Does God Make a Difference in Marriage Part 2

Does God Make a Difference in MarriageDoes God make a difference in your marriage?

Last week I made some observations that often Christians act like God doesn’t really make a difference in our lives, and everything is ultimately up to us. We just don’t really have faith that God will actually move.

I see that in marriage, too, and I want to see how two different trends–though they may seem like they have nothing to do with each other–actually show that we have a long way to go with marriage.

1. Christians Divorce at the Same Rate as Non-Christians–Right?

You’ve heard that stat, haven’t you? In fact, it’s even worse than that. I’ve heard the stat that 50% of marriages end in divorce–but that it’s even higher in the Bible belt.

Do you believe it?

Chances are you do because Christians quote it all the time. We announce it from pews. We use it to fundraise for family organizations–Christian marriages need all the help they can get! We’re in dire straits, people!

Yet think it through logically. Do we believe that having God in your life should make a difference? Do we believe that God works in people’s lives? If we do, then how could it possibly be that our marriages are as bad as everyone else’s?

I started to wonder that recently and so I did an experiment. I looked through my church directory to see how many were divorced. It was closer to 10%.  Then I wondered–maybe that’s skewed, because once people divorce they stop going to church? So I thought back on the couples I knew in university. I wrote out a long list of all my university friends who had gotten married. And of all of them (we knew each other from the campus Christian group), only 2 had been divorced–a rate of about 5%.

I read a study recently that said that in marriages where couples pray together daily the divorce rate is more like 2%. I believe that. It makes sense to me. And I’ve read critiques of that study that found that our divorce rate was just as high because they really didn’t define “Christian”. Practically everyone claims to be a Christian, and so that’s pretty meaningless. We want to flesh out what the divorce rate is among those who honestly believe and try to live out their faith. I want to write a post looking at all the accurate studies, but I haven’t done that yet. I’ve actually been talking to a major magazine about writing it, and that’s why I’m not linking to studies here. I want to make sure they’re accurate first and do my homework.

But the main question I have is:

why is it that Christians were so quick to believe that stat that God doesn’t make a difference?

2. Does God Make a Difference in YOUR Marriage?

Maybe the reason we’re so quick to believe it is because in our own lives we still really struggle with marriage. It’s an area that has brought us a lot of hurt and grief over the years, and we haven’t felt the “victory” or the “oneness” or the “intimacy” we long for.

I have to tell you that the last few weeks I’ve been really burdened by the emails that get sent to me. I had to turn off the Messages feature on Facebook because I couldn’t keep up with them all. And I’ve got Reader Questions of the Week now scheduled through to the end of June! But I started to keep track everyday of all the problems I heard about–really, really big problems–and then at the end of the day I’d show them to my husband. And we’d pray over them and I’d let them go. It helped me to realize how I was beginning to be changed by what I do, and I’m praying more for strength to really make a difference.

But the simple fact is that many, many of you are really hurting, and my heart breaks for you. Many, many of you are wondering, if we’re Christians why does my husband play video games for 6 hours a day? Why can he not get over this porn addiction? Why do I have no patience for him? Why am I always so frustrated with him? Why can I not motivate myself to show him love anymore?

From speaking at marriage conferences and talking to couples and to counselors, I completely believe that God can make a difference in a marriage. If you run to Him and you’re humble and you’re open to correction about the things that you have done wrong, and not just open to God correcting your spouse, God can do amazing things.

Even if your spouse isn’t turning to God, God can still work in your marriage. It doesn’t mean your marriage will always be saved; but He can work.

Yet often I see couples where both claim Christ, and where both go to church, and where both would say that they believe, and yet they are getting nowhere.

I don’t believe the problem is that you don’t have God. I believe the problem is that God doesn’t have you. (Click to Tweet this quote)

God is not like a mechanic where you can take your broken marriage and He’ll fix it for you. He doesn’t work that way. He’s not a mechanic; He’s a potter who wants to mold you into something better. But He can’t mold something that is hard and brittle; He can only mold us when we’re pliable, when we are humble, when we are open to be molded.

God isn’t really interested in fixing your spouse nearly as much as He’s interested in having your heart. And if we are humble before Him, He can transform us, which can start to transform a marriage. If your spouse is also humble before Him, He is then free to do a beautiful and amazing work!

But we have to stop making excuses. We have to stop pointing fingers. And we have to do the work!

I’m really burdened by a relationship issue in my extended family, and it’s causing me to pray like I never have before. That’s the beauty of relationship issues; they drive us to God. My instinct is to get on the phone and try to force the issue and make it all better, but like Calm Healthy Sexy wrote in a post she linked up to Wifey Wednesday this week, we have to wait on God’s timing. She says:

The devotional book I’m reading, Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, reminded me this week to “stop trying to work things out before their times have come.”  That idea really spoke to me; it made me realize that’s exactly what I’ve been trying to do.  Even though I believe in God’s timing in my life, I haven’t been operating as if I believe in it at all.  I’ve acted as if everything depends on me, as if I just need to keep charging ahead and things will fall into place exactly as I’ve planned.  The only problem is, it’s not working.

We have to pray and then honestly walk in faith. We have to wrestle. We have to cry. And we have to believe.

Yesterday I took a day to fast and pray with a “blogging buddy” of mine from the other side of the continent. We prayed for each other all day and for ourselves and then at the end of the day we called each other and prayed on the phone together. We were both burdened by something similar and we needed God to lift that burden. But that meant also emptying ourselves and fighting for it. It meant giving God more of us, not just asking for more of Him.

If you believe in God, He should be making a difference in your marriage. If He’s not, the problem is likely not with God. It’s likely that He wants to bring you deeper, or bring your husband deeper. Of course you can do everything right and lean on God and your marriage may still not be saved, but even in that God wants you to lean and trust, because He does want to make a difference even in the brokenness. But maybe, instead of getting angry at our spouses and feeling defeated and feeling lost we need to throw ourselves more on God and get back to the only source that can bring real healing.

Do we believe God works, or not? I fear too often we really don’t, and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Reader Question: I Caught My Husband Texting Another Woman

Reader Question of the Week

A woman writes: “my husband is texting another woman. What do I do?”. Every Monday I try to answer a Reader Question. Sometimes the questions I get are really hard ones, and today’s is an example. I know many of you have caught your husband on Facebook with another woman, or texting another woman, and your whole world is thrown up in the air. You’ll likely relate to this:

My husband does have a history of looking at porn on the internet, but claims to not do this anymore. Recently, I logged into his computer to print something, and his facebook was up. There happened to be a text between he and a “friend” who he claims helped him when we were going through marriage problems a while ago. He says they were just friends and she helped him understand a women’s point of view. Well, the FB text was horrible, sexy talk from him. He was asking her about masturbation and if she thought about him during it, etc. I have been praying about this since, but my question is: do I tell him I know? I am having a very hard time with this, as I feel every time he brings up sex or talks to me about something personal, that he is lying to my face.

I am so, so sorry if you’re walking through this, and I want to give a few general thoughts about it. These would apply whether you catch your husband texting another woman, catch him using porn, or even catch him in an affair.

