Why I Chose Not to Get a Divorce
These days, “Gray Divorce” has become a popular topic among Baby Boomers who ponder their third or fourth phase of life. In case you think this title is too personal, well you’re right. It could be called “clickbait” too since my wife was not party to this article, but she did review it before publication. Please don’t call her.
There are many changes in life, and divorce is one of the most damaging events to both a couple, their immediate and extended family and their friends. People must and do take sides. It’s a breakup that can and does cause other breakups.
The most rational reason for getting a divorce according to family and marriage writer Sharilee Swaity usually involves abuse, adultery or addiction. Ok, let’s knock those off my list, but stay with me a little longer.
So, after exploring other articles and textbooks on this subject, I’ve come to the conclusion that couples, especially Baby Boomers, need to stay together for the following reasons:
Children/Grandchildren get hurt.
Many studies have shown that immediate family members experience higher rates of drug abuse, lower grades and other mental health issues including suicide. Children and grandchildren feel torn between people they love who appear not to love each other anymore. Facing other’s pain is difficult too. I found this was almost always listed as the number one reason not to divorce. I concur.
Decades of studies have detailed the shortened life expectancy of divorced people. Mortality, and psychological and physical diagnoses are much more prevalent among the divorced than the married, single or even widowed. Loneliness and loss of friends could also be a factor here especially as one gets older.
Splitting up savings and equity in homes and businesses is a mess. Even equal is not always equal. Taxes and maintenance of real estate frequently make things that seem fair, uneven and more stressful. Future unequal earning also plays into this situation especially for individuals in their 50’s and 60’s. Just the cost of divorce can be expensive. My observations reflect about a $10,000 to $15,000 tab for each family law attorney when lots of assets are involved. Throw in a custody battle and it could go to six digits. Ouch.
Conflicting emotions linger.
Still loving a former marriage partner whom you pledged to love forever plays into the conflict of not being able to move on. Having to interact on taxes, sales of property, child care, family parties, and other situations where former marrieds have to plan ahead and consider each other’s new and expanding relationships can be a devastating dilemma. A limit on involvement in family affairs after a more frequent interaction in the past, can be a depressing experience. I’m no therapist, but I hear this frequently from my financial planning clients.
There are many other challenges on the divorced horizon. Working on a situation rather than abandoning it may be less costly from a financial and health perspective. I’m not sure about emotional support especially when you subtract abuse, adultery and addiction. There are other stressors such as compulsive behavior and inability to adapt, that make therapy essential. Love is a wonderful emotion and something that can be worked upon. It takes time, effort and the ride on the roller coaster of emotions, but it seems worth the effort for many.
The conclusion I’ve come to as a financial planner, is that in many, many cases it benefits not only the immediate couple, but family, friends and society as a whole to remain in a marriage. Goodwill, love, and teamwork can overcome boredom, apathy, selfishness and negative self-worth. Hang in there with the help of professionals like family therapists and clergy. You’ll be glad you did.