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Theology of Marriage and Divorce

© Theology of Marriage and Divorce is by George Hartwell M.Sc., all commercial rights reserved, June 2008

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I do not encourage anyone to 'set asunder' the marriage that God has put together.

I do suggest that there is another way to think of what that means.  I invite you to think deeply about what marriage and divorce mean.  This is a new theology of marriage.  It results in a new perspective on divorce.  Let me warn you in advance that my thinking has been called unorthodox.

We need to ask what it is that "God puts together."  My thesis is that what God puts together is the unity of two spiritual beings to form what the King James Bible calls "One flesh."  In marriage therapy this is referred to as  couple bonding or healthy emotional attachment.  

I am convinced that marriage and divorce are not about the legalities of marriage.  There are legal ramifications to marriage; however, these are not God's primary concern.  The legal marriage is not the essential emotional and spiritual reality of either marriage or divorce.

I am also convinced that marriage and divorce is not primarily and essentially about the wedding ceremony or the marriage vows.  Religious formalities do not create real marriage.  Jesus said to let your yes be yes and not to make vows.  The vows that we now consider fundamental to marriage were an innovation of the 1500's.  God's primary interest is not in the religious ceremonies or the vows. 

Both Jesus and the prophets affirm that religious rituals do not create living relationship with God.  Nor do they create a living marriage.  I believe there are parallels in the realities of our connection with God and the marriage relationship. 

My new theology of marriage goes like this: just as the core spiritual reality with God is a life-giving relationship, so also, in marriage, the core spiritual reality - the essential identity of marriage - is a life-giving bonded emotionally-attached couple relationship.  This may not seem too radical.  However, it really is a different basis for policy.  It would really change how the church has defined marriage and policy around divorce.  Yes it is radical.

For example, when Jesus taught on the vine, in John 15, it is clear - without any room for doubt - that intimate union with Jesus (The Vine) is essential.  Without this life-giving relationship with Jesus there is no life.  With no life-giving relationship and no life there will be no fruit.  If no life then there is death.  If dead, a branch is discarded.

Jesus is presenting the basis for his radical theology here.  He gives us a fundamental principle.  That principle challenges "once saved, always saved" theology.

Used in relationship to marriage it provides a new grounds for divorce.  Death of the marriage becomes grounds for divorce.  This has not even been considered in theologies and discussion leading to church policy on marriage and divorce. 

I want you to notice that, in John 17, Jesus says that knowing the Father - the only true God - and Jesus Christ - the one sent by God the Father - is the essential definition of eternal life.  Of course, with God, this 'knowing' is neither sexual nor intellectual.  It is spiritual and emotional. 

In my theology of marriage, the emotional connection is also spiritual and emotional.  Couple bonding occurs at the heart level (emotional brain, if you will) and with the human spirit (the core being).  God's part in marriage is to provide us with our human spirit.  The creation story (Genesis 2) says that God's breath gave us life.  In our God-given human spirit resides the capacity to bond heart to heart with our life partner.

In my theology of marriage the core experience is not sex but bonding.  The essential 'without which there is no marriage' of marriage is not essentially physical.  The spirit and truth of marriage is  not sex but love.

I have found many couples see that their unity, their bonding, their emotional connection as more important than their sexual relationship.  Real unity transcends the sexual union even though the sexual union may strengthen the connection.  Sex serves connection and expresses connection.  Connection is primary.

In conclusion, the spirit and truth of marriage is the unity, the bonding, the love connection.  

Enforcing marriage as an institution can negate the spirit and truth marriage.  Sometimes institutions perpetuate themselves and fail to give life to the participants. Deprived of the life mission which is its purpose, marriage could make more people sick than it heals, bring more death than to life.

Each member of a healthily bonded couple will experience that 'intimate oneness,' that emotional bonding, as a safe 'home-base' - secure emotional place to recharge emotionally; will experience life.  Christians who learn to listen to the Father's voice, from whom his very word spoken to me is the breath of life, are aligned with Jesus who says (John 15:4) "remain in me," "Make your home in me." 

This command to 'remain in me' implies choice.  The Vine is always and eternally available.  The branch must choose to maintain the life-giving connection with the vine.  It is absolutely ludicrous, laughable, that any branch would decide to disconnect from the tree.  Obviously not.  It isn't going to happen.  However, humans must choose to 'make our home in Jesus.'

In the same way, each member of each couple must choose to open and connect their hearts to their spouse.  We choose, in different ways, to make our spouse our emotional home.

What is not connected becomes disconnected.  When bonding is resisted, detachment occurs, the spirit of marriage is quenched.  A marriage either lives or dies.  Unity is either built or destroyed.  The love connection is nurtured, or it withers and dies.  Marriage cannot survive unless each partner participates from their heart and spirit in nurturing the marriage.

Divorce is essentially about the death of the marriage relationship as a safe emotional home-base; a death caused by the neglect of the core of marriage - the unity, the bonding and the love connection.  The truth about divorce is not about the ritual of the wedding ceremony or civil law.