"My Husband is Texting Another Woman". When you catch your husband betraying you, what do you do?

You Are Not to Blame if Your Husband is Being Unfaithful

I see this in so many women’s emails: the husband is doing something that is completely and utterly wrong, and yet she is the one who feels badly or guilty. Here she’s wondering if she should tell him, because if she does he turns it around and often blames her, and this sends her into a tailspin.

When a spouse is doing something wrong, one of the marks of it is that they will deflect the blame. If you’re walking through a relationship like this, you’ll often suspect something, but if you bring it up you’ll be told that you’re crazy, that you’re jealous, that you need to see a counselor, or, if the person can’t deny it, that it is all your fault because you weren’t sexual enough, or you weren’t available, or you nagged too much.

I’ve seen women who were certain their husbands were having affairs for years, but at the same time they felt that maybe they were just too jealous or were reading too much into things. They started to doubt themselves.

There’s two reasons for this: Your husband often denies and turns things around on you; but you also are so scared to face the truth that the relationship may be as bad as you fear that you throw the responsibility back on yourself.

So let me say this loudly and clearly: If your husband is texting another woman, or sexting another woman, he is the one doing wrong, not you.

You are not to blame. Yes, we can contribute to the temptation to sin. But no matter what you did, there is NEVER an excuse to start a relationship with someone who is not your spouse, and you need to let go of that guilt.

No Matter What Happens, You Will Be Okay

Please hear me on this one. You are bigger than your marriage. You are precious to God, just who you are. If your marriage falls apart, God will not leave you, and He will carry you through this.

For most of us, divorce or separation is the scariest thing we can imagine, next to losing our children. Our whole identity is tied up in being a wife. The thought that the marriage may be at stake sends us into such a tailspin.

Marriage is a wonderful thing. Marriage matters. The vow matters. But listen: God is bigger than your marriage. You are more important to Him than your marriage. And you honestly will be okay. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, you will cry a river of tears. But He will carry you.

Now, hear me on this, too:

I am not saying that your marriage is over. I am not saying that it can’t be rebuilt. But until you are able to say, “My trust is in God, not in my marriage”, you will not be able to deal with this problem effectively. You will be so scared of losing your marriage that it will be hard for you to confront, to draw boundaries, and to do what is necessary to give yourself a chance at saving your marriage.

Now is the time to go running to God, and to find a close friend or counselor to help you do that, so that you have His inner strength and peace to deal with this.

Dont Doubt in the Dark from Dayspring


You Must Confront Him

Our letter writer is wondering if she should confront her husband. It’s understandable. As soon as you say the words, you can’t take them back. You can’t go on pretending everything is fine. It’s out in the open, and now all the ugliness has to be dealt with. What if you can’t put that genie back in the bottle?

If you don’t confront him it will get worse. If you don’t confront him you are hurting his own spiritual life. He needs to feel the consequences of his actions; that’s the only way that he will have the motivation to do the right thing.

Love Must Be ToughMany men (and many women) are living in this fairytale that they can have their cake and eat it, too. The more they go down that path, the more they damage themselves as people and hurt all those around them. He must be made to choose–which means that you need to be willing to accept the fact that he may not choose you. (The best book on this that I have found is Love Must Be Tough).

A few practical things: If you have caught him texting, take a picture of it. If you caught him on Facebook, take a screen shot. It is best to have proof so that he can’t argue or tell you that you’re crazy. If you found him using porn, take a screen shot of the computer’s internet history, just so that he can’t deny it. Then, instead of debating whether he actually did it, you can move on to dealing with the consequences of it.

Also, sometimes it’s better to confront him in the presence of a third party who can help you navigate that conversation. If it’s something big, talk to a pastor or counselor first, and ask them to be present while you talk to your husband. This isn’t always possible, but often these conversations go better this way.

Living in Truth is Better than Living in a Lie

There is nothing more exhausting than trying to maintain a fiction about your life. It is easier to live in the truth, even if the truth hurts, than to maintain a lie. Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus is the Truth; Jesus lives in the Truth. If you decide to live in the Truth, too, His resources and His power are there for you in a very powerful way.

Luke 8:17 says:

For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.

God is in the “bringing things out in the open” business.

When people start to be honest with each other, and honest with themselves, then God can work.

Whether you caught your husband using porn, or caught him in an affair, or caught him texting someone, the first step always is to run to God and put your trust ultimately in Him. Then remember: things need to be brought to light. Find a friend, or a counselor, or a pastor who can help you do this. Sometimes sitting down with a third party and confronting him is better than confronting him on your own. But do confront, do bring to light, and do know that no matter what happens, God is there for you and He can carry you.

Reader Question: When is it Okay to Give Up on My Marriage?

Reader Question: When can I leave my marriage?Every Monday I like to post a Reader Question and take a stab at answering it. Today I’m going to do a heartbreaking one: How do I know when to give up on my marriage? When have I done enough and tried hard enough? I get variations on this quite frequently, and I’ll share two with you today:

It took me a long time to figure out why I was so angry at him for so many years. It felt like he was holding back love and affection from me and that he didn’t care about or for me. Even when I tell him I would like to be hugged or touched he could barely do it. I feel rejected from my husband. Being a Christian woman I do not believe in leaving and I really do not want to. I feel like a prisoner in this relationship. I cannot leave for the commitment I made but I am dying inside with lack of affection. What am I to do? How much daily rejection can I keep taking. I touch him nicely on the shoulders or back and he acts like I am not even there. He has all sorts of “good” reasons to not be affectionate to me they all stem to something I said or did years ago.

Here’s another:

My husband has been pushing me away last November. This last June it got to the point where he wasn’t talking to me anymore and asked for more space and independence. I freaked out and took my kids to my in-laws, in another state for a long weekend to give him space. When I got back he told me that he’s been thinking about divorce or separation for a year now. At first I chased him, begging him to not leave me. Then, in the middle of summer, I started working on my relationship with God and got really close to Him. It seemed to help me emotionally, but every week there would be a set back in our relationship. Around our anniversary he got really nice and started acting like the old days again. However, after finding condoms and phone records of him talking every day to and from work to a woman he works with, our “progress” was set back 10 fold. After many talks, he’s realizing now that I’m going to look out for our young kids and myself. I’m falling out of love for him, like he says he’s not in love with me anymore. We don’t trust each other. How can this possibly work? I don’t want to disappoint God by leaving this loveless marriage. I’ve tried several things to work on my end-praying, reading my Bible, trying not to be selfish, figuring out his love language and working on that, the Love Dare, etc. Thoughts?

I can just hear the heartbreak in these women’s letters. The first woman, as far as I know, is in a loveless marriage but not necessarily in one that involves an affair. The second one looks like it does.

How can you know when to give up on your marriage? Thoughts for those in miserable relationships.

Is There A Sign That Tells You When to Give Up on Your Marriage?

