If you are like us, you hear often about how many people are getting divorce. People say that marriage rates are above 50% and worse than they have ever been. We have even heard some people declare that there are more single people in America than there are married people.
Most of the relationship advice and marriage statistics that you hear from your friends or so-called “Relationship Expert” bloggers are just not accurate and are dangerous to your marriage.
What The Research Says
Since the 1980’s, divorce rates have been dropping among all age groups, except older people.
According to a review of national statistics, people who are still in their first marriage at 46 years of age are:
Working with struggling couples for years, we know that sometimes the relationship problem is a surprise. Other times we know exactly what we did to cause the problem.
We have observed 4 patterns of reaction to relationship problems spouses engage in that actually hurt more than they help. They seem “good” because they keep us from feeling or dealing with the issue. That temporary relief fades quickly when the issue reoccurs. They always end up getting in the way of our goal of a lifelong relationship.
Darla was angry. She told us that her husband did not understand her and she did not feel like he ever would. She wondered if he loved her as she told us countless examples of his inattention to her needs. And when he finally asked her out on a date, it was to something that he knew she hated. She was done.
On a good day, enjoy yourself; on a bad day, examine your conscience. God arranges for both kinds of days so that we won’t take anything for granted. Ecclesiastes 7:14 MSG
Lance and Claire were stuck in the blame game. Both were waiting for the other to show them that they were loved. They were basically domestic partners and parents, living totally different lives while in the same house.
During the Marriage Saving Intensive, Claire told us about how Lance had never really shared what was going on in his heart. “After 18 years of marriage, I know more about how my dog feels about things than I know what Lance cares about.” She was miserable and blamed her husband for her unhappiness.
Lance felt like there was a bait and switch. He told us that their love life was wonderful as they began their relationship, but “she has a wall up in our love life. I have leaned to just get through, because I don’t have a wife who wants me in any way.” He told us that unless she changes, he is not willing to make any changes.
“So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it! Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time.” Hebrews 12-17 (MSG)
Leo did not know what to do. He has slipped into a brief affair. When Sylvia discovered it, he lied and tried to cover it up. Two weeks later he broke and confessed all. She was devastated. Thankfully she contacted us for a Marriage Intensive.
Trust break of any kind are significant traumas to the relationship. The natural reaction is a long period where nothing the betraying spouse does or says is accepted in truth. In fact, the betrayed spouse reviews all the memories of the relationship to date, questioning whether the betraying spouse was lying all along.
The Truth About Rebuilding Trust
- Affair recovery is possible. We have worked with hundreds of couples in our marriage intensive, one couple at a time, who have moved through the recovery process and now have a stronger and better marriage.
- Affair recovery is a process, not an event. It will not happen all at once in a meeting. Forgiveness and reconciliation is not possible with a single conversation. There are no magic words, or magic pills, that will automatically bring trust back into the relationship.
- The affair recovery process takes time. Forgiveness and reconciliation will take an average of two to five years. Like any trauma, reactions to triggers will vary in length and intensity. Every data point related to the affair will serve as a possible trauma trigger.
‘All of you should treat each other with humility, for as it says in Proverbs, God opposes the proud but offers grace to the humble.’ I Peter 5:5 (VOICE)
Betrayer’s Trust Building Responsibilities
Cathy was in a perpetual cycle of marriage destruction. She disliked her husband and blamed him for her unhappiness. Almost every day, she left her home to hangout drinking with friends.
Her husband and children were telling her how unimportant they felt. But she continued to blame her husband for her unhappiness. When he complained about her drinking, or absence from his and the kids’ lives, she struck back accusing him of being “emotionally abusive and controlling.”
Cathy is not the only one. In our marriage intensives over the years we have witnessed both men and women in such a destructive pattern.
‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.’ Proverbs 16:3 (NIV)
When A Behavior Is Hurting Your Marriage
Whether it is drinking or some other behavior, you may not be aware of it being a problem. Chances are that you do not think of the behavior as a problem. How can you tell if what you are doing is hurting yourself and your marriage.
