What I Learned Walking With Couples During Their Divorce

I’ve never been divorced, but I have walked with couples while they went through a divorce. There’s a lot I learned as I watched the event unfold leading up to their separation, divorce, and after. At some point, if you haven’t already, you’ll have a friend, acquaintance, or family member go through this situation. I thought I’d share some things I learned during those experiences and hopefully, it will help you when you know someone going through the same thing. 

There is No Simple Answer To Why They Divorced

When a couple is at the point where they want to end their marriage, it’s not because of one thing. It’s a whole host of things that built up over time…hurts that they couldn’t heal from…habits and patterns that created a toxic relationship that ultimately caused their demise. 

It’s so easy to think that if they just…

Went to counseling

Remembered why they fell in love in the first place

Tried to communicate better

Spent more time on date night

Etc, etc, etc….

That they would be able to make it. 

Have you ever been around someone that was on their deathbed? I have. You are mourning for your pending loss, but for them, you hope their time of pain will come to an end soon. You can hardly stand to watch them in their crippling pain and know that the only relief they (or you) will get is when it is over. That’s what it is like to watch a marriage die. 

When you watch a couple literally destroying one another with their words and actions, you wouldn’t even dare say to them that if they had just tried harder, they could’ve made it. 

Common Reasons Marriages End in Divorce

Due to the nature of our time in ministry and the fact that I run a marriage blog, I’ve walked with many couples during times of marriage crisis. Some of them have ended in divorce. What shocked me was that most of the couples ended their relationships for common reasons. It makes me think that these issues are more common in relationships than what we help couples guard against. 

Here are a few of the things that I saw tearing couples apart. It’s much more traumatic than simply falling out of love or going their separate ways. I wanted to share this because it’s easy to make a judgment call on why a marriage failed without the real details. 

Physical Altercations During Arguments

It’s more common than you think for a married couple to get into a physical altercation during a fight. Not all abuse is extremely violent. Maybe they push each other, smack one another, or wrestle to get past each other. Getting physical during arguments adds to the hurt you have to work through later on. Not only that, but when you don’t have that boundary in place, it’s that much easier to get rougher on the next encounter.

1. Addictions 

Whether it be alcohol, drugs, porn, spending money, or something else, addictions can wreck a relationship. The person who is addicted becomes unrecognizable to their spouse. They act out, become irate and unreasonable, break trust, and ultimately…hurt their husband or wife deeply. 

Being in a relationship with someone that has an addiction is very hard to sustain without intervention. And even then, they are committing to a life of dealing with potential relapses. 

2. Alcohol Use

Even if the person isn’t addicted to alcohol, it can still be a problem in their marriage. If your spouse tells you that when you drink, it negatively affects your relationship, then it’s time to take a step back. Maybe you are the kind of person that gets angry and combative after a few drinks. Maybe you are someone that occasionally gets drunk and says or does things that are out of line. Anything that you take that causes you to change the way you behave will cause issues in the marriage. 

3. Emotional Abuse

This one gets really tough…because some people feel that they are being emotionally abused by their spouse even if their spouse isn’t specifically trying to. In cases like this, it gets very complicated. Because you have a person in the relationship that is feeling abused by their partner, but their partner doesn’t understand why. They are not abusers by nature but are saying and doing things that cause one person to feel abused. That person could get remarried, and their new spouse has a completely different experience with them. 

In other cases, their partner absolutely understands what they are doing but feels justified for some reason or another. Either way, intentional or unintentional abuse will break the marriage. 

4. Sexual Problems

Whether it is porn or the request for a threesome, or simply denying sex, every couple I have spoken to had some problem with sex in their marriage. Now, that doesn’t automatically mean someone is going to get divorced if they have sexual problems. But, if you’re in a sexless marriage or your spouse is asking to bring in another person to the relationship, the marriage is on life support. 

When your spouse starts asking to involve a third party in the bedroom, they’ve likely begun to emotionally detach from you. That question in and of itself is going to drive a wedge between a couple, and it’s not easy to come back from it. 

Problems in the bedroom are usually an indicator that there is a lack of intimacy or trust in the relationship. These relationship issues could stem from addictions, mental health problems, deep hurts, and more. 

5. Breaking Trust

In many instances where a couple got divorced, I saw that there were many instances of breaking trust. This could be through emotional or physical affairs, lying, porn use, abuse, overspending, etc. One person or both people in the relationship did things that were big offenses to their spouse. 

6. Controlling Tendencies

There are so many ways to try and control your spouse…some you might not even think of as controlling. For instance, a lot of couples fight over money…even those that are doing well and able to pay their bills. In cases like that, the root cause of the fights was over-controlling the other person. Maybe they didn’t want them to spend so much time with their friends, so they fought about how much they spent on going out. Or maybe they didn’t want their partner to invest their time into a hobby because it was putting strain on them to manage things at home alone. 

Some people are natured to be more controlling. In that case, they have to recognize these traits and make changes. If your spouse is telling you that you are trying to control them in one way or another, that’s not feedback you should dismiss. 

