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10 Things to Do When Your Marriage Is a Pain

  • Dawn Wilson Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
10 Things to Do When Your Marriage Is a Pain

All marriages struggle in a fallen world. Few couples are realistic when they walk the aisle and repeat nuptial vows. Sooner or later—no matter how much we love our spouse—we’ll likely have the thought (or something similar), “My marriage is a pain.”

We shouldn’t be surprised. As we read in the Genesis account, even the beautiful and thriving relationship God designed for Adam and Eve didn’t stay perfect for long. From the first couple’s sin to every couple’s selfish interactions and brokenness today, marriages struggle in a fallen world.

When sinners married to sinners interact, the silky threads of love can quickly feel like sandpaper. But there is still hope when marriage becomes painful, because God’s power can redeem and transform marriages. The following are 10 ways we can cooperate with God in this redemptive work in our homes:

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1. Remember the Early Days

1. Remember the Early Days

Think back to your wedding and the early days of your relationship. Remember your focus on your spouse? Remember how you thought your partner’s quirks were “cute”—not annoying? Remember how every part of you longed to celebrate with your loved one? The throes of first love are precious.

But then sinful natures sidetrack us. We begin a cycle of hurt: disappointment, clamming up, withdrawing, holding grudges, letting bitterness escalate—maybe even nasty battles. The Lord wants to deal with all the sins that have separated us from Him, but also the sins that separate us from those we should love the most. Jesus said to the Ephesus church, “you have abandoned the love you had at first.” Jesus’ remedy for the wandering church was for members to remember and repent—to acknowledge where they wandered and turn around to walk in true love again. It’s not a matter of blame, and it’s not “fixing” your mate either. Examine your own heart. Understand how far you’ve wandered from the love you once shared. Remember. Repent.

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2. Refuse Outside Temptations

2. Refuse Outside Temptations

Our eye is to be single to our spouse, but in this highly sexualized culture, our eye is tempted to stray to someone else. Don’t be surprised. The enemy loves to sow seeds of impurity and unfaithfulness. Roving eyes and affairs never just happen.

Seductive novels might tempt us to compare some romantic character with our spouse. We might be drawn in by television programs or movies that suggest the benefits of “playing around” and not limiting our options. We might not realizing how the visual images of pornography re-wire our brain and give us a skewed, marriage-destroying perspective on sexuality and relationships. Indulging in an illicit relationship—someone we meet at the office, the grocery store, or (sadly) even the church—can deeply wound.

Outside temptations are fantasies; be thankful for what is real. You have the power to choose. Run quickly from sexual temptation like Joseph did. Take God’s quickest and surest “way of escape.” Protect yourself from misunderstandings by having a third party present, keeping the office door open, guarding all interactions—phone calls, emails, etc.—to be sure they are not inappropriate or suggestive, and not flirting. Guard your heart, eyes and touch. If struggling, ask for help from a godly mentor. Be accountable to your spouse or a trusted friend. Invest in your own marriage.

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3. Reflect on Your Vows

3. Reflect on Your Vows

Most marriages are contracts, and contracts can be broken. But for Christ-followers, wedding vows are much more—a covenant. Members make a solemn covenant in God’s presence. It’s a sacred and binding agreement, a commitment for life.

If you have a copy of your wedding vows, reflect on the words. Remember what you promised. How are you measuring up? If you have a videotape or audio recording of your special day, plan a time of reflection as you watch or listen together. Find your wedding photos and talk about how your lives together have been lived “for better or worse.” How have circumstances affected your commitment to your vows? Do you still say, “I do”?

It’s never too late to recommit. Sometimes couples even decide to renew their vows in a formal ceremony, including others as witnesses for future strength and accountability.

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4. Repair the Breach

4. Repair the Breach

A breach is a gap created because of an attack. A breach is also a failure to keep an agreement or contract, including a breach in wedding vows. The result of either kind of breach is brokenness—a rupture or separation that arise from neglect, built-up pain or intentional wounds that deeply hurt. A breach is fractured intimacy.

To repair a breach there must first be honest communication. Talk about what went wrong. What could one or both of you do to strengthen the weakest areas in your marriage? When you share together, speak the truth with grace and compassion. Don’t attack. Observe and correct—realign your marriage according to your wedding vows and biblical truth. Confess your faults to each other and forgive so the breach can be repaired and your marriage restored.

When in “marital pain,” it’s wise to pursue biblical counseling. And if you are at risk because of physical abuse or a threat to safety, or when there are signs of significant mental illness or a chemical imbalance, don’t be afraid to reach out for intervention, direction or protection.

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5. Replace Unbiblical Thinking

5. Replace Unbiblical Thinking

Many Christians enter marriage without giving any thought to God’s design for marriage and the choices that can help a marriage thrive.

Take time to read and think through the key passages about marriage in the best guidebook for marriage wisdom, the Bible—Genesis 2:22-24; Matthew 19:4-6; 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Timothy 5:8; 1 Peter 3:1-7.Ask the Lord to reveal what He is saying about roles and responsibilities. Many of the scriptures written for the family of God also apply in marriage: love one another, forgive one another, serve one another, encourage one another, etc. Even our struggles have a place in God’s eternal purposes.

Read solid, Bible-based books on marriage and listen to godly leaders. Some of my favorite marriage sources are materials from Revive Our Hearts, LifeWay, and Bill and Pam Farrel.

