EDITOR'S NOTE:  The following is an excerpt from Thriving Despite a Difficult Marriage by Michael Misja and Chuck Misja (NavPress Publishing) 

Part 1: Difficult Marriages
When Divorce Is Not an Option

Three Paths for Difficult Marriages

Nevertheless such shall have trouble. - 1 Corinthians 7:28, KJV

Divorce is not an option, so misery seems inevitable. It's just not working out. Nothing is changing. No matter what you do, no matter what you say, he doesn't get it. In spite of your doing everything she has asked of you, she is still angry and distant. Hope has taken the last train out of town, and you are faced with some tough days ahead.

Is It Ever Okay to Give Up on Your Marriage?

You're where you thought you'd never be. You thought if you did it the right way —you know, followed the rules and all that —your marriage was going to work, and you'd be happy. Happily ever after. Yeah, right. No one told you you'd be as miserable as you are. The marriage journey is tough, isn't it? You started well, but now you're living with a broken heart, feeling trapped in a difficult marriage without hope, and you don't even want to begin to think about the future. What future? Every morning you wake up in disbelief and every night you go to bed in despair. Is this my marriage? Has it really come to this?

It's not like you haven't tried, is it? You've gone to the seminars that teach helpful principles and techniques on how to build a strong marriage. The ideas you learned made a lot of sense to you, and it seemed like your marriage was headed in the right direction. You even had a few warm moments with your spouse that made it seem like things were going to be different. But you were merely teased with hope because nothing really changed. Two months, weeks, or even days after the marriage conference you're back to the same old patterns. The bickering and coldness have returned, and you feel more discouraged than ever. You're not able to run away from the reality that your marriage is empty.

If you're strong enough to look beyond your pain, way down inside yourself, what disturbs you more is what's happening to your heart. Every once in a while, when you take that honest look, you are appalled at the dark, wild thoughts you have. You never thought you could have such ugly thoughts about your "beloved." Your heart is being polluted with bitterness or is hardening with smug disdain for your spouse. You might even be so lonely and empty that you are allowing yourself to be drawn to someone else. So not only is your marriage in bad shape, but your heart is a mess too.

Q: "Everybody tells me I'm supposed to hang in there and believe that if I trust and do what I should, my marriage is going to turn around. I want to scream, ‘You don't understand! Nothing helps. Why should I keep trying?'"

Is it ever okay to give up on your marriage? A lot of people think so. The fighting, game playing, or loneliness has destroyed the relationship, and sooner or later a spouse decides to get out while he or she still has some self-respect. So the couple divorces. Some couples do it legally, but many more divorce emotionally, staying married while living separate, distant lives. Either way, the marriage is over. Others who are in a destructive, messy marriage stay together and slug it out with each other like two fighters trapped in a marathon cage fight, scratching and clawing until neither is left standing. They don't divorce, but they'd bleed a lot less if they did.

Q: "Doesn't it make sense to admit my relationship can't be fixed and it's better to cut my losses and run?"

We have talked with hundreds of couples who have struggled in difficult marriages. This is a tough, sincere question many people ask us on a regular basis. As Christian psychologists, we believe in a tough, though often unpopular, answer: unless there is a pattern of abuse or unchanging immorality, the answer is "No, it's not better to give up on your marriage." Instead, never quit, never give up, don't stop praying and searching for a way to turn your marriage around. Miracles happen, people change, and, besides, you don't know what God has planned for your marriage. In addition, you can't give up on your marriage without betraying your heart. In the best part of your heart, you will always hope that love will come back to life and your marriage will get better.