Contemplating divorce but worried the decision will ruin your life, and also your children’s? Newsflash: when it’s the right choice, divorce can be a good thing.
For too long, the dominant divorce paradigm has convinced us that the end of a marriage is one of the worst fates imaginable. However for many, divorce sparks a profound personal growth journey.
In a recent New York Times article, author Lara Bazelon describes how her divorce boosted her self-esteem and set a positive example for her children:
“I’ve learned that divorce can also be an act of radical self-love that leaves the whole family better off. My divorce nearly seven years ago freed me from a relationship that was crushing my spirit. It freed my children, then 5 and 3, from growing up in a profoundly unhealthy environment.”
While no one should divorce before making a concerted effort to repair the marriage, exiting a miserable relationship can have positive long-term consequences.
The Upsides To Divorce
If you’re contemplating divorce, or are already going through the process, the stress may feel overwhelming, and may make you question your decision. Here is some inspiration to help you see the light at the end of your divorce tunnel.
A bad marriage takes a toll.
Studies have shown that frequent, unresolved conflicts oten trigger physical and mental health problems — even leading to early death! If this is your predicament as you head into divorce, ending your marriage may do the opposite of what you fear; it may actually make you feel better and prolong your life.
Your kids will see you model self-respect.
Leaving a marriage in which you are treated poorly is not a failure; in fact, the decision to value yourself sets a good example for your children. They won’t benefit from watching you settle for an unhappy relationship. Getting out of a bad marriage, modeling resiliency, and building a meaningful new life can be inspiring for your children.
Staying together for the kids can harm them.
If your relationship is rife with conflict, or barren from emotional distance, your children will learn that this is what marriage is like (and perhaps the best they can hope for). Reflecting on their childhoods, many adult children of divorce report feeling burdened by unhappy parents who relied on them for emotional support. They may also feel guilty that they were the reason their parents stayed together. The lesson? No one “wins” in a bad marriage.
An opportunity for personal growth.
Bad relationships can stifle personal growth. People often remain emotionally stunted by blaming their spouse for their unhappiness. Withering away in a dead-end marriage can make it impossible to evolve into the kind of person you want to be. As Bazelon writes in her article: “My divorce spared my children that pain (of witnessing an unhappy marriage) and let me live the life I was meant to. I view that as an accomplishment.”
Your kids will see you as a whole person.
What impression do you want your children to have of you? A martyr whose entire identity is a long-suffering spouse who lives solely for their children? Or a dimensional adult who derives fulfillment not just from family life, but also from career, causes, and other interests? coupleship and parenthood. Your children are watching you to see how an adult behaves. Finding purpose outside of marriage will teach them not to expect a relationship to meet all their needs.
While divorce doesn’t have to be a tragedy, it’s important to acknowledge that financial stability is key to thriving post-marriage. But you don’t need a big house and a country club membership to be happy — in fact, the pursuit of those things above all else can make you profoundly unhappy. As long as you have enough money to live comfortably, leaving a bad marriage can be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make.