Marriage: Is it too late for mine? In this frank article, Julie Ganschow says when God’s involved, nothing is impossible. . even when husbands move on or wives check out. Julie is listed here on our Heart2Heart Counseling Directory. Her article appeared first here and is reprinted with permision.
“Is it too late to save my marriage?”
I have been asked this question over and over in the counseling office. And I hesitate to say that “too late” applies to a marriage that involves a Christian, and especially two Christians. I also hesitate because that implies that God is not able to change them.
When God is involved, nothing is impossible!
There’s Hope. . .Always
When troubles persist even in a “Christian” marriage, damage continues to mount and love grows cold. The actions of love cease to exist as withholding of affection, attention, and serving each other become commonplace. Bitterness and resentment often grow between the couple. And distance becomes preferable.
This is where things usually are by the time the couple comes for biblical counseling.
I want to encourage you by reminding you nothing is impossible when God is involved. This is true even if your husband has left you, moved out, or moved on. When people are willing to do what God asks of them in spite of how they feel great things happen!
Maybe You’ve Checked Out
That being said, some women reach that certain point emotionally where they just give up and refuse to believe anything will ever change. I call it “rounding the corner.” When this happens it is very rare for her to return to the marriage. Her heart hardens. She refuses to cooperate anymore in counseling, or to give her husband another opportunity to change and get it right.
Sometimes it is because he has promised for months or years to change and nothing lasting has happened. Sometimes she finds someone else. And other times she is just without hope anymore.
All of these are sad, and even sinful responses a person can have to someone else’s sin. That may sound harsh to you, but I speak from the perspective that God is able to do more than we ask or imagine according to His will.
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It is not God’s will that two people who make a covenant before Him to be husband and wife . . .decide they don’t want to be married anymore.
Change Begins in the Heart
Christian woman, if you want to save your marriage, begin by becoming husband-oriented.
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Eph. 5:22-24 gives us some instructions about our role in the marriage with respect to submission.
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
But how many women have ceased complaining and arguing but are unsubmissive in their hearts? Many I fear!
Women who are not husband-oriented are as much a problem as husbands who are not wife-oriented! Many women have become so supremely selfish! In counseling I hear about “my career”, “my private time”, “my time for the spa” (or shopping or fill in the blank). With this attitude, soon the couple leads separate lives.
Make a New Commitment
If this describes you totally or even remotely, then it is time to make a new commitment to become a “new person.” Yes. . .1 + 1 = 1
If you have lived for years or even months independently as a couple, it is going to take some work from both of you to change this. You will need to commit to change, change of the heart. But there is hope.
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
EMOTIONAL ADULTERY: It can happen to anyone. Me. You. Him.
Emotional adultery is, in the words of my radio show guest Paula Friedrichsen, giving your heart to a man who is not your husband and doing everything “but the sex.” Listen to the podcast of my interview with Paula on my show “The Sisterhood of Beautiful Warriors”? Here’s the link to the podcast.
How Emotional Adultery Begins
Author of The Man You Always Wanted Is the One You Already Have, Paula shares a redemption story of recommitting to her marriage after a too-close, emotionally intertwined relationship with her pastor. Her inappropriate relationship began the usual way. Innocently. She first buddied up to the pastor and his wife.
Then she starting playing with fire. For you who’ve been there, you get it:
a gentle touch on the shoulder
a little flirting
Through her trial, and a series of unwise choices, Paula found triumph and forged a stronger relationship with her husband and with Christ. Indeed she discovered,
It’s only as I am found in Christ that I can be content in my relationship with my husband.
5 Stages of Emotional Adultery
As you listen to the podcast, you may notice five things.
1. UNGUARDED HEART: Paula did not plan to become emotionally involved with a male friend. And she didn’t turn to Christ when tempted.
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
2. LIFE GOING WEL: Paula had at the time (and has now) a good marriage.
3. FALLOUT! But the emotional adultery caused pain and confusion to Paula, her husband, the congregation, and no doubt the pastor and his wife. Just as Paula was asked to leave the church, so was the pastor.
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Satan confuses, God brings order.
