Marriage issues are tough already but it’s easier to work on them when there’s willingness and goodwill from both spouses.
But what happens when one spouse is unwilling to put in any effort whatsoever? What happens when he is the problem but won’t admit it? (even blames you for it?)
That’s what I want to look at today. Because emails have trickled into my inbox from wives who are tired, discouraged and frustrated.
The early years of marriage can be tough in many ways but the biggest challenge is often the “early” part; a young couple hasn’t developed the muscle, goodwill and perseverance to weather harsh storms together.
I learned very early that God can use the things that are meant to break us apart to lead us straight into His arms.
The enemy may want to break your marriage soon after “I do” but God can turn the tables and use the very things meant to break you to lay a solid foundation for the rest of your marriage.
What to do as you walk through this storm in your marriage;
1. Remember it’s okay to feel disappointed
The Bible says to be angry but not to sin. Ephesians 4:26. It’s okay to grieve.
Unfortunately as Christians we struggle to admit we have emotions. In fact we feel like the less emotions we feel or display, the more spiritual we are.
So when you are genuinely upset about your marriage you start to feel very unchristian and immature.
Yet we are supposed to be upset at sin and un-Christlike behavior in our marriage. We don’t throw our emotions around (be angry but do not sin) but we allow them to galvanize us to God-action.
Years ago, God set me free when He told me that I am better off bawling and having a fit at His feet, instead of going off by myself to weep and maintain dignities. God can handle our emotions!
The Bible says the name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run into it and are safe. (Proverbs 18:10) You are safe in Christ.
Expressing your emotions in a healthy way is good for your marriage.
When you stuff up everything, with no release whatsoever, it becomes a hindrance to your communication. (Can all wives who have attempted conversation in the middle of a weeping fest raise a hand?)
So talk to God, tell Him how you feel. Allow yourself to grieve. God is not disappointed with you.
Sometimes we have to feel the depths of our despair to begin to make sense of where we are and what we need to do.
2. Reach out for help but..
Whenever we have interpersonal problems, the first person we should take it to is the person we have a problem with.
Don’t seek outside help if you haven’t tried internal resolution. It will isolate your husband further – no one likes to feel ambushed. A mentor or pastor cannot have the conversations you need to have with your husband.
It’s a lesson I learned the hard way as newly wed. After counseling and input from mentors, I’d sit back pretty, fully expecting my husband to remember all he had been told to do without us having to sit and hash out solutions.
It could be said that I was waiting on my mentors to do marriage on my behalf.
But outside intervention is not a substitute for inner work.
Now if you can cannot resolve between the two of you, invite trusted counsel.
Can I be real with you? Sometimes, especially in the early days when your husband is coming to his own, the last thing he will want to do is listen to you.
He’s heard you a thousand times over and he literally can’t handle, one more word on the same issue from you.
I am not saying he’s right. But I am suggesting it helps to have a new voice speaking into your husbands ear.
Still we struggle with that concept as wives. “You married married me, why won’t you listen to me?“.
There’s also a reputation struggle. “But we are newlyweds, what will people say when they see us walking to the church office for marriage counseling?”
And the shame “Our pre-marital counselor did an excellent job preparing us for marriage, we are such a disappointment, we can’t go back to them now”
And this “My husband has forbidden me to talk to anyone about our struggles”
Well, lets start with #1 “You married married me, why won’t you listen to me?“.
Please understand, your husband is learning how to be a good husband.
He needs a lot of input, a lot of watching how other men do it, a lot of learning.
A time will come (believe me it will) when he won’t need so much outside input.
But for now, don’t be mad if he needs to hear your words through another mouth. Become his biggest cheerleader.
#2 “But we are newlyweds, what will people say when they see us walking to the church office for marriage counseling?”
There’s no easy way to say this: YOU NEED TO STOP CARING ABOUT WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK!
Honestly, we just need to let it go. People don’t really care – they have no clue what you are going through, unless you are broadcasting it.
But generally, nobody’s keeping those kinds of tabs on your marriage.
And often God does a great job covering us, so much so that people will be surprised to learn you walked through such hard places.
Okay, maybe everyone is really all over your business. You have to ask yourself;
“What would I rather have, a “good” reputation and a terrible marriage or a “soiled” reputation and a glorious marriage?”
It’s your choice.
#3 “Our pre-marital counselor did a great job preparing us for marriage, we are such a disappointment, we can’t go back to them now”
The mentoring you received was preparation for marriage. A good swimming coach does not abandon the student in the pool.
He might provide useful theoretical tips (premarital counseling) but he won’t allow someone who has never swam before to get into the pool alone and swim effortlessly, based on the theory he provided outside the pool.
He’ll do everything to help them practically, including getting into the pool with them so they don’t drown (post-marital mentorship).
Your mentors have walked through the same messes, earned their stripes.
There’s nothing new under the sun! They want to help you because they know you need them more.
You have to get over your shame and ask for help.
#4 “My husband has forbidden me to talk to anyone about our struggles”
The Bible commands wives to “understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:22 MSG)
Acts 5, records how Peter and the other disciples got into trouble when they continued preaching about Jesus after being warned by the authorities not to.
