Why do we have unhappy and failed marriages today

by Dr. Samuel Kisseadoo, Professor of Biology, USA, Ordained, Licensed Minister

Sometimes I wonder if this present generation tops the list of dysfunctional families, unhappy homes, and failed marriages ever recorded since the beginning of time. We know that marriage has never been always smooth-sailing and ‘everyday-sweet’ for any married persons in this world, but it appears that the marital responsibilities and required duties are too tasking for several married individuals of our time. What should provide us with joy and peace rather constitutes a wearisome drudgery that often gives us pain. In summary, too many people are merely enduring their marriages and other relationships reluctantly, rather than enjoying them.

Technological advancement and modern development have reached their peak in several respects, but human development in terms of good human relationships and productive family life have eluded us. True family values that form the original foundations of our present societies have sank to their lowest levels in history. Even African cultures and other localities in the world, where traditional family bonds are reputed to be very strong, are developing fragile family bonds at alarming rates. Families in these traditional places are known to be energized by the strongest sense of community, extraordinary family connections, unflinching home support, and formidable bonds of marital solidarity, but are now seen to be precipitating downhill towards self-centeredness at alarming rates, and disintegrating very fast. Selfishness, greed, self-sufficiency, rebellious independence, and selfish ambition have characterized most relationships, especially marriages and romantic associations. I believe that many expectations are not met, family and marital productivity have dwindled, marital contentment is at its lowest point, and several married individuals feel disappointed today because we have been deceived to entertain the wrong impression that you enter into marriage to enjoy a finished product. This unfortunate idea is far from correct.

Several marriages begin on the wrong footing, and some marriages are even dead on arrival. In other words, several marriages are not started right. Some people force to establish bonds that cannot be formed in any way, and even if they appear to stick together, will never remain joined together for any appreciable length of time. Many people begin their marriage in a lighthearted manner without the required seriousness, commitment, and proper principles and practices in place. The worst situation is when a marriage starts in an immoral or deceitful way, with a relationship plagued by fornication, perversions, deceptions, selfishness, prejudice, and lies. Apart from incurring God’s displeasure from sinful acts (unless there is true repentance), the respect of the man and woman for each other quickly vanishes. If you start any deep relationship without the required respect for each other, you can never join together peacefully and joyfully to accomplish anything successful. 

In marriage, you are provided with the essential ingredients, similar to the enjoyment of any meal. YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO PREPARE YOUR OWN FOOD PROPERLY BEFORE YOU CAN TRULY ENJOY IT, AND CONFIDENTLY DISH IT OUT TO OTHERS FOR THEIR ENJOYMENT AS WELL. Our skills and preferences are different, and no meal of any two people will be exactly the same, although our original ingredients will be identical. We can draw inspiration from one another but can never (and should not even try to) be the same, although we can come very close to being alike. Lack of understanding of this underlying principle has caused our expectations to become too high for the kind of grade we wish to assign for the performance of our partners. We are always comparing our performance and the qualities in our mates with others, and robbing ourselves the wisdom of appreciating our partners. We miss the joy of humble thanksgiving to God for His gifts, and development of grateful hearts that are truly prepared as responsible stewards to receive more from the Lord. This leads to the next problem of our inability, ignorance, or refusal to make any initial efforts (on our part) to diligently put our required contributions into the relationship container first before fetching anything out of the marriage bucket.

Please, understand that it is your spiritual, moral, physical, and social obligation to use wisdom and skill given by God (the originator of all things), and good counsel from experienced people, to carefully put the marital ingredients together properly, for your enjoyment, satisfaction, and success of your own marriage. You should therefore know what qualities to look for before you choose someone as your permanent partner in marriage. Carnal feelings, fantasies, personal enjoyment, urges from people, and personal desires, should be at the back seat of your moves, and not unduly promoted to occupy the driving seat of your life for important decisions and choices. Every marriage is therefore not an end in itself; it is rather a means to an end. It is not an arrival; it is a life-long journey instead. There are those who RUSH into marriage unprepared, and end up in dissatisfaction, failure, and disaster. The commitment and duties are too awesome for any ad hoc or “interim” measures to survive the heavy load of responsibilities, obligations, and management of the resulting benefits and blessings.

No one really gets fully prepared for marriage in this life, but there are fundamental moral, physical, mental, spiritual, financial, social, academic, and other forms of preparations that a person needs to acquire before he or she can have a successful marriage relationship. You cannot in any way succeed in realizing a fruitful marriage and very productive family life if, for example, you do not develop the fear of God, a spirit of forgiveness, a heart of love and sharing, sensitivity to people’s needs and their rights, respect and appreciation for your partner, and commitment to your expected domestic duties. Some people are able to grope and struggle through their difficulties, and discover ultimate solutions to their marital and family life problems. They consequently work their way through in dedicated teamwork, till they get on the right track together for success and contentment. Majority of “unprepared”, ignorant, and non-committed folk, however, do not make it very far, and end up creating untold permanent damage to themselves and others who come within their sphere of influence.

During one of my radio programmes on marriage and family life in Kumasi (second largest city of Ghana) sometime ago, a man called on air with a sincere and urgent tone and made the following appeal: “Two of my male friends who are too young to handle the responsibilities of family life rushed into marriage recently. Both had nice wedding ceremonies. Within four months after their wedding, both divorced their wives. In my opinion, the government should pass a law stipulating that if you marry and divorce your spouse within the first two years, you should be put in jail for one year.” Well, all of us laughed at the proposition, but agreed with the seriousness of the prevailing marital disasters and desecration of the holiest of human institutions, and understood why some people advocate for urgent measures to curb the messy situation.

