If Their Marriage Couldn’t Survive What About Mine?

An open letter to my sisters in Christ about marriage breakups

When marriages all around you are dissolving, it is normal to start wondering how yours is going to make it. It might be your parents’ marriage that didn’t last. Maybe you know of a couple that wedded the same year as you and now you’ve witnessed their dramatic divorce. You might keep up with headlines to see famous marriages dwindle with the decades.

No doubt, right now you can name family members, friends, ministry leaders, and church leaders who are struggling or have even announced their intentions to end it. Perhaps yours is the one struggling.

Sadly the stories are so familiar we’ve become a bit blasé, when those we trust, look up to, or depend on tell us their marriages are over.

Having watched too many marriages fail over our 41 years of marriage ministry, I know the one emotion most women feel when news like this breaks is fear. Collectively we ask the same question of ourselves: If this marriage couldn’t survive, what hope is there for mine?

​Yet over the years I have seen many marriages miraculously resurrected. As a result, I have learned some very important truths I want to share to encourage you because, your marriage is worth fighting for! 

The enemy of our souls, satan himself, would love nothing more than to use your fear about someone else’s divorce to suggest to you that your marriage is beyond redemption, too.

But here is what I know to be true:

  • No one is exempt from marriage failure, especially those in ministry. Dennis and I have felt the bullseye on our backs many times through the years. It is by perseverance, lots of hard work, and God’s work in our hearts that we have survived and are thriving.
  • No marriage dies suddenly overnight. The only way a marriage dies in an instant is through the death of a spouse.
  • All marriage deaths begin as slow leaks, small compromises that in the moment seem harmless but gradually erode the foundation of the relationship. The decision to end may be sudden, even dramatic. But the cancer was present long before the outward signs of emotional distance, going through the motions, or infidelity became visible.
  • For a marriage to make it, feeding and nourishing the relationship can never stop. Marriage is a living relationship. When attention to its health is minimized or overlooked or assumptions are made that “all is well,” the relationship begins to unravel. Just as most of us schedule annual physical checkups for our health, so marriages must have regular checkups–spiritual health evaluations–to detect small cellular level malignancies.
  • No spouse is perfect. I’m not perfect and neither is my husband. We are sinful, selfish, and in desperate need of the gospel in our lives every single day. It’s too easy to proclaim the faults of your spouse. A lasting marriage, though, requires both husband and wife take responsibility for nurturing each another and feeding the relationship. Both must also own responsibility to quickly admit faults and ask for forgiveness. Therefore, both have responsibility before God for any marital demise. Romans 3:10 declares, “There is none righteous, not even one…” and Romans 3:23 adds, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
  • As long as both spouses have breath, and neither has remarried, God can heal and restore. But He must have at least one humble broken heart before Him, one spouse who is willing to do whatever it takes.  Tim Keller gave a great sermon that would be worth listening to for his encouragement for those of you who feel married to a spouse who isn’t investing as you would desire.
  • To say a marriage is beyond repair is to say God is not all-powerful. It is to say in God’s hearing (for He hears every word and knows every thought) that the miracle of the cross, the resurrection of a dead Jesus to life again, isn’t enough for this marriage of yours. If Jesus can defeat physical death, He can most certainly raise your dead marriage to life. Beware, my sisters, of declaring God weak. The inspired Word of God says, “Nothing is too hard for God” (Jeremiah 32:17). God’s Word is more true than the state of your relationship with your spouse. Hundreds of couples have attended Weekend to Remember marriage getaways with divorce papers in hand only to tear them up at the end of the event. One couple who just attended said last week, “We loved each other but hated our marriage and didn’t know how to fix it. The conference saved our marriage.”
  • Marriages are often full of pain and loss. All marriages suffer regularly from mistakes, sin patterns, poor choices, and challenges with health, jobs, school, or parenting circumstances. Some of you are married to unbelievers, which is hard in different ways. All suffering is real and painful. I’ve experienced it as have many of you. But there are other kinds of marriage pain. Some marriages face abuse, addictions, or dangerous situations. Submitting to physical abuse is not God’s will. By all means, get help and talk to wise mature counselors, a trusted pastor, or the elder board at your church. At the end of this post are several links for more help and hope on these topics.
  • Separation and the ‘threat’ of divorce are sometimes needed to force the seriousness of the situation to the forefront. Spouses need humility, wise counsel, and good support before making this decision and while carrying it out.

