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Winning Your Wife Back

By Gary Smalley,
Dr. Greg Smalley, and Deborah Smalley - Relationship expert and family counselor Gary Smalley presents a personal gameplan of how husbands can win their wives back from the sidelines to score the victory in their marriages.

Chapter 1 Pre-Game Warm Up: Lord, I need a Miracle!

Winning your wife back may seem like a long shot, but the game of life often provides us with examples brimming with hope.

In many minds the game was all but over. The fat lady hadnt started singing, but she was definitely warming up! On January 3, 1993, the NFL's Buffalo Bills and Houston Oilers were locked in a fierce battle of extreme importance. The winners would advance in the play-offs while the losers would be given plane tickets home and the season would be over.

Houston jumped out to an early 28*-*3 half-time lead. The Oilers played an almost flawless first half, making the Bills look like an amateur team. It didnt look good for Buffalo, down by so many points. As the Bills regrouped in their locker room at half time, their coach, Marv Levy, no doubt reminded his team
that the game wasn't over. He most likely urged them not to panic. Sure, changes needed to be made--and fast. The offense wasnt scoring, and the defense was allowing too much of it. In just minutes, the Bills locker room turned into a classroom, and everyone paid attention.

In this crash course, the players probably heard lectures like these: "Lets identify our mistakes and make the necessary adjustments . . . We've got to execute better in the second half . . . Remember what got us here!"

Methodically and patiently, teams have come back from being touchdowns behind. But turning this game around would take nothing short of a miracle.

The Rout Continues . . .

The second half had barely begun when Houston intercepted a Buffalo pass and returned it for a touchdown. The scoreboard revealed a horrible sight for Buffalo fans: Houston 35, Buffalo 3. Fans booed. TVs clicked off. It was officially a rout.

Never before had an NFL team come back to win from a 32-point deficit. For those who decided to stay tuned, the very next possession saw Buffalo do something it hadnt been able to do all afternoon--sustain a drive. Six minutes into the third quarter, the Bills marched the ball down the field for their first touchdown. The score was a little more respectable: Houston 35, buffalo 10. The Bills quickly set up for an onside kick, and when the players were unstacked, Buffalo had possession! The momentum that had once belonged to Houston was making its way to the other sideline.

No Las Vegas oddsmaker could have predicted what happened next. In that historic third quarter, Buffalo scored four touchdowns in less than seven minutes, and the Bills went ahead 38*-*35! However, with twelve seconds left in the game, Houston tied the score on a 26-yard field goal. Unbelievably, the game headed into sudden-death overtime. The first team to score would win!

Houston won the coin toss, and it appeared that Buffalo's valiant effort would fall short. But Houston quickly turned the ball over on another interception. Miraculously, three plays later, the Bills kicked the winning field goal and completed the single greatest come-from-behind victory in NFL history! Final score: Buffalo 41, Houston 38.

Developing a Game Plan

What an unbelievable game! But you may be wondering what one historic football game has to do with winning your wife back. Everything! Perhaps you are staring at your marriage scoreboard, and it doesnt look good. You realize it will take nothing less than a miracle to win back your wife and kids. You long for a comeback, another chance. If you identify with this situation, we encourage you to realize that the secret for reconciliation is illustrated by something that happened during the Buffalo game. That's right. The secret for winning your wife back is really just an elaborate version of what the Bills' Coach Levy undoubtedly told his players at half time:

Don't panic. Let's take a good look at our mistakes and make the needed changes and adjustments. We must realize that there is no way to get it all back with just one play. But if we can sustain a drive and give it all we've got, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. Now get out there and win!

As the Buffalo players raced back onto the field, you could sense something was different. In the first half, Houston's quick lead so shocked the Bills that they couldn't recover in order to execute their game plan. It was as if they were playing at night and someone had turned off the stadium lights. Because of the darkness, the players lost perspective and started running around aimlessly. And before they knew it, they were down by 25 points. But during the second half--as the result of rediscovering their game plan--the lights came back on and they remembered how to win.

When your wife walked out the door, your confusion perhaps felt like that of the Hollywood celebrity who went with his friend to a retirement home. While his friend visited with his father, the celebrity waited out in the lobby. He hadn't been sitting for very long when an older woman started talking to him. The woman laughed and told stories for about an hour. Finally, it dawned on the man that she might not recognize him. So he gently asked, "Ma'am, do you know who I am?"

"No," she politely answered, "but if you go to the front desk, they'll tell you."

Depending on when your wife left (or asked you to), you might be able to relate to this man's confusion. At times, the chaos and disorder of your situation can make you feel like asking someone at the front desk, "Please tell me who I am."

