Good article from Jimmy Evans of Marriage Today Ministries
Saving Your Marriage on Your Own
Monday, January 10, 2005
By: Jimmy Evans
Perseverance in Faith Pays Off!
Saving Your Marriage on Your Own
The most common situation I have dealt with in marriage counseling over the years is where a woman is trying to redeem her marriage alone. In fact, about ninety-eight percent of all marriage counseling is initiated by women. The truth is women are more naturally relational than men and are willing to work harder at the marriage, in most cases. This was true of Karen and me earlier in our marriage. I was distracted by work and golf and was a poor husband. I didn’t meet Karen’s needs and became defensive and hostile when she confronted me about it. I expected Karen to energetically meet my needs, but I resented her expectations and refused to change. Like many other women, Karen was trapped in a marriage where she was the only person fighting for the relationship.
Obviously, our marriage changed. Not only do we credit the Lord for saving our relationship, but I know personally that Karen’s love and prayers for me when I was an insensitive jerk were a powerful influence in redeeming our relationship. I want to encourage any woman (or man) who is in a marriage where you feel as though you are the only one trying that there is a lot you can do to save and strengthen the relationship. I have seen many marriages transformed by the righteous, proactive behavior of one spouse. Let me share with you some of the keys to changing your marriage on your own.
It’s Not Impossible!
To begin with, you have to put your trust in God. This means you believe that God is big enough to change your spouse through your prayers and righteous behavior. Without faith in God, we become negative and try to use outward manipulation to change our spouses. This never works. In fact, it almost always has the opposite effect. It drives our spouses farther away from us. The Bible says there is nothing impossible with God. Also, over and over the Bible tells us that God answers our prayers. In Luke, Chapter 18, Jesus told a story about a widow who wanted justice from an unjust judge. According to Jesus, the judge didn’t fear God or respect people. However, the widow got what she wanted from the judge because of her persistence. Jesus told that parable to encourage us to "pray at all times and not lose heart."
In marriage counseling over the years, I have heard many discouraged wives tell me that, "He’ll never change!" That is a confession of surrender. Once you have convinced yourself that is true, then why would you pray? You must not make those kinds of statements because they imply that your spouse’s problems are bigger than God’s power. If you are going to be successful, you must say, "Nothing is impossible for God!" That is the truth. It would be hard for me to describe how bad a husband I was to Karen. However, she never stopped praying for me. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that Karen’s prayers are what invited God into our situation to change me and save our marriage. Her faith was a redemptive force that trusted God to do what she couldn’t. He honored her faith and He will do the same for any woman who will put her eyes on Him and believe and act as though He is big enough to change her husband.
Do the Right Thing!
Another important key to changing your marriage alone is to fulfill your role in the marriage as you energetically meet your husband’s (or wife’s) needs. This is where many people lock down. They say, "Hey, he’s being a jerk and isn’t doing anything for me. Why should I have to be the first one to change?" Here is the answer. The redeemer always has to do the right thing first. Look at Jesus. He is our Redeemer. Even though He never did anything wrong, He died on the cross for us while we were still in sin. In the book of I Peter, Chapter Two, we are directed to follow the redemptive example of Jesus in saving the lost people around us through our righteous behavior. We are commanded not to respond to evil with evil, but rather to respond with righteous behavior that is motivated by a redemptive spirit.
At the end of Peter’s exhortation concerning this issue, he says this to women: Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. Do not let your adornment be merely outward — arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel — rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God. 1 Peter 3:1-4 NKJV
Peter addressed women in this way because he knew women were more naturally relational than men. Because of this, he knew that many women would be put in the situation of having to redeem their marriages. His instruction tells women in this situation how to attract their husbands to them and partner with God to change them from the inside. This is done by an attitude of faith, coupled with honoring and loving behavior. This is exactly how Karen and God changed me. I was a jerk. However, Karen prayed for me and loved me. I became increasingly convicted because of her behavior. Finally, I broke, and God changed me.
I am eternally grateful that Karen didn’t respond to my selfish behavior as I deserved. Her redemptive spirit saved a bad man and a bad marriage. God will do the same for you who are in a similar situation. He only requires that you are willing to persevere in faith as you act in a redemptive manner according to the example of Christ. If you will, He will partner with you to change your spouse and turn your marriage around.