Finding Hope in Your Hurting Marriage

Finding Hope in Your Hurting Marriage

One of the greatest advantages of being Christian Counselors is being able to look at all situations through a lens of hope.

Real hope. 

Early on, and all throughout our schooling, we were always reminded of step number one—to instill hope. Every single couple we interact with, whether it’s in a session, a group, or simply on social media, will first and foremost be exposed to hope.

Hope is always the foundational piece of healing and wholeness.

I will never forget one of our very first couples many years ago. They both had a long history of abuse and trauma. They were dealing with addiction, pornography, adultery and severe anxiety and depression. I remember this couple well, not because I was overwhelmed and concerned with how to help them. In fact, it was just the opposite. I remember getting excited because for the first time ever they were about to be exposed to hope—we knew they didn’t have it, but I knew we did.
Many couples we see feel hopeless, but the truth is, we don’t need couples to have hope when we start work with them because we are willing to share ours. We believe it is our job to share our hope with you, and to keep standing in the gap holding onto it for as long as you need us to. Hope is much like a torch that ignites, and we gladly hold ours up for as long as it takes to get yours lit. Why? Because we know that hope is real, and that hope is alive.

We know real HOPE, and His name is Jesus, and that He too is standing in the gap with us.

Jesus is who anchors us as counselors, and He is who will anchor your marriage in the midst of the storm. So, even when that storm feels like it’s taking forever to pass, He can anchor you down for as long as needed—we fully trust that, and ultimately, we want you too as well. Whether you are struggling a little or have a suitcase packed by the door, your marriage is never hopeless.

Now is the time to make a decision to grab a hold of hope; because it is when you find that hope as a couple that you find the courage and strength to move forward—and how good it is to finally believe in what could be! With hope you can trust the process, rely on God’s strength, and fully believe that He has good things to come, even if they arrive through painful processes.

Now, back to our first couple, God honored our pleas and the work they were willing to put in, to ultimately restore their marriage. He healed them both as individuals and as a married couple. It is with Him that nothing is impossible.

Restoration is God’s thing.

This is the same God that made us all out of dust. He raised the dead, and He redeemed our lives with the precious blood of His Son, He can certainly heal your marriage. If you’re believing that your marriage is hopeless, please know that it’s not. Get the help you need, trust in God’s plan, and be willing to do the work. Don’t allow your current pain to be the demise of your marriage, instead choose for it to be a launching pad into the marriage He’s always wanted you to have.

If you need some encouragement for your hurting marriage, please check out A Message From God for Your Hurting Marriage.

Always hoping in great things for your marriage,
Chris & Jamie

How to Spring Clean Your Marriage

How to Spring Clean Your Marriage

Nothing inspires us to simplify, clean and start afresh quite like spring does. So why not make use of all that motivation and get some cleaning done in your marriage too? Let’s be honest, it probably got a little dusty over the winter anyways. Holidays, the bitter cold, darker days, and of course this year’s flu season covid pandemic, all demanding your relationship be placed on the back shelf, or perhaps shoved into a closet somewhere.
But!
Spring is here now, and it’s time to take it down, dust it off and give it a good ol’ spit shine (well, maybe not that, but you get the point!). Seriously though, when is the last time you’ve evaluated what’s in your marriage like you do what’s in your garage every year? What is lying around not being put to good use, what have you forgotten you even had, and what can you get rid of that is no longer working?

Been a while? We get it.

So, let’s go ahead and find out now…

How to spring clean your marriage

The first step is to Evaluate…

Have a good look around. Is there anything you’ve swept under the rug?
If so, now is the time to clear it out.
If you’re holding any resentments because issues weren’t dealt with, take the time to sweep those out and talk about them too. Do you have any problems that you are currently sweeping under the rug? Well, guess what? It’s time for them to also be seen and known.

 Lumps under the rug just get bigger over time. Decide together to be a couple that shares with one another. Talk about the hard things and work together to keep those marital lumps from under all the rugs. Avoiding things disrupts communication and makes it even more difficult.

