Ten Reasons Not to Get a Divorce
I think the average couple in today's world has thought about divorce at least once during their marriage. For some, divorce is a constant threat. For others, divorce feels like their only hope. Whether you have thought about divorce once or you think about it every day, this article gives ten good reasons not to divorce.
I start with the disclaimer that both my husband and I are divorced. But for both us, we did not choose it. Our spouses chose it and we had to live with it. If your partner chooses to end the marriage, you cannot force them to stay married.
One more disclaimer. If a partner is any of the following, I believe divorce is justified:
In other words, if they are cheating on you, hitting, or putting you down, an alcoholic or drug addict, or has left you for someone else, this article does not apply to you.
If the preceding reasons do not apply, however, I present you with ten reasons not to divorce.
1. The Kids
The first reason is something we all know about and we all consider: the kids. Should you stay married for the children? Well, at least think about how it will affect them. You might get over it in time. They never will.
They will never get over the loss of their family, and their lives will never be the same. Never. When mom and dad start living separate lives, a child's world is never the same and they must navigate a new reality. For that boy or girl, the fairy tale is officially over. Yes, kids do "move on," but they are affected by it forever.
In fact, Judy Wallerstein, a well-known advocate of children of divorce, stated that even 25 years later, children of divorce were 40% less likely to marry. They had romantic problems many years after the divorce.
Another study, "The Effects of Divorce on America," found staggering correlations between problems in children and divorce. Divorce was linked to higher drug abuse, lower grades, and higher suicide rates. These are only a couple of examples; there are have been many other studies done on this subject as well.
These statistics are not intended to make anyone feel guilty or worse about something that has already happened. Divorced parents and step parents (which I am) all try to make the best of a difficult situation, but make no mistake, the kids are very much effected.
In my own life, both as a stepmom and as a teacher of at-risk teenagers, I have seen a lot of anger in kids of divorce. This can largely be attributed to the way children feel torn between the two people they love the most in the world: mom and dad, who now don't like each other very much. Divorce is an ongoing conflict, even if there is no real squabbling going on, and causes division within the child.
So, reason number one for not divorcing is the kids. It does hurt them. Period.
The next reason is very closely related to the first and also deals with children. The number one reason was how it affected the lives of the children. The next one is intertwined with that, and it deals with how divorce will change the dynamics of your family.
One of the worst things about divorce, if children are involved, is a new dirty word you will become very familiar with: custody. You no longer have the children in your home full-time as you always have. You will be sharing those children with your ex-partner, and you will have to arrange your whole life to accommodate these arrangements.
If you are the non-custodial parent, you can never get those hours back, and you will miss those children, guaranteed. I watched my husband go through it, and there is nothing like the pain of a dad or mom missing their child. Nothing. Walking away from a marriage because it's not what you wanted can mean walking away from your kids and that impact is enormous.
It is also important to realize that even the custodial parent loses out. Every time the children go to the other parent the custodian parent doesn't know what they are doing for those days or hours. It's not that their time with your ex-spouse is necessarily bad, but most mothers like to know where their kids are and how they are doing. Going into a custody situation changes that. You no longer have 24-hour access to your children because you have to share that with your former mate. That is a tough pill to swallow, no matter what. This is a very important consideration and a reason that the effect of divorce is so profound.
Custody also means that your children will now have two homes, not one. For the rest of their childhood life, they will have to continually split themselves between two residences and will have to adjust every time they go from one to the other. Yes, custody arrangements might sound easy on paper, but emotionally they are seldom easy and rarely painless.
3. Emotional Devastation
Divorce is emotionally devastating for most people. Divorce forces us to kill all of the dreams we were counting on when we decided to marry our mate. It separates us from the one person we believed would always be there for us, holding our hand when we got old and feeble. We may deny the pain, but there is always pain with divorce. Divorce is a type of death, and we will need to grieve the loss just as we do when a person we love dies.
Divorce is the ultimate rejection, because we are either rejecting, or being rejected by the one person who knew us best in this world. In this culture, we've grown so accustomed to people splitting up that this silent pain is often ignored and not acknowledged, but it's still real. People may even cover up their pain with addictions or new relationships, but these do not heal the hurt. Many people are never the same after a divorce, because all of their underpinnings have been taken from them.
4. Loss of Confidence
When I was dating my husband, he was very reluctant to make a commitment to marry. In fact, it was terrifying to him. You see, he had "failed" at marriage once, and he did not want to fail again. We grow up thinking that we will marry and be happy. When we "fail" at that, our confidence and belief in ourselves as one capable of marriage, is deeply affected. We have failed at one of the key jobs of adulthood: to find a suitable mate, and make it work.
