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HEALING THE HURT IN YOUR MARRIAGE: Beyond Discouragement, Anger, and Resentment to Forgiveness
Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg
Tyndale House Publishers
Relationships/Love and Marriage
ISBN: 1589971043

In HEALING THE HURT IN YOUR MARRIAGE, Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg are on a mission: to divorce-proof America's marriages. "You and your marriage are the devil's intended victims…Satan would like nothing better than to discourage you, debilitate your marriage, and add another crippled or broken family to his ledger," write the Rosbergs. As hosts of the nationally syndicated radio program "America's Family Coaches…Live!" they've heard myriad tales from wounded couples teetering on the brink of divorce, and have helped them put their marriages back together.

The authors believe that after the honeymoon fades and "the Novocain of naïveté wears off" many marriages suffer from unresolved conflict that causes hurt and anger. "If we do not learn to close the loop on our conflicts, our marriages will be at risk for sliding toward disconnection, discord, and possibly emotional divorce," write the Rosbergs.

The book is salted with scriptural models for resolving conflict, diagrams, and anecdotal stories modeling problems with hurt and anger. There's Zach, who lets his mother run his life, and his wife Jan, whose anger over the situation is eating her up. Laura's husband is a workaholic, and she cries herself to sleep over his neglect. Jack works the night shift, and comes home unexpectedly to find his wife in the arms of a man from their Bible study group.

Every spouse will hurt their partner in some way, believe the Rosbergs. "It's not a question of if, only when." What separates those who head for divorce court and those whose marriages last is how the couple will resolve the conflict and hurt that they feel, they believe. The Rosbergs see three things that keep couples moving in the right direction: the couple acknowledges that they will cause each other pain from time to time, the couple learns what to do when conflicts and pain occur, and the couple puts God's plan for resolving conflict into practice.

With this in mind, the Rosbergs give readers a biblically-based plan to carry out all three steps, beginning with the idea of "the loop." The loop of conflict begins when your spouse offends you in some way. Until it is resolved, the loop remains open. At some point you reach the fork in the road --- the choice to close the loop or leave it open. Once forgiving love is exercised, the loop is closed.

Forgiving love, as seen by the Rosbergs, is a six-stage process: preparing the heart, diffusing anger, communicating concerns, confronting, forgiving, and rebuilding trust. Each stage is explored in detail, and includes examples of couples working through that particular step. Although the Rosbergs encourage couples to say no to divorce, they are also realistic, giving some examples of couples who don't make it. "Reconciliation can occur only when both spouses want it and pursue it through whole forgiveness."

The Rosbergs also look at the origins of marital conflicts, including family background differences, personality differences, values differences, and differences between the sexes. They also examine various types of anger (situational, displaced) and our responses to anger (protecting ourselves, exploding, denying, stuffing). Healing is hampered when pride, guilt, laziness, shame, and fear throw a "red light" that stops us on our journey toward resolution, they write.

"Unless you and your spouse learn how to work through your hurt and anger, you will likely find yourself on an emotional roller coaster that never slows down," write the authors. "Unresolved anger evolves into bitterness and resentment." The unresolved conflicts are part of the "open loops," and closing every "loop" as soon as possible is vital to divorce-proofing your marriage, they write.

They also examine cultural messages about conflict resolution, including messages from the media, advice from friends and family members, and instructions given by the church. Some of the most enjoyable illustrations in the book are when characters from the television sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond" are used to illustrate five common conflict resolution styles. The couple writes with one voice, occasionally switching to first person accounts when they share personal marital anecdotes, which makes for a smooth read. Their plan for resolving conflict and managing anger and hurt flows in an orderly and logical way, with plenty of subheads to help the reader stay on track.

With virtually no Christian extended family left untouched by divorce, the Rosbergs have a ready-made readership. Engaged couples will find this book a great discussion starter, and married couples could find it a marriage-saver.

   --- Reviewed by Cindy Crosby (phrelanzer@aol.com)

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