Increasing divorce rates not a deterrent for students’ dreams for marriage

Carlie Sack | Staff Writer

Marriage is confusing. As statistics of increasing divorce rates are constantly referenced in everyday life, high school students can become fearful of entering a marriage that they think may not last, according to junior Samone Banks.The divorce rate for first marriages is between 40 and 50 percent in America, according to Deerfield Township Family Counseling Center therapist Pamela Gerdes, but this high rate drops after a couple has been married for several years.

“The statistics are kind of misleading, because [the] rate [of divorce] is high during the first couple years; [then,] if people can kind of figure out what’s going wrong, [the marriage is] fine,” Gerdes said.

According to Banks, the divorce rates can still be intimidating when looking to the future.

“It’s so confusing, because all these statistics say that people get divorced usually after four or five years, [that] the divorce rate is high and that people…are happier before they got married,” Banks said. “I would like to think that people stay married. …I think that a lot of people are maybe getting married too early or marrying the wrong people for the wrong reasons.”

Senior Erin Peery said she feels this confusion of her generation about marriage and divorce.

“I think people, especially [those] our age, look up to that point [of meeting their spouses]; those doubts [of marrying the wrong person] are constant,” Peery said. “There’s always the ‘What if?’ question when you’re young. Girls especially have that worry in the back of their minds.”

But junior Tate Honaker said his worry about marrying the wrong person is minimal, as long as he incorporates his spirituality when finding a spouse.

“You’re always going to worry a little,” Honaker said. “[But,] if your family approves, [you will know you found the right person]. They know what’s best for you. …And [you will know] if you pray about it. You will just know.”

Peery said that she is unafraid of picking a spouse because there will be an instant connection with her future husband: she said she knows that her God will ensure that she makes the right choice.

“God created someone else for you to be with,” Peery said. “God has someone out there for me. …I don’t think I’ll marry the wrong person. I think once I meet him, I’ll know and I’ll be confident.”

Gerdes said that this instant connection between two people is healthy and is one important part in establishing and maintaining a healthy marriage.

“We just assume that [a successful marriage is] going to be automatic; a lot of times people are going to be brought together because of those initial hormones,” Gerdes said. “And there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s a wonderful time, but then, when you get to [know] who [you] really are, you think, ‘Why did I pick them?’ You picked them for really good reasons, but we kind of overlook [those initial reasons at difficult points in a marriage].”

But pinpointing the characteristics that initially bring a couple together can be a baseline for solving problems that cause the pair to drift apart, according to Gerdes.

“Sometimes, [the healing process is] just defining why people are doing what they are doing and then kind of understanding how the two [people in a relationship] become one,” Gerdes said.

This understanding of how two people work together is important because a person’s behavior in one relationship will repeat in a successive one.

“Your relationship with your parents right now is crucial,” Gerdes said. “And figuring out those family dilemmas; that’s really what it’s all about. …Think, ‘What makes a good relationship?’”

Understanding the characteristics of a healthy relationship is vital, but cannot always solve all problems in a marriage, Gerdes said.

“If you try something and everybody did everything they can to make it work, …and it doesn’t, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with shaking hands and being best friends,” Gerdes said. “It depends on how people handle [the divorce]. It doesn’t have to be [a bad thing].”

Banks said that she agrees that divorce does not necessarily have to be negative, as long as the decision is not made hastily.

“I don’t want to say divorce is always better or divorce is always good,” Banks said. “But, people get divorced for a reason and…at least they put some thought into it.”

Even if the decision to get a divorce was made thoughtfully and is justified, the process and consequences of a divorce can be emotionally tolling for the entire family, according to Gerdes.

“It’s not an easy situation,” Gerdes said. “There’s nothing better than a secure base in the family — [but], all [of] the sudden, somebody’s gone. …[The children] start internalizing some of the anger that’s going on, and then, all [of] the sudden, it’s [the child’s] baggage.”

When children experience divorce in their own families, their perceptions of marriage are changed by learning from their parents mistakes, junior Morgan Bamberger said.

“I think for the people that have been through divorce [in their family, their perception of marriage] will definitely be different,” Bamberger said. “[Divorce] affects how you look at a relationship, like you know your parents’ mistakes in their marriage, so you can try to avoid those. …I’ve seen the pain and everything that it can cause to a family. That’s something that I’ve always told myself: I’d never do that to my kids. I would never get a divorce and put them through that.”

But having divorced parents does not necessarily mean the child will enter an unhealthy marriage, according to Gerdes.

“That’s kind of the neat part about human nature: we can all learn and not repeat,” Gerdes said. “Sometimes it’s easy [for a child] to repeat [his or her parents’ patterns of marriage], but 80 percent of the kids [of divorced parents] are absolutely okay [in their own marriages].”

Even with individuals’ abilities to learn from relationships that they have observed in the past, Honaker said his generation will likely follow in its parents’ patterns of marriage.

“I would like to think the divorce rate will go down,” Honaker said. “[But,] the older generation has set a bad example: unfortunately, divorce is accepted. Divorce causes a lot of pain. Marriage is supposed to last forever; it’s not supposed to be broken apart.”

But Gerdes said that the frequency of divorce will possibly increase in the future because individuals will be more financially independent from their spouses than past generations.

“I think that economics [and] financial freedom allow people to have a whole lot more choices,” Gerdes said. “So with [the next] generation, with more and more people working, no one is going to be as financially dependent on people. I think that’s going to be a factor [in the divorce rate in the future].”

But these factors of the divorce rate do not change people’s fear that their own marriage will not live up to the high expectations portrayed by the media.

“Marriage is always going to be flawed,” Banks said. “I mean, we watch these movies and we think, ‘Oh, we’re going to be happy all the time,’ but the reality is everyone fights and everyone probably goes through their rough patches. You just have to work to get over them.”

The attempt to improve conflicts in a marriage should truly begin before the marriage does, according to Gerdes, with an honest conversation about each person’s expectations in life.

“Really sit down and know what each person wants in life; [ask,] ‘What’s important to you?’” Gerdes said. “You have to look at professionally what you want. …Do you want kids? If you do, how many? Who’s going to stay at home, if you’re both working, and take care of them? I think when people start to work things out like that, then [the marriage truly] begins. That’s the beginning.”

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