How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage

Janice Shaw Crouse, Ph.D.

We’ve all seen shocking divorces: those where the couple had everything going for them and seemed to be perfectly matched. From the outside, such couples seem fine and there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong.  On the other side, we’ve seen couples who shock us by staying together when they seem to have little in common. Looking on, we often wonder why some relationships get stronger and others disintegrate. It would be nice to have a guaranteed formula for a healthy relationship, but relationship formulas seldom work.

Instead of developing a formula, in this article we’ll focus on social science data and seek information about how marriage can truly follow Matthew 19:6. The verse is very explicit, “So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate.” Thus, a couple should make the decision at the outset that divorce is not an option and each partner is bound to do whatever it takes to build a strong marriage

Divorce is not an option: From the beginning divorce-proof your marriage by removing the word divorce from your vocabulary. Don’t let divorce ever be considered an option. Make the decision to stay married and do whatever it takes to build your marriage.

Couples need to be aware of the stunning statistic that half of all marriages end in divorce. Further, according to a recent survey reported in an article in Forbes Advisor by Christy Bieber, J.D., a lack of commitment is the leading predictor of divorce with 73% of divorces attributed to one of both partners’ lack of commitment. Another leading cause is “contempt.”

Remember the Turner Classic movie, “The Seven Year Itch”? That’s the 1950s movie advertised by the famous picture of Marilyn Monroe standing over a street vent with her skirt flying up around her. The average divorce takes a year to process, making “the average length of marriage prior to divorce eight years,” according to the Forbes Advisor report. Surprisingly, the Forbes study found that 72% of couples report that they didn’t understand the commitment required by marriage before they tied the knot. Others were unprepared for their partner to change over the years of their marriage and didn’t know how to cope with the changes.

Cohabitation increases the likelihood of Divorce: Couples today are bombarded with the idea that living together before marriage is beneficial (trying it out to see if they are compatible). Forbes Advisor reports that only 47% of couples who live together prior to marriage end up staying together. More than half, (57%) of those who chose not to cohabitate have marriages lasting more than 20 years. 

Incompatibility, Lack of Commitment, Infidelity, Domestic Abuse and money issues are common causes of Divorce: Typically, there is a precipitating event – a final straw — leading to divorce – 75% cite lack of commitment, 60% claim infidelity, 38% report financial problems and 24% cite domestic abuse. Ironically, as a couple’s income increases, their divorce rate declines. Surprisingly, women are more likely to initiate divorce than men.

No-Fault Divorce supposedly took the sting out of divorce: We have lived with no-fault divorce for more than 50 years. Supposedly, “no-fault” was meant to help women get divorces and, according to Forbes Advisor, it is generally considered to be “an important buttress for gender equality and directly addresses issues like marital abuse.” What is often overlooked is that “no fault” leaves one partner in a divorce with no option but to accept an unwanted divorce. The partner wanting a divorce doesn’t have to give a reason and the partner left behind has no recourse. Obviously, “no fault divorce” is another ploy that sounds good on paper but in reality often leaves the woman with no way to protect her marriage and family if her husband wants to leave for whatever reason.

The best advice typically given to a young couple is that each should be what they want their partner to be like. That advice means each should invest in themselves to be a strong person and invest in their spouse so that the team is balanced in strength and each can depend on the other to support their goals and work together toward their dreams.

If a couple is to become “one flesh” as described in Matthew 19:6, they need to work together to protect them from the internal and external forces that will seek to separate them. That means learning to communicate through problems, handle conflict and make their marriage a priority by spending time together and working together to strengthen their union.

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  1. A. Nonymous says

    As someone recently divorce, I find Dr. Crouse’s assessment divorce from reality. Most people who enter marriage go in thinking this is for life. But it takes 2 people to make it work – BOTH partners have to be committed. If one partner is not putting in the effort, you cannot expect the other partner to continually take the emotional/physical/mental/financial hits.

    At the end of the marriage I woke up every morning with a deep sense of dread of the future with my spouse. The toll it took on my mental and physical health was immense. No one should be forced to live like that.

  2. Janice Shaw Crouse says

    Dear Nonymous,
    Thank you for your response. I’m very sorry for the deep disappointment and pain from your partner’s failure to live up to the vows of your marriage and the damage and trauma that failure inflicted on you. You are definitely right that no one should have to live like that.

    In writing a 750-word article, I tried to write to those considering marriage about what it takes to make marriage work. It’s always disappointing to a writer that so much has to be cut out! Marriage takes exactly what you said: it takes two people who are committed to making it work. Sadly, some partners find out well into a marriage that the other is not willing to do the hard work of faithfulness and commitment. When that’s the case, the other partner is left dealing with the awful reality that they can’t hold the marriage together on their own. I pray that as you move forward, you will heal from the trauma of your marriage and that your future will be bright and happy.

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