I know your Facebook newsfeeds, not to mention your favorite blogger’s posts are gushing about marital love and wedded bliss in honor of Valentine’s Day.
You scroll past sparkly red hearts and pics of couples who seemingly have never had so much as an argument over anything more significant than their favorite color or candy bar.
You feel alone. Your marriage is hurting….really hurting.
The word divorce has been mentioned or at least been invited to the conversations between you and your spouse. This Valentine’s Day, heart-loving-Cupid is usurped by a very real foe, a demon named, Divorce.
Unfortunately, Divorce is very willing to convince you it’s over, and there’s no way to rekindle love. In fact, Divorce will rudely dominate your conversation until you ask it to leave.
My husband Forrest and I have served together in marriage ministry for ten years. We have no special training to serve such as a degree in marriage and family counseling; our only credential is we simply share God’s passion for marriages to be a reflection of His love to the world and our hearts hurt for hurting marriages. I’m so sorry you are hurting.
However, we have had the privilege of watching God’s miracles unfold in the lives of many couples who bravely fought and won the battle against the demon named Divorce. Many of the couples now serve other couples in marriage ministry. That’s the beauty of the Body of Christ, healed people helping in another couple’s healing journey. The names and circumstances of each couple may be different, but their battles with Divorce were won with tried and true treatments. Each successful couple found relief in a prescribed path that untangled the death grip of Divorce.
#1 Know you are NOT alone.
Those pictures on Facebook are simply NOT real. They capture a spotlight moment in time in the ebbs and flows of marriage. The couple who looks blissfully happy sitting in your Bible Study or church pew share many of the same struggles as you and your spouse. Silence and happy-face-church-masks keep couples who can help each other apart. It makes me sad to see couples suffer in silence. It’s time to get humble and ask for help. One of the commonalities that successful couples share is they come to a point where one or both have asked, “God, we need help.” Followed by, “Church family, we need help.” They requested prayers often.
#2 Please, unpack your backpack.
I’ve noticed that when Divorce is invited to the marriage, each partner straps on a backpack, a backpack that Divorce is quite happy to fill. Divorce methodically places burdening barriers between you and your spouse. The weight and tension of Divorce’s lies tips both partners into thinking that the divorce will make life easier. It does not. The good news is Divorce uses the same lies over and over which makes the lies easier to recognize.
•I never loved him/her.
•I married the wrong person.
•He/she does not or has not ever met my needs.
•Our children will get over it.
•We are too broken.
•The sooner we divorce, the sooner we will heal.
•My spouse doesn’t want to save the marriage, so there is nothing I can do.
Each one of these well-crafted lies sugar coats the idea that a divorce will serve your personal needs. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The epicenter of divorce begins with the husband and wife but ripples to every relationship. Please unpack your backpack one by one. Divorce’s lies prevent healing.
Face the Lies with the Truth
•I never loved him/her. (Feelings of love come and go. It is not an excuse to abandon your commitment)
•I married the wrong person. (There is no such thing as a “soul mate”. The person you are married to is the “right person”.)
•He/she does not or has not ever met my needs. (A spouse will never meet your needs. Only God can fill the void. As a devoted spouse, I will ask God to use me in serving my spouse’s needs.)
•Our children will get over it. (Children, even adult children, may adjust, but they don’t simply get over it. )
•We are too broken. (No one is ever too broken for God’s help.)
•The sooner we divorce, the sooner we will heal. (Divorce is life marker that shapes the rest of your life. The relief you seek through divorce is exchanged for new life long tensions.)
•My spouse doesn’t want to save the marriage, so there is nothing I can do. (Please keep reading. There is a lot you can do with or without your spouse. Even if your spouse ultimately walks away, you can rest in the fact that you did everything you could to honor your marriage covenant with God.) )
#3 Look at yourself in the mirror.
Divorce likes to keep you focused on your spouse’s faults. Divorce is all too happy to push the replay button and rehash your spouse’s failures. In my own marital conflicts, I had to realize, I’m half the problem. That means I have control over half the responses, half the tones, half the words, and half the deeds. I have the choice to submit willingly to my Lord and ask Him to change me. God’s Word is my mirror and reveals my character flaws and sin. I am called to be transformed into the image of God and reflect His character. And regardless of where my marriage is or how badly I hurt, this personal responsibility does not change. This is hard medicine to swallow when you are experiencing relational pain with your spouse. However, healing cannot happen without it.
#4 Sometimes, it just takes one.
Although it takes two to make a marriage, it often takes just one to begin the journey of healing. The spouse who says, “ I love you, but I don’t want the marriage to continue in its present state and I need help. I would like you to come with me, but I’m getting help with or without you” is solution driven.
Or the spouse who is lost in the betrayal of adultery says, “You have no idea how your choices have deeply hurt me. But I still think our marriage is worth fighting for. I’m getting help,” may change the course of his family for eternity.
Often the wayward spouse is inspired by the dedication of their marriage partner and friend who is willing to fight for the legacy of their relationship.
