The Costs of a Failed Marriage

Costs of a Failed Marriage

Getting married and starting a life together with your spouse is often described as one of the happiest days in someone’s life. The possibilities of the life that is to come are often met with much hope and euphoria. At that moment, the world is your oyster and the last thing you can think about or imagine is this relationship failing. You both love each other, and love is all your need, right?

If you look at the statistics, roughly 42% of first-time marriages end in divorce. For those who end up remarrying, the rate of failure increases to 60%, while third marriages end up dissolving 73% of the time. What this tells us is that a lot of people go into marriage expecting a happily ever after and come out with a very different result. Then there are those people who remain in an unhappy marriage, so do not contribute to the divorce statistics.

The truth is that a failed marriage is not just a statistic, there are real life costs associated with this. Some of these costs may be short-term in nature and might just affect you, while others can be long-term and impact your loved ones as well. Let us look at just a few of the many costs of divorce.

Cost of Divorce #1: Financial

When speaking about the costs of divorce it is normal for someone to think first of financial costs. While there are many other non-monetary costs, there is indeed a financial cost. The average divorce costs between $15,000 and $20,000 and that is just the act of obtaining the divorce. That does not include the division of assets, spousal and child support, and the other costs that one will experience post-divorce. In fact, studies have shown that divorced individuals experience a 77% drop in wealth on average. Think about that, and I mean properly think about that. That is no small statistic. For simplicity’s sake, just think that if one’s wealth would have been $500,000 it will instead be $115,000. What a difference.

You might be thinking that divorce is no different to any of the other relationships you had dissolve previously. You rebounded from those and in some instances were better off than before. But divorce is a different breed altogether. Often in a divorce you might be paying for a residence that you no longer live in, and now must pay for a place for you yourself to live. Having to pay for 2 rents or 2 mortgages or 1 of each monthly is a quick way to see your wealth depleted. All those activities you enjoyed doing previously whether with your spouse or with friends you might find difficult to afford after a divorce as well. These are generally not issues you had to think about in previous relationships because those relationships did not have the legal implications that marriage does.

Cost of Divorce #2: Negative Health Issues Experienced by Children

A divorce is generally a very tough time in the lives of the two people getting divorced. Not only is there the actual divorce and the changes that come about from that but leading up to the divorce is normally a time of much conflict and stress. This is not only felt by both spouses, but if there are children in the marriage, they experience this as well.

Research has shown that constant family conflict tends to bring about much stress and anxiety in children. Also, parents who are constantly bickering have children who are more likely to struggle learning to trust and connect with them.

Children of divorce often exhibit behavioural issues as well, such as increased aggression and poorer communication skills. One way that children learn is by emulating their parents. If the parents are constantly squabbling and unable to solve problems, children may unfortunately utilise these same approaches in their interactions with others.

Studies also suggested that children with divorced parents might experience more difficulty forming and maintaining friendships. Sadly, these issues don’t just occur in childhood, but can follow children of divorce through adulthood affecting their ability to form healthy romantic relationships.

Children of divorce were found to have a higher likelihood of engaging in harmful substances such as alcohol, cigarettes, and marijuana. The increased use of these substances is often reported before the actual divorce occurs due to the heightened conflict and stress, increasing during and immediately after the divorce.

Then factor in the impact of one or both parents getting remarried. When divorce occurs, children often struggle with feelings of abandonment, and it is a very confusing time for them. Now throw a whole new family into the mix with step-siblings and those feelings of abandonment and confusion can be magnified.

Please don’t think I am suggesting that staying in a bad marriage for the children is better than ending that relationship. As you can see from most of these consequences of divorce on children, they begin even before the divorce occurs. I am also not suggesting that all children will respond the same to divorce.

What I am suggesting is that when thinking about getting married, you consider the ramifications if your marriage were to end and do all that is in your power to make your marriage a successful one.

Cost of Divorce #3: Loneliness

Loneliness does not only apply to the loss of your relationship, sense of self, spouse and possibly children, but friends as well. When a relationship ends, the situation can get really complicated quickly for lots of people.

For the spouses, the loss of a relationship involves grieving like experiencing a loss through the death of a loved one. Apart from this grieving process, people also describe going through feelings of shame as well as experiencing a loss of confidence. Spouses also might lose all relationships with their in-laws, which, depending upon how close those relationships were could be devastating as well.

But luckily, while going through all the hurt and sadness brought about by the divorce you have your friends to lean on… unless you don’t. Divorce can be very tricky for friends, especially if those friendships were formed during the marriage and involve other couples. Most activities with others were probably with other couples.

Friends are put in the unenviable position of feeling as if they must choose sides if they socialise with just one of the individuals from the broken marriage. This may bring about feelings of guilt which is easiest dealt with by choosing to not interact with either of the individuals.

The members of the divorced couple might find their social circle has dwindled and are forced to find new, single friends. When going through such a difficult period of loss, having possible feelings of abandonment from your spouse and now your friends, making new friends might not seem very appealing. It is not uncommon for people to then go into isolation during this time and become more susceptible to depression.

Please remember that none of these consequences of divorce are reasons to stay in a violent, abusive, destructive, or unhealthy relationship. There are many other consequences of divorce, and while most are negative, there are some positive ones. All I am suggesting is that when debating about putting resources into your marriage, whether that be time or monetary resources, you should think about the cost of not investing in your relationship.

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Troy Stone - Family Therapy


Troy is a Licensed Associate Marriage and Family Therapist in the state of Arizona, and is also the Founder of un•think relationship consulting.

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