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Finding Restoration When Love is Gone (Part 2 of 2)

Air Date 07/22/2015

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Dr. David Clarke offers practical advice and hope to the person whose spouse has communicated, "I don't love you anymore." (Part 2 of 2) 

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Episode Transcript



Dr. David Clarke: But you should never chase and beg and plead, 'cause that just legitimizes what they're doing. Yeah, it is your fault and you're trying hard. I'm through with you. You've gotta actually push back and say, "No, you're sinning." Of course, "We have marriage issues," you'd say, "but those can all be fixed. We both know Jesus, don't we?

End of Teaser:

John Fuller: Well, a tough perspective there from Dr. Clarke about what to do if your spouse says, "We're done; it's over." And he back with us again on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly. I'm John Fuller and last time really set the foundation for where we're going today with Dr. Clarke and you can listen to that first part at And Jim, we had a pretty intense conversation last time.


Jim Daly: It was, John. I know a lot of folks have responded and you know what I like about Dr. David Clarke. It's no nonsense. It's what's the Bible say and how are you livin' it? And then, let's hold each other accountable to that standard. I think that's the way it should be, but it's tough to sit and go through it and it's probably true for all of us that live in a modern culture that wants to provide a kind of the pass, the free pass. If you're thinkin' a certain way, behaving a certain way, even if you're Christian.

And we gotta reject that in the church and I think that would be one of the greatest moments for the body of Christ, to begin to act like the body of Christ and not like the world. And for that reason and for many more, it's great to have Dr. David Clarke back with us. Thank you, David, for bein' here.

David: Well, thanks for having me back.

Jim: Your book, What to Do When Your Spouse Says I Don't Love You Anymore is blunt. It is really good in that respect and it's a caution sign. You know, we have those highway signs. I think your book is very much like that for married couples to better understand how to communicate together to prevent the enemy of our soul from taking us down, which is what he's doing and wanting to do each and every day.

And it seems right now that we're weak in that area and unwilling to do the hard work that we need to do to make sure that we're more of a testimony, not a, "Oh, yeah, that happens to them too, in the Christian church," kind of couple. So, thanks for that sense last time that we need to work at our marriages and do a better job.

We ended last time, I'd asked you a question about that woman who feels guilty that maybe her husband has done this and what role did I play into it? It does raise a question for me in terms of a woman's self-esteem and self-worth. And I know the shoe can be on either foot here and I don't mean to "genderize" this, but typically, still today, it's men that have affairs and their hurt wives, not always, I get that, but talk about what's going on in a woman's heart, that complex person.

We laugh about it. We talk about "men from Mars and women from Venus" and noodles and spaghetti and waffles and all the different ways we can describe how genders react. But that sensitive heart in a woman, what is going on with her sense of self-worth in this moment, when she's no longer being the one that her husband says, "You're mine?"

David: It is just beyond devastating. Women are so sensitive in this area. "I'm fat. I'm not attractive to you anymore. I'm not attractive to anyone anymore and I'm not a good housekeeper and I guess I'm not a good mom." I mean, she goes across the board tryin' to find out how could this have happened? And she thinks it's because of her; that's not true.

Plus get this, every trauma she's ever experienced in her life at that very moment comes rushing in, so it's even more devastating. My dad neglected me, didn't think I was that pretty and preferred my sister. I had a boyfriend that rejected me. I had my previous husband who dumped me. Whatever has happened in her life, everything psychological now with this trauma (Sound of Whoo) comes in, so she's got the whole ball of wax.

Jim: So, it's like a breaking of the dam, not just springing a leak.

David: Oh, yeah, this is Hoover Dam just splitting open. He's done that to her with that one sentence and so, she is desperate to somehow, the most natural response is, "Okay, it is me. That's some control I can have and I can hold off maybe the other parts of self-esteem and if I can really win him back by chasing him, all this can go away." Not true, you're gonna make it worse, 'cause he's done with you.

You could be the best wife on earth the next month and it will make no different to him, 'cause he's through with you. His heart is turned off and he's got someone else shoved in there who doesn't belong there, so any attempt to win him back is wrong and actually, unbiblical and you're not confronting his sin.

