Would you speak up to stop a divorce?

Blogging outside the lines © Christian Delbert | Dreamstime.comSome of the discussion about divorce in the comments got me thinking about our responsibility to those around us. I try to keep this blog on track, which means helping men to have better marriages, but as any long time reader knows, I have a habit of blogging outside those lines. This is a post of that nature. So if you’re not in the mood for a rant, skip to the links.

I have always believed that we are, in fact, our brother’s keeper. That is to say, we have a responsibility to do what we can to help others avoid sin and do what is right. That flies in the face of the “live and let live” mentality that is becoming more and more common, even in the church. For many there is also tension between what the Bible call us to do as a community and things like “the right of self determination” and “the right to privacy”. In my mind it’s a clear choice – follow what Christ said, or follow the world.

It seems more followers of Jesus are leaning towards the world as fewer and fewer Christians are willing to get involved in the lives of fellow followers unless they are explicitly invited. I see more and more of this from churches and pastors alike; afraid to speak into someone’s life unless invited, and hesitant to address obvious signs of trouble or even outright sin.

Of course, given my area of concern, I see this in relation to marriages. We all say we hate divorce, but it seems many of us are willing to watch it happen all around us without making any effort to stop it. We “don’t feel qualified”, or we “don’t want to stick our noses into the business of others”. We don’t want to be rude, or offensive, and we certainly don’t want to risk losing a friend. So we watch silently as a couple descends into darkness and divorce.

It reminds me of 1 Cor 5, where Paul is chastising the Corinthian church for doing nothing about a man who is having sex with his step-mother. I hope none of us has gone that far, but if we keep ignoring sins and problems, how long will it be until we can turn a blind eye to something such as that?

If we want to see less divorce, we need to be proactive. We need to be ready to lovingly get in people’s faces when it is clear they have marriage problems. At the very least, you can say, “Get help” and keep saying it until it happens. We need to be ready as church leaders to move people with troubled marriages out of ministry until they get things fixed; not as punishment, but as a way of showing how important marriage is and to give the couple time and energy to do what needs to be done. We need to actively build up marriages, and brag on those who do it well. We need to make it easy for anyone to ask for help, and we need to portray asking for marriage help as a very wise and courageous act.

All that is required for marriages to fail is for good men to say nothing!

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


Stu’s list of blogs nominated for top ten marriage blogs of 2011 is not up – all 48 entries. Swing by and find a few new blogs to follow. Be aware there is no filtering on this list – nothing horrible, but not all Christian and not all positive.

Black and Married with Kids

I Would Hate To Be Married To Someone Who…: NICE! Don’t be that spouse!
When A Couple Is In Trouble, What Do You Do: Nice fit with my post for today.

Couple Things Blog

Anticipation: Create it, and use it.
Believe the Best: A simple step that makes a huge difference.

Divorce Busting Blog

Why You Haven’t Seen Change in Your Marriage (and What You Can Do to Fix It) pt. 3: Your Spouse is Involved with Someone Else & Your spouse has decided your marriage is over

Engaged Marriage

7 Goals to Set Today to Make 2012 the Best Year of Your Life: Don’t wait for January, start now!

Happily Married After

You Need A Vacation!: David is singing my song!

Journey to Surrender

Glory In Your Spouse: Do you see the glory in your bride?

Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage

Bad Theology = Bad Marriage: Good word! Unconditional love is NOT biblical

Marriage Gems

Two Words That Have Improved My Marriage: Has “Thank you” fallen out of your marital vocabulary?
Is Resentment Coming Between You and Your Spouse?: On excellent guest post on a real marriage killer.

Marriage Life

MT Project: I Need an Attitude of Gratitude in All Things: Yes, it is a choice.

One Flesh Marriage

Brad and Kate address the need for wives and husbands to get out with their same sex friends.

Refresh |MarriageToday

Confrontation with Kindness: A powerful combination!

The Romantic Vineyard

Why Is a Good Marriage Not Something You Find?: A good, sort video.

Stupendous Marriage

Give Your Spouse These 6 Gifts All Year Long: I second the motion!

