The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
–Psalm 23:1-3 nasb

It is amazing how four simple letters H-A-L-T can keep so many people from making poor decisions. We believe they can also transform a stagnant marriage into a vibrant one.

In the alcohol-and-drug-recovery world, the acronym H.A.L.T. helps keep addicts from relapsing by reminding them not to get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. These same words are important in keeping a marriage together.

Dr. David Carder, who wrote a great book on avoiding affairs, says, “Food and sex are basic needs. Alcoholics always drink when they are hungry. This is the feeling of emptiness that causes some to eat emotionally, others to drink, still others to act out sexually.” One of the most incredible teachings of the apostle Paul is “Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. . . . Therefore honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It would take a lot more space than this to unpack all the meaning in this truth. But authorities tell us that our body is closely linked with our spirit and actions. Having a healthy body is often one of the first steps toward building healthy relationships. If you are eating comfort foods because of your stress, you can be pretty sure that neither your body nor your spouse is getting your best. There are times when Jim comes home from work famished because he forgot to eat. When he is hungry, he definitely isn’t as sensitive to my needs.

Anger is a common thread throughout many–dare we say most–marriages. After all, you can pretty much find a reason to be angry with your spouse (and teenagers!) 24/7/365. If anger is not dealt with between a couple, bitterness and resentment begin to take over the relationship, and this blocks growth and intimacy. The Bible says clearly, “Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry” (Ephesians 4:26). This doesn’t mean you won’t get angry, it just means you will have to deal with the anger and not allow it to fester. Continual anger toward your spouse will involve a lack of forgiveness, and this blocks closeness. Little annoyances tend to become larger-than-life issues when anger isn’t dealt with quickly.

There is an epidemic of lonely couples in the world today. The pace of life, internet use, children’s schedules, TV, and a host of other (even positive) priorities get in the way of couples connecting. Loneliness, when unguarded, can become anything from an illicit affair to a general lack of togetherness. We know one couple who recently got a divorce not because of infidelity, but because they simply woke up one day and said, “There is nothing left of our relationship. We ignored our loneliness and pain for so long we just drifted out of love.” The answer to overcoming loneliness is to be proactive about connecting with your spouse. It’s a matter of establishing a priority and then making it happen. Here’s a good phrase to remember: “Don’t try to prioritize your schedule; schedule your priorities.” Is your spouse a priority on your weekly schedule? What would he or she say?

Too many couples want to connect and be closer, but frankly, they are just too tired to care. Exhaustion is one of the major causes of brokenness in relationships. What’s the answer? You may not like this, but the only answer we can find is to rest. Our bodies were not meant to go at the pace most of us go. Eventually, the body breaks down, but often the breakdowns happen first in our relationship with our spouse. Exhaustion does damage and rest heals. We aren’t suggesting everyone move to a commune somewhere in the countryside. It’s more complicated than that. We have to take charge of our life where we live in the midst of a pace of life that kills relationships. During the creation process, even God rested on the seventh day, and the Bible says He was refreshed. If your pace of life is out of control and you find yourself exhausted most of the time, you are probably not living in the will of God. Can we say it any more bluntly?

So the answer is to H.A.L.T. and make better decisions about each area of life. Do it for your health and the health of your marriage. It will restore your soul and put you on the right path.

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Jim and Cathy Burns

Jim Burns is President of HomeWord. Jim speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has over 1.5 million resources in print in over 25 languages. Some of his recent books include: Finding Joy in the Empty Nest; Doing Life with Your Adult Children, and Have Serious Fun. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California. Cathy Burns is the co-author of Closer: 52 Devotions to Draw Couples Together. Along with being a mom, wife and Bible study leader, she recently retired from her job as a teacher in a school for “kids who learn differently” in order to help care for her three grandchildren. Cathy and Jim met the first day in college and married one week after she graduated.

  • About HomeWord

    HomeWord helps families succeed by creating Biblical resources that build strong marriages, confident parents, empowered kids and healthy leaders. Founded by Jim Burns, HomeWord seeks to advance the work of God in the world by educating, equipping, and encouraging parents and churches. Learn More »

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