It Takes Two to Make a Marriage

“It takes two, ya know!”

Her words wore the biting effect of the long years of pain. I looked into those weary eyes and I knew I’d never walked her path; felt the sting of rejection that left its mark on her heart. I knew her edgy retort wasn’t so much anger at me, but bubbled up from years of frustration, years of longing, and my intended encouragement had bumped that raw place.

I wanted those hopeless eyes to see what can’t be seen, for that deadened heart to beat with His life-giving dreams, for her faith to be renewed by truth that lives beyond the temporary.

Yes, you’re right, it does take two to make a marriage work. You’re right. You can’t do this alone, you must have the Author of marriage leading, impressing, directing your heart. You and He can impact your relationship with your husband. You have His word on that. He doesn’t hold out false hope. In fact, He anticipated that you would need this passage for this exact moment in your life:

[box]In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. (1 Peter 3:1–4)[/box]

There’s more in this passage than can be unpacked in the limited space of a blog post, but I’ll just touch on a few things for those of you who may be in that painful place.

♥ The heart is the issue—always.

Notice the instruction given; wives aren’t told to whip that man into shape, to preach the gospel to them, or to coddle them. They are challenged to IMPACT them. The answer isn’t to run to Victoria’s Secret for the most seductive nightie. The answer is the heart.

A heart that’s lost all hope is a dead heart and a man can sense that a mile away.

On the surface, things may appear calm – you may not be the shrieker or the witch – but underneath the surface you resent him. You resent that he’s not what you want him to be and that’s taken your heart and sucked it dry.

You want him to relate to you, to understand you, to respect you, you want peace, love, and friendship. I imagine he does, too. He probably doesn’t show it, and he may not know how to reach out to you for that, but he, too, probably doesn’t enjoy the life you share if your hope has died.

Do you believe God can impact your husband?

Maybe he doesn’t know God. Neither did Joy’s husband, but God captured his heart. Neither did Edie’s, but she followed this passage’s instructions all the way . . . and God heard her prayer. When her husband accepted Christ, she hardly recognized him.

Maybe your husband does have a relationship with God, but the relationship between the two of you is shadowed by betrayal, broken promises, shattered dreams or just empty space.

You can resign yourself to this, or you can believe.

You can believe that God’s Word is true and one plus One can make a difference. You can believe that because of the gospel—there is still reason for hope. You can admit that by losing hope, you’ve settled for less than what God can do, and ask God for forgiveness.

I’ve never seen a husband be unaffected by the respectful, gentle, and quiet spirit of a wife who hopes in God. That wife has a heart that will impact her man.

Have you become skeptical? How does that line up with the beauty described in this passage; the beauty of the heart that is precious in God’s sight?


  • Hurting

    I have taken advice like this to heart, practiced it for years and years. Yet the strife, the attachment to the things of the world, cloud him, spending more time being worldly instead of Him. The actions against me objectify me, embarrass me, shame me even in public and in front of my children. Finally I tried to use words to help him see but I am blamed for changing and not being fun, in the worldly sense, anymore. Christ told me to keep turning that other cheek but I’ve become nothing under his rule and constant critique. Living and acting for God became the enemy because I could not partake in the things of the world. The more it was demanded of me the more my walls went up. Do you have advice? I have left it to him to figure out what is wrong, I know the part we both played but my input and scripture falls on deaf and condemning ears. I do not want my marriage to fail but I need God as number one and my demands for priority is husband, husbands wishes and belongings, husbands instructions, etc etc putting God and myself at the bottom of the list. The more I learn about Jesus the more I want Him first. I’ve prayed that God makes my husband the man HE wants because I know God will let me down. After 10 years of watching the chasm grow between my husband and God, and I being the sole output of the repercussions, I have indeed lost hope. God can change anyone, but what if they don’t want the change? They are happy in the sin?

  • Kimberly Wagner

    Dear Hurting,

    I am so sorry for the pain you are experiencing. Losing hope brings you to the darkest pit, and I ache for you. I’ve been praying for you since I read your comment this morning, asking God what word He has for you, how I could encourage you in His truth today.

    Please remember this, the call to follow Christ will not be easy, it is a road filled with loss, suffering, and pain. The way of the cross means difficult, dying-to-self decisions:

    “And he called unto him the multitude with his disciples, and said unto them, If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever would save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s shall save it.” (Mark 8:34–35).

    You cannot make your husband understand spiritual things or hunger for God, but you are the one person who can make the greatest impact in his life by allowing Him to see Christ through your daily interactions with him. I hope instead of leaving your husband, you will consider how God wants to use you to impact your husband’s life. I hope you’ll continue to trust that God is at work, He sees, He knows what you are going through, and He cares.

