How We Used The Aftermath of a Fight to Repair Our Relationship

HOW WE USED THE AFTERMATH OF A FIGHT TO REPAIR OUR RELATIONSHIP

Kyle Benson

My partner and I got into a huge fight about our cat’s litter box.

I know this sounds ridiculous, but hear me out.

We both said things we didn’t mean. She told me I didn’t care about our cat and that my work mattered more to me than the well-being of Miss Rexy. I told her she was irresponsible for sleeping in and leaving the litter box to me as she bolted out the door late for work.

How could we get mad at that face, right?

As John Gottman’s research has shown, it’s not what you fight about that matters, but how you repair when your inevitable differences in personality, perspective, and needs collide.

If you don’t process these conflicts, then you may both find yourselves feeling disrespected, lonely, and neglected—drifting away from each other like two ships without anchors.

According to Julie Gottman, when couples come to therapy, partners “often sit side-by-side like enemy ships, war-torn but still afloat. Many have fired rounds at each other, and there’s been damage done.”

Often these wounds are left open. They’re so painful that we tell ourselves “never again will I let my partner see that vulnerable side of me.”

The problem is no matter how much we want to suppress our hurt feelings, they don’t go away. The avoidant strategy of “just get over it and move on” only works temporarily, at best. In fact, this approach to conflict is often a learned response from the internalized belief that no one will ever be there for you when you need them, so it’s better not to even attempt to discuss things.

Unfortunately, regrettable incidents that haven’t been addressed melt away the positive connection in a relationship, creating a chasm between partners.

The Mask of Unresolved Pain

As humans, we struggle to let go of a memory until we’ve emotionally digested it. It’s likely this has led to our survival as a species. Our brains remain hypervigilant to the things we deem unsafe.

According to neuroscientist Evan Gordan, our brain is constantly scanning the world around us, asking: Is it safe or dangerous right now?

With significant unresolved problems, it becomes nearly impossible to make the safe emotional connection necessary for a secure relationship.

As a result, we often perpetuate insecurity in our relationship, even over things like a cat’s litter box, because we don’t feel safe enough to express our deeper, more vulnerable emotions like sadness, hurt, loneliness, fear of abandonment or rejection, and shame of not being “enough” or being “too much.”

Instead, our partners see a different side of us. They see our anger, jealousy, resentment, and frustration. We hide our softer emotions behind a mask of the harder, more reactive emotions as our poor communication habits continue to wreak havoc on our emotional connection, making it harder for our partner to hear our longing for love and connection.

The good news is learning how to process regrettable incidents makes it easier for us to reconnect and ultimately grow.

In the Love Lab, John Gottman noticed that couples who were able to process past hurtful events were able to build a relationship as strong as steel. Discussing the regrettable incident became the fire through which they forged a stronger bond.

aftermath

Here’s how to do this for your relationship.

The Aftermath of a Fight

If this is your first time using The Aftermath of a Fight exercise, start by asking yourself the following questions.

  1. Am I ready to process this regrettable incident? According to Julie Gottman, “processing” means that you can talk about the incident without getting back into it again.
  2. Have my emotions been calm today and can I have a calm conversation about this incident? It’s helpful to think of watching this incident on your TV. This can help create some emotional distance necessary to discuss what occurred.
  3. Am I willing to seek to understand my partner’s experience of the event and validate that each of our emotional realities are legitimate? Hint: Don’t focus on “the facts.”
  4. Am I willing to speak from my experience without trying to persuade my partner?
  5. Am I willing to ATTUNE to my partner’s feelings and what the event meant to them?
  6. Are we in a distraction free space where we can be fully present with each other?

When my partner and I are both able to respond yes to all of these questions, we begin processing our regrettable incident using the five steps outlined below. For a more detailed version, purchase your copy of The Aftermath of a Fight Guide here.

Conflict Resolution

Step 1: Express How You Felt During This Event

The goal of this step is to only list the feelings you felt during this event. Do not share why you felt this way and do not comment on your partner’s feelings.

My partner went first and explained that when we fought over the litter box, she felt angry, unloved, not cared about, and overwhelmed.

I shared that I felt misunderstood, unappreciated, and taken for granted, and that these feelings had made me stubborn.

For a list of feelings, you can use the “I Feel…” deck in the Gottman Card Decks App here or The Aftermath of a Fight Guide here.

Step 2: Share Your Realities and Validate Each Other

The next step is to choose a speaker and a listener. As the speaker, your goal is to share your own reality of what occurred during the regrettable event. Focus on using “I” statements and what you noticed (“I heard…,” not “you told me”) and what you needed during the event. Avoid criticizing your partner.

As the listener, focus on seeking to understand your partner’s unique experience. Then summarize what you heard them say, not what you believed they meant, and validate their experience by saying things like, “When I see things from your perspective, it makes perfect sense why you were so upset.”

After you validate your partner’s experience, ask them, “Did I get it right?”

If not, ask them to share what you’re not understanding and continue to validate until they say yes. As Julie Gottman reminds us, “Validation doesn’t mean you agree, but that you can understand even a part of your partner’s experience of the incident.”

It’s also important to ask, “Is there more to this for you?” This may uncover deeper meanings or other aspects of this event that they have yet to discuss. Remember, the goal is to make your partner feel completely understood. This makes them feel safe and loved, which makes it easier for you to repair and build a stronger connection.

Then switch roles. Do not move onto the next step until both partners feel understood.

My partner started as the speaker and shared that she felt overwhelmed because her cat who had been in her family for 13 years was dying, and she was probably going to have to put her down soon. She also felt unloved and angry because, from her perspective, I had refused to clean the litter box and instead chose finishing work over caring for our cat.

Even though I really wanted to defend myself as my partner was sharing, I bit my tongue and focused on truly understanding her experience. I reflected what I heard back to her: “So you felt overwhelmed because you are facing the tough decision of when to put your beloved cat down after so many years. I also hear that you noticed I was working and telling you I did not have time to clean the litter box, which caused you to feel like I didn’t care about Rexy. Is that correct?”

