To the reader,
This is a 5-part series I wrote in the summer of 2016, before my divorce became final. I call it, The Last Words Of A Dying Marriage. However you see divorce, and I hope we can all agree it’s sinful and not God’s design, the Lord used this unfortunate event to convert me. During the entire process, God spoke to me with unmistakable clarity, convicting me of many mistakes I made.
If you’re marriage is on the rocks, or you’re in the painful boat of separation or divorce, I believe this could help you. I do warn you, don’t read this if you’re not ready to point the finger at yourself. “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24) Having God search your soul is humbling and even painful, but it was one of the best things that ever happened to me.
This series is fairly unedited and raw; I left it that way intentionally. I felt if I went back and edited this unusual time in my life, I would be diminishing the power of the words.
Part 1, Building A Solid Foundation
In my visual mind, I see my marriage, which is now 4 months from utter dissolution, lying on a bed somewhere, alone. My marriage is trying to utter a few last words of caution to anyone who will listen. This dying marriage has nothing to gain or nothing to lose by speaking honestly. During this time, at the urging of God, I’m listening intently, praying I can learn what not to do. I hope someone else, whose marriage isn’t terminal, will see these words and be encouraged
The person you choose to build your home matters, not just during construction, but for years to come. Actually, as each year goes by, your contractor’s craftsmanship is proven or unproven. If you’ve ever lived in a home for a period of time, you know the structure settles, cracks appear, and floors may even become unlevel. Much of this is normal, but if it’s excessive, your home may be structurally compromised and even be dangerous over time.
A marriage is a lot like a home. What brought you and your mate together? That’s like a foundation. What kept you together along the way? That’s like the walls and framework. I’m sure this analogy could go on and on, but you get the idea. The point is, relationships and marriages are built off certain ideas, principles, and beliefs. What materials were used to build your relationship?
My failed marriage was built from common interests like working out, sports, favorite music, movies, and food. Is it bad to share those things? No, of course not. However, what I didn’t realize was those things can’t support a marriage – two people can’t put their hopes and dreams onto we both like to exercise and eat pizza. It doesn’t hold up – and I learned that the hard way.
In the early days, those shared interests did a fine job of support our dating relationship. After all, dating doesn’t impose the same demands as marriage. Usually, when dating, the biggest decision we had to make was where to eat on a Friday night. When marriage started, even during the engagement, and pressures began to mount, the structure of our relationship began to strain. Suddenly, enjoying the same music didn’t support us when figuring out how to pay for the wedding and where to live. The fact you share interests doesn’t help you solve one real problem as a couple.
Psalm 127:10 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers labor in vain.” For my marriage, this meant no matter how hard we tried to “reconnect,” by watching a movie or going for a run together, we were building on top of a weak foundation. Just as Jesus said in Matthew 7:24-29, the wise build on the rock, which is the word of God, and their house withstands the storm. However, “great is the fall” that don’t heed His words and build on sand.
Does this make sense? My wife and I built on the sand of worldly things, so going forward, our noble intentions of reconnecting by watching TV or running together were futile. I am convinced that a failing marriage can only be corrected by way of the foundation. That base must be in Jesus Christ. In Isaiah 28:16, the Lord says, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed.” How would you like a marriage that can’t be disturbed by work troubles, family stress, or arguments? Sounds very good to me.
If I had it all to do over again, in the early stages of our relationship, I would have spent less time watching movies together and more time reading Scripture and learning about God together. Let me say this: your movie tastes change as you get older, as ours did. However, the love you share for Christ as a couple will never change. How do I know that? Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8). His expectations, promises, and teaching are always the same. I believe He’ll be that anchor, that foundation to your marriage that will never move or crumble on you.
Please believe me, waking up one morning and wondering who you married is the most painful, depressing thing I’ve ever experienced. I think my wife felt the same way. If you and your spouse literally have the Spirit of God within you, there will never be a change that occurs that absolutely kills your marriage. You’ll have a solid foundation that can hold a wonderful 3 story home and resist every storm that approaches.
