"I'm not happy in my marriage. "
"My spouse won't change."
"This isn't what I thought it would be."
"I feel betrayed."
"My marriage is disappointing."
These are common phrases that hit the counseling room, prayer request time in group, and across the coffee shop table with a friend. There is a real pain in these sentiments. Sometimes these thoughts come pouring out before the marriage is even a year or two old. Did this couple make a mistake? Should she leave him? Does he consider divorce? God calls us to lay our life down for our spouse. What does that look like when it feels like we are the only ones upholding the covenant?
1. Pursue deeper study
Find a discipleship group to dig deep and study the scriptures with. Create a rhythm of regular Bible reading that puts you through entire books of the Bible. There is nothing wrong with a 5-minute email devotional, but they won’t feed your soul when it feels like your spouse is sucking it out of you. Don’t give up. Find something that works, until it feels unnatural to not read the scriptures.
2. Go to counseling alone
Find a biblical mental health counselor that you trust, and go to them alone. Make it a safe space to share your doubts, your fears, your sin, and your brokenness. Your marriage may always be a place of great trial, but you can change the way you react to it. Look deeply at the issues you bring to the marriage and the ways that you are reacting in unhealthy ways, and work to change them.
*A mental health counselor can also help you figure out if what you are experiencing is emotional abuse. An unloving spouse is not the same as an abusive spouse. Really dig in and figure out the difference. Our culture loves to throw around words like “trigger”, “abuse”, and “toxic”. It is a temptation to put a label on your hard relationship so that you have grounds for divorce. Be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.
3. Find a friend to tell your scary thoughts to
Cultivate a friendship with a trusted friend of the same gender. Someone that has a healthy marriage — not someone to commiserate with. Text and call constantly. Share your temptations and the really scary stuff that crosses your mind. Allow them to speak truth to you. Listen. Ponder what they say. When you are in the midst of a hard moment, let them know, so they can pray for you and speak life over you. Bring the darkness into the light.
4. Own your 2%
When your spouse is indifferent, it’s very possible that the majority of the problem is not you. But there was only one perfect person, and it’s not you. Own what is yours. Practice Romans 12.
5. Don’t make long-term decisions while unhealthy
It can be very tempting to list and ruminate on all the ways your spouse is falling short. You may even have well-meaning friends and family in your life that tell you it’s okay to leave. Listen to the Holy Spirit. Are you making a decision out of fear? Out of despair? Loneliness? Claw your way to health before making any long-term choices.
6. Submit to the wisdom of your church leader
Contact your pastor and explain the situation. Get their advice and opinion. Submit to their feedback. They will be able to shed light on areas that you may be biased about and help you gain clarity.
7. Curate a playlist
Curate a playlist that will preach the Gospel straight to your heart and emotions. When you are talked out, prayed out, scriptured out, hit play on that playlist. Sit in the quiet and listen. Or sing at the top of your lungs. Shout to your soul that Jesus is better.
8. This place isn’t your home.
Marriage is not the ultimate thing here on earth. We serve a good God that saved us. Our hope is not wrapped up in a healed relationship with our spouse. Our hope is set on a God who saves. Our life on earth is not the end of our story. Romans 5 beckons us to put our hope in Christ alone.
9. Hold out hope until the last possible moment
What if your spouse’s indifference has resulted in him leaving? Entreat him. Write letters. Phone calls. Continue counseling. Get wisdom. Repeat the above as long as it takes until a divorce is final. Look back with no regrets.
10. If you have kids …
Teach them about Jesus and repentance. Don’t speak negatively about your spouse. Model what it looks like to be a Christ-follower in a hard place. Have integrity in your words and actions. Show them what sacrificial, unconditional love looks like.