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For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. (1 Corinthians 14:32)
4. FORGIVENESS: Deeply hurt, Paula’s husband forgave her, noting that it would have been more difficult had she given away her body too. However, it took 10 years for her husband to forgive the pastor. His hurt was deep.
5. GOD IS FAITHFUL! Despite these terribly difficult circumstances, God proved faithful. And here are three examples:
Now Paula says of her husband,
He’s predictable, proverbial, and prone to leaving his dirty clothes in a pile beside the laundry basket. He’s the big lug lying next to you every night–and believe it or not, he is your Prince Charming!
Questions to Ponder
- If you’ve been tempted to fall for a man who isn’t your husband, what are one or two ways you escaped giving in?
- Perhaps you had an emotional affair. If a friend were headed down that path, what godly advice would you give her?
- If you need counseling to overcome emotional adultery or other difficulty, please contact me for a free 15-minute phone consult. I offer biblical counseling in person and by Skype worldwide.
Counseling Hope to Your Heart,
Christians wives have two top complaints in marriage. And both concern the lack of male leadership in the home. See guest writer Julie Ganschow’s page here on our Heart2Heart Counselor Directory. Her article appeared first here and is reprinted with permission. (Edited for lenth. –LAM)
Looking for a female biblical counselor? Go here.
Want to be listed on Heart2Heart Counselor Directory? Check this out.
Common complaints from Christian wives include the following:
Many of these wives share the same qualities. They are Bible literate, faithful church attendees, and clearly love the Lord. Some are willing to be honest with themselves and recognize their culpability in their marital problems.
But the majority believe the husband is mostly at fault.
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These women focus on all the things the husband does wrong. And they find it very hard to examine themselves on a deep enough level for a biblical conviction to be produced over their own sin.
Isn’t it far too easy for us to rationalize and justify our own sinful responses toward our husbands? Especially when we let our feelings lead us?
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
Why Husbands Fail
Poor, or lacking, male leadership happens for a couple of reasons:
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1) He doesn’t know how to lead, or
2) He’s given up.
Both are problematic, and both are fixable.
Top Complaint #1: My Husband Won’t Lead
Men are by nature leaders. They are wired to take charge, protect, supervise, and lead. Our current culture does not encourage men to develop these skills. In fact, our culture seems determined to emasculate men. An unfortunate reality is there are more than eight million boys being raised without fathers. Their moms love them and do their best. However, a boy will not learn how to be a man from his mom, as much as she tries to instill those qualities in her son.
We biblical counselors routinely find men that don’t know how to lead and are embarrassed to admit it. The good news is a man can learn how to develop biblical leadership skills and habits through individual discipleship with another man. This kind of relationship will help equip him in the areas of being a godly man and husband.
Top Complaint #2: My Husband Has Given Up
The second complaint is more damaging than the first complaint. It grows from the wife undermining or getting in the way of her husband’s leadership.
Ladies, here is where you need to get honest with yourselves!
Are you undercutting or disagreeing with nearly every decision he makes? Have you stepped in to be the leader because “someone has to lead this family”? Have you given him the message that he doesn’t lead “right”? Do you disagree with the direction he wants to take you and the family? Have you delivered the message that you do not trust him or his leadership?
Husbands are easily discouraged by wives who won’t follow or who question their leadership.
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They quickly learn that they are not allowed to make decisions for the family by themselves. In these circumstances, often the man says his wife is undermining him and that she criticizes him when she doesn’t agree with his decisions. He says his wife belittles him and always has plenty of reasons why his ideas and plans are insufficient or won’t work.
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. 1 Corinthians 11:13
In the same way, you wives must accept the authority of your husbands. Then, even if some refuse to obey the Good News, your godly lives will speak to them without any words. They will be won over when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 1 Peter 3:1-2
Finding a Solution
When a woman fails in submission, the husband eventually gives up attempting to lead.
To correct this pattern, the wife must first be convicted that she is guilty of these things. Then she would confess to God and her husband that she has usurped his authority and disobeyed God’s Word regarding submission in marriage (Ephesians 5:21-33; 1 Peter 1:3-7; Titus 2:5).