Part 2, Seek Godly Counsel
In my visual mind, I see my marriage, which is now 4 months from utter dissolution, lying on a bed somewhere, alone. My marriage is trying to utter a few last words of caution to anyone who will listen. This dying marriage has nothing to gain or nothing to lose by speaking honestly. During this time, at the urging of God, I’m listening intently, praying I can learn what not to do. I hope someone else, whose marriage isn’t terminal, will see these words and be encouraged.
If you’re married or about get married, you know that everyone has some advice to give. Family members, friends, young and old, men and women – they’ve all got some valuable piece of insight to share before you say, “I do.” I don’t have to tell you that listening to everyone would be foolish. What do you listen to? Who do you listen to? I have a short story that I believe answers that question.
At the 2-year mark, we reached the critical point in my marriage. Even in the moment, I knew it was make it or break it. We had separated after having problems from day one. Honestly, and there’s no reason not to be at this point, we had problems since the engagement. We did what a couple in trouble is supposed to do – we sought marriage counseling. I won’t get into too many of the details, but it was offered through a medical center, and we attended for an hour weekly or bi-weekly for nearly a year. After that, we saw the counselor for approximately another 6 months, on a monthly basis. All in all, we received around 18 months of counseling from a licensed psychologist and marriage counselor.
I know a lot of men struggle with the idea of speaking to a counselor, but I knew we were in deep trouble. I didn’t mind it and even set up all the appointments. My wife and I were unable to fix our own issues and I was certain there were things not being said. Therefore, I was 100% invested in the counseling sessions. If you don’t go all in, just don’t go at all. If these sessions are filled with even half-truths, no progress will be made and you’ll be just become more frustrated. Sorry, that’s a little off track, but it needed saying.
More to the point, I knew we needed God at that critical time. He was missing and I was starting to feel His absence. Our marriage had been essentially Godless to that point. The first session with the counselor, I brought up a few things to the counselor about “submitting to one another in reverence for Christ, “ as it says in Ephesians 5:21. I felt we both needed to seek Biblical answers. The first time I mentioned it, the counselor replied, “Let’s just focus on you two right now,” I was a bit taken back, but I never had marriage counseling before. Perhaps this was part of it.
If you don’t know how these sessions work, one person talks for a while, about anything on their mind. The therapist then parrots back what you say and adds a few probing questions. The same is done with your spouse. However, each time, the first 2 or 3 sessions, when I tried to interject God into the discussion, it was ignored. Unfortunately, my passion for the Lord hadn’t yet been lit, and I eventually dropped the subject. I let my wife and the counselor guide the sessions, speaking mostly about communication, understanding needs and boundaries, etc.
I feel so ashamed that I dropped the ball as a Christian man here. I should have forced God into our conversations. If the therapist wouldn’t go there, I should have found another. Simple as that. It’s not that issues like communication and boundaries aren’t important – they are – but it’s not the foundation of marriage. Jesus Christ, our Lord, said in Mark 10:9, “Therefore, what God has joined together, let no one separate.” God created marriage and when you say, “I do,” you’re entering into God’s union. God is putting you together. We’re talking about two beings that God created, entering into a covenant that God created, to fulfill God’s purposes of building a family. Marriage is all about God! Why on Earth, when trying to fix a broken couple, would you not enter God into the equation?
I just believe it’s like fixing a clogged sink with a book on French cooking by Julia Child – it’s silly and a big waste of time. When we turn away from God, there are serious consequences. Moses said, “But if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed.” I know you’re probably thinking, “Dude you just got marriage counseling, you didn’t bow down to another god.” Believing you have the power to fix something with your own thoughts, your own hands, is believing you, yourself, are a god. It’s the same temptation Satan put on Eve in the garden. It’s tempting to think we can fix ourselves, but we can’t.
Those therapy sessions were times of self worship. We were told we had the power to fix our relationship through better communication, defining boundaries, etc. After each session, we’d go home, do a little better, but nothing would change. Why? My wife was trying to be more open about things and I was communicating better. Why was there no change? “But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble.” (Proverbs 3:19) John 3:20 talks about sins being exposed in the Light of Jesus Christ. There was no change in our marriage because the Light of Christ hadn’t been shown on our relationship. We were stumbling in the darkness, not even knowing what was causing us to trip.
