Biblical Advice for an Unhappy Christian Marriage

Biblical Advice for an Unhappy Christian Marriage

Bible Verses:

31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. 33 However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. – Ephesians 5:31-33

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. – Romans 12:9-10

There are so many “solutions” in the world to help an unhappy marriage? Marriage counseling, retreats, advice, tips, marriage mentoring, and so many others really can offer some good wisdom. All of which can be used by God, but none of which will truly help if the spouses lack this one thought: How can I love my spouse?

If that’s the question we are asking, God will always help us find the answer.

Biblical Advice on Marriage: Serve Your Spouse

Marriage thrives when you no longer view it as trying to get what you want, but rather as an opportunity to give what you want. If you want to be loved, marriage is a good place to be. If you want someone to love, marriage is the greatest place to be. Individuals have no control over anything except themselves. We can’t force our spouses to treat us the way we want, but we can seek to treat our spouses the way they want.

All unhappiness, including a miserable marriage, is rooted in unmet desires and expectations. We are depressed and saddened when we imagined what we would receive and what we actually get is different. To truly find happiness in marriage, we must be so content, filled, and in love with Jesus Christ that all our deepest desires are met in him, thus freeing us from the possibility of being deeply disappointed with other people, especially our spouses.

Biblical Advice on Marriage: Need Your Spouse, Not Out of Need, But Out of Love

Seeking love from Jesus doesn’t mean that we stop seeking to be loved by others. It doesn’t mean we no longer seek to enjoy our husbands and wives. For to truly love others, they must know that we receive their love, need them, and enjoy them.

We must remain open and vulnerable to needing and wanting our spouses. This in itself is a form of love because our spouses will not feel loved by us if we have no real desire or need for them. As C.S. Lewis said of God, “If He who in Himself can lack nothing chooses to need us, it is because we need to be needed.”

Likewise, we must seek to need and desire our spouses not because if we don’t get what we want we will be undone, but because it is a great form of love to want and need someone.

Biblical Advice on Marriage: Jesus Must Be Our Ultimate, Not Our Spouse

But our spouses must not be our ultimate. Jesus must be our ultimate because only he is the perfect person our hearts truly need. The only way we will avoid an unhappy marriage is to not see marriage as a way to be served, but as a way to serve.

Being married to an imperfect person is not a great situation if you are seeking a place where you will be endlessly loved perfectly in the exact way you hoped. However, if your desire is to love, serve, and put someone else first who genuinely needs your support, being married to an imperfect person is a great opportunity.

Biblical Advice on Marriage: Marriage is the Place to Express Your Joy, It’s Not the Primary Place to Find Your Joy

Every spouse will fail in their love because only Jesus Christ is perfect, so only he never fails in his love. If we hope to have a happy marriage, we must first be joyful in Christ, taking that joy into our marriage. Marriage should produce joy, but more than that marriage is a place where we can express the joy and love given to us by God. Just as Christ finds joy in his church, he nevertheless does not find his ultimate joy and love in his church. Rather, he goes to his bride to give the love and joy he already possesses within himself, within his triune relationship.

Marriage should be seen as an opportunity to serve and put the other person first. When giving is the goal, we will be far less disappointed when we don’t receive what we want. Unhappiness in marriage happens when both spouses take rather than give. Christ came into the world not to be served but to serve, and give his live as ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

If marriage is supposed to be a symbol of Christ and his church (Ephesians 5:22-33), those in a Christian marriage will only find the joy of Christ in marriage when they play the role of Christ in marriage: a loving servant.

Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her . . .
-Ephesians 5:24-25

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4 thoughts on “Biblical Advice for an Unhappy Christian Marriage

  1. So Mark. I am a married, Christian man who loves God. I have not hardened my heart to Him. I pray and walk with Him everyday. If I am unable to show affection toward my wife who is also a Christian (and who also loves God) because we have grown apart and the attraction is just not there anymore and I cannot even hold her hand anymore, does that mean that we are somehow not loving God enough or that we aren’t really Christians because we don’t show love to each other? What if we try really hard and do Christian-based counseling for two years or more (which we have done) and STILL come up short and don’t make a connection and the distancing gets worse? Is our relationship now just like a sister/brother relationship with no affection making her (and me) unhappy because scripture doesn’t give us any recourse but to remain in our platonic/alienating marriage until we die? I’m not sure that this really pleases or glorifies God. This is my marriage situation for which I don’t have any real answers.

    • It sounds like a truly difficult situation. I can feel the hurt in your words. I commend you for all the hard work you’ve already put into your marriage. I agree that sometimes, for a variety of reasons in each situation, things don’t get better between two people.

      With that said, divorce is still not the answer. You asked, “Does that mean that we are somehow not loving God enough or that we aren’t really Christians because we don’t show love to each other?” What I would say to this is that loving God does not always equate into getting the life you want. Just because you love God doesn’t mean you are guaranteed an enjoyable marriage. So no, your marriage troubles does not automatically mean you are not loving God enough.
      As far as showing each other other love, I think yes, you are not a Christian if you do not show each other love because this is what the Bible says, 1 John 4:20, “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.”

      Now, I highly doubt you don’t love your spouse like 1 John 4:20 states since you already said you have tried hard to show her love. Perhaps what you need is to redefine your expectations for what marriage and “love” looks like between you two. If you mean sex and romance, that is different than the type of love you need to show to be a Christian.

      In closing, I can’t pretend I have a magic answer for you. I don’t know how to “fix” the problems you have in marriage. What I do know is that you are called to stay faithful and you are called to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). Perhaps this article I wrote for Desiring God would help with that idea:

      In Christ,

  2. I am in an emotionally abusive relationship (marriage) my husband hads struggled with drug abuse and regardless of the chances I give him he repeatedly beats me down with his words; does not help support his child; does not take responsibility for any of his actions and demands compassion while paying no attention at all to the needs of his family. This isn’t about happiness anymore- it’s about abuse but the abuse is not noted on the Bible as grounds for divorce because it’s verbal; am I reading this all wrong?
    I struggle night and day and I am very hurt and lost.

    • I am so sorry to hear all this. Words can’t express . . .

      To answer your question directly, you are right, abuse is not grounds for divorce. However, separation is necessary if abuse is happening. You should remove yourself and the children if you are in harms way. I am going to write an longer article on this very topic, but I encourage you to speak with a professional Christian counselor or pastor to help you through and navigate what you should do.

      Praying for you,