This is the next in my series about marriage. In this post I want to explore some of the causes of marital problems.
If we have an understanding of some of the reasons why marriages sometimes 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.
1. Concept of Love
People have this romantic concept of love, which is really infatuation, not the self-sacrificing agape love referenced in the Bible. First Corinthians 13 describes what this self-sacrificing agape love 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.
2. Unrealistic Expectations
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. Those are unrealistic expectations.
3. 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.
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 First 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.
More on reasons why marriages get into trouble in a future post.