“I don’t love you anymore. I hate you. I want out. This is not working. I think I have fallen out of love with you. We just do not have anything in common anymore. I want to see someone else. This is too hard. We are always arguing. You make me sick. I want to pursue my career and you are in the way. You don’t want to do what I want anymore. You don’t make enough money and I want a better life.”
On and on it goes. Our society, including the church, has lost the commitment and resolve to make marriage work. The “till death do us part,” has become null and void. It is a trite line in the marriage ceremony that no one takes seriously. The pledge to faithfulness is lost and ignored.
I am realizing that no one expects marriage to last. When we say I have been married 48 years, most people stand there in dumbstruck awe. The idea that once the romance is gone the marriage is over is a lie of this generation. The society has overdosed on Hollywood romanticism and sexual exploits. They feature the courtship, but they ignore the hard work and the day to day grind. “And they lived happily ever after,” is a pipe dream. They may have lived ever after, but there were certainly bumps along the road.
I hear the hurt and the pain in so many voices. Men and women abandoning their marriages; some just walking away with no warning or seemingly no serious issues. Spouses are left in confusion and children, whether grown or still at home, are dazed by the abandonment.
I fully understand there are legitimate reasons for separation and divorce. God made provision in the word for these cases. We walk through some of these from time to time.
There are some contributing factors to the trends. First, the laws make it much easier for divorce. Secondly, the society has little or no stigma attached to divorce any longer. Thirdly, the independence of women and their growing self sufficiency has led to women not staying in abusive relationships. Fourthly, the self sufficiency of women has made them less likely to work harder at keeping a marriage together. Fifthly, the shrinking size of family and low birth rate has created less responsibility on both spouses for providing. Sixthly, the constant barrage of enticements for freedom and license have made marriage to appear restrictive and fun killing. Seventhly, men remaining little boys and not wanting the responsibility of family.
Marriage takes a lot of work. But the work cannot be done solely by one partner. Both spouses need to work at the marriage. The machismo of “me Tarzan, you Jane,” does not work at all when you consider the woman a helpmate as scripture says. That will work when the woman is considered chattel as they are in many societies and religions, but that is not really a marriage; it is enslavement.
Men, today, are challenged to be communicative, open, and nurturing. Women are challenged to be supporters of their husbands and work together to make the marriage work. The male-female roles are being redefined by the world which has caused troubles in marriages. Even Christian homes are challenged by the contemporary views. Finding a Biblical basis for life is a firm foundation but still has its challenges.
The test the church faces is ministering to all the broken lives caused by the fracturing of marriages. The ones most devastated are the ones who cannot grasp what has happened. Adultery is a clear breaking of covenant. Death is a finality that releases the spouse from the marriage. But we are faced with all kinds of breakage defined with the least of excuses all under the general category of “incompatibility.”
I believe this cultural lack of commitment and the damage from divorces has contributed to the increasing number of people living together and having children, often multiple children, before ever thinking of marriage. They share the same bed, they support one another, they live like they are married, but they have the back door open all the time without the legal damage. Yet, marriage is a totally different animal than cohabitation. People who have cohabited with consensual sexual relationship will testify that marriage is very different.
God has intended that we marry. Marriage is honorable. Marriage is intended to reflect the love of Jesus for the church. Marriage is the place of the greatest pleasure and the harshest pain. It is just like Jesus and the church. A marriage is worth working on. There are days when it is bliss and it has days where it is hellish. But underlying all is that commitment to one another. It is finding a way to work it out, learn from one another, adjust to one another, respect one another, want the best for one another.
It is a journey with romance, but hard days too, but it is God’s design.