After my partner agreed that I had it right, I asked her, “Is there more to this?” After a few more exchanges, she felt like I completely understood her experience and we switched roles.

I shared how I felt unappreciated because I had done many other things to help with Rexy, including taking her to the vet while my partner was at work. I also felt my “working hours” were taken for granted since my office is in our home and that I was expected to drop everything I was doing to do what my partner wanted in that moment. I also mentioned to my partner that she probably was unaware that I had 15-minutes to finish two important emails before I needed to leave for my personal therapy session across town.

My partner validated my experience and I felt she completely understood me.

Step 3: Disclose Your Triggers

Beneath difficult conflicts, even silly things like a litter box, are emotional triggers. These sensitivities stem from personal histories and often make minor events quickly transform into major blowups.

During this step, take turns as a speaker and listener and disclose what triggered a big reaction in you. Add any previous experiences of when you felt similar in the past, including during your early history or childhood, and share that with your partner, so your partner can understand this sensitivity.

My partner shared that she felt helpless and alone, something she knows all too well. Ever since high school, she’s been one of the primary caregivers for her father who has severe Parkinson’s disease. With her mother and brother on the other side of the country, she has felt alone and abandoned in the moments when she needed her family most. She shared that the idea of losing our cat and not caring for her well during these last days of her life stirred up these deeper feelings.

I validated her triggers, and since I’ve sat next to my partner while she has cried over this very thing many times before. I understood what she meant and shared that understanding with her.

I then shared my triggers, which include a sensitivity to feeling disrespected or like my needs don’t matter. As an anxious lover, I’ve often neglected my personal needs over the needs of others. Because of this, I have often ended up feeling inadequate and like my needs don’t matter. Over time, this has made me wary. When my partner requested that I stop working and instantly take care of our cat, I felt like my needs didn’t matter.

My partner asked more questions about this sensitivity and learned more about my history of not asking for what I need and the difficulty I’ve had in asserting my boundaries. She came to understand that this is something I’ve spent years of therapy working on.

Step 4: Take Ownership for Your Role

If we lived in a perfect world, it’s unlikely this regrettable incident would have even occurred because we would have already felt emotionally calm, connected to each other, and fully accepted and loved.

Unfortunately, we get stressed and feel unappreciated by our partner, which makes it easier for us to have regrettable incidents. It’s helpful to acknowledge the things that set us up for miscommunicating with each other, take ownership, and apologize.

This step is about taking responsibility for your part in the conflict. My partner shared that she had been stressed, irritable, and overly sensitive lately. She then mentioned that she regretted how critical she was of me and how she spoke to me. She then apologized for overreacting and attacking me.

I shared that I had been turning away more and had been very preoccupied with work and running on empty lately. I regretted responding defensively and accusing my partner of being lazy. I then apologized for being defensive and attacking my partner’s character.

We both accepted each other’s apologies and acknowledged that things got out of hand.

If the apologies are not accepted when you are doing this with your partner, each of you should say what you still need.

Step 5: Preventative Planning

Have an open conversation with your partner and share one thing you could do to make discussing this issue better next time, and then share one thing you think your partner can do to make it better. Remember to make this a positive and actionable request, such as “I need to know more about what has been stressing you out lately,” not “I need you to stop being a jerk.”

It’s important to ask, “What do we need to do to put this incident to rest so we can move on?”

Focus on what you can agree on together.

My partner and I agreed to get back in the habit of our stress reducing conversation, so we can continue to check in with each other about our cat and the stress we’ve both been holding inside recently.

Conflict Resolution

Conflict as an Opportunity for Intimacy

Every conflict, even the regrettable ones, offers an opportunity for a deeper understanding of each other. While this fight about a litter box seems silly, it highlights how often little things can become big things because of the underlying feelings and meanings beneath.

The problem with these incidents is that we do not repair or take proactive steps to prevent them from escalating in the future. Going through The Aftermath of a Fight Guide has been something my partner and I have had to do time and time again.

Even Julie Gottman admits that she and her husband, John Gottman, have “been married for nearly 30 years with too many [regrettable incidents] to count!”

Constructing a great relationship is hard work and requires growth from both partners. At times this will mean processing difficult events and tolerating discomfort. The good news is these regrettable incidents, when processed, can be used to build a stronger and more meaningful relationship.

Demonstrate Love

DEMONSTRATE LOVE

Family Life Radio

Victoria’s heart hurt. She’d just received news, a few days before, that the marriage of her best friend, Callie, had unexpectedly hit a breaking point. Although they were a part of her church family, few people really knew what was going on.

When she walked in to teach her Sunday school class, she could see the pain on the faces of Callie’s two youngest children. She silently prayed, “Lord, what can I do?”
 
She stepped up and greeted the kids in a different way. She said, “I am sad today. And it’s okay to be sad. Lots of times we put on a smile for everyone to see on the outside, but inside we hurt. You wouldn’t know that I was sad today, except that I told you.”
 
She then asked the children for a hug. “When our hearts hurt, we can share the love that God puts in our hearts with one another, and it helps us feel better. Would anyone want to give me a hug, today?” Immediately all of the children lined up. As she hugged each child, some of them admitted to her that they needed a hug too, including Callie’s children.
 
The atmosphere in the room changed. Her simple demonstration of honesty and love had turned things around for her entire classroom. She encouraged her children to ask for a hug from others if they felt they needed one during the next week.

Today’s One Thing

Demonstrate God’s love to someone in a special way today. If you’re not sure how, ask God to show you. There are times in our lives where our authenticity can open the door for our friends or family to share with us things they may be facing or even encourage them to know that no one has a perfect life. We are all struggling together and can lean on one another and God for help in our time of need!

How to accept each other (without killing each other)

HOW TO ACCEPT EACH OTHER (WITHOUT KILLING EACH OTHER)

Bruce Muzik

This is the final installment in our mini-series on how to accept your wife (and have her accept you) warts and all.

