Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – II Corinthians 5:17
Phase Two – Healing and Rebuilding
Your first forty days were likely a roller-coaster of emotion, intimacy, and vulnerability. Many couples get caught up in the energy and the excitement of breathing new life into their marriage. However, the critical season following those first forty days will determine whether these changes will last or if the couple will slip back into old patterns and behaviors.
Goals for this Phase
- Talk is Cheap — Actions speak louder than words
- 8 Rules for Rebuilding Trust — Trust can be rebuilt through persistent love
- Wounds Heal Crooked — Healing is a messy process
- Find your new normal – In the first forty days (phase one) couples tend to prioritize their marriage, letting non-essential activities fall away (hobbies, outings with friends, family outings, etc.). This is necessary, because you need focused attention to build healthy patterns. But now the two of you must find a way to fold some of those activities back in while also identifying what changes need to happen. You’ll also be trying to find your new normal in terms of routines, frequency of contact, and how you communicate with one another. It’s normal for their to be anxiety over anything that feels like previous routines. You’ll need to work together to build confidence that this “new normal” won’t result in falling back into old patterns.
- Lovingly, patiently rebuild trust – The loss of trust, in whatever measure, the two of you have experienced can be devastating for a couple. As I write in chapter 7:
Prior to beginning this renewal process, your spiritual and emotional connection had faded and your bond had weakened. While this will look different for each couple, the simple fact is this: trust has been broken at some level. In most cases, the trust has been broken by both the husband and wife. You trusted your mate to love you fully and selflessly, and he or she fell short of that mark. In more extreme situations, you find yourself coping with betrayal of trust from addiction, abuse, or infidelity. Wherever you are on the spectrum, trust has been violated, and rebuilding it will require time and patience. It won’t be easy, but take heart, trust can be restored.
- Battle your demons – We all have something we must battle as a part of the renewal and healing process. Insecurity, guilt, doubt, fear, and resentment are common obstacles. One of the couples we are walking with recently shared a fear with us: “I’m 46 years old, I just don’t know if it’s even possible for me to change at this point. Things will inevitably slip back into their old patterns.” You have to resist this sort of negative self talk and embrace the reality that each day you can decide who you want to be and how you will behave as an individual and as a member of your marriage team.
- Grieve and process emotion in healthy ways – There is pain in the collective past of your relationship. During the intense focus of the first 40 days, you may find that you swept much of these issues under the proverbial rug. But you can’t ignore them forever. They will either come out unexpectedly and explosively or you can choose to let them out a piece at a time as part of a healthy and constructive healing process. One couple that we mentored last year experienced significant challenges when alcohol was used as a coping mechanism. Another suffered from wild emotional swings when safe, healthy outlets for emotion were not provided. Processing all of the past hurt is crucial and it is an on-going process, because “wounds heal crooked” (see article referenced above).
- Extend grace to one another – Be gracious and understanding with each other as you transition from the intensity and excitement of the first phase of renewal, into a focus upon healing an rebuilding in this second phase. You will both need to extend a lot of grace toward each other as you collectively heal and rebuild. Tammy and I have come to learn that grace, is the universal love language.