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Marriage 911

About this Blog

Dr. David Hawkins is the director of The Marriage Recovery Center and has been helping couples in crisis restore and revitalize their relationships for more than 30 years.

At The Marriage Recovery Center, Dr. Hawkins promotes '3 Days To a New Marriage, Guaranteed!' Contact TMRC for a free 20-minute consultation.

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Marriage on Fire!

Jim and Fran sat across from me, the tension so thick you could cut it with a knife. Expressionless and silent, Jim came reluctantly to the couple’s three-hour Marriage Intensive session.

A handsome, serious-minded forty-year old man, Jim had almost cancelled at the last minute, claiming to be flooded with work, but also admitting he saw little hope in changing their marriage patterns that left him scanning the ads for an apartment.  

Appearing underweight, Fran is desperately sad and depressed. She cannot stop crying even before the session begins. She knows Jim has nearly one and a half feet out the door, leaving her scared to death. She wonders if he’ll leave she and their three children before the holidays. 

This was my first Marriage Intensive with them, and we are meeting to arrange the 90-Day Commitment to see if we stabilize and strengthen their marriage, restoring their passion for each other. This was not a time to explore all the issues that had led up to Jim preparing to leave his fifteen marriage, as important as that was. We wouldn’t talk about her parents’ impact on their marriage when they were younger, and wouldn’t even talk about his affair ten years ago, as critical as this was to the integrity of their marriage. 

No, this Marriage Intensive was Marriage 911—a relational emergency room visit, where I, the ER Relationship doctor, would attempt to provide several key functions:

• Stabilize the marriage.
• Provide guidelines for future security.
• Outline expectations for a 90-Day Commitment to work on the marriage.

Fran wanted me to do more. She pushed for us to talk about all the issues that led up to their fragile condition. I told her I couldn’t, and in fact we couldn’t do more at this time. Like the emergency room doctor, our task was to stop the bleeding, stabilize the patient, run some tests, and make plans for treatment. If we could succeed at these limited goals, we might save the patient and buy more time to do more extensive work.

There are thousands of couples like Fran and Jim whose marriage is on fire. They scratch and claw at one another, finding fault and affixing blame, causing more and more harm. Their weekly forty-five minute sessions are filled with hurt and pain, and they leave the psychologist’s office worse than when they came in. Once a week sessions aren’t enough to put out their marriage fire—they need more.

Fran and Jim don’t need to explore how they met, their early patterns of relating and so on—as important as these are. They don’t need to sit blaming each other for their problems. What they need is Marriage 911—an opportunity to relate in a new, healing way.

Consider this email from a desperate housewife. 

Dear Dr. David. My husband tells me everyday that he no longer loves me. He is a handsome businessman, and I have fears of unfaithfulness. He won’t go for counseling and says he is thinking about moving out. We have two wonderful daughters who adore him, and it would break their heart for him to leave. I tell him repeatedly that God doesn’t like divorce, but he just gets angrier. I tell him he is being selfish, and he just stomps out of the room. I can’t seem to get through to him. What can I do to make him see that he is making a huge mistake?
        --Desperate Housewife

Dear Desperate,

Like thousands of others, your marriage is on fire and you must pull back and get in control of your life—not his. Consider these courses of actions.

First, you need to do damage control. Your marriage is incredibly unstable and ready to fly apart. In fact, it may fly apart, and you must prepare yourself for that possibility. Trying to coerce him to stay, by verbal manipulation, guilt, fault-finding and anger, will not work. That will only push him away. 

Second, ask him if he will agree to ‘cause no harm.’ This must begin with you! You must both endeavor never to do anything to intentionally harm the other. Even if he won’t agree to that idea, you must adhere to it. Ask him if he will agree to 90 days in counseling—then if he still wishes to leave, he is free to go. 

Third, stop acting desperate. Yes, this is easier said than done. Your dependency and desperation, however, don’t make you more attractive in his eyes. You must let your husband know that you wish to work on the marriage, but if he threatens to leave, open the door for him. 

Fourth, make every interaction with him positive. Remember why he fell in love with you in the first place. Remember what traits of yours he found attractive—and rekindle them. Memorize Philippians 4: 8-9, focusing on things that are lovely, noble and admirable in your marriage and the world. They are there—you must search for them!

