One Predictor of Divorce You Can Control
All of us have needs we can’t meet by ourselves. There are four needs in every person’s life that only God can meet. These are acceptance, identity, security, and purpose.
The basis of a person’s happiness is God meeting those needs in their life. I love Karen. I don’t want to live without Karen. But Jesus makes me happy—not Karen. My happiness shouldn’t depend on people.
God accepts me for who I am, right now. He doesn’t require me to have whiter teeth or fresher breath or lower body fat.
He made me in my mother’s womb and knows who I really am. My sense of identity comes from God. Only God can tell me who I am.
Only God can make me truly secure. Security doesn’t come from an army, a medicine, or a weapon. It comes from the Spirit of God.
I have a higher purpose in life than making money or simply surviving to the next day. I live for a King and a kingdom. When I wake up everyday, I do something that makes an eternal difference. That’s my purpose.
The needs above can only be met by God. If I don’t depend on God to meet those needs, then I automatically transfer those expectations to my spouse. That’s called the Principle of Transference: We put expectations on each other that neither of us can meet.
But all of us also have needs that we can meet for each other. Men need honor and friendship. Women need open and honest communication and affection. These needs are different, and we rely on each other for them.
That’s how God designed marriage. He gave each of us individual needs that only He could meet, but He also gave us needs that another person can meet for us. If we could meet our own needs, we wouldn’t need marriage. He designed us to depend on each other.
In order to meet each other’s needs, we have to listen. We have to recognize each other’s differences. For instance, the reason some people fight so often about money is because they may have different money languages. To Karen, money means security. She’s also a great saver and a fantastic money manager.
To me, money means love. If I have money, I want to spend it—on vacations, on fun, on other people. Early in our marriage, Karen would call me a spendthrift and I would call her a tightwad. We drove each other crazy.
We had to listen to each other and understand how we each saw the world. We had to learn to work together. Instead of rejecting each other’s differences, we began celebrating them and viewing them positively.
One of the four major predictors of divorce is negativity. When a negative tone sets up in your relationship—when you begin to pick on each other and point out faults—it begins to cause immediate damage.
Your spouse is always trying to tell you what his or her needs are. Some of them you will meet. Other needs God will meet. Your spouse’s words and behavior will show you what these are, if you will only pay attention. Listen, seek understanding, and respect who God created them to be.
Three “Soul Mate” Myths That Will Change Your Marriage
Soul mates. It’s a concept almost everyone recognizes. We want to meet and marry our soul mate—the person created specifically to match up with us, meet our needs, and make us happy forever.
Karen Evans is my soul mate. We dated for four years and now we’ve been married for forty years. What you may not know is that, a week before we got married, Karen told me our wedding was off.
She didn’t want to marry me because of how wild and immoral I was. And I can’t blame her: I was an extremely good sinner. I had no conscience. The day Karen decided not to marry me was the day I truly repented and gave my life to Jesus.
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That set me on the right track, but I can’t say the first few years of our marriage were easy. In fact, we nearly divorced. We may have been each other’s soul mates, but we entered marriage with misplaced expectations.
The first myth is that my soul mate will be just like me. We won’t even have to talk. We’ll just look at each other and giggle because we know what the other is thinking. Obviously that’s not true. Compatibility is based on character and values, not sameness.
On many occasions a couple will put their best feet forward when dating. They fake it. Then they get married and discover how truly different they are from each other. A healthy marriage starts when two people realize they may be soul mates, but understand they can still be very different.
A second myth is that two soul mates will never have problems. This idea sets a couple up for serious disappointment. You will always have big issues that you have to work through.
If you enter marriage thinking you’ll never have conflict, then your very first fight will make you question your marriage. That leads to trouble. A good marriage takes work. Soul mates are made in the trenches when two committed believers come together, roll up their sleeves, and fight for their relationship.
A third myth is that your soul mate will always make you happy. Karen makes me happy, but she’s not the basis of my happiness. The basis of my happiness is Jesus Christ.
Even your soul mate will not be able to meet all your needs. They’ll meet some of them, but not all. Only God can meet every single one of your needs.
Remember: Your soul is where your will and emotions lie. That’s where we make our choices, and the truth is that we create soul mates by the choices we make.
We can choose empathy—understanding and entering into another person’s feelings. Put yourself in their shoes. Empathy resurrects dead relationships.
We can choose generosity. Give to each other. Give kindness. Give attention. Give communication and affection, even when the emotions aren’t there.
And we can choose priority. Marriage only works when we put it first—before our children, work, and church. Before everything but our relationship with Christ.
I believe you can find and marry your soul mate. But your marriage will struggle until you recognize the myths related to soul mates and begin to make choices that ensure your relationship will flourish.
All of us have 24 hours in a day. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a man or a woman, whether you’re rich or poor. We all have the same amount of time.
Your life is defined by how you choose to spend that time—between work, church, family, hobbies, and everything else. Time evaporates quickly, and that’s why we have to make choices.
It’s easy to say what our priorities are, but the most accurate way to determine our priorities isn’t based on our words, but on how we live.
When God created marriage, he gave a foundational rule for relationships between a husband and wife: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother shall cleave to his wife, and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).
You have a one hundred percent chance of success in marriage if you follow God’s plan. He created a foundation to ensure every marriage could succeed, and it’s not complicated. It’s all about priorities.
When the Bible says we leave our father and mother, it’s really saying that we reprioritize our lives. The moment you get married, you “cleave” to your spouse. Your spouse comes first. That’s the law of priority.
It’s reflected in natural jealousy. In our culture, we often view jealousy as a negative thing, but there is a legitimate jealousy that God puts inside us related to marriage. The Bible says God is jealous when we allow something in our lives to take His place. In marriage, spouses have the same type of jealousy.