So far, all we’ve learned is that I’m a recovering messy person who spent a night in jail for a crime he didn’t commit.

Only, kidding!

I’m not recovering.

Anyhow, I’ve tried my best to keep learning about appreciation entertaining, and we’ve actually come pretty far together.

We’ve learned that acceptance is cultivated by:

  1. Assuming a Positive Intention
  2. Appreciating How Your Differences Benefit You
  3. Awareness of Each Other’s Broken Toes

The forth and final skill that cultivates acceptance is this:

Acceptance Skill #4:
Understand the Meaning of Your Partner’s Past

One of the many lessons I have had to learn is that my wife’s reactions only make sense in the context of her past experiences.

For example, when I learned that her mother gave her away (at 3 years of age) to her grandparents, it began to make sense why she needs to feel that I want her and am not going to reject her.

Knowing this, I can take extra care to reassure her that she’s my #1 whenever I suspect that she might be feeling insecure.

It’s not rocket science.

When I can see how her past shapes her present experience, I don’t take her reactions as personally.

I can support her when she snaps at me in times of distress. In the past, I’d have defended myself.

Your ability to resolve conflict quickly and lovingly is directly proportionate to your ability to understand how your partner’s past experiences have shaped their present emotional landscape.

Empathy is the natural result of making this connection.

So, how do you get to the point where your wife’s past makes sense to you?

Well, first you have to understand her past.

A good place to start is to ask your wife about her childhood.

Then ask her to talk about her relationship with her parents.

Obviously, you don’t want to come across like the Spanish Inquisition, so set up the conversation by telling her that you want to learn more about her past so that you can better understand her.

Most people love talking about themselves, so as long as you’re curious, attentive and supportive, she will likely open up.

Now, see if you can connect the dots from what she shared about her past to how she behave now.

In Week 5 of my online coaching program, I’ll assign you some questions to ask each other that will help get this conversation flowing.

So, to sum this series up… We’ve learned about 4 skills that cultivate acceptance. They are:

  1. Assuming a Positive Intention
  2. Appreciating How Your Differences Benefit You
  3. Awareness of Each Other’s Broken Toes
  4. Understanding the Meaning of Your Partner’s Past

Believe it or not, acceptance doesn’t take long time to cultivate. It happens in a split second once we see our partner in a new way.

Consider this:

How different would every interaction with your partner be if you both knew that you were loved just the way you are?

Instead of an argument exploding into a fight, you’d soothe and comfort each other.

Instead of walking on eggshells around each other, you could talk honestly about how you’re feeling and your partner could listen without taking it personally.

Instead of being defensive, you’d be curious as to what was upsetting your partner and offer comfort and support.

I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

I hope that you’ve found this mini-series helpful.
 

Till next time, be kind to each other.

How to recover from betrayal (not just love betrayal, but betrayal of all kinds)

HOW TO RECOVER FROM BETRAYAL (NOT JUST LOVE BETRAYAL, BUT BETRAYAL OF ALL KINDS)

Karen Salmonsohn

Betrayal is incredibly painful. It’s hard to heal and move on. If you’re searching for how to recover from betrayal – in a realistic way – read on.

I endured a huge betrayal from an unlikely place – a younger woman whom I was close friends with and mentored for many years. When we first met, she was trying to write and sell a book – to no avail.

Eventually,  I gave her an idea for a book – then helped her to write the proposal – asking for no upfront money – just a small 10% back end commission – should the book sell.   She enthusiastically agreed – thanking me profusely for not charging her upfront for my time. She had a lawyer draw up papers – which we each signed.

To my shock, soon after I got her the highly successful book deal she’d always dreamed about, she turned into an “All About Eve” kind of character  – displaying low-character behavior –  in a variety of fibbing, royalty-hiding and contract-breaking ways.

At this point, I’ll stop sharing specific details of the story  – because my purpose for this essay is not to complain! Quite the opposite! I want to share my path to recovery. I want to help others who are also suffering from a betrayal – either from a friend, a relative, a spouse, a love partner, a colleague, a boss, a neighbor.

A betrayal can destroy so many varied kinds of relationships – and turn one’s view of the world topsy turvy.

Some of my main upside-down effects after this woman’s betrayal:

I found myself less eager to socialize. In particular, I felt nervous to open my heart to new friendships – and thereby to new pain. I felt hesitant to help others with books and projects. I worried they too might take advantage. Plus I did not want to go any place I might see this betrayer: events, cafes, gyms, yoga studios, social clubs.  All my usual haunts now felt haunted by a potential sighting of her.

My initial solution to recover from betrayal:

I told myself I needed to take some time alone to heal and gain insight.  So I chose to stay in my home more, socialize less. It was easy to do.  I’d just become pregnant. Then I became a mom.  In fact, at the time I thought I was going into a healthful “cocoon” – a less social, nesting period.

But as it turned out, I was entering a “cave.”

The difference:

A COCOON is a quiet, comfortable place you go to evolve into a more beautiful you. It’s a safe haven to experiment with new, uplifting thought patterns. When you emerge, you feel in your full, majestic power – flying higher and further than before.

A CAVE is a quiet, uncomfortable place you go to think and brood – to hibernate. Instead of spending time thinking grand thoughts, you growl. You view the world as cold and unsafe.

How did I finally realize I was in a cave not a cocoon?

When I thought about leaving my home to socialize, I found myself feeling heavy in the heart.

In fact, if you ever want to know if you’re in a cocoon or a cave – check in to feel the weight of your heart when you think about leaving your home.

If you feel light in the heart, you’re telling yourself “Butterfly Stories” about the world – viewing life as a beautiful, safe haven to spread your wings.

If you feel heavy in the heart, you’re telling yourself “Bear Stories”   –  viewing the world as cold and unsafe.

I was telling myself “Bear Stories.” I was even doing “Bear Math.”

