A divorce will make me happier …
Ever thought that getting a divorce would be the easy out, and that it would result in you being happier? In reality, the odds are not in favour of you being happier if you end it, and you are more likely to be happier if you stick it out.
Linda Waite, a University of Chicago sociologist, has done a study on marriage and happiness. Linda and her group interviewed 5,232 married couples twice, five years apart. Among those who were unhappy at the first interview, divorce did not, on average, result in greater happiness five years later. What’s more, those who stuck it out tended to be more happy after five years. Overall almost two-thirds of those unhappy at the first interview reported being happier at the second. The most dramatic improvements came in the worst marriages – of those who initially rated their happiness as one or two on a seven-point scale, almost 80% gave a rating of five or more at the second interview.
A few other points from the study:
- “Unhappily married adults who divorced or separated were no happier, on average, than unhappily married adults who stayed married.”
- “Divorce did not reduce symptoms of depression for unhappily married adults, or raise their self-esteem, or increase their sense of mastery, on average, compared to unhappy spouses who stayed married.”
- “The vast majority of divorces (74 percent) happened to adults who had been happily married five years previously. In this group, divorce was associated with dramatic declines in happiness and psychological well-being compared to those who stayed married.”
- “Unhappy marriages were less common than unhappy spouses. Three out of four unhappily married adults were married to someone who was happy with the marriage.”
While I have no doubt a “bad marriage” can make folks feel less happy, the evidence seems to strongly point to our happiness being far more about our own thoughts, feelings, and choices than our marriage. If you are unhappy, or depressed, or frustrated, odds are that is much more about you than it is your spouse or your marriage. Work on you, and you will feel better. Blame your spouse or your marriage, and are just making excuses for not taking the reins and fixing what needs to be fixed in your life.
For some very interesting reading, see Does Divorce Make People Happy? Findings from a Study of Unhappy Marriages (PDF)
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