4 Unexpected ways to address a suffering marriage

Help for a husband who is just not getting it

So my wife and I get into it! What a surprise. Early on in our marriage, I did what any insane, first-year married man would do, I took her to marriage counseling to fix her. What happened next, was not what I expected.

The marriage counselor told me that it was a good thing we were fighting; in fact, it was the couples who did not fight that he was most concerned about. He turned on me to get my act together as the leader and father I should be.  And a great deal of what he said was right, even though it was hard to swallow it.

By the way, what is the opposite of love? It is not hate. See this post for that.

They say that there are three rings, the engagement ring, the wedding ring and the suffering…

All joking aside, marriage is a gift of God and a reflection of his very image. When your marriage is suffering, what are some simple ways, (and it is never that simple) to deal with it?

First, we are not created to be alone.

Other people make us who we are and even don’t want to be.  The company we keep does make a difference on the life we live. There is no psychologist who would disagree with this theory.  We are not made to be alone.  In fact, as Jim Rohin said, you are “the average of the five people you most spend most time with!”    That does not mean you have to get married.  No it is better to remain miserable single than miserable married!  🙂  Again, Im joking. Jesus never married and he was as complete as you can be as a human being. So getting married is not the be all of life. But it is important and a blessing if you take that journey.  If you are married or single, being alone is not a good thing, check out Genesis 2:18 where God says this about Adam.

Did you know that even God was never alone?  Before he created everything, God, was and is a community in unity in the blessed external Trinity. 

So, if your marriage is suffering, and you feel alone in it, stop doing it alone. Find people who are doing it right, get close to them and start to make some changes.

Second, marriage is a reflection of God’s character and love for his people.

Yes, my secular friends, the first major book to talk about marriage was the book of Genesis.  It started in the Bible. On a personal note, marriage for me, has been one of the most difficult and stressful times of my life. But at the same time, it has brought me sustained joy and rewarding memories I would not trade for anything or anyone in this world!   My love for God, my career, my children has been unilaterally altered and changed by my precious and beloved Luciana. Without her in my life, I would not be where I am today.

Marriage is God’s special reflection of a deep reality, his relationship with us.  Wow. That is so cool. Read the very sensual book of Song of Songs to see that allegory.

So love her, even when you don’t feel like it, and even when you don’t like her.  For love is much more and much deeper than mere feelings.

Third, –DANGER–DANGER–politically incorrect talk incoming…..Husbands, we are to be the head of our home.  

Being the head of our home means to lead by example, to take responsibility for your household.  Let me say something that is counter intuitive.

The husband’s divine calling to take primary responsibility for Christlike leadership, protection, and provision. The most explicit texts relating directly to headship and submission in marriage are Genesis 1–3; Ephesians 5:21–33; Colossians 3:18–19; 1 Timothy 3:2, 4, 12; Titus 2:5; and 1 Peter 3:1–7.

For more detail on what headship really means see this link.

Consider this from CS Lewis:

“We must go back to our bibles. The husband is the head of the wife…he is to her what Christ is to the church, he is to love her as Christ loved in the church and gave his life for her, this headship is most fully embodied not in the husband we wish to be but in him whose marriage is most like a crucifixion “ – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves (1960; Harcourt Brace: 1991) 105-106.

What he is saying is that we husbands need to die to our selfishness like on a cross.   Sometimes we need to sacrifice what we want now, for what we want most.

So then step up, take responsibly for your role in the marriage. Do what you should be doing, regardless of the circumstances and the lack of positive response from others or your spouse. I mean to do that with wisdom and kindness and most of all love.

Now, since I am on a roll, let’s go for one final counter-initiative issue.

Forth, we should love our wives not more but less! Yes, you heard me, love her less.

We are to love her more than fame, or wealth, or career, or boats, or sports (GO CUBS) or anything! Yes we are to love her more than these. We are to love our wives more than our very breath.  And when children come, we are still to show to her that she is our priority.  But again I say love her more by loving her less.

Read John Piper’s  poem to his son on his wedding day….

I am saying love her less than God. Why?  Because if you don’t, you make her out to be a god and that is not healthy for you or her, because she is not a god.

By loving God more than your wife, you will by default, love her more than life.

In most relationships on earth, we will go through what Timothy Keller in his book the Meaning of Marriage, calls Frightening Spells. Here is what he said:

“…frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love. —Timothy KellerThe Meaning of MarriageFacing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God

Your love for her will not hold your marriage together, but your marriage will hold your love together.

Don’t give up.

If you do give up, the consequences, especially if you have children will be echo in eternity and they will never get over it.  They will always remember when you walked out on your wife, and on them. They will blame themselves, if they are little, no matter how many times you tell them it was not their fault, they wlll blame themselves either submliminally or directly.

Don’t give up brother.

And something magical will happen, she may respond in ways that you would call a miracle!

Recommend movie FireProof.

