What About “Mental Divorce”?


by Greg Gwin


We are hearing more and more about something called "mental divorce." What is this, and what does the Bible say about it?


The terminology “mental divorce” has been applied to scenarios like this: A divorce occurs but not “for fornication.”  Either no fornication has taken place, or it was not discovered at the time of the divorce.  Later, one of the previously married people develops a sexual relationship with a third party, or an affair that was already on-going becomes publicly known.  According to some, the other mate may now “mentally” put away the former spouse and remarry without sin.  It is argued that, since the civil divorce has already taken place, and since no additional legal action can be pursued, this “mental divorce” is the only option available.


One of the fallacies of the argument is that it supposes that God does not recognize divorces that happen for unscriptural reasons.  This is simply not true. The majority of all the passages that discuss divorce indicate that it is possible to divorce without scriptural authority (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11, 12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2, 3; 1 Cor. 7:10, 11).  While God does not authorize such divorces, He nonetheless recognizes them. These divorces result in a situation where neither marital partner may remarry with God’s approval.


In order for remarriage to be authorized, God’s word clearly teaches that fornication must be the cause for the divorce. “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” (Matthew 19:9).  Observe that only the one who puts away a spouse for the cause of fornication may remarry without sin.  The action must be taken by the innocent party; it must be for the specific reason of fornication; and this must be the known cause at the time of the divorce, not at some later time.  So-called “mental divorce” does not fit the pattern set forth in the word of God.


The Beacon - Electronic Edition -12/3/02

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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:41 PM