James J. Sexton is an attorney based in New York City who has helped litigate and finalize more than one-thousand divorces.

According to his online bio, he’s been “Described by some as a ‘compassionate and dedicated advocate’ and others as a ‘courtroom gunslinger’ or ‘the sociopath you want on your side.’”

Sexton is also something of unlikely author of an unconventional book given his professional background: “If You’re in My Office, It’s Already Too Late: A Divorce Lawyer’s Guide to Staying Together.”

What does a divorce attorney know about building a strong marital union?

In fact, to hear Sexton talk about marriage, you’d have to be somewhat crazy to even marry at all.

In an interview this week on the popular podcast, “The Art of Manliness,” Sexton told host Brett McKay, “Marriage is an inherently negligent activity similar to owning a lion as a pet or having a trampoline next to a radioactive waste pile.”

How’s that for a ringing endorsement?

To be fair, Sexton qualifies his comments by acknowledging that he’s talking about the legal and statistical risks of getting married. In 2022, the divorce rate for first-time marriages was 46%. Second and third marriages fared even worse.

Asked about the most common drivers he sees for divorce, Sexton first cited cohabitation, followed by having other friends who were split up. It seems divorce can be contagious. Of course, infidelity is a leading cause of marriage dissolution. He says that while more men than women may cheat, it’s an incorrect stereotype that the “typical” driver is a philandering husband. His experience is that it’s complicated. He’s right.

On the subject of infidelity, Mr. Sexton notes with great interest and emphasis that two of the Ten Commandments have to do with sexual fidelity. Murder gets only one.

What’s particularly intriguing about Sexton’s background and take on marriage, though, isn’t just that he’s a divorce attorney, or that he’s been divorced himself. James Sexton is an avowed agnostic or even atheist who isn’t even sure if the Bible is inspired or that marriage is a gift from God.

During the interview, the hard-pressing lawyer notes that 86% of people who divorce are remarried within five years. Sexton says this is because the formal union is inherently vital, important – and desirous.

Yet consider his near-fatalist yet positive perspective:

“Marriage is like the lottery,” he told McKay. “You’re probably not going to win. But if you win, what you win is so good and so valuable that I think it’s worth it to buy a ticket. I think it’s worth it to try and be married.”

He’s absolutely correct that a good marriage is priceless. But he is wrong in claiming they are extremely rare. New research from the University of Chicago shows married people are much happier on average than their unmarried counterparts.

Christians certainly don’t have a corner on marital harmony, though believing husbands and wives who are committed to their faith, read Scripture, and attend services regularly are more likely to remain together till the end. But because Christian marriage is rooted in faith in Jesus Christ, we don’t need to approach it like a gambler rolling the dice in Las Vegas.

Unlike James J. Sexton’s book suggests, being on the brink of divorce doesn’t mean it’s too late to pull back from the edge of the proverbial cliff. It’s never too late. In fact, Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored ministry specializes in helping people who have seemingly run out of options. The key qualifying question we ask is this:

If God were to do a miracle in your marriage, would you be willing to accept it?

Mr. Sexton’s stark secular perspectives notwithstanding, he does have a good fix on what it will take to keep people out of his office:

“If you want to keep your love alive,” he says, “you have to be attentive to all the little things that go wrong along the way, and constantly course-correct.”

It would be impossible to overstate the value and importance of the institution marriage, not just individually, but also culturally. As Christians, we know this almost intuitively, but that a secular divorce attorney sees it as well, if even from a different perspective, further points to its critical positioning in the world.


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