This is a fact check of the article “Is Divorce The Right Answer? 15 Questions Couples Should Ask” by Dr. Angela Bisignano on the Focus on the Family website.

WARNING: This article has 5 major factual errors. The author is wrong about many of her claims. She misquotes researchers or misrepresents their views. How do I know? I looked up every quote and every link and every researcher she mentioned.


In RED TYPE is a fact-checking critique and analysis of this article. The black type is the original article itself. This article is misleading and inaccurate.  IF YOU ARE AN ABUSE VICTIM, please be warned, this is not a safe article. 

MAJOR PROBLEMS WITH THIS ARTICLE

  • 1.) It describes divorcees as people who are irresponsible and don't care about their children. No exceptions are made for those who divorce due to domestic violence, abandonment, and adultery, not even child abuse or child molestation.

 

  • 2.) It suggests that divorce is universally destructive to kids and their parents, when in reality, divorce is sometimes best for children and adults, according to the very researchers quoted in the article.

 

 

  • 4.) In multiple places words are omitted from quotations, completely changing the meaning away from what the researchers said.

     

 

  • 5.) The author claims that certain researchers agree with a particular view when in reality the researchers publicly state something quite different.

     

 

  • 6.) Abuse is mentioned but the author never offers a legal separation or divorce as a valid option for achieving the highest level of legal protection.

     

 

 

 

  • 7.) It adds words to the Bible, requiring victims of an adulterous or runaway spouse to jump through more hoops to divorce than the Bible requires.

     

 

See excerpts of the article below. Copyright law in the U.S. permits quotes of articles in order do critiques and fact checks. Here's the LINK to the full blog post on the Focus on the Family website.

 

Here's how the article starts, with a couple, Mike and Sandy, coming to see Dr. Angela Bisignano for marriage counseling because their marriage is in trouble.

IS DIVORCE THE RIGHT ANSWER? 15 QUESTIONS COUPLES SHOULD ASK

  • BY DR. ANGELA BISIGNANO
  • AUGUST 17, 2020

Mike and Sandy* came to see me for marriage therapy. They struggled with one of the most challenging questions a married couple can ask: Is divorce the right answer?  It’s a high-stakes question — on par with the first question a couple must answer: Should we get married? Both issues require life-changing solutions. Like the decision to marry, couples need to realize that others’ lives — especially their children – will be affected. So, before saying yes to a divorce, a couple should always take a serious look at critical questions that can guide them in making sound emotional, psychological and spiritual decisions.

 

According to professional guidelines the first step is to ask basic intake questions. Why? Because according to the Gottman Institute, 50% of the couples who come for marriage counseling have experienced some violence whether they told you or not, and if there's been abuse, it is unethical to do couples counseling with them.   https://www.gottman.com/blog/v-is-for-violence/ A lot of naive, well-meaning therapists forget this.

 

 

The first time I meet couples for a therapy session, I ask them to tell me the story of their relationship and ask questions like, “Where did you meet?” “What attracted you to each other?” and “When did you decide to get married?” Couples usually lean into the questions about their story, relax a little and take a stroll down memory lane.

 

Those aren't the typical first questions therapists ask according to the professional websites. They normally ask, "What brings you here today?" and "Have you ever seen a counselor before?" "What do you expect from the counseling process?" And other questions to understand the situation.   

 

Hearing their story gives the three of us a reference point and a context for their current situation.

 

No, actually telling stories about how they met says nothing about what's happening now in the current situation. For many domestic violence victims, the abuse starts after the wedding, on the honeymoon or during a pregnancy, long after they first met. 

Conservative pro-family pro-church researchers DeRose, Johnson and Wang, (Johnson is from Baylor University, the largest Baptist university in the world, and Wang is with the pro-family conservative organization Institute for Family Studies) studied intimate partner violence in deeply religious couples in 11 countries, including the U.S.

They found that in the U.S. nearly 1 in 4 religious couples reported interpersonal violence in their current relationship (p. 36-37). If nearly 1 in 4 Christian couples have abuse going on in their relationship, shouldn't a good therapist look into that first? 

 

 

I also want the couple to remember that at one time, the relationship was good. Marriage was good. Life was full of hope.

 

Why? Any licensed psychologist must know how much abuse and infidelity and addiction there is. That may be why they came in.

No doubt the beginning of the relationship was good and full of hope. That's why they married. Ignoring the presenting problems that brought them might be unethical if there are serious problems in the relationship.

Researchers have found that about half of divorces in the U.S. are for very serious things: a pattern of sexual immorality, domestic violence, chronic emotional abuse, life altering addictions, severe indifference or neglect.

Also, therapists who've dealt with abused spouses a long time, know that abused spouses often don’t realize they are being abused. Those beleaguered wives (and sometimes husbands) are researching articles like this for help when they are confused and still in that place of trying to placate the abusive spouse and fix their marriage. They might need some testing to see if what they are experiencing is normal or genuinely abuse. 

 

Mike and Sandy never thought they would divorce. Now, they found themselves wondering if a divorce would make things better. But Mike couldn’t get away from the question that haunted him: “What does God desire?”

 

We know what God desires: he desires marriages that are loving, caring, undefiled, and faithful.

We know God gave divorce as a way of bringing relief to those who were in a marriage that was not that way. Jesus said divorce was given due to hardheartedness.  And, God commanded divorce three times in Scripture, prohibited it only once, and condoned it in several other cases. God Himself divorced Israel and never took her back (Jeremiah 3:8).

 

Few life experiences are as heart-wrenching as a divorce. So, if you’re wondering if divorce is the right answer, consider these 15 questions.

 

Abuse and betrayal are more heart-wrenching than a divorce. 

Many people who are escaping horrifying marriages say the difficulties of divorce were worth it.

The divorced abuse/betrayal survivors in my 2,900-member private group for conservative Christians (and other people of faith) say they needed to find safety and relief from the chaos from their spouse. The vast majority are glad they got out. They may be poorer; they may need therapy; but they are glad they are no longer living in the chaos.

While divorce is tough and costly, it doesn't compare with the tension, fear, and stress of living for years with someone who is deliberately destructive.

 

 

Question 1: Do you and your spouse communicate in a respectful, affirming way?

If you answered “no,” then it’s time to change how you communicate with your spouse. Many people have difficulty sharing their feelings and needs. Suppose couples “go through the motions” without honest communications. In that case, they turn away from each other, disconnect emotionally, and let negative thoughts and feelings override positive ones.

Not all communication problems are caused by couples "going through the motions" who don't share their "feelings and needs."

Long before they ever seek counseling, the invested spouse (often the wife, but sometimes the husband) in those troubled marriages has already tried multiple methods to fix the situation.

The wife may have tried to share her feelings and needs in a respectful way. She may have bought Christian marriage books and followed the advice. She may have urged her husband to understand that his selfish behavior is damaging the relationship. She may have bent over backwards to be more agreeable, more loving, more forgiving, and to speak his "love language." She may have taken it upon herself to set up all the counseling appointments, desperately trying to find a therapist her husband will agree to see.

But if nothing has worked, and the husband continues to "turn away," then it's a problem. If he is indifferent, or sneaky, or intimidating, or selfish, or blame-shifting, or applies pressure to get his wife to go against her best interests, then it is a crisis. Only that wife knows what's going on behind closed doors and when enough is enough.

Finally, what if being honest isn't safe? What if being honest will get you punished?  What if saying one wrong word will result in being screamed  at all the way home?

What if you are "disconnecting" because your spouse demeans you, has affairs, threatens the kids or pets, wakes you up at night for no good reason, or rapes you? Disconnecting may be a sign of domestic violence. But naive therapists don't realize that. They go after the one disconnecting, and abuse them further. 

This is why the Gottman Institute, which Angela Bisignano quotes below, tells therapists they should expect that half of the people who walk into their offices have probably experienced marital violence, whether they admit it or not.

 

It can be challenging to move from poor to healthy communication — especially if you’ve never learned how to talk to your spouse. A skilled relationship expert can help you and your spouse learn how to turn toward each other, empathize and understand the others’ feelings and needs.

 

Yes, it can be a challenge to go from poor to healthy communication. If poor communication skills are the biggest problem, then it is important to offer a class in conflict-management and problem-solving skills to couples who never learned. Techniques are important.

