Is your marriage a war-zone with non-stop fighting? (If you're sick of fighting with your spouse, click HERE for help.)
Is your spouse stone-walling you, unwilling and unable to forgive? (For help, read THIS.)
What about you? Where are you at with the state of your marriage?
Hopefully, since you’re reading this post, you want to save your marriage at any cost. And since you’ve made it to part 2 of How to Save Your Marriage Alone, you must be ready to rally…
Rally to the Rescue
You recall the last post started with “Man Down." In this case, the man (person) down is your spouse, and the war is your marriage.
American soldiers never leave a man behind. We’re applying the same principle to marriage. Does your spouse want a divorce? Has he/she given up on your marriage and just wants to get out? “Man” down. Now is your time to rally.
Remember, last week’s post covered the first three Biblical concepts to apply while trying to save your marriage alone (with God's help!):
Understand the purpose of your marriage (not your purpose, God’s purpose)
Take captive your thoughts and prepare for your reactions
Resist the pull of your emotions (and your friends’/loved ones’ emotions)
I pray that daily, moment by moment, you’re embracing these concepts and the Lord is doing the difficult but oh-so-beautiful work of restoration in your heart.
In this post, we’re going to focus on the fourth Biblical concept that will save your marriage:
#4: Be a CONDUIT of God's Love; stop believing you’re the source
I’m not gonna lie, I looked up the definition of “conduit” just to make sure it was the best fit for this context. Indeed, it’s perfect.
The definition of conduit is: “a means by which something is transmitted.” In this case, the “something” is God’s love. The “means” is YOU.
Think about it: God is LOVE and we are HIS.
Read 1 John 4:7-21.
We are called to love:
Verse 7: Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.
Verse 11: Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.
Verse 19: We love because He first loved us.
You may be thinking, You don’t know my spouse. It’s darn near impossible. That’s exactly what you need to recognize: it’s impossible on your own. But God doesn’t leave us on our own! (For a reminder that you are never alone, read THIS.)
It’s not easy to love the unlovable; that doesn’t mean you’re incapable. Sanctification (becoming more Christ-like) is a process; a LONG process. But rest assured, God IS working if we’re abiding in HIM.
Look back at 1 John:
Verse 9: In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.
Verse 13: By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
Verse 16: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
See? Never alone!
Put a pin in that for a moment.
When you are loving your spouse, keep in mind:
Love demanded will not always result in love delivered. You cannot have a score-keeping mentality; it just doesn’t work.
Thoughts like: “I’ll do this for you if you do this for me” and “I do everything and my spouse does nothing!” will deflate your ability to be a conduit of God’s love instantly.
On the contrary: Love given without regard for reciprocation will result in love gotten.
Take the pin out: Remember how we are never alone? And when we abide in love, we’re abiding in God and He in us?
Giving love when it is least deserved does NOT come from you (you’re not the source). It is God’s love poured out through you (the conduit).
When you give love but don’t feel loved or filled in return- it’s an indication that you’re making yourself the source of love. And that is exhausting. Why not let God- Who IS love- be the source? He will provide. He always does (Philippians 4:19).
A watching world will see this play out and ask Why? HOW?
Then the door is opened for sharing your testimony of how God has loved you, which enables you to love others.
See? Never lose sight of the purpose!
God reached us in our sinful, dreadful state and gave His life for us (Romans 5:8).
We are called to love like Him, so why would we do anything less? Living this out is genuine faith.
Your spouse may not change, but loving them without regard for reciprocation will result in fruit: love poured out by the Holy Spirit. A love that fills you up, strengthens you, empowers and emboldens you. A love that will overflow onto your spouse.
You may be wondering how this love poured out onto your spouse will look, practically speaking.
Let’s get practical
Let’s face it: all of this is MUCH easier said than done. Which is why we need the power of the Holy Spirit. Submit to God’s call to love, trust that He IS working, and faith like a mustard seed will move mountains in your marriage.
What’s that small step of faith?
It’s different in every marriage, but the best place to start is always Scripture.
Take a moment and read the following passages:
Taking all this into consideration, what does love in action look like, practically?
