A life-saving divorce is a divorce for serious reasons. It's the opposite of a frivolous divorce, a sinful divorce, or a selfish divorce. It's not a "I miss the party life" divorce, or an "I'm bored" divorce, or an "I'm unfulfilled" divorce.
Nearly half of divorces in America are for terrible betrayals: a pattern of adultery, sexual immorality, domestic violence, chronic emotional abuse, addictions, or abandonment (neglect of duty). I call these the Life-Saving Divorces.
What? Nearly half of divorces? That's not what I was told!
Hey, I hear you. If you're skeptical, I understand. I was shocked to discover this. I've attended church from the day I was born. I'm a devout Christian, brought up by loving committed Christian parents who have been married 60 years and counting. I worked in Christian organizations nearly all my adult life. No one ever told me this. In fact, my pastors and the Christian authors/websites I read always gave me the impression that 95% of divorces were for falling out of love. They told me most divorcees were people who were quitters and wanted to take the easy way out. They said divorcees were people who just didn't have the determination to go the distance like everyone else. They suggested that divorcees didn't believe in the sanctity of marriage and just told themselves "the grass is greener" if they could just find a different spouse.
But that "myth" began to die about 25 years ago I went through my own life-saving divorce. I wasn't looking for greener grass. I was desperate to get away from destruction, to distance myself (and my kids) from the turmoil of my ex's sexual addiction. I wasn't happy and optimistic about divorce. I wasn't looking forward to being single again. I was terrified. I started asking: "Why did this happen to me? How did a good committed Christian like me get into such a bad marriage? Are there other Christians who divorce for serious reasons? For goodness sake, I loved the Lord and read my Bible all the time! I had a Bible and Christian Education degree from Wheaton College and had done everything right when we were dating. I had read Elisabeth Elliot books over and over and was a big fan of Focus on the Family. I met a guy at church and we had followed every proper dating step. (continued)
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My quest to find these answers started when my church asked me and another divorcee to start a small group Bible study for single mothers. The Christian women in our group had the same questions we did. How could we have gotten into such bad marriages? Were we just incredibly rare? Was God punishing us for some reason? Or are terrible marriages more common than we thought?
Destructive marriages are more common than we thought.
We weren't alone. For decades family researchers have wondered the same thing. Why do people divorce? They've done a lot of surveys of divorced men and woman who reported anonymously.
Here are the four significant surveys.
Survey 1 - In this first survey, the participants had divorced over age 40. Of these, 50% of divorcees mentioned the most significant reason was one of the serious reasons: adultery, sexual immorality, domestic violence, chronic emotional abuse, or abandonment (neglect of duty). 
Survey 2 - In this survey of participants age 20- 55, about 42% of divorcees mentioned at least one of the reasons above as the issue that caused the divorce. 
Survey 3 - In this study, divorcees could select more than one major contributor to their divorce: 58% of divorcees mentioned infidelity; 30% mentioned domestic violence. (They did not offer drug/alcohol abuse as a choice.) 
Survey 4 - In this study, too, participants could select more than one factor in their divorce. Infidelity was a major contributor in 59.6% of divorces, substance abuse in 34.6%, and domestic violence in 23.5%. 
Nearly half of divorces are for life-saving reasons.
What this shows is that somewhere between 42% and 59% of divorces are for serious problems. So about half of divorces.
For a long time, we in the church have tended to think about divorce, and about people who have gotten divorced, as though only five percent of those divorces happened for good reason. As you can see from these studies, that’s not true.
There is a lot of bad behavior that makes marriages miserable: unfaithfulness, physical or mental abuse, drug or alcohol abuse, refusing to support the family, or simply walking out the door and never returning.
When the desperate spouse says, “I can’t take any more suffering and betrayal,” we call it a “life-saving” divorce. And only that desperate spouse knows how much they can take. No one else has skin in the game, not the pastor, not their parents, not their friends or people at church.
Those who taught us that 95% of divorces are "frivolous" are simply wrong.
Nearly half of divorces are life-saving divorces.
 Xenia P. Montenegro, “The Divorce Experience: A Study of Divorce at Midlife and Beyond,” AARP the Magazine (May 2004), accessed 1/10/20, https://assets.aarp.org/rgcenter/general/divorce.pdf.
 Paul R. Amato and Denise Previti, “People’s Reasons for Divorcing,” Journal of Family Issues 24, no. 5 (July 2003): 602-626.
 C. Johnson, S. Stanley, and N. Glenn, et al., “Marriage in Oklahoma: 2001 Oklahoma Baseline Statewide Survey,” (2002): 15.
 Shelby B. Scott, Galena K. Rhoades, and Scott M. Stanley, et al., “Reasons for Divorce and Recollections of Premarital Intervention: Implications for Improving Relationship Education,” Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice 2, no. 2. (2003): 131-145.
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(For more detail on each of these surveys and a longer explanation, see pages 25-29 in The Life-Saving Divorce. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
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