Many couples considering divorce are hesitant to make the decision due to their fear of the stigma they may face. In fact, 1 in 10 divorcees report staying in their marriage after they knew it was over for this exact reason. Although divorce has become a normal part of society and human relationships, a recent study found that half of all couples who divorce feel a sense of shame and failure. This feeling, while natural, is not deserved. Today, nearly 45% of all marriages end in divorce, totaling nearly 2,400 divorces per day. If divorces are so common, then why is there still a stigma?
THE HISTORY OF DIVORCE
The modern form of divorce was introduced by the then Governor of California, Ronald Reagan, in 1969. Reagan introduced a bill allowing no-fault divorces in the state of California; no-fault divorces allow a judge to legally end a marriage without assigning blame to either individual. Many historians tie the rise of divorces to the introduction of no-fault divorces. In fact, following the enactment of the no-fault divorce bill, virtually every state in the United States enacted a similar bill within just 10 years. Prior to the no-fault divorce bill, couples were required to specify a reason for seeking a divorce and a judge then had the authority to either grant or deny the request. This caused many individuals seeking divorce to fabricate reasons why a divorce was warranted or, alternatively, to stay in an unhappy marriage. By introducing no-fault divorces, couples may instead be honest with both the court and each other. Some social historians theorize that no-fault divorce has actually promoted the existence of happier marriages overall; this is because each person in a marriage may now have the confidence that their partner is dedicated and committed to the marriage, and not just remaining in the relationship due to legal rules.
WHY THE MODERN STIGMA IS WRONG
When a couple decides to divorce, they may face criticism or concern about their decision. Some criticisms pertain to how divorce will affect the couple’s children. However, a recent student of adults who were children of divorce, found that over half the participants felt relief after the divorce. The same study attributed this relief to more peaceful home environments and decreased anxiety. Moreover, these same individuals reported that their parents’ divorce had a positive impact on their ability to maintain relationships. For example, one participant indicated that he believed his parents’ marriage ended due to his parent’s inability to communicate and make time for the family. When reporting what he found to be most critical to maintain a healthy relationship, the participant answered open communication and spending time with a partner. This is just one of the many studies portraying the positive lessons children of divorce learn through their parents’ decision.
More than one-third of divorcees said that they felt divorce would be viewed by others as a personal failure, so they tried to salvage their marriage to avoid divorce. But these feelings, and criticisms, are unwarranted and misguided. Divorce, when you are in an unhealthy marriage, can be a benefit not only to children shared by the couple, but also to the couple themselves. One of the most prominent benefits reported from divorcees is the opportunity for self-reflection and self-healing. Divorce allows individuals to shed defensive personality traits that may be developed during the course of their marriage, and to reexperience their authentic self. An additional benefit can be increased health. One study reports that at the end of an unhealthy marriage, new divorcees had higher levels of telomeres. Telomeres are rings surrounding humans’ chromosomes that disappear with age and stress, but that can be regenerated with healthy physical and mental changes. New divorcees were found to have increased telomeres compared to individuals who were considering divorce. A final benefit is increased confidence in both an individual’s feelings about themselves, and their feelings about their children’s perception of them. Children can benefit from the opportunity to observe what constitutes a healthy relationship. Divorced parents gain confidence through their newfound independence, sense of personal responsibility, and decision-making freedom. Although divorce may be a messy process, with time, many individuals benefit and grow not only from the lessons learned during the course of their former marriage, but also from the insight gained following a divorce.
Only a couple knows when divorce is the right decision for them. Besides divorce, there are many other options for couples struggling with issues in their marriage, such as counseling and relationship workshops. It is important that any decision as large as divorce be discussed by the couple, so that they may make the best decision for their family. Overall, couples must remember that divorce does not have to be viewed as the end, rather it can be viewed as a new beginning.
If you have any questions regarding divorce or the process, contact Sherer Law Offices at (618) 692-6656, for more information.
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