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Rebuilding a Marriage Starts with “I” before “You”

Breaking things is easy. Rebuilding though? That takes some time. Especially when we are rebuilding lives. Is there a splintering in your  marriage today, a wall that is unstable? Our God is in the business of rebuilding and strengthening, but needs one thing from you first.

Breaking stuff is easy – really easy.

I must have been in third or fourth grade when I broke a small wooden box I had made in school. It was nothing fancy, but it was fragile. It was meant to be a gift for my mom. It was small enough to fit in the palm of her hand, but big enough I thought, to hold her rings and necklaces.

“Handle it with care,” my teacher said as we left that afternoon. Moments later, it was in pieces – far from its original design. Running to the bus, it slipped out of my hands and hit the concrete. It splintered into countless pieces. I’m pretty sure a few unholy words rolled out of my mouth as well. What took me months to build was broken in less than a minute.

Breaking stuff is easy– too easy, isn’t it? Whether it’s wooden boxes, glasses, windows, vases, or toys, we all know it takes far less time to break than to build.

The work of rebuilding can be even harder.

I love the story of Nehemiah. He was not dealing with broken glass or wooden boxes, but rather broken walls that once stood strong surrounding Jerusalem. Putting walls back together is one thing; putting people back together is quite another. If you have read the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament, then you know the real task was not just rebuilding the walls it was rebuilding God’s people.

Their sin had brought disaster and disgrace. The walls were just the physical, visible, and tangible symbols of their hearts. The real work needed to happen inside, not just outside. And so what does Nehemiah do when he gets the news that God’s people were in trouble? How does he respond when the news comes that Jerusalem’s walls were broken down and its gates burned with fire?

In four short verses (Nehemiah 1:3-6), Nehemiah says “I” five times.

“I have heard or understood these things…”

“I sat down and wept…”

“I mourned and fasted and prayed…”

“Then I said…”

“I confess…”

Nehemiah’s response gives us this simple truth that rebuilding starts with taking personal responsibility.

Rebuilding starts with “I” before ‘”you.”

This is true when rebuilding walls, but’s it’s also true in broken relationships – especially marriage. It’s true where a relationship has splintered, pieces have been shattered, intimacy severed, silence leveraged, and bitterness sown.

The work of rebuilding starts with “I.”

Instead of here is what “you” have done…

Here is where “I” have sinned.

Here is where “I” have fallen short.

Here is where “I” was wrong.

Here is where “I” have hurt you.

Here is where “I” need to change.

Here is where “I” need your forgiveness.

What’s broken or cracked in your marriage right now? Where is the wall beginning to lean or buckle a bit? How different would your marriage be if you led with “I’ before “you?”

With God’s help, the wall was rebuilt. In fact, in just 52 days (Nehemiah 6:15) the pieces were put back together again. God is in the business of rebuilding – especially rebuilding marriages.

Through Christ, God wants to help you rebuild what’s broken in your marriage. He wants to put right what has gone wrong.

Will you take the first step? Will you start rebuilding by saying “I” before “you?”


Patrick Schwenk

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  1. This article came at the perfect time. I’m in a marriage that is a sinking ship. Today, however, I prayed to God to reveal to me any areas in my life that are not in alignment with his will and where I am not obeying his plans. I also asked for guidance in the area that he reveals. I told him that he needs to make it obvious because otherwise I will miss it. When done with my time with him i check in on Facebook and this is the first thing I see. Well now that was very obvious!

    1. Hi Cathy, thanks so much for sharing your comments. We always love to hear how God is speaking and working in someone’s life! Praying God continues to give you guidance, strength, and healing in your marriage!

  2. My husband and I were discussing this today!! We are young (21 & 22) we have only been married 2 years. We have a lot to learn and it’s been difficult. The way we communicate under stress needs a lot of work. Thank you for this article! I can’t wait to share it with my husband.

    1. Thank you Kathleen! Praying it is an encouragement to you and your husband!

  3. Wonderful article! My husband and I have been married now for 12 years. However, the thing is we can’t see to mesh to become as God wants us to be which should be one in His eyes. We keep living in the singular sense We need to find our way back to each other and we have a lot of work to do, but with the Lord’s help all things are possible.
    Which causes conflict and stress, trust issues and his family interference, since they have not accepted me nor liked me either. Which is their problem. My husband and I are both Christian’s. We wholeheartedly believe God is the way and only way. He is our Salvation! I appreciate your prayers. Thank you. Many blessings to you and your family. Love in Christ- Melissa

    1. Thank you Melissa for your encouraging words! Praying God continues to give you and your husband grace and wisdom as you seek to love God and one another in marriage!

  4. I have been married 21 years to the beautiful women in the world. I have not been the man, father or husband I needed to be. She says she’s no longer in love with me. I’ve been out of my home for the past 4 1/2 months. I am devastated to say the least. I miss her so much as well as my kids. I want nothing more than to keep my marriage. I have found Christ through this ordeal and has helped immensely. That being said I live everyday day with a tattered broken heart and so wish to go home. I have be consistently going to church and enjoy it. I have been going to therapy as well. I am trying to do everything possible to keep my marriage. We have been together 24 years and have 3 beautiful children. I pray everyday day at least 50 times or more. I try so hard to have faith and trust in the Lord. I hate to admit it tends to fade. She is so so so important to me. I will never give up on her but so scared she’s gone ?

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