If during that very critical time in our marriage, we would have opened Scripture and allowed the Lord to counsel us, we would have seen much more than poor communication and boundaries. Jesus would have shown us our selfish hearts and shallow love, but most of all, He would have shown us that the hole in our hearts needed to be filled by Him, not each other. Christ would have shown us the true meaning of love. I believe it’s impossible to know love without knowing about the greatest love ever of Jesus Christ. That’s powerful stuff that would resolve the other issues almost immediately.
My wife and I had sick hearts and no theories in behavioral psychology were going to heal us. I have a degree in psychology, but it never changed my heart the way knowing God has. Understanding human behavior better never made me fall on my face and beg to be a better person. None of Freud’s principles convicted me to start forgiving more or to stop watching R rated movies. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can get into your heart and cure things, from the inside out.
My opinion means very little, I know that. Yet, can’t we learn so much from other’s failures? Please, learn from my failed marriage – it does have a lot to say. If you’ve got a struggle in your marriage, seek the Scriptures. There are answers in there for everything. If you do seek counsel, be sure that it’s guided by Christian principles. God created this life and He knows all the problems we face. Proverbs 15:3 says God’s eyes are in every place. Don’t push out the only one who can fix your marriage, like we did.
Part 3, Lay Your Life Down
Unfortunately, In about 4 months, I’ll be divorced. God has finally given me peace by allowing me to let go, but He does want me to make His name great through this mess, as it reaches its conclusion. I believe God can look glorious in the worst of situations. With this peace, God is also speaking to me quite a bit, correcting me on what the purpose of marriage is. To me, it’s like my marriage is dying, and it’s painful, last few words are proving to be insightful. These words are helping me and I hope whoever reads this finds a little guidance.
I think most of us want to do something great in our lives. For me, it was playing college basketball and scoring 40 points in a game. The idea of that seemed so exciting for my entire teens and even 20’s. Many people want to start great businesses and make life changing products. Others want to get big promotions and get a corner office, etc. Either way, we want to do something great. We’ll even get glued to watching others achieve greatness on TV during the Olympics and other sports events. We want to be involved in greatness, that’s for sure.
Many of my attempts at greatness failed because the situation was out of my hands. My athletic dreams failed because of, well, my lack of athleticism. My businesses failed for many reasons, the economy being one. One shot at greatness that was always in my control was my marriage. The opportunity for greatness in my marriage was unknown to me until I found The Lord. The absolute greatness we’re offered in marriage trumps any achievement we could ever accomplish on this Earth. Let me explain.
To understand any of this, we have to look at Ephesians 5:25 when the Apostle Paul is telling us about marriage. By the way, from verse 21 to 31, we get God’s blueprint for marriage. I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had, wishing I knew this in my heart when I got married. At any rate, verse 25, in particular, says “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” Do you see what this is asking? It’s telling us men to give up our lives for our wife, just like Christ gave His life up for us.
That’s an opportunity for greatness that makes a 40-point game or a CEO position look like nothing. We’re being asked and given the opportunity to be like Jesus Christ, the single greatest person ever walk this Earth. Are you kidding us, God? You actually think we can do that? This is a bit like a Coach asking you to guard Michael Jordan; he wouldn’t ask you do it if he didn’t think you were capable. God knows we’re capable of that type of greatness.
In John 15:13, Jesus tell us there’s no greater love than to lay down our life for a friend. To me, this would include my wife. That’s where the saying, “Lay down your life from your wife,” comes from. It’s an awesome saying and an awesome responsibility. Jesus laid His life down for us by dying on the cross, covering our sins for eternity. It wasn’t easy- as He had to spend a night in Gethsemane, praying the most intense prayer the world has ever known – just to accomplish it. It was the greatest gift ever given and God expects us to do similar for our wives.
What does ‘laying down your life for your wife’ look like? I believe I can answer this when I think back to my marriage. It can mean small things like turning the TV off when she’s talking, pitching in with dinner, and cleaning up every chance you get. It can also mean some pretty big sacrifices like saying no to some boys nights, selling your video game system, and choosing a job that lets you come home at a decent time. It also means to lay down your pride about being right, even when you actually are. I feel it’s all about asking, moment to moment, “Her or me?” Choose her. Every single time.
