Skip to main content

How to Save My Marriage When My Spouse Wants a Divorce: A Christian Perspective

Jessica is an author, actress, filmmaker, coach, and proud mom of four. She is also a woman of faith.

My husband and me, October 25, 2008

My husband and me, October 25, 2008

Steps You Can Take to Save Your Marriage

  1. Decide if your marriage is worth being saved.
  2. Build your faith and stay positive
  3. Learn how to control your explosive emotional outbursts
  4. Don't talk to your spouse—instead, talk to God
  5. Don't do/say things to get a reaction out of him
  6. Accept what God allows

A Faith-Based Perspective

If your spouse tells you that he or she wants a divorce, then that means the marriage is over right? Well, not necessarily…

Consider this a disclaimer: if you are not an individual who has a strong faith base then there is absolutely no point in reading this article. The things that I’m going to talk about in this post might sound ludicrous and even downright ridiculous to the average individual. Why? Because we live in an era with a society that will look at you and say: “What’s wrong with you?” “You are crazy.” “You do realize that you are just wasting your time, right?” “He isn’t worth all that.” “You’re stupid, you’re dumb, you’re weak”—and any other unsolicited comment that someone has made about your decision to fight for your marriage. Key words: it is your decision; that means, what anyone else thinks really doesn't matter.

Note: This article is written from a woman's point of view, but men, feel free to use this information if you're the one who wants the marriage to work and your wife is ready for a divorce.

I watched a documentary once where a man very up in age had been married for over seventy years and the interviewer asked him, “For you to have been married for over half a century, can you please tell us what the secret to marital longevity is?” His answer was so simple that it blew me away. He answered, “The key to making your marriage last is to keep everyone else out of it.”

Who is everyone else? Your mother, your father, your siblings . . . and guess who else? Yep, even your best friend. These are the people who have so much to say about your marriage, your husband, and especially, your decision.

It’s very important for me to lay the foundations of this article first because when you decide to stay in your marriage even when your husband (or wife) is all the way out, your closest confidants will think you are a fool, that you are wasting your time waiting on someone who is not going to change. But guess what? It is your decision, your life, and your marriage and you do not need anyone else’s stamp of approval in order to confirm that you meant the vows that you made before God and man (til death do you part)—even if your spouse obviously didn’t.

But just know this. There is nothing that you can do that will change your spouse’s mind. Think about it; if there was something that you could have done to change his mind, you would have never gotten to this point. This is when it’s vital to understand that you cannot control him, you cannot control his actions, and you cannot force him to abide by the vows that he made. The only person who you can control is yourself. Here are some steps that you can take to help save your marriage, even once your spouse has decided that s/he wants a divorce.

"The key to making your marriage last is to keep everyone else out of it.”

Step 1: Decide If It's Worth It

Even if your spouse tells you that he or she is out of the marriage, you still have a choice of whether you want to be in or out.

But before you make that decision, you need to decide two things:

  1. Is it worth it to hold on?
  2. Is God trying to shut a door that you’re stubbornly trying to force open?

I cannot answer these questions for you and I wouldn’t recommend you to quickly give an answer to these questions. These are questions meant to be contemplated on, brought up in prayer, and wait for clear direction from God.

Step 2: Build Your Faith and Stay Positive

Yes, it takes two to be married, but don’t underestimate the power of one determined, faith-filled individual. I have to emphasize the word faith-filled because if you aren’t faith-filled, then this will never work.

The reason why is because you’re looking toward man (your spouse) to do what he’s supposed to do as a husband, and you are placing your hope (faith) in him, your hope that eventually, he will come around and do the right thing. But after he lets you down time after time after time, you will begin to lose hope in him, and thus lose hope in your marriage.

At all times, you must stay positive. Replace every negative thought with a positive one and use uplifting words, not destructive ones. This may be hard to do, especially when you’re feeling anything but chipper, but a negative attitude coupled with a negative situation is a recipe for destruction. Stay positive and hopeful about your future, whether it entails a future with or without your spouse.

"At all times, you must stay positive. Replace every negative thought with a positive one and use uplifting words, not destructive ones."

Woman praying

Woman praying

Step 3: Control Your Emotions, Don’t Let Your Emotions Control You

The threat of a divorce can be scary, frustrating, and unbearably painful. One of the most difficult things to do during this time is to control your emotions, especially when your entire soul feels like one huge open wound that your spouse is continually pouring salt into.

Control your emotions, but don’t suppress them. If you suppress your emotions (don’t give them any voice or express them in any way), then those suppressed emotions will build up like water being forced back by a dam, and eventually, those suppressed emotions will explode and we will probably see you on an episode of Snapped.

