How Do We Get over Marriage Problems and See Marriages Change?

DSCN7418This weekend my husband and I have been speaking at FamilyLife Canada’s Weekend to Remember conference in Collingwood, Ontario. I love getting away with him and speaking; it always makes our marriage better, too! We have a weekend to talk about nothing but marriage, and we always feel like if we’re going to get up there and teach, we had better practice what we preach (my husband is especially eager to do so with regards to the sex talk :) !

Yesterday, during the wrap up, my husband told two stories about how change happens in marriage, and I’d like to share them with you now.

First, picture two little boys down in the kitchen making breakfast. They’ve eaten some waffles, but they’re still hungry, when the toaster pops up. There’s one waffle left. They both go over to grab it and start fighting over it. Mom turns to the boys and says, “now, now, what would Jesus do?”

Both boys, shamefacedly, admit, “Jesus would give His brother the waffle.” Then, quick as can be, the little boy points to his big brother and says, “You be Jesus!”

Often that’s what it’s like in marriage. We’re saying, “you be the one to change first”. You be the one to make that first move.

That doesn’t work.

I also think of the analogy of the World War I trenches. During World War I, both sides fortified themselves in trenches, which were basically impenetrable. For four years, they fought over a stretch of about twenty miles.


'War!' photo (c) 1918, National Library of Scotland - license:


And that sometimes is what we’re like in our marriages, too. We get into our trenches, and we’re afraid to stick our head up in case something comes flying at us. So we dig in and prepare to stay a while. But then nothing can ever get better. Nothing can ever happen until one person has the courage to climb out of the trench and walk across the no man’s land.

Of course, the analogy isn’t perfect, because in World War I whoever got that courage first tended to die. But that’s not true in marriages. I think in marriage when one person decides they’re going to be selfless; when one person decides they’re going to forgive; when one person decides that they’re going to show love, even if the other person doesn’t, the dynamic of the marriage changes.

That’s what happened in our marriage when we were having problems in the early days. I found sex difficult and emotionally draining. Is that all he wanted me for? He felt lonely and unloved. And so I spent my life trying to turn him off. And then one day he came to me and said he would give up all expectations on me and just love me. And he meant it. And it was so freeing. For the first time I could figure out if I wanted to for me, not just for him. Everything changed.

That’s really what marriage is about. It’s deciding to change yourself, because when you let go your need for retribution, often the other person is then freed to be who they were meant to be. They’re not stuck anymore. Now I have written a post and done a video for those of you who feel very alone in your marriage,. I do know change is not always easy, or even likely. But for most of us, changing our own attitudes can do so much to change the marriage.

At the end of the conference, we hand out certificates, pledges that they can sign that they are committed to this marriage. The couples can take them home and sign them (some people get their kids to witness them at home, or their pastor), and it’s a very moving moment.

If you’ve never gone to a marriage conference, I’d really encourage it. We don’t make anyone sit in small groups and spill their guts to strangers. You just listen to the speakers, and then do projects, just the two of you. No one takes attendance or bothers you. It’s all up to you. We enjoyed it when we went for the first time, and we try to make it fun and interesting for those who are there (as you can see from the video I posted yesterday).

For your viewing pleasure, here’s one of my favourite clips from the sex talk we give, from the Banff conference that we spoke at last year. Enjoy! It’s pretty funny:

Now it’s your turn: Have you ever seen the dynamic change in your marriage? How did it happen?


  1. Hi Sheila, We are trying so hard to change the dyamics of our marriage. It is so hard sometimes. I’m trying to focus on meeting his needs and we are spending more time communicating our dislikes about each other (in a good way) instead of holding them inside. I keep praying and I’m waiting to see God’s miracle happen in our marriage.
    Sexy Christian Wife recently posted…Road Trips and HolidaysMy Profile

    • It is really hard. I know that. And I totally know that it can seem really lonely at times. But the problem is that anything else doesn’t really work. I think that God made marriage to make us holy, not just to make us happy, and He created the dynamic so that in order to get our deepest needs met, we have to reach out and meet the needs of the other. And that is absolutely REALLY HARD. I’ll pray that you’re able to stick it out!

  2. We’ve not had one big dynamic moment, but many small ones. We’ve only been married 5 1/2 years, but we’ve had plenty of times when one did something to hurt the other. We are pretty good at going back and addressing, and talking about it. Sometimes, we have to do this many times before the issue is really resolved, but we get there.

    I have really enjoyed your posts about the conference and the videos. Thank you!
    Rachael recently posted…A Day in My Life, by PeanutMy Profile

    • You’re welcome, Rachael! The conferences really are fun. And it’s great that you’re learning how to work things out! That’s such an important skill.

  3. Personally, the dynamics of my marriage is changing for the better because I first had to make a change within me!
    IAAMM recently posted…GrassrootsMy Profile

  4. Oooh, wow… :) The other night, my hubby came up to our room and said, “We have a LOT of marriage books downstairs. Have you read them all?” I said, “Yep, most of them.” He was surprised, because he (until lately) hasn’t been very interested in reading them with me. I’m a book collector and I love reading, so as soon as I got married, I started devouring marriage books. After a time, though, I became depressed… I felt like I was the only one working on our marriage and that we both needed to be reading these books, as we both needed to change. So I gave up. Lately, a few things have changed. We saw a counsellor together for a few months. We started reading a couple marriage books together (his mom sent us one that she enjoyed, so he seemed more open to reading it together). And I started to realize that I had a really negative view of our relationship, and that I needed to change my thinking. It’s small steps, so far, but small steps in the right direction.
    Bonnie Way recently posted…The Power of Positive ThinkingMy Profile

    • That’s great, Bonnie! I know it can be so lonely when you feel like you’re the only one working on your relationship. But you’re right; often we can feel very negatively towards our husbands and think that they’re the ones who aren’t doing anything. But as soon as we think that, we’re painting ourselves into a corner where our marriage is going to be difficult. It’s hard to step out and do the right thing, even if it doesn’t seem like he is, but it looks like that has really reaped dividends in your marriage!

  5. Your blog was very timely.What do you do when you try your hardest to be forgiving toward your spouse when he swears at you or demeans you with sarcasm?How can help him by changing myself.Do I just live with it and try to shrug it off?

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