I had a distressing week in many ways. I kept hearing about more couples I know and love who are splitting up.

Some of those separations are likely temporary, and are likely a good idea given the issues involved. Others are likely permanent, and are pulling their families apart.

It’s just really, really sad. And then I started looking at how many of the teens I know are hurting right now because of the home situations they come from. That’s to be expected, I suppose, for people who don’t necessarily live their lives on God’s principles for strong families, but it should not happen to those who claim to be Christian. And yet it is.

I have known several worship leaders, for instance, that I loved to listen to. For years I’ve heard their prayers, and their music, and I’ve just felt that they were so close to Jesus and were leading us well. And later I find out that they’ve walked out on their marriages because of affairs, or addictions, or whatever.

Truthfully, we can never really know what goes on in someone’s house. And too often, I think, Christians take the wrong approach when people split up. Our first instinct is to try to get them back together, at all costs. But that’s not always a good idea. There could be good reasons for the split, and until those reasons are dealt with honestly and thoroughly, you’re not going to repair a marriage. You’re just going to paper over something.

I’m not talking about splitting up because you don’t feel loved, or because you feel taken for granted. I’m talking about the big issues: gambling, abuse, alcoholism, affairs, pornography. The things that can’t be dismissed (emotional issues shouldn’t be dismissed, either, but because there aren’t necessarily addictions in the mix, more change is likely to happen).

Too often I have seen people go in for one session with the pastor, or a counsellor, and declare themselves “starting over” and “a clean slate” and “all that is behind us”, and then they don’t get why the wife isn’t so excited to jump back into the marriage. True repentance, I think, comes from owning up to what you did, not by berating the wife (or the husband) for not being Christian enough to forgive. And owning up doesn’t mean just owning up in front of the wife, and perhaps a pastor. It means admitting it in your small group, or to your friends and family, and in an age-appropriate way to your kids. It means saying that Mommy (or Daddy) was right to instigate a separation, and that I did make a lot of mistakes, and I want to start over, and I need those I love to keep me accountable, because these are my weaknesses. Do you see the difference?

jpg summer10 - The Heart of the MatterAnyway, I say all of that as a preamble to what I really want to say, which is this: it seems to me that the time to fix these messes is not after they happen. By that time it’s really late, and chances are things will be too entrenched and too difficult to mend (though it can happen if both adopt a godly attitude). The time to fix it is at the beginning, to make sure it doesn’t happen. We need to put fences around our marriage for protection.

And that means living out your faith; acting out your faith; putting your marriage first. It is not enough to go to church. It is not enough to believe in God. Unless you put God first and act out His priorities in your marriage, your marriage will get rocky and your kids will suffer. You can’t just sit there complaining about your husband and nurturing thoughts of how much better life would be if… He can’t just sit there ignoring you and figuring that now that he’s said “I do”, we you don’t have to date anymore and he doesn’t have to be nice to you, because he’s got you.

The most important thing you have is your marriage. It makes you richer, healthier, safer, happier, and more fulfilled. It is the best method you have for feeling satisfied in life and raising kids who will succeed. That means that it has to be your number one priority. Even if it’s not your husband’s. And as you start to change, he’ll likely change in return.

If you’re not satisfied with your marriage right now, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT before things degenerate to the point that it did for my friends. Learn to speak each others’ love languages. Arrange to have a date every week. Stop nagging and start supporting. Think about how you can be a good wife, and not just what he should do for you. And if he’s involved in some bad stuff, like gambling or pornography, get help now before it gets too bad. Confront him on it. Take major action, even if it’s just a “little bit”. Things like that can escalate and threaten your whole family.

I’m quite passionate about this because I’m mad today. I’m mad at all the wasted lives, I’m mad for the children, I’m mad for the spouses who have been betrayed. But none of this had to happen if people just honestly lived out their faith, and read their Bibles, and prayed, and didn’t just “do church” on Sundays.

That’s why I’m so passionate about marriage (and you can see some of my marriage books–like The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex–on the sidebar, or my marriage books recommendations). Remember: your marriage is your most important possession. Cherish it. For everyone’s sakes.