The divorce rate for a first marriage in America is between 40-50%. After a first divorce, the common assumption is that a second marriage will fare better from previous learned experience. The divorce rate for a second marriage is between 60-67%. Although many people who have divorced twice continue to marry again, the success rates are not in their favor. The divorce rate for a third marriage increases to roughly 70%.
Couples with children have a slightly lower rate of breaking up, but divorce impacts more than just the children. Both wife and husband are greatly impacted by divorce. They suffer in both similar and different ways depending on their gender.
Feelings of loss that commonly occur in both husbands and wives can include:
- Depression. This can frequently cause a lack of ambition or feelings of guilt. Both parties may lose interest in activities they once loved doing.
- Anger. Unresolved resentments may arise. When trying to “hold the peace”, many conflicts remain invisible. Once the divorce is set in motion, many feel the need to air secrets they’ve kept out of conservation for the marriage.
- Jealousy. Even if a spouse was not involved in an extramarital affair, the knowledge that he/she may be dating can lead to powerful emotions. If the couple remains in the same town, they may find themselves bumping into their ex with another partner. These incidents can fester for a significant amount of time.
- Anxiety. With divorce comes change and most people fear the unknown. The majority of couples move out of their house. They may move to an entirely different location or they may enter a foreign social scene to avoid their ex. Common interests may be avoided out of fear. The routines that were once so commonly executed on a daily basis, may be completely different than what they once were.
A form of identity is lost during divorce. Where one lives, what school their children may attend, and who they confide in are all subject to change. Since the “unit” of marriage often involves friendships with other couples, expressing dissatisfaction with their previous married life may feel uncomfortable. These friends may only know the divorcing couple as a married couple, making it increasingly difficult to separate an independent identity from the marriage identity. Financially, sexually, and socially, all aspects of individuality change for both men and women. The Journal of Men’s Health states divorce can have a greater toll on men than women. Men are prone to deeper depressions and more likely to abuse substances after divorce. The suicide risk for an unmarried man is 39 percent higher than that of a married man. Men are also at greater risk for physical health problems such as heart attacks and stroke.
Men start to mourn later in a divorce than women, thus extending the grieving process. Since women are more likely to initiate divorce, men may experience denial during the initial stages of separation.
When actively dealing with divorce, men are more likely to use action rather than words to express their feelings. Common actions taken by newly divorced men include, working too much, having casual sexual encounters, avoiding their apartment/new home. Women experience more financial distress after the divorce. Since often times women have custody of the children, they are responsible for more of the household and family expenses than men. According to an article in the American Sociological Review, ‘The Effect of Marriage and Divorce on Women’s Economic Well-Being’, women do not completely recover from their financial loss due to divorce until they remarry. Women have less physical health problems than men in the beginning of their divorce. Because of psychological stress and often poverty, physical health is the outcome of these results. These physical health problems can range from the common cold to heart conditions and even cancer.
Although the statistics may range in severity from men to women, most symptoms are frequently the same. Healing from a divorce is like healing from any other sort of loss. It must be acknowledged, felt, and grieved for as long as the time is needed.