Happy Labor Day friends,
My sister and her husband are visiting me this week. We’re heading to NYC on Wednesday and then to the beach for Thursday and Friday. It’s great to get a little down time. The following week I’m traveling to Nashville for the American Association of Christian Counselors Conference. I have a very full schedule while at the conference so I’d appreciate your prayers.
Two weeks until my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage officially launches. You can preorder it from amazon.com (link) as well as my own website (www.leslievernick.com). Pray that this book will have significant impact on women as well as church leaders and the way they counsel people in destructive marriages.
This week’s video on my home page coordinates very well with today’s question.
Today’s question: I was so hopeful when I read the title of this blog – “Am I Crazy for Not being Thrilled with His Changes?” but realized after reading that it is really more about the exact opposite – a man who hasn’t really changed at all.
I was hopeful in opening this article because I desperately want more feedback about what to do, what to expect, how to responsibly and lovingly handle it when you already have separated (in 3rd month) and he really IS changing, is probably 97% different but still unable or unwilling to look at what he has done for years or try to work with you to figure out why so the changes can be permanent this time unlike the temporary surface changes that you’ve seen several times in your 25 year history.
Anyone with any feedback about this kind of situation?
Answer: You’re not detailed enough with what he has done or what the overall marital pattern has been in the past to answer your question more specifically but you are saying something that concerns me. You are encouraged that he is 97% different since you’ve been separated, but that he is still unable or unwilling to look at what he’s done over your 25 year marital history. I don’t think that’s a good sign for permanent change, do you?
From what you wrote, it sounds like you’ve been through this loop before, he promises change, he does better for a while and then slips back into his regular patterns that have hurt you and hurt your marriage.
Let me make a few observations: He’s 97% different while separated from you. I’m not sure what that looks like in your situation but it’s fairly easy to stay calm, act respectfully, not make a lot of demands, show love and attentiveness, etc. when you only see someone for an hour a week, or an hour a day. That’s why affairs are so intoxicating. You’re in a fantasy bubble where real life does not intrude.
It’s an entirely different picture when you live with someone day and day out and have to share and negotiate all the responsibilities of home ownership, raising a family, paying bills, and getting along with people whose feelings, needs, expectations and desires may be very different than yours. That’s where the real “you” is more obvious because you can’t maintain the façade for 24/7.
You’re not sure whether his changes are deep or more surface, especially since he still refuses to talk about why he behaved the way he did in the past.
Let me give a check list of things that will show you he’s changing for the long haul.
1. He Accepts Responsibility
One of the first things I look for to determine whether or not someone has experienced a change of heart is their willingness to see what they have done and take full responsibility for it. No blaming, rationalizing, lying, minimizing or denying.
2. He Makes amends
In both the Old and New Testaments, making amends towards someone harmed by your sin was seen as evidence of true repentance. Sometimes destructive individuals expect amnesty once they say they’re sorry for what they’ve done. They believe that sorry means no more consequences, no extra effort, and that we shouldn’t have to talk about it anymore. They believe their words of repentance automatically restore trust and repair relationship wounds. But words are not enough. Words can be deceptive (Jeremiah 7:4). A heart that is changed shows as well as says.
3. There is a willingness verses willfulness
When a person’s heart is changed, there is evidence that he has humbled himself before God and others. He can admit that he can’t do it on his own, he is not always right, and some of the things he has done have been foolish and destructive. As a result he is now willing to be taught new ways of handling his temper and disappointment.
He is willing to surrender to God and submit to others in order to grow and become the man God calls him to be. He is willing to have other’s speak into his life and hold him accountable for the changes he knows he needs to make. Finally, he is willing to put in the necessary hard work to get there.
Jesus warned his disciples, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (Matthew 26:41). Many of us are willing but not capable (yet) of doing what our mind and heart desires. God wants to help us change our destructive ways. He wants us to have a healthy marriage, but it takes effort, particularly when your normal way of relating with someone has been so damaging.
Stopping destructive, sinful attitudes and actions and acquiring godly character takes a lifetime so your husband isn’t all better yet. This maturity is a process. It’s an inner orientation of where we’re headed, not a once and done finished process.
So here are three (3) “evidences” that he’s not only willing, but now working on more permanent (not perfect) change.
1. Does he have self-awareness so that when he starts to slip back, he sees it, stops it or self-corrects?
2. Is he willing to receive feedback so that when you notice he’s slipping into some old behaviors, you can tell him and he’s grateful, rather than angry or resentful?
3. Is he willing to be accountable to a small group of trusted men to keep him moving forward toward becoming the man God calls him to?
We were never designed to mature or grow up all by ourselves. A small group of supportive individuals help us make those necessary changes. It’s much harder to hide and stay self-deceived when we’ve invited other people to give us feedback and hold us accountable to the goals we’ve set.
A change of heart and habit is for all of us who love God and want to grow.
I hope your husband’s well on his way.
(These steps are taken from my new book, The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope Chapter 12).
Friends, it’s your turn. What steps do you take to change something that you know is harming yourself or others so that change is more likely to be long-term?
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