Jill: I’ll never forget the night I came to Mark after my evening shift at the dinner theater where I was employed. We’d been married five years and had two kids. I ran a daycare during the day while Mark went to school full-time. Then in the evenings I took a shift as a actress/waitress at a local dinner theater.
Mark: Jill and I were meeting each other coming and going. We didn’t have time to invest in our marriage so we were drifting apart without realizing it.
Jill: My dance partner at work was showing interest in me and I began to look forward to going to work more than coming home. The temptation was great to pursue this new relationship, especially when it felt he had more time for me and was more interested in me than my husband. I KNEW what I had to do. I had to be honest with Mark and move this dangerous situation from the dark into the light.
Mark: Back then, I had an issue with rage. When I didn’t know how to control a situation, I would use anger to control. It wasn’t healthy but it was all I knew. That night, however, I experienced something different. I knew Jill and I were compromising our relationship with our crazy schedule. I understood how she could possibly feel drawn to someone who was showing more attention than I was. When Jill told me what was happening, I listened and then instead of reacting…I responded.
Jill: Because Mark often got angry, I was obviously scared to talk to him about this. I pulled up all the courage I had and when he responded with dialogue instead of reacting with anger, I was so relieved. He made it EASY for me to be honest with him!
Mark: I’ve done a lot of wrong in my life and in my marriage, but I got it right that night. Jill and I talked deep into the night and made some decisions that would allow us to begin to invest in us once again.
Jill: Too often, we make our spouse pay a high price for honesty. We explode. Blame. Point fingers. Play the martyr. Whether it’s confessing that we’ve slipped back into using pornography, or sharing our concern about feeling attracted to someone at work, expressing the feeling of being at the bottom of the priority list, or even communicating that we forgot to do something our spouse asked us to do, our spouse needs to know we’re a SAFE person to be honest with.
Mark: To dig in practically to what this looks like in real life, let’s use the word SAFE for four steps in responding to our spouse’s honesty:
S -Sit. Sit and listen. Stay in the room and listen to his or her heart. Allow them to express their thoughts and concerns without disagreeing with any of it.
A -Ask. Ask questions to better understand. You can even say “Tell me more…” and then encourages your spouse to keep talking.
F -Forgive. Choose to forgive, if your spouse communicates something to you that needs forgiveness. You won’t feel like it, but you’ll have to forgive in order to move forward. Forgiveness isn’t once and done. You’ll forgive that night and then probably have to forgive again the next day when you think about it once again.
E -Engage. Engage the problem. Don’t minimize it. Don’t cast blame. Resist the urge to tell your spouse this is his problem or this is her issue. In marriage, this is OUR ISSUE and we have to tackle it TOGETHER. Work together to find a solution.
Jill: When we make our spouse pay a high price for honesty, we make dishonesty more appealing. Dishonestly and intimacy cannot co-exist. We have to make our marriage a safe place for honesty. That way our intimacy can deepen, we can engage in helpful dialogue, and we can work together to move from where we are to where we want to be.
What about you? Are you making your spouse pay a high price for honesty?