Can Your Marriage Be Saved?
IT IS an unhappy fact, but the marriages of more than a million persons a year are severed by divorce in just the United States alone. This amounts to about one divorce every minute on the average!
It is sad that so many persons who expect to enjoy happiness in marriage find just the opposite. One United States marriage counselor observed concerning those marrying today: “One-fourth will end up in divorce court, while another one-fourth will keep their marriages legally intact for a variety of reasons, but will get little satisfaction from them.”
Clearly, the marriages of millions of persons are in need of help. Possibly your marriage, too, is in trouble. What can you do to strengthen it? How can the happiness that you originally expected from marriage be realized?
LOOK TO THE RIGHT SOURCE FOR HELP
Men and women are marvelously designed for each other. They are inherently equipped to live together as husband and wife. Still many marriages fail. Why? Because they ignore an important requirement.
A basic requirement for genuine success in marriage is to consult regularly the advice of its originator, man’s Creator, Jehovah God. In his written Word the Bible he has provided the counsel that, if applied by both marriage partners, is certain to assure the happiness of their marriage.
This is not simply theory, or an idle, unsupported assertion. It is a fact. For when persons have really endeavored to cultivate in their marriage the qualities the Bible recommends, remarkable improvements have occurred. Are you willing to make an earnest effort to save your marriage by accepting the counsel of the foremost marriage counselor, Jehovah God?
WHEN THERE ARE SEVERE DIFFICULTIES
But perhaps you feel that your marriage is beyond help, that the problems are too severe. Your husband may be a drunkard. He may even physically abuse you at times, and voice great disrespect for God and his Word. What can be done in such a case?
The situation is not hopeless. There were cases in the first century where husbands had no regard for Christian principles. Note the divine counsel given to Christian wives faced with such circumstances: “You wives, be in subjection to your own husbands, in order that, if any are not obedient to the word, they may be won without a word through the conduct of their wives, because of having been eyewitnesses of your chaste conduct together with deep respect.”—1 Pet. 3:1, 2; Titus 2:4, 5.
This counsel has proved beneficial time and again. By exhibiting chaste conduct and deep respect Christian wives have often been instrumental in saving their marriages, turning them into happy unions. “But how does one show respect for a man who gets drunk and disrespects God?” you may ask.
True, this is not easy. You cannot, of course, approve of drunkenness or other ungodly conduct. But you can work to increase respect for your husband’s office or position as head of the family.
Also, while there may be unpleasant things you have discovered about him as an individual since marrying him, no doubt, if you looked for them, you could find new aspects of his personality that you consider desirable. Also, can you not continue to develop love and respect for the things about your husband that initially kindled your love for him, if he still has those same qualities, as well as those good things you have discovered since? Are there things you personally can do that will emphasize his good qualities and minimize his undesirable ones?
Some wives have given serious thought to such matters. And they have also cultivated the Christian quality of endurance, remaining chaste and respectful through years of abuse by husbands who opposed their Christian course. The results at times are absolutely thrilling. For example, one husband some time ago wrote:
‘For twelve years I was the worst enemy of my own wife. I threatened her and we quarreled every day; that is to say, I always sought the strife and I even began to beat her. Very often I came home drunk and would then beat both my wife and my child. But all in vain; my wife stuck to her study of the Bible and worship of God.
‘Only a relatively short time back they felt relieved every day when I went to work and dreaded the moment when I would come back. Then, a short time ago, I had a discussion with a Christian minister of Jehovah’s witnesses. Afterward I sat and reviewed the past twelve years of my life. This analysis was crushing for me. I saw how terribly mean I had been toward my wife, while she had borne everything with humility, like a piece of granite against which the waves of my insanity crashed in vain. The more cruel I was, the more love and mercy she showed.
‘Yes, it is only now that I see all this. And as I began to see it, I took the Bible; and, thanks to its instruction, I am now like a newborn man. I no longer get drunk and have stopped smoking, have left the rabble, and now share with my dear ones regularly in study of God’s Word.’
There are many such examples of wives who have, by their chaste conduct and deep respect, won their husbands over to Christianity. Even though this may have required years, how happy these wives are that they did not give up and leave their husbands! Real blessings can be realized as a result of endurance.
AVOIDING SEPARATION AND DIVORCE
It is true that Jehovah God has made allowance in his law for divorce. But his law does not allow many reasons for breaking the marriage tie by divorce. God’s Son Jesus said: “I say to you that whoever divorces his wife, except on the ground of fornication [or adultery], and marries another commits adultery.” (Matt. 19:9) Thus, Scriptural divorce is limited. Adultery is the only ground permitted by God’s law for divorce and remarriage.
