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When You Don’t Know How to Improve Your Difficult Marriage

You know you would like to have a marriage you have always dreamed of having but somewhere along the way the challenges of life has got into your marriage. And now you find yourself not knowing how to improve your difficult marriage.

On our previous post, Why Do You Settle For a Difficult Marriage, I gave a challenge for anyone who felt stuck with no intention of doing anything about the condition of their marriage. I talked about how marriage was designed by God to be place of “One Flesh” unity and that God esteems marriage in such high regard that He even chose marriage to illustrate the relationship between Christ and the church.


And as I mentioned in my challenge, “if marriage has been given the responsibility from God to represent what Christ relationship with us the Church should look like, shouldn’t we hold marriage to the same standard of honor and glory that God has already placed on it.”

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Where Marriage Healing Begins

The desperation I felt to save our marriage was tremendous. I had waited so long for signs of hope and yet so many times it seemed my hopes were dashed. I had no problem accepting the fact that I had hurt our marriage. So all I could think of was trying to find some way to fix the problems I helped create.


After a good while into our last separation, my wife finally decided to go see a counselor. There were a lot of issues she had been dealing with from her childhood and she finally reached a point where she said enough is enough. She wanted the stuff that had tormented her all of her life to be gone once and for all.

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Can You Balance Your Partnership and Friendship?

Every marriage should have a good balance of partnership and friendship. It is difficult and there are many couples who fail at it every day, but it is possible.







Marriage is the only relationship where we should have both partnership and friendship. Ordinarily, in any other relationship, it is considered unwise to mix the two. A business partnership that starts from friendship will usually hurt the friendship. And a partnership that develops into friendship can hurt the partnership. Unless everyone understands the difference and they are able to balance the two properly.

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How Do You Relate? As Friends, Partners, Lovers, or All Three?

ID-100138616On our last post How Are You Two Related, I started talking about how in every marriage we have different and unique ways of connecting with our spouse. And that the important thing was to find your connection points and work from your place of strength as you work to improve other ways to connect with each other.

On this post I want to start taking a look at how we relate to our spouse in three major categories; friendship, partnership, and lovers. As far as I can tell, any connection we have with our spouse will always fit into one or more of these areas. But the challenge we face is understanding how to move in and out of each area and how to find good balance of all three ways of connection.

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When is it Okay to Talk About Past Hurts?

“The past should be left in the past.” I’m sure many of us have heard this at some point in our marriage. I’m sure many of us have said this ourselves at some point. But the question is: is it ever possible to talk about the past and the hurts from our past? And if it is, when is it okay to talk about it and when is it not okay and how do you know the difference?


We have had this discussion many times with couples in our marriage class. And it is from our own experience that we give some very simple advice on the subject. Because for years when our own marriage was suffering, I was always the one who said the past should be left in the past. I never wanted to talk about the past. I felt it would stir things up and cause a huge argument. And it was because I had already asked for forgiveness for what I did. I didn’t like having my past held against me.

But along the way I learned a very valuable lesson. It was after the fourth and final time our marriage had reached its breaking point. We were in a state of limbo. We were still living in the same home, but our marriage was in trouble and it looked hopeless as I tried to convince Janet to not give up. She said she wanted out of our marriage and so we were planning to break up in a way that would not hurt our children. And as it turned out, our trying to plan for the right timing bought us time to fix what was wrong.

We went on to spend a year and a half in that limbo state. There were times when it looked like we would stay together and there were times when we lost all hope. I even moved out twice during that time, only to move back in a day later. It was a crazy and extremely difficult time. But the blessing of that time was, we began talking in a way we had never talked before. We weren’t arguing or fighting anymore. Instead, we became very open and honest with each other. We kept finding ourselves talking about the past. Only, this time when we really talked about the past it was like we were unraveling a mystery, the mystery of what had gone wrong with our marriage.

We now thank God for that year and a half we spent talking like that. We know it was His grace working in our lives that helped us recover from our past hurts and rebuild a solid foundation for our marriage. And so it is from that experience that I know there is a place where couples need to talk about their past and any unresolved hurts from the past.

So, when is it okay to talk about past hurts?

I have two simple rules I give to couples on this issue.

1) You have to walk in forgiveness at all times.

  • Forgiveness is a choice. You choose to forgive what you already know about the past and you choose to forgive ahead of time anything you learn about the past once you start talking about it.
  • Forgiveness is also a gift. You have to be willing to freely give forgiveness without expecting your spouse to somehow earn your forgiveness.
  • Forgiveness opens the door. If you want a really deep intimate relationship with your spouse, you will find that talking about your past hurts can bring healing and closeness in a way you have never had before, but you have to walk in forgiveness to get there.
  • Ask for forgiveness. In places where you are the one that has hurt your spouse, don’t demand that they forgive. Humble yourself and ask for their forgiveness.

2) Are you using the past as a weapon or a tool? 

Never use the past as a weapon.

This happens so many times during conflicts out of hurt or anger. One spouse brings up the past in the conflict to gain an advantage over the other. It’s also used to hold the other spouse in permanent punishment for what they did. Which also goes back to the forgiveness issue. Sometimes this weapon will show up as a dagger. It’s used to give little jabs at the other person just so they never forget what they did.

You can use the past as a tool.

A tool is something that will help you build a better marriage. Anytime you are able to sit down and have an in-depth conversation about one another’s feelings you are working in a positive manner to build a strong marriage. Even if those feelings are about something from the past.

Just because something from the past has been forgiven does not mean the hurt from it has been completely healed and often when the pain is deep there is a struggle to forgive. That is why it is so important to be open to discussing the past. Our goal should be to help our spouse heal and if that means being vulnerable enough to discuss the past, then that is what we must do. We should never be so eager to move on from the past that we neglect to help our spouse through their own journey of healing.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net  

Is Your Patience Running Thin?

For many years I struggled with loving my wife. I could always say it and most of the time I felt it, but the challenge for me was knowing how to show it in a consistent way that made sense. Even when I thought I was showing love in one way, my other actions would contradict me and cause Janet to question if I really loved her or not.


One of the problems I had with loving my wife and my children was the way I would lose my patience with them. They just never knew when my patience would run out and I would turn on them in some sort of harsh demanding way. I didn’t want to treat them badly and I had no excuse for it. So I just blamed it on my lack of patience.

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