Try even if your spouse won’t try. If your spouse isn’t willing to work to improve your marriage, make an effort to do so yourself. Realize that even if your spouse doesn’t come around and your marriage doesn’t get better, you will have become a better person yourself through the process. Remember that Christ lived with pain during His time on Earth, and He understands your pain even when no one else does. Pray for wisdom about how best to try to improve your marriage. Ask God to give you creative ideas to become the best possible spouse you can be, then respond to His guidance by acting on those ideas. Know that you’ll likely get your spouse’s attention by treating them the way God wants you to treat them. Let your actions match your prayers, and allow God’s love to flow through you to your spouse. Don’t accept excuses or blame from your spouse; be loving, yet firm about the need to change your marriage. Get support from some caring Christians as you try to work on your marriage. Ask them to encourage and pray for you. Remember that it took a long time for your marriage to develop problems, so expect it to take a while to resolve them. Be patient and don’t give up. Put on the full armor of God mentioned in Ephesians 6:10-20 to take a stand against evil.

Set your marriage free. Once you and your spouse have become free in Christ, work together to set your marriage free, as well. Make sure you’ve each left your parents and any previous spouses emotionally and bonded properly to each other. Break family cycles of abuse that have been passed on to you from previous generations. Ask God to reveal any self-centered thoughts or behaviors that have kept you from assuming your responsibilities to love and accept one another. Then repent. Break sexual bondage so you can have a healthy sexual union. Release old hurts through forgiveness. Unmask Satan’s deceptions in your relationship and seek the truth that will set you free. Renew your marriage covenant with God and each other. Maintain your freedom in Christ by participating in a healthy church together, reading and studying your Bible daily, praying and seeking the Holy Spirit’s leading together, reminding yourselves of your identities in Christ, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, sharing your struggles openly with each other so you don’t drift away, taking responsibility for your own spiritual growth instead of relying on your spouse to fight your battles, and working with a pastor or counselor to help you solve persistent problems.

Adapted from Experiencing Christ Together: Finding Freedom and Fulfillment in Marriage, copyright 2007 by Neil T. Anderson and Charles Mylander. Published by Regal Books, Ventura, Ca., 1-800-4-GOSPEL, www.regalbooks.com.   

Dr. Neil T. Anderson is founder of Freedom In Christ Ministries and president of Discipleship Counseling Ministries. He has 35 years of pastoral and teaching experience and was formerly chairman of the Practical Theology Department at Talbot School of Theology. Neil has authored more than 50 best-selling books on Christ-centered living.

Dr. Charles Mylander is Executive Director of Evangelical Friends Mission, the missionary sending agency for evangelical Friends In the United States. He is the coauthor with Neil Anderson of Extreme Church Makeover.