Help to Counsel an Estranged Couple
Will you please help me to counsel an estranged couple who came to me for counseling? I have been trying to help Brother Tom and his wife Sister Tessy who are faced with a serious family problem. My efforts have so far not found positive results. So I prayerfully decided to seek your help.
Both Tom and Tessy are believers from our assembly and are married for over 2 years. They both come from local assemblies in our neighboring districts. Tom got a job in our city and so he has been living here for over 4 years. After he married Tessy, she resigned her job in another city and moved over to our city where Tom and Tessy started their family life. Later Tessy also got a job in our city and so they were having a fairly comfortable life. They have been regular in the assembly meetings and seemed to be a happy couple.
After a few months, we found both Tom and Tessy looking very gloomy while in the meetings. Tom stopped actively participating in the Sunday gatherings and they started missing the midweek meetings. They always gave the excuse of stress at work when enquired about missing meetings and nonparticipation. Then we found them missing even on Sunday gatherings frequently. Eventually, we found that Tessy was in the family way. Soon she moved back to her home in the native place with the explanation that she needed the care of her mother.
One day, I met with Tom and enquired about the changes in their expressions, quietness in meetings, missing gatherings of the assembly and why she decided to go back to her home. It was then that Tom opened up and told me the story of their miserable family life. Soon after joining her husband in our city, Tessy started expressing dissatisfaction about almost everything with her husband. Apparently, he lost his job (or he resigned) and started studying for a better job. She found out that he didn’t have the educational qualification he claimed to have at the time of their marriage. His job was also found to be below what he claimed to have because of poor qualification. Tessy was upset that they didn’t have a house or flat of their own as against the impression created by Tom’s family during the time of the marriage proposal. So for several months, they were surviving on the salary of Tessy which Tom spent according to his desires and priorities. All of these made Tessy upset, disappointed and she felt cheated by Tom and his family. They had many arguments and angry outbursts at each other. They even had quite a bit of physical fights and verbally abused each other. Apparently, the parents got involved and justified their side. Tom’s people said that they never cheated Tessy and her people and that Tom is studying for a better job. They also said that Tom would soon buy a flat. They were upset with Tessy because she was always quarreling with her husband and not ready to accept him and his situation and not at all patient. According to them, Tessy is very argumentative, quarrelsome and use disrespectful words at the husband which is unbecoming of a believer. Tessy’s family counter-argued that Tom is very abusive and seemed like a fraud because everything about him is questionable. It was at the peak of their quarrel and infighting that Tessy wanted to go to her parents for confinement. But this happened about 15 months back and she never came back with her baby because she hated Tom and didn’t want to come back to live with a “liar and cheat”.
Now their baby is almost one year old and Tom has not seen the child yet. Tom is upset with Tessy for making a false allegation about him and not willing to come back to live with him. In the meanwhile, there have been some discussions among the families which have widened the gap between Tom and Tessy.
I tried to speak to both Tom and Tessy and asked them to forgive each other of all their failures in the past. But they are not willing. Each feels deeply hurt in the hands of the other. There is a stalemate and I am unable to resolve it for them. Please read the above account and give a reply to help me reunite this estranged couple soonest possible.
Dear Brother Joshua
Thank you for your mail. I praise God for your concern and care for this couple and for all the efforts you have taken to help reunite them. You mentioned about meeting Tom, but I wonder if you had a chance to meet with Tessy, and parents of both Tom and Tessy. This is also important. It is unfortunate that Tessy had to experience such frustrations in her married life. It is also unfortunate that Tom failed to give spiritual leadership to his wife (and also their child) because of allegations about the cover-up in his life. These have sadly affected their family life which has led to serious spiritual failures in their personal and family life. All of these have unfortunately affected both their parents and their assemblies. I hope that it will be possible for you to touch this couple and the two families and to bring them to reconciliation!
From your description, it seems to me that Tom and his family have not told the whole truth about his education, job and living facility before the marriage. If so, they need to be led to confess these, repent and ask Tessy and her parents for forgiveness for this great lapse. They may have some explanations as to why they told things which were not factually correct, but these explanations will not exonerate them of their sin of a cover-up before Tessy and her parents and the believers at large. Once there is a heartfelt confession accompanied by the humility that is to be evident in their behavior, and then it is for Tessy and her parents to forgive them wholeheartedly and accept them. It is our responsibility as believers to grant forgiveness and apply it without hesitation. As Jesus said, we are bound to forgive the offenses of others seven times seventy unconditionally. If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive our offenses (Matthew 18:22; 6:14-15; Colossians 3:12-15; Ephesians 4:32). We are commanded to forgive unconditionally.
Secondly, Tessy and Tom are both guilty of their behavior and actions against each other verbally, emotionally and physically. Such behavior from a believer can never be justified even though there were provocations. Every such expression, including words, body language, physical violence, etc. needs to be confessed by both of them and ask for forgiveness. You will have to try and bring them to such a point of confession through counseling. Once a genuine confession is expressed, both should have the grace to accept confession in good faith and extend forgiveness. This may best be done in your presence.
Thus it should be possible for them to be reconciled and reunited. Genuine confession, repentance and forgiveness will be possible for those who are genuinely born again and those who repent of their failures and sins in their hearts and towards their life-partners. I suggest that you may please meet with Tom first and then Tessy separately and convince them of their failures in this matter and bring them individually to a level of confession and repentance. If Tom is not willing to come to a point of confession and repentance, then a spiritual solution to this situation will be difficult to arrive at. (I am sure you know that biblical counseling is not bringing about a truce, patchwork or agreement of some sort). The goal of biblical counseling is to bring the erring persons to the confession of their sins and failures. Along with counseling Tom and Tessy and bringing them to confession, you may bring them together for a joint session where each can respond to the other and clarify issues and ask for forgiveness. Along with that, please counsel the parents of both Tom and Tessy to accept the situation and to encourage them to do whatever possible to somehow help their children to confession, repentance and to the reunion. It is important that the parents also come to repentance of all their sins of omission and commission in all that they had said or done. It is important for them all to realize that all of us believers are called upon to unilaterally forgive each other.
Please remind all the parties concerned that it is important for all of them to be governed by the principles of the Word of God and the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. It is also important to help them understand that for the wellbeing and proper upbringing of the child given to Tom and Tessy and for the testimony of the families and their respective assemblies, there is a dire need for a proper scriptural settlement of this matter as soon as possible. They all need the grace of God to accept the confession of each other and to forgive and forget the past events and start rebuilding the family life of both Tom and Tessy.
May God grant you the wisdom, grace and patience to counsel the couple and their parents and lead them all to a new chapter in their lives! I am praying for you and for Tom, Tessy, and their families.
Yours sincerely in Christ