It is not unusual for a marriage to be out-of-balance or spiritually off-kilter. There are many reasons for this problem. Here are a few ideas of how two partners can be so in love at the beginning of their marriage and drift apart within a few years. Afterward, I will provide you with a few practical solutions.
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Twenty-Two Bad Signs
- They have differing affections for Christ.
- One spouse is not a Christian.
- One spouse becomes a Christian after they are married.
- There are spiritual maturity disparities between the two partners.
- There are soul-capacity disparities.
- They grow at a different spiritual pace.
- They have different or competing sin patterns.
- One partner lies about why they are growing apart.
- One partner is in self-denial regarding their true self.
- There are jealous, envy, bitterness, or unforgiveness issues.
- There is a lack of submission from the wife.
- One spouse is clueless about how to be married.
- There is willful deceit happening.
- There is an intelligence disparity between them.
- They came from different family settings.
- They relate to people differently.
- There are personality differences, e.g., outgoing, introverted.
- A spouse is apathetic toward the marriage.
- They are competitors.
- They don’t know how to disciple each other.
- The husband has a conquer and move on mindset. He has a wife; now he’s off to other things.
- They have competing personal preferences.
When any of these patterns persist, eventually, one spouse will insist on things changing. There are two typical reasons they seek a change. (1) One spouse is more in tune with what is going on and knows things have to change. (2) The other spouse is in a sin pattern that has become evident.
The most significant issue in these situations is that the partners are on two different pages, and there is no guarantee things will ever change. If your marriage is off-kilter, I’m sure several of these things from the list are contributing to the problems.
If God Is Not First
At the heart of 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 on the list have a spiritual component to them. Though everything listed relates to the Lord, 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 in the two lists is between who a person is and what a person does. If God is actively working in a person’s heart, the bad behaviors will auto-correct eventually. For example, a husband would be willing to set aside his preferences (#22) if he had a profound and growing affection for Christ (#1). If he does not have a deep and growing love for Christ, you must prepare yourself for more marriage problems.
This vital need is one of the things that is so troubling about young people getting married. They give 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 do I want to marry” lineup, none of them are more critical than spiritual affections. Many pastors and counselors are more interested in testing the young couple for compatibility than discerning the young 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. If they have been dating for a while, you can quickly gain insight into them. A few thoughtful questions will aid you. Sadly, spiritual affections get pushed to the side for other things. After five years or less for these couples, they begin drifting apart. If they have children within this timeframe, they can chug along because of the distractions of being a family. They may make it to the empty nest stage before these problems intensify.
Marry a Man Who Loves God
If a man has a strong, deep, and growing affection for God, there is a good chance the wife he chooses will want to be like him. And he will be able to lead her into mutual maturing affections for Christ and each other. One glance at the gospel affirms this perspective.
Christ has deep affections for His Father, which positions Him to help us mature as Christ-followers. This gospel work is why He came, and a husband should emulate it toward his wife (John 6:38).
Imagine if your boyfriend and future husband had a fixation on doing the will of God. Wow! This kind of spiritual attitude would enable him to overcome any challenge in marriage. Go back to my list of 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.
But 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 decision from the past, but if I can break up immoral or unwise dating relationships, what I’ve said thus far is well-worth hearing. They should break up now rather than going to marriage counseling later.
I’m writing to those who are dating and thinking about marriage. If my warnings do not fall on deaf ears and they choose to avoid future heartbreak, praise God. But what about you? You married a man who does not have deep and growing spiritual affections. What do you do? What can you do?
Start with the Gospel
The first thing to consider is what I’ve said about spiritual affections. Your husband must change his relationship with God before he focuses on marriage issues. If you are growing apart, the biggest problem is his understanding and application of the gospel in his life. The gospel is about God reconciling humanity to Himself.
The gospel is unity, healing, redemptive, reconciling, adopting, justifying, sanctifying, and glorifying. These are some of the things that the gospel does. If you and your husband are growing apart or if you are only managing the status quo, the gospel has lost its power in your relationship.
