Divorce Essay, Research Paper
When Marriage Comes Apart
Divorce has become popular throughout the many years it has existed, and divorce rates keep increasing. There are many different factors that go into divorce that make it a tricky and time-consuming process, but divorce with those who have children is the most difficult.
The process of divorce is complex and confusing. Many people have misconceptions about what to expect when dealing with divorce (Berry 1). Legal, religious, psychological, and social forces are what create the shape of divorce experiences. Divorce is evolving more rapidly then ever. Theories and procedures are constantly changing. Over the past hundred years there have been many dramatic changes in theories and procedures (1). The first divorce ever recorded took place in Massachusetts, in 1639 (1). The woman was awarded with the divorce decree after the court learned that the husband already had a wife. The husband was then fined, imprisoned, and finally banished to England during this Puritan time period (1). At this time, adultery was the only way to divorce (1). A man could divorce his wife for committing adultery; however, if a woman divorced for committing adultery she could be banished (2).
Divorce has now become universal, changing rapidly through time (Berry 1). The reasoning for this is probably because of the familiarity of divorce throughout the world. People are being divorced up to six times before they actually settle down (2). Divorce is not looked down upon. It is another decision of choice made by those who feel they made a mistake. For those couples without children, divorce usually ends up with a minimum of psychological distress (Herman 10). Many times couples may feel embarrassment and shame because they feel
that they have failed (10). Any situations with stress-related factors can lead to depression (10-11). After divorce many times the male or female feels that he or she are not ready to engage in a relationship for a while (11). Most people without children are eventually able to be much happier then those divorced couples with children (11).
More then a million people a year get a divorce (Tucker-Ladd 35). Young couples are more commonly known to get a divorce, those who have been married for two to three years (35). Forty percent of men and fifty percent of women are getting divorced before the age of thirty (35). About fifteen to twenty percent of people ages 35 to 55 are now currently divorced (35). About twenty percent of marriages last less than five years, thirty-three percent last less than ten years, and forty percent last less than fifteen years (35). Recent statistics say that sixty-five to seventy percent of new marriages will fail (35). “There is one thing in this world which you must never forget to do. Human beings come into this world to do particular work. That work is their purpose, and each is specific to the person. If you forget everything else and not this, there’s nothing to worry about. If you remember everything else and forget your true work, then you will have done nothing in your life” (qtd. in Tucker-Ladd 35).
Divorce is a mourning process, different for the male and female. The women can feel disappointed with spouse, embarrassed, instability, or even economically distress, loneliness, and guilt (Herman 11). Many times the women will blame the ex-husband as an irresponsible parent (11). Eighty-nine percent of the time, the women receives custody of the child and many times are dissatisfied with the spouse’s lack of involvement in their child’s life (11). The biggest fear for women is the financial struggle after divorce, which is very common among single women. It is also likely to see that the divorced father’s income rises significantly about the divorce (11). Many people think that in the situation of the divorce the women react more emotionally then the men do during and after the divorce (11). Men are found envious of these in fulfilling
relationships after they are divorced (11). They also can feel lonely. The idea of visitation can make divorced fathers feel lonely and sometimes it is often hard to adjust (11). Children help make a divorce worse, depending on the way they act (11). The parent who spends more time with the children are usually most likely to be less depressed then those parents who do not have the chance to see the children as much (11). All divorces are not always unfair and depressing. Some families are able to arrange successful joint custody arrangements with their ex-wives and those who have frequent visits with their children seem to do best (11).
Divorce for those parents with children is twice as hard because they grieve not only for themselves, but for their children as well (Herman 11). The normal stresses of raising children and helping them cope with the divorce is compounded with anger, hopelessness and financial worries of those parents who are going through divorce (Tucker-Ladd). Parents feel that their children are let down when their parents divorce (Herman 11). For those couples with children, divorce is usually a more difficult adjustment for children to experience divorce (10). Many times children may become convinced horrible things will happen to them in the future (11-12). All children have to reestablish a healthy equilibrium (12). Researcher Judith Wallerstein states the task children of divorced parent’s face. They are: realizing that the separation is true and dealing with it, disengaging from parental conflicts to renew their own interests, resolving their sense of loss, resolving anger and self-blame, accepting the permanence of divorce, achieving realistic hope for their own future relationships (12).
From a personal perspective, it appears that children that are anywhere between the ages
of newborn to four, really do not understand the concepts of divorce. After interviewing a seven-year-old, Ali Munzipapa, it was found that my perspective was quiet true. Ali’s parents were divorced when she was only three years of age. Now as an extremely wise seven-year-old, she tells us how she feels about the divorce today and how she is dealing with the obstacles she is
ready to overcome. When Ali was asked how she felt about her parent’s divorce, she was quick to answer that she did not like it. When asked what she thought divorce was, she simply said, “When my Mommy and Daddy split up” (Munzipapa). Ali was also asked if she knew why her parents “split up” and she said, “they argued a lot” (Munzipapa). This bit of information was enough to confirm that there were serious complications in her parent’s marriage. Even though Ali was not able to understand she remembers her parents fighting at times (Munzipapa). Ali wishes her parents were still together today, but she knows that they were arguing too much. She has a stepfather who she says she likes very much. Her dad is going to be married, and she likes her soon to be stepmother, as well as her two children who are close in age with Ali. Ali was asked how she felt about the idea of having two, new stepsisters and she said, “It’s kind of weird because I never had step-sisters before” (Munzipapa). Ali’s situation in her parent’s divorce is very confusing for such a young child to understand fully. In many situations, children in blended households tend to hold friction between each other (Ahorns 236). Similar to what Ali is dealing with in her situation, it is normal for children to experience friction between the children that live at the house and those who visit (236). Ali says that during the week she lives with her mother and stepfather, while her soon-to-be stepsisters are alone with her father and her soon-to-be stepmother (Munzipapa). She says she feels uncomfortable with this situation and jealous (Munzipapa). Many times jealousy is a major problem in these kinds of situations (Ahorns 236).
Forming a stable relationship between a child and an out-of-home parent is difficult throughout the early stages of divorce and the remarriage transition (236). As the child adapts to the new reality, he or she can begin to look forward to those times together with their parents as very special (236).
Ali’s interview was followed by an interview from her stepfather, which gave quiet an
interesting amount of information. Lou Morra, stepfather of Ali, was asked how he feels he could help to support his stepchildren throughout the divorce. Lou felt that it was important not to interfere with Ali’s relationship with her family, but he said he is always there to support her when she needs to discuss a situation, be it family life or personal (Morra, Lou). When asked why he felt he was interfering he answered, “Sometimes I want to get involved, I never had children before and I treat my three step children like they are my own. I want responsibility, but I know that I can’t overlap into their father’s space” (Morra, Lou). Lou was asked from a step parents point of view, do you think it is harder to be a stepparent? Lou felt that it was harder to be a stepparent, as opposed to being a regular parent because one has to watch his or her boundaries (Morra, Lou). Being a step parent mean s being a new person in the child’s life and one can not just walk into their lives and reprimand them because they will never listen to you (Morra, Lou). You need to work your way to a comfortable level at which you and the children feel comfortable (Morra, Lou). Lou’s wife, Ali’s mother, Lois Morra, says that she could not be happier with the way things turned out with Lou as a stepfather (Morra, Lois) could. She says, “I knew it would be a difficult situation for my children and I am proud of them and Lou for the way they handled things. They really made me feel more comfortable with my decision to divorce” (Morra, Lois). Lou was asked how he helped Lois when the divorce first took place. “I had to let her go with her emotions like when she was angry, upset, or scared. I was always there for support” (Morra, Lou).
Many divorced couples ask a common question, “When do we tell the children about the divorce?” (Friedman 26). There is really no particular time when a parent should tell their child; however it is only far that the child is told because if the child is not told of the situation, that is when consequences occur in the child’s behavior. In the case of a separation, the children are better off if they are told at that time or about the time it occurs (26). Since children are
frequently blaming himself or herself, the parent most makes it clear that the divorce has nothing to do with them (26). When the couple is ready to approach their children with their situation, it should be done together, so the children feel a little more secure about the difficult situation (26).
The battle of child custody can be a difficult process. There are many times the parents can make an agreement to have a joint custody, which is a situation where the child has legal custody to both parents, with specific provision made for their place of residence (28). Legal
custody is the right to make vital decisions regarding a child’s education, religious training, health care, and the like (28). More than 24 states now have allowed some form of joint custody (28). Legal custody is the right to make vital decisions regarding a child’s education, religious training, health care, and the like (28). More than 24 states now have allowed some form of joint parenting, but it used to be rarely used (28-29). Some states only allow joint custody as an agreement (29). Split custody is an arrangement where the children live each with a different parent, or all together with each parent for a portion of the year (29). For those parents who leave far apart, where you need to fly in airplane to commute, it makes it difficult to have joint custody, so split custody helps work out a equal plan where each parent will have the opportunity to see their children.
Many times, usually with older children who at least ten or older, would rather live with one parent more than the other, but they feel guilty saying which parent they would like to live with. Many times children say nothing and let their parents decide for them. Children feel that their decision could cause more complications then necessary and that is the last thing children what to feel during their parent’s divorce, guilt. It is best if the parents do not ask the child directly with whom they would like to live (30). There are ways to indirectly ask the child to find his or her preference (30). The parent can speak of the living arrangements in which the will be living and talk about a room that is set aside for their child, and the response of the child
will usually give the parent a good idea of what he or she is thinking (30). The parents have to be careful of manipulating the child’s opinion (30). The parents most remember not to say things like, “Who will take care of me if you don’t live with me?” (30). Or, “I guess you will never see me again after the divorce” (30). These kinds of comments will effect the child emotionally and manipulate the child into expressing preference out of pity (30).
When dealing with the custody battle and the law many people believe: courts favor mothers over fathers, children over a certain age can choose where they live, and equal time between parents solves custody problems (Berry 133). Not one of these three statements is accurate. Parents make the decision about who gets custody and how they will work it out. In some states the courts are required to listen to the wishes of the child if he or she are over a certain age, usually twelve to fourteen (134). Many times the courts listen to the child wishes because it is enough that these children are put through such a hassle (134). Courts feel better when they do as the child wishes because children who are involved in divorced families many times are influenced by inappropriate promises, such as a new car or no curfew (134). Some children see past these things and decide he or she should live with the parent that needs them the
most, sometimes children wonder, how will my father eat dinner every night? (134). So they decide on that bases.
The number of unmarried, divorced, mothers giving birth has dramatically increased over the past two decades (New Jersey Index 6). The total number of births to unmarried mothers has increased by 580 percent since 1960 (6). David Blankerhorn feels that raising a child without a father is troubling for divorced women (6). “Never before in this country have so many children been voluntarily abandoned by their father and never before have so many children grown up without knowing what it means to have a father” (6). Blankerhorn’s view is very different compared to icon feminist, Gloria Steinem, who feels that marriage is unnecessary (Stanton 19).
Gloria feels that, “women need men like fish need a bicycle” (19). Sociologist, Jessie Bernard adds that for many, not being married can be dangerous and hazardous to a woman’s health (19). Leonard Perlin of the National Institute of Mental Health, and Joyce Johnson of the U.S.
