The Consequences of Divorce Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D 

Soon after I came to America, I was invited to a party, hosted by a couple who were "celebrating" their just finalized divorce. They had invited all their common friends. The evening at the party was full of laughter, good food, and music, and the divorced man and the lady were cordially hugging and kissing each other and the guests. 

I didn't find any obvious signs of the expected bitterness, grief, or awkward silence. This was my dose of a culture shock. I said to myself, "Wow! Americans really take the high road. When it's time to say good-byes, they know how to say it with grace and love." But, later when I told other people about the divorce celebration party, they thought it was "weird." Well it might have been weird for some, but I felt good just being there.

Every two of the three couples who marry in 1995, will be separating or divorcing before the year 2000 will be over. The majority of the divorcing couples do not part their ways amicably. Even if there is no animosity at the time of divorce, bitterness and resentment over children have a tendency to build up in the years that follow. 

Following the divorce, if there is a dispute, each parent tries to have "one up" over the other and desperately tries to win, but victory remains illusive to both. In the end, both parties lose and children receive the verdict of years of suffering and pain.

In about 90 % of the cases, mothers get the custody of children, therefore, mothers often remain primary caregivers for children. Children of divorce are likely to receive only partial or transient assistance from men. Moms and dads become extremely sensitive and somewhat short- tempered over matters concerning parental rights, visitations, money, etc.

When a divorce is difficult, the mother is depressed as she copes with the daily hassles and arguments while working and trying to raise children with little support from her ex-. When she is depressed and stressed out, she performs even less adequately in her new role. This, in turn, makes a child more insecure and unhappy. She feels increasingly guilty when the child stays angry with her. She doesn't realize that all children express their anger and unhappiness to mothers and tighten the lid on their feelings when they are with fathers.

A father feeling unfairly treated, or frustrated with himself and with the whole situation, becomes angry or depressed, drinks or uses drugs, and becomes increasingly unavailable for emotional contact with the child. When such emotional contact diminishes, children lose an opportunity for identification with and love from father and they blame themselves for driving him away, often believing they are bad or unworthy of their parent's love.

One-third of the chidden do OK after the divorce, another third have minor adjustment problems, and the remaining third are still intensely unhappy, angry and lonely even years after the divorce.  Divorce is more likely to have a negative effect on children if bitterness and hostility between parents exist.

Divorce is not always bad.  On the contrary, divorce is merciful for all when there are constant bitter fights between parents and children are exposed to violence and abuse.  It is not so much the divorce but the hostile relationship between the parents that really harms the children.  The wish to take revenge and "get even" creates a never ending cycle of tension, and the already traumatized children are caught in the middle.

Parents, it's already hard for children.  They don't need to be asked to take sides or be subjected to one parent "trashing" the other.  If divorced couples would only think as parents who have children to protect rather than as ex-spouses who have scores to settle and battle to win.

Parents can, if they want to put the "warrior" in them behind by putting the children first.  Know it well that you can never win the divorce battle and you can never have the last word.  Why not?  Simply because your opponent (your child's other parent) wants to do the same.  So why do you want to be bogged down in a conflict for so long and lock in your energy, which you can very well use to move ahead with your new life.

Why not sit down and negotiate so both of you could get what you want for your children.  Use the "win-win" approach rather than the "win-lose" approach, so you both win -- and so do the children

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Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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