In an earlier post I wrote about why I believe God established marriage. Unfortunately, marriages do fail. They fail, not because there is something wrong with the institution of marriage as some claim, but because there is something wrong with us (we are sinners).
If we have an understanding of some of the reasons why marriages fail, we can be better equipped to resolve these issues. Of course some marriages dissolve because of abuse, and nobody should stay in an abusive relationship of any kind.
Some marriages fail because of adultery, and in such cases, trust is betrayed and terrible emotional wounds are inflicted. The couple must then decide if healing is possible, and determine if both of them are truly committed to trying to get past this and rebuilding their relationship. Rebuilding the relationship after trust has been betrayed is a long process, but it can be done if both parties are committed and willing to work hard at it.
Let’s look at some other reasons why marriages get into trouble.
Concept of Love
People have this romantic concept of love, which is really infatuation, not the self-sacrificing agape love that Christians are called to have. 1 Corinthians 13 describes what this self-sacrificing agape love is:
[It is] patient, kind, doesn’t envy, doesn’t boast, is not proud. It is not rude, not self-seeking, not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs [there’s a big one!]. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
Once the infatuation wears off, some people believe they have “fallen out of love” and prefer to move on or have an affair. True love is an act of the will, and goes much deeper than infatuation and physical attraction. As the years go by, love should grow, not diminish, as you have more and more shared experiences and memories. Often love grows stronger because of the adversities you have faced together, and overcome as a team.
Along with a wrong concept of love are unrealistic expectations. For example, some people enter into a marriage with expectations that their mate will meet all of their needs. No human being can possibly do that.
There’s an old saying that women marry a man expecting him to change, and men marry a woman expecting her never to change. Both are unrealistic expectations.
Lack of Commitment
In many churches the marriage ceremony is called a marriage covenant. “Covenant” means a promise or a commitment, so the couple getting married is encouraged to realize that this is a lifetime commitment they are making.
Yet it seems to me that many people today are not serious about making a lifetime commitment. Whether they consciously realize it or not, I suspect many people enter into a marriage thinking that if it stops working for them, they’ll bail out. Obviously that’s not commitment – it’s self-centeredness. This self-centeredness often leads to serial polygamy in which a person marries and divorces repeatedly, caring nothing for his or her spouses, only seeking the kind of satisfaction and fulfillment found only in God.
Self-centeredness will destroy any kind of relationship faster than anything else. That’s why the love in a marriage must be the self-sacrificing kind, the kind of love that is more interested in the other person’s welfare than in your own. Whenever you hear the word “love” in the New Testament, such as in 1 Corinthians 13, it is referring to the self-sacrificing agape love, not the self-centered eros. Agape is true love, not the dreamy-eyed, schmaltzy kind of emotion that passes for love these days.
Often poor choices are made, including the choice of a spouse, getting married too young, or not taking the time to get to know each other better. One comment on getting to know each other better. Co-habitation is thought of as a “trial run” but statistics have shown that it doesn’t work that way. Co-habiting couples who eventually do get married have no better success rate than those who didn’t live together before marriage.
Another poor choice is that I think some people get married out of habit. They’ve been going together for a while, seem to get along, and so they end up getting married. The problem is, they really aren’t that compatible, and they don’t have that deep love that is necessary for a successful marriage. Such marriages are a disaster waiting to happen! Either the marriage won’t last, or they’ll be miserable.
Other poor choices almost guarantee there will be financial difficulties, stress, and conflict. For example, some couples spend huge amounts of money on a wedding and honeymoon. Then they buy an expensive house, fill the house with expensive furniture, have two costly vehicles in the driveway, and still have student loans to pay off. While it’s a good idea to build equity in a house as soon as possible, buying an enormous house you really can’t afford is going to cause financial strains. How can anybody get a marriage off to a good start when they are up to their eyeballs in debt?
More on why marriages fail in a future post. Happy Valentine's Day.