Most of my recent Marriage Monday posts have been fairly fluffy: hold hands, be nice, date your spouse, and say nice words.
Those are still awesome things to do, no doubt, but I have encountered several marriages the last week that are way too far gone for those things. Still, hear me say this: even one party willing to do these things can change the course of an empty shell of a marriage.
So, you look up, and realize that your marriage is in crisis. Because I am open about the fact that Troy and I walked for a time through crisis, I have had more than one woman talk to me about their marriage struggles. I don't always advise each of these things, depending on where the woman is, but none of them is a bad idea.
1) Guard your heart: if you are discontent in your marriage, you are a lightning rod for an affair. That sounds harsh, but I had someone say the same thing to me while I was saying how crazy I was about my husband but something just was missing. Then, when I started talking to a man who would actually listen to me and seemed concerned for me, the warning came back to me. "THIS is what I need to guard against!!" Spend time in prayer, and be hyper-vigilant about who you spend your time around (in person and online) and where your mind goes.
If it's too late for this warning emotionally, GET OUT of that relationship. If it's too late for this warning physically, GET OUT of that relationship. It doesn't mean your marriage is over, it does mean you have FAR more clean up to do.
2) Find someone you can trust to confide in and who will be a champion for your marriage. When my marriage was in crisis, I had several people offer to counsel with me. I graciously declined any contact from divorced women. (It's a long story, but I didn't know any of them very well). That wasn't where I wanted to end up. I wanted to stay married, so I sought out married people to pray with me and for me. Now that I know those women better, I know they love my husband and myself and would have encouraged us to stay married, but I couldn't have known that at the time. I still think I was wise to be discerning in who I sought counsel from.
However, I also couldn't have done it alone. To this day, I call my prayer group my Mark 2 friends. Mark 2 tells the story of the crippled man who couldn't get into the house because it was so crowded, so his friends took him up on the roof, dug through the roof, and lowered him to Jesus to be healed. My friends got me to the foot of the cross when I was too broken and wounded to get there myself. You need friends like that. Don't have one you can trust? Pray that God reveal them to you. That is how I found mine.
3) Spend your own time in prayer. Even if you're hurt and angry and not sure what to say. Tell God. Tell God how hurt you are. Tell God that you aren't sure what to pray any more. Tell God that you aren't sure you even have the strength to stay married and be nice one more day, and if you have it, it will have to all come from Him. Because He knows. And it delights Him to hear you come to Him and tell Him. If you have children, you KNOW how it thrills your soul, yet blesses you to no end for your little one to crawl up in your lap, chin quivering, and just let it all out to you, even when you know. Let God have such a delight.
4) Seek professional help. Get counseling. If your spouse won't go, you go. Expensive? Sure. Priced divorces and two households lately? Counseling is cheap in comparison. Many places have a sliding pay scale based on your income. I have said this before and sadly say it again: my own experiences lead me to not give a huge endorsement to pastoral counseling (that which you can generally get for free at a church). If it is a licensed counselor, it would be better than nothing, but if it is your own church, it is usually better to seek counseling elsewhere.
This is obviously not a comprehensive list. Marriages and their bumps and bruises are as individual as the people within them. My personal opinion is that a marriage is NEVER too far gone to be repaired, but both members have to be willing to put on their work clothes and work gloves, and they will need a support system. Come Have a Peace blog has been sharing some AMAZING marriage survivor stories on Mondays (you may have to look through the archives). It's never too late.
If your marriage is in crisis, I truly pray you will seek and find help.
For those of us that have walked through it, who has more, different, and/or better advice? What would you say to a struggling couple?