Let’s be honest. Marriage is hard work.
We all love the “fall in love” romance, but at some point after the honeymoon (or maybe during it), we’re faced with the reality of making this thing called marriage work beyond the wedding.
For most relationships, past messes, sin, and broken places in our hearts get triggered by our spouse causing misunderstandings. Without proper help, those can lead to situations that make the marriage seem doomed. Maybe we end up in a season of not being able to communicate without hurting each other more deeply. Or perhaps one spouse, or both, have sought other situations or relationships that have broken the trust of their spouse.
No matter what your current situation or how devastated you feel, there is hope for rebuilding.
God is always about reconciliation, redemption, and restoration of relationship. He created that for us through Jesus and will make a way for us in every relationship we have.
When my husband and I separated due to multiple circumstances that led to us inflicting constant pain on each other, God helped us find our way into coming back together in a healthier, stronger way.
Here are some steps that helped us navigate the restoration and supporting verses:
- Decide on a brand-new start. Start at zero to rebuild trust. Recognize, confess, and address the problems that got you to this place. Nothing hidden, covered over, or minimized. It’s okay if you still need to work through some issues, but be honest about what they are—whether they are seemingly small (little “white” lies) or something significant like addictions or affairs. (Gal.1:1-10 & 6:15; Eph.5:11)
- Begin rebuilding by renewing your friendship. What is the foundation of your relationship? Sex can’t sustain a relationship. Both of you being committed to Jesus first and then each other will lead to a solid foundation. Look at this time apart as a courtship. (2 Cor.6:14-18; Eph.5:25-27; I Thes.4:3-8)
- Speak the truth plainly and in love. No distortion or manipulation of words—not your own, each other’s, or God’s. Recognize that the enemy is the accuser and deceiver and choose to take no part in any form of exaggeration, misrepresentation, or deception. (Gal.2:3-5; 2 Cor.4:2; John 5:39-47; Eph. 4:15; Col. 3:9)
- Each of us are responsible for our own relationship with Christ. That relationship has to be the first priority. Neither one can judge or control the other one in this either. This isn’t a place to try and impress each other with what you aren’t really doing, or decide you know what the other one should be doing. Share only about your journey, and what will bless your spouse. (Gal.1:15-24 & 2:6-10; 2 Cor.5:9-10; 1 John 1:4 & 3:9-10; James 5:16)
- Confession and forgiveness. We have to own our own mess and be willing to confess it as well as repent of it. Change within us and in our relationships only occurs when we can honestly see the bad and have a sincere desire to turn around and go a different way. We should be quick to apologize to our spouse when we are in the wrong and not wait for them to have to point something out. Not to say that when they or someone else we trust sees something hurting us or others and gently points it out, we shouldn’t be open to receiving their insight. If we are confronted with something, accept it and pray about it. If there is a question about whether our spouse’s perspective is accurate, ask a couple of trusted, objective parties like a pastor or friend to confirm or help us see if there is truth to their perception. When our spouse is the one admitting faults, we should extend forgiveness freely. Jesus has forgiven all of us so we must learn to forgive ourselves and others just as he has done for us. (Col.3:13-14; 2 Cor.10-11; Gal.4:15-16; I John 4:6; Jude 10))
- Be sincere. When we do something positive with or for our spouse, it has to be from the heart and not simply a way to gain their approval, affection, or reciprocated behavior. (Gal.3:1-4; 4:18 & 5:1-3; Col. 3:17; I Tim.1:5)
- Use kind, quiet, gentle words. Be respectful of each other, family members, and others. If either of you feel your heart rate increase in frustration, take deep breaths and ask for a few minutes (or as long as it takes) to calm down. Make sure you specify when you think you can continue so as not to leave your spouse hanging and feeling abandoned. You might say something like, “I think I need some time to calm down and sort out my thoughts and feelings. Can you give me fifteen minutes?” Or “Can we try again after dinner?” (Eph.5:19-20; Phil.2:14; I Peter 3:7)
- Be accountable to someone you both trust outside your marriage so that you each know that another person is on the journey with you and with your spouse. (Col.1:28 & James 5:16)
- Be partners in action by discussing finances, parenting, household, etc. (Phil.2:2-4)
It might help to repeat the declarations below regarding the process. Good boundaries help both spouses know what to expect for themselves and from the other.
“I am willing to pursue a friendship and see where it goes. I am willing to spend ______ time with you each day/week. I am willing to get outside help from our pastor or a counselor. I am willing to encourage you, pray for you, and seek God’s direction for our relationship. I will obey whatever God directs or instructs. I am willing to implement these actions and read the accompanying verses.”
You can add or take out whatever works for you and your spouse. Make it your own personal declaration based on the areas you need to outline.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve separated, you can use these tips to grow and strengthen your marriage every day. Soon, you’ll be reveling in the romance once again.
Beyond the Miracle: When the Fairy Tale Collides with Reality
Thirteen years after the miracle meeting, courtship, and fairy tale wedding of the author and her husband, Laura Bennet shares the raw story of the unforeseen and sometimes devastating trials they experienced and how God used those challenges to heal and grow each of them and their marriage. Heartfelt encouragement and caution for couples ready to tie the knot or for those who have come undone and wonder if there is hope. The miracles don’t end when you say “I do,” but they may not look like what you expected.