If you have a marriage in crisis, you probably feel hopeless. That’s natural, but it’s not necessary. There is hope and there are things you can do to strengthen your marriage, even if your spouse is unwilling to try.
First, create a safe atmosphere to communicate.
It takes two people to reconcile a marriage in crisis, but it only takes one person to strengthen a marriage. By creating a safe place for your spouse to express his or her frustrations or fears, without getting defensive or withdrawing, the atmosphere in your home will change. You have no control over your spouse’s words or actions, but you do have 100% control over how you react. By reacting in an adult, spiritually mature manner, others around you will feel safe sharing their true thoughts and feelings. Many spouses learn to stuff how they feel because they fear rejection or retaliation. Listening is a skill many of us struggle with, but it is the best tool we have for healthy communication.
Action: Read the book of James and note all the verses on listening and communicating God’s way.
Second, focus on what your spouse does well, and verbally compliment him or her regularly.
If we were to be asked to make a list of our spouse’s faults it would probably come quite easily. However, if we were asked to make a list of their positive qualities, we might stop writing after listing two or three. Isn’t is just like our flesh to keep a mental list of behaviors that bug us, but forget to focus on the good in those we love? What comes out of our mouth is a direct result of what is in our hearts. Jesus said to think on good things, but that doesn’t come naturally. With a little practice, learning to focus on your spouse’s good qualities will change your heart, which in turn will result in a stronger marriage.
Action: Each day, make a list of things that you appreciate in your spouse. If you can’t think of anything, go back to your days of dating, and how you looked forward to seeing him or her. A person’s strengths and good qualities pushed to an extreme becomes a weakness. People tend to get out of balance when they feel threatened or unloved, and it is possible that your spouse has done that. Also, avoid spending time around negative people who point out the worst in their own spouse, as this will make it more difficult to practice speaking positive.
Last, ask God to show you the log in your own eye, before pointing out the speck in your spouse’s (Matthew 7:3-5).
When a marriage is in crisis, one or both spouses are in some type of sin. If you are focused on your spouse’s sin, but can’t see how you are contributing, your marriage will stay in crisis. You may avoid divorce or separation, but your marriage will not glorify God. Once we repent before God, and humble ourselves, God will graciously show us the “log” in our eye so that we can help our spouse. If your spouse is struggling with an addiction, adultery, or rage, it will be important to get the support you need, but that doesn’t mean you will not have do some work on your end as well.
Action: Read a chapter of Proverbs daily, and mark any verse that speaks to you. Contact our ministry for prayer, and consider going through the 12-week Marriage 911: First Response workbook. The workbook has 27 tools that are for individuals to do alone, without their spouse.
Our ministry offers help and hope for any marriage in crisis–even with an unwilling spouse. Contact us.