It is interesting that some time ago on one radio station in the US I heard the following: “In the United States, at least 1.2 million couples divorce every year; most of these are not even represented by any lawyer during the divorce procedure. The solution to this serious problem is the offering of Good Pre-Marital Instruction (Teaching).” Present analysis indicates that the divorce figures given at that time are even higher now (in 2010) with grim statistics staring at us.

It amazed me that the radio station spelt out the exact solution for most marriage problems that I was going to propose, and have been campaigning for — post-marital counseling or program, after providing very practical pre-marital counseling before the marriage. 

In my opinion, lack of adequate knowledge about the partner that the one has chosen to marry, plus the absence or insufficiency of pre-marital as well as post-marital counseling, contribute a lot towards failed marriages, broken down romantic relationships, andunhappy homes, creating most of the marital tragedies we see so rampant around us.

People lack the essential values and principles that will enable them to know the real meaning of marriage, become equipped to deal with future problems that will emerge, and for them to understand exactly what they are going in for or entering into in the marriage.

The majority of married people become disappointed soon after living with their spouses, and never seem to get past their disappointments until the relationship grows sour for the rest of their lives. Most of such marriages end up tragically in divorce. Some couples separate and never come together again, although they do not officially divorce. Others manage to merely coexist without any joy, peace, or satisfaction. Their bodies are present in the house, but their minds and spirits are far apart, and are rather diverted and focused on other people and different things. Infidelity easily creeps in, mixed with deception, lies, selfishness, wanton living, and often wickedness and vengeance. Sicknesses like high blood pressure, ulcers, depression, and mental derangement tend to characterize several of these individuals, as a result of worry, anxiety, fear, anger, and frustration. Instead of joint partnership, each person in a dysfunctional marriage has his or her own separate agenda. In such instances, communication, the key to any meaningful relationship, completely breaks down. 

Marriage and all relationships go through seasons. There are important lessons to learn for each season, in order for marriage to fulfill its God-intended purpose which is to teach us about the relationship between Christ and the Church, and break us in order to produce godly character in us. God uses the relationship to build godly character in you. How God uses the weaknesses of your partner to expose your own weaknesses, for you to see your real needs, and allow God to use the relationship to change you for the acquisition of wisdom and better service. Mutual Bible meditation and mutual prayer (in addition to individual devotions), will always dissolve anger, pride, selfishness, resentment, discouragement, un-forgiveness, hurts, and disappointments. Such mutual fellowship subjected to the power of God also opens the door for mutual open discussion (dialogue) along with listening ears and humble hearts to listen, deepen love, and make every effort to plan, say, and do what makes each other productive and happy in the relationship. Common faith, obedience to God’s word, humility, and agreement between a husband and a wife, are very important for answers to prayer, and for God to pour more of His blessings into the marriage, so that one side would not just be selfish with God’s gifts and provisions. Wise and godly management of resources is also important, in order to demonstrate faithfulness to God, and the ability to become trustworthy for more important things to be entrusted to you, along with more blessings from the Lord for proper use and stewardship. The husband must do his best to make time for the wife, appreciate, and love her deeply; and the wife must humbly submit to the leadership of the husband, support him fully, and show him utmost respect.

Communication is the blood of all good and productive relationships, and must be whipped up strongly throughout the entire period of the marriage relationship especially with lively conversation. The two people must determine to bond with each other in sincere intimacy and good romance. The bond of love and romance will grow stronger with time as both practice romantic, loving, and affectionate acts constantly. The couple should learn how to make joint decisions and engage in joint parenting.
I have personally found the following combination very useful for good intimacy: Holding our hands to pray; studying the Bible together; going out together (including church services and programs); sharing some entertainment activities together; mutual house cleaning and performance of other chores; engaging in a lot of good lively conversation; sharing of our minds; close and prolonged hugging; good mutual lovemaking; saying “sorry” promptly and forgiving offences very quickly; regular passionate kissing and petting; letting people know where you go to or where you are coming from; financial honesty; provision of basic needs of each other; and keeping regular contact with home when you are out of the house —- this good mixture is a powerful concrete anyone can use to build a strong foundation of marital love, romance, true commitment, fruitfulness, and success. As you decide to fully enjoy each other in the marriage, and make every effort to live in forgiveness and tolerance, you allow God to gradually use the relationship to build humility, passionate love, godliness, and strong character in you. The secret of change is that if you want people to change, you must change first. One of the best attitudes towards marriage is to regard your partner and his or her home (your in-laws) as your special mission field. Your spouse should finally become your closest friend. 

In summary, it is discovered that when the two people in a marriage do not adequately know and understand each other, and do not especially gain a real meaning of marriage and the total implications of a permanent joint partnership to make a home and build a family life, then all the marriage vows are broken, the basic principles become violated, resources are wantonly dissipated, and the precious marital and family values are defiantly abrogated and relegated to shambles. I believe that most people who marry do so with some of the common, handed-down shallow ideas about marriage in view without adequate preparations and a strong desire for commitment. They do not therefore really begin the relationship well in the way they have to, because they did not originally UNDERSTAND clearly what the institution of marriage is really meant for, and WHY THE TWO OF THEM DECIDED TO JOIN THEIR LIVES TOGETHER IN THE PERMANENT BOND OF MARRIAGE. Marriage is unique union between one man and one woman, and no one should be allowed to come between the couple and interfere with the sacred union. However, it must be understood that marriage does not ultimately become a relationship between only you and your partner with no connections at all, but marriage causes the creation of a family (close and extended family relations), and brings other persons (children and in-laws, and even friends) into your lives for the establishment of blood relations, permanent associations, and very close relations that will forever remain in the historical records on earth. Good question: Do you really understand marriage, making of a home, and real family life? If not, are you ready to learn and practice what you are taught?

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