Divorce says, “You are all alone.” God’s Word says,“You are not!” Don’t give up even if your spouse has. In fact, a pattern that Forrest and I have noticed is from the time the divorce is announced, there are usually 2-3 moments during the process where a reluctant spouse considers the possibility of reconciliation. It’s important to send a strong message with your own actions (not words) that YOU are willing to learn and change.
#5 Commit to three types of marriage education
•Weekly Marriage Class/Bible Study with other married couples
•Counseling from a Christian counselor, who hates divorce
•Marriage Seminar Love and Respect , Weekend to Remember, and if you are a Step-Family, Smart Step-Family Conference
There is so much to learn about our marriages. It is never ending. Each type of marriage education brings healing in different ways. Forrest and I also noticed, the couples who experienced success, participated in all three types. Visit HTHL’s Pinterest Board on Marriage Helps for our list of recommended resources. And yes, Forrest and I engage in all three types of marriage education. Our marriage would be lost without this crucial piece.
#6 Face the Four Abominable A’s in Marriage
The “Four Abominable A’s in Marriage” are the root causes of many marital difficulties.Without question, these giants are tough to face. Like little David with His mighty God, many couples have bravely faced and won over these giants.
Abuse is a serious wrong. It is never to be tolerated or justified. Talk with a trusted friend, church leader, counselor, or pastor. Local domestic violence agencies may also be a good resource. Many offer counseling and group programs. Please take advantage of these programs. If your church or community does not have these resources, reach out to other communities.
When one or both spouses are enslaved to alcohol, drugs (any type street or prescription drug), gambling, or pornography, it wrecks havoc on a marriage. It cannot be disregarded. For 25 years Celebrate Recovery has been a place of marital healing. Celebrate Recovery is family recovery. For the spouse who is not enslaved to these kinds of addictions, it offers a safe place to deal with your own hurts, hang-ups, and codependency. For the one who struggles with substance abuse, it offers a safe place of accountability and an opportunity to grow and change without the weight of judgment.
Learn more about: Celebrate Recovery
Marital abandonment silently smothers a marital partner with apathetic avoidance at its worst. It’s a do-nothing, run-away-from-responsibility choice that puts a family at risk for financial ruin and all that goes along with it. What do you do when a spouse silently slips away? Not an easy question to answer with “three easy steps”. Time spent with a trusted friend, or counselor who values your marriage covenant proves helpful in these situations. Legal separation for financial protection rather than divorce may also be an option if it is coupled with a strong statement,“ I don’t want a divorce.”
Learn more about: Marital Abandonment
Betrayal cuts the heart like no other. The gaping hole it leaves behind echoes fears, self doubts, and guilt. The offending spouse may or may not be sorry for his/her sin. There are different ways to approach each scenario.
Learn more: Adultery and Affairs
If you are facing the Four Abominable A’s in Marriage, please know you and I are not designed to face these giants alone. Healing happens with God and in a community. Seek out a safe church community who values marriage. It’s so important to get educated and get help.
#7 Say “Yes” to all the remedies
In life-threatening situations, we dial 911 without hesitation. After paramedics rush us into the ER, we generally don’t say to the doctor, “I’ll just take the oxygen, but I don’t think I will do the x-ray or take the medicine”. Similarly, it’s foolish to approach marital crisis in the same way.
A spouse who says:
“I will do counseling but I won’t go to a marriage class”, or…
“No, I’ll read a book about communication but there is no way I’m going to a class”, or….
“I’m not the one with addiction, why should I waste my time in a recovery program?”
These responses kill hope and healing. There are no easy fixes for serious marital strife. And those who want to get well, will do all of the above with or without their spouse. I need to remember, my responsibility is to be the best marriage partner I can be regardless of my spouse’s response.
Lord, let the creative power of Your Word transform me. Give me a teachable spirit to learn from gifted teachers about the subject of marriage. Help me face the four Abominable As in marriage with knowledge, wisdom, actions, and tenacity. Lord give me the courage to ask for help and to look at my own shortcomings. And most importantly, give me the strength for the journey.
This week, our church’s marriage ministry is hosting a Valentine Dance to honor ten years of God’s faithfulness in ministry. We will dance and laugh together. We will celebrate! There will be couples on that dance floor gazing into each other’s eyes to the tune of Nat King Cole’s romantic hit, Unforgettable, who once held divorce papers in their hands. There will be couples who faced the Four Abominable A’s of Marriage who are now leading others in marriage ministry, and reflecting God’s love to their family and community. If you were to meet them, and I wish you could, they would offer you hope and their fervent prayers as you engage in the battle against the Demon of Divorce. They would not offer guarantees but encourage you to rely on God’s strength. They would also tell you that engaing in the battle against Divorce was worth it.
My dearest friend, I am praying for you and your marriage.
On this Valentine’s Day, I want you to know three things:
First, you are loved.
Second, you are enough, because God is enough.
Third, there is hope.
From Our Home to Yours,
Prayer requests gladly accepted. Let’s encourage each other in our marriages.