When I coach a married couple, most of the time I am very optimistic about the outcome. Most marriages just need both parties to refocus or reprioritize to see positive results. Usually, it is small adjustments that render big results.
However, there are times when the presenting issues makes me cringe. There are simply some problems that wreak havoc on a marriage…so much so that the marriage is on life support.
Here are what I call four marriage killers. I am not saying that a committed couple cannot overcome these four challenges, but in my experience when one of these four challenges happen the marriage has taken a huge hit.
KILLER #1 ADULTERY
A marriage is built upon the values intimacy, honesty, communication and trust. Adultery destroys each of these values in one fell swoop. Maybe that’s why Jesus made adultery a qualifier for divorce in Matthew 19.
Marriages can overcome adultery, however, it takes much work. In addition to complete severance of the adulterous relationship, full disclosure and honesty is a must. Months, even years of trust and intimacy building are required. Many marriages simply do not survive it.
KILLER #2 ADDICTION
Addiction is another killer of marriages because it too destroys the values mentioned above. Addiction is a disease that consumes a person, and there is little left over for anyone or anything else. Many spouses hold on in the hopes that the person they love will change. However, there is a fine line between loving and enabling a person, and that fine line can be blurred.
With proper treatment, prayer and grace, addictions can be overcome. But left unchecked, it will definitely take its toll on a marriage.
KILLER #3 ABUSE
Abusive relationships are wrong, period.
Marriage needs to be a safe place to land. Safety and security in knowing that you are truly known. Adam and Eve displayed that kind of vulnerability with each other when they were “naked and not ashamed.” The goal of marriage is to love and be loved, accepting each other for who you are.
Abusive relationships are one sided. One spouse is coddled, or pleased, while the other spouse is subservient. This environment kills vulnerability. The abused spouse may live in fear, or in denial, but neither provides an atmosphere of growth and respect.
If you are in an abusive marriage, please seek help. Now.
KILLER #4 ABANDONMENT
By abandonment, I mean a spouse who is emotionally detached. You might be thinking, should this even be on a list of “marriage killers?” I would contend that although this killer is subtle, it is just as deadly.
Emotional detachment happens when we stop caring about the condition of our marriage. We don’t seek answers, confront, or challenge our spouses or ourselves to solve issues. Things fester and develop into resentment. And pretty soon we find that we no longer care.
Many who go through divorce realize their spouse has been emotionally detached for months, maybe even years. To the detached spouse, divorce makes sense because they haven’t been “in love” for quite some time, while the other spouse is blindsided. Marital neglect has taken its toll.
Let me end on a note of hope. The Bible says that nothing is impossible with God. I believe that. When a couple meets their biggest challenges with forgiveness, honesty, hard work, and commitment, that which is severely broken can be restored. They real question is are both spouses willing?