That probably doesn’t sound like much fun. What’s the alternative? I’ll tell you the extreme alternative and it’s a situation that looks a whole lot like roommates, not husband and wife. It doesn’t work – take my word on that one. You’ll have to pray about it, a lot. Pray like Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane. What was he praying? He prayed for God’s will be done. “My Father, if it possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (verse 39) He sought His Father until their wills were the same.
It is hard work to lay down your life for your wife, to give up your hopes and desires for her. Although, isn’t it also hard work to get a huge promotion, start a company, or be a great athlete? Greatness comes at cost, no matter what you’re doing. This greatness, within your marriage, has eternal ramifications. When it’s all said and done, do you want to tell God about how you never missed an NFL playoff game or about how you imitated His son in your marriage?
We may have to ask God to take our intense desire for sports and entertainment away. No, there’s nothing wrong with that stuff, but I feel at some point, we’ve got to start thinking about what type of seeds we’re sowing. My teams have lost championships and won championships. In both cases, the next day, my life was exactly the same. When I became saved, I did ask The Lord to remove any desires that wouldn’t be pleasing to Him. I’m left with an interest in sports and entertainment, but it’s far from all-consuming.
If you could pull this off, even if you were flawed, do you realize what this would do? People everywhere are dying for good examples of marriage, happy marriages. An unhappy, distant couple is such a horrible advertisement for marriage. If outsiders see what you’re doing, and you explain why, I believe it would point people to Christ. Some 20 year old kid just simply says, “You guys look happy. What’s the secret?” You would have such an opportunity to say, “Christ laid His life down for me, so I’m laying it down for her. Simple as that.” In one short reply, you make the Christian faith and marriage look awesome!
That’s not to mention what this new attitude would do for your actual marriage. If your wife is a believer at all, she’ll start responding very positively, probably even reciprocating your unconditional love. If you don’t think your wife deserves it, you’re probably right. Then again, neither do you. I’m so glad God doesn’t give us what we deserve – I would be dead right now. Even if you’re “not into God,” you have to admit, this act of sacrificing your life would improve your marriage. Think about it.
I know this sounds extreme, giving up your life for someone other than yourself. Although, what are you living for currently? Money? Sports? Career? Leisure time? Are those things making you feel great, honestly? They didn’t make me feel like I was achieving greatness. God is giving us a chance to do as His only son did. God created us and He knows we’re up for great things, not common, Earthly things that are passing with every minute. I know I should be sad right now with a marriage dying, but I’m too excited for, Lord willing, a new opportunity to serve the Lord through a self-sacrificing marriage. This time, I’m going to lay my life down like God himself asked me to do so – because He has!
Part 4, Husbands and Wives Don’t Keep Score
I’m the last person to give marital advice, as I’m only a few months away from divorce. As true as that is, maybe it’s like a dying person on their deathbed, speaking pearls of wisdom and dispensing invaluable advice. My marriage is on it’s deathbed, breathing it’s last, and I believe through God, I’m getting some valuable last words. These words may only be helpful to me, but I do hope they help someone else.
My dying marriage is telling me, and anyone who’ll listen, to not keep score. Marriage is no place for a scoreboard, but so many of us do exactly that. I won’t speak for anyone else, but I know my marriage was full of, “What have you done for me lately?” The love we had for one another today was based on the love we gave each other yesterday. We both did this, in varying degrees, and it made for an absolute nightmare.
The Apostle Paul, in 1 Corinthians 13, describes love. If you haven’t read this, you just have to. Even if you’re not much of a Bible reader, just checking with God to see how to love is very helpful. In verse 5, Paul says that love, “keeps no record of wrongs.” Amazing. If you’re married, you get this. How many small, seemingly insignificant disagreements between you and your spouse turn into massive fights because of previous wrongs? For me and my marriage, it happened constantly. Weekly.
