When Your Marriage Needs Help {The Grove – Marriage Abroad}

We’ve had such an amazing week of marriage input. Learning about differences in ministry styles. How to have fun again and know each other deeply. How to celebrate, forgive, and keep it hot. Is there anything else to say?

Maybe just one thing.

Maybe there’s someone out there that has tried, really tried to follow all the marriage advice out there. But you are still left with a marriage that is not what you want. You know marriage was never going to be perfect, but you didn’t know it was going to be like… this.

We like to think that people like us are above the divorce statistics. But how many of us know of too many co-workers whose marriages have ended? And from people we LEAST expected.

We shake our heads and wonder “WHY?”

But we know why. We know that marriage is crazy hard. And we know that cross-cultural stress and transition makes it crazy harder.

So maybe we should stop being surprised.

Maybe we should start living as a community where it’s okay to say, “My marriage needs help!”

Maybe we should cast off the judgment that creates the fear to say this.

You know I’ve written little bits about how a year ago my husband and I spent time in counseling. It’s hard to announce that publicly because people (or at least I think people) immediately assume you’re marriage is in danger, on the brink of divorce.

That wasn’t the case with us. The “D” word had never entered our minds.

We’re were both just really stressed and instead of leaning into each other, we were too often butting up against each other. We still deeply loved and were committed to each other.

But we felt ourselves slipping further into patterns we didn’t like. We weren’t enjoying each other like we wanted to. And arguments were happening too often to be healthy. There was a disconnect and a discontent.


We refused to settle for a functioning marriage. We wanted a healthy, thriving one.

And I can’t tell you how much has changed in a year. How newly-wed feelings have come back, but stronger. How we’re able to identify core issues now when arguments happen (and they still do). How my husband has been gone for six days and I’m giddy to go get him from the airport in an hour.

We’re still journeying through big stress, but now it feels like we’re side by side, holding each other up, not head-butting anymore.

I share this to say, “There is hope.” There is hope for you, the one feeling the disconnect and discontent. The restoration of Jesus is real and more powerful than you know. So reach out and find the help you need. Despite what it may cost your ministry or your bank account.

But also, I know there are those out there for whom the divide spans much greater. You believe in the restorative power of Jesus, but that is not going to be the story of your marriage. You are two hearts who are ending your journey together. And you are heartbroken for that.

Can we sit and be heartbroken with you?

I have more than one friend who is walking this story right now, so my pain for you is fresh.

We’re here to be a safe place if you need it. To say, “I’m so, so sorry.” To pray His presence and comfort over you.

Can we whisper a truth to you too?

The restoration of Jesus is for you, if not for your marriage, it is still absolutely, always for you. You are not disqualified from his love, from his kingdom work, or from this community.

You are loved.


Have you ever hesitated to get help for your marriage struggles for fear of what people would think?

What has brought you out of hard times in your marriage?

If your marriage has ended (or is ending), how are you doing? How has the presence of Jesus met you?  

How can the overseas community be better at handling marriages that are struggling or in crisis?  


This is what we call The Grove.  It’s where we all gather to share our thoughts, our words, and our art on our weekly prompt.  So join us in the comments.  Show us your art work by adding an image. And link up your own blog posts on this week’s prompt.  Click here for details and instructions


  1. Melissa Toews August 13, 2015

    “We refused to settle for a functioning marriage. We wanted a healthy, thriving one.”

    Yes! Thank you for this! We jumped at the opportunity to get marriage counseling, not because our marriage was so bad, but because we knew it could be better. And I’m so glad we did. It has made a world of difference for us!

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 13, 2015

      Exactly, Melissa!  Too many people think that counseling is a last stitch effort for a marriage that is falling apart.  Instead it can be a gift that helps you grow and thrive.  Love to hear that it’s been that for you.

  2. Ruth August 13, 2015

    Thank you for sharing with honesty, Danielle.  My question is – HOW do you get help when you are overseas? Do you know of resources available, like Skype counseling or other things that are helpful and available wherever you happen to be?

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 13, 2015

      Great question, Ruth.  For something via Skype, CMI http://cmiprograms.org/coaching/bridges-registration/ is a great option.  I know there are some other options out there, but this is one I can speak to personally.  I hope others will chime in with what they recommend.  (Also CMI is very reasonably priced.)

      My husband and I took time to go to Link Care http://www.linkcare.org/ in Fresno, California for their Personal Restoration and Growth Program, and it was an amazing program.

