Life Hope & Truth

The Curse of Divorce: Counting the Devastating Costs

Perhaps you came to this article because you’re considering a divorce, but you have some reservations. There are many good reasons to seek more counsel.

If you do an Internet search on the word divorce, you’ll find most of the top links focus on giving you assistance in divorcing your mate, getting everything you can from him or her, and accessing free online divorce forms.

Sadly, few of the top resources seem aimed at dissuading couples from divorce and encouraging couples to rebuild healthy relationships. The overall impression you get seems to be that if your marriage has trouble, the best way to be happy is to leave that marriage and find someone else!

In reality, divorce can be lonely, filled with unexpected consequences and foreboding. It often ignites bitterness, resentment and revenge—provoking formerly loving and good-natured husbands and wives to tell lies and commit atrocities against each other that surprise everyone who knows them.

And often it seems those who divorce couldn’t care less—revenge, at least at the time, seems very sweet.

Do you want to experience the vengeance of a loved one? Do you want war? There is an old saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Does that seem overly dramatic? Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be. Just look at the lives of those who have experienced divorce. The ugly details of divorce and its aftermath are easy to find.

This war is a family affair.

A child’s curse

Elizabeth Marquardt, who herself is a child of divorce, wrote in her book Between Two Worlds about the common experience of many children whose parents divorced:

“Our parents’ divorce is linked to our higher rates of depression, suicidal attempts and thoughts, health problems, childhood sexual abuse, school dropout, failure to attend college, arrests, addiction, teen pregnancy, and more. … Some of us continue to struggle with the scars left from our parents’ divorce: we have a harder time finishing school, getting and keeping jobs, maintaining relationships, and having lasting marriages” (2005, p. 189).

Elizabeth Marquardt’s experience and research reminds us of a principle found in the Second Commandment: “For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Exodus 20:5; for more about this, see our article “Are the Penalties for Sins Passed Down to Future Generations?”).

Sin begets sin, which far too often leads to depression, suicide, disease, sexual abuse, trouble with the law and addiction, to name just a few curses.

Are you seriously considering divorce? Are you considering the consequences not only for yourself, but also for your children? Any chance we can help point you and your mate to principles that can help you restore your marriage to a healthy place instead?

A better marriage?

Most people who divorce and remarry firmly believe their next marriage will be better—that it will be the one that brings fulfillment and happiness. It is possible, but statistics are not in favor of that happening.

Second marriages have a much higher divorce rate than first marriages. While we understand there are cases of abuse or domestic violence or other problems from which we can and should remove ourselves, in many other cases divorce occurs because of supposedly “irreconcilable differences”—differences that with proper counsel could have been resolved.

That somewhat nebulous term irreconcilable can include a variety of big and small problems that result in contempt, criticism, self-justification and stonewalling. It always involves a lack of love, trust and understanding.

In the process, our natural differences can be magnified and conflicts can escalate.

For example, by God’s design, there are differences between the sexes that need to be understood within marriage. Author John Gray captures that truth in the title of his book Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus. Differences can include communication styles and emotional needs. Women will never be men, and men will never be women! Neither mate should expect the other to act and feel just like he or she acts and feels. (To begin understanding some of these differences, read our articles on the “Role of Men” and the “Role of Women.”)

Those who don’t understand and correct problems that led to a first divorce often end up divorcing for a second time. And the rate of divorce is even higher for third marriages. According to Jennifer Baker of the Forest Institute of Professional Psychology in Springfield, Missouri, 50 percent of first marriages, 67 percent of second marriages and 74 percent of third marriages end in divorce.

Surely there is a better way!

Money curses

One oh-so-confident man described his impending divorce settlement by saying, “This state doesn’t require much alimony or child support!” Was he ever surprised! The financial hardship he faced was phenomenal.

And the financial obligation is not automatically diminished with the loss of a job or a reduction in pay. In most cases it requires a court ruling to change what is owed. By the time a court acts, many have needed to borrow money.

Divorces don’t cost the often-advertised $299. Costs for lawyers, courts, evaluations, mediations, education classes, refinancing, deed recording and other expenses often push the bill to $15,000 or more—no matter your income bracket.

After the divorce, the couple will often be back in court, appealing court judgments about money and children. It happens so often there’s an official name—“post-judgment litigation.”

Often those going through divorce initially have unrealistic expectations similar to those they had when entering into the marriage: “He will provide for us.” “She won’t demand too much.”

But the incredible number of emotionally shattered people attests to how rarely those expectations are met. Let’s not be naive; they divorced because they couldn’t get along anymore. So it is not likely either mate will be kinder and more considerate after the marriage has ended!

