Love for a Lifetime

(Multnomah, 1987)

What key elements of life work against lifetime marriages? Dr. Dobson identifies twelve "marriage killers." In a day when pastors' marriages are in a high-risk category, we should be very careful to address these issues before the destruction begins.

  1. Physical exhaustion. Pastors are often tired. Statistics tell us that pastors consistently work more hours than the general population. The stress of being "on call" twenty-four hours each day and seven days a week will take its toll. Rest is an important spiritual discipline. Sabbath is essential.
  2. Excessive financial conflict. Pastors are not immune from financial pressures. Finances are the number one reason given for divorce. Plan carefully here since pastors' salaries are often below the average wage earned by board members.
  3. Selfishness. Pastors give consistently and constantly. Sometimes they have little inclination to give more at home.
  4. Interference from in-laws. Pastors may face the unique situation of ministering to their extended family. Unwelcome advice or attempts to control the pastoral couple can be very destructive.
  5. Space invaders. It is important to know where boundaries should exist between pastors and congregations so that space is not invaded. It is important that spouses are allowed to be themselves and utilize the gifts God has uniquely given them.
  6. Alcohol or substance abuse. These can quickly become a place for habitual avoidance of pastoral distress. Avoid them.
  7. Unrealistic expectations. These can exist for the marriage, but also ministry. Be careful to fully understand the commitments you are making to a congregation. Non-verbalized expectations can undermine satisfaction with a relationship. Expectations beyond human capacity will overwhelm and bring bitterness.
  8. Addictions. The increased availability of internet has opened a door to porn that can lead to addiction and often destruction of the marriage as well as ministry for many pastor couples. Gambling has also left many relationships torn apart.
  9. Frustration, loneliness and "greener grass." The isolation of ministry couples can leave mates lonely and frustrated. False intimacy becomes attractive because it makes less demand than an authentic relationship. Time together is essential.
  10. Business or ministry failure. Failure is a relative term and is often determined by perception rather than fact. Failure can leave a pastor devastated and emotionally empty.
  11. Success. The intoxication of success can subtlety demand more and more time. Neglect of family and complicated relationships can be the result of ministry successes.
  12. Married too young. Immaturity can leave a pastoral couple totally unprepared for the challenges of ministry. Defeat and discouragement can destroy a marriage.

For our love to last a lifetime, wise investments of time, careful planning and genuine sharing are needed. We must be careful to build our own home wisely so it can be a testimony to a world ravaged by the disintegration of marriages.

– EF

Love for a Lifetime by Dr. James Dobson
was published by Multnomah in 1987.