“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Colossians 3:12-14)
Many signs warn couples that there are rough times ahead. Before going over the edge and falling into actual or emotional divorce, consider these signs and turn back from those marriage breakers.
You lose compassion and forgiveness for your partner. Without that tenderness, words tear down rather than build up. If you have hardened your heart you will be more concerned about getting your own needs met, forgetting about responsibility in the marriage. Vows once spoken and promises made are now forgotten. Deceived by a hardened heart (sin), we justify our actions with excuses as old as creation.
Sin, or hardness of heart, is one of the main problems in marriages that needs to be continually confronted by both individuals. When we suffer severe sin (verbal abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, spiritual abuse), we can't help but bring brokenness into our marriage, this may lead to marital stress, prolonged tension or even divorce. In some cases, counselling may be the answer along with prayer and fasting to get rid of guilt and other things from the past.
Unresolved arguments build up over time and can spill over in very ugly ways. Before you know it your marriage can be in turmoil. When intense disagreements become heated arguments, generating more heat than light, real communication ceases. Individuals who wear on, tear down, even strike another soon cause their partner to abandon for safety's sake, rather than risk and stay on board.
Some couples love to argue:
“Because kissing and making up is so much fun to do” (long term effects of this pattern are not fun)
On the contrary, here's what Scripture says: “A brother helped is like a strong city, but quarrelling is like the bars of a castle” (see Proverbs 18:19).
Continuous arguing normally results from unprocessed emotions that build up and blow up. (Proverbs 15:18, James 1:20, Proverbs 18:6-7)
You should not place unrealistic, dream-like expectations upon your spouse. No one person should be expected to meet all the needs we have. Hidden undeclared expectations (patterned after, or in reaction to, our parent's marriage or a former marriage or relationship) can booby-trap even the best intentions in marriage.
You should find out what your spouse's expectations are and then commit yourself to doing everything within your power to meet them. Meeting the mutual and realistic expectations we have for marriage is part of the “oneness” that defines a biblical union (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:5, 1st Corinthians 6:16-17, Ephesians 5:31).
Many people are perfectionists who place such high expectations upon their spouses that they can never measure up. This ideal mate syndrome is pictured in the commercials we watch. Such made-for-the-male/female-fantasy images soon send us home to our less-than-perfect mate, saying, “My wife/husband doesn't measure up”. (Get real, neither do you). Is your spouse a victim of unreasonable demands? (See 1 Peter 3:7, Proverbs 5:18).
Don't try to remake or perfect your partner – such unreasonable demands only tear down your marriage and lead you further downstream to the brink of divorce. If you find yourself comparing and demanding, STOP TRYING TO CHANGE YOUR SPOUSE. Use prayer instead!!!!
Instead of putting forth the effort God requires of husbands and wives to love their spouse we decide that differences between parties are what the courts call “irreconcilable”. At this point you have passed all warning signs and are at the point of no return --- so you think. The truth about marriage is far worse and more hopeful: our whole lives are irreconcilable.
Opposites attract- that combustible chemistry is often what begins a marriage. Opposites also attack- but that need not end a marriage. Opposites can work together to strengthen their marriage and attack, instead, the very forces that drive them apart. (Like a pair of shears)
Two people with different natures and needs, living together in harmony under the same roof for many years – that is the adventure of marriage. That is a divine gift, not a human achievement. Only by the common grace of God and the uncommon love of the Lord Jesus will that happen.
The last warning sign before going over the brink is this one – the one that will keep you from divorce - forgiveness. We need to grant it, give it and receive it. Whether you want to or not, “clothe yourselves” with kindness, tender-hearts, gentleness, patience and forgiveness. Such love not only covers (holds together) your virtues but also covers (forgives) a multitude of sins and “irreconcilable” differences (Proverbs 10:12, Romans 13:8-10, 1Peter 4:8).
Repentance or change of direction is involved with forgiveness. “He who covers over an offense promotes love, but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends” (Proverbs 17:9) Human pride keeps us from seeking another's forgiveness sincerely; that same pride also keeps us from forgiving our spouse. Yet God says, “It is to our glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11)
Christ takes our hardened hearts, all our excess baggage, all our unresolved conflicts, all our unmet expectations, all our unreasonable demands, even our irreconcilable differences, and forgives it all. But with an unforgiving heart, we cannot appreciate all that Christ did for us, because “if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Mathew 6:15).
Unfortunately there are couples who can't find their way back. I could only speak out of my experiences… So if you know a couple or two who are having a hard time in their marriage I encourage you to encourage them to continue trying. If the love is true… it can and will survive…. It just has to!!!