I recently sat down with a young man who has been doing everything in his power to save his marriage. He strongly believes in the sacredness of marriage and he is heartbroken at the idea of divorce, but his wife has callously continued down a destructive path of infidelity, addiction, manipulation and abandonment. With pain and exhaustion in his eyes, he looked at me and asked, “How do you know when a marriage is over?”
My wife Ashley and I have written, coached, and taught many couples about ways to save a struggling marriage and we’ve even developed a new program to help couples in crisis fight to save the marriage, but this young man’s question reminded me that that sometimes, a person does everything in his/her power to save a marriage and it simply isn’t enough. In those situations, how do you know when it’s time to stop trying to “resuscitate” a dead marriage and finally move forward with your life?
It’s a sobering question; and one I approach with caution, because I strongly believe everything the Bible teaches about marriage and divorce. I’ve also seen way too many couples get divorced for “dumb” reasons instead of legitimate ones. I’m committed to the work of saving marriages; not ending them. Still, I wholeheartedly acknowledge that there are some circumstances where divorce may be the only remaining option.
If you are considering divorce, please first check out our new program at FightingForMyMarriage.com even if you’re currently fighting for the marriage without the support or partnership of your spouse. If there is ANY hope for your marriage, I believe fighting for the marriage is a better option than divorcing. Once you have done everything in your power, if any of the three behaviors below still remain, divorce may be the only option.
If you’ve done everything in your power to save the marriage, and your spouse still chooses to walk away and “abandon” you, then they’ve chosen to kill the marriage. To clarify, storming out and leaving for a night isn’t healthy but it isn’t necessarily “abandonment”, but if your spouse leaves for a long period of time or consistently walks out for shorter periods, they’ve chosen divorce. The rest is just paperwork. The Bible addresses situations of abandonment like this…”But if the husband or wife who isn’t a believer insists on leaving, let them go. In such cases the believing husband or wife is no longer bound to the other, for God has called you to live in peace.” (1 Corinthians 7:15)
2. A habitual pattern of infidelity.
A single act of infidelity is “grounds for divorce” but in those cases, divorce usually isn’t the best option. Some of the strongest couples I know have survived and healed through an act of adultery. Scars remain, but healing is possible (check out “How to save your marriage after an affair“). When there is an ongoing pattern of infidelity and deceit (or a single act of infidelity without true repentance), trust is ruined, and no marriage can survive without a foundation of trust. Divorce may be the only remaining option.
3. A cycle of abuse.
Your safety and your sanity have to be protected and if your spouse is physically harming you, then you need to get help and get safe. Get help for domestic abuse HERE. Even if your spouse hasn’t physically hurt you (yet), but consistently hurts you through demeaning words or threats, then your marriage is in crisis and you need to get help.
If you are in a struggling marriage, please consider going through our new program to help save struggling marriages before considering divorce.
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