Here are some tell-tale signs that what you are doing is a problem.
Everyone is wounded. No one has experienced life exactly like you have but all of us have wounds. Sometime early in our life, in our interactions with our parents, or a sibling, classmates, teacher, or a clergy member, we were wounded.
In that moment, Satan told you a lie about yourself.
- You are not good enough.
- You don’t have what it takes.
- You can’t do it right.
- You are broken.
- You don’t matter.
- You are not important.
- You are unlovable.
- You are worthless.
- You don’t belong.
- You have no value.
- You are defective.
Believing The Lie Hurts Your Marriage
Kurt was frustrated during the first follow up meeting about two weeks after the Marriage Intensive. “I’ve changed but she doesn’t see it.”
Kurt had settled into a pattern over the six years of marriage that told Maria that she was not very important. He focused on work, leaving the house early without saying goodbye, not texting or calling her during the day and becoming frustrated when she reached out to him, coming home late and expressing his disgust if she asked him to help with chores or the kids, complaining if the house was not picked up or if his laundry was not done, and expressing his displeasure with their sex life.
During the Marriage Intensive, his eyes were opened to all that he was doing that was contributing to them feeling like they had a loveless marriage. He made commitments to connect with her more frequently, communicate his appreciation for her and all she does, touch her in non-sexual ways more frequently, help out with the chores, and spend time connecting with her other than sexually.
In the follow up meeting, they both reported that he was doing all that he committed to do. When he said that he did not feel like she was treating him any differently, she said, “I don’t know if you are doing this because you knew we were going to have another session or if you are doing this because you have really changed.”
The Change Cycle
It is a common complaint we have heard over the years in our work with couples. It is because there is a cycle to the change process that, once you understand, will allow you to give it time to work.
Jonnetta and Wes has spent most of the day together with us in a Marriage Intensive. After learning how each were contributors to the mess in their marriage and discovering actions each can take to make their marriage better than it had ever been, it was time for each spouse to make commitments going forward.
Jonnetta shut down. She was unsure about her commitment to do anything to strengthen the marriage. When we asked her what would help her know whether to move forward building a strong healthy marriage or divorcing, she said, “I’m waiting on God to give me that answer.”
Permission To Leave
Over the last decade as we have worked with close to 300 couples, one at a time, in our Marriage Intensive, we have heard this challenge by several stuck people. They want to leave their marriage, but because of their faith, they want God to tell them it is “OK”. Their head and heart are gone, but they are physically still in the marriage searching for a way to not feel guilty about leaving.
“I hate divorce,” says the God of Israel. … “I hate the violent dismembering of the ‘one flesh’ of marriage.” So watch yourselves. Don’t let your guard down. Don’t cheat. Malachi 2:16 (The Message)
Kim called to see if her and her husband would benefit from a Marriage Intensive. She seemed to be at the end of her rope. “Marriage is so complicated. I don’t know if Matt and I will ever be able to work it all out.”
After working with thousands of couples over the last twenty-five years, we believe spouses too often complicate marriage. One of the most powerful and effective thing a couple can do is simplify their marriage.
‘One pretends he is wealthy but has nothing, while another seems to be poor but has great wealth. The rich are targeted and must ransom their lives, but no one bothers to threaten the poor. The light of the right-living brings joy as it burns brightly; the lamp of a wrongdoer will be snuffed out. Arrogance only produces arguments, but wisdom accompanies those well advised. Money earned hastily is easily lost, but hard-earned money continues to grow. Hope postponed grieves the heart; but when a dream comes true, life is full and sweet. The one who hates good counsel will reap failure and ruin, but the one who reveres God’s instruction will be rewarded. Wise instruction is a spring yielding a satisfied life; those who follow it avoid the traps that lead to death. Good sense brings blessing, but the road of the treacherous is long and rough. A clever person acquires knowledge and then acts on it; but a fool advertises his folly for all to see. An untrustworthy messenger stirs up trouble, but a faithful emissary is curative balm.’ Proverbs 13:7-17 (VOICE)
You may be complicating your marriage if you engage in one or more of the following items.