I have a client who is contemplating divorce. Well, not really. She would love to leave her dysfunctional, abusive marriage but her church says that marriage is “til death do you part.”

If she stays in the marriage, her congregation will continue to help her and her six kids. Her husband’s outlandish behavior is well-known but since he isn’t physically violent, no one in her rural community thinks she has a reason to divorce. If she leaves, she will lose the food, utilities and gas money her church gives her and her children. She will be shunned and will have to deal with her ex on her own.

I had an client from a nearby Amish community in an even worse situation. Her husband was convicted of being a sexual predator. He is serving a 20 yr. prison sentence. The rules in their Amish church are that no matter what, it is ’til death do you part. She can’t divorce him without being kicked out of church and their community. Even with the terrible things he has done to children in their community, she is not free to divorce and remarry. She and her 5 children live next door to her in-laws and that is where she will stay. When her husband gets out of prison he can come to the church and ask for forgiveness. If the church accepts him back (which they will unless a lighting bolt kills the church leadership) she will be forced to accept him back into the family and her bed. It is her duty as his wife. Even if her husband doesn’t return to the Amish community, she can’t divorce him. He can go live in the “English” world, but she has no clean way of disentangling herself without losing her community and home. No Amish man would ever marry her if she divorced. Her only hope for a fresh start is if her husband dies in prison.

Lastly, I have a Roman Catholic client who is married to a world-class jerk. For reals, my words, not hers- he is a jerk.
Being old school Catholic, they had 8 children in 10 years. She is worn out being a single parent all week while her husband works out of town. He comes home on the weekends and has twice given her sexually transmitted diseases. Her priest has counseled her to pray for his soul and to be patient. Divorce isn’t an option in because she can’t in good conscious claim an annulment with 8 kids in tow. Obviously, carnal knowledge was achieved. If she divorces, she would be a woman living in sin if she remarried outside of the church and her eternal soul would be in jeopardy.
Oh My Goodness!!!!

For all the tragic stories I’ve heard of about how badly divorced Mormons are treated and how the church doesn’t have a good way of addressing the needs of divorced members, I would much rather be a divorced Mormon than a divorcee from any other church. At least we can undo bad situations and protect vulnerable children from abuse and harm. We can remarry in the temple and get things done right without eternal repercussions of damnation.