Divorce is embedded in our legal system and culture. In this article I cover some background, the current status, after effects, and how to prevent divorce. I spell it out in a way that lays the facts on the table. Some of these facts are hidden in the mainstream media. If you are going to make an informed decision, you need to have a thorough understanding, and that is what I aim to provide.
A Background on Divorce
Marriage and family make up the very essence of a community and civilization. Even in ancient times there were problems between men and women in marriage. Since women did not have many rights, the man of the house usually had the right to divorce if the wife displeased him. In biblical times, divorce was frowned upon, but allowed in certain conditions.
During the colonization period of the 1800’s, and the rise of legal contracts, marriage started to shift away from a religious and societal bond to more of a legal or civil bond. An early feminist, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, supported divorce proclaiming, “With the education and elevation of women, we shall have a mighty sundering of the unholy ties that hold men and women together who loathe and despise each other” (Riley, 1991: 73).
In the twentieth century, the concept of marriage changed dramatically with the rise of feminism and women’s rights. In 1969 when no-fault divorce became law, divorce spiked to the highest levels, diminishing the sanctity of marriage. In many states, no-fault divorce can be initiated and completed by request of just 1 partner. As women earn a more equal economic footing, the marriage arrangement is changing even further making the marriage bond one based on equality rather than dependence.
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Biblical Grounds for Divorce
Many look to the Bible for spiritual knowledge. Since marriage has long been a religious event administered by clergy, the Bible has often been referred to for matters of marriage and divorce. In Malachi 2:16 God says “I hate divorce.” Often when marriage vows are given we hear that in marriage a man and a women become one flesh, and man is not to divide what God has made one. In the New Testament, however we see 2 conditions for divorce. In Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, God allows for divorce in the event of immorality. In 1 Corinthians 7:15, if an unbeliever separates from a believer, the believer is allowed to divorce. In both cases, it is allowed, but with the full knowledge that God still hates divorce and it should be the last measure.
The Current Status of Divorce
Divorce is very popular, especially now with baby boomers. Culture and legal arrangements have diminished the importance of marriage and popularized divorce and cohabitation. The Hollywood influence has not helped marriage as many in the entertainment industry seem to get married and divorced faster than rabbits reproduce. We hear it every day as “Conscious Uncoupling” or some other trendy phrase to make it sound so loving and sweet.
The fact is, divorce today is 60% higher than it was in 1960. The most reliable statistic is the one that measures divorce per 1,000 population. In 1960, there were 2.2 divorces per 1,000 population. In 2011, the last figure from the CDC US Government agency, was 3.6 per 1,000 population, an uptick from 3.5 the 2 prior years.
We often hear a figure that divorce is 50%. That is incorrect. The truth is that we don’t know what the real percentage is because no one tracks enough data to determine that figure. The last government figure is from 2011 and even that does not include data from 6 states including California. Since the percent of divorces is a figure that cannot be reliably determined, Happy Marriage Coaching uses the raw figure of number per 1,000 population.
When we live in an unhappy marriage where there is pain and frustration on a daily basis, it often seems that it can’t be any worse. There are real situations when divorce is recommended and folks in that situation need to get the best advice on how to proceed. However, we know that many divorce because it has become inconvenient or hard to reconcile differences. The effort to fix matters appears to be greater than the alternative. Education and resources are factors whether or not to pursue fixing what is broken, or ditch the marriage and divorce. Before a decision is made to divorce, one needs to understand what the consequences are of such actions. The next section offers that information.
The Effects of Divorce
Recent research spells out surprising consequences for the divorced. We now know that divorce has long-lasting negative psychological and physical consequences. Today we are reaping the consequences of the divorce boom of the 1970’s and 1980’s. These are results as they were found in the populations studied. The results found below do not mean every divorced person will have the same consequences. It does mean that divorced people have a higher frequency of these results.
Impact on Adults:
- Nearly every type of terminal cancer strikes divorced individuals of either sex at higher rates.
- Premature death due to pneumonia for divorced men is more than 7 times that of their married counterparts.
- Divorced men have 9 times the rate of psychiatric outpatient visits compared to married men and 21 times the rate of psychiatric hospital admissions.
- Divorced women have a 5 times higher rate of psychiatric care than married women.
- Married people live longer, healthier lives. The mortality rate for non-married adults is 50% higher for women, and 250% for men.
- Married people are happier. About 40% of married people report being very happy with their lives, compared with 18% of divorced, 15% of separated, 22% of widowed, and 22% of cohabiting people.
- Religious worship, which has been linked to better health, longer marriages, and better Family life, drops after the parents divorce.
Impact on Children:
- Children not living in intact, married households have far higher rates of delinquency, youth crime, alcohol and drug use. Those from father-absent families are twice as likely to be in jail as those from two-parent families.
- Children living with a single mother are six times more likely to live in poverty as those who live with two biological parents.
- Children not living with both parents are about twice as likely to drop out of high school, and to have behavioral or psychological problems, while children of married parents tend to be more academically successful and emotionally stable.
- Adolescents not living with their biological parents are more likely to have out-of-wedlock sexual intercourse, birth, and then become single-parents. Today, one of every four American teenage girls aged 14-19 is infected with a sexually transmitted disease.
- Children who grow up with divorced parents have a higher acceptance of divorce, and even expect divorce in their lifetime.
The Next Marriage
- Divorced couples do not learn from the prior marriage
- Married couples for the 2nd time have a higher divorce rate than 1st time married couples
- Married couples for the 3rd time have higher divorce rates than 2nd time married couples
How to Prevent Divorce
Research of divorced couples looking back on their prior marriage offers plenty of insight. Here are some of the findings:
- Show your partner that you love and care about them. (Learn the 5 Love Languages from Dr. Gary Chapman)
- Money matters. Discuss it. (Devise a money plan and budget)
- Leave the past behind you. (Live in the present and be mindful)
- Don’t play the blame game. (Take personal responsibility for your actions and work with your partner)
- Communication is key. (You MUST make time every day for quality time with your spouse. 38 minutes every day?!)
The bottom line is people who are happily married don’t divorce. There are many things you can do today to be happy both individually and in marriage. Here are three tips I suggest which can be found on this website.
- Have family dinners 5 or more times per week and use that time together to build a happy family.
- Learn from the best practices of top marriage experts. They know what works and what doesn’t. Follow their advice.
- Focus on what you can do to make your spouse happy. Be aware of their needs and provide them. They will recipricate love back to you.
Let me know your thoughts. I’d like to hear your comments below.