Many books and articles have been written on various Christian views about the biblically allowable reasons for divorce. But few books and articles have been written on how to navigate the divorce process once you as a man find yourself in the thick of it. And even amongst the small amount of literature written for Christians on navigating the divorce process – there are none that approach this subject from a truly biblical viewpoint. And that is the problem this guide is meant to remedy.
I went through the process of divorce as a Christian man more than a decade ago. And I received a lot of conflicting advice as well as advice that did not match up with the Bible. I wish I would have had a Biblical guide like this then.
If you as a Christian man want to navigate the process of divorce using Biblical principles then you must first be willing to throw out all your modern cultural conditioning. And when I say “modern” I don’t just mean the last few decades. I mean cultural conditioning that was set in motion in Western civilization more than five centuries ago.
In this guide I will give you a brief history lesson on societal views of divorce starting with Biblical times, then moving to the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods and finally bringing us through the 19th and 20th centuries. I will show you how the seeds for all the changes in marriage and divorce were planted more than five centuries ago. And I will demonstrate how all these changes deviated from God’s design of gender roles, marriage and even his allowance for divorce.
Rest assured though that this guide will not just supply you with knowledge of how the divorce process used to work and how wrong it is today. This guide will also help you to deal with the range of emotions you will experience as a man and how to deal with your hurt and anger in positive ways. And I will supply you with real world advice on how to navigate each step of the divorce process and all of this will be backed by Biblical principles.
Before I get into this guide, I just want to say something about divorce in general. In Malachi 2:16, the Bible says “For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away”. God hates divorce and so should we as Christians. But we must realize that the same God who said he hated divorce also prescribed a process for divorce and he himself divorced his wife (the nation of Israel).
The fact is that God shows in the Scriptures that because we live in a sin cursed world there are some sins which God says can be grounds for breaking a marriage covenant. And because a marriage covenant can be broken by certain sins, there must be a process for how divorce may occur.
The sad reality is that the vast majority of divorces that are initiated in 21st Western civilization are not initiated for Biblical reasons that God allows. Not only that, but most divorces that are filed today are filed by women (they initiate divorce 70 percent of the time). And regardless of the reasons for initiating divorce, the modern divorce process itself has become completely unbiblical.
This is what I will tackle in this guide. I will show you as a Christian man how to biblically navigate an unbiblical divorce process which has been established by our civil governments.
With all that said as an introduction I will now give a brief history of divorce from Biblical times to our present day.
The Divorce Process in Pre-modern Times
For 7000 years of human history, divorce was typically a rare thing in societies around the world. God allowed men to give their wives “a bill of divorcement” and “send her out of his house” in Deuteronomy 24:1. And there were of course small spikes in divorce amongst various cultures. The prophet Malachi addressed one of these spikes that occurred in Israel.
In Malachi 2:14-16 we see that God says that men act “treacherously” if they break their marriage covenant with their wives and divorce them for unjust reasons. Later in Matthew 19:9 Christ would clarify what God was saying about men treacherously divorcing their wives. Christ said if men divorced their wives “except it be for fornication” (sexual sin) then that they were committing adultery against their wives. The Apostle Paul would later state in 1 Corinthians 7:15 that men were “not under bondage” to wives who left them and therefore men could divorce their wives for abandonment as well.
It also important to point out that even in cases of biblically justifiable divorce, the Bible never prescribes a method for a woman to initiate divorce from her husband. Instead, the Bible uses the language of the woman being freed from her husband if he does not provide her with three things required by his marriage covenant. Exodus 21:10-11 says that if a man does not provide his wife with food, clothing and sex “then shall she go out free”.
So how would a wife be freed from her marriage even under these justifiable circumstances? The Bible is silent on this. In Mark 10:12, Christ recognized that Roman culture, which dominated the world at that time, did sometimes allow a woman to “put away her husband” but Christ made no allowance for this.
From Jewish historical accounts outside the Bible, we know that in Israel if a woman was not being provided with food, clothing or sex from her husband that she could approach a male relative (her father, grandfather, uncle, brother or cousin) and then that male relative would act on her behalf to compel her husband to give her a bill of divorce freeing her from the marriage.
But this goes to a larger issue – why does the Bible describe justifiable divorce for a woman as her being freed from her husband? The answer is that under Biblical law a man’s wife is considered his property. One of the clearest representations of this Biblical concept is found in Deuteronomy 22:22 which states the following:
“If a man be found lying with a woman married to an husband, then they shall both of them die, both the man that lay with the woman, and the woman: so shalt thou put away evil from Israel.”
The words “married” and “husband” are a translation of the Hebrew word ‘baal’ used as both an adjective (of the woman) and noun (in reference to the husband). The word ‘baal’ means master/owner and it can also mean someone who is owned by a master when used as an adjective. In Hebrew this phrase from Deuteronomy 22:22 literally means “a woman owned by a master”.
The New Testament encourages women to continue to regard their husbands as their masters in 1 Peter 3:5-6 and in Israel today traditional Jewish women still call their husbands baal.
Even before the law of Moses was penned it was commonly recognized that men owned both their wives and children throughout human history. And this is why in most cases even when divorce did occur (which was rare) it was usually initiated by the man because women had no power to do so.
And when divorce did occur, either because the man voluntarily sent away his wife or he was compelled to do so by her male relatives, she usually left with just the clothes on her back. The man typically retained control of the home and the children.
This is one of the strongest reasons that women rarely petitioned their male relatives to help them get a divorce – no matter how much they disliked their husbands. Because to do so would mean leaving their children behind with their husband and unless they had relatives willing to take them in it meant living in poverty.
Now that you have read God’s design for marriage and his allowance for divorce some of the feelings you have been having are starting to make sense. These are feelings you may not want to admit to anyone because they conflict so much with how you have been conditioned by modern western values. You may even be condemning yourself for having them. And these feelings are “She is mine, those are my children and this is my home – this is wrong. She can’t take herself and my children away and she can’t take my home!” Biblically speaking, these feelings which are common in men match exactly with God’s design for how things should be. It is our modern system that has deviated from his design.
How the Renaissance and the Enlightenment Planted Seeds for Changes in Divorce
Before the Renaissance, marriage was seen as a sacred religious and societal institution. Marriage did not come about the way it does today. It was rare for a man to romance a young woman and then have her fall in love with him followed by him asking her to marry him. Instead, parents often arranged the marriages of their children to better their social or economic standing. And if anyone was being asked about marriage – it was a man asking a woman’s father for her hand in marriage often without saying a word to the woman first. It did not matter if she was attracted to the man or not. The father would make the decision based on the character, social and economic status of the man asking for his daughter’s hand in marriage.
What this meant was – it was extremely common for couples to marry and not “be in love” – meaning they did not at first have strong affection for another. Often the man would have strong physical attraction for the woman – but typically the emotional and romantic affection for one another would come long after the wedding. And sadly, some married couples never came to have affection for one another.
