A Surprising Way to a Stronger Marriage


You may not be able to control all aspects of your marriage. You can, however, control your response to what happens.

I, Amy, remember a couple I worked with. They were committed Christians. They volunteered in their church. They had small children. Yet something was missing. We went through the intensive. They learned about communication, conflict resolution, boundaries, effective timeouts, validation, love languages, etc.

Yet there was something about her that I could tell her spirit wasn’t open to her husband. I cry every time I think of them because they struggled and struggled. She struggled because she didn’t know what was wrong with her—was she depressed? Did she not have enough faith? Was there something wrong with him?

The answer didn’t come right away. Slowly, the clouds lifted in their lives. Their children have a mom and dad still together.

So what made the difference? They both wrestled with their own demons—I mean—issues. He took the lead in loving her with so much unconditional love, it humbled me. He dug so deep to try to find her he became bloodied and bruised along the way but he found her. He wasn’t a doormat; he drew boundaries when needed but he gently offered her his love over and over again.

God did an amazing thing in their lives. Slowly she began to open up. He first contacted me, almost holding his breath not wanting to move in fear she might run away again, and he shared he could see she was trying.

This is an excerpt from an email I got from him:

Vulnerability and honesty have freed her from her cage that had grown so dark and so deep. Amy, I could have never imagined the beauty of the woman that had become locked in that box—beauty you could see. I often wish that you were right around the corner so that you could step into our family for a moment and see how God has used you. You battled like a warrior against Satan’s dark grip and as a result, I pray, your effort will continue to ripple into many other lives. I am still truly amazed in God’s grace; He spared our family from destruction. He restored freedom and love.

Are you willing to fight the good fight? God is willing to look you squarely in the eye and give you the wisdom you seek to draw you into intimacy. Are you willing? It’s simple but it takes time and energy.

One of our favorite first lines when working with a client in an intensive setting is, “What brings you in today?” We’re not the first people to ask this question, but it does have special meaning for us. “What brings you in today?” is at the heart of many people’s issues. How people typically respond to this question will tell us a lot of how successful they will be in getting helped. If they start listing a long line of issues about their spouse as the reason they are coming to one of our Marriage Restoration Intensives, then we know we are in a battle.

The problem with your marriage, however, is not your long list of issues or complaints about your spouse. Honestly, it is the level at which each of you is willing to take responsibility for the problems in the marriage. Issues are just issues. Many times couples are stressed out in their marriage because neither is willing to do the right thing (unless the other is willing to do it first).

Then there are other times when one spouse wants to work on their marriage but the other has checked out long before they reach our door. There is hope for both! Whether you are in marital limbo, crisis, or growth—God has a plan for you. His plan is to release you from captivity (Isaiah 42:7) and free you to live a life worthy of your calling (2 Thessalonians 1:11). When you keep your own personal growth your goal you will not fail. God will never leave you or forsake you (Deuteronmy 31:6), even if a spouse does.

What brings you to reading this today? Are you frustrated? Does your spouse not meet your needs like you want? Do you feel alone, rejected, or disconnected? Has life turned out to be one huge disappointing experience after another?

Be careful with your answer. It’s an important question. If you answer, “My spouse… my child… my boss…” then you’re not ready. In fact, they might even upset the very core of your being.

We are not slaves to our circumstances. We have a choice. We do not blow up at the car in front of us because they cut us off. Every reaction we display is our choice. Let us say this another way: we decide whether or not we are going to be upset, sad, frustrated, mad, or hurt.

We are in control of our own well-being and emotions. People, places, or things do not make us unhappy in life. We choose to feel unhappy as a result of what happens around us. We will address this concept in much more depth later on in chapter seven. But it is important to note that you can choose how you respond to your circumstances.

We know you cannot control what happens to you by other people. If you catch your spouse in an affair, your initial reaction will be your gut reaction. Your gut reaction is what’s natural to you. We are not talking about controlling what initially happens to you when faced with hardships or heartache. We are talking about controlling how you move forward and how you respond to tough circumstances.

Written by Amy Smalley

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