Look Before You Leap: Divorce Isn't All That It's Cracked Up to Be

You think divorce solves problems? Think again.

Posted Oct 09, 2009

relationship difficulties

When people divorce they have visions of better lives. Old problems will vanish, they hope, as new dreams take their place. These dreams usually include meeting candidates for more intimate relationships, more compatible sexual partners, improved financial status, more freedom to pursue personal goals and new opportunities to make independent choices. As explained above, these dreams frequently do not materialize, creating a whole new set of problems. Even when desired changes do occur, they are not without unintended consequences. Here are some frequent but unexpected consequences of divorce.

Money Matters

If you are a woman, the statistics are bleak. Lenore Weitzman, a sociologist who conducted an extensive study of divorced families, wrote in her book The Divorce Revolution that one year after divorce, women's standard of living decreases by 73 percent while men's increases by 42 percent. Furthermore, alimony is a thing of the past. Women seldom are awarded it. Weitzman writes: "These apparently simple statistics have far-reaching social and economic consequences. For most women and children, divorce means precipitous downward mobility - both economically and socially. The reduction in income brings residential moves and inferior housing, drastically diminished or nonexistent funds for recreation and leisure, and intense pressures due to inadequate time and money." Unfortunately, all too often, effects of changing financial status are overlooked, minimized or denied.

Where is Mr. Right?

There are other disadvantages to being a newly divorced woman. According to the Census Bureau, divorced women are far less likely to remarry than divorced men. Forty percent of the women who divorce after age thirty do not remarry. A portion of those who do not remarry may do so by choice, but many say that the pool of marriage-minded men available to these women has been shrinking. It seems that many men in similar age brackets are marrying younger women. Imagine how shocking it is to the woman who leaves a marriage hoping to find intimacy and romance in the perfect new mate and finds herself alone instead. Loneliness is a frequent complaint in my therapy practice. "How do I meet someone if I can't stand the bar scene?" is the $64,000 question

Being Single Again Isn't All That It's Cracked Up to Be

There is a line in a popular country and western song by K.T. Oslin that goes, "Don't kiss me like we're married, kiss me like we're lovers." The newly divorced often look forward to the excitement of playing the field. The routine and boredom of married life gives way to the titillation of being single again. What they do not anticipate and what many veterans of single life have discovered is that being single again isn't all that it's cracked up to be. Fear of rejection, fear of AIDS, learning about and adjusting to a new person's idiosyncrasies, struggling to trust again, all make single life a real challenge. Many people find themselves yearning for the very stability they left behind.

While most people do not naively assume that the adjustment period after divorce will be easy, they don't expect the intense loneliness and depression that often follows. Judith Wallerstein's long-term study of divorced couples revealed that even one decade after their divorce, many people still had not completely recovered: "With typical optimism, we wanted to believe that time would mute feelings of hurt and anger, that time itself heals all wounds, and that time automatically diminishes feelings or memories; that hurt and depression are overcome; or that jealousy, anger, and outrage will vanish. Some experiences are just as painful ten years later; some memories haunt us for a lifetime. People go on living but just because they have lived ten more years does not mean they have recovered from the hurt. (Wallerstein and Blakeslee, 1989.)

No matter how badly a person wants a divorce, there are usually feelings of remorse about the failed relationship - especially in cases where couples have been married for many years. Looking at photographs of memorable occasions and wonderful vacations together, rereading once-cherished love letters, glancing at sentimental memorabilia, all arouse feelings of sadness and loss. Frequently, people in the throes of divorcing are too angry and antagonistic to acknowledge these emotions, which lay dormant until the divorce proceedings have ended and the dust has settled. Then even the most zealous divorce seekers often report a sense of failure and personal loss. Even when the decision to divorce is firm, there is no escaping the sadness. So, if you're someone who is thinking about divorce, think twice. No, actually think again and again and again. Solutions to your seemingly unsolvable problems might lie right under your nose. Michele Weiner Davis is the creator of the Divorce Busting Centers, learn more on how you can solve marriage problems and stop divorce. Follow me on Twitter @divorcebusting, add my Divorce Busting Facebook Page, and subscribe to the Divorce Busting YouTube Videos for more advice and upcoming marriage saving events.