Sunday, November 13, 2005

Myth of the Good Divorce

Today's Deseret News deconstructs the concept of the "good divorce." In an article by Elizabeth Marquardt of the Washington Post, we learn:

We found that children of so-called "good" divorces often do worse even than children of unhappy low-conflict marriages — they say more often, for example, that family life was stressful and that they had to grow up too soon; and they are more likely to divorce themselves — and that they do much worse than children raised in happy marriages. In a finding that shatters the myth of the "good" divorce, they told us that divorce sowed lasting inner conflict in their lives even when their parents did not fight. No matter how "good" their parents were at it, the children of divorce were travelers between two very different worlds, negotiating often vastly different rules and roles.
Although only one-fifth told us that their parents had "a lot" of conflict after splitting up, the children of divorce said, over and over, that the breakup itself made their parents' worlds seem locked in lasting conflict. Two-thirds said their parents seemed like polar opposites in the years following the divorce, compared to just one-third of young adults with married parents. Close to half said that after the divorce they felt like a different person with each of their parents — something only a quarter of children from intact families said. Half said their divorced parents' versions of truth were different, compared to just a fifth of those with married parents. More than twice as many children of divorce as children of intact families say that after the divorce they were asked to keep important secrets — and many more felt the need to do so, even when their parents did not ask them to.


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  • "We found that children of so-called 'good' divorces often do worse even than children of unhappy low-conflict marriages..."

    The operative phrase is "low-conflict". Sure it's better to fix a marriage than to tear it apart. But in many, perhaps most, seriously abusive marriages, one or both partners is not willing to change.

    As a child of abusive and mentally ill parents, I wish they had divorced early on. Perhaps I would have realized that their behavior was incorrect instead of unconsciously emulating it for most of my adult life. But by staying together, and not calling the other's behavior abusive, they tacitaly said that the other's abusive behavior was acceptable.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/14/2005 8:39 PM  

  • Anonymous, thanks for your valuable insight. I'm sorry that you had to suffer. I thank you for sharing your experience and I hope others can be wiser (and more humane) than your parents were.

    By Blogger Bradley Ross, at 11/14/2005 9:50 PM  

  • I'm actually half of a good divorce. There are times when marriages have to end, and we have to be careful about saying that "good divorces" are a myth. Much of what they are listing here would fall short of a good divorce, in my book.

    My ex-husband and I acknowledged right off the bat that we would always have to work together as "coparents" of our daughter, and that means being on the same page (no conflicting ideas of truth, no secrets, etc).

    We kept our daughter's well-being first and foremost through the entire process, even visiting a child psychologist who specialized in custody issues to help plan our own arrangement. As such, our daughter has not had to travel between two different worlds.

    There are times that divorce has to happen, and while it is undoubtedly inferior to a happy healthy marriage, doing it with the children's best interests at the center, the forefront, etc--is the least that any parent can do.

    I was a child of a divorce and, as an adult looking back on my experiences, I culled out this piece of wisdom: Children are one half mom and one half dad. If mom and dad hate each other, or even indulge in unnecessary conflict with each other, the child will not be able to escape the idea that, growing up, their mom hates half of them and their dad hates half of them.

    My ex-husband and I had to swallow down some hard feelings the first year or so, but in the years since we have even reforged a new friendship, and we do raise our daughter side-by-side united.

    I would be heistant to decry "good divorces"--if we make it seem pointless, people will wonder 'why bother'--and there will be fewer "good divorces" and more hateful, awful, high-conflict ones--and that serves noone well at all, least of all the children involved.

    If there's anything that every parent is hardwired to do, it is to put their children's needs above their own. Children need their parents to function together, as a cohesive, caring unit--even if they can't be in love and in a marriage.

    "Good divorce" is not as good as "good marriage," but it is certainly better than the alternatives.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11/15/2005 2:11 PM  

  • Naiah, thank you so much for sharing your experience. I think that your daughter is a very blessed child, and that you and your ex-husband are wonderful examples of Christ-like behavior in a tough situation. The part of your comment that really caught my attention was the idea that children are part-mom and part-dad. That is an insight I have never considered before, and I am really grateful that you shared it.

    By Blogger Keryn, at 11/19/2005 12:44 AM  

  • I hope you'll consider reading Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. It contains many stories of grown chidlren of divorce who grew up in both "good" and "bad" divorces, as well as striking new data -- much more than I could share in the Washington Post op-ed :)

    If you read the book, you might want to post a comment at www.betweentwoworlds.org

    All best,
    Elizabeth Marquardt

    By Blogger Elizabeth Marquardt, at 12/03/2005 8:46 PM  

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