But humanist thinking in the Renaissance began to question how marriage was entered into and why people stayed in marriage. The entire concept of parents arranging marriage for their children came into question. And the radical idea was born that marriage should be entered into based on a man romancing a woman first and then her choosing him based on her feelings.
Plays like Romeo and Juliet (1597) and a lot of other literature of the years to follow would firmly plant in the minds of young people the idea of marriage being based on romance instead of it being based in duty to one’s faith, their family and the good of society.
Near the birth of the Enlightenment in 1689, the humanist English philosopher John Locke would pen a work entitled “Two Treatises of Government”. Even though John Locke was not the first philosopher to write on individualism (Thomas Hobbes did that in 1651) it would be Locke’s treatises on how governments should operate that would lay the foundation for American thinking and modern democracies.
In this work, Locke would propose the radical idea that the husband has “no more power over her life [the wife] than she has over his”. He believed that once human beings reach full maturity (adulthood) that both men and women should have full autonomy. In other words, when we say today of a woman that “She is an adult, she can make her own life decisions” we owe that thinking to John Locke. The idea that women should have full autonomy and control over their lives was a foreign concept to previous generations of humanity.
And it was this thinking – that women should have full control over their lives just as men do which planted the seeds for modern feminism which would then push for changes in divorce laws.
How Early Feminists Fought for Changes in Divorce
The first woman’s rights conference occurred in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York. In their “Declaration of Sentiments”, the women of the conference stated the following:
“In the covenant of marriage, she is compelled to promise obedience to her husband, he becoming, to all intents and purposes, her master – the law giving him power to deprive her of her liberty, and to administer chastisement.
He has so framed the laws of divorce, as to what shall be the proper causes of divorce, in case of separation, to whom the guardianship of the children shall be given; as to be wholly regardless of the happiness of the women – the law, in all cases, going upon a false supposition of the supremacy of man, and giving all power into his hands.”
The statement above was a declaration of war on patriarchy in society and the Biblical view of marriage found in 1 Peter 3:5-6:
“5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.”
Most Americans at first rejected the radical proposals of the first woman’s rights conference. But over the coming years, they would wear down societal opposition to these changes. And the way they did it was in appealing to American ideals of individualism which originated in the writings of John Locke.
While the women desperately wanted suffrage (voting rights for women), they knew there was not enough national support for that yet. So, they targeted the next best thing – divorce laws. Under the guise of fairness to women and doing what was “in the best interests of the children” the “Tender years doctrine” was proposed and adopted by courts in the United States starting in the late 1800s.
The Tender Years Doctrine
The Tender years doctrine was actually an ingenious ploy to get women more power in marriage and in divorce. It played on the beliefs of patriarchal society that women are better suited than men to care for the daily needs of the children and the home.
The Tender years doctrine was accompanied by child support laws and a new expansive reading of “domestic cruelty”. Depending on the judge, all some women had to do was cry on the stand in court regarding their husband’s cruelty and they would be granted a divorce and awarded with full custody of their children, child support and alimony payments. With all these historic changes to the divorce process, a woman could now for the first time in human history be able to tell a man “If you don’t make me happy in this marriage – I will take our children and you will be paying me support for decades”.
It should come then as no surprise that divorce rates surged from 3 percent in the mid-19th century to more than 13 percent by the time of women’s suffrage in the early 20th century. Divorces again jumped as women incrementally gained more and more economic rights during World War 1 and World II and by the end of the 1970s the divorce rate had climbed to near 50 percent. It was only in the 1980s that divorce rates began to drop into the mid 40 percent range because of the rise in cohabitation and the subsequent drop in marriage rates.
There is some good news for men on the Tender years’ doctrine front. Starting back in the 1980s when divorce was at its peak, lawyers for men in divorce began to directly challenge the Tender years doctrine on the grounds that it violated the Equal protection clause of the 14th amendment. And the courts began to gradually accept this argument. But it would be naive for anyone to think the Tender Years doctrine has been completely eradicated from our family courts. It is still very much present even if it must be hidden by court representatives. However, at least now men have a chance of getting joint custody of their children.
Now that we have looked at the history of divorce and societal changes which changed the divorce process, we will look at how the modern divorce process violates God allowance for divorce.
The Modern Divorce Process Violates God’s Allowance for Divorce
The Scriptural truth is that God designed marriage to be a union of a man and woman together for life. But sin corrupted that design so God allowed for divorce. He did not allow for divorce for any reason like modern no-fault divorce laws allow. But even in the case of divorce for reasons God allowed, God prescribed a process for how divorce would occur.
In Deuteronomy 24:1-2 God prescribed the following process for divorce through Moses:
“When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.”
The process of divorce that God allowed was simple. If a man found “some uncleanness” in his wife he was to “write her a bill of divorcement”. This bill of divorcement would let the community know and other potential husbands for her know that she was no longer his wife. He no longer had the obligations of a husband toward her and she did not have any obligations to him as his wife. Her marriage to another man under these conditions would not be considered adultery – but would be approved by God.
Over time some Jewish men abused the “some uncleanness” clause and began to divorce their wives for any reason. It could be that she was a bad cook, she was argumentative or perhaps bad in bed.
In Matthew 19:3 the Bible says “The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”. So, Jesus answers a very specific question and that was does God allow a man to divorce his wife for any reason? We need to be clear on the gender here as many modern Pastors and Christian teachers wrongly apply Christ’s answer to both men and women. It is specifically given to men.
Christ’s answer is found in Matthew 19:9 where he states the following:
“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery”.
So, Christ answered what God meant in Deuteronomy 24:1 by the phrase “some uncleanness”. God was saying that a man could divorce his wife for sexual immorality. He could not divorce her simply because she was a bad cook, not a great lover or even if she was contentious and unsubmissive.
But notice that nowhere in the Gospels does Christ modify God’s process for divorce – that a man must write his wife a bill of divorce. Christ only clarified when divorce was allowed, not how divorce would happen.
Previously we mentioned God’s allowance in Exodus 21:10-11 for women to be freed from their husbands if the husbands did not provide them with food, clothing and sex. But the Bible is silent on how women would be freed from husbands who violated their marriage covenants in this way.
The reason the Bible does not prescribe a way for a woman to write her husband a bill of divorce is because she is the property of her husband. So, the only Biblically allowable way for a woman to be freed from her husband (divorced from him) is for him to give her a bill of divorce freeing her from the marriage.
Men Are Always to Lead the Process of Divorce
The Bible shows that men are to lead women in all aspects of marriage. Fathers have the responsibility to give their daughters in marriage (Jeremiah 29:6) and to refuse their daughters in marriage to men they deem unworthy (Exodus 22:17). And husbands are to rule over their wives (Genesis 3:16, 1 Peter 3:5-6) and oversee all aspects of the marriage (Ephesians 5:24) and they are also called to oversee divorce if it is necessary – whether they are the ones at fault or the wife is at fault.
As I mentioned earlier, we know from Jewish history outside the Bible that if husbands were neglectful of their duty to provide for their wives that the male relatives of those women would pressure the man to divorce their female relative. And no Biblical principle would prevent male relatives of wives from forcing husbands to fulfill their Exodus 21:10-11 obligation to free their wives in the case of their neglect to provide food, clothing and sex.
The principle that men are to oversee and lead the process of divorce is clearly established in the Old Testament and remains unchanged in the New Testament. And it is the widescale abandonment of this crucial principle that has led to the explosion of divorce rates in Western society over the past two centuries. Allowing women to take charge in the divorce process has proved to be one of the worse societal decisions in the history of mankind. When men were completely in charge of whether divorce occurred or not divorce was almost non-existent.
Even in the case of a woman who was truly wronged by her husband and had allowable reasons for divorce, her male relatives (father, brother, uncle…) would have to agree to pressure her husband to give her a divorce. This process provided a failsafe against the emotional whims of women. It protected marriage as a crucial societal institution rather than just a “relationship” for the sole purpose of the mutual happiness of two people as it is seen today.
The Bible Does Not Cancel a Man’s Ownership of His Property in Divorce
In Deuteronomy 24:1-2 God prescribed the following process for divorce through Moses:
“When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man’s wife.”
When God prescribes the process for divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-2 he says that he shall “send her out of his house”. Notice the husband does not send his wife out of “their house” but rather it is “HIS house”. The entire idea of splitting all the assets of a husband with his wife upon divorce is a completely foreign concept in the Bible.
The Bible Does Not Cancel a Man’s Ownership of His Children in Divorce
And speaking of a man’s property. Besides his wife what is a man’s most precious property? That would of course be his children. And it is in this area of child custody that our modern divorce process yet again go contrary to the principles and teachings of the Bible.
In Exodus 21:7 the Bible says “And if a man sell his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as the menservants do”. You cannot sell that which is not your property to sell. God allowed Hebrew fathers to sell their sons and daughters as indentured servants. And while our modern society may look on such a custom today with disgust – this ancient custom allowed for many families to escape poverty by selling the services of one or more of their children. The period of service could be no longer than six years and the difference was between how sons or daughters went free. Sons automatically went free but daughters had to be redeemed because women were to remain the property of men if possible. So, the daughter could be sold back to her father or bought by another man to be his wife.
The point here is that biblically speaking children are the property of their father, just as the wife is the property of her husband. And just because a woman is freed from her husband in divorce does not mean she gets to take her children with her. This is why until the invention of the modern Tender Years doctrine, men maintained full custody of their children in divorce.
But Shouldn’t the Best Interests of the Children Guide the Divorce Process?
This whole “best interests of the children” philosophy is what lead to the creation of the Tender Years doctrine as we previously mentioned. The “best interests of the children” approach to divorce is an application of the humanist doctrine of individualism.
Here is a brief reminder of what secular humanism is according to secularhumanism.org:
“As a secular lifestance, secular humanism incorporates the Enlightenment principle of individualism, which celebrates emancipating the individual from traditional controls by family, church, and state, increasingly empowering each of us to set the terms of his or her own life.”
The main difference between Humanism and Biblical Christianity could be summed as follows.
Biblical Christianity places God and the interests of his institutions of marriage (the family), the church and the nation above the interests of the individual. On the other hand, Humanism places the interests of the individual above the institutions of marriage, the church and the nation.
For 7000 years of human history, why did men stay with mean and cruel wives and why did wives stay with mean and cruel husbands? The answer was they put the interests of the institution of marriage and family above their own happiness as individuals. And when families sacrificed to support the pastors of their churches and missionaries what were they doing? They were putting the interests of the institution of the church above their own interests as individuals. And when men went off to war in defense of their nations, they were putting the interests of God’s institution of the nation state above their own interests as individuals.
Humanists are more than willing to see marriages and families destroyed, churches closed or even nations destroyed in their pursuit of the best interests of the individual. This is why humanists had no problem shuttering churches during Covid – because for them the supposed interests of individual health come above that of the institution of the church. And this is why humanists have no problem at all with allowing unregulated and illegal immigration because they do not care about the wellbeing of nation states. In fact, for most humanists, they would love to see all nations go away and instead go to a one world government.
The Bible shows us that God cares more about the preservation of marriages and families than he does about the interests of individuals within those families.
This is why God only allows men to divorce their wives for sexual sin or abandonment and it is why he only allows wives to divorce their husbands for failure to provide the food, clothing or sex. While husbands and wives can sin against each other in many other ways, it is clear that God considers a woman’s sexual faithfulness to her husband to be core to the institution of marriage and he considers a man’s provision for his wife to be core to the institution of marriage.
And now let’s return to the best interests of children. There is no argument that women are best equipped to care for children. God has specially equipped women to be able to nurture and care for children. The Bible says in Isaiah 49:15 “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb?”. Women are equipped by God with natural instincts for caring for children. Now does that mean there are no bad or neglectful moms? Of course not. There are some women whose natures are so corrupted by sin that they neglect and abuse their children. But the fact remains that women are usually better suited to caring for children than men are.
However, we must also consider that while women are better suited to caring for children, that children still need fathers in their lives even at young ages. And divorce will impede this involvement. What that means is that the best interests of the children doctrine in divorce is really just trying to choose the better of two bad choices when it comes to the children.
What is actually best for children is to have a loving father and mother whose marriage pictures the relationship of Christ to his church.
But we need to remember as Christians that this entire paradigm that we must do whatever we think is in the best interests of children (ask best interests of individuals) at the expense of the institution of marriage is wrong.
In Isaiah 3:12 the Bible says “As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths”. Does that not describe the society we find ourselves in today?
As Bible believing Christians, instead of looking out for the best interests of children and women as individuals, we should be looking out for what is best for rebuilding and preserving God’s institutions of marriage and patriarchy.
The Bible declares God’s institution of patriarchy in 1 Corinthians 11:3 when he says “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God”. God has ordained male headship for all areas of society including but limited to the home and church. We need to return to this order.
How much do you think the divorce rate would drop if women knew their husbands would automatically get fully custody of the children? If we were to return to the policy of civilizations before the 19th century Tender Years doctrine, we would return the rights of men and given women a strong incentive not to seek divorce from their husbands. In other words, returning to a policy of men retaining full custody of their children in divorce would rebuild and strengthen God’s institution of patriarchy and at the same time help preserve his institution of marriage.
What About Situations Where the Man Is Physically Abusing His Family?
While the Bible does not specifically address physical abuse in the home between husbands and wives or parents and children it does supply principles about how to address physical abuse which would absolutely apply to the home as well.
In many ways Exodus chapter 21 is the basic human rights chapter of the Bible. It speaks of private property rights, including the concept of human beings as private property. It speaks of children being the sellable property of their fathers (vs 7) and wives being the property of their husbands (vs 8). And it speaks of slaves being the property of their masters (vs 21).
