What are biblical steps to restore a marriage?
Restoring a marriage is a far more complex and involved issue than can be addressed in a simple article. Very likely, there are years of hurt behind every cruel word, and quite possibly a lifetime of differences in personality and upbringing behind every misunderstanding. Assuming there are no serious issues such as drug use, adultery, and/or abuse that require the immediate intervention of a counselor, there are a few things a married couple can consider to help their relationship.
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Remember what marriage is about (Matthew 19:5). Marriage is not about tax advantages, sex, getting needs met, or even parenting. It's about two people joining every aspect of their lives together. Becoming one flesh and being unified in the stuff of life and the goals for the future. Far too often we forget, and make marriage about filling some personal need so we can go off and do what we want with the rest of our life. To restore your marriage, get back to the basics of a shared life.
Acknowledge and recognize your differences—then have the grace to consider when you might be wrong (Matthew 5:23-26). One of the biggest problems married couples have is that we expect our partner to think like we do. We forget that everyone has a different upbringing which leads to different expectations as to what family life should look like. If we can pull back from our own paradigms, we may find that our mate's family did a few things right that, if integrated into our own relationship, might even heal wounds from our past. It is not healthy for partners to unthinkingly insist on their own way of doing things. God joins a man and a woman together; the new unit will reflect some of the aspects of each of their pasts, but the couple should not be chained to any single spouse's expectations.
Forgive, forgive, forgive (Matthew 18:21-22). One of the most important characteristics of a restored marriage is the ability to forgive. If we can acknowledge our differences with our spouse and allow ourselves to see them as they really are instead of how we have them imagined in our minds, we will find it much easier to forgive. Inaccurate perceptions lead to unrealistic expectations, which result in shame and resentment. If we see our mate as they are, however, we can be grateful for the unexpected blessings they bring to the relationship.
Communicate fearlessly but gently; listen thoughtfully without defensiveness (James 1:19). When God formed Adam and Eve, He could have made them telepathic. He could have made them communicate by changing the color of their skin. But, for whatever reason, He made them to connect through language. Language, like everything else on earth, has been seriously damaged by sin. Even two native speakers of the same dialect use words in different ways. It's imperative to be patient when communicating. It's equally as important to know your mate well enough to recognize when serious issues can be discussed and when things need to wait for another time—sometimes your spouse will need guidance and a different perspective, and other times support and love.
Realize you're not the only ones in the room (Ephesians 6:12). God designed marriage to be good. Anything that is good will be opposed by the enemy. That's the nature of the spiritual battle in which we live. The enemy likes divorce and discord, and he is not passive. He likes to plant whispers of accusation in our ears that we unconsciously attribute to our mate. Communication and prayer will go a long way in shutting this down. If we are humble enough to lower our defenses and work with our spouse, it will restore our marriage and protect our family. If we shore up our personal defenses, we'll leave the relationship open for spiritual attack.
Seek advice from others (Proverbs 15:22). Marriage was created by God, and He can restore it, but sometimes He uses other people to help. Find a mentor, a Christian counselor, or go to your pastor. There is nothing we can face that someone else hasn't triumphed over. Just be sure the counselor really wishes to help, and not just add fuel to the flames; a counseling or mentoring session should end in encouragement and determination, not hopelessness and increased bitterness.
Concentrate on your own relationship with God. First John is an entire book dedicated to the result of a personal relationship with Jesus: we love others. We can't love others sacrificially if we don't get that love from God. We can't be filled with God's love if we neither know Him nor obey Him. Abide in Christ and He will equip you to love, forgive, listen, pray, and fight for your spouse. We can't "fix" our spouse. But our marriage will go a long way toward restoration when we allow Jesus to fix us.
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Truth about Marriage