Cell phones are wonderful when they work, but when you are in an area where your signal is breaking up, it can be frustrating. You hear the person’s voice fading in and out, but you keep talking, hoping that he or she is hearing you. Then, suddenly, you realize that you have disconnected. The other person isn’t there. Although you’ve been talking, no one has heard you.
Frankly, that’s a picture of a lot of marriages today. A person keeps talking, hoping that the other is listening. You know that communication between you is breaking up. Then, one day you realize you’ve disconnected.
What causes marriages to disconnect? If the thousands of e-mails and letters that come to Guidelines in response to this program and the books I’ve authored on marriage and family living reflect how things are, I see three powerful factors which cause us to disconnect: stress, busyness, and wrong priorities.
Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. James 4:17
Let’s start with the stress factor. All stress is not bad. Stress on the strings of a violin allows a beautiful melody as the bow glides across them. Stress on the suspension bridge keeps it from collapsing, and stress on the drumhead causes it to resonate to the beat of the drummer. But too much stress causes the violin string to snap, the suspension bridge to collapse, and the drum head to burst.
That’s the way it is with your marriage. No marriage is entirely stress-free. Stress is the result of the cares and pressures of life today, and we get it from many sources: the economy, the world in which we live, the difficulty to earn enough to provide for our needs, and the competition our kids are under. The reality is that stress doesn’t always drive us closer to each other. People who really love each other become irritable, uptight, annoyed, and short-tempered with each other. And gradually stress causes you to pull away from the one you love.
The second factor which causes marriages to disconnect is busyness, much of which is unavoidable. It’s the interest we pay on the principle of having to work two jobs, trying to satisfy the demands of our boss, our mates, our kids, the community, our churches, and ourselves. You can’t have it all, but you think you can so you often end up working longer hours, separated from your family—the very ones you are trying to provide for.
Frankly, some things just aren’t worth the price we are paying for them. Who cares that you have more money when you are never there to shoot baskets with your son or have no time for a leisurely walk through the park with your wife? Remember, too much busyness causes your marriage to disconnect.
Factor number three in disconnecting is wrong priorities. In life, we often pay horrendous prices for things that really aren’t that important. Recently I got a phone call from my daughter, and from the tone of her voice, I knew it was serious. “Dad,” she said, “I think our house is going to burn down, what should I take with me?” She quickly explained that a fire was threatening her subdivision and she had only minutes to grab things and run.
Having faced that possibility myself, I ran through the emergency list: kids, pets, pictures, financial records, checkbooks, grab the computer, and any money you have. Her house was spared, but looking back Nancy said, “You know, it was surprising to me how little besides our family really mattered.”
When your priorities are paid for in the currency of what it costs your family, your marriage is disconnecting. It’s a high price to pay for what you get.
Resource reading: 1 Thessalonians 3:9-13