Emphasizing the importance of taking care of marriage

Next, Make Repairs

Do you have anything broken that needs to be fixed?
Ask one another what isn’t working in your marriage.

Check in and see if there’s anything you could be working on to make your marriage better.
How is communication between the two of you going? Conflict resolution?

Do you both feel emotionally safe with each other?

If you identify something that needs repair, fix it! Your marriage isn’t just like an old broken rake in the garage that can be trashed, it’s a one of a kind treasure. Fix it!

Lastly, Find what’s been lost…

While you’re looking around, is there anything you misplaced or forgot you had? What’s that back in the corner underneath all the things?

A date night? Go get it!
Dust off the cobwebs and start enjoying that time together again!

 How about some lofty dreams you shared together?
Have you been taking action going after those? Now is the time!

Once you’re done, try to remember when the last time was that you’ve sat down and chatted about memories? I’m sure there are some great times you’ve shared that could be once again put-on display.
Spend some time together planning new dreams, new memories and reliving old ones.
Your time together through the years are those rare hidden gems. They are the diamonds in the rough. Polish them off and enjoy their hidden beauty. Let them serve as reminders of your love.

Spring is always a time of new growth, new life and new beginnings. It’s a time to be inspired! And while you are, don’t just reorganize your linen closet or your garage. Refresh your marriage. Declutter, clean it up and repair.
Trust us, you’ll really love the before and after!

Now, go on and Enjoy the Journey!

For more on this topic, check out our latest podcast episode here, or on your favorite podcast player!

When Your Spouse Wants a Divorce

When Your Spouse Wants a Divorce

There’s not much quite as painful as being in a marriage with someone who doesn’t want to be in it with you. This can definitely be a challenging situation, but it’s not always as hopeless as it may seem.

“My spouse wants to leave me, but I want to fix our marriage.

What should I do?”

First things first, respond instead of reacting.

There are a lot of emotions going on, which makes it so much easier to panic and not think clearly. If your spouse has one foot out the door, sometimes the thing that pushes them to make the final step out is your reaction. They’re likely leaving because they are feeling fed up or just—done. Your response can either reinforce their feelings or cause them to take pause.

By no means are you in control of your spouse or whether or not they walk out on you, nor do you want to be, BUT, you are in the best position to be their greatest influence—and it’s your influence that will give you the greatest bang for your buck here.

“So, tell me what to do!”

Okay, what you do now is you lean in and listen. You seek to understand.

You don’t defend yourself and try to argue against their complaints, you simply receive what they share. What your spouse shares is knowledge that you need. On top of that, we all want to be heard and this is an opportunity for your spouse to feel heard. When you learn what it is they’re longing for you can now identify what they need.

A large part of the mission to repair your marriage in these situations will feel unfair and one-sided, but that’s ok, it is for a much higher purpose right now. Your goal is to seek to understand what their struggle is,  if they offer it, because not all will at this point because they may have checked out a while ago. But the bottom line is this—they want out because they feel hopeless. You engaging them and listening is breathing a little bit of hope back in.

Your next step is to make it clear that you’ve heard them and that your intention is to repair your marriage. This may go something like this…

“I am so sorry that you feel that way and that we are where we’re at, but I need you to know that I want to do everything I can to save our marriage. I still want to be married to you.”

And now here’s where it gets challenging… you begin to work on you. You step back from engaging in any usual arguments and you step back from pleading for them to stay, and you begin to create a safe and peaceful atmosphere where you are focused on making yourself a better spouse and individual. After all, a divorce rarely happens as a result of 100% one person. There may be some things you need to improve on that would make your marriage work better, for instance, perhaps you…

Swept problems under the rug… 

Turned to unhealthy coping mechanisms…

Became conflict avoidant…

Too passive or aggressive with communication…

Learned to withhold how you really feel, or…

Should have put boundaries up a long time ago…

We all have something we can improve upon, and at the very least, getting help and having someone to help you navigate this road will be beneficial.

