Steps leading up

Marriage Repair and Applying the First Three of the 12 Steps

(The following is just one of over 100 lessons taught in the Marriage Repair Workshop: The Lazarus Lectures – by Maurice W. Harker, M.ed. and team.  For more information or to register: CLICK HERE.)


There is a certain feeling one gets when it is really time to buckle down on something:

  • When I was in high school and transitioning from being a goofball in the halls of the school to putting on my wrestling gear and getting psychologically ready for another intense practice.
  • Hearing my alarm go off, again, at 5:30am knowing I had to be at the school for early morning orchestra practice (I played the violin for 10 years).
  • The feeling you have when a doctor tells you that you have diabetes and must change your diet.
  • And I assume when you learn that you are pregnant and you have 9 months + 18 years to go.
  • And many more situations like this.

In each situation, there is a resignation; a sensation of clear and unavoidable transition; a sobering.

small infant baby

In order for a marriage to be raised from the dead, in order for a marriage to be born again, each individual must be born again.

As a new missionary sent to the Bible Belt of the midwest I heard the term “Born Again” and I thought it was something other religions believed in.  I was surprised to discover that we, too, believe in being born again.  Most of Alma 5 goes over the necessity for us each, as individuals, to be born again.  (Please pause your reading here, and review that chapter, making sure you have the primary principles in your mind as you proceed with this lecture.)

I am grateful for 2 men, Bill Wilson and Bob Smith, back in 1935 who were some of the first of their time to synergize spiritual principles with academic principles when they created Alcoholics Anonymous and the original 12 Steps Program.  We have seen through the ARP program how these principles can be applied to addiction recovery. Now we need to take a closer look at how they can be and must be applied to marriage recovery.

Using the first 3 Steps of the 12 Steps Program for Individual and Relationship Development

In my young adult years, I became very dedicated to learning how to prepare myself for a successful marital relationship. I learned that I would need to become very strong as an individual. I learned that to become strong as an individual, I would need a strong relationship with God.

bridgeI went on to learn that in order for a bridge to be strong, each pier and tower had to be very solid and strong in and of itself.

I felt decently educated in the principles as taught by my own religion, so I began to expand my education by looking for testimonies of the same principles but from different cultures.  I found that the first three steps of the 12 steps program are really good at helping me and others to get into the mind frame described in Alma 5.

After spending over a year pondering and wrestling with God, I found that before I could apply the first 3 steps with all of my heart, might mind and strength, I would need to apply a slight translation of the first 3 steps in order for them to have their best application to me and those I work with.

Please read the following very carefully with an open heart and mind while holding close to the Spirit for clarification and manifestation.  These next 3 steps are the gateway into Season 4 and they cannot be skipped. (Season 4 is part of the process in repairing and strengthening your marriage that you learn in the Lazarus Lectures.)

Step 1: Original quote: “We admit that we are powerless…and that our lives have become unmanageable.”

My Translation: “I admit that I am in over my head and that the challenge before me is more than I can handle on my own.  And, I admit that the process of repairing this marriage is more than I can handle on my own.”

(Humility) For most of this, by now, this step is not hard for you.  The difference though, for many, is to experience these thoughts with resignation instead of frustration.  But remember, this is not the type of resignation that means I am giving up.  This is the type of resignation that Karate Kid needed to feel in order to submit himself to Miyagi.

Step 2: Original quote: “Come to believe a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”

My Translation: “I need to remember there is a power greater than me that can provide the resources necessary for me to succeed against this challenge.  And, I need to remember, so I don’t give up hope, that there is a power greater than myself that can provide both of us with the resources necessary for our marriage to be miraculously repaired.”

soldiers marching

(Hope)  I think of soldiers entering boot camp.  If they are going to be properly prepared for the real war, they must subject themselves to the discomfort of intense training.

Step 3: Original quote: “Make the decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understand him.”

My Translation: “If I am going to gain what I need to gain from this training, I need to get myself in sync with His methods.

I need to follow instructions, even when they don’t make complete sense to me because He has the bigger picture.

I need to learn His methods based on all the literature written by those who have been in contact with him (prophets and inspired authors), and I need to invite interaction with Him (prayer) and I need to actively make my best guesses (ponder) on how to proceed based on what I have read and my inspired inclinations.

I need to rely only on my relationship with God to gain or regain emotional and psychological stability, instead of relying on a human for this information, including my spouse.

I have the responsibility to study and learn from all who might be inspired, including my spouse, but the interpretation and application, in the end, is between me and God.

