Redemptive Divorce Book

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See also the Web site for Redemptive Divorce.


Rather than dodging the practical issues and performing semantic footwork when faced with the teachings of God’s Word, Mark answers the hard questions. Rather than merely quoting Bible verses and using pious clichés when dealing with longstanding offenses that break the heart and wound the soul of a marriage, he acknowledges the difficulties of navigating through the minefields of uncertainty and disharmony, anger and even danger. His counsel is reliable, fair, and balanced.”

Chuck Swindoll, Founding and Senior Pastor of Stonebriar Community Church, Bible Teacher on Insight for Living, Chancellor at Dallas Theological Seminary

Thank God for the courage of Mark Gaither. Out of the crucible of his own experience and the grid of Scripture, Mark provides practical direction and encouragement for Christians whose marriages are broken or unbearable. The good news: you don’t have to remain passive or suffer in silence anymore. Divorce is an ugly word, but Redemptive Divorce is an assertive plan that enables you to use the courts and the law while still being genuinely Christian.”

Dave Carder, 1st Evangelical Free Church, Fullerton, CA, author of Torn Asunder: Recovering from Extramarital Affairs and Close Calls: What Adulterers Want you to Know About Protecting Your Marriage

Finally, we have some fresh, creative and practical thinking on an issue which has divided many believers. I appreciate the emphasis that has been placed upon the individual who is creating the problem rather than placing so much ill-placed responsibility upon the victim. This resource is bound to create some healthy discussion and hopefully some changes and perspective within the church.”

H. Norman Wright
Author, professor and Grief Trauma therapist

I’ve never read a more sensitive, biblically balanced and carefully researched book than Redemptive Divorce. It will be a source of clarity and inspiration to anyone struggling with the question, ‘How can a Christian divorce?’ Mark is to be commended, his book is simply brilliant. I only wish it had been written decades ago.”

Marilyn Meberg
Women of Faith speaker, Author of Love Me, Never Leave Me

15 thoughts on “Redemptive Divorce Book

  1. Hello Mark,
    My name is Wendy Post-Jackson. I am presently nearing completion of a christian book entitled God’s garden and I was wondering if you provide editorial services for first time authors?

  2. Mark,
    I have a friend who I am convinced is not going to listen to my words of encouragement to her to work on her marriage. She decided to leave her husband of 20 years in Nov of 2010 but did not leave till Feb 2011. She petitioned for divorce and received her divorce. He did not want a divorce. They are both professing Christians. She caught him viewing porn just 7 years into their marriage. She claims that he left her (emotionally) then.

    Evidently he had trouble on and off in their marriage, but never believed it to be a problem or unusual for men to look at porn. She had a friendship with another man all during this situation, and he is divorced as well. Very soon after the divorce they began spending all their time together (and even before). Now they are engaged as of Oct. 2011 and plan to marry the end of April 2012.

    She has 2 teenage children who are spiraling out of control. Her ex-husband has started drinking a lot. Of course she sees all of this to be his fault and further confirmation that she should marry the new man.

    She says, “Porn addiction…adultery addiction….abandoning years ago his vows made before Lord to honor, cherish, obey, love the wife God had given him….to treat her as Christ treats the church…emotionally hurting her time and time again….. All Biblcal grounds for divorce according to His Word. His “girlfriend” during our marriage was “self” … that’s not what I read about in Song of Solomon.”

    So now he lashes out at her when he can by not purchasing things for the kids if they do not see him, etc.

    This is a precious friend who is hurt deeply; however, I believe she made a covenant with God “in sickness and in health, till death do us part.”
    Am I wrong? Is she right?

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Rhonda. Unfortunately, everything you have witnessed makes perfect sense. Not that it’s good. It merely unfolded like we have seen many, many times when an upright spouse objects to the ongoing sin of his or her partner and the Christian community does little or nothing to help. When the church does nothing to stand by the upright spouse in response to unrepentant sin, the implied message is, We know you’re enduring unimaginable pain and may even be risking bodily harm, and we don’t know what you should do about it. But for goodness’ sake, don’t seek a divorce! Not only does this fail to offer hope or provide leadership, but it also creates an incubator for sin, not only for the unrepentant partner but also the suffering spouse.

