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Difficult Marriage

Hope for a Difficult or Abusive Marriage

Curt Grice, Associate Pastor of Educational Ministries
First Baptist Church, Arlington, Texas

Any consideration of marriage needs to begin by recognizing 3 essential truths:

Marriage is important!
Marriage is a special covenant, established by God, in which a man and woman willingly bind themselves together in love and become one. The Bible uses the marriage relationship as a symbol of the relationship between Jesus Christ and the Church. Marriage is the foundation of a healthy family and a strong society.

Marriage is hard work… even for Christians.
It’s easy to get married, but difficult to stay married. The goal is not simply to avoid divorce or separation. It takes two people committed and cooperating to make it good. Sadly, it only takes one person being selfish and uncommitted to make it bad. Anger, frustration, dysfunction and disconnection are not God’s intention for marriage.

Marriage depends on good communication.
It’s vital for husbands and wives to talk with each other about hopes and dreams and spiritual things. Conversations must involve more than just work, kids and chores to be done. Couples need to develop a deep sense of intimacy in order to endure their sorrows, resolve their disagreements and celebrate their joys.

But what happens when marriage becomes unbearable? Is there a point at which couples should end a bad marriage? Or is there hope for something better?

STEP ONE: Honestly assess the situation
Unfortunately, many marriages end over challenges that could have been resolved. The popular idea of “irreconcilable differences” has become a far too easy excuse in our society… especially in light of the serious long-term impact of divorce on children. 

In their book, The Case for Marriage, Maggie Gallagher and Linda Waite state that couples who thought their only two options were a divorce or being miserable often find that things improve if they stick it out. Almost 80% of those who were “very unhappy” in their marriage – yet stayed together – described themselves as “very happy” just 5 years later!

STEP TWO: Look beyond the present problem
When someone abuses or abandons their role in a marriage – violating their vows and breaking faith with their spouse – everyone loses. While God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), He permits it for marital unfaithfulness (Matthew 19:1-8). In God’s grace, He allows men and women whose spouses have been unfaithful to start over.

However, we must always remember that God is in the business of healing, redeeming and restoring!Mitch Temple, a licensed counselor who directs Focus on the Family’s marriage ministry, says: “Even marriages that have faced one or more of the big ‘A’s – abuse, affairs or addictions – can be saved.” Lots of couples who have suffered these challenges… and even had Biblical grounds for divorce… have been able to save their marriages.

STEP THREE: Protect your children and yourself
If your relationship is marked by physical abuse, the most important thing you can do is take steps to protect yourself and your children from harm. Even if you want to save your marriage, you should not risk the safety of your children or yourself. A period of structured, therapeutic separation may be needed to make it possible for you to get the help your marriage needs while making your family less vulnerable.

Whatever situation you’re in, don’t struggle through a difficult marriage alone. You need the church like never before… for perspective, advice, counseling, encouragement and hope. Consider the resources on the back page as part of your next step.


GOING FURTHER – Resources

Recommended Books:

Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerich
Discusses a powerful biblical model for each spouse understanding and meeting the other’s most deeply felt needs.

Breaking the Cycle of Divorce by Dr. John Trent
Helps those with no model of stable marriage break the cycle of divorce by creating a successful relationship.

Boundaries in Marriage by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend – shows couples how to apply the 10 laws of boundaries that can make a real difference in relationships by learning when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”

Love Must be Tough by Dr. James Dobson
Offers hope for marriages in crisis—including those who have an unfaithful spouse.


GOING FURTHER – Church Support

Our church offers a variety of Sunday morning Bible study groups for every stage of life. These classes can be a source of spiritual growth and friendship for individuals and couples who are struggling in their marriage.

Additional “Marriage” resources are available on our church’s website.

The Center for Counseling and Enrichment has a staff of clinically trained professional counselors ready to assist you and your family.