Most often, individuals do not get married with the intent to divorce. For many, divorce is rarely a sudden decision but rather a culmination of unresolved differences over the lifetime of the marriage. Divorce represents heartache, brokenness, and the inability to regain the love that once was.
In Christian environments, divorce is often condemned and stigmatized. On the one hand, we hear an oft-quoted Scripture saying that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). But what we don’t know is exactly how to apply that to our lives. Does that mean no one should ever end their marriage? And how do we treat people whose marriage is over?
Most of all, how do you survive divorce as a Christian? In some ways, it probably feels like your world is ending – how do you work through this experience and come out stronger on the other side?
Statistics and Common Reasons for Divorce
The current divorce rate in the United States is between 40-50%. According to Psychology Today, some of the most common reasons for divorce include:
- Lack of compatibility
- Irreconcilable differences
- Lack of communication
- Constant conflict
- Lack of intimacy
- Getting married too young
Other common reasons include mental or physical illness, unrealistic expectations, or in-law problems.
Women are 69% more likely to initiate divorce than men (and that statistic goes up to 90% for college-educated women). Husbands are more likely to be unfaithful than wives (20% of married men report cheating, as opposed to 13% of married women).
No matter what the reason was for the divorce, it’s inevitably going to be painful and disruptive, especially if there are children involved. Christian counseling for divorce can help you start your healing process.
Additionally, rates of divorce increase each time an individual chooses to marry. Second marriages are at 67% risk and third marriages face a 73% risk of ending in divorce. This raises the question, “Why do the rates increase with each additional marriage?”
One theory is that the next marriage happened too quickly after divorce, not allowing the time and effort to work through the healing process. Another theory addresses the idea that if the marriage does not work this time, it can be dissolved. The latter raises the question, “Why get married then if your vows are not as serious?” (Psychology Today, 2012).
Struggles of Christian Divorce
It’s not only in the church that divorce is considered a failure, but it often happens when there seems no way to explain whose “fault” the situation is. Sometimes divorce is not desired by one spouse, yet they have no recourse but to accept the other’s decision. No matter what, divorce is a painful and complicated situation, and it can be difficult to explain to others.
The circumstances that lead to divorce are sometimes clear-cut, but more often, they are complex and a culmination of years of struggle. Divorce can lead to feelings of failure – like you didn’t succeed at marriage or do everything you could to preserve it.
Divorce is often considered to be more painful than the death of a spouse. Losing someone to divorce is met with rejection and failure, where death is final, and to some degree, can be easier to accept despite the sense of loss. Even if you wanted the divorce for any reason, that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Adding to the layers of complexity can be a concern about what God says in Scripture regarding divorce. Christian counselors are accustomed to hearing these concerns. Your counselor can help you process your questions with compassion.
Depending on your environment and the people around you, divorce can make you feel like an outcast – like you have a scarlet letter on your chest. If you don’t have a solid support system, that makes everything even harder.
Close friends and family of the divorcing couple are also affected by the union they witnessed and are faced with their own questions of how to be supportive and whether their alliances will be divided.
Even if you do have friends and/or family to support you, counseling can be highly effective to help you navigate this difficult time. No friendship can bear the weight of all of your stress on its own.
A counselor is there for you. It’s an intentionally one-sided relationship that allows you to be self-focused in a healthy way, a way that will allow you to walk out of your counseling sessions more prepared to thrive in all of your different relationships and responsibilities.
Side Effects of Divorce
For kids, parental divorce is associated with depression, anxiety, behavior problems, and risky behavior in adolescents (Verywell Family). When one or both parents commit to healthy parenting and co-parenting practices, kids tend to do better.
Your Christian counselor can assist you with peaceful co-parenting, processing your stress or trauma, and positive coping skills for you and your child(ren). Consider Christian counseling for children if you believe your child or teen may benefit from seeing a counselor as well.
For spouses undergoing a divorce, there are many psychological effects:
“People who undergo divorce face a variety of psychological issues including increased stress, lower life satisfaction, depression, increased medical visits, and an overall increase in mortality risk compared to those who remain married. Along with losing the benefits of a happy marriage, which can act as a buffer against the normal stress in life, there is also the divorce process itself. Depending on where people happen to live and the specific circumstances, divorce can be a long and drawn-out legal process involving mutual blame-casting and being forced to give testimony on many of the most sordid details of why a marriage happened to fail. Add in the trauma involved in custody battles over children, and the entire divorce process can be a nightmare for many people.” (Dr. Romeo Vitelli in Psychology Today, emphasis added)
Note that according to Dr. Vitelli, if your marriage is ending because of abuse or addiction, your life satisfaction will most likely increase instead of decrease. Either way, it’s crucial to recognize the psychological risks of divorce, so that you can take the initiative to ward off further impacts on your mental and/or physical health.
Christian counseling for divorce takes all of these factors into account, along with the hope we have in Christ, and meets you right where you are.
Maybe you aren’t going through a divorce yourself, but you’re close to someone who is. Consider discussing your situation in Christian individual counseling, to understand how you can play a supportive role and work through any complex issues surrounding the divorce.
What the Bible Says About Divorce and Remarriage
One of the most loaded questions for a Christian facing divorce is, “Does God really hate divorce?”
When considering what the Bible says about divorce, it’s important to consider the circumstances of your situation. Historically, almost all Bible scholars agree that divorce is justified in cases of adultery (Matthew 5:32). Many also believe it is justified in cases of abuse. If your spouse leaves you, you are free to divorce (1 Corinthians 7:15).
Your faith and convictions should always be honored. You are the only one who can make decisions about your life, and it’s okay to be confused and not know how you are going to survive divorce.
There is a lot of heartbreak and confusion involved in a divorce, no matter what. Your counselor can help you resolve the trauma of your situation, talk through any confusion you’re experiencing, and offer the truth and hope of Scripture as a balm to your pain.
But, as believers themselves, the counselors at Seattle Christian Counseling know and understand that there are no easy answers in life, and platitudes will not help the struggle you’re going through. We want to offer compassionate support, feedback, and tools for growth so that you feel heard and can meet your goals for treatment in counseling for divorce.
Christian Counseling for Divorce Recovery
There are so many components to recovering from divorce. The end of your marriage affects your sense of self and identity in every aspect. That’s why counseling is so important and can change the story of your future.
Divorce counseling can help you navigate what happened, what led to the relationship breakdown, issues from your childhood or your marriage, and prepare you to consider dating or remarriage.
Your Christian counselor can also support you as you parent after divorce and seek to create the healthiest environment possible for your child or children. Christian counseling for children and teens is another option to provide support for children of divorce.
Divorce in the Christian world can be extra sticky, and inevitably it affects your relationships with those around you. Having someone to count on and a compassionate, listening ear can make all the difference as you navigate friendships, relationships, and church after divorce.
Divorce is never easy, and it’s one of the hardest things anyone can experience. That’s why Christian counseling for divorce is here for you. Call us today or browse our online counselor directory to schedule your risk-free initial session.
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