A spouse that is leaving can often delay their leaving or recommit after seeing how serious you are about making changes to impact your marriage. Starting with you, instead of them, provides a safe place where they don’t feel forced into change and it also gives them something they may very well want to stick around and watch. They may not want to work on your marriage yet, but they may appreciate you moving forward doing the work even when they’re not invested. Your efforts will speak volumes.

Ultimately, if you lean in and listen it allows them to be heard and have a voice, something we all want. And when you share your desire to save your marriage and then apply actions that show that by getting help yourself and making changes without requiring them to change first, it gives them a space place to stay in. In your worst-case scenario where your spouse walks out, you know that you have done all that you could, and it is not on you. Finally, by getting help yourself with counseling or coaching you will come out of it in a more healthy place.

For additional resources, go to Expedition Marriage Blogs

Or for some encouragement, check out A Message From God for Your Hurting Marriage

17 Great Pieces of Marriage Advice

17 Great Pieces of Marriage Advice

When it comes to advice on marriage, there are a whole lot of opinions out there. Some of them are valuable, but some, perhaps not so much. As marriage counselors, especially Christian ones, we definitely have our own thoughts on advice for your marriage, but for this compilation, we looked to our Expedition Marriage family over on Instagram and asked them what the best advice they received for their marriage was. 

And let me tell you—they had some FABULOUS words of wisdom to share.

Best Advice for your Marriage

Now, if you’re interested to know what our best advice for married couples is, it’s this…

Don’t give up! Decide right from the beginning to have an “all in” marriage.

When struggles come up, when disappointments happen, and when you both grow and change, decide to always lean in and work it out.

Never run from your struggles, instead, allow God to use them to shape you, to encourage one another, and to grow you.

You can pick and choose from all of this advice along the journey of marriage, but the thing that will always matter the most is your refusal to quit.

3 Things to do When your Marriage is Struggling

3 Things to do When your Marriage is Struggling

When my husband and I first got married we sure did have a lot to learn. I was a tad bit controlling and a bit of a yeller. He on the other hand was the opposite—a pleaser to the max! This was not a great combination to have in a disagreement. I would rant and yell and he would quietly withhold until he just couldn’t anymore, and then before you knew it, we were two explosive nuts!

Our fights got painful fast—I didn’t have self-control and would say all kinds of harsh things and he would eventually just go for the jugular with one big hurtful comment in an effort to just stop the fight.

Sounds delightful, right?

Well it wasn’t.

After many years of marriage and after becoming new believers in Jesus, we decided it was time for a change. Our marriage wasn’t fulfilling to either one of us and we certainly weren’t helping one another grow.

That’s when we decided to do apply these three principles to our marriage.

Three things to do when your marriage is struggling.

1. Remember that you’re on the same team. The Enemy is so quick to jump in and make you believe that your spouse is your enemy—that they are against you and not for you. He is also quick to try and get you to think the same thing about them. This simply isn’t true. When you’re struggling as a couple it’s usually because you’re each dealing with some form of hurt, fear or frustration and NOT because you are against one another and intentionally trying to inflict pain.

Develop a mindset that it is the two of you against the problem, not the two of you against each other. Remember, your enemy cannot be your spouse because it is not flesh and blood (Eph. 6:12).

2. Get a PhD in your spouse’s upbringing. There is no doubt that the way both of you respond under pressure is a result of what you were taught and what your normal is. If your spouse came from a home with lots of yelling, yelling will be a trigger. If they came from a home where all problems get swept under the rug, then it’s likely they won’t have the best conflict resolution skills.

When it comes to your spouse’s history, know it well. Seek to understand all the ways your spouse was shaped and molded—because it matters. It’s almost a guarantee that your spouse’s negative reactions come from a place of self-protection. Understanding that helps, and so does letting them know that they don’t need to protect themselves from you because you’re on their side.

3. Keep the memories of how you won each other’s heart alive. When you’re in the middle of the struggle it’s really hard to look for the good. The hard and the heavy yell at

you much louder demanding all the attention, when really what’s most helpful is to keep your focus on all that’s good while working out the hard.