21 Comments on “Would you speak up to stop a divorce?

  1. Hi I am reading this and praying right now as to whether or not to leave my husband. I have been enduring a lot of disrespectfulness, rudeness, cruelty from him, for the past 4 months, because all of a sudden he dosnt want to be married anymore. After only 1 year. In my heart I don’t want to leave, and in my heart I want to do the will of God. I am still very much so inlove with him. And do to him basically backsliding because of faithless heart and fear this all of a sudden turn on me has happened. I am literally at a crossroads. Today is the day that I must decide. Stayed with a friend for the holidays. I’m seeking godly counsel and really just waiting to hear from God. Provisions have been made, but I don’t want to be out of gods will. 1 cor 7:13-… Is what I’m wondering about??

    • @hiswife4life – I am so sorry for your situation. It is a painful place with no good choices.

      I wonder if your husband is trying to push you to file for divorce? This is probably far more common than we know, and I don’t know a good way to deal with it.

      The 1 cor 7:13 scripture does seem to apply, and it does not seem to give you much of a choice. If he leaves, let him go, but don’t leave him if he is willing to stay married. I suppose the issue it to define “willing to stay married”.

      If I were in your situationist I’d ask some pointed questions: Do you want to be divorces? Are you willing to work on the marriage? Are you trying to get me to be the one to end it?

      If he’s not abusive, you could call his bluff by saying “I made a covenant before God, and I am here. If you want out, you will need to file.”

      You have my prayers.

  2. I just found your blog today. Thanks for sharing this list of marriage blogs. What a great resource.

    And yes, I agree… we *are* our brother’s keeper, and when those near us are considering divorce, it’s time to step up to the plate… and thank God for the opportunity to share his good news in this time of trouble.

  3. I was about ready to give up on the church I attend because the church felt there was no need for it to do anything to support marriage. When we have about a dozen churches in the local Methodist Circuit and the leadership felt that there was insufficient demand to meet the minimum requirement of 30 couples for a one-day “Day to Treasure” seminar, like “Weekend to Remember” with no workshops. what made me annoyed was that the person who told me this was in the same congregation as me, where I already had 4 couples interested. To be blunt, if I had had the GB Pound equivalent of $1400 US, I would have arranged it myself and gone round all the churches in the circuit. However, there is also the other side of the coin in that people keep all their troubles under wraps until it is so far gone that they cannot hide it anymore, as in the couple in the house group who would not tell anyone about their problems and one would not consider counseling under any circumstances and the first we knew was when the husband had moved out. That’s the second marriage in 3 years down the pan in that house group.

    Should the Church consider Mike McManus’s Marriage Savers strategy of having all the churches in a town form Community Marriage Policies and can will sufficient couples come forward to act as mentor couples for younger or more newly married couples? Or are pastors and churches too scared to put their heads above the parapet, finding it less threatening to say “Woe is me!” than to do anything constructive about it.

    • @UK Fred – In terms of money, I would think divorce hurts offerings sufficiently to justify the money!

      If the leaders won’t act, then I think it falls to the rest of the church. I realise that can ruffle feathers in a denominational body, but if you see the problem and do nothing you are part of the problem, IMHO.

      Something we have done several times is to have a study around a book. Find three to six couples, choose a book (better yet have one in mind) and set a night to meet for twelve weeks. Sometimes we do a meal followed by discussion of the book, other times snacks or no meal at all – it depends on the group. This can be done with one person or couple facilitating, or facilitation can be passed around the group. This means it’s not a “lay teacher” and that can make it easier for leadership[ to deal with.

      One book we have used very effectively for this is Love and Respect (aff lnk)

      • Paul, I like your idea of studying from a book to support your marriage. On this side of the Pond there is a bible study called “Together – In Your Marriage” (6 sessions) in which each session is designed to be worked as Week 1 in the group and Week 2 with only your spouse to discuss how the topic can be applied directly to your own marriage, and therefore there is no need to deal with that great British fear of letting it all hang out in public. I would agree that Love and Respect is another good one to consider, but I think that too many people over here would be concerned that it was insufficiently Bible-based. I will have a chat with DW and see what we can drop to do this instead. If necessary I will take the view that it will start and if there is a problem I will apologise afterwards; if i tell everyone up front what I intend to do, it will only give them time to marshall arguments for why we should not be doing it.

