Psychological Self-Help

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988
walk away when the marriage starts to break down and our anger
flares? 
To the inexperienced and uninformed (that's most of us), it seems
so much easier and even exciting to fantasize about finding "the right
person" for you--someone who will truly appreciate you just as you
are. Besides, we don't love each other any more! Clearly, it is my
partner who has a serious problem. How could I possibly fix him/her,
he/she is so messed up and I'm no shrink! I want a divorce! It is so
difficult to see the problems that will occur in the next marriage, but
they are inevitable. 
 
The pain of divorce
When the love we had hoped and expected would last forever fails,
our world falls apart. Unless you have already found another lover,
divorce is a very painful experience. The hardest divorces are when
you are being rejected by your partner, you thought the marriage was
okay, and your parents and friends disapprove of the divorce
(Thompson & Spanier, 1983). Very few divorcees end up having a
wonderful, creative growth experience with lots of sex, although that is
a common fantasy. We lose our most important relationship (or had
lost it years before). It can crush us with depression (see chapter 6 for
the stages of divorce). It can flood us with anger. It can overwhelm us
with scary changes and decisions, new responsibilities, economic
hardships, questions about "What do I want to do?" and on and on.
The "leaver" or rejector is sometimes less stressed than the "leavee"
but that isn't always true. Baumeister & Wotman (1992) say many
rejectors are profoundly guilty, in turmoil, and feel helpless or
embarrassed. The "leavee" isn't guilty but is hurt and shamed by
failure and abandonment. The marital conflicts may have lasted for
months or years before the divorce and then emotional distress often
lasts for months afterwards. In fact, although people expect to feel
better soon after the divorce, in some cases the worst time is about
one year after the divorce. During the first year after separating, 73%
of the women and 60% of the men think the divorce might have been
a mistake (Hetherington, Cox and Cox, 1985). Yet, half of the men and
two-thirds of the women said that overall they were "more content
with life" five years after a divorce than they had been before. 
Supposedly, time heals all wounds, but the pain of divorce lasts
and lasts. Ten years later 40-50% of women and 30-40% of men
remained very angry at the former spouse and felt rejected and
exploited (Wallerstein, 1986). Females over 40 have an especially hard
time. They have less chance of remarrying (28%), inadequate income
(50%), and loneliness or clinical depression (50%). After 10 years, in
only 10% of divorces was life better for both partners, in 27% of the
cases both had a poorer quality of life, and 63% of the time one
partner was better off but the other was unchanged or got worse. In
the latter situation, the upbeat spouse is more likely to be the woman
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