You finally called a truce and decided that you were going to both work really hard at getting along better. You made a pact to quit calling each other names. No more yelling in front of the kids. Things were going well for a few days. He was helping around the house. She wasn’t complaining about him working late. Maybe there is a chance. But, a day or so later, the inevitable step backwards comes. One of you blow it. Old habits slip back in and you nag about the house not being clean enough. You slip a comment about how he spends more time on the golf course grass than mowing your grass. And both of you agree on something for the first time in months, “I knew it wouldn’t last!”
And this starts the beginning of the end. The disillusionment sets in. Two people who, over the past several years, have developed many bad habits and have stopped treating each other with love and respect were not able to turn everything around over night. The relationship isn’t strong enough to sustain the step backwards. Even though it could be either of you who take the step back and in many cases both of you.
It isn’t unreasonable to slip up. To fall back to an old habit. If you were trying to make any other change you would give yourself a break. As long as you are making progress, a small slip isn’t that big of a deal. But in marriage, one mistake and our memory of the word forgiveness is completely erased.
This happens all of the time. This is one reason marriage counseling may help. As an outsider, the slip doesn’t seem that terrible. “He just lost his temper. She forgot you told her that morning you were going to be late. This doesn’t mean that things aren’t getting better. It doesn’t mean your spouse isn’t trying. It was just a step back.” I want to plead on behalf of the marriage, “keep going. Y’all are heading in the right direction. Tomorrow will be two steps forward.”
Working on our marriage is hard work because it involves someone other than ourself. We can’t control the other person. Since you can only control yourself it is so important to just focus on your part. Keep doing your part each day, regardless of what your spouse does. If you can keep moving forward even when your spouse takes the proverbial step backwards, you may successfully change the rythm of your relationship.
It is the concept of grace. God gives it to us all of the time. He let’s things go and He forgives us even when we don’t deserve it. We are usually so thankful for God’s grace. I wonder why is it so hard for us to give grace to each other. It happens. When one of you keeps trying, even in the face of a backward step by your spouse, the usual escalation doesn’t occur. You know the one when you take a step backwards too, in retaliation….and so on, and so on. Finally, you end up back where you started. But if once, just once, you could keep trying. If you could take the step back for what it is and not retaliate, your spouse would recognize it as grace. The next time he/she may keep trying when you take a step back. And, praise God, now the escalation goes the other way. Things keep moving forward and soon with God’s strength the fighting diminishes. Things get better and, guess what, it can last! It can become who you all are as a couple now.
You may feel that positive change won’t last, but remember to pray and ask God to intervene. Ask Him for the strength to keep trying. Ask Him for His love and mercy to flow through you to your spouse. Thank Him for His grace.
If you need some help moving in this direction, we at CrossRoads Professional Counseling are here to partner with you on this lifelong journey called “marriage”. Questions and comments are welcome below!