Thursday, April 17, 2014

Making Divorce Harder

Megan McArdle has an essay about the difference between low-conflict divorces and high-conflict divorces:
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.

8 comments:

Kyle Haight said...

My paternal grandparents made it to their 75th wedding anniversary. That's an accomplishment.

My parents celebrated their 50th this year. Interestingly, both of them had short previous marriages that ended in divorce -- in my father's case specifically because his then-wife converted to evangelical Christianity and he refused to follow her down the rabbit hole.

I'm currently working on my 18th year of marriage. So far so good...

Allen Cogbill said...

Marriage has been around a lot longer than Christianity, and I don't think Christianity deserves much credit insofar as the institution of marriage is concerned. For example, Jewish law provided specific contracts for marriages (kettubim -- beware a mistransliteration), but there were, for millenia, societal incentives to stay married.

Islam, in my view, desecrated the legal structure of women v. men in the case of divorce. That may be the best I can say about Islam.

Clayton Cramer said...

Marriage has been present in nearly all cultures (I can't think of one without it), but post-Christian Western Civilization is not likely to replace it with something equivalent.

tailwind said...

It's my observation and opinion that many marriages are ruled by a domineering wife who verbally and mentally abuses her spouse. This type of abuse doesn't get much press but is just as damaging as physical abuse - maybe more because the abuse is not immediately evident.
Many men put up with it but are not happy at all and don't like to admit that they have a shrew for a wife.
It may be preferable to end such a marriage than to tough it out and be unhappy for the rest of your life.

Mauser said...

Marriage, the left tells us, is an outmoded religious (spit) discriminatory, anti-feminist institution that should be discarded in the modern day and age.... and allowed for Gays.

My parents have been married for over 50 years. I have never been married. I have never met a woman who wanted me.

SJ said...

The culture of marriage that existed in the United States (and the Colonies before that) was a product of a millennium of Christianity altering the way European people thought about marriage and relations between men and women.

That is what has been lost.

Clayton Cramer said...

Tailwind: I honestly can't recall ever seeing a marriage like that. It does not seem impossible. I have seen a lot of marriages with emotionally abusive men, and a few with physically abusive men.

AlanKH said...

I think Mauser remembers the day when elements of the Left told us that marriage is "just a piece of paper."

That's back when the Left still understood what marriage really does: it is social engineering that seeks to establish lifetime monogamy as the norm for sexual relationships. Marriage is supposed to change the behavior of the married party.

(Polygamy exists on a temporary basis in times of gender shortage as emergency rationing, or as a permanent institution to benefit elites - the latter is to marriage what business subsidies are to free trade.)

SSM proponents see marriage as a means for the married party to gain tangible and intangible benefits from government and society. The married party owes nothing to society in return, except to fill out forms.

The general culture has not championed (or acknowledged) the civic duties inherent in real marriage, and has attacked some of them directly via the Sexual Revolution, so the common ignorance about marriage basics is understandable.