Loving Your Unbelieving Spouse

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We love to get emails from people who read and enjoy our blog. Sometimes we get great news from couples who have started to open up with each other in the bedroom, other times we get an email from a person who is having a rough time in their marriage. We began this blog to simply help couples learn to use good communication and enjoy sex. We never anticipated that it would ever be read by so many people with so many different issues, but we are thankful that God has blessed us with the opportunity to reach so many. While there are different struggles each couple has, one thing that seems to be a popular issue that is mentioned is the fact that one spouse is a Christian and the other isn’t. This can be a huge problem to overcome on many levels, as all aspects of a marriage are impacted.

Over the course of a marriage both husband and wife experience quite a bit. Those experiences, good and bad, can change our thinking on just about everything from politics to sex and even our faith. When a persons faith is tested or even lost, their partner can be left with feelings of uncertainty and confusion or even betrayal, and while no two marriages are exactly alike, there is hope.

While we navigate and adjust to change, one of the hardest things to deal with is when a spouse changes his/her view of God.  There is a difference when you are dating and one is not a christian while the other one is and you still choose to get married.  While it is not easy still, that factor was already there and known going into the marriage.  It’s a completely different struggle however, when you both were saved and serving Christ going into the marriage and then the spouse chooses to stop going to church and serving Christ all together.  This can be and is a difficult thing to walk through.  For all those who are out there and living in that, know there is hope.  Even when it seems so hopeless and impossible, remember Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible.  But with God everything is possible.” 

All hope is never lost when God is in the picture.  It’s how we deal and process through that season of life in our marriage that makes a difference.  We have lived that and are on the other side of the story and only by God’s grace do we now have a testimony to His word.

femaleI grew up in a pastor’s home and have always been one who was strong in her faith.  Growing up I had all the right morals not only taught to me but displayed daily in front of me through my parents.  They showed me what it means to live right and pure and what a healthy marriage should look like and I am forever thankful for that.

When I got married, Jake and I worked in ministry together and everything was so perfect.  It didn’t seem any different than what I grew up in.  Life was great, everything was going like that picture perfect marriage I had always dreamed about growing up.  One day something changed.  I can’t tell you what brought it on or anything, all I know is Jake just decided that he was done with the whole “God thing” as he put it.  He stopped going to church, he at one point hit a place where he would say he didn’t even believe God ever existed.  He never stopped me from going to church but our talks about God and ministry and church were no more.  It was so hard for me to come to grips with.  I couldn’t understand how a person could just change like that.  The more I would try to talk to him about those thoughts and Christ the farther away he would pull.  I would spend so much time on my knees in prayer crying out to God to save him.  One day God really spoke into me and showed me that my focus was on saving Jake rather than loving Jake and letting God take care of him.  What I learned was that my love for him doesn’t change based on whether or not he is saved.  Our relationship of course is deeper and stronger when we are both on the same spiritual page but I still loved him.  He was still my husband and father to our kids.

What God was showing me was that I needed to see this situation through God’s eyes and not my human eyes.  When I would look through my eyes and let the human side of me guide my focus, I would be upset at Jake and not see the hurt that this change came from.  Once I started to see things the way God saw them, I saw the hurt and lost look in his eyes.  My heart changed, I started having compassion for him rather than always trying to get him to conform to what I thought I needed him to be for me in order to be that “perfect husband”.

I realized that my focus towards our marriage had to change from all the things he was not doing or being for me to how much I loved him and he loved me and seeing how that had never changed.  I was causing so much more heartache within our marriage by constantly thinking about what he wasn’t doing and that was very selfish of me.  Once I changed my thinking and left his spiritual life in Gods hands (I continued to pray hard for him), our marriage got better and God started to do things in his life that I could have never done.

Did things get instantly better for us? Not at all.  His brother passed and he fell into severe depression and was a severe alcoholic and became very suicidal.  We walked through some very very dark times but God remained faithful.

