What Makes Couples Stay Together or Split Apart



In my last post to you, I shared this thought: People marry because they are compatible. People divorce because they think they are incompatible. It’s as simple as that.

Why would so many couples who loved each other and thought they were compatible at the time of dating end up getting a divorce? With a bit of experience and wisdom, I can see two major reasons why a relationship would head towards disaster. You may be able to think of more reasons. I am merely suggesting that these two are commonly ignored, yet within our control. We can try to avoid them.

The first formula for disaster: the couple didn’t take seriously their incompatibilities while they were dating. Every couple has got some. If you’re not aware of incompatibilities with your partner, you don’t know them well enough yet.

The second formula for disaster: the couple started off being compatible, then one member of the couple started increasing in value while the other one did not pay attention. This happens in the gym when a woman decides it’s time to lose weight, get fit, or stay healthy. As she is becoming more “valuable” to some men, these men begin to take notice of her. This happens in the office as a man rises in his company. As he is becoming more “valuable” to some women, these women begin to take notice of him. Women, expand your horizon as your husband becomes more successful. Men, dress up better and take her out as your wife tries to be more attractive to you.

People increase in value in different ways, and it is not necessary for both partners to always be doing the same thing at the same time. For instance, a man and a woman do not necessarily have to earn the same level of income to maintain financial compatibility. I watched as my father made better investments, my mother became a better host of formal functions, entertaining state dignitaries and people considered important in their fields. My father and mother rose in value together, but in different ways. However, my mother was an essential part of his growing business.

Most women want their men to get promoted, make more money, or become more successful, yet they often fail to realize that as their man increases in value: 1) others may also take notice, 2) incompatibility may increase. A man should be encouraged to succeed; at the same time, if the man is trying his best, a woman should also aim to increase her value in a commensurate way (not necessarily equal or the same way). If she doesn’t work in the world, she can put more effort in learning to be a more loving wife, a better mum, or a good investor of the family savings. A loving wife, calm mother, and business partner are all valuable roles any honest, hard-working man would appreciate.

There are instances when a couple should be vigilant about keeping their compatibility levels equal. If one partner is learning to become a better lover in bed, and the other person doesn’t care to improve at all, this will eventually frustrate the one who’s trying harder. Incompatibility creeps in. Before they know it, the couple has a fissure caused by ignored incompatibility.

People say they divorce over sex, money, or “irreconcilable differences,” but what they really mean is that they long for compatibility. The irony is that people are attracted to each other because they are compatible. Like attracts likes. But people may later become repelled by the person they were once attracted to, because it was assumed that compatibility doesn’t require work. The value of one member may rise while the other member ignores the positive growth. We constantly upgrade our software and hardware, why do we not upgrade ourselves in a relationship? To be healthy, a pair should work on maintaining equal value, sharing common interests, and growing together as individuals, otherwise incompatibility creeps in unawares. When you upgrade yourself, you will upgrade your relationship.

YOUR COMMENT: Do you think compatibility is something to be settled in dating or to be worked at continually in marriage? Do you have real life examples to share?

  • Guitarist

    I like this.   I used to think about this but you brought the words to my thoughts and made it so much clearer.   I suppose it’s like any friendship where effort still needs to be made to keep a friendship alive, but this is kind of different where it’s more about compatibility. 

    It’s almost like you can take someone for granted if you’re not putting effort in a relationship.   And it’s also a good way to keep progressing in life while in a relationship instead of simply staring at each other everyday, but not moving forward in life (like letting life pass you by as you live in a little bubble). 

    Like a good relationship should propel both individuals higher and higher to newer levels, experiencing and broadening their horizons to what is out there in the world, instead of the opposite.   Thx Ps. Steve.

  • Joechristian123

    I agree that definitely compatibility is something to seriously assess during the dating process, but in love, not by thinking ‘who is more than who’ or ‘who should work harder to match whose value’.

