When a wife owns up to her failures in the marriage and confesses her disrespect and a husband owns up to his failures in the marriage and confesses his lack of love, the two of them can experience an about-face in the marriage. Couples on the edge of divorce have done a 180!
A wife writes, “My husband and I have been married for 16 years. We started out with two little ones ( we were teenage parents) and quickly had two more. Life was so hard and my only example was my parents marriage ( which was not healthy) and my 1970’s feminist mother. After all these years and struggles and fights and violence and depression, we finally came to the end… I bought the (Love and Respect ) book skimmed through it but stupidly, I did nothing with it. Fast forward… I knew if our marriage was to be saved, we needed to attend your conference. I started to ask the Lord to help us. We have no extra money and the conference was far away. We went to church and low and behold our church was hosting a marriage weekend for FREE and it was on your video conference. My husband grabbed a flyer not knowing anything about your ministry and said, would you go with me? Of course I said, yes. From the very first video everything just made sense to us. I was disrespecting him and didn't even know it. He said, he not only has stepped on my air hose but backed over and ground it into oblivion! We are both determined with God's help to love and respect each other. I know it is not going to be easy, nothing of value ever is. Already I am seeing the rewards…. I hope that our 12 year old son stops wetting the bed when he sees his parents truly loving and respecting each other. Thank you, Dr. E and Sarah…if our marriage can be saved- anyone's can be.”
Notice the two key sentences, “I was disrespecting him and didn't even know it. He said, he not only has stepped on my air hose but backed over and ground it into oblivion!” She owned up to her failure to respect and he owned up to his failure to love, AT THE SAME TIME. When both confess, I believe any couple can go in a new direction.
What does his and her confession look like? Here are two examples of a husband and wife who confessed to each other and did an about-face on a relationship headed for divorce. This is part of a larger confession each made to the other. But this gives a flavor of confessional language.
The wife confesses: “For months now I have been grasping at trying to understand what I have been doing - or not doing to cause you to feel disrespected… I have prayed to God for… the courage to change…. I want you to be the head of our home, our leader, and to feel good about it (and)… to give you the respect you need to successfully lead… After reading Love and Respect… I felt like I had an epiphany… It was as if God impressed on my heart the very thing I was trying to put my finger on all these months (and perhaps years)… I often resisted (or internally) disagreed with your advice/counsel... but what God showed me is that you had a lot of insight, wisdom, and understanding that I was ignoring - to my loss! Why? I'm not sure. I think you are one of the most intelligent people I know and I believe you have a lot of common sense, too (Sometimes those don't go hand in hand!)… I am very convicted about this sense of "self-righteousness" as Eggerichs calls it and am moved to tears that this is what I am unwittingly doing… You have so many strengths that I don't have. You are so good for me. Discipline, self-control, organization, big picture vision, and spiritual discernment… Thank you that you lay down your life every day… I know that you would literally die for us if ever called to and that truly is overwhelming to me. With all my respect, The one who still admires you”
The husband confesses: "I finally finished the book Love and Respect…, I love you and want to be your friend, your man, your lover, your protector and guide, - your husband… I now realize that we were on the Crazy Cycle… Love and Respect, opened my eyes to the ways I was hurting you…. I am very sorry for the ways I have treated you so poorly in the past few years. The short summary of my misbehavior was that, even though I did love you, I withheld expression of that love, and I am ashamed of that. This withholding was manifested in many ways: I was critical of you; I was aloof and withdrawn; I refused to help you when you needed it; I shut down and stopped trying; and I basically abandoned you and went on to other things. They were all forms of frustration and rebellion. When I think of how much of a jerk I was, I'm not surprised that you wanted out, but I am thankful you never acted on that impulse. Please forgive me, Jeni - I have acted selfishly and hurt you… You've commented in your letter that I'm almost always right… However, I hope you realize that I'm not interested in who is right but rather what is right. If I have conveyed any arrogance in this regard, shame on me… Thank you for your patience with me, for completing me, for making me feel loved even when I was unlovable. Thank you for letting me drink deeply from your well and for letting me thoroughly enjoy your beauty and your womanly charms. Thank you for being my fair lady. Even after all these years, you still take my breath away!
All My Love…”
Having said this, if your spouse is unresponsive don't say, "If you admitted your faults like I admit my faults, we could bring healing to our marriage." The rule of thumb is this: you must not try to get your spouse to confess. Your spouse must initiate confession on his/her own. Please don't misunderstand the point I am making. I'm only saying that when two individuals AT THE SAME TIME decide ON THEIR OWN to confess their faults -- without blame -- the marriage can do an about-face. Healing can come. What the apostle James writes seems apropos, "Therefore, confess your sins to one another… that you may be healed" (5:16).