Question: “How do you ever build unity in a marriage if you see your husband as the enemy?”

You don’t and you can’t. So here’s what you need to do.

Assess properly.
  Is your husband really your enemy?  I talk a lot about regular marriages all taking work and then the other kind of marriage that is more than hard, it’s what I’d simply call bad. (You can assess your marriage confidentially here.) If your marriage is the bad kind of hard, then it definitely feels as if your husband is your enemy, and in that case, you need to get outside help. You need to tell someone. You need to not keep trying to fix your marriage on your own and in your own strength because things like abuse and addiction sap the strength of both partners and only get worse when left unchecked.

However, if your marriage is the regular kind of hard that simply takes the regular amount or work, your husband is not your enemy. You do, however, have an enemy. We all do. Satan hates you as a follower of Jesus, he hates your marriage and he hates your family. It is Satan’s desire that your marriage fail and your family be broken up.

Depending on the situation, you may need to ask a third party to help you determine which kind of marriage you’re in.

Shift your perspective. 
Once you have looked at your marriage honestly and determined if it’s regular-hard or bad-hard, you need a perspective shift. If your marriage is regular-hard, you need to begin praying prayers of spiritual warfare. You need to ask God to help you clearly see who your real enemy is. You need to ask God to help you start seeing the good in your husband. You need to ask God to give you the strength you need to begin affirming that good.

If you determine that your marriage is the bad kind of hard, you still need a perspective change, but it’s not what you might think. I’m not about to advocate that you officially consider your husband to be your enemy. I am, however, going to advocate that you take on a healthier attitude. When one has an enemy, they can tend to be on the defensive. Instead, I want you to take a proactive stance. I want you to learn how to set up some boundaries if you’re being emotionally hurt. I want you to get some space if you or your children are being physically hurt or sexually abused. I want you to determine within yourself that you are no longer going to allow yourself to be bullied and then you need to get outside support to help you put tools in place that will help you achieve these healthier and safer goals.

Who’s responsible for what?
  Regardless of the kind of marriage you have, you can only do so much to rebuild unity.  Say, for instance, your husband cheated on you, and three months afterward, he’s upset with you for still not wanting to sleep with him or he gets mad when you ask where he’s been.  He might even say something like, “When are you going to start trusting me again?”  I used to have this image in my head that I was in charge of the trust level in my first marriage.  I would be working to rebuild the trust wall brick by brick, all on my own, and then when another truth came to light, the wall would come tumbling down again, and there I sat in the pile of bricks, trying to muster up enough strength to start rebuilding it again, alone.

Until one day when our counselor told my spouse that he had to answer all of my questions but I didn’t have to answer his.  (This isn’t always the case, and shouldn’t always be.)  This was deemed unfair until the counselor said, “Beth wasn’t the one to break the trust. So Beth isn’t the one who has to rebuild it.”  I had never had anyone say that to me before.  I started to cry.  I was so utterly relieved, like deep down into my bones.  I could lay all of my stupid trust bricks down once and for all because it wasn’t my job to try to conjure up trust.  And if you’ve been sinned against or betrayed or lied to — and I’m not saying we’re not sinless over here on our end, but there’s sin and then there’s sin — you are not the one with the lions’ share of responsibility to rebuild unity.

However, there are some things you can do and they will take a different kind of strength.

You need to pray for a softened, open heart. You need to ask to be ready for unity to be rebuilt, for a heart that is prepared to be won over again.

You need to celebrate the crumbs, as my mentor says. If a small gesture is made towards unity, you need to accept it with open hands and then show your gratitude.

You need to fight against the negative thoughts and take them captive. Stop rehearsing the past mistakes. (If new hurts keep coming though, give those over to Jesus and a trusted third party to help you process what it all means.)

You must, absolutely must, be patient and persevering. If unity were broken, it will take time and space and tears and missteps and prayer and hope in Jesus (and not hope in circumstances to be changed).

Show yourself some grace. And show your spouse some grace. This will not be easy. Not everything will be done right. This isn’t a romantic comedy we’re living in. There typically aren’t grand gestures and big flourishes. It will be the daily living of life in this new way and you will need to rest in the knowledge that God is sovereign and if you both are trying to walk with Jesus, something beautiful is bound to come from the pain. Unity can come back again, even stronger than before.

If this post resonated with you, check out “Surviving in a Difficult Christian Marriage” e-book, my 3-month e-course Marriage Methods (now pay what you can), and my podcast, All That to Say.


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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