5 Things to Do if Your Marriage Is Falling Apart

5 Things to Do if Your Marriage Is Falling Apart

Marriage is a gift given to us by our gracious God with the intent of reflecting the covenantal relationship between Christ and the church (Eph. 5:31-33). If we're being honest, though, marriage doesn't always feel like a gift. Sometimes, marriages reflect the pain and suffering of the world rather than God's goodness.

If you feel your marriage is falling apart, I hope to offer you some ideas for getting back on track. The following ideas are too simplistic for marriages involving abuse. They are intended for those who are growing apart and need help to find their way back to one another.

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Woman crying

1. Admit Your Marriage Is in Trouble

Admitting your marriage is falling apart can be devastating. It can feel like admitting failure. But the truth is that acknowledging your marriage is in trouble is a sign of wisdom and strength. It takes a lot of courage to admit something so personal and private.

After admitting this to yourself, journaling your thoughts and feelings can be helpful. This will help you gather your thoughts before going to your spouse to talk this through. Write out the things you see going wrong in your marriage. Perhaps it's about busy schedules, poor communication, or unmet expectations. Or, maybe your marriage is crumbling due to addiction, broken trust, or an affair.

Whatever it is you see that has brought your marriage to this place, write it out. Then, write out what you would like to see change. This list can include things you could change and things your spouse could change. If you can pinpoint things you have done to contribute to the problem, write that out as well.

Don't rush this process. It might take you multiple days of sitting down to journal to get a clear picture of what's brought you to this place and to have a clear understanding of what needs to change. But when you're done, don't take it to your spouse right away. First, take it to the Lord.

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2. Take it to the Lord

Before you go to a family member or friend, go to God (Psalm 69:13). While those around you can hopefully give you good advice and encourage you with the gospel, God is the only one who can change hearts. And heart change is needed in a marriage that is falling apart.

This time with the Lord should include pouring out your heart and expressing your distress, anger, and fear. Pray, even if you don't know what to say (Romans 8:26). This could also include showing the Lord what you've written. This may seem silly; after all, he knew what you would write before you wrote it, but this allows you to ask for the Lord's guidance.

Talk through the areas of your marriage that are struggling. Ask the Lord to give you a deeper understanding of what's going on. Even if you made a list of ways you've contributed to the problems, ask the Lord to show you more. Then, confess your shortcomings and ask him for forgiveness. Ask him to show you tangible ways you can change, and ask him to change your heart as only he can. Ask that he would also soften your spouse's heart to forgive you.

If you have a list of legitimate grievances against your spouse, ask the Lord to soften your heart towards them. Ask the Lord to show you how to love the way he loves and to forgive the way he forgives. Tell the Lord your grievances, and then ask him to deal with your spouse - to break their heart for the problems in your marriage and to bring about heart change. Once you feel you can talk about these things with a calm demeanor, take it to your spouse.

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Couple talking sitting having serious conversation

3. Take it to Your Spouse

It's very important to choose your timing wisely. Don't surprise your spouse with this hard conversation after a long day at work or right before bed when you're both exhausted. This might mean making a plan, getting a babysitter, and letting your spouse know you want to have a serious conversation with no distractions. Let your spouse know your goal is to talk, not fight.

Start by telling your spouse what you've done - that you've put some thoughts on paper, thought about this at great length, and spent time in prayer. Start with how you've contributed to the marriage struggles, not what they've done. Offer an apology and ask for forgiveness (James 5:16).

Be gracious with your spouse if they aren't ready to forgive or ask for forgiveness. Don't make this time about them. Make this time about you, what you're observing in yourself, and the marriage as a whole. Offer the ideas you've written down about what changes might help bring your marriage to a healthier place.

This can be tricky, especially if you feel your spouse is to blame for your marriage struggles. But nothing good will come of using this initial conversation to blame, point fingers, and condemn. And while you shouldn't manufacture blame for yourself, all of us can find something to apologize for, even if it's negative thoughts towards our spouse that have affected how we respond to them.

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A couple disagreeing, You hurt me! Now what?

4. Offer a Game Plan for Change

Share with your spouse the things you wrote down about yourself - the things you could change that you believe would make your marriage healthier. Express how willing you are to make these changes because you're devoted to this marriage and want it to be as healthy as possible.

The best case scenario is that your spouse will own up to their faults, ask for forgiveness, and be willing to talk about changes they can make as well. But we all know the best-case scenario is not always what we get. If your spouse isn't as receptive as you would have hoped, give them grace and time.

Remember, you have spent intentional time thinking and praying about this. You have your thoughts organized. Your spouse may need time to catch up. If this is the case, be patient. Ask your spouse to spend some time thinking and praying about this as well. Ask them to write out their thoughts and their desire for change.

If your spouse will agree to this, then agree on a time to come back together and revisit this conversation. But be patient. Consider your spouse's daily demands and give them adequate time. Ask if there's anything they would like you to bring to the next conversation. Until then, keep praying for both of your hearts to soften.

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5. Ask for Help and Accountability

The best-case scenario is that you and your spouse revisit this conversation and then make a game plan to move forward together. If this is the case, know that we weren't meant to do this life alone. Ask for help and accountability. After all, as Christians, we're told to bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2).

Ideally, this would be opening up to another married couple you trust that seems to have a healthy marriage. Perhaps you know this couple well or find them by reaching out to your pastor and asking for a mentor couple.

Another element for change would be to ask if biblical counselors are in your area. This is a wonderful way to process your marriage struggles through the lens of the gospel. You can find a biblical counselor through the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors by entering your area code here.

If your spouse isn't receptive to getting outside help, pray about talking with your pastor or elders. Ask for prayer and advice on how to move forward. But don't lose hope. You can still use this time to work on yourself. You are not your spouse's Holy Spirit, and you can trust that the Lord will work in his perfect timing (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Remember that fighting for your marriage is worth every second and that asking for help is a sign of wisdom, strength, and maturity. Fighting for your marriage likely won't be easy, but God is with you, and God is for you.

If you consider yourself to be in an abusive marriage, forgiveness and reconciliation are sometimes possible. Please reach out to your pastor, elders, or a trusted friend. Ask for help. Get somewhere safe, and then explore the hope of restoring your marriage.

Related:

4 Powerful Prayers for a Troubled Marriage

12 Traits of an Abusive Relationship

10 Ways to Rebuild Trust in a Marriage on the Rocks

20 Reasons Marriages Fail (Christian Marriages, Too)

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Beth Ann Baus is a wife and mother of two adult sons. She is a freelance writer and author of Sister Sunday, My So Much More, and His Power, Our Weakness: Encouragement for the Biblical Counselor. In her writing, Beth often pulls from her own experiences of abuse, anxiety, depression and OCD. Beth has a heart for homeschooling, women’s ministry, and is an ACBC-certified Biblical Counselor. She loves serving alongside her husband and pointing couples to the Word for strengthening their marriages and home life. You can find more from her at www.bethannbaus.com.

5 Things to Do if Your Marriage Is Falling Apart