I was raised in a Christian, church attending home, and I knew of this verse. I didn’t pay much attention to it for years, but after I was born again recently, I understood it. What if God kept a record of our wrongs? I know one thing – I would be toast. I would be completely and totally hellbound. Think about it. Each time you did something wrong, can you imagine God saying, “This again, really? Didn’t you do this last week? Last month? Last year? You always do this. Always!” It’s painful to even think of God doing that to us. Thankfully, He doesn’t.
In fact, God says he will “forgive their wickedness and remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12) David put it so well when he said in Psalm 103:12 that “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” God actually is promising to wipe our slate clean, forgetting all our sins, taking them as far away from us as possible when we believe in Christ and His resurrection. Considering the fact that God knows everything and sees everything, this is an absolutely awesome thing.
Why then, in the most important relationship of our life, in our marriages, do we remember all sins? We don’t cast their sins from east to west, we keep them in our back pockets – like a deck of cards, ready to play them at first chance. Why would we do that? We do it because it’s evil, and it’s natural for us. Guess what? The Devil loves when we do that because it rips marriages and families apart. Broken families produce broken children and broken lives. Evil wins when we harbor sins against our mate.
Do you know the Parable of the Unmerciful Servant, told by Jesus in Matthew 18:23-35? The short version is this: There’s a King that is trying to settle his servant’s debts. One servant owes a large sum and can’t pay, so the King orders the lowly servant’s wife and children to be sold for the debt. The servant begs for mercy, asking for more time. The King was merciful, took pity on the little servant and actually forgave him all his debts and sent him on his way. Nice!
Well, just as soon as this forgiven servant was released, he found one of his friends that owed him a small amount of money. He threatened to have him thrown in jail if he didn’t pay up. The friend begged for mercy and pity. The servant refused and has his friend thrown in jail! Well, as you can imagine, word of this got back to the King. He was not happy!
The King was so angry that, though this servant was shown compassion and mercy, he showed none to his friend. In response, the King had the little servant tortured and thrown into jail until he could pay back all he owed!
God has forgiven us of everything when we believe in Jesus Christ. He’s wiped our slate clean and we should do the very same to our loved ones, especially our spouse. If we don’t show this kind of love, God does get very angry, and rightly so. God created marriage and love; He knows the damage not forgetting each other’s sins can do.
Even if you’re not a Believer, think about it. How much could your relationship benefit if each of you forgot your past transgressions? You’d never hear, “You always do this!” or “You never do that!” Just doing this one thing would make your marriage so much better! Yes, it’s hard to do this. I failed to do it in my marriage often. It’s honestly too hard for any man or woman to do alone. With the love of Christ in your heart, it’s possible, as the popular Phillipians 4:13 verse says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
I know the score-keeping thing tore my marriage apart, from the inside out. Mistakes were made that just couldn’t be undone, but they should’ve been forgiven and even forgotten. My marriage is dying and now it’s just a matter of time. This marriage, between gasping for each breath, is telling us to forgive easily and often, because we’re forgiven easily and often. I really hope this has done something for someone. It’s too late to save mine, but what about yours? I’m praying for all marriages out there to find the Truth in the Lord while there’s still time.
Part 5, Sharing The Milk
My life was changed forever when, 2 months into my separation from my wife, I became a born again Christian. That “born again” thing used to sound so silly to me, but it’s really the only way you can describe it. Jesus Himself described it exactly like that in John 3:3. Fast forward a few months, 6 to be exact, and my marriage is over in every way except legally. God has been so kind to keep my heart from being overtaken with bitterness and anger. Instead, He’s given me so many lessons to learn from my failed marriage. It’s really as if this marriage is, now hanging by a thread, on its deathbed, speaking to me. I’m doing my best to listen.
In Genesis 2:24, God tells us that man and woman shall become one flesh. I’m willing to bet everyone, Christian or not, has heard that verse or phrase. Does it mean anything to you? It didn’t mean anything to me, even throughout my marriage. I do know this: these are God’s words and instruction on marriage. Do you know that He created marriage? I never really thought of that, to be honest. If I was going to talk to anyone about the iPhone, I’d like to talk to Steve Jobs. Or if I wanted to talk to anyone about a light bulb, it would be Thomas Edison. If you want to talk to anyone about marriage, talk to the Living God.