I can’t tell you how to know when to give up on your marriage. I don’t know both sides of the situation, and most stories are really, really complicated. That’s why I absolutely believe that if you’re walking through something this lonely and this difficult you simply must get help–a third person to talk to. Maybe that’s a counsellor, or a pastor, or a mentor. Maybe it’s even a mentor couple who can sit down with the both of you. But you really need someone who knows you in real life, who knows your husband, who understands the situation, and who can help pray with you, hold you accountable, and also tell you when it’s just too dangerous to stay (because in abusive situations, or situations where affairs or porn use have become too rampant, it just may be).

Thus, likely the first thing you should do is find that someone to talk to. I know that can be difficult, especially if you or your husband are on a leadership position in the church. But you simply must. And remember: the embarrassment of finding someone to talk to is still less than pulling the family apart when no one understands why.

Sometimes Separation is a Good Life Lesson–and Can Save a Marriage

Let’s take a situation where a guy has been texting another woman, and refuses to give her up, but wants to stay at home. Or a situation where your husband refuses to get a job because he likes living at home, but also won’t care for the kids when he is at home. In these cases, what a guy may very well need is a kick upside the head. And the best way to give it to him, sometimes, is for reality to sink in. “What you are doing now will end the marriage.” If you continue on this path, we cannot go on.

So find that someone to talk to, and ask them to help you pray through and figure out if this is the right strategy. Separation does not always end in divorce–quite often it ends in reconciliation. When you start to both realize what it’s like to live apart, and he understands how hard it will be to live like that, he may get a new lease on life.

That’s also much of what James Dobson recommends in Love Must Be Tough, about how to help a wayward spouse understand the consequences of what they are doing. You can read more about that here.

If Your Marriage Collapses Because of Something Your Spouse Did, You Are Not a Failure

When you walked down the aisle I’m sure you never dreamed that your marriage would end. You thought you’d make it through to the end, grow old together, live happily ever after.

That was likely an important value to you. You grew up revering marriage and wanting to honour it. Many on this blog also have a Christian element to it; we know God hates divorce, and so how can we fail in this big a way? Will God be angry?

God hates divorce because of what it does to families and communities, but He does not hate the person who divorces. And He, unlike the rest of us, is also able to see to the heart. He understands the turmoil, and He knows what went in to the marriage deteriorating.

I once heard a speaker couple at a marriage retreat say that if both parties want to work to save a marriage, then that marriage has about a 95% chance of making it, no matter how big the problems are. On the other hand, if only one person wants to work to save the marriage, that marriage has a much lower chance of making it, no matter how small the problems are.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, your spouse decides that the marriage isn’t worth it. Your spouse moves on. God sees that, God understands, and God is still with you and is still carrying you, and is determined to care for your children, too. God took care of me after my parents’ divorce, and He can take care of your kids, too.

Dayspring Peace Mug

Be Wary of Searching for Justification to Leave

One word of caution, though: when we are completely and utterly miserable in our marriage, quite often we look for reasons to leave. I think that’s why many of these women write to me. They want to be told: you’ve tried hard enough, and it’s okay to leave.

But in Christian circles, the only justification for leaving tends to be adultery, abuse, or addictions. Many women close to me have tried to “blow up” their husbands habits to fit with one of these things. I had one close friend tell me her husband was an alcoholic because he had a beer every night after work. (When they split up, he didn’t increase his drinking at all, and has always been a light drinker). I had another woman tell me that her husband was verbally and emotionally abusive towards the kids because he was much harsher than she was. Yet when they split up, she somehow agreed to him getting the kids about 2/3 of the time. And I had another woman tell me that her husband, who was in counseling for a porn addiction and was now getting clean, had committed adultery with porn and thus she was justified in leaving.

Some guys do commit adultery, some are abusive, and some are addicted. But be careful of labelling your husband in one of these camps because you want to be able to say, “I had no choice but to leave”, or “I have biblical grounds.” Again, this is why having someone walk through this with you in real life is so important.

Will I Be Miserable Forever if I Don’t Leave?

I don’t know. But here’s what I do know, and this is a really, really hard thing to say, and even harder to hear: Your happiness, and your misery, is not God’s primary concern. What He really cares about is your character. Now I don’t believe that God zaps us and punishes us until we learn something important (though He does discipline us), but just because you’re miserable does not mean that you have reason to leave a covenant. I can understand the pain in the first letter writer’s words, for instance, but that does not look like divorce is the answer in that case.

There are times when you have virtually no choice, and when leaving is definitely the healthiest thing to do for all involved. But these are the MINORITY of divorces, not the majority. And the vow really does matter. I have known many marriages that were utterly miserable for ten years that turned around afterwards.

Whether or not you will be miserable forever largely depends upon what you do from this time forward. Sometimes the way forward means recognizing that you may have been contributing to the problem and driving him away, as this post shows:

Why He Won’t Meet Your Needs

Sometimes, though, it really is because he’s checked out emotionally. In that case, these posts may help:

Changing the Dynamic in Your Marriage (and changing the things you can!)
I Messed Up“. How recognizing your own wrong (even if it’s minor) can help you change the bigger things in your marriage.
Living in a Loveless Marriage
Encouragement for Those in Tough Marriages

I know many of you are looking for a simple statement–you can leave IF he does this. You want to know when to give up on your marriage, because you’re desperate for some simple sign. But I don’t think that simple test exists. I have known marriages that have survived huge affairs and I have known marriages that have not survived an emotional texting affair. There is not a black and white answer, because every relationship is different.

These things I do know, though: God is with you, always. God wants to help you do the right thing. Having someone walk alongside you and help you see things clearly and pray for you is crucial.

So please, talk to someone in real life, and pray hard. Don’t despair. No matter what happens, it is never the end of God’s plan for your life, and He can work even in a miserable marriage, or a lonely, sad divorce.

What If Marriage Matters?

Every Friday my column appears in a bunch of papers in Ontario and Saskatchewan. This week’s column asks the question: what if marriage matters? What if we’ve started this vast social experiment saying that marriage is just a choice–and we’re doing some real harm without realizing it?

What if Marriage MattersIn Canada we like to think we’re a classless society. Anybody can make it to the top! Nevertheless, you can still divide us into different groups. You could do so on economic lines: the rich and the poor. You could base them on education: those who have it and those who don’t. You could even base it on race.

Increasingly, though, the real divide in our society is a family one. The biggest indicator of future success for children isn’t the parent’s education level, nor is it the parents’ wealth, race or religion. It’s whether or not the parents are in a stable marriage.

Much of this is a poverty issue. Children are far more likely to live in poverty if they grow up with a single parent than if they grow up with two parents present. But it’s not solely a poverty issue, because children born into poverty, if they also have two married parents, tend to escape poverty. Children of single parents born into poverty tend to stay in poverty.

The question is which causes which? Most who believe in the rich against poor rhetoric believe that the problem is primarily one of poverty; families fall apart when they are poor, so the poverty comes first. But increasingly that’s not the picture being painted by our statistics. It looks like family breakdown is what hurts children and their wallets and their schools more than poverty. The real gap is not one of money or race; it’s one of family. With a strong nuclear family, you can overcome almost anything. Without it, it’s pretty difficult.

It isn’t just having another parent present that makes the difference, either. The Urban Institute’s Robert Lerman looked at cohabiting couples, and found that even when you control for education and race, their children don’t do as well as children living with two married biological parents. Something about marriage boosts children’s prospects.

