The dissolution of a marriage is almost always an unhappy event, at the very least marked by disappointment and the loss of dreams and expectations. In addition, there are usually many legal, financial, parental, emotional, and practical aspects that requires changes in responsibilities and routines, and it can take people years to regain equilibrium. Nevertheless, divorce serves an important function in legally—and emotionally—freeing people to form a more stable relationship.
One of the most significant events of the 20th century was the changing role and improving status of women in private and public life, along with greater expectations for happiness. Those same changes brought about a much talked-about rise in divorce rates and liberalization of divorce laws. Infidelity and financial upheavals are significant causes of divorce, but the major causes are emotional; partners grow emotionally distant, experience disappointments because of unmet (and often unrealistic) expectations, or develop separate visions of life.
The liberalization of divorce laws has fueled non-adversarial approaches to marital dissolution, such as negotiation and mediation. Such practices are especially beneficial for children, for whom divorce is almost always deeply distressing and whose needs are often overlooked in the process.
It is commonly believed that 50 percent of marriages in the U.S. end in divorce, but that is not the case. It is now estimated that only a third of marriages will face dissolution over time. Divorce is on the decline especially among the most educated. Experts believe that is because the educated marry later, when they are more mature and have had some relationship experience.
With marriage now deeply rooted in personal choice, people need an array of skills to work out the inevitable difficulties and disappointments that arise and lead to divorce.