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Six Reasons Marriages Fail and How to Rise Above Them

  • Don and Sallly Meredith Two Becoming One
  • Published Jul 11, 2003
Six Reasons Marriages Fail and How to Rise Above Them

“You know, honey, we really need to pay these bills.”  Elizabeth just couldn’t believe Tom could be so loose with their finances. “If only he’d handle our money the way my father did,” thought Elizabeth, “then I wouldn’t have to worry so much.”

Tom, on the other hand, had a general sense that most of the bills were paid.  “If only Elizabeth would stop being such a nag,” thought Tom.  “This really isn’t what I bargained for … does she really think I need her personal coaching?”

As marriage counselors, we often hear, “I’ll be happy if only my spouse will….”  Yet, our experience indicates that when one spouse focuses on the other’s performance, it usually leads to the destruction of the relationship.

A Wrong View of Marriage

When coming together in marriage, husbands and wives usually develop their own natural, human plan for marital happiness. The couple’s separate plans are based on the unique personalities and personal differences of each partner, including different family influences, role models, books, and often-different church experiences. Because their plans for marriage happiness are different, conflict usually results.

Since each of us is self-centered, we constantly want to know what our spouse has done for us lately. Sadly, as time passes, we subconsciously revert to the “greener pasture syndrome” where we begin to compare our spouse’s performance with our own pre-conceived ideas and expectations, making satisfaction with our spouse more and more elusive.

Six Factors That Destroy Marriages

Following are the six primary factors that destroy marriages. They are commonly found in natural, human relationships:

  1. Couples fail to anticipate differences resulting from diverse cultural backgrounds, differing family experiences, gender, and so on.
  2. Couples buy into the notion of a “fifty-fifty” relationship, meaning they honestly expect their spouses to meet them halfway.
  3. Society has taught us that mankind is basically good. Therefore, couples fail to anticipate their self-centered natures that demand their own way.
  4. Couples fail to cope with life’s trials. When painful trials come into the marriage, instead of standing together through them, couples tend to blame each other or think something is wrong with the spouse and the way they handle the pain.
  5. Many people have a fantasy view of love. They quickly feel stuck with an unloving person and become deceived into believing that the next one will be better.
  6. Many people lack a vital relationship with Jesus Christ. It could be that they have never come to a specific point in time when they asked Christ into their lives and therefore He has no impact on the marriage relationship.

God’s Solution – The Faith Relationship

The faith relationship is opposite of the performance relationship in two significant ways. First, it is not natural at all – it is supernatural. You will only learn about this kind of relationship from God through His Word. Second, the faith relationship does not focus on the human performance of one’s spouse but on God’s character, promises, and faithfulness.

This kind of relationship involves God as the Guarantor of the marriage with the specifics of the guarantee found in Scripture. It's long-term hope based on God’s character and faithfulness. We know He is good and loves us. His guidance that led us to marry a certain person becomes more important than the initial human attraction that brought us together.  You begin to focus more on Him and His Word, rather than your spouse and his or her failure to perform to your expectations.

When considering the faith relationship, one question that often comes up is, “can God fulfill my needs in this marriage despite my spouse’s weaknesses?” The answer is yes! If God can meet your needs anyway, then your spouse’s weaknesses no longer limit you. This fact frees husbands and wives to love one another unconditionally as they thank God for His gracious provision.

Christ set the example for the faith relationship in 1 Peter 2:21-25.  Rather than focus on the failure and weakness of those who unjustly wronged Him, He focused on God and His promises.  In 1 Peter 2:23 we read, “but (Jesus) kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously.” Jesus believed in God’s sovereign plan more than His desire to abandon the cross, more than His disappointment over Peter’s denials, and more than His desire for His persecutors to receive instant justice.

Christ based His relationships on faith in God rather than the performance of man.  Think about how Christ responded to the failures of others on the cross.  Could there be a better example for husbands and wives to model in their own marriage?

© 2003 Christian Family Life

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Two Becoming One publications and small group resources help couples understand God's purposes, principles and provisions for marriage.  Many key concepts in Two Becoming One are taught in the popular FamilyLife Ministry marriage seminars.

If God created marriage, can He make it work?   Click here to purchase Two Becoming One, by Don and Sally Meredith.  You'll learn the five reasons why marriages fail, how to overcome trials and much more.  (A workbook for small groups or self study is also available.)