Divorce is Not a Solution

divorcenotsolution2Divorce is something no one sets out to do. I don’t believe people get married thinking “oh it’s ok this’ll be fun for a few years and then I’ll just pull the plug and bounce out of this marriage thing and go back to being single.”  I do think when first tying the knot some consider divorce is an option should it be needed, but no one sets out to do it.

I have lived long enough to see many people divorce. There are so many reasons and motivations for why people do it. Often, though I think that the main motivation is that they are looking for a SOLUTION. They are just so done. They just want things to be different. They want to be happy again and they have been miserable for so many years, maybe even so many decades. They have experienced heartache after heartache, and so has their spouse. Perhaps one person is a little more to blame for the contention or they are equal contributors. Likely it started years and years ago as a small, or even big offense, and has festered, been handled poorly or just wasn’t handled at all. There has been insufficient apology and insufficient forgiveness. I’m not a big fan of it and actually believe most people should just stay their butt married.

The thing is, that divorce is not a solution. It may be a answer. Or even a gift. But it is not a solution. Let me explain what I mean by that.

Those who are considering divorce often assume that when they divorced that it will magically solve all of their problems. Over the years, they craft this short-sighted belief that their spouse is the source of most or all of their problems. If they could only be free of them, life would be so much easier! They say “Oh you don’t understand I’ve done everything possible to make this marriage work” and they are just ready for it to be over. Yes, sometimes getting the “green light” to divorce from whatever authoritative source you’re seeking is very welcomed relief because it feels like you finally get to stop fighting for something that doesn’t seem like it’s going to work out. The truth is, you just get to switch out what you’re fighting.

Divorce can be a gift when you’re not safe; it can set you free of a truly destructive and harmful situation. And it can be an answer when you truly have tried everything else. That means you’ve been seeking out therapy with a qualified, and effective therapist. Seeking counsel from your spiritual leaders. Taking the problem to your higher power, and repeatedly. Sought out ways to connect with your spouse through marriage counseling, marriage seminars, classes, courses, videos, etc. But above all, you are working on yourself and trying to understand how you contributed to these problems, how you married this person, why you changed your mind, and how you can address these. Marriage counseling is practically worthless if you’re not willing to look at your own stuff and do the hard work of self improvement.

What can be hard to hear is that you are in this marriage for a reason. You were drawn to this person, this situation and this dynamic for a reason. Are you repeating old patterns? Are you trying to “fix” things with your relationship with your mom or dad through this marriage? Likely the reasons will still be there if you divorce unless you take steps to correct the underlying cause. An unhappy marriage is more of a symptom than a cause. What do you have yet to work on or do that will make you more of who you are meant to be, and could even improve or save your broken marriage?

Because when you get divorced you still take you with you. 

You cannot divorce yourself. Oh, people try! They do it by being something totally different than who they are, numbing out and pushing their true selves away. But you have to examine your own shadows to see what they have to tell you, and embrace all of yourself. Otherwise you will always be at war with yourself. And if you’re unhappy in your marriage, you’ll likely be unahappy single, and even unhappy married to someone else. More than likely, it’s not that you’re some fantastic person and your spouse is the only one in the world that happens to possess the talent to bring out your grouchy side.

Let’s look at some data: one study found that those who report being “unhappily married” and divorce/separate were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married. Even unhappy spouses who had divorced and remarried were no happier, on average, than unhappy spouses who stayed married. This was true even after controlling for race, age, gender, and income.

This and the section below is according to the National Survey of Families and Households (a nationally representative survey) (You can find the full report HERE.) They looked at all spouses (645 spouses out of 5,232 married adults) who in the late ’80s rated their marriages as unhappy. Five years later these same adults were reinterviewed, so they were able to follow unhappy spouses as their lives took different paths: in the interim, some had divorced or separated and some stayed married. Because marital strife takes a toll on psychological well-being, the conventional wisdom would argue that unhappily married adults who divorced would be better off: happier, less depressed, with greater self-esteem and a stronger sense of personal mastery, compared to those staying married.

Was this true? Did unhappy spouses who divorced reap significant psychological and emotional benefits? Surprisingly, in this study, the answer was no. Among their findings:

  • Unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married. Even unhappy spouses who had divorced and remarried were no happier, on average, than unhappy spouses who stayed married. This was true even after controlling for race, age, gender, and income.
  • Divorce did not reduce symptoms of depression for unhappily married adults, or raise their self-esteem, or increase their sense of mastery, on average, compared to unhappy spouses who stayed married. This was true even after controlling for race, age, gender, and income.
  • The vast majority of divorces (74 percent) happened to adults who had been happily married five years previously. In this group, divorce was associated with dramatic declines in happiness and psychological well-being compared to those who stayed married.
  • Unhappy marriages were less common than unhappy spouses. Three out of four unhappily married adults were married to someone who was happy with the marriage.
  • Staying married did not typically trap unhappy spouses in violent relationships. Eighty-six percent of unhappily married adults reported no violence in their relationship (including 77 percent of unhappy spouses who later divorced or separated). Ninety-three percent of unhappy spouses who avoided divorce reported no violence in their marriage five years later.
  • Two out of three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce or separation ended up happily married five years later. Just one out of five of unhappy spouses who divorced or separated had happily remarried in the same time period. (end quote from report)

Spend just a bit of time among the debris of divorce with those that have endured it and have some to settle on the other side. Very rarely did it actually solve anything. Very rarely are people’s lives truly better in every way. Often there is a great deal of heartache in addition to the financial havoc it renders. Divorce is expensive not only from the actual process of it, but from the mayhem it works after the fact. You had one household that now is two, and needs to pay rent twice, two utility bills, two kitchens to stock, etc.

I write this in the hopes of shedding light on this taboo topic. Most people don’t realize what they’re getting when they pull the rip cord and jump into divorce. All they see is a way out. Unless you’ve got at least one of the 4 A’s of Divorce: Abuse, Addiction, Adultery or Abandonment, divorce really need not be on the table at all. ESPECIALLY if there are children involved.

What did you think of this post? Agree? Have more to add?

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