How to Stay Married In America

Exactly eight years ago, my marriage fell apart and my world with it.

My husband confessed a secret struggle and I was crushed under the weight of it.

One day we were discussing fun, romantic ways to celebrate 11 years of marriage without our two preschoolers and the next I was wondering how we would make it to our 12th anniversary.

Because while his confession floored me, the real devastation was the realization that my marriage wasn’t what I thought it was.

11 years is a lot of making beds and making ends meet. It’s a lot of working things out and working things in. It’s countless hours of saying I do. I will. It’s a lot of time to grow up or grow apart.

We both come from a long line of married people, couples who dug in and fought hard, but on this day 8 years ago, for the first time in my 33 years, I thought divorce might be the easiest option.

For the first time, I understood why people divorced. It was the day I stopped judging broken marriages and saw the two broken people behind them.

With our sleeping children tucked in beds upstairs, we stood across the room from each other that night, both quietly sobbing. Terrell had laid his burden down and I had picked it up. The knowledge of this devastated both of us.

We could feel the severity, this make-or-break-crossroad moment. It was agonizing.

I was contemplating if I could continue. Could I keep loving? Could I keep saying I do? Could I forgive? Was I strong enough to fix what was broken? I was weighing the cost of fighting for my marriage, considering the frightening road ahead filled with hard heart work, self doubt and daily forgiveness.

But in my grief, I knew I wasn’t capable of saying yes to any of these questions. I understood that our marriage could only succeed with God’s help and if both of us were willing to fight hell itself for a second chance.

I took a step towards Terrell that night.

Eight years is a long time to lay down pride, to walk in freedom, to forgive. It’s countless hours of hard, deep soul labor, but I thank God for that night, for the miraculous, for the fight. I understand not everyone can or will make the same choice. It takes three (two willing partners and God) and often the choice is made for us. I could easily have a completely different story…

Staying married doesn’t just happen. It takes intentional, purposeful daily work.

And honestly, it’s harder to stay married in America now than ever before. The odds are not in our favor.
divorce2-640x2670

Eight Ways to Defeat the Odds and Stay Married:

  1. Talk it out: Poor communication is the biggest factor in the statistics above. Stuffing questions and concerns, keeping secrets, clamming up, internalizing hurts contribute. I would add a three-way conversation, praying for your spouse, communicating with God alone and together is a great way to open clogged communication lines.
  2. Put money in it’s place: Money matters and it’s been known to break apart countless marriages. But I think it’s the love of money that is our downfall. Overspending and debt bring a lot of pressure to a marriage. Don’t let money rule you or it will rule you.
  3. Be attractive to each other: For better or worse, includes that receding hairline and that stubborn baby weight. Being attracted to each other is more about your commitment than a pant size. Choosing a healthy lifestyle can be super sexy, but again, this is a heart issue because we are aging and changing daily. Serve your spouse and reignite your marriage.
  4. Keep your eyes and heart at home: Flirting at the office, comparing your spouse to others, pouring into Facebook friendships with people you feel attracted to, these are a recipe for infidelity.
  5. Share responsibilities: Marriage is a partnership. And in the busyness of life and parenting, this can often get out of balance. But when it stays off-kilter, it can add stress and strain. Give more than you take with your mate. You’ll never regret it.
  6. Think of your kids, but don’t put them first: Statistics prove that divorce is devastating to children. Some divorces are unavoidable, but if you’re considering leaving your spouse because you aren’t attracted to them or because they don’t do enough around the house, consider the lifelong impact your choice has on your kids. But don’t just stay together because of the kids, find ways and reasons to fall together.
  7. Don’t tempt yourself: The Internet is destroying marriages every minute by way of online affairs and pornography. It’s not just a weakness, it’s destruction. Set up accountability, real life and with filters. Don’t play with fire.
  8. Learn self control: It’s not just about filtering bad thoughts and images out of your mind and off your screens. The key is asking God for self control and displaying it. We live in a sinful world and are exposed to things daily that could be a temptation. Getting closer to God will provide more self control.

Whether you are on your first marriage or second, I urge you to fight to stay married. It’s worth it.

