Roger Rollins

Roger Rollins

“Who are you?” — Wife to husband

“Son of man, can these bones live?” — Bible

George and Ginny decided to see a marriage counselor. They just couldn’t seem to be happy together. And they had been married for 30 years! Unfortunately, the condition George and Ginny find themselves in is not all that unusual. What they are headed for is commonly called a “gray divorce.”

A recent Wall Street Journal article was entitled “The Divorce Rate Is at a 40-Year Low, Unless You’re 55 or Older.” Although it’s great that the divorce rate is down, the other side to this statement is that fewer people are getting married; they just hook up and then split when the going gets tough. No divorce statistics here. But my concern in this article is the statistic for the 55s and older. When this group was at the marrying age, there wasn’t nearly as much “hooking up.” They got married.

So if you’ve been married for a long time, why suddenly is the marriage headed in the wrong direction? Well, the most likely answer is that it isn’t a “suddenly” thing. Marriage therapists Teri and Paul Reisser suggest several reasons why the long-term marriage is in trouble.

Husband and wife have been busy raising kids, pursuing careers and other personal interests, and then they find themselves with an empty nest. The kids were the only thing they had in common, so they now notice each other in the house and ask, “Who are you?”

And with the kids gone, those other unresolved issues between husband and wife, which were hidden for years to “protect the kids,” bubble to the surface. Husband and wife had been too busy, or distracted or exhausted, to focus on them, let alone solve them. So in addition to asking “Who are you?” they add on “Not only do I not know who you are, but I don’t think I like you.”

A third reason is that the nest is now empty and “I’ve only got a limited number years left. I can’t see myself being happy in this marriage; there’s too much baggage to deal with.”

There is also the idea that, with the kids gone, husband and wife can go their separate ways and no one will suffer. This is a major false assumption; children at any age will suffer as will the husband and wife – more that they realize! In addition, husband or wife may have an emotional or physical affair going on with someone else, which makes things even more difficult.

Consider a few reasons for not getting divorced.

God doesn’t like it. The Bible is very clear on this subject. In Malachi 2:16 we are told that God hates divorce. From the very beginning, God brought the man and woman together and made them one. A divorce kills that third entity, the marriage.

Divorce also puts an end to a family lineage. Many family reunions can become very confusing and even depressing; the multiple divorces and remarriages and children from one or the other parent have one thing in common: They all are a part of broken families.

Divorce hurts everyone – husband and wife, children, family, friends, etc.

The Reissers suggest some relational practices to help prevent dead marriages.

First of all, make sure that God is not just given priority in your life, but He sets the priorities. Instead of husband and wife arguing about who’s in charge, recognize that God is the authority. When we are out of line with the authority, we can expect consequences. This is true whether or not we like or accept the authority. Gravity makes falls hurt, even when we don’t agree with it.

Next make sure you place your spouse as your number one priority, per God’s direction. Not parents, kids, jobs or friends on Facebook.

Once you’ve put God in charge and made your spouse your number one priority, communicate!

Get to know your spouse. Listen with an open and nonjudgmental attitude. Be vulnerable. Work to identify and resolve conflicts. Let God put life back into those dry bones.

Roger Rollins is the executive director of The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. Contact him at 803-640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com or www.aikenfamco.com.