ATHENS, Ga. - Christian psychotherapist Angel Davis is making a bold claim: any one spouse can save a marriage.
Her assertion is based on the idea that if you're willing to trust God and let Him change you, your spouse is going to change, too. They can't help it - the two of you are one flesh.
This isn't just theory for Davis. She's seen it in many couples she's worked with over the years and in her own life.
No Way Out
Davis was expecting the perfect Christian marriage with her husband Lee. But when he didn't measure up to all her expectations and wouldn't put up with her trying to change him, she began fantasizing a way out.
"Because I'm a Christian, I didn't think divorce was an option," she told CBN News. "So I felt stuck and trapped. And I even thought about him dying because I felt that was the only way out. That's how dark my heart had gotten."
How's it feel to hear your spouse has been dreaming you'd die so she could find a "better man?"
"That's probably the thing that hurt me the most," Lee Davis said.
He believes his wife should never have been depending on him for things humans just can't deliver at the deepest level.
"Your spouse can't make you happy," he said. "And if you're waiting for that, you're probably going to be waiting forever."
Davis details in her book, The Perfecting Storm, how she even began to listen to Satan's twisted logic for why her marriage should end.
"I got to the point where I thought if I left my husband, I could do more for the Lord," the Athens-based psychotherapist said.
But then a friend brought Davis up short and to a life-changing moment.
"She looked me in the eye and said, 'Angel, where in the Bible does it say you can do this for the reason you want to do this?' And I knew the Word and it was like cold water in my face," she recalled.
That's when she truly surrendered her marriage and herself to God. He then began planting in her heart the principles of how one spouse can save a troubled marriage and change their husband or wife the right way.
What Davis has been sharing with hundreds of people she's counseled and in The Perfecting Storm is that the secret for changing your spouse for the better rests in changing yourself first.
Davis witnessed a radical example of this when her friends Ron and Cari Duttlinger were tottering on the edge of divorce after Cari found out Ron was having an affair and he didn't really want to change.
Cari was bitterly hurt and didn't want to forgive Ron. She couldn't really see herself ever wanting to live with him going forward.
But she put herself before God and heard Him tell her something about Ron that required a deep change in her heart.
"I was to take him back and we were to forge a path of reconciliation," Cari recalled.
Ron's sexual sins had cost him his job and his home and he was expecting to lose his family. But then Cari told him what she'd heard from God and that she was going to grit her teeth and obey.
"For her to be obedient to that despite the fact she was undergoing so much pain and so much hurt, in all honesty, I just lost it," Ron recalled. "I mean, I just broke down and sobbed in front of her."
"He's extremely grateful because he knows that I basically gave him a gift that he did not deserve," Cari said.
Cari's willingness to bend and change led Ron to wanting to bend and change, too. It's been several years since Ron's affair and Cari's taking him back, and now they say their 29-year marriage is better than ever. "When you put aside your feelings and put aside your arguments and say, 'You know what, I'm going to obey God' like she did, radical things happen," Ron told CBN News in reflecting on what his wife did then.
"It is possible for your marriage to be restored," Cari stated. "It is possible to fall in love with your husband once again."
Falling In Love Again
Meanwhile, Davis was studying and beginning to imitate some of the same things Cari had done when her marriage seemed doomed and the months after.
• Like letting God change her rather than insisting husband Lee change.
• Like receiving inner healing from past hurts that she says most of us need.
• Like beginning to show her husband real respect because God said to.
"And guess what? He started to act in the ways I had longed for him to act all those years," she said.
All this takes learning to hear God's voice and obey His marching orders.
"It just gives certainty, gives security, gives direction," Davis explained. "And He's talking all the time and we're hard-wired to hear His voice. But we've got to figure out how to hear it. He is the still small voice and He speaks in many different ways."
Your Spouse Isn't Your Enemy
God taught her the real enemy wasn't her husband but the devil who wants to kill and destroy marriages.
"I had been looking at my husband as the enemy," Davis recalled. "And it's like God took that veil off and I saw I'm 'fighting the wrong battle.'"
As Davis has been teaching and sharing these principles around her Athens, Georgia, area and through her book, others - like Debi and Clay Huckaby - have seen their marriages profit.
Debi attends Bible study with Davis.
"I finally stopped spending so much time worrying about what Clay was doing and I started working on my own self and getting my own act together," Debi said.
"I don't think it's ever been better," Clay said of their marriage, nodding at Debi. "And I feel like it's largely due to her. We've gotten to where we enjoy working at it."
Davis' friend, Leslie McCullough, is so enthusiastic about The Perfecting Storm she and her husband have been selling it at their place of business in Athens, Brett's Restaurant. Davis had to keep interrupting her lunch with the CBN News crew to sign copies.
Marriage Made In Heaven
But Davis is not just an excited author. She believes with all her heart in what she's written because she's seen it radically affect her own marriage and so many of those around her.
When she married Lee, she envisioned having a marriage made in heaven. And now she feels she actually has one because she's let God shape it.