“I want a divorce!” One of the most discouraging things to witness in a newly married couple is a lack of grit when facing a minor disagreement. In the past year, we have had newly married men and women write to us on this account. In a nutshell, these newlyweds have had spouses who have used the D word in the middle of an everyday disagreement. The obvious effect of their partner saying “I want a divorce” while in the midst of an ordinary disagreement is that the spouses that wielded those words either won the argument or achieved the silence of their spouse. While divorces do happen, even with valid biblical grounds, the reality for many newly married couples today is that the call for a permanent separation is often a weapon to hurt, threaten or manipulate a partner when a solvable conflict occurs.
“I asked him why he came home late. He responded he is not one to be controlled and added that he wants a divorce.”
“I let her know that her words at the party hurt me. She responded that I was too soft and that she was going to file for a divorce.”
This call for divorce is often coded language for “I do not have the grit to have that difficult conversation so I will permanently stop you right there.” It isn’t a few times that I have heard a newly married spouse sit in my office and say they are deflated by a partner who gives up too easily. When one partner lacks grit, he or she passes on the contagion, and they kill the momentum of a marriage. A divorced friend of mine once elaborated to me how his divorce came about. He asserted that newlywed spouses who play around with the D word have no clue what they are talking about. To hear the words “I want a divorce” when it is unwarranted causes one’s heart to wilt and to gravitate in that direction. In an awkward sense, your confession becomes your possession.
Imagine starting a 12-hour road trip adventure with your best friend. You’ve planned for weeks. You’ve saved money to spend. You have packed your suitcases. You have marked checkpoints on the map. You’ve packed your snacks and your favourite music for the road. You wake up. You shower. You dress up. You take your breakfast. You are excited to start the journey. The weather is good. The company is great. Now imagine, five minutes after leaving the house, you get a puncture. Now imagine, instead of fixing the puncture, you decide to cancel the entire trip. Who does that? Newly married spouses are doing that when they use the D word flippantly. And they are doing it without regard for the person who was looking forward to the trip.
Axiomatically, it is easy to believe that a spouse who asks for a divorce because of a solvable conflict needs to grow a spine, but it is more than a spine. Couples that use the D word munificently when facing simple conflicts need to grow a heart before they grow a spine.
1. A heart to deal with personal baggage
When the ebbs of conflict in marriage appear like tsunamis, even a partner’s bad breath while having sex can seem to warrant a divorce. If you’ve been calling for divorce because your partner is holding you to simple accountability, you may be having unresolved baggage, Beloved. The baggage of unforgiveness crowds your heart and leaves little room to forgive honest mistakes by your partner. The baggage of rejection makes your heart hypersensitive with fear and leaves it easily bruised even when your partner is not rejecting you. The baggage of a poor identity weakens the walls of your heart with pride, arrogance and self-pity and leaves it easily offended when things don’t go your way. Spouses with baggage ought to be careful. They may look at their baggage and assume themselves to be victims. But Beloved, when as an adult, in full knowledge of your weaknesses, you take no intentional actions to heal before you make a serious decision such as marriage, you become a villain. You are like a man offering a blood transfusion knowing very well his blood is infected with a deadly virus. What will you do about your baggage?
A note to spouses on the other end of the stick: make a plan to deal with your own baggage as well.
A note to the unmarried: red flags do not turn green with time. The proof of true repentance is change.
PS: Our ministry can help you deal with baggage. Feel free to get in touch with us.
2. A heart to embrace humility
Marriage is hard when you’re selfish. It’s extra hard when you’re proud. To hold the relationship ransom with the threat of a divorce when faced with a matter you need to apologise for is a sign of pride. The Bible describes pride as thinking of yourself better than others (Philippians 2:4). Some newlywed couples in this situation call for the severing of their marriage bonds in order to put their spouse in their place or to control them. To assume that your spouse needs control is to esteem yourself above them. The problem is that the human being was not designed for manipulation and slavery. God made men and women to be free. For as long as you think yourself better than your spouse, you will forever desire to control a person that was not made by God to be controlled. Your spouse is free.
