As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome person for kindling strife~ Proverbs 26:21 NIV
The benefits and blessings of a lasting marriage are just too innumerable to count.
In a healthy marriage we know another and are known by another in the deepest way possible in this life. In a healthy marriage we learn what both love and forgiveness look like. In a healthy Christian marriage we get to know Jesus a little better than we would have without the other person and the inevitable challenges marriage brings.
All good things.
Besides the obvious and widely understood reasons for marriage failure (infidelity, selfishness, finances and in-law issues) most marriage failures are really just the sad result of a couple (well seven) behaviors and habits which always lead to a break in relationship. If broken relationships are not mended quickly and properly the end result is death of the relationship.
Those seven behaviors are:
The ways human beings can be deceitful are nearly infinite. They include (but are not limited to) hiding things, emotional affairs, fabricating stories, infidelity, not telling the whole story and helping children to hide sin from the other parent. All deceitfulness is sin (Exodus 20, Leviticus 19:11, Colossians 3:9) and sin poisons marriages. Commit to keeping it honest in your marriage. This commitment will undoubtedly force you to suffer through some uncomfortable moments of truth-telling but overall you will have a healthier, happier more rewarding relationship.
With all due respect (no pun intended) to Emerson Eggerichs, author of the wildly popular book Love and Respect, who has made gobs of money peddling his theory women chiefly want to feel loved by their husbands while men care much more about feeling respected by their wives. Truth-be-told love simply cannot exist nor will it survive without respect for the other person being present in the relationship. Respect is an integral part of love whether the person is male or female. Romantic relationships lacking in mutual respect die ugly, horrifying deaths (1stPeter 2:17). Furthermore, if you dig deep and ask questions of women you will find that even the most touchy-feely, girly-girl types of women need to FEEL respected in order to FEEL loved. We show our spouse respect by watching our words and being careful about the tone we use when speak to them. Husbands and wives who respect one another do not make decisions without consulting the other partner and they are always careful to speak well of their spouse to other people. It is critical that both the husband and the wife endeavor to behave in a way that is respectful in order for marriages to go the distance (Titus 2:2, 1st Timothy 3:11).
Addiction (including pornography addiction) –
I am convinced that at the heart of all addiction is the sin of idolatry. Once an addiction takes root in a person’s life the addict gets something from the addictive behavior that they should only get from God (a sense of wellbeing, relief from stress, comfort, peace). Because idolatry is a serious sin, God cannot bless the relationships or life of someone who is willingly bowing down (metaphorically speaking) to a false god (Exodus 34:17,1st John 5:21). Pornography addiction compounds the whole messy mess because on top of the whole idolatry thing it is also the act of inviting a third party into a relationship designed by an all-knowing God only for two (Exodus 20:14, Hebrews 13:4). Even if the spouse is unaware of the pornography there will be spiritual and emotional consequences to viewing pornography. Intimacy will be compromised, walls will form and trust will be broken. These things can happen without the other person even understanding the nature of the problem. Just don’t.
Lack of self-awareness on the part of one or both parties-
Seriously. If a person is not aware of their own behavior and how their behavior is affecting other people they will never fix the problems in a relationship. Self-awareness comes through the practice of regular self-examination (1st Corinthians 11:28, 2nd Corinthians 13:5) and by looking for clues that we are loving our spouse in a way that makes them feel loved and cared for.
Refusing to change-
No one knows it when they say “I do” but marriage is simply an invitation to change the attitudes and behaviors in our life that desperately need changing. For married people marriage is the tool God uses to reveal our selfishness, pride and relational shortcomings. If we respond to those revelations by changing our ways, marriage becomes the tool God uses to mold us into the people He wants us to be (Colossians 3:5-12). When we refuse to change the things in our life that cause us or others pain we are effectively refusing God and everything He wants to do in our lives. Refusing God never ends well (Hebrews 12:25).
“I forgive you” is more than just a syrupy sentiment or some empty words we utter to get the positive feels back into our relationship. Forgiveness is the choice to completely let go of hostility, resentment and the right to seek revenge for legitimate wrongs committed against us by another person. Forgiveness is without question the most arduous, gut wrenching, pride busting thing Christians are ordered to do (Matthew 6:15). It is also simply a fact that no marriage will survive without forgiveness (Colossians 3:13).
Expecting life to be fair and equal-
It won’t be, so the wise thing to do is to get over the notion everything should be fair and equal quickly (Luke 6:38). Marriage is never a fifty/fifty proposition. In a healthy marriage each partner is doing their best to give one hundred percent all the time but no one in the relationship EVER keeps score because scorekeeping always signals the beginning of the end of every marriage.
I am convinced that even the most broken marriages can be healed if BOTH parties are willing to self-examine, humble themselves before God and their spouse, change their behavior and repent of their sins. God works powerfully through people and situations where there is a willingness to change and a heart willing to let go and forgive.