MYTH: The person who files for divorce caused the divorce.
TRUTH: The person who betrays, abuses, and breaks the vows is the one who caused the divorce.
“Divorce is not the innocent party ending a marriage. Divorce is the innocent party obtaining legal recognition that the guilty party has destroyed the marriage.”
—Rebecca VanDoodewaard 
Many people live with this misconception. They believe that only an unfaithful or badly behaving spouse wants to get out of the marriage and file for divorce.
The reality is often the reverse: the cheating, addicted, or abusive spouse wants to stay with the other spouse as long as they can benefit from it.
The lying, cheating, selfish, or abusive spouse wants the good spouse to earn the money, pay bills, make the food, clean the house, do the laundry, care for the children, help with homework, support them emotionally, and offer them a warm bed. Because of this, often the bad spouse will not leave. In fact, many badly behaving spouses fight to block or delay the divorce.
This is common in abusive relationships. The abuser refuses to discuss custody, living arrangements, money, and options on how to divide the assets. They don’t cooperate. They ignore the attorney’s letters. They make unreasonable demands, or they go silent and make no counteroffer at all.
Sometimes the cheating spouse is not loving, honoring, and cherishing—rather, they are leeching, disrespecting, and exploiting.
It’s a one-way street, with one spouse sacrificing their health and wellbeing, bending over backwards to fix the marriage and making life as stress-free as possible; and the badly behaving spouse doing all the taking (though they often tell friends they are doing a lot). What selfish person wouldn’t want a one-way relationship?
But this is human nature unchecked. We all start out this way as toddlers, taking without giving back, thinking primarily of ourselves and our own interests.
In an adult, however, that behavior is not acceptable. And it has disastrous, harmful consequences to families and partners.
To let someone’s sin nature run rampant, unchecked, is not loving.
- Love says No.
- Love says You may not treat me this way.
- Love sets consequences for bad behavior.
Many badly behaving spouses do not cooperate with or listen to the abused spouse’s protests and needs. They will not stop unless you force them out of your life. They may try to block the legal process of divorce by refusing to discuss the terms.
So, for some women (and, more rarely, men), bifurcating the divorce (ending the marriage now, and figuring out the financial terms later) is the only way they can get away and force their spouse to face the truth:
The marriage is over, and there’s nothing you can do to force us to stay together.
(Note: Ask your own attorney about bifurcation if you have a spouse who stonewalls; professional legal advice is outside the scope of this blog.)
1 Rebecca VanDoodewaard, “A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce,” Gentle Reformation (7/20/17), accessed 6/6/19, https://gentlereformation.com/2017/07/20/a-high-view-of-marriageincludes-divorce/.
The Bible Doesn't Say "God hates Divorce"—it's not in the Hebrew text