Not long ago, a friend struggling in her marriage asked me for advice and encouragement. Before getting to my response, I want to share the specific wording of her email to help you feel her desperation.
“I want a divorce. What is wrong with me? I don’t know why I got married. I knew from the beginning that I would never want to get divorced, so why get married? Now I am stuck in a marriage that is an absolute mess and is nothing but misery all the time, and I am so tired of all of it.”
First and foremost, I wanted to help my friend with her marriage. But in advising her on how to do that, I was able to better appreciate how my own marriage went from simply going through the motions of a commitment to being vibrant and exciting.
Tomorrow, my husband and I officially celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary, and we have actually been a couple for 25 years. (On a side note, my husband’s birthday is Friday. Happy Birthday, Rex!)
When giving my friend advice, I knew that all I could really say with confidence is how God worked to save my marriage. Not only did this “process” help my husband and I struggle to victory in our marriage, it still happens regularly to keep the marriage from falling back into destruction.
- Decide that divorce is not an option. You just can’t even consider it. Let the frustration of no way out drive you to find a way to work it out. Ultimately, while God allows divorce in some cases, He still hates it (Malachi 2:16). We refused to let it be an option simply because it hurt God’s heart.
- Develop your personal relationship with Christ. You’re not your spouse’s Holy Spirit. You can’t force him/her to grow. You can only take the steps to grow yourself because you can only control you and submit to God for yourself.
- Decide to honor & respect your spouse. You may not feel your spouse deserves honor and respect, but your feelings on the matter truly don’t really matter. Scripture clearly indicates that wives are to respect their husbands and husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:21-33). It is amazing how much a man is motivated by a wife who respects him. And, ladies, how do you feel when you know your husband loves you above all else except God?
- Devote regular time to prayer. Just “be” before God. Pour out your heart to him. Say the ugly things you’re feeling to him, so you don’t have to say them to your spouse. This does not mean you and your spouse won’t talk about anything difficult, but I find that I have far less negative to say to my spouse when I talk to God first.
- Do the above over and over, again and again. Keep going through this process. Eventually, you’ll reach another, higher plateau. That plateau may still feel low, but it will be higher than your previous low. Just keep going a little higher, one small step at a time.
- Don’t give up. Sort of related to #1 but a little different because a marriage can still legally exist even after the two individuals involved have given up. Get stubborn about saving your marriage instead of being stubborn about fighting for your own rights and needs.
My marriage is not perfect, but I can honestly say it is the best it’s ever been. We still struggle and have accepted that we will always struggle. A marriage that struggles is one that hasn’t given up. In any aspect of life, if you’re struggling, that means you’re not giving in, right?
DISCUSSION: What advice would you have given to my friend?