The facts about the kids

If you will have custody, you need to understand that child support payments won’t go as far as you might believe.

“All told, the typical child support payment in the USA covers much less than half the expense of raising a child. Custodial parents—usually mothers—are taking on not only the majority of the work involved in childrearing, and the majority of the opportunity costs—they’re taking on the majority of the cash expenses, as well” (“Typical Child Support Payments”).

Typically the courts will demand that four out of five husbands and fathers give monthly support to their family. But many will give only partial support, and 30 percent of husbands will fail to send you any support—not a penny! About 3 percent of divorcing mothers will be required to give support to the custodial husband and pay support—but less than 2 percent will actually pay up.

Money is not the only problem. Agreeing with each other on anything is often a serious trial. Consider how an Oregon law practice explains what’s required to be able to have joint custody:

“Both parents should be fully willing and capable of cooperating in making decisions regarding the children’s residence, religion, schooling, medical/dental care, etc. Only if both parents agree can the court order joint custody. That means that if one parent wants it and the other does not there will be no joint custody” (“Children, Custody and Parenting Time”).

What does all this mean for the kids? Consider these statistics:

Will you be able to look back later and honestly declare: “I did everything in my power to save our marriage”? It is wise to consider the question now—before it’s too late!“Forty-three percent of children growing up in America today are being raised without their fathers. Seventy-five percent of children with divorced parents live with their mother. Twenty-eight percent of children living with a divorced parent live in a household with an income below the poverty line. Half of all American children will witness the breakup of a parent’s marriage. Of these children, close to half will also see the breakup of a parent’s second marriage” (“Shocking Divorce Statistics”).

Control yourself first

So what can we do to avoid all of this?

Avoiding the curse of divorce requires that we begin by looking at our own actions and not those of our mate. You and I cannot control anyone else, but we can control ourselves. It’s called self-control.

When we speak of saving our marriage by changing our own actions, we recognize that some marriages must and should immediately be dissolved for the safety, peace and welfare of our children and ourselves. Never accept the transfer of guilt from an abusive, violent mate or a mate who is purposely not providing for the family. God has called us to peace (1 Corinthians 7:15).

On the other hand, don’t dismiss the possibility that you are the one causing, or at least partially at fault, for the war in your family. Will you be able to look back later and honestly declare: “I did everything in my power to save our marriage”? It is wise to consider the question now—before it’s too late!

Looking to find where we may be at fault is a difficult process. So consider the following questions:

  • Am I generally joyful or complaining?
  • Am I truly trying to always be peaceable or do I quickly criticize?
  • Am I willing to wait patiently, even for a long time, in dealing with my mate’s weaknesses?
  • Am I most often kind and gentle, or am I cruel?
  • Am I good to others or avoided by others?
  • Am I faithful and loving?

Remember, there wouldn’t ever be a divorce if both mates were happy, patient, considerate, good-natured, faithful, tender and restrained peacemakers.

Conversely, if one or both mates choose to be grumpy, envious, critical, impatient, nasty, harsh and self-seeking—how can such a selfishly based marriage survive?

Try salvaging, one more time

No couple—no relationship—is going to be perfect, but every husband and wife can grow and improve the quality of their marriage!

For many, it seems the commitment made during the marriage ceremony has too soon been forgotten. Maybe you need to be reminded too.

My marriage of almost 48 years ago was tape-recorded. Those vows I took cannot be forgotten: I faithfully promised and covenanted with God to take that wonderful woman, my first love, to be my lawful wedded wife in sickness and in health, in good times and in difficult times, for as long as we both would live. I promised to love her, cherish her, honor her and provide for her.

That commitment was a solemn vow before God, and it is just as important and binding today as it was all those years ago.

The healthy, good times have been great! The unhealthy, difficult times have been bearable because my mate is worth times of suffering (some of it no doubt caused by me anyway). I didn’t promise her a rose garden, but I certainly can take the time to nourish, cherish and provide a rose. My mate is worth it; I’ll bet if you consider the good times you’ve had with your spouse, your mate is worth keeping even with some bad times too.

Think again before you decide to end a marriage and experience the emotional trauma of divorce. The end of a marriage will most likely be the worst curse that you, your mate and your children will ever suffer.

Set a right example yourself. Perhaps, just perhaps, both of you will discover once again the happiness you experienced on your wedding day.

If you have read this far, don’t stop now. Consider some of the wise advice and practical suggestions given in our articles “How to Save Your Marriage” and “Marriage Problems.” Not all of these principles from the Bible are easy, but they really can help.

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