…the LORD is the witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have been unfaithful to her, though she is your partner, the wife of your marriage covenant.
-Malachi 2:14b, NIV
I made many mistakes in my first marriage. Certainly, I made mistakes in its dissolution process as well. Hence, this blog exists. I hope others can benefit from the hard won lessons that I was taught through that awful process.
One of my many mistakes in the dissolution of my marriage was looking to outsiders to confirm and validate that I was worthy of being married to my (now) ex-wife.
I say this was a mistake, because I needed to believe the truth on my own. By asking outsiders, I was giving them power over my life that did not belong to them. It was unfair to us both.
Besides, the obvious response to such questions is to remind a faithful spouse that expecting fidelity is a very reasonable expectation. Spouses have vowed to forsake all others before the community and God as Malachi 2:14 reminds us.
It is no longer a question of worthiness–i.e. if one is worthy of being married–but a question of integrity once marriage vows have been exchanged.
I say it is a matter of integrity because integrity has to deal with someone keeping his or her word. Both cheaters and abandoning spouses lacks integrity. They both have broken the most solemn of human vows–i.e. their marriage vows.
This is one thing that drives me nuts about pastors and Christian counselors approaching these situations. Too many fail to approach it with this basic understanding of integrity. A promise–a most solemn vow–was exchanged under no compulsion.
Someone who honors a promise based on whether the promise keeping circumstances are easy or difficult is an untrustworthy person. Such a person has character issues.
It is completely reasonable to expect a marriage partner to honor his or her marriage vows. That is the starting point.
Questioning whether or not a spouse is “worthy” of being married is not.
You are no longer dating or even engaged. The period of trying out potential partners is over. That is what godly marriage says. Such was what was promised to each other and God on your wedding day.
By all means, I recommend working to improve marriages.
My issue is when normal marriage issues–i.e. those not involving infidelity, abuse, and actual abandonment–are treated as divorce-potential problems. Being miserable in a marriage alone is not reason enough to divorce another spouse according to the Bible. Further, it is not your spouse’s job to ensure your continued happiness as if he or she has all power over your emotional states.
What do I think if the marriage has been violated by sexual immorality or an unbeliever abandoning a spouse?
All bets are off then. God recognizes both as grounds for the faithful spouse to officially end the relationship–e.g. Deuteronomy 22:22, Jeremiah 3:8, Matthew 1:19, 5:32, and 19:9, etc).
The partner showing lack of integrity is the one who broke the covenant vows to begin with here. After all, God does not lack integrity, and even He broke it off from His covenant partner, Israel, when she was flagrantly unfaithful to Him (Jeremiah 3:8).