Can It Be More Sinful
To Stay Married
Than Get Divorced
Divorce is a touchy subject and has been for a very long time.
General discussions on the topic will often generate friction – especially in religious circles.
When it happens between people we know, conversations are hushed as if something terribly sinful has happened.
Whispered responses and righteous posturing, however, serve no biblical purpose. It only evokes a sense of condemnation in those breaking-up and that, on top of the negative feelings already caused by the experience.
Heck, even people trying to support parting couples feel tainted.
But in spite of popular ideas to the contrary, divorce is not the bad-dy some people make it out to be and should not be viewed as sin. Divorce “may” be caused by sin but should never be considered a punishable or shameful offense.
Controversial statement, I know, but if divorce was a sin God would never have written it into law.
Remember this. Marriage was designed for sinless people in a perfect world. Those conditions no longer exist. The only marriage candidates left are sinful people and the world is no longer a museum of family values and virtue. We shouldn’t be surprised when marriages wobble and we mustn’t become judgmental when they fall part.
Marriage was NOT designed to handle the pressures brought on by one bite of the forbidden fruit. Something else was needed to do that – divorce.
Divorce was legislated as a means of alleviating some of the pressures. It is the safety valve, so to speak – the humane way of dealing with the problems that arise when two human natures – both sinful – are united in one relationship. Even when one person, for sinful reasons, decides they can no longer remain in the marriage, divorce is still a solution for the other. Who would want to stay where they aren’t wanted.
No, I’m not suggesting that every failure can now be excused because we are sinners. I’m saying that divorce, which is not a sin, was created as a means of graciously managing unbearable, sometimes unsafe, marriage situations.
And contrary to what is commonly suggested, the problems that follow a divorce are not caused by the divorce. They are only reflections of the pre-divorce state of the marriage and they are compounded by culturally generated condemning attitudes, usually condescendingly expressed, by friends and family.
Whatever we do in response to divorce should be helpful. Unfortunately, our responses often add to the hurt and divorce gets the blame.
The silly thing is we think relationship problems can be solved just by preventing all divorce – shallow to say the least! Divorce is neither the sin nor the problem. It is a solution.
But that begs the question – is there another solution to relationship problems other than divorce? Is there another way to stop the bleeding?
Well, I’m not entirely convinced there is but I am sure that shaming people into staying married hasn’t worked. To make a difference we’ll have to think outside tradition.
The truth is we are faulty people trying to manage an institution created for perfect people. The institution, which is always perfect, is inhabited these days only by imperfect people who in turn are coached by a host of others who may be even less perfect.
And the so-called coaches often have no concept of the problems being faced. If you didn’t marry a pathological liar – and you’re not a psychologist specializing in that field – you can’t honestly know what it is like being married to one. The odds are not in our favor.
The problems are exacerbated by the fact that potential marriage candidates don’t readily admit their imperfections upfront and their partners don’t easily identify them beforehand. Let’s face it, no person can really know their partner until they get married and then it may be too late.
We’ve all heard the stories of individuals who intentionally hid their real character until vows were taken. Proposals aren’t usually accompanied with full disclosures…
“Oh, and by the way, I’ll beat the whatsy out of you for no reason at all on the odd occasion, honey.”
It is only after the wedding that abusive responses, manipulative ways and adulterous tendencies come to the surface.
In those situations is it right to think that mate A should be held hostage to the sins or entrapments of mate B?
In one statute – regarding bigamy – sense prevails. The marriage to a bigamist is automatically considered void. Why shouldn’t this rule apply for a physical abuser or a sex addict or someone who has blatantly misrepresented their true character or associations.
If an individual unknowingly married a member of a crime syndicate or a serial murderer or sex worker are we going to pontificate about the sanctity of marriage once the secret is out? Must we save the marriage at the expense of a life or shall we be sensible?
And please let me be very clear. I’m not suggesting that divorce should be “allowed” in these cases. I’m suggesting these bogus marriage contracts should be null and void automatically, no divorce required. Just like the rest of life, when the facts have been misrepresented the contract is automatically void.
Instead we argue back and forth sanctimoniously claiming we can’t “part asunder what God hath joined together” as if God was personally at the ceremony tying the knot!! Don’t forget. God also said don’t be unequally yoked together. We shouldn’t implicate Him when bad matches slip through the cracks.
