It's not an appealing title, eh? Bear with me. There are tried and true ways to ruin a relationship that are worth mentioning for the sake of prevention.
#1. "We grew apart". Nothing extreme occurred. We just got busy with the kids, our careers, friends, hobbies, etc. We don't really share many interests or activities. Nothing broke and no one sinned. Its just that time and life took its toll.
The anti-dote? Say no to good activities that you enjoy solo (e.g., bridge club, golf, boys/ladies night out, television shows that you watch alone). You don't have to be completely radical. Just make an effort to begin to grow some shared interests and activities. Hearken back to your dating days. What did you enjoy doing together? Perhaps it was anything because it gave you an opportunity to be together.
#2. "He/She had some secrets that I didn't know about (and they didn't let me help them.") This ranges from financial problems (credit debt) that was never disclosed, sexual/porn addiction, pills/alcohol, untreated abuse issues, etc. Keep things hidden and satan will be happy to nurture their growth. Secrecy is a greenhouse for the growth of marital cancers that will eventually erode trust and respect to the point it feels unrecoverable. Bring shameful things to light (and get some good pastoral clinical counseling when indicated) to assist your marriage in recovery. *Check out this video testimony of a miraculous move from sexual promiscuity to purity that has built a beautiful marriage.
#3. "He/She crossed the line and fell into the arms of another". There are many ways to do this. Sexting (sending graphic pictures of oneself to another), posting on a dating site, rekindling an old flame through facebook, and last but not least . . . simply disclosing intimate things to a member of the opposite sex (complaining about your marriage is at the top of the list.).
Without the various forms of infidelity and marital erosion there wouldn't be much to do in our counseling practice, Grace & Truth. We're not saying that forbidden fruit isn't tempting (good luck walking away from enticing edible treats during the upcoming holidays). It can taste really good and even provide the delusion of satisfaction while its going down, but just like the calorie-dense treats, you'll live to regret it.
Recovery and Prevention We're not saying the problem prevention and recovery is easy. Just that its worth it. If you've been through it you know. You feel like you're going to die and sometimes wish you would. But it can go easier than you think if you'll let Jesus do some things for you. He is able. Remember, He was tempted in every way that we are, but was without sin.
Ask Jesus to rekindle your desire for relationship
Ask Jesus to relieve you of shame and guilt for secret sins (I John 1:9), and bring them to light
Ask Jesus to purify your heart and mind and to focus your affections on your spouse
There is a way that seems right but the path leads to death. Then, there is a way that works. God's way works and perseverance wins the race.
Do you think it impossible to experience any of these problems in relationship? Think again. The best prevention is a good offense (daily effort to nurture and grow your marriage).
*Jeff Williams is a Supervising Professional Clinical Counselor, Master Christian Leadership Coach and Coach Trainer, co-author of "Marriage Coaching: Heart Hope and Skills for a Great Relationship", and Founding President of Grace & Truth Counseling and Coaching, and Great Relationships Global Marriage Ministry