No matter what an article on the internet says, it is just as possible today as it has ever been to fall in love, develop a meaningful relationship and stay married for life.
My late parents: Rev Dr Harry Jarrett and Dr Clover Jarrett (both with PhDs in Marriage and Family Counselling) both lived happily for 54 years as a Christian couple. In my view, they were excellent role models for all four children, relatives and many who came to them for counselling before, during and after marriage. I love them dearly.
Anthony D’Ambrosio disagrees. In his article, “5 Reasons Marriage Does Not Work Anymore”, D’Ambrosio argues that having a successful marriage is far more difficult in today’s world and his generation simply “isn’t equipped to handle marriage”. It sounds compelling but is false.
For this article, I want us to focus on the list that leads to divorce.
If you think sexual infidelity is the leading cause of divorce you have got it all wrong. In a recent survey which targeted over 100 YourTango Experts to see what they say are the top reasons married couples decide to split, and believe it or not, communication problems came out on top as the number one reason marriages fail.
I do believe that communication forms a major part in a marriage. Communication is the mortar that holds a relationship together, if it breaks down, the relationship will crumble. When spouses no longer communicate, the marriage has very little foundation to stand on. True communication involves respect for the other person as well as active energy on your part. Couples over the years, are weary to converse on sexual matters which are so important for a successful marriage. If something is bothering you and you would like to have a conversation about it, it can be helpful to find the right time to talk. What I would recommend is healthy communication which is the ability to communicate without offering hateful or undesirable responses.
Marriages fail because of this reason and often from a combination of reasons. Any of the issues listed below along with healthy communication, which enhances good marriages, should give cause for concern and care. Unaddressed personal and spiritual issues will affect both partners, even if one is unaware or innocent. If you are wondering why your marriage is failing, the list below may have the answer.
1) UNFORGIVING SPIRIT
Learn to extend forgiveness because it is critical to harmony. Instead of obsessing about how you have been wronged, treat your spouse how God treats you. “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:3).
2) FINANCIAL PRESSURE
Don’t spend your life trying to earn more and spend more, or you will enslave yourself to a life of dissatisfaction, materialism, and endless stress. “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves through with many griefs” (1 Timothy 6:10).
Lust always leads to infidelity of the heart, mind and body. No sexual experience outside of marriage is okay. God will never lead you to fall in love with someone other than your spouse .”You shall not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14)
4) INSECURITY AND WORRY
Take your eyes off the world and its illusion of happiness; you will find peace from anyone or anything the world offers you. Trust in the Lord. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow”. (Matthew 6:32-33)
5) SECRET SINS
If you hide a sinful fantasy or habit, it will grow stronger; pretending something doesn’t exist or is no wrong gives it greater reason to remain in and over your life. “You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence” (Psalm 90:8).
6) PARENTING DIFFERENCES
The Bible is the best parenting source available, seek to follow Christ and point your children toward Christ, and parenting details will fall into place. Your children may find it difficult to accept the Lord because they do not see Jesus reflected in your life. “Do not exasperate your children; instead bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).
7) INTERFERENCE FROM OTHERS
Dysfunctional or controlling relatives and friends will put tremendous pressure on your family unit. Seek God’s wisdom and perspective about how to handle your decisions. If your relationship is in crisis and you need outside counsel, both you and your partner need to sit down together and agree on who is the neutral party you can both speak with. Both of you should arrive on the location at the same time. During the process, both of you should draw necessary boundaries with everyone outside God’s will for your life. “Respect one another out of reverence for Christ”. (Ephesians 5:21).
We all lookout for ourselves, especially when someone challenges our desires. Selfish individuals are emotional tyrants, uncaring and have no sympathy for the partner’s needs. The more love and reward you show them, the easier it is for them to feed from your kindness. They might appear charming and caring at first, but their behaviour goes astray the moment you don’t submit to their desires. Begin considering your spouse’s perspective first; winning an argument only weakens your marriage. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility, value others above yourself (Philippians 2:23).
