Notes from the Trenches
Research indicates that roughly one half of all first marriages will end in divorce. The divorce rate for couples is second marriages is higher and tends to occur sooner with those in third marriages experiencing even higher and quicker divorces as compared to couples in first and second marriages. The divorce rate for law enforcement marriages is considerably higher as compared to the general population. 21st divorces are initiated by women roughly 70 % of the time. Most couples live in states with “no-fault” divorce laws leading to faster, easier, and essentially uncontested divorces. Divorce tends to run in families so individuals whose parents divorced are more likely to divorce than people coming from intact families. There are a wide range of explanations for the increase in divorce rates amongst baby boomers as compared to their parents and grandparents, the rise of “no-fault” divorces, and a general de-stigmatization of divorce in the USA.
Divorce and martial turmoil are associated with significantly increased risks for a broad range of medical, mental health, academic, occupational, substance abuse, relational, behavioral, etc. problems. It is intellectually indefensible to suggest that divorce and marital turmoil are problem-free events for all those touched by divorce.
Divorce is a major social, economic, and public health problem that costs society untold billions of dollars in lost productivity, illness, absenteeism, accidents, and so on. Historically, women tended to fare worse economically than men but this trend is shifting. As a general rule men evidence more numerous and serious problems than woman following divorce including a tendency to die sooner following divorce.
Given the magnitude of divorce related problems our efforts to minimize the divorces within the USA have not been commensurate with the negative effects. Curiously, virtually every state has mandated “divorcing parent programs” aimed at minimizing the negative effects of divorce on children but little is done to minimize the negative effects on parents and there are essentially no court mandated programs designed to prevent divorce by providing couples with information, skills, and tools that are known to substantially reduce the likelihood.
of experiencing divorce. It is extremely common for couples participating in “divorcing parent programs” to express astonishment and bewilderment when they learn that marital researchers have developed remarkably effective divorce prevention programs that they learn about in “divorce programs”.
Common sense indicates and divorcing couples argue that we would do well to mandate divorce prevention or marriage preparation programs on the front end rather merely mandating “divorcing parent programs” for couples going through divorce no matter how useful and effective such programs may be..
Most people find it difficult to believe robust research that demonstrates that marital researchers can predict with up to 93 % accuracy which couples will stay married and those couples destined to divorce based on less than a minute of observation watching couples manage conflict. Some people find this fact unsettling however the good news is that martial researchers and psychologists have developed marriage preparation and marriage enhancement programs that have been shown time and again to reduce by at least half the chances of couples breaking up or getting divorced. Even better these prevention programs are time-limited, relatively inexpensive, presented in educational formats, without psychobabble and complex psychological explanations, self-examination, interpretations, and the rest. We now have the information and “technology” to equip couples with the information, skills, and tools to reduce by 50 % the chances of experiencing divorce.
It is high time churches, community groups, businesses, legislative bodies, etc. came together to ensure that all couples interested in attending research based marriage preparation programs can do so. Some states have initiated public discourse about the wisdom of providing monetary incentives to couples who voluntarily participate in such programs. It is important to commend various church organizations that offer marriage preparation programs particularly ones that integrate science-based marriage preparation classes with the religious and spiritual components of their efforts to prepare couples for marriage.
The unanswered question is whether couples will make time in their hectic lives to invest 6 hours to boost chances that their relationship will be satisfying and enriching. The other unknown is whether the people trained to offer such programs will offer them. We have the information and “technology” to ensure people get something they say they want. Time will tell whether we can break away from seemingly endless lists of important tasks to attend to something essential.
An old Irish priest once said” “Never let the important get in the way of the essential”.
Let’s accept the gift to enhance our lives for each other, our children, family, friends, and loved ones.