None of this means that any particular child is destined to go down a certain route. All of us, as individuals, have the power to determine our own destiny. I grew up with a single mother who worked incredibly hard for me, and I consider myself very blessed. I have known step-fathers who have been more of a father to the kids than the biological father was. There are always exceptions, but that does not mean that on a societal-wide basis such things are not still true.

For the last several decades we’ve been engaged in a vast social experiment. Does the institution of marriage, as it has been practiced for thousands of years, really matter?

After reams of studies, it’s clear that it does. Yes, some marriages are abusive and can’t be saved, but on the whole, marriage is a positive good for our society.

Of course, many of our opinion-makers in government and media and education don’t want to admit that, because it sounds judgmental. And it also sounds like traditional morals may actually have some benefit, and too many hate the idea of being constrained by morals. But the elite are not the ones bearing the brunt of family breakup. Those who bear the costs are those at the margins–the kids born to girls who were never taught that marriage was something to look forward to, and to boys who were never taught that a real man gets married and takes care of his responsibilities.

If we want to help children, let’s stop kidding ourselves and tell the truth: marriage is good for kids. Yes, people can succeed regardless of background, but why would we not want the best? We’re not afraid to say that smoking carries risks, as does eating badly and not exercising. So let’s say it clearly here, too: divorce hurts kids, and marriage helps them. Those are the facts, and kids would fare better if we faced them.

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Finding Love Again in Your Middle Years

Finding Love Again: Making a Second Marriage Work

Jane’s husband died of cancer when Jane was in her early forties. She didn’t know if she’d be alone the rest of her life, and the thought scared her. But just a few months later she reconnected with a childhood friend and, after dating for four years, they married. Jane feels like she has a whole new lease of life. Her first marriage was often rocky, but with this man she’s relaxed and feels cherished. It’s wonderful.

Susan, now 57, has a different story. She and her first husband had been together for 22 years, in what Susan thought was a good marriage. They did things together. They had hobbies. They even took a year’s sabbatical to take their children around the world. They had adventures. Yet one day her husband sat down with her and told her, out of the blue, that he had met another woman.

Susan’s self-esteem was shot, and she spent the next ten years working on herself – building up good friendships, having adventures of her own, travelling and volunteering. On one of these volunteer excursions she met a man about her age who had recently been widowed. They’ve been married for two years now, and Susan has never been happier.

Diane was 43 and had always been single when she decided to start looking online. She met a pastor who had been divorced (his wife left him), and they’ve been happily married for five years now.

Last Saturday, my good friend Donna was married for the second time. Her first husband, like Susan’s, left her for another woman, leaving her with three kids to raise. Donna spent the next decade or so doing just that. And though she longed to get married again, looking around the Christian community in her small town, it didn’t look like much of a possibility. There just weren’t single Christian men around.

Yet a little over a year ago Donna started dating a man who was new in his faith. The man has grown by leaps and bounds, and God is opening up doors of ministry for Donna that she never dreamed of. It’s so neat to see what God is doing in her life, and now she’s finally going to get that chance at real love again.

I know many of my readers are like Donna, Susan or Jane. You wanted a marriage that lasted your whole lifetime but, for whatever reason, your first marriage didn’t last. Maybe it was because he died, but more often than not, the marriage fell apart for other reasons. How do you find love again?

I personally believe that God loves marriage, and that marriage is a good thing that helps us fight against loneliness and helps us have a partner to support us in everything. If your first marriage ended because your husband broke vows – by having an affair, by being abusive, etc. – then I think remarriage can be a wonderful thing.

I know some women feel called to wait for their wayward husbands to return. If God has asked you to do that, and He’s giving you the strength for it, then that’s wonderful. But I think that He does bless it when two believers choose to marry so that they can serve Him together – even if their pasts aren’t perfect.

So, today let’s talk about how to find that ‘special someone’ when you’re not 20 anymore.

How to find a husband in your middle years

1. Get out and do interesting things

If someone were to ask you what sort of man you’d want to marry, what would you say? You’d likely want someone who was interesting, who had hobbies, who volunteered, who did things. Well, if you want to meet that kind of person, you yourself need to be interesting also. You need to have hobbies, volunteer etc. Susan found her husband when they were working together on a hospital volunteer project.

You aren’t going to meet people sitting at home doing nothing. So volunteer, especially at city-wide Christian or church things, like a Christian radio station, a food bank, or a missions team.

2. Check out other churches

Your church may not have a lot of single middle aged men. So broaden your horizons! Visit other churches. Ask friends to set you up. I know it’s scary, but if it’s something you really want, you need to go out and make it happen, not just sit back and hope that someone crosses your path.

3. Consider online dating

We’re often scared of online dating because of the fear of getting fixed up with someone creepy, or someone dangerous. Are there really good guys online?

You betcha! Think about it this way: you’re a great woman, and you’re thinking of looking online. Why wouldn’t there also be a great guy – maybe who has a demanding career so he doesn’t have a lot of time to meet people – who is also stuck in a church where there aren’t a lot of single women? Why not try it?, for instance, doesn’t give out your name and address until you choose to. You get to know the person online, and you can ask them questions. I recommend: “what’s your favourite Bible verse other than John 3:16″ to make sure they really are a Christian, and “what did you last volunteer at at church” to make sure they do really go.

If getting married again is a priority for you, then treat it like a priority. This doesn’t mean that you don’t trust God, and you do, of course, always need to remember that God comes first, not a relationship. If He asks you to be single, you need to be content with that. Even us married women! We need to know that whatever comes, God will always be enough.

But that doesn’t mean that we don’t go out and try to find someone, if that’s a desire that He has put in your heart (and I do believe that it’s a natural one). I don’t like the thought of people being alone when they don’t want to be. So give online dating a try – you can even filter by religion – then pray about it and see what happens.

How to decide whether to marry him

If you’ve met a prospective husband, here are a few things to consider:

4 things you need in a husband

I wrote a post a while ago for younger women about the four things you need in a husband. It applies just as much the second time around –perhaps more so, because you’ll have baggage, and the marriage will be that much more of a challenge.

You’ll need to share your time and passions – can you?

I know a woman who’s in her late 60s. She’s been divorced for forty years. She’s had the opportunity to date again lately (it seems that once you hit 60 those opportunities increase because more men are widowed). But she has said no.

She’s happy as she is. Yes, she gets lonely and misses having a husband sometimes. But she is very close to her children and grandchildren, and knows that if she were to remarry, she’d have to ‘adopt’ his children and grandchildren, too. And she’d have to spend less time on some of the ministries she’s involved in to take on more of his. And she just doesn’t want her time being carved up like that.

So she has chosen to remain single, and I think that’s likely wise.

How much baggage does he have?

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll marry someone after age 40 who doesn’t have significant baggage from previous relationships. After all, you probably have baggage too. Before you marry, find out what that baggage is. Sit down with a counsellor and make sure you know the whole story. Be careful of anything that smells of abuse, financial carelessness, etc.

