It doesn’t require us looking too far to recognize that the family is under attack in America. There are many potent and evil forces vying against the stability and well-being of the family.
Here are some eye-opening statistics to consider:
• 40% of first marriages, 60% of second, and 73% of third marriages end in divorce. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2006)
• Almost 20 million Americans-about 10% of the U.S. population-are currently divorced. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2006)
• Among adults who have been married, one-third (33%) have experienced at least one divorce (Barna, 2008). That means that among all Americans 18 years of age or older, whether they have been married or not, 25% have gone through a marital split.
• More than 1 million children are affected by divorce each year. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2006)
• Born again Christians who are not evangelical are indistinguishable from the national average on the matter of divorce: 33% have been married and divorced. (Note: The Barna 2008 survey did not determine if the divorce occurred before or after the person had become born again. However, previous research by Barna has shown that less than two out of every ten people who accept Christ as their savior do so after their first marriage).
• Divorce is a major health risk of American adults and children.
• Mental health problems
• Adults who experience divorce more than double their risk of earlier mortality.
• On average, adults who divorce and children who experience a parental divorce have their life expectancy shortened by an average of four years, (according to a 51 year longitudinal study).
• 43% of marriages today in America involve a second or third (re)marriage.
• 68% of re-marriages involve children from prior marriages.
• 70+% of remarriages involving children end in dissolution within 5 years.
• 2,100 new blended families are formed every day in America.
• Single-parent families rose to an all-time high to 37% of families in 2005. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2006)
• 30% of all children in the U.S. will be in a step-family at some point in their life. (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2006)
These are heart-breaking statistics. Sadly, even within the church we often struggle to keep our families together. Christians are certainly not immune from familial conflicts and struggles. It’s part and parcel of living in this world.
So how can we go about building (or restoring) family unity and strengthening our family units? I believe there are at least five important keys to consider, each of which begins with the letter “C.”
1. Commitment. It seems these days that marriages and families are frequently viewed as temporary-even throwaway-conveniences. There’s little loyalty. Selfishness and self-centeredness can easily get in the way of harmony and happiness in the home. Whether we’re a spouse, parent, child, or sibling, we need to think long and hard about how committed we are to our family’s basic physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. What level of sacrifice are we willing to make for our family units? Family should walk in when the world walks out on us.
2. Compassion. Why is it we tend to hurt the ones we should love the most by our unkind words, envy, angry outbursts, and bitterness toward each other? To demonstrate compassion in the home means to develop a genuinely caring and considerate heart-one that sympathizes and empathizes with the various struggles, fears, and difficulties we each possess. And it is more than just something we feel; it’s what we do. We must show mercy and kindness to one another, patience and understanding, but-most of all-forgiveness.
3. Communication. To communicate effectively means more listening than talking, more concentration than jumping to conclusions, more clarification rather than condemnation. We must take down our defenses and open our ears and minds so we can take in what our family members are trying to get across to us. Listen with your heart and speak with honesty and humility. Reflect back to your spouse what you have grasped from their words to give them the opportunity to clarify any misconceptions. In the worst-case scenario, if you and your partner are unable to understand each other’s points of view, it’s probably time to seek the assistance of a third party who can assist you in understanding each other. Perhaps you should seek relationship counselling hawthorn. It may help you improve your relationships with your partner and break free from old patterns of behavior. Counsellors can provide a safe, non-judgmental environment in which you might be able to identify issues or problems in your relationship and work through them.
4. Compromise. Now I’m not talking about compromising the truth or our moral values in any way. What I do mean is that everything-within reason-should be open to negotiation in our families. A healthy family will be characterized by give and take. Some spouses seem to adhere to the idea that “It’s my way or the highway!” Certain parents are like cantankerous ogres who never consider their children’s legitimate wishes and desires. On the other hand, some children act like spoiled brats who operate with a sense of personal entitlement for whatever they want at whatever cost to their parents. We’ve got to strike a balance in our families so that wisdom and fairness prevails. Also, when it comes to divorce – it happens when neither party is willing to compromise. It’s certainly up to them what they want to do – consult top rated divorce lawyers, or settle it amongst themselves – the choice is theirs alone to make. But in all honesty, if a reconciliation can be considered, it should be. However, if you’ve decided to divorce, it’s best to settle everything by hiring a family law attorney, whether it’s about property division between your children or the marital property division. The reason is such things won’t bother the two of you later on.
Additionally, if you have suffered any kind of emotional or physical trauma during your marriage, you may be able to sue your partner and receive compensation. Though this will not necessarily strengthen your family bond, it may provide you with some peace of mind. You’d probably be at ease knowing that at the end of the day, you got justice for all the mental anguish you’d endured. You may simply need to contact personal injury attorneys who can advise you on how to file a case against your partner for harassing you mentally or physically and get a fair trial.
5. Christ. Jesus should be the very cornerstone of our family life, and our homes need to be built upon him as our firm foundation. Our ultimate purpose in our families ought to be to bring glory to God. Psalm 127:1 states, “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”
Family relationships are precious. Let’s never take our families for granted! We must work harder to make them stronger and long lasting. There’s so much riding on it.
Ryan Noel Fraser was raised in Cape Town, South Africa. An Assistant Professor of Counseling at Freed-Hardeman University, he serves as an elder and the preacher for the Bethel Springs Church of Christ in Bethel Springs, TN. Ryan is also a nonfiction, Christian author represented by Hartline Literary Agency, religion columnist for the Jackson Sun (in West Tennessee), and certified as a pastoral counselor. But most importantly, he is a husband and dad to two wonderful teenage kids. Ryan holds a B.A. in Bible and Masters in Ministry from Freed-Hardeman University, a M.Div. from Abilene Christian University, and a Ph.D. in Pastoral Theology and Pastoral Counseling from Brite Divinity School (Texas Christian University). Follow him at @RyanNoelFraser.