    I am a married man, I can say I have experience too, and in my opinion once you are married,  God’s word says from Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall CLEAVE unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Once married, as mature christian couple we ought to focus on walking in divine love towards our partner, rather than basing it on ‘natural’ love. Being repelled because you think your spouse is no longer compatible is ‘natural’ love, then what would ‘divine’ love do? Give grace and love your partner with Godly love. To think about and ‘work’ on compatibility based on ‘value’ as per all the examples provided once you are married is ‘performance-based’ with expectations for the spouse to perform, can create spirit of strife in marriage and that is not God’s definition of love, as clearly defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

    I wonder how would a married couple walking in divine love towards each other would ever be aware if one is less than the other in ‘value’, if conscious effort is made to ensure that they are focusing on “how can I serve you and please you?” rather than “how can you serve me better?”.

    For a married couple, I do not think a husband can increase in ‘value’ without the support of his wife, and vice versa. “Behind every great man there is a great woman”. How then could one claim to the spouse ‘I have accomplished this on my own, now you have to match-up”?

    Improvements and efforts in marriage are necessary, but not to strife in achieving ‘equal’ compatibility, but because you love the person and wants to serve him/her better. How does God treat us? Does Jesus want us to be equal in ‘value’ or ‘accomplishments’ with Him to be accepted? So overall, I think this article is only applicable to the singles (although “becoming a better lover in bed” is not something for the singles).

  • Cambrea

    You choose as best you can when you are single, whatever age, race or background you are.

    I think compatibility has
    little to do with it once you are married, especially as a christian. The value of a person is determined by how you choose to
    view them.

    We were definitely
    incompatible with God. We had nothing to offer Him, nothing to improve. Any
    improvements we could possibly make were considered just filthy rags. But He
    placed great value on us and chose to love us.


    We were so far removed from
    Him. He was Holy, loving, wealthy, extravagant etc. We were unholy hateful,
    selfish, poor, self centred, stingy and unloving etc.


    Yet he chose to value us as
    He values Himself (For we are created in His image). His heart ached for us. He
    wanted us to be together. We had fallen, turned our backs on Him and didn’t
    look back or we looked towards Him helplessly and hid from afar.


    His love reached out to us.
    It compelled Him to devise a plan and reach out to us and He valiantly set out
    to rescue us with everything in Him and all his resources and wisdom. Even in
    the face of possible rejection, that He may have done it all in vain, He
    soldiered on, compelled by His love. He sent messengers to reach out to us and
    tell of His love. He sent Jesus who left all his heavenly privileges (so
    incompatible) to come right down to our level (love and accept us, as we are,
    and minister to us on our level) and then He grandly lifted us to His level as
    we received Him.


    He is the most valiant, grand
    and extravagant lover of all lovers. His agape love, He has imparted to us, to
    enable us to love like He loves, when we receive Him.


    Agape love is the only type
    of love that has no feelings. It is completely derived from a solid decision of
    commitment. That solid decision of commitment enables the person being loved to
    feel stable and secure and invites all other kinds of love into the
    relationship, Fileo (Friendship), Eros (Romance), Storge (Affection).


    In Christ we have access to
    the loving heart of God. We have access to His love and anointing by faith and
    grace to love as He loves. We love because He first loved us.


    It is not always easy but it
    is possible.


    We love because He first
    loved us. By this all men shall know that we are His disciples, if we have love
    for one another. The greatest commandment is to love God with all of your
    heart, mind, soul and strength and love your neighbour as yourself.


    So choose to value and love
    the other person, especially if you are already married. Invite God into the
    relationship and love with His love. A three-fold cord is not easily broken.


    All loving relationships I
    have observed where people have been married for over 30 years have one thing
    in common, the people have chosen to love and accept the other member as they
    are, the good, the bad and the ugly. They have made a decision to love an
    imperfect vessel. They have chosen to pour their life and love into the other
    for a lifetime. The security of this solid commitment and unconditional
    acceptance forms the foundation for the love that goes the distance.

  • http://Cioccolanti.org/ Steve Cioccolanti

    The curse of blogging is we are all expected to write a short blog that’s also interesting. 

    The blessing of blogs is it generates conversations like these whereby I can clarify my thoughts. 