You can express your emotions while still remaining in control of them. When you feel anger building in you, you can decide what’s the best way to express this anger instead of allowing the anger to decide for you. When you feel sadness caving in your chest, you can decide what’s the best way to express this sadness instead of just holding it inside. It’s okay to cry—but try not to do it in front of the kids. It’s okay to curse and throw things (but again, try not to do it in front of the kids).

Talking to your spouse isn’t going to change a thing.

Talking to your spouse isn’t going to change a thing.

Step 4: Don’t Try to Resolve the Issue by Talking

I hate to break the bad news to you, but talking to your spouse isn’t going to change a thing. If talking to him could fix things, wouldn’t everything be resolved by now?

And talking to your best friend or family members or coworkers is only going to make matters worse. All they will do is give their opinion about what they think you should do and then they begin to hate your spouse for how badly he treats you. The bad part is that if your marriage is resolved, you're all smiles but the people who know the intimate details of how badly he hurt you will still hate him.

Instead of talking to them about your marriage, why not talk to the one person who can actually fix things for you (if it’s in His will). Try this: everything you want to say to your spouse, say it to God (or a Higher Being). When he hurts you, cutting you deep to your soul, tell God and only God.

Here’s an example:

God, did you hear what he just said to me? I am his wife! How dare he talk to me like that? Did you see how wrong he just did his kids? If I try to talk to him, he’s just going to shut me out and say, ‘See, that’s why I don’t want to be with you. Nothing I ever do is good enough for you.’ But God, even you see that he’s not even trying. He says he’s giving 100%, but God, you and I both see that he’s not even giving 10. He’s too concerned about her, running around, playing daddy to her kids while he’s ignoring his own children. He thinks the grass is greener on the other side, but it’s just a matter of time before they hit some stormy weather as well. God, you know what my husband is doing is not right. Please fix this situation, God, because I don’t know what else to do. Help us, God. Help my marriage.

When you put your hope in God (or a Higher Being), it doesn’t really matter what your spouse is doing or is not doing because your hope is in God who will never let you down. Take your focus off what your spouse is doing and put your focus solely on God and what all you need to accomplish in your personal life while you wait expectantly to see how God is going to resolve the situation.

Weighing the Balance: Is He Worth the Fight?

Some questions to consider concerning your marriage/spouse

FatherFriendProviderLover

Is he a good father?

Is he considerate of your feelings/emotions?

Does he take care of the household?

Do you get along in the bedroom?

Is he a good role model for the children?

Were you good friends during the marriage?

Does he help pay the bills?

Is the bedroom the only place where you get along?

Is he very family-oriented when it comes to the children?

Do you hang out together or do things together that you both enjoy?

Is he financially available to you?

Is the bedroom non-existent between you two?

Does he have good parenting skills?

Did s/he used to be your best friend?

Does he provide the necessities for you and/or the children?

Is there more depth to the relationship than just sex?

When your marriage feels like a roller coaster ride

When your marriage feels like a roller coaster ride

Step 5: Get Off the Crazy Roller Coaster Ride

Don’t try to do or say things to get a response out of your spouse. It won’t work, at least not in the way you hope it will. Stop calling him all the time, trying to come up with a plausible excuse as to why you called when really, all you want to do is hear his voice. Stop trying to lure him back into your bed simply because the fact that he’s still having sex with you is making you feel like you have a one-up on the other woman (if there is another woman). When you know you’ll be around him for whatever reason, stop wearing overly sexy clothes to try to get a response out of him.

And for Christ’s sake, have some dignity! Have enough self-respect not to go begging and pleading on your knees, wailing for him to come back to you, begging for him to come back to you. Are you not better than that, that you have to beg and plead and cry and snot for a man to be with you? Getting off his crazy roller coaster will give you an insurmountable level of peace while you ride out the storm until God moves in your marriage.

Step 6: Accept What God Allows

I cannot see the future so I have no idea whether your marriage is truly over or not. But what I do know is this; often in life, we find ourselves in situations where we feel like if we don’t get our way (our marriage being saved), then somehow God has let us down. Even if you follow this article to the T, praying incessantly for your spouse and your marriage, he might still file for a divorce. And when he does, there’s nothing you can do but go on with your life. Did God fail you? No. It just wasn’t in His will for your marriage to continue. In this case, you must accept what God allows.

My husband and me, surviving the threat of a divorce

My husband and me, surviving the threat of a divorce

My Experience With My Husband's Infidelity

At one point in my marriage, I found out that my husband was having an extramarital affair. To date, it is one of the most hurtful, soul-injuring experiences I’ve ever had to endure.

How did I find out? No, he didn’t tell me. His behavior changed and as an intuitive woman I became suspicious and began to investigate like only we women can do. I found her number and her address, contacted her, and she admitted to everything—of course, he denied it all at the time. That night, I had a barn fire in front of our house. But I didn’t use wood or trash. I used his clothes, every piece of it: hats, shoes, pants, coats, shirts—you name it, it went up in flames.

