Every married couple will go through rough patches and have days when they do not feel in love with each other. We decided very early in our marriage that divorce was not an option for us. I am sure that people marry for different reasons, but common reasons include stability and security. It is not good when a spouse always threatens to leave whenever there are problems. Using such threats will chip slowly at the foundation of any marriage, leaving it more likely to crumble. No matter how hurt or angry we feel, we should be careful to choose only helpful words, even when talking about difficult issues. Words are powerful, and can make or break relationships. Even in marriages where divorce is not usually mentioned in arguments, there will still be times when the thought crosses your mind. Here are a few things to consider in those moments, before you take further action.
Consequences - What will divorce really mean for you and your loved ones? After building a life together, is it really worth tearing it all down now? Will it mean less social and financial support for you? What about the home and friends you share? We all know the negative effects of broken homes on children, but what will it really mean, now and years later, for your own son or daughter, if you have any? In the heat of anger, it is easy to convince ourselves that there is no price too high to pay for peace of mind, but have you considered that this might just be a temporary problem that you might look back on together in twenty years and smile? What is a few months/years of struggle compared to the rest of your life, if you are able to hang in there and work through the issues for the sake of your vows? We don’t throw out a baby because he cries. Every marriage will have challenges. Is divorce more sensible than forgiveness?
Reflection - It is important to remember that you are not perfect. No matter what your spouse does or does not do, there will be things that you can do better. When was the last time you made your spouse feel special, loved and appreciated above all others? Have you really been listening to him/her? Have you been a real partner, supporter and asset, or a liability, boss and/or critic to him/her? Are you showing love in ways that suit you, not your spouse? Marriage is not a 50/50 relationship. Both partners should be giving 100% to make the marriage work, and sacrificial love like that does not keep asking what they will get in return. Focusing on being the best person and lover you can be stops you from worrying about what the other is doing and allows them to change in their own time, if necessary.
Integrity – Even if you come to the conclusion that you are perfect or too good for your spouse, what about your promise to spend the rest of your life with them? What were your vows and who holds you accountable for them? God or man? You could have just lived together like many others do, but you chose to get married and make vows before God and loved ones, probably in a church. There are honourable men who stay true to their vows to a wife after she had an affair or dementia diagnosis (even when she has lost awareness of her surroundings), just because they truly meant their vows to God concerning staying faithful to and cherishing her for life. Marriage is not about having an ‘in love’ feeling everyday, it is about choosing to love and be there for that person no matter what. If we can stick to other commitments like mortgages, business partnerships and professional oaths in tough times, for fear of the consequences of breaking contract, we should be taking marriage oaths more seriously. This is why marriage is for men and women, not boys and girls. Children change their minds all the time, but responsible adults make decisions more carefully and keep to their word.
Look around - Are there outside factors contributing to your marital problems? The man or woman you fancy leaving your spouse for may not be all you imagined them to be once they have you all to themselves. Are there relatives or friends that are having too much influence on your home? Is the local community and dominant culture being unhelpful for your relationship? Is it possible to reset boundaries and create a different culture for your own home? Some people are best loved from a distance. If moving away from parents, siblings or temptations could help your marriage, would you try that before mentioning divorce? Do you value your marriage enough to relocate or change jobs to save it from those negative influences? Your marriage is only as valuable as you make it. It is wise to have boundaries and define other relationships clearly before they become a problem for your marriage. Counselling is sometimes helpful in identifying the sources of marital problems.
Separation - If after considering all these, you still think that your marriage cannot work, it might be worth considering separation as a step towards saving the marriage. This may mean having separate bedrooms for a short period, or even living apart for a defined period. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. Take some time out to remember why you loved and married your spouse in the first place. It may mean starting again with new rules and boundaries, building better communication and earning/giving trust and respect which may have been lost. It will take time, humility and willingness to date each other again, but this can keep a pulse on your marriage and build it back into an enjoyable relationship where love and forgiveness abound.
Forget about keeping up appearances, you can decide for yourselves that yours will not be part of the divorce statistics, and that you will both enjoy, not endure, marriage. It can be hard growing, changing and sharing one life with a totally different human being, but it can be done. Whether your marriage is struggling right now, needing resuscitation or enjoying bliss, you can choose to hang in there and enjoy the ride, with its ups and downs, till death not divorce. No one knows tomorrow, but we can trust the Originator of marriage to make it work when we refuse to give up on each other.