Step 10: With hope, we continue with an ongoing relational inventory and commit make things right when we are wrong or have hurt our spouse
When our kids were born, they were weighed, and that was recorded by the pediatrician. With each subsequent visit to the doctors office for regular visits, the kids would be weighed and measured and then compared to other kids their age. We’d get a piece of paper that would tell us what percentile our kids were in regarding their height and weight. Comparisons are a great way to cause lots of suffering in your life.
This whole process of marriage recovery is about taking very defined and specific steps. You may not have thought about this along the way, but you have probably thought that taking these steps has been a linear process. Maybe you have thought “once I’m done with these steps, things will be better.” Hopefully that is the case! And, hopefully this will not be the end of you taking these steps.
Life is not linear, it is cyclical. History repeats itself. Men tend to marry someone like or opposite of their mother. Women do the same in regards to their dad. Life is always giving us multiple opportunities to get something right. If you fail once your life isn’t over. That’s what a linear life would suggest.
There is great hope in life repeating itself (there is also great pain in this). As one of my mentors says, “don’t waste your pain!” Take advantage of life repeating itself to follow a process that allows you to make course corrections, changes, and redeem the painful places in your life and your relationships.
Researcher and author Dr. John Gottman has found that almost 70% of all conflict in marriage is perpetual. It will never be resolved. I believe there is great hope in this statistic. If it is true (I find it to be true in my marriage), then it relieves the pressure to “fix” the conflict and instead it invites us to participate with our spouse on walking through the painful conflicts together. This is the greatest gift that you can give, and that you can receive: To be with.
Step 10 is about facing the hope that a cyclical life offers. That your life and the life of your marriage are not linear. That this 12-step process is not something that is to be started and finished. That if you continue to practice these steps, you will have a process that can be established in your life and marriage that will keep you from the ease of resentments, self service, and demands of your spouse.
This step is about accepting that hope, and committing to a continual process of taking inventory of your life and the life of your marriage. This process is never finished. My wife and I speak at marriage conferences and there is always at least 2-3 couples in the audience that have been married 45 years or longer. These couples are inspiring. They continue to work on their relationship even after over 4 or 5 decades of marriage!
There is a rhythm of doing step 10 and the ongoing emotional housekeeping that it invites of you. In the 12-steps of the AA tradition, it is said that steps 1-3 are about establishing peace with God, steps 4-6 are about establishing peace with yourself, and steps 7-9 are establishing peace with others. Steps 10-12 are maintenance steps that allow you to keep peace with God, yourself, and others. In the specific nature of these 12 steps of marriage recovery, steps 1-9 follow a similar path as they do in AA, but they depart a bit in steps 10-12. Step 10 is about maintaining peace with your spouse as you continue practicing the other steps together. Step 11 is about maintaining peace with God alongside your spouse, and Step 12 is about taking what you have come to know about your recovery with God and your spouse, and offering it to others. So let’s talk about the rhythms of this maintenance: Daily, Weekly, Yearly
Begin each day with something in your relationship that you would like to work on. It might be the same as the 5, 10, or even 50 days before, that’s ok. Just pick something that you want to focus on. Perhaps this is a time to go back to step 4 and look at the inventory you completed then and pick out a few of the character traits or flaws that you want to improve. For example: If I have “lazy” as one of my character flaws that negatively impacts my life and marriage, I might consider what is one thing I can do in my relationship that is active and engaged. This might be physical, emotional, or spiritual. Or maybe it includes all three of those categories.
End each day with a brief check in with your spouse. What did you notice from them that you saw? What work did you see that they were doing? What work did you see that you were doing today. Was there anything that happened today that you need to seek forgiveness for? What housekeeping is needed today?
In the beginning of establishing this daily rhythm, I think what you’ll find is that this will probably feel tedious, elementary, and repetitive. Most couples I know and work with do not have a regular process or rhythm of how and when they resolve even the most minor of issues in their relationship. Doing this daily will help you to establish this so that when you have substantial issues to address, you’ve built a process together and have worked on a relational stamina of addressing your challenges.
Get out of the house for dinner, a hike/walk, or some other enjoyable experience together once a week and answer these three questions together:
Can I tell you what I’m thankful for about you? I’m thankful for …
What do you need from me this week?
How have I hurt you this week?
How can I make it right?
Take a trip away from home for at least 2 nights to get away together. Consider attending a marriage event or retreat. This is the time to set goals for the upcoming year together. Talk through what you’ve seen grow in yourself and in each other over the past year. Review your notes and letters from these 12 steps. Is there anything that you need to revisit? Talk through what step you feel like you are on in your relationship today. Identify what you want to accomplish individually and together over the next year.
In subsequent years, you’ll have the goals from the previous year that you can revisit. Celebrate your wins, correct your flaws, and let go of your losses.
Step 10 Reflection Questions
- What was this step like for you?
- What did you notice about yourself in this step of an inventory?
- Did you feel any wins or losses in doing this?
- Where is God in all of this for you?