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My Spouse Does Not See a Problem with Our Marriage

It is not unusual for a marriage to be out-of-balance or spiritually off-kilter. There are many reasons for this problem between two formerly inseparable people who now have something between them that keeps them asymmetrical. Before addressing how to deal with a spouse who does not see a problem in their marriage, I have a few ideas of how these partners could have been so in love at the beginning and drift apart within a few years. Afterward, I will provide a few practical solutions for the spouse who wants to restore the marriage.

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Twenty-Two Bad Signs

The importance of this list is that the problem is rarely a spouse not seeing there is a problem, but there are hindrances or inhibitors that keep them from working on the marriage. Like the wife who says, “My husband does not talk.” He does communicate, but he does not talk to her. When someone says, “My spouse does not see a problem in our marriage,” they are probably missing the real issue. Something has caught them, keeping them from working on the marriage. Here are twenty-two possibilities.

  1. They have differing affections for Christ.
  2. One spouse is not a Christian.
  3. One spouse becomes a Christian after marriage.
  4. There are maturity disparities between them.
  5. There are soul-capacity disparities.
  6. They grow at a different spiritual pace.
  7. They have different or competing sin patterns.
  8. One partner lies about why they are growing apart.
  9. One partner is in self-denial regarding their true self.
  10. There are jealousy, envy, bitterness, or unforgiveness issues.
  11. There is a lack of submission from the wife.
  12. One spouse is clueless about how to be a spouse.
  13. There is willful deception.
  14. There is an intelligence disparity between them.
  15. They came from different family settings.
  16. They relate to people differently.
  17. There are personality differences, e.g., outgoing, introverted.
  18. A spouse is apathetic toward the marriage.
  19. They are competitors.
  20. They don’t know how to disciple each other.
  21. The husband has a conquer and move on mindset. (He has a wife; now he’s off to other aspirations.)
  22. They have competing personal preferences.

If your marriage is off-kilter, I’m sure several of these things contribute to the problems. The most significant and obvious matter is that they are on two different pages. Typically, one spouse is more in tune with what is going on and knows things have to change. The other spouse is in a sin pattern(s) that is now evident. As the patterns persist, the other spouse will insist on things changing, though transformation is not a guarantee.

If God Is Not First

Whatever the problems may be, the most critical issue is the spiritual dynamic: something is wrong between the husband, wife, and God. You can see how the first seven items have a spiritual component to them. Though everything listed relates to spirituality, #8-22 are manifestations, outcomes, or behaviors of the first seven. One through seven represents a person’s authentic spirituality or how they relate to God. The difference between the two sections is between who a person is and what a person does. If God is actively working in a person’s heart, the destructive behaviors in the marriage should autocorrect eventually.

For example, a spouse would be willing to set aside their preferences (#22) if they had a profound and growing affection for Christ (#1). If they do not have a deep and growing love for Christ, the marital disunity will continue. This issue is one of the things that is so troubling about people getting married. The couple gives a courtesy nod to spiritual affections while elevating other stuff like (1) compatibility, (2) similar preferences, (3) family background, (4) personal appearance, (5) financial considerations, and whether they (6) “go to church” or not. While all of these have their ranking in the “who I want to marry” lineup, none of them are more critical than spiritual affections.

Many pastors and counselors are more interested in testing the aspiring couple for compatibility than discerning the couple spiritually. Before there were psychological evaluations, there was spiritual discernment. It does not take much to know if a person is a good fit for marriage. Sadly, spiritual affections get pushed to the side. After five years (or less), they begin drifting apart. If they have children within this timeframe, they can chug along because of the distractions of being a family. Perhaps they limp to the empty nest stage before their ongoing problems intensify.

Marry a God-lover

If a spouse has a strong, deep, and growing affection for God, there is a good chance the person they choose will want to be like them (1 Corinthians 11:1). Christ had deep affections for His Father, which positioned Him to help others mature as Christ-followers. Notice the formula: His affection for the Father impacted those around Him (John 6:38). Imagine if a boyfriend or husband had a fixation on doing the will of God. Wow! This kind of spiritual attitude would enable him to overcome any marital challenge. Go back to the six things that some lovers look for in a marriage partner. Apply them to Christ. They all would fall woefully short.

  • Compatibility: He was not compatible with us.
  • Similar Preferences: He had distinctly different preferences from us.
  • Family Background: His “family background” was other-worldly.
  • Appearance: He was not much to look at—not the “sexiest” pick in Israel by a long shot (Isaiah 53:2).
  • Finances: His pillow was a rock, and His ceiling was the sky. He wasn’t financially loaded while living with us.
  • Church Life: He didn’t go to church. He was the church.

Jesus had one thing that made Him a great catch. He loved His Father with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength. If you’re not happily married, you may react with, “Well, thanks, Rick. That’s great. I see it now, but I’ve made my bed, and it’s pretty darn uncomfortable to sleep in when considering who is sleeping beside me. What do I do now?” I’m not saying these things to rub your nose in an immature or unwise decision, but if I can break up immoral or unwise dating relationships, what I’ve said is well-worth hearing.

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Gospel Beginnings

But what about you? You married a person who does not have deep and growing spiritual affections. What do you do? What can you do? The first thing to consider is what I’ve said about spiritual affections. Your spouse must change their relationship with God before focusing on marriage issues. If you are growing apart, the biggest problem is your spouse’s understanding and application of the gospel.

The gospel is about God reconciling humanity to Himself. It’s about unity, healing, redemption, adopting, justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying. These are some of the things that the gospel does. If you and your spouse are growing apart or managing the status quo, the gospel has lost its power in your relationship. The gospel is where you must begin. Your marriage is not something you can fix through your strength or a self-help marriage book. The gospel is not something to purchase, manipulate, bargain with, or control. It is a work of grace—free gift—in a person’s life.