Sometimes we can see signs of neglect in someone else’s marriage. But more importantly you need to be able to identify them in yours. The best way to know if your marriage is in danger is to do an evaluation. Be courageous. Don’t pretend your marriage has no issues, no cracks in the foundation, no work to be done. Pretending is only good for children. It’s never good for your marriage or your faith.

Ask God to give you eyes to see what He sees and already knows is there in your relationship. Be brave, my sisters.

Questions for your own marriage

  • Have you stopped being best friends with your spouse? When did this begin? Do you enjoy your friends more than your spouse?
  • When did you stop being each other’s confidant…going on dates, sharing your best moments with each other?
  • Have you stopped dreaming together? Have you stopped sharing your fears and your hopes, too?
  • Do you risk sharing your struggles with sin with one another? Do you share your desire to please God, your disappointment with God? When did you stop confessing your failures and mistakes? When did you stop asking your spouse to pray for you?
  • When was the last time you asked your spouse to forgive you? A healthy marriage is a forgiving marriage. We offend each other daily, often unintentionally, but when we recognize our mistakes, our failures, say so. Deny your pride and practice forgiveness generously. Billy Graham’s wife Ruth once said, “Marriage is the union of two forgivers.”
  • When did you stop caring about having sex together? When did you decide it wasn’t worth it anymore? Keeping sex a healthy part of your marriage is essential to keeping it alive. Unless there is a medical condition that prevents you or your spouse from sharing this experience regularly, you will be wise to pay attention to this God-created and ordained part of marriage. Yes, sex is a mystery. It’s often challenging.  It isn’t always a fireworks experience. But it is designed to be emotionally bonding, and bonding is like glue in your marriage. When I say pay attention to having sex together I don’t mean three or four times a year. To read more about sex in marriage, I’d love for you to read my book, Letters to My Daughters, The Art of Being a Wife. I have an entire chapter on this subject.
  • Have you started assuming all is well? Are you pretending in any area?
  • When was the last time you got away for an entire weekend to invest in your marriage? I want to encourage everyone who reads this post to find a weekend this fall or next spring to attend the best marriage conference, a proven success for over 40 years. Like a regular tune up for your car or regular check ups with your doctor, this marriage event is the realignment every marriage needs, not just once in a lifetime, but repeatedly over the life of your marriage. Every season in your marriage presents new needs.
  • Do you say no to other needs, activities, or tasks so you can have time for your marriage? Despite our modern beliefs to the contrary you simply cannot do it all. Your children can’t do every sport or activity and attend the best schools, while you (husband and wife) give your life to your work, your ministry, your mission, your community, your church, or your fixer-upper house.  You may believe you have the energy to juggle it all, but something will suffer. Usually it’s your marriage.  You must have margin in your life to invest in each other. When you are both working full time in separate spheres what do you have in common beyond your home address? You must make decisions that favor your marriage, decisions that give it room to grow. No one else can or will do it for you.

Here is the bottom line for all of us: “Search me O God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). We cannot do marriage on our own. It is God’s invention and we need Him to make it work.

Go to Him.
Talk to Him.
Make sure your heart is right.

Then ask His Spirit to help, guide, teach, and lead you in your marriage. Listen closely for His whispers to you.

Here is my prayer for you and all who are Christ followers in marriages:

May you stand strong for your marriage. May you believe God and see Him work wonders in your heart and your spouse’s heart. May you stand with me and say, “No more victories for satan. Not in my marriage!” Lord, give us women courage to believe You, in every circumstance, every day. Amen!

PS. If you are interested in attending our Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, use the code “ForMyMarriage” for a $100 discount on the registration fee.

For more help on pornography click here.

For more help on substance abuse click here.

For more help on an abusive spouse click here.

For more help on living with an unbelieving spouse click here.

For more help with infidelity click here.

For more help on “drifting apart” click here.

For more help on saving your marriage click here.

More from the Blog

31 thoughts on “If Their Marriage Couldn’t Survive What About Mine?”

