Loving When Love Is Difficult

Recently, I had a commenter ask me this question:

What if your husband won’t go to counseling because he did with his ex-wife and he feels there is nothing wrong with him and he won’t let you go?

First of all, forcing your spouse to go to counseling is not wise, nor is trying to rebel against his wishes. So instead, I would like to address the two other questions this problem raises:
  1. What can you do to make your marriage better, if counseling is not an option?
  2. What if you or your spouse had a bad experience with counseling, is it really necessary and helpful?
I will answer #2 next week, but today, I want to address the first question with one of the greatest Bible verses –
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8 (NIV)
So my answer is …
You can LOVE your spouse.
Are you shaking your head in disbelief?
Are you frustrated that my answer is so simple and so obvious?
Well, loving our spouse is certainly not simple and it’s definitely not easy. But let me elaborate on the many ways you can LOVE your spouse when your marriage is messy and even when it’s not.
Own Your Part
Yes, you have a negative contribution to your messy marriage. Maybe it’s not nearly as much as your spouse’s, but it is where you can begin to work. Remember, you can’t change others, but you can influence your spouse and the greatest influence is LOVE!
Pray for Your Spouse Daily
This can involve praying for the problems you see in your spouse, but even better, praying for God to enable you to LOVE your spouse like Christ loves you and your spouse!

Commit to the 4 A’s
Acceptance
Don’t just tolerate your spouse, but really choose to extend grace and forgiveness for those offenses that seem wrong or hurtful. I know, I know, this one is SUPER hard, especially if your spouse has been very critical of you. But don’t knock it till you try commit to LOVE your spouse. 

Affirmation 
Commit to sharing at least one daily affirmation with your spouse. It may seem impossible, but you can find one thing to affirm each day, like how he/she turns the light off when leaving a room or how he/she never forgets to pay the bills on time, etc.

Admiration
Intentionally choose to focus on the good in your spouse, rather than the bad. It may seem like there is nothing good right now, but that’s probably because you’ve allowed yourself to dwell on the bad for much too long.

Affection
Get out of your comfort zone and touch your spouse in a loving way. It doesn’t have to be a kiss or embrace, but any loving action can be a “game changer” for your spouse.

Commit to LOVE your spouse in these ways for the next 3 months. If you are consistent, then I believe you will really see an improvement in your marriage. Remember, if you can’t go to a counselor, then there’s really nothing to lose and everything to gain! That’s because extending LOVE to your spouse will not only bless your spouse, but bless you as well!

*If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek the help of a domestic abuse shelter for guidance and protection.   
Photo credit – Love Stone Heart by Tungphoto

Today’s Post is Linked to – No Ordinary Blog Hop and
  • These are all really, really great points!

    I think, too, there is a difference in a “messy marriage” and an “abusive marriage”. The first is hard/difficult relationship…but the latter can be life threatening.

    Counseling can be a life saver in the latter situations. But in a messy marriage (like mine is many days!), the steps that are outlned above bring beautiful and amazing results through the love and moving of the Holy Spirit!

    great post!

  • Man O’ Clay

    Thanks for the post. Sometimes we make marriage more complicated than it is; always hard, not always complex.

  • Jennifer

    Thank you for your kind words on my post.

    I like “messy marriage.” Marriage is sometimes difficult, but it can be such a blessing! I liked your 4 A’s!

  • True! There are many who are resistant to counseling and these suggestions are wise and important steps to take. Even if your marriage isn’t in crisis, we should be taking these steps regularly. Great post!

  • Such thoughtful and practical tips here! I hope you will consider joining our community Painting Prose this week!

  • Kim Hall

    Our tendency is to pull back with an “Oh, yeah? Well I can be a jerk too.” attitude and withhold kind words, grace, love and intimacy. While it is counter intuitive to do those things as you recommend, it is absolutely worth it to take the deep breath and the high road to do them. They do work. Thanks for making messy marriage a little neater. 😉

  • messymarriage

    Thanks so much, kd and I’m glad you stopped by to mention Painting Prose. I’ll have to check it out! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    You’re more than welcome, Jennifer. And thanks for your encouragement too!

  • messymarriage

    Yeah, if we just get back to the basics of loving our spouses, very often we find that love blooms exponentially! Thanks for stopping by!

  • messymarriage

    Thanks, as always, for stopping by and sharing your perspective on this post, Donna. Yeah, there’s a huge distinction in the two–I hope that I addressed it sufficiently. I would love to have someone speak from first hand experience about being in an abusive relationship someday. I’m praying for someone to be brave enough for that challenge and I would covet your prayers for that as well. Hugs*

  • Good thing you’re doing here. Lots of good sense. Overcoming bad (“messy”) with good. Even just a little can make a difference in the overall home atmosphere. I need to note down a couple of these things, to remind myself. Thank you for this.

  • What a wonderful post, and such a delight to find your blog! Thank you so much for visiting me today so I could find YOU! My husband and I serve in the marriage mentoring ministry of our church, and I also lead women’s discipleship groups. Your information and expertise would be a great resource! Many many blessings to you and this space as you encourage others! This is so very needed!

  • rboerner

    This is all so true and I have experienced this very thing in my life. I know from my own experience the 4 A’s work but they are challenging and they take a lot of practice. I believe the key to making this marriage work is PRAYER. When you suggested to pray for your spouse daily – that is when we see God working. God is the master of acceptance, affection, affirmation, admiration and changing attitudes. When we call upon Him to help, He does. The one thing I learned and am still learning is that He is NOT a genie and He doesn’t just zap it all away. We managed to get ourselves into this situation over time and it takes time to get back to a healthy relationship. I know I wanted drastic change but God had to start working on me first so I could see the changes that He would do in my husband. My prayers are with everyone in this “messy” situation. I also wanted to add that if counseling is not an option, finding a good friend – accountability partner is extremely helpful and encouraging during this journey!

  • messymarriage

    Wow! Becky, you really know how to state things! Have I asked you to write for MM lately? Haha! Seriously, you’re so right on. And I actually had the accountability partner added at one point but feared that could also be an offense to the spouse who doesn’t want the wife to share his issues with a counselor, much less a friend. But if a spouse is open to his wife finding that safe place to talk, then I’d say, more power to her. It’s always been a great help in my life and marriage too. Hugs to you, Becky!

  • messymarriage

    I am so glad that we share a similar passion and calling, Jacque. We will have to keep in touch in this cyber-world! 🙂

  • messymarriage

    I’m so glad you found it helpful. I have to remind myself to do these things as well. Sometimes “knowing” the things to do and actually doing them are worlds apart. 🙂 Thanks so much for stopping by, Sylvia and encouraging me!

  • messymarriage

    Kim, you’re just “too darn happy” to have that “well, you can be a jerk too” attitude! 😀 Thanks so much for stopping by again and sharing encouraging words with me and wise/authentic words with all of us.