I can probably better explain what happens when you don’t become one flesh in marriage. Sadly, I have much more experience in that area. My wife and I didn’t make it to the 5 year mark. The entire time we were married, we shared very, very little. Everything was separate. The house was separate, as were the cars, and certainly the money. We lived together, but the bills were split 50/50, like it was with my roommate in college. Regardless of what the other made, it was 50/50 on the bills. If we had our own bills we brought into marriage, each paid our own. Furniture was separate, food was separate, and yes, we had separate bedrooms.
I don’t know what you’re used to, so that arrangement may or may not shock you. What God has shown me is that, becoming one flesh is a very, very special thing and it’s something only spouses can do. When I used to open the refrigerator and see the almond milk she bought on one shelf and the almond milk I bought on another shelf, I thought it just meant we wanted on our own milk. No, it meant, “I love you, but I’m keeping my milk.”
I’m doing a poor job explaining, but just realize that it didn’t stop at milk. “I love you, but my car is my car.” “I love you, but I’m not sharing my money.” “I love you, but I’m not changing my weekend plans.” “I love you, but I’m not sharing my bed.” “I love you, but I’m not sharing my body.” “I love you, but I’m not sharing my life with you.” That’s not one flesh; that’s two separate people, living together.
1 Corinthians 7:4 says our flesh belongs to our spouse. I can’t tell you every little reason that living so separately as husband and wife didn’t work. However, I do know that God asked us to become one flesh and asked us to submit to one another. Ephesians 5:21, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Why on Earth did my wife and I believe we could outsmart God? As I mentioned, God created marriage and the blueprint for it, which is in Scripture. Yet, my wife and I said, “You know what, God? Thanks, but no thanks. We’re pretty smart people, so we’re doing it our way.” The arrogance we had still amazes me. Laughing in the face of God, don’t you think?
It’s basically like walking up to Steve Jobs when he was alive and saying, “This iPhone, I know you told me it’s not real waterproof, but I’m going to take it into the shower. It better work!” Or what about telling Thomas Edison in his day, “Hey bud, I know you mentioned a light bulb needs electricity, but I’m going to try plugging it into a meatloaf.” I know that sounds foolish and even childish, but, that’s what my wife and I did by trying to use marriage completely against God’s instruction.
Being one flesh is so unique, God only wants us to do this act with one person. To me, one flesh means you can’t separate the milk, the money, or the bedrooms because you can’t separate the husband and wife. The milk is feeding one mouth, the money is supplying for one’s needs, and the bedroom is for one. How do you separate one? The two will be incomplete parts, as my wife and I were.
I wonder if God says and instructs us to be “one flesh” because it’s impossible for one to grow apart from itself. If two lightweight Styrofoam cups are placed side by side, a strong wind will come and blow them apart. The next wind will blow them further apart and so on, etc. If you place one cup inside the other cup, making one, double weight cup, the two cups won’t blow away as easily and, even if it does, the two cups will remain together. My wife and I, in our separate living, stood no chance against the winds of life. As she did her own thing, in her own room, with her own money, I did the same. One day we woke up and we had blown so far apart, we couldn’t see each other anymore. That’s one of the saddest thoughts I’ve ever felt.
There are very few certainties and absolutes in this world. What God says, you can be certain of and it’s absolute. Realities like, “pride goes before destruction,” found in Proverbs 16, are just facts we accept. You can also accept God’s directives towards marriage as absolutely necessary. I know some people make marriage work longer than I did, but I truly don’t think they have the types of marriages that God intends us to have. I believe He wants us to have a union that is secure, loving, and truly unique. I don’t believe He has any desire for us to simply, ‘cohabitate well together.’ He knows marriages produces families and families produce God’s people. He wants an unbreakable bond. He wants one flesh.
I hope I get another opportunity to do marriage God’s way and become one flesh with another. I know we want to keep our own lives, even when we get married. I ask you, though, is your life, as it is now, worth hanging onto? How good is it? Is it better than anything the Living God can provide? For me, I want to submit completely to God and enjoy everything He’s planned for me. I want to know that I’m bound to another, by God’s word and deed, for life.