Reconciling a marriage is a long and challenging process. Both sides, hopefully, are trying to better themselves and make changes to save the marriage. You may feel at times that you and your spouse are getting along and becoming close again. Other times you might feel them pulling back. So how do you handle these cycles of emotion or false starts of reconciliation?
Reconciliation Is A Winding Road
Some people have unrealistic expectations when it comes to the reconciliation process. It’s not usually a fairytale ending; the prince won’t come home and sweep you off your feet with rainbows and unicorns. The reality is that, at times, it’s frustrating and difficult and muddy and hard. Reconciliation is a winding path; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. And just like with a marathon, you have to pace yourself and follow the path.
Sometimes you might even need to take three or four steps back to move forward again. While that can be a frustrating part of the process, it can be necessary if one or both spouses aren’t doing the things they promised they would. A failure to follow the plan doesn’t mean that you should give up on your marriage, though. Instead, it means that a series of structured conversations need to be had to reset your boundaries and expectations.
You should focus these structured conversations on the future of your marriage, not the hurt and anger from the past. At Marriage Helper, we have created a five-step reconciliation process. In each of these steps, there is a structured conversation that can be self-led or guided by a coach. These conversations will help move you forward instead of focusing on the past. You can learn more about exploring reconciliation by downloading our FREE eBook here or by getting in touch with one of our Client Representatives here.
Was It Really False Reconciliation?
During the reconciliation process, you can expect that there will be missteps. Be careful not to get fooled into thinking any small amount of progress means that your problems are solved; this can lead to false reconciliation. Understand that the small wins are positive progress, not a sign that you should move back in together and restart your life.
While there are situations where you must discuss the past, be sure you approach this with caution. Discussing the past can open up old wounds and cause anger and hate to resurface. Instead, approach the situation with the mindset that you want to change the past, not relive it. Be sure you’re not still accusing your spouse of whatever they were doing that has caused your marital issues, but that you’re only looking to create a path forward where these things hopefully won’t happen again.
Psychologically, hope has two parts. There’s the vision of what the future could be and the path to follow to get there. As we mentioned, that path is often a winding and difficult road to follow. Setting realistic goals and plans is the first step to help you avoid those false starts.
Reconciliation Is About Change
At Marriage Helper, we stress that the only thing you have control over is you. So, no matter the roadmap or your spouse’s progress, you should be working to be the best you possible by working on your PIES. PIES is an acronym we use to talk about physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual well-being. But, even if you’re working on your PIES and doing the right things, there is a possibility that you’re doing some other things that are still pushing your spouse away.
These actions could be part of the reason for your perceived starts and stops in your reconciliation, or even false reconciliation. There could be many other reasons as well. For example, they might be afraid to get too close to you because they’re afraid you might hurt them again, or your spouse doesn’t want to hurt you by giving false hope that you will get back together. Whatever the reason, there is no need to panic because it’s a natural part of the process. There’s always more to work on and learn.
Keep An Eye Out For Damage Being Done To You Or Your Children
While the vacillation can be frustrating and worrisome, it’s better than the alternative that your spouse has already decided to leave the family and marriage. As long as you’re still seeing progress, even if there are occasional steps backward, continue along the reconciliation path you’ve set.
If children are involved in your separation, be sure that you’re keeping a watch on their well-being. Many children can feel that they are part or all of the reason that their parents are getting divorced. Children are resilient, though, so keep reassuring them that both parents love them very much.
While some parts of your separation might be painful for you or your child, watch out for anything that could be considered abuse. Anything that could be causing serious emotional, psychological, or physical harm should be dealt with immediately. You should look at these with your PIES as well.
Effects from physical abuse can show up in many ways, including affecting your immune system from dealing with stress and worry. Intellectually it could be affecting how well you can do your job or your children’s ability to do their homework. This pain goes deeper than just hurting because mommy or daddy isn’t around anymore. It truly means that you can’t function. Emotionally it could be depression or anxiety, while spiritually, you could start questioning your beliefs and values system. Be sure to separate pain that you can tolerate for a while if you think you’re making progress versus actual damage that might be irreparable.
Set Boundaries To Keep On Track
Sometimes, conversations with your spouse won’t solve your issues. In this case, it’s ok to start setting boundaries or STOPs. You can also begin setting COREs or things that must happen for the reconciliation to continue moving forward. But, again, these should be built around the path you’ve already established.
So remember, saving your marriage is a winding path full of false reconciliation and setbacks. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up; instead, reset your boundaries and keep moving forward. Reconciliation, at its core, requires a change from what used to be to what is going to be. And while some of that discussion looks backward, the majority of it is about learning from what happened in the past and refocusing on what the future should be and could be. And then finally, guided conversations are the most powerful part of what makes reconciliation happen and last.
Follow these four key takeaways, and you’ll have an easier time keeping your reconciliation on the right path.