So why do I disagree with the statement “it takes two” to work on a marriage? Because I have witnessed something else, over and over. I have seen a husband determined to obey the Biblical command to unconditionally love his wife, no matter how unresponsive she is. I have seen a wife unconditionally respect a husband no matter how indifferent he is in return. If this is done in obedience to Christ, and not as a magic formula to manipulate a spouse, something transformational happens. Does the transformation always happen in the disobedient spouse? No. But for sure there will be a transformation in the obedient spouse, and this transformation spills over into the marriage, no matter what!
This is a powerful principle. The obedient spouse will experience true freedom as they release bitterness and resentment towards their disobedient spouse. God is able to work in a willing and obedient heart and the results are truly miraculous.
But what about the disobedient spouse? Unless there is physical abuse (in which case I counsel, “Get out of harm’s way, along with your children”) or habitual adultery taking place, I encourage people to stay the course and not give up. Focus on your relationship to Christ, not what your spouse is or isn’t doing towards you. Can you trust that He is at work in your spouse, even if you can’t see it? The Holy Spirit is always more effective working on a heart than we are! When we stand before Christ on judgment day, we will be accountable for our behavior, not the behavior of our spouse.
I know this sounds impossible. I know many of you are saying, “But Dr. Emerson, you don’t know my spouse! You don’t know what’s happening in our home!” That is why I point you to the Word of God, and what I call The Rewarded Cycle. No act of love and no act of respect goes unrewarded in God’s Kingdom. I go into this in great detail at our conferences and in my book, Love and Respect, in chapters 23 and 24. I believe if you open your heart to hearing what God has to say, you will find renewed hope.