Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction~ Proverbs 17:19 NIV
Marriage season is upon us once again and because my husband and I have reached the stage in life where we get invited to attend a lot of weddings I have been thinking quite a bit about the subject of marriage. More specifically I have been thinking about why some marriages go the distance and others don’t.
Contemporary wisdom tells us that prevention is key to avoiding marital shipwrecks. Finding the right person, getting the right counseling beforehand and “being ready for marriage” are exalted as the gold standard of divorce prevention. It would be the height of foolishness to argue against the need for relational compatibility and pre-marital counseling. The importance of those things is obvious, and while I don’t think anyone is ever truly “ready for marriage”. Reaching a certain level of maturity before getting married is without question helpful to the over-all success of any marriage.
All the pre-marital preparation in the world will not overcome stupidity, meanness, willful sin or relationship mismanagement. What we do after the vows are said is every bit as important (if not more so) than what we do before they are said. There are a number of common blunders people make in marriage that go way beyond mere mistakes, poor choices or communication snafus. There are behaviors and attitudes that will literally kill a marriage if they are not corrected (and repented of) quickly.
The seven marriage killers are:
The silent treatment-
The silent treatment is a control tactic used by narcissistic people to bring about change they want to see in the relationship without actually discussing issues or compromising on solutions to problems. The silent treatment is at best, a sign of serious emotional immaturity and at worst it is a serious form of abuse. Those who use it need to understand that it tends to backfire over time. In the beginning of a relationship most partners will respond to silence by doing whatever they think needs to be done to get the conversation started again and the relationship back on track. That said, healthy people will eventually tire of the game playing and begin to distance themselves emotionally from the silencer, if emotional distance is not course-corrected in a marriage divorce is almost always inevitable. It all comes down to learning to use your words and being willing to compromise (Ephesians 5:21). It’s what grown-ups do in grown-up relationships.
Conventional “wisdom” tells us that pornography is only a problem if one party in the relationship objects or if one person looks at pornography without the other being present. This “wisdom” is worldly idiocy. Nothing does more to create an environment where sin can flourish or trust erodes between two people more quickly than pornography (Exodus 20:14). Looking at pornography is the act of bringing other people into the part of the relationship that was intended (by God) for only the husband and the wife. Bringing pornography into a marriage directly contradicts the command given in Hebrews 13:4 to “keep the marriage bed pure and undefiled”. Pornography is not an acceptable or smart way to “spice things up”.
Deceitfulness can take on many different forms including emotional affairs, physical affairs, hiding financial information or just generally keeping secrets from the other person. Whatever form deceitfulness takes it puts up walls in the relationship and destroys trust. Marriages simply will not survive without trust. (Leviticus 19:11, Colossians 3:9, Proverbs 17:19, Deuteronomy 5:18).
Using sex as a weapon–
Sex is one of those sticky-wicket issues many couples avoid talking about to the detriment of their relationship. Don’t. Sex is one of the key reasons most people (especially Christian people) get married so it ought to be something we are very open about. Avoid getting in the habit of withholding sex as “punishment” for real or imagined offenses. It’s not nice and it’s not biblical (1stCorinthians 7:4).
Disrespect covers a whole range of behaviors. It encompasses screaming, rudeness, spitefulness and not taking the other person’s desires, preferences or needs into consideration. The worst and most damaging kind of disrespect almost always involves the words we use (Proverbs 12:18, Colossians 4:6, Ephesians 4:29). Cursing, belittling or name-calling during a conflict is a surefire way to kill romantic love quickly. If we all just obeyed the command Jesus gave in Matthew 7:12 and treated our spouse how we want to be treated the vast majority of marital problems would disappear overnight.
Seriously, this one is a no-brainer (Malachi 2:15-17). It should never be tolerated. If it’s a problem in your marriage get help immediately.
Refusing to become a team-
No marriage will survive unless the husband and the wife are both one-hundred percent committed to the good of the other. Once we say “I do” it ceases to be about us and becomes about the two of us (Matthew 19:5-6). Teamwork in marriage means willingly sacrificing our own personal wants, needs and desires at least some of the time for the good of the other person and the relationship (Ephesians 5:20-33) . If at any time sacrificing becomes habitually one-sided the team will crumble and so will the marriage.
The bottom line:
Marriage is either a tiny preview of heaven on earth or the bane of our existence. There is rarely much middle ground. How it turns out is very much up to us. In order for a marriage to work BOTH parties must be willing to work hard, be humble, forgive freely and examine themselves often.
When we do that God blesses.