Sunday, 22 October 2017

Healing the Wounds Part 3 - Reveal and Request

[Click here for Part 1]  [Click here for Part 2]

So far we've talked about things that need to happen inside the head and heart of the spouse that caused the hurt, but to actually heal the relationship requires taking action.  They need to fix what they broke as best they can.  It is not an easy process and the reality is that things may need to get worse before they get better.  That is why the first two steps are so important.  It is unlikely that somebody will take the painful actions needed to heal the relationship unless driven by a pain of regret that is greater.

Reveal Everything
The first action is to fully confess your wrongs.  Not just the parts your spouse already knows about, but the things they don't know as well.  Come clean, put it all out there.  It is not enough to just stop doing wrong. The Lord said:
By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them. (D&C 58:43)
It is best to do this without having to be compelled to by circumstances.  A person who is caught red handed and only admits to the things that have already been uncovered will seem like they are only sorry they were caught,  even if there really is nothing more to confess, and they genuinely regret their actions.

Apologize and lay out what you did, how often, for how long, why (not as an excuse).  Also share your journey of coming to realize and regret your actions and the pain you feel as a result. 

It will be tempting to say to yourself  'There is no need to confess that part, they don't know, I won't do it again, so why put them through the pain of revealing it?'  It would be a mistake to act in that way however.

Keeping a secret like that is harmful to yourself and to your marriage.  You will not be able to free yourself of the pain of regret and personal shame of what you have done.  Instead you will carry that burden and it will eat at you and undermine your happiness.  It will leave you aware of your unworthiness which is something Satan can use against you when he tries to tempt you again, and he will try.  You won't be able to feel fully loved and accepted by your spouse either.  When your spouse says they love you, you will wonder if they would have said that if they knew the whole story.

Even if your spouse doesn't know, they will likely sense that you have not been fully open with them or carry nagging doubts that weaken the marriage and create insecurity.  They also can not forgive you for something they do not know you did.  Some day they will know exactly what happened.  Either at the judgement bar or sooner they will know it, and also know that you hid it from them and lied to them that there was nothing more to confess. Your reconciliation will then be undone and the relationship will be worse off than before.

In contrast, a full, unforced confession may cause a lot of pain in the short term, but it also helps to rebuild trust and give hope that things can be made better.  It makes it easier for your spouse to forgive when your actions demonstrate true repentance by coming clean voluntarily.  Confession is good for the soul no matter what the reaction is.  The burden of hiding and lying will be gone and the process of healing will have started.  Even if the revelation leads to the break up of the marriage, it enables you both to heal and move forward.  A marriage held together by lies and secrets is not going to become an eternal marriage.

Revealing everything may be a process rather than an event.  Usually when a spouse is blindsided by something big they will not absorb it all at once.  They will come back with questions, request clarification, and need to go over something a few more times before they can wrap their head around it.  Answer every question and request completely until they are fully satisfied that they know the situation.  Don't hide, justify, downplay or brush off anything.  Give them the security of knowing there will be no nasty surprises down the road.

Request Forgiveness
Confessing your wrongs implies a request for forgiveness, but it should still be stated outright that you are sorry for what you did, and you wish to obtain forgiveness from them and from God.  The apology is your admission that you are in the wrong.  It also acknowledges your spouse's pain and validates it.  It brings them into the process, laying out what their part is and calling on them to start the work of forgiving.

While it is true that we have an obligation to forgive others (D&C 64:9-10), do not ask for forgiveness as if it is owed to you or that you deserve it because of your wonderful confession and painful regret.   You are asking your spouse to give you something you do not deserve.  They may owe it to God to forgive, but they do not owe it to you, even if you have forgiven them of something worse, even if you already have God`s forgiveness for what you did.  Their forgiveness is a gift and it should be humbly asked for and graciously received when offered.

It may take a spouse some time before they are ready to offer that gift.  Give them that time.  You do not get to decide how they should feel or how soon their heart should be ready to forgive.
Sometimes it is necessary to apologize more than once, especially if the offense is particularly hurtful. I have learned over the years that it sometimes takes several apologies before the sincerity of the apology is able to penetrate the wounded heart of an offended spouse. (Repentance and Forgiveness in Marriage, Ensign, September 2011)
When there is a strong bond of love between a couple, then there is a desire to forgive and return to the joy that was shared before the offense took place.  That reconciliation has to be earned however, otherwise the forgiving spouse is just allowing themselves to be walked all over and abused.

Confessing and asking for forgiveness is not the limit of what must be done to heal the wounds and restore the same level of love and trust that existed before.  In Part 4 we'll go over the last two things that must be done.