As a liberal, card-carrying Democrat, I am nonetheless appalled by the Pamela White’s article “Defending Divorce.” When nearly one out of every two marriages ends in divorce, divorce hardly needs defending. Beside that, the article is filled with erroneous assumptions and information, which I would like to debunk.
To consider it to be “meddling” that a proposed law requiring couples with children to take a class about the impact of divorce and to have a “cooling off” period prior to divorcing, demonstrates no appreciation for the havoc divorce leaves in its wake. Children have no veto power in a decision that will forever alter their lives. Minimally, parents should learn about the insidious ways divorce effects their children.
In regards to the proposed waiting period, the author writes, “Once two people have decided they can’t stand the sight of each other, there’s really no place to go.” As a therapist specializing in work with couples on the brink for nearly three decades, I know that divorce is almost always a unilateral decision, leaving the desperate spouse in the dust. “Left-behind” spouses will jump at the opportunity to slow things down.
Additionally, though there are many unhealthy marriages, the author assumes there are only two ways to handle this dilemma- get out or stay miserable. But there’s another way- improve relationships so people feel happier and more connected. There is marriage-friendly therapy and evidenced-based marriage education classes that truly change the dynamics of failing relationships.
Should this legislation pass, the author worries that women will get stuck in psychologically abusive relationships with alcoholic, controlling husbands. Research suggests that severe problems account for only 10 to 15% of all divorces. Other divorces are due to garden variety problems- poor communication, growing apart or an inability to manage conflict- all of which are solvable.
The author also refers to a valid statistic that more women than men file for divorce, but her hypothesis about why this happens- women’s unfair share of housework and childcare, infidelity, money problems-is off base. Most women leave because they feel emotionally neglected despite years of trying to get their husbands to be more responsive. Again, with help, these problems are resolvable.
Divorce should not be looked at as a jailbreak from prison. Research tells us that, contrary to popular belief, people in long-term healthy marriages live longer, are healthier, happier and do significantly better financially. Their children do better across countless dimensions.
So before jumping to the conclusion that putting a beat between the decision to divorce and moving out is Big Brother in action, consider the benefits of spouses working things out, keeping their families intact and tucking kids in at night…together.
Michele Weiner-Davis is a best selling author, internationally renowned marriage therapist, and award winning speaker who has dedicated the last 30+ years of her life to preventing unnecessary divorces. Get her latest advice on Facebook, Twitter, and join the Divorce Busting e-mail list.