Q: We have a Christian marriage—so why is it so painful? Shouldn’t being believers shield us from the problems we’re having?
A: Many Christian marriages just are not going well. Both spouses are Christians, but they can’t seem to get along. Both worship the same God, but have completely different understandings of how to live life. Sometimes they treat money differently, discipline the kids differently, worship differently, communicate differently, or even have very different religious beliefs. At other times, one spouse claims to be a Christian, but doesn’t live a Christian lifestyle.
The reality of marriage is tough. Since we’re fallen humans, we often face disappointment. Discouragement looms over us and, unless confronted and resolved, it distances us from our mates. Then we become angry with God and cry out, “Why have you allowed all of this hurt to enter my life?”
The hard truth is, your marriage will not be perfect just because you’re Christians. Beware of buying into the following myths:
Myths of Christian Marriage
Myth #1: If I have a daily quiet time and attend church regularly, I’ll have a happy marriage.
In church you often hear that if you spend time with God every morning and study the Bible, your life and marriage will go well. The truth is, every couple goes through tough times—even Christians. Jesus clearly states that “on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33).
Myth #2: Our marriage will be divorce-proofed if we’re both Christians.
Many Christian couples feel ashamed when they stand at the brink of divorce. They don’t think anyone will understand, so they wait to go for help until it’s too late. The truth is, being a Christian doesn’t guarantee you won’t feel like getting divorced. The key to a strong, divorce-proofed marriage is the hard work of living out what you believe and upholding the virtues of Christlikeness—especially during the difficult times.
Myth #3: Scripture can be a simple guide for our marriage.
Scripture can be a valuable guide for daily living—as long as you don’t misinterpret what it says. Scripture teaches that God intends for man and wife to be one unit, working together for the good of the whole. That means using your giftedness. Together you make better decisions than you do individually.
Myth #4: We need to keep our marital problems to ourselves.
You may imagine that everyone else has a happy and put-together marriage, so you don’t confess or share your problems with anyone who can help. But the truth is, God created us as social beings to live in community where we can help each other. By keeping quiet, you hinder the healing that could have come from sharing with these other people who may have faced what you’re facing. This type of sharing needs to come in ways that are not hurtful to each other and to people who can truly help.
Myth #5: Christian couples don’t fight.
Many Christian couples think that “peace-making” means not fighting, so they deny any negative feelings. They let things build until they explode over something trivial. It’s okay to fight. In the Bible it says, “‘Don’t sin by letting anger control you.’ Don't let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26-27). We challenge you and your mate to bring up whatever has been bothering you within twenty-four hours. You’ll be amazed how your mate may respond. Just saying, “I feel angry,” will defuse feelings. Humble yourself enough to apologize and put things behind you.
Myth #6: I need to pray for God to change my spouse.
Many people spend much time in prayer begging God to change their spouses. They think that they’d be happy if only their spouses were different. Therefore, many couples find that as much as they pray, they don’t see any significant change in their spouses. The truth is: God wants to change you first.
Myth #7: The husband should be stronger in his faith than the wife.
We each grow toward Christ in our own way and time. Many wives become critical of their husbands’ lack of spiritual leadership, which causes them to push and their husbands to retreat. Remember: You are not responsible for your mate’s spiritual life. Step aside and let God work—that’s when your mate will feel God calling him or her to get serious about his relationship with Christ. It takes time, but only God can make a husband the strong loving leader that the wife always wanted.
*For more practical marriage advice, check out The Great Marriage Q&A Book. It's available in our online bookstore!