Why Marriages Fail
When we have a physical disease we have to apply the medicine. We have a serious social and religious disease in our land, and it reflects the loss of respect for the sanctity of the home. The divorce rate increases with each passing year. It has reached epidemic proportions that it now threatens the whole social structure. It has become respectable to be divorced, to commit adultery or to “have an affair.” People of prominence in government, entertainment, sports, every field, are among those whose marriages have failed. Even in religion it has lost its stigma. Among some in the Lord’s church divorce is no longer considered shameful, but a wise choice of alternatives. We suggest that marriage failures reflect failures somewhere else. To be sure, marriage failure has been the cause of numerous social, psychological, financial, mental and spiritual problems. But just as it is a cause of many problems, it is also the result of other problems that lie behind the failure. We want to consider some of the major causes of marital destruction.
Marriage is of Divine Origin
One cause, possibly the most prominent, is the failure to recognize the institution of marriage as a divine institution. Marriage is not just the result of social evolution and merely a social structure. It is not just a legal arrangement between people. It is not simply for the satisfaction of the sexual desire. It is more than just a custom among nations. It is not merely for the propagation of the human race. It is a divinely given institution, having come from the mind of God, designed by God, given for specific purposes as God intended. Like the church, it came from the Lord and is to be governed as the Lord has designed it. Specifications and regulations for the home and marriage have been revealed by God. It had its beginning in God’s mind.
“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And out of the ground the Lord God formed every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found a help meet for him. And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Gen. 2:18-25).
Any disposition of marriage that leaves out God, His will, His intent and His design, is a perversion of an institution of divine origin. Marriages between people who do not respect this fact are in a relationship no stronger than the human beings involved. Marriage is more than a covenant between mates. It is a covenant with God.
Marriage is Monogamous
Failure in marriage often results because man has perverted God’s design that marriage be one man for one woman. Monogamy is God’s pattern. This is to be a relationship between one man and one woman who become husband and wife for so long as both of them are alive.
“The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female. And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them. Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matt. 19:3-9).
“Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man” (Rom. 7:1-3).
“Till death do you part” is not just a phrase in a ceremony. It is a very accurate description of what marriage involves. The only honorable way for a marriage to terminate is the death of one of the mates. Yes, there is another way that God allows; divorce because of fornication, but that involves sin. Multi-marriages may be popular and accepted by society generally. But God does not approve of it. Those living with new mates whose first marriages were terminated dishonorably are living in adultery, unless the divorce was for the one cause God allows.
There Must Be Love
Marriages fail because there is the lack of love. Love is the only proper foundation upon which to enter marriage.
“Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. 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: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband" (Ephesians 5:24-33).
This passage teaches about Christ and the church. But it also teaches about husbands and wives. How much did Christ love the church? Just that much is the husband to love his wife. How much is the church to be subject to Christ and submit to Him? Just that much is expected of the wife to the husband. Christ died for the church. While some marry for social standing, security, physical attraction, vain and foolish reasons, the Lord intends that marriages be built on love one for the other. When that is missing the marriage will likely collapse and the people involved will be scarred for life, possibly eternity.
Lack of Preparation
Marriages are failing because those entering marriage are not trained to understand it. There is so little genuine preparation for marriage. We train our children for many things but often omit some of the most important matters. We would not allow them to drive an automobile without training, yet we allow them to get married without giving them what they need for success. They train for sports and occupations, but not in the art of making a good home. It is harder to get a driver’s license than a marriage license.
The responsibility for this training is first the home and the parents. The church must be active in teaching the truth of God regarding marriage and the home. The home, however, is the most influential training school.
The young must be taught the responsibilities as well as the privileges in marriage. So many are so immature toward duties they must assume in marriage. They must be shown their opportunities, the spiritual significance of this relationship, the holiness and sanctity of marriage. They must be taught the permanency of marriage. The physical relationships and the purity of it must be taught. They need to be warned of the manifold pitfalls. They must be aware of problem areas like finances, the sore trouble when there are mixed religions, potential in-law problems, the necessity of loyalty to each other. “Leave and cleave” is a theme that cannot be over-emphasized. So many problems that cause marriage to fail could be avoided with proper pre-marital training.
