"If there's one thing that makes me want to puke, it's a friendly divorce," Bebb said. "If it's got to be, give me a divorce that's hateful. When you're friends, stay put. So what if it's not all moonlight and roses? What is? Stay put because if you don't, you'll spend the rest of your life looking to find each other in the face of strangers." (Leo Bebb, in The Book of Bebb, by Frederick Buechner)
Isn't this so true? It takes two hands for me to count the number of Christians I know who have separated and divorced in the last several years, and most not on the basis of unfaithfulness but on some incompatibility. One man I know left his wife and young kids only to end up marrying again a couple years later to a woman who (you guessed it) resembles his former wife, only younger. It takes little imagination to see that what men or women in such situations are chasing is some idealized version of what they had (or thought they had) in their first spouse. But it's a fiction, really, because there was no practically perfect spouse as there never was a practically perfect person.
There are marriages that have been so wounded that they often can't go on, as in the case of adultery or abuse. Even though I can cite examples of marriages that went on in spite of these breaches of unity, even thrived, being the sinful people that we are God has made concessions to our nature. Thank God some people do get to start over.
But there are also couples not plagued by unfaithfulness or abuse who should never have married, as they wake up after the honeymoon and realize they have nothing in common and don't particularly like each other. I suppose that in God's providence one should never say something should never have happened, yet in such cases it's tempting to want to just hit rewind and unwind the whole debacle, but it doesn't work so easily. There is damage in the unwinding. Rather, in this case, they need to find out what there is to like about one another and find or develop some common interests. Fly fishing? Classical music? They can just pretend they ordered a mail order bride or husband and start from square one. It's proven that love can follow commitment. Divorce is unlikely to lead to a happy marriage elsewhere, as it is rashness and lack of commitment that got them into this pickle of a marriage in the first place. So, stay put.
Bebb again: "Even if you get split up and married off to somebody different, you'll be forever phoning each other long distance and trading the kids back and forth. Antonio, he'll be coming round every time there's a birthday or somebody's took sick. They'll all of them say isn't it something how those two get on so friendly even so." If you can't live with them, you can't live without them either.
Unhappiness is portable, someone once said. That's true of marriages as well as other commitments --- like where you live, or where you go to church, or the job you have. There's a lot of wisdom in just staying put and learning to deal with it, to be content where you are. Life isn't Disneyland. Rest on Jesus and fight your way out. In the end it won't matter where we lived or who we married, but what God did through us in that place. We'll be done looking for love in the face of a stranger or new life in a new location. We'll find it in the face of Jesus.