My brief tour through the divorce literature indicated that ending a high-conflict marriage is better for everyone, including the kids -- despite the financial and emotional drawbacks, it really is better to have two homes, rather than one where Mom and Dad are engaged in a bitter civil war.
On the other hand, the evidence on ending low-conflict marriages -- one in which maybe one party, or both, doesn’t feel perfectly fulfilled, but they get along OK -- wasn’t so happy. Children of low-conflict marriages whose parents divorce have more difficulty adjusting than the kids of high-conflict marriages. It’s thought that the divorce comes as a shock to these kids; a relationship that seemed fine to them suddenly dissolves, which changes their ability to trust the world and other people.
These divorces aren’t necessarily so great for the adults, either. Divorce tends to be a financial disaster for all but the very rich, because it’s more expensive to support two households than one. And people who exit marriages don’t necessarily find this makes them happier. We tend to think that marriages are good, and then they go bad, and then you divorce and get happy again, but unhappiness can often be a temporary condition that later improves.My wife and I just celebrated our 34th anniversary. We feel like the last trees in a forest full of stumps. All around us, we can see marriages that failed. For every marriage where you can understand the divorce (repeated infidelity, violence against spouse or children, sexual abuse of the children, apparently uncontrollable substance abuse), we have seen a lot more marriages collapse that just appall us. The ones where there are kids are even more infuriating. There is a lot of damage that divorce does to kids.
Even when there are good reasons for the divorce, it still leads to years of confusion and heartache for the kids. Worse, the second, third, and fourth marriages often end in divorce as well, because the underlying causes of the first divorce were not fixed.
Lots of divorces start out with someone (usually the wife) who is depressed. A marriage with two selfish people will only survive by spending truly astounding amounts of money, every month. Because women used to be "trained" by our culture to be subservient -- and more effectively than men were trained to be caring and concerned about their wives -- when no-fault divorce spread across the land, women were the ones who had the most reason to do so. Today, it seems like the selfishness idiocy is spread a lot more evenly than it used to be, and not surprisingly, marriage is in serious trouble.
It may be too late to fix marriage. It was largely a product of a Christian-dominated culture, one where selfishness was regarded as at least as a sign of immaturity. In a culture where Christianity is only a faint echo, it is probably too late.