Dr. West





Thinking of Divorce?


" Marriage provides an opportunity like no other to confront our foibles and work through them."


    We've recently received several letters from people who regret their divorces.

Although they had assumed their lives would change for the better, in many cases they admit they are worse off.

Chief among the negative consequences of divorce, of course, is the effect on children. 

One of the most wrenching letters to this effect is this lengthy personal experience. However, in this article we'll focus on the adults involved.

We'll divide this into four main points.

1. Divorce does not solve problems, it generally just  means you'll have to deal with them in some form at a later time. (Some my new age friends say that later time can even be in a later life, but we won't get into that.)

       In my line of work I emphasize working through problems, not avoiding them. 

The "personal differences" you thought you had sidestepped by getting out of one relationship you often have to confront in a subsequent one -- at least in some form.

This is undoubtedly why subsequent divorces have ever-more-increasing failure rates.

By not solving the underlying problems in one marriage, they tend to surface in subsequent marriages or relationships.

Sometimes that's because the individuals involved will unconsciously find another person with the same hidden problems.

Wives may find another husband who turns out abusive, or a husband may find another wife that has a tendency to "cheat."  

Unless some uncontrolled addition is involved, "irreconcilable differences" are often not that irreconcilable and only represent an opportunity to get at the underlying problem. 

2. Marriages often dissolve when a partner refuses to try anything new in lovemaking -- especially when that partner meets someone who will.

Divorced women say they are often dumbfounded to see how much things have changed on the dating scene since their marriage ended.

Some of these women decide they have to make some radical changes, because not changing means being left out.

  3. Did the marriage dissolve because of an affair? We cover with that in Dealing With Adultery and Adultery: Facts, Fears and Forgiveness.

With affairs becoming much more  common (the reasons are discussed here) beyond just "getting over it," many people have written to say it turned out to be an opportunity to confront their fears and foibles.

" Although in the normal course of things we don't recommend open marriages, people have written saying that opening their marriages not only kept them from divorce but, once they adjusted to it, opened a new range of experiences."


Even the children of divorced parents have written saying that "cheating" destroyed the marriage, but if their parents had reached a mutual agreement on an open marriage and stayed together, everyone would have probably been better off.

Although an open marriage "solution" sounds crazy to most people, it has held marriages together -- especially if some rules are agreed on and strictly followed.

" Jealousy and possessiveness issues often make open marriages impossible."


Sometimes after the open marriage is experienced for a while, the marriage effectively "closes" by mutual agreement.

 Those "other pastures" that may have seemed so "green" from afar simply don't meet expectations.

         Is there a risk in opening a marriage?  Most definitely. See Encountering That Unexpected Fork in the Road.

But if the marriage is about to go south anyway, this last ditch effort may be worth trying.

Some open marriages have lasted for decades. (Given social attitudes, most are hidden from public view.)

We do know that when a man or woman marries "the other person" in the affair, that relationship generally ends up in divorce within a short time.

4. Keep in mind that the two of you probably share a lot of history. Over the years you've probably gotten to know each other pretty well -- better than anyone else.

You already know the things your spouse likes, along with the things to avoid. (Really, ladies, with all the horrendous things going on in the world, is leaving the toilet seat up worth fighting over?)

  The above, of course, doesn't take into consideration many of the other issues associated with divorce -- things like emotional and financial devastation and especially the effect on any children, which may not show up until decades later. 

So is divorce ever a good idea? 

         Yes, sometimes,  assuming things don't come down to an inability to forgive or to what really boils down to ego issues.  Divorce is also a realistic option when hopeless addictions are involved and when all else has failed.

 When these things aren't involved and both parties find themselves having different goals and going different directions in life, they can harmoniously agree to part as friends.

Unfortunately, most divorces involve anger and unresolved issues -- sometimes even a need for revenge.  That state of mind poisons the people involved and often even the children.

The bottom line is resolve your issues while you can and as quickly as you can.  If you don't you will consciously or unconsciously carry bitter baggage with you -- and that will have both mental and physical effects.