The Bible’s Viewpoint
Is Divorce the Answer?
IN Britain a minister welcomes those present to celebrate a sacred rite of passage. Before him stand a couple, with an intimate group of friends and children. Another happy wedding? Hardly! This ceremony is recognizing the end of their marriage. Yes, divorce has become so common that some churches have adopted divorce liturgies!
Are you contemplating divorce? If so, will the breakup of your marriage really lead to a happier life? Are there practical steps that you can take to achieve happiness with your mate?
“They Must Become One Flesh”
When the first human couple were wed, God stated that a man “must stick to his wife and they must become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Hence, marriage was to be a permanent bond. That is why Jesus later stated that “the ground of fornication” is the only basis for Scriptural divorce with the possibility of entering a new marriage.—Matthew 19:3-9. *
This stresses the need for commitment in marriage. But what if the problems in your marriage are very serious?
Is Divorce the Wise Course?
Jesus provided a principle by which we can weigh the value of our actions when he said: “Wisdom is proved righteous by its works.” (Matthew 11:19) What do the results of today’s plethora of frivolous divorces indicate?
“The benefits of divorce have been oversold,” says University of Chicago sociologist Professor Linda Waite, who headed a team of scholars studying unhappy marriages. Similarly, after spending 11 years analyzing the responses of thousands of people, Oxford Professor Michael Argyle found that “the least happy in society were those who are divorced or separated.” Why might that be?
While divorce may eliminate some problems, it can also unleash a series of traumatic events over which you may have little control. Indeed, research shows that divorce usually does not reduce symptoms of depression or raise one’s self-esteem.
Even if you do not have the “perfect marriage,” sticking to your mate can bring benefits. Many who are determined to do so find happiness. Professor Waite states: “A lot of problems resolve over time, and married people tend to get happier.” In fact, one study shows that almost 8 out of 10 who were “very unhappy” with their marriage but avoided divorce found themselves “happily married” five years later. Even when there are grave problems, then, couples do well not to divorce hastily.
Those contemplating divorce should ask themselves if their expectations regarding marriage are realistic. The media have pushed the image of a romantic relationship that culminates in a lavish wedding with a fairy-tale ending. After the wedding, when high expectations go unfulfilled, the resulting disappointment can fuel conflict. As tensions build, a drama unfolds in which hurt feelings dominate emotions. Love withers and, in time, is replaced by anger and hatred. Under such circumstances, some may feel that the only option is divorce.—Proverbs 13:12.
Instead of allowing negative feelings to affect your view, associate with those who have a strong commitment to their marriage. Christians are urged to “keep comforting one another and building one another up.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Certainly, those in troubled marriages need encouragement from fellow believers.
The Importance of Godly Qualities
“Clothe yourselves with the tender affections of compassion, kindness, lowliness of mind, mildness, and long-suffering,” admonished the apostle Paul. (Colossians 3:12) Godly qualities can safeguard marital unity during stormy times.
For example, Paul wrote: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another.” (Colossians 3:13) University of Michigan psychologist Christopher Peterson says: “Forgiveness is the trait most strongly linked to happiness.”
Kindness, tenderness, and forgiveness lead to love, “a perfect bond of union.” (Colossians 3:14) More than likely, you were happily in love at one time. Can you regain the love you once felt? No matter how difficult your circumstances may be, take courage. There is hope. Indeed, sticking together and applying Bible principles may result in a greater measure of happiness than you imagined possible. Certainly, your efforts in this regard will make Jehovah God, the Creator of marriage, rejoice.—Proverbs 15:20.
^ par. 6 The Christian congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses respects an innocent mate’s right to decide whether or not to divorce an adulterous spouse. See Awake! of April 22, 1999, pages 5-9.