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Divorce: Facts and Myths

Divorce: Facts and Myths

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When all other options and efforts to remain married have been exhausted, divorce is an act of kindness. However, many couples presume that their lives after divorce will be easier and happier, offering a second chance at love. Unfortunately, statistical evidence clearly demonstrates that divorce is infinitely more complicated and painful than people expect. Even in the rare instances in which divorce is amicable, research indicates that divorce seldom supplies the solutions that the divorcing partners seek.

Marriage brings together two individuals with different histories, perspectives, temperaments and expectations – although often with the same mistaken assumption that each shares the other's notion of what marriage should be. Unforeseen challenges and conflicts arise, forcing couples to re-orient or re-define themselves. Transitions such as parenthood, career change, financial difficulties, loss of employment or health, the departure of grown children, or bereavement may create turmoil and lead one to question basic suppositions/premises. A partner may become so overwhelmed that he or she stops investing effort in the marital relationship, or so desperate that he or she believes that fulfillment can only be attained outside the marriage.

Other reasons for which couples seek divorce include poor communication, heated arguments, perceived character flaws, loneliness and lack of emotional satisfaction. What needs to be made clear to a couple contemplating divorce is that, in the vast majority of cases, the best response to these problems is to renew the marriage, not to terminate it.

Short And Long Term Affects Of Divorce On Children

Children expect and deserve to grow up in a safe world. Their parents' role is to nurture and protect them, and to provide reassurance. The dissolution of the family is the single greatest threat to a child's emotional – and often financial – well-being. Having his parents publicly declare that they cannot love each other enough to stay together causes a child's sense of security and his view of the world to shatter completely.

Although clearly it is preferable that parents resolve their differences, studies have shown that children can thrive even in homes where there is marital conflict. From a child's perspective, divorce only exacerbates the problem rather than resolving it, forcing him to adjust to a new and more difficult situation. He now must travel between two homes, often between parents who are still resentful and fighting with each other even though they no longer are living together. Carted back and forth, and confronted with two distinct sets of house rules and parenting philosophies, one teenager commented, "I feel like I'm being torn apart. I'm in the middle of a tug-of-war between Mom and Dad."

Children often find themselves caught in the middle of arguments between ex-spouses and forced to take sides. Even the most conscientious parents can unintentionally compel a child to decide between Daddy and Mommy. As one nine-year-old child reported, "Holidays are the worst. If I'm with my Mom, then I miss my Dad and know Dad is sad. If I'm with my Dad, then I miss my Mom and know she is home crying."

When there is no viable alternative to divorce, parents must ensure their children's emotional well being by arranging some form of therapy. Divorce does not condemn a child to a lifetime of unhappiness; many children of divorce consciously strive to attain committed, loving relationships.

How Divorce Affects Men and Women

Divorce has long-term repercussions for both men and women. In one study, half the women reported feeling lonely and being diagnosed with depression, despite having divorced up to ten years earlier. Surprisingly, fifty percent of these women had been the partners who initiated the divorce. Similarly, the vast majority of men reported some confusion even twenty years post-divorce; they were no longer sure what they wanted out of life.

The expectation that Mr. or Mrs. Right is waiting in the wings is a fantasy. Forty percent of women over the age of thirty never remarry. The dating process is usually experienced as being difficult and discouraging.

When there are children involved, second marriages become even less likely; many people do not wish to assume responsibility for someone else's children. Their concern is not unfounded, as an almost infinite number of issues regarding the children's future will need to be determined. Visitation rights and schedules, diet, discipline, education, religious holidays and vacations, medical issues, expenses, weddings, and possibly even grandchildren all require discussion; contact and negotiation with your child's other parent may continue for the rest of your life!

Even when a second spouse is found, the divorce rate for second marriages is an astounding sixty percent. The difficulty of managing a "blended family," with its myriad complex interactions with children from a previous marriage, undoubtedly accounts for much of this statistic. Of the forty percent who remain in their second marriages, only twenty percent report marital satisfaction. Men and women in second marriages commonly lament the fact that they delayed addressing their own recurring issues until they had remarried. More painfully, when they honestly look back, they wonder whether they might not have saved their first marriages, had they devoted the same amount of effort they are now expending to make their second marriages work.

Encouragingly, a recent study of 5232 couples who considered divorce but decided to stay married (because of children, finances, or other considerations) said five years later that they were glad they had not divorced. Crises and stressful issues, such as depression or financial troubles, had eased or been resolved with the passage of time, and their marriages had improved.

Where Do We Go From Here?

