Hearts Set Free
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Tough Love
5 Keys To Staying Married
(when you feel like calling it quits)
By Elaine Creasman


Though my husband, Steve, and I recently celebrated our twenty-sixth wedding anniversary, our marriage hasn't been filled with the wedded bliss you might expect from such a committed couple. Through the years, our relationship has weathered the storms of Steve's struggle with pornography and a volatile temper, my severe PMS and incessant need for control, and our unforgiving spirits.

I've battled I-can't-live-another-day-with-this-man feelings. And Steve has said that on the days I "acted crazy" (during my PMS), he's thought, I can't live like this the rest of my life. Since we've never allowed divorce to be an option, on my most desperate days, I've cried out to God, "I can't go on!"

But thanks to God's faithfulness and resurrection power, we have gone on. While we've both relied on our deep faith in God, we've also hung in there partly because I have a stubborn streak that God's transformed into tenacity. And Steve's stint as a Marine instilled him with an I-will-not-give-up-on-this-mission mindset—in this case, his mission being staying married to me for a lifetime.

As I hear others make excuses for withdrawing love from their spouse, I think of the motto Steve learned in the Marines: "No excuses—just results."

Even though we continue to struggle at times, Steve and I still love each other very much. Here are some of the lessons I've learned about loving my spouse even in the tough times.

1. Adopt God's Perspective on Sin.

One problem in our marriage was my mixed-up view of sin. My sins—being critical or judgmental, for example—seemed small and harmless to me compared to Steve's swearing, temper, or spending all his time in front of the television rather than with the kids and me. However, God showed me the error of this thinking when I read Jesus' words in Matthew 7:5: "First take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye." Begrudgingly, I noticed it didn't say, "Remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the plank from your brother's eye."

When I let God expose my motives and attitudes in the light of his Word, my sins always appear like planks, while Steve's sins grow smaller in comparison. God wants me to deal with my sins, not Steve's.

While Steve was in the Marines, he perfected the bad habit of swearing. He still occasionally lets loose a string of profanities. I worried about its negative influence on our children, particularly when they would utter a curse word. I remember one day praying haughtily, "Lord, deliver him from this evil habit." But then the Holy Spirit spoke to me, What about your sins of the mouth? Suddenly they came to mind—criticizing, complaining, gossiping. I cringed when I realized our children had picked up these sinful habits too. The truth hit me: My use of words was no better than Steve's.

Now I see that Steve and I are equals as we each battle to overcome sinful habits in our lives. I feel so close to Steve when we help each other do this in an atmosphere of love, not condemnation.
One wise wife said, "My job is to love my husband; God's job is to change him."

2. Remember Who the Real Enemy of Marriage Is

In our second year of marriage, when Steve and I were further apart emotionally than we've ever been and I had no where else to go, I turned to God for salvation. In his mercy, God allowed the distance between Steve and me to open my heart to his saving grace.

As a believer, I continually need to remember that the enemy of my marriage isn't Steve, it's Satan. God's shown me the importance of being wise to the Enemy's schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11) and taking my stand against them (Ephesians 6:11). One way I do that is to remember what first caused me to fall in love with Steve—his faith in God, compassion, integrity, intelligence, wisdom, and great sense of humor. He still excels in these qualities, but too often I fail to focus on them.

"I run in the path of your commands,
for you have set my heart free."
Psalm 119:32 NIV










































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