How Is Divorce Worth It and Not


    10 Min Read


    People often view the prospect of divorce the way a thirst-starved traveler views a dessert oasis. A magical place where all pain will cease. But is divorce actually worth it in the end?

    It’s got to be, right?


    After all, anything that ends the hell your marriage has been must be worth it.

    Sound familiar?

    We've all heard horror stories of bad divorces. But those must be the exception rather than the norm, right?

    Not really.

    The pain, anger, and resentment you may have witnessed in others who are divorcing is very real and normal.

    So, as you consider whether divorce is really worth it, please keep in mind that pain is an unavoidable reality of divorce.

    Don’t believe me?

    Maybe Ricardo can help convince you.

    I feel betrayed when I caught my wife flirting through repeated glances with a security personnel standing on the casino hotel passage because she thought I was asleep in the hotel room. I saw all those acts of slutty behavior a form of deceit. It is so painful and caused a very deep wound in my feeling I wish I have not seen that situation. She keeps that pattern of behaviour with men from her younger days even as a married couple. I am now suffering with shock and negative thoughts and it is taking a toll on my health. I think this would be the end of our relationship and worth a divorce. I totally lost my trust and respect to her if there is anything left." -Ricardo

    What’s Divorce Like?

    Divorce means pain. There's no way around it.

    Even if you’re the one who wants it, divorcing is a painful process.

    So, you have to wonder, is the pain divorce causes worth it?

    Tough question.


    Is the pain of physical exercise worth it?

    Maybe, if it results in better health and a fit body.

    But if you blow out your knee, tear a muscle, or drop a weight on your foot, you may disagree. In other words, the pain is there regardless, but the result at the end of the effort can color your opinion of its worth.

    One of the challenges when thinking about divorce is it's easy to underestimate the amount of hurt it will bring and even easier to convince yourself that divorce is worth it under any circumstance.

    Even people who've been through it before can minimize the pain that comes along with the process and end result.

    Considering divorce as a two-part process is the best approach.

    First, there's the process of getting divorced.

    Second, the life you'll have after the divorce is completed.

    Getting divorced is almost always a long, hard process. You may be able to separate rather quickly, but untangling your lives takes time.

    I've worked with people who've divorced in states that will complete the process in as short as 6 weeks, but most states are like California and require a minimum of 6 months. Despite these legal timelines, I've rarely seen a divorce completed in less than a year.


    It takes a lot of time to work through all of the steps. A man I’ve been counseling said his has taken 2.5 years, and it’s still not done, and they didn't even have much money to fight over in the first place.

    So there's,

    • Pain caused by the time divorce takes to become final

    • Financial pain

    • The mental and emotional toll

    And while you can put a number on time and money, it's impossible to quantify the emotional aspect of divorce or predict it.

    If you're contemplating divorce then you're probably already in pain and don’t believe things could be any worse than what you’re currently experiencing.

    However, most people believe their ex will behave better than they do and that the divorce process will go better than it actually does.

    Not only are people typically overly optimistic about the process of divorcing, but they’re also often unrealistic about life after divorce too.

    Many romanticize the idea of being single again and the autonomy and freedom it will bring. They neglect to consider the fact that tearing your current life to pieces as you move to the next stage means having to put all of those pieces back together again.

    Not an easy process.

    Divorce Being Worth It Depends On The Outcome

    In most divorces the two biggest issues are money and kids.


    In many cases there's one spouse who earns the majority of the income and can usually recoup the assets that are lost in divorce. The other spouse may have less income earning potential and be dependent on maximizing their takeaway from the divorce.

    However, even though certain assets can be replaced, the years of saving for retirement or building a safety net can’t always. I recently counseled a woman who's in the middle of a divorce and is regretting not prioritizing saving for retirement during her marriage.

    It's a common mistake to underestimate the impact of divorce on retirement savings. Most people have some amount of money in retirement accounts, such as an IRA or 401k. These will be divided, and years of saving will be lost.


    What makes retirement savings really grow is the compounding of growth over the years. So, the real impact of divorce is not only in the lost savings, but the lost compounding. The woman above with no retirement savings is now questioning if walking away from her marriage was the right thing.

    The bottom-line regarding money and divorce is that almost everyone's lifestyle takes a hit, often a big one, because the money that used to pay for one household must now pay for two.

    There are exceptions, but most people simply have to figure out how to live on less. Don't lose sight of the fact that living on less won't just be a reality for a temporary period, but likely for the rest of your life.

    Obviously, money shouldn't be the primary factor, but it does play a big role in all of our lives and must be considered when making what's a very emotionally driven decision.

    As you wonder if getting a divorce is worth it considering this aspect carefully is crucial.


    The effect on kids is also something that's easy to minimize.

    Another man I'm counseling right now is watching both kids show clear signs of stress and anxiety (upset stomach, bowel accidents) over their parent’s broken relationship. And while he can see the signs, these signs aren’t always obvious. Many children hide their stress or express it in other less obvious ways.

    Children watching their parents’ divorce often,

    • Act out at school

    • Lose interest in academics

    • Become withdrawn

    • Feel less safe

    • Have difficulty trusting adults

    • Suffer with self-confidence

    • Struggle with abandonment fears

    • Feel secret guilt that somehow they’re the problem

    • Become jaded and cynical about adult relationships

    Many of these are often not visible right away.

    And, sadly, even if they are visible, it’s not uncommon for parents who are divorcing to fail to see the impacts the divorce is having on their kids until they become really serious.

    Divorcing can cause even the best, most attentive parent to lose sight of the emotional health of the children affected.

    Just reviewing a few statistics on children's health and well-being after divorce will give you an idea of the many ways kids are negatively affected.


