Adjusting to Divorce
One year after a divorce, 50% of men and 60% of women reported being happier than they were during the marriage (Faludi, 1991). Even 10 years later, 80% of the women and 50% of the men said that their divorce was the right decision. However, for some, divorce can be very painful, both emotionally and physically. Depression is common in those who believe that marriage is permanent (R. W. Simon & Marcussen, 1999). One recently divorced 27-year-old man explains:
My mind is unclear, my body aches, my dreams run rampant, and I feel a loss like I’ve never felt before. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but I have always dreamed of a wife, a home, and a decent job. I spent time with her, I sent her flowers for no reason, a movie, dinner, and our sex life was very satisfying on both accounts. I can honestly say that I would rather she had died in an accident than to be facing and feeling this type of hurt for the rest of my life. (Author’s files)
Women often have an increase in depression after a divorce, whereas men experience poorer physical and mental health (Zheng & Hart, 2002). Illness in men is often attributed to the fact that wives often watch out for their husband’s physical health. Depression and sadness also surface when divorced men and women find that they have less in common with married friends as many friends separate into “hers” and “his.” Older individuals experience more psychological problems because divorce is less common in older populations and because there are fewer options for forming new relationships in older age (Wang & Amato, 2000). Divorced older women are more likely to feel anger and loneliness than are younger divorced women. Finally, some racial differences have also been found. Divorced black men and women adjust more easily and experience less negativity from peers than do whites (Kitson, 1992).
Another area that is impacted after divorce is economics. Financial adjustment is often harder for women because after a divorce a woman’s standard of living declines more than a man’s (Wang & Amato, 2000). Many women who previously lived in a middle – class family find themselves slipping below the poverty line after divorce. The situation is made worse when the ex-husband refuses to pay his alimony or child support; about 20% of divorced fathers never provide any form of assistance for their children (Benokraitis, 1993). Many states are trying to find ways to deal with “deadbeat dads,” fathers who do not pay child support. For example, in Iowa the names of delinquent fathers are published in a statewide paper, and the public is asked to help locate them.
On the other hand, some women’s careers improve after a divorce, even more than men’s do. Some women who divorce find they have improved performance evaluations and feel more motivated and satisfied with their jobs because they put the time and energy they had invested in their relationship into their work instead. Men tend to be more work focused, and so divorce may not give them as much free time—instead, some men may have to learn how to cook, clean, do their own laundry, and so on. Women may also get more emotional support from their friends and coworkers than men do. Over time, the majority of people seem to adjust to divorce. Often, social support from friends and family can be very helpful.
Approximately 75% of divorced people remarry (Furstenberg & Cherlin, 1991) and some remarry, divorce, and remarry again (often referred to as serial divorce). Typically the length of time between divorce and remarriage is less than 4 years (B. Wilson & Clark, 1992). Men remarry at higher rates than women, and Hispanics and African Americans remarry at lower rates than whites (M. Coleman et al., 2000). Today, increasing numbers of couples are cohabiting as an alternative to remarriage.