In Canada, there is a 41% probability that your marriage will end in divorce. Surprisingly, there is no difference among Christian marriages. The only person not at risk of suffering the devastation of a divorce is someone who remains single!
Look up and down your street. How many of your neighbours are divorced or on their second or third marriages? On my street, the answer is two out of six families. How many of your own friends and family members are divorced? In my family, it is two out of four siblings.
How many members of your church family are divorced? Sadly, most church communities have no answer to that question. Keeping divorce in the dark makes stemming the tidal wave even more difficult. Marital struggles are normal and they start early. The peak year for divorce is the fourth year of marriage when 2.6 of every 100 marriages ends, according to Statistics Canada . By year fifteen, 25% of all marriages have ended. Importantly, ten percent of all divorces occur after thirty or more years of marriage.
Marriage itself is at risk. Statistics Canada shows that the number of marriages in Canada has fallen by nearly 25%, from a peak of 200,000 per year in 1970 to under 150,000 today. This decline is in spite of the fact that Canada’s population has grown by nearly 50%. Even more dramatic is the fact that nearly one-quarter of all marriages are now re-marriages, making first time marriages almost half the level they were thirty years ago.
Here is why marriages are declining. Statistics Canada shows that nearly two-thirds of couples under the age of thirty begin their lives together in common-law. Ironically, Statistics Canada shows that when common-law couples eventually marry, they are twice as likely to get divorced. Common law is clearly not the answer.
What is the answer? The answer lies in a spiritual principle first taught over two thousand years ago. Jesus taught this relationship-saving teaching in Matthew 7:1-2. “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Judgments are the cancer cells in a relationship. Like rampantly splitting cells, judgments rapidly spin into a vicious cycle that grows unceasingly. One partner snorts, “Why do we always have to do everything your way?” The other instantly retorts, “What do you mean my way? You’re the one who always gets your way, not me!” Instantly, the judgmental cycle begins. One partner lashes out angrily, pointing out the faults of the other. The other either counter-attacks or withdraws in silence. Judgments create thick walls of emotional distance that pave over the love in a marriage like hot asphalt over lush green grass.
To judge is to disapprove and condemn. It is not about preferences or assessments. To judge is to find fault. “Do you mind leaving my stuff alone?” one growls. The judgment is in the tone of voice, not just in the words, designed to get the other person to change. We are playing God when we are judgmental, and we do it every day.
Judgments are like a ping-pong game. He pings, and she pongs. Once hooked, he PINGS and she ferociously PONGS right back, each giving to the other in the measure in which they feel judged. When one person intentionally stops judging, the vicious cycle of relationship destruction is instantly stopped. The key is for one person to not pong when his or her partner pings. Ping, PING, PING… No pong. Suddenly, the emotional drama that exists in every relationship dramatically changes.
I learned this lesson in my second marriage. My wife left me twice, and came back both times. The first time she left, I realized just how deeply hurt she felt by all the pongs I had committed. When I wanted to justify my pongs by pointing out her pings, she balked. With prayer, I realized with a broken heart that her pings did not justify my pongs. Jesus said in Matthew 12:37, “For by your words you will be acquitted and by your words you will be condemned.” The Bible does not say your hurtful words towards others are justified because they hurt you! This was a humbling lesson for me about real love.
To not judge someone is to set them free and trust that God will change them, not you. On this basis, they will feel accepted and will change out of love, not fear and control. Jesus said in John 12:47, “I did not come to judge the world but to save it.” That is our spiritual challenge to live out in our married life.
If your marriage is struggling or that of a dear friend, get this free article on how to live happily with your opposite, which most couples are. For yourself, your marriage will heal when you make healing yourself your top priority. Jesus’ First Rule of Inner Peace is my short book on how to do this in three stages.
May the peace of the Lord be with you today,