What you need to know:
What issue is affecting your marriage? Is it financial pressure? What caused it? What can you do about it? Some issues are not so difficult to correct if you make the right diagnosis.
Where there are two people, there will inevitably be conflict but how one handles it will determine how far they grow in their marriage. Some people, at a whim will want out of a relationship.
They will cite reasons such as conflict, emotional distance, partner’s personality, poor communication, incompatibility, financial challenges, failure to meet expectations, and a nice one recently from a famous couple, “we no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives”, (By Bill and Mellinda Gates). When things are not working out, we tend to want out.
Others, out of disillusionment with marriage, have suggested that it be a contract with an expiry date, say two years, after which it can be automatically renewed if both parties agree to continue. That is how far we are willing to go to reengineer an institution to fit our casual definitions.
Jesus redefined marriage that the disciples were afraid of it so they remarked to themselves in Mathew 19:10; “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
For those that want out, there are two grounds (or exception clauses) for divorce in the New Testament of the Bible;
Mathew 19:7-9; “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man gives his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”
From Jesus’ answer, divorce is permitted but not mandated; meaning that even with infidelity, a couple can work through it with repentance. If, however, one spouse is unrepentantly adulterous, a separation is acceptable to allow time for the adulterous partner to evaluate their lifestyle and also protect the other partner from STDs such as HIV/Aids. Abandonment by the unbeliever--1 Corinthians 7:15-17; “Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife? .”
Apostle Paul allows for divorce when one spouse converts to Christ but the unbelieving spouse decides to walk out of the marriage. Paul, in essence, is saying, “Let the unbelieving spouse go.”
Having mentioned the two clauses, however, I hasten to add that marriage is permanent. Why? God wanted to spare us the devastation that divorce occasions when emotional attachment is broken; rage, grief, revenge, despair, but bigger than them all is that divorce misrepresents Christ and his love for the church. Christ cannot divorce the church. This bond cannot be broken.
Having known this truth, therefore, it is imperative that you work on restoring your marriage. How do you do this?
Identify the real issue
What issue is affecting your marriage relationship? Is it financial pressures? What caused it? How can you correct it? Some issues are not so difficult to correct if you make the right diagnosis. Take full responsibility if you were the one at fault and face it.
Affirm one another
Ephesians 4:29 is apt on this: “Don’t let unwholesome talk come out of your mouth, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs.” Most marriages crumble because there is a lot of negativite talk. Marriage researchers have come up with what they call the 5:1 ratio; couples say five positive statements for every negative statement they make. Saying the positive things will teach you to see the good things in your marriage.
Celebrate your differences
Marriage becomes a team where love and acceptance are the norm. It is amazing how we fall in love with a person’s strengths and after a while, we start focusing on their weaknesses. No one is perfect. Don’t compare your spouse with another person’s spouse. Some studies have shown that divorce does not make people happier. Rather couples become happier if they stay married.
Some situations are so complex that there are no cookie-cutter answers to them. Some people are so difficult that no matter how you shout, quarrel, threaten or fight them they will never change. You can only learn to bear them in prayer.
Seek help from a trained counsellor, pastor, or elder to help you navigate the troubled marriage. Mathew 18:16-17, “But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that “every matter may be established by two or three witnesses.” A third party who you both respect can help unkink the twisted relationship.
The company you keep when you are married will have a huge influence on your marriage. Choose a couple that believes in the institution of marriage. Spend time with them, learn from them, ask them questions when you get puzzled and share your worries. People who love you will walk this journey with you.
Rev Michael Agaba is a theologian, marriage counsellor, and parenting coach.