But good techniques are not the same as having good motives. And learning good techniques won't make a coercive person kind. In fact, it might make their coercion a lot harder to detect.

Let's not suppose this learning communication techniques will fix someone with repeated marriage-endangering sin. That's someone who loves their life exactly as it is. This isn't a knowledge deficit; this is a heart deficit. They have no motivation to change.

With abuse, it's not a communication issue, it's a character issue. Some of the best communicators are abusers and cheaters. Often they are charming—and excellent at tricking therapists, pastors, and counselors.

 

 

Question 2: Do you try to resolve every conflict in your marriage?

If you answered “yes,” you have set yourself up to fail.

 

Dr. John Gottman is one of America’s top researchers on relationships. One of his fundamental discoveries is that nearly 70% of relationship problems are perpetual.

 

That's a misquote. That's not what Gottman's website said. Their article said, "Sixty-nine percent of relationship conflict is about perpetual problems." That's not the same. "Perpetual problems" are typical problems like disagreements about child raising, housekeeping, and budgets. 

 

 

They keep coming up! In fact, fighting couples may be looking for a solution that does not exist.

 

Gottman suggests that couples have a deep and intimate conversation about these "perpetual problems":

"It’s a conversation with one another — rather than at one another — that is designed to reveal the deeper meaning of a particular conflict....Whenever the dream or hope or aspiration for the relationship is ignored, problems arise." link

The problem is that in abusive marriages, this doesn't happen. If the husband is a "my way or the highway" guy or the wife has been taught that offering her opinion is sinful or disrespectful or will trigger some sort of punishment, these conversations never happen.

 

If you and your spouse have the same argument over and over, you may find yourself asking, Is divorce the right answer? Maybe there is a better way to address your struggles. Instead of defaulting to divorce questions, I challenge you to make this statement the new goal of your discussions: I want us to learn to manage this respectfully. Such a simple declaration can make a profound difference. Couples can learn to talk about conflicts with compassion, acceptance and an understanding that it’s OK to disagree.

 

"Defaulting to divorce questions"? No. The fact that the couple is still married and has chosen to pay a lot of money for therapy indicates that divorce was not their "default." At least one person (often the wife, but sometimes the husband) in this couple has tried hard and is still trying, making attempts to reason with their spouse and "manage it respectfully."

Abusive, deceitful, addicted or indifferent husbands don't have any respect for their wives. In fact, in order to continue their selfish ways, they have to convince themselves that their wives deserve such treatment. Often they concoct false allegations to lure others to the same conclusion.

So a self-centered husband (or sometimes it's a self-centered wife) has a long pattern of refusing to repair the relationship so the abuse never happens again. They don't sacrifice for the love, respect, and dignity of the marriage.

They may tell others how much they do ("I work so hard for my family" or "I would die for my wife"), but they won't live for their family. They don't lift a finger to make the home kinder, safer, or more generous. The wife, kids, and even the pets walk on eggshells, worried about setting off the abusive husband.

An abuser does not value their spouse's opinions. They don't approach conflicts with "compassion, acceptance and an understanding that it’s OK to disagree."

For them it's "my way or the highway." 

Down deep, abusers don't want to work on themselves. They may claim they do —n order to please the counselor or pastor—but continue to blame their marriage-destroying sin on their spouse. 

So, they aren't ready to be in couple's counseling until they take responsibility for their own destructive actions and entitled attitudes. They need to be in individual counseling before they can acknowledge publicly and repeatedly the harm they caused. Sadly, even if they make promises, most abusers don't invest the time, money, or energy to do the foundational change that is necessary.

A counselor cannot do couples therapy where there's abuse. It's unethical. The abuser/cheater/addict likely has contempt for their partner, not respect. They like taking advantage of them. They enjoy deceiving them. There is no compassion, acceptance, understanding, or feeling OK to disagree.

The well-meaning but naive therapist ends up being conned by the abuser and siding against the beleaguered spouse.

 

Couples should also remember there is usually a significant reason for the disagreement. One spouse (or both) may be dealing with a deeply held position, a dream (ideal) or other background issues. Uncovering this issue may help a couple reach a healthy compromise.

 

Yes, examining our own, and each other's, issues is important. That takes the ability to sit and listen with respect. Early in the marriage, couples may need to take classes in communication skills, conflict resolution, and problem solving. 

But what if the abusive spouse's "deeply held position" is "I'm right, you're always wrong"?

How do you compromise? You cannot compromise with a "taker."  Selfish people already have taken every ounce of power, money, and control they can. Yet naive therapists pressure the vulnerable wife to give in even more—debasing her further, stripping away her last bit of self-respect, and driving her to despair and depression...possibly suicide. 

Most committed Christians who are mature people didn't have unrealistic dreams. They didn't expect champagne and roses. They expected that marriage would involve give and take. They expected ups and downs. They were committed to life's ups and downs. They are not merely "disappointed" or "bored" by their marriage.

 

Question 3: Do you believe your marriage is all that it can become … or are you just tired of trying?

Six years. That’s how long most couples struggle before finally making an appointment with a counselor to ask if divorce is the right answer to their situation? Many suffer for decades — drowning in poor communication patterns, unhealthy behaviors, and emotional or physical disconnect before seeking help or filing for divorce. They arrive at the counselor’s or attorney’s office exhausted and think they’ve tried everything but feel nothing has worked.

 

It’s time to take an honest look at your marriage. Do you and your spouse struggle in one (or more) of these areas:

 

  • Communication.
  • Infidelity — emotional or physical.
  • Addiction.
  • Disconnect — emotional or physical.
  • Managing conflict.
  • Thinking negatively about your spouse. - This is a symptom, not the problem.
  • Growing in different directions.
  • Resentment or bitterness. - This is a symptom, not the problem.
  • Loneliness. - This is a symptom, not the problem.

If you answered “yes” to any of these issues, consider marriage therapy with a Christian counselor.

 

Where are the other marriage-endangering issues in that list?

      • Where is "Physical violence"?
      • Where is "Emotional, mental, verbal abuse"?
      • Where is "Being a control freak"?
      • Where is "Neglect of duty" or "Failure to provide?"
      • Where is "Financially squandering the rent/grocery money"?

 

It is important to know the difference: Is it just "communications skill" issue or is it a dangerous situation that requires each spouse to get individual therapy. Individual therapy is the ethical thing to do. As mentioned before, researchers have found that about half of divorces in the U.S. are for very serious things: a pattern of sexual immorality, domestic violence, chronic emotional abuse, life-altering addictions, severe indifference or neglect.

 

Question 4: How have you contributed to the problem and the solution?

Many couples fall into the blame game: pointing fingers at their spouse instead of taking an honest self-inventory.

 

No, it's abusers and cheaters who do the blame game. And they don't "fall" into it. It's something they do routinely. Let's not excuse their behavior by suggesting they passively "fall" into intimidating rage or chronic lying or reckless behavior or serial infidelity or child porn. When authors and organizations excuse them, they play into an abuser or cheater's manipulation and desire to downplay their culpability.

Abusers want a therapist who helps them to transfer the responsibility for their marriage-endangering sin onto their spouse. They want a therapist who says it's just a "communication problem." They want a therapist who will blame the invested spouse for being angry, and tell her she needs to be nicer.

Abusive husbands love having an invested wife who is conscientious, someone with self-doubt who often takes a self-inventory and blame herself.

Abusers lack remorse. They may be up all night trying to block their wives from leaving, but they aren't up at night repenting before the Lord. 

 

We all have blind spots. And we can only find them if we take time to reflect on the things we’ve done that contribute to our marriage’s unhappiness. In other words, put the blame game in a timeout and do some self-reflection:

 

This would be good advice if it were clear that there was no abuse, sexual betrayal, addictions, or neglect of duty going on. When one of these things is present, it's more than a "blind spot." It's a character issue. This is not a well-meaning person who just doesn't know they are hurting their spouse. 

By assuming there's nothing major going on, this suggestion is mutualizing marital abuse and putting equal blame on the victim. This is very destructive in cases where there's abuse. 

Abusers abuse because they like to. They don't have much regard for the safety and wellbeing of those around them. 

 

Question 5: Are issues outside your marriage making you unhappy?

