This is disturbing. Over the last 30 years, twice as many marriages of those over the age of 50 now wind up in shreds. Some of those couples had been married for 25+ years. And, just like that it’s over.
What happened? How could long-standing marriages suddenly come apart at the seams?
We are not surprised in our easy-come, easy-go, no-fault culture that lots of marriages don’t last. We almost expect it. But marriages of 20 or even 30 years fall apart. How does that happen?
Allow me to walk through what I think happens in many marriages. And, how we can change it.
Marriage gets sacrificed for the kids.
A single-faceted answer to the question doesn’t cover all the bases, but if one did, it might be this: marriage has all too often been sacrificed on the altar of the children. If that sounds harsh and almost like the children are to blame—let’s be clear. Divorce is not the fault of the children. Period.
But, all too often the most well-intentioned parents fall into the trap of making their children the center of almost everything. When the kids come along, we go into high gear for them. Time, resources, strength, energy, schedules, activities—almost everything begins to revolve around the kids.
Your kids will leave one day. Your marriage shouldn't.
In our pressure-cooker culture to make sure our kids excel we pour everything into them, but the collateral damage is huge. We have little to nothing left for our marriage.
Sadly, we don’t realize it until the kids are gone and suddenly the other person in your bed is a stranger. High gear for your kids often means reverse for your spouse.
Marriage with kids is often not in neutral—but in reverse.
It’s not even like you’re in neutral. Your marriage is going backward. Your children have become your identity. When they leave home, the questions loom large:
- Who am I?
- What's my purpose in life?
- What do I have to live for?
Let's get back to the start.
So, let’s back up to the beginning—I mean to creation. How did God design marriage and where do children fit into that picture?
Don’t pass over that sentence too quickly: God designed marriage.
God designed marriage.
He designed it for companionship (“it is not good for man to be alone”) and He designed it for procreation (“multiply and fill the earth.”)
But what did God say about the children? “For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”
He designed marriage for having kids.
Children in the home is a temporary arrangement. They exist in your home to be prepared to leave and establish their own home. And not a small part of that is watching a good marriage flourish. This means the primary relationship in every two-parent home is that of husband and wife, not parent and child.
He designed all of it—very good.
But understand we’re not talking about an either/or situation. It is possible, by the grace of God, to keep your home a place where both marriage and children thrive. This will take work, thought, effort, sacrifice, creativity, energy, planning, encouragement from your friends—and lots of communication with your spouse.
You will have to work harder to preserve the intimacy, quality and primacy of your marriage. You will have to find creative ways to keep the fire burning in your relationship with your spouse. Don’t underestimate the value and importance of “little” and frequent expressions of love and affection.
Let's not make marriage bad. Here's how to keep it good.
Grace Marriage has a word for this: be intentional about your marriage. Make it a point to:
- hire babysitters
- trade off with friends for a night out regularly
- send the kids to the grandparents for a night or a weekend
- be quick to apologize when time has gotten away and your relationship with your spouse has been demoted to second or third place.
Above all, pray! Ask the God who designed both marriage and parenting to give you the grace, determination, wisdom, and creativity to keep your marriage strong and to parent well.
Tim Hoak has been married to his wife, Camilla, for 48 years. Together they have two boys and 11 grandchildren. He pastored a church for 13 years in South Carolina and has served as administrator of Heritage Christian School for the last 33 years. Tim is a member of Heritage Baptist Church and enjoys golf, hiking, camping, and writing Christ-centered Bible stories for kids.