Notes from Retreat
We decided to not post the letter from Rafael until some rewriting has been done. But here are the other details that some of the couples asked for. Again, we thank you for your inspiring presence at the retreat. (Sorry for the awkward formatting of the notes – I’m not sure how to correct it.)
Third, to get more dedication commitment into our lives, we choose – as often as needed – to forgive our spouse. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting or pretending that no hurt has happened. We may still experience pain or a sense of loss after forgiving our spouse, but that is natural and doesn’t mean that you haven’t forgiven. Forgiveness is the decision to:
- forego any compensation, “payback,” or revenge for the “offenses”, and
- give up the chance to use the “offenses” as justification for one’s own negative behavior, and
- not withhold myself from my spouse because of the “offenses”, and
- commit to a process of reconciliation and healing after I forgive.
What is there to forgive? There are two kinds of things.
1. Hurt because of foul play This is the case when we or our spouse does or says something that a reasonable panel of observers would say is “foul play.” The scope of foul play is broad, from extramarital affairs to behaviors like criticizing, blaming, name-calling, ignoring our spouse, and dishonesty.
2. Hurt without foul play We may, however, have experienced hurt even though there has been no foul play. That happens, for example, when we or our spouse acts on the basis of different, but legitimate, expectations for some aspect of our life, and one or both of us are hurt as a result.
There are as many examples of this as there are expectations: who does what work around the house, how to we spend holidays, relationships with in-laws, how to raise the kids, how to manage money, our sex life, and so on.
Many spouses struggle with seeking forgiveness for this category of hurt, simply because they do not consider what they did to be “foul play.” Similarly, many spouses don’t forgive this kind of offense, and develop lasting resentments and unforgiving attitudes about their own hurts because they consider even unspoken expectations to be “obvious” “needs.” Remember that it’s up to you to check your expectations to be sure they are reasonable, to kindly make them clear to your spouse, and to talk through any disagreements about them. Again, avoid “right fights.”
Contrasts of immature love with mature love. This illustrates some of the differences.
Often, when deep needs are involved, couples with intimacy deficits find themselves spinning their wheels in the same old arguments, blowing up over seemingly trivial things, or avoiding discussions altogether.
When those things happen, we can be sure that the conversations are being controlled by “hidden issues.” Hidden issues are those concerns that lurk beneath the surface of our arguments about common issues such as spending, child-rearing practices, sex, outside interests, housework, and so on. Researcher Scott Stanley and associates have identified six particularly common hidden issues.
1. power – who has what status or control? Whose wishes carry the most weight? Who has the say in decisions?
2. caring – do you really care about me? More than about other people or things? Can I trust you to have my well being at heart?
3. recognition – do you value me? Do you recognize what I contribute to our relationship and our home?
4. commitment – will you be with me for the long term? Can I count on you to support me when I need you?
5. integrity – do you respect my integrity? Or do you hold my feelings, words, deed, and motives suspect?
6. acceptance – can I trust that you respect me for who I am and cherish your connection with me?
Hidden issues come to the surface openly only when your spouse feels safe and valued and knows that you will respect his/her needs. Otherwise they come out in disguised form, as arguments about the credit cards, the in-laws, or any other issue that allows unhappiness to be expressed.