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I’ll never forget the day I was cleaning through my top dresser drawer and found a treasure.

I almost threw out the stack of aged, yellowed papers, weathered by time and slightly torn on the edges. When I unfolded the papers and read through them, I instantly realized why I’d kept them all those years. On them were written words any woman would want to read over and over again. They were love letters from my husband that included phrases like “I love you beyond expression.” “You complete me like no other.” And “I love you desperately.”

As I read through them, my eyes teared up. And then my heart dropped.

I haven’t had a letter like this from him in years, I thought. Why doesn’t he write like this to me anymore?

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Every week for the past ten years, I’ve received at least one or two emails asking me for marriage or relationship advice.

And while there are thousands of books out there on the topic — and a thousand  more reasons why women struggle in their relationships — I’ve found that what has most helped my marriage of 28 years — and thousands of other marriages and relationships as well — is  best summarized in my book, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband

“The quickest way to run your marriage into the ground is to expect your husband to be God in your life — to fill your every need, to know what you’re thinking and feeling and be able to respond accordingly, to be your joy, to be your all-in-all. He is a man. He is not able to be all of that for you. He is human, and that means he has weaknesses and will let you down at times. Finally, he is a sinner (as all of us are), and that means he will disappoint you, anger you, and even hurt you more times than he or you would like. So don’t look to your husband to be God in your life, or to fulfill your every need. Instead, look to God as your spiritual husband (Isaiah 54:5-6).

“God’s Word frequently uses the marriage relationship to illustrate God as our husband. God desires to be a husband to us and have us respond, in return, as we would respond to a husband — to forsake all other gods and love only Him, to respect Him, to dwell intimately with Him, to look to Him for our provision, and so on. There is nothing that will free up your husband to love you more than taking your emotional expectations off of him and leaving them with God. Your husband can then love you in the best way he is able, without feeling he has an impossible task in front of him. (For an in-depth look at this subject, see my book, Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs.)”

Whether we are married or not, as we look to God first to fill our emotional tank, we will find we are more able and stable to deal with whatever comes our way. And that makes us more appealing women to be around.

It’s been said that a woman should be so deeply immersed in God that a man has to seek Him in order to find her.

Immerse yourself in Him this week. And watch the benefits of it in your relationships.

Book cover of "If My Husband Would Change, I'd Be Happy"Are you trying to change your husband?Are you thinking you’d be happier married to someone else? Are you just falling out of love with him?

My friend, Rhonda Stoppe, has written a beautiful book to address all those myths and more — and offer you hope and insights into a more fulfilling marriage.

I’ve asked her to be my guest blogger this week and give you a sneak peek into the premise of her new book, If My Husband Would Change, I’d Be Happy (& Other Myths Wives Believe).  You also have a chance to win a free, signed copy of her book at the end of the post, so keep reading.  

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two hands symbolizing recapture your husband's heartAre you wondering how to recapture your husband’s heart?

In my ongoing blog series “Questions Women Ask,” one reader wrote:

“I want to restore my marriage to greater than before. This is a second marriage for the both of us and we have a lot of things fighting against us — ex-spouses, children, and other things the enemy uses against us. How can I win back my husband’s heart & restore my marriage?”

And another reader wrote:

I’m in empty nest now. It’s different. Time for me and my husband to reconnect. I want to make him happy in every way. Help! I want him to want me like he did when he met me!

In my book, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, I point out some simple ways to resuscitate the romance and recapture your husband’s heart. I refer to it as performing CPR on our husbands to help them “get back that loving feeling” toward us. These are some practical things you can do every day:

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broken heart representing a husband who cheatsWhat does a wife do when her husband cheats?

That was the most frequently asked question I received last week since starting my new blog series on “Questions Women Ask.”

One woman emailed: “My husband loves me, he just loves her, too. He says the affair is over and I just need to get over it.”

Another woman who confronted her husband about an extra-marital relationship said “He said he was sorry and looked like he meant it but how can I believe him? I feel so insecure. I fear he might do it again. Should I stay or should I leave?”

And a woman who is seeking God’s will above her own says “”What if the man in question is your husband of 29 years and the father of your 3 children?  And he has been in a relationship with another woman for 10 years?”

My heart breaks that so many women are struggling with whether or not to stay in a marriage after betrayal. They shouldn’t have to make that decision. But betrayal has forced them into the question of God’s will for their heart and marriage. Scripture is clear that divorce was never God’s desire for His people (Malachi 2:16; Matthew 19:8), so it is imperative that we must take it before God carefully and prayerfully.

Marriage is defined by God as a “one flesh” union between one man and one woman, expressed through a commitment to forsake all others and cling to each other for a lifetime (Genesis 2:24). When one member of the marriage party brings another person into that “one flesh” union the marriage, as God has defined it, ceases to exist. The bond has been broken, and the union severed.

