There are always two kinds of divorces – ones that people see coming a mile away, and those that completely blindside people.
Divorces that people see coming a mile away are usually preceded by:
- Getting married too quickly without getting all the issues out on the table (ex. character flaws, addictions, hurtful relational patterns, previous family dynamics, etc.).
- Marrying someone whose personality is incompatible with yours (i.e. makes me think of that great line in the song “Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem and Rihanna – “Maybe that’s what happens when a tornado meets a volcano…”).
- Pledging to be lifelong partners when either the bride or groom was not radically committed to the idea of a lifelong marriage, no matter what.
- Marrying a Yankees fan.
It’s easy to predict whether or not these kinds of marriages will go the distance.
But predicting if a good marriage will eventually go south – not so much.
Can You Save Your Marriage?
How can you know if your marriage is headed for divorce when by all indications things are relatively good? What negative dynamics are in play in a good marriage that precede a marriage going bad? I mean, of all the marriages that end in divorce, most were once good marriages, right?
While my list is in no way exhaustive, in my work as a pastor I have seen enough good marriages end in divorce to see similar signs emerge.
Divorces that blindside people are usually preceded by:
- Debt that continues to grow (Hebrews 13:5, Romans 13:8).
- Abrasive communication patterns that go unchecked (Proverbs 12:18, Proverbs 18:2, Proverbs 29:11).
- Losing weight and relishing comments about your appearance (1 John 2:16-17). Staying fit and reasonably attractive for your spouse is hugely important. But show me someone who has gone overboard and loves the attention he or she is getting from friends/neighbors/co-workers and that’s a red flag that there are other issues lurking behind closed doors.
- Doing things “unbecoming” of a marriage at your stage (1 Corinthians 13:11). There are mistakes you make at year one or two in a marriage. Those are understandable. Make those same “childish” mistakes in your eighth year, or fifteenth, and you’ve got issues.
- Lack of traditions that keep romance alive. Ecclesiastes 9:9 shares the five most important words of marriage advice you’ll ever hear: “Enjoy life with your wife.” Going to that same place you fell in love every year. Date nights. Vacations together. Notes. Whatever. It varies from couple to couple. Romance dies quickly without regular, on-going, and sustained traditions to “enjoy life together” as you mark, celebrate, and rekindle feelings of love.
- One partner stops growing (2 Peter 1:3-8).
I have a ministry friend who believes that all things being equal, people usually marry someone about as psychologically healthy as they are. I believe that. Where couples get into trouble is when one partner stops growing, and the other outpaces him or her in stretching and maturing beyond their brokenness.
I wanted to share this list because I keep seeing so many good marriages skid out of control and burst into flames.
They all could have been saved – kids’ worlds not upended, life savings not lost, years not wasted – before they ever got that bad in the first place.
All it would have taken is just a little bit of attention.
Taking Action to Save Your Marriage
Proverbs 14:8 tells us to “Give thought to our ways.”
That would be my encouragement to you.
Get with your spouse. Take this list. Read through the scriptures together. And use the stoplight analogy…
- Is this a red light issue for us? (major problem)
- Is this a yellow light issue for us? (keep an eye on it)
- Is this a green light issue for us? (yeah, we’re God’s gift to marriage)
Then “give thought to your ways.” Figure out what needs to be fixed and give it your full attention before it becomes something major.
The sad truth is you only get blindsided when you’re not paying attention.
I’m rooting for you guys.
You can do this.
Unless, of course, you’re married to a Yankees fan. Then you’re on your own.
Is there anything you’d add to the list of things that precede a good marriage getting bad?