And yes, contrary to American values that we fought a civil war over, the Bible actually explicitly allows slavery. The Southern preachers were absolutely right on that theological point. What they were wrong on was that the Bible does not prescribe slavery based on race. It does not teach that Whites had a natural right to enslave Blacks. On that point the Southern preachers were absolutely wrong. And the South was absolutely wrong in its abhorrent treatment of its slaves.
And it is the humane treatment of slaves which provides the basis for the humane treatment of all human beings and especially those who have owners.
The concept of human property is an idea that humanists simply cannot comprehend. For them the starting basis for human rights is that all people must be completely free and have the same rights. They grant a little less rights for children based on their lack of maturity. But as for adults, in the humanist mind, they must all be social equals. For any human being to have less rights than another human being, regardless of their gender, religious beliefs, ethnicity, immigration status or any other social status is blasphemous to the religion of humanism.
Secular humanism claims to be nonreligious because they don’t believe in supernatural gods (or anything supernatural for that matter). But make no mistake, they have a god and that god – the thing they center their lives on – is humanity. And they have formed doctrines, just like that of other religions, around the worship of their god.
Now we will return to the subject of the humane treatment of slaves as prescribed by the Bible. In Exodus 21: 20-21 & 26-27 the Bible states:
“20 And if a man smite his servant, or his maid, with a rod, and he die under his hand; he shall be surely punished. 21 Notwithstanding, if he continue a day or two, he shall not be punished: for he is his money…26 And if a man smite the eye of his servant, or the eye of his maid, that it perish; he shall let him go free for his eye’s sake. 27 And if he smite out his manservant’s tooth, or his maidservant’s tooth; he shall let him go free for his tooth’s sake.”
Exodus 21: 20-21 & 26-27 teaches us that it is not inhumane for a person to own a slave or even to use corporal punishment on their slave. But these Scriptures also reveal that corporal punishment can be taken too far and that masters can held liable for doing so. In other words, the passage above recognizes the concept of physical abuse by masters of their human property.
And when we realize that the Bible explicitly calls the husband the master of his wife (1 Peter 3:5-6) and it implicitly makes the father the master of his children by giving him the power to sell them (Exodus 21:7) then we understand that these rules for the humane treatment of slaves also apply to a man’s wife and children. Therefore, we can rightly say that the Bible does actually condemn a husband physically abusing his wife and children.
And as side note, no a man’s wife and children are not slaves. They are owned, but have different rights and a different social status than slaves. This is another concept that utterly confuses our humanist friends. In their view, for a person to be owned is for them to be a slave. They cannot fathom how someone can be owned, yet not a slave. But I digress.
And now we must be clear on what actually constitutes physical abuse according to Bible. Physical abuse Biblically speaking is when someone causes a serious injury (such as the loss of any eye, a tooth, a broken bone, internal bleeding…ect). It is not simply causing someone a bruise. In fact, the Bible says the following about causing bruises during corporal punishment in Proverbs 20:30:
“The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.”
So, bringing this back to our subject of divorce the Scriptural principle we can derive from Exodus 21: 20-21 & 26-27 is as follows.
If a man as the master of his wife and children physically abuses them according to Biblical standards of physical abuse, then the wife and children can and should be freed from his ownership. In other words, a man who physically abuses his wife and children forfeits his ownership rights of his wife and children. This issue of physical abuse would be a perfect example of when male relatives from either side of the family should be stepping in to protect the wife and children and force the man to give them up.
And now that we have presented God’s process for divorce and how our modern divorce process deviates from his process – we will get into how you should approach the divorce process as a Christian man.
8 Biblical Principles for Men Going Through Divorce
What follows are eight biblically based principles along with real world situations that will help Christian men to navigate the modern divorce process.
Principle #1 – Modern Divorce Is a War
Christ said in Matthew 10:36 that “a man’s foes shall be they of his own household”.
The first principle that you need to grasp is that you must regard your wife, the woman whom you once loved and perhaps still have feelings for, as your spiritual and legal foe during this divorce process.
You need to see divorce as a war in the defense of your family and that your wife is no longer a part of your family.
On one side of this war is your wife backed by state laws and a family court system that is heavily slanted toward women. And on the other side is you trying to fight both her and an unbiblical legal system which gives women rights and power that God never meant for them to have.
You might ask “What if I don’t have children? Should I fight just as hard?” And the answer is absolutely YES! The decisions you make here could financially cripple you for years to come and impact your future wife and children.
Also, because this divorce process is not just a spiritual war, but a legal war – you definitely should seek out an attorney to assist you. But as you get an attorney and listen to his advice on what to ask for remember that it is just that – advice. You get to choose whether you will listen and act on each part of their advice or if you want them to do something different. Some attorneys are great and others are lazy and will just try and get you to settle as quickly as possible. And still other attorneys will purposefully pursue actions they know you will loose simply to run up your tab. So yes, get an attorney – but also be careful with your attorney.
Thankfully I had a great Christian attorney during my divorce. And he did everything he could to keep my bill to a minimum. In fact, out of all the men in my divorce support group, I had by far the smallest bill at the end of my divorce. One of the things he had me do was to think of questions I had for him all week long and write them down on a pad of paper. So, I would only call him once a week after I had organized all my thoughts and questions. And if I remembered another question, I would just write it down for the following week’s call.
And now I have one final thing I want to say on this principle of divorce being a war and me saying your wife must be regarded as your foe.
Notice I said spiritual and legal foe. Don’t take this as an actual physical battle and go looking to get into a physical altercation with your wife. In fact, that is the very worst thing you could ever do during the divorce process and will not only land you in jail, but if you have children, it will most likely result in your wife getting full custody of them.
Principle #2 -A Christian Man Must Fight for What is His
In Nehemiah 4:14 the Bible says:
“And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, which is great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses.”
God calls men to fight for their children, their wives and their houses.
Fight for Your Wife
First let me address fighting for your wife. Should you as a Christian man fight to save your marriage? Absolutely!
And biblically speaking there are two ways you can fight for your marriage as a man.
If your wife is divorcing you for Biblical reasons – for things you have done which God says allows her to be freed from your marriage, then you definitely should try to fix these issues and reconcile your marriage.
And this is the first way you can fight for your marriage. If you have been a lazy husband who refused to work to provide for your family or if you were systematically sexually denying her or were physically abusing her (by the Biblical definition of physical abuse) then you should fight for her by repenting of these sinful things you have done toward her. Confess your sins to her and to God and turn from these wrong behaviors.
But what if your wife is divorcing you for reasons that the Bible does not allow? For example, what if she is divorcing you because she has “fallen out of love for you”? Or maybe she is divorcing you out of rebellion against you because you started to exercise your God given dominion over her?
Or perhaps you are the one filing for divorce against her because she committed adultery with another man or has systematically sexually denied you throughout the marriage.
Should you seek to appease her in her sinful behavior to get her to come back to you?
Some Christian preachers and teachers wrongfully teach that the answer is yes – that you should appease your wife and do whatever it takes to get her to come back to the marriage. I received this wrong counseling in the early stages of my divorce before I recognized that it was wrong.
