Is There Reason for Hope?
“One problem in distressed marriages is the strong belief that things cannot get better. Such a belief thwarts change because it robs you of the motivation to try anything constructive.”—DR. AARON T. BECK.
IMAGINE that you are in pain and go to the doctor for a checkup. You are anxious—and understandably so. After all, your health—even your very life—may be at stake. But suppose that after the examination, the doctor gives you the good news that while your problem is by no means trivial, it can be treated. In fact, the doctor tells you that if you carefully adhere to a reasonable program of diet and exercise, you can expect a full recovery. You would undoubtedly feel greatly relieved and would gladly follow his advice!
Compare this scenario to the subject at hand. Are you experiencing pain in your marriage? Of course, every marriage will have its share of problems and disagreements. So just having some difficult moments in your relationship does not mean that you have a loveless marriage. But what if the painful situation persists for weeks, months, or even years? If so, you are rightly concerned, for this is no trivial matter. Indeed, the quality of your marriage can touch virtually every aspect of your life—and that of your children. It is believed, for instance, that marital distress can be a major factor in such problems as depression, low worker productivity, and children’s failure at school. But that is not all. Christians recognize that the relationship they have with their mate can affect their very relationship with God.—1 Peter 3:7.
The fact that there are problems between you and your spouse does not mean that the situation is hopeless. Facing the reality of marriage—that there will be challenges—can help a couple to put their problems in perspective and work toward solutions. A husband named Isaac says: “I had no idea that it was normal for couples to go up and down in their level of happiness over the course of a marriage. I thought there was something wrong with us!”
Even if your marriage has deteriorated to a loveless state, it can be saved. Granted, the wounds resulting from a troubled relationship may be deep, especially if problems have persisted for years. Still, there is strong reason for hope. Motivation is a crucial factor. Even two people with serious marital problems can make improvements if it means enough to both of them.*
So ask yourself, ‘How strong is my desire to attain a satisfying relationship?’ Are you and your mate willing to put forth effort to improve your marriage? Dr. Beck, quoted earlier, says: “I have often been surprised at how an apparently bad relationship can be helped when partners work together to correct deficits and reinforce the strong points of their marriage.” But what if your spouse is reluctant to join in? Or what if he or she seems oblivious to the fact that there is a problem? Is it futile for you to work on the marriage alone? By no means! “If you make some changes,” says Dr. Beck, “this in itself may prompt changes in your partner—it very often does.”
Do not hastily conclude that this cannot happen in your case. Such defeatist thinking may in itself be the greatest threat to your marriage! One of you needs to take the first step. Can it be you? Once the momentum is established, your spouse may see the benefit of working along with you toward building a happier marriage.
What can you do, therefore—either as an individual or as a couple—to save your marriage? The Bible is a powerful aid in answering this question. Let us see how.
Admittedly, in certain extreme cases, there may be valid reasons for a husband and wife to separate. (1 Corinthians 7:10, 11) In addition, the Bible allows for divorce on the grounds of fornication. (Matthew 19:9) Whether to obtain a divorce from an unfaithful mate is a personal decision, and others should not pressure the innocent mate into deciding one way or the other.—See the book The Secret of Family Happiness, pages 158-61, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.