And remember that when you marry, you’re taking on the children as well – if there are any. What are the custody arrangement like? Are he and his ex constantly going to court? Do his kids get along with your kids?

If you’re prayed through these things, and decided that this is the guy – as my friend Donna has –then here are some more thoughts:

How to make that second marriage work

If this is a second marriage, how do you make it work? I asked for some advice on my Facebook page a while ago to give to my friend Donna, and it was wonderful! Here are some snippets:

  • Don’t jump to conclusions. There are things that all men do. And when the new man does the same thing the old man did, it will cause a bit of a flashback. Always remember, he’s the new guy, not the old one.
  • Be patient with each other. It’s hard to unlearn the things you learned in your previous marriage.
  • Be more loving. I’m also on my second marriage and I promised myself I would be a different person from the inside out. I’m more understanding, more comforting, more loving and definitely more open to intimacy. I also learned what isn’t acceptable in a marriage. I’ve learned that he doesn’t deserve to be compared to my ex and nor has he done what my ex has done.
  • Let no one come between you except Jesus Christ. Never say anything unpleasant about each other to anyone else. Anything material that is left from the first marriage (furnishings, dishes, art work, that sort of thing) I advise she get rid of – give away or sell – just seeing these things in the household can trigger memories, even at a subconscious level.
  • From someone who was in a 20 year abusive marriage and has been remarried for almost two years to a very loving, caring man…remember life is too short for any drama, say “I love you” every single day and enjoy this wonderful blessing God has given you for a second chance at love.

There are so many more great tidbits there! Go check it out.

My prayers are with Donna as she moves into her new life!

And for the rest of you: what advice would you have for a woman who is getting married for the second time?

(Please, in the comments, let’s not debate whether or not it’s okay to remarry. I agree that remarriage is not right if there were no proper grounds for divorce, but I do believe that if there were grounds for divorce, there are also grounds for remarriage, and I really don’t want to debate that in the blog. So many people reading this blog ARE on their second marriages, and I do want to see these marriages thrive, too–rather than subjecting them to condemnation. And I also believe that when you have been abused or cheated on, there is a lot of grace out there. God can redeem, and I don’t want the comments section to be hurtful to my friend, or to others walking through this. Thank you.)

I was partially compensated for the links in this post.

Is Looking At Porn Cheating?

Today,  please welcome guest post writer from Through the Fire, Lisa Hall-Wilson, as she shares her journey and thoughts about porn and its effects on marriage.

Is looking at porn cheating? You know I’ve got a few opinions on this because this question inevitably leads to – Is it OK to divorce him/her because of the porn? That’s a much bigger question.

I recently interviewed Canada’s Christian Sex Lady – Sheila Wray-Gregoire for an upcoming article. We got chatting briefly about porn and porn addiction. If you’ve been reading Through The Fire for a while, you know about my husband’s multi-year addiction to porn.

I thought there would be value in sharing my journey and thought-process of having lived through it.

Is looking at porn cheating

Is looking at porn really cheating?

I’m not an expert on sex – don’t claim to be. I’m not a biblical scholar either. But I’ve lived this. My husband didn’t go out and find a prostitute, he didn’t commit adultery in the physical sense. The Bible says, “but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) NASB

Harsh, right.

The Bible calls it adultery, but society doesn’t. Society says looking at porn, assuming those involved in the production of it are consenting adults, is harmless. (I take issue with the ‘harmless’ label: From Men’s Health: “In a Utah State University study, for example, more than half of male users said looking at porn led to problematic outcomes—social, spiritual, psychological, or relational. These negative effects weren’t linked to viewing time—the men who watched porn frequently were just as likely to report problems as those who watched it less often.”)

But let me tell you this, as the spouse, it FEELS like cheating. He chose photo-shopped images and FICTION over me. He poured out his desire on them instead of me. He had no interest in me. The cycle of shame and guilt he lived with caused him to be explosively angry, verbally abusive at times, and distant. Now, I know that his addiction had nothing to do with me. His choice to turn to porn wasn’t because of my lack. Understanding the why of it lessens the sting, but at the end of the day you’re still facing the reality that there’s no trust or respect left for him.

So, if the Bible says it’s cheating, and qualified psychologists acknowledge that to the affected spouse it feels like cheating…

If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

As someone who lived through this, I considered it cheating. Would it have been worse if he’d physically gone out and committed adultery? I don’t know. In my case there wasn’t ‘the other woman’ instead I faced ‘hundreds of other women’ embedded in his memory and within easy access – though I never feared any of them would call, show up on the doorstep, or take him in if I kicked him out. Hope I never have to find out. But where does that first question inevitably lead spouses?

If viewing porn is cheating, does that make it grounds for divorce?

This was a question I wrestled with. I mean blood, sweat, tears, guts-on-the-floor wrestled with. The New Testament gives a couple of instances where divorce is allowable: abandonment, adultery, and many tack on abuse of any stripe. Death is the only instance the Bible states is cause for remarriage. (I only bring this up because it factored into my own thinking – this is not a comment on anyone’s decision.)

I felt I had biblical grounds for divorce if I wanted that, but I had to abandon any thought of remarrying. (I realize that not everyone would agree with my thinking, but this is where my conscience led me.)

Was I willing to spend the rest of my life (I was in my early 30′s at the time) alone, or could I maybe work this out? Ummm….. Being alone forever sounded pretty good. I was done with men and with relationships in general. But forever is a loooong time.

The story of Jesus saving the adulteress from stoning came to mind. The Bible gives us these words: “He straightened up, and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) NASB

Could I honestly say I had NEVER entertained a lustful thought about a man who wasn’t my husband? But I’ve never looked at porn – assuming malicious pop-ups don’t count.That’s not the question. Have I ever entertained a lustful thought about another man? Yes, I’m guilty of that. Didn’t that also make me guilty of adultery in the biblical sense?Ummm…..

The other story that came to mind was the story of a king who was owed a large sum of money but he forgave the debt. The forgiven debtor then went to a man who owed him a much smaller sum. The forgiven debtor threw the second man in prison when he couldn’t pay. When the king learned of this he said, “I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’” (Matthew 18: 32-33) NASB

The first man had been forgiven of a much bigger debt than the second man, but forgiveness is what was expected from both who held the debt regardless of the amount. How much had God forgiven me of? A LOT. ….Oooh (There are perhaps better examples of this principle, but this is the one that came to mind.)

If I could forgive my husband of this hurt, (and again, my conscience warned me that God would require this of me regardless) would I be willing to still be married to him?

Suddenly my self-righteousness lost its luster, the glitter flaked off, and I was left with the naked truth. When held to the biblical standard, was I any better than him? That didn’t diminish my hurt, or the work he had to do to make it right – not what I’m saying. But when we’re judged by the same stick, did I still have a case? Yes…and no.

That’s the journey my thoughts took which helped me decide to stay and not seek divorce. It was a lot of work to rebuild our relationship. Not a single bit of it was easy. That road was paved with hurt and tears and many sleepless nights. On the other side of it we’ve now got a history together that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

My decision seemed rather black and white because my husband was truly repentant. He earnestly sought professional help, he did the hard work of breaking the addiction and has stayed free of it. If that hadn’t been the case, the other evidence that influenced my decision still remained true, but it would have made my decision a lot more difficult.

