Marriage & Love
Relational Security: Creating it through an Anti-Divorce Contract
Even if marriages are made in heaven, man has to be responsible for the maintenance. - Kroehler News
"...'til death do us part." I can still remember saying those words to my wife on our wedding day. However, I don't know if I'd thought about the exact way to keep that commitment. With so many books, videos, marriage conferences and counselors, there's plenty of help available. But, important as these things are, marital researchers are finding that emotional security is essential for preserving a relationship. One woman realized this as she complained to a marriage counselor. "When my husband won a trip for two to Hawaii, he went twice!" Sadly, this wife is probably not secure that her marriage will last forever. As the divorce rate continues to clime, how can we provide relational peace of mind?
I recently saw video of a family placing sandbags and boarding up their house that illustrates what we can do to provide emotional security. The family's home was situated on the Florida coast. Although the forecast called for mild rain, the family was not taking any chances. I'm sure neighbors called them paranoid or laughed at them for worrying about a simple monsoon shower. Later that night, however, the town was hit by a massive hurricane-like storm. Pictures the next morning revealed mass destruction. Interesting was the news footage of that family's house. Although badly damaged, their home was saved because they'd taken the necessary precautions.
In many ways, marriage can be like a storm. Most of the time, couples experience small rain showers. But sometimes, marital problems can feel like a hurricane. When this happens, unless the appropriate precautions have been made, thoughts of divorce might surface. In other words, when we're deeply offended, the last thing on our mind is finding the right help to resolve the problem. Therefore, having specific steps in place before the storm hits can make the difference between broken windows and losing your home. So how can we take measures to protect our marriages from the destructive storms of life? One way is to create an anti-divorce contract.
Developing an Anti-Divorce Contract
The goal when creating this contract is to establish several mutually agreed upon steps to undertake before seeking a divorce. For example, agree on the minimum number of marital sessions, which friends could serve as a support and prayer group, which marriage books or videos need to be read, a commitment not to be romantically involved with anyone during this period, the specific number of months to wait before a divorce, whether to get a legal separation first, voiding the contract for physical abuse, and so forth. These are a few possible questions to consider. The key is to brainstorm every possible step to take before seeking a divorce. You might even have several other couples who would be willing to make the same commitment to brainstorm with you. Several heads are better than one!
The final point is to determine the consequences if the contract is not honored. Usually, financial ramifications work the best. I encourage you to get your pastor, friend, or lawyer's signature on the finished document.
You may be thinking, "Divorce...that will never happen to us!" I know how you feel. My wife and I made a commitment that divorce will never be an option. However, feelings change. There will be times that you will not feel "in love" with your mate. For whatever reason, you may even consider separation or divorce. Therefore, as Christian couples, we need to do everything within our power to guard against making decisions based on fluctuating emotions. Having a written contract can help you make the right choices to strengthen your relationship and to keep your promise "'til death do us part."
Taken with permission from Greg Smalley Psy.D. Greg Smalley, Psy.D. is director of Marriage Ministries for the Center for Relationship Enrichment on the campus of John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Greg is the author or co-author of eight books concerning marriages and families. Visit Greg at www.liferelationships.com.
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