There seems to be a lot of confusion about the importance of truthfulness in a relationship. Many couples seem oblivious to how they are speaking truth, as opposed to what they are saying. It is common for me to hear: *
- “I’m just speaking the truth.”
- “I don’t want to skirt around the truth.”
- “I want to say things the way they are.”
Recently we worked with a couple who had struggled with the complex issue of unfaithfulness and brokenness in their marriage prior to the affair. Both came to The Marriage Recovery Center wounded and battered, wondering if there was a way to not only heal the immediate problem of a recent affair, but the brokenness in their marriage years leading up to the affair. How could we possibly unpack all these issues, they wondered?
What we’ve come to discover is that no issue can be unpacked from a hard heart. It just won’t/ can’t happen. When bitterness has encrusted a heart, they won’t be in a place to hear or help to heal their mate. Hardness of heart creates taking a position, condemning behavior and distancing.
As we began working with Joseph and Callie, a young couple married only five years, it was painfully apparent that there was a huge wall between them. Sitting on completely opposite ends of the couch was only one visual reminder of their distance from each other.
Their short words, sarcastic comments and icy glances offered a picture into their wounded, stony hearts.
“We’re here to talk about her affair,” Joseph said critically, the pain evident in his strong words.
Callie rolled her eyes, dismissing his comment.
“I’m not excusing what I did,” she said, her words measured carefully. “But, there is a lot more about our relationship that needs to be unpacked.”
I glanced over at my co-therapist, aware that this was already proving to be a challenge. This couple was hurting, and ‘hurting people hurt people.’ We both wondered how we would unpack the complexity of their many wounds.
“Folks,” I began slowly. “You both have many wounds that will need to be talked about. As you do this, you will regain lost ground. You can begin to heal and trust each other again.”
“I don’t see how that can happen,” Joseph said bitterly. “I want some answers and she doesn’t want to give them. I can’t move on unless she completely tells me the truth and answers every single question I have. Period.”
Callie looked pleadingly to us.
“He wants to take me into the courtroom and I don’t want to go there. Every piece of information I give him makes him angrier, and then there are 10 more questions. We can’t make any progress.”
“She owes that to me,” Joseph said angrily. “This can’t be about her.”
My co-therapist jumped in.
“Again, folks,” she said carefully. “We want to help you heal, but we’ve found that healing only happens when you both come to the problem with a soft heart. You both must be willing to heal. You have to find that part of you that deeply cares for your mate and speak from that voice. Do you both want that?”
“I can’t say I have a soft heart,” Joseph said. “Can that really be expected of me? She has wronged me. I’m the victim here. It’s her fault. She’s to blame. It’s that simple.”
“It’s not that simple Joseph,” I said compassionately. “While there is no doubt you’ve been wounded horrifically, we need to approach this issue, and the issues surrounding this issue, very carefully. Again, you can’t approach this problem from the courtroom or she is going to retreat.”
We shared the wisdom of Albert Einstein in regards to problem-solving: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Scripture shares something similar: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such thing there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23) Theologians are divided about what such things means, but many believe that it means there is no room to condemn people. Many also believe we must practice all fruits of the Spirit.
When it came to Joseph and Callie, both needed to bring the Spirit of God into their relationship, allowing God to change their hearts. This would bring healing to their troubled marriage.
We additionally offered the following counsel:
First, we must bring a soft heart to our couples work. Healing cannot occur in an atmosphere of hostility, bitterness and blame. Most will retreat with this threat looming over a relationship. While we may not physically retreat, we will do so emotionally. We all need softness and a spirit of forgiveness in order to bring our most vulnerable selves to the relationship.
Second, we are co-responsible for maintaining the soft, safe place. For as much as we might prefer to see ourselves as “the wounded party,” truth is that most couples have hurt each other, often in different ways. Take great care not to camp in the arena of being “the most wounded.” This position is a “legal” position, filled with self-righteousness that inhibits healing.
Third, we must repair any breaches to the safe place. Both partners must repair any breaches to the softness and safety in your relationship. In the case of Joseph and Callie, certainly she had repairs to make regarding her unfaithfulness. Joseph needed protection against any future unfaithfulness. Her fears and sadness had to be addressed effectively and she had to be instrumental in creating safety for Joseph. However, he too had to do some work at creating a safe place for Callie to share and to restore their relationship.
Finally, we must continually pray for softness in our approach to each other. Maintaining a soft place, and speaking from a soft heart, cannot be done without the work of God’s Spirit within us. We quickly run out of energy and resources when attempting to do this on our own. Together, when filled with the fruits of the Spirit, couples can heal and create new, loving connections.
Which is better, connection or separation? The choice is easy. Do you long for caring connection? We are here to help.
Please go to our website, www.marriagerecoverycenter.com and discover more information about this as well as the free downloadable eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, including other free videos and articles. Please send responses to me at email@example.com and also read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website. You’ll find videos and podcasts on sexual addiction, emotionally destructive marriages, codependency and affair-proofing your marriage.
*This article was originally written/published by the author under the title “Speaking from a Soft Heart.”