      As I stated in the book:

      A person can endure this no-win scenario for months, even years, but not forever. As James Dobson so eloquently put it, “The human mind cannot tolerate agitated depression and grief indefinitely. The healthy personality will act to protect itself in time, throwing off the despair and groping for stability. One method by which this is accomplished is by turning pain into anger.”1 Given enough time, people in situations like Diane’s reach a breaking point and often make destructive or unwise choices. And the intensity of their emotional backlash can be frightening, especially against the offending spouse and anyone who had encouraged them to “remain faithful to their vows.” Feeling forsaken by friends, family, church, and even God Himself, some abandon themselves to an adulterous affair and desert their families, ironically giving their sinning spouse biblical grounds for divorce. Many others eventually decide that while God may not approve of their divorce, they cannot continue to exist in the moral limbo to which they have been relegated and then choose what they consider to be the lesser of two evils: a divorce that their loved ones and church friends do not support.

      So the question is, what now? What should you do?

      First, acknowledge your powerlessness in this situation. Your friend has no interest in hearing anything that suggests she was wrong to divorce or that she should go back to him. Go there, and she will reject you and create distance. She already knows where you stand, so it’s a matter of placing this in God’s hands through prayer.

      Second, decide how much contact you want with her. This is a personal decision that only you can make. Do you want her company or not? There is no right or wrong answer. If you want to maintain an ongoing relationship, by all means spend time with her. I would avoid broaching the subject, however. Instead, allow her to “go there” if she chooses. Answer truthfully and forthrightly with kindness, gentleness, and genuine concern for her. If being with her makes you uncomfortable, give her space and pursue other friendships. Again, with kindness.

      Beyond that, I’m not sure what you can do.

      I affirm your desire to be a true friend. Perhaps you can be a voice of reason in your church to help others avoid your friend’s fate.

      I’m truly sorry.

    2. I woke up at 2 am to find my husband watching pornography. His immediate response was “why did you sneak up on me ?!!” I thought to myself, is he crazy ? He’s actually upset ?! I shoukd be upset, and I was , still am!! He just let me know that “I” am not the love of his life!!

  3. Yes, I would gladly have helped…if only I had known. I am not sure if anyone was aware of this struggle.

    I am sick. I will continue to pray diligently. I have directed her to your site with love and compassion. I am so grateful for your great ministry!

    THANK YOU for your unashamed position to set your “face like a flint”, encouraging others to the truth of God’s word. THANK YOU for your ministry and counsel. I will commit to pray for you and your family as you enter the fray of battle for Christian marriages.

  4. Mark…I just finished your book. This book is my story…only I made this decision before reading your book. My last day of individual therapy, my therapist said ‘what you did is similar to a book I read called ‘Redemptive Divorce”. Well I as intrigued so I had to read it. Also, I was starting to have feelings of guilt that what I did was not right because as a Christian ‘divorce is not an option.’

    For 12 years in a 13 year marriage I lived w/ a spouse who was destroying our marriage by not being physically intimate with me…at all. He would not address the issue one bit. I had become bitter, angry, hurtful, spiteful…I did not like the person I was becoming. I was letting the rejection eat me alive. Finally at a last straw my husband finally suggests therapy because I was ready to walk out. I attend reluctant as change was never an option for him in past. A few weeks into therapy I finally release the chains & start working on my bitterness, hurt, spite towards him. I listened to a message from my pastor one weekend & left knowing I needed to change first.

    Thru months & months of therapy to heal past hurts from my youth, and couples therapy to work on our stuff…I start to dig deep w/ the Lord. I had hid in shame for so long. He had made me feel I was ‘bad’ if I wasn’t accepting the ‘good things’ in our marriage. Thru much prayer I finally realize I wasn’t moving forward w/ seperation because I thought I was honoring God by honoring my vows…then my mountain moved when I realized my marriage was not honoring God.

