When I saw the title of this article, my heart sank.
The article (worth a read before this) explores the ways there are of analysing and calculating the divorce rate, so far interesting to consider.
The second part lists a series of potential factors to divorce: the less of these apply to you, the more likely you are to remain married.
“There are a handful of personal factors that sociologists have determined significantly affect one’s overall risk of divorce, for good or ill. This means many couples will have a significantly higher or lower lifetime risk of divorce than the average. For a good number of couples marrying today, their risk of divorce is nearly zero. That’s a story worth telling. Others will face a substantial uphill battle, largely due to the choices they make before they even marry.”
But here’s the thing: one, maybe two of these applied to my marriage, a low risk; yet I’m divorced. We did pretty much everything ‘right’ according to the many personal factors. Still divorced.
Because marriage is not guaranteed. No marriage is immune from difficulties and challenges. Indeed in my opinion, one of the most dangerous myths is that Christian marriages, built as they hopefully are on a ‘three stranded cord’, are somehow different. They will last because we’re Christians. Yet we are all sinners. We have all fallen short of the glory of God. To expect perfection in our marriage partner and marriage is to be disappointed. Christian marriage is made up of two sinful people in the same way every other marriage is made up of two sinful people. It is two sinful people who believe they are saved by grace, which can have implications for their handling of trials and their view of eternity, but this does not exempt their marriage from trouble.
A commonly asked question of Christianity is why bad things happen to good people. It would be naive and arrogant to assume marriage is different. Bad things, and rubbish things, and incredibly upsetting things happen to good people. Your marriage was not perfect. It was never going to be perfect. There will have been fantastic moments, and some terrible ones, as there are in all marriages. The sense of shame or failure you feel in a marriage breakdown does not need to be amplified because of your faith. We are called to live life as Jesus lived His – there may be some issues of repentance and sin to be worked through, but God comes to reconcile, redeem and restore. He doesn’t want us to feel embarrassed and like we must hide away because our marriage didn’t work out; He wants us to become more like him in the situations we find ourselves.
This reflection on marriage isn’t meant to make you want to give up on the whole institution. Trusting in God and being guided by Him can have hugely positive impacts on your marriage: but no Christian is immune from trouble or failure or problems – a quick read through the Gospels and experiences of Jesus and the disciples will tell you this. So just because we tick none of the ‘danger’ boxes doesn’t preclude us from divorce, in fact complacency is a danger in itself.
That’s not to say there aren’t positive ways to begin and build your relationship, of course there are. But to suggest that your marriage is going to be hale and hearty because of them seems to have a narrow view of how marriage works. It takes two people committing to one another and to their union, every single day.
So who is at risk of divorce? Well, I guess I’d argue everyone who’s married. This isn’t to say that your marriage is doomed to fail, but rather that we can all have moments of selfishness, temptation and an urge to chuck everything in – but in marriage we have to choose others and a constant working together to maintain, build and nurture relationship. If we choose not to do this, it’s surely then we’re at risk of divorce.
I’d love to know what you think, including if you think I’m wrong, so please feel free to comment with your own thoughts below.