Sweet girls, this will not be a list of five easy things and it won’t be a list that will heal your marriage. There is no magic potion. But this is advice that I believe you will not find in the typical Christian marriage books. I will not tell you to go on a date. I will not tell you to submit more stringently. I will not tell you to pick up something sexy for this weekend. Nope. Those things are all good and fine, but you need a different list.

1. Be honest with yourself. What is the true state of your marriage? Is there unfaithfulness, lying, addiction or abuse, on either of your parts? How often do you fight? How do the fights end? When was the last time you had sex? What stressors follow you around each day? How is your walk with God? How is your husband’s? Would people be shocked at the true state of your relationship if they could really see what goes on behind closed doors? Basically, take a marriage inventory. Write it all down. Even if it’s painful to see it in black and white.

2. Be honest with God. You may be at a place of avoiding God because you feel like he hasn’t come through for you or that he stopped listening to your prayers begging for healing. I get that. I’ve felt that. Be he knows your heart better than you do. He knows your husband better than you do. He wants what’s best for both of you. He wants you both to be whole. So splay it all out before him once and for all.

3. Be honest with a friend. This may be problematic because for some of you, you’ve become a master at faking it. You have created a façade of a life that you dance around in hoping that no one will notice it is one strong wind away from all blowing down. Again, I know. I did that. But if your marriage is as precarious as you feel it is, you are partner-less in a very real sense. Which means that you are in a really vulnerable place to either isolate and turn within or look for love and other things from another man. So look around your life and take stock of who you can trust with your heart, then share it.

4. Be honest with someone in the helping profession, be it a pastor or counselor. Again, choose wisely. We’ve talked about this before that not everyone gets that there is regular marriage that experiences bumps and twists and setbacks and then there is hard marriage where pain is the daily norm.  You need to find someone who knows the difference and will address your unique situation.

5. Be honest with your husband. This one is last for a reason. I want you to get your emotional ducks in a row first. I want you already within the safety of help when you do this. You may even want to plan out the conversations with your friend, a mentor or your counselor. None of these steps are easy, like I said, but this may be the most challenging, depending on the variables in your relationship.

Go ahead and make your husband his favorite dinner. Yes, keep praying for him and for your marriage. Sure, iron his shirts. But know that these things in and of themselves fall under the category of doing everything unto the Lord as an act of serving him, not as a way to win your husband back. Your situation is distinctive. Your marriage needs to be handled carefully. It’s time for a different list.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength (Philippians 4:13).

(C) Elisabeth Klein, 2014