Originally appeared on salon.com . Written in cooperation with The Perspective
Research indicates that about 50% of married couples get divorced in the United States. Divorce may seem common today, but perhaps not as common as was once thought, as the divorce rate in America is actually declining. But with almost half of all married couples still getting a divorce, not to mention the pandemic with its stress and lockdowns testing many people’s tolerance for his/her partner, it begs the question: When the going gets tough, should couples cut their losses and divorce, or should they push through and remain a family unit?
Below are three arguments for and against divorce.
Three reasons why divorce is the answer
Longer life expectancies make lifetime monogamy unrealistic
Early marriages, often arranged to form strategic alliances between families, arose in an era when life expectancies were significantly shorter than they are today. Now that people are living into their eighties, nineties and beyond, staying together “till death do us part” may be unrealistic. Humans are the only animals to practice monogamy as a lifestyle. And as the divorce rate currently stands somewhere around 50% one might begin to wonder whether humans were even made to be monogamous. The possibility that humans will be naturally compelled to explore the world and seek self-fulfillment just might make monogamy a pipe dream. If a couple is struggling to live together as a unit or remain monogamous, they should be able to part ways instead of suffering alongside each other for decades to come.
Divorce frees you from harm and incompatibility
Marriage is an institution meant to promote and safeguard relationships. However, if those relationships turn sour – whether due to infidelity, physical or emotional abuse, or incompatibility, divorce is the channel that can help free affected partners from their suffering. It can consequently prevent the development of physical, emotional or mental health consequences. Divorce also enables incompatible partners to go their separate ways. Armed with the knowledge and experience acquired during their first marriages, divorcees have a better perspective of what they want and need in a new partner. If harnessed, this know-how can serve divorcees and help them find more compatible partners the second time around.
It can be healthier for your children’s mental stability
While research suggests that divorce does have an impact on children, it fails to take into account the permanent emotional damage children suffer when they are forced to live under the same roof as parents who can’t get along. A good divorce can be better than a bad marriage for the children involved. This is because it provides kids with a calmer emotional baseline, educating them on compromise and helping them place personal happiness as a life priority.
Three reasons why divorce is not the answer
Divorce promotes a casual attitude towards marriage
Marriage is more than a relationship between two people. It is a social institution, governed by legal, moral and community obligations. During wedding ceremonies, couples pledge to remain together, “as long as we both shall live.” Divorce devalues the meaning of these vows – and consequently of the entire institution of marriage. This devaluation promotes an overall casual attitude towards marriage, leading people to enter marriages lightly and without due consideration; they know they can always obtain a divorce if the marriage doesn’t work out instead of fighting for the survival of the relationship.
It creates financial hardship
Divorce almost always hurts the finances of all parties involved. Marriage researchers have found that women’s household income will typically fall by 41% following a divorce or separation after age 50. In contrast, men’s household income only drops by 23%. Fathers typically must pay child support and, in some cases, alimony as well. Less than half of custodial parents who were supposed to receive full child support payments receive what they are owed. This leads many divorced parents to fall into poverty, as they must also cut back on work hours to provide after school care for their children. When there is only a single parent left with the children at a given time, it can be difficult for that parent to hold a full-time job and earn a decent living.
Divorce is lonely
Regardless of the circumstances, divorce may cause a degree of emotional pain and detachment from a way of life you have grown accustomed to. Even if you have children with you, it is not the same as being with an adult partner. An Australian study found that one year after divorce, 48% of still-single men reported feeling lonely. The loneliness that tends to accompany the dissolution of one’s marriage can be intense and may often feel like it will never end. It can also be associated with worse physical and mental health, more so for men than women, who are more likely to develop related suicidality after a separation. What’s more, children of divorce often feel lonely and devastated by the breakup of their families, a fact any devoted parent must consider.
The Bottom Line: Divorce can be the answer unhappy couples seek, but it can also cause much strain and life dissatisfaction. Whether it is the answer to a couple’s marital strife is a deeply personal matter and should be weighed on an individual basis. How do you feel about divorce?