 

infographic source

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Good advice. Way to go on fighting through and staying the course. We’ve had our times where I didn’t think we would make it. I wonder if we went into marriage knowing those days would likely come, maybe we’d be more prepared? Maybe not. Thank you for sharing and encouraging! I did not realize my home state of Oregon was in the highest of divorce rates. Yikes. Lots of interesting facts in that chart.

  2. 2

    says

    Great advice! Marriage is hard work, and can be draining if you feel you are pulling most of the weight. I’ve thought of many of these things, and I know I can put the work in now rather than having it affect the kids or having to deal with what would come of deciding not to work things out. It gets stressful and hurtful at times, but I believe in working hard to honor my committment! Thanks so much for the help!

  3. 3

    says

    Kristen,

    I have been praying for a Christian couple planning on divorce and I was asked by the husband what Scriptural reasoning I had for opposing it. He was very nice and understanding to me being opposed to their plan for divorce. I was planning on responding and then in my blog feed (at the very top!) came this post. Thank you! I believe it may have been timed for this situation and perhaps even more. Please pray for my friends and that my communication with them and prayers may be used of God (especially considering others may be doing the same).

  4. 4

    says

    Wow! That chart is pretty mind-blowing. I am on my second marriage (there was no possible way to work out the problems in THAT marriage) and I am the third wife to my current husband. It took me many, many years to decide to get married again. I take my vows very seriously and I am constantly telling my grandchildren to think very carefully before they decide that they want to be married to someone. I tell them to think of the “for better or for worse” because it will be the “for worse” that will be the hardest. I tell them to think about the “for richer or poorer” because it is the “poorer” that makes staying married so hard. And most especially we talk about the “in sickness and in health” a lot. I am currently caring for my husband who has end-stage Parkinson’s disease. I will care for him all the way to the end. Because I love him and I honor him with my marriage vows. And even though we have both been married before I am hoping we are NOW an example for our grandchildren (who are currently only teens).

  5. 6

    says

    Thank you for sharing this. I have been so surprised at how hard marriage is. I came into marriage with so many expectations and ideals…not necessarily bad, but as a result…not very prepared for the work a marriage takes. We’ve been married almost 9 years, and I wish someone would have shared these things with me earlier on. I love my husband, and we’re fighting for our marriage everyday. I’m so thankful for these reminders and to hear of other’s stories. Praying you and I have many more years of marriage!

  6. 7

    says

    Loved this post. But the chart confused me slightly. It says you’re less likely to get divorced if you’re an atheist living in a blue state. But Oregon (my home state) is one of the most liberal states in the nation and has the highest percentage of atheists….but then has one of the highest divorce rates. Huh?

    • 7.1

      says

      I think sometimes you can’t put too much weight in some stats because they leave out some important distinctions and details. I’ve seen many other stats that say otherwise regarding marriage. It’s sad that often Christian marriages are not more “covenant” than non-christian marriages…but when they break it down there is big distinction between actual practicing, Bible believing, Jesus loving (“born again”) christians and those who are nominal and fully embrace the value system of the world. Among those Christians the divorce rate is much lower. Another factor is that more Christians are likely to marry, and less likely to live common law. I would be curious to see more specific stats on atheist relationships, common law or cohabitation, and divorce. If we believe marriage is all about our happiness, personal fulfillment, and how another person can help us be all we can be….it will lead to failure. If we realize marriage is about sacrifice, sanctifying work, and a lot of grace we’re less likely to make our spouse or functional savior or idol, and more likely to choose genuine love.

      • 7.1.1

        Angela L says

        “It’s sad that often Christian marriages are not more “covenant” than non-christian marriages…but when they break it down there is big distinction between actual practicing, Bible believing, Jesus loving (“born again”) christians and those who are nominal and fully embrace the value system of the world. Among those Christians the divorce rate is much lower.”

        Ah, yes, the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. “If they identify as Christian but get divorced, then clearly they aren’t *really* Christian, because *real* Christians wouldn’t get divorced.” That’s what it sounds like you’re saying.

  7. 8

    says

    Beautiful post. Recently read This Momentary Marriage by John Piper, and was profoundly encouraged in my marriage. Marriage is a temporary gift (not eternal) and though it brings such joy, it is above all, a commitment that requires daily hard work, intentionality, surrender and selflessness.

