- Name it.if you feel some thing unseen is in filtrating your marriage — if you're feeling unfair lyattacked or prejudged by your spouse — say so! But carefully. "I'm confused about why this subject sets you off the way it does. I'm wondering if it reminds you of anything. "Let your spouse process your observation; if he hasn't spotted the ghost yet himself,he may need time to make the connection.
- Be patient. Although naming the ghost is an important first step toward change, don't expect your spouse to corral that thing immediately. Because change is difficult, you'll see it appear again and again as your mates trivesto move out from under its influence. Offer support, not quick judgment.
- Don't take responsibility for the ghost. Ultimately you can't get rid of your mate's ghost; it'shers, so she must do the work to manage it.
- Know how to react.Ask, "How can I mention a 'haunting in progress' without putting you on the defensive?"
- Let the bullet bounce. When your spouse overreacts, remind yourself that it's about the past,not so much about you personally.Like putting on a bullet - proofvest, you can let what was fired at you bounce instead of penetrate.
- Own your part of the exchange.Ghosts are some times triggered when you act in a way that mirrors the previous partner. Anything that closely resembles their behavior or attitudes creates a landmine. As your spouse talks about his ghost, learn what you can do to avoid triggering those explosions and monitory ourself closely.
- Love as "perfectly" as you can. Most ghosts are root edin fear, but Scripture tells us that perfect love drives out fear(1John4:18). Having a nunconditional love that reflects the love of Christ will eventually help root out and destroy your spouse's ghosts.
- Pray with and for yourspouse.Praying together as a couple and asking for God's wisdom and power to overcome can bring healing. Besides enlisting the power of the Holy Spirit,praying together reminds you that you're a team.
- Focus on improved behavior notsoftened emotions. The process of change for your partner requires her to "act better than she feels. "Don't be discouraged when you notice negative emotions erupt. Instead, focus on her effort to change her responses toward you (behavior). Offer encouragement by saying, "I've noticed you trying to [identify the positive behavior] and I appreciate your commitment to our relationship. Your effort is bringing us closer together. Thankyou."
Ghosts are hovering, irritating pests; they're about the past. Love and service are about the present and future. That's where you're headed.
— RonDeal, www.successfulstepfamilies.com
Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.