Mike and Sandy’s marriage changed for the better when medical tests showed Sandy had a thyroid condition. Her condition caused irritability, weight gain, frustration and fatigue. Once she started taking thyroid medication, her health improved, and so did her marriage. If you of your spouse are wondering whether divorce is the right answer, it may help to first seek medical or psychological assistance. Consider medical aid for:

 

  • Mental health issues. - we know that trauma victims develop mental and physical health issues, and often these reduce or go away after a life-saving divorce.  A good book is The Body Keeps the Score written by one of the top experts in this field, psychiatrist Dr. Bessel van der Kolk. He was brought up in a devout  Christian home.
  • Physical health issues.
  • Stresses of life.
  • Overwork.
  • Sleep deprivation. - Sleep deprivation due to being awakened by your spouse for no reason is a form of psychological abuse. It's considered torture by the Geneva Convention. It can lead to physical and psychological problems.

 

This would have been a great place to discuss external stressors (these ones in Question 5) versus character stressors due to the selfish personality traits.

 

Question 6: Do you know what makes a healthy marriage?

For the last 40 years, Gottman has conducted scientific studies of couples to answer the question, “Do healthy marriages share similar characteristics?”

 

We’ve already discussed one similarity: Healthy marriages learn to manage conflict successfully.

 

But according to Gottman, a second — and equally important characteristic — is that friendship and trust are at the heart of healthy marriages.

 

Friendship and trust have eroded in a marriage where one is abusive or sexually immoral. You can't just demand that the betrayed spouse pretend there is friendship and trust when they walk on eggshells and live in anxiety of what their spouse will do next. There is no basis for friendship or trust. And no healthy person wants to be close to someone who is not safe. People need to set boundaries and get away from destructive people.

 

Gottman’s findings echo another key source of relationship knowledge: The Bible. Theologian Timothy Keller states that the Bible begins with the premise that marriage is friendship.

 

In his book The Meaning of Marriage, Keller explains that when God brought Eve to Adam, He brought him not just a lover, but “the friend his heart had been seeking.” The Bible takes the concept of a husband-wife friendship even deeper. Genesis 2:18 shows God’s design for a woman: “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. It’s important to take an in-depth look at the word “helper.”

[...]

A healthy marriage then is one in which the husband and wife are allies — two individuals working toward a common goal.

 

Here's what Bisignano doesn't seems to understand: A couple living with abuse or cheating or addiction are not allies.

Abusive.addicted, or cheating husbands want to work toward one common goal: the goal of controlling their wives and silencing their efforts to protest and defend themselves.

 

If an charming abuser can find an idealistic therapist who is blind to power-and-control dynamics, it's another WIN for him.

 

If you and your spouse are constantly asking if divorce is the right answer, then it becomes essential to stop viewing each other as the enemy and start seeing each other as allies.

 

Many Christian homes are not safe. Conservative pro-family researchers found that 1 in 4 highly religious homes in the U.S. had some form of interpersonal violence. (Link above.)

And contrary to Angela Bisignano's comment, husbands who commit adultery, get drunk or high, or make their family fear them often do not want a divorce. 

They like having their cake and eating it too. Their repeated marriage-destroying sin works fine for them. They don't want to change. They just want a spouse who will look the other way and blindly keep investing in the relationship.  

It's very likely the husband treats everyone else at work, the neighborhood, and at church, quite well. But behind closed doors, it's a different story.

If your husband decides to treat you as an enemy, and looks for excuses to be mean or neglectful to you, it's game over. If he quotes "God hates divorce" and other Bible verses to force you to stay, it's game over. He doesn't want to act like a married person, but he still wants the benefits of marriage.

 

Often, the realization that you are both working toward a common goal — a relationship, a family — helps renew the friendship that is desperately needed to weather life’s storms.

 

Yes, it should work that way but in about half of the marriages that ended in divorce, it didn't. There was no basis for trust. 

 

Question 7: Do you know that the divorce rate isn’t as high as you’ve been told?

Social researcher Shaunti Feldhahn challenges the conventional wisdom that 50% of American marriages will end in divorce. Through a rigorous, eight-year study, Feldhahn found “72% of those who have ever been married are still married to their first spouse.” Based on her research, Feldhahn believes the U.S. divorce rate may be as low as 20 to 25%!

 

I think the author is using Shaunti Feldhahn's [debunked] figures to suggest that most marriages will eventually get better if you stay, or that marriages today are better than we were told, or they have gotten better and no one is admitting this.

By the way, Shaunti Feldhahn's views are not taken seriously by the conservative pro-marriage organization, the Institute for Family Studies. They mention her by name and say she's not a social scientist and they don't agree with her figures. Their article suggests that the rate is about 42%, not 20-25%.

 

Much like Feldhahn, Philip Cohen, a sociology professor at the University of Maryland, analyzed U.S. divorce trends and discovered divorce rates dropped 21% between 2008 and 2017.

 

Angela Bisignano doesn't know much about Philip Cohen. Cohen doesn't agree with Feldhahn or practically anything in this article. He is one of the top family demographers in the U.S. He watches domestic violence trends, and his findings show that marriages can be very dangerous.  He doesn't think the divorce rate is 20-25%  He says it's 47%. He's even tweeted about it. 

 

U.S. Divorce Rate is 47% per demographer Philiip N. Cohen, University of Maryland

Those who are familiar with Philip N. Cohen's work know that the divorce decline has nothing to do with marriages in America becoming stable by merely staying and trying harder.  Here's are the THREE factors Cohen attributes the divorce decline to:

“The overall drop has been driven entirely by younger women,” Cohen writes. The study points out that just-married women are now 'more likely to be in their first marriages, more likely to have B.A. degrees or higher education, less likely to be under age 25, and less likely to have [their] own children in the household', all factors Cohen suggests might affect the risk of divorce."

So Philip N. Cohen says the reason divorce rates are going down is because the young women who are marrying today (Millennials, for example) are waiting longer to marry: they are older and often have more education and later childbearing. Those are "protective characteristics," he says. See page 5, first paragraph, of the paper Bisignano linked above.

But the author just keeps digging herself into a hole...

 

The decline may be the result of adults choosing to live together rather than marry; however, Cohen suggests that the evidence points toward a continued decline in divorce and a progression toward more stable marriages. So if you’re wondering if divorce is the right answer, social science suggests that it’s possible to save your marriage.

Bisignano is misleading. I'm not sure about the logic she's using but I think she's trying to argue that marriages magically get more stable if you are patient and stay. That's not true in 1 in 3 miserable long-term marriages, according to the conservative pro-family researcher, Dr. Linda Waite. 

In fact, if Angela really were up to date on pro-family research, she'd know that the marriages of low-income and low-education people are LESS STABLE. Their divorce rate has gone up, while the divorce rate for people with more education has dropped. Even conservative pro-marriage research organizations, such as Institute for Family Studies and National Marriage Project, discuss this. It's a major problem in the U.S. for those of us who value marriage.

 

Question 8: Do you and your spouse regularly attend church together?

In their publication “Religious Influences on the Risk of Marital Dissolution,” researchers from the University of Texas found church attendance lowers the risk of divorce.

 

That's not what the researchers from University of Texas found. Below are the actual quotes from those researchers. 

 

Margaret Vaaler, Christopher Ellison and Daniel Powers examined characteristics of nearly 3,000 first-time married couples. Their findings showed the risk of divorce is substantially lower for couples who regularly attend church together.

 

The researchers aren't sure that it has anything to do with religion at all.

Here's their actual quote: 

"Results indicated that although each partner’s religious attendance bore a modest relationship to marital dissolution, the risk of divorce was lower if husbands had conservative theological beliefs and when both partners belonged to mainline Protestant denominations. Conversely, the risk of divorce was elevated if husbands attended services more frequently than their wives and if wives were more theologically conservative than their husbands." (p. 917)

In other words, church attendance is a mixed bag. In some cases, individuals who attend church are more likely to divorce. And couples who attended mainline Protestant churches divorced less than couples who attended Evangelical or Catholic churches. p. 925.

Vaaler, Ellison, and Powers found that those husbands who attended church more than their wives, actually had a higher divorce rate.  p. 917 

 

The study also finds that “persons who hold conservative theological beliefs about the Bible may be less likely to separate or divorce over time.” The survey results are consistent with the adage, “The family who prays together stays together.”

 

Bisignano is misrquoting researchers to make it sound as if they agree with her.  She left out four words from the quote, which changed the meaning entirely.

