It is not common knowledge that divorce is actually a social phenomenon in existence since the time of ancient Mesopotamia. This suggests that the roots of our collective disillusionment with the institution of marriage have some deep, and perhaps meaningful, roots. To understand the meaning of a problem is often the first step towards its solution.
According to the National Center for Health Statistics, 43% of first marriages end in separation or divorce within 15 years and 75% of those divorced couples will re-marry, half within 3 years. The U.S. Bureau of Census reports that in 1970, there were 4.3 million divorced adults and in 1994, that number increased to 17.4 million. Women currently file slightly more than two-thirds of divorce cases in the U.S. (a study published in 2000 in the American Law and Economics Review). In this same paper, evidence was presented to show that, among college-educated couples, women initiate marriage dissolution at a rate of 90%.
Divorce is one of the most traumatic and painful experiences in a person’s life, second only to death of a spouse. It is one of those “trade secrets” among mental health professionals that a crisis offers an opening to deep healing and the opportunity for growth and empowerment. As tragic as this “death” clearly is, it is also an invitation to look deeper within, to find the meaning that leads to solution; i.e., how to forge better marriages and/or relationships in general.
“Hurt people hurt people” (Alcoholics Anonymous saying) is a statement that addresses one of the core issues that contribute to divorce. This is truly a gift that keeps on giving until we are made to stop and pay attention, putting a stop to this ever widening circle of pain and hurt, rejection and anger. And psychotherapy is just about the best vehicle for this awareness enhancing process. Sitting with a talented therapist week after week can not only help to prevent divorce, but it can – and does – lead to the understanding of the hidden causes and meanings of an inevitable marital split, in turn leading to healthier people who create healthier relationships. Taking the time to gain a clear understanding of the wisdom of this “opportunity” often leads to an escalation of the healing process.
Granted, the best-case scenario is to avoid divorce. But if it appears inevitable or necessary (due to domestic violence for example), there are positive outcomes for both parents as well as children. There are many studies that quote the destructive outcomes of a divorced family, but it is a basic truth that a child born of happy parents (married or single) is much happier and more well adjusted than a youngster born of unhappy parents. And of course happy children in turn become happy adults.
So if you are heading for divorce, do yourself (and all those who love you) a favor and seek professional help. It is an investment that will pay dividends for years – and relationships – to come.
Kathy Martone Ed.D. is a licensed Jungian psychologist, published author and artist/creator of SoulCatchers. For the past 20 years, she has been involved in post graduate training/analysis with Richmond K. Greene, past chair of the New York Jungian Institute. She has taught classes at Naropa University, Iliff School of Theology, and Jungian Ministries International. From 1984 to 1990, she served as company psychologist for a large corporation and since1986, she has also been in private practice. She specializes in relationship and marriage counseling, dream work, women’s spirituality, work with incest and sexual abuse survivors, inner child work, shamanic journeys, and women’s dream retreats.