When I was in trying-to-save-my-marriage mode for that fifteen or so year stretch, I asked for a lot of help and advice and read a lot of books and prayed a lot of prayers and I put several things in place in an attempt to turn things around.  Things like:

*I was counseled to praise him every day for thirty days.  To which I added, serve him and pray for him every day for thirty days.  He told me a few days in to stop, that it was insincere. So I stopped.

*The infamous-among-my-friends 3-Day plan.  Day one, we would have sex; day two, devotions; day three, break; then repeat the whole thing over and over into marital bliss.  Yeah, this petered out fairly quickly as you can probably imagine, though I held up my end of the bargain.

*The season I attended a recovery group and went through the twelve steps and did my amends step and how small and sad, and oddly not freeing, it unfortunately made me feel.

*And my personal favorite, when I did the Love Dare.  You know, that little book that was an off-shoot of the movie Fireproof?  A few days in I was told to “stop love-daring me”.  O-kay. I must admit that I took sick pleasure in burning my copy of that book and never looking back.

I have two theories why none of this worked to save my marriage.

First, and I’m embarrassed to say this, but heck, I say a lot of embarrassing things here on the blog, so why not, right?  My motives were overall impure.  Yes, I wanted my marriage healed, but when I would go to ask for advice, I was always, always hoping I’d really get some pity and then an intervention of some kind instead of another list of things for me to do.  So when given a list, in the back of my head, I thought, “I’ll show you.  I’ll take your list and raise it a prayer and an act of service. I’ll prove that it won’t work; that none of this that you keep telling me to do will work.”  I wanted everyone to know that I did all this stuff to try to fix my marriage so that someone would hopefully see I wasn’t this horrible wife that was keeping us from healing.  Horrible, horrible motives, I know.  I have since repented of that.  And if this resonates with you, you might want to talk with Jesus about this.  Your heart needs to be in the right place for you and for Him.

And the second reason I don’t think any of my efforts to save my marriage single-handedly worked in the least is that – and I say this with all humility – I wasn’t the one actively taking down our marriage.  Yes, I was a mess, and yes, I was not a good wife, and yes, I had a huge part in our downfall, and I own that.  But I wasn’t the one not engaged; I wasn’t the ending-party. I was in counseling and reading every book out there and asking for advice and begging Jesus to heal us and wasn’t the one with the addiction (though I was uber-codependent to be sure)…  But I should not have been the one making the amends step first.  I should not have been doing the stupid Love DareI should not have been trying to muster up trust on my own without new reason to trust.

DO NOT GET ME WRONG: if you are in a difficult marriage and your husband is the “main culprit”, per se, through adultery or abuse or addiction, this is NOT a free pass to do nothing, or to sit around pointing your fingers.  You have work to do.

But hear me clearly: if this is your situation, I fully believe you are not the one who should be trying to win your spouse back.  You just have another list.

So, if this is you, if you are trying to win your man or convince him to change or to love you or treat you better or get help for some kind of addiction, stop, sweet one.  Just stop.  Because that is not your job.  That is the job of the Holy Spirit.  You cannot change anyone but yourself.

Here, however, are some things you can do for starters:

Pray. Yes, I will always, always start with pray.  Because God is bigger than your problems and your sadnesses and the pain you carry with you every day and the lost marriage dreams. And because he is the only One – truly the only One – who can fix what is broken in your husband and in you and between you.  So beg Jesus to fix this, to make you stronger and healthier, and to help you be kind.

Ask for help. Not just any help, as I’ve talked about before, but make sure you ask for the kind of help where the person truly understands the depths of pain and doesn’t shame you or make you feel to blame.  If you’re handed a list that consists of pray more/cook more/have sex more/respect more/submit more/shut up more, this person does not understand what’s truly going on and you need to keep asking until you’re understood.

Work on yourself. Read books. Get in counseling. Find a coach. Do the hard work of becoming the most healthy, whole, Jesus-y version of you that you can be.  No matter what happens in your marriage, you will be glad you did this part, and you will be held accountable for this.

You cannot win your unfaithful or abusive or addictive husband back by love-daring him or ultimatum-ing him or luring him with sex every three or however many days.  You just can’t.  And that’s okay.  You don’t need to…because it’s not your job.

If this post helped you, and you would like to go further in your marriage healing, I would love to work with you. Here are my best resources:
*if you’re not safe or if you or your children are being physically or sexually hurt, please set up a safety plan (http://www.ncdsv.org/images/DV_Safety_Plan.pdf) and contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233)
*my podcast – All That to Say: https://anchor.fm/elisabeth-klein
*marriage assessment: http://bit.ly/marriage-assessment
*Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage e-book: https://elisabethklein.com/books
*14-Day Marriage Challenge: https://elisabethklein.com/marriage-challenge-2/
*my 3-month e-course, Marriage Methods (now PAY WHAT YOU CAN): https://bit.ly/marriage-methods-pwyc
*if you’re in a difficult marriage with biblical grounds to divorce and you’re trying to decide whether to stay or go: my 5-week e-course, Decision Time (now PAY WHAT YOU CAN): https://bit.ly/PAY-WHAT-YOU-WANT-FOR-ALMOST-EVERYTHING

Life isn't always how we want it. When change seems elusive, and we're stuck in old routines, a gentle push or some self-reflection can make a difference. Let these questions be that nudge to get you moving.

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