Research can be so confusing! Depending on what you read about divorce, you may see stats that divorce happens in 50% of marriages, or that the majority of couples stay married. You can also find research that says happiness levels go down after marriage (particularly for women) or that marriage quite possibly leads to greater satisfaction with life overall. Like I said, marriage research is confusing. How many couples actually stay together and how many of them can truly say that they are happily married?
Marriage is definitely a relationship that can have its ups and downs. Life difficulties can cause stresses that can draw you closer or cause you to withdraw from one another. And while many couples can admit that marriage is sometimes tough, for those that are committed to working with one another, marriage can be a pretty fulfilling relationship.
Scripture certainly gives allowance for divorce if the other person leaves. And, many theologians agree that affairs constitute “leaving” the marriage. But no matter your particular theological position on divorce, we have to admit that Scripture gives just a few reasons for divorce. But, I don’t believe that this is simply so we will stay married. There is a higher calling for the Christian than “not divorcing” your spouse.
Three Reasons Not To Stay Married
1. To be obedient to God’s word
I 100% believe that we should be obedient to God’s word. We should read our Bibles and do our best to live according to those principles. But, marriage actually calls for the coming together of two fleshes or “becoming one” with your partner. When you say, “I do” it really means “I will.”
I commit to:
Living a life of sacrifice,
Putting my spouse before myself,
Submitting my wants and desires to yours,
Giving my body completely to you because my body is no longer mine, but yours.
I’ve heard many Christians talk about divorce not being an option. They’ll say things like, “God hates divorce!” or “We made a commitment before God” yet, they live completely separate lives from one another. Let’s live a higher calling with one another by obeying the spirit of the law (becoming one) instead of the letter of the law.
2. I made a commitment
Just like following God’s word, I think it’s important to hold to your commitment to your spouse. But, this is another area where we can get wrapped into law-based thinking. Let’s think about the actual commitment that was made on your wedding day.
Did your vows say something like, “Come Hell or high water I promise not to divorce you.” Or was it something along the lines of, “To have and to hold, in sickness or in health, for richer or poorer til death do us part, in good times and bad…I will love and cherish you.”
We have a big problem when we start to focus on what we will not do as opposed to what we will. Its so much easier to say, “I will not divorce you” than to say, I’ll quit focusing on the negative characteristics I don’t like and will instead focus on the positive.” “I’ll forgive you for the hurts that you’ve caused me and I apologize for the pains I’ve caused you.”
For some couples, the “divorce is not an option” stance is nothing more than a shoving of the feet in the sand. Seriously, what does it matter if you don’t divorce if you and your spouse are no longer one? Does the covenant of marriage simply mean, until one of us dies we’ll be legally married? For the Christian, it has to mean more.
3. Because marriage is to make you holy, not happy.
In some ways this goes back to the “marriage makes us holy” discussion. Truth is though, marriage can make you holier by becoming more Christ-like; you don’t just become holy because you marry. And while the disappearance of happiness is a reason that many people give for divorcing, I don’t see it as a “good enough” reason to leave.
Here’s some interesting facts about happiness though. Research from The Happiness Project actually shows that being happy in a relationship means being happy with yourself and doing what you can to make other people happy. Many times, when a couple is struggling in marriage each spouse will have a list of activities or behaviors that the other person needs to change, but the reality is those changed behaviors don’t often make a spouse happier. Instead, happiness is more likely to come when you purpose to behave in a way that makes your spouse happy.
Bottom line: aiming for your spouse’s happiness is more likely to make you happy than aiming for your own.
Seriously, I love marriage.
I really am a HUGE fan of marriage. I love marriage and I truly believe it is a wonderful way to spend your life. I believe that one of the beautiful things about marriage is that we understand God a little more deeply. We’re called to love our spouse even when our spouse is painstakingly annoying.
Christ did and does that for us. He knew that we would disappoint him at times and not live up to his standards and yet he gave himself as a sacrifice for us. He doesn’t demand that we do something in marriage other than what he has already done for us. The command is simple, yet profoundly difficult; “Submit yourselves one to another.”
I believe marriage is one of the incredible ways that God teaches us to be a little more Christ-like. And, if you are married, you know darn well that you can see those little sin areas in your spouse and your spouse is familiar with yours. In marriage, couples can help one another become more like Christ (iron sharpens iron) and we learn a little more what agape love is all about.
Stay Married. 🙂
My hope really is that you stay married!
Stay married because:
You want to be a little more Christ-like by sacrificing your own desires for the good of your lover,
Because you are determined to love your spouse with your heart and with your actions,
You know that you can make changes that will improve your marriage,
And because you are making the conscious choice to work on becoming one with your spouse.
Stay married, friend!
And, in your marriage, refuse to have anything less than a “becoming one” marriage. Be friends. Be lovers. Be committed to one another. Be married.
If you are struggling in your marriage I encourage you to seek God through prayer and the Word, surround yourself by happy couples and learn from them, and seek counseling from an expert that will work with you to resolve the issues. If you need just a few tips for getting your marriage to a place of greater intimacy, download my free guide, Becoming One.