However, it does not mean it is beyond hope.

If you have been betrayed — or you know someone who has — and must decide whether to stay in the marriage or not, here are three points to consider that will prayerfully lead you toward God’s peace:

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Psalm 73_25Do you have that  inconsolable longing to be truly and deeply known?

As a young wife and mom, I copied a verse onto a note card and put it on my refrigerator more than 20 years ago. It served as a comfort to me then and remains a challenge to me even today:

“Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I                      desire besides You” (Psalm 73:25, NASB).

That verse reminded me years ago that I have an Advocate in Heaven. And He is mine.

Who do I have but You, God? It is more than a question or even a statement. It is a motto. And I have reminded myself to live by that motto ever since.

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Miller bookDo you want to see growth in your marriage?

Once a month I try to encourage my blog readers who are married. So I’ve asked my friends, Larry and Kathy Collard Miller, to share some insights on my blog this week about how you can begin to see growth in your marriage. Here are some of their insights from their newest book, Never Ever Be the Same, which is for anyone –single or married — who wants to see change, not the same old dysfunctional patterns that plague our lives:

How do you envision spiritual growth in your marriage?

Most of us think of it visually like a linear time line. On the left side of the line we make a step of progress and the temptation seems to be behind us and we won’t address it again. We have moved along that line to the right and we’ll only encounter new challenges—not old ones.

And we think our spouse will do the same. Once he (or she) has changed in an area, we expect that he will not struggle with it again. And when he does, we might be crushed, thinking he can never change. We might even expect that all hope is gone. We (Larry and Kathy) certainly felt that way at times.

But that’s not an accurate visual of change. Change is more like a spiral. Let’s call it a whirlpool. We’re going around and around in life and every time we reach a certain situation or person, there’s a rock, representing a sinful strategy that hits us, tempting us to behave badly. If we think there are no rocks (as if they are behind us in a time line), we’ll be surprised and unaware of their approach.

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Cultivate a Closer Connection in 2015What are you doing to cultivate a closer connection with your spouse this year?

Every January I write new goals for the year to get in better shape mentally, physically, financially, and spiritually.

I was just missing one area.

What was I doing to get in better shape, relationally, with my husband?

So, I initiated our goal-setting process together by asking my husband these three questions:

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Admit it.blogquote-marriage3

You at one time believed God brought you and your husband together. That’s what you told others. And that’s why you married him. Yet, looking back…you were more concerned about what you would receive out of the relationship, than what you could give.

I did that, too.

It’s only natural. We think first of our needs, our happily ever after, our own selfish ambitions. But I truly believe God brings us together with another individual in marriage to show us, firsthand, what it means to exercise Christ-like love and become more like Christ in our everyday lives.  That being said, those days when you and I are “fed up” with our husband are the days we need to die to self and say “God, how can I serve him? How can I be the wife he needs me to be, rather than focusing on his shortcomings?”

Wives frustrated with their husbands often ask me, out of desperation, what they should do. Two things:

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blaming GodEvery week I receive an email from another woman who is frustrated with her husband.

Every week I read exasperated words like “I’m fed up with this,” “I’ve had it with him,” and “What should I do?”

Every week!

That tells me there are a lot of you out there who are feeling like that…but most of you never reach out for advice or help. You stuff it in and keep dealing with it…or you call it quits.

So this is an open letter to every one of you who has “had it” with your marriage. (And if this doesn’t apply to you, please pass it on to someone you know who can be encouraged through it.)

I understand your frustration with your husband. Every wife is frustrated to some degree with the things her husband is or isn’t doing. He doesn’t treat you like he once did. He seems distant. He doesn’t communicate at a deeper level. In some cases he constantly criticizes you. In most cases, he’s ambivalent and resigned.

You say it has led to a deep depression. You cry a lot. You wonder when things will change. Or, today you have decided you no longer want to wait for the change. You’re calling it quits.

I remember the day I, too, felt depressed.

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Blog quote marriageIn 20 years of ministering to women, I’ve received hundreds of letters and emails telling me about a woman’s unique marital struggles.

And guess what? Her struggles are not unique.

They’re the same struggles every wife deals with, at one time or another. And they’re the same struggles I’ve seen God come through for in one way or another.

For a perspective change (if you’re wishing you were married), or a refresher course (if you’ve been married awhile), here are five truths that I’ve seen save marriages through the years. Maybe they can help you or someone you know:

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weddingphotoHugh&CindiThis week my husband and I will celebrate 26 years of marriage. More than two decades ago, we told each other “I do” in front of family and friends. And after all these years, Hugh is still putting up with me. 🙂

I could be all gushy and say “I can’t imagine my life without him,” but honestly speaking, sometimes I have imagined that. And those are the times I am reminded that marriage isn’t — and never has been — about me. It’s about the One who called me to live, work, and serve alongside this man to accomplish God’s will for His glory.