  1. Pingback: If Their Marriage Can Survive, Why Not Ours? - Young Wives Club

  2. Yes a marriage can survive and is worth saving my husband and I are living testimony if what God can do in a marriage God performed a mirricale in our marriage. Satan didnt win and there is hope Jeanniehubanks.wordpress.com

  3. This is an area we need prayer in. I divorced my husband after 22 yes of marriage…I was a cheater and he was married to work. My heart was long gone from the marriage, I just couldn’t leave because I grew up in the “plain” community, went to church all my life. One day it happened…. I left. Now, after a very “wild” life style of partying, drinking, drugs and men, a second marriage in 2008, that lasted 7 years, I have returned to my family, faith and yes, to my first husband. We were re married after my second divorce. That was almost 2 years ago. I’m so very happy to be home, I have grandchildren now and love life…. except one thing…I can’t tell you how hard it is to start again with my husband. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I’m struggling to find any love for him other than a friendship kind of love. He’s a good man, but like all of us he has faults too, and it seems I can’t tolerate anything with him…I know I have many faults too.. Why can’t I overlook little things? Then the BIG thing is…I just CAN’T get the sex thing again! I try but it leaves my very upset and disgusted and I feel worse towards him afterwards. I will add here that I was sexually molested as a child and in my teens and then dating, my husband was very insistent on sex, starting with our second date…I think I have issues because of this. We went to a Weekend to Remember in Reston VA in March of this year.. Enjoyed it very much, but somehow, I’m still struggling so much with this man. I’m committed and will stay with him but i know God wants a better marriage for us . It’s like we’re just roomies , and I want to be a complete wife as He wants me to be! I COVET YOUR PRAYERS! Sorry this got a bit lengthy! ~ Rondia

  4. What to do in a 33 year old marriage when husband is no longer interested in sex and sex has always been a problem in the marriage. Now sleeping in separate beds. I really feel there is no glue holding us together anymore.

    My husband in NOT interested in any retreats, counseling or any intervention.

    Please,please respond,

    1. There could be lots of reasons, but regardless of reasons, I encourage you to read The Divorce Remedy. Stop doing what you’ve been doing that doesn’t work. Make sure your giving him respect and if you don’t already have a love for yourself, start. Because God made you special, and purposefully and it is important for you to have joy. If you have joy, it will pull your husband closer. Another good book is For Women Only.

    2. Barbara Rainey

      Hello, Patrice.

      First of all, I want to thank you for reaching out. That takes a lot of courage. It is our privilege to come alongside our friends and supporters and offer helpful biblical insight, especially on difficult topics such as sex.

      In regards to your concerns in the lack of sexual intimacy in your marriage, it is hard to give a simple answer. Many factors can come into play such as pornography, infidelity, past abuse, medical issues, etc. You mentioned that sexual intimacy has always been an issue in the marriage but did not explain what you both have done to address the problem.

      Do you have problems in other areas of your marriage as well? Sometimes there is hidden anger and resentment and withholding sex is a way to punish the other person. Is this a first marriage? If not, there may be baggage from a previous marriage. Or, if there was sexual promiscuity before marriage, this can also be a factor.

      So, as you can see, it can be quite complicated. However, I do not want to leave you without hope for restoration. With God, all things are possible. We must trust Him to work in our marriages. Sometimes it means you need to focus on working on you first. That may mean going in for counseling for yourself and get professional help in the process. If it has been 33 years of lack of intimacy it may take a while to work through the underlying issues.

      I have a few websites that I think you will find helpful for all kinds of sexual issues.

      http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2017/07/husband-ignores-my-sexual-pleasure/

      http://tolovehonorandvacuum.com/2012/03/why-doesnt-my-husband-want-to-make-love/

      http://www.drdougweiss.com/blog/intimacy-anorexia/the-silent-cancer-of-marriage/

      http://www.drdougweiss.com/blog/category/intimacy-anorexia/

      Healing the Wounded Heart by Dr. Dan Allender

      I realize that this can be a bit overwhelming but remember it is a process. Again, counseling for yourself may be the place to start. If you don’t know of a good Christian counselor that specializes in sexual issues in marriage, I would suggest contacting Focus on the Family. They have professional counselors that offer a one-time free consultation along with a local referral. You can contact them here:

      Focus on the Family Counseling Services

      I would also like to pray for you.