Recommended podcast michaeltanner.org

The trailer

I strongly recommend the book by Timothy Keller the Meaning of Marriage


Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Daisy Aguado

    I love when you made the jokes about the three rings of love. My mother and father were also the couple’s that went to marriage counseling at the beginning of the relationship. It was a bumpy journey but it turned out well. I now use the same advice that they do. It was to always say what you feel to the other partner even if they don’t want to hear it. I have always had the thought of how loneliness is horrible. We as humans are made to have compassion for others and have a significant other. I find it amazing that you are able to appreciate your wife and the way she has changed your life too. I do agree with the thought of how men are the head of the house. I was raised to the same beliefs but I also agree with the thought that one person cannot be higher than god. It would be not only disrespectful to God but also to those who are cherished as such. This is such a beautiful post on marriage and what it should be about. Love I’d the strongest force at the end.

    • Briyana Kelly

      Love is the strongest force in the end! Amen to that.

  • Briyana Kelly

    Beautiful post! I am not married yet but I do have my ideas about love as I travel my journey. I’ve yet to get that feeling of completeness but I know that I want to love and be loved. This is very good advice for some who’s dating out here and need a understanding of what they should be building in their foundation. Thanks for sharing!

  • Betsie G. Rojas

    Marriage can be something stressful, but at the same time a blessing just as Dr. Khaldoun Sweis states in this article. Through my 5 years of marriage my husband and I have been going through many problems, but I can only say that I am more than thankful of having been going through this journey with him. As I read this article I can say that, indeed, marriage is a gift of God, and that it is a journey in which the couple needs to fight together against all adversities.

    Then for sure “we are not created to be alone,” so why will it be correct to feel or be alone while married? A marriage is supposed to fight together stay and look for solutions. Just as Dr. Sweis said look and stay close to persons whom are doing right and try to make those positive changes.

    Therefore, as marriage is a reflection of Gods love to us, in a marriage the couple needs to love each other in all moments. Like Dr. Sweis says, “love is more and much deeper than mere feelings”. This means that love should always be there in marriage even when we don’t want to feel it. Because I think that in a difficult time of a marriage the couple should be united to overcome the difficulties.

    Now, that the husband is the head of a home I say yes, but I think that the wife needs to put of her part too. Just as Sweis says that the husband needs to die to its selfishness, well I think it should be both husband and wife. I think that both need to do there best in order to have a good marriage.

    Finally, love is almost all or at least the most important in a marriage, so the couple needs to love each other more then everything, but just as Sweis says, not as much as to God.

    I loved the article it really made me think of how I can have a better marriage and how to overcome difficulties. Thank You

  • Piet Van Assche

    Very interesting theme …. in my mind, marriage is more a dance for two, hard work to make is really beautiful, than a civil status.

    Concerning the third point.

    Agreed, similarly as Christ is the head of the Church, men could, in utopia, be the natural head of the family.

    However Christ assumes a natural and logical headship because he is without fault, intrinsically good and perfect in altruistic love.

    As long as men do not achieve similar perfection and naturally become the head of the family, then they should not claim headship based on patriarchal rules and regulations.

    Considering the danger that the role of men as the head of a family is institutionalised rather than based on natural altruistic guidance, I would recommend to keep the principle of the men as the head of the family where it belongs …. in Heaven and not on earth.

  • Oyin Odulaja

    Very interesting topic sir! It sheds more light on what you perceive marriage to be and how you deal with your marriage which may or may not work for other marriages. I very much appreciate how you inculcated God into this topic and how God himself was not alone. Although marriage is not for everyone, marriage is good if it is with the right person.

  • Stephanie Lara

    Thank you Dr Sweis for this post. I am not married but my sister is having trouble in her marriage, which is why I chose to read this post. My sister has been married for three years and has a one year old daughter. She is having trouble in her marriage because her and her husband can’t seem to get along. They both realize that they have to work harder to maintain their marriage, not only for themselves, but for their daughter as well. Marriage is a gift from God, that should be cherished every single day. Marriage isn’t suppose to be a walk in the park, there will be obstacles, but I think that’s what makes marriage so special. I agree that the company we keep in our lives impact how we live our lives, this is important for people to realize even if they are not married. I’ve never thought about marriage being a reflection on God’s character and love for us, but now I realize that it is. I love that quote you included by Timothy Keller, “..you must remember the essence of marriage…”. Thank you once again for sharing you experiences and wisdom with everyone. I will make sure to share this with my sister.

  • Jen

    I enjoyed reading this post. I never been married, but I do know couples my age (25) who are newlyweds. As soon as I finished reading this I could not help but to think of my best friend who is going through a rough start in her marriage. I told her to take a look at the post and she shared it with her husband. They both told me how much they began to understand compromising in a marriage. The post was a different insight to them, they were getting advice that benefited each individually and not both as a team. Thank you for the post