Category: Unhappy marriage: What does the Bible say about them ?


One thing we know for sure: not being “happy” in marriage is not biblical grounds for divorce. In Mark 10:11-12 Jesus said, “A man who divorces his wife so he can marry someone else commits adultery against her. And a woman who divorces her husband so she can marry someone else commits adultery.” Based on the Bible, we see that people don’t have the right to dissolve an unhappy marriage. God intended that marriage be for a lifetime.

Ephesians 5 presents marriage as a picture of the relationship God has with us. This is one reason why God has such an interest in keeping marriages intact. He is the One that established the concept of “until death do us part.” He established this for our own good. Failed marriages and broken homes are devastating to the husband and wife, not to mention the children involved. Financial ruin is only one of the unhappy results of divorce. The family unit is the basic building block of any society, and rampant divorce has a tragic impact on all of the culture.

This is not to say that God wants to force us to remain forever in an unhappy state. He doesn’t ask us to just grit our teeth and suffer through it. When God approaches marital problems, He does so from the perspective of how to fix them, not on how to dissolve the marriage. For example, He does talk about demonic impact in marriages (1 Corinthians 7:5). He states that the couple should be active in the sexual relationship so that Satan cannot tempt them. He encourages husbands to treat their wives with understanding so that their prayers will not be hindered (1 Peter 3:7). From these accounts we can see that marriage is a spiritual battlefield. This means that it will take work to fight for the relationship, not to fight in the relationship.

God encourages us toward reconciliation. Matthew 18:15-16 encourages open, honest communication that deals with hurts and frustrations caused by sin. It even encourages us to get help to resolve such things. God also encourages us to have our joy in Him (Philippians 4). Joy is a superior experience to happiness. Happiness is temporal and temporary, but joy rises above all circumstances and lasts for eternity. Joy is something you can have regardless of conditions. God gives some very good guidelines for joy, and none of them require a spouse to cooperate. A spouse does not control our capacity to have joy or peace. James 1:3-4 tells us that deep, abiding joy comes as we persevere through trials, with God’s help, and our faith matures and is strengthened. Mere happiness tends to be fleeting and depends upon temporal factors like circumstances or other people. Joy, on the other hand, is true contentment that comes from internal factors like our faith in the Lord. True joy is everlasting and not dependent upon circumstances. The book of Philippians is a great study in the difference between joy and happiness. Written by the Apostle Paul while imprisoned in Rome, this book uses the words “joy,” “rejoice,” and “joyful” 16 times and teaches us how to have true contentment in Jesus Christ, despite our circumstances. In chains and aware that his life was coming to an end, Paul talks about his faith and trust in Christ and how it had changed his whole perspective on suffering.

God has given husbands clear-cut instructions in Ephesians 5:25-28: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it…. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loves his wife loves himself.” To wives, His instruction is to respect their husbands (v. 33) and both are to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). If both are living up to their biblical responsibilities, there will be joy and happiness in the marriage. What woman wouldn’t respect and submit to a man who loves her the way Christ loves His church? And what man wouldn’t love a woman who respects and submits to him? The unhappiness that is present in too many marriages is a result of one or both parties refusing to submit to God and obey His revealed will for marriage.

Even if the unhappiness results from a believer being married to an unbeliever, there is always the possibility the believing wife can lead her unbelieving husband to the Lord by her chaste conduct and kind demeanor. “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives when they see the purity and reverence of your lives” (1 Peter 3:1). The Bible specifically addresses those who are married to unbelievers in 1 Corinthians 7:12-14: “…If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband…”

In the end, we must remember that “the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (1 Peter 3:12). God knows the pain of an unhappy marriage, and He understands fleshly desires, but He has given His Word to us on this matter and He does ask for obedience. Obedience to God always brings joy (Romans 16:19).

Since the need to restore a marriage relationship can be for many different reasons, we will look at underlying principles that the Bible sets forth for relationships in general and then marriage in particular.

The place to start is with the individual one-on-one relationship between a man or woman and the Lord Jesus Christ. As born-again believers, the success of any relationship with others is in direct correlation with the quality of our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. When we are out of fellowship with the Lord due to sin or mental attitudes that are contrary to divine viewpoint, we find that we are out of sorts with ourselves, first, and that spills over to our relationships with others. Therefore, restoring our relationship and fellowship with the Lord through agreeing with His viewpoint and resting in the forgiveness that is ours in Christ Jesus (1 John 1:9) is the place we must begin.

The above presupposes that one has a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through the new birth. That is being born again unto newness of life in accepting salvation through the gift of eternal life given to us in Christ. If that step has not been taken in an individual’s life, then biblical principles are not the first issue to be addressed; one’s eternal salvation or redemption is. This website has an excellent resource available to help to guide one to repentance and acceptance of the gift of life in Christ.

For the born-again believer, forgiveness is the position and privilege that we have in Christ, and because of that forgiveness we are commanded to forgive others. “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). If we are believers, we are forgiven “in Christ,” and “in Christ” we also forgive others. No relationship can be restored without forgiveness. Forgiveness is a choice we make based upon the reality of our own forgiven state.

For the marriage relationship, the Bible has given us a very clear model that is opposite to the world’s viewpoint. To restore a marriage relationship once forgiveness has been given and received, applying God’s model will begin to bring the two separate parties into a God-honoring union. This requires a choice on the part of both parties. There is an old saying, “you cannot use what you do not know.” Therefore, to learn God’s model for marriage we must look into God’s Word.

God ordained the first marriage in the Garden of Eden between Adam and Eve. When sin entered because of their disobedience, that perfect union was destroyed. Subsequently, God told Eve that Adam would be her “head” to rule over her (Genesis 3:16). (Compare 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22; Titus 2:5; 1 Peter 3:5-6.) This “rule” has been overthrown by the modern liberal women’s movement and has brought untold unhappiness to those who believe the “lie.” There is also the human viewpoint that “all are equal.” In a way, that is true. We all have equal access to salvation in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28). But to say that all in the world are equal in human opportunity, abilities or even power is naïve. God had a purpose for placing wives under the authority of their husbands. Because of sin, that rule has been both abused and chaffed under, and the result has brought chaos to the home and family. However, God does not let the husband off the hook. The husband is to “love his wife as he loves his own body” (Ephesians 5:28). In fact, the greater part of the responsibility of the marriage model is given to the husband. The woman is to obey her husband as unto the Lord; however, husbands are to love their wives even as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25-29).

There is also a passage in 1 Corinthians 7 that lays down some principles and practical, personal, Spirit-led, advice about marriage from the Apostle Paul. This is all in accordance with the supposition that the individuals are born-again believers. This passage speaks about adultery, fornication, staying single and pure or—in order to avoid the pitfalls of passion and fornication—to marry.

God’s marriage model works, but it takes commitment on the part of both parties to create a relationship with a balance of each individual’s obedience to God and walking in fellowship with the Lord. It does not happen overnight. And, usually, if a marriage relationship has broken down, there are issues that need to be forgiven and put behind in order to move forward, and, again, that takes a choice and a commitment. Unwillingness on the part of either party will mean no restoration. The overriding issue is with each individual’s responsibility before the Lord and then coming together before the Lord. Walking in forgiveness and fellowship would be a wonderful place to start to put the pieces back together again.