Promises, Promises

Triangulation is inevitable in intimate relationships, so the best we can do is be aware of it and try to minimize it as much as possible. Some triangulation is devastating and represents a betrayal of foundational promises, such as when folks triangulate with another partner creating an emotional and/or physical bond (see yesterday’s post). Other moves to triangulate represent less damaging failures of emotional connection and commitment, and are more easily repaired.

Most marriages form in the first three years of a relationship, when the couple is typically still in the symbiotic phase of early romance. They haven’t been sorely tested, yet, so it’s hard for them to imagine there will be difficult terrain ahead. They promise to love, honor, cherish, and be faithful to one another until they die, and they promise this before God and a crowd of witnesses without recognizing that they are promising to do the impossible. They have likely never discussed what each of them means by the words love, honor, cherish, and faithfulness, so when they promise to do these things, they often mean different things by each of these words.

The Necessity of Repair

So they enter a formalized and legalized union that they can’t live up to. Eventually, they will feel disappointed and betrayed that their partner didn’t live up to his or her promises. They don’t realize that promises can be made, kept, broken, repaired and dissolved. Furthermore, they typically go into marriage without considering what a solid repair process would look like, so when someone gets hurt, they don’t know what to do about it. Aggression, overt and/or covert, often takes over when a couple cannot figure out how to repair and resolve conflicts.

After several years of this, couples sometimes seek counsel, often expecting the counselor to fix their partner—to make their partner love, honor, cherish and be faithful to them, like he or she promised. I’m careful at the beginning of work with couples to make clear what I can and can’t do. I can guide them into and through a repair process, but I cannot do their work for them. And it will be work, I assure them—work that both will have to equally commit to and engage in.

This is when couples really find out what it means to be in a committed relationship with another person who is alien to them. Some are able to navigate that process; some aren’t.

Steps to Repair and Reconciliation

A repair process includes several steps, and requires the humility of both individuals. Both must be able to express their disappointments honestly and respectfully, and to hear the complaints of the other without defense. In other words, to get to the other side of differences and hurts, the individuals must be mature and secure. Moving couples toward this place so they can start negotiating their differences and hurts responsibly and non-reactively can take months to years, depending on the baggage they carried with them to the altar.

When we have managed to get to that place, a repair process includes the following, usually in this order:

  1. The offended party (I assume both parties have broken their promises to love, honor, cherish and be faithful, although not likely in the same fashion or to the same degree) must fully name to themselves, not to their partner, the hurt and injury. (Naming to the partner is a later step). They must fully acknowledge the meaning and cost of the wound.
  2. The offended party must take ownership of his/her injury. The injured party must refrain from trying to transfer the pain back to the one who broke their promise. The injured party must stop rationalizing the behavior of the other, and accept that permanent change has occurred because of the injury. The harm cannot be undone.
  3. At this point, the offended party must acknowledge to him- or herself that the other must be held accountable for the harm. It may still be premature to share this with the partner, as the offended party will likely go into that conversation with resentment. The next three steps diminish that likelihood.
  4. Since there is nothing more to understand about the injury, the offended party can begin to balance the scales. S/he can make different choices, and to gain strength over the injury. S/he can begin to envision what it would be like not to carry the pain of this wound.
  5. To let go of a wound, the injured party must no longer expect that the offended party owes him/her anything. Of course, if the offending party does not acknowledge the harm and make repair, the relationship will reflect whatever boundaries are needed to protect the offended party from further harm.
  6. By now, the offended partner can feel the freedom of having forgiven the offender and the offense, and can envision what reconciliation would require. If that process cannot occur, the offended party is secure enough at this point to set up and hold to appropriate boundaries. A desire for reconciliation may still exist, but the demand for it has subsided.
  7. If the offended party wants, but no longer needs, reconciliation with the offender, it is now time for the injured party to name the offense to the offending partner. This includes acknowledging to the offending partner that what happened was wrong, and that the breach must be repaired if the relationship is to be whole again.
  8. The offending party must then agree that the offense occurred and that it was harmful. S/he must accept full responsibility for the harm without excuse or blame-shifting.
  9. The offending party must show genuine sorrow for the pain of his/her partner. (This is not the same as feeling shame for having committed the harm, but it can look the same.)
  10. The offending party must also acknowledge and accept an explanation of his/her current relational failures that inhibit the potential for repair and reconciliation; and s/he must be open to dealing with those barriers.
  11. When the offended partner describes what’s s/he needs for moving into a new kind of relationship, the offending partner must express willingness to pursue that path. This path may require many steps and phases, depending on the offense/s, and may need the help of a skilled therapist, as well. In the end, this step gives the offender the chance to make amends, which allows the opportunity for trust to grow again over time.
  12. When genuine remorse translates into genuine amends, the offended party will need to receive those overtures, although this could take much time, depending on the severity or frequency of the offense/s.


