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Seeing divorce as a change rather than a failure

Experts are wondering if the state of New York, as well as general public opinion, needs an attitude adjustment toward divorce. Marital splits are often perceived as failures at a time when divorce has replaced death as the most likely outcome of marriage, according to a Northwestern University psychologist.

Spouses from a marriage that doesn't work may be viewed as relationship slackers. Sometimes divorced spouses are labeled as selfish or unable to commit. The truth may be that infidelity, alcohol or drug abuse, domestic violence or some other impassable obstacle caused a couple to split.

In many ways, society punishes spouses who abandon marriage because the couple gives up. At the same time, couples who stay together for the long haul are rewarded, even when the marriage is severely dysfunctional.

The author of The Death of, "Till Death Do Us Part," points out that more modern marriages ended in divorce during the 20th century than in the death of a spouse. The mental health professional believes he understands why.

People are living longer lives, which means spouses are together longer than any time in the past. Adding time to marriage certainly increases the chances of additional conflict and dissatisfaction. Women have also gained equal footing with men in education, contraceptive choices and finances. Less dependence on men frees women from economic traps that may be caused by marriage.

No-fault divorce has also allowed spouses to exit marriages without pointing fingers. "Irretrievably broken" marriages end more easily than divorce battles involving blame. Facts have also sobered divorce opinions. Statistics show 50 percent of all U.S. marriages end by divorce within 20 years.

Marital advisors apparently feel Americans have a long way to go before divorce is truly acceptable. Counselors, family courts and society at large can reexamine therapies, laws and policies that affect divorcing couples.

Divorces represent change, sometimes for the best interests of everyone involved. The end of marriage may be the start of a better, more independent, quality life -- hardly anything that can be described as a failure.

Source:, "Why We Shouldn't See Divorce As a 'Failed' Marriage," Vicki Larson, Oct. 2, 2012

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