Sorry, I don’t think God honors every marriage and anyone that does is missing the point not too mention a few brain cells. 🙂
If marriage is to be prepared for, and everyone agrees that it is, then a gross lack of preparation becomes grounds for divorce and a gross lack of character becomes grounds for automatic nullification.
Obviously, I believe there are times when divorce is an absolute must. Unfortunately for those who think differently the Bible supports my thinking.
Joseph was prepared to divorce Mary for fornication and legally he could have had her stoned…publicly. Once he was informed of her innocence all that changed but the fact that Joseph, a very godly and spiritual man was prepared to take a humane approach (divorce) in dealing with a matrimonial impasse says a lot for, not against divorce. He saw divorce as good not evil and we should be humble enough to learn from his example.
Note: In Bible days engagements were as legally binding as marriage and were dissolved in the same way, legal divorce.
Not only does the Bible say Joseph was a good man it also says God honored him further by giving him revelation in a dream – the revelation being Mary’s innocence. God was trusting Joseph with some very important information so we mustn’t be too quick to judge him as shallow regarding marriage issues.
In fact, God didn’t prevent Joseph divorcing Mary because it was wrong to do. In normal situations it was the decent, honorable thing to do. He stopped him because Mary’s pregnancy had nothing to do with immorality. To his credit, once Joseph understood, he honored his vows to Mary. Joseph was anything but hard hearted. He was spiritually sensitive and practically sensible.
Please note, however, that for Joseph the marriage contract was conditional not unconditional. In today’s world he would never qualify as the poster boy for popular religious attitudes toward divorce.
Here is the point. Divorce is a decent, non-sinful way to handle indecency.
But…and this is a huge observation.
After saying all that, it is necessary to point out that divorce is also the decent way to handle many of the non-sinful things that try marriage relationships. Sin is not always lurking behind every break up. Matrimonial bonds can be sorely tried for many reasons never mentioned or explored. In most cases they are not even allowed. For example:
People marry too young.
Getting married too young is a foolish thing to do but should we call it sin, and if so, why do we hear far less about this error than we do about divorce? You rarely see people shaking their heads and tsk-tsking during the nuptials of the immature. But if divorce is contemplated later the complaints are deafening.
Even though we do regulate the age of consent those laws aren’t very forbidding. If the parents of an under aged bride or groom give consent, no problem, the wedding is on.
My question is this. What represents the biggest fault – being too immature to marry, or getting divorced later because of it?
Is divorce worse than marrying wrongfully?
Divorce statistics are quoted loudly and often: 1 in 3 marriages end in divorce, half of all marriages end in divorce and so on. When last did you hear someone quote statistics on the number of people getting married too young?
If we make it possible for any person to get married at just about any age we shouldn’t become damning when they “grow” out of the relationship.
According to the Bible, in the earliest records of human history people often got married much later in life. Isaac married Rebecca when he was forty (Gen. 25:20) and he was sixty when Esau and Jacob were born (Gen. 25:26). That wasn’t a scripted rule but it was a common practice. Granted, they lived longer then but it didn’t take any longer to mature in those days than it does today.
If we can’t find effective ways to convince young people they should wait longer for marriage maybe we should be more forgiving and accepting when these ill founded unions don’t last.
If we wish to be heavy handed where divorce is concerned maybe we should be more insistent on personal development, requiring a little more maturity, before the contract is signed.
People marry the wrong person.
Individuals become infatuated with the wrong person easily, all the time and it has nothing to do with willful sin. We all commonly misjudge people at all stages in life and those misjudgments are more likely to occur when emotions cloud the senses.
Courting is obviously an emotionally charged experience.
The attraction between singles is rarely guided by good sense. Bad vibes are often trumped by babe vibes and one hug from a hunk can easily dissolve all mental reservations.
Good looks, big money or popularity, none of which can guarantee a great marriage, are active ingredients in initializing relationships. As a rule, we are not emotionally smart enough to make sense of all the signals before we say “I do.”
If we can’t find ways to help people avoid this trap then we mustn’t be hardcore when they get divorced later.
Unforeseen circumstances can be too hard to bear.
“For better or worse” are the words of men not God and all the arguments to the contrary only serve to confuse the issue. Marriage is a conditional contract. Love may be unconditional, the contract is not and unforeseen circumstances can create pressure that one or both parties cannot bear.
Because public pressure prevails.
It isn’t entirely unusual for people to marry because everyone else thought they were such a great couple but public opinion is not a good rule to follow when choosing a life mate. The public can’t know how you really feel and they won’t be there to help you manage the intimate but problematic moments in your relationship.