  8. 9

    Mandy S says

    I understand the difficulty of staying married when divorce seems to be the logical choice. My husband had an affair and confessed, then continued it and now has a daughter because of it. When he found out she was pregnant, it was his eye opener and he realized he had to make a decision. I’m thankful that he chose to return to me and choose faithfulness. But it is a daily struggle to communicate and learn that after seven years of marriage, we still have no idea how to do this thing. Our children are 6 and 3 and when my 1 1/2 year old stepdaughter comes over, it often causes severe pain and confusion because of my many mixed emotions on the whole situation. It is challenging to forgive on a regular basis and not let old sins and feelings creep in and destroy what we have worked so hard to build back up. I am determined that God is the answer and continue to learn about relying on Him. I have to give things over to Him and then, when I take them back, repent and give them to Him again. Thank you for this good reminder that the hard work and pain are worth it in the end.

    • 9.1

      jensmith1075 says

      Bless you for your honesty and faithfulness. I can’t imagine my response in the same situation. It’s never the children’s fault, but it’s often difficult not to focus blame. May you be blessed and use this to minister to others!

  9. 11

    Michelle B says

    I found the chart interesting. Clergy and religious directors are least likely to get divorced and yet so are atheists…

  10. 12

    Sara K. says

    Kristen,

    Posts like this are often painful for me as I am twice divorced. But I am so glad that you are speaking out in favor of sticking with it! Marriage is not always easy, but I truly believe most marriages can be saved if both spouses pledge to work on it. Unfortunately, my most recent ex-husband would not make that pledge for me. I hope someday to find someone who I can build a strong, lasting marriage. I don’t want to be a statistic anymore!

  11. 15

    says

    That chart is pretty mind-blowing. I live in a state with the highest divorce rates and I have already seen 3 different close friends get divorced (all under 30!). It is so great to hear your perspective – just another encouragement that God can do anything!

    Today is my wedding anniversary so it was such good timing to read this post!

  12. 16

    says

    Praise God that He was there for you and helped you fight against Satan and fight for your marriage.

    Broken marriages hurt so many people. They touch such a wide circle of people. My family has been hurt and impacted by broken marriages around us. My kids are affected when their friends’ parents split up. In the last couple of years I’ve realized just how far reaching divorce is. It is devastating.

    I’m thankful for committed parents and thankful for my husband. I’m thankful for committed marriages and people willing to fight for marriage in the hard times.

    God bless!

  13. 17

    Jael says

    I agree with everything in this post. The sad thing about my situation is, my husband left us and won’t come back. (We have 3 children) I’ve begged to the point of physical exhaustion. I’ve cried and prayed myself to sleep lots of nights. What’s a woman like me to do when the husband just does not want to be married anymore? And for no good reason. He was the unfaithful one. He never provided for us, and now he’s walking away Bc it’s easier for him to just give up than to change anything to keep his family. Posts like this depress me Bc I DO NOT want to be a divorced woman. I hate everything that comes with it. Especially the judgement from other women who have “perfect” lives. They look at me differently when they have no idea the pain I’ve endured by being “thrown away” by my husband.

    • 17.1

      says

      Hi Jael,

      I don’t think Kristen is talking about your situation… She is talking about when both partners are honest in a marriage and one comes forward with hurtful information and has been deceptive.
      In your situation it’s not about you, he has made some very poor choices and chosen to hurt his family. I will be praying for you, for guidance and peace on your heart.
      God has a plan for you and you have to remember the other women who you feel are judging you very likely have their own struggles happening.
      Please don’t let this depress you God might bring you a man some day worthy of every ounce of you and posts like these will help you fight for a marriage worth fighting for.
      I had a friend who was a very godly women in the same situation as you and now is married to a man who loves her like she deserves, you are far from alone in your battles.
      May God bring peace to your heart, comfort and carry you through this time of need,
      Serena

    • 17.2

      says

      Jael,
      If anything, this post is offered to encourage you. Unfortunately, sometimes the sin of divorce is committed against an innocent person. You would have chosen a different path, but sometimes we don’t get to choose. I think it’s important for people to understand that there isn’t a black and white –divorce is always wrong. That’s what I’m saying here. But I’m also trying to encourage people not to divorce over stupid reasons. I’ll be praying for you. And I mean that.

