In today’s episode, we’ll be discussing the topic of divorce. We’ll use a concept cluster to talk about our initial feelings and thoughts surrounding divorce, and we’ll also hit on a few pros and cons regarding the topic. Additionally, we’ll talk about some of the dangers in saying, “Divorce is not an option.”
008: The Rhythm of Marriage—Commitment, Part 02
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We thought we'd start off this episode with a concept cluster on divorce. To set up a concept cluster, begin by writing the concept in the middle of the page. Then above it write your feelings about the concept, and below it write your thoughts. Here is an example of our concept cluster on divorce:
Feel free to create your own concept cluster as you ponder the topic of divorce.
Divorce is Not an Option
Many Christians believe that divorce is wrong. There's a verse in Malachi that says God hates divorce, and Jesus' teachings on the subject are not exactly favorable. Therefore people often say, "Divorce is not an option." Part of this belief stems from the fact that starting with divorce is never a good idea. It shouldn't be the first line of defense when you encounter difficulties. Divorce should also never be used as a weapon (aka "If you don't do this, then I'm going to divorce you"). However, that being said, there are circumstances where divorce needs to be an option. In our experience, we've seen marriages where time and time and time again conflicts are not resolved. Granted, the first option should always be to seek counseling and therapy—not divorce—but there comes a time when divorce may be a better option than staying together. Getting a divorce can have many negative consequences that come with it, but staying in a marriage with irreconcilable differences can ultimately cause even more damage. Sometimes the belief that, "Divorce is not an option," leads people to believe that staying married is all that matters. The problem with this way of thinking is that people can be married and still not love each other or be fulfilling their vows. If that's the case, it's really no different than being divorced. At that point, your heart is already divorced. If you're in a marriage, but you're not showing love to each other, what's the point?
Abuse in Marriage
There is a darker side to this in Christian culture when someone (often a woman) is abused in a marriage, but has no resources within the church to escape the abuse because of the belief that, "Divorce is not an option." And we're not simply talking about physical abuse, but emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse as well. Psychological abuse is just as bad as—if not worse than—physical abuse. Therefore, we must treat them both seriously. If the church's stance is, "Divorce is not an option," then where is someone supposed to go, or who are they supposed to turn to if they're experiencing abuse in their marriage? If divorce isn't an option, then people can't talk about divorce. And if they can't talk about divorce, then they can't talk about the things that lead to divorce—which are often abuse and mistreatment. There should be an outlet in the church where people are free to talk about this.
There seems to be a dichotomy where on the one hand people are getting divorced over petty things that should be able to be solved, but on the other hand people are staying in abusive marriages because divorce isn't an option. We need to find a middle ground between these two extremes. That begins with elevating commitment. Commitment is important, and wedding vows are serious. However, at the same time we also have to acknowledge that there are very difficult things that happen in life. Sometimes these difficulties become unsolvable. We need to be able to talk about divorce, but also recognize that divorce isn't a frivolous thing. It isn't easy, and it come with consequences.
Marriage is Not a Prison
If the mentality going into marriage is that divorce isn't an option, then it can be easy to stop pursuing your spouse because they're stuck with you now. There's no escape. For example, people often work out a lot before their wedding, but after they get married they start putting on the weight again. There's no reason for them to work out anymore, because they already got the person they were trying to impress. If that was the motivation behind working out in the first place, then it was probably a poor motivation to begin with. Ultimately, it's simply portraying a false version of yourself. Instead of believing that there's always an opportunity to keep loving and pursuing your spouse, there's a passivity that sets in after marriage. People often just give up. There's not a motivation to keep working on yourself. This doesn't just happen physically, but spiritually and emotionally as well—working on your personality to become the best possible version of yourself. The thought process can be, "If this person is stuck with me, what motivation do I have to change and become the best I can be?" However, if you're trying to become the best version of yourself because you're afraid your spouse is going to leave you, that's also not a good reason.
God's Pursuit of Us
God does not force us into a relationship with himself. He can only pursue and woo us. God makes commitments and covenants with us, but He does not require us to do anything. The door is always open for us to either stay or leave. We have that choice every single day. When we know we're free to love God back or free to leave, then oftentimes we want to stay more. We also have the choice to love our spouse—to listen to them, care about their needs, be patient with them, be kind to them as God is kind with us—or the choice to say, "No, I'm not going to do that this time." We can't pretend divorce doesn't exist, because it does. When we say divorce isn't an option, it robs us of our free choice. It can lead to a mindset of, "I'm making these choices that are unloving, unkind, terrible choices, but you can't leave so I'm going to keep making them." That's not a good framework for a marriage. It doesn't lead to a more loving marriage, or set-up a marriage for growth.
(This is part 2 of 2 on the topic of commitment within the rhythm section of our "Marriage as a Love Song" series. You can listen to part 1 here.)
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