This is “Butterfly Math”:

1 untrustworthy person = 1 untrustworthy person

This is “Bear Math”

1 untrustworthy person = infinite untrustworthy people

Positive Psychologists have a term for this “Bear Lens On The World.” They call it “Permanent and Pervasive Thinking.” It’s when you tell yourself stories which make you feel like one negative incident has permanent, pervasive, lifelong negative effects.

In my case, these were some of my permanent and pervasive stories:

“I can’t trust anyone.”

“People Suck”  

“I’m an idiot for being suckered!” 

“I shouldn’t help people any more – they just take advantage.”

This 1 bad thing means I need to keep my heart safely stored in a betrayal-proof Tupperwear container.”

I’m not proud of these thoughts. They are grizzly “Bear Thoughts.” And they were keeping my life limited, dark, dank – and making me feel batty – all signs I was in a cave – not a cocoon!

Basically, a cave is a place you go to shrink your life – a prison for the soul.

A cocoon is where you go to grow your life – an ashram for the soul.

It took me a while to look around and realize I was in a cave. I just knew my heart felt heavier when I thought about going outside to play with others. So I decided to journal about my heavy heart. That’s when I realized I was telling myself painful permanent/pervasive stories – triggered by this friend’s betrayal!

Know this now:

Although you can’t change your past, you can control the story you tell about it – and thereby change the effects your past has upon your future.

I decided the time had come to rewrite my story so it was a happier one.  Literally.

In my journal, I began by writing down all my permanent/pervasive thoughts.  Next to each, I wrote how non-permanent/non-pervasive the situation truly was!

5 Tools To Help You Recover From Betrayal

1. “I can’t trust anyone.”

I realized this betrayal shouldn’t be making me permanently anti-social. It

should simply be making me anti-jerks. I realized I should even look upon this betrayal with a bit of gratitude – because it was a powerful reminder to honor my intuition more -and stop being color blind to red flags – no matter if they show up as smaller red hankees.

(Truth be told, looking back, there were times I felt this woman’s energy to be pushy in an uncomfortable, aggressive way.)

Basically, this event was not meant to stop me from trusting. It was meant to stop me from ignoring my gut – and thereby keep me safe from falling for even bigger business betrayals down the road.

2. “People Suck”

Yes, some people do suck. But not ALL people! Plus, I should never allow someone who sucks to suck all the joy out of my day – and my life!

Sure it’s bad when someone’s a jerk. But things could be worst. I could be the person who’s doing sucky, low-character things.

And I am truly proud of NOT being someone who could behave so badly. Indeed I feel compassion for my betrayer. She is stuck living with herself – while I get to move on and away.

But how could I move on and away, when I was still holding onto resentment? After all, anybody who angers me is actually controlling me – which means they are still an active (and negative) presence in my life.  If I wanted to be happy, I needed “To Pull An Elsa” – and “Let it go”!

3.  “I’m an idiot for being suckered!”

When I re-read this permanent/pervasive thought, I realized I was displaying the classic case of “blaming the victim.”

(Not that I enjoyed using the word “victim.” In fact, I’ll be writing more about the word “victim” at the bottom of this essay!)

Basically, calling myself “an idiot” is showing anger and shame at myself – rather than focusing the anger and shame where it more rightfully belongs – on my betrayer!

My solution?

I re-wrote my word choice from “I am an idiot” to “I am a wronged person.”

And the reason I was wronged did not truly have to do with intelligence.

I simply didn’t see the betrayal coming, because I never would have done such a thing. My heart is awake, good, active. My heart values loyalty, strong character and sticking to commitments. Not just for legal reasons – but moral reasons.

I remembered a quote I’d heard: “Fools take a knife and stab people in the back. The wise take a knife, cut the cord and free themselves from the fools. ”

I decided that since I very much value the trait of being a non-idiot  – that I should do this wise choice – cut the emotional cord – and set myself free as a butterfly leaving a cocoon!  The best way to cut the cord? Forgiveness. Yes, even if the betrayer was not sorry, forgiveness was still necessary.

How could I forgive? I needed to keep reminding myself:  Forgiveness doesn’t excuse my betrayer’s behavior. Forgiveness simply stops her behavior from destroying my heart! 

Plus it helped to keep in mind a great Wayne Dyer quote: “How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.” 

4. ‘This 1 bad thing means I need to permanently keep my heart safely stored in a betrayal-proof Tupperwear container.”

When I first re-read this particular pervasive/permanent story, I chuckled. I wondered: “Why should I punish myself for the crime this woman committed? Isn’t that misplaced punishment?” And this new choice (to avoid letting love into my life) was very much a big self-punishment.

After all, love is good stuff! I love love!

Plus whenever I push friends and/or potential-new-friends away, it’s as if I’m punishing these people for the sins of my betrayer! 

Once again I was reminded of the lessons I should be learning: “Pay attention to the energy I feel around people. Listen to my gut!”

Truth be told, it wasn’t my trust in other people that was being shaken up by this betrayal. It was my trust in myself

I needed to re-gain my trust in my abilities to see people clearly! So I gave myself another writing assignment: Jot down all the times I’ve trusted my life choices – and I was correct. Write about all the awesome, trust-worthy, loving friends I’ve chosen to be in my life – so I’m reminded that I have a “good internal picker” and that love is indeed good stuff.

5.  “I shouldn’t help people any more – they just take advantage.”  

When I re-read this permanent/pervasive thought, I also saw it as a form of self-punishment – because I love helping people! I shouldn’t become less of me because this woman showed low character values.

Instead, I should become even more aware of how important strong character values are to me – and embrace them even more fully.

So I gave myself another writing assignment: Write down a list of people I’ve helped with creative projects – and stay reminded how most people do NOT take advantage, fib and break contracts.

Next I wrote about how good it always feels to help and support people – a win/win – for both the giver and receiver!

If you’re presently recovering from a betrayal, I encourage you to watch out for thinking painful, permanent and pervasive thoughts.

