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Building a Divorce-Proof Marriage

Tips from what we learned—the hard way
Building a Divorce-Proof Marriage
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The desire was understandable. The expectation was not. When I married my childhood sweetheart 23 years ago, my desire for a lifetime of wedded bliss was understandable; expecting my husband to make it happen was unrealistic.

Consequently, the first six years of our marriage were hell on earth. I literally wanted to kill him; my sweetheart had turned sour right before my very eyes. Molten days turned into smoldering nights—and not because we were igniting the fires of our passion for one another.

As life-sapping as it was however, we never considered divorce. In our eyes, divorce was not an option. We agreed before taking our vows that no matter what, divorce would not be mentioned.

We did eventually wear ourselves—and each other—down to the point that we knew we had to do something more to divorce-proof our marriage or we wouldn't have the fortitude to hold fast to our promise.

Because our marriage was so damaged, we sought Christian counseling. If our home had been destroyed by a tornado, we would have sought help from a professional; we knew our marriage had suffered no less damage than if an F5 had ripped through it.

My husband and I learned the hard way that marriage is not a one-time "I do" and then living happily ever after. Marriage takes work and involves daily choices.

We live in a day when commitments are taken lightly, when divorce can take place with a John Hancock. Sign your name; go your own way. The marriage covenant isn't taken as seriously as it once was.

But it should be.

Since God is the one who instituted the marriage relationship, it makes sense that he is the one who holds the keys to a lasting marriage. God has put forth spiritual laws for us, which lead to good or bad results, depending on the choices we make.

The following are some choices my husband and I made that turned our marriage around. These choices can do the same for you. And if you consider your marriage already to be good, these choices can make it even better.

Choose to make peace. The battle has to end sometime; it might as well be today. Making peace requires humility—a virtue we don't easily embrace. But those who enjoy a happy marriage realize that humility takes precedence.

It's hard for me to admit when I'm wrong, so this is still a difficult choice for me to make at times. But I've learned that if I am wrong, it's best to genuinely admit it, apologize if necessary, and then move on. Peace enters the relationship when one person humbles himself or herself to restore balance.

"Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone" (Romans 12:18).

Choose to serve your spouse. How often we expect more from our spouses than we are willing to give! We can either selfishly demand our way or unselfishly give up our own way and bless our spouses in every possible way. It's not hard to see which choice would foster a lasting and joyful marriage.

It's not always easy to do the right and considerate thing toward your spouse. But Scripture didn't tell wives and husbands to submit to and love each other only if they were each doing their part. We do our part regardless of what the other is doing. However, both partners choosing to serve will result in a marriage blessed with many years of happiness.

"Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too" (Philippians 2:3-4).

Choose to not change your spouse. Husbands and wives who remain happily married for many years are those who accept each other's faults or differences and learn to work out the problems that do occur. They deliberately choose to not make mountains out of molehills.

If there's any changing to be done, it's the Holy Spirit's responsibility, not ours. Too often in the early years of my marriage I tried to change my husband. Only when I backed off and began praying for our marriage did things begin to change—in both of us.

"And why worry about a speck in your friend's eye when you have a log in your own?" (Matthew 7:3).

Choose mutual submission. Scripture emphasizes mutual submission among all people, deferring to one another when possible. Paul speaks of submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). And in 1 Peter 3:7, Peter advises husbands to "give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together."

God is the author of submission. The husband and wife who mutually submit do so with God as their guide. An improved marriage can't help but follow.

The opposite of submitting is opposing, which is exactly what my husband and I were doing the first six years of our marriage as we continued to battle for our own "rights." Once we learned submission—laying down our rights in deference to the other—our marriage improved drastically.

"But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God" (1 Corinthians 11:3).

Choose to place God first in your life and marriage. This may seem obvious as Christians, but it actually requires a conscious, deliberate decision for it to happen. God expects married couples to remain dedicated to each other through him.

Putting God first assures that a husband and wife will put each other ahead of themselves in their marital relationship. There is no competition here—both God and our partners are honored when God is the director of our lives and our marriages.

"Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need" (Matthew 6:33).

The choices we make every day determine the strength of our marriages, but we have not been left alone to figure it all out. God's Word gives us everything we need to build a divorce-proof marriage.

Tammy Darling is a freelance writer living in Three Springs, Pennsylvania.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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