Key ingredients to restoring your marriage
Over the past year we have watched our friends, Ron and Lori, restore hope in their relationship. This past weekend that hope culminated in Brad officiating at their remarriage. It was a fantastic celebration. They’ve given us permission to share our observations of their relationship with you in this post.
Ron and Lori had been through a lot in their marriage. So much so that they decided divorce was their only option. It was difficult for us to see them reach this conclusion because we had walked beside them on their journey and had encouraged them that with God all things are possible – even the restoration of a marriage.
They divorced and then the unimaginable happened. They changed. With a fresh sense of who Jesus Christ is and a repentance for sins and mistakes committed, this hopeless situation changed to one of hope. They started talking again, they dated, and pretty soon they were engaged. Today they are married – again – to each other. How could this happen?
Here are seven steps Ron and Lori took to restore hope to their relationship and perhaps these will be helpful to you or someone you know:
1. Keep your heart open
To restore a relationship there must be an openness that maybe, just perhaps, there could be a change from how things were to how things could be. This isn’t a groundless hope, but one that is based on things seen—or things others have seen.
You can choose to steel your heart. You could choose to turn away and close the door of possibility in your relationship. But openness keeps the soil of your heart tender and receptive to the seeds of hope that God may want to sow. And that allows room for the Holy Spirit to work.
2. Stay humble
Humility must permeate the hearts of both individuals if they are going to have hope of restoration. This means fully owning each person’s part in the demise of the relationship. Brokenness and repentance opens the way for God to work a lasting and permanent change in how a person views their relationship with God and with each other.
Humility means making the choice not to shame or blame one’s spouse. Instead, each person looks at their own life and addresses any contributing factors they have brought into their marriage, without pointing fingers at their spouse.
In addition, humility means seeking out godly professional counseling to learn new ways of engaging as a couple. It means looking at the issues each has brought into the relationship and being willing to change.
Humility seeks godly counsel from people around you as well. We personally watched as Ron and Lori listened to insights and advice we would give them and then applied those steps to their lives.
In their re-marriage ceremony, Ron and Lori chose several passages of scripture to be read and incorporated. One of the verses was from Colossians 3:13b, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”
To restore hope to a relationship, each spouse chooses to not bring up the past. Sins from the past must be acknowledged, dealt with, repented of, and forgiven. There’s a conscious choice to work through issues with grace and gentleness, keep short accounts, and show each other the grace we’ve received from God through Jesus Christ.
The lack of these first three steps will contribute to the demise of a marriage. But the re-establishment of openness, humility and forgiveness paves the way for a marriage to be restored.
4. Keep Jesus first in the relationship
To restore true hope a couple has to make the mutual decision to have a Christ-centered relationship. This begins by a conversation where each is willing to make that declaration to the other. That leads to a conversation about what that will initially look like. Over time, the couple may modify their path for greater spiritual intimacy, but it should never be to pull back.
For example, when Ron and Lori went on their first date toward restoration, Ron told Lori that he wanted to bring someone with them on the date, someone who would be with them from that point forward in their relationship. He then held her hand and prayed a prayer to Jesus declaring that from now on, Jesus would be at the center of all they did.
For Ron and Lori, their new spiritual path included reading the Bible together. They prayed together. Christian music became the dominant music they listened to. They made the choice, together, to keep Christ at the center.
5. Go slow to rebuild trust
The trauma of divorce deeply affects the fabric of a relationship and family. When there is a glimmer of hope, one or both individuals can want to rush the process toward remarriage. We believe that to hurry back into the intimacy of marriage wouldn’t allow the time necessary to rebuild trust.
Time is required to instill steps 1-4 in the relationship. Counseling and healing involves process and patience. New ways of interacting and communicating are vital for the future of your relationship. Trust comes by seeing consistent change over time. How much time? It’s different for everyone, but your counselor and the godly people you bring into your life can help you get a sense for when to re-establish the marriage covenant.
6. Remember: rebuilding is work
The initial butterflies and excitement that something new and wonderful may be happening are natural and fun. Part of going slow (step five) is giving yourselves the opportunity to grow in perseverance. You’ll experience some tough conversations with each other. This will be part of the process of rebuilding—one conversation on top of another.
In addition, there will be people around you who won’t be for your rebuilding. They may be protective of you and don’t want you to be hurt by your spouse again. Or, they may not want you to be successful because it will highlight their failures in relationships even more!
Stick with the path of restoration and reconciliation. Do the hard work of counseling, conversations, and even restructuring of relationships so you are surrounded by people who are for the two of you and not against you. Remember, with God all things are possible.
7. Cherish each other
You’ll know you’re on the right path toward restoration when each of you can tell that you are being cherished. This means a new and fresh appreciation for the other. It’s a change of attitude that says, “I cannot—and I WILL NOT—take this person for granted anymore!”
In fact, steps 1-6 help to instill and nurture the drive to cherish each other. Ron and Lori have seen that in their relationship so much so that the negative vestiges of the past have been stripped away and there is a new tenderness, joy, and celebration of the gift of their relationship.
Use these seven steps as a guide in your relationship to restore hope. As you do, you will be on the path of rebuilding and you may see God bring you to the same place as Ron and Lori, to a re-marriage—and then you can continue the path to build your marriage!