(This process combines material from three sources. The first six steps—the steps of forgiveness—come from Beverly Flanigan’s, When Forgiveness Seems Impossible. In Bold Love, Dan Allender describes the process of reconciliation, steps seven through eleven. The final step, receiving the overtures of genuine remorse and repair, comes from John Gottman’s, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work.)


Clearly, the process can be lengthy, depending on the depth or regularity of the offense. In addition, complicating almost every wound is unresolved past injuries, the pain of which often gets included with current hurts.

Kicking Someone in an Old Wound


I often tell the story of a scar just below my right knee, incurred in a soap box car accident. The wound—which had penetrated down to the bone—was stitched up, but it still stings like a scorpion attack if it comes into any direct contact. When someone bumps into it and sees me jumping around in agony, they tend to feel terrible that they have caused such pain, but until I explain, they don’t understand why I’m bouncing around like Tigger. They apologize profusely, of course, but they don’t take responsibility for the original injury.

Nor should they. As is human nature, they feel empathy for my pain and sorrow that they caused it, but they don’t need to take ownership of the original wound. Both the original wound and the current pain are mine to deal with, and if a genuine apology comes my way, I easily accept it. I understand the injury occurred by accident, and we can move on. Of course, I’m a little more careful for a while around that person until I can see that they will be more careful around my right knee, and then I can relax around them again.


Now if they were to intentionally go for my right knee later on, I wouldn’t bother to make relational repair. I just don’t want to have people in my life who would be so cruel and calloused, so I’d simply remove myself from relationship with such a person.


Forgiveness and Reconciliation are Separate Steps

I hope the analogy is clear. Forgiveness and reconciliation are not the same thing. Forgiveness takes one; reconciliation takes two. Forgiveness without repair will result in a letting go of the relationship, or at the very least will require clear boundaries until reconciliation occurs. Repair requires certain conditions—genuine sorrow and trust-building—and when those conditions occur, intimate relating can be restored over time, depending on the nature of the offense.


If a couple is willing to surrender to this process over and over because they simply care deeply for the good of the other, they have finally committed to the spirit of marriage.


I suggest that marriage vows include a promise that the couple will seek to repair every breach that enters their relationship. Without acknowledging the reality of broken promises—even if only due to natural human limitations—unnecessary disillusionment and resentment is bound to poison the relationship, sometimes beyond repair.

Recommended Posts


  1. Great beat ! I would like to apprentice whilst you amend your web site,
    how can i subscribe for a blog website? The account helped me a acceptable deal.
    I had been tiny bit acquainted of this your broadcast provided vibrant clear idea

  2. I’m truly enjoying the design and ⅼayout off
    yyour site. It’s a very easү on the eyes which makeѕ it much more ⲣleasant for me
    too come here and visit more often. Did you hire out a designer tto crfeate
    your theme? Оutstanding wоrk!

  3. Right here is the right web site for anyone who
    wishes to find out about this topic. You know a
    whole lot its almost tough to argue with you (not that I actually
    would want to…HaHa). You definitely put a fresh spin on a subject that has
    been written about for years. Excellent stuff, just excellent!

  4. I am sure this article has touched all the internet
    viewers, its really really nice article on building up new weblog.

  5. I have read so many posts about the blogger lovers except this post is genuinely a pleasant paragraph, keep it up.

  6. Nice replies in return of this issue with solid arguments and telling all on the topic
    of that.

  7. For latest news you have to visit internet and on internet I found this web page
    as a most excellent web site for most recent updates.

  8. What’s up, I wish for to subscribe for this weblog to get newest updates,
    therefore where can i do it please help out.

  9. For newest information you have to pay a quick visit internet and on world-wide-web I found this web page as a
    finest web site for most recent updates.

  10. Wonderful site. Plenty of useful info here. I’m sending it to a few buddies ans also sharing in delicious.
    And certainly, thanks for your effort!

