Activate the Love Filter: 5 Principles to Safeguard Your Marriage

Somewhere within the first decade of our marriage, my husband and I began to notice a disturbing trend:  marriages dissolving all around us.  In the church we attended at that time, three couples went their separate ways in a single year.  They were active, visible members — regular attenders.  We looked at each other, both deer in the headlights and knew, deep in our bones:  This could happen to us, too.

Shauna Shanks writes about marriage from the trenches, and A Fierce Love is a manual for marriage preservation in the wake of unfaithfulness, betrayal, and emotional abandonment, for Shauna has invited readers to witness the anguish of the days, weeks, and months that followed her husband Micah’s announcement that he wanted a divorce.  The book is a record of her resolve to fight for her marriage, even though Micah gave her absolutely no hope for reconciliation.

The Love Filter

” . . . this man with whom I had built a life, made promises to, and shared our children, opened his mouth and declared, “I do not love you. . . I am not attracted to you . . . I shouldn’t have married you. . . I have wasted ten years of my life with you, and I don’t want to waste any more of my time.  I feel nothing for you.”

And yet:
God directed Shauna’s thoughts to I Corinthians 13, the love chapter, and she made a decision that her love would not be based on mere feelings.  Rather than reading Paul’s words as lovely sentiment or tired poetry, for Shauna, they became a call to a fierce love — a battle cry based on the truth and a posture of grace and restraint.

Instead of remorse over his sin, Micah communicated only rejection. If the marriage was to be saved, the ball was entirely in Shauna’s court, so she employed the truths of I Corinthians 13 as her Love Filter.  Responding in kindness, patience, and hope while rejecting rudeness, pride, and jealousy, she was free to persevere because I Corinthians 13 love never fails.

A Specific Calling

Shauna is very quick to say that not everyone will be called to fight as she did, and not every marriage on a broken planet is salvageable.  However, her specific calling was to hang in there, to speak only to a few very close friends about her plight, and to expend all her energy in the direction of preserving that relationship.

“Second Marriage”

So completely was the Shanks’s marriage transformed, Shauna speaks of their first ten years pre-crisis as their “first marriage” (even though there was no legal breach) and the time since the reconciliation as the “second marriage.” The challenge facing you and me today, then, is to reject a “first marriage” mindset and to fight each day for that “second-marriage”-level of commitment to self-giving as a rescue for a failing marriage — or as a safe guard to an already stable and healthy marriage.

In reading Shauna’s courageous account of warrior-level faith, I gleaned five principles that seemed to be sign posts on her journey of fierce love:

1.  Beware “blatant indifference.”

The roots of Micah’s cold detachment from a ten-year marriage can be traced to his troubled childhood coupled with the distraction of a competing love, but even so, Shauna admits she, too, had been practicing some behaviors that could also be considered “blatant indifference.” Binge-watching Netflix series, failing to prioritize time with Micah, and viewing the marriage as a utilitarian childcare arrangement also set the stage for weakened ties.  Of course this does not excuse Micah’s infidelity but Shauna laments, “My sin may have looked different than Micah’s, but it was still sin.”

2.  Find “Aaron and Hur” caliber support.

God provided two friends for Shauna who upheld her through the darkest days.  So strong was her resolve to fight and so clear was her understanding that God was directing her toward reconciliation that she did not want to risk telling her family about their rift in order to keep them from turning against Micah.  (She and Micah continued to live in the same house so to the outside observer, nothing had changed in the Shanks household.)

Shauna was not being abused or endangered, so she does not intend for her practice to be prescriptive for those who are in an abusive relationships. This is an important distinction given the tendency of abuse victims to hide unhealthy relationships out of shame or fear. With that firmly established, in a culture in which husband-bashing has become acceptable even in Christian circles, there’s a place for respectful silence about our spouse’s shortcomings as well as an honoring curtain of privacy sheltering a marriage relationship.

3.  Refuse to receive the damaging effects of a wayward spouse’s rejection.

Shauna clung to the truth that God had already set a high value upon her, and this guarded her heart from dwelling on negative thoughts and helped to pull her out of depression and despair.