        I feel that the problem is that the leadership at Circuit level, and possibly above, is afraid to rock the boat in any way, whether they think that telling people that it is better to have a great marriage than it is to simply not divorce is too intrusive. Many of those in positions of senior leadership now were young and impressionable when we had the last major hoohah in Britain about inappropriate pastoral intervention in the lives of church members and they are still fighting those battles. They seem to think that the correct response in no intervention rather than the right intervention. But that is a fault of leadership of institutions.

  4. I so appreciate this post. When I did networking as a therapist, my biggest obstacle to getting referrals was the discomfort factor of “interfering”. Getting involved is risky; but so is life. The choice between staying in an unhappy marriage or get divorced is a false one. Making it better is a third option rarely mentioned. Finding a good therapist may be a challenge but two good places to start: http://www.marriagefriendlytherapists.com and http://www.terryreal.com

    • @Lesli Doares – Thanks for the marriage friendly links – it;’s so importnat to find help that won’t suggest “get a divorce” as the first or only option!

  5. I totally agree with you! The problem is that often when we have a friend who is contemplating divorce, getting into a conversation with him or her about the issue rarely helps. They have thought about it so long, and they have their mind made up. But I wrote a post a while back about what to say that can get your friend thinking on a more positive direction. It’s not what we Christians are used to doing–we’re used to talking about how divorce is wrong–but I think this strategy, by talking about the two issues of their trust in God and their desire for their children’s well-being–can work. See what you think!

    Sheila from To Love, Honor and Vacuum!

    • Sheila-That’s a great post. Most people want to do what’s best for their children. What they don’t get is that fixing their marriage is that thing-even when they don’t think there’s any way it can happen. Instilling hope, and asking for a 3 to 6 month effort, can be the answer they have been seeking. The challenge is getting to them before they get so lost.
      Children suffer from divorce and that needs to get out there. They aren’t okay and they didn’t ask for this. If we’re all about the children we need to walk the talk.

    • @Sheila Gregoire – Great post, thanks.

      I agree that it’s tough once one has decided to divorce – that’s like trying to get the horse back in the barn while the barn is on fire! My hope is that we get enough into peoples lives to see the warning signs before either spouse has started to think divorce. So many marriages could be saved with very little effort IF the effort comes early enough.

      I’ve had my share of confrontations and interventions (I hate interventions!) and all but bullied a few folks to go get counselling. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they don’t, but when the do it almost always gets better. I’ll risk losing a friend to improve the chance of a marriage surviving any day. I tell people I am a friend of their marriage first.

      As for saying “It’s wrong” you are right – they already know that, and saying it again won’t change anything. Showing them the harm it can do, especially to their kids, is a good step. Showing them it can change is also a good step. Hope is always good.

  6. Paul, you posted, “we have a responsibility to do what we can to help others avoid sin and do what is right.” Come on Paul, let he who is without sin cast the first stone!

    A cookie cutter solution does not exist. Every one does not believe what you believe. So how on earth do you help them? Bombard them with principles that resonates with you? Disregard their doctrine? How about earnestly listening to each individual with an open mind, and encouraging them to find THEIR inner peace. Maybe that person will stick to his/her marriage or they may find that divorce is befitting.

    If it is a lasting mark that you want to make in the world, then make a mark that is bigger than your religion…only a suggestion!

  7. @IAAMM – If you want to trade scriptures I can show you several which tell us to do just what I said. It’s not about judgement, it’s about compassion. If I see you about to walk into the road in front of a bus, I stop you not as judgement, but to save your life.

    I am aware not everyone believes as I do. I’m, pretty clear about my “bias” and those who don’t care for it are free to read elsewhere if they like.

    • Paul, are you limiting your advice, counseling, help, etc. only to the group of people whose beliefs are like yours? If so, then WOW!!!!

      At any rate, no need for ruffled feathers, Paul. We are all here to enlighten and to be enlightened.

      • @IAAAMM _ I am “limiting” myself to what I know and believe. I think we all do this, whether we admit it or not.