It was my conscience, not my heart, that convinced me to stay. My conscience, and my desire to be obedient to the principles and moral code set out in the Bible as I understood them. Not everyone will agree with the path I chose to arrive at my decision, not everyone will make the same decision I did. And that’s OK.

Lisa_hall_wilson FB profileLisa Hall-Wilson has published over 70 articles in the Canadian faith-based market, is a syndicated columnist, and has won national awards for her writing. She blogs at but you can find her hanging out on Facebook.

Being the Exception to the Rule

Being the Exception to the RuleThis summer I’ve been taking some time off trying to organize the back end of this blog and write the second edition to my book, To Love, Honor and Vacuum. So I thought I’d repost a column that I really enjoyed about not limiting yourself. It starts with some observations about a Tim Horton’s contest–which perhaps only Canadians will get. Tim’s is like Dunkin Donuts….

Last week my daughter r-r-r-rolled up the rim to win twice–and won twice! A coffee once and a donut next. She was ecstatic.

When Rebecca reported her astounding streak of luck to her dad, he silently pulled two little pieces of cardboard out of his wallet–one for a coffee, and one for a donut. He’d won, too. Same order and everything.

Thus launched a rather ridiculous conversation about math. What are the odds that two people would win exactly the same thing in the same order? They started multiplying the 1 in 6 chance to win to the third and fourth power, and then Keith realized: but I didn’t only win. I forgot about all the times I r-r-r-r-olled up and lost.

It’s like his pet theory about the full moon fallacy: whenever people go a little nuts and we look up into the sky and see a bunch of stars, we don’t think anything of it. But if we look up into the sky and see a full moon, we say, “that proves it! Full moons cause people to go crazy!” We forget about all those other times we saw nothing but stars because those times didn’t register in our brain since they didn’t fit our preconceived notions. If something happens that fits with the way we want to see the world, we’ll start believing it’s far more common or likely than it actually is.

Categorizing things is our brain’s natural way of learning about the world. When a baby is born, it has no idea that a Chihuahua and a Great Dane are both dogs, yet within two years most toddlers can reliably label a yapping lap dog and a growling German Shepherd as both being of the canine, and not the feline, variety. They start to notice what dogs have in common, and what cats have in common, and learn to distinguish between the two.

Our brains are wired to notice relationships so that we can learn about the world more easily. Usually that’s a good thing. Yet sometimes the relationships that our brains notice can keep us stuck.

Let’s say you grew up in a home where your parents’ marriage was awful and ended early. Marriage makes you miserable, you conclude. And every time you venture to the grocery store your view is confirmed: magazine covers are blaring about the latest scandals and divorces. Sure, your best friend’s parents are happily married, and almost 60% of marriages in this country don’t end in divorce, but you still believe marriage is a trap, and so you determine not to try.

Or perhaps everyone around you dropped out of school, and so you think there’s no point in someone from your neighborhood trying to do something better with their lives. Maybe it’s the opposite: everyone in your family went to university, so even though you have dreams of working with your hands, you figure university is just what you do after high school.

Seeing things in categories doesn’t present a problem unless we start to let those categories limit who we can be. It doesn’t matter what the chances of divorce are for everyone else, or what the chances of graduation are for your neighborhood, or what your odds are for success.

When it comes down to it, it’s not about odds. It’s just about you: where you decide to put your effort, and whether you’ll let other people write your future for you. No one else has as much interest in your success as you, so don’t let other people’s failures–or even your own past ones–limit your options today. Choose where you want to go, and then push on with all your might. Even if there is a full moon.

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Books to Help You Deal with Affairs in Your Marriage

I know many of you are in really rough places in your marriage, and you need some help.

I find myself getting lots of emails from women whose husbands are having affairs, or are heavily involved in porn, or are texting another woman. And these readers don’t know what to do.

And I also find myself recommending the same books to different people, over and over. And so I thought today that I’d put together a resource post of two of the best books I know of if your spouse is having an affair, or flirting with having an affair, or if you are trying to recover from an affair. I’ll likely add to this later, so if you have other favourites, leave them in the comments! (And I would count heavy porn use as an affair, too, as I wrote in this post on “Is Watching Porn Cheating“?)

In the meantime, in no particular order, here we go:

Love Must Be Tough by James Dobson

Love Must Be Tough

In Love Must Be Tough, Dobson asks the question, “what do you do when only one person wants to save a marriage?” As a counselor, he says, he’s used to seeing couples. Two people walk into his counseling room, and they start talking about their issues.

Yet Dobson was finding that this model wasn’t really helpful to many people, because in most cases when a marriage goes sour, only one person wants to save it. The other seems content to let it go.

So what do you do if you’re the spouse who wants to save the relationship, and your spouse is having an affair, or is heavily addicted to porn, or is doing something else that is completely destructive to the relationship?

Dobson walks you through a process of “waking the other spouse up”, showing them the consequences of their actions. Most people, he says, when confronted with a wayward spouse, panic and try to bend over backwards, thinking that if they’re just nice enough, and if they’re just forgiving enough, and if they’re just sexy enough, the spouse will return. Actually, says Dobson, the exact opposite is true. Becoming a doormat is not going to save your marriage. Allowing your spouse to experience the repercussions of their actions and be jolted into doing the right thing is a better course of action.

And it’s also better for you spiritually. So he shows you how to rely on God during this time, how to make wise decisions for you and the kids, and how to leave the door open so that reconciliation is not only possible, but far more probable than if you turn yourself inside out for a cheating spouse. And if reconciliation doesn’t happen, you’re still in a stronger place with God, and you’re able to move forward.

A great book if you’re the one being treated horribly in your marriage.

Surviving an Affair

Surviving an AffairHow do you end an affair? Can you rebuild after an affair? How do you learn to trust again?

Dr. Willard Harley Jr. and Dr. Jennifer Harley Chalmers tackle these sticky problems in this excellent and practical book which walks couples through the recovery process.

They start the book with analyzing affairs and how they end, and I learned something important here: 95% of affairs which are exposed die a natural death within 2 years. In contrast, if affairs remain secret they can last decades. This makes sense to me. Once an affair is public, and it has to then be a real relationship, it likely won’t last because it’s built on such a shaky foundation. But if it remains in secret, it’s really just a fantasy. It has nothing to do with real life. And you can carry on a fantasy for a long time.

So if a spouse learns of an affair, chances are that affair will end.

And that’s what the Harleys insist upon–if you want an affair to end, you MUST cut off all contact, cold turkey. They walk you through how to do that, sharing different stories that are poignant, that all readers will relate to. They talk about what to do if your spouse won’t cut off contact. And they talk about how practically to make sure that the person involved in the affair can no longer reach you–even if you have to change emails and phone numbers. And they strongly recommend switching jobs if the affair was with a co-worker.

They walk couples through how to be accountable with their time and money, so that the other spouse knows that they can trust again. And then, and only then, do they start to rebuild the relationship.