And some will falsely point to this passage where God says the following in Hosea 2:14 to his wayward wife, the nation of Israel:
“Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her.”
But what these pastors and teachers are missing is that in the first part of the chapter before this verse God speaks of his punishment of his wife Israel. He says he divorced her for her unfaithfulness to him (vs 2) and says he will punish her more even after putting her away. That he would strip her naked and humiliate her before all and take away what food and other things she had left (vs 3-4 & 9-13). It was only after this because she would seek to return to him because of her misery (vs 7) that he would allure her and speak comfortably to her after she repented.
And this is the second way you can fight for your wife and your marriage while you are going through separation and divorce. If your wife is in sinful rebellion against you and by extension God who has placed you over her – you fight by making her life miserable just as God did with his wife Israel.
What was God doing by removing his wife’s food, clothing, silver and gold in Hosea chapter 2? He was reminding her of what he had provided her in their marriage. And this is one of the reasons she said it would be better for her to return to her husband (God) because she had all these things when she was with him.
One final note on fighting for your wife and your marriage. If your wife has committed sexual sin (either by having sex with another man and/or by systematically sexually denying you), you can choose to take her back and restore your marriage but you are not biblically obligated to do so. Yes – this is what God was offering to Israel, to take her back after her unfaithfulness. But Christ allows men to exercise their right to divorce their wives for unfaithfulness in Matthew 19:9.
Fight For Your Children
Our post-feminist society is completely stacked against men and one of the areas this is most clearly seen is in our family court systems.
I can tell you both from my firsthand experience dealing with this (I divorced my wife for adultery) and from countless men I have spoken to in person and online over the years that this is the case. The court arbiters and even sometimes a man’s own lawyer will try and get him to settle on various issues when he should not.
More often than not it comes down to the Judge overseeing the case. Many judges are heavily slanted toward women no matter what they did in the marriage. A few rare judges actually treat men fairly.
When I was getting divorced, my divorce attorney who was a Christian as well, told me to pray for a particular judge in our county to be assigned to our case. That he was not slanted toward women and fairly judged between men and women. And thanks be to God – we got the judge we were looking for assigned to our case. And he was more than fair with me.
It cannot be overstated that the fairness of the judge is crucial and very much affects custody arrangements, alimony and distribution of marital assets.
I have a friend who is currently going through divorce in the same county I got divorced – and he unfortunately ended up getting a horribly feminist judge. This judge gives women every benefit of the doubt, yet does not do the same for men. The court ordered a psych eval of both my friend and his wife and the court appointed psychologist confirmed his wife’s diagnosis of schizophrenia and her horrible paranoid delusional episodes and the fact she does not faithfully take her medicine that she had been prescribed. She had record of false police reports and a host of other bad behaviors.
Yet my friend had to fight tooth and nail just to get 50/50 custody with his mentally ill wife who says delusional things based on her paranoia to her children all the time. They were trying to give get him to agree to a 70/30 split with his wife having their children 70 percent of the time. This is how slanted the system is toward women when it comes to child custody. Now if a psychologist had confirmed that my friend (the husband) had paranoid delusional episodes and he was not faithfully taking his medicine you can rest assured that judge would have granted his wife full custody.
But throughout his divorce process I have encouraged my friend to fight for his children. I have made it clear to him that he does not have to settle just because the court arbiter or even his attorney has said he should. And on several issues after fighting his way through, even with a very slanted judge, he has won one on some issues. Other things he did not. But I told him “At least you fought and did all you could”.
In the beginning he was seeking full custody of his children because of his wife’s mental issues and her not faithfully taking her medicine. His own lawyer and the court arbiter tried to pressure him into 70/30 custody telling him it was most realistic because he was the sole provider for the family while the mother was full time at home. He sought full custody, but settled for 50/50 which was still better than the 70/30 that was originally proposed to him.
My point here men is this – do everything you can to fight for your children. Maybe your wife is not mentally ill. Ok. Then go for 50/50 custody. That is a reasonable request in most divorce situations even though the system tries to get men to accept less.
On this issue of child custody for men another issue needs to be addressed. There are times when men do not fight for 50/50 custody and they actually want 70/30 or even 80/20 arrangements where the mother will have the children the majority of the time. Why do men do this? Most of the time it is out of fear. They don’t know how they will manage so much time taking care of their children on their own, especially if they had a stay at home wife.
I was in this situation where I was in a divorce with a stay at home wife (she had been having an affair with an ex-boyfriend so I filed for divorced). But at first it was scary to me that I would have to be taking care of my kids on my own with no help from her so many days a week. But with God strengthening me I never showed that fear to either my ex-wife or my children. And I fought hard and won the custody of my children that I thought was right.
Men you can do this. Don’t give into fear about how you will manage caring for your children. You can do this. And you will come to regret it one day if you let fear win instead of fighting for as much custody of your children as you can get.
Principle #3 – A Christian Man Must Provide for His Children
Jesus said the following about fathers providing for their children in Luke 11:11-13:
“11 If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if he ask a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent? 12 Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? 13 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?”
The Bible says in 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel”.
One of the most important ways that a man images God in the lives of his children is in his provision for them. This crucial aspect of fatherhood cannot be interrupted during the divorce process or after the divorce is final. This is a man’s sacred duty toward his children.
Ways You Can Look to Provide for Your Children During and After Divorce
The first way is through child support (which is required). You must present earnings statements to the family court (and if your wife works, she must provide these same statements as well) after which the court then inputs your incomes with the number of overnights you will each have your children and then they have a formula which calculates who owes child support to whom and how much is owed. In most cases the man is the higher bread winner and the mother has more overnights than the father. And that is why in most cases the father will be paying child support to the mother.
The second way you provide for your children is also required. In most divorces it is the husband who is forced to get another place while the mother stays in the marital home with the children. This means you get another place, most likely an apartment, and then need to get clothing and furniture for your children.
While it is true that the wife must buy out her husband’s half of the equity, courts are very lenient with women as to the timing of when this must occur.
For instance, with one of my friends from my divorce support group, the judge allowed three years for the wife to refinance their marital home to buy out his equity share. I remained friends with him after our divorces were final and even three years later, she got additional extensions from the court and did not pay him his equity share until more than 5 years after the divorce was final. And she was not a stay-at-home mom when they divorced – they both worked and made similar incomes.
This is of one of the hardest things for men to deal with – the concept that that they must literally provide a home, food and clothing for their children in two separate homes. I and many of the men in my support group went through this mental frustration. If both the husband and wife worked before the divorce and her income was not much less than his, than the hit will be less to the husband. But in the case where the man makes substantially more than the wife and especially if the wife was a stay-at-home mom – the financial hit to the man can be devasting.
But there is also a third way that a man can provide for his children that is not required – but I fully recommend.
At that is helping them with things their mother should be paying for but is not. This happened to me and many of my friends over the years. The mom does not buy them a new coat or shoes when they need it or equipment for their sports they will play in. She will tell them she can’t afford it and send them to you – their father.