Jim: When that couple has broken their relationship for all these reasons that we're talking about, what is that man gonna find in the next relationship?

David: Absolutely disaster, misery. Here's the irony and I will tell these guys this, but they don't get it. Unless I can get the wife angry and turn them around with God's help, they think it's gonna be so much better and I'll say, "It will be, buddy for about four to five months. That's all you're gonna get, maybe a year at the outside; it's you and her against the world and your kids hate you and you've hurt your wife and you can't go to church. All the weight of that's gonna crush you and her and you're gonna be separate from God, because He will never bless this relationship. It's out of His nature to do so. You're gonna have that major problem.

Your sex will go. You've got that now. Of course, if you ever had it with her and that's gonna go, respect, trust, total implosion. Those are the worst marriages I ever see and the guy looks at me like I got three heads. Well, see, I've talked to 1,000 guys just like you and 1,000 out of 1,000, that's what happens. Still don't believe it.

That's why I say, leave my office; I can't do a thing with you and I'll talk to your wife and we start a game plan to help her get a spine; get up; get close to God. Gather her team and go to war.

Jim: So, all the books out there, Christian books who talk about being happy and someone rationalizes in this instance with this set of circumstances, infidelity, hey, you know what? God wants me to be happy.

David: Wow.

Jim: That's a common one.

David: Oh, it's very common.

Jim: What do you say to that person that says that to you?

David: I get my Bible out; I say, "I'm serious; show me in the Bible where God wants you to be happy." They can't show me. Further, read me Malachi 2:16. "I've never read that." "You're gonna read it now or you're gonna leave my office. Read Malachi 2:16." God hates you for what you're doing to your wife. That's as clear as a bell. Whoa! "I don't care." I'm really doing that for the wife actually, but I'm trying to get the message across, you're not gonna be the exception to sinning and getting away with it. No one does.

Jim: Hm.

David: And I try and I'm tough enough that I'm hoping to make the message clear. I'm banging him in the head, but I'm also saying, "Look, I'm trying to save you, buddy. I want you to believe that, save your life."

Jim: In many ways, you're acting like the Old Testament character of Nathan when he confronts David.

David: Right.

Jim: Set that story up for us and talk about why that worked.

David: It was an incredible story. Here's King David, No. 1 man, a man after God's own heart in that kingdom, really could do no wrong and walked with God. He makes this terrible mistake with Bathsheba and it shows how crazy you can get in an affair and in sexual sin. You will do things you would never dream of doing. He had Uriah killed to cover his sin. Again, that's covering, doing whatever you can.

And Nathan took his life in his own hands. He had the guts. God's lookin' for people--friends, family members, pastors, counselors—to have the guts to stand up and say, "You are the man. You're sinning." Nathan did it.

John: And he could've been killed by David—

David: Oh, instantly.

John: --for offending the king.

David: Right, in my throne, how dare you? But to David's credit and of course, God's ultimately, he was broken when Nathan tells the story of the sheep and all that. Boom! Just nailed him and he responded and God restored him. There were consequences.

We need more Nathans. We need a lot more Nathans. We got a bunch of wimps out there that won't speak truth. I had a wife the other day in my office. Her husband's having an affair and she can't find anyone, not her brother, who's a wimp, not her dad, who's a worse wimp, not anybody at her church that will stand up and say and deal with her husband. I say, that's disgraceful. Well, I'll do it and we'll try to find somebody else to do it. She's alone. She needs somebody to support her.

Jim: So many friends would say to themselves though, you know, my friendship means a lot to me. If I say that, I may not have that friendship any longer. It sounds too simplistic to say it that way and we may not even process it that way, but that may go through our minds that, is it our role? Is it our responsibility to say to my friend, "You seem to be out a lot without your husband. What's goin' on?"

David: Right, that's a real friend. The Bible talks about a friend that sticks closer than a brother and you speak truth. My best friend, Rocky, speaks truth to me in areas of my life and it's really saved me a lot of grief. He's got the guts to do it.

And the Bible's clear. We don't hear sermons on Matthew 18, because it's so uncomfortable. We like to just save all the marriages before that point. Well, we're trying to do that and Focus tries to do that, but there are times when it's broken apart and we need somebody to step forward. And the Bible clearly states, one or two witnesses. That's a friend; that's someone who has the guts to, on the behalf of the wife or the husband, step up and confront the sinner in love.

