Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional/expert, nor am I a counselor. I also don’t know the deep, dark details of your marriage. If there is any abuse, infidelity, or other severe dysfunction present in your marriage, please seek help immediately. Also, this post contains affiliate links.
Y’all. I thought I had tried everything to improve my marriage. Made his favorite meals. Put on some sexy lingerie. Did the ironing. I was very verbal and clear about what I needed from him. I set up date nights and hinted that he should reciprocate. I encouraged him to be more involved with the kids. I learned his “love language” and made it my goal to perform acts of service for him on the daily.
I pretty much made working on our marriage my full-time hobby.
I thought I was doing everything I could to improve our marriage. And failing hard. Because nothing seemed to work.
Have you ever felt like you were rowing a boat with one oar?
Turns out, not only was I misguided in my efforts, but I had no actual idea what I was doing. And–get this–I found out that it didn’t have to be as difficult as it seemed.
What that means for your marriage is that you can love your husband more effectively once you understand that God loves you more and better than anyone else ever can or will. In order to change your marriage, your understanding of love must be transformed.
For me, that meant digging into the Word to find out how God loves me. And talking things through with a counselor to identify any holes in my love bucket. For many of you, it will mean laying the same groundwork.
Once I began to take my holey bucket to my heavenly Father to heal and fill on a regular basis, God gave me insight on how to love my husband through inspired conversations with my husband and resources He led me to.
As a result, I’m able to love my husband more fully without depleting myself and without feeling gypped or jaded–because I know who my true Source and chief love bucket-filler actually is.
WHAT’S IN IT FOR ME?
The longer you are married, the greater the potential to rack up offenses, which will harden your heart toward your husband. It’s easy to say you’ve forgiven and let stuff go, but every marriage has its own share of minefields. You know–the idiosyncrasies that are annoying on a good day and have the potential to cause an explosion on the worst.
And some marriages hold deeper issues. Some of you are facing a rift between you and your husband. Some of you, like myself, carry heavy, hardened hearts.
You’re tired of fighting. Tired of crying. Tired of hoping. Tired of trying.
In my (sometimes admittedly self-centered) attempts to love my husband, I was driven by my own desires. I wanted appreciation, so I made his favorite meals. I craved attention, so I put on lingerie and hinted about date nights. I desired more family time, so I used my words to nag, coax, and pretty much manipulate him into coming home earlier from work.
Anyone else? Or am I totally putting myself out there?
In praying for insight into my husband’s needs, God showed me some deep, dark crevices in my heart that needed healing. Pride. Anger. Bitterness. Selfishness. All things I needed to admit and turn away from so that God could do what He does best–what I couldn’t do all on my own effort.
The only thing left for me to do was to let go of my desires and expectations–and to let God love me the way I wanted to be loved. God wanted me to see that He is my Source, my Provider, and the only one who can love me the way I want to be loved.
Today’s world puts a lot of emphasis on self-love and self-centered love. We have come to expect our spouse/partner to meet our needs, and we strive to meet their needs as well.
Some of the most popular marriage and relationship books out there teach us how to meet each other’s needs. One of my favorite relationship tools–The Five Love Languages–offers plenty of ideas to help you effectively love your favorite people.
But what happens when we inevitably drop the ball? If our ability to feel loved depends on someone else’s efforts, we can easily default to score-keeping. When we don’t feel loved, we withhold love, and this cycle is lethal to a relationship. So–what do we do?
For the woman who is just about done, for my fellow marriage-fixers, I hate that you feel this way. I understand that it’s hard. You have worked SO hard on it, and it might seem hopeless.
If I could, I would reach through your phone or your monitor and give you a hug. But since I can’t do that, I want you to know that the adage “less is more” can absolutely apply to your marriage.
How you apply this will depend on your marriage and your husband’s unique personality, so please don’t take my word for it– ask God for insight.
I am merely sharing some things I learned as I would with a girl friend over coffee, hopeful that this information will help someone else.
But–you need to know that if you are in that dark place, none of this is going to be easy.
In fact, here are 4 things that caught me off guard and almost knocked me off my game:
- You’re not going to feel like praying. Pray anyway. If your prayer is nothing more than a heaving sob, that is more than enough.
- It’s going to take time for you to see the fruits of your labor.
- I can almost guarantee that you will question your effort, and possibly even your faith in God.
- You will likely feel like you’re getting the short end of the stick.
But before you think about giving up–keep seeking God. Keep taking care of yourself. Keep loving your husband.
The more you pray, the more you contribute to your own happiness, the more you love your husband selflessly–the more your perspective on your marriage will change. You will develop new eyes for your husband, and he will take notice.
He may not say very much about it, and you may be tempted to ask him if he notices how you’ve changed. But keep stepping, one day at a time.
There will eventually be a shift, and you will feel it. And you’ll be glad you didn’t grow weary of doing good to your husband, for your marriage, for your family.
5 WAYS YOU CAN WORK ON YOUR MARRIAGE BY YOURSELF
Ask God to forgive you for any offenses against your husband. Ask Him to forgive you for holding onto pride, anger, bitterness, and selfishness.
You’re going to need to vent to someone when your husband makes you mad–why not vent to the Person who can do something about it? Thank Him for your husband and everything you love about him.
Ask God for fresh eyes to see your husband the way He does, and ask for insight into how your husband needs to be loved.
Start a regular practice of praying specifically for your husband, and over him if he will allow it. If you need ideas for how to pray, these books are fantastic resources:
- The Power of a Praying Wife by Stormie Omartian
- The Power of Prayer to Change Your Marriage by Stormie Omartian
- Prayers of Blessing Over Your Husband by Bruce Wilkinson and Heather Hair
Schedule daily time to spend with the Lord–doesn’t have to be hours.
Start with a few minutes to pray and read a Bible verse, and build up from there.
Be honest in your prayers; tell God what you really want and what you need. He already knows, but He wants you to cast your cares on Him and to know how much He cares about every detail of your life.
Prioritize your own self-care. As moms, it is easy to let our health go unattended.
3) Keep the lines of communication open.
Take this one day at a time. Ask him if there’s anything you can do to help him that day. Find out if there’s anything he needs from you.
If you and your husband aren’t getting along, prayerfully consider if there’s anything you need to apologize for, and ask for forgiveness.
A counselor, pastor, or marriage coach can offer you communication tools to help you navigate conflict in your marriage.
4) Get resources.
Have a look at some of the books that have really made a difference in our marriage:
- The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
- For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn
- For Men Only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn
- Kingdom Marriage by Tony Evans
And a few highly-recommend books on my “to read” list:
- Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
- Loving Him Well: Practical Advice on Influencing Your Husband by Gary Thomas
- Emptied: Experiencing the Fullness of a Poured-Out Marriage by Jonathan and Wynter Pitts
5) Keep Your Marriage Prayed Up.
Discover the power of prayer firsthand as you lift up your marriage with this free 30-day prayer calendar.