Does Divorce Make You Happier?

Bob left our marriage because he was seeking happiness. His restlessness and yearning for something better, always evident through our many moves and his many jobs, and his habitual need to blame someone or something externally, finally landed on me. I was happy in my marriage. Content. And reveling in my love for him and in the long success of our relationship.

When he left, I asked him two things. One: Was he going through a midlife crisis? No, he said, but we both knew better. And two: Did he think he could find happiness by blaming me for his unhappy state?

His answer was unsatisfactory. I found out years later that he was still a desperately unhappy man in his new marriage, while I was still quite content. Is there a lesson to be learned from my situation? If you've had no history of abuse or drugs in your marriage, or experienced no extraordinary external factors, such as the death of a child, the following information might interest you.

Below are listed just a few of the results of a 2002 study entitled, 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,

Unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married. Even unhappy spouses who had divorced and remarried were no happier, on average, than unhappy spouses who stayed married. This was true even after controlling for race, age, gender, and income.

• Divorce did not reduce symptoms of depression for unhappily married adults, or raise their self-esteem, or increase their sense of mastery, on average, compared to unhappy spouses who stayed married. This was true even after controlling for race, age, gender, and income.

• The vast majority of divorces (74 percent) happened to adults who had been happily married five years previously. In this group, divorce was associated with dramatic declines in happiness and psychological well-being compared to those who stayed married.

Unhappy marriages were less common than unhappy spouses. Three out of four unhappily married adults were married to someone who was happy with the marriage.

This report comes from a team of family scholars chaired by Linda J. Waite of the University of Chicago. © 2002.

The point of this post is this: Continuing with one's marriage or ending it has a lot to do with attitude. Those who are willing to fight for their happiness and think that divorce is not an option, have a chance of working through their problems. But some folks, like Bob, just give up. I recall Bob saying to me: "My sister has married three times, and my brother has been divorced twice. Perhaps it's my turn."

With an attitude like that, did I stand a chance? Looking back, I think not.


FI0NA said...

Good point, I am now fairly sure it doesn't make one happier. Read this in self-help books prior to my separation, and believed it to be uber-conservative, family-values, stay-married-at-all-costs type of mumbo jumbo. But my post divorce life isn't better, just different. I did feel relief and a sort of euphoria after the separation to be out of that impasse and for all the sniping to be over. But I now have a whole new situation to manage

Vics Still Standing said...

Yes, post divorce life is different. There are times when the challenges seem overwhelming; but then, there are days when I am so proud of what I've accomplished that I am astounded and say: I am doing this all by myself!