The actual quote from Dr. Vaalers on page 917 is this: 

[“Therefore, one expects that] persons who hold conservative theological beliefs about the Bible may be less likely to separate or divorce over time.”

But Vaaler, Ellison, and Powers found this expectation failed to hold up. It was not the conservative Evangelical couples who divorced less; it was the  mainline couples who did.

If Angela had read that whole paragraph on p. 930—not just that sentence "families that pray together stay together"—she would have learned that the researchers observed that the reduced divorce rate is not necessarily due to religious beliefs.

Here's another line Bisignano missed.

"Such a result may reflect the long-term benefits of ideological and lifestyle similarity among partners or the consistency and homogeneity of their social networks or their access to congregational resources that could bolster marital bonds, for example, specific support programs or pastoral counseling. It is conceivable that these couples could also incur higher social costs (e.g., stigma, social awkwardness) that could deter or delay marital dissolution." p. 930

To summarize: Vaalers, Ellison, and Powers found that any decrease in divorce rate in church attending couples may just be the effect of two people having similar values and having the same friends and getting emotional support from same source, not necessarily due to church attendance. It may not be due to religion at all, but because of similar lifestyles. The researchers also suggested that the stigma of divorce in churches may deter people from divorcing. In other words, the fears of being judged, gossiped about, and treated like second-class Christians keep people in destructive marriages. This peer pressure may dissuade abused wives (or husbands) from getting the divorce they need to save their life and sanity. 

 

 

 

Question 9: Do you know what the Scriptures say about marriage and divorce?

The Bible is clear that God designed marriage to be a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman. A spiritual union takes place in a marriage. The Apostle Paul describes it as a “profound mystery” (Ephesians 5:31-32). Timothy Keller explains it as an example of God’s relationship with His people and Christ’s love for the church.

 

Dr. Bisignano is misquoting what the apostle Paul said. Paul did not say human marriage was a profound mystery. Rather he said, the relationship between Christ and the church is a profound mystery. The exact quote of verse 32 (NASB) reads: "This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church."

 

Are there grounds for leaving a marriage, for divorce? In the Bible, it’s clear God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).

 

God's intent and plan was for marriages to be loving, undefiled and lifelong. But God allowed the betrayed spouses to escape from their shamelessly adulterous and abandoning spouses so they and their children could finally find peace and safety. Notice that the Bible commands divorce three times in the Bible, and only prohibits it once. Divorce is not included in any lists of sins in the Bible. www.lifesavingdivorce.com/abuse-in-bible)

The book of Malachi was written more than 2,400 years ago, nearly 500 years before Christ.

For the first 2,100 years, it was interpreted as an anti-treachery verse, not an anti-divorce verse. That’s how the great Bible translators Jerome and John Wycliffe, and Reformers Martin Luther and John Calvin viewed it. But then King James’s translators changed it into an anti-divorce verse for 385 years starting in 1611.

That ended in 1996 after the Dead Sea scroll fragment of Malachi 2:16 (the oldest known copy of Malachi 2:16) was published, and many scholars interpreted it again as an anti-treachery verse.

The New International Version (NIV 2011), English Standard Version (ESV) and Christian Standard Bible (CSB) have this anti-treachery interpretation, not the "God hates divorce" wording.

(Note: The old 1984 version of the NIV interpreted it as “I [God] hate divorce,” but the translators changed it in their 2011 update.)

"So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful to the wife of

your youth. “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says

the Lord, the God of Israel,” does violence to the one he should

protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do

not be unfaithful." —Malachi 2:15b-16 (NIV 2011)

To see 18 translations of Malachi 2:16, click here: http://www.lifesavingdivorce.com/malachi

To see how John Calvin viewed this verse in the 1500s, go here: http://www.lifesavingdivorce.com/calvin

So, what is God’s plan for marriage? In Matthew 19:1-9, Jesus talks to religious leaders about marriage and divorce.

 

The Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He [Jesus] answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh?’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let not man separate.” They [the Pharisees] said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

 

Jesus explicitly said adultery was grounds for divorce when the religious leaders were testing him. And he never retracted Exodus 21:10-11 saying that abuse and neglect are grounds. And he never told his followers to stop giving wives "certificates of divorce" that allowed them to remarry. There's an excellent 7-minute video that explains this story of  Jesus and the Pharisees who were trying to trap him.

 

1 Corinthians 7:15 gives one additional reason for divorce. The apostle Paul cites willful desertion or abandonment. In such a case, the wronged spouse “is not enslaved.” However, Paul’s exception applies only to an unbeliever leaving or abandoning a believing spouse, not to a believer’s actions.

 

Well, no, abandonment by a believer was also valid grounds for divorce too. Abandonment and neglect have always had been valid reasons for divorce in the Bible. 2 Timothy 5:8 tells us that a believer who doesn't care for his family is worse than an unbeliever.

 

Choosing to divorce should never be easy or considered without input from wise counsel and a spiritual community. If an unfaithful spouse shows no prospect of repentance or refuses offers of help and restoration, divorce is permissible. However, God never intended divorce to be the answer.

 

Notice how Dr. Bisignano says that divorce for adultery is only permissible if the unfaithful spouse doesn't repent or restore the relationship? That's not what the Bible says. She's adding words to Scripture, making it harder for betrayed partners to get out of their marriages. This is also Focus on the Family's official policy.

God did intend divorce to be the answer! Jesus said it was given for the hardness of people's hearts. Divorce is precisely God's answer to abusive one-sided covenants. It is the answer he, Himself, chose in His covenant with faithless Israel, as he says in Jeremiah 3:8.  God absolutely intended divorce to be the answer to these situations.

 

God gave divorce and even commanded it in three cases in the Bible. Jesus said divorce was given exactly for this reason, due to the hardness of a person's heart. They no longer care how they treat you.

 

Abuse and addictions are valid biblical grounds for divorce as these Bible passages show. And we are not to associate with abusers or addicts, not even eat with them. For example:

"But actually, I wrote you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister and is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or verbally abusive, a drunkard or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person." — 1 Corinthians 5:11 CSB

Also, as a man in my private Facebook group for divorced Christians said,

I really dislike the term "permissible." Permissible sounds as though it is grudgingly permitted but never the best choice. However, that does not align with what the Bible says... and that wording often keeps abused spouses needlessly enslaved in toxic marriages. Instead, let's say, "... divorce may be the best and most godly choice."

 

Question 10: Are you safe in your marriage?

The Bible releases a spouse from the marriage bond under limited circumstances: sexual immorality and abandonment. (No, sorry, Ex 21:10-11 commands divorce for physical and emotional neglect.) But what about spouses who suffer abuse? What does the Bible say to a woman married to a physically abusive man? Or the husband of an out-of-control substance abuser? Or worse, a spouse married to someone with violent or criminal intentions? Does the Bible say that spouses must stay in an abusive marriage?

 

Physical abuse is unacceptable. If you — or your children — suffer physical abuse, get to safety.

 

Well, I'm glad Dr. Angela Bisignano finally said that.

But it's not just physical abuse that destroys lives. Emotionally manipulated, coerced, and  tormented spouses often wish their spouse would just hit them so there was proof to the world of what is going on behind closed doors. ... horrifying as that is. Sometimes they wish for death because they read articles like this and feel they are trapped forever. They are driven into despair, depression and suicidal ideation.  Divorce saves lives in these instances.

The Harvard Quarterly Journal of Economics 2006 shows evidence that divorce saves lives.

When “no fault” divorce laws started passing one state at a time, starting with Governor Ronald Reagan in California in 1969, researchers wanted to see the effect. In states that passed unilateral no-fault divorce, they observed the suicide rate for wives drop 8-16%. The domestic violence rate by and against both men and women dropped 30%. The homicide rate of women murdered by an intimate dropped 10%. (Source: Stevenson and Wolfers, “Bargaining in the Shadow of the Law: Divorce Laws and Family Distress,” The Quarterly Journal of Economics (Feb. 2006): 267, 286.)

Jesus healed on the Sabbath and made the religious leaders angry. He was saving lives.

 

God intended marriage to be a blessing. His design never included abuse, violence or physical pain. Even emotional abuse — while it does not leave external marks — can bruise a person’s heart, mind and soul. Victims often feel helpless, hopeless, depressed or suicidal.