      • 17.2.1

        says

        Surely you didn’t mean to say that divorce is ALWAYS WRONG…..because it isn’t ALWAYS wrong. Sometimes it is the right decision to save a woman’s life!

    • 17.3

      Suzanne says

      Jamel,

      Been right where you are and held on with everything I had. Made no difference in the outcome; if a man really wants to walk away, you cannot stop him. It very nearly killed me., but God is so faithful. Remind yourself of who you are to Him to counter all the negative judgment you feel coming toward you from people. You are His creation. You are wholly and dearly loved. You have been bought by a precious price, Jesus’ blood. You are Christ’s bride. And remind yourself of all He promises to be to you and do for you. He is faithful and true. He hides you beneath His wings. He sings and rejoices over you. He will never leave or forsake you. My prayers are with you.

    • 17.4

      Amy says

      Jael, there is no shame in being a divorced woman. You have NO choice in the matter. It takes BOTH partners to want to be married. These “perfect women” you speak of have their own crosses to bear and this perfection is just a façade. Please be happy in the fact that this unfaithful husband who does not care about you and treats you badly will no longer be around to torture you. You can now focus on your children, friendships and your relationship to God. You can be happy.

    • 17.5

      says

      I am also a divorced woman and can gladly say I fought with every fiber of my body to keep our family intact, too long probably. However, now I can truly say that God delivered me from a horrible marriage that I would have never chosen to leave. There comes a time to draw a boundary, follow through with consequences and let go of what I wanted so God can unfold His plan (it’s so much better!). I am sorry you have faced rejection and hurt. But remember that the way our Lord redeems is by somehow bringing good from evil. Hang in there, wait with anticipation and put all that energy into your relationship with safe people.

      Big hugs!

      Missy

      PS – my story is still be written, but I’m at a really sweet part as a happy, middle-aged newlywed!

  14. 18

    says

    Very good information and just as important given in great style (cause let’s be honest, no one wants to read a tough subject with bad writing). This is why I keep coming back to visit here…….

  15. 19

    says

    Have you heard of or read “Grace Filled Marriage” by Dr. Tim Kimmel? It is such an inspiring read for any type of marriage…Christian or not! It helps guide, teach and understand marriage and especially marriage in today’s world!

  16. 20

    Gabi says

    Thank you for sharing this. Just this week my husband confessed to still struggling with a secret addiction. We have been through over a year of healing and I had thought we were on our way. He was too scared to tell me he was still struggling and so the sin became secret and shameful just the way satan wanted. He thought that the kids and I would be better without him and that he could never change. Through lots of prayers from others as me, God permeated his heart and we were able to reconcile. Marriage is much harder than I thought it would be, by God has brought us out of yuckin#ss and is leading us to something beautiful.

  17. 21

    Lauren says

    I appreciate your honesty about this situation in your marriage. I just thought the confession happened in a van or something? I have a memor of you crouching n the back ofa vehicle when this happened.

    • 21.1

      says

      Yes, it was in our car on the way home from a trip. And then we moved it into every room of the house and it was all we talked about and did for days.

  18. 22

    says

    I am a child of divorce – twice over. But I a fairly certain that God would not have wanted me mom to stay with drunken abusive men. Like you say, sometimes you don’t get to choose. I am sure my mother wishes even to this day that my father had made different choices. And my stepfather as well. 3rd time turned out to be the charm: a God loving, God fearing man made all the difference. But people who don’t know her story – our story – still judge her unfairly. And that makes me sad. A whole lot sadder than being a child of divorce makes me.
    My husband is also a child of divorce. In his case, they stayed together unto he and his siblings were grown. His father remarried a wonderful lady. His mother remains bitter and resentful after all the years. Plus, my husband is a police officer – a very high divorce rate.
    Statistically speaking – the odds sure are stacked against us and our 10 year marriage.
    Thankfully, we serve a great big God who excels at overcoming odds. ;)

  19. 24

    says

    I think we have to remember that these are statistics from secular resources and from what I can tell, 10 different sources. It’s compiled information. It’s not really about the stats, it’s about not being a statistic and interesting to think about our marriage in light of these facts.

