I understand that many Christians (or religious people) think that divorce isn’t an option, that because Christ never said it was ok to divorce (except for marital unfaithfulness) in even dire circumstances, that He truly meant that divorce was never an option. That leaving a marriage was never a valid decision.
Yes, I believe marriage is sacred, and the Bible clearly states that God hates divorce because that is not how marriage was intended to be – the pain, devastation, and trauma of a divorce isn’t something that we were meant to go through. But I also understand how different circumstances can make marriage a living nightmare, and how fixing the problems are not always possible when one or both spouses refuse to work together with each other to solve the issues. One of these circumstances would be when a spouse changes in such a way as to greatly undermine the stability of their marriage.
I genuinely love reading Matt Walsh’s blog, he states things that most people are too politically correct to say, and fearlessly is dedicated to finding and exposing the basic truths of confusing situations. A post from a month or two ago was concerning marriage, with him disclosing a conversation he had with a man concerning divorce happening simply because people change. Walsh, as usual, took an assertive position against this being a valid or even credible argument for divorce, he mocked and degraded the man’s simple excuse and compared the issue to his own marriage to his beautiful, loving wife. To him, change, no matter how detrimental, was just a part of life – something that has to be dealt with in a marriage, and not a cause for marital demise.
I’m not trying to call him out really, many people can be very vehement when it comes to certain topics that they feel they understand everything there is to know about them – I’ve certainly missed the bigger picture when being too passionate or assertive in what I saw as right or correct – to the degree of losing some critical aspect of wisdom that involves humility in admitting that maybe there is an exception.
It is naïve to think that people don’t sometimes change in ways that are extremely negative to a marriage. I can think of various examples where the change of one spouse is incredibly – undeniably unfair to the other… because they didn’t know beforehand that their partner would act/think/behave this way. They end up being trapped in a betrayed position of having to stay married to someone who isn’t the same person they thoughtfully, deliberately, and maybe even prayerfully chose to marry.
When you marry, you are marrying for yourself (yes, it sounds selfish – but even the Bible says that you must love yourself… “Love your neighbor, as you love yourself.”), and you also marry for the other person, your future children, and extended family even. Marriage is a partnership where you make promises to each other to fulfill each other’s needs emotionally, and it’s also understood that you fulfill each other’s needs physically.
Every marriage is different and unique, and this is in no way trying to make wide judgments on what is or is not unfair changes, there are things I have left out (emotional or psychological issues that a spouse refuses to treat, or a husband refusing to work to provide for the family, etc.). These are simply a few of the major examples in which change can greatly undermine a marriage.
RELIGIOUS CHANGES can be hard, my husband and I were different denominations of Christianity when we were first dating, he was Catholic and I was Prostestant. Many people didn’t understand why we would date each other, and it could’ve been a real wedge in our marriage if we had stayed in different denominations. We were constantly talking about the differences though, and debated back and forth on what the Bible actually said. He eventually came to see that he really didn’t believe in a majority of what the Catholic church teaches as “Truth,” and decided to look for a protestant church he agreed more with. In truth, he didn’t even know much of what his denomination taught on different topics until we talked about them together, because his family hadn’t had open discussions about their religion and why they believe what they say they believe.
When a person suddenly changes to a different religion once they are already in marriage, however, it is incredibly unfair to the other spouse (no matter even if I agree that they changed to a good religion, the change is still difficult and unfair to the spouse who couldn’t have predicted it would happen). This kind of change, depending on how much the couple lets it affect their life and decision-making (even concerning finances), can cause disagreements and fights that drive a wedge to truly destroy a marriage. When kids are involved, it becomes even harder, as the parents most likely won’t agree on which religion to teach to their children. Religion is usually something people are very passionate about, making it hard for them to think clearly as to what is fair concerning the spouse who didn’t agree to marry someone of that religion.
Again… extremely unfair to the spouse who didn’t know their chosen partner would suddenly change. The best thing to do in this situation, in my opinion, would be for the spouse who changed to be extremely understanding and delicate towards the other, they are the one disadvantaged here. They need to allow all decisions (even concerning their children) to be worked through together – which means they won’t get their way all the time – even though they feel they are in the right. The only other option, that many Christians will disagree with, is to divorce.
SEXUAL CHANGES I think, are probably the most common kind of change that occurs in a marriage, with usually one spouse deciding that they don’t like or need sex anymore, and refusing to try to fix the problem because it would inconvenience them to be told that they have an obligation to meet their spouse’s sexual needs. There are even marriages where a wife (although it can be the other way as well) tells her husband to have a mistress, and to be ok with allowing someone else to meet his needs in that way. I was listening to Dennis Prager, a Jewish radio talk show host, (and the inspiration for this post), when he pointed out that the U.S. is practically the only country or culture who looks down on this kind of behavior, that in most other countries, having mistresses is a normal (acceptable if kept quiet) thing. Obviously, if you’re Christian, you know this is not the way God intended for marriage to be. Monogamy can be wonderful if you have a spouse who understands what they’ve committed to, and is able to maintain a healthy sex life in your marriage. Or monogamy can mean a life sentence of sexual frustration, or even celibacy! Either way, when one spouse changes in this way, it is incredibly unfair to the other, and usually leads to affairs and divorce. The best thing to do in this situation is to try to convince the spouse to go to counseling to save the marriage, to understand what marriage even means. Most times, the spouse who loses sexual interest doesn’t understand how much it truly affects the other. Counseling can sometimes open their eyes so to speak, however, there are many times that even counseling doesn’t prompt the spouse to change, and the other is left with a lifetime of misery and frustration – or choosing to divorce and find someone who cares about their needs.
PERSONALITY/BEHAVIORAL CHANGES are equally as difficult, when one spouse becomes addicted to gambling, over-spending money, drugs, alcohol, or porn; or they acquire a hostile attitude and personality, constantly degrading their partner, it is again, extremely unfair to the one who hasn’t changed. These are self-explanatory, and rarely do these kinds of problems ever fix themselves without major intervention – and willingness to correct the behavior on the part of the person who changed. The best thing in this situation is to try to convince the spouse who changed to seek marital counseling in order to save the marriage – its not uncommon for the offending partner to refuse counseling, unable to admit that their problem is hurting the marriage. Again, sometimes the other spouse is left with decision to either stay with a changed, unwilling to fix their issues-partner, or decide to divorce.
I understand that many people probably won’t agree with my perspective on these things – they will still vehemently and passionately, like Walsh, think that everyone changes and that change is just a part of life and living your life with another person… “so just deal with it!” I just can’t help but have compassion for men and women who find themselves in these (and other) horrible situations, however… it truly isn’t fair, they weren’t allowed a say in their spouse’s change of religion/addiction/personality/behavior, etc. and so I find it incredibly hard to judge them for choosing the path of divorce.
It’s a less judgmental, more sympathetic view of life and people.
(Side note: I’m not covering abusive situations, if you are in an abusive relationship, please seek professional help immediately! Abuse is not one of the debatable points of a “person changing,” the safest thing is to call the police, get to a safe place, and seek professional counseling to understand why you were in an abusive relationship).