No couple goes into marriage thinking they will be the ones who won’t make it. Certainly, at your wedding, you thought you were promising a love that would last a lifetime. Now, for reasons you may not fully understand, that dream seems shattered. 

As you try to understand the pain and determine what to do, divorce may look like an appealing way out. "After all," you might reason, "life is full of second chances. Perhaps I simply married the wrong person, and Mr. or Mrs. Right is still out there somewhere." You may think you were too young when you married, or that you never really loved your spouse. You just convinced yourself it would be better than being alone. Or maybe you are just tired of the arguing, tired of the lack of communication, tired of the coldness in your relationship. Perhaps you simply want out — period. Or maybe you are hoping against hope that your marriage can be salvaged. 

Before you bail out of your marriage, look at what you’ll be diving into. Most people are not prepared for the challenges of post-divorce life. 

How would divorce affect me? 

Sherry and Rob tried to spare their children the details of their breakup. Their marital problems were further complicated by Rob’s affair with the secretary at the church he was pastoring. Without a college education, Sherry was forced to move back in with her parents, where she continues to live 12 years later. At one point, she attempted to recover the $100,000 in child support Rob hadn’t paid over time but was only able to get $18,500 – barely enough to pay a few of the bills that had been piling up.

Sherry’s story points out one all-too-real fact of divorce: Post-divorce families usually suffer financially. Studies show that women experiencing divorce face roughly a 30 per cent decline in the standard of living they enjoyed while married and men show a 10 per cent decline. The consistency of this finding caused one researcher to conclude: "However ‘prepared’ for marital disruption women increasingly may be, they are not prepared in ways sufficient to cushion the economic cost." 1 

The financial hurdle

And remember – that’s all after the fact. The divorce itself can be a financial hurdle. While some divorce proceedings are relatively inexpensive, the fees can soar. Each case will vary. Attorney John Crouch describes it this way: You can get [a divorce] for under $10,000 [US] per spouse in lawyer fees if you’re lucky and if both the spouses and their lawyers are reasonable and fair. [This does not include what the divorce] does to the standard of living, [or] having to pay [child] support, [or] the expenses of visitation. But you really can’t predict [even] that. . . . Either side can pull all kinds of stuff in court that just makes both the lawyers waste time until one client runs out of money. I just finished one case where they settled, but then the husband had to spend $70,000 just to enforce the settlement agreement! 2

Truth about divorce

But there’s more to life than money. There are many other areas where men and women are affected by divorce. With more than 30 years of research, we now know divorce seldom leads to a better life.

Consider that: 

  • Life expectancies for divorced men and women are significantly lower than for married people (who have the longest life expectancies).3
  • A recent study found those who were unhappy but stayed married were more likely to be happy five years later than those who divorced.4
  • The health consequences of divorce are so severe that a Yale researcher concluded that "being divorced and a nonsmoker is [only] slightly less dangerous than smoking a pack a day and staying married."5
  • After a diagnosis of cancer, married people are most likely to recover, while the divorced are least likely to recover,indicating that the emotional trauma of divorce has a long-term impact on the physical health of the body.
  • Men and women both suffer a decline in mental health following divorce, but researchers have found that women are more greatly affected.Some of the mental health indicators affected by divorce include depression, hostility, self-acceptance, personal growth and positive relations with others.

  • Pamela J. Smock, "The Economic Costs of Marital Disruption for Young Women Over the Past Two Decades." Demography 30 (1993): 353-371.

    John Crouch, "Virginia’s No-Fault Divorce Reform Bill," interview with John Crouch and Jim Parmelee on Television Channel 10, Fairfax, VA, www.divorcereform.org.

    Robert Coombs, "Marital Status and Personal Well-Being: A Literature Review,"Family Relations 40 (1991):97-102; I. M. Joung, et al., "Differences in Self-Reported Morbidity by Marital Status and by Living Arrangement," International Journal of Epidemiology 23 (1994): 91-97.

    Linda Waite and Maggie Gallagher, The Case for Marriage (New York: Doubleday, 2000), p. 148.

    Harold J. Morowitz, "Hiding in the Hammond Report," Hospital Practice (August 1975), p. 39.

    James S. Goodwin, William C. Hunt, Charles R. Key and Jonathan M. Sarmet, "The Effect of Marital Status on Stage, Treatment and Survival of Cancer Patients," Journal of the American Medical Association 258 (1987): 3125-3130.

    Nadine F. Marks and James D. Lambert, "Marital Status Continuity and Change Among Young and Midlife Adults: Longitudinal Effects on Psychological Well-being," Journal of Family Issues 19 (1998): 652-686.

    From Troubledwith.com, a Focus on the Family website. © 2001 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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