Is Happy the Standard for Marriage?

In my world of divorce research a lot of celebrity articles come up….which I ignore. On rare occasion I’ll address one if it has a solid application to what we discuss. This is one of those times.

While flipping channels I saw Adele being interviewed by Oprah. Adele talked about how hard it was to divorce and feeling “so disappointed for my [9 yr old] son.”* A article explained why she divorced.

‘“I was just going through the motions and I wasn’t happy,” she told Vogue in 2021. “Neither of us did anything wrong. Neither of us hurt each other or anything like that. It was just: I want my son to see me really love, and be loved.”’*

So that’s Hollywood. What about us normal folks?

January is “Divorce Month.” The number one reason normal folks file is unhappiness with their spouse. In her article, Can You Divorce Like Adele?, Jemma Wentworth, a family law specialist in Britain, writes:

when the bad begins to outweigh the good, and other factors such as loneliness, lack of understanding from your spouse, not feeling listened to, financial strains amongst many more factors are all brought into play, it can certainly seem as though all hope is lost. Initially, couple’s therapy should be utilized in a hope that it can bring you closer together. However, there is an increasing frequency in this day and age whereby it is clear that the writing is on the wall, and when weighing everything up, separation is simply the best option.”**

But is separation the best option?

First we need to look at the difference between People Magazine’s definition of separation and the Bible’s. For most, separation is a waiting room for divorce. Biblically, separation is a time of deep self-reflection, counsel, repentance, forgiveness, and, ideally, a road toward reconciliation. It’s hard work and mutual sacrifice, but it’s possible even in difficult circumstances. n

For example, Paul writes:

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

Romans 5:10 NIV

There is no more difficult thing to reconcile than a sinner and a perfect God, but God did it through the death and resurrection of His Son Jesus.

Likewise, separation with a focus on reconciliation can have the same results. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” Paul writes in Romans 12:18. In this verse we see two things: 1) reconciliation is the goal, 2) but it’s not always possible. In cases of unrepentant physical or emotional abuse, addiction, abandonment, infidelity, and other situations, reconciliation may not be possible—particularly if safety is a concern.

But, the overwhelming research shows these type of issues don’t lead to the majority of divorces. Unhappiness does. Infidelity is an increasingly distant second reason.

Recalibrating “happy”

Before you buy into the rhetoric, please take these steps:

  1. Pray – “I’ve already been praying.” Don’t stop.
  2. Review good marriage resources:
    • Love and Respect Ministries – Emerson Eggerichs
    • For Women Only and For Men Only – Shaunti Feldhahn.
    • Five Love languages – Gary Chapman
    • Sacred Marriage – Gary Thomas
    • Choose a Better Path: Overcoming the Impact of Your Parents’ Divorce – Kent Darcie

Learn how you may be contributing to the difficulties. Your response is 100% controllable. Too often the couples I deal with are focused on what the other person is doing and ignoring their contribution to the craziness.

  1. Remember the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The Gottman Institute found that 69% of the issues things that drive us crazy won’t change. So your next partner will have a new 69%. And don’t forget your 69% will go with you!
  2. Trust God. Don’t allow the level of your emotional pain to exceed your level of faith in God’s abilities to change things.
  3. Remember it does affect the kids. You will have an ex-spouse, but your kids won’t have an ex-parent.

I’m not saying to put a Band-Aid on your unhappiness, but I’m encouraging you to make sure you’ve exhausted as many options as possible before you divorce.

Sign up to receive updates on new content in your inbox, every month.

We don’t spam! Read our privacy policy for more info.