When husband and wife become mired in negative patterns, not knowing how to forgive and to devise a new scenario, their energy is consumed in perpetuating the status quo while nursing their resentment of their partner's shortcomings. They must relearn the skills necessary to establish a healthy environment and to restore good will, and a spirit of loving acceptance.

Dr. George Pransky, Ph.D, suggests an analogy to illustrate how couples resolve conflict. Imagine a couple spending a romantic evening in front of a fireplace in their old home when, suddenly, they become aware of a chilling draft. They may elect either to search for the cracks allowing cold air to penetrate and then install weatherproofing, or to throw another log on the fire, thereby producing more warmth.

I have found that people considering divorce invest most of their emotional and intellectual resources in "weatherproofing" their marriage or wondering how to do so. Yet, just as weatherproofing will lessen a draft but will not generate warmth, a critical approach to problems may halt unwanted behaviour but will not engender intimacy.

Focusing intently upon their concerns and disappointments, spouses forget to enjoy their marriage and to invest emotionally in this crucial relationship. When one partner is dissatisfied with the marriage, an entirely new strategy is necessary. Spouses must resolve to renounce old anger and presumptions, to stop thinking "If he (or she) would only do what I want." They must assume responsibility for becoming proactive, rather than passive or merely reactionary, in envisioning and realising a productive marriage

Learn how to listen attentively to your spouse's needs and views without superimposing your own "agenda," and to respond appropriately. I have seen many presumably unsalvageable marriages transformed when partners began to feel that their needs were being recognised. This sense of "validation" replaces resentment with respect, understanding, love and hope. When pathology and blame are exchanged for a desire for health and growth, relationships mature and the bond between the spouses strengthens and deepens. Marriage should, and can, be fulfilling and holy.

While I recognize that the sobering divorce statistics cannot found a good marriage, my prayer is that the above information will reach those couples that have given up trying to improve their marital relationships. Adopting a new approach, even to problems that seem intractable, will enable them to embark upon the rewarding process of re-inventing their sacred bonds.


Dovid Kaufman is a Solution-Focused Narrative Brief Therapists. He works in Jerusalem, Canada and via skype video conferencing.
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Leo Ramat Gan February 25, 2017

forced divorce (comment) Please if you have an opportunity give us an update of your life now.

I am in a somewhat similar situation as you were, except that a rav told me not to divorce. I also suspect that another man may be involved, which makes my situation even harder. 20+ years of marriage and six children. My wife does not want to seek counselling or couple therapy or rabbi. She went otd, went through depression last year, but I still love her. And life is hell. Only the children and God keep me up. Reply

Anonymous NY August 17, 2016

Divorce Thank you for your in depth knowledge! ! Reply

Walter Gaffney June 13, 2016

interesting Reply

Anonymous Toronto October 6, 2015

Divorce can work My child & I have had a very different divorce experience. B ' H my child has thrived in many ways. B' H. . Not that it has been easy( far from it ), but honestley , my child has less stress , there is no screaming & yelling & best of all I have been able to be a stay @ home mom , &completley devote myself to my child. My child has never missed anything that all the other children have..he saw his father regularly , has lots of friends laughter , joy , & love in his life. B' H. As I said , not easy but much better than a life of tears depression disappointment fear & lonelness.I am grateful for my marraige , grateful for my child B' H& all the hapiness my marraige has given me ; when the marraige was good. Reply

Anonymous Hollywood May 24, 2013

A new climate of divorce It seems that there is a new climate that promotes the idea and option of Divorce and opposes the man who may want to save his marriage, by forcing him to give a get before exhausting all possible options. It is unfortunate that a number of pulpit rabbis have no background preparation in the area of marriage and the family to help save the family structure, instead encourage its demise. Thank you for this great article. Reply

Anonymous cleveland April 17, 2012

truth Money is the root of all evil,attorneys finish tearing apart your marriage for money, therapists are not your true friends their advice is for money, your real friends and family want you to fight for your money. And the judge and the court system want to get your divorce off their docket because of finances. The only hope is God. Reply

Scott Newport Beach, California April 14, 2011

Excellent Post Nice to read such facts! Some of the facts are relatively new for me and I think much of it. Reply

Anonymous Ardmore, PA via chabadmainline.org February 9, 2010

Divorce and life after i Having just experienced the process, I find the above article to be primarily true. My situation was not salvagable, but I do hope that my life after divorce will be less stressful emotionally, and that G-d will find a compatible and soulful mate for me. Reply