When your marriage is in a tough place, take a look back. Remember those traits your spouse has that you once adored, remember the person you fell in love with. Although life is hard and people change, that person you once completely adored is still in there.

Marriage can be a challenge at times and hard things happen, but when they do be sure to remind your spouse that you’re in this with them, that you’re for them, and that you love them.

And lastly, pray. Never stop praying.

The Best Valentine’s Day Gift for your Marriage

The Best Valentine’s Day Gift for your Marriage

Valentine’s Day, that wonderful day of love. As a married couple, you have either come to love this day or potentially dread it. It’s either a day that allows you to celebrate your love, or it’s a day that has you wondering where it went. 

If you’re still hopelessly in love—good for you! That means you probably already have this incredible gift in your marriage—the gift of emotional intimacy. Couples with emotional intimacy are couples that, well, can be emotionally intimate.

It requires great vulnerability to share your authentic and whole self with someone, but that is one of the greatest gifts of marriage. Having a relationship where you can share your deepest struggles, your greatest desires, your failures, your full emotions and even your corniest jokes or silliest thoughts, is a huge marriage win. 

Best Ways to improve your marriage with the gift of emotional intimacy

Share how you really feel.  If this is a new concept for you, don’t get caught up in the way your spouse responds to or receives your feelings, but do give them the gift of knowing them. Also, give them permission to be uncomfortable with more intimate conversations. Practicing uncomfortable things takes grace.

Ask connecting questions. You may not be married to the best question answerer, but that’s ok, ask anyway. Let this be your attempt at fixing your marriage communication and turning things around. Ask open ended questions like, “How do you feel about…?”, or “What are your thoughts on _______ situation?”

*For more specific help, go grab this free printable marriage worksheet for Simple Steps to a Weekly Check-In or It’s Time to Talk for stressed out couples

Become a great listener. Now that you’re asking questions, it’s most important to learn how to listen. Every person wants to be heard, and when you’re in a marriage where you each have voices and concern for one another’s thoughts and feelings, that emotional intimacy will surely begin to take place.

Take a break from judgement. It’s so easy, especially when you’ve drifted apart, to begin to focus on all that is wrong in your marriage and all that your spouse is doing wrong as well. That kind of focus will only drive a bigger wedge between the two of you. 

So, if your spouse is making a lot of mistakes or not giving back the same effort you are putting forth, pause and give your judgment a rest. Keep doing what is right and give them the space to self-correct. You’d be surprised how much the Holy Spirit jumps in for this if indeed your spouse is not acting or doing as they should.

How about this Valentine’s Day you start moving towards one another in a more connected way? After all, emotional intimacy is the difference between being in a husband and wife relationship or in a roommate one. Don’t be afraid to share your real self with your spouse, even if it means you going first on your own.

5 Ways to Boost your Marriage

5 Ways to Boost your Marriage

Many years ago, when I was a stay at home mom raising three little girls, it was safe to say that I was tired, busy and distracted. At the end of the day when my husband came home it was game on! You know the game, it’s called “Tag! You’re it!”

Let’s just say that one of us liked to play more than the other.

The problem was that I was drained, but the bigger problem was that my husband was, too. Truthfully, it’s not uncommon for couples to get into the “let me tell you why my job is harder” battle. But really, you’re both entitled to claim hard work, so that battle is very unnecessary.

Those were hard days during our marriage because we were both pouring out into other areas and people so much that we barely had anything left for one another. We were also silly to think that it would all be miraculously better once the girls got bigger. Ha, jokes on us. In married life, the red carpet of time and energy is never rolled out for you.

BUT—that’s okay, because we all have brief moments and even those brief moments add up. In fact, any investment you make in your marriage pays back in dividends. 

Here are some sure-fire ways to give your marriage the boost that it needs.

5 things you can do to re-connect in your marriage

1. Talk to your spouse. 

Greet them when you see each other again after time apart. Ask open ended questions about their day. Ask them about their highs or lows of the day. Give them a chance to share and vent to you. Let them know you’re interested in hearing from them.

