No one likes to see a broken marriage. But it’s all too easy to get stuck on “divorce is wrong!” Instead of just condemning divorce, we could make it a priority to stop doing the things that lead to it. Too many married people are quicker to declare that divorce isn’t an option than they are to change the behaviors that break marriages. It turns out there is a host of things worse for a marriage than divorce.
In other words, if most of us stopped doing those things, divorce wouldn’t cross most of our minds. A divorce is simply a sad recognition of what has already happened—the marriage probably ended long before the separation was legal. When the marriage is over is probably the wrong time to say “divorce is wrong” or “divorce upsets me.” We need to start saying it earlier and with our actions, by avoiding things as bad for marriage as divorce. Here are 10 of them.
1. Cutting Remarks
Instead of just saying “divorce is wrong,” we have to declare that “my cutting remarks are undermining this relationship.” When a husband puts down his wife, he sounds like he doesn’t want to be married. Cutting remarks are not only upsetting, but they are also plain wrong.
We have to admit that “when I disrespect my spouse, I insult our marriage.” Disrespect is incompatible with love, and I want to be more loving.Disrespect is incompatible with love.
This is true for every spouse: “Every time I lie, I erode the ground my marriage is built on.” Without trust, there is no partnership. Dishonesty can stop a marriage cold in its tracks.
If we don’t want divorce, we can’t also want pornography, because “pornography builds barriers between people and intimacy.” Porn is a betrayal and betrayals are fatal to relationships.
If we want marriages to last, we need to prioritize connection. “Cutting my spouse off kills communication.” Interruptions and preemptive dismissals are more than upsetting—they create distance between us.
We can’t want marriage but also want to put our own needs ahead of our spouse’s. “When I ignore my wife’s needs, I’m telling her I don’t care.” In a marriage, mutual support and encouragement are more than building blocks. They are rebar and mortar.
For marriages to last, we have to do what’s good for marriage. But “when I get drunk or yell and intimidate my spouse, I am sabotaging my marriage.” Sabotage does not lead to forgiveness and reconciliation. Sabotage destroys things so they cannot be rebuilt.
Instead of saying “divorce is wrong,” we have to admit that “when I turn cold rather than share, I am turning away from my marriage.” The cold shoulder does not invite; it rebuffs, setting off a spiral away from reconciliation.
If we believe we should fight for our marriages, we should acknowledge that “when I belittle my wife and her ideas, I am violating my marriage vows.” Marriage is designed as an equal partnership. When one partner is diminished, or his or her best efforts discredited, the partnership is essentially dissolved.
If we’re likely to say that “divorce is wrong,” we should also be likely to say that “when I have to be right in every instance, I diminish my spouse.” We achieve two things when we insist on being right. First, we reveal how weak and uncertain we are. Second, we insult and degrade our spouses.
Sound off: When we say there are things worse for a marriage than divorce, we really point out the behaviors that often result in divorce. What would you add to this list?
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What do relationships need in order to be happy and healthy?”