We discussed accountability and obedience yesterday. Today we'll look at the need for spending focused time together as essential in rebuilding trust.
What exactly does that mean spend focused time together? I'm glad you asked.
First off explore your own family history and discuss it with one another. Most men and women have never really pondered with depth the impact their family had on their individual development. The most common response when asked about family of origin is, "It was pretty good." This is a good sign that a person hasn't really gone into depth about it.
What's true in every situation is that there was good and there was bad. Exploring with a discerning eye and heart helps one more fully celebrate what was good growing up and to acknowledge the loss and grieve what was hurtful growing up.
It's also important to try to remember what drew you to your spouse. In the pain and chaos of an affair it is easy to recolor your history to say we never really had much in common or never really did have much real fun together. These rationalizations aid in minimizing pain instead of facing reality head on. The truth for most couples is that they really just enjoyed spending lots of time together in the beginning. Try to remember what specifically the good was for you.
The movie, The Story of Us has a great scene to illustrate this. In the movie Bruce Willis (Ben) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Katy) are married with two kids. Their marriage isn't doing well and divorce seems inevitable. The kids are coming home from summer camp and the couple decides they will tell them about the divorce the next day. They discuss going to Chow Funs restaurant for dinner but decide they can't talk there so they choose another place.
The night before Katy takes a long look at all the pictures of the family on the wall. Memories of their shared life together pour through her mind in the space of her solitude. The following day she and Ben are on the way to meet the kids. Memories again speed through her brain from their dating years, engagement, wedding, kids being born, kids having crises like gold fish dying etc., Ben's dad dying, fights, hot sex, tender times, angry times, door slamming, phone slamming, I love you and I hate you.
They arrive to gather the kids from the bus. After the kids are in the SUV Katy stands away a bit and tells Ben, "I think we should go to Chow Funs."
Ben, "Chow Funs? I thought we both agreed we couldn't really talk at Chow Funs."
"What are you saying?"
"I'm saying Chow Funs."
"Are you saying Chow Funs because you can't face telling the kids? 'Cause if that's why you are saying Chow Funs don't say Chow Funs."
"That's not why I'm saying Chow Funs. I'm saying Chow Funs because we're an us. There's a history here and histories don't happen over night. You know in Mesopotamia or ancient Troy or somewhere back there, there are cities built on top of other cities, but I don't want to build another city. I like this city. I know where we keep the Bactine and what kind of mood you're in when you wake up by which eyebrow is higher and you always know that I'm quiet in the morning and compensate accordingly. That's a dance you perfect over time. And it's hard. It's much harder than I thought it would be, but there's more good than bad and you don't just give up. And it's not for the sake of the children, but god they're great kids aren't they. And we made them. There were no people there and then there were people. And they grew. I won't be able to say to some stranger that Josh has your hands or that Erin threw up at the Lincoln Memorial. Then I'll try to relax. Let's face it, anybody is going to have traits that get on your nerves. I mean why shouldn't it be your annoying traits. I'm no day at the beach, but I do have a good sense of direction so at least I can find the beach. Which is not a criticism of yours it's just a strength of mine. And god you're a good friend and good friends are hard to find. Charlotte said that in Charlotte's Web and I love the way you read that to Erin and you take on the voice of Wilbur the Pig with such commitment even when you're bone tired. That speaks volumes about character and ultimately isn't that what it comes down to, what a person is made of. Because that girl in the pith helmet is still in here, beeboo, beeboo. I didn't even know she existed until I met you. And I'm afraid if you leave I may never see her again. Even though I said at times you beat her out of me. Isn't that the paradox. Haven't we hit the essential paradox. Give and take, push and pull, yin and yang, the best of times, the worst of times. I think Dickens said it best, the Jack Spratt of it, he could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean. But that doesn't really apply here does it. I guess what I'm trying to say here is I'm saying Chow Funs because I love you."
"I love you, too."
So spend some time really pondering your shared story. Fight to remember the good as well as the difficult. Don't let the present pain color it all.
Also, spend time alone together. This is time with no kids, no friends, no TV, radio, computer or phone interrupting. Ann and I took a wonderful trip to the Lake of the Ozarks. We kept the electronics off and spent time focusing on one another and talking. We spent unhurried time being together, worshipping, (the fishermen weren't too thrilled with our psalm singing) feeding each other, appreciating the present and remembering the past. It's a great memory during a difficult time.
A big part of of restoring trust is keeping the offending spouse focused, don't let he or she just say 'I'm sorry' and move on like nothing happened. I see too many couples that after two or three months of good work back off and slide back into normal. The problem is that normal is what got them here in this mess. Don't get overconfident. Hard times will slam back in soon enough. Keep reflecting and talking in light of a commitment to live a life of growth.
Finally, during focused times of conflict remember that it is more important to explore the issues, not who is right or wrong. Each of you has contributed plenty to the overall problems in the relationship. Seek to look at your own stuff, wrestle with Christ which helps to move you closer to him, and you will gradually move closer to one another.