Why I Don’t Work to Save Marriages

When I speak to people about my work, they almost always ask whether I’m able to “put some of them back together.” I have to explain that I don’t work to save marriages. This is a conclusion I have reached slowly, reluctantly, and painfully, but now firmly.

First, there are many good people working to save marriages. I applaud and affirm their work, and I’m grateful for it. There are precious few people who do what I do — working as compassionately and as effectively as possible to help people get through divorce.

Second, although my wife Amanda and I are both advocates of marriage, growing out of our stable and loving relationship, I don’t have any training in therapy for married couples. Others do.

Third, people who come to me aren’t usually looking to save their marriage. By the time they find me, they plan to divorce, and they want me to help them get through it. To work to save their marriage would be a violation of their contract. I won’t do that.

Fourth, and most important, if I worked to save marriages I would compromise my neutrality and objectivity. As you can explore in The Three Divorces, nearly every divorce involves a leaver and a left, a person who wants the divorce and a person who would prefer to save the marriage. When I advocate saving the marriage, I immediately step in on the side of the left, trying to convince the leaver to change. My neutrality is lost, and my effectiveness as a mediator suffers.

As a culture, we must find a way to reduce either the frequency or the agony of divorce, or both. I welcome and encourage those who concentrate on the first goal. I am called to the second.