Many lawyers, and those who care to admit it, agree: a painless divorce, like painless dentistry, is non-existent. And the trauma – legal or emotional – continues to be felt long after divorcing couples have left the courts.
Explaining why divorce costs time, energy and money, a lawyer from the law offices of E. Carroll Strauss had this to say:
“And whether we notice it or not… marriage is way more like “Joe and Wilma, Inc.” than “happily ever after.” When we say “I do” we then enter into an economic partnership. We buy cars, houses, books, big-screen TVs. We make babies. We make plans. We make assumptions. We get disappointed…Like shareholders, we have invested in the partnership. We invest time, we invest money and we invest emotions. We invest all of these in hopes, and we invest all these things in dreams, and we invest all of these in security. Rare is the man or woman who can walk away from these investments… so de-investing is painful.”
Divorce and Children
A specialist in human development and family studies from the University of Missouri discussed the impact of divorce on children, mentioning that how they react strongly and differently to their divorcing parents depends on their age.
- Infants: higher degree of irritability, more crying and fussing, changes in sleeping and eating habits.
- Toddlers: they recognize the fact that one parent is no longer living at home, they have a difficult time physically separating from a parent, may express anger, may lose some skills previously acquired like toilet training, going back to thumb-sucking, experience changes in sleeping patterns, may have nightmares.
- Pre-schoolers and early elementary age: may blame themselves for the divorce, may over-worry about changes in their lives, may exhibit sadness and grieving because of the absence of one parent, may be aggressive and violent to the parent they blame for the divorce, may fantasize about their parents getting back together.
- Pre-teens: may feel abandoned by the departing parent, may withdraw from friends and favourite activities, may exhibit strange behaviour and use foul language, may feel angry and uncertain about their concepts of love, marriage and family, may feel that they are growing up too soon, and may find themselves preoccupied about their parents’ finances.
Some Eye-Opening Statistics
- Although divorced people may have successful subsequent marriages, the divorce rate of remarriages is actually higher than that of first marriages,
- Those who get into a live-in arrangement before marrying have a considerably higher chance of divorcing. Reasons are not that clear. This can probably be explained by the fact that the type of people who tend to co-habit may also be those who are more willing to divorce. There is proof that supports the notion that cohabitation itself generates attitudes in people that are more conducive to divorce, one example of which is the thinking that living together is temporary, and hence an arrangement that can easily be terminated.
- Qualitative studies and long term empirical studies have demonstrated that children develop interpersonal problems that become worse in adulthood, thus affecting their own chances at a happy marriage.
- As inferred from the previous statement, children of divorce have a much higher rate of divorce than children whose parents stayed together. The old adage that parents set the example is true in this case. Children learn about commitment and permanence from parents. For children of divorced parents, these concepts have already been undermined or shaken.
- No marriage is perfect. Using a large sample for research purposes, researchers learned that 86 percent of people who were unhappily married in the late 1980s, but stayed with the marriage, indicated that, when interviewed five years later, they were happier. In fact 3/5 of those who were previously unhappy considered their marriages as either “very happy” or “quite happy.”
- A marriage counselor, after counselling hundreds of couples who were on the path to divorce, raised the idea of “self-talk” as one potential cause of divorce. This pattern of negative self talk, he contends, is a barrier to a couple’s happiness, much more than a lack of open communication is.
Self talk is the equivalent of an individual’s thoughts. He said:
“Most people do not control their thoughts (self-talk), but they allow theirthoughts to control them…for instance, if a man speaks negatively to himself about his wife and he permits this self-talk, he will attract a host of other negative thoughts. As a result of these negative thoughts, he will experience negative feelings – anger, jealousy, fear, even hatred, and these negative thoughts and feelings will lead to actions that tend to break up the relationship.”
The previous statement above clues us into one of the deep-seated causes of divorce, and how this can be easily solved, if couples were honest with themselves and with each other. Sometimes, it’s not so much the lack of communication that leads to the breakdown (for after all, aren’t men less talkative and less spontaneous than women?), but the pattern of negative thinking that each spouse continually nurtures.
It is surprising to learn how often trivial the reasons are for divorcing, because their personal frustrations and unresolved personal issues are often blown out of proportion.