Myth: “If we don’t love each other anymore, we should go our separate ways.”
My parents stopped loving each other years ago. It’s as if they’re strangers living together in the same house. Mom says divorce is not an option, no matter what. And Dad refuses to talk with me about it. But it’s obvious to everyone that they’re unhappy.
It hasn’t always been this way. I remember my dad taking my mom out for romantic dinner dates for Valentine’s or their anniversary. But over the past few years, it seems like they’ve simply fallen out of love. Aside from being devoted parents to my brother and me, I wonder what they still have in common with each other.
I would never come right out and say that I want my parents to get divorced. But I wonder if they could find happiness with someone else. It seems to me that people change. Things change. That’s just life. So why stay trapped in a relationship that isn’t working anymore? Just so the neighbors won’t talk? So you can go to Bermuda with your “couple friends”? It seems to me that if you no longer love each other, then going your separate ways is something you have to consider—for both of your sakes.
Which is why I’m taking my time when it comes to getting married. I’ve heard the statistics. They say one out of every two marriages ends in divorce. That means divorce is basically inevitable for half of all couples. It’s a fact. With any luck, I’ll be in the 50 percent whose marriage doesn’t self-destruct. But I know one thing. I’m not following my mother’s example. I refuse to endure a relationship God meant for me to enjoy.
Some women justify walking out on their marriages after the love dies. Well, they reason, we had a 50 percent chance of failure anyway. But that’s not true. The one-in-two statistic originated from misinterpreting the research originally released by the National Center for Health Statistics during the late 1970s when the introduction of the no-fault divorce contributed to a skyrocketing incidence of divorces. The research stated that the number of divorces in one year was precisely half the number of marriages. The media helped deduce the one-in-two theory, and the rest is history. However, what about the millions of existing marriages (more than 50 million at the time) who neither married nor divorced that year? Those who propagated the 50-percent headline “forgot” to account for this second category. The result was a skewed representation of research that still makes its way into articles and news reports (and even well-meaning pastors’ sermons), bemoaning the “inevitability” of divorce in the U.S.
It’s no wonder that many women who sense a pall wash over the passion in their marriages assume it’s the beginning of the end. They conclude with fatalistic resolve that they must have wound up on the other side of the one-in-two dividing line—just the luck of the draw.
So, what do you do when your marriage seems to be waning? When you don’t feel in love anymore? When you wonder if you made a mistake?
Beyond the fact that this statistic simply isn’t true, the reality is that “going our separate ways” is not as easy as it initially sounds. Divorce court is no picnic—alimony, custody battles, division of property. Any divorce is a life-altering decision with lasting effects. Women and men may heal from the emotional damage divorce causes, but the scars remain for a lifetime.
The Bible endorses a mature marriage commitment based on love. It’s a choice we make—whether we feel like being loving or not (see Colossians 3:12–14). In every relationship, we will face times when we feel as if the love is lacking. Like the Israelites who didn’t feel like they could go on (see Exodus 16:3), we may desperately want to give up during difficult seasons. While fluctuating feelings are a reality in marriage, they are not a loophole in the marriage vows.
“Fifty percent of all marriages do not end in divorce. While any divorce is tragic, recent research suggests that one marriage in four is closer to the true divorce rate.”
—Rich Bulher and Jim Killan
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”
1 Peter 4:8