Three Key Reasons Marriages Fail-

For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. So they are no longer two, but one. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate~ Mark 10:7-9 NIV

 Recently, a friend informed me she and her husband were splitting up after more than two decades of marriage (she did not initiate the divorce). This unexpected news was depressing on at least a dozen different levels. We’ve known these people a long time, our kids grew up together, we love them both and two decades is a long time to invest in something that has clearly failed. Further complicating the whole messy mess, this couple has adult children and they are grieving deeply. Both of their parents are professing Christians and the split has tested their faith in God’s power and their belief in loves ability to overcome any obstacle.

 My friend’s sad news got me all navel gaze-y concerning the topic of marriage in general and why marriages fail in particular. It occurred to me that although most folks know going-in that marriage takes a lot of energy and hard work, virtually all marriages begin on a hopeful note. No one I have ever known (or heard of) has entered into marriage anticipating failure or hoping the marriage ends in a messy life-altering divorce.

 This truth begs the question: 

If most folks know from the very beginning marriage will not be easy then why do so many marriages fail with such depressing regularity?

 Everyone knows the statistics: roughly one-third to one-half of all marriages in America end in divorce. The most common reasons couples give for divorce are lack of sex, infidelity, money problems and poor communication.

I get that only a crazy person argues with a statistic but I’m doing it anyway.  

I believe with all my heart the reasons people give for divorce aren’t the actual reasons people get divorced. The statistical reasons given are actually just symptoms of the real causes of divorce.

We will never change the divorce rate until we get real about why people divorce.

 Marriages struggle and die not because of big problems that cannot be worked out. Relationships struggle and die for three far less discussed reasons.

 It begins with


 According to the trusty word wizards at selfishness is defined as “ being devoted to or caring only for one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc. regardless of others”. When we carry an attitude of selfishness into marriage it manifests itself in a lack of thoughtfulness or consideration for others. A friend (who has since repented) confessed that for years he bought his wife a big beautiful chocolate cake every year on her birthday. Not because she loved chocolate (she didn’t care for it at all) but because he loved chocolate and it was a good excuse for him to eat the kind of cake he liked (Luke 6:31, Ephesians 4:32). Over time even silly acts of selfishness like that one erode positive feelings and leave the spouse (no matter how long-suffering they may be) feeling hurt and possibly even vengeful towards their spouse. If by some miracle the marriage survives, the feelings of love and care will not.

 Flat-out ignoring Ephesian’s 5:21-

 Most Christians have heard the commands given to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22-33. Women are told to submit to their husbands and husbands are commanded to love their wives. It’s all good stuff. What most Christians don’t know is that the verse directly preceding those verses (Ephesians 5:21) commands spouses to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Mutual submission is the act of adopting an attitude of mutual cooperation and compromise in all things. Submitting to one another in marriage may mean having sex more often than you would prefer or doing chores that don’t necessarily appeal to you after a long day at work. Mutual submission means giving rather than taking and refusing to hold a grudge when you don’t get what you want (Hebrews 12:15, Matthew 6:15). Without an attitude of mutual submission the other commands given in the Ephesians passage become more about obedience than love.  

 One or both partners refuse to be transformed-

 Marriage has been called “the ultimate growth opportunity” and it is, as long as both parties are willing to hear uncomfortable truths about themselves and then work on their junk. Truth-be-told Christians are more capable of growth and change than any other people on earth because they have Holy Spirit helping them and guiding them in all truth (Romans 12, 2nd Corinthians 3:18). When a Christian refuses to change ultimately they are choosing to be obedient to the Holy Spirit which is incredibly foolish and an indicator of immaturity.

 An incredibly wise pastor once told me: “any two reasonably mature Christians can make a marriage work if they are BOTH willing to put in the necessary effort.” He understood a truth that can be a game changer in relationships: divorce is unnecessary if both parties are willing to die to self and submit to God. When that happens anything is possible in a relationship. Dead things come to life and families are transformed into trophies of God’s grace and saving power (Ephesians 1:18-20).

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