 

This is the first time in the article that the author has shown any empathy.

Depression and suicide are serious problems. When state legislatures made divorce easier to get back in the 1970s and 1980s, it reduced the suicide rate 8-16% for wives. (Source: above)

Divorce can be a God's rescue plan. And many Christian divorcees who get life-saving divorces give glory to God for his protection.

 

 

If you’re in an abusive relationship, get help right away. Proverbs 22:3 tells us that “the prudent sees danger and hides himself.” In such a case, the purpose of separation is for safety. The intent should be that the wayward spouse seeks help and repents so that the relationship is healed and the marriage made pleasing to God. But if the abusive spouse is unrepentant and the other spouse remains in danger, reconciliation may never be possible.

 

I'm glad Dr. Angela Bisignano realizes that "reconciliation may never be possible."

Notice how she stops short of saying in this situation divorce may be the best answer. She wants you to "hide yourself." but acknowledges that may not be enough. Clearly that is the logical conclusion—and often the best legal protection from abuse.

So, why is it so hard for her to say so? Maybe because she believes her previous statement, that "God never intended divorce to be the answer"... which is a patently false statement.

And, let's talk about repentance. What if the abuser claims to be repentant and puts on a good tearful show in front of others, but never changes his attitude of entitlement and just gets better at hiding it? This happens a lot.

 

Question 11: Do you understand the impact divorce will make on your children and grandchildren?

Anyone who has experienced a divorce knows that its effects continue for decades. Divorce hits like a tornado and leaves a trail of devastation and heartache. Among the victims are innocent children who must deal with the destruction for years to come.

 

Bisignano is giving a half-truth. There is not one top family researcher who will claim that divorce is universally detrimental to children. See below for dozens of quotes from the top researchers. And at the bottom of this article is a letter from a mother of two, who says her children's health and behavior dramatically improved after her divorce. 

 

Jane Anderson is a retired clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. Anderson spent nearly 30 years studying the connection between family structure and children’s health. Her findings show that “with the exception of parents faced with unresolvable marital violence, children fare better when parents work at maintaining the marriage.”

 

 

Even Jane Anderson admitted on the second page of her policy paper, "Children who are removed from the most dysfunctional environments are more likely to do better after the divorce" (p. 379).

It doesn't appear that many pro-marriage research organizations endorse (or even mention) Jane Anderson or her policy paper.  Not the Institute for Family Studies, not National Marriage Project, not any of the big pro-family organizations. Focus on the Family doesn't quote Anderson in any of their hundreds of webpages. Conservative pro-marriage policy organization Family Research Council and Heritage Foundation and Institute for Family Values don't mention her or her paper. I found only one mention of her, and that was by a group that's listed as a hate group. So...she's probably not a good choice as a source.

 

The late psychologist Mavis Hetherington also studied the effect of divorce on children. While divorce is painful for adults, it affects children more, especially in the post-divorce years. Children may be at risk of displaying emotional, psychological and behavioral problems.

 

I have that Hetherington study, and I don't see that claim that divorce affects kids more.

Dr. E. Mavis Hetherington found that about 2-in-10 kids from divorced homes (and 1-in-10 kids from two-parent married homes) had serious longterm emotional, psychological, or social problems. 

No one can claim that two-parent married homes guarantee one's children will be free from serious problems.

The late Dr. Mavis Hetherington studied 1,400 families and followed them longitudinally. Her study covered 30 years. Here's what Hetherington said: (Emphasis mine.)

"...the big headline in my data is that 80 percent of children from divorced homes eventually are able to adapt to their new life and become reasonably well adjusted.... However coming from a non-divorced family did not always protect against growing into a troubled young adult. Ten percent of youths from non-divorced families, compared to 20 percent in divorce and remarried families were troubled." —E. Mavis Hetherington and John Kelly, For Better or For Worse (New York: WW Norton & Company, 2002), p. 228   

On the next page of her book (p. 229), she went on to talk about the 20 percent who were troubled, writing: "A piece of good news about our youths was that their antisocial behavior declined as they matured."

 

“In the short run, divorce is brutally painful to a child. But its negative long-term effects have been exaggerated…“ "Twenty-five percent of youths from divorced families in comparison to 10 percent from non-divorced families did have serious social, emotional, or psychological problems. But most of the young men and women from [the study] looked a lot like their contemporaries from non-divorced homes. Although they looked back on their parents’ breakup as a painful experience, most were successfully going about the chief tasks of young adulthood: establishing careers, creating intimate relationships, building meaningful lives for themselves.” —E. Mavis Hetherington and John Kelly, For Better or For Worse (New York: WW Norton & Company, 2002), p. 7

 

 

Children of divorce may also suffer attachment issues. Resiliency and protective factors can influence outcomes following the divorce. Still, we cannot predict which children will fare better than others. Because a child’s future is at stake, spouses must ask — and answer — the question: Are you willing to take the chance with your child? No matter how parents attempt to “spin” the issue, divorce is devastating for many children and leaves life-long emotional, psychological and spiritual scars.

 

Angela Bisignano is giving another half-truth. Thanks to the past decades of research we have evidence that kids likely will be better off after divorce if the home was highly toxic.  

Here's a list of major family researchers quoted by Focus on the Family: Dr. Judith Wallerstein, Dr. Paul Amato, Dr. Alan Booth, Dr. Andrew Cherlin, Dr. Laura Spencer Loomis, Dr. Sara McLanahan, and Dr. Mavis Hetherington. But these researchers don't suggest all divorce is tragic for kids, at least not when the home has high conflict. Here are their conclusions.

Quote A: Amato, Loomis and Booth

“Our results show that if conflict between parents is relatively high, offspring are better off in early adulthood if their parents divorced than if they remained married.” — Paul Amato, Laura Spencer Loomis, Alan Booth, "Parental Divorce, Marital Conflict, and Offspring Well-being during Early Adulthood, 1995p. 895

Quote B: Amato, Loomis and Booth

"This result is consistent with the notion, advanced by a number of observers, that children are better off in divorced single-parent families than in two-parent families marked by high levels of discord..." — Paul Amato, Laura Spencer Loomis, Alan Booth, "Parental Divorce, Marital Conflict, and Offspring Well-being during Early Adulthood, 1995, p. 911

Quote C: Sara McLanahan  McLanahan is known for her book in 1997 about the poor outcomes of kids brought up by single parents. But 15 years later she concluded this:

"We have long known that while the average effect of divorce is negative, for some families it may actually improve family functioning and child well-being. Work by Amato (1993), for example, shows that in families with high levels of conflict, divorce improves child outcomes. More recently, Jaffee et al. (2003) have found that children are better off not seeing their fathers in cases where these men are violent or antisocial." — Sara McLanahan and Elizabeth Thomson, Reflections on “Family Structure and Child Well-Being: Economic Resources vs. Parental Socialization,” Social Forces 91(1) 45–53, September 2012

Quote D: Dr. Andrew Cherlin  who is often quoted in Focus on the Family articles. But he says that many kids develop behavior problems from the toxic home, long before the divorce. Their issues can't be blamed 100% on the divorce itself.

“It is possible that some of these long-term difficulties are due to the poor quality of the parents' marriages, rather than to the divorces themselves. A study by Paul R. Amato and Alan Booth (1997) attempted to disentangle these two possibilities. The study began as telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of married couples in 1980. The interviewers asked their respondents multiple questions on marital quality, including marital happiness, marital interaction (e.g., "How often do you eat your main meals together?"), marital conflict ("How many serious quarrels have you had in the past two months?"), and divorce proneness (e.g., "Has the thought of getting a divorce or separation crossed your mind in the last three years?").

The researchers divided all of the families into two groups, low conflict and high conflict, using all of the information. Then in 1992 all of the children who had lived with their parents in 1980 and who were now age 19 or older were interviewed. The investigators report that offspring who experienced high marital conflict in 1980 were doing better in 1992 if their parents had divorced than if they had stayed together; on the other hand, offspring from low-conflict families were doing worse if their parents had divorced. This finding confirms the oft-stated but rarely substantiated belief that if family conflict is severe, children may benefit from a divorce.”

