I’m heartbroken these days. I’m crying the “ugly cry” for people I care about. Four couples I care deeply about are running/falling/slipping quickly into divorce like a teenager driving too fast behind the wheel.

First at the scene of the accident

We all know accidents happen. First responders know even more that accidents happen- they see the pain, death, blood, trauma and overall mess close up and personal. Similarly, we all know people separate and divorce. I get to see from my front row seat- I see the ugly, uncovered, uncensored versions of divorce. And it is enough to keep you up at night.

Last minute didn’t work

We started The Family Greenhouse because in pastoral care we were working with people who waited too long. They came to the church during the 11th hour of struggle and said “we are signing papers tomorrow, unless you can fix this or convince us not to.” And although we gave hope and we saw miracles, we were overall discouraged working with people when one spouse or more was not really “in it” and willing to work on the relationship. They gave us visibility to the struggle but they didn’t really let us help.

We made a plan

So we created a nonprofit where people could get help before they needed counseling. Before they needed divorce lawyers. A place to get practical tools and biblical truths to actually make healthy changes. Small changes and big changes that absolutely change the trajectory of the relationship. We all have taken a wrong turn and added a few minutes to our trip- I did that just this week. But when we continue in the wrong direction and ignore that GPS voice, we have the potential to set ourselves back hours if not days. The same is true in relationships- and it can all be redirected…back on the path…listening to God and to each other.

When to come?

Lately I haven’t been able to do as much preventative care. I’ve been in the trenches with people. And I don’t regret getting in there and getting messy with them- I would do it again so they are not alone. But I want the people who are hurting some but not a lot to COME SEE US NOW.  Come while you have energy and strength to make change. Let your spouse know these symptoms are serious enough that you need objective help.

The Pain Scale

Really what I am suggesting is changing your pain threshold. We all have a certain point that stirs us to action. We have to have our car making the noises for awhile ‘til we are ready to take it to the mechanic. We feel sick plenty long enough ‘til we are ready to pay in time and money to see a doctor.  We feel really fat and only one pair of pants still fit and then we start on healthy eating or exercise. I get it. We all get it. You have a threshold for the level of dissatisfaction and frustration you have in your relationships. With your mom or your spouse or your kid or your friend. I am pleading with you to change the threshold. Drop it down a few notches. If you have tensions and disagreements about certain issues, acknowledge them. Issues of finances, moving, parenting, household duties, listening, sharing life transparently, and a thousand more topics become like wedges in your relationship and they push you apart.

Why it’s worse to wait

The hospital pain chart is a great scale to use. People struggling in marriage frequently won’t BOTH agree to get help until both parties see the relationship is at a 7 or 8 or higher. I submit to you that you need relationship help when you are at a 4. You go to a workshop at a 2. You learn how to be a better spouse at 1! We need to tolerate less and be willing to get help earlier. Get input before the issues require more invasive treatment. Waiting only makes the root issues deeper, the wedge issues causing more distance, the patience thinner and the light of hope dimmer.

And then there’s the issue of emotion. I will save that for my next post. Because I have a lot of anger right now…

[Read Part 2 on feelings.]

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