I read somewhere recently that one out of two children today will have parents that divorce before they reach 18 years of age. Imagine the trauma and hurt experienced by both children and parents alike. Sometimes it is the children who suffer the most, and carry that “filter” perspectives forward into their adult lives and relationships. Many will fear commitment because of a cheating parent; or experience sexual problems, or trust and control issues. Or they may repeat the failures of the parents by mistreating their own families.
What will cause these breakups of the family?
There are several reasons: infidelity, betrayal, financial irresponsibility of one partner, mental or physical abuse, drug or alcohol addiction, excessive control, mistreatment of children (violence or sexual inappropriateness) are the most common grounds. However, other reasons can range from lost love to lack of communication to growing apart. Some reasons are “drop-dead deal breakers,” a term used by Dr. Phil, a popular TV host, but there is help out there for acquiring tools to fix broken relationships. A search of scriptures reveals two clear grounds for divorce: 1) sexual immorality (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) and 2) abandonment by an unbeliever (1 Corinthians 7:15). But God said He didn’t like divorce, and it isn’t commanded or a suggested alternative. Divorce should be a last resort.
I am amazed at how many brides spend thousands of dollars, and hundreds of hours preparing the perfect wedding, and spend very little attention on learning the skills necessary to have a good marriage. I took a class in college about “Marriage and the Family” as part of my degree plan. I was gratified that the large room was packed with young people. They believed it to be a beneficial course, and many interesting discussions took place.
Viewing the stress in my own parent’s marriage has caused a “filter problem” for me. Although they never divorced, my mother was unhappy at times due to my father’s controlling, neglect, and isolation of the family. I believe he had schizophrenic tendencies, but was never diagnosed with such. She stayed because she loved him, and because she had almost no marketable skills with which to support the children. I made a promise to myself that I would never be trapped as she was. So abuse is my drop-dead deal breaker.
But are there marriages that could be saved through counseling, forgiveness, reconciliation, and restoration? Sure. It isn’t easy, but if both parties work hard it is worth the effort. The problems come in when one partner isn’t willing to change or grow. We can’t change another person, only ourselves. Some people think if only they can be patient, be loving enough, change into what the other person wants, everything will be okay. They wind up sick themselves, and can’t recognize themselves in the mirror.
A great enemy of marriage is a creeping insidiousness of denial. It isn’t that bad, you think. Tomorrow will be better. They will realize how much they love you, and change their ways. Then anger and frustration builds to the boiling-over point, and you are surprised at your reaction. Where did that come from, you wonder? And you find you have become a person you don’t like anymore.
Do you have a drop-dead deal breaker? Bring it to God, and ask Him if there are things that can be done to save the relationship. Then, having done all possible, remember the words to that Country Western song, “Learn when to hold and when to fold.” Walk if you must; God will still walk with you. If you “hold,” the Spirit of Jesus will supply the power to see you through.