Fifth, do not hesitate to ask for assistance to help a marriage in crisis. Sometimes a person in a helping role feels ownership for salvaging the couple and subtly blocks others who try to help. Suggesting to a spouse or couple that they avoid advice from someone who likely will do more harm than good makes sense. I often suggest that a person not take counsel from people who have their own agendas. For example, if Mom feels anger toward the spouse who caused her daughter pain, Mom probably is not a great source for balanced, unprejudiced advice. On the other hand, suggesting that a couple listen only to you, and not to others who have as much experience and wisdom as you, may be a tragic mistake. In our work, counselors and pastors regularly send couples to us for a weekend and then we send them back for more help from them. Working together provides more opportunities to help couples turn things around than working in competition with each other.


First, when you know a marriage is in trouble, intervene even when not invited. Jesus inserted Himself when people needed him, even when they did not know Him. For example, He approached a funeral procession of a woman He did not know and had the audacity to tell her not to cry (Luke 7:11-17). That brazenness is out of order in nearly every culture. However, He did it because He knew He would raise her son. He would turn death into life and bring great joy in place of her agony. From our experience with thousands of distressed marriages, I can tell you assuredly that many of them long for someone with the boldness to walk into their lives and help them save their dying marriage. We need more people who will do what Jesus did.

Second, stay with them until the healing takes place. If Jesus had told the woman to stop crying because He would bring life to her son again but did not follow through, He would have caused her more pain than she had before He interrupted her mourning. The point is that if you start something, finish it or you may cause more harm. Far too often, we hear from people that some nice Christians – church leaders or others – came by and met with one or both of them once or twice, but never came again. We understand that in most of those cases, the people who tried to help did what they knew to do, and when that did not work, they did not know anything else to do. They still cared, but did not return because they felt that they had done all they could. Even if you do not know what to do next, being there for the spouse who wants to save the marriage may be her only line of hope. Continuing to let the spouse who wants out of the marriage know that you care and that you want to help may make you the person he turns to if he has a moment of emotional lucidity.

Third, convince them to get the help they need. It is not your duty to repair their marriage. Instead, gently guide the person or couple into looking at the real problems rather than the things they wish to focus on, and then direct them to professionals with the specialized knowledge and training to help them with specific issues. Regularly I hear people say things such as, “I didn’t want to come to this workshop. I didn’t want to save my marriage. But ______ kept after me until finally I came just to shut him up. A lot of people had a lot of advice but he listened and seemed to have some wisdom about life. So I finally let him talk me into coming, but I wasn’t happy about it. Now I gotta go home and thank him for not giving up on me.” While it is true that no one wants to be harangued or nagged, it is also true that when someone we trust or love gently pushes us, we tend eventually to do what he or she urges us to do. Sometimes the person gently prodding includes incentives such as offering to pay for the crisis marriage workshop, or to take care of their children while they attend. Other times, they simply remind the person of their love and concern. Occasionally, they twist the proverbial arm. They know they run the risk of angering the spouse who does not wish to save the marriage, but they consider the possibility of helping salvage the marriage to be worth the risk. From our perspective, we thank God in heaven that there are people who love their friends enough to keep gently pushing until they agree to get help (There is a story in the Bible about this principle as well. Luke 18:1-8).