THE MYTH (LIE) OF INCOMPATIBILITY IN MARRIAGE – The Problem Isn’t That You’re Incompatible . . . So What Is The Problem?

THE MYTH (LIE) OF INCOMPATIBILITY IN MARRIAGE – The Problem Isn’t That You’re Incompatible . . . So What Is The Problem?
August 23, 2016 Matthew L. Jacobson

The power of what you believe will change the course of your life. So, you’d better make sure you believe the truth because lies have just as much power to affect every aspect of your life as does the truth.

Lies matter. If we believe them long enough, they become our Truth, regardless of what is actually true or false. We like to think that we believe only the truth, but do we? Is any aspect of your thought process about your marriage (for instance) based on lies?

Not me!

And yet, millions of Christians have told themselves that they need to divorce or separate because they are “incompatible”. Do you know someone like that?

We started out great, but then we discovered we’re incompatible. Nobody’s right or wrong here, we just don’t “work” any more.

Is “incompatibility” in marriage real?

I didn’t ask if it feels real to the millions of spouses who know the proper way to squeeze the toothpaste tube, or those married to someone who refuses to learn how to correctly put the toilet paper roll on the roller. And, more seriously, I didn’t ask if it feels real to the millions of marriages where conversations dissolve into arguing on a regular basis, or to those struggling back from any form of infidelity.

To all these people, it definitely feels real but, is it . . . really? Are they truly incompatible? Remember, we can convince ourselves of anything. When personal truth is the only consultant, all beliefs, decisions, and actions are valid, by definition.

In courthouses across America, incompatibility is grounds for divorce. That proves it, right there, doesn’t it? Incompatibility is a thing! After all, it’s inhumane to make two people who are incompatible remain married, right?

Have you entertained this thinking regarding your own marriage?

Maybe the basis of our (relational, sexual, emotional, financial) problems is that we’re . . . incompatible . . . that explains it!

There are legitimate medical conditions that create physical and emotional problems in marriage, which need to, and for those willing, can be, addressed. For the vast majority of people in difficult marriages, however, incompatibility isn’t the problem.

So, what is . . . ?

Ready for a hard truth?

You’re not incompatible. You’re just sinful. 

The problems you are experiencing are not based on some condition you call “incompatibility”. They’re the result of not letting go of your selfishness and sin.

Many of you may be chaffing at this, right now, convinced that the real problems in your marriage are because of your spouse. Maybe, but the Word of God encourages you to do an eye exam before you put all the blame on your spouse.

In Matthew 7:3-5 (mljv), Jesus asks, “Why are you focusing on the tiny speck in your brother’s (spouse’s!) eye and not on the log in your own? . . . You hypocrite, first remove the log from your own eye and then you will be able to see clearly to remove the speck in your brother’s (spouse’s) eye.”

Someone once put it this way: What severe judges we are of our own crimes in other people.

When we come face-to-face with our own sin and truly repent of it (remove it from our thinking and life) we remove one of the reasons we were struggling in marriage.

In the marriage journey, healing follows where humility and true repentance have been.

Yes, it takes two and many spouses are unwilling to move forward – and certainly, the Bible sanctions divorce in specific circumstances – but for most, marriage problems are not about incompatibility. They’re about being willing to grow and mature as a person.

Reject the language of relational demise. You’re not incompatible. Mistakes may have been made but your marriage is not a mistake. God doesn’t make mistakes.

And take heart. Today’s failure doesn’t have to define and destroy tomorrow’s promise.

The Truth will set your marriage free . . . IF you walk in it.

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17 Comments

  1. H 4 weeks ago

    I think there is a situation not covered here. God doesn’t make mistakes, but what if God intended for us to marry someone else and we just didn’t pay attention to the warnings He gave? What if the marriage wasn’t part of God’s plan and by us getting married, we ignored the plan he actually had for us? I sincerely believe that my wife and I should never have gotten married. We aren’t right for each other and never were. We didn’t have marriage counseling before and our pastor never talked with us about these issues before the wedding so we didn’t realize the massive divide between what each of us needs and expects from a marriage. If we had known through counseling before, we wouldn’t have gotten married at all. Our needs are completely mutually exclusive and she will never be willing to provide what I need. Our marriage is going to implode and there’s nothing that’s going to prevent that. I believe that God wanted different for us and because we didn’t listen, our chances for a happy and fulfilled life are now gone. I don’t think God intended that.

    • Author

      If a couple humbles themselves, God will make beauty from ashes. Romans 8:28 it true in every life that is yielded to Him.

