Summary in Divorce
One of the major changes in America after World War II is a change in the way society perceives marriage. "Till death do us part," gave way to what seemed to be a more realistic view: that marriage is not for life.
What changed with no-fault and the liberalization of divorce is that two individuals, a husband and wife, now make the decision to end a marriage without the social norm that says marriages should, all other things being equal, not end without a good reason (and a good reason did not mean the spouses do not want to be married anymore). Today either partner can end a marriage against the wishes of the other. After more than a generation of what has been termed "easy" divorce, many observers now realize that divorce as a solution to a problem marriage is a solution that creates as many problems as it solves, including financial destitution and neglected children. Divorced people soon find their fellow travelers on the road to divorce recovery are the walking wounded of failed marriages. The formerly married rarely emerge from the experience undamaged and often falter again in subsequent marriages. Hope springs eternal at the roulette wheel of marriage, but 60 percent of all second marriages crash on the reefs of divorce. Partners piece together the mosaic of stepfamilies -- yours, mine and ours -- in bewildering combinations of second and third failed marriages. Very often in a troubled marriage one partner blames his or her personal unhappiness on the other. In this situation, one partner blames the other for the failure of the marriage without realizing how his or her behavior contributed to it. After all, all successful marriages take two people in a reciprocating relationship that includes friendship, loyalty and generosity. Sometimes a couple come to believe the end of the marriage is written on the wall. Yet the truth is, if two people want to save the marriage, it can probably be saved. In the end, the end of a marriage is their decision. With liberalization of divorce, society, such as it is, stepped aside. And even without existential considerations of happiness, very practical considerations argue against divorce if at all possible. Children are better off when their parents stay married and more likely to avoid problems such as teen pregnancy, drug abuse and delinquent behavior. Most adults thrive in marriage; they are healthier. Moreover, divorce plays havoc with finances, and the solo parent, particularly the divorced single mother whose finances are a pillar-to-post stumble between fear and desperation, is a sad fixture on the American landscape. Abigail Trafford describes divorce as a "savage emotional journey," where a person ricochets between the failure of the past and the uncertainty of the future. Divorce sends shrapnel in every direction. Far more is involved than just the legal end of a marriage because divorce upends the established order of family, friends, finances, work, and in some cases health and well being. In truth, divorce is a death, and neither spouse who made a good faith effort to make the marriage work buries it without pain and suffering. Many divorce books portray life after divorce as the occasion of self- discovery and re-creation. While people do go on and rebuild their lives in rewarding ways after a divorce, divorce makes no one a winner, and for many particularly women with children, life after a divorce becomes a forced march on lean rations. For sure, some marriages must and should end. Domestic violence and extreme conflict are reasons to end a marriage. But the truth is most marriages do not fall in this category. People contemplating divorce should make certain that it is a course of last resort. They may find happiness and a new beginning after the divorce; divorce itself make no one happy. To paraphrase Ernest Hemingway, in a divorce, the winner takes nothing.
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