5 Steps to Dealing with Difficult Ongoing Marriage Issues
1) Ask the “Why” and “What” questions.
Try to figure out why your relationship is at an impasse over this by asking “why” questions like:
- Why is this issue so important to me?
- Why does it make me so angry?
- Why is this situation not being resolved?
Then ask yourself “what” questions, like:
- What will, in my mind, resolve this situation?
- What changes need to occur in order for us to not have to deal with this anymore?
Journal these ideas out. Get them sorted through.
And, if you’re a Christian, invite God into this soul-searching process for two reasons: first, He can give you the insight you need to understand the big picture; and two, He will give you the strength to do the hard things you may be called to do.
Keep in mind that the emotions will come screaming to the top as you process all of this. Give yourself time and grace as you walk through them. This isn’t easy.
2) Ask two “How?” questions.
Now the probing gets even more painful.
I’d encourage you to ask, “How do I contribute to this issue, and how can I change?”
For the record: No, I don’t like these questions (I’m guessing you don’t either).
I don’t like the idea of being the person who has to change. I’d much rather HE be the one changing. Because, in my mind, it would just take him changing for everything to be better. Do you feel this way too?
But, friend, that’s simply NOT TRUE. Trust me—I’ve tried to fight this over and over and lost every time.
Here’s the bottom line: Yes, he probably needs to change. But you probably do too.
This is where prayer and God’s clarity through the Holy Spirit comes in. Lay it all out before God—the tears, the pain, everything—and genuinely ask:
“How can I be the change I want to see in my marriage?”
Let go of your need for him to change in order for things to be fixed. He may never change in the way you want to. You can’t control that.
But what you can control? You. You can change.
Honestly, it may not fix everything even if you do change. And, if you change (and he doesn’t), you may become annoyed because you’ll realize that things aren’t “fair” in this area.
But you can’t let that affect how you act.
Regardless of what happens, do your best to be the change. Trust that God will honor your sacrifice. Do your part, and leave the rest to God.
3) Love him—in spite of your emotions.
Don’t let your emotions about this steal your ability to love him.
Ok, I know. I can hear your cries from here: “But he…” and “I’ve tried and…”
Yes, and yes. I get it one-hundred percent. And I don’t want to discount your feelings in any way (remember what I said above about your frustrations being real?).
So, first, I want to say that, yes, you need to sort through the emotions.
Just don’t stay there long-term.
Don’t let phrases like “I would love him more if…” or “If only he would…” eat away at your soul (because, trust me, they will if they linger in your heart too long).
We think that we’re doing the right thing by holding on to our “right to be upset” and fanning the flame of emotion. But only bad things (for ourselves and for our marriage) come of this.
In fact, this is exactly where the enemy wants our marriages—slowly crumbling from the inside because of our own disappointments and “unfulfilled rights.”
He wants us all mired and frazzled over our unresolved expectations (and all too ready to share them with our spouses, thank you very much).
He wants us to focus on our husband’s imperfections in order to justify other poor behavior we may display in return.
He wants us to stay angry so that we can withhold physical and emotional intimacy from our spouses and inadvertently drain the life out of our marriages.
And yet, God wants to give us a healthier, better way.
Namely, God wants us to first be healed from our own imperfections so that he can teach us how to release the need to fix those of our spouses.
The enemy wants us to love “if only”; and God teaches us to love “despite.”
And let me tell you something: There is no army in this world or the heavenly realms that can stop a person who is willing to love someone else “despite.”
That’s because this is how God loves us. Broken. Cracked. Empty. “Despite.”
Although there’s never any guarantees, when we love other people like that, change happens (first in us, and then in them).
4) Decide to love him even if he never changes in this area.
Friend, I’m hesitant to even write that sentence because I understand how painful it is to keep on loving despite the heartbreak.
I’ve felt it. I’ve lived it.
And let’s not sugar coat it—it feels like a heartbreak when we’re desperate for our marriages to be different.
However, there is a way to love our spouses when we don’t want to or when we feel like we have nothing left to give.
We can pour out our emotions to God and ask Him to give us the ability to see our spouse as He sees them—imperfect, but completely forgiven and worthy of love without conditions.
One verse that I meditate on often is Ephesians 4:1-6. It speaks of the importance of being humble, gentle and “making allowance for each other’s faults” because of our love for each other.
You don’t have to abandon your desire for change. But you can’t let it become such a huge sticking point that you see it draining your love for him.
Our spouses may never change in the way we want them to, and that’s a reality we all must face.
But, I beg you—don’t let it destroy your marriage. Don’t let it turn your love cold.
And speaking of love…
5) Remember who you’re really serving in marriage (hint: it’s not your spouse).
Before I got married, there was a handwritten post it note in my office cubicle that read, “Marriage isn’t so much about finding the right person but about being the right person.”
There will always be lingering issues in marriage that give us great excuse to not love the way God calls us to.
Marriage is a ministry to our spouse, and sometimes there are seasons where it’s a daily surrendering to self in order to show our spouse the type of 1 Corinthians 13 love that God wants us to give.
That type of love is completely sacrificial, patient, and persevering.
1 Corinthians 13 love is not based on condition, or whether or not your spouse is meeting your needs. It’s our calling as husbands and wives.
And during these challenging seasons when ongoing issues are at their peak of frustration, sometimes this type of love is an act of service to God.
Sometimes I get so mad at my husband that I can’t see straight. And yet, I still have to show him love.
During these times, I don’t turn off my emotions. Sometimes I share them with my husband, but, I mainly keep them between me and God. And, in the roughest moments when my heart wants to lash out in pain, I do my best to show my husband love as a true act of obedience to God.
These issues are tough. They aren’t simple and require enormous amounts of soul searching and self-sacrifice.
But healing, growth and HOPE is possible through them.
And your marriage? It’s always worth it. Always.
I’m praying for you as seek clarity for your marriage’s ongoing marriage issues!
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