Every now and then, I receive some very insightful questions about marriage. The questions below came from a single guy who chose not to be offended and actually listened to a marriage sermon! (More singles should learn from him!) My answers are off the cuff but reveal some of the challenges I face virtually every day as I coach couples toward God-honoring marriages.
1. When a couple comes to you for help, and infidelity by one of the spouses is the root cause of their issues, what percentage work it out?
Very small. It honestly has a lot to do with the spirit of repentance of the offending party. If they show genuine brokenness and willingness to accept personal responsibility and necessary boundaries, it can be very workable. It is the spirit of repentance that gives that initial confidence to the wounded party to give it a shot. But, as you might expect, true repentance is not easy and most don’t do it, therefore most cases of adultery (in my experience) don’t make it.
2. How does that percentage compare to those with issues not related to infidelity?
Non-infidelity issues are as vast and various as the imagination. It seems that the issue that drives most people to the brink of divorce are those related to some kind of inappropriate romantic interest or addiction (drugs/alcohol/porn). Occasionally, I get cases of couples dealing with a spouse with serious anger issues or someone who shows an ambivalent attitude toward the marriage which seems to be the cause of the heartache. Those issues, though very real, are usually coverups for or in additions to affairs (physical or emotional). In countless cases, many “smaller" issues are masking a porn addiction. In non-adultery situations it is easier to repair things and usually those couples show a stronger sense of "let's fix it" - they are simply less demoralized. However, every marriage problem requires at least some level of repentance and willingness to choose new/better behaviors.
3. Do you see couples with children try harder to work things out than those without kids?
Yes. Many people think "staying for the kids" is a bad reason to stay married. I disagree. You always hear the rationale that "it's better for the kids not to see us like this." Sometimes "the kids" is all we have, and kids still need a stable home. "The kids" are certainly not enough for the long haul but when things are bad, staying for the kids may be enough "glue" to keep people in the marriage until a more durable solution is developed. I always tell couples that when you marry, you start a new family, even before children arrive on the scene. And built into marriage is the commitment to protect, preserve and promote the family. Yes, there is a necessary distinction between the marriage and the raising of children; however, during the child-bearing/rearing years, those lines are much blurrier which I believe to be by design. Every wife/mom and husband/father needs to do everything in his/her power to give their best to their marriage and family. Now that I think about it, if for some reason a mom or dad becomes disconnected from his/her kids, they should not "divorce" their kids because "it would be better for my spouse not to see us this way." It's absurd logic. If kids make you try harder, thank God for kids!
If these questions connect with you please check out these two additional resources: