How Long Do I Wait Before Divorce

Lisa called about her marriage problems. She does not want to ask her husband to go to counseling with her because she thinks he won’t come. If he comes, he won’t change. So she asked us this horrible question:

“How long do I wait for my spouse to change before I end the marriage?”

All My Spouse’s Fault

One of the problems with her question is that it assumes that all the problems with her marriage are her spouse’s fault. It assumes that if her spouse would change, she would have a better and healthier marriage.

Except for cases where dangerous things are happening, the problems in the marriage are rarely one spouse’s fault. If either spouse has contributed in any way to the marriage problem, then they have some room to stand into their power, make different decisions and affect their marriage for good.

Permission to Divorce

Another problem with her questions is that it is seeking to gain permission from “experts” for divorcing her spouse. Sometimes someone will ask their pastor or priest. We think that this reason drives many of the spouses who seek counseling for their relationship without their spouse. It is a way to get permission from some “professional”.

Some Pharisees came to him to test him. They asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any and every reason?” “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” “Why then,” they asked, “did Moses command that a man give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away?” Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” Matthew 19:3-9 (NIV)

The biblical answer is hardly ever what the person asking wants to hear. God meant for us to do life together forever and to work it out. Except for cases where dangerous things are happening, that is our typical response. If you want out without giving your marriage every chance it can have, then you should consider a Marriage Intensive. God has blessed us to save nine out of ten marriages on the brink of divorce using the Marriage Intensive.

What Can One Spouse Do?

One spouse can make a huge difference in their marriage. Instead of waiting, take action to create the marriage you truly want.

  • Pray – Spend time in prayer for your marriage, for your spouse, and for yourself. Pray that God will open your eyes and give you direction about how you can take action to repair and strengthen your marriage. Pray for peace.
  • Be Positive – Instead of reacting to your worse possible interpretation of your spouse’s behavior, decide that you will give your spouse the benefit of the doubt and treat them with respect and love.
  • Appreciate – Looking for the good in the heart of your spouse does wonders for your bitterness and resentment. Perhaps that is why Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, because it changes our hearts. Find something to appreciate about your spouse every day and let them know.
  • Take Responsibility – Assess where you can take responsibility for anything that has helped set the relationship on its current track. Tell your spouse that you “take full responsibility for” whatever it was you did and offer an apology.
  • Courageous Conversation – Use the Courageous Conversation Rules to finally have the discussion you have been needing to have with your spouse. If either of you becomes emotionally triggered, call a time out and return after you and your spouse are back to your senses.
  • Get Help – Find competent help from a minister, Christian counselor or Christian Coach. If we can help you, give us a call at 281-949-8115.

What do you have to say?

We love to hear from readers.  Have you ever wondered whether you should continue to wait on your spouse to change?  Do you agree that a spouse who does marriage counseling without their spouse is really asking for permission to divorce?  Have you ever tried any of the suggestions we offered for spouses who are contemplating ending their marriage? What other suggestions you would add to this article? Do you know someone you need to forward this article to?

This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at © Roy and Devra Wooten 2016. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at


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2 thoughts on “How Long Do I Wait Before Divorce

  1. Hi Roy. I have encountered a situation where one spouse was being unfaithful and the other prayerfully sought professional counsel to help her sustain her emotional and spiritual strength. It was a situation where there were many child-hood historical issues with both her and her husband. She was guided to seek Christian counsel, not worldly counsel, by Cheryl and I. After several months, she began getting emotionally strong. Along with her counseling, many people – friends and family – continued encouraging her to continue her faith and trust in God and advised her to continue her worship. Within two years, her husband was so awed at her desire and drive to make their marriage work that he began asking her “why” she was working so hard on their marriage when he was doing the opposite. Not long afterwards, he wanted to know “how” she was staying so strong since he was being such a damaging husband. Due to her giving credit to God, he began going to counsel with her. Today – it’s been two years since they’ve reconciled and living together again – they are pillars in their community. They do in-home Bible studies with people in their neighborhood. They are very active in reaching out to others that are suffering the things they suffered. They have helped many struggling marriages and have made it their life goal to continue to do so.
    Anyway. I just wanted to say thank you for the work you two are doing for struggling and suffering people in their marriages. Our prayer is God continues to bless you both. I love your thoughts on your web-page.
    My thoughts are people should not wait until their marriages are suffering to seek counsel. I think we all need to be pro-active in our marriages and seek counsel. I find it ironic that we humans acknowledge that the more brains we have inputting into a plan, the higher rate of success we should expect. Why don’t we approach our marriages with that kind of attitude? Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” NIV 21:30 says,”There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord.” A marriage is a plan. It’s instituted by God. Without Him leading it, it will fail. It – the marriage – should seek continual counsel. Outside of Christ dying on the cross, it is one of the greatest plans man has to live by and for. It simply begins by us “planning” our marriages utilizing professionals (the Preacher at least). After we’re married, we stop “planning” counsel or advise. Like I said, I find that in itself… ironic.
    God bless brother,
    Kenneth Mantooth