Have you ever lost a document that you have been working on for hours or even days? I have, many times, and let me tell you, it is one of the worst feelings ever! And the hardest part for me is trying to figure out how to reconstruct that document. I often don’t know where to begin because the situation seems so overwhelming. For some of you who have an injured relationship in your life, this may be just a small taste of what you are feeling. You don’t know where to begin, and for some, you’re just not sure you even want to. I can’t give you the motivation–only God can. But I can offer you some strategies for rebuilding in the face of an overwhelming task.
At this point, I’m going to assume that you’ve already taken the step of working through the forgiveness process that I’ve written about in my previous posts before proceeding toward reconstructing the relationship. If not, don’t bypass that very important step or process. Your heart needs to be right before you can effectively address these very crucial relationship issues. And if you and your offender have already worked through the process of reconciliation that I wrote about in my last post, then some of these steps may seem redundant. So glean what is helpful and don’t worry about the rest.
Steps of Relationship Reconstruction:
1. Seek confidential and godly counsel and support to clarify what the offenses or boundary violations are in the relationship.
2. Once the violations are defined, consider what boundaries you need in your relationship. You may need the help of a counselor to determine what boundaries you need and how to keep them in place (Basically you’re figuring out what you want and don’t want in your relationship).
3. Compose a letter that expresses your concerns and boundaries in a non-threatening, grace-filled way. Then practice communicating it with your counsel/support.
4. Once you feel comfortable with what’s being communicated, invite the offender to meet with you to discuss the problem(s).
5. Expect that your offender will not welcome your new boundaries. But do not waver–only turn to God and your counsel/support during this rough time period. With time, consistency and prayer, you can gain your offender’s cooperation.
6. Again, through much prayer and trust in God, begin to watch for signs of improvement–not perfection. With each improvement you see, allow trust to be redeveloped little by little into your relationship.
7. Don’t continue to blame or remind your offender of his past offenses against you. Instead, pray for him, and continually surrender your hurt to God when you feel let down.
8. Make a habit of looking at your own negative or sinful contribution to the relationship and get busy working on ways you can improve.
9. Commit to forgiving your offender on a daily or, at least, weekly basis, using the steps I described in the previous forgiveness posts as a guide.
10. If you are married to your offender, ask your offender to go to counseling with you. You will both need the support and guidance that a counselor can provide as you reestablish new and healthier ways of relating. In fact, if your spouse has had an affair, one of the boundaries you will probably need to have before proceeding in the relationship is his commitment to counseling with or without you for guidance, as well as, accountability.
If you feel that your relationship problems do not need a formal boundary conversation, then, as my mother used to say, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Instead, consider which of the steps would benefit you in your situation. Perhaps you still need to seek counsel or support about your problem to gain perspective or ideas on how to relate better to this person. Perhaps you simply need to pray for that person and ask God to help you love him and accept him as a flawed human being who may never completely satisfy you. Whatever the issue, be sure to seek godly support in order to break free from the cycle of pain that you are experiencing. Who knows, with the help of another perspective, you might just find out that you are the one who needs to change the most! I know that’s what I discovered in one of my troubled relationships recently. Now my frustration is gone and I can move on–and I pray that you can too!
Helpful related Bible passages: Prov. 19:19, Mt. 18:15-17, 2 Cor. 1:8-9, Gal. 6:1-5, Gal. 6:7-10, Col. 3:12-14, Heb. 12:1-3