Recently, I witnessed a tense interaction between a middle-aged couples, both were clearly constrained to talk to each other. The man appeared physically pained to ‘talking’ to his wife and the wife was clearly not interested in giving him audience. From the way the interaction or lack of it unfolded it was clear that if they could help it, they would avoid each other. Their disgust and dislike for each other was mutual and evident.

It also occurred to me that this high level of tension cannot be healthy not only in physical health but in spiritual, emotional and psychological well being as there would be anger, pent up frustration and bitterness. I wondered why, at this time of their lives when they were supposed to be friends, companions and at ease with each other, they were openly hostile and fragmented, what would their future be and what could be the cause of their distress and estrangement from each other? It had to be unresolved issues, betrayals, hurt and disappointment.

Anyone can affirm that a bad marriage is practically hell on earth, even the most resilient would find it unbearable, coping with a bad marriage is a drain on one’s general wellbeing, seeping away energy and reducing vitality. It can effectively alter ones sense of being and diminish self-esteem. A bad marriage is all too consuming, skewing ones perspective on life and issues. It is a fast route to the slippery world of anxiety, loneliness, bitterness and depression; sadly it can result in loss of interest in living a fulfilling life; perhaps due to the fact that a spouse is supposed to have or play a key role in ones well-being, nevertheless, it is important that we take responsibility for ourselves and not rely so much on the other for personal equilibrium, since we are so prone to disappointing each other.

Being in such a situation takes its toll in different ways given our different endurance threshold, some are able to bear the onslaught finding ways of coping while others crumble under the weight of it all. We ought to pray that we are spared such misfortune, or find grace to cope.

What is a bad marriage and how does it come about, seeing that couples getting into marriage usually set out in love, in lust and all starry eyed, looking ahead to a happy future together. So when does this happy couple end up becoming hated enemies, despising each other with intense hostility .It is indeed bewildering.

We must realize that no marriage is perfect, but if yours is in turmoil, i.e. you cannot remember the last time you experience kindness and friendship, freedom to express your emotions and received empathy and sympathy but it is marked by incessant rows, quarrels, contentions, miscommunication, infidelity, lack of trust, respect or appreciation and secrecy. If you are living in resentment, fear due to the unpredictable nature of the other, there is no attraction and intimacy but an endless endurance of silent treatment and passive aggression then you are in what is described as toxic relationship/marriage. It is not good for anyone to bear such high levels of tension and stress continually.

When love turns to hate was there love in the first place? How can the person you chose for yourself become the source of your pain and misery, such that you are no longer in agreement and consensus become near impossible, each operating on his flex, walking parallel paths with no way of connecting, each doing his ‘thing’. Also we can tell when the marriage goes ‘bad’. We stop being a couple, losing our sense of unity and togetherness, becoming separate entities within the union, with no accountability. One person develops interests that excludes and isolates the other and we longer care to ensure we are still acting in the best interest of the other.

We hear things like we just drifted apart, how do you drift apart without notice when the drifting began. What action was taken to stem the tide of drifting apart? Some say we are incompatible, we out grew each other, we want different things, we enjoy different interest or some blame irreconcilable differences. What exactly do all these mean? These differences and seeming incompatibilities were not present at the beginning otherwise the relationship could not progress to marriage or were they there and was ignored, wishing them away?

Having no respect for God is a contributing factor to marital distress, when a person becomes a law unto himself, doing as he pleases without regard for the other and with such blatant impunity; not being accountable to any one and no one can restrain him, and he is the god of self.

A lady said of her husband in regards to his waywardness which led to the breakdown of the marriage.

“he has a singular and absolute devotion to waywardness and infidelity, a desperate flirt, perpetually on the prowl. He is unflinchingly committed to his carousing and shenanigans. The resulting rows, wretched misery, pain and heartaches regretfully have not once interfered with his devotion to waywardness. Now I have to remind myself on a daily basis that no man is worth going to hell for,. as my coping mechanism; for I could not come to terms with such a vile reality!”

When a spouse lacks self-control or is committed to immorality, what can the other do especially if he will not see reason or if knowing he has the upper hand in the management of the family? Is it to walk out, divorce, live with incessant rows, what? Sadly divorce may not be an option for some due to religious considerations.

Are we to accept, can we argue that some individually are so wicked and morally deficient that they don’t understand what they are doing is wrong and hurtful to the other? Is it that some are so committed to their pursuit of ‘forbidden pleasures’ that they don’t care who they trample on, what they destroy, and who the innocent casualties are? That they just won’t be denied of these ‘little pleasures’, this destructive way of life… like an alcoholic or addict, which they usually are also.