Please refuse to become a member of that club called “People Suck.” Please refuse to distribute any of that club’s untrue literature.

Instead I invite you to join me in a club called “You Live. You Learn. Life Gets Better. Yes, You Can And Will Trust Again.”

Although we can’t always control what happens to us, we can control our response.

We can choose the role of victim – focusing on blame, anger, regret and resentment.

Or we can choose the role of victor – seeking support, healing our wounds, retrieving our power, and moving forward stronger and wiser than before.

Broken Toes

BROKEN TOES

Bruce Muzik

Before I share about the night I spent in jail (and how it relates to your marriage), I want to remind you that…

…there was a time when my wife and I could have described our relationship history like this:

Jerk meets Pain-In-The-Ass…

They fall in love…

They destroy each other fighting…

The End.

We couldn’t last longer than three days without a blowup.

We’d point fingers at each other.

She’d retreat to the bedroom. I’d storm out exasperated.

This went on and on, over and over again.

Yet, beneath our angry exteriors, both of us were in pain – hurt, sad and lonely – longing for comfort and connection.

You get the picture?

How did we get past all of that to being a great team together?

One of the big contributing factors was that we stopped trying to change each other and began accepting our differences.

There are skills needed to bring acceptance to your marriage:

1. Assume a Positive Intention
2. Appreciate How Your Differences Benefit You
3. Awareness of Broken Toes

Imagine that your relationship is like a partner dance with one of you leading and the other following.

In order to dance elegantly, you need to coordinate your steps.

Now, imagine that you each have a broken toe.

When you dance together, you both scream out in pain as you bump up against each other’s broken toes.

Of course, neither of you are aware of your own broken toe, so you push your partner away yelling,

“What the hell is wrong with you? Why did you just hurt me?”

Sound familiar?

What are broken toes?

They’re emotionally sensitive spots created in your past.

Here’s one from my past.

As a teenager I spent a night in jail for a crime I didn’t commit.

I was arrested for ‘stealing a car.’

The short version of the story is that I just happened to be near a car that was being stolen.

The police arrived out of nowhere and arrested me along with the thieves (assuming that I was one of them).

Ever since then, I’ve been hypersensitive to being wrongly accused.

It makes sense that I’d be hypersensitive after having gone to jail for something I didn’t do, right?

Knowing this about my past, my wife is sensitive to this ‘broken toe’ and is understanding of my overreaction when I perceive that she has wrongly accused me.

When she recognizes that my overreaction comes from my ‘jail-time’ broken toe, she doesn’t feel the need to defend herself.

Instead, she just holds me. Her gentle touch helps pull me out of the past and back into the present moment.

Make sense?

Your ability to build emotional safety between you and your wife is directly proportionate to your awareness (and respect) of her broken toes.

Why Love Goes First

WHY LOVE GOES FIRST

Family Life Radio

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

─  John 13:34-35 NKJV

God is love. His grace, an overflow of His love for us, is what makes God desirable to those that don’t know Him.

Sadly, we’ve all met people who claimed to be Christians, but the outflow of their life didn’t represent the attributes and character of God. Perhaps you’ve even sat in a church that criticized and judged you because you didn’t conform to their specific list of rules, definitions of what a Christian should be, or even what a Christian should act like.

Our own negative words and actions can push others away rather than compel them to experience the love, grace and mercy of God. Jesus said everyone can recognize someone who follows Him simply by the fact that they have love. True Christ followers obey the Lord’s commandment to follow His example and love first, above all else. 

When we demonstrate His love to others, they gain insight with a glimpse of the grace and mercy He’s made available to them. That’s why love should go first in all we do. That’s why our responses to everything in our relationships should flow out of God’s love for us and for others. 


Today’s One Thing

Here are four ways to demonstrate God’s love. Set a goal to do all of these at least once today.

  1. Perform an act of service for someone with no strings attached.
  2. Offer a smile to everyone you see today.
  3. Steer conversations away from negativity – encouraging positive topics.

Deliberately compliment your family members.

How Broken Trust Regrows: 10-Stage Progression

HOW BROKEN TRUST REGROWS: 10-STAGE PROGRESSION

Brad Hambrick

How does broken trust in a marriage regrow? Growth in trust will require your spouse personally investing in change and your willingness to take relational risks. Your spouse’s growth alone will not create trust without your willingness to take a relational risk. Your willingness to take a relational risk without your spouse’s growth will not produce lasting trust.

How to Use the Ten-Stage Progression

The ten stage progression below of how broken trust regrows assumes a relationship is at its most trust-broken point. Not all marriages that experience the betrayal of sexual sin will start at stage one.

As you read through this progression, two key questions to ask are,

  1. “Where was I at the darkest point after learning of my spouse’s sin?” and
  2. “Where am I now?”

The ways in which trust has already begun to regrow can be a source of encouragement for the journey ahead.

After asking these two questions, make an observation, “What’s next in the restoration of trust?” Chances are the next stage in trust restoration will not be as close to “complete emotional and logistical reliance” as you fear.

The goal for this post is to help you see that if you are currently thinking, “I could never be at a ‘10’ of trust again,” that trust is not as all-or-nothing as we are prone to think when we are hurt.

Finally, you will notice the stages are more descriptions than action steps. These are not necessarily things for you to do, but ways to identify where your marriage is in the trust restoration process and shrink the change you’re asking God to do next. As we become less overwhelmed with what God is likely to do next, we tend to become more cooperative with His work

Here are the ten stages of how broken trust regrows:

1. Require Third Party Mediation

At this level of trust-brokenness, you do not feel safe (at least emotionally) to be with your spouse without someone else present. The high end of this level might sound like, “You can go to counseling, but I’m not going with you. I’ll go separately and tell the counselor my side of the story.”

At this stage, trust is built as you hear your spouse be honest with another person and receive correction or instruction from that person. You still doubt your spouse is being totally honest or would listen to you, but you begin to see your spouse is not a total liar who is so committed to his/her lies. As your spouse cooperates, you begin to trust your spouse vicariously through the trust you build for the third party (often a counselor).

