marriage, a commitment not only to our spouse but to God, very seriously. If the husband has been neglectful of his responsibilities, yet decides to put forth the effort to change and allow God to work in his heart he will only benefit. Whether his wife has become hardhearted by her pain and chooses the path of least resistance; it doesn’t negate the husband’s responsibility to be submissive and allow God to grow him. Remember, it’s not just about your spouse if there are children involved. Even when divorce is likely, you still have the opportunity to be the best parent that you can. It is not just an opportunity, it’s your obligation.
©2016 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design
Ready to Reactivate Your Marriage? Click on the “About the Book” tab to learn more about Marriage by Design: The Keys to Create, Cultivate and Claim the Marriage You’ve Always Wanted.