—Dr. Andrew Cherlin, Johns Hopkins from his university textbook: Cherlin, Andrew, Private & Public Families: An Introduction, ninth edition, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2021, p. 336

 

In addition to the findings by Anderson and Hetherington, researcher Judith Wallerstein also studied the long-term effects of divorce. Wallerstein studied families over 25 years and determined that divorce may leave lasting effects from which children may never fully recover.

 

 

Angela didn't read Dr. Judith Wallerstein's books very carefully. Dr. Judith Wallerstein found that 7 in 10 kids of divorce turned out pretty normal, without any longterm emotional, psychological or social problems.

 

Wallerstein found that 7 in 10 children of divorce in her study turned out "average," "very well, or outstanding." Far from concluding that children are destroyed by divorce, Wallerstein found that most were doing well in life.

“At the twenty-five-year follow-up we found that 30 percent of the participants in our study were doing poorly, with functioning significantly impaired and below average. Thirty-four percent were in the average range, and 36 percent were doing very well to outstanding in all areas of their life tasks." —Judith S. Wallerstein, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p. 333

Quote 1: Wallerstein

“I am not against divorce. How could I be? I’ve seen more examples of wretched, demeaning, and abusive marriage than most of my colleagues. I’m keenly aware of the suffering… I’m also aware that for many parents the decision to divorce is the most difficult decision in their lives; they cry many a night before taking such a drastic step. —Judith S. Wallerstein, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p. xxxix

Quote 2: Wallerstein

“Children raised in extremely unhappy or violent intact homes face misery in childhood and tragic challenges in adulthood.” —Judith S. Wallerstein, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p. 300.

Quote 3: Wallerstein

“And I am, of course, aware of the many voices on the radio, on television, and in certain… religious circles that say divorce is sinful… But I don’t know of any research, mine included, that says divorce is universally detrimental to children.” —Judith S. Wallerstein, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p. xxxix

Quote 4: Wallerstein

“Many judges who deal with such families do not understand that merely witnessing violence is harmful to children; the images are forever etched into their brains. Even a single episode of violence is long remembered in detail. In fact there is accumulating scientific evidence that witnessing violence or being abused physically or verbally literally alters brain development resulting in a hyperactive emotional system.” —Judith S. Wallerstein, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce (New York: Hyperion, 2000), p. 90

Quote 5: Wallerstein   On the first page of Judith Wallerstein’s book, The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, she writes,

“On the positive side, many young adults who weather their parents' divorce are extremely successful in their own careers, having learned how to be independent, resourceful, and flexible…. they are decent, caring adults who manage to build good marriages in spite of their fears. p. xiii

Quote 6: Wallerstein   In fact, by 1989, Wallerstein was already saying that divorce was a rational solution to a bad marriage. And notice that she doesn't limit it to physical abuse. (Emphasis mine.)

Although our overall findings are troubling and serious, we should not point the finger of blame at divorce per se. Indeed divorce is often the only rational solution to a bad marriage. When people ask if they should stay for the sake of the children, I have to say, “Of course not." All our evidence shows that children turn out less well-adjusted when exposed to open conflict, where parents terrorize or strike one another, than do children from divorced families.” —Dr. Judith Wallerstein, Second Chances: Men, Women and Children, A Decade after Divorce, p. 321-322  (Originally published 1989. Referenced Kindle edition, 2018)

Quote 7: Wallerstein Wallerstein didn't want people to stay in a cruel, demeaning, or intensely lonely marriage "just for the kids":

But for many other people, divorce is the best solution, and staying married "for the sake of the children" (as it is so often stated) is not the wiser path. When a marriage is cruel, demeaning, or intensely lonely, divorce opens new opportunities to build a better life. The details of such unhappy marriages are often shocking. I met one couple who had not talked to each other in three years; they just passed notes back and forth. One man went to bed fully clothed every night for years, sending a not so subtle message to his wife beside him in the bed. Others brought lovers into the home when the spouse was away. In some marriages, in-laws invaded the home at all hours, leading one man to say, “She was never mine!" —Dr. Judith Wallerstein, Second Chances: Men, Women and Children, A Decade after Divorce, p. xxxiv (Originally published 1989. Referenced Kindle edition, 2018)

Quote 8: Wallerstein   In 1989, Wallerstein mentioned the lack of comparison studies between unhappy families and divorced families. But in the 1990s, such studies became available and the gave evidence of the damage done to kids who are brought up in these distressed homes. She felt divorce was better for kids in these cases.

“And while we lack systematic studies comparing unhappily married families and divorced families, I do know that it is not useful to provide children with a model of adult behavior that avoids problem solving and that stresses martyrdom, violence, or apathyA divorce undertaken thoughtfully and realistically can teach children how to confront serious life problems with compassion, wisdom, and appropriate action." —Dr. Judith Wallerstein, Second Chances: Men, Women and Children, A Decade after Divorce, p. 322 (Originally published 1989. Referenced Kindle edition, 2018)

Quote 9: Wallerstein  In a PBS interview in 2000, Judith Wallerstein admitted to being shocked by the percentage of horrible U.S. marriages. But by then we already knew that about half of U.S. divorces were for very serious reasons.

“In a PBS interview in 2000, [Wallerstein] said, “It’s hard for me to believe that 45 percent of marriages are so bad that they really need to divorce, and that’s what’s happening in this country.”  —Concerned Women for America, June 22, 2012, retrieved 10/29/2020 https://concernedwomen.org/judith-s-wallerstein-divorce-analyst-dies-at-age-90/

Quote 10: Wallerstein In 2003, Judith Wallerstein authored another book on kids and divorce. When asked when is the “best” time to divorce, she wrote (emphasis mine):

“The trouble is, there’s no simple answer… If there’s chronic violence at home, the answer is ‘the sooner the better,’ unrelated to the age of your child. By violence I mean physical attack—hitting, kicking, throwing objects—or chronic threats of physical violence. Exposure to violence has serious consequences for a child’s development that may last well into adulthood. They fear for your safety. They fear for themselves and their siblings. If there’s repeated high conflict in your marriage, accompanied by yelling, screaming, and pounding the table, then I’d also say the sooner the better... In some high-conflict homes, serious differences between the partners are a recurrent theme in everyday life.”—Judith Wallerstein and Sandra Blakeslee, What About the Kids? (New York: Hachette Books, 2010), pp. 127-128.

 

Spouses asking if divorce is the answer should consider: Do we fully understand — and take responsibility for — the lasting damage divorce causes our children and grandchildren?

 

Dr. Angela Bisignano is using manipulation, fear, guilt, and obligation here. The reality is, for decades, researchers have found that on average it was better for the children when their parents divorced rather than staying in a highly toxic home.

Is Angela Bisignano's article safe?

Will Dr. Angela Bisignano pay for your kids' therapy, or will she offer you free sessions herself if you follow her advice and sustain physical injury or autoimmune diseases connected to stress and abuse? Will she ever take responsibility for writing this misleading article?

No doubt thousands of abused spouses have read Bisignano's article and have been driven into despair and depression and possibly a few even to suicide.

Some readers may have been murdered due to articles like this that tell them they cannot leave without disappointing God and destroying their kids.

That's what happens when you misquote researchers and close the most effective avenue of escape, divorce. People believe they are trapped in bondage for the rest of their lives.

 

Question 12: Are you ready for the long-term financial challenges caused by divorce?

Linda Waite, a sociology professor at the University of Chicago, has studied the financial consequences of divorce. In her book, The Case for Marriage, Waite shows that couples can work together to build wealth, but after a divorce, there is no mutual support. For example, two households cost more to run. Even if finances are distributed evenly, the standard of living almost always drops.

 

Waite's book, The Case for Marriage, came out in 2000, and it suggested that women would struggle financially after divorce. But for abuse victims, they would rather be a bit poorer and the relief of peace and safety.

As education levels have risen, and women's "social capital" has increased, women don't fair as poorly as they used to.  See McKeever and Wolfinger, SHIFTING FORTUNES IN A CHANGING ECONOMY: Trends in the Economic Well-Being of Divorced Women. For many abuse victims, they'd rather be a little poorer than to live in a war zone.

 

Question 13: Have you tried marriage therapy?

