Divorce-Proof Your Marriage

The institution of marriage was ordained by God, yet there are few areas of our lives that cause more stress and strife. Throughout the Bible, marriage is a symbol of the loving relationship we have with our Creator. It was ordained for procreation, for man and woman to meet their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, and to provide a framework for the family, which is the backbone of civilized society.

There is no area so vulnerable to the enemy's attack as mariage. For the first time in history, the divorce rates are the same within the church as within the secular world - about every other marriage ends in divorce. And that is only referring to first marriages; the divorce rates are even greater for subsequent marriages.

We are all aware of the adverse effects of divorce. It often causes low self-esteem, a sense of failure, and feelings of loneliness, bitterness, resentment, and defeat in the persons involved. It destroys children, shaking the very foundations of their world. The effects of divorce can last a lifetime. And second marriages bring even greater problems, especially if the same mistakes are made in the second marriage that were made in the first.

In view of these facts, we must be on guard always, and must make a deliberate, determined effort, to divorce-proof our marriages. It isn't going to just happen. It takes work, and a willingness to do whatever is necessary, according to the word of God. It isn't easy, or quick, or painless. But God has given us the tools, if we choose to use them.

How can we make our marriage divorce-proof? Here is some straight talk, from God's own Word. It may hurt, perhaps more than a little bit, but if we apply these Biblical truths to our marriages, the divorce rate will plummet, and we will all reap the rewards, both now and in the future. And we will set the example for our children and our children's children.

1. Put God first. It's been said that to be successful, God has to be the head of every marriage. If we aren't concerned with pleasing the Almighty God, chances are we aren't too concerned with pleasing our mate, either. Or at least, not as much as pleasing ourselves.

2. Be faithful to your spouse. After God, the first and foremost thing to divorce-proof your marriage us to be faithful! No ifs, ands, or buts about it! Don't put yourself in a situation where one thing could very easily lead to another. No "harmless" little flirtations, no suggestive remarks or jokes, no physical contact like dancing too close, no sly looks or little winks, no criticism of your spouse.

All these things immediately open the door to the devil. The Bible tells us to "Flee fornication..." (I Cor. 6:18) FLEE. Run for your life! I can't tell you how many people I know of who never intended to have an affair; they never meant for things to go so far. They were just "kidding around" with someone they shouldn't have been, and suddenly find that the situation got out of control.

Sin will do that to you. What seems harmless at first will always take you farther than you want to go, and cost you more than you wanted to pay. For you men, Proverbs 6:32 says "But whoso commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding: he that does it destroys his own soul." For the ladies, Proverbs 12:4 says: "A virtuous woman is a crown to her husband: but she that makes him ashamed is as rottenness in his bones." Who can argue with that?

3. Submit to one another. Ephesians 5:21 tells us: "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God". The next few verses (22-24) are specifically for the ladies: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

The following verses deal with the men: "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.(25) So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church". (27-28)

4. Remember sex is an expression of love. It was never meant to be a bargaining chip or a power trip. It should never be used to punish, to gain the upper hand, or to get one's own way. Sex should never be withheld to suit our own purposes. In fact, the Bible tells us: The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency. (I Cor. 7:4-5) Intimacy is one of the greatest blessings of marriage, and should not be misused by either partner, for any reason.

5. Remember the role your were created for. "And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him." (Gen 2:18)God created man first, then woman. Man's role was that of caretaker; he was to take care of things, and provide for his wife. (See Genesis chapter 2) He is to cherish her and provide for her, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

A good wife is a gift from God, men, and you should always treat her as such! Proverbs 18:22 says: "Whoever finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor of the LORD". Again in Proverbs 19:14: "House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD." Proverbs 31:10-12 says: "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband safely trusts in her, so that he shall have no need of ill-gotten gain. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life."

Woman's primary function is to help our husbands, in every way; we are to look well to the ways of our household, taking care of our families, our homes, and the work God gives us to do. Does that mean we have less worth or value in the marriage partnership, or that we must become mindless doormats? Heavens, no! Just look at the rest of Proverbs 31, ladies.

We are also to be teachers to the younger women, teaching them the things that are pleasing to God. Titus 2:4-5 says: The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.

Are these things sexist? Old-fashioned and out-dated? Some may think so, but we should know, God's way is always best. He doesn't want us to settle for anything less.

6. Focus your thoughts on the good things about your spouse, not their faults, failures, and shortcomings. Remember you have plenty of faults and failures and shortcomings yourself. Phlippians 4:8 says: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

When we focus on the negative, it tends to grow and grow in our minds, like a poisonous weed. Pretty soon it chokes out all the good, and all we can see is the negative. Let's face it, there is good and bad in all of us; why not give your mate the benefit of the doubt, and focus on the good instead of the bad? It will make a big difference in your own peace and happiness, I promise you!

7. Do what is good, and right, and honest yourself! Someone said that a good marriage isn't so much finding the right person as being the right person. This should go without saying, but it doesn't always, so I'll say it anyway: Don't just think about all the good things about your spouse - DO all those good things yourself! The very next verse in Philippians tells us: "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you." (Phil. 4:9)

Do all these things: be true to your spouse and your loved ones. Be honest and just. Be pure and lovely. Have a good reputation. Be virtuous. Not only will your spouse be far more loving and caring to a person who does these things, but God has a promise here, as well. Look at the last past of that sentence: "and the God of peace shall be with you." We cannot have peace when our marriage is in an uproar, when we aren't practicing these same things we want our spouse to practice.