2. Enjoy something pleasurable together

No, not that—but also, yes, that. It’s just not what I’m talking about right now. I’m talking about sitting down and sharing some dessert, playing a quick game, drinking some tea on the porch together, or watching a half hour comedy. Take small pockets of time and find some fun.

3. Set your mind on them.

You may not have an abundance of time, but you have 10 minutes a day. Take a moment and spend those minutes intentionally thinking about your spouse. What is it you love about them, what are thing as you want to do in the future with them? Remember what your dreams and goals are as a couple. Thoughts are powerful, make sure you’re using some of them on your spouse. 

4. Be sacrificial. 

Jesus could have modeled love for us any way he wanted, however, the path God chose was through sacrifice. His sacrifice on the cross is what declared His love for us. The least we can do in our marriage for the one He gave us is to give them our time, our patience, and some extra above and beyond effort by doing something that can make their day, their tasks, their stress a little bit lighter.   

5. Be attentive to their needs.

We know you have needs as a spouse too, but what we also know is that your needs are more likely to get met when you’re willing to meet your spouse’s needs. Now, that’s not the reason to pay attention to their needs, it’s just a good byproduct of doing so. 

Lean in and ask your spouse if they need anything. Ask them how they’re feeling, if they’re ok or if they have any stressors going on. Everyone wants to be checked in on and cared about. 

Ultimately, your marriage will go through hills and valleys seasons, and that’s just the reality of life. If you’re ready to really start boosting your marriage go get our free 10 Day, Just Because I Love You Challenge.

4 Ways to Know if Your Marriage Needs Counseling

4 Ways to Know if Your Marriage Needs Counseling

First things first, can we just go ahead and put to rest all the stigma that comes with counseling? It’s truly just nonsense. We don’t shame our children for needing to go to school to get educated, we don’t shame the person with a broken leg who goes to the orthopedic, nor do we shame the person on the side of the road who calls a mechanic.  As far as we’re concerned, people who seek help for areas where they’re not the expert and they need some help, are people full of wisdom. You’re not failing if you need help, it’s actually the opposite. You choose failure when you need help and DON’T get it. Seeking help is what successful people do!

Ok, can someone slide this soap box out of the way now, I’m done?!

Now that that is cleared up, here are just a few signs that your marriage could benefit from some counseling:

You have a lack of satisfaction. Did you know on average a couple will struggle in their marriage for 6 years before they seek help? Yikes! Don’t be that couple. If you’re living as roommates, rarely have conversations, or have a life focused entirely on the kids, this is NOT a fulfilling marriage and you shouldn’t be settling for it. There’s hope and fulfillment for BOTH of you to be found. 

Another big clue you might need some help is if divorce has been brought up, especially if either of you already come from a broken home. You have an enemy who is after your marriage and would want nothing more than to keep a painful legacy of division going in your family (see John 10:10). Don’t allow any thoughts about divorce to take root.

You also don’t want to let stress, trauma, or difficult situations take you down. Those things that creep into your marriage that are often beyond your control can wreak havoc over time if left unattended. This is a great time to hit pause, get some guidance, and quickly get back on the road to a healthy marriage.

Finally, the more obvious one, if there is any form of addiction. We live in a time where pornography and alcohol have become very popular coping mechanisms. The most common reason they are both turned to, aside from early exposure or something that was already brought into the marriage, is stress. They both provide quick relief and avoidance. Short term fixes with long term loss for your marriage and the spouse who is struggling. If addiction has entered your marriage, even if you have to go alone, get the help. Let a professional help guide you through this season of struggle.

If you want to hear from us a bit more and learn 4 more reasons that might mean you need some help, go check out our video on 8 Ways to Identify if Your Marriage Needs Counseling.

How to Handle Stress in Marriage

How to Handle Stress in Marriage

There was a season in our lives as a young married couple where we were living off of high stress. We were young, had two kids, mediocre paying jobs, and I was pregnant with our third daughter and suffering greatly from yet another round of hyperemesis—which is basically the only thing I have in common with Kate Middleton. Our funds were pretty much non-existent as I could no longer work, we had no help with childcare as I lie in bed with an IV pole, and my husband was frantic in search for help while he took care of me, the kids, and oh, did I mention we were in the middle of a remodel, too? 