2. Listen and Require Validation

Now you are willing to talk with your spouse in a one-on-one conversation, but you are skeptical of most everything he/she says. You don’t believe your spouse. You believe facts. If your spouse has facts to back up what he/she says, you will trust that much and little more.

This is a tedious way to communicate, but feels necessary in order to avoid pain greater than the inconvenience. Any statement that is not factual (i.e., future promise, interpretation of event, expression of feeling, etc.) is viewed as deceptive, unsafe, manipulative, or insulting. As a pattern of validated facts emerges, you begin to trust that there is some commitment to live in reality that exceeds your spouse’s desire for personal expediency.

3. Listen and Require Less Validation

Listening to your spouse now feels like less work. The rate at which you are searching for questions and processing information as you listen decreases. Giving the “benefit of the doubt” for things you are uncertain about is still unnatural and feels dangerous.

Any statement that is incomplete or slanted too positively is assumed to be intentional deceit and creates a trust regression. As the majority of your spouse’s statements prove to be accurate, the practical necessities of life create an increasing reliance upon your spouse. Each time you notice this happening, you may still feel highly cautious.

4. Rely on Spouse Functionally

Whether separated or in the same house, you begin to “do life together again.” A process of basic life tasks (i.e., formal or informal budgeting, scheduling, transporting children, etc…) begins to be created or reinstituted.

This level of trust within a marriage feels very much like “living as roommates.” The dissatisfying nature of this arrangement can often discourage continued growth (i.e., “I don’t want to stay married out of a sense of duty”), but this discouragement should be decreased by understanding where it falls in the process of trust restoration.

5. Share Facts

As you functionally “do life” with your spouse, there is the opportunity for you to begin to share more of you again. To this point you have been receiving information much more than giving information.

At the stage you begin the process of “giving yourself” to your spouse again. You allow yourself to be known at a factual level. Questions from your spouse that start with “Why” or “How come” are still met with defensiveness. During this stage, questions that start with “Would you” become more comfortable as you allow your spouse to influence the “facts” (i.e., schedule) of your life again.

6. Share Beliefs

As you become more comfortable sharing facts with your spouse again, that naturally leads to sharing what you think about those facts. Conversations become more meaningful as you share more of what you like, dislike, agree with, disagree with, and want from the events of life.

You can now talk about the way you believe things “should” be without a tone of judgment, sadness, or guilt overpowering the conversation. As you share your beliefs, you feel more understood and appreciated. At this stage, you and your spouse may have to relearn (or learn for the first time) how to have different opinions or perspectives while protecting the unity of the marriage.

7. Share Feelings

Up until this stage, emotions have likely been “thrust at” or “shown to” more than “shared with” your spouse. At this level of trust, you are willing to receive support, encouragement or shared participation in your emotions.

An aspect of the “one flesh” relationship is returning (Gen. 2:24). You are beginning to experience your burden being reduced and your joys multiplied as you share them with your spouse. The marriage is beginning to feel like a blessing again.

8. Rely on Spouse Emotionally

Now you find yourself able to relax when he/she is away. You are able to believe your spouse is transparent and sincere when he/she tells you about their day or shares with you how he/she is feeling. It is now the exception to the rule when suspicions arise within you about your spouse’s motive for saying or doing something.

9. Allow Spouse to Care for You

Allowing your spouse to express affection has lost the sense of “invasion” or being “unclean.” When your spouse wants to serve you, you no longer think he/she is doing an act of penance or cynically question what he/she will want in return later. Your spouse’s efforts to bless you can be received as blessings rather than being treated as riddles to be solved or dangerous weights on the “scales of justice” that will be used to pressure you later. You can savor the sweetness of love without bracing for a bitter aftertaste.

10. Relax and Feel Safer With Spouse than Apart

This is trust restored. Your spouse’s presence has become an anchor of security rather than a pull towards insecurity. Your spouse’s presence reduces stress in troubling circumstances. You find yourself instinctively drawn to your spouse when something is difficult, upsetting, or confusing. Even when he/she doesn’t have the answer, their presence is its own form of relief and comfort.

Ultimatums and Time Tables

There is intentionally no pacing guide for this trust progression. In this regard, growing in trust requires trust. It is an act of faith not to say, “I’ll give it three months and if we’re not at level seven, then I don’t think there’s any hope for us.” That kind of time-pressured environment stifles the growth of trust.

Ultimatums are even more ineffective. When you try to make a deal (i.e., “Unless you stop

[blank]

or tell me [blank], then I am not moving to the next level of trust”) you undermine actual trust being built (i.e., “You only did that because I made you.”).

Your goal in reading this progression is merely to gain an understanding of where you are in the development of trust and what is next. Efforts at artificially accelerating the process will ultimately do more harm than good.

This material is an excerpt from the “True Betrayal: Overcoming the Betrayal of Your Spouse’s Sexual Sin” seminar. This teaching segment is covered in step seven of those materials. Many of the “but what about…” questions that undoubtedly arose while reading this post, were likely covered in earlier portions of this curriculum.

8 Relationship-Saving Principles You Can Start Using Tonight

8 RELATIONSHIP-SAVING PRINCIPLES YOU CAN START USING TONIGHT

Jay and Lori Pyatt

I’ll be honest with you. I betrayed my wife. 

I lied to her almost every night for four straight years. I did a quick estimate and figured that I lied at least 1,000 times to her face in those four years. I know how to destroy trust in a relationship. 

Thankfully, I learned how to rebuild that trust.

It wasn’t easy.

It was the single hardest, worst, and most challenging thing I’ve ever done–and I have run a marathon.

But, I did it. And here is the really important thing: rebuilding trust is worth it.

While your relationship will never be the same as it was, it could actually be even better.

Here’s why:

  • You will heal the person you betrayed.
  • You can look yourself in the mirror again, knowing you are an upstanding person.
  • Your relationship will be stronger and more satisfying for both of you.