      • H 3 weeks ago

        Yes, if a COUPLE does this, I agree. You didn’t address my situation. I have lived in a nearly celibate marriage, held as a prisoner for the whole thing, lonely and neglected. Our pastor never brought up these topics with us before marriage and our expectations for a marriage are completely opposite of each other. Who’s needs are going to be more important? My need for physical intimacy and sex or her need to not engage in such activity? If I meet her needs then it means that I will NEVER have mine met. Am I supposed to just kill that part of who I am and accept a life of enforced celibacy?

        • Author

          Sounds like the two of you are on different pages, completely. My only answer is from the Word – the Bible. If we are living contrary to what it says, we are walking in sin and setting up our spouse to stumble in sin. If you are walking in authentic community with a body of true Christians, and are not living a lie in front of others (i.e.. people truly know you and the struggles you are facing) you both will be held accountable for walking as Christians are called to walk – and when it comes to sex, that means not withholding from each other (1 Cor 7) It’s time for some biblical accountability in your marriage – done safely only in the context of a godly, wise, biblical Church community.

  2. Brian 2 months ago

    Thank you for the article. I allowed sinful areas of my life to give Satan a foothold in our marriage. I was neglectful of my wife’s emotional needs and my actions showed her I believed other areas of my life (my work and my mother) were more important to me than she wass because if the amount of time those things took away from us being together. She found emotional support from another man and moved out a little over a month ago. I am working as hard as I can for reconciliation since I do not believe God wants us to divorce. God is working to change my heart and I am confident He is also working to change hers. I don’t know if she will read the article but am hopeful it will help to soften her heart.

  3. Sarah 8 months ago

    After nearly 3 years of counseling, and me reading every Christian marriage book , and seeking God’s help in my marriage, my husband of nearly 20 years has “set his mind” on worldly truths. He claims to be a Christ follower, we have 2 teenagers watching closely. He moved out when I set boundaries with the help of wise counsel according to Matthew 18 ,about the heavy sins he refused to admit and address. Now this month he filed for divorce. I am not sinless. I am human, but have stood solid on Gods word that marriage is a lifelong covenant. There have definitely been times of selfishness, and anger, and hurt from me and i take responsibility for those.
    Irreconcilable differences, incompatibility, change of feelings. ….the papers can say what they want, I know it’s sin, and breaks the heart of God. I just don’t know what to do now. I fear teaching my children that this is what happens to marriages

    • Larry 6 months ago

      One doctrine that I have not heard in most Christian beliefs is the doctrine of Eternal Marriage.

      • Author

        It is unlikely you will hear this in Christian circles because of the following verse, found in the Bible:
        Mark 12:25 – For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.

        According to the Scriptures, there is no marriage in heaven.

  4. doris 9 months ago

    “You’re not incompatible. You’re just sinful. ” – that’s a terrible thing to say to someone! Nobody should resign from being happy because it’s the right thing to do. We all deserve to be happy because we were only given one life to be filled with love.

    It’s normal to have a boyfriend and then meet another boyfriend who is a better match and make us happier and marry him. Marriage is a commitment, so you do everything you can to give it a chance, and not dump your husband/wife at the sight of a first or a second problem. But ultimately it’s the same as in the first situation: it is possible that you are quite incompatible and would be much happier divorced.

    So if two people are miserable with each other for years and can’t do anything about it despite their efforts, nobody wants them to be miserable. Really. We should respect each other and not hurt each other. But making someone miserable is also hurting them. It’s not fair. Because we all deserve love in our lives.

  5. Joy 1 year ago

    Yes! This is so true! My husband and I were divorced for a year before some of these hard lessons were learned. God truly opened our eyes to what marriage is, and what it is not. Marriage was not created to make us happy, (although there are innumerable happy moments in a marriage where BOTH parties seek to follow and Honor Christ) it is hard, and it does hurt at times, but it also teaches us to “die to self” and like you said, allow God to mature and grow us,…. marriage is a beautiful picture of Christs unfailing, unrelenting, and redeeming love for his bride, the church. My husband and I were re-married, and now have a better relationship than we could have ever imagined. We also try to encourage couples who are going through difficult times whenever we can! God is faithful!

  6. Jennifer 1 year ago

    Thank you for this article. It is right on point! After 20 years in a difficult marriage, watching other marriages crumble around me. I KNOW your words are true. This is an encouragement to me to keep on trusting God and. Looking ultimately to Him for how to handle things. I will pray for you, your marriage and ministry. God bless you!

  7. Beth 1 year ago

    This is so true! I went through a divorce many years ago. Unfortunately, it took years for the Lord to open my eyes to the fact that it was my own sin and selfishness that was the real issue. Then came the regret and sorrow at the heartache I had caused my poor young husband. When the Lord brought me to that point, I asked my ex husband’s forgiveness. The Lord taught me that love is something you do, not a feeling that can come and go. I share this message whenever I can .

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