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Ask a Latter-day Saint Therapist: I Don’t Love My Spouse Anymore. Should We Divorce?

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Q:  Is it okay to divorce your spouse if you do not love them anymore? Is that a good enough reason? I have not loved him for a long time. We communicate about the children and household things, but that is about all. I am still in the marriage because we have children together, and I'm not sure if it would be breaking my covenants if I leave. I have tried so, so many things to rekindle our love and I am spent and do not want to try anymore. My husband thinks that there is nothing wrong with our marriage, so he feels like there is nothing to be done to further our relationship. I know that I can't change him, so I have tried changing me so that I can try to make things better in our marriage. That, as well, has been unsuccessful. I do not want to try to love him anymore. Is my only option to be lonely and sad for eternity, just because he doesn't want to talk or try to have a relationship?

A: I’m so sorry that you’re going through this. I know this is not the life you hoped for when you knelt across from your husband in the altar of the temple. It’s devastating to feel lonely in your own home and in your own marriage. It’s crushing to feel trapped, unwanted, and that there’s seemingly no hope for the future.

I’m glad you included so much detail in your question. I omitted any identifying information, of course, but in your case (as in so many others), context is everything. Had your question been a simple “Is it okay to divorce your spouse if you do not love them anymore?” I would have answered that’s not a good enough reason.

Every day couples fall out of love. Every day couples make changes, learn new perspectives, acquire new skills. Every day people repent, hearts are changed, prayers are answered, therapy works, books help, and couples fall back into love. Every day marriages are saved and miracles happen. Every day the Atonement and teachings of Jesus Christ restore what was lost.

But the context of your question reveals layers. You have fought for your marriage. I’m sure you’ve prayed and fasted. You’ve read the books. You’ve read the articles. You’ve worked on being a better person, wife, and mother. I don’t know whether you’ve tried therapy or not (if not, try it). But from what you say, it’s not getting better.

I’m not in your life, so what you say about your husband may very well be true. I just know, from my experience, to be wary when presuming to know what another person is thinking or feeling. Has he said that everything’s fine and that the relationship needs no improvement? Even if he does think that you are the one with the problem, is he willing to consult with a good couples’ counselor to understand better how to meet your needs and help you feel loved?

If he’s not, then you do have a decision to make. Of course, you weigh your family’s unity and well-being on the scales with the potential damage of “living a lie.” I cannot tell you what choice to make. But when it comes to divorce or staying married, we would do well to remember the teaching of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “That which is wrong under one circumstance may be, and often is, right under another. . . . Whatever God commands is right.”

So, do you need to wait for God to command you to get a divorce? In my experience with hundreds of struggling couples over the years, God rarely commands that of anyone. If you ask Him if you should get a divorce, He might say “yes,” or He might say… nothing. Remember, we mustn’t be commanded in all things (see D&C 58:26-27). He expects us to use our agency and make choices, including Him in the process of course, but moving forward all the same.

For me, personally, Heavenly Father has only given me direct confirmation of a handful of choices in my entire life. Usually, there’s silence if I ask if I should do something or if it’s the right thing to do. In my case, he’s much more likely to warn me to avoid doing something. Instead of asking if the answer is “yes,” oftentimes I ask if the answer is “no.” He steers me away from harmful choices; otherwise, He lets me work out what is best on my own.

He may or may not reveal Himself that way to you. Maybe yours is a different relationship with Him, with different needs. But I felt impressed to share anyway.

Is it right, in your case, to divorce your husband? You’d do well to prayerfully consider these statements by our leaders and consider in what ways they apply to you.

President Gordon B. Hinckley:

“There may be now and again a legitimate cause for divorce. I am not one to say that it is never justified. But I say without hesitation that this plague among us, which seems to be growing everywhere, is not of God, but rather is the work of the adversary of righteousness and peace and truth” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1991, 96–98; or Ensign, May 1991, 73–74).

President James E. Faust

“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’ for breaking of covenants. I confess I do not claim the wisdom or authority to definitively state what is ‘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.

“At the same time, I have strong feelings about what is not provocation for breaking the sacred covenants of marriage. 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” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1993, 46; or Ensign, May 1993, 36–37).

Are you in a prolonged and apparently irredeemable relationship that’s destructive to your dignity as a human being? Or should you keep fighting for your marriage? Unfortunately, I’ve no easy answers for you. But I, and others like me, along with leaders, loved ones, and the Lord, Jesus Christ Himself, are here for you. God bless you. I truly hope something I’ve written here today helps.

Lead image from Getty Images
Jonwe

Jonathan Decker, LMFT

Jonathan Decker is a licensed marriage and family therapist and clinical director of Your Family Expert. He offers online relationship courses to people anywhere, as well as face-to-face and online therapy to persons in several states. Jonathan has presented at Brigham Young University Education Week and at regional conferences in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. He is married with five children. Contact him here and join his Facebook group for daily Gospel-based relationship tips. 

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