Paul told the Corinthian church, “Those who marry will have troubles” (1 Corinthians 7:28). Even the most committed couples can struggle to fulfill their marriage vows. What happens when these marriage troubles become unbearable? Is there a point where couples should end a bad marriage? Consider the following steps as you prayerfully evaluate your situation.
STEP ONE: Discern Minor from Major Trouble
Unfortunately, many marriages end over troubles that could have been overcome. University of Texas researcher Norval Glenn found that divorces are often blamed on problems such as lack of commitment, too much conflict and arguing unrealistic expectations, and lack of preparation. Despite what friends, family, or popular culture might say, these issues are insufficient reasons to end a marriage. Considering the serious, long-term impact of divorce on both spouses and children, spouses need to evaluate their circumstances through the filter of God’s Word and the covenant of marriage.
In their book, “The Case for Marriage”, Maggie Gallagher and Linda Waite explain that couples who think their only options are to either divorce or be miserable often find things getting better if they’ll just stick it out. In fact, almost 80 percent of those who were very unhappy in their marriage, yet chose to stay together, described themselves as very happy just five years later!
STEP TWO: Anticipate the Hope After the Trouble
Major trouble occurs when someone either abuses or abandons their role in a marriage, for example when a spouse breaks faith with their spouse and/or violates their vows.
God specializes in redemption and resurrection, even in seemingly hopeless situations. “Even marriages that have faced one or more of the big ‘A’s, for example, abuse, affairs, or addictions, can be saved,” says Mitch Temple, a licensed, counselor who directs Focus on the Family’s marriage ministry.
STEP THREE: If Needed, Protect Yourself and Children
If your relationship is marked by physical abuse, you may find yourself confused, frightened, and unsure about your next step. The most important thing is take steps to protect yourself and your children from harm. You should not risk the safety of your children or yourself. A period of structured and therapeutic separation, under the guidance and direction of a spiritual counselor, may be necessary. This time apart can make it possible for both mates to get the help the marriage needs.
STEP FOUR: Seek Guidance—Don’t Go It Alone
Whatever situation you’re in, don’t struggle through a difficult marriage alone. You need the community of the Body of Christ for perspective and advice, counseling and encouragement, and
for hope. Periodically, each of us needs a listening ear from someone who understands and who can give us objective, insightful direction.