Seeing Divorce As A Future Option Weakens Your Marriage Now

“The best way to not get divorced is to stay married.” I was engaged to my now-husband when an older family friend said this to me, and at first, I had more questions than answers.

By Gwen Farrell3 min read
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After all, with 50% of marriages now ending in divorce in the U.S., divorce doesn’t just seem to be a possibility for some, but an eventuality.

Or so we think. The truth is, young couples who are dating, engaged, or newly married do themselves and their relationships an extreme disservice by even considering divorce as a possible outcome for their marriage. If you’re repeatedly looking toward the exit ramp, how can you focus on the road ahead? It might seem convoluted or nuanced, but it’s really pretty simple. Seeing divorce as a potential future option weakens your marriage right now.

A Modern Solution to a Modern Problem?

A friend who is the product of a second marriage always jokes with me, “If no-fault divorce wasn’t a thing, I wouldn’t exist.” Many kids of the Millennial and Zoomer generations grew up with divorced parents or had friends who did, but where did that all start?

There’s a reason divorce used to be practically non-existent in the U.S. American families were more religious than they are today, and ending a marriage, for whatever reason, was frowned upon. Even if both spouses wanted a divorce, there had to be concrete evidence or grounds supporting the dissolution of the union, like adultery or cruelty.

Ronald Reagan, then a pillar of pro-family political strength within the Republican party, changed all that, signing the nation’s first no-fault divorce bill into California law in 1969. With no-fault divorce, no grounds were needed to apply for one, and one party could obtain the divorce even if the other party was opposed. Other states subsequently passed their own similar bills, and within these legislations originated the terms we most often hear today like “irreconcilable differences” or “irretrievable breakdown.” According to Reagan’s son Michael, his father admitted later in life that he deeply regretted pioneering the legality of “divorce on demand.”

Many would say that no-fault divorce is a modern solution to our modern problems. In fact, it seems more common to hear of couples divorcing not due to legitimate concerns for safety and security such as addiction, abuse, or infidelity, but because one of the spouses isn’t happy, regrets having a family, or needs to leave the relationship in order to recover their identity. For the dissatisfied individual, these are genuine concerns – but are they really a substantive reason to dissolve a family?

Taking the Easy Way Out

Because none of us can predict the future, we go into marriage hopeful, but with blinders on. We have no grasp of the emotional toll that the unexpected can have on us and our relationship. We or our husband might evolve over time, or we might dig our heels in further when it comes to habits, personality traits, quirks, and pet peeves – all of which can make us realize that we are proverbially “stuck” with the person we’ve just married.

This might sound bleak. But it’s the reality of life, and it’s certainly not any reason to keep divorce as an option in the back of our mind. 

Calling it quits will always be easier than doing the hard work to make a solid marriage last.

If the option to walk away is open to us from day one, we’re already doing a disservice to ourselves as a spouse and to the strength of our marriage. Seeing divorce as a potential option means we’ll never have to work hard. If the chance to escape our problems, our fears, our issues and conflicts is always open to us, why would we bother to work toward healing or reconciliation? Calling it quits will always be easier than doing the hard work to make a solid marriage last, but a marriage that stands the test of time and is stalwart through each trial and tribulation deserves dedication.

Consider a relationship that’s unhappy and has its issues. If divorce is off the table, the couple has to do the hard work to become better, happier people, both for themselves and for each other. If divorce is instantly the go-to, their problems might temporarily be solved – but they will have sacrificed the greatest treasure in their lives in the process, perhaps irrevocably.

Going the Distance

Let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge that ending a marriage for some is indeed the right decision, and a necessary one, especially if they or their children’s physical and mental well-being are in danger. It’s estimated that around 1 in 4 marriages will end because of some form of abuse, but with 50% of all marriages ending in divorce, we know that’s only a percentage of the population. One San Diego-based family law center compiled an exhaustive resource of statistics on divorce and found the other most common reasons cited for ending a marriage were the following: lack of preparation for marriage, lack of equality in the relationship, unrealistic expectations, infidelity, marrying too young, arguing too much, and a lack of commitment. 

These reasons indicate that for every marriage which ends due to substance abuse or infidelity, there are multiple marriages that end for reasons that can most often be addressed in individual or couples counseling, but rarely are. The American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy found that 75% of couples found improvement in their relationships after attending therapy sessions with a licensed counselor, in addition to benefits to both their physical and emotional health. Even when counseling ends, couples will have strategies they’ve learned from their therapist to utilize when issues pop up, ensuring that as long as they’re open to working with one another, their relationship will go the distance.

Couples might be opposed to marriage counseling due to fear of bringing someone else into their relationship or airing the difficult parts of the marriage to a stranger – but in addition to pre-marriage counseling and preparation, couples counseling is just one resource available to struggling couples. 

Closing Thoughts

There are countless different ways to end a marriage. There are also countless different ways to save your marriage: be honest, listen to one another, hold yourself accountable, spend time around other healthy relationships, and prioritize your marriage and your spouse above all else.

When we marry, we make vows to love one another throughout the difficult times, to forsake all others until our death. These vows are powerful, love and life-affirming words, yet in the heat of the moment after an argument or an angry comment, we’d throw all of those promises out the window. 

The best way to stay married may be to not get divorced, but the best way to start marriage is to make divorce a completely inaccessible concept in your home. Don’t even consider it. Tolerating even the thought of ending your marriage acclimates you more and more to it as a possibility, when our husbands and our marriages deserve so much more.

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