Penny A. Bragg—

“I’m sorry. Will you forgive me?” For over a decade, I underestimated the power of those words. Pride and stubbornness kept me from owning up to my part of my marriage breakdown. As a result, it ended in divorce. However, God was not finished with our story and we ended up remarrying each other after eleven years apart.

Having been given a second chance is not something my husband, Clint, or I take lightly. We’ve learned that reconciling our marriage is not about following a recipe, but about following Jesus Christ. However, we’ve also learned a few additional tips that have helped us successfully navigate these deep waters and to support other couples in the same boat.

Be Humble – Humility is often a necessary prerequisite for extending and receiving forgiveness. Acknowledge your part of the breakdown and apologize. It’s never easy to admit mistakes or secrets, but honesty stimulates mercy. Dancing around the subject may save face, but it will also hinder true healing.

Be Careful – When there’s a conflict, avoid making assumptions or judgments about your spouse’s motives, attitudes, or behaviors. Your spouse is precious and should be treated as such. Handle his/her feelings and fears with respect, even if you may not agree with them or understand them.

Be Mindful – Maintaining a healthy marriage requires a conscious choice to cultivate loyalty, especially amidst turbulent waters. When a relationship isn’t satisfying, it’s tempting to seek pleasure elsewhere. No matter how you might feel, spending money, drinking excessively, indulging in pornography, or confiding in a person of the opposite sex will not bring you lasting satisfaction. Make a conscious decision to remain faithful to your spouse. Cope with difficulties in healthy ways such as seeking professional help, getting an accountability/prayer partner, and/or confessing your struggles to a pastor or ministry leader.

Be Practical – Make the most of every opportunity to practice, pursue, and seek forgiveness. When you’re tempted to lash out at your spouse, spend some time writing down and processing your feelings, fears, and thoughts in a journal first. Instead of pointing the finger at your spouse, what are the changes you need to make?

Be Grateful – Go out of your way to express gratitude to your spouse. Instead of focusing on your frustrations, engage in a labor of love for him/her. Find simple ways to affirm your appreciation for him/her.

Be Approachable – Let down your defenses. Encourage your spouse to come to you when he/she encounters a problem, but don’t force him/her to talk. Value the pain and emotion he/she is experiencing by listening and asking clarifying questions. Listen more. Talk less. Welcome the expression of your spouse’s feelings, as difficult as it may be to hear those things. Be aware of your body language. Suspend judgment. Extend love.

Be Resourceful – Know when and where to get help when needed. Read a marriage book together. Utilize the wisdom and counsel of others, especially those who have been through a crisis. Seek advice and mentoring from a couple who has been through the fire and come out of it stronger. Ask a professional for assistance when needed.

Be Respectful – Respect the process of reconciliation. It takes a while to turn a relationship around. Be patient, flexible, open to change, and willing to try new things, even if they seem outside your comfort zone.

Be Hopeful – No matter how much murky water has passed under the bridge, there is no brokenness that lies beyond healing. There is always hope, no matter how bleak things may feel.

Marriage is messy. Reconciling a relationship after crisis, separation, and divorce is even messier. You will face problems—old and new ones—along the way. But, you are not alone. We’ve had our share of troubles too, just like every other couple we’ve now served through our work as marriage missionaries. People often tell us that the problems contributing to the fragmentation of their marriages are far too ugly for repairs to be made. But if our marriage can make it, yours can too. If you want to get well and you want your marriage to get well, then you’re already on the road to wholeness and healing.

(Excerpts of this article were taken from Marriage on the Mend—Healing Your Relationship After Crisis, Separation, or Divorce, Clint and Penny Bragg, Kregel Publishing, 2015.)

Clint and Penny Bragg
Inverse Ministries, Inc.
www.InverseMinistries.org
www.MarriageonaMission.com
reconcile@inverseministries.org

 

 

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Penny BraggPenny A. Bragg spent the majority of her professional career in the California public school system as a teacher, principal, and district administrator. Through the miraculous reconciliation of her marriage after an eleven-year divorce and a distance of 3,000 coast-to-coast miles, God led Penny and her husband, Clint, into fulltime ministry in 2006. Together, they serve as marriage missionaries—sharing their testimony of marital restoration across the nation and abroad during their 40-Day Marriage Mission Trips. Through Inverse Ministries, their non-profit organization, Penny and Clint have written extensively about the ministry of reconciliation including their upcoming book, Marriage on the Mend—Healing Your Relationship After Crisis, Separation, and Divorce (Kregel, 2015). In addition, Penny ministers to those who, like her, have experienced traumatic loss. Her book, “For Those Who Weep—A Grief Response Journal,” (Redemption Press, 2014) is available at www.ForThoseWhoWeep.com.

2 Comments

  1. 3-30-2015

    Thank you, Penny. Good reminders, whatever stage your marriage is in.

  2. 4-2-2015

    Great “to do” list! Your humility shines through your writing. I sensed deep conviction and even deeper hope to believe that God can do anything with a willing heart. Thank you for sharing your testimony.

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