And if the offending spouse refuses to end the affair? They walk you through how to expose it–because it expose it you must. They say:

Reality has a way of bursting the bubble of illusion, and an affair is one of the biggest illusions that anyone can experience in life. It’s based almost entirely on emotions with almost no logic to support it.

That fact becomes clear when children, employers, clergy, family, and friends all hear about the affair. Because they are not in the fog, they see the affair for what it really is: the cruelest, most devastating, and selfish act anyone can ever inflict on a spouse. With so many people seeing the situation logically and not emotionally, the unfaithful spouse has an opportunity to be advised and influenced by these people. Furthermore, the betrayed spouse gains support when he or she needs it the most.

If that doesn’t work, they walk you through Plan B, showing how having the unfaithful spouse face true consequences often jars them into reality.

When the spouse does want to rebuild, they walk through the psychological drama that often accompanies it–the unfaithful spouse suffering withdrawal; the innocent spouse desperate to rebuild RIGHT NOW.

They spend the rest of the book talking about the concept of Love Banks: how we are to avoid withdrawals, and try to make as many deposits as possible during this turbulent time. And they’re really practical about it.

That’s what I like about this book–it’s super practical, and it tells you exactly what to do in each situation to rebuild your marriage and deal appropriately with a wayward spouse. And reading through it, I felt hope, even for desperate couples. It really can be done. I highly recommend Surviving an Affair.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.
Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Wifey Wednesday: Invest In Your Marriage (It’s Worth It!)

Invest in Your MarriageIt’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up in the comments!

Because it’s summer, I’ve decided to rerun some older posts while I take a bit of a blogging break and write like crazy! I’ve got three major things I’m writing this summer that I’ll be excited to present to you hopefully soon. So here’s a post from two years ago, before most of you were reading this blog:

If you ask someone how they’re doing, chances are they’ll say, “Oh, I’m so busy!” Our lives are hectic, and we spend our time trying to organize better and feel rejuvenated.

But today I want to let you know the ONE thing you can do to avoid hassles, give yourself energy, avoid heartbreak, and revitalize your life. And it’s really very simple. Invest in your marriage.

Your marriage is the best weapon you have in your arsenal to get through life. It is marriage that makes us feel like we can take on the world. It is our spouse that gives us a partner in life so we’re not trying to handle all this alone. It is marriage that helps your children’s behavior and makes them more likely to make good decisions, thus saving you a ton of heartache, worry, and time, too.

Perhaps some of you have marriages that you don’t think contribute very much to your happiness. I know so many women who think that life would be easier and less of a hassle if they were to divorce. That may be true, but it is true for a only a tiny minority of people, and this is why:

When you split up, you magnify all your problems, you don’t necessarily solve them.

It is not like you can actually “get rid” of your spouse, anyway. You have to share custody. And if you already don’t get along, imagine trying to negotiate who gets Christmas, who gets this weekend, whether we can switch weekends because Katie has a soccer practice and you want to be there.

If people put as much work into their marriages as they will have to into a divorce, we’d have a lot more happy families.

(Click to Tweet that quote)

Of course, most of you aren’t about to split up, but let’s look at the worse case scenario first:

Children do not fare well in a divorce, even if that divorce is justified.

They grow up too fast. They’re more likely to get involved in risky behaviors. They often shut themselves off from you, even if your children are your whole life. In the couples that I have seen split, even if they had the best of intentions of building new lives with the kids, the kids don’t share those intentions. They pull away. And with shared custody, as horrible as it sounds, parents get used to having a life without the kids. Suddenly your life doesn’t revolve around the kids anymore, and they don’t want their lives to revolve around yours, because their whole life has been turned upside down. So they look outside of the family for support, and few parents, even if they were the wronged party, enjoy a closer relationship with the kids after the divorce. Usually, after a split, you fall further away from the kids. It’s not true in every instance, but it’s true in a lot. And even if you’re closer to one child, chances are you won’t be to all of them.

Money becomes a worry in a whole new way, because now you have to support this family.

Child support isn’t going to be enough, and courts demand that you work, too. It will be tough. Before your family income supported one household; now it has to support two.

So my best advice to simplify your life:

Don’t ever let your marriage get to that point.

What about those of you who certainly aren’t ready to split up, but you don’t feel that your marriage is a source of energy and strength for you? Then invest in it. Find a way to love your husband like crazy.

I’ve spent the last two days in Toronto, at speaker training for World Vision’s Girls Night Out shows. I’ve been speaking for them for years, but they’re expanding into the United States, and I’ll likely be doing some shows down there this spring. But while I was at that training, I was away from my family. And I was driving home last night, I heard the country song “Love Like Crazy”. And I thought: that’s what I want to do to my husband. I want to love him like crazy. I want to invest so much in him that he has no doubt that he is the only man in my life because I want him to be the only man in life. I still would choose him. I enjoy being with him. I’m proud of him.

And I’m going to treat him that way. He has been so good to me lately, but I’ve been wrapped up in a lot of things–I’ve got a big book proposal in front of some huge publishers right now and I’ve been stressing about it. And I said to God last night in the car, “God, I really don’t care about the book nearly the way I care about my marriage. Give me my marriage over the book. I’d love the book, but let Keith always be my main priority.”

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in what we’re doing that we forget to love like crazy–to talk to our spouse, to make time for him, to put effort into “getting in the mood”, and romancing our man. We think about our own priorities, and we forget his.

But what happens when we romance him? What happens when we love him like crazy? I don’t know about you, but in my house, it means that he loves me right back. The days after we’ve been really close he does the dishes more. He asks me what I need. He’s closer to me. It’s a two-way street. When I’m close to him, he feels close to me, and we both get immense satisfaction from helping each other. We’re thinking about the other person.

And I can talk to him. I can tell him my stresses and concerns. I can ask him to help me make even minor decisions about the girls or schedules or church. He’s engaged.

It doesn’t automatically happen. It only does when we invest. When we listen, and kiss, and send love notes, and put our marriage before our kids. When we pray for him, and enter into his world instead of always insisting he enter into ours.

Life is so much easier when you walk through it with another. It is so much harder when that partnership falls apart. So invest in your marriage and make it super strong. It’s your best resource for this life!

Christian Marriage Advice

Now, what advice do you have for us today? Have you ever had to change your attitude towards your spouse? Or do you have something else to tell us? Write your own Wifey Wednesday post that links back to here, and then leave the link of THAT POST in the comments. Thanks!

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Reader Question: When You’re The One Who Needs Forgiveness

Reader Question of the WeekToday’s question is one I often hear different variations of–how do I get my husband to forgive me?

Maybe you need forgiveness for cheating, or for debt, or for something else big. Here’s one woman’s conundrum:

My marriage is down the drain and mostly it is my fault. My excessive spending and taking loans (which have now amounted to [a significant debt]) without consulting my husband has created a big rift between us that seems unrepairable due to the fact he doesn’t think I will changed.

I must admit that the first time he found out, he tried to forgive, but I did It again and this time he has had it. I no it is going to take time to pay all this debt off but I don’t want to loose my family (we have a 3yr old girl) and my husband because of my selfish actions.