Department of Labor express that: “Marriage does not prevent economic and social problems from invading life, but it apparently can help people off the psychological assaults that such problems create” (19). Divorced is looked at in many different ways and developing statistics is extremely hard to make accurate, however, marriage has scored higher percentages on many researches involving the topic of divorce. In 1985, the University of Massachusetts researched that married people enjoy better health then those of other status (20). Many will disagree and say that marriage offers no benefits and married couples who are happy were happy to begin with (20). Many feel marriage provokes “discrimination” leaving mates lonely, sad, and less healthy (20). These are views in which there really is no evidence to support, however there is evidence favoring the view that marriage supports a positive benefit in the lives of men, women, and children (20). Those who are not married are more likely to experience things suck as alcoholism, suicide, well being, mental health, sex, incomplete education, illegitimacy and divorce, crime, illness, and poverty (21). Like most adults, children benefit from their parent’s marriage (21).
Divorce and its consequences can be different for children of different age groups. Many times children under the age of two cannot express how they are feeling with words so they do things such as, not eating as well or excessively crying (Harting 21). Children ages three to five build a fear of abandonment. They also may see routine separations of their parents as traumatic situation (21). Many children begin to become troublesome when being potty trained or return to outgrown toys from when they were younger (21). Children ages six to eight have a persistent sadness (21). Unlike children ages three to five, children between the ages of six to eight cannot
use fantasy to deny reality and they do not have the maturity to cope by distancing themselves from the situation like older children (21). Children between the ages of nine and twelve many times express anger because it allows them to relieve their helplessness (21). These children many times have a major identity crisis (21). Teenagers show wrath towards their parent because they feel they have been selfish and inconsiderate in choosing divorce (21). Teenagers tend to act out sexually, particularly when parents are having an affair or dating begins after their parents divorce (21). Divorce leads children of any age to become confused about what they were taught morally because after divorce children feel these things were thrown by the wayside (21).
It is normal to wonder why some unhappy couples stay married. Many times the answer is the children. Between divorce, separation, and parents fighting, children have a lot to handle because at times the consequences could be painful. The shattering displacement of divorce is as hard to survive for parents and for children it is the same. Thirteen year old, Gillian, is a
pre-teen looking back on her childhood and experiences with her parent’s divorce. Gillian was only four when her parents divorced (Krementz 105). Gillian, at age thirteen, now says that she can’t remember anything that happened to her during that year when her parents were divorced (105). She can recall times before and after, but when she thinks about that year, she goes blank (105). Gillian still wishes her parents would get back together (105). She says every time she made a wish on her birthday she made the same wish and it was that her parents would get back together (105). Gillian had an older sister who sometimes lead her to believe she was the cause of her parents divorce because every time they would fight, her sister would say that she was the reason their parents got divorced (106). Gillian keep a lot of emotions inside and just hung on to the notion that they would get back together again because when your young your wishes come true, right? (106). Her father was remarried when she was eleven, and a few years later, her
mother gave birth to a new baby girl (107). Gillian dealt with difficult divorce full of fear and confusion. Maybe she’ll change her mind, but Gillian says that she will never get married when she grows up (108). Gillian never spoke of her feeling to anyone, they only way she liked to
express herself was through her poem (109). “I used to dream they’d marry again / They didn’t /I used to dream everything was all right / It wasn’t / I used to dream I was happy / I wasn’t” (109).
Children become confused when they begin to think about why their parents are divorced, that is why many times children tend to blame themselves for their parent’s divorce. Divorce is clearly a situation between the father and mother of the child, and never is the child at fault (Tucker-Ladd 20). There are many reasons why women choose to divorce their spouse. The most common reason is the incompatibility and unhappiness (20). Then there also reasons such as: husband’s alcohol, physical and verbal abuse, husbands infidelity, disagreements about religion and children, their own alcohol abuse, their own fidelity, and their needs for independence (20-21). There are also many reasons why men decide to divorce their wives. Some reasons are: Drug abuse (wife’s or his) and mental illness, many differences (religion, communications, in-laws), his alcohol and physical abuse, wife’s independence and infidelity, incompatibility and unhappiness, wife’s alcohol abuse, and his infidelity (20-21). Many times people say they were unaware that their spouse filed for a divorce and many times it’s women who file the divorce (21). Generally, “emotional problems” are the most common reason for couples divorcing (21). Men say, three times more often then women, that “sexual problems” are a major reason for divorce (21). Women say, twice as often as men, “affairs” are the reasoning behind many divorces (22). Anthropologist, Helen Fischer, found that divorce most commonly occurs in many couples fourth year of marriage or between the ages of 25 and 29, worldwide (22-23). Helen claims that it could be our genetic inheritance that allows us change partners
every four years or with each new child (23).
