“He’s changed.”

“We’ve grown apart.”

If you dig deep enough, you might find that infidelity or money issues are symptoms, not the cause of an unhappy marriage. Our culture has portrayed marriage as a very selfish, self-serving relationship. It has taught us that we deserve to pursue our own individual happiness despite being married to another person.

We falsely believe that the purpose of marriage is to make us happy. I think that’s the real cause of most divorces.

I would argue that at least 90 percent of the arguments I have with my husband arise out of individualistic—and unrealistic—expectations one of us has for the other. A fight can be as small as how my husband’s cleaning habits differ from my own. Or it can be as large as where we want to move or when we want to have children.

I think most of us have a specific picture in our heads of what marriage is supposed to look like. We grow up, establish our own habits, and then expect our spouse to fall into our personal life pattern when we marry them. Instead, we find that our fairytale life with our new spouse and our dreams of what life would look like, whether it’s how we spend our time or how we spend our money, looks different than our spouse’s.

When we say “I do,” we vow to spend the rest of our lives with another human being, regardless of life’s circumstances or our spouse’s quirks. But I think some of us place conditions on that “I do.” For a lot of us, whether intentional or not, it’s “I do as long as my spouse does this or acts this way” or most importantly, “makes me happy.“

But that’s not how God intended marriage. Marriage is the unity of two souls. The Bible doesn’t promise that we will retain our personal, independent identity and that life will continue as before. Instead, the Bible promises a life-transforming, self-sacrificing union of two people. They become one, not just two people deciding to live life together.

What do you think it means to truly become one?

The definition of love is pretty clear in the Bible.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)

I don’t think there’s anything selfish about this verse. This verse suggests that we give up our own individual pursuit of happiness within marriage and instead love our spouse in a giving, unconditional, self-sacrificing kind of way. It sounds a bit like we are supposed to love our spouse as Jesus loves us.

We don’t mean to say that you can’t pursue your own hobbies, interests, and friendships when you get married. Being married also doesn’t mean that you are no longer a unique individual with a distinctly different personality than your spouse’s. In fact, you are loved by God for these differences. But marriage does mean that you stop looking at life through a “me” lens and begin to think through life decisions, joys, and challenges with an “us” perspective. It also means that you make sacrifices from time to time.

I’ve found a secret in marriage.

When you give up your own pursuit of self-serving happiness and pursue a life that’s best for “us” instead of “me,” you actually end up pretty happy. You end up with a spouse who also pursues what’s best for the marriage instead of their own selfish desires.

You begin to realize that your love looks more like 1 Corinthians 13 and a whole lot less like what our society thinks it should look like.

There’s a reason why divorce is so prevalent in our world. But it doesn’t have to be so common. If we begin to believe that marriage isn’t about making ourselves happy, but instead about becoming one unit that glorifies Christ, our divorce rates would be a lot lower. We would also be a lot happier.

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