We could choke out so many sins just across the board—name the sin—if we can accountability on a weekly basis and as needed, a call in the middle of the night if you have to, when Satan's doing his thing, but we don't have that, because ultimately we want to sin. If I'm not gonna be accountable, what I'm saying is in essence, I want to do these things, because then no one knows. Satan does his best work in secret. But if I'm gonna have Rocky know everything about me, everything about me and my weaknesses, okay, I've changed the whole game.

John: Hm.

David: Now I can stay out of that and I'm saying, I don't want to sin.

John: Well, Jim, you mentioned David's book, I Don't Love You Anymore and you can get a copy of that and a CD of the entire two-day conversation when you stop by or when you call us at 1-800-A-FAMILY.

And I wonder if you can just give me, as a guy, couple of questions I can ask somebody if I feel like that looks like a dangerous behavior, a sinful behavior that he's engaged in, maybe not leading toward a divorce, but maybe my friend is really doin' some stupid things. Well, how do I broach that subject with him?

David: I would give him a little bit of a warning, 'cause guys don't like surprises, even if it's a good friend of yours and you'll say, "I need to have a meeting with you. I'm concerned about some things in your life and I want to have an honest conversation with you about that."

Now if he resists that meeting, okay now we know, that without question, he's doin' something wrong and then you're gonna show up and just surprise him. So, it's a good test. Any guy that is not into something bad or is willing to talk about it, okay, that's good. Okay, let's meet, so he knows the agenda. It's not, "Let's have a couple of pancakes. Hey, man are you sinning?"

I wouldn't start that way, but you set it up that way; then the conversation is, after some small talk maybe, maybe very little, "I'm concerned about you. You know I love you and I'm saying this out of love and concern as the Bible would have me do. And I've seen some things in your life that I'm concerned about. And man to man, this is just between the two of us, I want you to tell me the truth and I'll do whatever I can to help you. I will spend time with you. If you want me to go with you to your wife or your pastor, I'll do that. I'm a friend. I'm not just dumpin' a load here."

And you want a relationship where you'd even say, "You know what? I want it to go both ways. I'm confronting you, but you know what, man; I got my own issues and I got my own weaknesses. So, when we're done with you, I want you to ask me the same questions." That's gutsy. That's a two-way street and it lightens the load on him, because it's like, "Yeah, I got issues, too."

And if he'd respond to that, that's gonna be a deeper friendship and you can save him. And it could be short of serious sin that you and he can work things out with God. He may have to go to his wife and share some things, but you'll support him in that, too. That would be strong.

Jim: Let me ask you, in your experience, David, I'm laughing inside, because I'm reminded of a comedian who had a little skit on this and he talked about a couple that he knew in this skit, that they were divorcing and he talked his wife into letting him go play golf with this man so he might talk to him about, you know, this divorce.

And so, he goes away for four or five hours and the man comes home and the wife says, "Well, did you talk to him?" And he said, "Ah, he got a new club" and never spent any time talkin' about the divorce. And he turns that into a funny schtick.

David: Yeah.

Jim: But that is kind of where a lot of us, as men, as at today. We never get around to the tough discussion. Women, it seems in their relational capability, they're much better at sitting down and talking heart to heart. And I don't want to just say they're "wired" for it, but they seem more capable and competent in doing this. Men struggle. That description of a conversation you just provided, I don't think it happens very often in male relationships. It's, yeah, I spent four hours golfin' with him, but his relationship with his wife just never came up.

David: Right and you gotta make it come up. Nathan made it come up and it's gutsy and it runs against, I think, male nature to get that deep, but it's the requirement of Scripture. We have examples, of course, throughout Scripture. Every time sin happen in Scripture, it's to be confronted.

Jim: Last time we talked a bit about, rightfully that when a spouse is in this situation, they have sinned against God and as they begin to project that sin to the spouse, "Well, she never did …" fill in the blank or "She would not …" fill in the blank. And we begin to justify why I was in this affair, because my needs weren't being met. You're saying, that's not how sin happens. Sin's between you and God.

David: Right.