But what about separation of married partners, where adultery has not been committed and where a divorce may not be contemplated? What does God’s Word say on this matter?
This question came up in the first-century Corinthian congregation, and God inspired this counsel: “A wife should not depart from her husband; but if she should actually depart, let her remain unmarried or else make up again with her husband; and a husband should not leave his wife.” (1 Cor. 7:10, 11) Thus, although it is acknowledged that not all couples would stick together, the Bible shows that Christian couples should do all they possibly can to resolve differences that may arise and not to separate.
The reasonableness of this is obvious, because where both mates profess to be dedicated Christians, they are under obligation to perform God’s will, and God’s will for Christian couples is to ‘stick together’ and not to break the marriage tie. (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6) Really, no problem should come up in the lives of Christian husbands and wives that cannot be resolved by applying the wisdom from God and by showing real love for each other.
But what of the situation where one mate is a dedicated Christian and the other an unbeliever? In this case the Bible counsels: “If any brother has an unbelieving wife, and yet she is agreeable to dwelling with him, let him not leave her; and a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and yet he is agreeable to dwelling with her, let her not leave her husband. . . . But if the unbelieving one proceeds to depart, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not in servitude under such circumstances, but God has called you to peace.”—1 Cor. 7:12-15.
The Scriptures, therefore, lay the primary emphasis on not breaking the marriage tie. If it is to be broken, the Christian should endeavor not to be the one that makes the break. However, if the unbeliever separates, the Christian would let him depart.
There are distinct advantages in remaining with one’s mate, even though that person is an unbeliever. First of all, there is the possibility that you as a Christian believer, may win your mate over to Christianity. Surely the unbeliever is in an advantageous position, for he is in touch with true Christianity by being with you.—1 Cor. 7:16.
Then, too, if you were to separate, and adultery was not the basis for the separation, you would not be Scripturally free to remarry or to have sex relations with anyone else even if you got a divorce. Think of the pressure such a separation might exert on you. What if it resulted in your falling into immorality? How sad that would be!
Another important factor to consider is the children, if you have any. Is the care and love of only one parent going to be sufficient? Will you be able to handle matters from a financial standpoint, as well as in other ways?
True, if the circumstances are extremely severe, you may choose to resort to separation. But this should be a step taken only as a very last resort, after all other efforts to correct the situation have been exhausted, and after prayerful consideration.
WORKING TO PRESERVE YOUR MARRIAGE
On the other hand, it is so much better when you can work out your problems and learn to enjoy each other’s companionship. This can be accomplished if you both really want to preserve your marriage, and if you look to God’s Word for help in doing so.
Each mate needs to appreciate that there is a fundamental reason why the marriage is in difficulty. And that is because either you or your mate, or both of you, are not applying Bible principles. Somewhere these vital principles are being pushed aside, ignored, and personal inclinations have taken their place. Therefore, to save the marriage this situation must be corrected.
For example, the problem may be that the Bible principles of headship and love are not being applied. The Bible says: “Let wives be in subjection to their husbands as to the Lord, because a husband is head of his wife as the Christ also is head of the congregation . . . husbands ought to be loving their wives as their own bodies.”—Eph. 5:22, 23, 28.
To be head of his wife means that the husband bears the principal responsibility for making decisions about family matters. Thus, the occasion may arise in which your husband decides to move the family elsewhere. You, as wife, may realize that this will pose problems, but if you apply what the Bible teaches on headship you will yield to your husband’s wish, for he has the right to decide on such matters.
On the other hand, you, as a husband who applies the Bible principle of ‘loving his wife as himself,’ will discuss the matter of moving with your wife before making your decision. You will get her feelings and suggestions, and take these into consideration. But with you, the husband, rests the final decision, and this decision is to be respected and supported by the Christian wife.
So, whereas in some families displeasure over living quarters may become so grave that there is a desire to resolve the problem by separation, by applying Bible principles such problems can be averted entirely. This really works! When couples are willing to bring their lives into harmony with God’s Word, their marriage can truly be a happy one.
SHOWING INTEREST IN EACH OTHER
One Bible principle that it is vital for couples to apply in their marriage is to show loving interest in each other. “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person,” the Bible encourages. (1 Cor. 10:24; Phil. 2:4) Many marriages have been saved when husbands and wives have made a real effort to do this.