Like men playing football in the dark, you can't seem to find the light switch, although you've tried many things. You may be wondering what will happen to your family, your friends, and your life. Over and over again you ask yourself, What now? What should I do?

When the Buffalo Bills needed a miraculous comeback, they had to go into the locker room and rediscover their game plan. In the same way, one of the greatest things you can do at this moment is to develop a clear and specific plan of action. You need a step-by-step plan, or the opposing team (the marital breakup) will continue to pound you in the dark. We invite you to discover the secret to winning your wife back.

Pregame Warm-Up

When his team was down by 25 points, Buffalos Coach Levy didn't know what the score would read once the clock ran out, but he wisely altered his game plan to maximize his teams chances of winning. He knew that what they had been doing wasnt working and that they had absolutely nothing to lose by trying something new. He was like a painter who worked for a wealthy woman with a valuable antique vase. The woman was so fond of the vase that she decided to have her bedroom painted the same color. Several painters tried to match the shade, but none came close enough to satisfy the eccentric woman.

Eventually, a painter showed up who guaranteed that he could match the color. After several days behind closed doors, the painter finally revealed his work. The woman was so pleased with his work that the news spread around town and the painter became rich and famous.

Years later, the painter gave the business to his son and retired. But before the father left for Florida, his son asked him a very important question. "Dad," said the son, "there's something I've got to know. How did you get those walls to match that vase so perfectly when no one else could do it?"

"Son," the father replied, "I painted the vase."

This crafty painter understood a very important point: sometimes when things aren't working, you need to try something new or different to get positive results. Instead of matching the color of the walls to the vase, he did something different by painting the vase.

Likewise, when dealing with hurting relationships, you should consider trying something different. On average, most marital problems are not helped by subscribing to the "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again" rule. For example, when a problem occurs in a relationship, one spouse usually tries to fix it. If that solution works, life goes on. If it doesn't work, the fixer usually increases his efforts or does more of the same. This more-of-the-same approach maintains the problem--and more than likely intensifies it.~1

In other words, think of solving marital problems as trying to free yourself from quicksand. The harder you try to improve the sinking relationship, the faster it dies. To free yourself from quicksand, you must try something different. Instead of kicking and screaming, you must do the opposite. To win your wife and family back, you must not become frantic and run around aimlessly in the dark. You need to relax and develop a plan. As you take very specific steps and try some new things, you free yourself from marital quicksand. Throughout the pages of this book, our goal is to expand the "try something new" concept by providing you with a detailed game plan to follow.

Can You Guarantee a Victory?

Before you run onto the field to win back your wife, we encourage you to accept that there is no guarantee of a miraculous comeback. However, you can still be victorious. If you commit yourself to the principles discussed in this book, you can greatly increase your chances of winning her back. There is no guarantee that you and your wife will reunite but, there's one thing every Christian man can hang onto by faith, regardless of your present marriage "score" or future outcome. If you will receive this difficult trial as an invitation to grow in humility and love, you will emerge the victor!

At this moment, you are right in the middle of a tremendous opportunity to gain unlimited yardage toward becoming a godly man. If you accept this painful challenge as an important wake-up call, you can gain a deeper understanding of what it means to love unconditionally. Learning to love without asking anything in return can bring you closer to Christ and make you more like Him.

In the arena of marital separation and reconciliation, you must realize that Christ needs to be your strength. Walking in step with Him and watching Him meet your deepest needs are the greatest outcomes, whatever else may happen. When you accept that Jesus is all you have, you can appreciate more deeply that Jesus is all you need.

Despite your pain and hopeless feelings, God will create a victory from your situation. Things could not have looked worse on that historic crucifixion afternoon. Many panicked. Many lost hope and gave up. But just three days later, God made a miraculous comeback a million times greater than the one by the Buffalo Bills--Jesus came back from the dead! Do miracles still happen? Yes, every day. A dead marriage can be resurrected! That was precisely what Jack learned when he was faced with the most painful situation of his life.

Down, But Not Out!

Jack could not have imagined the hell he was about to endure. He had no way of knowing that when he awoke for work one Wednesday morning, the top secret envelope to his private life was about to be ripped wide open.

The day before, Deanna had expected Jack home within the hour following closing tine at the warehouse. As the minutes dragged on, that sick feeling in the pit of her stomach erupted all over again. Desperate to bring relief to her pangs of anxiety, she picked up the receiver to call Jack and see when she could expect him home. Would this be another one of those nights when he had to put in extra time because, in his words, he was "so swamped"?

One of the guys answered. "Yes, hi, is Jack there?" Deanna inquired.

"Deanna?" the voice asked.

"Yes, who is this?" she responded.

The voice stated, "This is Daniel. I work out in the loading area."

