Chances are good someone close to you has gotten divorced and you were caught in the fallout. Perhaps your parents, grandparents, brother or sister got divorced. One of your kids may be divorced. A close friend divorced. Maybe even you are divorced.
As a clinical psychologist who has worked with married couples for more than 30 years, I've seen divorce up close and personal. It's always ugly. Divorce is an awful, painful, destructive, traumatic, life-changing experience.
God hates it (Malachi 2:16, NKJV) — it breaks a sacred relationship, a covenant. God created marriage (Genesis 2:24). Marriage is the very picture of Jesus Christ's relationship to the church (Ephesians 5:25). Jesus plainly states that marriage is to be permanent (Matthew 19:3-9).
If you're reading this article because you're considering divorce, carefully reconsider that choice. Pray long and hard. There will be serious consequences, even if you choose divorce for a rock-solid biblical reason. And even in those circumstances, God expects you to do your absolute best to save your marriage. (Living with an abusive spouse, however, is not an option. Always seek safety for you and your children.) Couples can succeed at reconciliation — it's worth the fight. You may not be successful or your spouse may not cooperate, but God will honor you for giving it your best effort.
Here are my top five reasons you don't really want a divorce.
Divorce is the death of a dream and the death of a family. It is a series of huge, devastating losses. The time to recover will not be measured in months or even years. It will take decades.
In a very real and practical sense, the pain of divorce lasts a lifetime. Why? Because the losses don't ever stop. Loss of financial security. Loss of time with your kids and grandkids. Loss of ministry and career opportunities. Loss of peace.
How many times will you second-guess your decision and wonder if ending the marriage was the right choice? Thousands and thousands of times. Figure at least once or twice a day for the rest of your life, and you'll be close. Guilt and regret are unwelcome companions that won't leave you alone, especially if you divorced for an unbiblical reason or didn't work as hard as you could to save your marriage. (Victims of abuse have a responsibility to seek safety — that’s not what I’m talking about here.) You'll wonder, What if I'd done this? What if I'd not done that? What if I'd just given the marriage one more chance? What if, what if, what if … ?
The harm to those close to you
The body count after a divorce is incredibly high. You hurt yourself, your spouse, your parents, your spouse's parents, your siblings, your spouse's siblings, grandkids, grandparents and family members on both sides, close friends, co-workers, church friends, neighbors and the entire local church body.
You hurt the institution of marriage. Worst of all, you hurt God. He is grieved when a marriage dies.
The damage to your kids
One of the biggest lies about divorce is "It's better for the kids, because our bad marriage is hurting them." Here is the brutal truth: Kids of all ages are deeply, permanently wounded by divorce.
Divorce hurts your kids' self-esteem. Their confidence. Their security. Their views of the opposite sex and marriage. Their faith and trust in you. Their faith and trust in God.
I don't recommend you stay in a bad marriage. Especially for the sake of your children, I strongly recommend that you work on your marriage and fix it.
The lost opportunity to build a great marriage
The last reason is that a divorce hurts your character. A strong marriage isn't built in the good times. A great marriage is built in the bad times. A couple can develop real, lasting intimacy and an unshakeable bond by working through their marriage problems together. By divorcing, that character-building opportunity is lost.
Even if your spouse has sinned terribly and deeply hurt you, you can heal and build a brand-new marriage. The process of saving a marriage in crisis is extremely painful and difficult. But it's worth the effort!
I've seen people who married a second time encounter significant marital issues — again. Learn to work things out right the first time!
Take action now
These are just five reasons you don't really want a divorce. I could give you a hundred. Don't quit until you have done everything possible to save your marriage. Have faith that God will give you and your spouse the power to build a new marriage.
See a Christian marriage counselor. Talk to your pastor. Invest in a marriage intensive counseling experience. Pray your heart out and get your family and friends to pray.
Pull out all the stops to save your marriage. You will have the peace that comes from knowing you did all you could to stay married.
David E. Clarke, Ph.D., is a Christian psychologist, speaker, and author of I Don't Want a Divorce.
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