Why we need to be proactive in focusing on our marriages
The video of the six-year-old girl reacting to the news of her parents’ divorce has taken social media and regular media by storm. Her words are sweet, encouraging her parents to be friends, to get along, to have no more fights. (She’s trying not to be mean.) Your heart breaks, knowing what she must have witnessed that led her to say these words. It’s captivating adults because they realize this little child is apparently acting more grown up than the grown-ups.
The upside of this video is that people are paying attention to the way adults can handle divorce without making their children feel guilty or responsible. In the middle of man separating what God has joined, rational parents are trying to minimize the wreckage. (Emotional, revenge-seeking spouses are a whole other issue for another discussion.)
Divorce is a reality, even though the 50 percent divorce rate isn’t the truth that many have posited for years.
Still, even with divorce rates declining in the U.S., divorce will continue to happen until Jesus returns and creates a new heaven and a new earth. So we do need to have discussions about handling and coping with divorce.
I think we also need to be proactive, working to prevent divorce in the first place. Now, this list is not a “do these six things and you’ll be guaranteed a perfect, happy, Shangri-la marriage.” It’s simply a list of ways to focus on your marriage so that, prayerfully, fewer “Mommy and Daddy are getting a divorce” videos end up going viral.
- Adjust your expectations. “And they lived happily ever after. . .” is a Disney movie. Marriage is a reality show. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.” And that includes in your marriage. Two sinners bring preconceived notions and misconceptions and family history to the table. Stop thinking that marriage fixes everything. Adjust your attitude to serving instead of being served.
- Express appreciation. How would you react if you are constantly told you are a disappointment? If you are constantly reminding your spouse of all the ways he or she has failed and disappointed you, your spouse will quickly become discouraged and apathetic. A downward spiral is hard to reverse. Find one way each day to say thank you or to compliment your spouse.
- Stop looking for something better. We live in a society consumed with upgrades. People wait in line for the newest phone, though the “old” phone works fine. The concept of soul mate isn’t found in the Bible. But “sole” mate is. Once you’ve picked one, that’s the one for you. If you find yourself romantically fantasizing about someone else, picture yourself paying the bills, working out carpool arrangements, and discussing car repairs with that person. It doesn’t seem quite so romantic then, does it?
- Water the grass on your side of the fence. One of my favorite pieces of marriage advice comes from a woman whose marriage has weathered the death of a child, cancers, ill parents, a bone marrow transplant, and heart attacks. Her advice? “The grass is always greener where you water it.” Here are 15 ways to help us all water the grass on our side of the fence.
- Ask for help. You tend to your physical health: annual checkups to monitor your current health and appointments when you are sick. In a crisis you call the professionals and are rushed to the ER. You can do the same for the health of your marriage. Attend a retreat as preventive maintenance. Call in professionals when things aren’t going well. A trusted, compassionate, grace-filled pastor can offer spiritual wisdom. A licensed professional counselor is able to offer professional advice.
- Remember the real enemy. “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12). Satan loves to tear any marriage apart, but he gets especially sick pleasure from destroying marriages among believers. Because God uses marriage examples to describe his relationship to the church, Satan wants to make marriage seem as unappealing as possible. Then maybe, to those who don’t yet have faith, a relationship with the Father will seem unappealing too.
One reminder, many divorced people end up leaving the church because they feel judged. When they are lonely and hurting, that is the time they need their Christian friends and spiritual family the most. Whatever their role in the end of the marriage, they need to hear that forgiveness is full and free. Grace is abundant for all, not reserved only for those who stay married.
Linda Buxa is a writer, Bible study leader, and retreat speaker. To be honest, her initial reaction to the video was this: “Who records the moment when they tell their child about a divorce?” She’s thinking that maybe some things, no matter how touching, need to remain private.