They were hauled before the full assembly of the elders of Israel
But they declared “We must obey God rather than any human authority” (Verse 29).
Whenever human authority goes against God’s authority, you are free to disobey human authority.
You go about everything with respect of course, but don’t allow your marriage to struggle and limp while you do nothing in the name of obedience and submission to hubby.
Ask God for boldness to respectfully share your heart, to stand your ground and seek help. Pray that God will give you the right words so your hubby hears the spirit of God.
If he refuses to meet with the counselor/pastor or mentor, go by yourself and get the help you need for yourself and your marriage.
3. Take action.
Everything begins and ends in prayer; difficulties are not a cue to abandon God and start looking for options “because God didn’t work”.
Sometimes we pray so hard against difficulties in marriage and when difficulties arise, we think prayer didn’t work.
Like I once did, you may believe that being a Christian couple insulates you from all trouble and challenges.
But consider Jesus, the most spiritual person that ever walked the earth.
He knew sorrow, pain, abandonment at a level we’ll never know. We see how these things revealed a depth, reliance and intimacy with the Father. Luke 22:39-46
If Jesus went through these kinds of difficulties, and we are His disciples, whats makes us think our lives will be different?
So get on your knees and cry out to God. Not once, not twice. Continually. Talk to God about how you feel. Find out what God says in His Word. Renew your mind.
And then listen. Listen because God will begin to tell you things, give you steps to take.
He might ask you to be the mature one in the relationship and go the extra mile, to shut your mouth and stop complaining, to wipe your tears and do He tells you to do.
God will speak to you as your quieten your heart in His Presence. He’ll give you peace, renew your hope in Him, show you answers and possibilities you didn’t know.
God can change the dynamics of your marriage through you.
Remember you and your husband are one flesh. God can access both of you through one of you.
He can access your marriage and your husband’s heart through your words, your actions, your habits, your prayer, your bravery.
So be brave. Risk in God. Take steps of faith.
4. Remember you are not to blame for his issues.
Don’t take responsibility for things you have no business taking responsibility for. A false sense of responsibility will have you fighting for and covering your husband where you shouldn’t .
If he has left the marriage, he deserves all the calls and rebukes from his friends. If he’s refusing to work and watches TV all day, he needs to change!
If he’s breaking boundaries with the opposite sex and thinks nothing of it, he needs serious censure.
Don’t cover for him. The embarrassment or shame he’s going through, or will go through is not your fault.
Maybe you married him knowing he has a porn addiction or he’s abusive or he’s alcoholic.
Now that’s something you can take to God, admit your failure to exercise careful judgment and ask for forgiveness.
But that is not the same as believing you deserve to be lied to and cheated on and abandoned or abused.
His problems are his problems and you need to approach them from that angle.
(*If he’s physically abusive, seek help immediately and remove yourself from danger)
If you think you are to blame for his issues, you’ll hardly make any progress because you are focused on the wrong person.
Not that you have nothing to learn in the season, but you must separate his problems from yours.
You cannot do your job (as a Helpmate) if you are limping like your husband.
Please fight to stay healthy! Refuse to take responsibility for his choices and actions. Call him out on it, with love and respect.
You are in his life for a reason, the same way he’s in your life a reason.
Go to God and ask Him to help you see the issues from His perspective. God is never wrong!
What He sees is what you want to see.
5. Don’t give up on God
Maybe your husband has abandoned you, even filed for divorce.
You don’t want divorce but you cannot change your husband. My heart goes to you and I pray that God will turn his heart back to Him.
If you are in this situation, continue to pray. Surround yourself with good trusted counsel. But most of all, lean on God and rely on Him. No one can understand your pain and brokenness and fill you with hope like God.
I don’t know what lies ahead but God is already in your future. Your marriage may limp but God never fails.
Maybe your husband is at home but things don’t feel any better..it’s like he’s checked out. I want you to know that your relationship can change as you work on it.
I know it feels like things will never change.
Like the woman with the issue of blood, it feels like your troubles have been with you forever and there’s no hope.
I can speak from experience and tell you that God changes hearts. You are in the perfect position for a miracle.
So don’t quit.
Keep putting one foot in front of the other, celebrate small steps of victory, continue to walk with your counselor or pastor, keep doing your part, keep your eyes on God, not on the marriage.
As you do your part, God will do His. You can’t change your husband, but God can.
As you think and plan, please plan from a position of hope, not defeat.
This applies to every wife – we must constantly believe the best about God, our husbands and marriage.
If you are going through difficulties in marriage, or you simply want to thrive, pick up my book, Blues to Bliss: Creating Your Happily Ever After In The Early Years. (Ebook is $4.99, Paperback is $9.99)
If you know someone who is going through a difficult time in marriage, buy them a copy as a gift. Click here
It’s not possible to share everything in a single blog post (this was long!) but I’ve laid it all out in the book – how to change the dynamics of a difficult marriage so you can thrive.
Question – What encouragement can you add? What one tip has made the biggest difference in your marriage? Lets talk in Comments.
Sharing with Wedded Wednesday