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Building a Great Marriage

A Marriage Hope Project

Paul and Linda J. Bucknell

Restoration of hope | God's View of Marriage | Marriage Hope Project
Great marriages happen! | Handling Disappointment | Study Questions
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Purpose: A Marriage Hope Project is part 3 of 6 of the series Restoring Hope in Marriage that through a marriage exercise (or project) shows how restore hope to one's marriage.

The Marriage Hope Project

Let’s get more practical.

Think of your spouse right now. (If you are not married, you might think of your past spouse or the relationship between your parents.) You probably have given up hope on each other in one or more areas. This is the assignment.

Hope listWrite down three or four areas in which you have given up hope in your marriage relationship. Keep reading for further clarification and examples.

You can add to this list other areas that you still have hope and are working on.

This will be called our ‘hope list’ because these are the very areas we need hope. Write them as positively as possible. These hopes often hide behind our assumptions and expectations of life.

Four Important Questions

In order to complete this assignment, we will need to keep four questions in mind.

(1) How do you identify these areas of lost hope?

(2) Isn’t it too late?

(3) Do we all have areas of hopelessness?

(4) Isn’t it dangerous to focus on what we don’t have?

(1) How do you identify these areas of lost hope?

These are the areas in which you once had hope. If you were recently married, you will be more aware of some grand expectations before your wedding. But now through some startling situations, your hopes have disappeared. You have given up hope. Write these hopes and expectations down.

Others have been married for a while. You can best spot these areas of lost hope by your areas of struggle. What are you frustrated about? What do you argue about?

Get down to the real root issues. Like the source of a well, your expectations lie deep down below the surface. Some things will take a while before you detect them. Others are right on your lips! Finish the statement, “I wish my wife (or husband) would ....” Write your thoughts down.

buy marriage bookLet me give you an illustration. Suppose you wanted your wife just to do what you said, but every time you ask her to do something (or so it seems), she contests you.

You don’t want to fight with her but more often than not, it seems you end up yelling at her. Bitterness has now settled in. You tend to avoid her. You are beginning to give up hope of any change and therefore lessen your commitment to the relationship. Write this hope down, “I hope my wife would submit to me with a cheerful spirit.”

Make sure you write the hope of what you want to happen rather than implant your anger or disappointment into what is written. For example, “I wish my lousy wife would shapen up.” This is far too negative.

(2) Isn’t it too late?

Some hopes which are written down might seem impossible to reach. The issues have gone beyond management. The focus has shifted from preserving sanity to damage control – not to let things become utterly reckless. Let’s look at an example.

Say you were always hoping that you would be able to talk deeply about the issues of life with your husband, but he never seemed interested. He always busied himself in his own activities. Now you have become silently bitter as he watches television or spends time with his friends instead of wanting to spend time with you. Although you still live together as a married couple, you almost live two completely separate lives, each not trusting each other.

Building a Godly MarriagePurchase or download the book 'Building a Greart Marriage'You can order the Building a Great Marriage book and materials including handouts at the BFF Resource Center. Or even better get the BFF Marriage Training Library which includes the book, handouts, other BFF marriage articles including powerpoints, audios and videos.

This situation is not too late. Is the couple still married and both alive? God wants every couple to turn to Him for help. It does not matter how much time has passed – even twenty years. You can still have hope because you believe God is part of your marriage. God is the God of miracles.

The situation gets increasingly difficult when both spouses are not eager to resolve things. They have no hope and therefore face deep problems. But when we have hope and trust in God’s work, then there is much room for great improvement. The process of building a great marriage will no doubt take time. But since a couple is married for life, one may as well start working on improving it!

(3) Do we all have areas of hopelessness?

Our loss of hope looks different as we go through different stages of married life. Even good marriages could be better. We need to see whether or not our expectations (or hopes) are correct (we will examine this more in another chapter).

Sometimes our expectations are conjured up by a materialistic and pleasure-seeking world. We must reject these ambitions. More often than not, though, we know when our marriage is missing some key element.

Even in good marriages spouses can lose hope on improving one or two problem areas of their marriages. A husband might be careless about where he drops his dirty laundry. A wife might worry about finances. A husband might be too free spending for his own projects and ignoring other more basic needs (or so the wife thinks). Some couples focus their hopes on key areas needing improvement while others on less urgent wishes.

One major problem consists of couples not knowing what makes a great marriage. They have no idea what good things can happen in a marriage. This confusion makes sense. If our parents were not happily married, we do not have a good model of married life.

Our search for a great marriage will come step by step. We need first to improve one aspect of our marriage and then be able to face another area. Otherwise, we will easily become discouraged. Those couples with good marriages usually take these same steps, though the area of improvement is more refined.

(4) Isn’t it dangerous to focus on what we don’t have?

The wedding is the bud. Marriage is the unfolding of the beautiful flower.

Although we are pointing out areas of discontent, it is for a good purpose. We are exposing areas in which God wants to work. By avoiding them, resentment and bitterness arise until a crises occurs.

Through properly prioritizing and dealing with these difficult points a couple can grow in their unity much like a beautiful pearl develops from a grain of sand that irritates an oyster.


Hope reminds us of what ought to be. Hope depends on the power and grace of God for fulfillment. By looking at the problem, we are reacquainted with our inadequacies. By looking to Him for His miraculous grace, we begin to see light in what is a very often dark area of our life.

At the same time we expose bad attitudes that have perhaps perpetuated the lack of growth in a certain area. We are not fighting our spouse but working with God to develop our marriage after His will. Hope inspires prayer and gets us back on track.

Note how God works this out in David’s own instructions in Psalm 37:3-5.

We take our precious hopes and disappointments and come to God. We focus on our relationship with God and begin to look to Him for solutions. Our trust is in Him. He will begin to bring resolve to some very difficult issues whether they have to do with lack of communication, incompatibility, or lack of sexual intimacy. “Trust also in Him, and He will do it!”

=> Next: Great marriages happen!