After that, I was certain that I didn’t want to be with him anymore. I felt embarrassed, humiliated, betrayed, insecure, devastated (just to name a few of my conflicting emotions). And just when you think it can’t get any worse, it did. He admitted to me that not only did he care deeply for this woman, but he wanted to be with her exclusively. His confession knocked the little breath I still had right out of my soul.

According to my husband, our marriage was over. According to me, I still wanted things to work but I couldn’t make him want to be with me. So you know what I did? I went on with my life, allowed him to do whatever he was doing with her, and waited patiently in prayer for God to knock some sense into my husband and restore my marriage.

Waiting patiently is the hard part when you want your marriage to work and you want it to work now. Waiting patiently is gut-wrenching, especially in a society where we constantly receive instant gratification (instant oatmeal, rent-on-demand movies, fast food restaurants, etc.)

Not only did I know this woman’s phone number and knew where she lived, I also knew what car she drove. I could have attempted to make her life a living hell in order to get my husband back, but I didn’t want to make someone be with me if he didn’t want to. Because I was fully aware that that woman wasn’t holding my husband hostage in her home; he was a willing participant who could leave at any time.

So I talked to God and told Him everything, how bad it was hurting me, how badly I wanted my marriage to work. And God spoke to me in a very clear voice, as though he was walking down the sidewalk beside me, and placed his lips near my ear and said, “He said your marriage is over . . . but what did I say?”

And when God told me that, nothing else mattered. It didn’t matter what my husband was doing with the other woman; the only thing that mattered was that I knew in my soul that God had the final say on our marriage. Needless to say, even with my faith, this was a very difficult time in my life and I lost a tremendous amount of weight due to the depression I was fighting. But in less than a year’s time, God had restored my husband and my marriage.

It’s no walk in the park and we still have some kinks to iron out, but I’m regaining my trust in my husband day by day, and the fact that he’s so open about the affair and that we talk about it and the pain that it caused our marriage and our children, it is truly helping me to heal. Sharing my story with you all is also a part of the healing process.

Wedding rings

Wedding rings

Peace Be With You

In the face of divorce, you can still save your marriage. It’s never too late. Even after the dotted line is signed, God can restore and rebuild anything that He wants to restore and rebuild. Take the story of Lazarus for example. If he can raise from the dead a man whose body has already begun decomposing, then why can’t he raise your decomposing marriage from the dead? Even if your husband has left you, you can be physically absent from the marriage, but still faithfully present.

Just remember that there is power in prayer, that you need to control your emotions and not let them control you, and that you need to ask God to help you accept whatever he allows. Psalms 3, 4, and 5 gave me so much peace in that most depressive time of my marriage.

I hope this article and those three psalms bring you a measure of peace as well. No matter what, keep fighting for what you believe in, and don’t let anybody tell you that you’re stupid for wanting your marriage to work.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: How can I fix my sexless marriage when my husband has already moved out? How can I show him I have changed?

Answer: Honestly, I don't think that fixing the sex in the marriage should be the primary focus right now. If he has already moved out, you have some much more major issues to deal with other than the bedroom. You show your husband that you have changed by, well, showing your husband that you have changed! Here's when a change is authentic and noteworthy: when you don't have to say, "Can't you see that I've changed?" The change is so prominent, the change is so obvious, that the other person begins to say (without prompting), "Something about you is different. The old Jessica would've never _________." So I would't focus on the sex. The sex is a minor issue. There are people having great sex with their spouses, but everything else in the marriage that really matters is shattered and drowning. Focus on you changing so much in the inside that you don't have to "show" someone you've changed. Everyone who comes in contact with you will notice. You should definitely check out my book When Wedding Bells Stop Ringing, and consider signing up for the The Marriage Salon online course once it releases later this year.

Question: What was your reaction when your husband came back?

Answer: When he came back, my reaction initially was very lackluster. I didn't trust him at all. In my mind, if I couldn't literally see him with my eyeballs, then he might as well be cheating on me. And even if I could see him with my eyes, I still didn't trust him. Maybe that text message he just sent wasn't really to his brother. Maybe it was a message to her or some other woman. So we had to work on rebuilding the trust in the marriage from the ground up, which was a lengthy process that was by no means easy. So I wasn't ecstatic when he came back, but I was willing. And that's all you need: two people who are willing. Willing to deal with the hurt, but willing to move past the hurt. Willing to forgive, willing to mend, willing to be mended, willing to love in spite of, willing to learn how to trust again, willing to make a conscious choice to move forward together. You should definitely check out my book When Wedding Bells Stop Ringing, and consider signing up for The Marriage Salon online course once it releases later this year.

© 2014 Jessica B Smith