Will Divorce Make You Happier? The Emotional and Financial Implications of Divorce


It happens to the best of couples. 

You start out deeply in love, and then, with the stresses of life, child rearing and career growth, you don’t spend enough time together.

You grow apart.

You start to get upset with one another and find flaws.  (Ironically, often the traits that most endeared your spouse to you in the beginning are now the very traits you find most irritating).

It is at this point that many couples consider getting divorced.

According to Dr. Heller, a licensed psychologist in Massachusetts, “about 10% of all marriages end in divorce during the first five years and another 10% by the tenth year.”

Divorce can seem like the easy way out.

Rather than working through your problems, you can simply admit defeat and pursue your life without your spouse.  To some, this potential freedom is very enticing.  As you near midlife, you may dream of a life that is your own without a spouse who is a source of constant friction and annoyance.  You may dream of someone better out there.

When you are entrenched in anger and annoyance, it is easy to lose sight of practicalities.

The Emotional Consideration of Divorce

First, you must ask yourself, will divorce make you happier?  Before you answer, consider this:

The study, Does Divorce Make People Happy?, discovered that there was “no evidence that unhappily married adults who divorced were typically any happier than unhappily married people who stayed married.”

Furthermore, divorce often leads to more unhappiness.  “The authors of the study suggest that while eliminating some stresses and sources of potential harm, divorce may create others as well.  The decision to divorce sets in motion a large number of processes and events over which an individual has little control that are likely to deeply affect his or her emotional well being.  These include the response of one’s spouse to divorce; the reactions of children; potential disappointments and aggravations in custody, child support, and visitation orders; new financial or health stresses for one or both parents; and new relationships or marriages.”

The Financial Considerations of Divorce

divorce and happiness

Divorce is not always the road to happiness for an unhappy couple.

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Another important consideration is your finances.

Will you be financially able to support yourself, and your children, if you have them, if you divorce?   There is the expense of the divorce itself (estimated to be $8,187 to $132,600 by Divorce Magazine.com) and the parting of marital assets.

If you have spent your entire marriage building your retirement savings, how far back financially will you be when you have to split the retirement savings with your soon-to-be ex-spouse?

In our society, divorce is common place, but what we often don’t hear is of the financial repercussions. 

Caroline Dabu, Vice President, Head of Retirement and Financial Planning Strategy, BMO Financial Group states, “Divorce increases the risk of poverty for a large proportion of women and, in fact, our own studies and external studies show that women can actually experience a decrease of income by over 40% after a divorce” (Financial Post).

Money is certainly not the only reason to stay in a marriage, but if you will likely experience financial hardship and not necessarily be any happier, working on the marriage through counseling or other methods seems like a worthwhile option.

In fact, the Does Divorce Make People Happy study found that “unhappily married adults who divorced were no more likely to report emotional and psychological improvements than those who stayed married.  In addition, the most unhappy marriages reported the most dramatic turnarounds: among those who rated their marriages as very unhappy, almost eight out of 10 who avoided divorce were happily married five years later” (American Values).  This research seems to argue that marriages experience ebbs and flows and if you can persevere during the rough patches, you can emerge happier and more content with your marriage.

Finally

Only you can decide if staying in your marriage is the right decision.

However, before deciding to pursue a divorce, carefully consider the emotional and financial ramifications.  One of the best ways to retain your wealth is to not get a divorce; just ask the very wealthy like Bill and Melinda Gates.  If you can stay together and find a solution for your unhappiness, you and your partner may emerge much further ahead than if you had given up on your marriage.

 Have you gone through a divorce? What are your thoughts?

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Published or updated March 6, 2014.

Comments

  1. I haven’t and hope I never have to go through a divorce. The financial and emotional ramifications would be devastating for sure.

  2. I’ve seen divorce make people happier. That said, I definitely do not want to get a divorce, ever. That’s why I’m nearly 31 and have never even been engaged. I want to get married once, for the rest of my life.

  3. It varies from person to person if divorce makes them happier or not. It cannot be compared to financial stress.

  4. DebtKiller says:

    I’m going through a divorce right now and I’m writing about it. The circumstances leading to my divorce weren’t necessarily “growing apart,” but we are divorcing nonetheless (for good reason). With that being said, over the last 9-10 months, I’ve experienced a number of emotions. Initially, I was very upset and depressed, but as time marched on, I’ve come to realize that everything happens for a reason and this was the masterplan for me. Why? Not sure yet. But I’ll find out soon. And over the last couple of months, I’ve realized that I am happier now than I was while I was married. It’s a new found freedom. I can put myself first. I can worry about me, for once. I can do the things I want to do. I don’t have to compromise for anyone. It sounds selfish, but until you go through it, it’s hard to understand.

  5. I’ve been married for 25 years now. The key to a lasting relationship is to give and forgive. Life is too short to start all over again.

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