Another aspect of confidence that is affected is our confidence in our desirability. This why newly divorced people often go through a stage of serial dating, desperately seeking to re-establish themselves as attractive and wanted. Or they may fall into another relationship right away, rebounding, and not choosing someone that is healthy for them, compounding and complicating the already raw wound of divorce.
5. Loss of Identity
When divorce happens, both individuals lose the roles of husband and wife that they were accustomed to. Even if the marriage is troubled, there is still security in knowing that you are this person's wife or husband. All of that is gone when the divorce papers are signed. You are no longer the wife of so-and-so, but you are now the "ex" of so-and-so—not a very affirming title. Women feel this reality in a very practical way, as they must now go from a "Mrs." to a "Ms," usually feeling that "Miss" would be a bit uncomfortable. As well, women must wrestle with the decision as to whether or not they should change their name back to their maiden one, or continue on with a last name that no longer reflects the reality of their life.
Marriage gives us a place in this world, and divorce takes it away.
6. Loss of Family
Now, this is a very difficult one, and painful for many people. You know how when you got married, everyone said you were marrying your fiancé's family, as well as your fiancé? Well, this truth also works in reverse. When you divorce your wife, you are also divorcing her family, in most cases. You see, just like the friends, family will often feel forced to take sides, and guess who they are going to pick? Of course, their son or daughter! So, the relationship with your in-laws will probably change, if not end.
I have known people who have kept in touch with their child's ex-partner, but it is rare, and often awkward. And for some people, this can be a huge loss. Family connections, even in-law ones, run deep, and we take our family for granted. It can be very painful to realize that those ties are broken, and must be re-negotiated and sometimes lost. As much as everyone would like everything to stay the same, it doesn't, and that's really hard.
7. Loss of Friends
Something you might not realize when contemplating a divorce is that your social life will change. Socially, a person's marital status is important and affects the dynamic of a social situation. Couples often feel more comfortable being friends with other couples. Making the switch to two singles instead of one deuce will shake everything up. If you are really close, the couple might choose to see both of you at different times, but if the tie between the two couples was based mostly on one person in the divorced couple, your friends will often feel forced to take sides and be loyal to their original friend. This doesn't sound very nice, but it's a reality.
Also, some couples don't often feel as comfortable with a divorced person. Their lonely presence serves as a reminder that things always don't work out. They might question their own marriage. Problems that were once covered up may begin to come to the light as they watch a formerly intact couple break up. Just as people often don't know what to say to someone who is grieving the loss of a loved one, people are often awkward when confronted by a divorce. They don't know what to say, so they stay away.
The longer a couple stays married, the more time they have had to build up assets. You often see couples who have been together for a long time with a great deal of financial stability. Staying together often allows couples to accumulate assets and a good reputation, as both of them work together for the good of their household. Divorce disrupts this building process and forces both members of the couple to start from scratch.
Divorce is expensive in so many ways. There are the actual legal costs of obtaining a divorce judgment. If there are children involved, custody must be decided. If there are assets, they must be divided. All of these things usually involve billable legal fees. Anytime a judge is involved, you must pay for the lawyer's time.
Afterwards, costs will vary greatly, depending on the situation. But it's bound to be expensive, because now, between the two of you, you are paying for two residences instead of one. Child support is also a huge cost. Taking care of your child used to be something the two of you shared, coordinating schedules and jobs to cover the responsibilities. Now, one person must find a way to care for the child mostly by herself (usually the woman) and the other (usually the man) must pay large amounts of cash to help her do this. Economically, this is far harder than trying to do it together. Both parties lose in a child support situation.
As well, job situations have to change to accommodate a new schedule and a new situation. Child care needs are different, and sometimes a move to another residence is necessary. This can affect employment situations. If one person has been a student, they may no longer find it possible to continue with their studies after the support of their spouse is gone.
For my husband, he moved several times after his divorce in an effort to be closer to his children. For me, I lost many of my household effects, because I did not want fight for them and had to move in with my parents for a while. Everyone's situation is unique, but most people incur economic costs.
Many studies have been done on this subject, and it is well-recognized that divorce has a financial impact. This excellent article discusses this issue in much greater detail and depth: Cost of Divorce and the Financial Risks Involved.
9. Second Marriages
I am my husband's second wife. My husband is my second husband. Therefore, I talk about this next subject with some trepidation. For those of us making a new life after divorce, we hope and believe in second chances and this often includes a second marriage. If a person is divorced, they will often want share their life with someone else and not to simply be alone.
But let's be honest. Second marriages are harder than first marriages. In fact, studies show that 25% of second marriages fail, as compared to 20% of first marriages, and that second marriages, on average, last 10.8 years for men and seven years for women. Why are second marriages more difficult? Here are three reasons that second marriages are harder than first marriages.
