Marriage Troubles? Don't Give Up!
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Dr. Gary Rosberg and his wife, Barbara, are familiar with the troubles that can plague a marriage. As marriage coaches who host a call-in radio show, the Rosbergs take calls every day from people who are experiencing marital problems.
Regardless of what the problem is in the relationship, the Rosbergs said, the true issue is usually a matter of the heart.
“The question may be:
- 'Why did my husband commit adultery?'
- 'Why does my wife pay more attention to the kids than me?'
- 'Why is somebody using the internet inappropriately?'
- 'Why does somebody hide money?' or
- 'Why has somebody given up on spiritual intimacy in our marriage?'"
"But all of those issues ultimately draw down to the condition of the heart," Gary said.
When spouses harden their heart against their mate, they begin to disconnect or push each other away, the marriage coaches said. When this continues for months or years, often the couple decides that the relationship will no longer work.
But the Rosbergs encourage couples: don’t be so quick to throw in the towel.
They offer several steps that are essential to repairing a broken marriage.
1. Don’t Give Up!
It is never easy to face marital problems and deal with the pain and wounds that have been inflicted. But if couples are willing to stay and tough it out, Gary said, research has shown that they can usually restore the marriage and be happier than before.
“Those kind of hurts, those fears, those betrayals, those conflicts -- whatever those things are -- they are all valid, and they break our hearts,” he said. “I’ve done 25,000 hours of marriage counseling, so I’m very tuned in to the reality of that pain. Yet here is what you find. When people stay, invariably they get to the other side of it and become happy in their marriages.”
He points to research where couples were surveyed about the happiness of their marriage over five years. Eighty-five percent of the couples who reported being in either an "unhappy marriage" or a "very unhappy marriage," that stayed in the relationship, five years later reported being either "happy" or "very happy".
“Now that is secular research,” Gary said. “Imagine the power of the Holy Spirit in the midst of that.”
2. Surrender the relationship to God.
The first step to improving the relationship is for the couple to surrender themselves and their marriage to God.
“We have to choose to humble ourselves first before God, and then secondly, seek a restorative plan in the marriage that honors God, honors our mate, and puts the relationship above whatever issue we are going through in the marriage,” Barbara said.
3. Offer forgiveness to your spouse.
Often there are offenses that both spouses need to be willing to forgive, the couple said.
They identify four steps of forgiveness that include confession, sorrow, repentance, and ultimately the restoration of the relationship.
The process, which they refer to as “closing the loop,” is not always easy.
It can be easy to say, “I forgive you,” Gary said, but there needs to be more discussion if the couple intends to really put the issue behind them.
What did the person do? How did it affect his or her spouse? Is the person truly sorry? Does he or she want to restore the relationship?
“When those four parts are there, the relationships begin to heal,” Gary said.
If these issues are not addressed, the result can be an “open” or unresolved conflict that can eventually evolve into anger and resentment that one spouse harbors against the other.
Since every spouse will eventually hurt his or her partner in some way, it is important that couples master these steps of forgiving love. When forgiving love is exercised these loops, or opportunities for bitterness to grow, are closed and the relationship becomes more secure.
4. Connect spiritually with your spouse.
Another important step to improving a troubled marriage is for the couple to pursue spiritual intimacy together.
“Spiritual intimacy connects two hearts as well as two spirits,” Gary said. “Often when the horizontal relationship is clogged, it is reflecting that the vertical relationship is messed up. So what we coach people on is when a husband is walking with Christ, when a wife is walking with Christ, it is out of the overflow of that spiritual intimacy with Jesus that the horizontal relationship will connect.”
The best way to connect spiritually is to pray together, he said. Many times couples feel insecure about praying with each other so they avoid it.
“We coach guys to go home and take your wife’s hand, sit down, tell her, ‘I’m not really good at this, but I love you. I’m committed to you. Let’s just do this,’” Gary said.
5. Seek help and support as you work through marital problems.
Scripture warns, “Pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” (Ecc. 4:10). This idea applies to marriages too, Gary said. Often, they see marriages end because couples have no one to support and encourage them as they work through problems.
The support of a marriage counselor, or another married couple serving as their mentors, can help a couple repair the relationship.
“Imagine if a guy falls down and another guy picks him up,” Gary said, “and another gal picks up his wife, and they say, ‘We’ll fight for your marriage with you.’ That’s what Barb and I have given our lives to.”
In addition to pursuing counseling, couples can find principles to repair their marriage in one of the Rosbergs’ books, Healing the Hurt in Your Marriage.
6. Pray for your spouse.
The Rosbergs encourage couples to take their 30-day challenge.
At the same time each day, find a place where you can be alone and pray for your spouse.
“Tell God how frustrated you are,” Barbara said. “Tell God your hurts. If you’re angry, He knows it. Get it out of your system. Just get it off your chest. Talk to the Lord and then ask, ‘Father, how do I pray for my spouse? How do I understand where we are at?’”
The important thing, she said, is giving God the marriage and seeking His ways to restore the relationship.
“Pray in such a fashion for the next 30 days,” she said, “and watch God begin to restore your heart, restore your marriage, and set you both on your feet and walking places you thought you’d never walk together again.”
“We believe that if you just stay and then you open up your heart to the restorative work of the Holy Spirit of God, that relationship has got great hope,” Gary said. “The biggest mistake is that people cut and run. The culture says cut and run. What we want to say is stay.”
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