It seems odd that I’m writing this article the day before our twenty-third wedding anniversary. At the time, Jennifer and I are enjoying a great relationship, but it hasn’t always been so. Only a few folks have worked up the courage to ask, so for those that wonder but won’t ask – yes, I’ve considered divorce.
Even more dangerous, I know Jennifer has considered divorce also. I could use divorce statistics to convince you, but I trust you understand that our marriage has been in serious trouble during these times of divorce consideration. Much of marriage is a mental and emotional battle. Once a spouse has mentally and emotionally gone into divorce mode, odds are they won’t return.
So how did we get there?
Well, life happened to us. Like the majority of married couples, we started having children and ventured into our careers. We often use the cliche, “don’t blink, you’ll miss something” with new parents. The cliche is meant to warn new parents their children will grow so quickly and they should cherish every moment with them. Maybe we should start using this cliche for marriage as well. Don’t blink, you’ll miss something.
We missed the fact that life was pulling us apart like a rip current in the ocean. We blinked and suddenly we were just parenting partners, not a married couple. Jennifer became consumed with our children, their education, and extracurricular activities – all very good things. I became distracted by my career, making more money, and climbing the corporate latter – again, all very good things.
In addition to children and career, we let other voluntary activities of life distract us from one another. Church activities, for example, became distractions that drifted us apart. Over the twenty-three years, we’ve done everything you can imagine in our church. When you combine the children, the career, and the church, where is there time for the couple? While it can be balanced, we failed to balance all those areas of life, therefore our marriage suffered for it. That’s when the divorce considerations crept into our mind.
So divorce considerations have infiltrated your marriage, now what? What do you do now? How do you survive? How do you keep the marriage together? Let me share a few points I learned from my own experience.
Whatever it takes
First, you need to recognize you are in crisis mode. It resonates with me, but I hope the analogy doesn’t fall flat for you. Consider yourself in a military battle. The enemy has you completely surrounded and pinned down with direct fire. In that situation, you will mentally have to resolve to do whatever it takes to get out of there alive.
You need to likewise put your mind into the mental state that says you will do whatever it takes to save the marriage. This means you will own responsibility for the current state of the marriage. It also means you will let go of any fault or failure you believe about your spouse. And you will sacrifice whatever necessary, including your career or time with your children, to reconnect with your spouse. Like the battlefield situation, it matters little how you got into the situation. It matters most how committed you are to getting out of the situation.
Don’t beat yourself up
It’s a natural tendency to beat yourself up for considering divorce. You recall the vows you made, the commitment you’re holding yourself to, and the happy family vision you created in the beginning and begin to beat yourself up for putting those things in jeopardy by considering divorce. Stop it! Every marriage has reached points where divorce crept into the mind of one or both spouses.
Like temptation and sin, considering divorce isn’t bad or sinful in and of itself. It isn’t sinful to be tempted by something. Taking action on that temptation is where sin enters the picture. There is no reason to beat yourself up over being tempted by the allure of breaking free of the challenges marriage presents through a divorce. Instead, refer back to the previous point, turn that temptation into a dedication to do whatever it takes to save the marriage.
Like almost every other aspect of marriage, working through the temptation of divorce requires communication. Additionally, when a marriage relationship reaches the point of divorce consideration, apologies are certainly needed. However, there is no need to apologize for considering divorce (refer to the previous point).
A true evaluation of the circumstances that brought about the temptation of divorce will uncover areas of the relationship you need to apologize for. The blame for a marriage relationship degrading to the point of divorce is never completely one sided. Working through the temptation of divorce will require you to acknowledge and apologize for your part in the break down of the marriage relationship. It may be something you have done or things you’ve failed to do in order to maintain a good relationship. Regardless, it requires an apology.
Learn from it
As you move through and beyond these temptations of divorce, you must learn from the experience. Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “above all else, guard your heart.” To protect our marriage from future divorce temptations, we must learn what to guard our hearts against.
As I talked about in our situation, life was simply stealing away from us the opportunities to connect as a couple. And therein lies the areas of our hearts we must guard against. We must guard against the tide of busyness in our life. We can’t allow children, work, school, church, or anything else rob us of our time together.
Remove it from your vocabulary
Finally, you must bring stability and security back to the relationship. You can only do this when the previous steps are followed up with a mutual commitment to remove divorce from your vocabulary. By taking divorce off the table as an option, it safeguards your own heart from future temptation and conveys to your spouse the commitment you’ve made.
It may be that you’ve already used the word divorce to threaten your spouse. I fully understand how heated arguments can lead to threats. However, the heat of an argument doesn’t justify these types of threats. In order to guard against future divorce temptation, each spouse must commit the taking divorce out of consideration. You must remove divorce from your vocabulary.
Considering divorce can only end your marriage if you allow it to do so. You can allow the temptation to fester into action or you can follow the five points I’ve described to avert a divorce. If you have or are currently considering divorce, let that scare the bejeezus out of you. Don’t let those tempting thoughts lead to the demise of your marriage. You win the battle for your marriage by taking captive your thoughts (2 Corinthians 10:5). Turn those captive thoughts into determination to follow these five points.