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6. Resist the Pull of the Culture

6. Resist the Pull of the Culture

The lure of the today’s culture and drive for syncretism is incredibly strong. Depart from the world’s philosophies and you’ll likely be mocked or shunned. But a Christian marriage is built on God’s wisdom, not from the world system.

Just as bank tellers study real currency to spot fake bills, study the biblical design for marriage and God’s words of wisdom for marital success. Practice discernment and learn to detect unbiblical philosophies. Try to spot the enemy’s lies about marriage in the media and entertainment.

For example, in spite of Tom Cruise’s touching words in Jerry Maguire, a spouse does not “complete” you. Only the Lord can fill in the weak gaps in our lives. We are “complete in Him.” Watch programs or movies about marriage and you’ll see lots of worldly philosophies creeping in. What was once hinted at as alternatives in marriage is now espoused and promoted. Pray for discernment.

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7. Respond, Don’t React

7. Respond, Don’t React

We live in a reactionary, agitated society. What were once peaceful demonstrations now often turn into angry mobs. This is not the attitude God desires for His children. His counsel to us is to strive—as much as is possible and depends on us—to live peaceably with each other. Unity and oneness are good and “pleasant.” God’s children are to “seek peace and pursue it”—to make every effort to be live in peace and be holy before the Lord (Psalm 34:14; Hebrews 12:14).

A great lessons I’ve learned in my own marriage is to respond, not react. It takes humility and responsiveness to the Holy Spirit’s promptings first, so I don’t continue to stir up strife in my home. Then, as I walk in the Spirit, I will be less likely to fulfill the “lusts” of the flesh—all those things that run contrary to the Spirit working in us.

It takes gentleness, patience and a desire for harmony to fend off another’s anger or criticism (Ephesians 4:2). A soft answer, a wise and gentle tongue “turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1-4). The old maxim about counting to ten might be good advice for those who tend to react too quickly, but even better is coming to the Father in prayer. Even a whispered, “Help me, Lord, to respond as You would” can bring a more biblical focus.

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8. Restate Negatives as Positive Strengths

8. Restate Negatives as Positive Strengths

Paul David Tripp wrote in “Three Things to Remember about Your (Imperfect) Marriage, “When your ears hear and your eyes see the sin, weakness or failure of your husband or wife, it is never an accident; it is always grace.”

God brings couples together to be tools of change. God will cause a wife to see, hear and experience her husband’s need for change, Tripp said, “so that you can be an agent of his rescue.” And God helps a husband see and understand his wife’s needs too. But remember, it is the faithful and powerful Lord who transforms a spouse by His grace. We’re not called to “fix” our mate, nag or belittle them. We’re called to come alongside and see what God sees, the potential for positive strengths.

In other words, flip criticism on its head! Coax out strengths when possible. Consider how your partner’s “negatives”—to your way of thinking—might actually be God-purposed positives. Sometimes it is the imperfections in our partner that are exactly what the Lord uses to rub off our rough edges. Early in our marriage I labeled my husband’s quietness and caution as lack of involvement and stubbornness. The Lord showed me I needed my husband’s steady, dependable nature and discernment to balance my own fluctuating moods and hasty choices.

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9. Reignite Your Romance

9. Reignite Your Romance

When you’ve “lost that lovin’ feeling” in marriage—when romance wanes and sexual intimacy is in a slump—it’s easy to give in to discouragement. For good reason, the Bible says it’s not wise to “deprive” each other in marriage.We’re all responsible for our choices, but when “Not tonight, Dear” becomes a go-to routine, the enemy gets room to tempt us emotionally, mentally and physically.

Reignite the romance with simple, loving choices—or go for more sizzle. It’s OK to make romance creative and fun. Try to create some early dates. Whatever you do, don’t let the world define sex. The enemy desires to destroy your marriage intimacy with his lies. Forget the myth of “soul mates.” Marriage is about commitment and investing in your partner to see your relationship grow. It’s about discovering what pleases your spouse and desiring to bring your mate joy and fulfillment.

Approach sex with openness, honesty and commitment. The marriage bed as God designed it is “undefiled.”It’s not about pornography, which is bringing “other partners” into the relationship visually. Scientists say porn changes how we think about sex and our own partners. If there are confusing questions about the sexual relationship, take those questions to a trusted biblical counselor. Sex in marriage is a beautiful gift from God, and it is good to explore and enjoy in all its fullness.

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10. Rejoice with the Spouse of Your Youth

10. Rejoice with the Spouse of Your Youth

Yes, men are instructed to “enjoy life” with their wives (and the reverse is also true). But rejoicing with a spouse isn’t just for times of sexual intimacy.

Think of special ways every day to celebrate your relationship. Practice creative dating. Leave the cell phone at home, and talk about sweet or funny experiences shared together. Or make a loving, encouraging phone call or send a special token of love. Consider character developed through challenges you’ve both faced. Marvel at the blessings too. Notice how God brought strengths to bolster weaknesses. Praise God for the years of faithfulness and healing after failings. Be as courteous at home as in public. Gratitude, showing appreciation, is a choice.

Marriage is truly a God-given source of blessing, not a “pain,” when we begin to view it through God’s perspective.

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Dawn Wilson and her husband Bob live in Southern California. They have two married sons and three granddaughters. Dawn assists author and radio host Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth with research and works with various departments at Revive Our Hearts. She is the founder and director of Heart Choices Today, and also publishes LOL with God and Upgrade with Dawn and writes for Crosswalk.com. Dawn also travels with her husband in ministry with Pacesetter Global Outreach.

*Published 4/5/2018





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