    No one would argue against the Biblical fact that the solution to relationship problems is to simply “walk in love”. In a similar way, we can say to every depressed person, “Be happy!” No one could argue against the fact that the solution to depression is to rejoice, don’t worry, and be happy.  If the command “walk in love” or “be happy” can solve marital problems or depression, then most people are obviously not getting it!

    I think some are missing the heart of my message. Given that 50% of Christian marriages end in divorce, most married Christians need help. They need it explained to them what it means to “walk in divine love”. They need it broken down into smaller, practical steps. Telling someone, “You should just walk in love” is an over-simplistic, idealistic response. In a perfect world with perfect people, that should work fine. In the current world, 50% of Christians who all know they should walk in divine love are failing to apply it. 

    Ask ourselves, “What does it mean to walk in love?” 

    Is it not walking in divine love notice our spouse’s growth? 

    Is it not walking in love to care that our interests match our spouse’s? 

    Is it not walking in love to desire to grow and mature for the blessing of our mate? 

    Is it not walking in divine love to be more compatible with our spouse?

    A comment was made that Jesus walks in divine love and He accepts us just the way we are. Is it really true that Jesus expects nothing of us after we confess, “I believe in You”? Doesn’t the Lord expect us to grow up into Christ-likeness? Doesn’t Jesus expect us to grow in our compatibility to Him? Can a Christian continue to be a liar, thief or rapist? Is his behavior compatible with his Lord?

    Someone said, “It sounds like the relationship is performance-based.” Performance gets no one saved; we can only be saved by Jesus’ Blood. But after we are saved, didn’t Jesus say He evaluates our performance? Did Jesus not reward those who performed well? (Luke 19:17) Didn’t Jesus say, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”? (Matthew 5:48). Jesus has the highest standard and expectation of His Bride. Loving Jesus means pleasing Him and becoming more compatible to Him in our character.

    The fear seems to be that if I have to be compatible, I might be rejected. But what is the alternative? Is it loving to ignore compatibility? Is it godly to turn a blind eye to 50% of relationships that are failing and say, “Compatibility between two people doesn’t matter once they are married”? In an ideal world, we wish this to be true. 

    But in the real world, there are real incompatibilities we should address openly and honestly. A man who drinks himself drunk every night and verbally abuses the children is not compatible with a sober wife who’s trying to shoulder the responsibility for the family. Divorce is not the only option; working on compatibility can turn the marriage around. An Asian woman who’s been promised an Australian passport and a happy life if she marries a man 35 years her senior will have compatibility issues with her mate. Are we to tell her, “Once you marry, compatibility issues don’t exist”? There is a ‘Christian’ husband who poured scalding hot water on his wife. Are they emotionally compatible? Not all women are victims. On the other side, there are women who use sex as a power tool – a bargaining chip – they withhold intimacy to manipulate their husbands to get what they want. Is it reasonable to say such a couple doesn’t need to work on their sexual compatibility? Just walk in love and it’ll be fine? No, “walking in love” needs to be defined. Compatibility is a great frame work in which to define how to work at improving a relationship or marriage. 

    My next blog specifically addresses the 6 compatibility issues for singles. Yes, it’s best to work on them before you ever get married, but the work doesn’t end after you get married. Nothing but pride says, “I don’t have to work on myself. I don’t have to change for anybody.” 

    To believe and teach that partners never have to work on compatibility ever again after they get married is idealistic. I love ideals, but I also wish to help real people who seek practical solutions. I don’t believe all marriage incompatibilities can be solved. In some cases of extreme abuse, violence or neglect, it may be better and safer to part ways. To work on compatibility is to improve your marriage, and to improve your marriage is to walk in divine love. 

  • trotaire

    I like ur response, I think u got to the root! – ‘The fear seems to be that if I have to be compatible, I might be rejected.’

    I think u would get 2 kinds of responses fr ur blog, one from the secure n one from the insecure. 

    The secure r humble enough to embrace change. Readers of ur blog who has no insecurity issues would think: “Ah, i have room to change n grow…”

    The insecure would think:”Hey u need to accept me as i am, in the name of ‘walking in love’!”…They fear change/ r too proud to admit they need to work on themselves.