If you and your spouse are struggling, seek help. Connect with a trusted group of mature Christians or a pastor who can provide wise counsel. You can also seek advice from a marriage therapist. When looking for a marriage counselor, consider the following qualifications: If you want to talk to a therapist, look for someone who is licensed and has advanced training in the areas of marriage and relationships. Consider these points when searching for a qualified marriage therapist:

 

  • Is the therapist licensed?
  • Does the therapist have advanced training in marriage and relationships?
  • What is the therapist’s stance on marriage?
  • Does the therapist believe in God’s design for marriage? - Sometimes this is code for "Will your therapist pressure you to stay married using false claims and spiritual threats about God's condemnation?"

Interview at least two therapists who specialize in marriage and, if possible, consider attending a marriage intensive, retreat or seminar. No, marriage intensives and retreats are unethical where there is abuse. 

 

Question 14: Are you prepared for the mental and physical stress of a divorce?

Many marriages fall apart for one heartbreaking reason: Spouses forget the value of the relationship. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 is a reminder that relationships are worth the struggle. “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!”

 

The late UCLA professor Dr. Robert H. Coombs reviewed more than 130 studies of married couples. He concluded that “it is in each person’s own best interest to establish and maintain a durable relationship with an emotionally supportive spouse. The lack of this resource is a mental health deficit.”

Angela Bisignano didn't read Dr. Coombs' work very closely. On the first page of his study, Dr. Robert H. Coombs says that marriage is a benefit when "a marital partner who provides companionship and psychic aid buffers individuals against physical and emotional pathology." p. 97.

So Coombs is not talking about all marriages being beneficial, he's talking about supportive marriages that have companionship being beneficial.

Toxic marriages don't have that.

(Humorous aside: Wow, Jesus and the apostle Paul are going to be so bummed that they were single and must have had a "mental health deficit.")

Additional research cited by Harvard Health Publishing suggests married people are:

 

  • Less likely to have a heart attack or stroke.
  • Less likely to suffer from depression.
  • More likely to have a longer life than an unmarried person.
  • More likely to survive a major operation.

 

Angela Bisignano leaves out the very next line in that article. It says that people in unhappy stressful marriages might be worse off than many singles are. 

Here is the very next line:

"This doesn’t mean that just being married automatically provides these health benefits. People in stressful, unhappy marriages may be worse off than a single person who is surrounded by supportive and caring friends, family, and loved ones. Interestingly, many of these health benefits are more pronounced for married men than for married women."

 

It should come as no surprise that sound scientific research confirms God’s original plan for marriage — that a spouse provides companionship and psychological support.

 

Angela Bisignano's article is hypocritical. It shows she doesn't care all that much about scientific research. She leaves out parts of quotes. She misrepresented the top researchers, such as Wallerstein and Cohen and Coombs, and has misled readers all through her article. 

The truth is this: After a life-saving divorce to find relief from a destructive marriage, the majority of people report better health. The same Jesus who heals on the Sabbath and made the religious leaders angry, also condoned divorce.

And Baylor's Religion Survey 2014 indicated that 7 in 10 Christians who divorced were "somewhat happy" or "very happy." (Baylor is the largest Baptist university in the world.)

 

Now it is true (on average) that people have lower health after divorce. But if you separate divorcees into two groups: those who divorced for life-saving reasons, and those who just "grew apart," you find that the first group actually experienced better health after divorce on average. (Of course, your mileage may vary.)

Stories of improved health after a life-saving divorce (as opposed to "I'm bored" divorces) are common, as leading researcher Dr. Mavis Hetherington notes:

“The one striking exception to the otherwise general rule about postdivorce decline in health were women who had been in distant or hostile marriages.”— Dr. E. Mavis Hetherington, For Better or For Worse, p. 59

 

Question 15: Will a divorce really make you happy?

In addition to her book The Case for Marriage, professor Waite researched whether divorce makes unhappily married people happy. Surprisingly, the answer, according to this research, is no. Waite’s study found that divorce did not offer an unhappy spouse relief from depression, nor was it associated with increases in psychological well-being or personal happiness. The only exception to the rule involved spouses who had experienced a violent marriage.

 

Two years later, Dr. Waite discussed in her 2002 study that she had found the opposite in some cases. She found that people in destructive marriages are better off by divorcing, and that 81% of those individuals who remarried were happier in the next marriage!

Both Waite and Gallagher agree that 3 in 10 divorces in the U.S. are beneficial to children (A Case for Marriage, p. 147).

That means that with 700,000+ divorces every year in the U.S., we can estimate that that tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of divorces, fall into this category of being truly life-saving divorces for the kids.

 

Is divorce the right answer? Will it make you happy? Waite’s research debunks the myth of the happy divorcee. It shows that divorce led to a reduction in happiness and an increase in depression.

 

The author is misleading readers about Dr. Linda Waite's real conclusions. Her findings did not "debunk the myth of the happy divorcee."

The Waite study actually found the opposite in some cases. She found that people in destructive marriages are better off by divorcing, and that 81% of those individuals who remarried were happier in the next marriage! The main quote you'll hear from Dr. Linda Waite's study is this: "Almost two-thirds of unhappy spouses who stuck with the marriage forged happy marriages down the road" (emphasis mine, and notice that there is no mention of "violence").

But that means that one-in-three did not become happy.  Here is in the last sentence of Waite's report:

"Both people and marriages are likely to be happier in communities with a strong commitment to marital permanence. While some marriages are so destructive that divorce or separation is the best outcome, marriages are more likely to be both happy and stable when marriage is highly valued — a key relation in whose success family, friends, faith communities, counselors, family-law attorneys, and the wider society have an important stake."  — Linda J. Waite, Don Browning, William J. Doherty, Maggie Gallagher, Ye Luo, and Scott M. Stanley, Does Divorce Make People Happy, Institute for Family Values, 2002, p. 34.   

Waite is stating the obvious! 

Here are 6 more quotes where Dr. Waite claims that marriages with high-conflict or domestic violence are unlikely to become happy. (Emphasis in these quotes is mine.)

Quote 1: Waite

"Among those unhappily married spouses who stayed married, what factors predicted happier marriages down the road? Marriages with high conflict and domestic violence were less likely to become happy five years later." p. 11-12 

(Editor: She's saying that you can tell in advance which marriages are likely to become happy, and it's not the destructive ones.)

Quote 2: Waite

"If the problem is marital violence, divorce appears to offer significant relief."  p. 12   

(Editor: So, I guess we can say people who escaped unhappy marriages are often happier, can't we?)

Quote 3: Waite

"When an unhappily married adult experiences violence, divorce and remarriage significantly reduce the likelihood he or she will experience domestic violence (at least from spouses)." p. 12

Quote 4: Waite

"...24 percent of those unhappy spouses who divorced or separated ended up in a second marriage within five years. Eighty-one percent of those second marriages were happy." p. 12 

(Editor: So the vast majority of unhappily married spouses found better partners the second time.)

Quote 5: Waite

"Does divorce make unhappily married people happy? The answer, surprisingly, in this research, seems to be no....With the important exception of reducing the incidence of marital violence for unhappy spouses (in violent marriages), divorce failed, on average, to result in improvements in psychological well-being for unhappy spouses." p. 13-14 

(Editor: So divorce makes you unhappy if your marriage was good or even so-so, but when it was toxic, divorce made people happy.)

Quote 6: Waite   What kinds of marriages improved? The marriages whose problems were "outside stressors" that did not involve the bad behavior of their partner.

"Many spouses we interviewed who survived marital unhappiness did not see problems within the relationship as the cause. Instead they blamed outside forces for causing both unhappiness and relationship stress: Spouses became ill, lost jobs, got depressed, children got into trouble or created marital stresses by their financial and emotional demands." p. 15

 

Quote 7: Waite  Is divorce ever good for kids? Yes, in approximately 3 in 10 cases.

(Notice that Waite is writing to address people who think that divorce never hurts children.)

“What proportion of divorces are preceded by a long period of overt interparental conflict, and hence, are beneficial to children?”
asked Amato and Booth. “From our own data we estimate that less than a third of parental divorces involve highly conflicted marriages.”
Just 30 percent of divorcing spouses reported more than two serious quarrels in the past month, and less than a quarter said they disagreed “often” or “very often” with their spouses. This bears repeating: Less than a third of divorces are ending angry high-conflict marriages.

—Waite, Linda J.; Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage, 2000, p. 147  

The author of this article asks, "Will a divorce really make you happy?" Well, it appears that research says "yes" in some cases. Sadly, Bisignano's question suggests she doesn't understand abuse.

