Thinking About Divorce? 3 Things to Consider First

Relengage Marriage Ministry article photograph of a married couple looking at the wedding rings sitting in the center of the table in front of them, placed on top of divorce papers.

Marriage can be one of life’s most rewarding adventures, but also one of the most challenging. When your marriage seems to be a constant source of pain and conflict, divorce can start to feel like the only way out. Unfortunately, life after divorce doesn’t always pan out the way you picture it. If you’re thinking about divorce, here are three things you should know first:

1. Divorce doesn’t fix problems; it just exchanges them.

Divorce is incredibly costly, both financially and emotionally. Any relief it offers is replaced by the stress of the divorce process and life afterward. In addition to lawyer fees, alimony, child support, and the division of assets, consider the less obvious costs: lost productivity and time, for instance, and diminished health. If you have children, you will still be in regular contact with your ex, forced to split time with your children, including holidays and birthdays. Divorce has devastating effects on mental health even years later, and unhappily married adults are typically no happier after they divorce. Even your social life may take a hit, as friendships tend to fracture along party lines when people “pick sides.”

Bottom line: People often think their lives will be better or easier after a divorce but find the opposite to be true. Divorce changes things in ways you might not expect, and it’s important to be realistic about what you are signing up for before starting down that road.

2. Even considering divorce damages your marriage.

The “marital endurance ethic,” as described by University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite5, boils down to the principle that simply deciding to commit to your marriage is the best way to begin healing it. Imagine your marriage like a house in need of repair. If your plan is to let the house go to foreclosure, you won’t invest time or money into caring for it. But if your plan is to live there for the rest of your life, you’ll work to keep it in good shape. It’s the same person and the same house, but your commitment becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Similarly, your marriage might need a lot of work, but you’ll never put in the time as long as divorce is in the back of your mind as an escape hatch. You can outlast your problems if you just decide not to quit.

3. There are always more options.

Your marriage is far more valuable than a house or a car, and you would never throw either of those away without first exhausting every option to try to repair them. Even if you have poured your effort into your marriage with seemingly no result, there is always more you can try before you give up. You can find your way back to each other, but someone usually has to make the first move. Attend individual counseling or couple’s counseling. Sign up for a marriage restoration ministry like re|engage.

If your spouse isn’t willing to work with you, start by working on the only thing you can control—yourself. You’ve probably imagined becoming a new you after leaving your spouse—working out more, starting better habits, speaking more kindly to your family, and so on. Why not do those things now? If your marriage ends in divorce, you haven’t lost anything by working on yourself.

Of course, if there are any safety concerns in your relationship, a period of separation under the guidance of a pastor or Christian counselor might be wise. Fighting for your marriage never means putting yourself or your children in harm’s way. Please talk to a pastor or professional if you are confused about the line between difficulty and danger. Help is available. You can also learn more about re|engage or find a re|engage group near you.

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