The years of pornography did a lot of damage, but what I found to be even more damaging was the lies I told and the behavior that surrounded my actions.

For quite some time, I didn’t fully understand the damage I had done to my relationship with my spouse.

FoolishlyI thought that just telling the truth would fix things. My thought was, “If I quit lying, everything will be OK. I just have to be honest when she asks me questions. She should trust me again in two or three weeks.”

This didn’t work. There is little ground for telling the truth when you have already been lying for so long. There isn’t a way to verify what the heck is going on. Even after I stopped lying, my wife still didn’t feel safe, and she certainly didn’t trust me. Stepping forward with the truth wasn’t enough to turn our relationship around.

I had to become radical in my honesty. I had to put more energy into the relationship than I had previously. I had to grow. I had to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Like I said, rebuilding trust challenged me more than anything I have ever done.

Can You Rebuild Trust?

My very firm answer on this is, well, “maybe.”

Not everyone chooses a relationship over their own comfort. Not everyone wants to humble themselves in front of the person they betrayed. Sometimes the cost to the betrayed person exceeds the time needed to rebuild.

However, I rebuilt trust, so it can be done. I actually help other guys and they have rebuilt trust in their marriages as well.

There is hope for you, if you are willing to do the work. 

Hard work. 

Scary work.

Are you willing to do it? Because if you aren’t, tell the other person right now. Rip off the bandage and tell them you don’t want the relationship any longer. Walk out the front door.

How to Rebuild Trust

Okay, if you are still with me, then there is a chance for you to rebuild trust in a relationship wrecked with lies, deception, or sneakiness.

To rebuild trust, I needed to take a different approach than I had in the past. My normal behaviors and attitudes led me to me where I was, but they would not guide me to where I ultimately wanted to be.

In simple terms, I had to “grow up”; I lived in an immature and uneducated state of mind. Growth is painful – ask anyone trying to get into shape. Using new muscles and developing new habits takes effort, focus, and a degree of suffering.

Just telling you to “grow up” isn’t terribly helpful and probably feels a little insulting. I am okay with the insulting part: if you need to rebuild trust, then you didn’t get here through honorable behavior.

Here are seven relationship-saving principles to integrate into every interaction with the person you betrayed. You will need to work on and use each of these principles constantly in the rebuilding process.

1. Humility

This principle is the building block for all of the others that will follow. Repairing your relationship should be a humbling experience. 

In my personal definition, humility is knowing the truth of who you are and accepting it. For me, I frequently chose self-loathing over of humility. Self-loathing causes problems because we want to see ourselves in a better light and might resist accepting the truth of our actions.

Humility also means letting your hurting spouse share their own pain without fear of judgment or being fixed. They need you to feel their pain, because only you can heal it effectively.

2. Consistency

To rebuild trust, I had to be consistent. Anything I committed to do, I had to see it through. My wife lived in fear of the uncertain ground I created by lying. When I would start something good, only to fall quickly back into past behavior, this just reminded her of how little she could count on me.

So, if you start something, stick to it.

There are some pitfalls to consistency, but you need to stay consistent or the person you betrayed will see this as playing with their trust (and heart).

Stay consistent, or your efforts are a waste.

3. Proactivity

To be honest, this word annoyed me for a long time. Both my therapist and my wife kept telling me to “be proactive.”

I didn’t get it. “I think I know what the word means, but not what it means mechanically. What am I supposed to do proactively?”

The answer is: take action on your own initiative. Don’t wait for the person you betrayed to tell you what they need. Go ask them.

Once they tell you what they need, go do it. 

4. Meeting Needs

The person you broke trust with has specific needs. Find out what they are.

Now, go back to step three and start meeting these needs proactively.

This is the growth process I mentioned earlier. You will have to set your own needs aside to meet the needs of the other person. Considering the possible alternatives, this is a small price to pay.

5. Openness

Openness and honesty are two sides of the same coin. Honesty means that if I ask you a question, you tell me the truth. Openness means that you tell me the truth without me having to ask the “right” question, especially in areas where trust is broken.

Rebuilding trust requires a new level of communication with the person you betrayed. 

You must talk to them about what you are doing, plain and simple.

I am not saying, “Hey, this is a good idea!” I am telling you that openness is a requirement. If you aren’t willing to give the other person this much access to your life, you may never rebuild trust.

Giving full access to the person you betrayed will help them see your commitment to do whatever it takes to make things right.

So, if you betrayed them through money, give them access to the bank accounts. If you cheated in the relationship, give them the passwords to your phone, computer, social media, and anything else you can think of so they can determine and verify what you are up to.

6. Vulnerability

When it comes to the scariest words in the English language, vulnerability is probably near the top; at least it was for me.

Vulnerability is the very reason I lied to my wife. The truth makes me vulnerable to her judgment, rejection, or anger, all of which were justified from my behavior.

I regularly tell the guys I work with, “The relationship you want with your wife will be purchased through your vulnerability.” 

I really think of vulnerability as taking off the armor that I previously used to protect myself. 

For me, anger was my armor. When my wife would ask uncomfortable questions, I instantly put up a shield of anger. This is an effective way of telling another person to shut up, but it’s far from helpful or healthy. Anger is one way to stop the conversation, or you might run away and shut down. 

The other person really needs you to listen to them, even though it feels purely miserable to discuss the topic they brought up.

They also need you to connect with the emotions of what they are going through, specifically how bad it feels for them. This is difficult because it requires us to double-down on how rotten it feels to hear how our unhealthy behavior impacts someone close to us.

7. Ownership

Take responsibility for your actions and the impact those actions had on the other person. 

Then, keep taking responsibility for those actions, especially when it feels uncomfortable.

I say that because I like to minimize responsibility for my actions. I nearly ended my marriage trying to salvage my image with the very person I lied to. 

So, when my wife would say, “Remember those times you lied about using porn at work?”, I responded with something like, “I didn’t say that. I said I only looked at YouTube videos at work.” And then she would say, “That is not what you said…”, and the breakdown would continue until I finally confessed or re-owned my actions. 

