WHY PEOPLE DIVORCE
by Doug Hoffman
When I was young, I thought that people divorced because they “fell out of love.” They just didn’t have the same feelings anymore and they began to think they were moving in different directions, not growing together. They just didn’t seem to have the same goals. In some cases there was sin involved, but, for the most part, it seemed folks just weren’t happy and they wanted more…like it was before when they first got to know each other and were excited. Then I started working with couples in their difficult times and discovered the common thread for their dissatisfaction–even among those who claim to be Christians.
I found it wasn’t that they didn’t FEEL right, they simply didn’t ACT right. That’s right! They forgot or didn’t know how to love. Love, agape, is an action, not a feeling. Agape is often motivated by feeling, but, since God asks us to “love (agape) our enemies,” it’s apparently bigger than that and can be exercised regardless of my feelings…even in the absence of them or even when love is not reciprocated. John 3.16 is the greatest example of loving (doing something for someone) even when you don’t know them. Or maybe you know them but don’t like them…you can still love them.
So if we understand what love is and how it’s demonstrated, I suspect we would agree that divorce could be eliminated. Divorce happens because one or both of the parties have forgotten how or are unwilling to love as they should. Sounds simple, but I really think it is. In every divorce there is sin, and more often than not the sin is hateful behavior in the absence of love. See if you agree.
From the ESV of I Cor. 13.4-8, love is patient and long-suffering. Enduring difficulty or being patient with someone’s misdeed must be rooted in a deep appreciation for the grace that has been extended to me. If God can forbear my stupidity, my bumbling, my inattentiveness, shouldn’t I do the same for my wife? If I can’t, I need to know why. Love is kind or benevolent. Being a servant and submitting myself to my wife in the right way (as commanded in Eph. 5.21) simply proves that I am interested in her well-being above my own. It is possible for me to do this without giving up headship because Jesus, my role model, did (Phil. 2.6).
Love does not envy–specifically, I think it does not envy the gift(s) that my spouse possesses. Instead of coveting her ability to think about others more than me, I should own that and make it a part of our work together. What’s she is good at should make US good at it…because we are working together, in synergy. By the same token, love does not boast of its accomplishments, either individually or together. We are simply grateful that we have the ability to take advantage of the opportunities God has afforded us. This kind of quiet sense of achievement is attractive…no one needs to spike the ball.
Love is not arrogant. I just think no one likes a braggart. Let others admire you and accept it. I love talking about what a great wife I have; frankly, it makes me look good because I chose her. I’m thrilled that she is so much better at some things than I am, and I truly believe that feeling is mutual. It’s comforting to know I don’t have to brag on myself when I am secure that she is noticing and sometimes says so to others.
Love is not rude or unbecoming. I don’t want to embarrass my wife by doing or saying stupid things. So, when she wants to critique me, am I will to listen and see her point of view or do I stiffen up and insist on having my own way? Oh, that’s the next one. Love does not insist on its own way. I really don’t think this is talking about my demanding to eat at Outback over her interest in Olive Garden but rather an attitude that makes me unapproachable and defensive. Nothing gets accomplished if we can’t talk about where we’re failing. That’s not easy, but it’s a conversation that must be had.
Love is not irritable, even when it’s late, I’m tired, and I haven’t eaten yet. Recently I heard about how sleep deprivation causes us to be irritable and not think clearly. How difficult is it for a wife to live always walking on egg shells for fear that her exhausted, or otherwise irritable husband, will explode at any minute? What kind of peaceful, secure home environment will that create for the kids? Easy answer: it won’t! I should have thick skin, and if I don’t I should pray for it. There’s no reason others should pay for my short fuse.
Love is not resentful. It is too easy to keep score. When we do, we become resentful and everyone pays the price. Learning to forgive and forget is not just a wish; it’s an action. It is not overlooking a wrong done against me but the willingness to address it, knowing it will be best for me and her if we can work through it, forgive each other, and move on. Many a marriage has failed because a sin could not be forgiven.
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. When truth is important to both of us, we take joy in our common faith. I see this as very practical because we need to agree on what we consider right and wrong; otherwise, each could be perceived by the other as rejoicing in something wrong. It’s important to be able to share the same values.
This is where the real test in marriage begins for me. Love bears all things. I like this word “bear,” to cover over with silence. How often a word of disapproval creates a bit of sadness, and with much disapproval comes disheartening hopelessness. Can I be as tolerant of her as I expect her to be of me. This is a tough one. But, in many ways, it starts with believing that she wants the best for me. To believe in her motives rather than thinking there’s always some sort of hidden agenda like, “she just wants to change me.” Maybe I need changing! But love believes, trusts in her goodness and in her steadfast love for me, even when it seems otherwise. Satan will not get a foothold here!
Love hopes all things is not some shallow desire that it will eventually get better but a deep, abiding expectation that we are getting stronger and growing closer every day. It’s not long distance; it’s right here, right now. Each day I can take comfort in the reality that we have tried our best to love each other and tomorrow will be better. This hope sustains us in difficulty and binds us in a singular hope. We are both expecting the best of each other. It’s a tall order but a great way to live.
Love endures all things so it perseveres. Love can take whatever Satan throws at it. It’s what makes me honor the vow I made the day I got married, “through sickness and in health, ‘til death do us part.” Who knows what tomorrow brings, but, with this kind of deep abiding commitment to love, we can handle it, endure it, and ultimately win.
It’s exciting to think our relationship will be taken into heaven with us. We may not be married over there, but we will have a deeper bond than we can imagine because we were married, and that love will never end. In fact, we will be able to spend an eternity seeing the life we shared here in a new and better perspective. I’m convinced we will better understand why it went the way it did on earth. For now, I want to make sure my investment in this relationship pays off, and I’m convinced that the biggest contribution I can make to it is love. With love, all things are possible, and without it the marriage will end. Everyone will pay a price, and that price is too great to bear here or over there.
May God grant me the wisdom to see how important it is for me to simply be who I am supposed to be and love as I am supposed to love–that is, as He has loved me. In this, I might learn to be perfect. Matt. 5.43-48