Most Christians who come to my divorce recovery groups did not divorce because they thought it would "make them happy." They divorced because they were desperate, had tried everything, and believed they had no other choice. They divorced to find safety.They divorced to find relief from a situation that was destroying their health and wellbeing and that of their children.

 

Is divorce the right answer? Or is there hope?

Is divorce the right answer? In her book, The Case for Marriage, Waite followed couples for five years to check in on their marriages. She found that those who faced their challenges and managed conflicts reported a healthy marriage and a happy spouse. The social sciences indicate that change is possible.

 

See above for real quotes from Dr. Linda Waite's book The Case for Marriage. Dr. Waite never said that all couples would become happy if they just hung in there, only 2 in 3 did. She found improvement in some couples, those who were experiencing outside stressors like illness and job loss, on average, but not in couples with problems within the relationship, such as high conflict or domestic violence.

"Among those unhappily married spouses who stayed married, what factors predicted happier marriages down the road? Marriages with high conflict and domestic violence were less likely to become happy five years later." p. 11-12

If there's high conflict and marriage-destroying behavior in the marriage, it's not likely to improve. As Dr. Waite wrote:

"Does divorce make unhappily married people happy? The answer, surprisingly, in this research, seems to be no....With the important exception of reducing the incidence of marital violence for unhappy spouses (in violent marriages),...." p. 13-14 —— Linda J. Waite, Don Browning, William J. Doherty, Maggie Gallagher, Ye Luo, and Scott M. Stanley, Does Divorce Make People Happy, Institute for Family Values, 2002

 

 

But you have more — much more — than science on your side. The One who created marriage is on your side. “God is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).

 

God can change hearts. He can bring healing even when there has been an emotional or sexual betrayal. He offers hope. So, before you ask if divorce is the right answer, ask God to work in your heart and in your spouse’s heart. Invite Him to guide you as you seek answers. He is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think.

God can indeed change hearts, but he never promises to make every marriage good. And God doesn't force people to obey him. Jesus didn't. He let people reject Him. He let them walk away. He didn't chase after them, begging them to follow Him. 

The Bible does however teach us not to stay in danger and demand a miracle. That's called "testing the Lord your God," and is prohibited by Jesus Christ. 

*Names have been changed.

 

© 2020 Angela Bisignano, M.Min., Ph.D. All rights reserved. Originally published on FocusOnTheFamily.com.

 

Let's go back to the beginning: A couple came to Angela asking her, "Is divorce the right answer?" and not one single time did she even consider that it might be. A couple in need of help came asking a serious question and she never once took their question seriously. Instead, apparently she devoted all her time to trying to convince them divorce is not the right answer.... without first even taking the time to hear why they believed divorce might be necessary. This is immoral and unethical!

By the way, if Angela Bisignano or Focus on the Family correct this article and this other article, I'm happy to acknowledge them for it and give them a big shout-out, just like I did for David E. Clarke.


Here is a letter to Focus on the Family from a mother of two children, who had dramatic health and behavior improvements after the divorce.

Dear Focus on the Family,

 

Thank you for posting your article entitled “Is Divorce the Right Answer” in August of 2020. This is such an important subject for the church to discuss. I want to share my story with you so you can have even more info to share with your followers. I was divorced 3 months shy of our 25th wedding anniversary. My kids were 12 and 15.

 

My son has Crohn’s, an autoimmune disease, which research has shown to be caused and at least exacerbated by stress in many cases. He was so sick for a few years that he had to be homeschooled and along with 50 lbs, lost his confidence and joy.

 

He has suffered with major social anxiety, even to the point that when he hit the grand slam in his baseball tournament and his buddies surrounded him, throwing him up on their shoulders in victory, he didn’t even smile. He came straight over to me and asked to go home.

 

He was terrified of getting sick, jumped at the sight of a bug, avoided crowds at all costs, couldn’t go outside unless it was a perfect 68 degree day, basically afraid of his shadow.

 

He threw up once in a grocery store because he was so anxious, and for months we couldn’t even drive past that store without causing a major anxiety attack.

 

He rarely hung out with friends, and if invited to a birthday party, I had to go along with him to ease his mind and take him home when it became too much. 

 

He was often very angry at me for enforcing rules, even throwing things across the room or hitting walls with his fists.

 

As it came time for him to learn to start driving, he was not interested one bit. Too much risk, too afraid to fail.

 

He wouldn’t join the youth group, and hated every minute of church.

 

He wanted to comfort me but couldn’t.

 

He wanted to bring his dad back but couldn’t.

 

He carried the weight of the world on his shoulders.

 

My daughter was full of life. She covered her pain with humor. She was loud and boisterous, but inside she was miserable. She felt responsible for staying happy so she wouldn’t “ruin it” for everyone around her.

 

She was afraid to show her anger, afraid to cry.

 

She felt like she needed to perform for love.

 

She couldn’t spend the night at friends’ houses or even attend play dates without great anxiety.

 

She was afraid of the big, scary world. Especially men.

 

She buried her emotions with food.

 

She hid in her room, sobbing in the closet because her family was ripped apart.

 

She blamed herself for the divorce.

 

She blamed herself for her father’s anger and emotional absence, neglect.

 

She carried the weight of the world on her shoulders.

 

 

And all of that, my well-intended authors of a terribly uneducated article, was before the divorce. Let me paint you a picture of what happened after my emotionally toxic and abusive, covertly narcissistic husband removed himself from our home.

 

My son stopped hearing 24/7 messages of how scary the world was, and all the ways in which he could mess up. So he stepped cautiously, then confidently into it.

 

Today he is a strong, healthy, happy, successful 18 year old entrepreneur who loves God, his momma, his sister, his grandmother, his girlfriend, and his bonus dad who has stepped up to the Dad plate in every way.

 

He bought and paid for two vehicles with minimal help from us, he manages his own checking account, helps strangers in need, serves as a trustee and musician in his church, attends a teen Bible study and takes friends with him.

 

He regularly visits his grandmother who lives alone, chatting with her about life. Before he leaves her house, every single time without fail, he asks her if there’s anything she needs help with. He does it all, no matter how simple or complex.

 

He is now free to explore the world with strength and confidence.

 

 

My daughter stopped hearing how draining her emotions were to her father and today she’s letting them all out, sometimes gracefully and sometimes with great vigor. Nevertheless, she’s purging the poison from her soul.

 

She holds more Godly wisdom in her heart than most adults I know. She is discerning in every way, and says things so profound that sometimes she even surprises her therapist.

 

She is working through her immense pain from her childhood through EMDR, and she’s doing so with grace and dignity. While she is not currently communicating with her dad, she’s realizing that although painful, this is not her fault, and her Heavenly Father is the only one who can fill her leaky bucket.

 

She is an influential friend, she’s active in her school’s marching band, has played in her youth group’s worship team, maintains excellent grades, goes out of her way to help and pray for her friends.

 

She recently attended TobyMac’s Camp Electric, out of state, away from me, for an entire week. She stepped so far out of her comfort zone she couldn’t believe her own self, making friends with prominent male musicians who now regularly engage with her on Instagram.

 

She’s building a strong relationship with her bonus dad, who has again stepped up to the plate in every way. This relationship is one where her emotions don't get her into trouble and her voice is encouraged, applauded and celebrated.

 

She is now free to explore the world with strength and confidence.

 

Are my children perfect? Heck no, are yours?!

Do they wish their dad had wanted to save the marriage? Of course.

Did the divorce scar them? Yes.

Did the years of living under narcissistic abuse scar them more? Absolutely, in ways we are still uncovering.

Would I divorce him all over again? Hell yeah, I’d do it again, and I’d do it sooner this time.

 

Fixed it for you: Divorce Narcissistic abuse hits like a tornado eats away at the heart of its victims slowly and leaves a trail of devastation and heartache. Among the victims are innocent children who must deal with the destruction for years to come.

 


Are you going through a life-saving divorce and need support and clarity? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 4 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it. Supporters and people helpers are also welcome.  I’ve written a book about spiritual abuse and divorce for Christians, The Life-Saving Divorce: Paperback: https://amzn.to/3cF1j25  Or eBook: https://amzn.to/3CCBsnr

Also, sign up for my email list below or HERE

 

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