A couple must make use of every physical, emotional, verbal and spiritual means to nurture their marriage.  Persistent and pervasive resistance to bonding and attachment will bring death to a marriage.  That death, I suspect, is what the God of life, love and healing hates.

Among the many personality types that avoid intimacy.  Avoid intimacy long enough and the trust, the love, the connection is broken and we up in silent divorce.  For more information see: "Seven Types of Intimacy Avoiders - Which Group are You in?"

Now each ot these ways deserves further discussion and On this web site some of them do. 

What are the ways that we destroy marital intimacy and create a silent divorce?

There are many ways that one can limit the personal, the connection, the bonding, the love connection in a marriage or sexually active couple relationship and end up in a silent divorce.


Twelve ways to Strengthen your Marriage Bond

There are many ways that a person can allow and encourage the personal connection, the bonding, and the love connection that God intends for the marriage relationship. God puts us together by providing these mechanisms.  We tear marriage apart by avoiding these mechanisms.  Avoid most of them most of the time and you may well succeed in putting asunder what God has intended to be together.

  1. Make eye contact.  Make eye contact when love-making.

  2. Allowing togetherness - the afterglow - the calming down together - which occurs naturally after love making.

  3. In conversation, allowing topics that are personal.

  4. In conversation, allowing some problem solving, some confronting of the things that produce negative feelings. 

  5. Allow positive confrontation without abuse or name calling.

  6. In conversation, responding to or acknowledging the other.

  7. Develop common recreation, sports, or other shared activities.

  8. Set aside time for the two of you each week - like a date night.

  9. Touching base with each other, i.e. a staying 'in touch' phone call.

  10. Expression of affection through physical touch.

  11. Communicating when in difficulty and needing support.

  12. Consistent faithfulness: being there without overreacting emotionally.


How does fear and control block marital intimacy and create the silent divorce?

Fear and the associated lack of trust is always with a high need to be in control.  Where trust is low control is high.  People that have basic trust do not have to control others.  One does not feel secure until one achieves full control of close relationships.  The more fear, the more insecurity the more one becomes very controlling of other people.  And the more control the more love is destroyed.  Love and control cannot exist together.

When love is destroyed, silent divorce ensues. Here are some to the ways control manifests in a relationship:


What  does the ‘Life Avoidant’ Personality look like?

There is a personality type that is associated with avoidance of risk. Such persons are basically in flight from life and use manipulation and control to consolidate this flight. Such people become very controlling in order to remove the risk of living. Maybe they are not good at 'self-soothing' - that is, they do not do a good job of controlling their own anxiety.

The 'life-avoidant' personality is a prime candidate for a silent divorce. Here is how life avoidance shows up in a relationship:

Jesus comments on life-avoidance in the parable of the talents

In Jesus parable about failure to risk (Matthew 25:24-30) the risk avoidant “wicked, lazy servant” ends up losing what they have. That worthless servant is thrown out into the darkness!

So, according to Jesus, it is inevitable that whoever buries his talent will lose what he thinks he has. Without trust (courage) there is no risk.  Without risk, there is no growth.  Without growth (movement forward), there is death!

How  this happens:

When the avoidant partner avoids all personal communication, adult consultation, playful interaction and all correction or negative feedback, then the other partner will be lonely and vulnerable for communication intimacy.

When the avoidant partner minimizes all kissing, hugging, caressing and being affectionately physical together then both partner will end up ‘touch’ starved.

When the genital sexual relationship does not develop into heart to heart bonding because of the avoidance of eye contact, stepping away from the afterglow period then a powerful opportunity to deepen the marital bond and feed and nurture one another’s spirits is missed.

When decisions are not shared together, requests are not made, discussion does not happen the life together must of necessity become life apart from one another.

Both of the partners begin to deaden within, the heart sickens, the spirit languishes, one lives with constant residual depression and a search for life outside of the marriage becomes as search for life, love at the emotional and spiritual level.  One strongly hungers and thirsts for that which will lift one spirits, heal one’s heart, rekindle one’s passion and bring the experience of community and intimacy to one’s soul.

By God’s design there is a powerful oneness created in sexual union, in cleaving to one’s wife, in becoming one with her.  But Jesus is right.  After years of neglect (the burial of the possibility by the one ine flight from life) even that powerful God-given oneness does die.


When Silent Divorce becomes Legal Divorce

People will differ in how they handle silent divorce, the weakening and finally the death of the marital bond.  Once we recognize that what God puts together sometimes man pulls asunder, not just legally but by neglect, by avoidance, by head in the sand living, by burial of one’s talent, then we are open to learn where people are at and how they are dealing with that reality.

Some couples are not motivated to destroy the appearance of marriage and so keep up the appearance of marriage that we call ‘silent divorce.’  If you observe closely you may find that they also become more distant from God.  Some couples make strong efforts to mend and restore their broken hearts and recreate a healthy marital bond.  In some one, or both, partners will move on in the direction of life, love and communion with God.

On my Blog HealMyLife.blogspot.com see Avoiding Love.
On my web site: www.ex-harmony.com see what happens if we mess with God's plan for love, sex and marriage.  Specifically, what happens if we avoid close personal encounters that create the marriage bond or the love bond.