â€œWhat can I do to save my marriage?â€ As a counselor, this is the most frequently asked question that I encounter. If you take seriously the covenant of marriage between a husband, wife and God, it is painful to even consider divorce as an option. So, what can couples do to bridge the gap left in their marriages from issues of infidelity, loss of trust, abandonment, neglect, abuse, fatigue, financial hardship, harmful addictions, etc. What do you do when the pain of remaining with someone is so overwhelming that divorce seems like the only escape to peace and sanity?
First, let\’s identify key issues that make researchers conclude that between 40% and 60% of new marriages will eventually end in divorce. (Brian K. Williams, Stacy C. Sawyer, Carl M. Wahlstrom, Marriages, Families & Intimate Relationships, 2005). One of the glaring problems is that our society teaches us that everything and everyone in our lives requires work and maintenance except our marriages. Hollywood has hoodwinked us into believing that once we say â€œI Doâ€, everything will fall magically into place and we will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after.
We all recognize that owning a home requires constant maintenance and a regular financial investment. We bring children into the world and we automatically shift into parent mode providing for their needs and carefully crafting a future for them. We even purchase automobiles and diligently change the oil, follow a prescribed maintenance plan, and secure the proper insurance. However when it comes to marriage we put our lives on autopilot and assume that somehow things will work themselves out. My mother used to tell me, â€œWhatever you did to get him, you got to do the same thing to keep him.â€ I\’ve often reminisced about the amount of work I put into my relationship while dating. I never wanted to appear in a negative light. I went out of my way to be supportive and flattering. You get the point!
Your marriage must become sacred, precious, and a top priority.
God thought so much of marriage that he created a wife specifically for Adam so that he would not be alone. If the enemy can destroy our marriages he can destroy our families. Children of divorced parents lack a Godly example of a two-parent, loving, spirit-filled home. Many of us wonder why our children end their marriages in divorce once they have matured, but we failed to recognize that a generational curse has been introduced into our families. We allow our children to hear us talk negatively about their other parent. They see us verbally (and sometimes physically) assault one another.
We must end the attack on our marriages and families and change the discouraging statistics! What can you do to be proactive about keeping your marriage and family healthy? Here are a few biblically-based steps to help you â€œdivorce-proofâ€ your marriage and protect your family:
Create a Marriage Plan. The purpose of a written marriage plan is to provide direction, content, structure and purpose to your marriage. Just as you, as an individual, have a God ordained purpose, so does your marriage. If you\’re not certain what that purpose is, pray about it, then talk to your spouse. Reassess your gifts and abilities and share your heart\’s passion until God\’s purpose is crystal clear. Then write it down as a mission or vision statement (Habakkuk 2:2-3) for your marriage. What do you want to accomplish together (e.g., successfully rear our children, finish our degrees, start a business, work together in ministry, write a book, own property, etc).
Cultivate Your Love Life. Marriage takes work. This work isn\’t one-sided but the load is equally shared; which makes it seem much lighter (Eph. 5: 22-25). Work on how you talk to one another. Use love language that is certain to affirm, build up, and support your spouse. Set aside a date night once a week or twice a month. Find a sitter and spend time alone simply sharing your dreams. Take vacations together and remember that little things (e.g., a home cooked meal, a single flower, a massage, an encouraging word) mean a lot.
Center Your Marriage In Christ. A relationship devoid of Christ is a relationship headed for divorce. The trials and tribulations that you face daily, coupled with the reality that your spouse, as well as you, are flawed human beings, is enough to end the strongest marriage. Never forget that your marriage vows included a covenant with God; and with God all things are possible (Matt. 19:26). Continue to invite God into your marriage to guide, comfort, protect and keep you and your spouse.
I hope you will begin taking the necessary steps to fortify your marriage â€œbeforeâ€ and not â€œafterâ€ any breakdown. Value the gift of marriage and family, recognizing that there are many people who would love to be married with children. Remember, marriage will work if you work at it!
- Lisa M. Tait, M.A., M.Div., D.Min., serves as an Adjunct Professor at the ITC, a pastoral counselor and co-host of Relationship Thursday on Praise 102.5 FM (Radio One). She is author of Women of Destiny: Five Principles For Pursuing Your Purpose in God. Visit her at www.drtait.com