7 Steps to Dealing with BIG Marriage Problems

7 Steps to Dealing with BIG Marriage Problems

You could handle the little things, or so you tell yourself. You could pick up his dirty clothes now and then, or overlook the times she forgot to tell you about a purchase she’d made. But this time it’s really BIG. Your spouse has messed up badly. It’s all you can think about, and you’re not sure you can live with the consequences.

We’re talking about such BIG marriage problems that your relationship is truly threatened. Little ongoing frustrations may eat away at you, but those are for another time. This is about the BIG stuff.

  • You find pornography on your spouse’s computer
  • You discover your spouse has been abusing drugs or alcohol – again
  • Your spouse has lied to you about something big – a huge financial mistake, telling you they were one place when they were somewhere else, etc.
  • A fight with your spouse becomes physical and you felt truly afraid
  • You find evidence your spouse is having an affair

Your mind is swirling. How could they do this to you? Shouldn’t you have seen the red flags earlier? Aren’t you supposed to forgive people, even your spouse, when they mess up? How could you ever do that? Hurt, confusion, anger, fear, despair, guilt, shame – it’s overwhelming.

One article such as this can’t tell you everything you need to know about dealing with such BIG marriage problems. But I can give you a framework for the questions to ask and the ways to think about what to do next. You can use these steps to get clarity about your marriage situation and about the actions you may need to take.

If Your Spouse has Messed Up Badly:

  1. What’s really going on here?

No sugar-coating the truth; it’s time to face reality.

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To Be Like Jesus: 50 Character Traits

To Be Like Jesus: 50 Character Traits

Perhaps you remember the old gospel song whose lyrics went, “To be like Jesus, to be like Jesus, all I ask is to be like Him.”

That’s an awesome thing – to be like Jesus. If you knew someone who is truly like Jesus, wouldn’t you want to spend time around them? Wouldn’t you want to be more like them? Indeed, Paul says that’s exactly God’s goal for us: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Romans 8:29)

How well are you doing in that department? Periodically it’s smart to check our transformation progress.

The longer you and I continue in the Christian life, the more we should be coming to being like Jesus. But what does that look like? How can you tell if you’re making progress?

Being like Jesus includes both “soft” and “hard” characteristics – traits that feel warm and inviting, and those that feel tough. Think of the Bible characters you know, or revered Christians who have lived since Jesus’ time. Every personality is represented, but many of the underlying character traits are similar. God can begin with you at whatever stage you are right now, but as you mature these character traits should be increasingly evident.

Here’s a starting list of positive character qualities that being like Jesus would include. Some of these you and I are probably exhibiting fairly well, and others we need to grow further into. See how you might stack up on this list.

What it looks like to Be Like Jesus

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Necessary or Unnecessary Suffering

Necessary or Unnecessary Suffering

Is suffering a good thing? Is suffering to be embraced? Or avoided?

Suffering never feels good. That’s why it’s called suffering. Some Christian believers seem to embrace suffering and grow from it personally and spiritually. Other believers seem to avoid it at all costs, wonder why God doesn’t always relieve their suffering, and wonder what’s wrong when suffering continues.

Much of that confusion, I believe, comes from a failure to understand the difference between necessary and unnecessary suffering.

Unnecessary Suffering

There are countless ways in which we suffer – physically, emotionally, spiritually. But not all of that suffering is necessary or inevitable. It’s not a pleasant thought, but sometimes you cause the suffering yourself.

What about the suffering of material lack – poverty? Have you invested your time and energy well, refusing to blame others for where you are in life? Have you learned good money management skills, staying away from debt? Have you learned to be a wise steward of any physical resources you have?

What about the suffering from the breakup of a marriage? Did you give up too soon when your marriage might have been saved with hard work? Did you neglect your spouse too long in too many ways? Did you compromise your boundaries, or refuse to deal with damaging things in your own character?

What about physical suffering? Are you experiencing the consequences of a lifestyle of unhealthy eating, no exercise, or substance abuse? Have you cared for your body well, with appropriate rest and medical care?

Wallowing in shame and guilt about any of this is not useful. But it is sobering to realize that some of our suffering was caused or at least made worse by the decisions we made and actions we took.

That’s actually good news! Because it also means we can now reduce our suffering in those areas by making new decisions and taking different actions.

Necessary Suffering

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Forgiveness in Marriage: How to Do it Well

Forgiveness in Marriage: How to Do it Well

Your spouse has hurt you. Guaranteed. If you haven’t been hurt by your spouse, you either got married five minutes ago (and you’re not reading this!) or you’re lying. There is absolutely no way you can connect your life that closely with another human being and not get hurt. The question now is, how can you forgive your spouse when they have hurt you?

When you hear the word forgiveness in the context of marriage you likely have one of two reactions.

  • You cannot imagine forgiving your spouse for what they’ve done. You respond to your spouse with the kind of treatment you believe their shortcomings deserve. You internally keep score, and feel justified in your less-than-loving behavior because of what your spouse has done to you. You may manipulate and control, using your spouse’s weakness as a weapon to “keep them in line.”
  • OR You are resigned to suffering as you “forgive.” You feel somehow entitled to your misery because of how your spouse has treated you. You’re determined to follow Jesus’ command to forgive, and that means you’ve chosen to “take it.” Whether the offense is small or large, current or long past, you see your wounds as yours to bear. You think you’re loving your spouse when you put up with their bad behavior.

Neither of those choices is forgiveness. You know deciding to wound your spouse in return for their wrongdoing is not forgiveness. But neither is the second choice – becoming resigned to suffering. Neither option gives any hope for restoration of your relationship.

Forgiveness is This, not That

Forgiveness is not an easy thing to learn, but once you do it opens the door to amazing freedom, connection, and love. I had to learn about forgiveness – as I believe everyone does – the hard way. Thankfully I had learned enough about forgiveness before I got married to make our marriage happy, but that doesn’t mean it was easy. I believe you can learn how to forgive now – even if you’re in the middle of a miserable marriage.

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When Your Children Break Your Heart

When Your Children Break Your Heart

You will always be a parent, even when your children are grown. And sometimes the choices they make are completely inconsistent with the values you worked so hard to instill in them. Or you may see some things you wish you had done differently as a parent, and now that your children are older it seems hopeless. It hurts when children break your heart.

In our most recent survey I heard from a number of parents. Your children may be teens, young adults, or even middle aged, and the way they are living seems to be far from God. And it hurts you to see it. “That is what breaks my heart.” “And my heart breaks!!!!!” “It grieves our hearts.” Your pain is deep and real. I can hear your tears and feel your heartache.

When your children were little you could control their behavior somewhat. You could take them to church, punish them if they did wrong, and make sure they ate their vegetables. You could decide what TV shows they watched and which friends they spent time with. During their teen years (if not before) all that began to change, and you are now no longer in charge. The tearing away may have been happening right under your nose without you realizing it until a serious break in your relationship with them forced you to see it. Or it may have been gradual and relatively pleasant until they were out of your house, and then they walked steadily away from the kind of Christian lifestyle you wanted them to have.

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