Why Do We Divorce?

What a simple question. What a complex question! There are thousands of answers to this often asked question. One of my best friends, a psychologist for over twenty years, once asked me “Randy, why do people divorce”? I laughed and asked him if he was serious. He said he was serious and wanted me to give him my honest thoughts. I contemplated and then my response was “5 percent of the time, someone is a true jerk, physically or otherwise abusive or just a truly bad person, and the other 95 percent of the time the answer is some version of ‘the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.'” Since that time I may need to revise my numbers as more than 5 percent of the time someone may truly be bad, but generally, in my opinion, most divorces are the result of one side or both thinking that “the grass is greener…”

Certainly we don’t divorce to get rich. How can someone have more money after a divorce than before? After a divorce, even if one side leaves with 100 percent of the assets, they are not richer? Maybe they get all the assets and none of the debt? Unlikely. Most often, the assets are divided in some form so that each side is left with something less than 100 percent of the assets, meaning their net worth is less after a divorce than before. So why do people do it? The answer may well be that there is something they perceive as being worth it. Something more valuable than money. Call it closure, finality, freedom, peace, tranquility, independence or any other various words to describe what they hope will make them happier.

So perhaps that is the answer. We divorce to be happy? Or we divorce, seeking happiness. Or we divorce to escape unhappiness. To me (a divorce lawyer for almost 30 years), those answers all ring truer than when I hear people say things like “She’s divorcing for the money.” People define happiness differently, but in the context of divorce, happiness may be as simply defined as “moving forward.” In fact, it may not even be happiness they are seeking or which they achieve, it may simply be the opportunity, or a better opportunity to seek or achieve happiness. Many people believe (and some rightfully so) that once they get away from their spouse, they will be free to pursue their definition of happiness. Almost inevitably their financial situation will be worse, yet for the chance to seek that elusive happiness, many people will determine it is worth the financial sacrifice, to seek what they believe will bring them happiness. It may be the ability to pursue hobbies their spouse didn’t like (travel, dining out, sports) or it may simply be the ability to be alone, free and to eliminate daily confrontation. Whatever it is, a lot of people are seek it, and hopefully many find it.

It is my sincere hope that divorce is only used after all other efforts have failed (therapy, counseling, trial separations, self-help books). The best way to reduce the chances of regret about divorcing is to try everything you possibly can to make your marriage work. Work very hard on your marriage. You married because you were in love and thought he/she was the one for you. And if you work as hard as you can and cannot make it work, then hopefully you won’t regret it once you do ultimately divorce. Divorce may not be the answer, and hopefully it is only used as a last resort, but for those who do use it in an attempt to find happiness, or to escape unhappiness, I hope you find what you are seeking, a happier future.

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