Saturday, 28 January 2012

Does divorce make you happier?

The press release for:

Does Divorce Make People Happy?
Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages
By Linda J. Waite, Don Browning, William J. Doherty, Maggie Gallagher, Ye Luo, and Scott M. Stanley

Contains the following quote:

Why doesn't divorce typically make adults happier? The authors of the study suggest that while eliminating some stresses and sources of potential harm, divorce may create others as well. The decision to divorce sets in motion a large number of processes and events over which an individual has little control that are likely to deeply affect his or her emotional well-being. These include the response of one's spouse to divorce; the reactions of children; potential disappointments and aggravation in custody, child support, and visitation orders; new financial or health stresses for one or both parents; and new relationships or marriages.

What have I observed?  Some marriages are really, really horrible and thus anything is better! As one friend mentioned – “I would not have divorced if the situation was not so terribly awful”.  Curiously, in two marriages I know of, one party seemed to suffer more than the other and did not agree that divorce was necessary (this is consistent with the findings of the quoted study).

I believe some people have higher expectations and needs from marriage and thus they are more likely to be the unhappy party – e.g. a higher need for affection, friendship, intimacy, sex etc. Perhaps the other party has another focus, say work, and the marriage relationship contributes much less to their satisfaction with life.  

Loneliness and alienation, followed closely by leaving home and financial issues, appear to be the matters most likely to make the divorced people I meet unhappy.   

I met some really decent men when I was dating. They believed the right thing to do was divorce and then find a new partner. Before the divorce they thought it would be a very easy matter to find a new and wonderful relationship. While some people get happily settled quickly, others take years to settle into a new relationship. Hence, MASSIVE loneliness!   

Non-custodial divorced parents cannot even rely on their kids for company and affection as they may see their children for only a very small amount of time. There may be no more dropping them off to school, driving them places, helping them with homework or just seeing them around the house.

For a single man, used to living in a warm family home, a room in a boarding house or a flat can be cold, impersonal and lonely. Renting rooms is a cheap way to deal with financial challenges, but one may have to deal with surly fellow tenants and lack of security of tenure. Teenage students can deal with boarding houses much easier than middle-aged men still getting over a traumatic relationship and separation and grieving for a better life lost.   

Now I’ve also met some men looking to form a new relationship while married so they don’t have that awful “single” time and enjoy some comfort while they wait for the kids to grow up. On paper that looks like a good strategy – but they face huge challenges finding a good match because really suitable ladies simply won’t entertain such an arrangement.

So does divorce make you happier? Well for some people it does and for some not. It can remove one from truly awful and unhappy situations, but one also has to work really hard to re-establish happiness, it usually does not just happen! .  
Moving to that sweet spot in the light can be so hard, especially when surrounded by darkness ...


  1. I can only speak for myself in that it's made me happier than I've been for a long long time.


  2. Thank you for your comment BJ - I am happy to have your input again. I know you have been through a very hard time, losing a lot, so your assessment is very meaningful. Indeed, while still suffering from loneliness etc, being out of an intolerable situation and being able to move on is wonderful. It's also so much easier if children are grown up and independent! Thanks :-) C

  3. This is very interesting, because people really have different perspective about divorce. And sometimes, it even affects their judgment to those who chose that path. But with this, they will know the reasons/problems that can lead to divorce. And hopefully this can help them avoid these things from happening to them. Thanks for sharing.

    Joanne Krueger @ Kurtz & Blum