09 Jan Understanding why divorce sucks so much
Conventional wisdom is that more than half of all marriages end in divorce, so you’d think that it wouldn’t be such a bummer to go through – after all, everyone else is doing it too, right? Notwithstanding the serious uptick in divorces, research still pegs divorce as one of the most profoundly difficult lifetime transitions most people go through – surpassed by the death of a child but far worse than the death of a spouse.
The reasons for this are multiple. Some people are profoundly saddened when they are the person who doesn’t want the divorce, but don’t kid yourself, divorce is still really hard even when you are the person who wants it. First, in divorce, you lose part of your identity. Being a “wife” or a “Husband” or a “mom” o r a “dad” is at the heart of your identify for most people, and divorce changes what all these labels look like.
Second, you risk your economic wellbeing. Rarely can two households make it on the same standard of living as one. Not only are your day to day lifestyle changes cut back, but you usually lose have your belongings and half your financial security. I have seen grown adults weep over the loss of a house, a pet and other things with far less economic value
Third, everything changes. Most people will end up moving within a year of a divorce. So you don’t just lose half your furniture, but sometimes your house, neighbors and even friends. Inevitably people treat you differently. Whether it’s because your friends are now worried you’re looking at their husbands, or people don’t want to get trapped, it’s a transition that frequently impacts your social circles.
Parenting is never the same. Half the time with your children is rarely better than full time. Actually, there is one bright spot on the parenting side because frequently if there is a less involved parent, that parent can end up with a much bigger role than they previously had. This can be good or bad, depending upon the circumstance although it is generally very annoying to the parent who took the lower paying job or stayed home to see all their investment in a parenting lifestyle stripped from them and given very little value.
Divorce is typically very sad for your children. Unless you are in one of the marriages where loud acrimony rules (in which case, the divorce may come as a welcome respite for your children), your divorce is going to be a very hard and unimaginable thing for your children. Research indicates that some children never stop wanting their parents to get back together.
You can end up losing your most solid confidante and friend. Even in bad marriages, frequently you confide in your spouse far more than you realize. Your spouse is the only person who thinks that the first tooth coming out is a big deal, and still laughs about the time your kid ate spaghetti out of the dog dish. Losing that shared connection, even when the rest of the relationship is not so hot, is hard.
When you superimpose upon all of this loss the potential animosity of your spouse, and the friends and family who line up behind your spouse, there is a pretty poignant argument for doing everything you can to make your divorce as amicable as possible. Unfortunately, the way divorce is set up in our society, that is harder to do than you think. The divorce legal system is predicated upon the adversarial nature of divorce, and many attorneys think collaborating is for sissies. You may find yourself bucking the trend in insisting that your divorce be friendly and polite. But honestly, it’s one of the very few things you can do to soften the blow. What else can you do? Practice the Golden Rule exclusively, walk away from snide comebacks, be nothing but kind and pretend everything you say and do is going to be rebroadcast at a senate confirmation hearing to highlight what a great person you are.