Fifth, refuse to bite on any ‘story starters,’ where he makes a provocative statement. When he says he no longer loves you, your response can be, “That makes me sad,” and let it go. When he says he wants to move out, your response is, “I don’t want that, but you’re free to leave anytime you wish.” Don’t react to his provocative statements. 

Sixth, get support. You will need friends and family who will offer encouragement and positive support to help you keep a clear head during these most difficult times. You will need support so as to not react to him, maintaining your emotional equilibrium. You’ll need people who have a vision for saving your marriage, not for finding more fault. 

Finally, get your own counseling. You may be trying to save a marriage single-handedly. It can be done if you will adhere to these guidelines. Guard against discouragement and anger—these will push him further away. Maintain encouragement, building on whatever opportunity arises to appreciate one another.  

I have seen dozens of marriages saved by this relational jujitsu. Instead of reacting, you choose how you want to respond. Instead of being dependent and desperate, you regain your spiritual and emotional balance and let him (or her) flounder. Instead of functioning out of a place of weakness and fear, you act out of clarity and purpose. 

I’d love to hear from others who have tried these strategies, or from those who would like to work with me.


 

Print      Email to a Friend    posted on Thursday, October 09, 2008 2:32 PM

Comments on this post

# RE: Marriage on Fire!

Daer Pastor mine is a second marriage and in the previous marriage of my husband he as three which two of them does not belong to him but still he pays maintaience for them and I am not so happy about that as we are very happy but when it comes to these children we start arguing what should I do please advice
God bless
Left by roshincarl on Oct 10, 2008 1:14 PM

# RE: Marriage on Fire!

Dear Dr. Hawkins,

Your suggestions are great. But it's easier to say than done. I have a friend that the spouse being unfaithful thousands times. My friend has done so many efforts to keep the marriage work. But the spouse still does the same things over and over again. What would you suggest?
Left by noniicha on Oct 10, 2008 9:08 PM

# RE: Marriage on Fire!

I HAVE A HUSBAND THAT REFUSES TO GO TO CHURCH. (HE HAD NO PROBLEM GOING TO CHURCH TO FIND A WIFE 23 YEARS AGO.) AFTER WE SAID I DO HE STOPPED GO TO CHURCH. ITS JUST NOT FOR HIM.
I HAVE WORKED 2 FULL TIME JOBS FOR MOST OF OUR MARRAGE. AND HE HAS NOT. I QUIT ONE OF MY JOB. BECAUSE IT WAS JUST TO MUCH. I WORKED 7 DAYS A WEEK FOR OVER 2 YEARS. AND OF COURSE I WAS NOT ABLE TO GO TO CHURCH. BUT IM BACK IN CHURCH NOW. AND THE BILLS ARE ARE COMMING IN WITH NO MONEY TO PAY THEM. IM PRAYING OVER OUR MONEY PROBLEMS. HOW CAN I EXPECTED GOD TO ANSWER MY PRAYERS. WHEN I HAVE A HUSBAND DOES NOT BELIEVE. ALL HE SAYS IS I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO TELL YOU. HOW DO YOU PAY TITHES IF YOU ARE ALREADY OVERDRAWN IN YOUR CHECKING ACCOUNT. I HAVE FAITH. BUT I DON'T WANT TO BOUNCE A CHECK TO THE CHURCH. I LOVE MY HUSBAND BUT HE IS TO BE THE HEAD OF THE HOUSE NOT ME. I'M JUST TIRED OF THIS MESS. I KNOW GOD ANSWERS PRAYERS IN HIS TIME. NOT MINE. ANY WORD OF ADVICE?
Left by deborahhall on Oct 10, 2008 11:06 PM

# RE: Marriage on Fire!

I have been married for 25 years now. Our number one proble is, as you probably have guessed it is...We do not know how to communicate with each other. We place blame on each other, say hurtful words, or just plain shut down. I am so tired of this vicious cycle. I love my husband, I hate the fighting! The emotional intimacy is very rare these days. He says I have a negative attitude, but he does nothing to better communicate with me. Like I said...We are on a merry go round to misery. I am at the point that I feel I am losing my grip on having a loving relationship. If there is just one thing, just one thing we could do, what would that be?
Left by mady260 on Oct 14, 2008 10:19 PM

