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Betrayal is the breaking or violation of a presumptive contract, trust, or confidence that produces moral and psychological conflict within a relationship amongst individuals.

Every new pre-married class that we teach we spend some time considering the concepts that we want to keep or add. We try to make sure the content is both relevant and universal. We also hope that our concepts have been well formed. So I am using this platform to flesh out one of our observances.

When the word betrayal comes up what do you think of? Does it sound like something that you would never do in your relationships? Does it sound extreme?

I was thinking today that not all betrayals are intentional. As a matter of fact, for most good-willed people, they would never imagine betraying their partner. But maybe some betrayals are more covert than overt. Here are some possible betrayals that might occur moving from pre-married to married:

  • Have you suppressed your negative emotions, like anger or neediness until after the wedding?
  • Have you kept an addiction under control until you are married, but then no longer keep a tight hold on it?
  • Did you lose weight for dating and then put on pounds after the engagement or wedding  was a done deal?
  • Did you hold a job until after the marriage vows were spoken and then quit working, expecting to be taken care of?
  • Did you hold high expectations for your partner but did not reveal them until the marriage was in full swing?
  • Did you wait until after the wedding to reveal to your spouse that you had changed your mind about having children?
  • Did you pretend to enjoy things during dating that you really didn’t, and then refuse to participate afterwards?

All of these things can feel like betrayals depending on spoken or even implied agreements. Often a spouse won’t know whether it’s permissible to bring up certain issues once they are married. Whether they believe you were intentional or not they may feel deceived and become angry or resentful.

Nan and I believe in full disclosures before marriage. If you are afraid to discuss certain things before you are engaged, then the relationship is not safe enough. You must allow your struggles to be known, be willing to be honest about your intentions and keep your agreements once you have made them. Yes, there can be things in a marriage that change and modifications must be made. However, those things need to be discussed and then agreed upon.

One Size Doesn’t Fit All


1 Thessalonians 5:14-15 (The Message) 

13-15 Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part. Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on. Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet. Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out. 

And for the purists here is the NKJV translation 

14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all. 15 See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good both for yourselves and for all.

Nan & I were talking this morning about different approaches to counseling for our clients based on the individual temperaments and situations they faced. It can be tempting to rely on a “one size fits all” kind of mentality based on the “issue” rather than really getting to know the person’s deeper personality, background and other struggles before coming up with a treatment plan.

We were reminded of the above passage in 1 Thessalonians 5 which first calls out those who counsel to be aware, and then guides them in their task. I have included two different translations because I think both interpretations are rich with wisdom. Do we give too much grace to freeloaders? Are we too harsh with weakened people? I know you have encountered both, maybe even in your own family while dealing with spouses, parents, children or siblings.

I do not believe that all of us are called to counsel, especially within our own family. God gives each one of us special gifts for the benefit of the community, but He does not give all gifts too all people. Words are very powerful and have long lasting effects. Just ask any adult who has suffered at the hands of an emotionally abusive parent. But for those who are called upon to fulfill this sacred role, I would caution them to think carefully about the difference between godly wisdom and worldly wisdom. Godly wisdom takes into account the “whole counsel of God”, not just slices of scripture. And it is always respectful of the person’s worth.

It is very discouraging to have great intentions of helping someone only to discover you have made their problem worse. How can we do this?:

  • Challenging them when they need encouragement and support
  • Minimizing a serious problem
  • Shaming them when they reveal something difficult
  • Overreacting, overstating or overwhelming them with your response
  • Being critical, self-righteous or analytical with an emotional or delicate issue (the person will likely feel unfairly or harshly judged)
  • Answering without having fully listened (the person feels unimportant)
  • Interpreting (inaccurately) rather than listening and reflecting
  • Listening and responding with a “black and white, all or nothing” or predetermined mindset

I am sure there are many more I could add, but I’m sure you get the idea. We cannot group people into convenient categories and apply stock responses. We have to honor each one as an individual who is deeply loved by God and worthy of our best efforts. That requires us to dig deeper within ourselves at times and not succumb to our own frailties. It means managing ourselves when it’s easier to manage others.

But I want to give a shout out to all of those who care for and counsel others. It’s rarely easy to share in someone’s pain. But it’s part of God’s plan.

Galatians 6:2 (NLT) Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ.

Surviving A Pre-Holiday Breakup


I don’t know why it is, but every year it seems that there are always several relationship breakups right before the holidays. For those who are cynical I expect they would say it’s a money saver: no expensive Christmas gifts need to be bought. That may be true, but I think the issue is bigger than that.

Often, this is the time we attend holiday events and couples have to seriously DTR (determine the relationship). Has our relationship advanced far enough to bring this person home to meet my close family members? Would they fit in? Is my family too different? Is theirs? Do I want to introduce this person to my co-workers, my church family, and perhaps my broader friend base?

Unfortunately, this is usually the most painful time to go through a breakup. If the relationship ends, that means you will face all these events alone, or at least with someone who is not as significant in your life. You may feel shame or rejection or depression.

So what should you do?

First, understand that you will go through a period of grief. It is a loss and you will have a significant amount of feelings, the intensity determined by several possible factors:

  • How long did the relationship last?
  • How deep was the relationship?
  • Did you “play the movie forward” in your head, fantasizing the outcome of the relationship beyond where it actually was?
  • Did you cross any boundaries, emotional or sexual that was in conflict with your values?
  • Did you have a sexual relationship or live together?
  • Was the breakup angry and hostile or did you have a good goodbye?

Second, although you may feel an urge to isolate instead of connect, this is the worst thing you can do. Now is a great time to reconnect with single friends that you might have pulled away from because you devoted most of your time to your relationship. Be sure to spread it around if you have the tendency to overwhelm your friends with too much emotionality. Did you stray from God and church? Turn back to Him and the comfort of your spiritual family as well.

Third, the people around you that were aware of your relationship are going to ask questions that are going to be uncomfortable. “Where is that cute girl you are dating?” or “What happened? Why did you break up?” You need to be prepared to answer those questions in a way that doesn’t trigger feelings of shame. You don’t owe everyone a detailed explanation. You can simply say “It didn’t work out” or “We weren’t right for each other” and leave it at that.

Fourth, don’t beat yourself up. Try not to replay all the things you could have done differently or all the mistakes you think you made. A certain amount of that is a normal part of the grief process, but too much of it can be toxic and self-defeating. It is better to give yourself grace, remember some of the good stuff and assess what you learned that will better prepare you for the next relationship.

By the way, if you know you are going to break up with someone, be kind and do it before they invest time and money on you during the holidays. Don’t be selfish and keep them around just so you don’t have to go to parties alone or so you can get a cool present before the relationship is history.

Breakups range from relief to disappointing to truly painful and you cannot always predict how you are going to feel. But be assured that you will get through it and at some point, sooner or later, be open for new possibilities.