Reality Check, The Distressing Truth About Divorce
Couples often come to my office for counseling when they are just about at the end of their patience with each other.
They have either been arguing uncontrollably, been distant and avoidant or perhaps just tired and bored with their relationship.
They may have discussed divorce or even threatened it. One of the partners may have already moved out or spent some time away at a friend or relative. This is generally explained away as an attempt to get some space or provide temporary relief from conflict.
If there are children, the couple is torn, understandably, with the possibility of breaking up the family or living in a tense, unloving, perhaps even angry or hostile relationship with their spouse.
Under these very uncomfortable circumstances divorce begins to look like a good option. In fact, truth be told, it is sometimes the best option…but certainly NOT most of the time!
Most of the time getting divorced ends up having major negative consequences for every member of the family and does not bode well for either partner. For example statistics show that remarriages have a higher divorce rate than first marriages. Moreover when there are children in a remarriage there is an even higher rate of divorce!
Making your marriage work better for the two of you may be difficult but it does have its rewards. Marital conflict can be a mess. But it can also be changed.
OK, so you are fed up and disgusted with your partner and think that your only way out is to get a divorce. Maybe you’re right… but then maybe you’re not. Divorce is a big deal and should be treated that way.
Here are some interesting things you should know if you are thinking divorce.
Contrary to popular belief the divorce rate in the United States is 41% (not 50%) for first marriages, 60% for second marriages and 73% for third marriages. It is clear by these statistics that you stand a better chance of staying married the first time than you would the second or third time around.
Divorce typically depreciates the average person’s wealth by close to 70%. Conversely married couples routinely grow their wealth over time. It’s not just a case of adding a second salary, although that certainly helps, but also an attitude that married couples have about creating wealth for the future.
More than 50% of the marriages that end in divorce were marriages that were getting by when something bad happened. It could have been an infidelity, a financial downturn or the stress of illness. Most of these couples were vulnerable and did not give themselves enough of a real opportunity to get passed the problem.
Divorced partners entering into a new relationship right after their divorce are often disappointed that the “newness” seems to wear off very quickly. They are then faced with the reality of trying to make the new relationship work but now they have the added issues of step children, child support and balancing visitation.
Children of divorced families are 50% more likely to get divorced than children from unbroken homes. Statistical analysis of thousands of families by Penn State researchers have shown that the odds of staying married are stacked against kids of divorced families. They are also at a higher risk for having other interpersonal problems during their lifetime.
Untrained therapists can cause a couple seeking therapy more harm than good. William Doherty, Ph.D. founder of Smart Marriages and renowned teacher and trainer in the field of couple/marital therapy, has found that many couples have failed in their attempt to repair their marriage because they went to a therapist who only had training in individual therapy and not couple therapy.
Couples seeking marriage counseling should choose a therapist who is not only trained well but also has a pro-marriage orientation. (Marriage Friendly Therapists). The therapist should be active, clear and confident enough in his approach to keep the couple moving toward a positive outcome if at all possible.
Some people believe that if there is conflict between parents the kids are better off if the parents divorce. However, except for the minority of high-conflict marriages (less than 30%), children were found to be better off if their parents stay together and work things out. Working things out provides a better model for the children and creates a sense of hope for the future.
Women are more likely to initiate a divorce than men. The odds are almost two to one that men are happier in the marriage than their wives. They tend to feel less frustration and are therefore less apt to consider divorce a solution.
Sometimes sitting with close friends or family, explaining what is happening between the two of you and asking for advice can help you to overcome your problems. It doesn’t always have to be professional help that you seek to work things out. If you have friends or family who want the best for you (and have a good relationship themselves) an honest, open conversation can be very positive.
Feeling unhappy in your marriage is NOT a reason to get divorced! Recent research using a large national sample found that 86 % of people who were unhappily married in the late 1980s, and stayed with the marriage, indicated when interviewed five years later that they were happier.
Indeed, three fifths of the formerly unhappily married couples rated their marriages as either “very happy” or “quite happy.” (David Popenoe, the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.).
Divorce has never been easier to achieve. It can be as simple as signing a few papers. However in many instances divorce is not the wisest choice, although it may appear at the time the easiest.
About the Author
Dr. Stan Hyman is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach in private practice in Miami, Florida. He works with couples struggling with powerful issues such as infidelity, careers and intimacy. He also specializes in treating addictions, anger, anxiety, stress, depression and work life balance.