        Beyond that, part of why we started to minster in this area was the need for this for those who follow Christ. There are plenty of alternatives for those who are not Christians.

        • Paul, I really do get it. I do applaud your willingness to help. In fact, your passion is admirable. I just like to stir things up a bit.

  8. @generoushusband no I don’t want to divorce, but he does. However I’ve decided to go ahead and leave for now until he can get his head together. Just feel like I need to leave the situation for now. It’s too much hell to stay. No he’s not physically abusive, but definitely emotionally abusive. I love him to the death but I just hope he will get a wake up call that things need to change.

  9. I would. But most wouldn’t. My pastor wouldn’t even speak to my unfaithful ex-wife. He asked what I did to FORCE her to have an affair.

    I asked every organization I knew to contact her. None would get involved. Even Joe Beam, when I made it on his radio show, said he would get me a local resource to contact her never provided a resource even though I called back on Monday after the show and a few follow ups after that.

    So we’ll hear from the pulpit on how bad men are, and how they are destroying their marriages, when a man actually asks for help with his marriage, no one will get involved other than the polite brush off, “We’re praying for you.”

    I’m not saying prayer is ineffective. It can be. But most who say that are just being polite, and may not even say a prayer for the person after suggesting that you are in their prayers.

    At the wedding with my ex-wife, not only did we take vows, but the pastor had the congregation vow that they would support the marriage.

    That vow was as worthless as hers.

    It would be great if folks would get involved, rather than being concerned they are coming across as too judgmental, or too preachy, etc.

    Speak out against sin, not as someone who claims moral superiority, but because you are concerned about them. It’s like seeing someone about to drive off a cliff and saying nothing. The most loving thing to do is not to keep quiet, but sound the alarm before they drive off the cliff.

    Sadly, too many are focused on smaller issues such as same sex marriage or fixing men so they are better women, and miss bigger issues.

    I speak up, but doubt anyone listens or even cares. If you get told you are wrong, misguided, or whatever enough times, what is the point of speaking up? It proves to be a fruitless exercise.

  10. The title really got my attention. Divorce is a serious matter and speaking up just to stop it can either make it or break it. I guess, it depends on the situation. Of course the children are at stake but if the relationship isn’t working at all.. Then let it be..

  11. I agree with you 100% that people should speak up more to prevent divorces, but I have a slightly different take on why they don’t and why we aren’t successful when we do.

    I believe that most people contemplating divorce don’t respond well because the confronter is most likely just trying to manipulate the situation. I see this coming through most of the responses above. I think we fail to recognize that most people take their marriage vows seriously and don’t really want to divorce, but start to see it as a necessity. We try to run to their rescue and explain to them how it will be a mistake to divorce and they need to find a way to make it work. Of course, all that they hear is that they don’t know what they are doing. This is generally why they don’t respond well and stop talking to the confronter.

    Manipulation never works. It might for a while, but eventually people realize that the confronter has no clue what is really going on and then things really fall apart. Keep in mind that divorce is a real Biblical solution for difficult situations. I also don’t buy the argument that divorce is an optional approach. God divorced Israel and he also forced righteous men to divorce pagan women. He also forced execution of adulterers. I don’t see the option here. Was it really an option for God to divorce Israel or did he do it because he could no longer pretend to be married to a rebellious nation?

    In the end, I don’t think there is any biblical precedent for Church to manipulate the situation and force people to do things. If there is clear sin occurring, that is another issue. Otherwise, the Church should stick to counseling and supporting individuals going through hard circumstances. Keep in mind that there is no way we can truly understand what is occurring in the marriage, we can only look from a distance. I think the best way to explain it is to say that a paper cut is an insignificant event that we all experience periodically, but 1000 paper cuts will probably kill you. I think much of what happens in marriage is seen as trivial because we don’t take the time understand the scope or severity of what is occurring.

    I think if we start really taking seriously the problems that are causing people to consider divorce; we will do something far better than save a marriage. We will help an individual. If we can successfully do that, who know the profound impact we will have this world and His kingdom.

  12. Pingback: Helping Troubled Friends' Marriages - Marriage Missions International : Marriage Missions International

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