Divorce comes in all shapes and sizes. There’s certainly not a “one reason fits all” explanation for this heart-wrenching experience. I’ve learned that it doesn’t always matter who initiates leaving, who files for separation first, or who did what to whom—divorce hurts.
And it should. Divorce has been compared to two sheets of paper glued together—it’s impossible to separate them without damage inflicted on both pieces.
Trust me, I’ve been there. After all, I walked through the dark valley of abandonment and unwanted divorce before I even hit age thirty.
Decades ago, divorce seemed to be more of a worldly situation. Anytime a divorce rocked the local church, it was shocking. These days, however, the divorce rate among Christians—while lower than among those not professing faith—is ever-climbing. It doesn’t even bring the same jolt of surprise when we hear “so and so” are separating.
So what exactly is happening to Christian marriages? What is causing this epidemic, and how can we stop it? Can we even stop it?
Here are eight reasons why so many Christian marriages are failing today—and what you can do to avoid becoming a statistic:
1. We’re Sinners
This is the simplest yet deepest truth to the mystery of why marriages fail—because of sin.
Romans 3:23 (ESV) “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All of us are capable of committing a variety of sins against our spouse, and it’s all too easy to let these sins build up. Even when the sins aren’t directly against our spouse, it affects our marriage because unconfessed sin affects our hearts.”
Thankfully, there is hope. 1 John 1:9 (ESV) says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. It’s never too late to confess your sin and get right with the Holy Spirit—and in that same vein, it’s never too late for your marriage.”
2. We Treat Marriage as Extreme Dating
Another reason Christian marriages fail is that they aren’t held with the reverence they deserve. Marriage is not extreme dating. All too often, couples get engaged and go into marriage acting like divorce is an option should things head south. They woodenly repeat “’til death do us part” after the officiating minister, but deep in their hearts, they have an escape plan. Yet, the Bible states otherwise:
Genesis 2:24 (ESV) “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Marriage creates one unit from two people. Of course, that will mean instant conflict because both people in the union are sinners. Arguments will happen. But that union is a direct picture of the covenant between Christ and His Church. It’s not to be taken lightly.
3. We Forget
As the years go by, it’s easy to forget why we fell in love in the first place. All we can see are the annoying quirks and bad habits our spouse has that drive us crazy. We forget that our spouse is a blessing to us—they’re a good thing!
Proverbs 18:22 (ESV) “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”
On top of that, husbands are literally commanded to rejoice in their wife. Proverbs 5:18 (ESV) says, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth…” While this directive is aimed at men, women can also benefit from the instruction by remembering why they fell in love in the first place and rejoice in their marriage. A little gratitude goes a long way in perspective—for both parties.
4. We Quit Too Soon
Sometimes, couples give up when they should be digging their heels in and fighting for their marriage. Of course, there are situations where this doesn’t apply, such as with unrepentant adultery, abuse, etc. But for the couple who feel as if they’ve simply fallen out of love and are ready to give up, they might consider this parable in the Gospel of Luke:
Luke 11:5-8 (ESV) “And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.”
Prayer works miracles, and it’s easy to try everything under the sun—passive-aggressive tactics, counseling, self-help books, or venting to our friends—without ever going to the Lord about our marriage. Start there and pray with persistence. Don’t give up too soon.
5. We Cause Each Other Strife
Speaking unlovingly to each other does a lot of damage, especially over time. Husbands and wives are often both guilty of nagging each other, but here in Proverbs, the directive is aimed toward women. Proverbs 21:9 (ESV) warns, “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” Both spouses should take care with the words they speak and aim for gentleness over anger. Taking a deep breath and a moment to gain control of your temper before speaking can go a long way in saving a marriage. Aim to be someone your spouse wants to spend time with, rather than someone driving them away—and then watch how they start behaving the same. Kindness is contagious.
6. We Don’t Understand What Love Truly Is
From a young age, we’re exposed to the world’s definition of love, which is often just lust masquerading as love. True love is defined in the Bible. The Bible says God Himself is love (1 John 4:16). We’re also given a list of examples in 1 Corinthians of what love looks like:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV) “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
Go through the list above and check your heart toward your spouse. Are you showing patience and kindness? Are you overcome by jealousy and insecurity? Are you rude? Irritable all the time? Bitter? Start there and see what the Lord transforms in you both.
7. We Don’t Fulfill Our Biblical Roles
This has, unfortunately, because of sin and abuse, become a touchy subject, but the bottom line is the Bible has direct roles for husbands and wives in marriage. Marriages work better when they’re in the confines of their God-ordained boundaries. Simply put, wives are commanded to submit, and husbands are commanded to love.
Ephesians 5:24-26 (ESV) “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word…”
This is how marriage works best. Don’t get me wrong—this doesn’t mean wives aren’t also to love their husbands, or husbands aren’t to consider their wife’s thoughts and opinions when leading their household. Marriage is a partnership. God told Adam in the garden that it wasn’t good for him to be alone, that he needed a helpmate. When husbands and wives fulfill their roles as God designed, their marriage runs a lot smoother. When roles are reversed, abandoned, or resented, conflict is compounded.
8. We Don’t Forgive
Our marriages will inevitably fail—or at the least, be completely miserable—when we withhold forgiveness. The Bible is full of reminders of this important element, not just in our marriages but in our Christian walk as a whole.
1 Peter 4:8 (ESV) “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.”
Ephesians 4:32 (ESV) “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
If we don’t forgive our spouse, we’re essentially telling them the blood Christ shed on the cross for their sins wasn’t enough payment for what they’ve done. When you find it hard to forgive when your spouse sins against you, remember how much you’ve been forgiven by your Heavenly Father, and follow this command in the Bible to forgive. You’ll never regret it.
**Please note, forgiveness doesn’t mean condoning what happened or leaving yourself open to being sinned against repeatedly in the same manner. That’s a different conversation. Forgiveness can come with boundaries, and oftentimes, it should.**
Whatever the current state of your marriage, the good news is there is always hope. Miracles still happen. Restoration happens. If you’re currently fighting for your marriage, have faith! If you’re breathing, there’s still a chance.
And the even better news is that if your marriage does end or isn’t restored, you’re not alone. Remember, the Lord Your Maker is your husband:
Isaiah 54:5 (ESV) “For your Maker is your husband, the Lord of hosts is his name; and the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer, the God of the whole earth he is called.”
Dear sister, if you’re subject to an unwanted divorce, you are not simply a statistic. You are a child of God, and He is with you through every hard season and dark valley. Cling to Him. And bask in His love that never fails.
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Vimvertigo
Betsy St. Amant Haddox is the author of over twenty romance novels and novellas. She resides in north Louisiana with her hubby, two daughters, an impressive stash of coffee mugs, and one furry Schnauzer-toddler. Betsy has a B.A. in Communications and a deep-rooted passion for seeing women restored to truth. When she’s not composing her next book or trying to prove unicorns are real, Betsy can be found somewhere in the vicinity of an iced coffee. She is a regular contributor to iBelieve.com and offers author coaching and editorial services via Storyside LLC.