By: Ronda Nissley
In 30+ years of working with couples, we have observed an increasing propensity of couples to choose divorce simply because they’re “not happy”. We hear phrases like, “I just don’t feel that way about him/her anymore”; “We’ve grown apart”; or “I’m not happy in this marriage.” – as if these are valid reasons for ending the marriage.
A study conducted by a University of Chicago sociologist Linda Waite challenges this conventional wisdom. Of couples that rated their marriages as “very unhappy” but avoided divorce, 8 out of 10 reported they were “happily married” five years later!
Furthermore, the study found that on average unhappily married adults who divorced were no happier than unhappily married adults. Divorce did not typically reduce symptoms of depression, raise self-esteem, or increase a sense of mastery. Even unhappy spouses who had divorced and remarried were no happier on average than those who stayed married.
Couples whose marriages survived and became happy cited a number of reasons which could be categorized into three broad headings:
“Some divorce is necessary but results like these suggest the benefits of divorce have been oversold,” says Waite. Divorce can be a necessity where violence, addictions and infidelity are on-going. For the rest of us, these statistics can provide hope and reassurance – hope for a happy future with our current spouse and reassurance that these feelings are temporary.
If you currently find yourself in an unhappy phase of your marriage, Encompass Connection Center can provide the support and resources needed to walk alongside you through this phase so that in 5 years you too can be “happily married”.
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.