      Heavenly Father,
      I thank You for bringing Patrice to our website. Nothing is by accident so we trust that You are working even in this difficult situation. We thank You that we can come boldly to Your throne of grace for mercy and grace in time of need. We ask for Holy Spirit to come and work in this marriage to bring hope, healing and restoration. I pray that You would soften their hearts to be able to face the truth. I pray that Patrice might find a Christian counselor to help her on her journey. I pray that even now You would rejoice over her with songs of deliverance. I thank You that we overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

      Again, thank you for sharing your story with us Patrice.

      Blessings,
      Bev (For Barbara)

    3. I, too, commend you for commenting here. Barbara’s response is wise. I, too, pray that God would help you to persevere as you boldly seek God’s path for restoration in your marriage.

      May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. But on some points I have written to you very boldly by way of reminder, because of the grace given me by God
      Romans 15:13‭, ‬15 ESV
      http://bible.com/59/rom.15.13-15.ESV

  5. Pingback: Only the Good Stuff: Multivitamins for Your Weekend [07.15.17] - Gospel X

  6. Pingback: Only the Good Stuff: Multivitamins for Your Weekend [07.15.17]

  7. Thank you so much for taking time to write this! As someone who has been in a ministry family for many years, this was such an encouraging and strengthening post!

  8. Happiness is not God’s priority in marriage.
    Unlimited Perfecting, Sacrifice, Patience, Compromise, Forgiveness, Unconditional love, Grace, Mercy, Silence, Prayer, Alone time with God, Witnessing/Discipling/Teaching to an unbelieving hardened heart, Courage and Strength against a wide variety of evil, Isolation, Exhaustion, Assurance of Eternal Blessings—til death do us part. Those are just some of the Blessings I have experienced God continually allows me to experience as He perfects me for His Kingdom.
    God has His will and plan for each person, and their earthly longevity.
    God knows every thought, word, dead, tear, prayer, condition.
    God’s timing is only His, not mine.
    Earthly life is beyond our understanding and control, remember the Serenity Prayer? Lots of other prayers about enduring from scripture too.
    You aren’t faithful or a believer if you don’t trust God, who had your plan defined before he created you.
    You might be blessed to co-create more humans for His Kingdom, possibly some day believers if His will is done.
    You might be fortunate enough to be intrinsically rewarded as a lifetime servant of less fortunate, elderly once your family is no longer functional or relating.
    God has plenty for you to do for Him–unlimited supply of brokenness to heal and help with.
    Marriage is a function of God populating the earth with free-will, self oriented, potential followers.
    What it is like to be married to an actual authentic believer is unknown to me.
    What it is like to live Gods word, married to a non-believer is an unspeakable existence I would never knowingly vow to again.
    What does til death do us part actually mean? Death of the marriage or physical death?
    Again, tomorrow is a fresh start, and one never knows what God’s will really is.
    Keep the faith.

  9. I really love the encouragement in this article but this is disheartening,

    “As long as both spouses have breath, and neither has remarried, God can heal and restore.”

    Please explain….does this mean if we have been divorced and are now remarried our marriages don’t matter, aren’t worth the fight because it’s not recognized by God?

    1. He’s saying if neither spouse has remarried, God can heal and restore the original marriage. If one has remarried, then you would have to break up another marriage to restore the previous one. Fight for the marriage you’re in!

    2. Barbara Rainey

      Hi Amanda, Thank you for writing. What I meant by that statement is that there is always hope for restoration of the marriage, even after divorce, as long as neither spouse has remarried. However once spouses remarry that is the marriage that matters, the one that must be fed and nourished and protected. Paul talks about being content in every situation and that means your present marriage is where God wants to see you grow and become all He created you to be. We have lots of help for second marriages on the FamilyLife website. Here is a link: http://www.familylife.com/familylifeblended

      1. Only thing I don’t understand here is why none of your articles includes the permanence of marriage. Some people come here & read the comments about second marriages will begin to think it’s ok to get married again anyway which will alter their thinking. People need to understand that if they marry again most times they will be living in adulterous affairs not marriages.

