A few days ago, I shared just part of my struggling marriage story and how difficult Valentine’s Day is when you don’t feel like celebrating love. If you didn’t catch that first part, please go back and read For the Wife Who Doesn’t Feel Like Celebrating Love before you read any further here so that you can get the whole picture.
I’m happy to say that our marriage is in a much stronger place now than it was then, although not without its problems. So, this Valentine’s Day will be easier than the one I previously described.
However, I know so many of you wives out there are hurting, too. How do I know? Because the number one searched word that leads people to this blog is the word “unloved” from a post I wrote way back in 2013.
Since then, I’ve been contacted by so many Christian wives who truly desire to walk in obedience to the Lord even in the midst of marriage problems, but they just aren’t sure how. I have been that wife myself!
So, if you find yourself in a marriage that just plain stinks this Valentine’s Day (or birthday, anniversary, Christmas, whatever you happen to be celebrating) – if you believe you can’t show love because you feel so unloved – I have some advice for you that comes from my personal experience as a struggling wife.
6 Ways to Stir Up Love in a Difficult Marriage
1. Remember who you are in Christ. This has been key for me in overcoming lies from the Enemy about my marriage. In Christ, I am completely and perfectly fulfilled. I am perfectly loved. I am wanted. I am cherished. I am chosen. Any loving that I do, has to flow from that place of understanding who I am as a Daughter of the King and Christ’s Bride. When I find my identity in Christ instead of in my marriage, then I can survive the tough times.
2. Pray. Pray without ceasing that the Lord will give you His unfailing love for your man. I can’t tell you how often I’ve begged this of our Father over the years. That agape love comes not from us, my sisters in Christ. Rather, it is an overflow of abiding in the One who IS perfect Love. Pray for your man, as well, that he will demonstrate love to you in return. The Lord can affect changes in his heart that you can never hope to make!
3. Seek counsel. My husband and I might face the effects of PTSD on our marriage for the rest of our lives. I pray not, but it could be so. We’ve found a few godly friends who really “get” us and even more importantly, “get” our marriage dynamic. They understand because they’ve been there, too. However, I highly recommend seeking out a godly Christian counselor. We’ve been through several over our nearly 16 years of marriage.
Our current counselor is by far my favorite. He doesn’t downplay the reality of PTSD as some do, neither does he downplay the power of Christ. He brings scripture into our sessions and ends each one with a prayer that brings encouragement to our hearts.
My friends, there is an indescribable comfort in realizing that your marriage problems are not unique.
Others have faced them and overcome them before! You are not alone as the Enemy would have you believe. Seek help! And if your man won’t go with you, please don’t use that as an excuse not to get help for yourself.
4. Make a list. Sometimes when I’m really struggling to love my husband, I make a list. I take note of all of the things I admire about him – all of the reasons for loving who he is as a person. This really helps me to turn my focus from the negative, things I dislike, to the positive, things I like. It also helps me to look back and see the ways in which he has grown over the years. After all, he is a work-in-progress, just as I am. Remembering that fact helps me to show him more grace and love.
5. Read your old journals or love notes. Every once in a great while, I pull out my memory box and look through pictures or keepsakes from the early years. I read the notes my husband wrote to me. It’s easier to love someone when I remember that he loves me, too! The memory box also helps me to remember how marriage can be easy between us. It doesn’t always have to be a struggle (that’s another lie straight from the Enemy, sisters!). Good years will return as long as we both continue to follow the Lord and pursue each other.
6. Pursue your man. Okay, honestly, I still fight this one so hard at times – it’s a pride issue for me and an area the Lord is still working in. However, I’m learning that when I obediently reach out to my husband instead of waiting for him to reach out to me, he responds and we both gain. Pursuing him might be as simple as stopping what I’m doing and looking him in the eyes when he speaks to me, or choosing to sit next to him on the couch and hold his hand even if he sat way over there in the first place.;)
I know how difficult the above advice is to hear when you’re so broken-hearted, so wounded, so unloved.
Yes, I know it is.
But I have faith in the God who works out the impossible!
I’ve seen it in my own marriage in places where the Father has torn down our shabby constructs of love in order to build up newer, stronger foundations that rest on Him alone. I believe Him when he says I can do ALL things through His strength – even loving someone whom I might believe to be undeserving of my love. I can love someone who doesn’t love me in return, perhaps even someone who truly despises me at the moment, because of the power of Christ in me. And you can do it, too!
You can celebrate Valentine’s Day without glossing over that fact that your marriage is hurting. You can be honest with your spouse. You can choose to act lovingly toward him even if he is not reciprocating. You can cling to the hope that Christ redeems us, and He redeems our marriages, too!
You can, my sisters in Christ, because of Jesus.
Father, when we feel discouraged in our marriages, when we struggle to speak even a few loving words to our husbands, help us to remember that our marriages are works-in-progress, too. Show us the progress, Lord! Give us agape love for our husbands so that they might be drawn to us and drawn to You. Remind us to pray for them. Remind us to pursue them. Show us every small way in which we can encourage and uplift them because of Your strength in us. And when we’re feeling so unloved ourselves, help us to turn to You, the Author of perfect Love. Teach us to be satisfied in You. Especially on this Valentine’s Day, I ask you to bind up the brokenhearted and give them Hope! Because of Your one and only Son’s death on our behalf….
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~ You just finished an excerpt from the book Hope for the Hurting Wife by Rebekah Hallberg and Jen Stults, two women who have walked through the valley of troubled marriages and emerged safely on the other side. Their testimonies to God’s presence and hope in the midst of difficulty gives hope to wives who are really struggling not to give up!
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