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Is your husband drawn to you like a magnet? That can be wonderful until you’re stumbling over him at every turn! DearGodHesHome cover My friend, Author Janet Thompson,  shares some insights from her book Dear God, He’s Home! that I believe will be helpful to you or anyone you know who has a stay-at-home husband.

Listen in on Janet’s conversation with God:

Dear God,
When we were first married, my husband Dave followed me around the house and wanted to do everything with me. He didn’t have any friends or interests beside his job, golf, and me. We quickly remedied that dilemma by finding him friends, serving at church, and starting guitar lessons.

Now that he’s retired and home 24/7, I’m reliving those early years. It seems like every time I turn around, I’m running into him right behind me, or he’s occupying the same space I’m trying to claim. I can’t make a move without him showing up. I try having my “quiet time” outside, only to look up and see him coming out with his Bible ready to settle in across the table from me . . . which would be OK except he doesn’t read quietly . . . he talks!

I get up early and go for my walk, expecting him to be done in the kitchen when I return. To my chagrin, he doesn’t think about eating breakfast, until I do! If I get my vitamins out of the cupboard, he needs his. Bottles fall and pills fly as we reach around each other trying to grab ours off the shelf.

When I go into the bathroom to put on my makeup and dry my hair, he remembers he needs to shave. Since we only have one sink and mirror, that’s a big problem. Last night, I was trying to take a shower, and he had to go to the bathroom, even though he had just been in there flossing his teeth!

It’s like having a perpetual shadow! Lord, I need some space. Why does everything I do, trigger the exact same response in him? If I change my routine to accommodate him, he changes his routine to match mine—he’s like a magnet. Help! I love my husband, but I’m stumbling over him at every turn.

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My friend, Dineen Miller, has great advice for  spiritually mismatched women and any others who need help loving their husbands.As my guest blogger this week, relate to her heart as she shares honestly how “Loving God Helps Me Love My Husband”:

I will tell you, in all honesty, that I cannot love my husband in my own strength. It’s not possible. I tried to for many years and would do Winning Him Without Words-LRsmallfine for a while, but inevitably I would run out of steam. Resentment would seep back in and these feelings and thoughts more often had to do with how little I perceived to be getting back in the relationship. That was my own selfishness creeping in. To truly love my husband requires unconditional love that’s centered in Christ, not me.

Especially since he doesn’t share my faith. My husband and I are spiritually mismatched. Marriage in itself is fraught with challenges, but add a spiritual disconnect and you have an additional conflict, which bleeds into everything else.

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I understand if you’re not looking forward to Valentine’s Day. If you’re single you might not want to be reminded that you’re alone. If you’re married or in a relationship you might be fearing your expectations will leave you disappointed by the end of the day.

Whatever your particular situation, When God Pursues a Woman's HeartI want to encourage your heart with God’s whispers of love toward you.

Did you know that the Author of Love had YOU on His mind when He said certain things in His Word?  I call those portions of Scripture His “Valentines” to us. Take a look with me at the lovely ways He has told you He loves you:

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When a Woman Inspires Her Husband book coverHave you ever wondered how to inspire your husband and draw his heart closer to yours?

Do you ever feel like you walk alone in your marriage because he’s just not responding the way you’d like?

Are there things you don’t understand about your man that drive a wedge between the two of you?

Well, you don’t have to feel alone in your marriage anymore. You can learn how to inspire your husband and draw his heart closer to yours in ways you’ve never imagined.

In my recent interview with Dr. James Dobson, I shared some practical steps from my book, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband, that will help your husband see you as the one person he wants to be around the most.

Your husband lives in a world where it’s important for him to know that he’s winning. So what’s the best thing you can do for him? Become his cheerleader. When a man hits midlife he needs his wife to be more like a girlfriend, than a mother. Your husband needs to have a No. 1 fan to cheer him on, support him, encourage him, and believe in him even when he isn’t too sure if he believes in himself.  And ladies, that No. 1 fan of your husband needs to be you.

So how can you be his cheerleader in a practical way? By putting into practice the following attitudes and actions until they become habits. (This will help you C-H-E-E-R him on!)

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Hugh and I recently spent an afternoon with Dr. James Dobson. Dobson Interview-p188iv3idt9t1cv91vpo84k13n0He had invited us to his Family Talk offices and radio studio in  Colorado Springs last month to tape a couple segments on the topic of my book, When a Woman Inspires Her Husband.