    Really…after much prayer and leaning into Christ I begin a process of dissolution…secretly…literally almost exactly as you had described. I didn’t want a divorce…neither did he. My heart broke the day I signed the petition. The next day he knew something was up because I forgot to delete my W-4 for an apartment application from our scanner. He was unemployed so everything I did had to be done discreetly…I obviously made a couple boo-boos.

    I was very calm and strong when he confronted me. That was the moment I got my life back…I was the one controling my life w/ God as my leader! I was very firm in my feelings, my desires, my determination to not live in that hurt any longer. Later my husband would say ‘you were so consistent in what you were communicating it was like God threw a brick at me & told me to drop my pride.’ I didn’t want a divorce, and neither did he…so when he broke down and confessed and asked me to forgive I told him I needed to think a bit. He was so remorseful, that I told him I would call lawyer & ask him to hold off filing. However I am still moving out, you are seeing a therapist individually, we still see our marriage therapist, and I will see what genuine change will come…then decide how to proceed.

    That admission of pride was my ‘ray of hope’! It has not been easy…many many many tears of healing and genuine honesty flowed for months & months. The day when our therapist told us ‘I think you guys have set yourself up very well to succeed…I don’t need to see you any more.’ I was elated! I was scared & anxious to move back home, but longed for us to be together under same roof again.

    I do not regret one bit the path that God lead us down…we have both grown so much and embraced God at the center of our marriage vs. ‘on the side’. We feel very blessed God gave us the courage to work towards redemption. The select friends & family that walked this journey of redemption w/ us was happy for us…and we hope that we have, or will, inspire a married couple to embrace truth, authenticity, grace, & redemption…and love…because we are crazy in love again. A deeper more mature love that comes from going thru a valley low and coming out together.

  5. Mark, enjoying the book. Would you please address ‘verbal abuse’ without referencing alcohol? Verbal only appears 7 times in your work, and the qualifications of who an upright spouse is somewhat nebulous I am finding. The more I look at online resources, the more exaggeration and hyperbole I find in the knee-jerk reactions to employ words like “abuse” or “danger” that sound more damaging or shocking than what is really occurring. My wife feels she is the ‘upright spouse’ citing ‘verbal abuse’ (which in all reality are our spirited and very unharmonious disagreements about respect for my parenting in front of our kids). I could easily claim to be the ‘upright spouse’ as her wonton open disrespect is damaging our kids and our ability to parent effectively. She refuses to submit or respect at most every turn with our son, and she is the one attempting to invoke your methodology on me/the marriage, rather than discuss openly, genuinely.

    Appreciate your thoughts on fully qualifying ‘verbal abuse’, what is, and what isn’t.

    1. Hi, Gunthar

      It’s important to state up front that the Redemptive Divorce process is not appropriate for marriages in which the partners are merely unhappy or experiencing conflict. It’s intended to address egregious, unrepentant behavior that would prompt a competent counselor to advise separation. Those behaviors would include adultery, physical abuse, substance abuse, deviant sexual behavior, any actions that places children in danger, etc.

      Verbal and emotional abuse can be difficult to determine because there’s no obvious line, such as hitting or shoving. It’s a judgement call based on patterns of behavior that a normal, well-adjusted person would experience as oppressive. And when does that verbal or emotional oppression become egregious? That’s when the help of a well-trained, Christian mental health professional needs to weigh in.

      The terms “upright spouse” and “wayward spouse,” as used in Redemptive Divorce, are not based on innocence or guilt. As any competent marriage counselor will affirm, no one is completely innocent, and no one is unilaterally guilty. Even in cases of adultery and abandonment (as in my case), both partners play a role in the breakdown of the marriage. Dave Carder’s excellent book, Torn Asunder, explains how each partner in a marriage recovering from an affair must eventually come to terms with his or her own failures. His principles and approach have been highly successful, and they work quite well in marriages not marred by adultery.

