Tips for Christians Considering Divorce
By: Emmanuel Ofoha
It is a heartbreaking thing to have friends and family members who are going through divorce. Maybe you and your spouse are the ones considering a divorce and are looking for help. I hope that the information in this article can be a help to you or your friends.
If you are going through a strained relationship you may find the stress and emotional anguish difficult to bear. There are long-lasting and far-reaching effects that need to be considered before making life-changing decisions. However your ability to think clearly and rationally about the future is often clouded by the emotional trauma you are experiencing.
The information in this article is intended for Christian couples that are struggling with non-life threatening relationship issues. If you are in an abusive marriage where one of the spouses, or worse yet, children, could become physically harmed then you should get the law involved in protecting the family.
Laying aside physical abuse and unrepentant sexual immorality, let’s look at 5 tips for Christians who are considering divorce and see if God can help you find a way to save your marriage. Because you are reading this article I assume you have some desire to keep your marriage together. I trust that you will seriously consider your alternatives and use these suggestions to bring your spouse close to you once again.
There are long-lasting and far-reaching effects that need to be considered before making life-changing decisions.
Please pray. Don’t neglect this. Pray that God will give you wisdom in your relationship (James 1:5). Pray for your spouse. Pray that God will give you love for him or her again (1 Corinthians 13). If you don’t maintain your relationship with a perfect and loving God during this critical time, what hope do you have for maintaining a relationship with a spouse who is an imperfect sinner like yourself?
You may find that it is hard to pray right now. Reading your Bible may become very difficult. Rarely do marriages struggle where only one partner is to blame for all the problems. It may be true that your spouse carries much of the fault, but your bitterness and pride is probably what is hindering you from wanting to even talk with the Lord. Are you afraid that He will show you sin and improper behavior in your own life?
During this time of great difficulty you should actually pray that God does reveal your faults. You absolutely cannot change your spouse. Only God and your partner can do that. You should pray for them, but spend more time praying that God will change you and make your relationship with Him stronger and better. As a result of building a better relationship with God you will invariably build a better relationship with your mate.
What brought you two together? What was the big attraction to him or her when you first started dating that summer? Those qualities are probably still there you just have to look for them. It is possible that he or she has changed since those innocent days. Why? Is it because you have changed in such a way that you no longer bring out those qualities in your spouse? Maybe you have nagged them so much to change through the years that when they finally did, you buried that quality you fell in love with.
I am reminded of a cartoon I saw recently where a young couple fell madly in love. After they were married she nagged him to change the style of shirt he wore. He did. She complained about the way he wore his hair. In an effort to please her, he changed that too. She asked him to change various things about his actions and appearance. He continued to change for her sake. In the end she filed for divorce stating that he was no longer the man she fell in love with years before.
The cartoon was written to comically illustrate what happens to many couples. But you may feel a twinge of guilt if you are the one who coerced your mate into making changes they did not want to make.
Try to remember those early days when you first fell in love. If you built your relationship on the right things then those qualities are still inside your spouse. However, if you built your relationship purely on a physical attraction you have to remember that you don’t have the body of a 20-year-old any more either. Jumping out of one relationship to find another physically attractive person will end the exact same way.
Find, or bring out again, the qualities in your spouse that you loved so much. They are still there. You had the power to reveal those before you were married, you can do it again.
Though we say it all the time, you did not really “fall in love.” You grew together in a relationship. Your love was planted, grew and blossomed over time. You also don’t fall out of love. It is crazy to think that you do. If you no longer have the love you once had for them it is because you have made decisions that have pushed you to growing out of love, not falling there.
Be the Kind of Person You Want to Live With
Have you stopped to consider how you are acting towards your spouse? If he or she acted like you are acting towards them, would you want to be married to you? You should model the type of behavior you expect. I know this is the type of thing parents are told in relationship to their children, but you should act properly toward you spouse as well. Do you go to church on Sunday with a smile, a Bible and all your memory verses learned and then can’t wait until you get out of the church parking lot to start yelling at your spouse? You may put up a nice front with other people, but your spouse has to live with you.
Ephesians 5:22-33 are probably not your favorite verses in the Bible at this time of your life. It commands husbands to love their wives. Wives are told to submit to their husbands. Both of these statements are not conditional on the other person’s actions. Wives should submit whether their husband loves or not. Husbands should love whether their wife submits or not. Don’t look at what your spouse’s responsibility is, focus on what you are to do. Men, become the husband that loves in such a way that your wife wants to submit and reverence him. Ladies, become the wife that makes it easy for your husband to love because you are living in obedience to the commands of God.
Remember when you actually communicated with one another and didn’t yell? I know you may be saying that you really can’t remember the last time you communicated. But there was a time that you did. Otherwise you would not have gotten married. As a dating couple you looked forward to dropping off your little brother so you could be alone with the one you loved. Your friends from high school and college, whom you vowed you would never abandon, got ditched as soon as your spouse came into your life. You found ways to be together so you could talk even when you didn’t have time in your busy schedule.
You may be finding ways to avoid one another lately. Do you take the long way home from work so you don’t have to face the tension? Remember it takes two people to argue. If you will just admit you are sorry for the way you have been acting you could diffuse some of the tension. There is no reason for you to pretend the sinful actions of your spouse don’t exist; however, you can admit your own pride and faults. You may find that your arguments will cease as soon as you take the time to tell them you are sorry.
Attack the problem together. Don’t try to win an argument just to have another notch in your belt. You can both win if you will try and solve the problem together and stop trying to have a better argument than the other person.
It is said we communicate on five different levels. The first is casual and trivial things. This includes the weather, bus schedules and sports scores. Secondly we move to factual information. This is when one person dispenses information like at a lecture. There is usually little passion and the parties are emotionally disconnected. When you move to the third level you are talking about ideas and philosophies. You begin to share things that open you up to being vulnerable because the other person might disagree with you. When you begin to share emotions, dreams and fears you have moved to the fourth level. This is where couples get to in their conversations before they get married. They may or may not move to the fifth level which is a state of total and absolute openness where everything is shared.
Where are you in these five levels of communication? Have you begun to slip backwards on the scale? If you are having trouble in your marriage you may be back to level two or one. Open yourself up and work towards sharing some dreams again.
Live Pleasing to the Lord
Your relationship with God should be your first priority. I know this goes hand in hand with the first point about praying, but this is so critical. When God is first in your life He will help you work out your other priorities. Live a life that is pleasing to Him and He will help clear up your emotion-filled mind so that you can see things from a higher perspective.
If you are in tune with the Lord and your spouse is in tune with the Lord, then you will be in tune with one another. Just because people are Christians does not mean they will never disagree with one another. However, if they will both live in agreement and obedience to the Lord, then they will be in agreement with each other. The Jesus in you will not fight with the Jesus in your spouse.
Your marital problems should be seen as a spiritual issue. You may see your anger over your spouse spending too much money at the grocery store or working too long at the office as a physical one, but you should consider it a spiritual battle to be fought together. Ask the Lord to help you both stand together and attack the problems in your marriage.
If you are not willing to take your marital problems to the Lord then you are admitting that you are part of the problem and not willing to find a solution. Admit that to God and your spouse. Ask forgiveness from your partner and God. Then between the three of you I am certain a solution will present itself.
Have you and your spouse come back from marital problems? Please share in the comments below how God gave you victory. I know this type of topic can be very emotional to discuss. If your marriage ended in divorce anyway, please keep your comments spirit filled. It helps no one to be unkind in a discussion like this.