I feel like I am getting depressed by the unhappy environment because we barely talk only when necessary. How do I regain his trust in me and our marriage? This was surely not what I had envisioned for my marriage.

Here’s another one:

Last year my husband was traveling a lot for business and we were having some various marriage problems at the same time. I developed feelings for a neighbor, and we ended up having an affair. I broke it off after a few weeks, but my husband knows, and he’s having a hard time forgiving me. He’s not leaving me because of the kids, but he doesn’t talk to me unless he needs to. I feel so stupid and mad at myself and ashamed for what I did, but no amount of apologizing seems to do any good. What else can I try?

Both these questions have the same root: a wife has done something really horrible and broken her husband’s trust. Now how can she get her husband to forgive her?

Here are a few thoughts:

"How do I get my husband to forgive me?" Thoughts on what to do when you've broken his trust.

1. Apologies are Best Expressed in Actions, Not in Words

Saying “I’m sorry” is absolutely necessary when you’ve messed up and you need your husband’s forgiveness. But that’s only the beginning.

What your spouse really wants to know is that you are committed to never having this happen again.

So what can you do to show your spouse that you are changing? In the case of an affair, can you suggest moving or switching jobs if it will take you away from the guy? Can you ask your husband if he will share email accounts or Facebook accounts with you so that he never has to worry about what you’re doing? Can you give him your cell phone and give it up for a while?

In the case of money, can you cut up your credit cards and hand them over? Can you download a spending app on your cell phone that you can share with him to show him where the money is going? Can you consult a debt specialist about the best way to pay off the debt, and then make a plan and share it with your husband, with specific goals that you can show him that you have met? Can you figure out how you can take on the responsibility to pay off the debt, and not leave it all to him? Can you get a part-time job? Start cooking more efficiently and spending less on groceries? Have a massive yard sale?

In other words, putting yourself in a situation where you are accountable and transparent to him, and where he can see that you are serious, will often go much further than a simple apology.

2. Give Him Time to Be Angry

Your husband is really hurt. His trust is broken. You, on the other hand, are desperate to know that your marriage is going to be repaired. And it’s very hard to stand in that limbo time, when your husband is trying to work through his feelings. You’ve already worked through yours; you’re sorry, and you want things back to normal again. You want to put this behind you.

But you need to give him time to grieve. That is his right, and he needs to see that you have changed. That takes time.

In this period of limbo, throw yourself on God. Spend more time on prayer. Read your Bible a lot. Join a women’s Bible study. Find some people who can help support you and who you can talk to while your husband is working through his issues. That way you don’t have to crowd your husband and put pressure on him.

3. Truly Repent

Remember that not only have you sinned against your husband; you’ve also sinned against God. Work through your repentance with God. Read Psalm 51 on a daily basis for a time, and pray through it. Develop some true humility. That will help you work this through.

And as you’re doing that, you’ll be able to accept God’s forgiveness, which is very freeing. No, perhaps your husband hasn’t let it go yet. But you can feel restored by God, and He can help you move forward with that new humility and that new gentleness that comes from recognizing that you are fallible.

4. Do Random Nice Things

It’s tempting when he stops talking to you or when he reacts in anger to act similarly in return. Don’t. Simply be nice. I don’t mean be luvey-duvey; sending him love notes in his lunch is not appropriate, as much as you may want to do this. You can’t force the romance back. But you can get up early and make his coffee before he leaves for work, without demanding a thank you. You can take the car in for an oil change without him having to prompt you. You can buy his mom a birthday card so he doesn’t have to, and leave it for him to sign. You can just simply BE NICE.

You don’t have to announce that you’ve done these things–”did you like me getting coffee for you this morning?”. You can just do them. And gradually, as you treat him well, with respect, you may notice a thawing.

5. Work on Your Friendship

Conversation often returns before the real expressions of love, and that’s to be expected. You only start rebuilding trust one level at a time. Once you are conversing again, and you’re able to be in the same room again, start doing things as friends that don’t require a screen. Get out of the house this summer and go on hikes, or bike rides. Play golf. Do a puzzle. Anything! Just find things that you can do together that are low stress that aren’t necessarily romantic. That way you’re not forcing a relationship; you’re forging a new one.

6. Allow Room for Anger

You may think that several months have gone by, and things are progressing, so he shouldn’t be angry anymore. But it’s often just as you are starting to talk that his anger starts really surfacing. Now he may have a lot of questions–what did you do with that guy? Tell me in detail! What were you thinking when you spent all that money? etc. etc.

When he starts demanding answers, don’t say, “I’ve said I’m sorry! What else can I say? You seem to want to punish me indefinitely!” That may be natural, but he does need time to get his questions out. I’d advise answering them as honestly and succinctly (you don’t need to go into a lot of detail) as you can.

Also, avoid the impulse to defend yourself. “I wouldn’t have had the affair if you had shown some interest in me!” Or “If you hadn’t spent so much time on video games maybe I wouldn’t have felt so lonely!” Those are real issues, and do need to be dealt with. But leave them for another time, or bring them up with a counselor. For now, let him express his anger. Once you have talked about his issues, you can say, “I don’t ever want to be tempted in this way again. Can we talk about how to build our relationship so that neither of us ever strays?” Then you can mention some of your issues–video games, for instance. But leave this until after he has had a chance to deal with his anger.

6. See a Counselor

Finally, when major trust has been broken it’s often a good idea to sit down with a third party and talk things through, especially if your husband has a lot of questions, and you providing answers doesn’t seem to be satisfying him. Sometimes allowing your husband to ask you these questions with a third party present can help you figure out how much to share, and can help put limits on how many questions he could/should ask.

7. Decide What to Tell the Children

I’m a big advocate in not keeping secrets. Children pick up on things anyway, and when they know there is tension in the house, but they don’t know why, they tend to assume that they are the cause of it. Telling your children what you did, at an age appropriate level, is likely a good idea. If you had an affair, for instance, you don’t necessarily need to say “I had an affair”, but you could tell a young child that Mommy did something that hurt Daddy. That way you’re letting the child know that you are the cause of the tension. If they’re teens, it’s likely a good idea just to be honest. They’ll find out one day anyway. Before you tell the kids anything, of course, talk to your husband about it. Say, “this is what I’d like to tell the children.” But my advice is always to be honest.

During the period of time when you’re trying to get your husband to forgive you, it’s tempting to get your emotional needs met from the kids. You’re heartbroken, so you pull them closer. Don’t do this. It’s not emotionally healthy for them. If you have emotional needs, seek out a friend, not your kids.

If your husband sees you accepting responsibility in front of the kids, and not trying to sugar coat things, that will also go further in showing him that you are serious about your apology, and help your husband to forgive you faster.

If you’ve messed up your marriage, the road back can be very long. But so many marriages have found themselves even stronger several years down the road because they have worked through these issues, and they’ve learned better communication techniques and put in place more boundaries. So don’t despair–fogiveness is possible!

And ladies, if any of you have ever walked through something similar, and had to get forgiveness from your husband, and you now find your marriage stronger, can you leave a comment? That will reassure so many of my readers. And if you have any other thoughts on how to encourage your husband to forgive you, please leave them in the comments, too!