August 14, 2013 - Marriage, Serious Struggles

For years, my wife, Gwen and I counseled young couples having marital troubles.

Man pushing red button, big red button, divorce, end marriage

In Monday’s blog, THE SECRET TO GODLY ROMANCE, I posed a controversial, thought-provoking scenario.

You’re alone in a room with a big red button on a table in front of you. You know if you push that button, your marriage is over. No one will know and no one gets hurt. If you push it, your marriage goes away like it never happened.

The question is—would you push the button?

It makes people angry when I ask this because they see it as absurd. What sort of man would bailout on his marriage?

Before we focus too hard on that—there’s more to the story. When Gwen and I asked this question of couples experiencing problems (we interviewed each spouse individually) more women pushed the button than men by almost 2:1.

If you pushed the button, you might be surprised at yourself. You may even feel guilty.

Before you’re too hard on yourself, it may make more sense once you see the categories of others who pushed the button.

  • The married man who wants his freedom back
    • Unfortunately, the immature, ungodly guy who won’t commit to his wife needs to grow up. I use the term ungodly because a man who spends time in God’s Word would not struggle with this issue. He would love his wife more than himself, and understand his actions are inappropriate and foolish.
  • The woman who feels trapped
    • With a non-Christian husband
      • This is a difficult situation. The best way to prevent it is not to marry a man (or woman) who is not a Christ follower—easy to say after the fact. Some Christian leaders feel that divorce is the best option in this situation. Once you are married, if you can stay with your spouse, it’s what you should do. Does this mean living with an ungodly man or woman–one who does’t believe in Jesus Christ and who has no spiritual union with you? I will be the last one to judge someone in this position. My recommendation is lots of prayer before you consider divorce, and do it for the right reason.
    • With a husband who abuses her
      • No woman is obliged to stay with a man who strikes her, verbally abuses her, physically abuses her, sexually abuses her, or is unfaithful. For all of these except unfaithfulness, I strongly recommend the wife move out. If there is any hope for this marriage, professional Christian counseling is required while they are separated—not just recommended—required. If they reconcile, and he abuses her again, divorce is the next step.
      • Pornography addiction is a marriage killer. This needs to be dealt with by professional Christian counseling because it is adultery. I deal with this topic extensively in THE HARMLESS VICE.
      • I mention “other than unfaithfulness” above. I strongly recommend that when unfaithfulness by the husband or wife is the problem, everything possible should be done to stay together. This requires an incredible level of forgiveness that can only come from God, and the healing takes time—lots of time. But the result can be an incredibly solid and romantic marriage that totally robs Satan of his would-be victory.
    • With a husband who doesn’t love her
      • It’s a command for husbands to love our wives as Christ loves the Church and gave his life for her. It does not tell us we should love them if they meet our expectations, or don’t do anything to annoy us, or are prettier than the girl at the office. If we, as husbands, are doing what we are supposed to be doing, the girl at the office won’t be a temptation. How does a woman make her husband love her if he doesn’t seem too? That is a topic for a blog coming soon.
  • The woman who believes she made a mistake
    • Women tend to believe that once married, her guy will change for the better. This rarely happens the way they hope. There is an old song with lyrics that ask what you do when you’re with someone else when the right one comes along? The Biblical position on this is clear. If you made a mistake (or believe you did) when you married your husband or wife, it no longer matters. God wants you to stay married to the spouse with whom you are married—not divorce him/her to hook up with the one “God chose for you.” Even if God had someone else He wanted you to marry, once you say, “I do,” your new marriage is His desire for you.

In the end, both men and women pushed the button. Some had selfish reasons—some were desperate because of dangers from abuse, and others had no choice.

Over the years that my wife and I counseled, we had four situations requiring us to rescue wives from physically abusive husbands. We faced hostile men armed with baseball bats, knives and one clown with a gun. But we left with those women (and sometimes kids) intact.

I don’t apologize for kicking down doors to protect abused women. If you’re slapping your spouse, get your heart right with God and do it fast. Don’t wait for someone to show up at your door.

Spouse abuse is sin. Marriage is the reflection of Christ’s relationship with His bride the Church. It is the standard for all relationships.