  11. I was suggested this website by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by
    him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem.
    You’re wonderful! Thanks!

  12. My brother suggested I might like this web site. He was totally right.

    This post truly made my day. You cann’t imagine simply how
    much time I had spent for this info! Thanks!

  13. Pretty nice post. I just stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I’ve really enjoyed browsing your blog posts.

    In any case I’ll be subscribing to your feed and
    I hope you write again soon!

  14. When someone writes an article he/she keeps the idea of a user in his/her mind that how a user can know it.
    Thus that’s why this article is great. Thanks!

  15. I do not know if it’s just me or if everybody else experiencing problems with
    your blog. It seems like some of the text within your posts are
    running off the screen. Can someone else please comment and let me know if this
    is happening to them as well? This could be a problem with my browser because
    I’ve had this happen previously. Thank you quest bars quest

  16. buy cialis online usa

  17. Howdy, i read your blog occasionally and i own a similar one and i was just
    wondering if you get a lot of spam responses? If so how do you protect against it, any plugin or anything you
    can advise? I get so much lately it’s driving me mad so any assistance is very much appreciated.
    cheap flights cheap flights

  18. It’s remarkable to pay a visit this web site and
    reading the views of all friends on the topic of this paragraph, while I am also eager of getting know-how.
    scoliosis surgery scoliosis surgery

  19. Viagra Para El Deporte

  20. legal cialis no prescription

  21. Hi my family member! I wish to say that this post is amazing, great written and come with almost all important infos.

    I’d like to look more posts like this . ps4 games ps4

  22. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about it. Regards

  23. A motivating discussion is definitely worth comment. I think that you need to publish more about
    this topic, it might not be a taboo matter but typically people do not talk about these subjects.

    To the next! Cheers!!

  24. Penicillin Without Going To Doctor

  25. Buy Viagra Online In Malaysia

  26. viagra cialis gratis

  27. I’m now not sure the place you are getting your information, but great topic.
    I needs to spend some time learning more or understanding more.
    Thanks for magnificent information I used to be looking for this information for my mission.

  28. What’s up everyone, it’s my first pay a quick visit at this website,
    and paragraph is actually fruitful in favor of me, keep up posting these content.

  29. Ynihoh BLOOD SYSTEM A B C FIGURE Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. Plaquenil Best Cheapest Way To Get Cialis Ludbem

  30. hydroxychloroquine online prescription The chain of life begins with plants that possess information in their genetic material on how to utilize the energy from the sun to make highly ordered com plex structures from the simple molecules available to them principally water carbon dioxide and an assortment of minerals.

  31. Thank you a lot for sharing this with all folks you actually recognise what
    you are talking approximately! Bookmarked. Kindly also discuss with
    my site =). We may have a hyperlink trade agreement
    between us

  32. What’s up to every body, it’s my first pay
    a visit of this website; this web site consists of amazing and genuinely excellent
    material for readers.

  33. whoah this blog is fantastic i really like reading your articles.
    Keep up the great work! You realize, a lot of individuals are
    hunting round for this info, you can help them greatly.

  34. Actually no matter if someone doesn’t know afterward its up to other visitors that they will
    help, so here it takes place.

  35. We stumbled over here coming from a different web page and
    thought I might check things out. I like what I
    see so i am just following you. Look forward to exploring your web page
    for a second time.

  36. Great blog here! Also your web site loads up very
    fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your
    host? I wish my website loaded up as quickly as yours lol

  37. Hello, Neat post. There is a problem along with your site in internet explorer, would check this?
    IE nonetheless is the market chief and a huge section of other folks will
    omit your excellent writing due to this problem.

  38. This piece of writing gives clear idea designed for the
    new people of blogging, that actually how to do blogging and site-building.

  39. I row airports, continued hotels ? A hourly crude who discussed when marketed semi-professional predictability, nor wynn took to hope her, thereby underwent purchase plaquenil tablets plaquenil buy 2022 under weakly say than it was felt that those adaptations onto the decoy, safe connected those nesses level more plantar to morphine, .

  40. Your means of telling the whole thing in this paragraph is
    truly nice, every one be capable of effortlessly be aware of it, Thanks a lot.

  41. sildenafil viagra cost per pill

  42. zanaflex drug test zanaflex 5.2 is zanaflex bad for your heart how long does zanaflex take to get out of your system

  43. That is a good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere.
    Short but very accurate information… Thank you for sharing this one.
    A must read article!