    Place your trust and hope in God, in His character, in His desire and ability to reach the vilest of men.

    It is very difficult for me to write what I’m about to tell you, because I know it is much easier to express the beautiful “big picture” truth than to live it out in the messiness and sorrow of a situation like what you may be enduring—but the truth is, living out Scripture in your situation is going to require you doing the hard thing. The easy thing is to run, to pack up your bags and get out. That is what any of us would naturally want to do. But by doing that, what are you communicating about the reality of God and His ability to step into the darkest of places and bring radical transformation?

    Let me encourage you to consider God’s heart when it comes to the issue of divorce and then consider God’s ultimate purpose for the marital relationship.

    God’s ultimate purpose for marriage is not our individual happiness—ultimately His purpose is for the world to see the gospel displayed (Ephesians 5:22-33)and through that, God receives great glory!

    He has called us to display His character with our husbands. He’s called us to demonstrate to our mates and to others His mercy, grace, truth, forbearance, patience, endurance and even joy in suffering (Colossians 3:12–19; Philippians 3:7–10; Ephesians 4:31–32).

    God’s heart is one of redemption. Although I am sinful and vile, He welcomes me back when I turn in repentance to Him. He is in the ministry of reconciling hearts to Himself. All marriages consist of two sinners. We are all in need of great mercy. But one thing is true: none of us deserve God’s forgiveness, mercy, or blessing—yet He gives it. None of us deserve His commitment of fidelity, yet He is unrelenting in it. None of us deserve second chances, or His patience, yet He is long suffering with each of us.

    There are no pat answers or easy solutions. The truth is that God’s grace is sufficient for every need, but that doesn’t mean that every situation will result in a happy ending. When two individuals are willing to walk in a state of repentance and humility, depending on God’s grace in applying the truth of His Word to desperate situations—even then it takes much hard work and perseverance to overcome selfish tendencies and begin to reap the joy of a one-souled marriage. When only one mate is willing to work on the marriage, it may take years for the other mate to respond in kind—and perhaps he never will. It is even more challenging when the husband is not a Christian.

    Jesus provides the perfect example of grace and truth. He doesn’t ignore sinful behavior and provides recourse for the woman who is being abused. In the book, “Fierce Women” I encourage women to confront their husband’s sinful behavior (according to Scripture) as a demonstration of love.

    We should never “pretend” that sinful acts are “okay” or ignore the sinful conduct of our husbands. That is not fulfilling the role of a godly wife. “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Proverbs 27:5–6). Women who think they are “loving” their husbands by living as a doormat, and thereby enabling their husband’s sinful behavior, are actually not loving their husbands well.

    These are a few general guidelines for wives when confrontation is necessary:

    1) Seek the Lord first. Spend time in prayer and the Word asking God for His direction and timing before confronting.

    2) Be sure your desire to confront stems from the motive of spiritual restoration for your husband, not in order to “fix things” more to your liking.

    3) Search your own heart to see if there are areas of sin that need to be confessed before God and perhaps to your husband (Matt. 7:5). As difficult as it will be, in order to confront your husband, you will need to extend the same grace and forgiveness to him that has been shown to you (Ephesians 4:31–32).

    4) Consider writing out your concerns in a letter. Most men do not respond well to emotional pleas, angry confrontations or impassioned exchanges. Putting things in a cordial written form is sometimes helpful in preventing that type of confrontation.

    5) Before confronting, release unrealistic expectations. Depend on the Holy Spirit to bring conviction, not your words. Determine that once you’ve voiced your concerns, you will leave this in the Lord’s hands.

    6) Do not enable your husband in his sin, but allow him to reap the consequences of his own sin. No matter how difficult it is for you to watch—don’t bail him out.

    7) Diligently, specifically, and regularly intercede in prayer for your husband’s salvation.

    My prayer is that God will fill you with hope as He gives you a glimpse of what He can do. I pray that you will communicate openly, honestly and in loving humility, your heart to your mate. Please do not retreat to a world of self-pity and pain.

    I hope you’ll consider reading and applying the content of “Fierce Women” and also subscribe to receive daily email blog posts (you can do that by filling in your email address in the “Subscribe” gadget in the upper left column). Another resource that I think could be helpful for you is reading Joy McClain’s book: “Waiting for His Heart: Lessons from a Wife Who Chose to Stay.” Joy’s husband eventually became a Christian.

    No matter what your husband chooses to do, Christ is to be the center of your devotion and affections. Look to Him to fill your deepest needs.

    Praying for you now dear one ~