She also must cease her attempts to lead her husband. This is tough when she has little confidence in his decisions or when he is a weak leader. However, she must remember that it to God she ultimately submits and it is God who is leading her family.
A faithful wife will let her husband know she has input to offer in a situation and ask him if he wants to hear it. A wise man will accept his wife’s counsel, and take it into consideration when making a decision. When he does not, she must entrust herself to God and believe our sovereign God has the situation in His hand.
On a Personal Note
I have learned these lessons the hard way. When I determined to do things my way, I disrespected my husband by my actions and my attitudes. A lack of unity resulted. I learned two important things: men will not tolerate being emasculated by their wives, and you cannot expect to usurp his authority without consequences.
Truth: “It is better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.” Proverbs 21:19
Sharing Hope with Your Heart,
So you want to change husband’s mind? Guest writer Julie Ganschow — listed on my site’s Heart2Heart Counselor Directory, for women and by women — shares her insights. Her post first appeared here on her blog and is used with permission.
That title on changing your husband’s mind got you, didn’t it? I confess I am smiling as I think of how many women clicked on the blog because of the title.
Maybe you want to obtain something, to go somewhere your husband doesn’t care to go, or to get your own way in some other circumstance. Those are rather self-centered, right? But there are also very serious reasons women ask this same question.
In counseling, a woman may ask me how to change her husband’s mind when she disagrees with a decision he has made. His decision may regard finances, family, or something else. Often the couple has fought about the issue. In addition, communication is strained or non-existent at that time. She sees her position as righteous. She may even give me scriptural support for it.
My counsel in such situations is (usually) as follows:
1. Examine Yourself
My first piece of counsel is to examine yourself. I may ask, “Thinking back on the discussion or argument, did you communicate respectfully with your husband when presenting your point?”
In the heat of the moment it is easy to become so impassioned about the issue that words and tone of voice
quickly get out of hand. I also ask,
- “Were you speaking honestly?”
- “Did you use the dreaded “you always” or “you never” as you interacted with your husband?”
We tend to use “always” and “never” for dramatic emphasis and rarely do we use them appropriately. How true is it that your husband never does that certain thing you want him to do? Can he really always. .?
Both of these words are very concrete. I call them 100% words. They are specific and mean in every circumstance without exception. No matter how inflexible a person may seem, rarely does someone “never” or “always” say and do the things we accuse them of when we are angry at them. So, examine yourself for where you went wrong and sinned against your husband.
Logs and Specks
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:3-5
When you find the logs in your own eye, you have to deal with your own sin through confession and repentance before God. Then go to your husband and admit your wrongs to him. It is humbling to strongly believe you are right about something then need to confess you were wrong in how you went about it. Asking his forgiveness for your sin will go a long way in gaining his ear for future discussion.
Here is an aside: I know some of you reading this are in unequally yoked marriages or are married to a man who is truly unreasonable or abusive. No counsel is “one size fits all.” It is impossible to write something that addresses every situation in one blog post. However, much of what is written here is still applicable to you. Self-examination, confessing your sin, and seeking restoration with your husband (when possible) will allow you to live peaceably in your own skin, regardless of how he responds.
2. Consider a Biblical Appeal
My second piece of counsel is to prayerfully consider making a biblical appeal to your husband. I don’t hear much about this anymore. However, I believe it is a wonderful approach to take when you and your husband are at an impasse, and you cannot let the matter go.
A biblical appeal is not an argument, fight, or a manipulation
. A biblical appeal is what a wise woman undertakes when she believes that her husband’s conclusion is wrong or sinful. The purpose is to help her husband, or to give wise counsel in aiding him to make the best and most God-honoring decision
possible. It is not
merely to get her own way.
How to Make an Appeal
A biblical appeal should be based on facts not emotions. Just because a wife “feels” her idea or plan is better does not make it so. Before making the appeal, it is wise to research the subject and be ready to provide concrete data to support your position. Be prepared to present the reasons why you disagree with his decision. Then propose a different plan, idea or a solution
Choosing the right timing for your appeal. You don’t want to be rushed. Answer his questions with facts not feelings. Listen carefully to his point of view and for details you may have missed in your original discussion.
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies. Proverbs 31:10
Once you’ve made your appeal, trust God for the outcome.
