09 Jun Are You In?
It was a cool, crisp September night as my husband and I drove to a small town in southeast Idaho. Our cheeks were stained with tears and quiet sobs filled the car. Although we had only been married six months, we found ourselves contemplating: “My needs are not being met. I am unhappy. Divorce is justifiable.” We were both exhausted and were no longer concerned about how each other felt.
The first few months of our marriage were rough. After we got married we decided to spend the summer living in my parents’ basement. My husband was ridiculed and harshly judged by my mother, and my father wanted to spend every waking minute with us. Being a newlywed and inexperienced, I let this harassment fester, driving a deep wedge between my husband and me. I remember countless nights of crying in the bathroom, heated late-night talks, and silence. I began to doubt that this marriage was right for me. Soon those thoughts of doubt became thoughts of divorce. I was ready to call it quits and get out.
My experience is not unique; many others have contemplated divorce when seemingly unbearable difficulty arises. The purpose of this article is not to judge or patronize those who have either thought about or actually called it quits; but rather to present the research on the consequences of divorce and call upon us to reevaluate this life-altering decision. The ripple effect of a divorce can impact all relationships including husband and wife, children, and society.
In 1969, California was the first state to accept the no-fault divorce law. 1 This is over forty years ago we’re talking about. Unfortunately, our generation has never known anything different; however, that does not mean there have not been repercussions from passing such a law. We know that with the snap of a finger we could get out of an unwanted marriage and presumably have “no consequences”. Since 1975, only six years after the new divorce law, one in every two marriages dissolved.2 WOW! With those kinds of statistics, why would anyone want to get married?
So, why does it matter?
People can lead the lives they want to right? Not exactly. Marriage is the basic unit of society as demonstrated throughout history. The family has always been viewed as crucial to society and the government, until now. No-fault divorce weakens this unit, and will have lasting effects on a large scale.
First, let us take a look at the individual and why they might make the decision to divorce. When people contemplate divorce they think of themselves and how it will impact their lives, but rarely consider how their decisions will impact society. I know I did! I just wanted to be happy, with or without my husband in the picture. They may struggle with the thought of staying in unhappy marriage or getting out and having the potential for happiness somewhere else. The latter sounds like the easy way out. However the research tells us something different: “…no evidence that divorce or separation typically made adults happier than staying in an unhappy marriage. Two out of three unhappily married adults who avoided divorce reported being happily married five years later.” 3 If there is to be potential for happiness in marriage, one must be willing to look for it and work for it. In an international study on happiness, researchers found that an average person is more successful in being happy after their spouse dies rather than after a divorce.4 Ironically, even rappers in the music industry support this research. In the words of Big Sean “…the grass ain’t always greener on the other side, it’s green where you water it. So I know, we got issues baby, true, true, true, but I’d rather work on this with you than to go ahead and start with someone new.” 9
Now let’s switch our focus to the bigger picture. When individuals consider divorce as the leading option, society is weakened. As divorce has become more common, so have a number of societal problems. Thousands of people divorcing each year has a major impact. We need marriage because it strengthens and supports society by accomplishing in homes what the government can’t. Marriage is where children are conceived and then reared to be responsible and productive citizens and where the aged can be cared for.5
Children need both a father and a mother because each has unique characteristics that contribute to the optimal growth and development of a child. In general, mothers are gentle and loving and fathers are providers and protectors. When fathers and mothers have a good marriage relationship they are best able to use these characteristics. The taxpayer should not have to pay for me to raise my kids just because there is instability in my home caused by a failing relationship.
The government increasingly puts policies and laws in place that attempt to help the family, but instead end up encouraging citizens to be more dependent on the government. David G. Schramm, Ph.D., spoke about the impact divorce has on taxpayers and how taxes rise as the number of divorces rise. The reasons for the increase in taxes include; unwed mothers and the mothers and children of divorced families are getting on government programs: housing and food subsidies, child education, and assistance programs. In addition, adolescent males in a home where their parents divorced are more likely to participate in criminal behavior wasting more taxpayers money to keep them in jail.6 If you extended no-fault divorce and a disposable marriage culture out over generations, government will eventually fail – no government can withstand this type of drain – it is simply unsustainable.
Think twice before you consider divorce.
Regardless of what we have discussed many of you may still believe that your decision to end a marriage will only affect you and your spouse. Wrong again. In the best of divorce circumstances, children will become victims and their interests will be put aside in favor of adult wants and “needs.” No amount of insisting that the “children will be alright,” will change that reality. Scholars in the family life field have stated that the decline in the well-being of children is directly correlated to the decline in marriage because of family instability.7 A longitudinal study that looked at first graders and recorded how divorce impacted them in their studies and other areas of their lives. They followed them for two years and found that those students whose parents were not divorced, on average, excelled in their studies and other areas of their lives and students whose parents did divorce, struggled.8 Children do not need more stuff to deal with, they need parents who are committed to each other, committed to their marriage, and committed to staying together no matter what.
There are good reasons to divorce; abuse, physical and emotional, neglect, abandonment, and adultery. However, I plead with anyone consider divorce to evaluate and re-evaluate. Ask, Can I push through it? Have I really tried to save my marriage? Who will pay the highest price for my decision? Or have I already checked out?
How did we get here?
“One analysis finds that three factors have generally been used to explain the increase in divorce over the decades: “…easier access to divorce, married women’s employment, and changes in social values.” 1 What can we do reverse these trends and help others see the importance of marriage?
The ending to my bitter-sweet story; we were about ten miles away from our little town and a brilliant light lit up the sky; it was the temple where we had been married. We stared at the light for a good while and I will never forget the next words that came out of my husbands’ mouth that night, “Just love me.” My husband and I are still happily married. He is my best friend and always will be. I was in a dark place, I considered ending my marriage and I am so grateful that I stuck it through. I am not superwoman or invincible, I do not have a perfect marriage, but I am strong and will fight for it and work for it every day of my life. We all can. We can strengthen each other too. We know that marriage is a tender and beautiful part of life and we need to preserve it. “Choose your love and love your choice.”-Anonymous
I’m in, are you?
To see “Divorce: 100 Reasons Not to…” Click here.
Kimberly Bigler is a student at BYU-Idaho majoring in Marriage and Family Studies. She enjoys playing sports and spending time with her husband, Andrew. She’s originally from Aurora, Colorado and comes from a family of six children.
2) McManus, M. (2011). Confronting the More Entrenched Foe: The Disaster of No-Fault Divorce and Its Legacy of Cohabitation. The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society. 2009-2013. Retrieved from http://www.familyinamerica.org/files/Spring2011Files/FIA.Spring11.McManus.pdf
6) Schramm, D. Ph.D. (2009). Counting the Cost of Divorce: What Those Who Know Better Rarely Acknowledge. The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society. 2009-2013. Retrieved from http://www.familyinamerica.org/index.php?doc_id=19&cat_id=4
8) Christensen, B. and Patterson, R. (2011). Consequences of Parental Divorce for Child
Development. The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society. 2009-2013. Retrieved from http://www.profam.org/publications/natural-family-news-and-research/iowa-recognizes-divorces-impact-children
9) “As Long as you Love me” by Justin Bieber featuring Big Sean. http://rock.rapgenius.com/Justin-bieber-as-long-as-you-love-me-lyrics