Irreconcilable Differences

39 And King David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.

2 Samuel 13:39 (NIV)

23 Then Joab went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem. 24 But the king said, “He must go to his own house; he must not see my face.” So Absalom went to his own house and did not see the face of the king.

2 Samuel 14:23 (NIV)

33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

2 Samuel 18:33 (NIV)

The story of Absalom is a sad tale of violation, avoidance, talionic justice, rejection and grief.  It actually starts with David’s abduction of and adultery with Bathsheba.  This particular event, in 2 Samuel 11, is not clear on whether Bathsheba is consenting or forced.  David’s sense of entitlement to another man’s wife and his subsequent murder of Bathsheba’s husband establishes a visible pattern that is observed by his oldest son and kingdom Crown Prince, Amnon.  Amnon repeats the pattern of abduction and sexual violation with his half-sister Tamar.  This heinous act is ignored by David and the victim’s brother (Absalom) avenges her honor by murdering Amnon, his half-brother.  Absalom absconds to his maternal family, but after some time David develops a longing for reconciliation.  He (David) fails to follow through on his longing and the returned Absalom feels rejected and avoided.  These strong feelings cause him to mount a challenge for the throne that ultimately ends in his death.  David’s statement of grief (2 Samuel 18:33) rings hollow as the reader is left to ponder how reversible the outcome could have been.  From the point at which Tamar was raped to the army’s pursuit of Absalom, there were multiple opportunities for reconciliation presented to David, that he did not action.  Many scholars have proposed that David’s avoidance may have arisen from a sense guilt and unrighteousness in having innocent blood on his own hands.

The term “irreconcilable differences” is common in divorce proceedings.  Miriam-Webster defines the term as “the inability to agree on most things or on important things.”  It is a recognition that the situation is too far gone for the benefit of reconciliation to outstrip the effort.  The affected parties are so emotionally and situationally distant that they see no advantage to changing the situation.  Many emotions may be involved including hurt, sadness, anger, resentment, shame, guilt and indifference.  Whenever I work with individuals or couples who are dealing with such strain in their relationships, I usually start with a scaling question.  I ask both individuals (in the case of couples) how much interest they have in reconciliation (on a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 represents the highest level of interest).  If the couple is equally low or high, then the course of action is much more prescriptive.  For couples that have significant differences, the course of action is more challenging.  If there is a willingness to explore reconciliation, then a relationship inventory needs to be created that traces the difficulties back to the source.  Once this inventory has been delineated, there is an invitation to explore the offering of forgiveness and making of amends.  This process is not simple or straightforward.  It is however, effective.  Motivation levels have to be determined and normalized.  Safe spaces have to be created and honored.  Relationship boundaries have to be established and guarded.  Barriers to success have to be transparent and accepted.  Sometimes the relationship is overwhelmed by the amount of work required and progress halted.  As a counselor I work to develop elements of perseverance, patience and grace.  I have witnessed relationships that were deemed “irreconcilable” find newness and positive growth.  It does take work!

Whether you are a couple that is struggling and considering separation/divorce or you have a strained friendship/relationship that has experienced a significant chasm or you are struggling with a work relationship that used to be so close and productive…there is hope.

Reach out to us for some free resources to gauge how reconcilable your strained or damaged relationships are.

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