Reconciliation & Hope
Over the years, many people have asked me if handling divorces has soured my view of marriage. My answer is always no. This isn’t because I’m naïve or overly idealistic – I’ve had far more opportunities than the average person to witness the anguish couples go through when their relationship is failing.
I’ve listened to my clients tearfully recount the excruciating details of discovering an affair. I’ve seen the marks of abuse, and I’ve watched far too many adults use their priceless children as a means to wounding the other spouse. In spite of it all, I can say with deep conviction, that marriage itself is a wonderful thing and that divorce is not the path to true freedom. This is because I believe that sustained satisfaction and contentment is not rooted in finding a new, more agreeable spouse. Rather, I believe it’s learning to find joy and satisfaction that is not dependent upon the person you’re married to. So, each time I’ve had the opportunity to stand by a friend through a difficult time in his marriage, chat with a client about what went wrong in her relationship, or wrestle with pain and disappointment in my own marriage, I’ve become more and more convinced that the starting point is not focusing on what the other person has or hasn’t done – events that are entirely beyond our control – instead, the starting point is identifying where true joy and contentment really come from.
For that reason my ultimate hope for every marriage is true reconciliation (not simply sticking with the status quo). I am constantly on the lookout for new resources I can offer clients who have even the slightest hope that their marriage can be restored, or are at least looking for a source of encouragement in the midst of an unwanted divorce. Below is a sampling of resources many people have found transformative both in their marriages and personal lives.
Marriage Workshop (RE|Engage)
While counseling has worked for some couples, many others have been through a series of counselors over many years and have no interest in revisiting that process. There are some excellent counselors out there, but it’s not the only option and often not very well-suited to the kinds of problems couples are having. One excellent alternative is a marriage workshop called RE|Engage. RE|Engage is a faith-based, non-denominational marriage workshop that lasts roughly 18 weeks. It is hosted at Grace Covenant Church in Austin every Monday night at 7:00 p.m. and is open to anyone who would like to attend (free child care is provided). Since new couples are always coming into the program while others are at various stages in the curriculum, there is a great deal of anonymity for couples who are interested in exploring the program but not necessarily ready to commit to anything. Couples who choose to go through the course will be assigned to a group with four or five other couples to work through 16 different lessons touching on every major aspect of marriage, such as money, sex and intimacy, forgiveness, just to name a few. Couples are free to share as much or as little as they choose, but they’re never put on the spot in front of a large group. Furthermore, a fundamental ground rule at RE|Engage is that each couple will focus on themselves if they choose to share details about their marriage. In other words, it’s not a forum to air grievances or put the other on the spot. Many couples who were on the brink of divorce or deeply dissatisfied in their marriage have gone through the program together and seen their relationship totally transformed. Their issues weren’t minor either – they ranged from the devastation of abuse to sexual infidelity – and in some cases they had already begun legal proceedings.
RE|Engage is not just for people of faith. Even skeptics will find the curriculum to be intuitive and helpful to overcoming the struggles every couple faces regardless of their beliefs. I encourage people who fall into this category to not let any negative associations with religion prevent them from looking into something that has helped a very wide range of people over the years.
For more information about RE|Engage, visit http://grace360.org/th_gallery/reengage/, or call us at 512-340-0002.
Some couples aren’t ready to commit to a program spanning several months, or they are in such a crisis they needs something more intensive and immediate. Christway Counseling Center offers various intensive couples and individual counseling options and has a track record of considerable success. To learn more about these resources, you can follow this link:
If I could refer you to a book that would help you change your spouse or guarantee that your marriage will succeed, I would. But if one existed, I doubt we’d have the constant parade of new bestsellers on the bookshelves. I can, however, offer some resources that have helped me and many others I know learn what it means to experience healing and true peace in the midst of tremendous loss and disappointment.
The Meaning of Marriage – Tim Keller https://www.amazon.com/Meaning-Marriage-Facing-Complexities-Commitment/dp/1594631875
Finally Alive – John Piper https://www.amazon.com/Finally-Alive-John-Piper/dp/1845504216
50 Reasons Why Christ Came to Die – John Piper https://www.amazon.com/Fifty-Reasons-Why-Jesus-Came/dp/1596446242
This Momentary Marriage – John Piper http://www.amazon.com/This-Momentary-Marriage-Parable-Permanence/dp/1433507129/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1331246950&sr=1-1
(This Momentary Marriage – PDF) http://dwynrhh6bluza.cloudfront.net/resources/documents/3338/bmm.pdf
Miracles – C.S. Lewis https://www.amazon.com/Miracles-C-S-Lewis/dp/0060653019
To a Spouse Considering Divorce
Pornography in Marriage
What is the Gospel?