My goal is to save marriages

May 22, 2011

in Links to good stuff, Series, The "D" word

Save Marriages © Andreus | Dreamstime.com

If you’ve been following the comments the last few days you’ve seen some exchanges about divorce, why it happens, who’s at fault, and so on. For those who have not been following the comments, let me be clear on my focus – I want to see marriages saved. That does not just mean not divorcing, it means moving from a poor or declining marriage to a healthy and growing marriage.

Many marriages reach a point where one person is done. They are too numbed, too calloused, or too hurt to care any more They stop trying, and often they stop responding to what their spouse does even if their spouse makes huge improvements. Sometimes this leads to divorce, other times it leads to a couple who are married in name only. Regardless of whether it ends in divorce or not, the result is bad for the husband, the wife, and their kids. My focus is on keeping marriages from reaching that point. I know from experience (in both dealing with couples and talking with others who do the same) that few marriages recover once they get to this point. It does happen, but sadly it is the exception.

One major reason that women reach the give up point is a lack of love, support, and involvement from their husband. For men, common causes are a lack of respect and failure to be sexually available. All of these are, in my mind, wrong, and should be addressed even if they did not put the marriage at risk. That they do often put stress on marriages, and can contribute to a divorce or a marriage in name only, makes it important to deal with these things.

Because of how we have been raised, we all have blind spots; we all have things we don’t understand. Women often fail to “get it” about sex, while men often fail to understand what women need emotionally and relationally. Some marriages can be saved, and many marriages can be made better, by helping men and women to “get a clue” about the places where they are failing their spouse. This is why I blog about these issues, and since I blog to men, I primarily blog about things about which men need a clue.

It has been suggested in the comments that I am blaming the victim by focusing on what men fail to do when the reality is women initiate most divorces. My intent is not to blame anyone, but rather to point out wrongs and failings so that divorce can be avoided. I don’t feel that “S/he did not have a biblical right to divorce me” is really of any help or consolation to someone divorced against their will. To me this is like having “He had the right of way” on one’s gravestone. If pointing out common issues that contribute to divorce means I am “blaming” then so be it. But blame is not my goal.

Have you noticed all the articles about divorce this week? I didn’t know it when I started on this series, but a new divorce reform infinitive was launched this week. This attempt to make it more difficult for couple with children to divorce has bipartisan support and a broad base. The Huff Post calls it The Most Pioneering Divorce Reform Effort In 40 Years . Lori Lowe was one of nine blogger chosen for the initial kick-off (way to go Lori!). See her article, with links to the initiative’s web site, in her post New Divorce Reform Initiative Launched. If you care to read some of my thoughts on this movement, you will find them in the comments of Being a Child of Divorce is a Risk Factor for Early Death, Say Researchers. That page shares information I read on one of the more alarming articles I saw on divorce this week, which said that a parent’s “divorce cut lifespan an average of nearly five years” for children.

Links to blog posts that stood out to me this last week:

 

This weeks new blog, Stupendous Marriage, is from Stu (I see what you did there) Gray, who used to do The Marry Blogger. It’s good to have Stu back at the keyboard, and I’m looking forward to The Stupendous Marriage Show that Stu and his wife Lisa will be starting this summer.

 

Anonymous8

Knowing Your Luck – A Guy Who Figured it Out: A great guest article by @HubbyPhD. Good tips on ways to improve your “luck” at having more sex.


Black and Married with Kids

How Do Couples Outgrow One Another?: A great article that fits well with my last few posts.
If You Are Happy and You Know It, Then Your Marriage Will Surely Show It: Good article – and very true.
I’m Glad I Chose You: Can you be the kind of husband Tara says her guy is?


Intimacy in Marriage

Sexual Positions in Your Marriage: Hey, I’m a Housewife, Not a Gymnast: If your bride is relectant to try a new postion, this article by Julie might help.


