7 Steps to Save a Distressed Marriage

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mad couple

Most people treat their pets better than their spouse. It’s true.

The person we once adored quickly becomes the enemy once we tie the knot. So how do we beat the "50 percent of Christian marriages end in divorce" odds?

What if I told you the greatest joy you could experience takes place at home—with your spouse?

Before you disagree, hear me out. I’m not a counselor. I’m a survivor of a bad marriage that was heading toward divorce. It took battles with cancer, debt and other distractions before our hearts changed.

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Let me explain.

Once married, I clung to my husband for emotional comfort, advice and help around the apartment. I wanted him with me all the time.

But he soon started choosing his buddies over me.

Resentment over his outings with friends led to my withholding of affection. I began eye-rolling when listening to him voice his dreams about a new job venture he was considering—again. And I often dropped reminders of what he could not spend, since I lorded over the budget. No wonder he found opportunities to entertain himself away from home.

Eighteen years and four children later, the man I mocked has become my best friend again.

So, what changed?

Here are seven steps that saved our marriage:

1. Prayer

You can’t change your spouse no matter how loud you nag, so take your complaints to God. He won’t change your spouse overnight, but He will put people and resources in your path to draw you closer together when you seek Him. He promises that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective (James 5:16).

Not only should you pray for him, but you should also pray with him. According to a 1993 Gallup poll, married couples who prayed together daily had a divorce rate of 1 percent. Prayer works. Make it a priority.

2. Stop Stealing From Your Spouse

Are you distracted by an office flirtation, an Internet site or an edgy novel? When we aren’t happy at home, we seek comfort elsewhere. That innocent encounter at work or the gym or coffee shop seems innocuous, but time focused on others is time stolen from our spouse. Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful from our diversions will never be the answer to our longing for love.

Life is filled with temptations. Set boundaries. To circumvent that overly friendly office buddy, have an escape tactic ready. No closed doors, personal phone calls or lunches out without a third party present. Cheating, emotionally or physically, can’t happen if there’s not an opportunity.

Along the same lines, avoid late-night Internet usage. Better yet, install an Internet filter. This sounds legalistic, but isn’t your marriage worth it?

3. Make Time for Intimacy

Every marriage needs physical closeness. God created this pleasurable act for us to enjoy, and since the best way to keep your marriage in check (other than spending time with God together) is intimacy, we need to practice this exercise frequently.

Ladies, if you want a happy spouse, put the kids to bed early twice a week and make time for him. Most men desire sex. If we educate ourselves, intimacy can be one of the most fulfilling marriage-building acts. Not to mention if he’s getting fed at home, Suzie Tight Skirt’s appeal diminishes. Test this theory and see if your spouse does not respond differently to you.

In the same hand, women seek attention from those who value them and listen to what they have to say. Mr. Office Boy starts looking mighty handsome if her husband isn’t treating her with kindness at home. Sex and communication go hand and hand. For women, according to marriage specialist Mark Gungor, “Real intimacy begins above the waist. Listen to her; talk to her. ... Men need to understand that for romance to work in the bedroom, there has to be romance outside of the bedroom.”

4. Take a Financial Class

Take Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course or Crown's MoneyLife Finance Study. We had no idea how to handle our checkbook or credit cards or student loans. Many senseless arguments would have been avoided if we were on the same page. Let them get mad at Dave. Take the course and implement these sage practices.

Debt-free living is glorious. You can’t argue about money if you’re not worried about the bills.

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