Jun 192018 1 Response

7 Habits That Lead to Divorce

Divorce often seems unpredictable. Couples who we expected to divorce years ago continue to be married while other couples who seem inseparable suddenly split. While not every divorce can be easily foretold, in most cases there are clear signs of trouble.

One of the most difficult aspects of being a pastor is when you see a couple consistently making bad choices which you know will greatly hinder their marriage, but there is nothing you can do about it.

Like most things in life, divorce is often the byproduct of bad habits. Outcomes rarely happen accidentally. Habits create futures. When we consistently engage in specific behaviors those actions eventually lead to predictable outcomes. It’s true of exercise, saving money, eating properly, and many other positive examples. It’s also true in negative ways, including divorce.

7 Habits

Here are seven habits which often lead to divorce:

1. Failing to intentionally construct the marriage you desire. Taking an apathetic approach toward marriage does not work. As I said in Friends, Partners & Lovers, we rarely drift in a good direction. Whenever a couple refuses to intentionally create the marriage they desire, they are leaving the outcome of their marriage not to fate, but to the worst aspects of who they are. Without intention, our weaknesses, temptations, and struggles define us. What are you doing to intentionally strengthen your marriage?

2. Communicating in damaging rather than effective ways. Good communication is a learned trait. While some enter marriage with an advantage because they grew up in homes with open, free-flowing communication, every person has to learn how to communicate within the intimacy of marriage. When couples fail to grow this skill, they pay a heavy price. A lack of communication greatly hinders growth, but couples headed down a dangerous path don’t just lack communication, they actually begin to communicate in negative ways. Not only do their problems go unsolved, but they are added to because of the negative comments, verbal jabs, or passive aggressive comments. Communication either propels your marriage forward or drives it toward destruction. There is no in-between. Does communication draw you to your spouse? (See: The Warning Sign of a Bad Marriage You Might Miss)

3. Inability to live without greed AND within financial means. Money doesn’t cause divorce, but the wrong perspective regarding money can add such stress to a marriage that it doesn’t make it. Both affluence and poverty can cripple a marriage. The latter can create such strain that a couple struggles to connect with one another. The former can create so much temptation that they attempt to have their needs met through other things rather than depending on each other. Money should not be feared, but it should be respected. Too often, especially in American culture, money is seen solely as a solution and never a problem. The truth is that money brings opportunities and threats. How are you ensuring that you spend less money than you make and your heart is not being ruled by greed?

4. Living opposed to your personal values. As a pastor, one of the most predictable signs of divorce is when a couple lessens their involvement with their local church. Sometimes this is just correlation…as a marriage begins to fail they distance themselves from others. Yet on many occasions, this is causation…as they devalue God, church, and faith-filled relationships they unknowingly begin to move away from each other. Church involvement doesn’t guarantee a happy marriage, but in almost every divorce involving a Christian, at least one spouse begins to walk away from God before they walk away from each other. In most cases, both spouses decrease their church involvement at the very time in which they need a closer connection with God and others. Are you moving toward a deeper with relationship with God both as individuals and as a couple?

5. An inappropriate perspective or expression of sex. Adultery doesn’t guarantee the end of a marriage, but it reveals a marriage that is in real trouble. Sometimes the affair causes the trouble; sometimes it’s a sign of a trouble that has long been present. Either way, having sex outside of marriage never helps the relationship. However, adultery isn’t the only way sex can lead to divorce. Failing to properly value sex and ensuring a healthy sexual expression within marriage can drive a wedge between husband and wife. When a wife or husband fails to prioritize the intimate needs of the other, a couple slowly drifts apart. Healthy couples understand the importance of sexual intimacy and continually prioritize that connection through every season of life. Is your spouse your lover? (See: Are You Having Enough Sex?)

6. Surrounding yourself with friends who make bad decisions. Friends influence friends. We can’t help it. If you want to lose weight, hang out with people who eat better and exercise. If you want to save money, befriend those who don’t wantonly spend money. If you want a good marriage, surround yourself with people who have good marriages. When a couple chooses friends who consistently make foolish decisions–drinking too much, valuing outward appearance over inner character, putting a bigger emphasis on friend time rather than family time, etc–the couple is greatly endangering their relationship. While we shouldn’t shun others (unless it becomes absolutely necessary), we don’t have to entwine our lives with those who are going to do us harm. Be acquaintances with a large variety of people, be friends with those who are going to push your marriage and family forward. Who are the two or three couples who most influence your marriage? Are those couples good choices?

7. Denying or downplaying problems. Everybody has problems. Healthy couples admit them and get help with them. Unhealthy couples ignore them, deny them, or simply try to handle them on their own. Couples who quickly get help–through books, relationships, counseling, etc–rarely divorce. Those who are slow to get help, regularly watch their relationships end in divorce. Problems are to be expected, but they must be dealt with. We have to learn new skills, communicate, and change behaviors in order to prevent our problems from growing. When problems arise in your relationship, do you discuss them and find a meaningful solution?

Divorce is never easy. One of the most difficult aspects of divorce is that while it takes two people to make a good marriage, it only takes one person to end it. While divorce is sad, thankfully it is predictable. We can understand what causes most struggles in marriage and then make choices to guard ourselves from their effects.

For more on divorce see:

Two Times Never to Divorce

The Number One Cause of Divorce

How I Predict Divorce Based on the Wedding Cake

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