Journey to Surrender

Clarifying the Other “As If”: How do you deal with the reality that her needs and your needs are different?
Man Up and Ask Her: Scott is daring you to ask her how you are doing about meeting her needs. I will up the ante by a dog!
The Other “As If”: I love this post – a MUST READ!


Marriage Gems

Is seeking success keeping you from a happy life and marriage?: A good, and challenging article.


One Flesh Marriage

How a Woman Wants to be Loved!: Kate does a great job explaining how to make your bride feel loved.


Peace & Projects

25 Simply Beautiful Ways to Show Someone You Care: This is not specifically for marriage, but has a lot of great ideas that would work well in your marriage.


Romantic Act of the Day

Be There for Her : So simple we discount it, so necessary they hurt when it’s lacking.
Recognize Her Excellence : Just do it!


The Romantic Vineyard

How’s The Forecast?: Great analogy great post.


Simple Marriage

K.I.S.S. – The 10 second kiss: Another Just Do It!


Stupendous Marriage

How To Encourage Married Couples: Something we should all be doing (IMHO).

18 comments
Jeff H
Jeff H

@Tony I am sorry that you have been hurt so badly, and can only imagine the pain and suffering you are dealing with. I think it is important for you to know that no one is trying to invalidate your feelings, as it is absolutely ok to feel hurt and pain. I know for me personally after having been divorced four years ago that I still harbor a substantial amount of anger towards my ex. I have no intention of ever speaking to her again and feel like I was cheated on, both physically and (more painfully so) emotionally. But there comes a point, a crossroads in your life where you will have to stop asking yourself how could she have done this to me, and instead ask this: What lessons will I learn from this truly horrendous event that has left such a scar on my heart? To what purpose is God working in my life that I have endured these trials? In what ways can I grow and become a better person from this challenging event? I am guessing that this was your pastor’s intentions. Not to isolate you, or make you feel like you alone shared the blame, but instead to challenge you to see your role in the battle. Again, speaking to my personal experiences as a human being, I had only to learn that I very disrespectfully treated marriage as the “next step” in a relationship, and not as the God-intended spiritual gift and blessing that he intended it to be. It became very clear to me upon meeting my wife shortly after my divorce that God had placed her in my life. This was very challenging for me to accept such an amazing and wonderful gift from a God I was so angry at, having previously proclaimed myself to be a Christian-raised kid turned atheist. I can tell you sincerely, that my failures in that marriage were plentiful. I hardly have anything figured out as far as it is currently concerned, but I am in the fortunate place of recognizing the blessing I have in front of me. I have decided that I will live every day to serve my wife with love and respect, to help her become the woman of God that He intended her to be. Knowing full well that the journey itself will challenge me to be the man of God He intends me to be. I think too, that this is the call that The Generous Husband is attempting to make. A call that says: while she may have her faults, you CANNOT and SHOULD NOT force change in another person, but through the power of love (like Christ has loved His church) encourage, promote, and allow God to make those changes through your generosity. So, what goes in a disaster preparedness kit? I dunno, but I would guess that it starts with patience, prayer, and genuine self-reflection. I will say my prayers for you Tony, and I know that God will walk with you in this time of pain in your life.

Tony
Tony

One more question Jeff H, what does the man put in his disaster preparedness kit for the unfaithful wife? What can he do to prepare for the day when his wife cheats or just walks and files for divorce? What does he put in his kit for the day his pastor asks him what did he do to force his wife to choose an affair. Because my kit certainly didn't contain the supplies or tools to effectively deal with that scenario. So what should my kit have contained to effectively deal with that scenario so that it didn't result in a broken family? You say I should have had a kit, so here is your chance to tell me what I should have had to ensure success when faced with that circumstance.

