Regular Church Attendance
God wants you and your spouse in church on a regular basis. He has chosen the local church as his vehicle to change the world. God commands believers not to get out of the habit of attending church (Heb. 10:25), but to be committed and active members of a local church (Acts 2:42; Eph. 4:14-16).
You need a local church that will support you emotionally and spiritually as you work to change your marriage. You need a church where you can find accountability partners. You need a church where the Bible is taught from the pulpit. You need a church where you can be in a Sunday Bible class, a women’s or men’s Bible study and fellowship group, a support group, or a life group where you will receive the encouragement and emotional connections that smaller groups like these provide. You need a church where you and your family can worship God and serve him with your gifts.
Though not essential, it is preferable to be in a church with a strong men’s ministry, a strong women’s ministry, and a strong marriage ministry. A church with these programs can meet your relational needs, expose you to good Christian role models, and provide biblical teaching on how to build a great marriage.
Come to Christ
I would love for you to know God as we embark on this journey of change together. If you don’t know God yet—except perhaps as a “force,” a distant mystery figure, a punitive judge, or a doddering old grandfather—now would be a great time to begin a relationship with him.
It’s only through Jesus Christ that you can connect with God.
“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). (If you want to know more about beginning a personal relationship with God through Jesus, please see the appendix in the back of this book. I place this in an appendix, though it is the very first priority in life. Please go to the appendix now if you so desire.)
I hope you know God through Jesus as you begin this journey of marital change.
But if you don’t, I pray you will meet him along the way.
One Accountability Partner for Each of You
The second pillar in your new relationship foundation is accountability. You and your spouse each need to find a person who will serve as an accountability partner. My Change Your Marriage program is difficult. It will make a big difference to have a same-sex confidant(e) to walk beside you every step of the way.
Here’s your accountability partner’s job description:
- loves Jesus
- loves you
- is not a family member
- can keep secrets
- will confront you without hesitation or reservation
- will comfort
- will encourage
- will listen
- will make time on a regular basis to talk and pray with you
This person may be your age or older or younger. This person may already be a friend or may be someone you have not met. Preferably, he or she will be married—and, from everything you know and observe, happily married. Your partner’s marriage may not be perfect, of course, but it should be strong, stable, healthy, and growing better. Your relationship with this person may be one-way, with your friend serving as a mentor to you, or it may be a mutual relationship with the two of you holding each other accountable for the Change Your Marriage Steps.
I recommend a once-a-week, face-to-face meeting with your accountability partner. Never use mail or email to discuss personal things that are going on in your marriage. The meeting should be in a quiet and private setting and should last at least an hour. You will discuss the specific Change Your Marriage Steps you are working on and the obstacles you are encountering in the change process. End each meeting with prayer.
Four Couple Talk Times per Week
The third pillar is establishing and maintaining four twenty-to-thirty minute Couple Talk Times per week. This is an essential part of my program. Without it, your marriage will not change. With it, you will have a great opportunity to experience real change in your relationship.
Time together is the foundation of every intimate relationship. Time does not guarantee intimacy, but it is absolutely necessary for intimacy to be created. Despite conflictual or bad feelings between you now or in the past, do this. Ask the Lord, and trust him that you can begin talking again and reconnect.
Your marriage is like a house that has been torn down. Without meaning to, you have torn it down yourselves, since you are the marriage. The rebuilding process must begin with a solid foundation. Your new foundation contains three pillars supporting it.
You need to begin now—right now—improving and strengthening your relationship with God. The words that John the Baptist said of Jesus must become your words: “He must become greater; I must become less” (John 3:30). Chances are very good that your spiritual life has been weakened by your marriage problems. Marital conflict weakens every area of your life. So if you’re not spiritually strong right now, you’re normal.
But you need to get back in the spiritual saddle with God. Your success in this program depends, to a large degree, on your spirituality (i.e., how close each of you is to the Lord, and how close you are to him as a couple; this is accomplished by spiritual disciplines that I will describe later in the book).
“Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain” (Psalm 127:1). “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Pretty clear, isn’t it? Any endeavor attempted on your own will fail. Any endeavor attempted with God, that honors him, will succeed.
Now, before you panic, let me assure you that you don’t need to be some spiritual giant any time soon. God knows that you’re hurting and that growing spiritually may be hard for you. The words of Jesus describe the awesome power of a tiny amount of faith:
“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20).
A mustard seed is incredibly small! All God asks is that you try to move toward him. Make the effort. Take some action steps. He will do the rest.
What God Will Do for You
- With his help, you can create deep, lasting change in yourself and in your marriage.
- With his help, you can think positively about your spouse.
- With his help, you will have the strength to get through my tough twelve-week program.
- With his help, you will fall in love again.
- With his help, you and your spouse will win the spiritual battle for your marriage.
It’s Three against Satan
Don’t think for a second that Satan is not actively and aggressively attacking your marriage. He hates God. He hates you. If you have kids, he hates them. He hates your marriage and will do anything to destroy it. His name means adversary. You certainly do your part to damage the relationship, but Satan is also blazing away with everything he has in his arsenal.
You are in a vicious, intense spiritual battle for your marriage. Satan wants you to get divorced. Or, failing that, he’ll settle for you having a miserable marriage. God wants you to stay married and enjoy a terrific, as-long-as-you-live love story.
If you expect to win this battle, you each must work to grow closer to God. If it’s only you and your spouse against Satan, you’ll lose. If it’s you and your spouse and God against Satan, you’ll win. And you’ll win big. “The one who is in you [the Holy Spirit] is greater than the one who is in the world [Satan]” (1 John 4:4).
A Daily Time with God
Spend time with God every day. Just you and God in a quiet place. This could be early in the morning, before you go to bed, or on your lunch break. Talk with him. Thank him for all he has done for you. Praise and adore him for who he is. Tell him the honest truth about your personal and marital pain. Make specific requests. Ask him for help in applying this book’s steps, and ask him to help your spouse apply the steps.
Read the Bible and meditate on it. Be quiet and listen to what God is saying to you through his Word and the Holy Spirit. God’s Word has the power to change you and keep you changed.
Adapted from I Don’t Want a Divorce, by Dr. David Clarke Copyright © 2009 by Dr. David Clarke. Published by Revell. Used with permission.