Self-pity, disillusionment and frustration come from an “I-deserve-this” attitude. Watch for these feelings – the core problem is self-worship. “You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2).
10) SPIRITUAL AND EMOTIONAL IMMATURITY
Maturity takes a lifetime, so give your spouse room to grow without ridiculing or reprimanding him/her for immaturity. Surround your marriage with godly, mature role models. “I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me in Christ Jesus. All of us who are mature should take such a view of things (Philippians 3:14-15).
11) GRIEF AND DEPRESSION
Everyone goes through periods of grief and sadness; be supportive and understanding when your spouse is sad, by gently guiding him/her toward help. “Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am in distress; my eyes grow weak with sorrow my soul and body with grief (Psalm 31:9).
You are created to be satisfied only in God’s presence. Don’t feed grief because the things you want will not satisfy you. A marriage should be based on love and not greed. “No one can serve two masters, either you will hate the one and love the other or you will be devoted to one and despise the other (Luke 16:13)
God’s Spirit convicts us when we sin; He does not shame us for our mistakes. Embrace that fact that Jesus’ grace will set you free from the shame you feel. God can redeem anyone, in marriage it is no different….from incarceration to God’s grace, from being a backslider to a Pastor…God’s redemption, that’s what matters. “I live in disgrace all day long and my face is covered with shame (Psalm 44:15).
If you have a short fuse, you need to find out why and stop making excuses. Get help to overcome this destructive and addictive habit. “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice (Ephesians 4:31)
Never lie, mislead or deceive your spouse, do not keep secrets because it will drive the wedge between you. Not telling your spouse something or hiding something on purpose, is just the same as lying. The truth doesn’t cost anything, but a lie could cost you everything. But late Psychologist Dr Clover P Jarrett says “many couples keep secrets from each other. They sit with us like stones in our pockets. Some weigh us down, others just exist”. According to a recent study published in 2017 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, people keep 13 of them on average. The most common secrets are sexual in nature, researchers found to do with behaviour or with romantic thoughts about someone outside of the confines of the primary relationship. But all secrets big and small have a profound effect on you and your marriage. “Do not lie to each other” (Colossians 3:9).
When your hearts pine for recognition, wealth and beauty, you will believe that your worth is attached to who you are and what you do; and the more you doubt your worth, the more you will find your spouse to be unsatisfactory. “Teaching us, that denying all ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:12).
Here lies the root of all conflict, insecurities and sin. So instead of thinking about yourself more highly than the other, spend your energy and love by giving your spouse grace and love. “Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found with those who take advice (Proverbs 13:10)
When hard times hit, you might feel that your spouse has not done enough to make you happy. Take a look at where you place your hope; if it is not God, you will continually struggle with disappointment. Start praising God for all the provision and your disappointment will vanish. “Why are you downcast, O my soul: Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Saviour and my God” (Psalm 42:5)
19) DIFFERENT PRIORITIES/VALUE SYSTEM
You and your spouse may have lived by opposite standards, which can cause contention and frustration. Try to remember that God holds you accountable for your actions; live your life and do not focus on what your spouse is doing. “How can a young person stay on a path to purity? By living according to your Word. I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands” (Psalm 119:10-11).
If you suffer from low self-esteem, the solution is not to love yourself more – it is love God and thank Him for His ongoing work in your life. Let God transform you into His image and embrace your process, instead of comparing yourself to others. “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).
The question is – Do marriages still work today? ABSOLUTELY YES!!! But only when you put Jesus Christ first and when we obey the laws of God. That makes it the most secure relationship on earth – but we have to do it God’s way.
Laws create order and if you follow them, your marriage can remain safe and connected for life.
Contributed by HE Prof Colin O Jarrett
Senior News Editor
Excerpt from notes of the late Rev Dr Harry and Dr Clover Jarrett, Counselling Psychologists in Marriage and Family Counselling