Divorce is a great and continuing trouble

Posted August 5

Divorce is a great trouble, working its ills among us, often for lifetimes. According to one expert’s website, divorce brings loneliness. Divorce costs money, sometimes a lot of money. Divorce hurts: “We all know this in our minds, but it takes going through divorce to know in your gut just how painful divorce is. [Words are inadequate to] describe the deep, searing, pain that comes from tearing a relationship….”

Divorce reduces living standards. “Almost half of American families experience poverty following a divorce, and 75 percent of all women who apply for welfare benefits do so because of a disrupted marriage or domestic relationship.” One study found that each year over 1 million children who experience divorce in their families suffer an associated reduction in family income that ranged from 28 percent to 42 percent.”

Divorce changes personal relationships. Post-divorce, it can be an agonizing process to navigate in-law and extended family relationships — on both sides. Once a couple has children together, they are for all intents and purposes permanently “wedded” as they try to share the lives of their children and their families. Divorce puts extended family, neighbors, friends and fellow church congregants in awkward situations.

In Utah’s religious culture, it hardly needs mention that divorce may strain your relationship with your church or synagogue..

Good faith, cooperation and intelligent thinking about the children as well as how the divorcing couple will interact post-divorce can minimize negative consequences. And sometimes divorce is the best alternative.

Divorce hurts children. Beginning in 1971, Judith S. Wallerstein, Ph.D., and later Julia M. Lewis, Ph.D., conducted groundbreaking research over a period of 25 years on 131 children of divorce. All of the following are among their findings.

“Growing up was harder for most of the children during the post-divorce years. The lives of parents and children changed radically almost overnight, as parents struggled to reestablish economic, social, and parental functioning, while trying to rebuild the tattered social network of their lives. Children of every age struggled with bewildering, demanding adjustments in their contact with both parents.”

Divorce brought consequences for these children as they became adults. “Out of their experience of the parental breakup, children of all ages reached a conclusion that terrified them: Personal relationships are unreliable, and even the closest family relationships cannot be expected to hold firm. As we discovered later, this was an enduring theme that rose to new prominence as the youngsters reached adulthood.

“As compared with their peers in intact families, children and teenagers reported less play; far less participation in extracurricular activities, such as sports or music; and less involvement in enrichment programs, such as after school classes or summer programs. This was due to a combination of less money to pay for such activities, less availability of parents to routinely transport the child and attend lessons and events, more frequent neighborhood and school dislocations, constant interruptions in team sports and other activities because of visiting and custody schedules, and less interaction between the divorced parent and other neighborhood parents.

“As adolescents, most of our children of divorce experienced less protection than their peers in intact families. They took greater responsibilities for themselves. They had fewer rules, and those were often poorly enforced. In many homes there was no curfew. Overall, there was more acting out [and more drug abuse and earlier and more destructive sexual behavior] among the adolescents in the divorced homes than those in the intact homes.

“Only 30 percent of the children of divorce received full or consistent partial support from their parents throughout college and graduate school, as compared with 90 percent of the comparison group.”

Father-child relationships are at particular risk after divorce.

“The central finding of this study is that parental divorce impacts detrimentally the capacity to love and be loved within a lasting, committed relationship. At young adulthood, when love, sexual intimacy, commitment and marriage take center stage, children of divorce are haunted by the ghosts of their parents’ divorce and are frightened that the same fate awaits them. These fears, which reach a crescendo at young adulthood, impede their developmental progress into full adulthood. Many eventually overcome their fears, but the struggle to do so is painful and can consume a decade or more of their lives.”


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