Deciding to Divorce takes Courage
As a divorce lawyer with a background in psychology, I was very interested to read about a recent study done at the University of Michigan which discussed the effect of a bad marriage on mental health. Growing up, I often overheard my mother, aunt, and grandmother dispensing the same advice over and over to their divorcing friends. In Spanish, they would say "mejor sola que mal acompanada" which translates into "better off alone than in bad company". This has always rung true for me, which is perhaps why I was rather picky about boyfriends & spent a lot of time happily single. But I digress. Now there is scientific proof to back up what the women in my family have known all along! The study led by Dr. Alan Teo looked at just under 5,000 American adults and found that depression was much more likely to occur in people who were in bad marriages or in bad "marriage-like" relationships. People whose marriages are strained or who view their spouses as unsupportive are significantly more likely to become depressed than those who are not only married but also those who are single. The findings of this study will certainly impact the mental health and medical fields, as I imagine that practitioners will become cognizant not solely on whether or not someone is in a committed relationship such as a marriage but also on whether or not it is a happy one. I believe that the study is also important in law, as divorce lawyers witness on an almost daily basis the struggle that people have in the decision to end their marriage (or accepting a spouse's decision). I see so many people who tell me that they have terrible marriages- marriages that make them cry all the time, marriages that make them not want to be home, and marriages that are abusive. Yet, they are hesitant to explore divorce because of either the number of years that they have invested or because they are afraid to be alone. Divorce can certainly be a sad, scary place but people should also consider the other side of the coin and look at what a bad marriage (those that are beyond repair) is really doing to them. Sometimes it is scarier to face the prospect of staying on the same road then getting off of it and starting a different life. The mental toll that a bad marriage takes can last a lot longer than the unpleasant road of divorce. In the end, don't they say that health is the greatest thing that we have? I believe that this includes our mental health as well and that marriage in and of itself is not enough for happiness to endure. It is the overall quality.
Mediated Divorces are Less Stressful
Some couples use a neutral mediatior to negotiate the terms of their divorce, although a lawyer must still draw up paperwork and go to court. Mediation gives people a sense of having more control over what will happen and feel less stress as the pair are attempting to cooperate. I have seen divorces go both ways, from the amicable divorces that are resolved in mediation to the really nasty divorces and its not hard to guess which people end up happier in the long run. I have been mediating divorces since 2008 and if your divorce is causing undue strain on your mental health, and your spouse is in agreement to try a different approach, give me a call and we can discuss whehter or not mediation might be an option for you.