- We're less innocent. For the first year and a half of our marriage, my husband and I talked about divorce a lot. Actually, I did, and my husband would get angry with me. Why did I do that? Well, it was a fear. I knew that we had both come from divorced backgrounds, and when troubles came, it was hard to keep believing that we were going to make it. The threat and possibility of divorce loomed over our heads. It was like a curse. Unlike a first marriage, we were not "starry-eyed" going in. In fact, we had no illusions to break, and that made us tough. I did not want to be hurt again, and so I acted out to prevent that. Am I alone? I don't think so. Second marriages are less innocent and that makes them harder. Both parties, although they are trying to love again, are often scared, and that's not a good way to start a marriage. This might not apply to everyone, but for some people, it can definitely be a factor.
- It's complicated. Second marriages, especially those concerning children, are very complicated. When children are involved, they must now deal with a new person in their life, and step parents now suddenly become a type of parents to children that they did not create. There are so many variables and trying to create a new family in the aftermath of a family breakup is never an easy or simple process. When people get married the first time, they usually have some time to themselves before children enter the picture. Or even if they have children right away, they grow with those children. Step-parents, however, must deal with children from the very start of their marriage and don't have that all-important adjustment period.
- History repeats itself. This is closely related to the first reason, that we are less innocent. History repeats itself, unless we are healed. When people go through a rough relationship, and it ends in divorce, it is often because of patterns that affect the relationship. Unless they recognize those patterns they will tend to repeat them in the second marriage. For example, if a woman's insecurity interfered with her first marriage, this same insecurity will probably affect her second marriage unless she is healed of whatever wounds are causing her insecurity. If a man tends to be too controlling in his first marriage, and it drove his wife away, those same controlling tendencies will probably surface in his second marriage and history may be repeated. The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, and unless significant healing and change happens within the individual, they are at risk for similar problems to their first marriage. This might be hard to swallow, but it only makes sense.
Here We Stand
10. You Promised
"Groom: I,____, take thee,_____, to my wedded Wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight thee my troth.
Bride: I,_____, take thee,_____, to my wedded Husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death us do part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I give thee my troth."
The wedding vows. Above all, these are the most important reason not to divorce. If you got married, you promised to stay married forever. That was for richer or poorer (through the financial difficulties), in sickness and in health (even when one of you or your family is sick, and it disrupts your life, and even causes behaviour or emotional turmoil), for better or worse (through all the problems and all the successes of life).
On that day, we promised that we would love. That we would honour. That we would cherish. These days, the "obey" part is usually replaced with respect, but the point is there. We would be there for each other, no matter what. We say those words in earnest, never guessing what they will cost us. But the words stand, nonetheless.
Mike Mason, in his incredible book, The Mystery of Marriage: Meditations on the Miracle, talks about how those vows are really impossible standards for us to keep. How can we always love, he asks? How can we always honour? Or cherish? Yet, we still make those promises. And those, he concludes, are what keep us together when nothing else does.
You promised. That is the final, most important, and most profound reason not to divorce.
For Those Who Have a Choice
In conclusion, I would like to say that this series has been hard to write, not just because it has been emotional, but because I don't want to be misunderstood. I don't want anyone to be hurt by what I am saying or feel judged. For anyone already divorced, I recommend moving on and making the best of your life. Heal and live. I do not intend to make anyone feel worse about what's already happened. Similarly, for those in abusive or adulterous situations, I do not mean to guilt you into staying in an impossible situation. Instead, this is for those who have the choice. I do so want to make that distinction clear.
Disclaimers all aside, though, I plead to those who are in the position of considering divorce, to consider the cost. It is a huge decision and not one to take lightly. Few, if any, escape unscathed. In fact, it was my husband who gave me the idea to write this article. We are now happily married but it has been a hard road for both of us to get here. His kids still live with the reality of it, and so do we. My husband wanted people to know how hard divorce is. So I share the credit for this story with him. We are still both affected by divorce to this day. What I planned to be one article turned into three, because the subject is so vast. Thanks for reading along, and take care.
Before you divorce, be sure to consider the consequences, because they are serious.
Questions & Answers
Is it bad to divorce while grieving? My mom passed away, and my daughter moved away.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I am sorry for the loss of your mother.
Experts advise to never make any life decisions when you are in the middle of grieving because you are not yourself during this time and may strongly regret it later.
Grief itself can be hard on a marriage and make it hard to reach out to your partner. So, I would suggest waiting for a while until you make this kind of decision.Helpful 6
© 2010 Sharilee Swaity