The value we place on something is often an indicator of how hard we are willing to work for it; “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). I have seen people treat their jobs better than they treat their spouses; they are always there when needed, take on problems nobody else wants, stay longer to finish assignments, and sacrifice weekends and holidays for the sake of the company. “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men” (1 Corinthians 7:23). What would happen if we put as much effort into our marriages as we did our careers? Adam clearly spoke of how Eve was a part of him and he a part of her, then explained, “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:22-25).
When we decide to stand before the Lord with our beloved, and say those two little words “I do,” do we? “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). Unfortunately, we often don’t submit to one another, which becomes obvious when researching divorce statistics in the United States. Those who wanted a divorce prior to 1970 had to prove adultery, cruelty, criminal conviction, desertion or addiction by a spouse, though in Matthew (19:9) we are told that divorcing one and marrying another may be deemed adultery. We must remember, however, God’s preference is always to be reconciled, which is our gift of peace through His blood shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20). In Psalms 34:14, He tells us to turn from evil, do good, seek peace and pursue it.

In 1969, the birth of the “no fault” divorce made it easier for a spouse to seek a way out of marriage. The divorce-on-demand era began with a simple phrase “irreconcilable differences,” which resulted in a 66% jump in divorces over the next 10 years. The spouse who didn’t want the divorce, however, was left essentially powerless, and the children, too. “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?” (Matthew 7:9).

The ripple effect of divorce is far and wide. As we have seen through the years, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends and even co-workers are affected when a person goes through a divorce. Life is rarely ever the same afterward; perceptions change. For instance, your married friends might distance themselves for fear they’ll “catch” what you had. Your in-laws become out-laws, and assume they cannot visit the children anymore. Co-workers don’t know what to do, but they’ll take you out for a drink after work to help you forget your troubles.

If someone tries to convince you that divorce is okay, don’t believe it! If it were, there wouldn’t be so many adverse reactions for those involved; children bearing guilt, financial hardship, poverty for millions of women and children, dissolution of an entire family, shaken or lost faith, depression and many types of stress-related illnesses, to name a few.

Couples who learn to weather the storms of life, however, actually grow stronger, which benefits the whole family, and society. Research continues to show time and again the many benefits of marriage; improved health, longevity, reduced stress, less financial distress, reduced risk for children and so on.

Christ-centered counseling services are not only appropriate for preventive measures as with premarital counseling, but also for remediation for when life’s problems become overwhelming. A professor from the University of Denver summarized 17 research studies regarding the impact of counseling on marital satisfaction and found that three out of four distressed couples reported significant improvements in their relationships. Ultimately, couples who are willing to work on their marriage together significantly decrease the risk of divorce.

Counselors often help couples improve their communication and conflict resolution skills, which is absolutely necessary for success. God tells us clearly to be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger, because anger does not allow for the righteous life He desires. We are to rid ourselves of all moral filth and evil, and humbly accept His word, which is planted in us. (James 1:19-21).

Counselors may teach specific techniques that can be used to quickly diffuse escalating situations. Three that I have found to be helpful are timeouts, push pause and kiss me quick.

In timeouts, both spouses agree in advance to walk away from an intense situation for a given amount of time (at least 20 minutes) before continuing on toward a resolution, which is always the goal.

In push pause, each spouse waits 10 seconds (at least) before responding in order to consider what to say, how to say it and how the spouse will hear it.

Kiss me quick is a spoken message and response that sends a private signal for those in-the-heat-of-the-moment times when a spouse has something urgent to say that cannot be said in front of an audience, which immediately breaks tension for the couple and cues the audience to allow some privacy.

Counselors can equip the couple with an arsenal of interventions and techniques to help alleviate distress and, by God’s grace, reconcile and strengthen the relationship.

We have the best instructional guide available, the Bible, which speaks clearly to both husbands and wives about how to be a God-honoring husband or wife. For example, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22). “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25).

God never said it would be easy for us to live out our assigned roles on this earth, but He did promise to give us the strength to endure and the comfort to know we would never go through anything alone. Remember, “whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not men” (Colossians 3:23).

Belinda Ziko, MSEd., is a counselor for Cross Connections Inc. who specializes in marriage and families.