And, I need to turn the details of the development and growth of my spouse over to this same God.  I have so much work to do on getting myself in good order, I am in no condition to instruct my spouse in their process (Mote and Beam concept).”

(Spiritual Integrity) In order to get from the end of Season 3, through Season 4 and to the beginning of Season 1 successfully, both individuals will need to regain full “Spiritual Integrity”.

This is a term I use to describe the condition of an individual when they have everything right about themselves with God. They clean all of their own sins out of their system using effective Divine processes, including the repentance process and the Atonement. They learn to respond to difficult situations as Christ would, with dignity, eliminating all anger and sarcasm, defensiveness, gas-lighting, crazy-making, etc., and they remember that with this relationship with God, they can live with or without the other person; in other words, they are getting all of their “needs” met by a Divine source.

We do not become perfect during Season 4, but we each must become Born Again (re-aligned with God).

Born Again

So, in Season 4, ironically, the individuals need to spend less time working on the marriage, and more time working on themselves as individuals via their relationship with God.

woman on coach with dogI encourage individuals to use any inspired resource to help facilitate this process. I encourage them to start what worked to help them when they were younger, to move from Dependent to Independent in their past, and use those tools and processes again, in addition to any new tools they have learned over the years.

If they do not have a system they are confident in, I encourage them to use the three steps I described above.  It is in this 4th Season where I am most often used in marriage therapy.

I work very hard when I assess that a relationship is in Season 3, to help it enter and get through Season 4 in a constructive way. The process of helping individuals become Born Again as Individuals and then go on to experience a Born Again Marriage is very meticulous, and only a God can do it correctly, so I must remember that the role I play is more like a surgeon’s assistant than the Master Surgeon, Himself.

It is one thing to help an individual identify the next steps of personal development and progress with them. It is quite another thing to help two individuals identify their individual improvements in such a way that when they complete the development, it actually makes them MORE compatible, instead of less compatible.

Clinicians and couples, who focus on individual happiness over marital happiness without involving God in the process, are at risk of killing the marriage permanently. By aligning the process with God, both the evolution of the individuals and the evolution of the marriage can be attended to at the same time.

We have learned from the revelations of prophets, and seconded by many in personal revelation, that God is very invested in keeping families together. If both individuals will re-commit to staying connected to God as individuals, then it is just a matter of time before the marriage is raised from the dead.

To get through Season 4, both individuals must turn their attention more to their individual relationship with God than to their relationship with each other. If the couple is able to continue living together, they need to be courteous and kind to each other, but not turn to each other to get their needs met.

Winter outside is Season 4In 2 Nephi 4:34, Nephi says, “O Lord, I have trusted in thee, and I will trust in thee forever. I will not put my trust in the arm of flesh; for I know that cursed is he that putteth his trust in the arm of flesh. Yea, cursed is he that putteth his trust in man or maketh flesh his arm.”

Exodus 20:3 shares a familiar phrase, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

During Season 4 it is important that both individuals re-learn that they need to avoid relying on another person (their spouse) for emotional and psychological and spiritual stability. The idea that we should rely on a fellow human, who has developmental issues of their own, for such things is another ridiculous idea taught by some psychologists.

Sometimes one of the individuals achieves individual “Born Again” status faster than the other. Sometimes this process is not as much about becoming a better person, but about being healed from the injuries experienced by the misbehaviors of the other (or someone in the past).

If we recall, there are stories in the scriptures about this power that can raise people from the dead.  It can also be used to help heal people emotionally and psychologically. While one individual is working to overcome their own patterns of hurtful behavior during Season 4, the other is working to recover from such hurtful behavior. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon that both have to do both, repent and heal (See Double Burn Victim Scenario later in the Lazarus Lectures).

If one individual reaches the Born Again experience before the other, I invite them to consult with God, using their newly fine-tuned relationship with Him, as to whether to move on to a phase of life without the partner (see Pioneer Woman Mode in future Lazarus Lectures), or to wait for them (see Parable of the Southern Belle in future Lazarus Lectures). When the two finally complete their re-individuation/Born Again process, they begin Season 1 again.

Register today to begin your own self-paced marriage repair course: the Lazarus Lectures. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

I'm Not Okay, You're Not Okay, but That's Okay book cover

If you would like to read more writings of Maurice W. Harker, Director of Life Changing Services, read his powerful book on marriage and relationship recovery and repair called, I’m Not Okay, You’re Not Okay, But That’s Okay!  

[To get your FREE ebook copyCLICK HERE]

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