Woman Alive’s editor-in-chief Tola-Doll Fisher explains that she believes the demise of family is a threat to our society. Here she encourages all of us to pray to keep marriages and families together.
On the one hand I’ve no business speaking about this because I’m not actually married. But on the other hand, I’m divorced, so I know first-hand what it looks like to be part of an unfortunate statistic.
My parents are divorced and so are my ex-husband’s parents. Of my closest friends, nearly all their parents are divorced, separated or widowed – usually at a younger age than you might expect. UK Gov statistics suggest marriage is far less interesting to younger generations (Marriages in England and Wales: 2019). The Statistician concluded: “This decline [in opposite-sex marriages] is a likely consequence of increasing numbers of men and women delaying marriage, or couples choosing to live together rather than marry, either as a precursor to marriage or as an alternative.”
In theory, this suggests that there isn’t really an issue with relationships thriving; they just appear to be making different decisions about what that might look like, with marriage being an option rather than the norm. But dig deeper – and by this I mean, sit with the men and women in your church who are actually trying to navigate dating, relationships and marriage – and you’ll often find a different picture being painted.
A few days ago, I spent almost an entire morning on the phone with three different friends experiencing some kind of relationship trauma. One, who I have known for almost two decades, has been married for more than ten years and has four children with her husband. A call “just to check in” became an hour long conversation in which my friend shared her absolute despair at the growing chasm between her and her husband, caused by their differing goals and life values. She told me that it was only the children keeping her from leaving because she does not want to be a single parent. I was completely taken aback because on the surface, this aesthetically pleasing family appear picture perfect. And to the naysayers who might want to find superficial fault with the relationship: this is a Christ-centred household with regular churchgoers. What could possibly go wrong?
Another friend is going through some particularly disturbing domestic abuse. And this is a really hard thing to mention without feeling both enraged and helpless on behalf of my friend. Watching friends navigate physical, emotional and spiritual trauma is heart-breaking.
The deep commitment of unconditional and steadfast love expressed as Christ’s love for the Church is not what we’re seeing in our relationships.
The last call was with a friend who is in what my generation refers to as: a situationship. Best explained as a relationship which has no label on it, this might sound bizarre if you’re reading this and have been happily married for years but this is a more common scenario than you might think. A situation where one or both parties sees more value in engaging in the intimacy of a relationship without any commitment to each other is pretty commonplace among young people in their 20s and 30s – with some seeing that as the only alternative to being single. And yes, to many that sounds like an exercise in disaster and in my personal experience; it is.
The deep commitment of unconditional and steadfast love expressed as Christ’s love for the Church is not what we’re seeing here. Not in any of these scenarios. And yes this is just a minute snapshot based on my own circles but trust me, there are countless examples of these in the society we live in; we’ve just become very good at hiding it.
While we, in the West, can default to forgetting the devil exists (and my fellow Africans can default to the other extreme), it is important to remember that: “We are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The devil’s first achievement in separating families was in the Garden of Eden when his successful temptation of Eve, led to discord with Adam, who, upon getting found out, pointed the finger at his partner presumably in an attempt to disassociate himself from any resulting punishment.
As I said earlier, I come from a “broken home” and while I joke and say well I turned out alright, I know that God’s promise to be father to the fatherless was a concession for a fallen world and not the ideal situation for his people. I think about scriptures like: “For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them” (Matthew 18:20). And: “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” Both romantic and non-marital relationships are important not just for getting things done – making changes in communities and bringing up the next generation in healthy, happy homes - but also growing alongside each other into the people God created us to be. Discord does the very opposite.
Two of us have been married before and know that we need more than “love” to make a marriage work.
It’s wedding season at the moment and we are very good at celebrating these. Expensive flowers, fancy wedding cakes and couture outfits for the bride and groom (and their guests) have become de rigeur for many modern day celebrations. Less time and care goes towards ensuring the couple actually stays married*. My aforementioned friend weathering an abusive relationship has nothing but sympathy for her partner. She tells me about what he went through as a child; he has told her stories of growing up in an abusive household. But the thing is, my friend also grew up in an abusive household. It’s a horrific cycle that keeps on turning. Where does it end?
This August I’m doing a daily prayer with two of my friends for our future husbands**. Two of us have been married before and know that we need more than “love” to make it work. The type of men our husbands are and the type of women we are, play a huge part in whether a union will not just stand the test of time – for it is not only longevity we are looking for – but also be a healthy one with true respect for each other and accountability before God.
If you’re going to any weddings this year, please listen carefully for the part where (in traditional English wedding ceremonies) the friends and family are asked to speak up to confirm they will support the newlywed couple. And even if you’re not currently in a relationship, I urge you to make a strong commitment to praying for the men and women in your life who are – or those who may want to be.
*By no means am I advocating staying in an abusive marriage. This post is about shaping men and woman to be respectful loving partners.
**Email us: email@example.com to get a pdf downloadable document of this 30-day prayer plan.
For a little laugh, check this out.