In some cases, divorce is best for a particular family, especially when any form of abuse is involved. It is estimated that as many as 25 percent of all women who file for divorce are victims of domestic violence (Berry 73). Ending an abusive marriage requires special handling for both the parents and the children (73). An abusive marriage would be referring to a marriage in which one person routinely abuses the other physically, emotionally, sexually or in a combination of ways (73). It is more common for violent marriages to be one-sided, based on one partner’s attempt to establish complete control over the other (73). Fighting, verbally, many times leads to physical brawls, but not always (73). In fact, it is not very common of frequently verbally fighting couples to become physical (73). If a verbal argument turns into a physical fight, many times they end quickly or improve rather than continuing on a violent path (73-74). The longer the marriage has lasted, the worse the problem will be (74). People who have suffered abuse over a period of years may have a severely distorted perspective of choices in reality (74). Children living in this kind of household will suffer immensely, even more so than the parent being abused. Children will see the abusing parent as a dangerous person and may begin to fear those parents. Children who live in a household where one parent is being abused by another develop a stronger fear of relationship for the future and may times these children who grow up in these situations never date or marry (74).
Abuse is usually more common for men to assault their wives (Brenner 36). When there is evidence of abuse or strong threat of it, a wife’s lawyer can ask for an order of protection (36). In situations such as this, many times the husband will not be aloud to visit their child until their probation is up (36). This keeps everyone, wife and children, safe from harm. Many times when a women divorces an abusive husband there is always a worry that the wife has about her safety and her children’s safety (37). In Most cases, the husband has controlled the family money
throughout the marriage and he finds himself being divorced by his wife, his reaction may be to use that control as a weapon (37-38). Leaving the wife, innocent and deprived, as she struggles to support her children and herself (38). Wives have been abused, as well as many children who have suffered the growing number of cases involving charges or parental sexual abuse and physical abuse, many children have suffered (153). This kind of situation is difficult, even with the best psychiatric assistance (153). The parent is damaging the child in an unspeakable way, either by committing sexual abuse or by manipulating the child to falsely accuse the other parent (153). Situations such as these are out of control and these kinds of situations are what will effect children in the worst way, leading them down a bumpy road in the future. A child who grows up being abused or watching a parent abuse another can experience serious damage mentally. “When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part” (qtd. Tucker-Ladd 35).
“It’s not over even when it’s over,” is an accurate way to describe a divorce (Berry 227). When parents divorce, ties will remain between them for the rest of their lives or at least until the children are grown and on their own (227). Even in divorce without children, in which all financial, legal, and other tangible matters are resolved, emotional as well as practical baggage may remain (227). It is best for both spouses to close all joint accounts and any other joint property (227). Most experts advise that it is best to wait until you are in a comfortable financial and emotional situation and settled into a new life, before making major life changes such as investments, moves, or purchases (228). There are many different ways to deal with what comes around the corner after divorce. Things such as dating, remarriage, building new families, and helping children cope mentally with the situation will all be issues in which families may be
dealing with, but by maintaining a healthy diet and taking care of each other, mothers, fathers, and children can survive this struggle (228).
Most people who have been through one or more divorces learn and may bring new knowledge of themselves as individuals and the nature of their relationships to new involvement’s and levels (Berry 262). Mel Krantzler states, “We have learned from our past, not repeated it” (262). This last note is a reassuring message allowing children to know that it will not necessarily happen to them because it happened to their parents. There is hope for the future, as long as you look at it in a positive perspective.