“This marriage was a mistake.” That’s the conclusion of many disappointed husbands and wives who at one time dreamed of living happily ever after with their spouse.
Men and women in this state of mind often see divorce as the best remedy for their unhappiness. Then, sooner or later, over half of the men and women who divorce remarry, according to a Pew Research Report.
But for most men and women looking for happiness in marriage, bailing out on the partnership you have in search of a better one may not be the best solution.
Research by the American Values Institute indicates that two out of three married adults who are unhappy in their marriage today will be happy in the same marriage five years from now. Compare that to only one in five spouses who find happiness after divorcing and remarrying. The odds are in your favor if you stick it out and work on fixing your marriage.
The failure rate for second marriages is 67 percent and for third marriages, it’s 73 percent.
I had worries about my own marriage. They started on my honeymoon. After three days of what I thought was marital bliss, my then-21-year-old wife said she was homesick. She missed her parents and wanted to end our honeymoon early.
I began to think my marriage was a mistake.
We struggled for the next three years to make our marriage work. Then our marriage reached its lowest point. Focused on our individual needs and wants, we couldn’t find a middle ground. It frustrated me to the point of frequent angry outbursts. My wife was distraught. She told me that if we didn’t get help, she wasn’t willing to stick around to see how much worse our relationship could get.
Reluctantly, I agreed to go with my wife to see a marriage counselor. For the next six months, we met with a clinical psychologist who helped us learn how to build a happier marriage. We started meeting with him twice a month, then transitioned to monthly meetings as we became more confident in our newly acquired relationship skills.
Five years later our marriage was happier. Twenty-eight years after our wedding day — we’re happiest when we’re together.
If you haven’t yet pulled the plug on your marriage but you’re considering divorce, consider these strong reasons for sticking it out. Even if you’re reluctant to get professional help, but you hold onto some hope that your relationship could be better, one of these reasons may motivate you to put forth the effort.
For many couples, working to turn a failing marriage into a thriving marriage is the option that offers the best odds for enjoying a satisfying relationship.
1.) Divorce only “solves” half of the problem. Marital problems are rarely one-sided. Usually, each spouse contributes to the other’s dissatisfaction. As comedian Rodney Dangerfield said, “My wife and I were happy for 20 years. Then we met.” When spouses leave a marriage, they take their issues they brought to that marriage to the next one.
2.) Divorce is expensive. The direct cost of divorce may be as little as a few hundred dollars if handled without an attorney. Get attorneys involved — and costs can rapidly rise into the thousands of dollars. The indirect costs are harder to calculate and add up quickly when the divorced couple has to establish separate households.
3.) Divorce shortens lives. Living in an unhappy marriage creates its own list of health risks. But according to marriage researcher John Gottman, people who end their marriages will die four years earlier than happily married people. The odds of having a happy marriage decrease with each subsequent marriage.
4.) Divorce hurts kids. While a child isn’t likely to thrive in a home with parents who are unhappy in their marriage, there is also a high potential for damage to kids when their parents divorce. Research on the effects of divorce on children reveals they have an increased risk of poor academic achievement, and for suffering as adults from depression and alcohol dependence.
Jon Beaty, counselor and father of two, lives near Portland, Oregon. He’s the author of the book “If You’re Not Growing, You’re Dying: 7 Habits for Thriving in Your Faith, Relationships and Work.”