This need is where you must start. Your marriage is not something you can fix through your strength or ability. The gospel is not something to purchase, manipulate, bargain with, or control. It is a work of grace in a person’s life.
Each of us came to know the gospel because of God’s free grace, which empowered us to change. You know this, but I must restate and remind you again. Rarely does someone need “new truth.” What they need is 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).
You probably already discerned the first place you have to go regarding your husband and his lack of spiritual connectivity. It’s to your knees. If you want him to love you the right way, you have to go to the Father on his behalf.
A person cannot love anyone correctly, effectively, or sufficiently until they love God most of all. His heart and behaviors must not be out-of-sync. If his heart and actions are mirroring each other, he will learn how to love you correctly. No man can love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength and not love his wife and others wonderfully well.
How often and to what degree do you pray for your husband? What is the content of your prayers? How are you soliciting others to pray with you? The best and the most useful thing you can do is spend time before your heavenly Father, on behalf of your husband, pleading for His mercy to be let loose on your husband, for His glory and your mutual benefit.
Once you properly align your heart with the Lord, and actively seek Him on behalf of your husband, you want to spend time assessing yourself. A few good friends are vital at this point. Though it is possible you could ask your husband, it may be wise to ask your friends if they will be honest.
You are not perfect, a sinner saved by grace. The person who has been most affected by your sin, other than God, is your husband. My wife has received more of my sin than anyone else. My children rank second in this lineup, and you’re no different: you have sinned many times against your husband. You need to address this matter. Few things are more potent than a transforming life. If the gospel is transforming you, it will give your husband fewer reasons to fuss.
If you ask your husband how you can change or how you can serve him more effectively, he may tell you unkindly. Prepare your heart for his harshness. If you don’t, you may not hear the truth that is inside his statements. Too often, the temptation is to critique the messenger and how he said it while missing what could be a transformative moment.
If your husband is a fool, who is unwilling to have a civil conversation with you, I do not recommend talking with him. That kind of marriage is beyond some of the ideas in this article.
Let’s say he is 75% off in his assessment of you. Did you hear the 25% of truth within his untruth and 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. You’ll have to do this too, especially if you’re asking for feedback from a man who has a deformed relationship with God.
Perhaps the Spirit of God wants to address something in your life. Maybe He will use a jerk to bring it to light. Listen to Him, 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 this process by taking one of them off the table. Though God can efficiently multitask by working on both of you at the same time, why not cooperate with Him, by keeping in step with the Spirit and make the changes that you need to make.
That will leave only one person “on the table,” and God can devote His full effort on your husband. Don’t hinder or interfere with the work of God by stubbornly holding onto to your rights or hurts. You have no rights. You are the Father’s servant.
Prepare for the Worst
It could be that your husband will not change at all, or maybe he won’t 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 wives. This possibility is where you will have to check your heart. A few close friends can serve you here, too. Guard your heart. God is not obligated to tell you His plans. He has called you to do one thing, which is to trust Him.
Your marriage is an act of faith. You never know what you’re going to get out of it, and you never know where it is going. 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).
You must remind yourself of this message often, especially if your husband 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. There have been many times in my life where it was hard to believe what I just typed.
My former wife left me in 1988 for another man and took our two children with her. They were four and six-years-old at the time. 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 of my life, but I would not change them for anything. It was in that crucible of unrelenting suffering where I found God, which was many years after He regenerated me.
While I often sinned during those days, God never left me. He always persevered with me. God was amazing, and He has never changed. 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 believe you will praise Him someday. You know God is with you, and He will not leave you. And that He is working His best into your life. Your issues are more about (1) accepting the reality of the situation, (2) setting aside what you prefer, (3) hoping for a better day, and (4) trusting God through the process.
Those four 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 is going to bring you through this situation. Someday you will see and know these things to be accurate, and your affections for God will be more intense than they are now.Do You Qualify to Have a Spouse? Submission Is Repugnant. What Do You Think of Me? »