It's been my experience that in a troubled marriage, if a couple can truly get past "the blame game," they are usually able to hear the clear commands of Ephesians 5:22-33 and 1 Peter 3:1-7. When helping a friend, we have to be careful not to fuel their desire to "blame," and lovingly point them to what the scriptures say.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.
Often marital troubles involve so many problems, it does take more in-depth counseling to untie all the knots (while saving the marriage knot!). Here's an article at Family Life on How to Choose a Christian Counselor. This applies to others issues we've looked at.
Update (other resources):
- David Wayne, An Economy of Grace.
- A popular marriage resource is Gary Chapman's The Five Love Languages. Here is also a summary of David Powlison's critique of Chapman in his book Seeing With New Eyes. While I've not read Chapman's book (or Powlison's for that matter), my wife and I have used this idea of "love languages" and found it helpful to understand how each other "receives" love. By seeing each other's perspective, we have been prompted to grow in our expressions of love for each other. Of course, we fail often and so, if the foundation of our marriage was not gospel-grace, we could very well turn our "languages" into demands for love.
- Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring 2002, Biblical Perspectives on Marriage and Family.