Consider five converging factors that work against marital stability and satisfaction.
1. Theological (or sin) factor
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray,each of us has turned to his own way…” (Isaiah 53:6). A good marriage is not possible when two people turn to their own way. Yet this is what our sin nature is all about. “When selfishness is considered as an undue preference of our interests, we have in selfishness the essence of all sin” (H. Thiessen)
“There are two kinds of people in the world, the givers and the takers. A marriage between two givers can be a beautiful thing. Friction is the order of the day, however, for a giver and a taker. But two takers can claw each other to pieces within a period of six weeks. In short, selfishness will devastate a marriage every time” (Dr. James Dobson). (see: II Corinthians 5:15; Philippians 2:3-5)
2. Cultural factor
The culture around us generally reinforces selfishness rather than challenging it. Another cultural problem is that we tend to want maximum enjoyment for minimal effort. We say, “Service me well and quickly or I’ll find someone who can take better care of me on my terms.” “I don’t have to tolerate difficulty and pain.” These expressions represent current attitudes. The cultural assumption is that life is all about me and my felt needs. Marital failure is inevitable when we allow our lives to be influenced by these values.
Remember: “…the ultimate secret of lifelong love and the stability of marriage is a by-product of an iron-willed determination to make it work” (Dr. JamesDobson).
3. Social factor
Marriage involves the merging of two different people with different backgrounds into one new relationship. This is almost always a formula for problems. I call this the eighteen year factor. We are profoundly shaped by the early years in our homes. For some people this is negative because of their dysfunctional family backgrounds. Since we bring all our baggage with us into marriage, it is wise to consider the ways you have been shaped by your home life. We often need the assistance of a wise counselor to help us anticipate the potential problems related to different upbringing.
4. Practical factor
Lack of preparation is one of the key contributors to maritalfailure. I had to prepare more for my driver’s license than my marriage license. There’s something profoundly wrong with the lack of emphasis on preparation for marriage. Shockingly, more than two hundred thousand marriage each year end before their second anniversary. We must do more preventative work to stop this trend! Young people desiring to be married would be wise to seek pre-marital counseling. There are many good books on marriage preparation available. (resource: “The First Years of Forever” by Dr. Ed Wheat.
5. Ecclesiastical (or church) factor
The final cause worth considering is the decline of influence from our churches. To borrow Stephen Carter’s words, “God has become a hobby” in the United States. Sunday is the all-American day of recreation—and in too many cases church involvement is a low priority. Even if people go to church, it appears to make little difference. This is because churches have surrendered their role in society as a voice of moral guidance. Church leaders must ask: “Does the church exist to accommodate the desires of religious consumers or to faithfully communicate God’s Will from scripture?”
Many pastors have lost their nerve on marriage themes. They are perplexed about what they should do about marital crisis. As for the Church members, most do not even understand the problem. They have not heard Christian preaching about divorce and remarriage because their leaders consider the subject too controversial.
An important opportunity exists for Churches to help young couples and families. For many years our church has offered an extensive course for those who are dating. We also have an established pre-marital team. In most cases, one pastor cannot carry the full weight of pre-marital preparation. We must regain the art of older couples mentoring younger ones. Encourage your Church to require thorough pre-marital counseling for those planning to marry. And be willing to be part of the team!