Q&A-Thoughts on Divorce


I am 30. My husband is a few years my junior. He’s a returned missionary and we were sealed in the temple. After our 2nd baby my husband had an affair with a 21 year-old woman he met through an online game. One day he had his things packed and informed me of the situation. We have been informally separated for 1 year. He is now stationed out of state with the military and will be for a couple more years. He’s also pretty irresponsible with money. I am in a welfare-to-work program. I think I am ready to divorce. Can you give some insight, please?



Dear K,

We are sorry for what you are going through. Sadly, infidelity seems to be a growing plague—with the internet offering more opportunities than ever before—and missions and temple marriages are, of course, no guarantee that we will keep our covenants. The price of righteousness—like freedom—is eternal vigilance.

A few thoughts about the decision to divorce:

1) Many people may offer you opinions or advice but remember, you are the one who will live with the outcomes of your decision, so you, hopefully in counsel with the Lord, are the only one who has the right to decide.

2) A few statements about divorce by members of the Twelve—

From President James E. Faust (April 1993, Conference Report, p. 46, emphasis added):

What then, might be “just cause” for breaking the covenants of marriage? Over a lifetime of dealing with human problems, I have struggled to understand what might be considered “just cause.” Only the parties to the marriage can determine this. They must bear the responsibility for the train of consequences, which inevitably follows if these covenants are not honored. In my opinion, “just cause” should be nothing less serious than a prolonged and apparently irredeemable relationship which is destructive of a person’s dignity as a human being.

Surely it is not simply “mental distress” or “personality differences’ or having “grown apart: or having “fallen out of love.” This is especially so where there are children.

From Elder Dallin H. Oaks (“Divorce,” Ensign, May 2007, 70–73, emphasis added):

There are many good Church members who have been divorced. I speak first to them. We know that many of you are innocent victims—members whose former spouses persistently betrayed sacred covenants or abandoned or refused to perform marriage responsibilities for an extended period. Members who have experienced such abuse have firsthand knowledge of circumstances worse than divorce.

Also, from Elder Oaks:

Whatever the outcome and no matter how difficult your experiences, you have the promise that you will not be denied the blessings of eternal family relationships if you love the Lord, keep His commandments, and just do the best you can. When young Jacob “suffered afflictions and much sorrow” from the actions of other family members, Father Lehi assured him, “Thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain” (2 Nephi 2:1–2). Similarly, the Apostle Paul assured us that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).

We know that many well-intentioned individuals counsel against ending a temple marriage, speaking of the sacred nature of the covenants that have been made. While we, too, consider temple covenants sacred, one person cannot keep another person’s covenants. We can only honor our own. If one partner violates marriage covenants and does not take responsibility for the necessary repentance and repair, then the marriage sealing is null and void (see D&C Section 132:7). As Elder Oaks stated above, the faithful partner is still entitled to all the blessings associated with the covenants he or she has made and honored, in time.

3) Some final thoughts—

Lili: If an offending partner is willing to make changes that eliminate telestial, destructive behaviors, almost any marriage can be rescued. But if the offending partner will not acknowledge, take responsibility for, and work to eliminate such behaviors, there is the danger that the innocent partner will end up in a perpetual victim role, never a healthy situation. Of course, we don’t know the details of your situation. If your husband is interested in preserving the marriage and willing to be make appropriate efforts to demonstrate that, then even the hard work of putting a broken marriage back together can be worth it. If you are just hanging on to the hope that he’ll wake up and work on the marriage, but nothing is really changing, that isn’t such a realistic option. Children pay a price in divorce, but they also pay a price when neither parent is healthy. From what you’ve said, it sounds like it’s time to move on.

Chris: The question could almost be stated—are you able to accept the inevitable divorce that your husband has chosen to pursue through his actions.  To not allow divorce to happen sometimes requires one partner to assume the role of “bandage” for the relationship.  The problem is, you can’t be both a bandage and a healthy member of the relationship.  This does not mean that you just give up, but after making a reasonable effort to save the marriage that you feel positive about, the focus needs to be on you, your children, and making a life that is going to work for your new family. He will always be your children’s father and that can be difficult at times, but you will be the one with primary responsibility for setting the tone of your family and home.  The sooner you start that journey, the better you will feel about the progress you make.

We wish you the best.

  1. Stan Johnson says:

    I wonder how that kind of advice might have affected my own parents’ failed marriage.

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