One Thing That Changes Every Marriage

A few months ago, I was running late one morning (not unusual) and needed to swap cars with Trish before I could  head to my meeting. Trish called me and said, “Your car needed gas, so I am filling it up for you. Why don’t you meet me at Kroger and you can leave from there. It will save you from having to stop and get gas.”

You are thinking what I was thinking, “My wife is amazing.”

So I left and went to Kroger. I drove around and drove around and couldn’t find Trish. About half way through my third lap around the parking lot, Trish called me, “Where are you?”

“I’m at Kroger, where are you?”

“Which Kroger? I’m at the one on Highway 100.”

“Well, I’m at the one on Highway 70. I’ll stay here and you can meet me here.” and I hung up the phone.

As I sat there, I started to get more and more angry. I was going to be really late now. This was all her fault. If she would have gone to the right Kroger in the first place, I wouldn’t be late to my meeting.

In that moment, I felt God speak to my heart, “Are you really going to be angry with your wife when she went out of her way to serve you? Where is the grace in that?”

By the time Trish got there, my anger had left and I felt appreciative for all she had done to try to get me to my meeting on time. She didn’t cause me to run late, we just both accidentally went to the wrong location.

There was no malice. There was no ill-intent.

As we’ve interacted with thousands of couples over the past four years, there is one missing ingredient that causes a marriage to struggle: grace.

When a marriage is missing grace the entire disposition of the relationship changes.

Little things cause big fights.

Motives are constantly questioned.

Tempers are short and often lost.

Assumptions are always made.

Conclusions are frequently jumped to.

Husbands and wives consistently lead with anger.

The past is always brought up.

The score is always kept.

When grace is missing from a marriage, three words dominate that relationship: You. Owe. Me.

A lack of grace will cause a husband to be furious with his wife for going to a different gas station than he went to. A lack of grace will cause a wife to notice all that her husband does wrong and not see all he does right.

It is easy to give grace to others and refuse to give it to your spouse. You can’t show grace to someone you are trying to make pay.

If you want to see change and improvement in your marriage, take a few minutes this week to think about how messed up and imperfect you are…and how God loves you anyway. That is grace.

So many couples try to correct their behavior or change their communication patterns, but without grace those changes are temporary and exhausting. Grace is the starting point from which all change is made.

When you connect your heart to the grace of God, it becomes much easier to dispense that grace to the person you love the most.


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195 Responses to One Thing That Changes Every Marriage

  1. Pingback: Some Things I Learned in the First Year of Marriage | Grace Speaks

  2. Johna615

    Good post. I study something more challenging on completely different blogs everyday. It is going to all the time be stimulating to learn content material from different writers and practice somewhat one thing from their store. I dckegfkakebb

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  4. Linda

    Great story about grace!
    We like books that show how marriage goes wrong. We sometimes have opportunity to help others. Been married nearly 46 yrs and loving it!

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  7. Elishia McAllister

    In addition to the necessary and healing power of grace, in a marriage one must ALSO know the importance and necessity of HUMILITY vs. the audacity you show here [it is absolutely ABSURD to compare your wife forgiving you for cheating on her WITH HER BEST FRIEND with you ‘forgiving’ your wife for driving to a different location than you chose (when you did not make it clear where to meet you in the first place – then you HANG UP on her and rudely tell her you’ll wait there till she arrives to YOU) ]. The two shouldn’t even be spoken of in the same sentence. When true and legitimate contrition occurs (as did when Jesus forgave those who sinned against him), the one who caused immeasurable hurt in the past can see their actions for how grievous and weighty they truly are…and NOT compare the grace your wife has shown in loving and forgiving you with the ‘grace’ it takes to not be an asshole and hanging up on someone doing you a favor.

  8. Amanda Kelley

    Fantastic article! What an eye-opener!

  9. I needed that. So to the point and well-written. Thank you and I will be following you for more great words of advice directly from God.

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  11. Sharon Harpenau

    Any conferences near Omaha, ne.? Any suggestions for a 23yr old marriage that needs help??

    • olivia.mak

      Sharon Im not sure of a conference but I live about an hour away from Omaha, originally grew up there and am also 23 and could use some marriage advice, if you feel like talking any.

  12. Kelly Abercrombie

    Thank you. Looking forward to reading it.

  13. Jana Thomas

    Amen, Thanks for that. It’s changing my heart and my way of thinking. God Bless you for obeying him.

  14. Torie

    This is so true and im going to share with my spouse so we can work at it together

  15. This is such a great post. Isn’t it sad it takes us so many years to reach this conclusion…life is all about grace, God’s grace poured into us so that it can flow out onto everyone our lives touch.

  16. Pam Sitzman

    This was a very good article. I and my husband have been married 34 years and each day we have together is a gift from God. We must not ever take each other for granted because we are only on this earth for a little while. We need to make the most of it. God is so Good! So Gracious and So full of love! With out God we do not have anything . Count your blessing and “Thank God” for your spouse!

  17. Sharla

    This morning as we were getting ready to leave, my husband was looking for his shoes, and there was a brief conversation about that, during which he said something really nasty and belittling to me. I said, I don’t think you really need to take that tone of voice. He said, I didn’t mean for that to sound as snotty as it did.

    If it hadn’t been him, it would have been me. We’re not very nice to one another a lot of the time. I think it started out as teasing, but somewhere along the line it stopped being funny. I guess maybe it’s time for one of us to put a stop to it, and see if the other one follows suit.

  18. Diane

    This is so true. Every married couple should read

  19. Bonnie Hamilton

    That is so true! I never thought of using the term, Grace, another word for forgiving. I have been using Grace in my Marriage for all these years!
    Thank you,

  20. William

    Thank you! God bless your ministry…I needed that!

  21. Elizabeth Luinstra

    Beautiful. Amazing the damage of misunderstandings. & wonder of forgiving Grace

  22. Stephanie

    Very good read that is all so true (unfortunately). Thanks!

  23. Amy

    This is well written and so helpful! Thank you!

  24. Melissa

    Thank you for your encouraging words about grace. It made me stop and think.

  25. Jordan

    Thanks for this post! My wife shared it with me and I have read it a few more times in the days since she forwarded this to me. After she read it (before I did), we had an honest discussion about how we both needed to be (much) more gracious to one another. Thank you for this needed reminder. I pray that my wife and I can exercise increasing grace toward one another as we move forward toward three years and counting of marriage, for God’s glory and for our joy.

  26. Zondra Bess

    That was so true! Thanks for sharing and offering your insight and wisdom.


  27. Stephen Clark

    My wife and I have known this in theory for many years but a change came in our practice of grace about a year ago. What changed for us was that we both got a glimpse of what that phrase “you owe me” is really saying. When we said that to one another we were really refusing to receive and acknowledge the immensity of the debt for which we had already been forgiven in Christ. Because He has chosen not to give us what we are “owed” but instead chose to absorb that debt Himself and offer us right standing before God, we now live in a state of constant indebtedness toward Him and toward others. I cannot fight for what is owed me because if I do, I will be in hell tonight (LeCrae). I can release her and she can release me from any sense of indebtedness because we are both debtors on a much grander scale. We can love because He first loved us. Now I see her offering grace to me when I am at my worst and she just accepts and forgives without expecting anything in return. Makes me want to love her even more. Two years ago we were burning in anger toward one another for all of the ways that we had failed to live up to expectations. Now we are experiencing the birth of a new romance and I am falling in love all over again with the girl I married 25 years ago.

  28. Elvina

    Perhaps God intervened and keep 1 of you from being in a certain spot at a certain time. I hate being late anywhere and have learned that a delay can be for a reason. Perhaps God was providing protecdtion.

    • Elvina

      Sorry, I mean to say. ‘Perhaps God was providing protection!.

  29. Julie Beck

    This is wonderful advice. We r often more patient with outsiders than we r with those we say we love. I am blessed to be married to my best friend. He is so patient with me and all my short comings. I feel so very blessed to know this kind of love.

  30. Liz

    This is great! Me and my husband always say “you owe me” but we mean it as a joke and reference to time after the kids are in bed 😉 lol

  31. Sandra

    My husband passed away on November 20th of this year. If I could change anything about our 33 years of marriage it would be exactly what this message is- Grace. I have so many wonderful memories because my husband was loving and gracious. I also have memories that bring me regret and tears because instead of grace there was anger, bitterness… on my part. No not all of my words were unkind but they are there and over shadow the good memories. If there is one thing I can teach you from my sorrow is you will remember your unkind words and deeds. May the Lord Jesus help you now to remember the message of Grace.

  32. Leighton

    Thank you! This message came at a perfect time.

  33. Thanks for this article! I’m going to share this message about grace in marriage when speaking with students

  34. Tina Lofton

    This msg. reminded. me that i need grace in my marriage

  35. jackie

    So much truth! Especially around the holidays!

  36. A

    Oooh, this hit right in the feels. Everything written here is exactly what my husband & I struggle with daily. Thank you. I needed to see this.

  37. Kim

    Lol, you don’t need “God” to have this in your marriage. It’s all about remembering who you fell in love with and being appreciative and taking things easy in general. We all get frustrated over little things like this sometimes, and that’s ok. If you catch yourself being a jerk, apologize, remind them that you love them, and move on. Over time, better habits will form. We are both atheists, and yet we have no problems with this. One must not believe in imaginary things to be kind to one another.

    • Nathan

      Good thing you got grace down, cause you really need to work on that rudeness

      • Candace

        I’m with Nathan! Good for your marriage but just as you find our God “imaginary”, so we find your tact.

    • Justin and Trisha

      Hey Kim, thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts. This blog is for anyone, regardless of your religious beliefs. Thanks again!

      • Camille

        Thank you Justin and/or Trisha for your kind words. Not everybody shares the same belief. Though I know what God has done for me in my life without question, I know there are many who do not believe that He exists. I love your hearts for not passing judgment. Merry Christmas to you and your family. And Kim, may you continue to have peace in your life and marriage, but please know, God is always there for you too. Merry Christmas.

  38. Donna Mark

    As a therapist, I see so many couples who start out giving their partners the benefit of the doubt, but somewhere along the way, they lose sight of the element of grace. A malaise clouds what once was an endearing quality, and the level of familiarity creates a breeding ground for conflict. It isn’t the big things that cause divorces, but the little things that act like “burrs” under a saddle and build up over the course of time to destroy the relationship.

    • Justin and Trisha

      Thank you so much for sharing this Donna. It is so easy to lose sight of grace.

  39. Michal

    A friend shared this link on FB & my husband was thoughtful enough to share… We have struggled to find balance in our relationship. The subject of Grace in this way had been presented to me, but I was easily frustrated & unable to tell my husband what you so effectually were able to in this blog… Thank you! =)

    • Justin and Trisha

      Thank you so much Michal. So glad it spoke to you.

  40. Kim

    This is so true. It is so easy to forget to be kindest,most understanding and willing to see the best in those we should be the closest and most loving! It reminds me of the story my Mother once told us, about Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan had a pet Hawk, he loved that bird and took it with him wherever he went. The Hawk was very loyal. They were very fond of each other. One day while traveling, Genghis Kahn, dismounted from his horse, grabbed his cup and bent down to fill it from the stream. Meanwhile the Hawk had been circling the area. As soon as the Hawk saw his master putting the cup to his mouth, the Hawk swooped down and knocked the cup out of Genghis Khan’s hand. Thinking the Hawk was just being playful, he found his cup and again proceeded to get some water. Again, the Hawk swooped down and knocked the cup out of his master’s hand. Genghis Khan was not known for his patience, and after the hawk had prevented him from a much needed drink, he swore at the hawk. Finally, a third time he filled his cup, only to have it knocked from his hand again. Furious, he unsheathed his sword and smote the hawk. The cup had flown from his hand up the hill a ways so he ran up to where it was so that he could finally get the drink he so desperately needed. To his horror, he saw in the stream where his cup now laid, a lethally poisonous snake. He suddenly knew what his loyal hawk had been doing. Obviously, the hawk while flying near by saw the danger of the snake’s venom in the stream and so was trying to protect his master from being poisoned. He took his cup, and returned quietly to where his hawk lay dead through his impulsive murderous act. Never would he be able to find another hawk/companion as loyal and as intelligent and worthy as this fine hawk had been. Genghis Khan had learned the lesson of patience, thinking the best and not the worst, far too late. Nothing could bring the life back to the hawk he had struck down in anger. I know this is true of relationships. We can forbear and accept unkindness and misunderstandings for so long, and if nothing is done to counteract those very hurtful experiences, eventually, they destroy the love and it can be far too late to try and save the relationship if one in the marriage refuses to show love,grace, gratitude and understanding.

  41. Ginny

    This is exactly what I needed. I have been struggling with this. Thank you.

  42. Excellent message. We attribute grace to salvation, but it is just as important for healthy relationships. Great job.

  43. peter

    Why does everything have to involve God or religion?? How about doing something because its the right thing to do? God gave you a brain so you could use it not so he could keep doing everything for you. If you screw up, its YOUR fault and also if you do good YOU get the credit.

    • Eddie

      What determines right or wrong? God does…he is an absolute. If you say there is no God then how did morals come to exist? If something is intrinsically right then the opposite is true something is wrong. But what established the right?

    • Justin and Trisha

      Hey Peter…I don’t mind at all that you don’t share my religious beliefs. God is where I find my hope and my foundation for my marriage, but I know not everyone does. I hope you’ll find the content our blog helpful for you.

  44. Elizabeth Mccuien

    Thanks that was a good point we need to learn to apprecuate each other…thiswasa good reminder

  45. Denise Burnett

    Thank you Thank you Thank you, GOD is so generous in His love, your right it is a very small gift to give that reaps huge rewards for everyone involved.

  46. jessica barrera

    I seriously just said WOW… I really needed to read this. The key to happiness in a relationship.

    • Justin and Trisha

      thank you so much Jessica…so glad it met you when you needed it.

  47. Barry

    So true we need to stop and realize we need grace

    • Colleen

      Kevin, if your first thought is that your wife needs this, maybe there’s a lesson here for you to learn as well.

  48. Doyle McCarver

    Thanks for reminding me of this.
    It’s because we think of only ourselves instead of our spouse. God thinks of us! Thank you God for your grace for us.

  49. Melissa

    Thank you for this! I definitely struggle with this and it does cause a lot of issues between my husband and I. He does so much and tries so hard to do good and I’m very critical of him. I am going to do my best to have more grace, because I know it would do wonders for our relationship!!

  50. mom

    I think pertains to children also. I know I am guilty of this with you a lot. As I was reading it you came to mind, and I got chocked up from that thought. I love you and appreciate all you do for me. And will try to show you more grace. Love mommy

  51. PAT

    so TRUE we all need Gods wonderful grace!!!
    very well written

  52. Susan

    Thank you for this incredible reminder. I’m so guilty of this! The sad thing is that my husband doesn’t act with malice or evil intent yet I continually look at him and treat him as if he does. I don’t think I have really received or understood God’s grace for my life, and doubt that I know how to extend it. I struggle with giving grace to others, as well 🙁

  53. Lauren

    Whether it’s your first year or your 50th, this rings true. Practice Grace and speak Life over your spouse and family

    • Justin and Trisha

      Yes! It is these two things that will allow you to get from your first year to your 50th. Thank you!

  54. Jacklyn

    Thank you I really needed to hear this!! Amazing

  55. Lori

    You know, I happened by this accidentally or not so much when God is involved. Thank you for the well deserved, well placed, but loving reminder!

    • Justin and Trisha

      Love it when God does that! Thanks Lori!

    • Justin and Trisha

      So glad it met you where you are 🙂

  56. Melissa

    Please correct the use of you’re in the below, this should state your…

    A few months ago, I was running late one morning (not unusual) and needed to swap cars with Trish before I could head to my meeting. Trish called me and said, “You’re car needed gas, so I am filling it up for you. Why don’t you meet me at Kroger and you can leave from there. It will save you from having to stop and get gas.” – See more at:

    • momof3

      the blog was about grace…..might try to have some for grammar mistakes rather than calling it out 😉
      This was a great message!

    • Justin and Trisha

      Done. Thanks Melissa. I’ve read that post 100 times and missed that every time. Your appreciated….:) Just kidding. You’re appreciated.

  57. Kathy

    Thank YOU!!! Wow, this is
    Luv…Love…LOVE this!
    Ohhhhhh. AGAIN… Thank YOU!

  58. Jerm

    Sounds good, but it’s kinda hard to find grace when the search just breeds anger, and bitterness. Would LOVE to get back to the old me, but can’t seem to find it. Lost cause I guess. Not trying to rain on anyone’s parade, sorry if it seems that way. Just angry at God I guess.

