My Marriage Identity Crisis

Has your marriage ever experienced a crisis so deep that it began to muddy your understanding of your own identity?

Mine has.

An identity crisis is defined as a period of uncertainty and confusion in a person’s life. My marriage identity crisis happened, ironically, just after I had prayed my way through deep pain in my marriage. 

My husband’s fierce battle with lust and pornography once knocked me to my knees. At times the only prayer that formed on my lips was “Lord, help!” And He did. God has written a redemption story in the marriage of Bob and Dannah Gresh that I could never have dreamed. Earlier this year, I released a book to tell the story of our Happily Even After.

But there was a battle after the battle. You see, once we stabilized and began to heal I faced an identity crisis. 

To explain this, you need to know that I believe God is our Maker. When He made us, He planned for all of nature to reveal His power and His character (Rom. 1:20).

Of course, one of the most important qualities about Him is His love. So He placed a visible revelation of it in the world.

And what did God choose to carry the sacred picture of His love?


Together a husband and wife living out their roles of headship and submission can display the fullness of the love of God. The ultimate expression of his faithful love is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Marriage, the Scriptures teach, displays this love in a powerful way. As women, we have the honor of displaying Christ’s submission to the Father’s plan (Phil. 2). And men have the responsibility to display the headship of Christ (Eph. 5). When we do this well, both the husband and the wife play a role in displaying God’s unfailing love.

Let me emphasize that doing this well is essential for a marriage to be an accurate portrayal of Christ’s love. If only one individual determines to live according to covenant love, they are at incredible risk of being exploited by the other partner. This is why wise counsel and mindful consideration are critical both before marriage and when a partnership hits a broken spot.

When both husband and wife rise up to the expectations of covenant love, both play their part in revealing God’s love and the gospel of Jesus to our broken world. But marriage challenges can make you feel more like part of the broken world than a picture of God’s love. I ended up believing this lie: my marriage is not a picture of the gospel.

Ah, but it was. 

You see, the kind of love God has for us is expressed in a covenant. That means it comes with a promise to express faithful compassion even after it’s been tested.

“After Love”

After love is driven by commitment to the covenant. It overrides our emotions when they are put to the test by sin. Consider this amazing thought about the faithfulness of covenant love:

In a covenant, two people look at each other and say . . . “I will be
what I should be whether you are being what you should be or not.”1
—Tim Keller

After love is super easy for me when Bob is rising up—as he so often does—to be the sacrificial partner in our covenant love. I’m so grateful for His faithfulness and forgiveness when I . . .

. . . confess sin from my past, or

. . . struggle with hormonal ebbs and flows, or

. . . fall into a pattern of workaholism and ignore his desire to play.

Time and time again Bob Gresh has been what he promised to be when I was not being what I promised I would be. This is a very significant piece of our marriage story.

You see, I had a secret when we got married. I was not a virgin on our wedding night. And the shame I carried from my previous sexual sin significantly impacted the intimacy of my relationship with Bob.

Several years into our marriage, this burden became too heavy to carry on my own. It took me three emotionally gut-wrenching hours to get a one-sentence confession out. But I finally mumbled an awkward sentence of truth, daring to believe that God’s forgiveness—and Bob’s covenant love—was big enough for the shame and sin I had carried for so long.

It was.

That night I began to experience the depth of God’s redeeming love because my husband was what he promised he would be, even when I was not.

But I have gotten to play the Jesus part of the covenant picture too, of course. I have deliberately chosen what I promised I would be in those times when Bob has not been what he promised to be. When his heart has been heavy with shame and sin, I have done my very best to reach beyond my pain in order to protect the covenant we made on our wedding day.

And as I wrestled through my questions about whether my marriage relationship was a picture of the love of Christ, I came to an important conclusion: Covenant love calls and equips us to be a picture of God’s unfailing love—not in spite of sin and brokenness, but because of it.

Jesus suffered and died out of love when we were unable to keep our end of the covenant law. Marriage becomes like our relationship with Christ when we rise up to protect the covenant when our partner cannot. And the love required of us when that happens is powerful and redemptive. It’s not the fairytale of two starstruck lovers, but the union between two great forgivers. And take it from me, it can bring you a lot of happiness. It’s just a different kind of happy.

But you have to keep in mind where the love comes from in the first place: Jesus.

My identity crisis existed because I’d forgotten that my Savior is the only one able to help me in my understanding of who I am and whose I am. It’s easy to forget that. But when you remember, everything becomes a platform to proclaim His glory. Even the broken places where we’ve needed His redemption.

A portion of this article has been adapted from Dannah Gresh, Happily Even After: Let God Redeem Your Marriage (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2023). Used by Permission.

Timothy Keller, “A Covenant Relationship – Timothy Keller [Sermon],” YouTube, August 10, 2015,

About the Author

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh

Dannah Gresh is the co-host of Revive Our Hearts podcast and the founder of True Girl, a ministry dedicated to providing tools to help moms and grandmas disciple their 7–12-year-old girls. She has authored over twenty-eight books, including a Bible … read more …

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