This kind of behavior makes people crazy.

8. Blind Spots

Believe it or not, I am not clear on all of my behaviors and how they impact the person I betrayed. This means that I have blind spots – areas of my personality that I am completely unaware of and need help to see.

Ask the person you betrayed for help with this. This requires humility, a teachable spirit, and a willingness to learn.

Once you discover these blind spots, start working on them, or at least own their existence. Because these could be the very things holding you back in the relationship.

Give Them Time

These are the basics, and you need to practice them. While you are doing this, the other person will need time to heal and ultimately decide if it is worth staying.

I lied for four years in the last go-round; I shouldn’t be shocked that it took almost four years to fix things, especially since I dragged my feet on these topics and made them much more difficult than they needed to be.

Get Help

My work with men to rebuild trust in their own relationships has shortened the recovery time to somewhere between four and eighteen months, depending on the breakdown and situation.

Saving your relationship is far from easy, and you will need a network of support.

It also helps to work with someone who went through a similar experience, so use my bio below to contact me for more information.

Because I have done this, I know you probably can as well. Don’t lose hope; just keep practicing these principles every day.

5 Regrets You Do Not Want to Have in 5 Years

5 REGRETS YOU DO NOT WANT TO HAVE IN 5 YEARS

Angel Chernoff

Let me re-share a quick story and some important life lessons with you…

This morning, like he has every morning for the last decade, my 86-year-old grandfather picked a fresh wild flower on his morning walk and took it to my grandmother. This morning I decided to go with him to see her. And as he placed the flower on her gravestone, he looked at me and said, “I just wish I had picked her a fresh flower every morning when she was alive. She would have loved that.”

As you can imagine, his words touched a nerve in me. I almost immediately started thinking about everything and everyone I care about, and what I don’t want to regret down the road. It almost felt like every aspect of my life was flashing before my eyes. And as soon as I got home, I started jotting down some key things that had come to mind. When I was done, I read the list to Marc. He nodded his head all the way through to the end, and then said, “I couldn’t agree more. I don’t think anyone wants to regret any of those things when they’re older.” Perhaps you will also agree…

1.  Spending too little time with the right people

Sooner or later, you just want to be around the people who make you smile. So today, spend time with those who help you love yourself more. And remember, the people you take for granted today may be the only ones you need tomorrow. Never be too busy to make time for those who matter most.

2.  Not taking action on meaningful goals

Instead of complaining about your circumstances, get busy creating new ones. You either suffer the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. Most of the time, the only difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do.  When it’s all said and done, be sure you haven’t said more than you’ve done.

3.  Settling for less than you are capable of

Remember, growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong.

4.  Collecting more excuses than you can count

If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.

5.  Letting impatience dominate your decisions and actions

Patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard for what you believe in.

And of course, if you’re struggling with any of these points, know that you are not alone. Many of us are right there with you, working hard to feel better, think more clearly, and live a life free of headaches and heartache.

Of course, making these shifts—thinking and living better—takes guidance and practice.

What to Expect After the Wedding

WHAT TO EXPECT AFTER THE WEDDING

sheqoz

Love in the Air:

Love is beautiful and the best gift anyone can give and receive. When two people decide they are compatible enough to spend the rest of their lives together, they commit as husband and wife. They make wonderful future plans and begin their journey right after the wedding.

The beginning of a happy union

What to Expect:

In this journey, there are things to love and hate about each other, rules to be agreed upon, which will govern the new relationship. Although the good times will always outdo the grays, there will be moments of insecurity. Whereas most people might think infidelity is the only giant to be overcome, there are more frequent hurdles to overcome.

Committing to a marriage is more than just fidelity. It  involves standing together through thick and thin. Accepting each other’s weaknesses that were not noticeable before exchanging the vows, laughing and sometimes crying together.

Reality in Marriage:

Things really change after the honeymoon. In the awakening into reality, many give up thinking there’s someone better out there for them. The fact is, nothing in life grows overnight. Marriage isn’t an exception here. Every good thing under the sky takes time to build.

There will be days your husband/wife will want to be alone. That doesn’t mean she/he has stopped loving you. Everyone needs some alone time to quiet their mind. It is healthy and necessary for a happy relationship. The best you can do is allow them the space.

Simple decisions will become almost difficult. In marriage, they say two become one. Well, this is easier said than done. It is not easy to blend two completely different personalities – not with each partner expecting the other to become more of what they fantasized.

You don’t get to choose your living room color by yourself. If you had a certain pattern on your spending habits, you cannot continue the same. Everything must meet right in the middle of both your choices. You basically do away with the freedom to make major decisions.

Important Considerations:


It is normal to disagree in marriage

This is where balance is very important because if one feels over-powered, they are more than likely to seek other options. You’ve heard people having a big wedding only to divorce a few months or years later. That happens because of unrealistic expectations which couples have when they exchange their vows.

No matter how compatible you are with each other, there will definitely be days when you will experience conflicts. In such situations, you must learn how to maturely deal with disagreements before they get out of hand.

It is unrealistic to expect things to always flow smoothly. You will experience small and, sometimes, huge cracks along the pavement. If you are committed to making your marriage work, forgiveness, patience and apologies are very important.

Avoid Breaking Up:

I believe most divorces are due to arrogance of one or both partners. When nobody is willing to take responsibility for their mistake and work toward being a better person, a marriage union turns into a roller coaster of unsolved issues, leaving both partners wanting out.

To keep and grow a healthy relationship, discuss issues with your partner as they arise and watch very carefully the words coming out of your mouth. Careless use of words can break a relationship to a point of no repair. If you listen more and speak less everything will work out very well because it gives you time to think and choose what to say.

Things can get a little bit rocky during the first years of marriage. Learning to adjust into the commitment and giving away most of the freedom is the biggest culprit. With patience, however, everything starts settling down.