Before You Get Divorced…

Unhappy couple not talking after an argument in bed at home

Over the past 15 years as a pastor, I have counseled a lot of people who have told me they wanted to divorce their spouse for reasons other than adultery or desertion. The most common reason given is that they have fallen out of love with them and now have irreconcilable differences. Often they will say that they want a divorce for the sake of the children, as they believe that their constant arguing is causing them mental and spiritual harm. It is at this point that I usually give a version of my, “Whatever you think you’re going to achieve by getting a divorce, you won’t achieve it” speech tailored to the person whom I talking to. Here is a generic version of this speech, given to someone who has told me they want a divorce because of irreconcilable differences*:

1) God will not be pleased with your decision nor bless this action: Unless you’re the innocent party and your spouse has committed adultery (Matt. 19:9) or deserted you (1 Cor. 7:15), you are not getting a biblical divorce, and God HATES divorce (Mal. 2:16). If you remarry after an unbiblical divorce, Jesus Christ says you are an adulterer. (Matt. 19:9) It is a tearing apart of “one flesh” which inevitably produces a wound that seldom, if ever, heals (Matt. 19:4-6).

2) Far from being “for the sake of the kids” your children will be better off if you don’t divorce: Other than the death of one or both parents, NOTHING is more traumatic or damaging to children than the divorce of their parents. Its usually the root of a host of spiritual problems of their own, makes it more likely that their own marriages will end in divorce, makes them choose between their parents, and introduces them to a life of shuttling between two families without really ever being wholly part of either. I’ve never encountered a child of divorce who didn’t bring trust issues into their own marriage.

3) It doesn’t even achieve the “separation” you think you desire: In a divorce in which children are involved, the two parties go from being joined “for better or for worse” in a matrimonial union that will fluctuate wildly into being legally joined in a relationship in which – having punched out a point when you disliked each other intensely – you will be constantly forced to deal with a person you didn’t like on legally hostile terms. Your new “life apart together” will involve lawyers, payment plans, hostile holidays, regret, guilt, resentment and anger.

4) You aren’t going to find the “perfect” alternative spouse out there: All humans are sinners (Romans 3:10, Romans 3:23), so you might find someone who does some things better than your old spouse, but inevitably they will do some other things worse, and having abandoned one marriage, you will be even more ready to abandon a second.

5) Dating after 30 with kids of your own usually SUCKS (I apologize, but there simply isn’t a good alternative word that conveys how bad it is): Face the facts, all of the undamaged, moral, upstanding, trustworthy, responsible, good looking, well adjusted people without baggage are all married by now. The people you will be dating are going to be either divorced themselves, or trailing a bunch of bad relationships of their own. And guys, you simply aren’t the catch you think you are, and other people either know it, or will realize it. Also remember that you’re married to someone who has been trained to put up with your garbage – other people aren’t and won’t. 

6) Trying to fix your marriage is always the better option, it costs less in every sense, and works most of the time. Think of it as two countries opting to negotiate instead of entering into a nuclear exchange.

————————————————————————-

* This is not the speech I would give to someone who was the victim of adultery, desertion, or spousal abuse. For information about what constitutes legitimate grounds for a biblical divorce, please check out this article. For more information, about what it means to be abused or an abuser, I’d recommend these articles: Those Suffering Domestic Violence and Those Who Choose to Abuse. 