Express love emotionally with words of affirmation
Use words that build up, because your tongue has the power of life and death (Proverbs 18:21). For example: "You look amazing. Wow!" "You always make me laugh." “You’re so good at ____________.”
We, as humans, have a deep need to feel appreciated. Give your spouse words of affirmation: “Thank you so much for working so hard to provide for our family.” “I notice how much time and effort you put into making our kids’ birthdays special, you’re a wonderful mom.” “Thank you for fixing the car; I’m so glad God gifted you in that way.”
Equally as important as using words that build up:
AVOID GOSSIP about your spouse or their sins. These words- even when said sarcastically or in jest, tear down your spouse.
The hurt caused from gossip and slander runs deeper than we realize. It also affects others people's relationships with your spouse. If your spouse is going to overcome their sin, you must be an encouragement to them, not a discouragement. Create a safe runway paved with love, grace, and forgiveness, championing your spouse to lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set before them (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Give your undivided attention and quality time
Sitting on the couch watching television together doesn’t count (... my husband and I are guilty as charged of this).
Turn off the TV, LOOK at each other and talk; devices put away, giving undivided attention. If that feels awkward, sometimes it helps to physically do something while you’re talking:
Take a walk
Put a puzzle together
Go for a drive
Cook something together
Whatever you do, use it as a means of communication rather than trying to avoid each other.
And remember: time is precious.
If your spouse's primary love language is quality time, he/she simply wants to be with you as you give him/her your undivided attention (and vice versa).
Give generously in acts of service
Maybe your spouse enjoys receiving an unexpected gift? To some, a gift is something that can be physically seen and held, prompting thoughts like: “Aw, he was thinking of me!” or simply, “She remembered.”
Gifts (especially unexpected ones) are evidence that your spouse is on your mind. It doesn’t matter if it costs money, what’s important is that you think of your spouse. A little thought goes a long way.
There are other ways to give generously. Acts of service and kindness speak volumes without needing to say a word. Some examples:
Cook a meal
Do the dishes
Clean the bathroom
Keep the car in good operating condition
Change the baby’s diaper
Look for ways your spouse typically serves, and jump in; take it off their plate before they get to it.
Remember: actions speak louder than words.
(For more information on the power of generosity, read THIS.)
Let’s get physical
Simply put, physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love and marital love. Holding hands, kissing, hugging, sex, even just putting your arm around your spouse are all ways of communicating emotional love.
For some, physical touch is a primary love language. Without it, they feel unloved. With it, their emotional tank is filled; they feel secure in the love of their spouse.
You may be thinking, I don’t really feel like touching someone I’m upset with; someone who’s hurt me…
I hear you. It is very easy to let those thoughts get in the way of loving your spouse. That’s when we must take our thoughts captive (remember the last post?) and love, even when it’s least deserved.
Without sin, there is no grace; consider those times of frustration as opportunities to show God’s grace to your spouse. Love them like Christ loved you.
This does not mean shove your thoughts and feelings down, trying to ignore them. Bring them to the Lord, ask for His wisdom and guidance on when and how to talk with your spouse about them, then step forward in faith that your powerful God is doing mighty works in your marriage.
If physical intimacy is an area of struggle in your marriage, read the following:
Generously loving your spouse in a Christ-like way requires thought, planning, time, effort and energy. (For more practical ways to love on your spouse, check out THIS website.)
It must be a priority!
If we aren’t actively moving toward each other, we are drifting away from each other.
And, if done with a positive spirit, it’s an expression of love.
But loving our spouse out of obligation, or with a negative attitude undermines every effort put forth. Doing something for your spouse while simultaneously grumbling most likely will not be appreciated; it might even be rejected. That’s why God tells us: Do everything without grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2:14).
We ALL desire to be loved. Someone has to love first; to lead; to set the example. Guess what? Christ did that. So now we must do that in our marriages.
We love because HE first loved us (1 John 4:19).
A helpful quote that sticks with me, convicts me, and motivates me:
Love always takes the initiative.
Laura Booz wrote it in her book, Expect Something Beautiful. It comes to mind when I’m tempted to isolate; to put up walls and hide in my comfort zone, where I think I won’t get hurt.