As we waited in the small lobby of Family Talk to meet the founder and former president of Focus on the Family, I scanned the walls lined with pictures of Dr. Dobson and his wife, Shirley, with former Presidents Bush (both of them), the Rev. Billy Graham, Chuck Colson, and many others. A large commendation from former President Ronald Reagan and a picture of the two of them, looking like good friends, was front and center on the wall. Dr. Dobson had become friends with presidents as he followed God’s call  on his life and helped America focus on the family.

Dr. Dobson graciously invited us into his office which resembled more of a cozy mountain cabin. As huge of an influence as this man has had on the institution of the family for the past few decades, he was as humble of a man as we’ll ever meet. As he extended his hand to shake mine, I leaned in to give him a hug and he laughed, warmly, and said to my husband, “Is that alright with you, Hugh?”

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I received an email from a reader that broke my heart.sad silhouette

She has been betrayed multiple times in her marriage and asked me what she can do to make her husband love her the way he once did.

Now, I’ve written many articles on how wives can love their husbands, unconditionally, as God loves us. But I’m always at a loss of what to say when women have been cheated on by their husbands and they are the ones desperately trying to fix the marriage.

God have mercy on the man who isn’t tearfully trying to hold his marriage together after foolishly doing something to blow it apart.

For every woman who has been betrayed by what she thought was love, please hear these words from the One who sets the example of what love truly is:

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Have you ever asked if it was time to let go of your marriage?

After writing a post on what I’ve learned after 25 years of marriage, I received  a question from a reader that broke my heart. It was a question I hear far too often from women who are weary in well-doing when it comes to their marriage.

broken heart on a rockThe question was “How do you know when it’s time to let go of your marriage?” The woman asking the question was  tired of being the only one fighting for her marriage. She was weary of “always trying to do the right thing.”

I understand when a wife says her husband is emotionally distant. I understand it gets trying and wearisome when you feel you’re the only one who is working on the marriage. I understand unmet expectations, disappointments, and dashed dreams. And I understand the feeling of “I just can’t do this anymore.” I’ll tell you why.

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Hugh&CindiToday is my 25th wedding anniversary.  And after 25 years with the same man, I  can honestly say that marriage is one of the best ways to practice dying to self and living as Christ would. There have been great times, there have been trying times, and there have been daily tests of whether or not I would put myself on the shelf and put another person first.

I wanted to share with you today what I’ve been thinking this past week about what 25 years of marriage has taught me:

  1. The greatest way to show love to my spouse is to imitate the way God has shown love toward me — unconditionally and sacrificially.
  2. Instead of praying “Lord, please change my husband” a much more effective prayer through the years has been, “Lord, please change me.”
  3. Quality time cannot always be a replacement for quantity of time. In a marriage, you really need both.
  4. God must come first, then spouse, then the children. And this order can easily get reversed.
  5. There is wisdom in learning to let things go.
  6. There is freedom in being able to forgive, even if your spouse has not yet said “I’m sorry.”
  7. To be humble in marriage is to  say, “I’d be honored if you would still love me.”
  8. To be a servant in marriage is to say, “I don’t deserve you” rather than the other way around.
  9. Simple acts of love keep two people knitted together.
  10. “Never let the sun go down on your anger” is much easier said than done. One must be deliberate and intentional to let things go before ending the day.
  11. Not EVERYTHING needs to be talked through. (This was a difficult one for me, at first.)
  12. A wife needs to look to God to be her “Husband” rather than looking to her husband to be “God” (Isaiah 54:5).
  13. To die to self in marriage means to put the other’s interests, preferences and needs IN PLACE OF (not just above) your own.
  14. “Love is blind” is not a bad thing when you choose to be blind to the less flattering traits of your spouse
  15. God is the Only One who can fulfill me at every level. Therefore, it is unfair for me to expect my husband to be my all-in-all.
  16. I cannot change my spouse. I cannot change myself,  either. God is the One who works transformation in individuals and marriages.
  17. My trust is ultimately not in my spouse, but in my Savior.
  18. If I say “this is un-fixable” I’m really saying “God can’t fix this.”
  19. A marriage does not rise and fall on how much we can trust a person, but on how much we can trust God.
  20. God is even more committed to my marriage than I am.
  21. My ability to glorify God as a woman is directly related to my ability to glorify God as a WIFE.
  22. Being my husband’s wife  is my most important ministry.
  23. Instead of looking for what the marriage (or your spouse) can do for you, look for what you can do for your spouse.
  24. Focusing each day on “making a memory” sure  beats “keeping a record of wrongs.”
  25. The greatest (and most challenging) definition of marital love is found in First Corinthians 13:7 (NASB):  Love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (First Corinthians 13:7, NASB).

Many of the lessons I’ve learned from marriage these past two and a half decades (and many of the points above) are elaborated on in my books, Letting God Meet Your Emotional Needs, When Couples Walk Together and When a Woman Inspires Her Husband.

Now, what have YOU learned from marriage or your present situation? I’d love to hear it.

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