  20. 28

    Bobbie says

    I want to stay married. My husband suddenly told me he never loved me and is having an affair. It hit me out of the blue. He wants divorce and will not try and work it out. He will not talk to our pastor. we are both Christians. I am devastated and still willing to try. desperately want to save my marriage and I would appreciate any prayers for reconciliation and for my husband’s heart to be soft to God, and any other prayer you may be led to. He is living with his brother and I barely see him or talk to him. I am terrible sad and discouraged. Thanks so much.

  21. 29

    says

    This is so hard to read, and only confirms something I’m learning to be true: one of the greatest accomplishments anyone can possess is staying married after multiple years. I’m in my early 30s, single/never married. Over the past 4 years, I’ve seen numerous “stable” marriages I’ve seen dissolve (most inside the Body of Christ, which is even more disconcerting in some ways). The saddening part is how many of those marriages did not meet the statistics above – people who had been married for 10 or more years, first marriages, believers, etc. What breaks my heart is when I see my friends in the middle of the aftermath – friends who have been emotionally wrung by the unexpected consequences of a signed divorce decree. Thank you for offering a story of hope – reminding us that marriages can still be (and are worth) fighting for.

  22. 30

    Juli vrotney says

    Thank you for this very timely post. Marriage Is Hard Work….and by God’s grace we can,make our marriages wonderful. Thanks again for sharing your heart.

  23. 31

    bubba says

    One step overlooked: Become an atheist (see the graphic under “you are less likely…”) Stop believing an imaginary man in the sky will solve your problems, and work them out yourself!

  24. 32

    Lacey says

    Thanks for sharing your story Kristen! I had the exact same thing happen to me and we are almost to two years from the day when I “caught” him… He never confessed until he realized I couldn’t be fooled. It is a STRUGGLE every single day and I have two small children so I trudge on for them and hope and PRAY that someday he is going to be the man he said he was when I married him. He has done a lot like get counseling, stop the behavior, and get more involved in church but we still have a long road ahead of us and I will second that it takes a very strong woman and a Powerful God to stick it out when your heart says to run for the hills and never look back:)

  25. 33

    Julia Snyder says

    I drew so much information and inspiration from your post! My husband and I have been going through some marriage counseling and have found the basis of our troubles sit in our relationship itself. Posts like yours tell me it’s all doable and we can get there. I will recommend the book we use in our counseling, it’s been a brilliant resource. Wendy Brown’s Why Love Succeeds or Fails, whylovesucceeds.com. It will be a resource I keep right there int he bedside table to refer to when times get out of my realm. It’s been so good. You and your story are inspirational and I will visit this site often!

  26. 34

    David Croftchek says

    Marriage does require work from both partners, equally. My sister is married to a man who verbally abuses her, withholds financial support for his children (they go without medical care or food if he is not feeling “generous”) and who is generally absent from the household. Her Minister refuses to support her need to remove herself and her children from this dangerous situation since, in their Church’s construct, it would be a violation of her sacred vows. I do wish Christian communities like theirs would take a more supportive position relative to women’s and children’s welfare and family issues. Work is required for all marriages but when that’s not enough, as Christians we must support getting the kids out of harm’s way.

  27. 35

    says

    This infographic is funny in that it is VERY misleading… if 50% of marriages end in divorce why is it that the states with the highest rates are less that 20%? Why is it that the profession your most like to get a divorce in has less than a 45% divorce rate? Where does that 50% come from? #Thinkaboutit.

  28. 36

    Maddy says

    I married late just to avoid divorce and now my husband told me he is transgender! I never wanted to divorce and would not see myself divorce but in this situation I have no other choice. Here I am adding myself to the 50%.

  29. 37

    says

    Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I am so glad you decided to continue fighting for your marriage. We don’t know just how many people our marriage commitment affects. We know it affects our kids, our friends, our families, but also the local community, and the internet community – as your blog is a testimony to that. So thank you for sharing. My husband and I own a group marriage counseling private practice in Tulsa, OK called Marriage Solutions. We are constantly encouraging people to weigh the real cost of divorce. Sure we charge an hourly rate but in the end you would likely spend more getting your car’s engine worked on and attorney’s fees are 2-3x more expensive both financially and emotionally than we are. At least the emotional pain you feel hear is usually fruitful and leads to healing. Thank you once again and please check out our blog http://www.familyandlifesolutions.com/marriage-blog/. I wish you blessings and many many more wonderful years with your spouse.

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