We came to know the gospel because of God’s free grace, which empowered us to change. May I remind you again? Rarely does someone need a “new truth.” What they need is an old truth. They need reminding of what they already know. They need to hear the gospel again. Carefully read this passage, and as you do, think about what you already know about the gospel. Consider how free it was and how you could not make it happen. God, according to His mysterious mercy, made it happen to you.

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

For by grace, you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:4-9).

Prayer Works

You probably already discerned the first place you have to go regarding your spouse and their lack of spiritual connectivity. It’s to your knees. If you want your spouse to love you the right way, you have to go to the Father on their behalf. A person cannot love anyone correctly, effectively, or sufficiently until they love God most of all. Our hearts (#1-7) and behaviors (#8-22) must not be out-of-sync. If our hearts and actions mirror each other, we will learn how to love each other correctly. No person can love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and not love their spouse and others wonderfully well.

  • How often and to what degree do you pray for your spouse?
  • What is the content of your prayers?
  • How are you soliciting others to pray with you?

The best and the most helpful thing you can do is spend time before your heavenly Father, on behalf of your spouse, pleading for His mercy to be let loose for His glory and mutual benefit. Once you properly align your heart with the Lord and actively seek Him on behalf of your spouse, you want to spend time assessing yourself. A few good friends are vital at this point.

Sober Assessment

Few things are more potent than a transforming life. If the gospel transforms you, it will give your spouse fewer reasons to fuss. If you talk to your spouse about assessing you, prepare for an inappropriate response. If you ask how you can change or serve your spouse more effectively, they may tell you unkindly, and you may not hear the truth wrapped up by their unkindness. (If your spouse is a fool, who is unwilling to have a civil conversation with you, I do not recommend talking with them. That kind of marriage is beyond the scope of some of the ideas I’m sharing with you.)

Let’s say your spouse is 75 percent off in their assessment. Did you hear the 25 percent of truth within the unkindness? It takes a spiritual person to listen to the truth when the message is harsh or partly inaccurate, but if you’re more interested in God’s glory than your feelings, you will be okay. God will give you grace, and you can change. Christ had to ignore a lot of our nonsense to honor His Father. We were the knuckleheads who regularly messed things up, but His focus was not on His felt needs.

He kept His eye on the ball. Perhaps the Spirit of God wants to address something in your life. Maybe He will use a knucklehead to bring it to light. Listen to what the Spirit wants you to hear and make those changes. What you don’t want to do is get in the way of God’s work. If there are two problems on the table, start by taking one of them off the table. Though God can efficiently multitask by working on both of you simultaneously, why not cooperate with Him by keeping in step with the Spirit and making the changes you need to make.

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Prepare for the Worst

May the Lord devote His total effort to your spouse. Be the Father’s cooperative servant. It could be that your spouse will not change or maybe not change according to your timetable. I do not understand why it would be that way, but I do know it can be and it has been for many spouses. This possibility is where you will have to check your heart. A few close friends can serve you here. God is not obligated to tell you His plans or give you what you want the way you want it. He has called you to do one thing: trust Him.

Your marriage is an act of faith. You never know what you’re going to get from it. But there is one thing that you can find rest and assurance in, and it’s this: God loves you, and He is working for your good (Romans 8:28). There have been many times when it was hard to believe what I just typed. You must often remind yourself of this message, especially if your spouse does not change. Regardless of the outcome, you will stand in heaven and praise God for every decision the Lord made and how He led you all the way.

My former wife left me in 1988 for another man and took our two children with her. It was the worst possible nightmare. If you have lost your children, you understand. If you have children, you feel the pain in your soul as you think about losing them. Never in a million years would I want to repeat those ten years, but I would not change them for anything—at this point. In that crucible of unrelenting suffering, I found God—many years after He regenerated me. While I often sinned during those days, God never left me. He always persevered with me. God was stunning. He has never changed.

Praise Is Coming

I look back on those days and praise God for the journey. Sometimes I praise Him through tears because sin leaves marks. Perhaps you can’t praise God today, and you don’t think you ever will. Let’s be honest: if you know Him, you will praise Him someday. You know God is with you, and He will not leave you. He is working His best in your life. Your issues are more about:

  1. Accepting the current reality of the situation
  2. Setting aside what you prefer for a greater good
  3. Cooperating with God in His work in your life
  4. Hoping for a better day, which will come
  5. Actively trusting God through the process

Those five things can converge in your mind and put you in a spiritual funk if you allow them. Still yet, God is with you. Though you may not be able to persevere with God, He will persevere with you. He is there, and He will bring you through this situation. Someday you will see and know these things to be true, and your affections for God will be more intense than they are now.

Call to Action

  1. Work through the list of twenty-two items. Divide the spiritual heart issues from the behaviors. Which ones from each category belong to you? Which ones belong to your spouse?
  2. What is your specific and detailed plan to change yourself? Who will you enlist to help you change?
  3. What is the correlation between your spouse’s spiritual issues and the behaviors? I’m asking, how do the spiritual issues influence the behaviors?
  4. Write several prayers for your spouse that relate to your analysis of the list. Appeal to God daily to work in your spouse’s heart.
  5. Keep a journal of positive changes you see in your spouse. Thank God for this progress, and continue to pray for more transformation.
  6. What does it mean to be in a crucible of suffering? How is God using the suffering of your marriage to mature you?
  7. How are your preferences, desires, wants, and wishes hindering the growth that could be happening in your life? How could they hinder the work of God in your spouse’s life? What is your practical and specific plan to change? Who is going to help you through this process?

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