      And I don’t know where in the world you are, but if you can make it to Chiang Mai, Thailand, they have excellent M-care counseling centers there (Cornerstone and The Well).




  3. Ruth August 13, 2015

    Also, I wanted to say, doesn’t marriage often feel like such a taboo topic of discussion?  You can say your kids are driving you nuts or you’re having a hard time with parenting, but talking about marriage difficulties is usually so…awkward.  You don’t want to talk down about your husband or portray yourself as a horrible wife (even if you feel like one!).  It seems like either marriage is awesome or on the brink of divorce – and if you start talking about problems or difficulties, surely people will think you’re in the latter category.  There are maybe a couple of friends I can talk to really honestly about marriage (unfortunately not people I am hardly ever able to connect with!), and when I do, it’s so reassuring and normalizing.  I definitely wish there were more opportunities for authentic conversation in our communities about marriage.

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 13, 2015

      Yes, it does so often feel taboo!  We don’t want to dishonor our husbands, and yeah, it’s hard to find a safe place/person to process our own brokenness that comes blaring out in marriage.  The vision for our Connection Groups here at VA is to foster the kind of relationships and discussions where this can happen (about marriage and more).  Fall registration is coming soon! 🙂 https://velvetashes.com/get-involved/connection-groups/

      I do hope you feel reassured and normalized.  Prayers for you and your marriage journey!

  4. Julie B August 13, 2015

    Thanks Danielle- your honesty and transparency is refreshing.  Marriage IS hard work!  But so worth it.  My husband and I call the counseling we have had over the years a “tune up”.  We all need those from time to time.

    In our previous life my husband was a pastor and we have loved doing pre marriage counseling together with couples he has married who are just starting out life together.  Most often the young couple are starry eyed and think – issues will never come up between them.  Their marriage will be perfect!   Then life happens!  Really more productive counseling happens after the wedding – when you are up to your elbows in living life.

    One of the reasons we have moved overseas at this season of life, is to be there for other folks who are experiencing difficulties, to be an encouragement and to come along side those who are struggling.   We are THAT  older couple  who loves to hang out with young families and be surrogate grandparents overseas!  We are celebrating 39 years of marriage in a couple of weeks and quite honestly have needed several little “tune ups” over the years ourselves to keep our marriage running smoothly.  Sometimes you just need a couple of new tools for your tool box and counseling can give you those.  Yes, professional counseling can cost money, but we are usually willing to pay and protect the things we value the most.

    And as Danielle said, for those marriages where you did all the hard work and yet the outcome is not what you ever envisioned – God is still there to meet you.  He is in the business of restoration.  He never leaves or forsakes His children.  Thanks Danielle for addressing that often avoided really hard topic – especially among overseas workers.

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 13, 2015

      Thank you, Julie.  It’s so helpful to think of counseling as a “tune up.”  Like our physical bodies, we need the intervention of professionals to help us be healthy!  And a big AMEN to this: “we are usually willing to pay and protect the things we value most.”

      Also, I wish you two could clone yourselves and be THAT couple for people everywhere.  The world would be a better place. 🙂

    2. Ashley Felder August 15, 2015

      I second the idea to clone you! How beneficial to the young couples you hang out with!

  5. Patty Stallings August 16, 2015

    I love this post, Danielle.  And the comments that follow about de-shaming (is that a word?) getting help and input in our marriages.  In our 33 years of marriage, there are times we just functioned and times we have thrived.  We much, much prefer the thriving!

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 17, 2015

      Patty, I say we make “de-shaming” a word!  So grateful for the example you and Sam set in marriage.

  6. Ashley Felder August 16, 2015

    Ok, last night, hubs and I watched the movie The Song. Heard of it? I hadn’t either. Sadly, I don’t think it got much press. It’s a Christian movie, but VERY well-done, and a powerful story concerning marriage. Hope you can find a way to watch it! (Just a passionate plug..)

    1. Danielle Wheeler August 17, 2015

      Thanks, friend!  Will have to check it out.  And as an aside, can I just say how sad (but necessary) it is that we have to make disclaimers like “it’s Christian, but it’s VERY well done”!!  Hopefully more quality stuff will be made, so we’ll have to make less of those disclaimers.  🙂

  7. Monica F September 23, 2015

    I’m know I’m late to comment- but we just got back from an intense one-month trip to our ‘home’ in East Asia and are back stateside.  Going back through all these VA posts- and loved this one!  We also benefited from Link Care- it really re-charged our marriage, and helped us learn how to be patient with each other as we process 15 years of overseas life.  I have been recommending it to every M I know!

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