Now at this point you may be thinking “Isn’t that what I pay that massive child support check for?” and you would be right in thinking that. And besides that, the court requires that the mother also contribute to providing for the children out of her own means apart from your support check.
But it is in these times of need that you have a unique opportunity to show your children that you love them and that you are the one they can come to for provision and help in their life. I can’t tell you how many times throughout the years after my divorce that I was presented with this situation and I paid for things for my kids that their mother should have paid for. But it paid huge dividends with my children later as they got older.
Does a Man Still Have to Provide for His Wife During Divorce?
Providing for your kids is one thing. But do you still have to provide for your wife during and after divorce? Biblically speaking the answer is that there is no requirement for a man to provide for his wife whom he is divorcing. Really in the Bible divorce was very simple and happened in one day. The man gave his wife a bill of divorce and sent her out of his house. Case closed.
However, in our modern months long divorce process (takes at least six months or more in most cases) the answer to this question from a legal perspective will depend on several factors.
In previous decades when women were forced to be economically dependent on men, child support and alimony awards from family courts were far more generous and women were not forced to work as often as they are today.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics as of 2021, only 25 percent of wives are unemployed and completely financially dependent on their husbands. But with the 75 percent of wives who do work, only about 30 percent of them earn more than their husbands.
This means for women who already work and make less than their husbands, that even with your child support and alimony she is going to have to find additional sources of income.
And if you married a wife who wanted to be a stay-at-home mom but then wants to pull the divorce card you – she is in for a really rude awakening. The judge is going to force her to go out and get some skills and work. Staying home and just collecting alimony and child support payments won’t be enough in most cases.
Some family courts have adopted a policy where one party in the divorce cannot be impoverished in order to support the other. However, this policy is not consistently implemented and it very much depends on the fairness of the judge involved. The sad fact is many men still today are impoverished by court ordered support and divorce settlements that they must pay to their ex-wives.
And speaking of alimony. In the 1960s alimony was awarded in about 25 percent of divorces to women. Now courts award alimony in less than 10 percent of divorces and in many cases and they put limits on the amount of years alimony must be paid out. Also, the policy of not impoverishing one spouse to support the other comes into play here and sometimes men who are not wealthy but have good lawyers can get alimony payments significantly reduced or dismissed altogether.
So here is the bottom line when it comes to financial support to your wife during and after divorce. If you are the only breadwinner or even if she works and you make significantly more than her – expect to be ordered to support her at least through the divorce process. But definitely fight alimony. The divorce process usually takes at least six months and that is plenty of time for your soon to be ex-wife to get a job. However, when she does get a job, you may actually be ordered to help pay part of her child care expenses if she will still make significantly less than you.
Should A Man Report All His Income to the Family Court?
This has always been a topic of big importance in the men’s divorce support groups I have participated in over the years whether they were in-person groups or online groups.
Obviously if you have a normal hourly or salary job and or even a regular contracting job you will get a W2 or 1099 which clearly shows your income. We are not talking about men not disclosing these forms of income as they are easy for courts to get records of. What we are talking about is cash income or other types of income (such as bartering) where there is no paper trail of such income.
The 9th commandment in Exodus 20:16 states “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour” and in Colossians 3:9 the Bible says “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds”. And in Numbers 23:19 the Scriptures state that “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
It is passages like the ones above and many others in the Bible about the need for Christians to be truthful in their lives that have led many Christians since the early church to believe that all forms of deception are sinful.
And it is these same passages which have led many Christian men to believe that they must disclose every form of income they have to family courts during divorce proceedings.
But Christians who believe lying and deception are always wrong for a Christian make the same mistake that those who say divorce is always wrong for a Christian.
Let me demonstrate by putting the following two passages together:
“Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” – Colossians 3:9
“And he saith unto them, Whosoever shall put away his wife, and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.” – Mark 10:11-12
What do both these passages have in common? By themselves they appear to teach that it is always wrong for someone to lie and it is always wrong for someone to divorce their spouse.
But when we examine the Scriptures as a whole, we find that this is not the case for either lying or divorce.
For instance, with divorce, we see that Christ made an exception for men divorcing their wives when he said “except it be for fornication”. And we also see later in 1 Corinthians 7:15 that Paul makes an exception for divorce when he states if a Christian man or woman’s spouse abandons them, they are “not under bondage in such cases”. And there are several other exceptions for divorce given throughout the Bible. So, biblically speaking it would be correct to say that divorce is a sin in most circumstances, but in some circumstances it is not. And this is not moral relativism to say this.
It is absolutely morally wrong for someone to divorce their spouse for reasons that God does not allow. But if they divorce for reasons that God allows, then there is no sin. And in the same way, it is absolutely morally wrong for someone to lie or practice deception in a situation in which God does not allow lying. But if someone lies in a situation in which God allows deception to practiced, then there is no sin.
In other words, in most cases the actions of lying or divorce are sinful in the eyes of God, but in some cases these actions are not sinful. In fact, in the case of lying, it is sometimes holy and right to practice deception.
In Exodus 1:15-21 we see the story of the Hebrew midwives. In this story the Pharoah orders the Hebrew midwives to kill all Hebrew baby boys as soon as they are born. It says in verse 17 “But the midwives feared God” and saved the baby boys. When they were confronted by the Pharoah, they could have told him the truth that they refused to follow his order because it would have been a sin against God for them to do what he said. In fact, they could have refused at the moment he ordered them to perform this wicked act. But what did they do instead? They lied about what they did saying the Hebrew women delivered before the midwives could arrive to help.
The truth was that the Hebrew women, just like the Egyptian women, needed midwives to help them deliver and without midwives the children and the mothers faced a much greater chance of death during delivery. So, if the Hebrew midwives would not have practiced this great deception and had refused and been killed for doing so, many Hebrew women and Hebrew babies would have died during child birth without the help of the midwives.
And the Bible tells us in Exodus 1:20 that “God dealt well with the midwives” for their deception which saved many innocent Hebrew lives.
In Joshua 2:1-20 we see the story of Rahab the Harlot who lived in Jericho. Rahab not only hid the Israelite spies from being found out by her government, but she also lied about them leaving and sent them in the opposite direction. In addition to this she continued to keep the coming invasion of Israel a secret which stopped Jericho from preparing for the siege of the Israelites.
For this act of deception on her part, the Bible enshrines in her name alongside other heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11:31 and in James 2:25 the Bible says “Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?”.
It is clear from the stories of both the Hebrew midwives who saved innocent children with their deception and Rahab who saved Israelite spies with her deception that God does not consider lying to be wrong in all situations.
The principle that we learn from story of Rahab and the Israelite spies is that deception in war and lying to protect your family from harm is not a sin in the Bible.
Rahab took sides with the Israelites and lied to protect both the spies and her own family from harm from the soldiers of Jericho. And you must do the same with your family. Remember that divorce is a spiritual and legal war with your wife on one side trying to form her own new family and you on the other side trying to protect your family.
