The decision to end a marriage is often complex and emotionally charged. It’s a significant life event that has profound effects on every aspect of one’s life. What is the true cost of divorce? Beyond the dollar signs and legal jargon, divorce exacts a distressing toll, reaching deep into the very marrow of our emotional, physical, social, and familial lives.
The Financial Cost of Divorce
The financial cost of divorce is perhaps the most apparent, and it can be significant. Courtrooms become battlegrounds as couples duel over legal fees, alimony, child support, and the splintering of joint assets. Many people underestimate these expenses and fail to consider the longer-term financial implications, such as the need to maintain separate households, which can substantially increase living expenses. As a result, many individuals experience a notable decline in their standard of living post-divorce.
The Emotional Cost of Divorce
The emotional wounds inflicted by divorce are often deeper and more excruciating than any financial loss. Divorce can trigger a range of emotions, from anger and bitterness to sorrow, anxiety, guilt, and even relief4. This emotional turmoil could spiral into mental health crises, casting long, haunting shadows of depression and anxiety disorders, far outlasting the final decree of divorce5. Such times often necessitate professional help, like couples therapy or individual counseling, to navigate the stormy seas of post-divorce life.
The Mental Cost of Divorce
There is a significant body of research that suggests that individuals who go through divorce are likely to experience a significant increase in risk for mental health disorders. A study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry found that divorced or separated people were more likely than married individuals to have a depressive episode within a year (Lorenzo-López, Maseda, de Labra, Regueiro-Folgueira, & Rodríguez-Villamil, 2017).
Additionally, a study in the Journal of Men’s Health found that men who are divorced or separated are more likely to suffer from depression, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts compared to married men (Kposowa, 2013).
The Physical Cost of Divorce
As if a battered heart isn’t enough, the body too bears the brunt of divorce. Studies have found links between divorce and numerous health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and other stress-related conditions6. The emotional distress can also lead to insomnia, changes in appetite, and decreased immune function, leading to a higher likelihood of falling ill7.
The Social Cost of Divorce
Divorce doesn’t just tear marriages apart; it can also shatter social networks. The social landscape morphs into a labyrinth of awkward encounters and strained relationships, as friends and family might be forced to pick sides. The social dislocation that ensues can leave you feeling marooned on an island of solitude, desperately scanning the horizon for the familiarity of your previous life.
Furthermore, divorce may also influence future romantic relationships. Individuals may also struggle with trust, intimacy, and commitment issues, which can make it challenging to form new, healthy relationships. This occurs due to unresolved feelings, fears of repeating past mistakes, or the psychological impact of perceived “failure.”
The Cost of Divorce on Family
Children are often the most affected by a divorce. Tossed into the tumultuous tides of adult decisions, they grapple with an emotional maelly of guilt, confusion, fear, and sadness. The changes in family structures and routines could further compound their stress, threatening to engulf their academic performance and social interactions.
A systematic review of literature by Afifi et al. (2012) found that parental divorce is associated with an increased risk for mental health disorders, including depression and anxiety, in children and adolescents. The study also found that these risks extend into adulthood.
The Cost of Divorce on Personal Identity
Another impactful but often overlooked facet of divorce is the disruption it can cause to personal identity. Marital status forms a part of an individual’s identity, and when a marriage ends, it prompts a process of identity reconstruction16. The question of “who am I, if not a part of this couple?” can be a distressing conundrum for many. This shift can lead to feelings of lost purpose or direction, especially if one has been deeply invested in their role as a spouse. However, this period of introspection can also pave the way for self-discovery and personal growth, especially with the assistance of professional help like individual counseling or couples therapy.
Unveiling the true cost of divorce reveals a heartrending reality that extends far beyond the financial implications. It seeps into the crevices of our emotional well-being, attacks our physical health, erodes our social fabric, and reconfigures our family dynamics. Awareness of these profound costs can help us brace for the storm and seek the necessary lifelines, such as couples therapy or marriage counseling, to navigate the turbulent waters of divorce.
Contact us if you are prepared to reroute your marriage away from divorce and get it back on track toward happiness and health.
- Afifi, T. O., Boman, J., Fleisher, W., & Sareen, J. (2009). The relationship between child abuse, parental divorce, and lifetime mental disorders and suicidality in a nationally representative adult sample. Child abuse & neglect, 33(3), 139-147.
- Lorenzo-López, L., Maseda, A., de Labra, C., Regueiro-Folgueira, L., & Rodríguez-Villamil, J. L. (2017). Nutritional determinants of frailty in older adults: A systematic review. BMC geriatrics, 17(1), 1-18.
- Kposowa, A. J. (2013). Divorce and suicide risk. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, 67(12), 993-998.