The vows read “I do” not “everyone thinks I should.”
I understand that divorce is not always the emotionally or practically smart thing to do but neither is marriage. The hypocrisy is, we loudly condemn divorce while lending support to questionable unions.
Even when divorce is the least desirable option the pain is best managed when people are accepting and supportive instead of condemning and patronizing. We should be just as supportive of those getting divorced as we are toward marriages about which we have serious doubts.
Even when divorce is “stupid” it still represents an opportunity to learn. If “stupid” was the end of the world no one would learn anything.
People will learn best from their marriage-divorce-remarriage mistakes if we are supportive when they make them.
Yes, there is a lot of pain associated with divorce. It always involves two people whose affections, at least for one of them, have taken a 180 degree turn. It may involve kids. Sad yes, Sinful no and there is no reason the pain must be magnified.
In fact, in some cases divorce brings relief not agony. Much of the post-divorce pain is the direct result of social attitudes and responses. And sadly the largest contributors to this problem have been clerics and church people, the ones we need most when going through difficult situations like divorce.
In fact, Christians view marriage the way the Pharisees viewed the Sabbath. If Jesus was walking among us today we might hear Him say, “marriage was made for man not man for marriage.”
By the way, both institutions were established before sin entered the world. The Pharisees thought it was their job to protect the Sabbath while they neglected marriage. We neglect the Sabbath and over regulate marriage. A balance would be nice.
The Pharisees took something meant for our good and turned it into torture. They worshiped the Sabbath.
We do the same with marriage. What we refer to as “saving” a marriage is sometimes nothing more than stuffing it and mounting it on a wall. Emotional taxidermy. There is no vitality left.
Marriage is a wonderful institution when it works and hell when it doesn’t.
So here is the skinny:
If you don’t have a life before you get married it won’t be any easier to develop one afterward, so do everything you can to avoid marrying the wrong person or too early. But should that happen and you find yourself facing a divorce, in spite of efforts to avoid it, please know that life is not over. There is much to learn from the experience and much to gain from moving on.
And remember, divorce is not a sin.
Many couples work very hard planning their wedding, buying how-to books and consulting professionals. Well, the same should be true when planning a divorce. Both require diligent, intelligent planning. Don’t let pain or sadness keep you from doing the smart thing. Learn from your past and plan your future.
And DIVORCE 101: A WOMAN’S GUIDE TO DIVORCE is a book that can help you do that. Tracy, the author, having gone through divorce without suitable resources decided to put what she learned in writing. She’s experienced the feelings, personally considered the issues, had the meetings, organized the details and made the decisions and that experience is shared in her book. It is mostly practical but contains great emotional insight and support as well. Divorce 101 is a compilation of all the pertinent information you will need in planning your divorce.
If you prefer a digital copy, Tracy’s book can be downloaded here and the download comes with several free bonuses to help you get through your divorce wisely.
Tracy also put together a website, WomansDivorce.com, which provides helpful articles from a wide range of professionals – and variety of perspectives – relating to every stage of divorce. She also has a blog in which many ladies share their experiences.
If you are a young woman, only a few years into marriage and facing inevitable divorce…AND you need a friend, this book is for you. Reviewers have painted it as food and solace for the hurting soul:
“This book was like an old friend, comforting me, guiding me through the process, assuring me that everything I was feeling was normal and to be expected.”
“It gave me hope that I might one day be happy again.”
“I was looking for something that spoke to me, in a girlfriend type of tone, not a preaching tone and this (book) was perfect.”
“Reading this book is like having my best girlfriend sitting next to me encouraging me that what I’m about to go through will only make me stronger and that I WILL in fact survive and be better off for it and a MUCH happier person!”
The book doesn’t claim to take the place of therapy and doesn’t encourage divorce but provides real support for those who find it unavoidable.
If your marriage is failing and you don’t feel loved but you aren’t quite ready for divorce court yet, your problem might be more solvable than you think. In The Five Love Languages Dr. Chapman departs from academic definitions of love, which are mostly intellectual and therefore cold, and discusses a love he refers to as “emotional.” This is the romantic love often portrayed in novels and movies and rooted in our psychological makeup.
He explains that even two good partners can easily fall out of love if they don’t learn how to love each other properly, in the right”language.” The adjustments are not difficult and languages are easy to understand. Many call his approach miraculous. Get the book. It’s a small price to pay to save a marriage.