Is verbal abuse a valid reason for divorce?

“The tongue has the power of life and death” (Proverbs 18:21).

Verbal abuse is different from constructive criticism because it harms the soul instead of building it up. Verbal abuse can be considered a psychological violence that causes the victim to be confused with feelings of unworthiness and hurt.

Christ regards verbal abuse as a serious offense with eternal consequences: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matthew 5:21–22).

Is verbal abuse a valid reason for divorce?

The Bible gives only one reason by which a divorce is permitted. Christ established adultery as grounds for divorce. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (Matthew 19: 9).

In 1 Corinthians 7, verses 10-11, Paul gives a permission to women who cannot live with their husbands. “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband.  But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.”

Husbands are not permitted to divorce their wives, but wives maybe permitted to only separate from their husbands on grounds beyond that of adultery.  If she separates on this ground, she must either live single, or seek to reconcile with her husband. In cases of verbal abuse where the wife finds living with her husband is unbearable, she is given the permission to leave the home. But her marriage here is not recognized as ended and she is not permitted to divorce.

Verbal abuse can leave scars on the heart and soul for a lifetime. Therefore, those who have been victims of serious verbal abuse may need the help of a counselor or pastor in the healing process. The Lord commands “do not let any unwholesome talk come out of [our] mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs” (Ephesians 4:29).

Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.

In His service,

BibleAsk Team

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