“The Bible instructs us to take our thoughts captive.  We act as though we have no control over our thoughts . . . as if once they pop into our heads, we have to let them live there.
Take them captive.  They will kill you.”

4.  Chase after God.

If two people are determined to seek God faithfully, their marriage relationship will be impacted as well.  Before working on her marriage, Shauna focused on her relationship with God and, mercifully, Micah’s heart for Shauna changed after his heart warmed once again to his Lord.

5.  Take grace.

There’s a prideful rising up of the spirit that is death to relationships because it rejects the gracious offering of forgiveness.  Shauna found that one of the obstacles to reconciliation was that, although she was willing to extend grace to Micah in a supernatural way — he had to become willing to receive it.

From a dark and oppressive place, Shauna trusted for grace, and God met her there.  No matter what the state of your marriage (or even if you are single) there is merit in being reminded that when God becomes involved in the process of restoration, He does not merely patch us up or send us backward into a former thing.  God’s work of redemption restores forward into a brand new and beautiful thing that only He can accomplish.

//

This book was provided by Zondervan through BookLook Bloggers in exchange for my review.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Additional Resources

  • Jamie Ivey interviewed Shauna on Episode #153 of The Happy Hour Podcast.  Together, they talk about life and Shauna’s book — and the house the Shanks family is building together out of shipping containers.  Click here to listen.
  • My friend Crystal Storms blogs about marriage and recently shared A Prayer for the Wife Feeling Abandoned.  She has experienced the heartbreak of a husband pulling away, and describes the distance between them in that season as “a wall of insurmountable heights.”  Click here for encouragement from Crystal’s heart.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for over 25 years, and their four children are growing up at an alarming rate. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

72 thoughts on “Activate the Love Filter: 5 Principles to Safeguard Your Marriage”

  1. Michele,
    Thanks for sharing Shauna’s story and how turning to God first is an essential key to saving a marriage that has gone off the tracks. It is only through His strength can the amount of grace and forgiveness that is needed be brought to the table. It is amazing how one person, with God’s wisdom and strength, can bring a spouse back into the marriage. Thanks for this ray of hope and the disclaimer about abuse in marriage not being something to endure.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wonderful post. As a pastor’s wife, I write often about marriage. And not only because women come to me with troubled marriages, but because I’ve had a front row seat to how difficult marriage can turn and the power of grace and God’s love to turn it around. Love this fresh word on love. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, what a needed and difficult book to write. I love her line – “My sin may have looked different than Micah’s, but it was still sin.” It reminds me I need to make sure I am taking time for my marriage and not just going through the motions of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Beautiful!! This determination to love and preserve a marriage! Thank you for bringing this book to light here. It sounds like a rare voice in our time. Encouraging to read what God can do given a willing heart. “Love is of God…”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. #5 really stood out to me: “Take grace.” Oh, how pride can prevent that! I want to be a welcome recipient (and giver) of grace, not one who is too proud to think I need it. Thanks for sharing about this book, Michele.

    We took your suggestion to go to Acadia Nat’l Park and absolutely fell in love with your Maine scenery! We then hopscotched around the rest of the state from day to day and had the best time. I don’t know if we’ll ever make it that far up north again or not, but we will always have wonderful memories of Maine!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an amazing story of reconciliation – I found this post so interesting to read. These are definitely wonderful ways of keeping a marriage on the right track, or helping in the event of difficulties. What a determined woman Shauna is – and what an inspiration. Thank you for sharing, Michele, and for being a part of the Hearth and Soul Link Party.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m sure her book will be an encouragement to many wives who feel as if there is no hope. So thankful for Shauna’s grit and determination! Thanks for the kind comments — and hope you enjoy your time away!

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  7. There is so much we can learn from these principles!
    With two young kids in the house, I sometimes see my husband and I experiencing the indifference she mentions. Despite being tired and busy we try to prioritize time together. This is more encouragement to do so!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so easy to run in separate circles, dividing and conquering with kids and tasks, and to forget that we need to connect with one another. Glad that you’ve been encouraged to keep up the good work!

