Your marriage is important. It means everything to you. Anything that important requires investment of time and energy. But the harder you try, the worse things seem to get. It’s as if you’re fighting against what you want most. It would be nice to know how to fight for your marriage and not against your spouse.

Your marriage is worth fighting for! One big mistake some people make is to wish their marriage were better while basically sitting back and watching it decline. A difficult marriage often involves pain, frustration, disappointment, perhaps betrayal. You might feel like curling your tail around your nose to keep from being hurt more. But that doesn’t work.

You might also find yourself clawing and scratching like a wounded animal, desperate to find the best way to force your marriage into being what you want it to be. And you’re wearing yourself out. That’s also a big mistake. You can’t manipulate your marriage into health regardless of how skilled you become at control.

Prayer can be a part of either of these failed strategies. As important as prayer is, not just any prayer will “work.” Prayer can be used as an “excuse” to do nothing. It can also be used as an attempt to manipulate and control. Both ways of praying do more harm than good.

Not every marriage can be saved. But your marriage is worth fighting for! Here are some ways to fight for instead of against your marriage.

  1. Care Without Control

This is a key relationship skill that many find oh so difficult to learn. It matters to you, matters greatly, whether or not your spouse listens to you, continues drinking, uses porn, responds in anger, or whatever the hurtful behavior may be. Your emotional, physical, and spiritual wellbeing is affected by what they do. Their future as a person and the future of your marriage is at stake.

But the only chance you have is to embrace the reality that you cannot control your spouse. You cannot control the outcome. You exert 100% maximum effort while acknowledging the result is not guaranteed. Just as God invested all of heaven when He sent Jesus to earth while knowing not every person would respond, you put everything you have into your marriage holding nothing back. But also like God, neither are you are trying to manipulate your spouse.

  1. Get Some Help

If what you’re doing now isn’t working, it’s time to do something else. Your deeply-invested emotions cloud your ability to see things from a healthy perspective. The patterns you’ve developed around intimacy, communication, sex, male-female roles, money, etc. are the only options you can imagine. You can’t see for the cloud in front of you.

So you need some outside input. Fighting for your marriage involves being open enough to embrace help when you need it. That can be intentionally spending time with healthy couples, attending a 12-step program, seeing a marriage counselor, etc.

  1. Do Your Own Work

Fighting for your marriage means, most of all, that you do your own work. You become the person God needs you to be – individually, and in your marriage. You become the person your spouse wants to be close to (assuming their heart is open). If only 1% of the problems are your “fault”, you deal with that 1% first and most intentionally. You learn what it’s like to be a whole person yourself while at the same time being attractive to your spouse.

Doing your own work means learning the skills (see next point). It doesn’t mean you ignore your spouse’s issues; just the opposite. It means you learn how to address them in a healthy way rather than clawing and scratching and demanding your spouse change before you change. You own your own stuff while also refusing to own your spouse’s stuff.

  1. Learn the Skills

Learning to love well in marriage is not automatic; it takes learning important skills. Some people learned healthy skills through growing up in a family where those skills were modeled and taught; many people never have that opportunity. But in order to have a healthy marriage you must learn the necessary skills – either before or during your marriage.

That includes skills such as healthy communication, pursuing intimacy, setting boundaries, graceful forgiveness, building trust, and handling conflict well. If your marriage has become toxic, this means you refuse to ignore reality. Fighting for your marriage means you develop those skills regardless of what your spouse does. As you change the dance, your spouse will have to respond in some way.

You will need to stay engaged even when you might rather withdraw. Staying engaged without fighting to be right is not an easy skill to learn, but it will be so important.

  1. Fight Your True Enemy

Remember that your enemy is not your unhappy or badly-behaving spouse; ultimately your enemy and the enemy of your marriage is Satan and his kingdom of darkness. He would like nothing more than to destroy one more marriage, and you in the process.

Fighting against the kingdom of darkness means staying on your knees. You may not even speak about this to your spouse; that’s a matter to pray about and seek wisdom before doing so. Plead the blood of Jesus – first over your own heart, to keep your own heart clean and open, and also over your spouse and your marriage.

Remember, none of these things guarantees that your marriage will be saved; your spouse also gets a vote there. But these are the steps to focus on. In doing so you can know that you’ve invested your 100%. That’s what’s in your control.

And you learn to leave the outcome to God.

Your Turn: How have you tried to fight for your marriage? Has fighting for your marriage turned into trying to control? How will you change your focus in light of these steps? Leave a comment below.

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Need a New Way to Fight?

Fighting for your marriage takes a different mindset. Your marriage is under attack! And the enemy of your marriage is not your spouse.

In this free download you can learn how to identify the REAL enemy of your marriage, and what it takes to defeat him. Join with your spouse in fighting for the marriage God wants for you.