Jim: Those things may be backdrop items that need to be worked on, but when you sin, that's between you and God and I think you hit that very forcefully last time. Let's move to the next step. I mean, let's say the couple wants to look for reconciliation and repair. How do you begin to work on those contributing factors together and talk about them honestly?

David: Transition is tricky, but it can be done and it can be done when you really have healed in that first phase. So, he's had the affair. He's repentant. He's sorry. We've done all the work, the document, the response document—

Jim: Five to six months--

David: --the main conversations.

Jim: --usually.

David: Right, five to six months in, we have really healed; trust is being rebuilt. Now we make the segue and I'll be very clear. Now they know it's coming, 'cause I already told them that. We're gonna reach the point where we're gonna look at the marriage very hard. When the wife has enough trust and you've changed. I wouldn't ask her to do that until she knows you're a different man; you're the next Billy Graham. You are growing. You are solid. You are on track; now she can trust you with more personal things. Now we can look at the marriage.

And so, what we do is, a first assignment is always, okay, now we're gonna start to look at your marriage. This has nothing to do with the affair. You're still working on that mop-up operation as you need to, but the whole different arena now is your marriage.

The homework is, what have each of you done in your marriage, apart from any sins, that has been your responsibility that has really caused problems in this marriage and we all have a list. A guy has a list and now the wife, who was the victim, now she has a list, but she can do that now because she's healed and she knows that the marriage wasn't where it needed to be. Fine and now she can actually do that work, so we start going down that path.

Jim: What does that typically look like in your counseling practice? What are the more normal things that a wife, who is in that situation, has made it through, committed to her husband, what are those things that she would need to work on?

David: Very commonly she will admit, "You know what? I have focused too much on the kids. You know, I wasn't a mom before and I'm spending too much time with the kids and they really come before you."

It could be her career. "I've really gotten involved in my career and I'm trying to please people." She may have to admit, "I've not been as affectionate with you. I've not respected you as a husband. I don't praise you. I don't act like I'm crazy about you. I'm doing sex as a duty." All that would be very classic things that she needs to own and begin to change.

Jim: But you're saying, absolutely that should never be a rationalization for the husband.

David: Right.

Jim: Sin is sin.

David: Right, 'cause if I'm that woman and I've participated in your affair and I'm partly to blame, then the rest of my life with you, if I stay with you, I'm gonna have to wonder if I'm good enough today, if I'm good enough this week. That's got nothing to do with it.

Jim: David, as you last time and this time again, talk about that point at which a man, if he's in the perpetrator position here, if he's the one that has caused the infidelity, etc., the importance of repentance. Apply that more broadly spiritually speaking. What is in the human psychology, in the spirit of the human being, what is going on with repentance? And why do some spouses get it and they want to change and they say, "Okay, I'm in," and then others continue a façade? What is the difference there? What does true repentance look like?

David: Ultimately, it's between you and God. That's what it all comes down to. Yes, I've damaged my wife terribly, but that isn't even the primary thing. I've hurt God Himself, Who sent Christ to die for me, all my sins. I'm thumbing my nose at Him and I'm saying, "I don't want a relationship with You. I'm choosing the world, what it has to offer."

True repentance is, "I get it and I'm very aware, how could I have done this to my Savior, Jesus Christ, to the God Who created me, Who's given me all these good things? And if you get that, then that typically leads to brokenness. But if you don't want to get that and you're gonna say, "You know what? God really isn't that important and there's a better way." That's what you're saying. God's way is not the best way. I want to do it my way and God's disappointed me" and they'll blame God. When they really get honest, they're blaming God for their sin ultimately.

Jim: Let's move again past that point where the friction and the big sin has happened; the recovery's occurred, five to six months down the road. They're workin' on their own issues. The marriage is doing pretty good. There's more trust, but how does that offended spouse not fall back into the, "How come you worked so late tonight? What was that phone call about?" How does she or he rebuild the trust that's been broken, even over a year or two years or—

David: Yeah.

Jim: --five years? How do they really ever trust again?

David: Boy, good question. What I have to have that lady do and I'm gonna actually have both of them do it as part of the marriage work in the second phase, Jim and that is, she has to look at all the things prior to marrying this man that are now gonna transfer in and cause her not to trust. Satan's gonna use every one of those.

