Updated: Dec 4, 2021
Most of what we have been providing on this blog site has been to foster healthy relationships and avoid the potential of being faced with the prospect of divorce. However, it is quite possible that there are relationships right now that are already privately wrestling with this as a reality.
Divorce. With all of the books, articles, experts, self-help guides, counselors, churches, clinics, in-depth studies, programs, and more that are available, it would seem that divorce would be a rarer occurrence than it is. However, that is not the case.
So why is that?
In our early years of pastoring, Yvonne and I had counseled couples that were struggling in their relationships, following the common practices used in pastoral care. However, in all honesty, we found ourselves frustrated that many of those relationships did not improve. The information was correct, the steps to take were solid, the processes provided were standard practice. And yet, for many, it was to no avail. It often seemed like we were more invested in seeing their relationship improve than they were.
We asked ourselves what was missing? Then one day, as we were reminiscing, it dawned on us what that was. And, it altered our focus and approach to helping marriages. This blog site is a culmination of that change made so many years ago. In the past, we, like many, approached marriage counseling through the lens of practical, informational, intellectual, and religious applications. Do these steps, take this 12-week course, study these verses, have share time, understand the meanings of certain things, role play, practice (which was more like “fake it til you make it!”) being more compassionate, caring, and understanding until you are. These are a few examples that are common.
The problem with all of this is that it is primarily intellectual in nature. Sure, information can be factual, revealing, practical, applicable, and reasonable. Most things can be learned and understood with proper guidance and training. Take being hired for a new job as an example. We can be trained in fulfilling the position. We can learn “the ropes” to know how things get done and how to fulfill the role we were hired to do. However, that doesn’t mean that we are emotionally or personally invested in it. Or, most assuredly not intimately connected to it. The job fulfills a purpose and really nothing more.
Likewise, couples looking to avoid divorce can be trained in fulfilling a role (often feeling they need to out of duty), what to do, how to act, how to “perform”. How to be an actor in a play. But that does not mean they are truly invested in change. Couples can get really good at doing the “job”, and even get some satisfaction for a job well done, but that is not the same as having a healthy, vibrant relationship. The problem with all the learning, acting, practicing, tutoring, and more is that they don’t translate very well in helping two people who are going through emotional turmoil within themselves and toward each other. Nor do they translate very well in effectiveness toward what makes relationships… well, relationships.
So, what does make relationships, relationships? We have referred to it in the past as the “heart & soul” of an individual. It is here where our feelings, passions, and emotions reside. And, where our love either grows or dies. It is out of what we have filling our hearts that will flow out and impact everything else.
When we really fall in love, it is not through head knowledge. It is not through practicality or reason. No, it all starts from the deepest part of what makes up much of who we are.
Not all marriage relationships start with an important ingredient that makes possible a means of restoration, should a couple find that they are on the brink of divorce. This ingredient springs forth from the heart & soul. It is that initial “spark” that is often undefinable, and yet undeniable.
This “spark” is what initially tethers two people together in the beginning. And, through which love quickly springs forth. In having a shared “moment” that triggers it all. It may be noticing, as examples, something different in a smile, or unique in mannerisms that draws us to another. Everyone has a smile, yet for some unexplained reason this one, for us, is different. It may be the language, the walk, the eyes. Curiosity and attraction move us in wanting to know more. The personality, the character, the person. The more we learn, the more we know, and the more we fall in love. It is our heart and soul, with its passions, feelings, and emotions that ignite love. And it all starts with an undeniable spark.
For genuine reform and restoration, this is where our attention needs to go to. Information can change a person’s mind, but of itself will not soften a heart. Processes and step programs can possibly show a path, but of itself cannot bind up the wounds to one’s soul. Nor will they fan the dying embers of what love may remain.
Unfortunately, not all relationships begin with this “spark”, this connection. Some marriages are due to necessity or convenience. Others, due to selfish ambition. A means to advance, achieve some financial gain, or a way out of a certain circumstance. There are marriages out of obligation or under pressure. These marriage types are often characterized as cold, loveless, dead, fake, shallow, insincere. And most often, over time will ultimately come to an end. When they do, no amount of counseling, classes, therapy or group sessions will knit them back together again. That foundational spark that initiates a true heart connection just isn’t there to re-ignite, to mend or to re-build upon.
However, couples that have the best chance of their marriage being restored and in avoiding divorce, are those that have that one thing in common between them. It is that “spark” that drew them to each other in the beginning.
For these couples there is hope. The ability to reverse their present course and stop their marriage from dissolving before their very eyes.
The road to healing and restoration starts with the willingness to go on an adventure of re-discovery. However, the atmosphere will need to be conducive to its success. If the relationship is at the stage of hostility or constant fighting with each other, then separate spaces should be considered so that cooler heads and hearts can prevail. If two people are truly desiring to work out their marriage at this juncture, then an agreed, temporary separation will help to allow some things to take place that otherwise will be impossible. Separation should be defined as solely a time taken to facilitate this journey and not an open door to date, act single again, or have other ulterior motives. If one goes into separation with this type of mindset, then the notion of separation will be an effort in futility. Don’t waste everyone’s time. To avoid temptation during a separation meant to work on a marriage, it will be important to be around or staying with family, or friends that are also married. This poses the best health outcome in support and stability.
For those that are not at this stage, but both know their marriage is struggling, then simply being able to provide some regular personal time and space is important. Personal time to reduce the pressure, reduce the tensions, keep civility, and to think without interruptions. You see, restoration starts first as an individual thing. Something that will be addressed in the next blog.
It is not unusual though to find that only one person in the marriage is secretly contemplating divorce unbeknown to their spouse. The spouse may be clueless. But then again, may also have a hunch something is amiss but is afraid to find out. Or, is also thinking privately that divorce is imminent.
This journey of re-discovery initially starts out as a personal one. One that in a marriage will need to initially embark upon, starting out, quietly on their own. However, it is first going to require you in being honest with yourself. If you can do that, then you will have one of the most important tools moving forward. Let’s refer to it as “a reality check.”
We will continue this conversation in our next blog.
Until then, we wish you LOVE, JOY & PEACE!
Brad & Yvonne Adams