A note to spouses on the other end of the stick: you get the behaviour you reward and the behaviour you tolerate from a controlling spouse. Draw boundaries and stand your ground, firm but calm.
A note to the unmarried: marriage works blissfully when you serve willingly. It works horribly when you are waiting to be served.
3. A heart to tame the tongue
James 3:6 “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.” (NIV). Your mouth can close doors to destiny, and it can open them at the same time (Proverbs 18:21). We seldom repent for two things- having eaten too little and having shut our mouths. On the contrary, we often repent for having our mouths open (for either gluttony or speaking). Words once said cannot be unsaid. When you use the D word because you are frustrated, even if you recover from the disagreement, you place your spouse under the perpetual cloud of doubting your commitment. Secondly, when you use the D word flippantly, you cry wolf when there is no wolf. The day canis lupus shows up, you will have lost moral authority, respect and wherewithal to be taken seriously. The tongues must be tamed, Beloved. James 1:19 asks us to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.
A note to spouses on the other end of the stick: two wrongs do not make a right. When two warring nations both launch their nuclear warheads, everyone dies. Use your words sparingly and wisely when hurt.
A note to the unmarried: learn not to always have the last word in arguments.
4. A heart to be resilient
Newlyweds often imagine that if their marriage is meant to be, it should be easy to navigate through life with their spouse. That mindset is not only far from the reality of the world we live in. It is also entitled. Why should your story be one of ease? Why should you inherit an effortless marriage and waltz your way right into success? What makes you believe that you are owed ease? Victory comes dressed as toil but unsuspecting people miss it because they anticipated it would come dressed as ease. Discard the thought that you are owed ease. Perish the notion that because God blessed your union, then things should be easy. Even in the world of unbelievers, successful people do not engage life imagining its ease. They engage it only by imagining the possibility! So why should you expect an easy path to building a good marriage, Beloved? This attitude fosters a weak spirit that throws in the towel at the slightest pressure. Marriage is God’s institution- made by Him for us. The picture of a man loving and leading his wife parallels to Christ doing the same to the church. The picture of a wife respecting and submitting to her husband parallels to the church doing the same to Christ. See Christ remain steadfast to His bride against all odds. See the church endure relentless persecution and remain true to Christ. Proverbs 24:10 says “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.”
A note to spouses on the other end of the stick: don’t let the despair bee sting you; spend time with God daily in His word.
A note to the unmarried: Retain this philosophy of ease only if you are content to be simple and unachieving.
5. A heart to submit to the forgiving grace of the Gospel
The simplest definition of forgiveness is to give up the right to be even. If you grasp the gospel, you will draw the requisite strength to forgive. What is the gospel? The gospel is a seven-step message.
- God is Holy
- Man is rebellious and sinful.
- A rebellious and sinful man attracts the wrath of a Holy God- man deserves death
- Man’s goodness is insufficient to shield him from the penalty of death.
- God loves man and offers Himself (in the person of Jesus) as a substitutionary sacrifice for man’s sin.
- Jesus’ death on calvary atones for the sin of man.
- All who repent of their sin and willingly accept the atonement receive eternal life.
If you don’t see yourself as a beneficiary of that seven-step message, you will think to extend grace to a sinful partner is impossible or absurd. When you are alive to the truth of the gospel and you repent and believe, you see yourself as a beneficiary of grace and are ready to dispense it to others- especially to your spouse. The proof of having been saved from your sins is that you treat people well- as God in Christ treated you. 1 John 4:20 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” (NIV). Praise God for Christ who does not threaten to divorce us when we fail Him. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us. To use the D word in the heat of frustration that can be solved is not only unforgiving but it is unkind.
A note to spouses on the other end of the stick: Love does not keep a record of wrongs.
A note to the unmarried: Marriage is Forgiveness University. Don’t enrol before you consider this deeply.
Ban the D word from your frustrating conversations. Grow a heart.