My dad neglected me. My dad abused me. The neighbor boy touched me inappropriately. I've been disappointed in these other relationships. I've never healed from those. All that now, and Satan will kinda wait. He'll have it explode at first, but if you heal, it goes underground. Now he's gonna wait, 'cause he's smart, until you're starting to heal and then he's gonna hit her with that.

And the guy'll think, "She'll never forgive me." All that stuff has to be dealt with. Now we do it together. The husband's gonna be your main support, the one that hurt you the worst now he's gonna help you through these personal issues and you're gonna help him through yours and that's a huge part of the process.

Jim: How does she bite her tongue if she has that concern? What practically speaking, do you help her do differently?

David: Other than working on her own issues with her husband, she needs to see it as Satan's lie. He's the father of lies. He is lying to her by trying to confuse her and she needs to see it that way. I'll have her actually write down, write down the lie. What is Satan telling you? What's coming into your head and what's the truth? And this is the husband's not even around, she's thinkin' all these things.

And then as soon as you can talk to your husband, then bring that out and I think it always needs to be shared, but in the context of, "I went through a hard time today. I am trying to trust you, but here's what happened." And together they pray about it. That's strong.

So, it's never secret. I battled this. I think I know the truth. He just reinforces it. "Honey, I want you to always come to me and I can explain why I was late from work." And so, you have the discussion, but it's brief and then you move on.

Jim: If you have a serial abuser in that regard, the wife has tried valiantly to save the marriage, because she knows God says He hates divorce. If it is perpetual and sporadic improvement, is that a better situation in terms of her making that final decision to say, "You're not maturing; you're not growing. I've gotta say it's over."

David: Yeah, yeah, that's really God speaking to her and I never recommend divorce, but I will say, I'll go as far as separation. Clearly this is a case you need to leave him and I think, let God be your guide. If there is a biblical reason here and based on his behavior of not turning from his sin, relapse after relapse, bad attitude, okay. You know, you talk to your pastor. Make it a matter of prayer and I believe God will release that if it's God Himself, but He will find a way to release you and it's based on, yeah, His continuing sin.

Jim: And so, in that case, I mean, there needs to be a reasonableness to the situation and to make sure that you are pursuing God's will in that.

David: Right.

Jim: I like that idea of separation, not divorce as the ultimate goal.

David: Right and that's really his last chance.

Jim: Yeah.

David: God's gonna honor you for giving him every possible opportunity, while protecting your own heart, but now we're gonna have to go to the next level. And I have to train some of these ladies. They may not be ready to leave. Well, let's get you ready emotionally, financially; get a job, get training. You gotta rebuild your life, because this kind of a "dirt ball," and I say "dirt ball," because he has now proven to be a dirt ball, is gonna cut you off financially, squeeze you, try to character assassinate you, so you gotta get ready for all that and be strong and tough enough. That'll just confirm, of course, it's not gonna work, but these guys are so nasty to protect themselves. They'll say things like, "Well, she's really crazy. You don't see this at church, but I live with her and she's cra[zy]." It's lies to ruin her reputation, to protect himself and there are guys that are smooth enough and good enough and narcissists of this world, they can get away with it.

Jim: Hm.

David: But I want the wife to know, be prepared for that. Tell the truth. You'll have family and friends that will know you and support you. He might win over the pastor or somebody that doesn't know you. So what? You're gonna move on.

Jim: And again, I'll say it and I'm sorry to keep saying this, but the shoe is on both feet. In other words—

David: Right.

Jim: --women do this to men; men do this to women in this modern culture.

David: Oh, yeah and the percentage of women having affairs is rising and it's not going down.

Jim: Right. You say that most marriages fail, not because of adultery, although that's a predictor, but because couples fail to do the very hard work of healing and living a biblical marriage. As we wrap up right now, take a minute to end on a high note really, on a biblical note and give us your best argument for why all this work and pain is worth it.

David: Boy, I could tell you 100 stories. I'm thinking of one right now of a couple that has gone through the process and is right now at the end and it's a wonderful story of redemption. And we hit all the high points. He is a godly young man. He made a mistake. He slept with somebody at work. His wife was devastated. She had a difficult past; all that filtered in.

