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What I Wish I'd Known Before I Got Divorced

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Five friends and I were having breakfast one morning when our conversation turned to our friend Cindy.* She was convinced divorce was the answer to her problems.

"I wish Cindy would listen to us," I said.

"She made it clear she doesn't want to hear anything from us divorcées," said Betsy. "She's made up her mind, and she's not changing it."

Two-thirds of those who stayed married reported happy marriages five years later

That morning, in utter frustration, my friends and I compiled a list: what we wish we'd known before we got divorced—the things we wanted Cindy to know before she made her final decision. Each of us had experienced the upheaval of divorce and watched 12 of our close friends' second marriages end.

We all knew Cindy wasn't casually deciding to end her marriage—few people do. Divorce is one of the most agonizing choices a couple makes. We understood the anger, panic, abandonment, and feelings of being trapped that lead many people to divorce. But we'd also experienced the "other side" of being single again. We'd seen the lives of our children changed forever. Years later, we continue to live with the ongoing pain and complications of a destroyed marriage.

As a licensed psychologist, I've heard many people consider the possibility of ending their marriage. They look at divorce as a solution to their marital woes, a viable answer to their pain and frustration. Ultimately, however, it creates only different problems. In a recent study by the Institute for American Values chaired by sociologist Linda Waite of the University of Chicago, researchers asked, "Does divorce make people happy?" They found that those who ended their troubled marriage in divorce weren't any happier than those who remained married. In fact, two-thirds of those who stayed married reported happy marriages five years later.

Here's the list we compiled for Cindy.

1. Life will change more than you realize

"I thought I'd enjoy being alone," says Lori, who has never remarried. "But I'm lonely. Whenever my friends complain about how needy their husbands or children are, I say, 'Try living without that.'"

Andy, like Lori, hasn't remarried. "I didn't expect to miss odd things like the towels folded neatly, shopping for groceries together, or the Saturday routine we'd established," he says. After his divorce, Andy realized how much the familiar, everyday things of married life meant to him.

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Related Topics:Change; Divorce; Marriage

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DONNA REAGAN

March 06, 2014  2:32pm

I was married to an abusive man for 12.5 years. He was a pastor. No amount of praying and promises changed that. To save my lfe and the lives of my children I had to leave and divorce him. It was a very liberating move. A lot of people didn't understand or accept it but I didn't and don't care. I have been happier as a single divorced woman than I was as the punching bag and verbal whipping post of a preacher who twisted the word. I used to pray for a solution and worried that I wouldn't be able to support my children. What happened was that when I took the first step to leave, God carried me the rest of the way. I have never been sorry. Church people don't know what to think of me or do with me. I'm happy with my life. I'm thankful to be alive and I have raised my children to be wonderful people, no thanks to what's-his-name. I am truly blessed.

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Eli

January 04, 2014  12:16am

Anon took the words right out of my mouth... "It's not that this is wrong, but I'm a Christian woman stuck in an abusive relationship and the fear you just tried to instill through this article, including "what will your friends think?" Is one reason why so many shiny happy people seem to be thriving in the pew but dying inside. There are simply not enough resources for Christian women trying to figure out what to do about their abusive relationships."

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Sam

December 31, 2013  10:46am

I too read "Love Must Be tough" and it helped me to confront the pain of infidelity in my marriage and set boundaries. The first step to reconciling my marriage was for me to ask God to change me and be the woman, wife, daughter, mother He wanted me to be...not what the world wanted me to be. God changed me and I was able to forgive my husband - several times. God is very clear about marriage and the gift of fidelity He has given us in marriage. Yes, He hates divorce, however He has very specific instructions on marriage. I am choosing to divorce my husband after years of infidelity and broken trust. The truth is every time he stepped out, he divorced me in his heart. He is no longer privileged to my thoughts, feelings and to call me his wife. I will always love him as the father of my children, but I cannot fulfill God's purpose for my life with a man who does not seek out God's will for his own life. I will not dishonor God by staying in a marriage that is not God filled.

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