# RE: Marriage on Fire!

You may be trying to pay for your husband's sins. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23. You shouldn't be writing checks for what's not in your account. The money MAY NOT appear suddenly in your account before the bank tries to cash it. Then you're stuck with a bounced check and insufficient funds fees. I KNOW :).
Don't try to die for your husband's sins. Christ has already done that. John 3:16. Your husband is the head of your marriage. But, you're an equal partner in your marriage. Your husband is pulling the yoke down with you in it. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18.
You can come consumed trying to bear the financial burdens. It takes energy to get up every Sunday and go to church. It takes money to buy the gas to get there, if driving. It takes clean cloths. What more can you do?
Just remember that Christ has already paid the price for all of our sins. All anyone has to do is confess their sins and call Him Lord!
God Bless you my Sister in Christ.
Left by melvinfreeman on Oct 15, 2008 1:00 AM

# RE: Marriage on Fire!

I am single, and reading through all this, I'm glad I am. I cannot understand how CHRISTIAN men can walk away from their families. It is pathetic. I think the fear of God needs to come back into the Church (Christian people's lives), because it is definitely lacking! Our parents and grand-parents stuck together through thick and thin, but Christians today think they have the excuse to divorce and re-marry at the drop of a hat! This is not what the bible says. The scriptures say that no adulterer will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Left by Anonymous on Oct 15, 2008 7:58 AM

# RE: Marriage on Fire!

so what happen to Fran & Jim? Did they make it or did they finally divorce?
Left by wilma1933 on Oct 17, 2008 8:56 AM

# Spousal Abuse

I am married to a man who has backslidden; he used to be on fire for God. He now is back to drinking heavily every night; 8-12 beers minimum and has become abusive. What do I do?
Thanks
Left by herbals on Oct 17, 2008 12:37 PM

# RE: Marriage on Fire!

well mine is a hard one.i am married to a man who is in prison for rapeing my 16 year old dougter.we had and have been married 6 years.we was having alot of truble talking to one anther we both felt like we had to be the one in contral.for the whole 6 years we had these problem with ur mine and out on our kids.we really had alot truble with his son.we had all three my kids his son.and then we had one togather.well these last year we took in 3 more kids.we was really trying to do the right thing for these babys keep them from being split up.and praying there morther really was trying to get on her feet.he work at a prison allso.so u see we was at the 110% mark with stress.we was fighting ever min of ever day. he clam he just had a brake down.i wonder? but with that we both have ask God in out life. since ever thing came.somthing we should have did in the bigaining. guess im asking can god still wont us togather? im mixed it what the right thing under god.are under man? help me understan
Left by djmom5 on Oct 18, 2008 2:02 AM

# RE: Marriage on Fire!

What is one thing to do when your marriage is on fire because of constant fighting: agree on a cease fire. In other words, create a place of safety--no critical comments or harsh words, and any issues needing to be addressed are done only during a certain time, or better yet, in front of a trusted counselor. "Our argue-free zone!" You'll be amazed at the difference when we eliminate the conflict. Also, do your part to not "bite" on every story-starter---provocative comments.
Blessings,
Dr. David
Left by drdavidhawkins on Oct 21, 2008 11:31 AM

# RE: Marriage on Fire!

I would have to say that you need to get out of that marriage. It's great that he has turned back to God while in prison but theres no excuse for putting your children back in harms way. You need to concentrate on your relationship with Christ and your daughter's mental health. Just focus on raising your children in God's way and pray about the situation and walk away from the past.
Left by green3305 on Oct 21, 2008 4:58 PM

# RE: Marriage on Fire!

You said he raped your 16-year-old daughter. Did I read that correctly or did I miss read that? In response to that, I would say no way if he raped your baby girl. I am trying to understand why you would even want him as your husband if he did that. You should forgive as Christ forgives but to allow that kind of environment with your children would make you no different then him. The focus should be on repairing the broken trust with your child from his crime. Any type of trauma like this requires counseling there are some good Christian ones out there. In addition, what message would your daughter get if you stayed married to her rapist?
Left by Oloveia on Oct 29, 2008 5:09 PM