When you and your mate were courting each other before marriage, each made an endeavor to cultivate interest in what the other liked, is that not so? This no doubt was a factor that endeared you to each other. Why not, then, continue this practice? Of course, you may not be interested in some activities your husband likes. He may not be a Christian believer, and thus he may not have the interest in Bible study that you do. Nevertheless, you would do well to cultivate an interest in certain of his activities for the sake of the marriage. It is difficult to make love grow when husband and wife do not do things together.
Therefore, where there is no compromise of principle involved or Biblical issue violated, the believing mate does well to subordinate personal desires and spend some time doing what the unbeliever wants, thus demonstrating Christian reasonableness. This is the loving course and may cause the unbeliever to inquire into a faith that results in such consideration for one’s mate.
Recently a Christian woman who was having severe marital difficulties admitted her failure in this regard: “I have been wrong in excluding my husband’s desires,” she explained. “I haven’t cultivated an interest in the things pleasing to him. He enjoys bowling, hunting trips, baseball games, and so forth. Although years ago he used to invite me, I never went.”
This woman responded to encouragement to share in some of her husband’s activities. Happily she wrote: “I told him that I had been wrong in many instances, and that I was going to try to do better. I told him I’d like to go bowling one day a week, possibly on a Saturday afternoon if he’d like. A few days later I invited him to our Bible study and was so surprised when he accepted. My heart felt such compassion for him when he said he was going because he wants to learn to do what is right.”
A Christian husband should likewise endeavor to show interest in his wife, and in the activities she performs in behalf of the family. Even if she does not now embrace true Christianity, spend time with her, consider her, compliment her. Show her your concern. Never be too busy with other pursuits to devote some time to her and to reassure her of your love.
Simply being alert or ‘tuned in’ to each other’s interests and needs is vital to a harmonious marriage. One young married woman, who had failed to do this, complained regarding her husband: “He keeps making up excuses to be away from me more and more.” The reasons why her husband might be acting this way were discussed with her. She admitted that she had become less interested in caring for her personal appearance of late. Also, she said that her husband’s conversation bored her, and that she had little interest in communicating with him.
The wife was helped to see the need of showing more interest in her husband. Thus, she began to be more attentive to him, and took a greater interest in what he was doing. She made a point to fix his favorite foods more frequently, and paid more attention to being physically attractive to him. The husband responded by becoming eager again to come home to his wife.
True, it may be easy to see what your marriage mate is doing wrong. But the Christian wife should ask herself, “What can I do to contribute to the success of the union? If my husband does not come home at night and goes out and gets drunk, is it because there is something about the home to which he does not like to return? Do I nag him? Am I always lecturing him? Are the children out of hand?” Such honest self-analysis can be extremely revealing and valuable.
TALK TO EACH OTHER
An interchange of communication is an obvious and yet vital way for marriage mates to show each other loving interest. Before you were married you no doubt made an effort to carry on an interesting conversation with your wife-to-be. She obviously enjoyed this. Then, wisely continue to make this effort to talk. Your wife will appreciate it.
A wife, on the other hand, should use discretion when making conversation. Do not greet your husband with a barrage of problems as soon as he arrives home and before he has time to get settled. Think of pleasant things that you might speak about. And when there are problems to discuss, pick a time when he is in a frame of mind best to consider them. Such loving consideration is certain to contribute to improved marriage relations.
ADVANTAGES ENJOYED BY CHRISTIANS
Christian husbands and Christian wives have real advantages. First of all, they can confidently go to God’s Word together and consider their problems in the light of its wise counsel. Also, they can take their problems together to Jehovah God in prayer, humbly requesting that he help them. (Ps. 139:23, 24) After thus joining in prayer they will hardly be inclined to treat each other harshly or coolly.
Then, too, if differences are extreme, Christian mates have a fine provision for help in the Christian congregation. Here mature overseers and older men who have God’s mind on marital matters may be consulted for counsel from the Scriptures. By applying this counsel, those who experience marital difficulties are certain to be benefited.
This does not mean that you who are not members of the Christian congregation cannot enjoy these advantages. Jehovah’s witnesses will be happy to help you gain a knowledge of Bible teachings and principles, including those that concern relations between husbands and wives. In fact, a part of the free Bible-study course they offer, using the publication The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, is consideration of the subject “Building a Happy Family Life.” Do not hesitate to avail yourself of this provision by asking one of Jehovah’s witnesses to visit you in your home.
So, if you are now experiencing marital difficulties, do not be disheartened. You can do much that may improve the situation. And remember, if a husband and wife really want to preserve their marriage, and if they look to God’s Word for help in doing so, their marriage can be saved.
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A basic requirement for success in marriage is to consult regularly the advice of its Originator, Jehovah God, as found in the Bible