Anonymous April 21, 2009

Divorce There would be no such thing as a Get if HaShem didn't know that people have faults. Reply

sara jones elmore, al. April 21, 2009

hey that is so cool Reply

jesse m. Lawrence, KS/USA December 30, 2008

Who Can Really Know? It has been said that eternity has been set in the hearts of those whom Hashem has created. How then can any of us begin to fathom and comprehend the depths of the human heart? Only that which is eternal can delve into the depths of the vaste expressions of boundless life. Are we all so inclined to entertain our selfish proclivities to the damage of that which is called sacred? Is there a line drawn by which Hashem may truly be glorfieid in the desolving of the unique expression of Hashem in the context of holy matrimony? Who can answer these questions? Reply

Anonymous Pittsfield, ME ,USA October 2, 2008

forced divorce Seek marriage counseling for yourselves as individuals and as couple. Your wife may need bereavement couneling re loss of pregnancy. This is a blow to any woman. Request delay of divorce proceedings until some of these emotional issues have been met. Yor son should not be made to feel as if he has to choose between parents. If it comes to D,try to work out what you can between yourselves. The more anger and disunity between you as couple with which lawyers must wade,the more expensive and painful the process for all concerned.My best wishes to you in a very difficult time. May G-d be with you both and bless you with peace. Reply

Anonymous NWA, AR via jewishnwa.org September 3, 2008

Divorce Hey I'm not here to judge anybody. If you are being beaten up or verbally abused and can't get any resolution then by all means get out.

But don't rush into anything new either (rebound??). Reply

Marie Helena, MT/USA September 3, 2008

Try some personal space! The article is very correct in talking about concentrating on each other more than self-- HOWEVER- respect in marriage can only come from knowing boundaries, and when it is time to move on from a paralyzing relationship. Empowering one's self is all about healthy choices... Reply

Anonymous oklahoma cit, OK September 2, 2008

forced divorce what happens when you are going through a situation like what i am going through...
i am begging my wife to reconsider and to reconsile. i am getting this divorce shoved down my throught. my rabbi told me i should sign a get, as there is a possbility that another man is involved. basicly i think the miscarrage she had, just added to her sence of dis-satisfaction in her life. what do you do when you have no choice over the divorce? how do you rebuild a family? i know another man at our shoul that is going through the same thing as I. all i know is this hurt very much. the person who i trusted with my life now feels like a deep adversary. it is very surreal. i feel like i stepped in to an alternat universe sometimes. an i know that this will definaly effect my son. i only wish she could see that. Reply

Cheryl August 14, 2008

I agree... While there are circumstances that make divorce the best option, I personally feel that more often people don't NEED to divorce, they simply choose not to work past their problems. I'm the second wife of a divorced man and by marrying him I became the stepmother to five children. While I know my husband is very happily married now, with hindsight, both he and his first wife see now that no issue in their marriage was ever beyond resolution. The difficulties for both sets of parents, not to mention the five children have been far, far worse than if they had stayed married in the first place. If you choose to divorce, like the article states, you are choosing to bring this difficulties into your next set of relationships. The marriage ends, but when you have children, your relationship NEVER ends, and I think most people want "out" so badly they don't see this very simple truth. It's harder to get along after the divorce, from my experience. Reply

Joel Kleehammer Bloomington, IN August 14, 2008

I think we are missing the point. This article is not condemning divorcees because they are divorced, but rather is pointing out how if two partners would focus on each other more and themselves less, that marriages could be saved and improved. Abuse, like any other behavior, should be adresed poperly and handled immediately. If theissue is unresolvable (for example an abuser will not stop abusing), then action should be taken, including involving police and family services.
I have both studied counseling and been divorced. There is good sense here. If you would rather give up than work for a better relationship, then you are inviting the very consequences listed here into your lives and into the lives of your children. You have to accept that, whether you are the husband or the wife. Reply

Anonymous August 14, 2008

Abusive relationships Oftentimes one of the spouses is in denial The abusive behaviour is part of the person's psyche; and counselling is just another tool to be manipulated by a person with sociopathic tendencies. It is difficult for a therapist to see and even more dificult for rabbeim who see only one aspect of the person's personality.It takes courage to make such a break. Reply

Anonymous Rogers, AR/US via jewishnwa.org August 10, 2008

Abusive relationship It works both ways. Wife has emasculated me and put me down in front of kids. She filed twice and dismissed twice. I got fed up and filed. I want some closure from this relationship. Wife has no respect for others with different opinions. Should haveknown that if she couldn't get along with her folks it was not a good sign at all. Unfortunately f kids involved and am living out of state, so visitation is expensive and complicated. Reply

Anonymous August 10, 2008

Thats all well and good, but what about abusive situatuations? Must women who leave abusive men be looked down on and have guilt forced on them? Reply

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Dovid Kaufman is a Solution-Focused Narrative Brief Therapists. He works in Jerusalem, Canada and via skype video conferencing.
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