Just how bad does a marriage have to become before you would support someone’s decision to pursue divorce?
Most everyone applies an unconscious standard when judging the relative merit of someone’s decision to leave a bad marriage. In other words, we all have a “line.” And when someone crosses it, we’re emotionally willing to clear the offended partner for take-off. For some, the “line” is easily crossed. For others, the “line” exists somewhere beyond the asteroid belt. But we all have one; it’s just a matter of where we choose to draw it, either consciously or unconsciously.
“Most pastors in this study indicated that they would be more than willing to accept a marriage in which some wife abuse is present—even though it is ‘not God's perfect will’—than they would be to advise separation, which could end in divorce.”
Think about the last time you heard someone tell his or her divorce story. We've all experienced this. As the newly emancipated soul explains the events leading up to the final decision to leave, we smile politely, thinking, I don’t know. Perhaps this person gave up too easily. Then, a particular detail triggers a response. Somewhere, down in the deep recesses of intuition, a signals goes off telling us that a “line” has been crossed. Perhaps the trigger was infidelity, or substance abuse, or deviant sexual behavior. Suddenly, we’re nodding in outraged approval, wondering why he or she waited so long to divorce.
During the late 1980s, a pair of researchers, James and Phyllis Alsdurf, wanted to know where church leaders drew their lines based on their firsthand experience.