It’s been a long war. In the beginning, daily routines were managed with a fair amount of civility, and the pretenses could be maintained amidst family and friends. Eventually, as things heated up, there no longer existed a moment of peace between them. Now, every interaction is steeped with criticism, contempt, and defensiveness.
They both want things to be different, they want the fighting to end, and to find their way towards a better marriage. However, their mutual suspicion leads to continued mistrust, and the risk of letting their guard down seems too great. They feel stuck, and wonder if they can ever truly trust each other again. Is the death of the relationship (i.e., divorce) the only way to end the fighting and find peace?
Many couples do not realize their suspicion and distrust of each other is the culprit that keeps the fighting going. The fear of being hurt keeps them in attack/defensive positions. Each spouse looks to the other to make things right while staying in his or her own protected position of safety. They may be willing to step forward and stop the fighting only if they are reassured their spouse will make an equal move at the same time.
However, as theologian Dorothee Solle once said:
The truth is that one side must begin, one of us must drop the threat, one of us must take a tiny step forward, alone. Those who think bilaterally are condemned to impotence; they will never break the circle. Who is in a position to take the step forward, unilaterally, toward peace? (as quoted in Sebastian Moore, Let This Mind Be In You)
Taking the first step is admittedly risky; there is no guarantee you will not get hurt or that your spouse will make a similar move. At the same time, your courage to move beyond the fighting would be incredibly freeing. This is the good news: you do not have to wait on your spouse to break the cycle of toxic fighting. If you are willing, you can take that courageous first step towards greater peace.
Even after an individual has chosen to take that first step, it can still be lonely and difficult to discern which direction to move first. This is where godly counsel can join you and help you to make wise decisions. As the Proverbs state, “Refuse good advice and watch your plans fail; take good counsel and watch them succeed” (15:22, The Message).
If you are ready for the war in your marriage to end, but need help figuring out your first step, please give us a call. Our trained counselors are waiting to walk with you from your first step and beyond.