Written by Aviva Lauren Rizel
I recall speaking with my best friend, Jennifer, when we were both still in high school. We were daydreaming about the future, about settling down and raising a family.
I said, “It must be so scary to get married—how can you know if this person will still be good for you decades later?”
She replied, “What’s the big deal? You can always get divorced.”
Well, that short-stopped my daydreaming in its tracks.
Jennifer was the product of a very messy divorce. So messy that when I inquired why her parents got divorced, she would shut down and say “I don’t want to talk about it.” She usually told me everything. We both knew that I knew the answer. The whole neighborhood knew the answer. I wanted to hear the details from her perspective.
Fifteen years later, while I am successfully married and raising a family, I wish that I had been more attuned to the pain that Jennifer covered up. I also began to wonder if perhaps her non-committal response of “What’s the big deal?” held any weight.
I don’t think so. As it turns out, divorce is a very big deal. It is a big deal for the children of divorce, whose standards of living decrease when their parents’ divorce. Jennifer herself went from a beautiful suburban house to an apartment in the business district after her parents split.
It is a big deal for women, who often have to find a way to juggle bringing in more money without wearing themselves out to care for their children.
It is a very big deal for the boys and girls from divorced homes who are more likely to smoke and drink when they get older, as compared with their peers from intact families. Girls are than 100% more likely to become heavy smokers.
It is a big deal for the men of divorce, who are at much higher mortality risk than those who remained married. Even remarried men don’t live as long as those who stay steadily married.
And, on a macro-scale, it is a big deal for the generations that follow a divorced home. Those who had lived through their parents’ divorce when they were children were more likely to have their own marriages end in divorce, thus perpetuating the vicious cycle.
And so today, if Jennifer were to ask me again “What’s the big deal?” I’d have a very different answer than I had as a young high school girl
Because now I’m informed, Jennifer, and divorce is a very big deal.