In this study, I present grounded-theory analyses of the decision-making process surrounding divorce or reconciliation based on in-depth interviews with 31 individuals thinking about divorce. The overall model of the divorce decision-making process included negative experiences leading to a bad relationship or an unsustainable marriage, the wilderness crossroads, the vast wilderness, and a development of an exit strategy. Repair attempts that were made are what helped the couple move towards a sustainable marriage or closer to divorce. The findings of the present study suggest that the decision-making process to divorce or reconcile can be a chaotic and confusing one—a wilderness—yet the participants sensed that it was necessary for themselves and others to endure this process before leaving the vast wilderness. The study discovered that a bad relationship does not present a straightforward path to divorce because the marriage has its own characteristics and considerations apart from the relationship. Within the vast wilderness there emerged seven key considerations in the decision-making process, namely: (1) the emotional and physical impact (on self); (2) children; (3) friendship and positive memories with spouse; (4) religion, prayer and hope; (5) commitment to marriage; (6) social impact and support of family and friends; and (7) finances. These considerations were focused on the marriage and were conceptually distinct from the romantic relationship of the couple. Marriage considerations were more salient and important than considerations of the spousal relationship, and they were crucial in the decision-making process to stay married or to divorce. I concluded by discussing implications of the study for individuals, clinicians, policy makers, and researchers.



College and Department

Family, Home, and Social Sciences; Family Life; Marriage, Family, and Human Development



Date Submitted


Document Type





divorce, reconciliation, decision-making, and children of divorce