Listen. Sin is bad. It comes with painful consequences. It hurts those closest to us. Our spouse is a sinner (and so are we). That means we must…
We all began our marriage with admiration for our spouse. We felt significant and noticed.
As time passed, perhaps you or your spouse began looking for that sense of admiration and significance outside of marriage; perhaps even at a job. Are you or your spouse married to your job or some other role/responsibility that makes you feel valuable (parenting, ministry, volunteering)?
OR, if you or your spouse already checked out of your marriage, maybe there’s already someone else trying to fill the role of your beloved.
Oh the deep, heart-wrenching pain this causes.
And so, if we are to love like Christ in these moments, we must be prepared.
Be prepared to:
Receive the news
Consider what God’s word tells you to do
Suffer judgment for choosing to stay in a marriage in which your spouse has committed one of worst marital offenses imaginable
How can one possibly prepare for all that?
It will require supernatural strength. Always, always, start with prayer.
Then see what God’s Word has to say.
Read the discussion between Christ and the Pharisees in Matthew 19:
Jesus answers, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matthew 19:7-9).
Yes, if our spouse commits adultery we are free to leave; but that is NOT God's plan A.
You- as the person who’s been cheated on- will hear over and over again:
“Kick him/her out”
“You deserve to be happy”
Even your Christian friends may (understandably) suggest you have the right to leave.
But, do you know what’s interesting?
It seems many people who have had an affair LOVE THEIR SPOUSE DEEPLY. The cheating has little to do with wishing they had married a different person.
It’s mainly because married life doesn’t look like they want it to. They just aren’t happy. (Believe it or not, it is NOT your job to make your spouse happy. For more on this topic, read Happy Wife, Happy Life.)
As a matter of fact, it is far less about YOU than you may realize. Your spouse has some changes to make. Them having an affair is wrong. It is not right.
But… (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?)
YOU might play a critical role in the God-honoring heart change your spouse needs.
That is the pivotal point about the decision of divorce.
It’s easy to choose marriage when it’s fresh, full of butterflies, an adventure with miles of new ground to cover… and when we’re getting what we want. (Do you feel the pull to fight for what YOU want? Check out part 1 of I’m Sick of Fighting with My Spouse.)
It’s NOT easy to choose marriage when we’ve been hurt beyond what we can bear; when it’s painful to even look at our spouse.
But (there’s that word again)...
JESUS chose love when He went to the cross. He bore the weight of our sins, He did so willingly, and He counted it as JOY (Hebrews 12:2). WHAT?!
He counted it as joy to pay the price for our sins so that we might be forgiven by the Father and loved by Him for all eternity.
Vow to Change: An Encouraging Call to Action
So, now is the time to study God's Word and learn what it says about forgiveness; true, deep forgiveness. The kind we, as Christians, can only understand because of how we’ve been forgiven.
Read the following posts and apply what you learn about forgiveness to your marriage:
Jesus shows us that we may have to hold forgiveness out for our spouse, even when it's not initially accepted.
Think about it:
How long did your sins seem manageable until you finally gave yourself to Christ? Was it the very first time you heard of His love and grace? For most of us, repentance was not our initial response to God’s grace.
And so, we must…
Be prepared (yup… there’s still more to prepare for)
You may need to deal with the continuation of an affair. Know ahead of time how you will react. This will only be done through the work of the Holy Spirit, via the fruit of the Spirit. Rest assured: the fruit of the Spirit is always displayed when we keep in step with Him (Galatians 5:22-25).
Be prepared to become the husband/wife that God asks you to be in Scripture. (Need help? Read THIS to discover how fulfilling your role can change your marriage.)
You may be wondering: When should I leave them?
VowsToKeep pretty much never recommends separation unless there is physical risk.
Because Jesus Christ did not run from us when we were steeped in sin, sunk down deep in muck and mire. He CAME TO EARTH to rescue us! Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel.
And so, if we are going to love our spouse like Christ loved us, then we must run toward them, not away from them.
THAT is how you save your marriage alone, with the help of our Almighty God.
Don’t forget to listen to the corresponding podcast: