You Can’t Talk Them Into It

One of the most common questions we get when we are speaking with or coaching couples is: “What was the most important thing you did to restore your marriage?”

Most of the time, people don’t agree with Trisha’s answer. Almost all the time they don’t like her answer. She will tell you the most pivotal and most difficult decision she made that lead to our restoration was packing up my things and kicking me out.

There are marriage principles that are true for all marriages; and then there are marriage principles that are different for every couple based on their circumstances, history and situation. While we believe in separation for the purpose of reconciliation, we know it isn’t the right choice for everyone. But here is the principle that applies to every marriage: Trisha couldn’t talk me into choosing her.

This is the most counter-intuitive principle, but it can literally save your marriage if you will absorb it.

  • You can’t talk him into telling the truth
  • You can’t talk her into not chatting with that guy on Facebook
  • You can’t talk him into not watching porn
  • You can’t win him back by begging him to come back
  • You can’t win her over by walking on egg shells and trying to be perfect
  • You can’t talk him into not texting her again
  • You can’t talk her into loving you
  • You can’t talk him into being committed to you or your marriage

When our marriage is drifting; when our marriage is disconnected; when our marriage is falling apart; when our spouse has had an affair; our natural instinct is to think: If I beg him, he’ll stay. If I’m a perfect husband, she’ll fall back in love with me. If I can convince him how much I love him, then he’ll choose me over pornography.

The problem is we can talk our spouse into a behavioral change, but we can’t talk them into heart transformation. Who wants to be in a marriage that they have been talked into? Who wants to be in a relationship that they’ve manipulated their spouse into staying or loving or being committed to?

Talking them into it:

  • Enables them
  • Delays the brokenness they need to change their heart
  • Allows them to focus on you and not on their choices, dysfunction or sin
  • Gives you a false sense of hope that things will be different
  • Places you in a parental, supervisor or investigator role that you were never meant to have
  • Leads you to the same place in 3 weeks, 3 months or 3 years from now

If you are at a place in your marriage where you are trying to change your spouse’s behavior by talking them into it…my advice is stop. Take a step back and reconnect with God. Begin to pursue the person you know God is calling you to be, and allow God to be God for your spouse. You can’t talk them into repentance. You can’t talk them into commitment. You can’t talk them into integrity.

Only God can do that.

Allow Him to do what only He can.

It will be the most difficult thing you will do. But, it could be the most important thing you will do.

7 Responses to You Can’t Talk Them Into It

  1. Chris

    Amen. It took a good friend to get me to pack a suitcase and ready myself to leave. When he had left it was to party at a hotel with his “friend”. It was only God changing his heart and nothing I said or did. Our marriage was restored and it is worth the work.

  2. Amanda

    This is exactly what I needed to read. I’m going through something very similar and made my husband leave last night. I’ve been questioning if I did the right thing, now I know I did. Thank you for posting this!

    My husband and I will be attending a conference you are doing this weekend. I’m looking forward to it.

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  4. Oh my word, Josh & I were JUST talking about this very topic last night! 

    I mentioned to him how a few years ago I had to change my mindset in regards to how I was approaching our marriage restoration…

    I had to stop trying to change HIM, and instead focus on me and my heart/relationship with God.  

    That all I could do for Josh was show the Gospel working in my life, have my word/actions/thoughts be an overflow of my heart change, and pray that God stepped into his heart and life and prompted the same “real” change, not change based on my (or anyone else’s!) expectations. Such a good reminder today! 

  5. Eric

    I totally understand what you are getting at here and it is probably something that I needed to hear.  But, one thing that is confusing about this… if talking about wanting them to change some of their behavior doesn’t do any good, then what good is marital counselling?

    •  Eric, that is  a great question. I am not saying that you don’t have a role to play, but more saying that their motivation has to be from them. They have to want change for themselves and your marriage as much or more than you do. If their only motivation to change or improve your marriage is you, then it won’t be long lasting change. Does that make sense? Marriage counseling is awesome, if both people want it and will apply it.

      • Missi

        And its a sad, lonely road when only one wants it, and works towards it, and gets no response or participation from the other… ;o(