Perhaps you’ve thought about divorce but you’re afraid of the consequences. What would your family and friends think? Could you bear the social stigma? Perhaps a divorce doesn’t seem to “fit” you because you’ve been successful in career and other areas of life. And what about the children? How would they be affected?
There’s no escaping the fact that divorce places a heavy burden on those affected by it. Many have compared it to death. Consequently, some have chosen to endure a “dead” marriage —at least until the children are raised. But when living in martial misery, the duplicity of maintaining a good public image can become unbearable. Many couples wear a good marriage mask for years before it crumbles. Have you accepted marital defeat until the apparently inevitable occurs?
Someone once suggested that there is no unhappiness as intense as the unhappiness of a miserable marriage. When a relationship that was meant for love and companionship becomes filled with conflict, bitterness and despair, it can make life feel painfully unbearable. Yet I believe that any marriage can improve if husbands and wives are willing to work at it.
I am certain that a marriage that appears to be a disaster can become a mutually satisfying relationship. Is it easy to turn a bad marriage into a good one? No. But all satisfying marriages require effort and sacrifice. A seasoned counselor once recommended that lifelong love and companionship is a by-product of an iron-willed determination to make it work.
In 30 years of pastoral ministry, I’ve had the privilege of helping hundreds of couples with pre-marital and marital issues. Each fall semester for the last 20 years, I’ve taught a course for singles on the qualities of a good marriage. I certainly don’t have all the answers but I have learned a few valuable lessons along the way.
If you are willing to try to save your marriage, let me recommend six important considerations.
First, you must be completely honest about the condition of your marriage. Agree together that things are not good between the two of you. Openly admitting that you’re not doing well in your relationship is an essential first step to recovery.
Secondly, you must reject the mentality of defeat. Agree together that you don’t want to give up on your marriage. Believe that success is possible. Although the obstacles seem insurmountable, you must dig deep for one more effort.
Thirdly, humble yourselves and be willing to seek help. This is a difficult step for people who are successful in other areas of life. But we all need help when we can’t see the forest through the trees. A wise counselor can often guide couples to a clearer understanding of their situation. Rarely do deeply troubled marriages turn around without intervention. There are people who can assist you.
Fourthly, you must believe that saving your marriage is the best option. It is hard to pursue a goal when you do not believe in it. Get perspective. Reflect back on the better times in your relationship. Rededicate yourselves to the value of your marriage covenant.
Fifthly, take responsibility for the contributions you have made to your marital problems. Identify the blocks you have placed in the wall that separates the two of you. Stop the blame game. Admit your own faults. Look in the mirror and you’ll see the only person you are able to change.
Finally, you do not have the strength in yourselves to restore your marriage. You need God’s help. “A rope made up of three cords is hard to break” (Ecclesiastes 4:12). The “third cord” of a meaningful and lasting marriage is God. As husbands and wives cultivate their relationship with God, they contribute to the strength of their marriages. We were created for a personal relationship with God and He has opened the way for this to be possible (see: John 3:16,17).
Please receive this as a letter of appeal. I am asking you not to give up on your marriage. Perhaps the battle has been depleting and the wounds are deep. I agree with the one who said, “There is no misery as miserable as the misery of a miserable marriage.”
But it doesn’t have to be this way. All marriages have miserable moments but we must learn the best ways to respond to those moments. Everything that is worthwhile requires effort. I assure you that your marriage is worth the effort.
For more helpful resources: