It’s not extramarital affairs anymore.
Probably no statistics is available of the real reasons why marriages break up. It is not possible to have one, because the reasons given by divorcees may only be the outward manifestations of the real cause of the breakup. Official reasons may range from infidelity to incompatibility.
Here is a top 10 list for the US, in ascending order: Difference in priorities and expectations; addiction; childrearing issues; religious and cultural strains; boredom in marriage; sexual incompatibility; marital financial issues; physical, psychological or emotional abuse; communication breakdown in relationships; and the top reason, infidelity. Source: Top10Stop.com
In the UK, ‘extramarital affairs are no longer the most common reason for married couples to divorce – growing apart or falling out of love is. Growing apart or falling out of love was the main reason for divorce (27%); an affair is now second (25%)’. (Source: 2011 Grant Thornton Matrimonial Survey of 101 UK Family Lawyers)
I don’t have the statistics for other countries. But we can presume that several of the reasons cited for divorce in these two countries may also be the ones cited in other countries, though the frequency of reasons may vary from country to country. In the Eastern culture, there is far lesser frequency of divorces caused by infidelity. For example, from the several personally known cases in my own country, none was caused by the husband or wife straying into other arms. There wife-bashing is a far commoner cause of split-ups.
Sometimes the reasons in my land could be truly freakish, such as the groom discovering on the wedding night that the bride is a hermaphrodite, or a wife not allowing her husband to sleep with her. I counseled the husband, in the latter case, and tried to encourage him to be more patient, but he soon divorced the frigid woman and remarried a fine, normal wife. These, of course, are the rare reasons, but the most frequent cause for divorces in India and China, and in US and UK, and everywhere else, is basically the same.
The real cause manifests ultimately as cheating, or boredom, or lack of communication, or incompatibility, or something else. But except in the freak cases, almost all divorces have their origin in one cause: dissatisfaction with the wife, which after a few years burgeons into resentment and finally bitterness toward her. Dissatisfaction with the wife, in turn, has basic causes that are never cited as the official reason for breakup.
Dissatisfaction and bitterness almost always leads the husband to another woman, either before divorce or after divorce. Unfaithful husbands are so prevalent the reason marriages break up that the One who created the marriage institution declares he will not blame the wife for straying out of her legitimate relationship.
‘For the spirit of harlotry has caused them to stray, and they have played the harlot against their God…Therefore your daughters commit harlotry, and your brides commit adultery. I will not punish your daughters when they commit harlotry, nor your brides when they commit adultery; for the men themselves go apart with harlots’ Hosea 4:12-14
In this message I will focus on the causes that turn a husband into a dissatisfied spouse, which eventually lead him to break up with his wife.
Unless a youth, like Joseph the son of Jacob, has been keeping his sexual life pure from fornication through the help of the Holy Spirit, he enters wedlock with a premarital sexual background. That is, he has already cheated on his future wife before marrying her – either in his imaginations or in actual act.
Many Christian men who are guilty of pre-marital infidelity, come to realize their sexual guilt and repent of them before they marry. But in many cases, a young man’s basic sexual attitudes remain the same even after he has taken a wife.
I will first take the case of those men who committed fornication and entered marriage with an unrepentant attitude. Then I will go to those who married as virgins or as reformed men.
The young men who had been indulging in sexual fantasies and fornications carry this sin into their marriage. Perhaps, after marriage, they might have intended never to cheat on their wives. But a spiritual principle begins to work in their minds soon after.
Within a few years (in UK, the average lifespan of marriages that break up is 11.4 years), the husband begins to find his wife not as sexually attractive anymore. He then fantasies extramarital relationships that rekindle his libido. Or he may get into pornography. This in turn causes a greater dissatisfaction in him whenever he has physical intimacy with his wife. The dissatisfaction is displayed, not by discussing the issue openly with his wife – how many dissatisfied husbands will tell their wives, ‘I don’t enjoy sex with you anymore’? – but in withdrawal, in sullenness, and in quarrels over petty issues.
Withdrawing from the wife causes resentment in the woman, and she shows her frustration and disappointment with sharp words at her husband, which in turn makes him more dissatisfied with her. The vicious circle has begun in earnest, and from then on only a miracle from God can save such a marriage.
In the case of men entering marriage as virgins or as men who have repented of their pre-marital affairs, the marriage is far more stable and safer than in the first case. But, even in such cases, if constant protection of the marriage is not sought by fervent prayers, it is a vulnerable field for the devil to sow his seeds of dissatisfaction.
Couples who are sexually faithful to each other may live together for several years without mishap. But if God is not constantly in the center of this relationship, the day will come sooner or later that the man will fall victim to the enemy’s suggestions.
It could start with some lewd pictures on his office computer. (Porn-watcher Sextracker has claimed 70 percent of pornography is downloaded in office hours.) If he continues to succumb to his base urges, he is soon transformed into a frequent, and soon, an addicted watcher. An addicted porn watcher cannot have a longlasting marriage. He becomes not only dissatisfied with his wife, but also becomes distrustful of her, as one study has shown.
Zillmann and Bryant (1989) conducted an experiment to test nonviolent pornography’s effect on traditional values about marriage and family. This and other similar studies have led them to conclude that ‘those massively exposed to pornography will become distrusting of their partners in extended relationships…Another likely consequence is a growing dissatisfaction with sexual reality (cited in McNair, 1996: p. 77)’.
Similarly, Linz and Malamuth (1993) comment that exposure to pornography ‘fosters a lack of respect for social institutions such as the family and traditional sex roles for women (p. 17)’. (Source: University of Pennsylvania. asc.upenn.edu)
The man who enters marriage without a pre-marital record of infidelity, but who succumbs to temptations that bombard him at the workplace and elsewhere, and continues unrepentant, is soon a man who finds no more pleasure in his wife. Even if he does not go to other women, his marriage is no more as rock solid as it might have been in the early years. The relationship may drag on, unhappy and unexciting, usually because the wife continues to cling to him. Unhappy marriages may continue for a lifetime, or it may continue for 20 or 30 years and then break up.
All men about to embrace matrimony, or who have been safely married to this day, should heed God’s Word to ensure that nothing will ever happen in their lives that can roll off a domino series of consequences, which will eventually lead to a breakup or an unhappy marriage.
“Extramarital affairs are no longer the most common reason for married couples to divorce – growing apart or falling out of love is.”
The number of years a man has been married to a woman is no criteria for how safe a marriage is. A couple may go on without serious trouble between them for three decades, and then something might happen that makes the man resentful at his wife. Once resentment sets in the man’s consciousness, and he doesn’t overcome it immediately with God’s help, then only a miracle from heaven can restore the husband’s earlier passion for his wife.
How can earnest men of God ensure that the enemy cannot infiltrate their marriage even in a remote way? By constantly ensuring that they have Christ as the only foundation and Savior of their marriage. It means, he has no confidence that his good character or the good qualities of his wife will keep their marriage safe. His only confidence is that he is constantly keeping the Creator and Lord of marriages at the center of his relationship with his wife.
In practical terms, this means that the husband should be constantly alert against every form of subtle and overt sexual influence. It means, he should not put himself in a situation where his chastity might stand the slightest risk of compromise. As an instance, if obscene images unexpectedly flash up on his computer, he should not linger over them for even a fraction of a second, but instantaneously click them away. He should eliminate every risk of an extramarital affair by putting on a constant moral shield against temptations from female colleagues or acquaintances. A truly alert husband should never allow himself to be alone in a room with a woman other than his wife or other immediate member of his family.
The man who wants his marriage to be absolutely safe from danger should, above all, practice mental morality. He should take the greatest care that a lewd image doesnt find lodgment in his mind even for a fleeting moment. For this is the way the tempter entered the consciousness of many great man and eventually caused them to fall.
Their fall began with just one small thought rolled in the mind over and over, until it became an unstoppable avalanche that took the victim all the way into the immoral abyss. That’s how David, a man after God’s own heart, slid smoothly into the deadly pit of adultery. Instead of instantly turning his eyes away from a scene he knew his eyes are not meant to see, he lingered illegitimately for a few seconds over the stunningly beautiful wet body of another man’s wife taking a bath. The little lingering soon became an irresistible obsession…and you know the rest of the story.
It is not only lascivious thoughts that a husband should be constantly on the guard against – he should equally guard against holding any negative thoughts about his wife. Perhaps it could be something his wife had said or done to him. It is in the nature of all women…well, almost all women, to say now and then words that are more irritating to their husbands’ eardrums than a mosquito hovering around their ear lopes. The husband might have done something stupid, and the wife might have given him her frank opinion in raw uncensored version.
The wife’s greatest fault, according to the Bible, is her inability to respect her husband or submit to him always. She can, of course, respect him as long as he is always doing something honorable. I am yet to hear of the awesome discovery of such a man.
‘Wives, submit to your own husbands…let the wife see that she respects her husband.’ Eph 5:22,33
The man’s greatest fault, and danger, is that, he becomes bitter at his wife who refuses to submit meekly to his opinions, nitwitted though they may be. He knows his wife loves him as her own life, but her stinging words keep popping into his emotions ceaselessly. This is the danger start point. When a man gets emotionally dissatisfied with his wife, and he keeps his sullen feelings beyond sunset, they begin to fester resentment in his heart. And festering resentment soon causes the fatal marital male syndrome known as bitterness.
‘Husbands, love your wives [be affectionate and sympathetic with them] and do not be harsh or bitter or resentful toward them.’ Col 3:19 AMP
‘Husbands, be sure you give your wives much love and sympathy; don’t let bitterness or resentment spoil your marriage.’ Phillips
Never go to sleep with your hurt feelings pent up in you. It is deadly poison for your marriage. You may not be able to get over your hurt feelings by willing them away. Seek God’s intervention speedily, and he will put a calm over your thoughts and emotions, and softly bring a willingness in your heart to forgive your wife, and you can go to sleep in peace.
‘And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil.’ Eph 4:26-27 NLT
And if God doesn’t intervene immediately, keep asking for his power to forgive, and after a few days of such persevering prayer, you will begin to notice a change in your attitude toward your wife. Keep on praying until there is no trace of resentment in your heart toward your wife.
Never go to sleep with your hurt feelings pent up in you. It is deadly poison for your marriage.
So, the greatest danger a husband faces is his marriage is gradual falling out of love with his wife – because of his bitterness at her, which is because of his sexual or emotional dissatisfaction with her.
And if the husband does not forgive his wife, and lets his bitterness grow in him, and finally leads him to be unfaithful to her, God shuts out that man’s prayers to him. And without God’s help, he cannot continue happily in his marriage and so breaks up with the woman he once loved so passionately.
‘Here is another thing you do. You cover the Lord’s altar with tears, weeping and groaning because he pays no attention to your offerings and doesn’t accept them with pleasure. You cry out, “Why doesn’t the Lord accept my worship?” I’ll tell you why! Because the Lord witnessed the vows you and your wife made when you were young. But you have been unfaithful to her, though she remained your faithful partner, the wife of your marriage vows. Didn’t the Lord make you one with your wife? In body and spirit you are his. And what does he want? Godly children from your union. So guard your heart; remain loyal to the wife of your youth. “For I hate divorce!” says the Lord, the God of Israel. “To divorce your wife is to overwhelm her with cruelty,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. “So guard your heart; do not be unfaithful to your wife.” Mal 2:13-16 NLT