  44. stromectol for sale stromectol

  45. online drugstore male ed

  46. I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble.

    You are incredible! Thanks!

  47. I know this web page offers quality depending articles and extra
    information, is there any other web site which offers these things in quality?

  48. Since the admin of this website is working, no question very rapidly
    it will be renowned, due to its quality contents.

  49. pharmacy mall pharmacies in canada that ship to the us

  50. Awesome material. Thank you!

  51. Hello! Quick question that’s entirely off topic.
    Do you know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My weblog looks weird when browsing from my iphone.
    I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might be able to correct this problem.
    If you have any suggestions, please share. Many thanks!

  52. naltrexone opiate blocker cost of revia canada can you stop taking naltrexone cold turkey how long do i have to wait before taking naltrexone after taking hydrocodone and morphine

  53. It’s an amazing article for all the internet visitors; they will get benefit from it I am sure.

  54. Many thanks, Plenty of facts.

  55. Your style is very unique in comparison to other
    folks I’ve read stuff from. Many thanks for posting when you’ve got the opportunity,
    Guess I’ll just book mark this page.

  56. I think that everything said made a lot of sense. But,
    consider this, suppose you composed a catchier title? I ain’t
    saying your information isn’t good., but what if you added a post title that makes
    people want more? I mean Healthy Relationships 1.28: Repair and Reconciliation | Whole
    Heart Counseling Services is a little plain. You
    should peek at Yahoo’s home page and see how they write article
    headlines to get people interested. You might add a video or a related picture or two to
    grab people excited about what you’ve written. In my opinion, it could bring your website
    a little livelier.

  57. I am really enjoying the theme/design of your website.
    Do you ever run into any web browser compatibility problems?

    A number of my blog readers have complained
    about my site not working correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox.
    Do you have any ideas to help fix this problem?

  58. Hi to every body, it’s my first visit of this weblog;
    this website includes remarkable and really fine information designed for readers.

  59. I have been exploring for a little bit for any high quality articles or weblog posts in this sort of house .

    Exploring in Yahoo I eventually stumbled upon this site. Reading
    this info So i am happy to show that I’ve a very good uncanny
    feeling I found out exactly what I needed. I such a lot without a doubt will make certain to don?t
    put out of your mind this website and provides it a glance regularly.

    my web site: special

  60. It’s not my first time to pay a visit this site, i am browsing this site dailly
    and take pleasant facts from here everyday.

  61. I know this site provides quality depending posts and other data, is there any other web site which presents
    these kinds of data in quality?

  62. Thank you for any other informative web site.
    Where else may just I am getting that type of info written in such an ideal
    method? I have a project that I am simply now working on, and I’ve been on the glance out for such information.

  63. I’m really enjoying the theme/design of your website.
    Do you ever run into any internet browser compatibility issues?
    A handful of my blog audience have complained
    about my blog not operating correctly in Explorer but looks great in Firefox.

    Do you have any tips to help fix this issue?

  64. Oh my goodness! Impressive article dude!
    Many thanks, However I am encountering troubles with your RSS.
    I don’t understand why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else having identical RSS
    problems? Anyone who knows the answer will you kindly respond?

  65. If some one desires expert view on the topic of running a blog then i advise him/her
    to pay a quick visit this webpage, Keep up the good work.

    My blog post – 2022

  66. Hello There. I discovered your blog the use of msn. That is a really well written article.
    I will be sure to bookmark it and come back to learn more of your helpful information. Thank you for the post.
    I will definitely return.

    My web page tracfone

  67. I really like what you guys tend to be up too. This kind
    of clever work and coverage! Keep up the good works guys I’ve incorporated you guys
    to our blogroll.

  68. Hello, i feel that i saw you visited my website thus i came to return the desire?.I am attempting
    to in finding things to enhance my site!I guess its ok to
    use some of your ideas!!

  69. Appreciate it! Loads of postings!
    how to write contrast essay essay typer help with writing a speech

  70. Its like you read my mind! You seem to know so much about this,
    like you wrote the book in it or something.
    I think that you could do with a few pics to drive the message home a bit, but other than that, this is
    magnificent blog. An excellent read. I’ll definitely
    be back.

  71. doxycycline 50 mg doxy 200

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published.