Forbes Advisor commissioned a survey of 1,000 Americans who are divorced or in the process of divorcing to discover why marriages fail. The survey found that 63 percent of people who divorced said having a better understanding of commitment prior to marrying could have stopped their unions from collapsing. And 56 percent said they may not have divorced if they had a better understanding of their spouses’ morals and values. Surprisingly, less than 5 percent of divorced people said their marriages couldn’t be saved.
In a world where the sanctity of marriage is increasingly under siege, it’s crucial to reevaluate the reasons often cited for divorce. There are undoubtedly situations where divorce may be a biblically justifiable option, such as cases of abandonment, abuse, or infidelity. But as the survey shows, there are many instances where a better understanding of commitment and values could be enough to save the marriage.
Here are five commonly cited reasons for divorce that aren’t legitimate grounds for ending a marriage.
1. Falling out of Love: The Emotional Fallacy
One of the most frequently cited reasons for divorce is the notion that one or both partners have “fallen out of love.” The modern notion of love is often romanticized and emotionalized, influenced by literature, movies, and popular culture. Such a perspective is rooted in a misunderstanding of love as primarily an emotional experience and stands in stark contrast to the biblical understanding of love, which is rooted in commitment and action.
Throughout the New Testament, the term most frequently used for love is agape, which refers to a selfless, sacrificial love. For example, Paul describes love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–7 as patient, kind, and enduring all things. It’s this kind of love that should be the foundation of a Christian marriage.
We might assume the implication is that love is a choice. While it’s true that real love is more a matter of decision than feeling, it isn’t merely a choice. As John Piper says, “If our love is only a choice, it is not yet what it ought to be.” Instead, as Piper notes, the way we’re called to love is impossible without relying on our dependence on the Lord. Only through the gift of God’s grace can we love in a way that sustains the bonds of marriage.
2. Incompatibility: The Myth of the Perfect Match
One of the most destructive concepts of the modern age is the idea of a “soulmate” or a “perfect match.” While compatibility is important, no two individuals are perfectly compatible—every man and woman is a sinner and thus uniquely flawed and broken. Scripture teaches that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), which implies imperfection and incompatibility are to be expected.
Only through the gift of God’s grace can we love in a way that sustains the bonds of marriage.
We should think in terms of sacrifice, not soulmates. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross serves as the ultimate model for how we must also love and sacrifice. In a marriage, both partners are called to emulate this kind of love in different ways. This may require laying down one’s desires, preferences, and even needs for the sake of the other. It’s a love that seeks the best for the other person and is willing to endure hardship and inconvenience.
For example, in Ephesians 5:25, husbands are instructed to love their wives as Christ loved the church, sacrificing himself for her. This level of sacrificial love implies that incompatibilities can and should be worked through rather than serving as grounds for divorce. The counterintuitive reality is that true compatibility often comes only after such sacrifices have been made.
Compatibility is the ability to exist together without conflict. It’s not discovered; it’s an objective you continuously strive for. It’s constantly attempting to follow Paul’s command in Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” If you’re married, it does depend on you, and you should do everything in your power to be at peace with—to be compatible with—your spouse.
3. Financial Struggle: Temporal vs. Eternal Perspectives
Financial struggles are often cited as one of the leading causes of stress in a marriage. While financial difficulties deserve to be taken seriously, they’re too often hastily used as an excuse to divorce. Instead, they should be seen as an opportunity to shift one’s focus from the temporal to the eternal.
Many of our financial struggles are rooted in a focus on material wealth, which is transient and subject to decay. Jesus himself warned against the folly of accumulating earthly treasures: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal” (Matt. 6:19). Within marriage, the focus shouldn’t be on material accumulation but on the eternal values the relationship is meant to cultivate, such as love, faithfulness, and spiritual maturity. When a couple faces financial struggles, it’s an opportunity to reevaluate priorities and align them more closely with God’s kingdom values.
Financial struggles can also serve as a crucible for developing contentment and trust in God’s provision. Paul writes in Philippians 4:11–13 that he’s learned to be content in all circumstances, whether in plenty or in want—a contentment rooted in Christ. Similarly, couples can learn to be content and trust in God’s provision, even in times of financial hardship.
Don’t be too quick to dismiss this as a naive platitude. Many Christian couples have found that by adopting a biblical perspective on finances, by shifting from a temporal to an eternal perspective, they were able to navigate such challenges in a way that strengthened rather than weakened their marital bond.
4. Personal Happiness: The Self-Centered Approach
Since the 1970s, the dominant narrative in American culture has revolved around the individual’s quest for happiness and self-fulfillment. This perspective is reinforced by media, literature, and even many secular psychological theories, which all suggest personal happiness is the ultimate goal of life. The problem with this approach is that it not only doesn’t lead to greater happiness but actively undermines the interdependence required within marriage.
Scripture offers a counternarrative that challenges the self-centered approach to life and relationships. In Philippians 2:3–4, Paul instructs believers, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This principle is especially pertinent in the context of marriage, where mutual submission and self-sacrifice is the secret to true flourishing (Eph. 5:21).
While the world offers fleeting happiness that’s dependent on circumstances, the Bible teaches true joy is found in a relationship with God. As Nehemiah 8:10 states, “The joy of the LORD is your strength.” This joy isn’t a transient emotional state but a deep, abiding contentment that comes from knowing and serving God.
5. Boredom: The Danger of Complacency
Complacency in marriage often manifests as a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern about the relationship. It can gradually erode the bonds of intimacy and trust that are essential for a healthy marriage. Complacency is antithetical to the biblical model of marriage, which calls for ongoing nurturing, cherishing, and intentional effort (Eph. 5:29).
One of the most effective ways to combat boredom in a Christian marriage is to simply focus on growing together in Christ. A man and woman sharing this spiritual journey will discover a sense of purpose and direction that transcends the mundane routines of daily life. Couples who can engage in joint activities that foster spiritual growth will, over time, grow increasingly interested in each other as they grow in Christlikeness.
The famous British writer Samuel Johnson once said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” Much the same is true for Christian marriage. It’s hard to be bored when you’re with someone who’s becoming more and more like the most interesting person who ever lived.
One Good Reason to Stay Married
The ultimate reason to sustain and nurture any marriage, despite its flaws and challenges, isn’t just human happiness but divine glory. A gospel-centered marriage serves as a living metaphor for Christ and his church. In a world mired in temporary satisfactions and superficial commitments, marriages anchored in the gospel stand as beacons of hope. They’re sacred covenants, not just social contracts, and God is profoundly invested in them.
When couples draw near to God, they find the strength to tackle the challenges that come their way, be it emotional distance, financial stress, or imperfections. They discover the joy in obedience to God’s Word, the satisfaction in shared sacrifice, and the peace that surpasses all understanding when they anchor their relationship in faith.
It’s hard to be bored when you’re with someone who’s becoming more and more like the most interesting person who ever lived.
The gospel offers struggling spouses a better narrative. Love isn’t merely an emotion but a choice that transforms when it’s deeply rooted in Christ’s love for us. When that love is your foundation, you understand that with God, all things are possible—including the renewal, the restoration, and perhaps even the resurrection of a marriage that the world might have given up on.
If you’re questioning the vitality of your marriage based on worldly standards, remember that God hasn’t just permitted marriage but designed it for his glory. By turning to him and embracing the principles outlined in Scripture, it’s more than possible to rekindle love, rebuild trust, and achieve a depth of intimacy you may have thought was lost. This is the hope and the promise of a gospel-centered marriage.