Do you want to know the reason it took 4 times of almost getting a divorce before our marriage straighten out? Do you want to know what had to change before we could have the marriage we both wanted? The thing that had to change was I had to stop trying to just smooth things over.
There was a cycle we were going through and it was because of the things I kept doing wrong. Time after time I kept finding a way to undo all the previous good I did to fix our marriage. Each time after we reached our breaking point I would begin to do everything I could to become a better husband. I didn’t want our marriage to end so I tried to change and I thought I was making some serious progress. But in the end, all I was doing was going through my own cycle.
When our marriage was in trouble and my wife had had enough, I would go back to being the guy who asked her to marry me. I returned to being sweet and gentle to her in the way I spoke to her. I gave her my full attention anytime we were able to be together.
And I bought her gifts and cards for no other reason but to say I was thinking of her. Then I looked for every opportunity I could to help her around the house. I would wash dishes, cook meals, clean the house, wash clothes, and iron her clothes. Then I did handyman stuff around the house, in the yard, and on her car.
I was so convincing I even had myself fooled. Because I wanted our marriage to work and I had no problem with owning up to the mistakes I had made. I knew I had been hateful and harsh with her a lot in the way I spoke. I knew I neglected to give her attention. And I hardly ever showed her I was thinking of her. If I went to a store to buy myself a drink I never stopped to think maybe she would like a candy bar or something.
And as far as doing anything around our home to help I did very little. I knew the things in my marriage that needed correcting. It was just after I did what I had to do to patch things up and the crisis had ended my changes wouldn’t last. Our marriage would seem good for a while and then I would go back to my old reckless practices of selfish behavior. And the same old cycle continued.
Changes that stick
So after our last marriage crisis, what changed? What happened to put a stop to the old cycle we kept repeating? The first 19 years of our marriage was a nightmare of bad behavior and crisis intervention. But these last 14 years our marriage has been amazing. So it seems pretty obvious that some lasting changes took place in both of us. We don’t claim to be perfect, but we know we now have a marriage that works and will last the rest of our lives.
For Janet, that lasting change took place when she received some long overdue healing. The Lord did that with her by walking her through the process as she went to a personal counselor. She wanted to heal, she wanted to see some major changes in herself. You can read more about her healing from Where Marriage Healing Begins.
My process of change
For me, the process of change came a little more difficult. If it had not taken Janet a year and a half to process where she was with her emotions. With her past wounds. And what she wanted to do about our marriage. Then maybe I would not have gone through the changes I went through. If she had had a quick turn around like she did before, then maybe my cycle of going back to the old me would have continued.
Now as I look back at that year and half of not knowing if my marriage was over or not. And even how painful that time was, I now think of that time as being one of the best experiences I have ever had. Because it was through that experience that real lasting change finally took place in me.
Why I changed
So here are the main points I can take from my own experience of changing and how I think this can help you.
Stop pointing the finger.
Once I was broken I could no longer point out how wrong I thought my wife was. I was no longer more righteous than her and I could no longer accuse her of what she did to ruin our marriage. For once I was only going to deal with my own faults. I would deal with the beam that was in my own eye and stop complaining about the speck that was in her eye.
Brokenness before the Lord.
I could have given into the pain and let anger and bitterness set into my heart. But thank the Lord, He was able to use my heartache to reveal some much-needed truth to me. By His grace, He took something I discovered about my wife that could have caused me to go into a rage of jealousy. But instead, He allowed me to see how terribly wrong I had been. I will say more about that experience in another upcoming post that can then link back here. All I will say for now is God allowed the situation to take me down so low that all I could do is allow Him to build me up again.
Say no to behavior modifications.
There was never any doubt that I did things wrong in my marriage. And so when we were in crisis I knew there were things that needed to change. But the problem was I only tried to make adjustments to the way I behaved. I totally missed out on what was wrong in my heart. I was like a child that gets in trouble and then starts to act right just to stay out of trouble. When a real lasting change has to go beyond behavior modifications. It has to happen deep inside in the heart. Which is why brokenness before the Lord is so important.
Raise the value.
Finally, because of the way the Lord was dealing with my heart. I was able to see what Janet had always seen about our marriage. And that was, it was never what it should have been. I was always content with just good enough to stay together. My commitment was for lifelong marriage and so I was okay with a rocky marriage, just as long as we stuck it out. But Janet knew instinctively that marriage should be so much more. She had not lived it nor had she seen it. But somehow she longed for a marriage where husband and wife cherished one another. Where real love and honor was actually lived out and not just words spoke before a preacher at an altar.
So after my will and pride had been brought so low that Jesus was my only hope. After I seen I had enough to deal with by dealing with my own sin and not worrying about my wife’s sin. After I knew that I needed to change much more than bad behavior, I needed a real heart change. And after I discovered how far away I had been from what a good marriage should be. After all of this, I changed. I’m no longer the guy I used to be and as long as I stay surrendered to the Lord, I trust He will never let me be that guy again.
It is my hope that this helps some of you who read this. I know not everyone can identify with where I have been. But for those of you who can, I hope these lessons I have learned will help you. I hope by sharing my changes I have encouraged you that you can too.
May God bless you as you seek His will for yourself and for your marriage.
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