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Disadvantages of Divorce

Here's a quick list of the disadvantages of divorce:

Divorce ends your marriage.

I know your first reaction when I say this: "Duh, Lee!" But hear me out. Or better still, hear Tom describe his life two and a half years after his simple uncontested divorce from Marlene:

"We both moved on. She returned to school. I got very involved (buried) in my work.

"Now when I talk to her, she is very busy and constantly on the move. I go to work or sit at home, alone. For the last two weeks now, I put on my wedding ring when I go to bed. I've been listening to country music (I CAN'T STAND COUNTRY MUSIC, but she loves it.) I can't stop thinking about getting back together. I REALLY miss her. But she is busy and always doing something.

"I don't know what I'm going to do, but I wanted to let you know, and others that no matter how sure of your feelings, you should at least attempt counseling. If you don't, you will always have the thought in the back of your head that you may have thrown away the best thing in your life and not even bothered to see if it should have been thrown away."

Divorce costs money.

Although not every divorce has to cost $30,000 and drag on for months of wrangling, conflict, and painful betrayal, the fact is that some do. And even if you take control of your divorce the way DivorceInfo encourages and keep conflict, pain, and cost to a minimum, you'll still spend several hundred dollars to get divorced. You can find out more about the cost of divorce, if you want to.

Divorce hurts.

We all know this in our minds, but it takes going through divorce to know in your gut just how painful divorce is. Imagine whatever adjectives you wish. Chances are they don't adequately describe the deep, searing, pain that comes from tearing a relationship at the same time that you adapt to the many other changes in your life that often flow from divorce. During divorce, you will likely feel things, think things, say things, and do things that you would never feel, think, say, or do during any other time of your life; that's why author Abigail Trafford calls divorce "Crazy Time." No question about it, Divorce Stinks.

Divorce reduces living standards.

Divorce usually results in two households where there was one household before. And since most people don't have extra money lying around for living expenses, it usually means two households living on the same money that supported one household before. And that means that at least one of you, probably both of you, will be living on a lower standard after you divorce than you have in the past. You'll most likely need to watch your budget like never before.

Divorce changes personal relationships.

Aside from the obvious change in your relationship with your spouse and members of your spouse's family, divorce often means changes in your relationships with other people as well. It's a rare divorcing couple who doesn't report that at least some of their friends take sides in the divorce, meaning that some of the people you have considered friends for years may now view you as wrong or evil. Also, we know from research that divorced people themselves tend to change their relationships. They tend to spend less time with their married friends and more time with other single people, primarily divorced people.

Divorce may strain your relationship with your church or synagogue.

You probably already know how your church or synagogue will react to news that you are divorcing, but if you don't know, you should ask your minister, your rabbi, or your priest. Churches and synagogues are likely to react to your divorce like other individuals and organizations. That is, their reaction to you and your divorce will likely turn on how they perceive divorce in general, and to what extent they think you caused the divorce. 

Divorce hurts children.

You probably already know that, by and large, children of divorced parents are more likely than other children to suffer one or more of several difficulties, including depression, delinquency, low school performance, and social problems. The key question, of course, is whether these problems stem from the divorce or from other factors that tend to show up often with divorce. We don't have a clear-cut answer.

The little bit of research that attempts to isolate this question indicates that there are some factors at home that are bad enough that unless they can be eliminated, a divorce might be better for the children. These include violence against the children or the spouse, continuing and open substance abuse, recurring inappropriate expressions of anger (like constant yelling or destruction of property), and continuous involvement of the children in the conflict between Mom and Dad. In the absence of one of these factors, however, research indicates that children of intact but unhappy homes are on average happier and better adjusted than children whose parents have divorced. This is true even when parents make all the right decisions to help their children through divorce.

The groundbreaking research of Judith Wallerstein (the latest installment of which was released in June of 1997) shows that, like it or not:

  • Divorce isn't just a short-term crisis for children. It's a long-term threat to their academic performance, their ability to commit to relationships, and their mental health.
  • Parenting after divorce continues to be a challenge for decades after the divorce decree is signed.
  • The relationship between the children of divorce and their parents, particularly between children and their fathers, is likely to be worse than in families that remain intact.

There's been enough press about Wallerstein's research that I've devoted a separate page to a discussion of it.

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