    • AJ

      Many times when I have been “mad at God”, I’ve come to realize that it was my own decisions that caused my circumstances. God is full of Grace and Mercy. But, he is also a Just God. When our decisions are contrary to His plan, and we all have been there, we will reap the consequences. Instead of getting mad at God for my faults or for my circumstances, I ask, “where have I stumbled” or I am anxious to see how God will use my situation (maybe the death of a loved one) to His Glory. Never has He failed and never WILL He fail. God works all things together for good, for those that are in Christ Jesus. No matter what you are going through, whether it be decisions you have made that have put you in a tough situation (mine was financial distress), an illness you wish God would just take away, or a death of a close relative or child, God’s light will shine through if you are willing to watch (and wait) for it. God ALWAYS answers your prayers (Isaiah 65:24 – Before they even call, I will have already answered them), but sometimes the answer is not a Yes or a No as we seem to think they all should be. Sometimes it is a Not Now. I pray that you are able to see God’s Merciful Hand in your situation, whatever it may be, and find His Grace, not so you can “get back to the old you”, but so you can “embrace a new and better you”.

  59. Doug Mallory

    I enjoyed the read. Sad to say, I do almost all of those things that causes my wife and I to fight. Generally in the small areas. My wife does so much for me and I don’t appreciate her for it much. Like I expect it. Kind of how I do with God as well and to think no matter what, they both still love me! I’m human but that’s still not an excuse. Thank you for the reminder!

  60. john

    The same guidance applies to everyone we meet through a busy day. A little grace for the other driver and the other shopper also waiting in line would go a long way toward making us all happier people

  61. “take a few minutes this week to think about how messed up and imperfect you are…” Yep, nothing helps with an attitude adjustment quite like doing this. Great post

    • Justin and Trisha

      Thank you Eileen. Sometimes the biggest things can be changed with a little perspective.

  62. Perfect! We are entering our 25th year of marriage and it is work! But with grace, the work is worth it. Wonder how I can get Hubby to read this…..

    • Sonny

      Debbie, Keep the faith. Just send it to him and ask him to read it when he gets a minute. My loving wife sent it to me and I read it…Makes all the sense to me and it showed me once again, as she does numerous times each day, that she loves me very much and wants to keep our love vibrant and not the way both of our previous marriages were. We were both married over 20 years each and God gifted us to each other…If you think he needs to read it, then it is obvious that you both need to maybe read it together and discuss it. It’s like GI Joe says, “Now you know…And knowing is half the battle!” Sorry, but I just love that statement! Bye, and God Bless your Marriage…

  63. Billy Frick

    This blog really blessed me today and I will be sharing it with a few couples that my wife and I are ministering to presently!!

    • Justin and Trisha

      Thanks, Billy. So grateful God used it!

  64. Dawn

    I have been married 25 years and are experiencing the empty nest now. I needed to hear this and be reminded of the grace God shows me daily and moment by moment. Thank you

    • Justin and Trisha

      Thank you Dawn. Praying for you during this season.

  65. Lisa

    Lneave a message…ot only good for marriage relationships but great advice to use in all our close relationships. Thank you!

  66. Tina Johnson

    This is a great message for all couples whether you are married or not!Love it!

  67. What a great read for anyone who has been married for ANY length of time. I’ve been married less than a year and I needed to read this. What a great reminder to be graceful.

  68. Kimberly Tunnell

    Thanks for this chance to start a new chapter !!! God bless y’all !

  69. Tyra Colbert

    Loved it…God delivered that right on time.

  70. Layni Cade

    loved this, needed to hear it

    • Justin and Trisha

      So glad God used it at just the right time!


    Grace, Grace, God’s Grace! So beautiful and special, loving and kind, to be able to share that with those that are the closest to you, is something that most of us find hard to do. Yet we so freely give to others around us. Thank you for sharing this with me, my wonderful son. I love you. Mom

    • Justin and Trisha

      So glad it met you where you are and when you needed it.

  72. Lyle Williams

    Thanks Justin. One of your best pieces of advice. It is all about Grace! I have a friend who gives abundant grace to others but not much to his wife. I challenged him several years ago to give the same kind of grace to his wife. It really works! Bless you my friend!

  73. diand1230

    thank you for this simple yet complex & important reminder. 🙂

  74. Voice In the Wilderness

    Amen! Very good message and reminder for us all!

  75. Wilfredo Padilla

    Great message. Grace is a lifestyle thst must b lived out every day. Amen

  76. Grace. Only 5 letters but what power they hold in human relationships! Thanks for the insight and for the reminder. Now … excuse me while I go put gas in my husband’s car.