        1. Roseus,
          Amen to what you posted. Our Lord Jesus gave a clear and concise statement of the one and only legitimate reason for divorce and remarriage in God’s eyes. Adultery. That’s it. “We just couldn’t get along” doesn’t count. Nor does “my spouse left me”.

          You have obviously read your Bible well and I assume you regularly attend a real good church.

  10. Amen! Thank you for this ministry! It’s my job to FIGHT for my marriage with everything I have and everything God has! He is enough! And satan will NOT steal anymore from my marriage because it is anointed by God!

  11. Excellent article filled with God’s wisdom from His word!
    Yes I agree let’s continue these
    conversations often through out
    the year.

    God bless you and the ministry!

  12. I’m sad when I read these posts or articles because they never go to the next step. What about those of us who have tried everything, literally, to save our marriages and nothing changes. We loss it anyway. Where is God in all of this? The only conclusion after theee years of trying to save my marriage by myself and with God is that not all marriages are meant to be saved and that we have to accept that. Nothing is greater then God, but apparently not all things work out even if you’ve prayed about it and tried everything you could. What’s the next step for those of us who loss?

    1. Dear Elyce, I’m so sorry for your hurt and struggle. I have been married for 15 years now but must admit that we struggled for the first 13 very badly. We didn’t know God’s plan for
      Marriage, instead
      Using popular cultures design and failing. When we
      Did acknowledge troubles and sought counciling services we failed because one or
      Both of us was unwilling to see our own part in the responsibility. I sought God, I prayed and nothing seemed to happen except more
      Drifting and isolation. Much like the Isrealites wandering
      The desert for 40 years groaning, that was me. And then I finally called
      Out to God and said “why? I claim all the promises you
      Give in the Bible and still I suffer? What’s the point if nothing changes? ” little by
      Little I learned to listen and realized my heart was hard, I blamed my spouse for everything and I was the one who needed to change first. When I was willing
      To do things started to change little by little, at first
      For the worst, but when everything seemed at its worst God changed my
      Spouse’s heart and we both started to melt a bit and see
      Each other for the first time in a long time. We tried a different councelor and then went to a weekend to remember, where we learned about God’s plan
      For marriage: and
      Nothing has
      Been the same since! For the better! For our 15 th anniversary my spouse sent a card that read ” I thibk we’re starting to get the hang
      Of this!” Hang in there and ask God to first search your heart. It is hard but a process that is worth it.

    2. Oh how I understand. It’s hard. To finally say “I have done everything I can think of to do” and move on with hope.

    3. kristin dishaw

      Dear E., My marriage also ended after 15 yrs., 5 children, due to my husband’s midlife crisis. I fasted, prayed, counseled, attended Al-Anon to learn to cope with his new pattern of drinking too much and God did allow it to end anyway. It was really tough, as you know. I focused on my walk with God and taking care of my little ones. The day to day walk with God and Jesus was my lifeline, still is 19 years later. I looked to Jesus as my “husband” in social situations where going alone was hard. There is a scripture that states Jesus will be as a husband to those in need. Cannot remember it of the top of my head but I kept in written by my working area for a long time. May you find friends, believers who will help you. Sincerely, K from Michigan

    4. Barbara Rainey

      Hi Elyce, Thank you for writing and sharing a piece of your story. The limitations of an article such as this one is that everything can’t be explored in detail. You are correct not all marriages can be saved even when one spouse has tried for years as you did. It is terribly sad and disheartening. As painful as I know it is, we’ve experienced divorce in our extended families, God is still able to rescue and redeem and bring purpose and joy to the ones who trust in Him. I have seen Him bring good out of the ashes many times. So my prayer for you is that you give thanks for where you are each day and believe Him for the good He desires to bring to your life in the days ahead. May it be so and may you have a testimony of His kindness to you in the midst of your loss. His love never ends. He never leaves or forsakes His own.

  13. Joanie Stineman

    Thank you for capturing our need to work at our marriages. Our modeling will impact future generations.
    I’m sending this on to several friends who are committed to walk with those struggling and directing them to seek God first. Appreciate you!

  14. Thanks for the great article. This needs to be said often and we are seeking to get this message out in China to the families.

  15. Amen. I am NOT going to let satan steal anything else from me!! He is NOT going to take my marriage, and I no longer believe his lies!!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top