They've gone through the steps and right now they have a better marriage than they ever had before. They're close. They're intimate. They have honesty. Everything is clicking. God's at the center and so, that's what I'm talkin' about. That's what can happen with God's help, a wonderful story. Who gets the glory? God does. He … they worked hard. We all worked hard, but God did it.

Jim: That's beautiful. It's when it works and it takes our participation—

David: Yeah.

Jim: --not fairy dust, our hard work to say, "God, we want to honor You." And there is an enemy of our soul and to recognize that. Dr. David Clarke, author of the book, What to Do When Your Spouse Says I Don't Love You Anymore, thanks so much for bein' with us.

David: Well, thank you.


John: Well, David, you're really ending our conversation with a word of hope for couples and if you've missed any of this two-day "Focus on the Family" broadcast, get the CD or a download or the mobile app so you can listen on the go and find out ways that God can intervene and He can restore your marriage.

Jim: Ah, David, the way you shared about sin, about revealing that in our own lives, taking responsibility for it and for our family members and friends being that gentle and sometimes pretty forceful reminder to take life seriously in these areas so we can do the best job we can do to honor the Lord.

If you need help, we're here for you. We want you to call us. There's nothing that we can hear that's gonna be a surprise. We've been in ministry over 35 years. We want to stand in that gap for you and we want you to call us so that we can provide that kind of help.

And for those of you that are experiencing real difficulties in your marriage, maybe at night you're crying yourself to sleep thinking it's over; it's done; I've got to end it, there is hope for you and it's right here at Focus on the Family with our National Institute of Marriage. They have an almost 85 percent success rate at taking broken relationships--those that are headed to divorce court; maybe the papers have been signed--and helping you see things a little differently through some hard work. And there's no easy way to it. You just have to get there and experience it. It's a four-day intensive, 36 hours of counseling, but the results are there and they speak for themselves. It is worth your time and your treasure to save your marriage.

John: And our number here if you'd like to learn more about the National Institute of Marriage or our counseling services, is 800-A-FAMILY; 800-232-6459.

Jim: And for those that are experiencing a good place in your marriage, could you help those that aren't, through Focus on the Family? Make a donation to help save a marriage. I'm so grateful, last year--we do survey work ever year--and 140,000 couples said that Focus on the Family helped save their marriage. All of us need to be grateful for that. The Lord has used us to bring that about and I am thankful that that's the case. Will you help us today be there for that couple that's in trouble.

We talk a lot about and it's good, to feed hungry people. We've gotta be doin' that, but in addition to that, saving a family is the best way to fight poverty. Keeping a marriage together is the best way to fight poverty and so, I'm askin' you, can you help us? Be a regular supporter.

And for those of you who can give right now, we have some wonderful friends. I was just with some of them last week and they are excited to match your giving dollar for dollar. And so, when you give $20, they'll put in another $20 and make it 40. And if you can do 75, they'll match it and it'll be 150. They know the urgency, the moment in our culture that we're in. They want to step into the gap and help save marriages. I hope you'll say yes and support Focus today.

John: And when you do, in addition to effectively doubling your gift, we'll also send you a copy of Dr. Clarke's excellent book, What to Do When Your Spouse Says I Don't Love You Anymore. So many of us know couples that are really struggling and this'd be a great resource to pass along to them. We'll send that to you as a thank you for your generous gift today.

In addition to donation, we'd also recommend that you get a CD or a download of this two-part conversation. You'll find these and other resources at or we can tell you more when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 800-232-6459.

Our program was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for listening and inviting you back tomorrow. We'll be talking with Dr. Tim Ellmore about the importance of letting your child fail, as we once again, help your family thrive.

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Dr. David Clarke

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Dr. David Clarke is a licensed psychologist with a full-time practice in Florida, where he does extensive counseling with individuals and families. He earned his Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Western Conservative Baptist Theological Seminary in Portland, Ore. Dr. Clarke has authored nearly a dozen books including Cinderella Meets the Cave Man, The Six Steps to Emotional Freedom and A Marriage After God's Own Heart. He and his wife, Sandy, have four children. Learn more about Dr. Clarke by visiting his website,