I’ve shared a lot of advice and personal experiences about marriage in this blog, and many readers like you have responded with great stories, questions, and tips of their own that have made the blog posts even better. But the comments that grip me more than any others are the genuinely unguarded expressions of pain from those in a hurting marriage. That hurt might come from years of critical words, withholding of physical affection, an ongoing lack of intimacy, or general neglect in a marriage. Or it might be serious or unbearable pain stemming from a history of abuse, an affair, or an addiction. These contributing factors may complicate your efforts to repair your marriage.
Wounds in a marriage, big or small, can be difficult to deal with. During a recent conversation with a friend who has been navigating through some painful things in his own marriage, I realized that there’s an important choice that faces every man and woman when dealing with these wounds in marriage. Every husband and wife can either choose to cover festering wounds in their relationship and prevent healing or choose to expose those wounds and promote healing.
There are several reasons why a spouse or couple might try to leave untreated, or even hide, the hurtful wounds in their marriage instead of exposing them. Here are just a few:
They refuse to admit to their spouse that they’ve done anything wrong in the relationship to contribute to the hurt. Or, they worry about being embarrassed and what a spouse, family, or friends would think if they really knew what happened to them.
They fear what they might lose if the hurt is exposed, and that loss seems to outweigh any good they might gain from getting healthy.
They already feel guilty about some of the things they have done or have been done to them, and don’t want or need anyone else to pile on.
Maybe the pain is all they’ve really ever known and so they just live with it because it’s tolerable.
They think, “What’s the use. We’ve talked about this over and over, but the same hurtful things are still being done. My spouse is never going to change. Things are never going to be different.”
In one of my posts, “Confession: My Wife and I Struggle Too,” I shared some challenges we’ve had in our marriage. Fortunately, they are all fixable issues we’ve worked through or are working on. What did Susan and I do to address these struggles and the ways we’ve sometimes hurt one another? We looked for credible, encouraging, experienced voices in books, other marriage resources, and seminars. We worked hard to identify problems, confess them, apologize to each other, and commit to working through them–together.
We also recognized that sometimes we needed an outside perspective. We have found those perspectives in places like a marriage class at church, a close, trusted couple we’ve known for years, and a marriage counselor. Yep…Mark and Susan Merrill have needed to lean on a professional counselor a time or two. And we wouldn’t change a thing. Read my previous blogs on 4 Ways to Know When It’s Time for Marriage Counseling and Finding a Good Marriage Counselor: Stacking the Deck in Your Favor. Here are some more steps on How to Heal a Wounded Heart.
So today, instead of ignoring or hiding your hurt, open it up and start treating it. Only then will the healing begin.
Is there a festering wound underneath the surface of your “got-it-together” life? Or, has there been healing of a past hurt? Please share your story with me in a comment below.