After an abuse victim has separated from her husband due to repetitive and serious sin, she will be faced with deciding what her response will be when he approaches her about getting back together.
Whether he comes with charm, tears or threats, it is crucial for her to first have full assurance that his heart is broken over the pain he has caused, he no longer minimises or justifies his sin, he welcomes consequences and accountability and he proves sincere long-lasting change. Narcissistic and entitlement issues are not easily dislodged.
Forgiveness on her part does not assume reconciliation.1
And apologies on his part do not assume changed behaviour (cycle of abuse)
Past behaviour is a realistic indicator of future behaviour.
Forgetting? Not in abuse situations.
The last post described true repentance, and the victim is “jumping from the frying pan into the fire” if she agrees to live together again too soon.
“Genuine repentance is a response to understanding ultimate
accountability. (Psalm 50) Psalm 51 is genuine repentance.” 2
Common ploys to regain the perks of marriage without the hard work of transformation:
- pleading for a second chance
insisting he is “a new man”
telling her to forget the past and start with a clean slate
complying with her wishes
looking for a quick fix (like Naaman in the Bible)
tearfully begging to move back because she is the only one who can help him
quoting “love covers a multitude of sins” expecting a “get out of jail free” card
kicking his charm into high gear to win her back
expecting “sorry” to mitigate all negative consequences3 (Adam and Eve)
His counsellor will not be able to verify if her husband has really changed – only she will know.
“By their fruit you shall know them.”
Are there specific changes he has made in his actions and attitudes?
Are these changes consistent over time?
What does he do with his free time, his money, his children, God?
Is he seeking professional help?
Is he making restitution to those he’s harmed?
“Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” Matthew 3:8
Is he teachable and accountable?
Is he learning to tolerate his own negative emotions in a healthier way?
What happens when she disagrees?
Are there still underlying attitudes of entitlement and power?
Can he respect her as a separate person with needs, desires and feelings different than his?
- Is he changing without her prodding or requirements?3
PROCESS OF RECONCILING
Counselling is vital in helping her become strong emotionally and spiritually, and to help her rise above fear and co-dependency. She must learn to be defined by God, not her spouse.
If, after time and observation, it is reasonable to believe that the relationship can be repaired, then starting small is recommended.
Phone calls over a period of time are good indicators, without taking the risk of being injured.
Next, she could try short date nights where they each drive separately to a public place. This provides contact without being trapped in a confined space with no choices.4
Moving back together is the last step and should be for one day at first, building up to longer periods.
The oversight of outside counsellors is crucial. Accountability is an absolute necessity for quite a long time after reuniting.
Jeremiah 6:14 warns against a superficial reconciliation. “Peace, peace when there is no peace.”
When he takes a step back into old patterns, a truly transformed spouse will stop himself, immediately apologize and self-correct. With God’s help, wisdom and patience, it is possible for a sincere humble couple to rebuild a sweet relationship. It will be worth the hard work.
1 two Biblical examples: Joseph and his brothers; God and Israel in the OT 2 Dr. John Vaughn 3 Leslie Vernick – http://www.leslievernick.com/2014/07/16/critical-heart-changes-for-successful-reconciliation/#comments 4 www.LeslieVernick.com/2013/11/11/he said he’s a new man