8. Speak blessings, not curses, upon your spouse. We cannot claim to love God and at the same time despise our spouse. We cannot praise God and curse somebody else with the same mouth. James writes: "Out of the same mouth proceeds blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be." ( James 3: 10) Proverbs 18:21 tells us: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof."

We will eat the fruit of what we speak; therefore, shouldn't we always try to keep our words soft and sweet? Never speak badly to your mate, or about them. Never call them names, criticize, or belittle them in front of others, most especially your children or parents. I hear so many women say their children have no respect for their father. Listen up, ladies: they learn from YOU! If you show a lack of respect to their father, is it any wonder then that they have little or no respect for him? The very best thing we can do for our children is love and respect our spouse!

9. Forgive your spouse. Real love freely forgives past grievances, instead of seeking revenge. There is nothing better you can do for the sake of your marriage and your peace of mind than to forgive. The Bible says: "And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses." Mark 11:25

10. Admit when you are wrong, and apologize. Again, it seems like a no-brainer; it should be one of the first things we do when we realize we are wrong. Instead, it is like pulling teeth with a pair of pliers for most of us. Why is it we have so much trouble with this? The Bible says: "Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift."(Matt. 5:23-24) Learn to say "I'm sorry." And mean it!

11. Do not nag! We tend to nag for basically one reason: to get our own way. To have someone do what we think they should, to have them act as we want them to. We may justify it, because we believe we are right, but we just succeed in making ourselves and our mate miserable, with little if any lasting change to show for it. In fact, most of the time, nagging someone just causes them to dig in their heels, and where are we then? Angry, frustrated, and going in circles! Let me ask you this: is it more important to be right, or to have peace in your life?

There are so many verses relating to this. (Men, it's important that YOU remember these apply to you, as well! Just because these refer primarily to women doesn't let you off the hook!)

"A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knows nothing." (Pr 9:13)

"It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house." (Pr 21:9)

"It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and angry woman." (Pr. 21:19)

"It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house." (Pr 25:24)

"A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike."(Pr 27:15)

Why are these all written about the woman, and not the man? Well, first, let's remember who was doing the writing! Solomon naturally wrote with a man's point of view! I'm being facetious here, but all joking aside, who are we kidding? If there was ever a man who knew women, it was Solomon. In addition to being the wisest man who ever lived, Solomon had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. I'd say he had plenty of experience to draw from! The long and short of it is this: when we examine the basic intrinsic differences between how men handle things and how women handle them, it is far more often the woman who nags. Ouch! That hurts.

12. Don't try to change your spouse. Love means accepting someone as they are, not trying to change them into who you want them to be. It's a shame, but far too many people get married expecting (or at least hoping) that the other person will change after marriage. Wake up! There are exceptions to every rule, of course, but basically, marriage is kind of a 'what you see is what you get' proposition. If he is lazy, or is a gambler, or a womanizer, or a racist, or a spendthrift before the wedding, then chances are excellent that that's just exactly what he's going to be after the ceremony, as well! If she is flighty, wasteful, a sloppy housekeeper, or a gossip, chances are, marriage isn't going to change her noticeably.

Do not marry someone hoping they will change. If you are already married, and your mate needs to be changed in some area, this is something only God can do. We can't even change ourselves, without the help of the Holy Spirit; why would we think we could change someone else? We need to bring these areas before the Lord, and allow Him to make the necessary changes.

13. Never let anyone or anything else come between you and your spouse. The Bible tells us, Genesis 2:24 "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh." This is repeated in Matthew 19:5, with this additional instruction: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder."

Many people or things can try to pull our marriages asunder, or apart. It could be your parents, siblings, friends, or even your own children. It could be your boss and your job coming between you and tearing your marriage apart. It could be sports, or some other pastime. Whoever or whatever it may be, do not let anything come between you.

When our children are young, there are many issues than can cause division among spouses: discipline, money, dating, chores, and other things. But a problem that causes far more division occurs when a grown child moves back into the parental home, often with children of their own. If this is a problem in your life, listen up: YOUR DUTY TO YOUR CHILDREN DOES NOT EXTEND PAST ADULTHOOD! Once a child reaches adulthood, they need to be responsible for their own lives.There's nothing wrong with mom and dad offering help in appropriate ways, when needed, but never should a grown child come between us and our spouse. Never.

Often, what we call "helping" a grown child is really just enabling them to continue in an irresponsible, out of control lifestyle. Maybe they've never learned to make goals, and work toward them. Maybe they've never learned that life isn't always fair, but you have to make the best of it. Maybe they've just never learned to budget their money and live within their means; after all, it's much easier to live at home and still have Mom & Dad foot the bills.

Whatever the reason, we aren't really helping our grown children by allowing this to continue, and we aren't helping them or ourselves if we allow it to cause friction in our marriage. And if this is a situation that has been going on for awhile, it may be time for you to get a clue, and realize that if they haven't been helped yet, they probably aren't going to be! You are just making them more irresponsible by allowing the situation to go on and on. Put a stop to it, now. Remember, don't let anything, or anyone, put asunder what God has joined together!

Marriage is one of God's greatest gifts to us. It is far, far better to make the most out of the marriage we have than try to pick up the pieces of a broken marriage and start over. It's like a bank account: we aren't going to get much out of it if we don't put much into it. A good, strong marriage will not happen by accident; it takes effort and determination.

My husband and I are celebrating our 35th anniversary in December, and I can tell you, it may not always be easy, but it IS worth it! Treat your spouse at all times like they are the most important thing in your life, after God, and they will become that. Everything else will come and go: parents pass away, children grow up and move on with their own lives, friends and jobs and bosses come and go, but a good strong marriage based on these things will last as God intended it: "TILL DEATH DO US PART".

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