I recently sat down with a couple on the brink of divorce. A pattern of broken trust, secrets, poor money management, inappropriate “friendships” with the opposite sex, unhealthy habits, disagreements over parenting strategies, tense family dynamics, a lack of communication a myriad of other factors had driven a deep wedge between these two people.
They still loved each other, and they wanted their kids to grow up in a healthy, happy home, but they both felt too wounded and exhausted to continue.
They didn’t know where to start.
It was as if they were standing at the edge of a massive landfill holding broom and dustpan and told the clean up the mess. The mess seemed too big and their strength seemed too drained. Even if they wanted to make things work, they doubted it was possible. Walking away seemed like the only option left.
I tried to encourage them but also told them the hard truth that there are NO easy options.
Fixing the marriage would be very difficult, but divorce would also be very difficult. I encouraged them to invest the effort into their marriage instead of investing the effort into trying to start again with someone new. The key wasn’t in trying solve all their problems all at once, but in identifying some ways to start solving their problems one step at a time.
Every couple has struggles.
Maybe you can relate to this couple and you feel like all hope is lost for your marriage. Maybe your marriage is just going through some bumps in the road, and you want to take immediate action to prevent your marriage from getting to a crisis point. Regardless of the level of struggles you might be facing right now, I’m convinced that ANY marriage can survive if BOTH spouses will commit to doing whatever it takes to make it work.
If you’re looking for a place to start, here are six action steps that you can employ to save a struggling marriage.
When you’re marriage is facing struggles of any kind, please do the following right away:
1. Make the “SECRET-FREE Guarantee” with each other.
Secrets are a cancerous tumor within a marriage, and when your marriage is already struggling, your secrets could be what ultimately ends the relationship. No more hidden passwords, secret bank accounts, stealthy actions, or anything else secretive or deceptive.
Now is the time to start confessing to each other anything you’ve been hiding. Total transparency is the ONLY way your marriage is going to reestablish trust and health. A painful truth is always better than a hidden lie.
If you have children, you obviously need to make time to be a good parent, but you also need time to be a good spouse. Your marriage can’t survive without consistent, uninterrupted time together. Make time nightly to turn off the devices after the kids are asleep just to communicate with your spouse.
I’d also encourage you to get away for a weekend without kids so you can focus on each other and work on the marriage. If you’re looking for a retreat specifically for married couples who are going through serious struggles, you should check out SaveMyMarriage.com.
3. Talk openly about PAST hurts, PRESENT concerns, and hopes for the FUTURE.
Most struggles in marriage are complicated by past hurts that haven’t fully healed (or perhaps were never fully forgiven). Talk openly and honestly about the wounds you’re still carrying, but also start dreaming together and focus on the good things you want for your family in the future. Focusing on a positive vision of the future is an important step to bring you out of the present rut. Ask forgiveness and give forgiveness for the wounds of the past and work together to achieve positive goals for the future.
For more on this, check out my new book, “The 7 Laws of Love: Essential Principles for Building Stronger Relationships”
4. Eliminate NEGATIVE influences from your life.
When your marriage is struggling, your “friends” could make or break your marriage. Surround yourself with people who love you AND love your spouse too. Make sure you’re being influenced by people who encourage and strengthen your character and removing yourself from people to attempt to compromise your character.
5. Surround yourself with a community of FAITH.
In addition to positive, loyal friends, I would also strongly encourage you to find a good church. Our church community has done more to enrich and encourage our own marriage than nearly any other factor. It reminds you that God is with you and He is bigger than your biggest problems! On a related note, praying together with your spouse is a beautiful and intimate way to grow closer to God and to your spouse at the same time.
6. REFUSE to give up on each other.
Make the choice to remove the word “Divorce” from your vocabularies. Instead of planning exit strategies, focus your energy on finding solutions to your struggles and a path to healing. You will get through this if you’ll have faith, work together, and keep going!
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Don't give up on your marriage. It is worth the effort and investment. If you feel like your marriage is struggling, or even failing, there is hope. There is healing.