I have personally seen men I knew from support groups who were forced to live in poverty for years because of property and alimony agreements they made during their divorces. Their wives were wicked and while they may have had boyfriends, they purposefully never married them so they could keep their large alimony checks.
And I have seen Christian men hampered from being able to court other women and being able to start new families because they are paralyzed by the financial devastation of their divorce arrangements.
It is for these reasons that I absolutely encourage Christian men going through divorce to practice deception when it comes to their assets and income wherever they can while they are in this spiritual and legal war otherwise known as divorce.
Practically speaking this means you need to find ways to lower your reported income in every way possible. But please don’t think you think you can quit your job as a mechanical engineer and go work at McDonalds. The family court when looking at your income will look at your education and work experience to determine what they think the range of your income should be.
So, if you are a mechanical engineer, you may want to move to another engineering company to make less money. But when you make the move – you have to show the necessity of the move. So, one of the reasons you could give for the move might be because you now have to pick up your kids from school and have to be closer to the school or work less hours. Or perhaps you could even arrange it with your current employer that you need to be laid off which forced you to get another job. And then that job “just happened to be making less money”.
And you can do the same things with collections and other assets you have besides your home. You might have tens of thousands of dollars in various collectibles. Can you sell all of them and just hide the money? No. The family court will catch that. But can you syphon off some collectables and other assets that your wife may not know about or just a small enough amount that she would not be able to verify? Yes.
So yes, as man involved in the war that is divorce you need to practice deception. But you need to do it in a wise way that cannot be easily detected by either your wife or the family court.
And one final word on this topic of men employing the art of deception during divorce. Some may say “Even if deception is Biblically allowable in some cases, God always wants us to obey our governing authorities and the family court is a governing authority”.
The Bible says in 1 Peter 2:13 to “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake”. But Jesus said in Matthew 22:21 “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s”. Notice the language Christ used. He did not say render to God the things that are God’s and everything else belongs to Caesar (the government).
In Micah 2:1-2 God says this about governing authorities using their power to violate the property rights of their citizens:
“Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage.”
The government has God given obligations to protect property rights as God has assigned them. And God never allowed the government to take away a man’s property or income to give to his wife in divorce.
What this means is as a Christian man you should fight to preserve your heritage (your income and property) as much as possible during the divorce process. Even if that means using deception to do so.
And one final thing I want to say on this subject of income for men during divorce. Seek out additional cash income sources otherwise known as “work under table”. This serves two purposes. First it will help to offset the financial devastation you will most likely experience during divorce and as long as you are careful that your wife does not find out – you won’t have to report it. But there is a second added benefit – keeping yourself busy will help to take your mind off the troubles of your divorce.
Principle #4 – A Christian Man Must Discipline His Children
Proverbs 13:24 says “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.”
It is not uncommon for men to waver with disciplining their children during a divorce. Often times the fathers have the children for less time than mothers and they want to make the most of the short time they have. But children need the discipline of their fathers even in divorce situation.
Now may the discipline have to be modified? Yes. If a man has a wife that is looking for any reason to lower his custody time or if she is looking for an excuse to get full custody then he may want to alter his discipline methods. Specifically, if he was engaging in corporal chastisement as the Bible allows and recommends, he may have to switch to non-physical discipline.
The last four principles that Christian men who are going through divorce need to follow come from one of the simplest yet most powerful passages of the Bible:
In 1 Corinthians 16:13 (NASB) the Bible states:
“Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.”
Principle #5 – A Christian Man Must Be on Guard Against Threats to Himself or His Children
You must be on guard to threats against yourself or your children which may come from your wife. The following are some things you need to be on guard against:
- Your wife may try to clean out your joint bank account and move the money to a new account she has by herself.
- Your wife may bring in a boyfriend after you leave the home during the separation and divorce process – what kind of man is he and how is he with your children?
- Your wife might make up abuse allegations against you to try and get full custody of the children.
- In a fit of rage, she may destroy your personal belongs she knows you hold dear.
- She may try to poison your children against you telling them things she made up or even if some things are true, they are inappropriate things for children to hear about their parents.
- She may try to seduce you to get a better divorce settlement and then turn around and threaten to say you raped her if you don’t give her what she wants. Be very careful of this one. Even if she does not use the false accusation of rape threat, sex can be a powerful tool for a woman during the divorce process. Many men because they were desperate for physical connection during the divorce have actually signed on to horrible divorce settlements because their soon to be ex-wives kept using sex during the process to manipulate them.
And here are ways you can protect yourself during the divorce process:
- Never be alone with her during the divorce process. Make sure at least the children are present and try not to go into her house where she can accuse you of doing things in her home. Have her bring the children out of the house to the car when exchanging them for parenting times. Also never let her in your apartment or home for the same reasons.
- Make sure all communications are via email. Many family courts today have special communications systems for husbands and wives to discuss all issues. If you talk on the phone -she can say you said anything she wants. Reserve phone calls only for emergencies with the children and even then, ask for them to follow up the phone call with official communication via email as proof of the event for the court.
- If you have a wife who will not follow the rules of communicating via email and insists on calling you or coming to your apartment or house – record the conversation. Consider investing in cameras for the outside of your home as videos of her going nuts on the porch may be golden. One word of warning on this – the majority of states allow “one party consent” recording between private persons meaning if you are taking part in the conversation, you can record it without the other person’s knowledge. But some states require the knowledge of both people to record conversations so you may actually be breaking the law by recording your wife. Check your state laws first.
- Make a preemptive strike on the bank account by opening a new bank account and moving the money there along with your direct deposits from your job. Continuing paying the bills as you normally would and giving your wife money for normal things like groceries and other household needs. Make sure you have a record of the money you give her – maybe take a cell phone picture and have her sign a receipt for the money. When it comes time to come before the family court judge, he will most likely order that you place your wife on the new account. And at that point you can explain to the judge why you did this and now that your bank statements will be monitored by the court – you feel safe in adding your wife to this account.
Principle #6 – A Christian Man Must Be Strong
The strength mentioned in 1 Corinthians 16:13 is not speaking of physical strength nor is it saying that all men must be body builders. But rather it is speaking of a man’s spiritual and emotional fortitude. Even in the face of the destruction of your family in divorce, you must lean on God and other men to maintain your spiritual and emotional strength.
These are the stages of grief that most people go through when getting divorced:
Since 70 percent of divorces are filed by women it is the men who usually experience these stages the hardest. Most women have gone through at least some of these stages for many months or even years before they finally pull the trigger and file for divorce.
But for the men in most cases – divorce hits them like a freight train they never saw coming. And when you also add to this the fact that most men compartmentalize and suppress their emotions – it makes it that much harder on them. This is why suicide rates during divorce or just after divorce are much higher for men than for women.
So, what do we mean when we say men must remain strong? Do we mean that a man cannot express any emotion during divorce? No. In fact, it is good and healthy for men to express their emotions – but this needs to be done in the right place and setting.
