The average American would love to have a happy marriage to the right individual. Most people who divorce come to the conclusion that they were simply terribly unlucky in getting stuck with the wrong person. There is much to be said about being wise and choosing the right person to commit one's life to.
But, is a quick divorce likely to be the answer to one's future happiness? If this were the case, then one would expect the divorce rate among second marriages to be much lower. After all, following a difficult marriage and divorce, one seeking to marry again would tend to be a little more cautious and a little more choosey. Amazingly enough, statistics don't bear this out; divorce rates among second marriages, rather than being significantly lower, are significantly higher.
A very interesting study entitled, "Does Divorce Make People Happy?" was published several years ago by the Institute for American Values. Research teams studied 645 individuals who reported unhappy marriages. When these unhappy couples were surveyed five years later, amazingly a much higher percentage of those who remained married reported they were now happy compared to those who had divorced. In fact, 66% of the unhappily married couples who stayed together were now reporting they were happy five years later. Only 19% of those unhappily unmarried couples who divorced or separated reported they were happy five years later. According to a review of this study in Psychology Today entitled, "Don't Divorce, Be Happy," "In fact, the most miserable marriages had the most dramatic turnarounds. Seventy-eight percent of people who stayed in very unhappy marriages said that the marriages were currently happy five years later.
More recently, another study, using previous investigative research as a backdrop, came to similar conclusions, thus "[undermining] the idea that unhappiness soon after becoming parents is either common or permanent, or that staying in an unhappy marriage means a life of misery." The authors of the study concluded that "Unhappiness is usually temporary. Staying unhappy is incredibly rare. Just one in every 400 parents in the entire study was unhappy at both time points, soon after their child was born and then again when their child was 11."
Granted, there are reasons for divorce that are valid—including physical abuse, drug addiction and rampant sexual immorality. But, for the more typical unhappy marriages, statistics clearly demonstrate that if one is unhappy in marriage, those who stay married are more than three times more likely to be happy five years later compared to those who divorce. Some are beginning to question the validity of no-fault divorces in various states.
Maggie Gallagher, author of the Abolition of Marriage, stated, "Imposing a five to seven year waiting period for contested no-fault divorces—as do many European jurisdictions—would serve the ends above justice and prudence, raising the number of marriages that ultimately succeed." The fact of the matter is divorce tends to undermine one's happiness for a whole host of reasons, not the least of which is the impact on any children. When parents decide they are unhappy and divorce, it is not just the death of the marriage relationship, it is the death of the family relationship. Finances are another reason that unhappy couples who split still find themselves unhappy 81% of the time five years later. According to Lenore Weitzman, author of Divorce Revolution, "One year after divorce, women's standard of living decreases by 73%." The Creator of the marriage institution, the Supreme God, emphatically stated in Malachi 2:16, "The Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce." God understands human nature far better than we do. Most all unhappy marriages are caused by the violation of spiritual principles that God has designed for marital happiness. More often than not, when two self-centered human beings divorce, they carry the same pattern of failure from the previous marriage into their single life or into their second marriage. This is the reason that most unhappy couples who stick it out and gradually change and adapt are happier five years later. On the other hand, those who refuse to change, divorcing their partner and carrying the same patterns of self-centeredness into their next marriage, tend to be unhappy five years later. In most cases, for one's happiness, divorce should be the last choice, not the first choice.
If you would like to know more about the subject from a biblical perspective, please read our free booklet, God's Plan for Happy Marriage.