STRESS

Sometimes  there’s just no escaping stressful seasons, but when we they do come, it’s important to minimize your stress as quickly as you can before it starts causing relationship problems—because stress and marriage just aren’t the best of pals. When stress does hit your marriage, here are some things you can do:

Identify the stress. Is the stressful situation beyond your control, like an illness, job loss, or accident? Or, is it from a family or marriage situation that you’re not dealing with? Perhaps it’s from remaining in a career that you despise?  The first step is to identify where the stressors come from and determine if you indeed can do anything about them. 

When it’s unavoidable stress, it’s time to lean on each other. This is the time to come together as a team. Instead of allowing stress to divide you, allow it to shift your mindset into “it’s me and you against the problem.” Talk openly and honestly about how the stress is affecting you. Ask one another how you can help alleviate each other’s stress. If the stressor is just affecting one of you, the same rule applies. Go to battle against the stress for and with your spouse. You are one another’s greatest resource—don’t let stress tell you otherwise.

Along the way you also want to make time for fun. Don’t forget to enjoy one another during difficult times. You need the endorphins and natural stress relievers of laughter. Life gets out of balance really quickly when the scale is always weighed down with just stress. Plan nightly walks, have a family game night, watch a funny movie or just go out for ice cream. Don’t forget to have fun, even if it comes in short bursts. You need the connection that stems from laughing together.

Lastly, don’t forget to pray. God is in the stress battle with you. Stressed out is not the abundant life He has called you to live. It’s not all going to blissful, but you have been equipped to handle those hard times and to not lose hope. Never forget that you are “more than conquerors through him who loved us” Romans 8:37.

If you want to dive deeper into tackling the stress in your marriage, check out our video resource on 4 Ways to Thrive When Hard Times Hit Your Marriage.

How to Make Couple’s Devotions Really Happen

How to Make Couple’s Devotions Really Happen

If you’re like most Christian couples, bringing God into the center of your marriage is important to you, but making that happen can be difficult. First of all, know that you’re not alone. We’re professional Christian counselors and it can be hard for us too. Just like any good thing, it will require work and intentionality, BUT, let’s also not forget that we have an enemy who is finding great pleasure in our busyness, chaos and fatigue. Jesus is here to offer us an abundant life, but there’s also a thief who is here to steal, kill and destroy it (John 10:10). 

In order to not let the Enemy take away what Jesus came to give us, we have to develop a little tenacity when it comes to protecting our time and the things that are important to us, like the establishment of doing a couple’s devotional together. Opening up God’s word to grow as a couple will almost always have opposition. Here are some practical tips you can use to actually make this God sized marriage goal come to fruition.

For starters, be committed. Decide together that it is important to you both, and that your marriage is worth investing in. It’s amazing how many other things we invest in that don’t pay back even close to the same dividends. Like most of you, I enjoy a good Instagram scroll, but I can’t tell you the last time it’s given me back anything.

Next, schedule it—take an honest look at your schedule and put it in your calendar during a day and time each week that works for you. A lot of couples, including us, go with a Sunday evening. It’s a good time to spend together and prepare for the week ahead. Nothing will start your week better than time in God’s word together.

Lastly, if you want to make it easier to do, it helps if you make it fun. Grab your devotional, we highly recommend ours, the Newlywed Couple’s Devotional, for all newlyweds and newlywed wanna-be’s, and make a special dessert, enjoy a cup of coffee, or if you’re able, go sit at a place you enjoy, like your front porch, a coffee shop, or make it an early relaxing night in the bed.

Over time, you might actually find that this time together discussing God’s word, hearing stories of other couples, learning practical marriage tips, answering real purposeful questions together, and then closing it all in prayer, is exactly what your marriage needs and what your heart begins to crave.

Make the decision to invest in your marriage, check your calendars, and then head on over and grab a copy of the Newlywed Couple’s Devotional. You’ll be glad you did!