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Healing Relational Wounds
by Wyatt Fisher, Psy.D.
Nobody gets married hoping to get divorced someday. Instead, people dream of living happily ever after feeling close and intimate with their spouse forever. However, as most people know, successful marriages usually don’t happen by accident. Rather, happy couples have learned multiple skills that have helped them stay connected. One of the most important skills for successful relationships is learning how to work through wounds. As Christians, we know our flesh is sinful and flawed. …“The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Mathew 26:41, NIV). Therefore, intentionally or unintentionally, hurting your spouse is inevitable and should be expected. There will be wounds, so what matters most is how you learn to handle them. In particular, it’s wise for singles on Christian dating sites to learn these lessons now to bless their special relationship later.
1-List The Ways You've Been Hurt
The first step involves making a list of all the unresolved ways your partner has hurt, wounded, or offended you. Consolidating these areas on paper can be helpful by allowing you to view them clearly and objectively. In addition, it provides an organized snapshot on what is most likely preventing you from feeling close with them. Unresolved wounds quickly create dividing walls that can destroy intimacy on all levels. To begin, prayerfully review each item to discern if you may have contributed to each wound. For example, a wife may feel wounded that her husband continually withdrawals emotionally yet she doesn’t realize her critical behavior towards him perpetuates the negative cycle. Next, explore if anything in your partner’s upbringing may have contributed to them wounding you. Then, question if each wound is activating previous areas of pain in your own life. It’s not uncommon for current wounds to be triggering previous ones from one’s upbringing, creating a stronger reaction than would occur otherwise. Understanding how you may have contributed to the wound, how their upbringing may have influenced it, and how it may be triggering your previous pain can substantially increase your empathy towards your partner, which is essential for forgiveness.
2-Take Ownership For Your Part
The second step is swapping lists so you are looking at all the ways you have hurt, wounded, or offended your partner. Now, spend time praying through each area and ask God to help you take ownership for your part in each item and be able to see the situation from your partner’s perspective. Often, people become defensive during this phase and think, “I wouldn’t have treated them that way if they wouldn’t have done x,y, or z to me” or “I’m totally innocent here because I didn’t mean to wound them in that way.” However, for this step to work there needs to be no qualifiers or excuses by taking responsibility for how you hurt your partner, whether it was intentional or not and no matter how small your part. Getting to a place of ownership for your contribution is key because it’s very difficult to forgive someone’s offenses if they aren’t taking responsibility for their part.
3-Confess And Apologize For Your Side
Once you are able to take ownership for your part in hurting your partner, you’re ready for confession. Confession is simply saying you take responsibility for your behavior, you can see how it would have been hurtful for your partner, and asking them to consider forgiving you. One example is the husband who has wounded his wife by continually not helping with chores around the house and leaving it all up to her. The confession may sound like this, “I take ownership for my tendency to let you handle all of the chores and I can see how this would make you feel burdened and like I’m taking advantage of you. Would you please consider forgiving me?” Hearing your partner acknowledge their wrongdoing and empathize with the pain it has caused are key ingredients to preparing your heart for forgiveness.
4-Make Lasting Change
The last step to resolving wounds is making substantial behavioral change. If you own your contribution, empathize with how you hurt your partner, and yet continue to do the same behavior, the wounds will only deepen and get worse. Therefore, make a concerted effort to change your hurtful behavior as a vital last step to fully healing the wound you created. Putting effort into changing your hurtful behavior will help your spouse feel validated and any lingering resentment will quickly disappear. However, this doesn’t mean perfection, just observable effort.
So, to work through wounds and bring your relationship to a place of oneness, be sure to list the wounds, take ownership for your part, confess your side, and make lasting changes.
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Which of these steps do you feel is most essential and why?