After more than twenty-five years in divorce recovery ministry I’ve watched more marriages disintegrate than I can count.
Why do these relationships fail?
Listening to people who are getting divorced has helped me to uncover some of the root causes. These aren’t the obvious signs such as an empty check book or separate bedrooms. I’m referring to the concealed explosives lurking beneath the tension and fighting. The issues hidden under the stuff we address in church such as: love types, financial stress, gender differences, communication skills, respect, and intimacy.
Because the couple, “doesn’t know-what they don’t know” they rarely recognize the undetected detonators that destroy a marriage which could have been saved.
The unique insight I’ve gleaned after years working with those divorcing propels me to help expose the hidden booby traps that often go undetected until the relationship dies.
Here are 8 myths we believe about falling in love, getting married and maintaining a relationship.
Does God have any problem allowing us to suffer a consequence when we make an unwise or sinful choice? NO. (Disagree? Look up Adam and Eve, King David and Ananias/Sapphira).
Then where did we get the crazy notion that loving our spouse means tolerating, ignoring, and making excuses for their harmful and sinful choices? We certainly didn’t learn that perversion from the word from God—the Creator of Love.
He explains it clearly, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word” Psalm 119:67 (NIV).
Suffering, not leniency, was the action that brought the Psalmist to his senses. True love allows a spouse to suffer a consequence when they repeatedly choose an unwise, destructive pattern. The loving response is not done in disrespect or anger but rather a compassionate attitude of, “I love you too much to let you keep doing this without a consequence.” A harsh reality often provides the catalyst and motivation necessary for the spouse to come to their senses, make changes—and thrive.
I’m so grateful that God is patient. It took the Holy Spirit some time, and consistent nudging before I finally realized I was sinning and spitting in God’s face when I attempted to change or “fix” someone else—including my spouse.
God packed my husband’s personality luggage in the way He knew was best. I needed to stop trying to change him into what I think he should be—like ME!
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart” (Jeremiah 1:5 NLT).
As much as I love my country, being born today in the USA comes with one significant pitfall. The land of the “free and the brave” has morphed into “I deserve to have and do whatever I want.” As a nation we spend a lot of time focusing on our “rights” rather than our responsibilities. And this self-glorifying attitude is killing our marriages.
If there was ever a person who had the right to claim His rights—it was King Jesus! Even his trial was illegal. However, this is not His focus. He teaches to focus on responsibility rather than rights. Loyalty lifts our head and fills us with self-respect, character, and dignity. This is the foundation that builds a healthy marriage and family.
”Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3 NIV).
Both the sins done to you and the sins done by you, affect your marriage. Past destructive choices embed shame, fear and self-loathing. That’s why God hates sin, it shackles us to lies and darkness. And unless we confront those tormentors, and learn how they have perverted our thinking and actions, they fester.
We cannot heal and restore what we refuse to admit and acknowledge. Jesus forgives all sin and teaches us how to forgive others. The first step toward restoration is speaking truth and surrender.
“My father and mother walked out and left me, but GOD took me in” Psalm 27:10 (MSG).
If I plopped a few drops of Clorox bleach into your morning coffee would you drink it? Likely not. That’s how pornography affects the precious sweetness of the sexual union between a husband and a wife. It’s toxic and deadly.
Its adultery. Period.
“My wounds fester and stink because of my foolish sins” (Psalm 38: 5 NLT)
When we expect a human to meet a need that can only God can fill, we are headed for disappointment and trouble. It is neither feasible nor wise to expect a spouse to meet all of my needs.
God is the only one up for the task. He intentionally created us to seek our significance and purpose through Him alone. He is our source.
“For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28a NIV).
Can your spouse look at your phone, computer, DVDs, gas mileage, receipts, credit card bill, closet, calendar or hiding spot at any time? If the answer is no, the immediate question is, “why not”? If the answer is because he/she is a manipulative bully and dictates your every move, than you have a different problem. But if it’s because you don’t want to be held accountable—that’s deception.
And lies destroy relationships.
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” John 10:10 (NIV).
I cringe when I hear a sermon where the pastor/speaker states that the way to keep a marriage alive is by “removing the word divorce from your vocabulary.” Why? I have proof it’s untrue.
I removed the word divorce from my vocabulary. My former husband did not. I ended up ambushed by divorce.
The implication is a marriage will stay intact if a spouse decides to keep their vow. That’s incorrect because marriage involves two people. And it takes two people to get married, but only one person to divorce.
The phrase sets us up for failure because it implies that you can control the actions and decisions of your spouse. I hate divorce and desperately wanted my marriage to succeed. And yet it didn’t.
Church attendance, bible reading, salvation, prayer and reciting “I’ll never get divorced” do not automatically inoculate a spouse from divorce. Almost every person I’ve ministered to in divorce recovery said to me, “I can’t believe it. How did this happen? I never dreamed I’d be divorced.”
A wise Christian continuously works on strengthening his/her marriage, allows accountability, and discovers areas of weakness. He/she fervently prays, learns, reads and grows as a spouse. All the while understanding, “The desire of my heart is to please God and be a steadfast, respectful compassionate and loving mate. I pray my spouse will do the same. God is in charge of controlling those things in my spouse. I can’t control the actions of another person.”
“Foolish dreamers live in a world of illusion; wise realists plant their feet on the ground” (Proverbs 14:18 MSG).
The reality is that marriage is not nearly as much about finding the right person as it is becoming the right person.
Copyright © 2015 Laura Petherbridge. All rights reserved.