Will Divorce Make me Happier?


“Will divorce make me happier?” There is often an assumption that individuals will be happier after they divorce, because the divorce will solve a difficult problem.  While some may be happier after a divorce, research indicates most adults that divorce have lower levels of happiness and more psychological distress compared to married individuals.  Divorce can bring up new conflicts between couples that cause more tension than when they were married.  There is also a false assumption that divorce can be better for the kids.  There is not one clear answer to this as all relationships are unique.  Speaking with a professional may be beneficial as you make your decision.  Below you will find more information on happiness and divorce.

Are people happier when they divorce?

The answer to this question is not as obvious as some people think. Some see divorce as the cure-all; they hope that divorce will end their unhappiness. One of the best long-term studies of divorce found that divorce, in and of itself, generally does not lead to a better life. Some people are happier as a result of divorce. On the other hand, many marriages that experience even very serious problems, such as alcoholism, infidelity, and emotional neglect, are now happy after working through their problems. One study found that, in one state, about three in ten currently married individuals at one time thought their marriage might be in serious trouble and thought about divorce. But more than 90% of these individuals said that they were glad that they were still together.

It is hard to work through a difficult marriage, but it is also hard to work through a divorce. One study found that when individuals in a low-conflict marriage divorced, they experienced a decrease in happiness, on average. This study suggests that ending a marriage that may be unhappy at the time but low in conflict is not a reliable path to improved happiness. About half of divorces come from low-conflict marriages in which one or both spouses are unhappy but there isn’t a lot of fighting.

One idea some people have about divorce is that children will be better off because a divorce will make for happier parents. If there isn’t a lot of conflict in the marriage, research suggests that the children probably will be better off if their parents stay married and try to work though their problems.

Especially when children are involved, divorce does not necessarily end conflict between parents. In fact, research suggests that, for many couples, conflict actually increases after a divorce and post-divorce conflict between ex-spouses makes it more difficult for children to adjust to life after the divorce. Most children are better off when their parents can resolve their difficulties and keep the family together, although there are exceptions to this. In high-conflict marriages with a lot of fighting or abusive marriages, children are generally better off if their parents divorce rather than stay married and continue to fight.

Will a divorce decrease conflict between me and my spouse?

Most couples who divorce do not experience high levels of conflict, and divorce may bring up a new set of problems with your spouse.  Often times problems are hidden during the marriage and divorce brings about new circumstances that may bring up the issues.  For many, dealing with the problem is even harder than staying in the marriage.  Post-divorce conflict is often more visible when children are involved.  Parent often have logistical issues, legal mandates, split finances, and shared custody which all make the act of communicating clearly and efficiently very difficult.  It is important to minimize conflict with your ex-spouse and it can be difficult to accurately predict if conflict will decrease.  A trusted religious leader or professional counselor may be able to help you sort through your thoughts.

Will I wish I would have worked harder?

Everyone’s circumstances are different, so this can be a sensitive topic, but research does suggest some people harbor regrets about their divorce.  One study found in 75% of couples, at least one partner had second thoughts about their decision to divorce.  Another study found almost half of individuals wished they/or their spouse had tried harder to work through their differences. Having feelings of uncertainty and doubt are very common and feelings of regret tend to decrease overtime.  A good marriage as well as a good divorce are similar in that they require those involved to be kind and considerate to each other.

Laura, a participant interviewed about her divorce, acknowledged “the grass is not greener” and gave the advice to “not evaluate with anger….because it will guide you down the wrong path.”

What are my chances of remarrying?

About three of four divorced people will eventually remarry within 10 years, with about half who will remarry will have done so within 5 years of their divorce.  Factors that may impact your ability to remarry are if you have kids and your age when you divorce.  Women who bring children into a second marriage are more likely to divorce than men who bring children into a second marriage. Age plays a factor, because chances of remarriage decline with age due to their being fewer single partners available at older ages.  There are still many divorced people that remarry at an older age and with children.

Find the research support here.