My prayers continued to be for God to change Jake but they were also for Him to change me.  I needed to have the mind of Christ and learn a ton of compassion and Christ’s love.  I had to learn a lot of self control, how to lay “self” down.  So much of what I wanted in our marriage, while valid wants, were out of a selfish heart.  “What would others think? What if he left us or worse died? What about me?” The thought pattern in my mind had to change from a “me” mentality, completely focused ultimately on how it is affecting me, to one that was focused on Christ and helping Jake heal.

There were lots of times I had to keep my mouth shut and not say a word which was really hard but I knew I would be getting in the way of what God was doing.  I didn’t know at the time but after the fact, I see where if I would have said some stuff it would have shut him down farther but by me not saying some stuff, keeping a good attitude and just loving him through it, his heart was open to what God was wanting to do in his life.

One day, we were sitting in church and God did the miraculous in his life.  He delivered him and gave him a sound mind. Jake nor I will never be the same.  Our marriage is stronger than ever and we are closer than ever because of what God did.

I gave this entire story to say…There is hope, don’t give up but don’t try to be Gods voice and hand all the time.  There might be some times He directs you to move but until then don’t, just love them.  We are to show people God’s love.

Ephesians 5:1-2 Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children.  Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ.  He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.  

We know to do that with the sinners we come across each and every day but do we do it when it comes to our spouses?  Especially the ones that need God? ~ Jenn

Male_symbolLooking back over the time in our marriage when I wasn’t serving God isn’t easy for me for a few reasons. Some of it is a haze, mostly because of my struggle with alcohol and depression. But remembering the wall I had built where total intimacy had been before is painful. I know it hurt Jenn to not be able to share anything “church” related, especially because I had been involved before. Something that had been such a big part of our life before was now something I didn’t want to hear anything about, and we all know that intimacy involves sharing all of ourselves – that includes the spiritual part.

There was a point in our marriage when I didn’t want to hear a word about God, ministry or church. Even being told that someone had asked about me would cause me to get angry, as if Jenn were trying to guilt me into going to church. Only God was going to be  able to soften my heart and rebuild the complete intimacy in our marriage, and that was exactly what he did. It wasn’t through Jenn reminding me about God, or hinting about how much I needed Him. It wasn’t through guilt as she headed out the door on Sunday with our kids. It was by Jenn still loving me, even though I had purposefully closed that area of our life together.

Despite the wall that I had built she didn’t act bitter toward me, in fact our marriage was still great in every other aspect. Even though it was painful for Jenn to lose a major part of our life together she had come to the conclusion that she had married me, not our shared spiritual life. She realized that it was only within her power to love me, not change me. That part was too big of an obstacle for her, it would have to be Gods job. By showing me love even while I lived my own way she was modeling the unconditional love that God has for us, and as my life started to spiral downward His love was was seen through her. The more out of control my life was becoming the more clear it was to me that God was holding Jenn together, and I needed that same peace.

There were some very dark times for us during those years. Looking back I can see the hand of God on our marriage, and I’m thankful that Jenn allowed Him to do the work. If you are going through a difficult time because of your partners unbelief, remember that we are called to love our spouse – not condemn them.

“Wives, likewise, submit to your own husbands. Do this so that even if some of them refuse to believe the word, they may be won without a word by their wives’ way of life.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭3:1‬ ‭CEB‬‬

God can fill the spiritual void in your intimacy as you model Christ to your unsaved spouse. Be patient, and love.
~ Jake

 

Being unequally yoked can be a challenge for a marriage and there isn’t a one size fits all answer for a husband or wife looking for advice.  We’ve listed a few links to similar situations that show different ways of understanding an unsaved spouse. We pray you’ll find them not only inspirational but bring an understanding that you aren’t alone, and that there is always hope in Christ.

When your husband walks away from the faith

Spiritual leader

What do you do when you’re unequally yoked?

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