Online Book Club Chapter Eight: Divorce

November 11, 2009 | NeW Staff

Divorce is a common occurance in our culture. Marriage once viewed as a life long commitment is seen as an agreement to stay together only if both parties are happy or in love:

“Most of popular culture acknowledges the desirability of getting married, but says little about the importance of staying married. It’s now commonly accepted that a marriage should be maintained only for so long as the couple finds that it brings them happiness. Divorce is seen as the appropriate ending to marriages that aren’t bringing personal fulfillment.”

In the 1970s and 1980s divorce laws changed creating “no fault” divorces. These laws allow couples to divorce for reasons other than breaking the marriage contract. After the 1960s, divorce rates doubled:

“During the 1970s and 1980s, all fifty states adopted ‘no fault’ divorce laws that gave couples the ability to file for divorce without claiming that the other spouse had in some way ‘broken’ the marriage contract by committing adultery, a felony, or being abusive.”

Recently, some states have adopted alternatives to “no fault” divorce by offering covenant marriages. These marriage contracts limit the grounds for divorce:

“Some states are attempting to address this problem by offering alternative marriage contracts. In 1997, Louisiana passed the covenant marriage law which gave couples the option of entering into a marriage contract that has more restrictions on how the contract can be dissolved. Several other states have followed suit.”

Happiness is supposedly why many couples choose to end their marriage. According to a group of researchers who assessed data from the National Survey of Families and Households, divorced adults were no happier after their divorce than they were before:

“‘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.'”

Divorce is not an isolated, cut-and-dry decision made by two people to end a relationship. Instead, divorce seeps into every aspect of that family’s life. More often than not, children are the recipients of the emotional baggage and skewed view of the marital relationship. According to Judith Wallerstein, children of divorced parents are more likely to suffer from pathologies:

“‘One in four of the children in this study started using drugs and alcohol before their fourteenth birthdays. By the time they were seventeen years old, over half of the teenagers were drinking or taking drugs. This number compares with almost 40 percent of all teenagers nationwide.'”

In conclusion, healthy marriages are key to building healthy families and healthy communities. Of course, every marriage will have its trials. How we deal with those trials will determine whether our marriage grows stronger or grows weaker. Divorce is necessary sometimes; however, it should be seen as a last resort.

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