The Divorce Myth

By on October 11, 2011

By Shela Dean Boomer –

The Baby Boom Generation has the highest percentage of divorce of any demographic, so much so that the term “Grey Divorce” has been coined to describe the phenomena. There are, of course, many reasons for divorce. When it comes to Boomers, however, for many couples who once described their marriage as “good enough,” good enough just isn’t good enough anymore. Boomers say they want more space to find personal fulfillment. Many think they can only have that space either alone or with a new spouse. Statistics say otherwise.

The findings of a 2002 study by the Institute for American Values showed that (1) divorce does not typically make adults happier than staying in an unhappy marriage, and (b) 66% of unhappily married adults who avoided divorce were happily married five years later whether the marriage was of middling quality or had serious problems. Only 20% had divorced and happily remarried in the same time period. In short, you’re more likely to end up happily married to the spouse you have than if you divorce.

In a 2004 study commissioned by AARP based on a survey of people who had been divorced in their 40s, 50s, or 60s, most described divorce as “more emotionally devastating than losing a job, about equal to experiencing a major illness, and somewhat less devastating than a spouse’s death.” Getting a divorce is an emotional big deal that’s not likely to make you happier.

Let’s test the presumption that starting anew gives you the ability to find personal fulfillment. Forget you’re married. Imagine you have unlimited space, freedom, and ability to pursue endless choices. Would you travel to Africa, take up photography, learn to play the piano, trek in Nepal, start a business, take Chinese cooking classes, get a college degree, or get a job?

Now, answer this question: what’s stopping you from doing everything on your list? If, for example, trekking in Nepal is a dream, what’s stopping you? If it’s cost, why can’t you earn the money to go? If your spouse won’t go with you, what’s to stop you from going alone or with a friend? Finally, as yourself if your explanation for why you haven’t or can’t, ask yourself (and be honest!) if it’s a reason or an excuse.

A “reason” is an objective explanation for why something is the way it is. An “excuse” is an explanation that involves blaming someone or something else. If the country of Nepal were closed to tourism, you would have a reason why you cannot trek there. If, on the other hand, your explanation is that your spouse won’t let you or can’t get along without you, that’s just an excuse.

The human mind is a pro at creating excuses-disguised-as-reasons. Your spouse provides a ready and convenient excuse for why your life isn’t working and you can’t do the things that would bring personal fulfillment. When you eliminate your spouse as your excuse, the real reason for why you’re not doing everything on your list becomes more apparent. By going through the “excuse” or “reason” exercise, you’ll discover that the only thing stopping you from personal fulfillment is you.

As Gloria Steinem said, “The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.” No one wants to point the arrow of “blame” at themselves. It’s easier to blame than to take personal responsibility. When, however, you stop blaming your spouse (or others) and your marriage (or other circumstances), you free yourself to find personal fulfillment whether married or divorced.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be showing you how ReDating Your Mate is a better alternative to divorce. Stay tuned!

Shela Dean is a Relationship Coach, Speaker and Bestselling Author of Frequent Foreplay Miles, Your Ticket to Total Intimacy, the author of Frequent Foreplay Miles for the Remarried (available as an eBook only), the author of the popular blog Everyday Foreplay, and the creator of her trademarked ReDate Your Mate program designed to help all couples climb out of the rut, rekindle intimacy, and regain their Relationship Mojo.

About Shela Dean

Shela Dean is a Relationship Coach and speaker. She has counseled more than 2,000 couples since 1983 and is the author of Frequent Foreplay Miles, Your Ticket to Total Intimacy! – a guide to improving intimacy for couples. Shela began studying the dynamics of personal relationships during her two-decade career as an estate and family attorney before retiring from law to begin relationship coaching in 2004. Her unique blend of humor, insight, and practical meat-and-potatoes approach helps couples find a better way to navigate the friendly, and sometimes not-so-friendly, skies of life. And have a darned good time doing it. Website: www.speakersheladean.com

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The Divorce Myth