Jeff H
Jeff H

It seems to me, that the initial article doesn't imply anywhere within it that men are inferior in any way. By pointing out that statistically speaking men are more likely to make the move into an actual affair, then it seems that men as a percentage are in fact more likely to cheat. There is an entire field of study dedicated to the study of criminology that literally implies that particular features, both genetic and environmental, have a profound impact on the types of crimes people are more susceptible to commit. This does not mean that a white male raised in an alcoholic and abusive family will be destined to drink and beat his wife, but it does give a nod to the impact that these sorts of events can have on a person’s life. (Males are in fact more likely to be physically abusive than women.) Further, I think that educating yourself about the kinds of snares and traps that you are likely to step into will provide you with insight that could very well keep you from doing exactly those kinds of things. It appeals to me in many aspects as reliable and sound an idea as a disaster preparedness kit. If I look ahead, plan for the worst, examine my vulnerabilities, determine those things my family are most at risk for, than I can only do more service as a strong household leader in protecting them from precisely those events. It strikes me that a good leader does just that. By attempting to understand the needs of our spouses, and addressing your own shortcomings as a man, father, or husband, then you are doing what God calls you to do as the head of house. I think by pretending that these issues are not relevant and in need of discussion in men’s groups everywhere is to put yourself in the group of “ill-equipped” men. It is good to prepare: “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food, and oil. But a foolish man devours all he has.” Prov 21:20. On a final note, I think the venue “The Generous Husband” is specifically one of those forums for which these topics should be addressed. Let’s allow men who have spent much more time in happy and devoted marriages with their spouses to council and encourage those who are distressed, or simply young/naïve, and in need of solid God-devoted mentors. @The Generous Husband, I just within the last few weeks found your website TMB, and TGH, and have become very passionate about reading it. The information feels very valuable, and I can already tell it is having an impact in the way I view my role as the Husband in my relationship. Thanks.

BigAl
BigAl

Paul, Thank you for this great blog. This topic is close to my heart because, like my bride says, "God never seems to give us 'normal' friends" and many are divorced, in the process of, or having rough times in their marriage. Anyway, a few weeks back a close friend, who loves teaching God's word, told me that he was writing an application to be a pastor of a small church and one of the questions was "would you perform a wedding for a divorced person". Neither of us had ever really considered that question and we discussed this for two hours, referring to God's word. Mark 10:1-12 Is very clear that God hates ANY divorce. If we include the responsibility of Christian "brotherhood" and the church, we must fight to keep a brother from going through with a divorce. I also have 'friends' who have said that divorce is wrong and have said their spouse forced them into a divorce. Then these friends turn around and put themselves into a situation where they will never be able to fully reconcile with their spouse (ie remarry) even while the former spouse, who forced the divorce, stays single. Hmmmm Thus, I believe, a real man must hate divorce and sacrifice for their marriage just as Christ did for the Church (Eph 5:25-33). This is not an IF-THEN statement. There are NO excuses and can not be rationalized away. Again, thank you for the great blog and the encouragement.

Tony
Tony

[Corrected above - Paul] Correction above in the next-to-last paragraph. It should read: "Or if you are unwilling to do that, then start blaming the ex-wife of every father....

