There are a few different ways to look at this question. To say that we married the “wrong” person might imply that there is a sole “right” person we are meant to marry. If we marry the “wrong” person, then we may fear we have messed up God’s plan for our lives. We might also be tempted to “correct” our error in ways that do not honor God. We can certainly make wrong choices in marriage and disobey God’s guidance in whom we decide to marry. However, taking the sovereignty of God into account, we cannot marry the “wrong” person. God has a plan for our lives and is able to redeem our wrong choices and ultimately work them together for good (Romans 8:28). Once we are married, we are expected to do everything we can to make that marriage honoring to the Lord. Whether a particular marriage partner is the “wrong” choice or not, the marriage is a covenantal relationship. God is able to transform even the worst of marriages into a relationship that brings Him glory.
Biblically, a Christian should be looking to marry another believer who shares a similar commitment to following the Lord Jesus. Marriage to an unbeliever is not an option for the believer (2 Corinthians 6:14). So, if a Christian marries a non-Christian, he or she has indeed married the wrong person by violating God’s will.
There are other ways to marry the wrong person. For example, marrying someone who is abusive, immature, selfish, or codependent is going to result in problems. Marrying someone who has untreated addictions or is living in unrepentant sin is likewise an unwise choice.
What are some reasons that people marry the wrong person? Some step into toxic situations in the mistaken belief that the power of their love alone will change the other person into someone who is not abusive, immature, selfish, or codependent. Some are blinded by the initial attraction to a mate and don’t realize the problems in their relationship. Others are manipulated by someone who seems to be one thing prior to marriage and then suddenly changes course. Other cases involve couples who simply aren’t ready for marriage. They underestimate the sacrifice required to live with another person. No doubt the reasons in each case of marrying the wrong person vary and are unique to the couple.
Culture also plays a role in influencing people to marry the wrong person. Many societies have portrayed marriage as a temporary arrangement that can be adapted or forsaken at will. Since exiting a marriage is not a big deal in some cultures, neither is entering it. All too many people say their vows without a real commitment to their spouse or to God. In many places in the world, a fantasy is promoted that marriage should meet all our needs—the emphasis being on meeting one’s own needs, not the needs of one’s spouse. Conventional wisdom says that, when a couple’s marriage is tested or when one spouse feels unmet needs, they should just get a divorce—and laws in many places make divorce quite easy. Rather than work out their problems, many struggling couples conclude they don’t love each other anymore and end the marriage.
Once a person realizes that he or she has married the wrong person, what then? First, if a believer has willfully disobeyed God’s instructions in 2 Corinthians 6:14, confession of sin to God is necessary. Then the forgiven sinner should strive to make the best of the situation and bring healing to the relationship (see 1 Corinthians 7:12–14; Ephesians 5:21–33). If the situation presents a danger to either spouse or to the children involved, then separation is in order. Seeking godly counsel from a pastor or marriage counselor is important, too. While the Bible allows for divorce in specific circumstances, divorce should never be the first option. With God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37), and He can bring beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3). A Christian who made a wrong choice in choosing a marriage partner may find that God desires to turn a bad marriage into a good one (see 1 Peter 3:1–2). The power of God can transform the “wrong” person into the “right” one.
How can a person prevent getting married to the wrong person? Benjamin Franklin’s oft-quoted quip, “Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut afterwards,” is good advice (Poor Richard’s Almanac, June 1738), but even more helpful is to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Some people seek first a spouse, and righteousness falls by the wayside. The single person should concentrate on becoming the individual God wants him or her to be and commit to dating only those who are also strong, growing Christians. To avoid mistakes, it’s necessary to heed the Word (Luke 11:28), seek godly counsel, pray for wisdom (James 1:5), and be honest with God and others.