"I thought I recognized the voice. Listen, is Jack still there?" Deanna asked.

"Naw, he left about thirty minutes ago, I reckon," he replied.

"Okay, thanks, that's all I needed to know," she said with her heart lodged in her throat.

She hung up the phone, her thoughts swirling. Within seconds the phone rang. "Hello."

"Hello, honey, I'm still here. I thought I'd be out of here by now, but I've had to troubleshoot some major problems."

"Really?" Deanna answered suspiciously.

Jack picked up on her questioning tone and asked, "Why, what's the problem?"

"Well, Jack, I just called your office, and Daniel picked up the call to inform me that you left a half hour ago."

"Good grief," he explained. "I didn't leave to go home. I just went outside the building with a couple of the guys to straighten out this mess. Daniel probably assumed I'd taken off."

"Fine, Jack, whatever," she said with a sigh.

The doubts were piggybacking on top of every other suspicion she had had about her husband in recent months. His explanations sounded more and more like excuses, and Deanna had just about had it. The red flags were everywhere if she looked: those last-minute meetings, all those extra hours, his distancing himself more and more from her, sharing less and less, skipping church regularly, defensive moods, his short temper. Come to think of it, he has been hounding me to take a trip to visit my sister, she thought to herself. Why is he so anxious for me to leave?

Dinner and the rest of the evening were strained, but then so many of them had been lately. Deanna didn't have proof that Jack had violated their marriage vows, but all the signs were pointing there.

On Wednesday afternoon, she grabbed her car keys and purse, and she headed for the family van. She sank down into the seat and bowed her head, asking the Lord for the strength to do what she knew she had to do--confront her husband.

The moment she rounded the corner and spotted the warehouse her heart started pounding wildly. She wanted to know and didn't want to know, all at the same time. She strategically found a parking place where she could see the exit door, but no one would notice her. She waited and waited. The numbers on the dash clock seemed to stand still. After what seemed an eternity, the 4:59 finally flipped over to show 5:00. One by one, the employees filed out, making their way to their cars. But there was no sign of Jack. Should she start the van and head home?

Deanna tensely waited. The waiting came to an abrupt stop and so did her heart when, at 5:33 p.m., she spotted her husband walking out of the building with one of the female employees. Now what? What should she do? Anything? Nothing? She will never forget what she saw next. Six years of marriage and two kids later, she watched as her Christian husband got into the car, put his arm around another woman, and kissed her!

She wanted to throw up, but couldn't. She wanted to scream, but couldn't. She wanted to cry, and the floodgates opened. She couldn't drive if she wanted to, and she desperately wanted to. She finally made it home before Jack did. She had to wait again. It seemed as if all she'd done lately was to wait for him to come home.

When he walked through the front door, he spotted her in the living room, staring back at him coldly. A numbing chill swept over his body. Does she know? he thought.

"Hi, hon," he said softly. There was no response, only an empty stare. Moments of dead, awkward silence followed. Jack sat down across from Deanna. "What, hon? What's wrong?" he managed to ask.

Looking straight into his eyes, she announced flatly, "You've been lying to me."

Her accusation pierced him like a dagger. One look into his eyes, and Deanna knew she was on target. He had been lying. He had been unfaithful. His eyes said so. Her hurt spontaneously turned to anger.

"Here! This means nothing to me because it obviously means nothing to you!" she screamed as she pulled off her wedding band and tossed it blindly toward him. She grabbed the closest thing within reach--his lunch box--and threw it across the room.

Jack had begun sobbing heavily as she stormed out of the living room towards their bedroom. He followed her into their bedroom, begging and pleading his case, only to hear her shout, "Get off this bed! This is my side, the pure side!" She yanked the sheets and blanket out from underneath the mattress.

It was a scene that seemed almost surreal to Jack as he stood there, motionless. My God, what have I done? The words played over in his mind. "I never meant for it to go this far. I never meant to hurt you," he assured her.

"You should have thought about that a long time ago . . . when I cared," she snapped. "And while you're in here, you might as well pack your clothes because I won't sleep with a adulterer!" she screamed as she walked out the door, slamming it shut.

It was beginning to sink in. Those casual encounters had led to this hell on earth. Exploding with fear and shame, Jack tried to figure out what to do next. He slumped down on his side of the bed and wondered how in the world he could fix the mess. It was amazing how one man's life, and the whole family, could shatter into a million pieces in a matter of moments.

The Rest of the Story

Jack and Deanna averted divorce. Both of them came out of their marriage trial with a deeper understanding of commitment and love for the Lord. How did they do it? How was Jack able to watch his wife go from despising him to throwing her arms around him in love? It wasnt easy, and it wasnt quick. It was accomplished one play at a time. Jack started a drive that painful day, and the momentum continues today.