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  8. I agree with the comment above: this was so interesting! What a story Shauna has to tell. Thanks to you, Michele, for sharing some of it. I give thanks for my marriage, yet my husband and I are all too aware that apathy and coasting in neutral can put our marriage at risk. It takes intentionality to cultivate marriage.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. What a beautiful story of restoration! I love the guideposts you have culled from this, Michele! So critical to notice when we’re headed in the wrong direction BEFORE we arrive where we have no business being! Blessings!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Michele, this sounds like a truly wonderful and valuable book for any marriage. I’ll definitely be getting a copy today. I have seen this kind of fierce love work in numerous counseling situations, even one where the spouse had left the marriage for a same-sex relationship. And, almost always, dare I say always, the spouse who was fighting for the marriage learned much about their own heart and how they had failed in the marriage, just as Shauna did. But whether a spouse chooses to stay in the marriage or not when there are biblical grounds for divorce, it’s so important that there is forgiveness and grace or bitterness and anger WILL take it’s place. Thanks for this review.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As a counselor, Donna, you will find this book to be so helpful because it’s one thing for us to say, “Oh, just hang in there and pray and do what YOU know YOU should be doing, and see what God does.” But this author (Shauna) has done it and so she has the credentials to be able to give the hard assignment.

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  11. Ohmygosh Michele! This is EXACTLY my stage of life. Pete and I just celebrated ten years this summer. We said in this new stage, it would be our “second marriage.” I have to read this book. So many couples around us are either currently divorcing or are beginning to date once again. What a great review!
    On a personal note – I want to thank you for joining and helping me to launch the #GritUp gathering. It’s a hard, consistent undertaking…this networking thing:) Your presence has been such a blessing to me. Warm regards my writer friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Meg, I am in awe of all you brave and tech-savvy women who undertake the hosting of a linkup. I appreciate what you do so much. And I hope the book ends up being encouraging to you. I think it will, because she offers principles that will make an already good marriage even better and keep us from sliding into neglect.

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  12. Shauna’s story sounds very much like the story of my marriage, Michele. There was no abuse, so God wanted me to persevere through the messes and muck that were mostly of my own doing. Thanks for sharing about her book! I’ll have to check it out!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Michele, great review. I’ve read a little of Shauna’s story before, and I really appreciate your takeaways. You’re so right. Whether our marriage is strong or floundering, we must continually seek God first and make sure our relationship with Him is solid. It’s only after that that He can work miracles in broken relationships.

    Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. That’s such a scary thought, that this could happen to anyone. But it’s good in that it wakes us up to be alert and seek to show that kind of love. It’s so easy to fall into indifference or just “getting through the day” issues or looking at the other person to help me with what I need to do rather than seeking ways to minister to him. This sounds like a good, heartfelt resource.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. That quote, “Take them captive…they will kill you.” Is power packed. I am reading about thoughts in the book of Mark where Jesus says they are what pollutes (if evil thoughts). Renewing the mind is something I want to read more about. I even joined Alyssa Howard’s email series on it! Thanks for sharing, Michele!

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Wow, what a testimony of strength and grace. Only God. Truly, only God is able to restore and remake in such personal ways. Marriage sure does take a lot of humility, doesn’t it? But, what a gift it is to grow and learn together. Thank you for sharing, Michele. ((xoxo))

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Whew. Books on marriage are hard for me. I think because of the dissolution of my own parents’ marriage the year I married. There SO MUCH weight there. I think the best thing I can think to hold on to after 9 years is that God called us together for a reason that is beyond sense at times. He knows that we need each other and will be the best people to help walk this road and raise our kids no matter what we “feel” from a moment-to-moment basis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Moment-to-moment feelings are so unreliable we can’t base anything on them. Good point that we are “called” to one another when we marry. Beyond understanding — like so much of this following life.

      Like

  18. I think that everything that needs to be said has been said and re-affirms that marriage is not wimps. We’re all susceptible to the things that can drown a marriage and it looks different for each of us, but with a focus on God first, it can be done. I applaud the author for being vulnerable and you for sharing her story.
    Thank you.

    Liked by 2 people

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