The men in my divorce support group were an invaluable resource to me during my divorce. I highly recommend to any man that is going through divorce that he finds some kind of church sponsored men’s group. You might have to find one at a different church or even a different Christian denomination than the one you attend and that is ok as well.
But it is here in these men’s groups that you can and should pour your heart out as a man. Some weeks you might just want to listen to other men and hearing their struggles helps to validate yours. Then other weeks it will be you that needs to speak and you talking will help other men as well. Sometimes you just need to vent. And this is a great place to do that. These groups will help you as a man get through the stages of grief much faster than you would have without being in them.
Being strong sometimes means being strong enough to face your emotions and to express them in the proper setting (like a men’s group). But at other times, being strong means being in control of your emotions and not expressing them.
For instance, while it is perfectly good and healthy for you as a man to express your emotions in private settings with other men whether it be one on one or in a group – it is not good for you do this in other settings. It is not appropriate for you to be breaking down crying or going into a fit of rage in front of your wife, your children or especially in arbiter meetings or court hearings. This is where strength means controlling and holding in your emotions.
Your children need to see strength from you. They look to their father for safety and security and you breaking down crying all the time in front of them or going into fits of rage in front of them will not make them feel safe or secure.
And the reason you don’t do these things in front of your soon to be ex is a little different. You don’t break down in front of your wife because you don’t want to let her see you sweat. A man losing control of his emotions in front a woman demonstrates weakness to her – whether she realizes it consciously or not. And throughout the divorce process you to project nothing but strength with her.
One final note on remaining strong. You will have failures in this regard. Very few men go through divorce without their children ever catching them crying. It’s going to happen. And very few men go through divorce without overhearing their father losing about the divorce – either with a friend on the phone or talking to their mother.
But just realize it when you do this and determine to do better next time. Act like a man and be strong.
Principle #7 – Flee Sexual Temptation
In 1 Corinthians 6:18 the Bible states:
“Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body.
And in 1 Corinthians 6:15-16 the Bible says:
“Know ye not that your bodies are the members of Christ? shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot? God forbid. What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.”
You may have remained sexually pure before you married your wife and you may have never been with another woman while being married to your wife. But when you are going through the emotional roller coaster of divorce you will be sexually tempted. And you need to be on guard against this.
The obvious sexual temptation spots for Christian men to steer clear from would be strip clubs, massage parlors, bars and night clubs. But there are other areas of sexual temptation as well during divorce. You need to be very careful of pouring your heart out to single women you know, whether they are at your job or at your church as you may easily fall into sexual immorality in these situations as well.
Also even if you are taking steps not to be alone with a woman, you need to avoid getting into any relationships with women during the divorce process. Biblically it is not sin to do so as men are allowed by God to practice polygamy. But it is not wise to do so. While it may bring a lot of emotional comfort during the divorce progress it could also bring problems. You may not think as clearly as you would otherwise and simply give your wife whatever she wants be it money or child custody because you want to move on to your new life with a new woman. Leave this for after the divorce.
Principle #8 – A Christian Man Must Be Firm in His Faith
1 Corinthians 16:13 tells that a man must “stand fast in the faith”. To “stand fast” means to plant one’s feet and not be moved. It is means to hold the line.
As you are going through this divorce there is no more important principle to remember that to stand firm in your faith and to be unwavering no matter what comes your way during the process. It is your firm faith which will help you to fight for what is yours, to continue disciplining your children, to keep your guard up and to be strong.
You need to be in the Scriptures daily – especially the Psalms to look for daily encouragement. Remember that God is sovereign and he knows the end from the beginning. And know that he can bring you through this trial and make you stronger on the other of it – if you will only let him.
And please do not forget to pray daily. Pour your heart out to God often during this process.
Modern divorce is part of a larger war on Biblical patriarchy. The modern divorce process utterly denies men the rights which God has bestowed upon them. On one side of this war is your wife who is backed by the state which has bestowed power and rights upon her not given to her by God. And on the other side is you who stand alone against the state and your wife (ok not completely alone if you have a lawyer – which you absolutely should!).
This war will have many battles. Some you will win; others you may lose.
Someday, long after the divorce is final, you and your wife may be able to be cordial and you may even be somewhat on friendly terms. And if you can get to this point it will be helpful with parenting your children.
But the divorce process is not the time for civility. You must accept that during the divorce process that you and your wife are in a spiritual and legal battle against one another. You are no longer team mates. You are opponents.
You need to realize that God does not just expect you to roll over and give your wife whatever she wants in the divorce. God says a man is one who fights for what is his and he is one who is strong and stands firm in his faith. A godly man must always be on guard against physical, spiritual and legal threats against himself. And very importantly a man must realize that during the divorce process his wife is his spiritual and legal foe. He must protect himself from possible threats from her at all times.
During your divorce you will face battles on many fronts. You will face many battles in your own mind. You may face dark thoughts of suicide or sometimes even dark thoughts of hurting your wife. You may feel depressed and feel that you will never marry again. And this is why it is good for you to seek out a men’s support group to work out these feelings. We men can often be loners. But divorce is no time for a man to be alone. We need the brotherhood of good Christian men around us to lift us up during this difficult time.
And while it is not wise to engage in any new relationships with women during your divorce process – there is nothing wrong with holding on to the hope that you will have another wife in the future after the divorce is over. Just make sure you don’t rush into a marriage to another woman without fully vetting her.
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7 thoughts on “A Biblical Guide to The Divorce Process for Christian Men”
Great piece. Very intuitive and informative. Sad that any man has to go through it and basically be robbed by the state and his wife. Thanks again for writing this and for all the work you are doing. One more thing we can pray for during divorce is that at the end that God would be honored and glorified during and after is all said and done.
This is why I will ALWAYS tell my future wife to sign a prenup (under witness of a lawyer) if she wishes to be my wife. I have a large net worth and frankly I’m debating wether or not marriage is even worth the hassle. I’d rather be rich and single than married while staring down a barrel.
Thank you BGR for this very clear article.
Prenuptial agreements are certainly Biblically allowable for men and would actually restore some (certainly not all) of men’s God given rights. However, Biblically speaking marriage is not about doing something to bring ourselves personal happiness. It’s about fulfilling God’s first command to mankind to marry and have children and picture the relationship between Christ and his Church to the world (Gen 1:28, Eph 5:23-27) unless one has the gift of celibacy (does not burn for sex or children).
This is a great article – thank you. A follow-up piece for women would be great, as well.
Not trying to be argumentative but wouldn’t that just imply that men need to make potentially bad decisions because it’s a command from God?
I guess the quality of women depends on where you are. I abandoned the US about 5 years ago to become a bit of a nomadic capitalist. I personally see myself marrying a middle-eastern woman as they are often raised with far more of a moral compass.
Choosing to marry a particular woman might be a bad decision. And many men have done that throughout the centuries. But choosing to seek marriage itself (with a good woman) is never a bad decision – it is following God’s command. And yes marriage is always a risk, but God commands us to take that risk.