Dr. Thomas Lane Butts: On Divorce

Several weeks ago I was asked to offer some tips for divorce prevention to be presented at a local conference of dealing the problems associated with the local economy. You may not need this information, but perhaps you know someone who does. Here is a dozen of the "divorce prevention tips" given on that occasion.

Economic uncertainty, unemployment and fear about possible job-loss can, and often does, cause stress on marriages. If a marriage is already experiencing problems, the stress of a poor economy can push a marriage into deeper trouble. It can cause new and unexpected problems to surface. Under such circumstance there is danger that troubled married couples will jump to the conclusion that divorce is the best solution to complex problems. The idea that divorce will solve financial and relationship problems is an illusion. The result is usually more problems and more hurt to more people than you can imagine. With this in mind, consider these suggestions on divorce prevention.

(1) One of the primary causes of divorce is loss of communication or miscommunication between a couple. Silence in marriage is a deadly sound. Talk about your problems openly and honestly with your spouse. Hear each other out. This will at least save you from misunderstandings. No matter what the problem may be in your understanding of reality, tell your spouse what you think and how you feel. This should be done in a civil manner, without exaggerations and crude language.

(2) Do not have "heated" discussions in the presence of small children. One of the earliest fears of a child is the loss of one or both parents. Do not use your children as weapons in a verbal battle or marital war. You will live to regret it. They will be damaged and your cause will not be helped.

(3) If you have money problems, sit down TOGETHER and draw up a budget based on your total income and your necessary expenditures. Find adjustments upon which you both agree. Do not make large and/or undiscussed purchases. Beware of credit cards. Pay off your credit card debt FIRST. The compounding interest will eat you up. You would be wise to stop using credit cards altogether if you cannot pay them off each month.

(4) Do not use alcohol or other drugs to deaden the pain of your problems. It will not work. Use only prescription drugs and follow your doctor's orders strictly in using any drug.

(5) Jealousy and possessiveness are dangerous ways of relating. When parading behind religious language, and offered in the name of love, they become insidious tools of manipulation that can finally destroy a marriage relationship. If you have suspicions about the behavior of your husband or wife, i.e., if you think they are cheating on you, address the problem openly, directly and quickly. You could be mistaken, but if you are not, the matter should not be allowed to continue.

(6) If you are having marriage problems you cannot resolve between the two of you, get help from an objective outside person who by reason of training and experience in the field of marriage and family counseling can help you or refer you for professional help. This may be your pastor. At least this is a good place to start. Do not discuss your marriage problems with relatives and casual friends. (The exception to that is if you need quick help and protection in the case of abuse.) Their advice is not likely to be helpful. It could be hurtful. The best advice is often the advice you do not want to hear at first. Friends and relatives often fail to tell you what you do not want to hear. Also, putting them in the situation of having to "choose sides" is not loving them, but using them.

(7) Remember what you agreed to in your marriage vows, especially that part about: "for better or worse; richer or poorer; in sickness and in health; to love and to cherish until death do us part". That was a contract you signed on to in the presence of God and other witnesses. Breaking it will be costly in many ways.

(8) Remember the lasting damage that a divorce can do to children. It lasts a life-time. If you do not understand the full implication of that damage, visit me or your pastor and we will explain it to you. You really do not want to inflict a life-time wound on your children.

(9) Spouse and child abuse is absolutely unacceptable! Do not do it. Do not tolerate it. Physical abuse has legal consequences. Verbal and emotional abuse has serious moral consequences, and is often the prelude to physical abuse if it is tolerated. It you are in an abusive relationship, do not walk away - Run!

(10) Divorce is far more expensive than you ever thought possible. It will cost you in more ways than you can imagine, and leave you with regrets that will last a lifetime.

(11) If you are tempted to file for a divorce, ask your lawyer to show you the laundry list of bad things that will be said about your spouse in a divorce complaint. And remember that an equally ugly set of very bad things will be said about you in response.

(12) When you discuss problems with your spouse, fight fair. Do not use abusive accusations and language that you know to be untrue and which you may want to take back later in some possible reconciliation. Words CAN and DO wound. Sometimes these wounds never heal.

There is more, but this will give you something to consider for your own list.