Chapter Nine: Homework for a Cold Marriage
Photo: ©Valeriia Sviridova via Canva.com
During the six months I worked with Mable, I began reorienting her life toward a God-centered way of thinking and living. The process was not easy, and there were a few setbacks. Perseverance was vital, as well as her humility. God does provide His empowering favor to the humble. Though Mable did struggle with rebuilding her theological foundation, identifying her faulty worship structure, and applying the gospel practically, she stayed the course, appropriated God’s grace, and experienced Divine favor. I asked her to process and implement the following assignments, projects, and initiatives. Some of these items she could start immediately, while others would take practice to create the necessary disciplines to mature in sanctification. Finally, I gave her a few thoughts as she cooperated with God to restore her husband, Biff.
Help! My Marriage Has Grown Cold
Concerning the Gospel
Mable needed to gospelize her heart daily. She had to soak her mind in the Good News—the Person and work of Christ. She had to know that God was for her, and the starting and sustaining place for this understanding and practice is the gospel. I asked her to read Romans 8:31–39. Paul tells us how the gospel is our anchoring hope in times of confusion and despair. I recommended the following suggestions to Mable so she could anchor herself in the gospel.
- Memorize Romans 8:31-39.
- Practice praying throughout your day. Emphasize gratitude for God’s victory at the cross. Thank Him for the things He brings to your mind throughout the day. Eventually, you’ll have a heart of gratitude and a mind growing in awareness of all God is doing for you.
- Listen to gospel-centered music. Music is a great way to emote. Let your gospel-centered thinking affect your emotions.
- Socialize with gospel-centered friends. As you pray for gospel friends, engage them by asking them how they apply the gospel to their lives. Ask for specifics.
- Read gospel-centered materials. Let gospel-centered authors speak into your life.
- Go to our website, where millions of words are saturated in gospel-centric thinking.
Going to the Father is one of Mable’s most potent and resourceful helps. God is her best friend and number one ally. I encouraged her to talk to God often.
- How would you describe your prayer life?
- What one thing will you change to make your prayer more proactive?
Mable needed to repent. There has never been a bad marriage where one partner was innocent. Every marriage has had two participating sinners since Adam and Eve unraveled into a chaotic mess in the Garden of Eden. No one is entirely free from sin.
- I had Mable list her habitual sinful attitudes and actions and repent appropriately.
- Take your sin list to God, confessing and repenting before His throne of grace.
- Enlist a friend who knows and loves you to help you create your list.
Concerning a Mentor
Mable did not need counseling as much as she required discipleship in the local church context. She needed someone to teach her how to apply God’s Word to her life practically. We cannot grow in our relationship with Christ without ongoing relationships with other believers.
- Who will be your Titus 2 that you can talk to?
- You may need to ask your pastor for advice on this.
- Go to them and ask for help.
- Here are a few texts that communicate a body-to-body worldview for soul care.
One Another: “I myself am satisfied about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able to instruct one another” (Romans 15:14).
Stir-up: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24–25).
Restore: “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1).
Confront: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen …” (Matthew 18:15–16; read to verse 20).
Mable will need a journal to respond to the questions in a way that will prove most beneficial.
- If your spouse is a believer, God will finish what He began when He regenerated your spouse (Philippians 1:6). Which has the most control over your thinking:
- That God will finish what He started or the problems at hand?
- Why is this an important question regarding your spouse?
- Repentance is a gift from God (2 Timothy 2:24– 26). Which best describes you:
- Do you become impatient, angry, frustrated, or bitter when your spouse does not change?
- Do you trust God to bring change to your spouse?
- Talk about how you need to change according to this question.
- Who do you consider to be the biggest sinner in your marriage?
- You or your spouse? Read Matthew 7:3–5 and 1 Timothy 1:15.
- Why is this an important distinction to make?
- Sanctification is a process.
- What specific ways must you change to keep in step with what God is doing in your life?
- Do you tend to be passive, doing nothing? Explain.
- Do you tend to be impatient, forcing the issue? Explain.
- What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?
- Faith in God and His activity bring rest to your soul.
- What good things have you recently observed about your marriage that imply God is at work in your life?
- Start a gratitude list, and add to this list each day.
- If your spouse is willing, ask which they are most aware of about you:
- Your faith that God is working out His plans for the marriage.
- Your fear that things will never change.
- Will you discuss this question and your responses with your spouse?
- If your spouse is willing, ask your spouse what they are more aware of about you:
- Your general gratitude for them.
Your general displeasure with them.
- Name two specific areas where it took you many years to change, grow, and mature.
- Are you tempted to expect your spouse to change today when it has taken you many years to change, or, in some cases, you still have not?
- How should you respond to God and your spouse regarding this question?
Based on the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the following template is a helpful way to think about and respond to those unwilling to change. This template was part of my counsel to Mable as I prepared her for the long process of winning her husband in the way that 1 Peter 3:1–7 teaches. Note the progression, verse by verse, in Luke 15:11-17:
- Verse 11: We learn about the father with two sons.
- Verse 12: The prodigal son asks his dad for his inheritance so he can run away from home and live a self-centered life.
- Verse 13: He leaves home and begins a hedonistic spending spree.
- Verse 14: He won’t listen, and his degradation continues.
- Verse 15: He is living for himself. Though things are falling apart, he persists in this lifestyle.
- Verse 16: We wonder how long he will stick to his stubbornness.
- Verse 17: The light comes on, and he comes to his senses. He is now in his right mind; he repents.
In verse 17, the prodigal was ready and willing to change. Let’s suppose you met him in verse 13. The story tells us that the prodigal will not change until verse 17. However, you can begin engaging him before he comes to his senses. While you understand from 2 Timothy 2:24–26, that repentance is a gift from God; you can patiently wait on God as you serve your spouse. In the meantime, you can model for your spouse the behavior you would like to see from them. Based on these thoughts and discussions with your mentor, what is your plan to be Jesus to Biff?
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Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).