Tony
Tony

Sometimes the first step in saving the marriage is stopping the divorce. After all,if someone divorces, how does one apply all these great tips you are offering? Like it or not, there are going to be some who don't get the message, either because they were not paying attention, or because their spouse didn't speak up until her clothes are lying on the floor of another man's bedroom. I'm trying to wake YOU up to a few things. Many times a marriage will be going on and something happens. A spouse falls into temptation, and the first indication the generous husband has is when his wife stops speaking to him, stops going to church with him, skipping family events because she's either having an affair, or entertaining it. Since men and women are equally represented in affairs (You are NOT going to tell me more men are having affairs than women. Because to say that implies men are having affairs with other men. Nope, men and women are statically equally represented in the affair equation, so no gender difference here.) it's just as likely that a wife is having the affair as it is the husband. Getting married doesn't turn women who would once have been involved with a married man into a woman who would not cheat on her husband. So I don't buy the wives are more faithful than husbands surveys we read. It's unrealistic to expect that someone who would lie to their spouse and have an affair would be honest about the fact that he/she is having an affair. So I don't try to pin down the numbers. I use reasoning and for every man having an affair, there is a woman willing to go along with it, so no difference based on gender when it comes to the numbers participating in this marriage destroying action. Anyway, the bottom line is for large populations, the first warnings they get are this type of warning. These are the first signs. All the tips on how husbands are failing, how they don't do the right things don't really address these situations. Further, as I've said before, if one continues to beat that drum, then they are discounting the good and different things God designed husbands to do. Which just fuels the entitlement mentality that convinces some (not all, some) women to end her marriage. She's been given "cover" by the church. She heard the mother's day sermon on how great moms were, and then 4-6 weeks later, she hears the father's day sermon on how dad needs to step up his game and how wonderful she is, so who would blame her if she left her "clueless" husband. The problem I have is not that we think husbands are clueless, they can be. It's that we don't view wives the same way. They can be just as clueless and just as often as men. Our souls are not male or female. Scripture tells us that in heaven, where we will dwell some day that we will not be male or female, slave or free. What that says to me as that spiritually speaking, when it comes to our spiritual relationship with God, we are the same, regardless our gender. Our earthly bodies have gender. But spiritually are we really male and female? I tend to think not given this scripture, given the ideas that we are all sinners, and so forth. So if we are all the same spiritually, can any gender really claim to have a better clue about how God would have us do marriage? Could any gender claim to possess more insight, or more natural ability when it comes to how to do marriage? Of course not. I'm never against your tips when it comes to helping husbands be better husbands. But when venture off into areas where are, based on scripture, clearly false, I have to call foul. Men are not bigger sinners than women. There are no male souls our female souls, and since it's our spiritual nature that leads to or avoids sin, the propensity for sin is exactly the same regardless the gender of our earthly tent. As long as we don't see that men and women have equal value, and their strengths are equally valuable, then we will continue to have this power struggle where good marriage is continually redefined based on the woman's view, with her contributions valued more highly than a man's contribution. Where Mother's Day sermons are all about how great mom's are and Father's Day sermons include how many dads are dead beats and don't meet the mark. This only fuels entitlement in those who are looking for excuses to further devalue men, and discourages men who are really trying, but find their wives and the world at large doesn't value their contributions to the family. So when do we CELEBRATE husbands and fathers and speak out against the lies regarding how clueless and ill equipped men are relative to their wives when it comes to marriage and family? When do we say enough is enough and not only should we live with our wives in an understanding fashion and love her, but have enough self respect to say that men must NOT be that bumbling, ill-equipped caricature we've been taught to believe, because God calls for wives to respect their husbands. He would not call for wives to respect their husbands if there wasn't something of value in the way He created them. He didn't say if they bring flowers for no apparent reason, respect him, He said, wives, respect your husbands. It's time for men to stop giving wives reason to not respect their husbands, and it's not by changing the husband's behavior, it's about being clear that he's good enough, smart enough and as well equipped as she is. It's time to stop disrespecting husbands from the pulpit and radio programs. It's time for political leaders to stop talking down husbands, saying they abandon their families when likely even more than the numbers who do abandon their families are actually forced out by wives who no longer value their contributions. That's all I'm asking, stop giving cover to those looking for excuses to no respect their husbands. Show us how to improve all you want. But don't say it's our fault when a wife chooses to discount the value of her husband and divorces him. Or if you are unwilling to do that, then start blaming the ex-wife of every father who apparently "abandoned" his children because his wife forced him out. After all, if we blames husband's for wives choosing divorce, then we have to blame any ex-wife who limits a father's parenting time if he gives up and falls away from his child. I doubt you are willing to do that, so be consistent and stop even hinting it's a man's fault if his wife refuses to find the good in her faithful non-abusive husband and instead divorces him.

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