By Sandi Brown
The word divorce may seem foreign to most happily married couples. But it can stir up feelings of fear and apprehension in some marriages. It’s a word that speaks of change—often unwanted change.
Couples don’t marry expecting to get divorced. Further, divorce shouldn’t be a couple’s focus, especially if they want a healthy marriage. It would most definitely kill a marriage to be waiting in expectation for the walls to crumble and end the marriage in divorce.
But while we shouldn’t focus on divorce, it is a healthy thing for every married couple to “divorce-proof” their marriage. As Mark 10:9 says, “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate” (New King James Version).
A Not-So-Perfect Marriage
My husband and I have been married for 15 years. As a newlywed I never considered divorce a possibility. I imagined our lives together would be perfect and problem free. I understood that nearly every couple has problems, but for some reason I thought our undying love for each other would conquer any potential issues that might come our way.
Soon after we were married I found out that I was wrong. Problems came our way and threatened the very core of our marriage bond. I was surprised that I suddenly felt so much irritation toward the man I loved so deeply. Where did this come from? How in the world could I fix it?
As we worked on our relationship my husband and I learned some important things about keeping our marriage intact no matter what we faced. We learned the value of proactivity in protecting our marriage. There are certain things married couples can do ahead of time to ensure that their marriage never gets to the point of divorce or even wanders near it. And on the flip side, there are things we do that play a major role in weakening our marriage bond.
Here are three important guidelines we found helpful.
Check Your Friendships
Each spouse should learn to limit friendships with the opposite sex. It isn’t wrong to have such friendships, but they must take on a different quality once you get married. For example, while it was OK for me to hang out with a guy friend before I was married, that situation would not be appropriate after I got married.
Most people understand this. But let me take the principle a step further. Developments in technology and social networking have made it easy to contact other people through online social media, e-mail, and text messaging. This makes it easy to connect with other people without having physically to spend time with them.
We may regard text messages and Facebook comments as innocent expressions of friendship that can do no harm to our marriage. But what might happen over time if we are continuously contacting certain people? A deeper friendship may form and lead to romantic thoughts. In time those thoughts may become difficult to control.
Steer Clear of Emotional Attachments
Recognize the warning signs of an unhealthy emotional attachment. Emotional attachments go beyond casual friendships. If you feel an emotional attachment to someone of the opposite sex other than your spouse, you’re asking for trouble.
The enemy would like nothing more than to put people in our paths who will take our focus off our spouse and our marriage. Most emotional attachments begin as innocent friendships and evolve into intense emotional connections.
And once the connection occurs, we’re no longer focusing on our marriage bond and instead we become fixed on the new friendship. We feel connected to this person. And even if we don’t pour all our time into the friendship, we are still pouring some time into it. And time spent nurturing a friendship with someone of the opposite sex (other than our mate) gives the enemy the opportunity he seeks.
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you feel you may be forming an emotional attachment with someone other than your spouse.
• Do I anxiously wait for a text or message from this person?
• Do I prefer to tell my problems and concerns to this person rather than to my spouse?
• Do I feel upset if I don’t hear from this person?
• Do I find myself doing things this person would prefer or going places where I will “run into” him or her?
• Does this person know more about some areas of my life than my spouse knows?
• Do I think about my spouse and feel guilty when I’m carrying on a conversation with this person?
• How would I feel if my spouse knew about this friendship and the depth of it?
• When I get dressed in the morning, who am I thinking about? Am I dressing to impress my spouse or someone else?
Don’t Play the Comparison Game
Don’t compare your spouse to someone else. An emotional attachment can make you want to be around the object of your attachment even more. Left unchecked, such an attachment may make you want your spouse to be more like the other person. When that happens, you may begin to find fault with your spouse.
• “I wish my husband would talk to me like that.”
• “I wish my husband were as sensitive as he is.”
• “I wish my wife dressed like she dresses.”
When we compare our spouses to other people we find ourselves wishing we had something else—or someone else. This is a sure path to divorce. When we compare we focus on what we don’t have. Instead of comparing, take time to appreciate what you have in your spouse.
God designed marriage as a lifelong commitment. This commitment isn’t always easy to maintain, but it is worth it. Take the necessary steps today to begin divorce-proofing your marriage.
Sandi Brown is a freelance writer in Tomah, Wisconsin.
Strengthening Your Marriage
Happy Spouse . . . Happy House: The Best Game Plan for a Winning Marriage
by Pat and Ruth Williams
(Standard Publishing, 2009)
Devotions for a Sacred Marriage
by Gary L. Thomas
The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer
by Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
(Worthy Publishing, 2013)
The Greatest Love Stories of All Time
(Standard Publishing, 2007)