Within a good marriage, friendship, love, attraction and respect must continue to flourish, it provides the safe space for expression be it emotional and anxieties. Being, nurturing and empathetic to the other. A good marriage allows for personal growth because over time interests and perceptions will change and there must be liberty to acknowledge them and respond accordingly with help from the other.

When a husband, for example, refuses to be the husband of his wife (and likewise a wife) and spreads his favours there will be problems. Refusal to exercise self-control and keep to the marital vows of exclusivity opens the door of pain and misery into the home, marriage and family. It can eventually breakup the family.

We must understand that marriage is for the mature (men and women) not age-wise but for those who understand the requirement and sacrificial nature of marriage. Bearing the status of husband or wife in the true sense of the word, living up to its requirements and responsibilities separates the ‘boys’ from the men. It ought to be a privilege, a humbling and sobering reality.

Instead, we (society) peddle such excuses such as God did not design man to just stick to just one woman all his days that men are polygamous by nature, etc. Not only do these display ignorance and willful disobedience and greed, they also blatantly misrepresent the word of God by attributing a contrary position to his word. Throughout the bible, it has been clearly revealed that a man and a woman will join together in holy matrimony, the man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife; the two shall become one flesh.

Even when the wicked leaders of the time engaged Jesus in a question/answer session, asking cunningly if it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife as Moses said….Jesus took them back to Genesis 1: 28…reminding them of what God commanded and clarifying to them that Moses, gave in to their pressures and demands because of their wickedness and ill treatment of their wives; consented to their agitation for divorce but that, that was not what God commanded. He went on to warn them about setting aside the commandments of God in favour of their own permissive interpretations.

Men, especially should fully take on board and understand that if they are not up to the task of becoming a husband; they should not venture into marriage. It would only cause distress for the entire family when the relationship goes sour.

Any ‘boy’ can sire a child but it takes a mature man to be a Father, a responsible Father. Being a husband and a father are mutually inclusive, complementary and reinforcing; one leads to the other in normal circumstance. It is an anomaly to have a bad husband but a good father or a good husband but a bad father. The husband and the father is the same person empowered to perform both roles effectively as is the woman.

Seeing that marriage, as established by God is a good and honourable union, in it we are complete. Having a good and successful marriage is a worthy achievement; a life quest to the praise of God.

The destabilizing factor that can distort marriage is ourselves, when we respond to marriage in a self centered and selfish manner, we actively alter its purpose, diminish its value and obstruct its intended impact in our lives; as evidenced in the countless tales of woe regarding marriages. When egotism and self-serving interests takes precedence over the family wellbeing then things will fall apart.

When we look to the interest of others in the family, considering their needs and working to meet those needs, then the home, marriage and relationships are built up, maintained and sustained. When we seek to reward self for performing ones responsibilities and justifies it by external pursuits that isolates, disregards and relegate the other, even the good efforts are diminished.

When we resort to abuse, be it verbal, physical, emotional and psychological; Stubbornness and willful disregard, when we deny each other marital rights which lead to resentment, frustrations and anger then we know there will be consequences. When we allow malice, pride and willfulness to grow instead of humility there’ll be consequences.

Still, we can safely say these challenges are surmountable; they can be overcome if we are willing to put the other first, to be considerate and mindful of our actions. Then these despair and anguish that are fast becoming the hallmark of marriages will begin to recede.

We do not have to bear a toxic marriage in helplessness, help and support are available to restore and revive the relationship, and we only have to be willing and committed to work for a reversal.

We are called to love one another, bear with each other kindly and patiently, avoiding accusations, a rigid attitude, and those things that will widen the gap of separation. We can rebuild our relationship through patience, tolerance, and inclusiveness, then will our marriages and relationships come alive but also thrive.

Being proactive can’t be overstated, we need not wait for the other to make the first step, and we can. It is not always easy but “what is worth having is worth fighting for”. Spiritual help is also available to us if we ask for grace knowing that our marriage is worth saving.

For too long we have given the enemy of our peace and joy, a foothold in our lives and relationships and it is time we declare a reversal and work towards achieving our goal of unity, peace and love, especially since we know that with God nothing is impossible. If we are willing to work at rebuilding then we know we can succeed with God on our side because it’s his will for us to have flourishing marriages and relationships. 

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