For many severely conflicted couples, divorce seems to promise peace from the infighting, a fresh start, the hope of new love, and a kind of “reset button” for life. Many buy into the idea that ending a marriage is a viable way to solve relationship problems.
Besides, you reason, it will ultimately be better for all, and the kids will make it—kids are resilient. And you won’t have to look for to find voices to side with you. People who love you will give you a biased shoulder to cry on; they want you to feel loved and supported. But don’t be quick to listen to your personal fan club. They are not objective; they are out to protect and rescue you. People like this will always urge you to divorce if they believe you are suffering emotionally in your marriage.
But divorce has been oversold. What most fail to acknowledge is the longstanding pain created by a divorce. Contrary to popular belief, statistics show that after divorce children are not okay. The ‘trickle-down effect” causes them emotional trauma that stays with them throughout life. Also, divorced people are less healthy and less happy, and have a higher risk of substance abuse. Depression is three times greater in women who divorce than in those who do not. And divorce severely lowers one’s standard of living. In fact, if statistics are to be believed, the one sure way you can guarantee that you, your children, and your grandchildren will live at or below the poverty level for their entire lives is simply to get a divorce.
Never mind the religious implications, we should fight for our marriages because divorce sucks. And at the end of the day, it doesn’t eliminate the relational dysfunction evidenced in the marriage. Marriage problems are relationship problems, they are the result of how two people interact with each other. You may abandon a troubled marriage, but you will still bring the way you interact with others along with you. You can run, but you cannot hide applies here.
And what of the pain you feel when you have to deal with your ex-spouse? You may think you’ll be free when you “ex” your spouse, but you will relive the pain and awkwardness of facing that ex at every holiday, every birthday, and every special occasion. Even in divorce, spouses don’t disappear.
Author and counselor Michele Weiner Davis shares a letter she received from a client: “I’ve been divorced for twenty-three years. I realized that my ex and I would be in touch weekly because of our kids, but I guess I thought that when my kids got older, he would just disappear from my life. My grown daughter is about to give birth next wee and for the first time, I realized that my ex and I are going to be ‘the grandparents’ together. What was I thinking? Spouses don’t disappear.”