Stronger Marriage

Does Divorce Make People Happy?: Findings From a Study of Unhappy Marriages

A report, issued by the Institute for American Values suggests that on average unhappily married adults who divorced were no happier five years after the divorce than were equally unhappily married adults who stayed married when rated on any of 12 separate measures of psychological well-being. Moreover, two-thirds of unhappily married people who remained married reported that their marriages were happy five years later. Even among couples who had rated their marriages as very unhappy, 80 percent said they were happily married five years later. The data suggests that if a couple is unhappy, the chances of their being happily married five years later are 64% if they remain together but only 19% if they divorce and remarry. The report, issued July 11, 2002 seems to crumble the myth that at least divorce makes unhappily married adults happier.

So how did the unhappy couples magically become happy 5 years later? The study found three underlying principles. The first is endurance. For some couples, if they can merely stick it out through the rough times, chances are things will eventually improve. Another section of couples were more aggressive. They actively sought out help from others, including therapists, parents, in-laws, or other relatives, or even threatening divorce. In the third section, individuals were found seeking their own happiness in other ways, even if they could not improve their marital happiness.

The following are additional highlights of the report. For further information, click on the following link:

* Divorce did not reduce symptoms of depression for unhappily married adults, or raise their self-esteem, 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.
* Unhappy marriages were less common than unhappy spouses.
* Staying married did not typically trap unhappy spouses in violent relationships.
* Spouses who turned their marriages around seldom reported that counseling played a key role.

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