Full disclosure: this article is written by someone with an imperfect marriage. In fact, this author’s marriage is flawed, and has gone through its fair share of wear and tear in a short amount of time (less than two years married).
However, it is because of these imperfections that I’m able to share a perspective that may help you.
What makes the Bible so appealing is that the most imperfect of people can use it on a regular basis. It was always meant to be used by people going through every day life to learn how to be closer to God and the people around them.
Such is the case which marriage. With the U.S. marriage rate at the lowest it’s ever been in the last century, it’s safe to say that people are afraid to get married when they see so many marriages ending in divorce (close to 50% for first marriages, and higher for second or third marriages). We need a system to follow that works for real marriages, and that’s where the Bible comes in.
If you clicked on an article called “How to Save Your Marriage…,” then odds are you’re either in need of some help, or know someone who is. Check out these 5 conversations you can have with your spouse today that will get you on the road to recovery.
1. “We need to bring God into our marriage”
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.
One of the things we learned very early on in some pre-marriage counseling sessions was the importance of making God the center of our marriage. The minute my emotions or desires become louder in my mind than my wife’s (or vise versa), then we’ve effectively eliminated God from the equation. And once that happens, a marriage doesn’t stand a chance.
It’s amazing how quickly you can diffuse a fight when you bring God in. God is the Great Neutralizer. When a scripture is read, or when we pray together (even when angry), it levels the playing field because none of us is without fault. God is all about forgiveness, and we should be as well.
Practical: Pray every night together for a week. It doesn’t matter how long, just get the ball rolling and make God the new glue that holds you together.
2. “I need to be honest with you.”
Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.
James 5:16 (NLT)
No one likes talking about the things that make us feel guilty. However, keeping secrets and storing up guilt is one of the easiest ways to build a rocky foundation for your marriage. Although honest conversations can be painful at times, the end result is stronger trust and a stronger foundation.
Healing in marriage starts with honesty. In my marriage, I’ve made the mistake of telling my wife my sins with bad motives…just wanting to get my stuff out there to alleviate guilt. However, this only hurt her more, because she could tell there was no heart behind me telling her those things…no desire to be close.
When confessing sin to your spouse, make it about acknowledging hurt, and desiring to be close.
Practical: Share sin with your spouse at a time in the day when you can have time to talk things through. Make sure you both share!
3. “I want you to know the real me.”
Oh, dear Corinthian friends! We have spoken honestly with you, and our hearts are open to you. There is no lack of love on our part, but you have withheld your love from us. I am asking you to respond as if you were my own children. Open your hearts to us!
2 Corinthians 6:12-13 (NLT)
Of course, there’s more going on inside of us than just sin. It’s just as important for us to talk to our spouses about our emotions, desires, and hurts.
The other day, my wife commented that she has to ask me 3-4 times if she hurt my feelings before I admit that they were indeed hurt. In the past, I got our marriage into a bad spot by refusing to acknowledge hurt feelings. Stacked up over time, these hurt feelings developed into resentment and bitterness, and that sin is much harder to deal with.
Nip it in the bud, and share what’s going on inside your heart.
Practical: Journaling. Before you spend time reading your Bible in the morning, ask yourself what emotions dominated you in the last 24 hours and why. Start becoming aware of your heart so you can connect with God and your spouse.
4. “I want to know how I made you feel”
And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
For a marriage to work, you have to be willing to see how you affected your spouse. This goes slightly beyond just confessing sin, but it will make that part a lot more effective.
Recently I was challenged by a friend to spend some time putting myself in my wife’s shoes, and trying to figure out how my actions made her feel, and what she must have done as a result. It was tough, but thinking through the negative thoughts she must have had because of my actions moved my heart and made me humble.
When I brought those things up in conversation and asked if that was indeed how she felt, relief washed over her face. She was so glad to finally have a spouse that wanted to be proactive in demonstrating empathy.
Practical: Ask your spouse what they felt after reflecting on some recent incidents. Be willing to hear the truth and change!
5. “We need to pull in some friends.”
Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.
Proverbs 11:14 (NLT)
No marriage is able to make it without a team of friends. And while this may seem obvious, you’d be surprised how many people I’ve spoken to who have next to no consistent friends helping them on a regular basis.
In our first six months of marriages, my wife and I had more fights than I can remember. We were highly volatile. What helped us make it was having weekly dinners or coffee with our closest married friends to talk through the chaos. Hearing similar stories from them was always relieving, and we were able to help each other with scriptures and advice as we all battled to keep our marriages running smoothly.
Practical: Find 1-2 married friends you can commit to getting together with on a consistent basis.