This title sounds weird, doesn’t it? Especially coming from a marriage counselor. Often clients call on me to save their marriage and fix what is wrong. It occurred to me that using that word, fix, is about as productive as not doing anything. In our society, we are taught to fix what is broken, and we do just that with many things. But sometimes it can’t be fixed, and we need to get a new one. We try to fix what is fixable, but many times that fix just buys us more time before we have to get a new one.
If a marriage has sustained trauma, such as infidelity. That trauma is not always fixable because it happened, and no amount of fixing can erase the deed done. Trying to fix this problem is sort of a dilemma.
The idea is to find what needs to happen to create a new relationship, one without the negative pictures of the past. Easier said than done, but I have some ideas for you to ponder. As a counselor, I evaluate each unique case and make a decision based on the couple seeking help. Not all couples can forgive, forget, or even accept the wrongdoing in an effort to continue their marriage. It takes two people willing to cherish their relationship enough to do the work necessary to move it forward. So having said that, here are the ways I suggest for creating a new marriage after trust has been broken:
- Get to know your partner all over again. Surely, as the years have passed, you have both changed a bit. Your needs, desires, and goals may be different than before. Instead of assuming that you both are the same individuals who said “I do” many years ago, find out what makes each of you tick in today’s world. A great tool is the Love Map Game, developed by Dr. John Gottman, a relationship expert. The game has sixty questions that will help you discover more about the person you are married to and help you see some fresh information that might have changed. With knowledge comes rewards, and discovering the changes can lead to a better union.
- Talk about a new wedding ceremony and what vows you could commit to. Be creative and describe the location, what you would wear, and who would be there to celebrate your new union. A big party? Or a small, intimate crowd of close friends? Perhaps just the two of you. The focus here is on “new,” a fresh start.
- Make an agreement to forgive each other for the past. It needs to be made by both of you. Write your apologies for what you have done in the marriage and what you can commit to in your “new” marriage. Then find a person you trust to share this plan with, and ask that person for help in holding you accountable. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather a strong request for support.
- Then—this is the hard part—do it. Say goodbye to all past behavior that caused the trauma. Use your support person to guide you through the rough patches, because no one forgets that easily. Just as recovering alcoholics need a sponsor to help them stay clean, your support person is there to help you.
- Write a new letter of love. Describe the new marriage and what it will look like. Share your visions with each other, and see what can be incorporated from both versions.
- Finally, aim to use positive words, and focus on each other’s wonderful qualities. These qualities are there but have been pushed aside temporarily.
This is a fresh start. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. Cancel out the negative acts of the previous marriage so the new marriage can start.