Both Jack and Deanna will tell you that it took about two years to repair the damage done by his infidelity. They are now enjoying the rewards of a mutually satisfying relationship. The particular steps Jack took are woven throughout this book, and they drive home the value and importance of the relationship concepts well be covering.

Creating a Game Plan

As you weather your marital storm, you stand at the helm of significant choices:

  • To react, or to respond.
  • To meet this challenge head-on, or to take off to the high country.
  • To face the struggle, or to medicate the pain through addictions.
  • To find the treasure in this trial, or to bury it.
  • To learn all you can, or to act as if you know it all.
  • To admit the error of your ways, or to allow pride a front-row seat.

Based on more than thirty years of working with people in hurting relationships, and based on our surveys of hundreds of men and women who have experienced separation or divorce, we have developed specific steps a man can take that "score points" with his mate. On the other hand, there are behaviors that lose points with a wife. Some behaviors only weaken and threaten the whole team, while other actions put big numbers up on the marriage scoreboard. It is our desire to present a reconciliation playbook that will outline specific steps for winning your wife back. Here is a brief overview of the game plan.

Winning Your Wife Back Playbook

Step One. We want to encourage you to identify specific behaviors that are guaranteed to lose ground. We call them penalties. In the game of love you can score points in two ways. You can score by doing positive things (stringing together first downs). Or you can sustain a drive toward reconciliation by avoiding penalty flags. Penalties will keep you from gaining the valuable yardage you desire. We present nine specific penalties to avoid.

Step Two. After pointing out things that can damage the reconciliation process, we want to help you identify and understand specific patterns of behavior that can put you across the goal line consistently with your wife. Step two will help you understand why your wife may not respond to your reconciliation attempts. When you offend your wife, you usually close her spirit. Therefore, to help you gain positive yardage, we will present the secret to opening a closed spirit.

Step Three. In this step we identify the single most important principle for building healthy relationships: honoring your wife and children. Having honor within your family is like experiencing a thrilling 100-yard kickoff return!

Step Four. Related to honor is the concept of sacrificial love. In this step you will learn how important it is to prefer your wife above all other earthly things. When you become a servant to your family, contribute financially, and provide additional kinds of help, you will see firsthand how quickly the reconciliation ball moves down the field.

Step Five. Another great way to score major relational points with your wife is to initiate change in yourself. Here, you will discover four vital areas of your life that need to be balanced: mental, physical, spiritual, and social. Being in balance in these areas can make you more attractive to your wife.

Step Six. Understanding why some women are not in a position to reconcile is the next step. Your wife may have emotional baggage she is hauling around from a past relationship, and virtually nothing you do will make a significant difference in the reconciliation process. We identify three distinct reasons why some women react negatively to sincere efforts by their husbands.

Step Seven. The next important step in the reconciliation process is to understand your ultimate goal after your mate leaves. As you realize that drawing closer to the Lord is the greatest thing you can do, the joy you'll experience can make the pain worthwhile and the future look brighter.

Step Eight. Through a story about an older widow, you will understand one of the most powerful principles in life: persistence. When the process of winning your wife back seems endless, you can draw strength from God by understanding His will for your life. Can Christ restore your relationship? In this step you will find out the answer.

Step Nine. This next step will help you to identify a place where you can receive continuous support and accountability. Through this method, you can gain increased life span, higher motivation, and the perspective of others.

Step Ten. Once you're able to put some scoring drives together and the comeback is looking very real, you need to be aware of some things if and when your wife returns. We identify several key factors in the form of a scouting report that will help you to keep your winning streak going long after the reconciliation drive ends.

Write Your Own Reconciliation Game Plan. At this point we invite you to take the valuable step of writing a personal, tailor-made game plan for winning your wife back. We will help you incorporate all of the information presented in this book into a specific contract for accountability. You can then use the reconciliation contract to gauge your progress and help others see exactly what actions you are committed to take in order to save your marriage.

Postgame Interviews

Scattered throughout this book are several stories about some couples who weathered the reconciliation process. Their stories beautifully illustrate God's will for our relationships. The postgame interviews will give you an opportunity to hear some of the most important lessons that the couples learned along the road to reconciliation. We encourage you not to miss their encouraging wisdom and insight.

Now that you have a clear picture of the reconciliation process presented throughout this book, in the words of the Buffalo Bills' coach, we invite you to "get out there and win!"


1. Michelle Weiner-Davis, Divorce Busting (New York: Simon and Shuster
Inc., 1992), 102.

Winning Your Wife Back Before It's Too Late by Gary Smalley, Dr. Greg Smalley and Deborah Smalley, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee 1999. Used by permission.


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