In other instances, one person in the marriage may feel like they are being controlled even if the other person isn’t trying to. This happens a lot if that person is a people pleaser. A people pleaser often feels guilty if they are being asked to do something they don’t want to do. They put undo pressure on themselves to figure out how to do what their spouse wants and can feel forced into the situation even if their partner isn’t trying to force them. If you are married to a people pleaser, then you have to be overly aware of their internal battle and make it easy for them to say no to things.

7. Bad Communication

We often talk about couples not communicating well. But what does that mean exactly? Well, what I mean by this isn’t that they are not having enough conversations or sharing what they need from the other person. What I mean when I say I’ve seen couples struggle to communicate is that it sounds like they aren’t speaking the same language. 

I’ve literally known couples that didn’t understand what the other person was saying on a regular basis. One would share how they were feeling, and for whatever reason, the other person simply didn’t understand. Our biggest tip to couples to improve their communication is to say to their spouse, “When you say _____, I hear ______. Is that what you meant?” It’s an effective way to find out if your spouse is really being a big jerk or if they are communicating in a way you are misunderstanding. 

Here is a blog post I wrote about the 4 habits that lead to divorce. Communication is one of the things I cover.

Things You Shouldn’t Say When Your Friends Divorce

Well…in the day and age of Facebook breakups, I had the unfortunate opportunity to read some very well-intended comments and private messages that were downright hurtful. Here are a few things you shouldn’t say to someone when you find out they are getting divorced or did divorce:

I pray over time, you all will get back together. 

Did you all try counseling? 

I’m surprised to hear this. 

I’m sorry to hear this.

These are just a few things I read. It’s hard to know what to say when someone tells you that they got divorced. In the event that the couple was volatile towards one another, telling them, you hope they get back together or that you’re sorry they aren’t together is just painful. You never know how that person is feeling about their divorce. They may feel freedom or relief, and the idea of their friends wishing for them to reenter that bondage is unbearable. 

Ways You Can Be A Support For Your Friends

There are a lot of things you can actually do to be a support of someone that is going through a divorce…whether you live near them or not. Here are a few things you can try. 

Send Food Or Invite Them To Dinner

If you live near that person, invite them to come to eat with you. If they say no, then send food to their house. A person that is going through the beginning of a divorce isn’t thinking about eating or caring for themselves.

Also, invite them over for the holidays, especially if they are going to be alone on those days. 

Help Their Kids Buy Them Gifts For Holidays and Birthdays

When a couple has younger kids, they rely on their parents to help them with gifts. You can help their kids buy presents for them for their birthday or Christmas. It will mean a lot to them and to their children. 

Avoid Inviting Them To a Get-Together For Couples

Getting your friend out of the house can always be helpful, but inviting them to a party or get-together that will only have couples at it can be very painful for them. It never feels good to be a third wheel…but it’s even worse when you’re newly divorced. 

Really Listen To Them And Ask Them Questions

They need you to really listen to them, even if what they have to say is very hard to hear. Your friend doesn’t need advice and resolutions to their problems. What they need is someone who will hear them out and ask questions. They need an active listener that will sit in their emotions with them. 

Instead of giving advice, I think it’s better to ask them what they want to do next or how they think they should respond. Actually, this is often the best way to help someone who is going through a hard time. I’m not saying to never give a tip or suggestion, especially if you have experience. But, if you haven’t gone through a divorce, the best you can offer is a listening ear. 

What I Hope You Learn From This Post

I hope that my experience and observations will help you do a few things:

  1. Evaluate your marriage. Are you exhibiting any of the things that I talked about being common marriage killers? If so, it’s time for an intervention in your relationship. 
  2. Help you support your friends. You’ll likely have a close friend or family member go through this at some point or another. Hopefully, some of what I shared will help you.

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4 Responses

      1. Basically, whenever divorce is on the table for a couple, a lot of pastors, and people in their inner circle will condemn it by saying the Bible quote out of context “God hates divorce. Without realizing what is going on in the marriage. In other words, divorce is never an option and you better take that off the table.
        You have no choice but to work it out. Utterly ridiculous line of thinking sometimes. To these people, God would rather have them stay in an abusive relationship then get out and be safe. This line of thinking comes from people who are considering divorce, not people who have already been divorced. Although, people who’ve already been divorced or treated like damaged goods a lot of the time from a lot of churches and pastors and possibly friends and family as well.

        1. Got it! Yes, I completely agree. My parents grew up in a time when pastors who knew about the abuse in the marriage still told the wives they needed to stay. Wives felt that if they left, it would be disobedience to God. Never mind staying in that relationship where their husband was in outright disobedience to God. I’m not one that believes the Bible puts marriage above the individual. When you see people simply tearing each other apart, I don’t think they should stay in a relationship. But at the same time, those pastors also knew of sexual abuse being done towards the children and didn’t intervene there either. I’m thankful that young pastors of today take a different position on this and aim to keep their church members safe. Not all of them of course, but many.

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