Question: How do you know when your marriage is over?

I was asked this very question twice in a matter of days so I thought I would try to tackle it here.

I’m going to begin with a couple disclaimers though.

First, I have promised myself that I would never tell a woman she should get a divorce.  And I have kept that promise and plan to continue to do so.  So, sweet women who asked me this, I cannot answer this very personal question for you.

And secondly, though this decision needs to be made with the utmost thought, prayer and wise counsel, when you are standing before God, you will not be standing in front of him with all the people you asked advice from.  You will be standing before God alone, which means every single decision you make throughout your life is your decision and your responsibility.  In other words, only you can answer this question for yourself.  Scary but true.

With those things said, here are some things I would look for as you contemplate ending your marriage, without, of course, knowing your exact situation.

1. Do you have clear-cut biblical grounds?  Meaning, has your husband been unfaithful or has he outright left you?  If yes, though you do not need to end your marriage, you are free and clear to do so.

2. Is there abuse or addiction that has gone on unchecked, without acknowledgement or repentance or change?  Some would say – and I am one of them, but I am not your source of authority – that these things would fall under a breaking of your vows and an emotional abandonment.  You will have to decide if you believe this for yourself.

3. Have you done all you know to do to save your marriage?  Have you gone to counseling either as a couple or with your spouse or both?  Have you read marriage books and applied what you’re reading?  Have you opened yourself up to accountability?  Are you being the kind of spouse God wants you to be?  Are you praying for your marriage and your husband?  Have you asked for help from church leadership and discerningly submitted to their suggestions?

4. Are you feeling desperate, trapped, unable to function in other areas of your life, because of your marriage?  Or, are you simply unhappy or no longer “in love” with your husband?  There is a huge difference.

This list is far from exhaustive, but it’s a place to start.  I believe every single marriage can be saved.  But I also hold equally true that it takes two, and free will can be messy, and you cannot make someone stop abusing you or stop drinking or stop cheating or love you again or what-have-you.

I would not wish divorce on anyone.  Trust me when I say you are trading one kind of hard for a different kind of hard.  But if you have prayed and sought counsel and have done every single thing you can do to make the marriage work and things aren’t changing and you are still more sad than content and there is more conflict than peace and you are being hurt or lied to on a regular basis, it may – and I say this with as much caution as I possibly can – it may be time to walk away.  But again, only you and Jesus can know this and make this decision.  Tread carefully, my friend.

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