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.