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About Andrew Webb

Andrew James Webb, Pastor Providence PCA, Fayetteville NC. Born: July 29, 1969 Rochford, Essex England Education: MA Modern History, St. Andrews University, Fife, Scotland, 1991 M.Div., Westminster Theological Seminary, Glenside, PA, 2001 Personal Details: Husband of Joy Webb, Father of Margaret (6), Victor (5), Graham (3) and Isabel (10 Mos.) Secular Work History: Upon graduation from University, I returned to the United States and worked for two Madison Ave Advertising Firms in copy writing and advertising space sales. After moving to Northern Virginia, I went into computing. I worked as a Systems Administrator in Washington D.C. for both the Bureau of National Affairs (BNA) (a legal publishing firm,) and the International Republican Institute. Experience: Licensed by Potomac Presbytery, May 1997 and Philadelphia Presbytery in 1999. From 1998 to 2001 I did a three year apprentice/internship under Dr. Mark Herzer while working with the Christ Covenant church plant in Hatboro, PA. Ordained as an RE at Christ Covenant PCA in 2000 and as a TE by Central Carolina in 2001 when I was called to be the Organizing Pastor for Providence PCA Mission, Cross Creek PCA's church plant in Fayetteville, NC (home to Ft. Bragg and Pope Airforce Base). In 2005 when the Providence PCA Particularized I was blessed to be called by the congregation to be their Pastor. Presbytery Committees: Assistance and Membership (Philadelphia), Candidates (Central Carolina), Nominations (Central Carolina) GA Committees: Bills and Overtures, Covenant Theological Seminary Other: I have had a number of my essays on theological topics published including What is the Reformed Doctrine of Divorce? and Five Reasons Not To Go See The Passion of the Christ Why I Don't Have an English Accent: I don't have an English accent because my parents moved to New Jersey when I was six!
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5 Responses to Before You Get Divorced…

  1. Pingback: Divorce in the Case of Abuse – Wheat and Chaff

  2. David Crum says:

    Dear Reverend Webb –

    Greetings in Christ from an ordained missionary of the OPC. Dom Aquila is a personal friend, of many years, and I must say I especially enjoy your articles posted on his web site; The Aquila Report.

    I write with a meager offering that, I believe, even strengthens your very good counsel in the article “Before You Get Divorced”. You wrote:

    “2) Far from being “for the sake of the kids” your children will be better off if you don’t divorce: Other than the death of one or both parents, NOTHING is more traumatic or damaging to children than the divorce of their parents.”

    I believe it’s even worse (i.e., stronger; more traumatic) than that …

    “The voluntary separation of husband from wife, parent from children, is more devastating to the children than the death of one, precisely because it is voluntary!” (citation needed – I believe the source is Ken Myers).

    Covenant kids can and do understand, and even come to accept, the ‘dark providence’ of the death of one, or even both, of their parents. What they cannot understand, (indeed why should they?) is when one or both say to them: “We’re splitting up (i.e. leaving you – at least in some sense and to some degree) because we love you” Children see right through the lie. In the case of death, they know that ‘dad would never willingly leave us, and he faithfully taught us to trust in “our only comfort in life and in death”‘. In the case of the voluntary separation and departure through divorce, they can only conclude that “this whole thing is a sham”.

    In Him who sustains us, and our marriages,

    Dave Crum

  3. Rhonda Sigler says:

    How can we get permission to print this blog on divorce to distribute at our church? R. Sigler

  4. OKRickety says:

    Thank you for providing this “speech” for those considering divorce for non-biblical reasons.

    “This is not the speech I would give to someone who was the victim of adultery, desertion, or spousal abuse.”

    I see these as three quite different scenarios. My thoughts:

    1. Adultery is a valid biblical reason for divorce, but divorce is not commanded, so perhaps Item 6 “Trying to fix your marriage is always the better option, ….” could be applied, as difficult as I imagine that would be.

    2. Desertion by a non-believing spouse could also be impacted by Item 6. But if it is clear that they are not interested, then divorce is logically the most reasonable action.

    3. Spousal abuse, as terrible as it is, is not a valid biblical reason for divorce, but the nature of abuse leads to additional concerns for the victim and I suppose that is why you consider it to be a special category. However, I do not think this article makes it clear that abuse is not a reason for divorce. Also, I am disappointed in the link you give which states: “Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive, controlling, or abusive behavior that is used by one individual to gain or maintain power and control over another individual in the context of an intimate relationship. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, exploit, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure, or wound an intimate partner.” Based on this definition, I would say that almost every spouse is guilty of abuse.

    I think it would be helpful if you either expanded this “speech” to include these situations, or created “speeches” for them. I encourage you to do so.

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