Helping Women in Difficult Marriages

Today’s post is written by guest blogger and author Karla Downing. Often women’s small groups include women whose husbands are not spiritual leaders and many do not even know Christ. Perhaps the marriage relationship is based on abuse and pain.  Read Karla’s post here and consider the practical insight she provides to help us minister to these wives.

I still remember the conversation vividly. I finally risked sharing in a woman’s Bible study that I was in a difficult marriage and really struggling with the pain. The pastor’s wife responded with this: “Just make Jesus your husband. He can be everything to you.” I left feeling that I was wrong to even be bothered by the problems. If I was a good Christian then Jesus would be enough and I wouldn’t be so focused on what was going on. I didn’t share again with anyone in the church for over five years, although I did eventually find a secular support group that offered me real help for the dilemmas I was facing.

This shouldn’t be. When people reach out in the church, we should be able to respond to their pain in a way that communicates empathy and understanding as well as offering something helpful. James 2:15-16 (NIV) says, “Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” In the case of women in difficult marriages, they need empathy, validation, and a referral to something tangible that will offer real help.

Churches can have any of the following to offer:

  1. Trained lay counselors
  2. Referrals to professional counselors in the area
  3. Women mentors who have been in difficult marriages
  4. Support groups for women in difficult marriages
  5. Twelve Step recovery programs at your church or other churches in the area (Celebrate Recovery)
  6. Secular recovery programs  (Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, COSA)
  7. Books and websites that offer help

When you offer any of these with compassion and empathy, you show that you understand she has real problems and that you care. You do not have to be a counselor yourself or have the answers to her specific dilemma. You just have to recognize that she needs support because being a woman in a difficult marriage is a tough place to be in and it shouldn’t be made tougher because she is in a church that doesn’t recognize her need.


Karla DowningKarla Downing is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the author of 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages and the founder of Karla offers practical tools based on biblical truths to Christians in difficult relationships. She also has a passion to teach ministry leaders how to reach out in more effective ways.



10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages, Karla Downing

Women Making a Difference in Marriage, Lana Packer


  1. Caryl says

    I am laying in bed and my husband is drunk passed out in the living room. Tomorrow will be our 1 year wedding anniversary. I’ve considered several times packing a bag tonight and never turning back. What should have been the best year full of excitement to live a life together has been the complete opposite. I feel like I’m having a complete breakdown in all aspects of my life. To what extent are you supposed to take the marriage vows and stay through thick and thin? I’ve prayed and prayed yet God seems to be so far right now!

    • says

      My heart feels your pain. I too was very disappointed at the same time in my marriage because of the problems we had. I cannot tell you that you should or shouldn’t leave, as that is a personal decision that must be carefully weighed and considered on a personal level based on your belief and conviction. I can tell you that there are many things you can do short of filing for divorce. It is actually very important that you set some standards this early in your marriage, as what you tolerate now sets a precedent. I do not know if your husband is an alcoholic or not, but his drinking is obviously a problem for you. I would suggest you get help for yourself. Read my book 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. You will find you are not alone in your struggles and that there are many tools that will help you . I would suggest going to Al-anon also as there are many people there in relationships with people who drink. You can at the appropriate time decide if you can or cannot tolerate the drinking and there are various types of boundaries you can set with that. It is important though that it be done right. I do not believe that you have to be a passive victim of your husband’s drinking. In fact, it is a proven fact that drinkers get help faster when the family does not enable and instead responds the right way to the drinking.

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