Considering a divorce? Stop! Wait!

Working through a difficult marriage is grueling, but it can be worth it.

Obviously, those considering divorce are hurting. No shield protects them from the pain of being rejected by someone whom they trusted would love them forever. In their hurt, they strike out and say and do things they may later regret. In their pain, they think they would be happier if they were single again. However, research shows that most people who divorce will remain unhappy, depressed and lonely long after the divorce. Wars with ex-spouses continue, financial problems increase and conflicts intensify.

A number of years ago, we talked with folks who were dear to us. They had both divorced their first companions and had been married to one another about six years. They had a good marriage, but both expressed their regrets for the costs of their divorces, particularly the emotional cost to their children. Both also said they had divorced too fast with little thought of the consequences. Then they said, “We needn’t have divorced.”

Many people have mixed feelings about their divorces and express regrets. They wish they had been more patient, more forgiving and more willing to work things out. Three out of four divorced couples eventually remarry. However, second marriages have even higher divorce rates than first ones.

It’s hard to work through difficult marriages, but it is also hard to work through divorces. Many couples that seriously considered divorce are now happy after taking classes on strengthening marriage to learn what it takes to have successful marriages.

Research has shown that those couples in unhappy marriages who recommitted to their partners reported they were happy within five years. Some – often those with the worst problems – reported being very happy. They were glad they didn’t divorce. They had conquered even serious problems such as infidelity, addictions, and emotional neglect.

One myth about divorce is that children will be better off without having parents in constant conflict. Research does not bear this out. Most of the time, children are shocked and devastated when parents announce their desire to divorce. These children would be better off if their parents sought counseling, resolved their differences and stayed married. Of course, in a few situations including sustained physical and emotional abuse, divorces may be necessary.

Unfortunately, few married couples take classes to improve their marriages. Few read books to enhance their relationships. Few seek the help of trained marriage counselors even when they are available at little or no expense. Even if couples spent several hundred dollars on counseling, it is still very cost effective compared to the expense of divorce.

Also, many churches offer free classes on Strengthening Marriage and Family. These classes are not just for those having problems, but also for those who simply want to have the best marriages possible.

Those who are considering divorce should stop, wait and reconsider before they proceed into what may be a very big mistake that will have serious emotional, spiritual and financial consequences for themselves and for their children. The fact is that most divorces are not necessary.

Editor’s note: This article as originally published on Strengthening Marriage and Family. It has been modified and republished here with permission.

David Coombs

David Coombs has a doctorate and 42 years of experience as a marriage, family, and individual counselor. He and his wife have been married 48 years, have 8 children and a bunch of grandchildren.