Keep Thyself Pure
How important it is to teach the young to enter marriage undefiled sexually, to be pure and to save oneself for one’s lifetime mate. Pre-marital sex, entered into for pleasure, is often the source of great hardship and divorce, as well as shame, disgrace, distrust and sacrifice of morality. Training before marriage is far better than trying to correct problems after marriage has begun. There will be problems enough even after training. But so many marriages could have been spared divorce if forethought had been given.
Leave and Cleave
Many marriages fail because of interference from outsiders. Often these outsiders are mother-in-law or father-in-law who just will not allow the young to marry and become their own. Either the young are not willing to cut from the parents or the parents are not content to let the young govern their own affairs. Meddling in the affairs of the home of your children when you are not asked is to ask for trouble. Parents should always be willing to help and give advice when it is asked. But unless it is a matter of life and death, parents should stay out of the family affairs of their children. It brings estrangement and in-law trouble. The only real solution to in-law trouble is distance.
People ought not marry until they can stand on their own feet. If the training of children has not given them sufficient background and backbone prior to marriage, then after they are married you have two with which to deal and that won’t work. “Leave and cleave” is one of the most needed lessons in teaching about marriage.
It is hard for a son or daughter to go against parents, even when it calls for them to side with their mate. Parents ought not put children in that situation. Children need to learn that when they marry their first loyalty is to his or her mate and parents a distant second. Young couples may not do everything and handle everything the wisest and certainly not always to the liking of parents. But do they have to? Is there anything that says they must follow where the parents went in every case? Both young and old need to learn that there is a difference between helping and interfering, and we all need to discover just where one ends and the other begins.
But in-law trouble cannot separate a married couple when they lean on each other and put each other first. No outsider from any source can harm their marriage when they trust each other, stand by each other and pull for one another.
One in Christ
Marriages fail because those involved did not think soberly about their religious faith. Some get married without even discussing the matter. We have never read of any religious group that encourages mixed religious marriages. Everyone knows the problems that are caused. There is lacking that common ground upon which to make decisions, settle disputes and establish priorities. That which ought be the dearest to your heart, your service to God, cannot even be properly shared with the one who is supposed to be dearest to you on earth. Most of the problems that arise in the church come from homes where religious division exists. Compromise is so often the result. Children grow up not knowing what to believe. Many children have no faith at all because they have grown up in a divided home and they have decided that religion is just a source of trouble rather than the peace God intended.
So many who marry one who is not a member of the church eventually abandon their faith, leave the church, and maybe join some human denomination just to keep peace in the family. They sacrifice their convictions for their mate and thereby lose their own soul.
It is useless for someone to cry out, “I married a non-Christian and it worked out because he or she became a Christian.” Just be thankful that it worked that way with you, but think of the many, many times it goes the other way. Think of the unhappiness and incompleteness that exists in many homes, where there is no divorce, but there is lacking that solid and firm base upon which the family is supposed to be built.
The Prime Goal of Marriage
Marriages have a one primary purpose; helping each other get to heaven. How can one who refuses to obey the gospel help a Christian get to heaven? It is futile to deny the heartache that accompanies mixed marriages. It is equally futile to deny the disastrous spiritual consequences that result so many times from mixed religious marriages. If two people who propose to spend their lives together cannot take time to discuss the most important matter of life, the Lord Jesus Christ, and come to an agreement regarding their service to Him, they have no business getting married.
Wanted: Good Examples
Marriages sometimes fail because those involved have never had a good marriage set before them. They do not know what a good marriage is supposed to be. Their home when they were growing up was not as it ought to have been. There was strife, separations, divorce and all they know of home is a tug-of-war.
When they get married they think that this strife is what is expected in the home. They have never seen real consideration for others demonstrated. It ought to be the goal of every father and mother to present before their children a marriage where the children can see what marriage and the home should be. Homes will have problems and problems can be met and overcome when the husband and wife want them to be overcome. They will work at it until they are overcome.
Marriages can be successful; many are. There are many ways to fail without getting a divorce. But success in marriage does not just happen. Failure does not just happen either. When both mates work hard for success the likelihood is that there will be joy in the home. We should try to avoid these things that provoke marriages to fail.
1. What are the characteristics of marriage as God designed it?
2. Can we expect success if we leave God out of our marriage?
3. What does love really mean and how does it demonstrate itself?
4. How can one prepare for marriage?
5. What do you consider the prime goal in marriage?
6. How many factors can you list that contribute to marital failure?