In marriage, a husband or wife will naturally become jealous when something begins to replace them in their spouse’s life.
That’s why the satisfaction level of marriage often drops when children enter the picture. At this point, a woman typically turns her attention to the kids while the husband turns his attention to his career.
The priority of the marriage is lost. The husband and wife stop focusing attention on each other. For a successful marriage, a husband and wife must find a way to avoid this trap by maintaining the right priorities.
The only way to do this is by sacrifice. Sometimes we have to give up certain interests—golf, shopping, longer days at work—for the good of our marriage. Why? Because time is the essential commodity of relationships. For a healthy marriage, we have to take time away from self-focused pursuits and devote it to our spouse.
Once you’ve established priorities, you must protect them. Work is a good thing. Children are good. Church is good. But the things that destroy marriage aren’t often bad things, but good things done out of priority. This includes working too much or focusing too much on the kids—to the detriment of your marriage.
How will your kids succeed if your marriage doesn’t show them how?
Marriage only works when it is in first place. That’s a challenge, but the law of priority is one God set at the very beginning. If your spouse has complained about the time you spend at work, or with your friends, or playing golf, or on Facebook, then you may be violating God’s law of priority.
If so, you need to make changes. You need to sacrifice and rearrange your priorities. That’s the only way marriage works.
Raising Great Children
How can children succeed in life if they don’t see you succeed? That’s a question every parent needs to ask—especially as it relates to their marriage. Raising great children is much more likely if you have also built a healthy marriage.
Here are three principles I believe can lead to success as you raise your kids:
First, your marriage should precede your children in priority. Have you ever heard a married person say, “Nothing is more important to me than my children?”
I hear people say that pretty often, and I think these parents—though well-meaning—need to shift the order of their priorities. Your first priority is God. Period. Your second priority should be your marriage. Your children come third.
Happiness and security in a marriage are essential for raising healthy, responsible children. When your child sees that you are happy and secure, it makes him or her happy and secure.
Why? Because children see everything. They pick up tension in your relationship, even if you’re not fighting in front of them. They internalize that tension, which can damage their physical health and their psychological well-being. Get your marriage on track first.
Secondly, you have to be unified in parenting. Jesus said a house divided against itself can’t stand, which means you and your spouse must present a united front in raising your kids. You don’t have to agree on everything, but don’t disagree in front of the kids. Dad can’t say one thing while Mom says another.
This means you must discipline in the same ways. You both need to show the same amount of affection and concern. And should you reach an impasse on decision-making or parenting styles, don’t hesitate to go outside your marriage to get help.
Karen and I did that with a certain parenting issue—we encountered a problem we couldn’t solve on our own—and the outside help was absolutely critical to the success of our marriage.
Finally, understand that parenting requires faith. This means faithfulness to God and trusting His promises.
Proverbs 22:6 tells parents, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is a powerful promise. God says that if we “train up” our children correctly, when they are mature they won’t depart from the way we have trained them.
We have to trust Him that this will be true. We also have to know that training doesn’t mean talking. It means showing. We train our children by the way we live our lives. It’s the full process of transferring values, character, spirituality, and purpose. You can’t talk your way through this process. You have to live it.
Our children learn to respond to certain situations, to deal with pressure, to love their spouses by watching us.
Prioritize your marriage. Present a united front. Train up your children by doing the right thing, and trust God that they will follow your example. You may encounter challenges along the way, but that’s how you raise successful kids.
If your marriage is like most, it began with good communication. You got to know one another by spending time together. You talked and talked and talked.
Communication is the essential element to every great marriage. Getting to know another human being requires talking. It’s how we fall in love. It’s how we understand another person’s heart. It’s how we resolve problems and discuss needs. It’s so important.
It’s also important that those words be encouraging. That’s what happens early in a relationship, right? Your speech is filled with kindness, praise, and compliments. Without positive words spoken, you won’t have a very good relationship—or a good marriage.
One of a woman’s most important needs is for communication. It’s as important to women as sex is for men. I didn’t understand this concept very well when Karen and I first got married. Our marriage struggled in those early years.
It wasn’t until I began talking to her—truly communicating—that our marriage turned a corner. Patient, loving communication connects her to my world.
That’s why I often give two instructions to married couples. Women should be more sexual than they feel (this always makes the husbands in the room happy). But on the other hand, I tell men they should talk more than they feel. Our wives deserve more than just a grunted word or two at the end of the day.
That leads me to the five standards of successful communication in marriage:
Caring. This is a very simple principle. It’s impossible to communicate with a person who doesn’t care. We show how much we care through attentive body language, listening, and feedback.
Praise. The Bible says we enter God’s gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise (Psalm 100:4). God doesn’t let a negative person into His presence. We’re made in the image of God, which means, as humans, negativity destroys our chances of communication, too.
We can’t always avoid negative discussions in marriage, but we have to earn those with positive words. Focus on each other’s strengths. Focus on the attributes that first made you fall in love. I always tell people they should speak ten positive words for every negative one.
Truth. Ephesians 4 commands us to speak the truth in love. Both truth and love are required. Mercy without truth is like being a cheerleader without a team. It’s meaningless. Truth without mercy is surgery without anesthesia. It’s mean.
Faith. You must have faith—in God and in each other—to communicate in marriage. When problems arise, we may confront them in each other, but we need to allow God to be the enforcer. No nagging, punishment, or browbeating. We let the Holy Spirit convict someone into the actions that can transform them.
Surrender. We must surrender our hearts, minds, and mouths to God. Let Him use us to speak kind words into our marriage.
Communication is central to a good marriage, whether you’re a man or a woman. Speak kindness, truth, and positive words to each other, and watch how God will use these things to draw you closer than ever before.