      The fact is, both partners in any struggling marriage can find ample guilt in the other, and both can make a case for “unrepentant sin.” And some will misuse Redemptive Divorce as a means of winning a moral victory… at the expense of harmony and even the marriage itself.

      The designation, “wayward spouse,” is not just about guilt or innocence. The “wayward spouse” the partner who, by virtue of egregious unrepentant sin, has made cohabitation unwise. If the behavior in question is debatable by reasonable people, then it’s probably not a case for Redemptive Divorce.

      To address the verbal abuse question more directly, let me cite a case in which Redemptive Divorce was an obvious need. (Again, that’s an important qualification. Would an objective, reasonable person advise separation?) In this case, I personally witnessed the husband’s rage. His yelling literally made the walls vibrate. I could feel the resonance of his voice with my hand on a wall. One might have argued that it was an isolated case, except that the children showed signs of ongoing emotional trauma. The daughter was cutting herself. The son’s schoolwork took a dramatic turn downward, his normal upbeat countenance had become withdrawn and depressive. He began to show the early signs of substance abuse. Their mentally disabled son developed Tourette Syndrome-like tics. Theirs was a clear case of verbal and emotional abuse that required intervention.

      That is not to say that less severe cases do not need immediate crisis intervention. Again, a professional should be consulted.

      I cannot say whether or not your wife is suffering abuse. I cannot even judge if Redemptive Divorce is appropriate in your case. That’s for someone close to you both to help determine. I can say this, however. Your wife’s choosing to read Redemptive Divorce and apply its principles, whether correct or inappropriate, should come as a warning that your marriage is well on the way to severe crisis, regardless of who is more at fault. Think of her behavior as an outcry. Chest pains before the heart attack. The “check engine” light on your dashboard.

      Don’t dismiss it as an overreaction. Don’t ignore it as merely inappropriate behavior. Don’t do a personal moral assessment and leave it be. As the leader of your home, it is your responsibility to get help for you both… starting with yourself.

      From experience, I can tell you that your best course of action right now is to stop looking at your wife for wrongdoing, get out of reaction mode with her, choose to be kind regardless of her behavior (return good for evil), and double down on your relationship with Christ. Time to go deeper with Him. (See In other words, choose to hold your end of the relationship steady. By that, I mean ask yourself in each encounter, “What action would I choose right now if she were behaving righteously?” Then do that.

      Trust me on this, you cannot be her counselor. See will never recognize her own wrongdoing with you making the calls. As you get yourself in line with Christ–independent of her–you will gain the moral authority to make the kind suggestion she seek the counsel of a wise older woman. You may then suggest you both see a competent, trained, Christian counselor.

      1. Mark, Thanks so much.

        Completely agree, but struggle because I know what has happened to get to this point.

        I think it’s more like a well-meaning and unchecked/unexamined girlfriend has read your book (years ago) and has tried to counsel my wife on and off over the recent 4-5 years that it’s a righteous option, without the actual ability to qualify the situation, other than through my wife’s report. The wrong tool, and it’s debilitating and distracting to put it nicely (and damaging our kids SO much right now, 2 months and running).

        Trouble is, we are both a confused and swirling mess, with unresolved shame/guilt for unmentionably reckless and willful pursuit of the world over the last 5 years, in addition to unrecognized/unconfessed suppressed anger (no pain is ever released), and with the surface issue being little-no interest in building character in our kids (so I’m always the bad cop, thus the angry abuser). Your admonishment to double down is well taken.

        There is simply no one around, willing to sort this out, nor qualified and willing to help us, except ‘coin operated’ Godliness. Praying for God’s couple to show up in this wasteland we call the body of Christ.

        Thank you, again.

  6. I am reading your book now and find your perspective refreshing. Do you have copies of the forms in the back of the book available to print out online? I simply dislike breaking the spine of a book to make copies from it. Thank you.

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