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Regardless of what your husband decides to do, a wise woman will agree to go along with the decision that has been made and support him in it.
Support should be genuine. It should include prayer for success, encouragement, and your willingness to help. If you continually mention your disagreement with the decision, and tell him how he should do it your way, you are nagging. Don’t do that. You are only responsible for how you conduct yourself in these kinds of situations. Your husband may stick to his plan despite your appeal. In this case, trust God is working out things for your good and His glory, despite how it looks right now.
Making a biblical appeal is not easy, but it is always an option for a woman. Be wise and careful as you prepare to go forward. Pray for the right motives so God would be honored by your words and your actions.
But Never Go Along with a Husband’s Sinful Decision
In my counsel on making a biblical appeal, I am assuming that your husband is not asking you to support a sinful decisions. If your husband has decided to do something illegal or immoral, do not go along with his decision, even when told you must submit to his authority.
God is the ultimate authority, not your husband. Thus you cannot honor God by consenting to commit sin with your husband. If he intends to go ahead with a sinful decision, seek outside counsel from your pastor or other wise biblical source.
Sharing hope with your heart,
To win the war for your child’s heart, you’ll fight three forces. But first, you must recognize you’re in a war!
Winning the war requires you to focus on your child’s heart!
Read the part 1 here and part two here in the Best Mom Ever series, teaching you to–
2. Recognize you’re in a war.
3. Assume your role as a benevolent dictator.
4. Yield to God.
This post calls you to fight once you recognize you are in a war, a war you must win, God willing. . .and he is willing.
3 Battle Forces!
In this battle, you face three strong forces:
First, your child’s natural, selfish nature.
Second, a spiritual undertow.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Ephesians 6:12
And third, our increasingly wacked-out, confusing, chaotic culture.
Our culture says the best kids are happy and successful kids. This is a lie. The best kids are not the ones who seem happy and successful, who look good on the outside. Rather, the best kids are GOD-honoring KIDS.
Ground Zero: The Heart
As I’ve mentioned, your Number One goal is to shepherd your child’s heart. Scripture teaches that the heart is the control center for life. A person’s life is a reflection of the heart.
Proverbs 4:23 puts it this way:
Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.
From the heart flows your behavior. What you say and do and think expresses your heart. That goes for your child, too.
So when your child misbehaves, he is revealing his selfish nature, his battle-weary soul, or his bent toward a sin-city culture.
OR ALL THREE!
You may be thinking, “No, not my little Ethan, not my little Emma.” The truth is, every child is selfish and foolish.
The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
Even kids who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ miss the mark, as do their parents.
We all mess up. Our intentions may be good but, well, our own desire to please our little darlings can get the best of us. Here’s one of my many “what-were-we-thinking?” stories.
What Were We Thinking?
Laura was about 2.
She knew my weak spot.
At bedtime after I laid her in her crib with five — yes, five — pacifiers — I said a sweet good night, gave her an equally sweet kiss on her chubby cheek, and tip-toed out the door.
By the time I made it down the stairs, I heard:
CLUNK. . .CLUNK. . .CLUNK!
Three pluggies down. Two to go.
CLUNK. . .CLUNK!
Yes, my sweet, sweet Laura had a good arm. She had whipped her pluggies at the door, knowing I’d come back. She was barely 2 and she was telling us who was in charge. And what was I thinking? Doesn’t scripture say kids must obey their parents? Yes, it’s right there in black and white.
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Ephesians 6:1
Winning Your Child’s Heart
We were in a war. And so are you, Mom. The only way to win: Look past my child’s behavior and see what was going on in her heart. To win the battle for her heart, my husband and I needed to show that, with God’s help, we were in charge.
God gave us the job of effecting godly attitudes, behavior, and character in our adorable child. In the next post, we’ll look at assuming your role as a benevolent dictator. 🙂
- What behavior problems do you see in your child?
- What have you done about them?
- How does focusing on the heart help your child glorfy God?
Be sure to read the next post on assuming the rightful role as the mom. To make sure you get it in your email, subscribe to blog. The subscription box is below.
Counseling heart to hope (and heal!)