    Keep in mind that regardless of how you explain or justify it, deciding to divorce is more about your interests than your kids. What your kids want and need is for their parents to fix their problems and stay together.

    The Realities Of Life After Divorce – Worth It Or Not?

    What's rarely considered when thinking about whether divorce is worth it, is what it will be like starting your life over.

    There are many ways this can impact you, but I can tell you from my years of doing divorce counseling that it hits everybody - even the partner who wants the divorce.

    One of the most obvious places is in dating and finding someone new.

    Despite all of the hi-tech ways to meet and date now (dating apps, match-making services, social media), for most people, reentering the dating world is harder than ever. It's also humbling to be doing it again at mid-life or later.

    Another common complaint about starting over is the absence of someone to help carry the day-to-day load of life.

    When you're divorced everything falls on you. EVERYTHING.
    • Figuring out how to connect the printer to Wi-Fi – that’s on you.

    • Daily chores. Yep, those are yours too.

    • Dry rot in the siding of the house? Leak in the tub? Expensive and yours to fix.

    Don’t forget being a full-time parent when it's your days with the kids. It's often these moments that make people really question whether the divorce was worth it.

    And it’s also these experiences that create the “A-ha” moments when partners begin to realize that marriage isn’t just about love, romance, and sex. It’s a partnership and an agreement to share life, and the ups and downs together.

    Often the reality of life after divorce makes people reconsider whether getting divorced was worth it, and if they initiated it to think they may have been short-sighted.

    Not only do I counsel people prior to divorce, as well through it, but I also counsel people well after as they struggle to figure out their new life.


    As I said earlier, the mental and emotional impact is impossible to predict. There are also a number of intangibles that result from divorce that are hard to anticipate, such as the loss of family and friends.

    New routines must be developed like,

    • Finding a new church or favorite restaurant

    • Moving to a new part of town to avoid crossing paths with your ex

    • The when and how of seeing mutual friends.

    • Social situations like kids sports, Christmas parties, etc.

    • Joint parental responsibilities, such as school conferences, etc.

    The list goes on and on.

    Are any of these enough to make divorce not worth it?

    Not necessarily, but when the cumulative effect is seriously considered it should make you pause.

    We had the fairytale falling in love, struggles over cross country moves and difficulty getting pregnant for years. The last 2 years have been increasing hard with his work - he travels all the time. Often home on weekends, but not always. The distance has worked against us. I take of everything at home (a recent stay at home mom for the past year). We bicker a lot, have had questions about his fidelity as I have discovered a few instances whereby he keeps information from me, as innocent as it maybe, he does not let me decide how I will react to it, rather he just tries to omit it. We have too much sarcasm with one another, but on the outside, everyone has thought we had the 'perfect life'. 2 weeks, just prior to a long awaited family vacation, he bought a brand new truck, and on the vacation told me he's "done" and does not love me anymore and hasn't for awhile and that he wants a divorce. Initially, it was a bomb. I knew we were struggling and had actually wanted to take this vacation time to talk with him, put our guards down and try to work on us to reconnect and rekindle our marriage, so I told him, no way was he going to get a divorce. I don't believe in it. When we married he said he didn't either. I feel if it's broken fix it, forge a new path and don't give up. For better or worse...that vows mean something. I shared with him we could come out stronger, better spouses and parents, that we could reflect on this in years to come with our children to help guide them. After many talks, he has agreed, although he doesn't see things changing, that if I give him space, he might be able realize what he's missing. He's said he misses and wants to be part of the kids lives, but could care less if we're together, that he is simply no longer attracted to me and doesn't see that changing either. I told him I believe what we have is worth saving and trying to fix, let's bury old hatchets, leave the past in the past and start new. Let's change our old behaviors - I have already changed as I'm so much more acutely aware of places that I can be a brighter, healthier more pleasant person to be with. It will make me happier and in turn come out to him and the kids. I don't feel our marriage is disposable. I feel he might be having a mid life crisis. We lost sight of what was important and spent all our energy on the kids, house and work instead of us. I shared with him I wanted to refocus our energy. How can I help him see divorce isn't worth it?" -Vivian

    What's The Goal Of Divorce?

    Determining whether divorce is worth it will be a different process for each person.

    Every couple I've counseled through divorce would have a different answer. One partner might say, yes, and another, no. Both might say yes, but for different reasons, or want to qualify their answers by describing what the experience was like and the long-term effects.

    I've had people who've wanted a divorce very badly and afterward looked back either questioning or regretting their decision.

    Ultimately, deciding if divorce is worth it or not comes down to personal reasons surrounding the purpose and goals for divorcing.

    What are you trying to accomplish or change?


    Most people would say some version of to be happy or escape the pain of their marriage. That's not an unreasonable expectation, but it's often an unrealistic one.

    When you get divorced you’ll almost certainly still have contact with your ex. Some people never see each other again, but it's rare. Kids keep people connected, and so escaping the pain that comes with having to interact with your current spouse isn't usually possible. Other things like finances or family can keep your ex in your life too.

    A guy I counseled through his divorce almost 10 years ago still has his divorce attorney on retainer because he and his ex can't work together to make decisions about anything regarding their kids without attorneys and a judge involved.

    Another guy I’m counseling who's 4 years post-divorce just got his child visitation temporarily halted by his ex because he changed where he was living.

    Unfortunately, escaping all of the pain your spouse causes you now isn't possible in most cases.

    Another common expectation or hope is that you'll find someone new and better. While this is always possible, it doesn't always happen. I have several divorced patients I'm counseling who've been unsuccessful in dating and finding a new long-term partner, and they hate having to do it.

    Yet believing you'll find someone better is what makes many people think that getting divorced will be worth it.

    So, think through your expectations and be sure they're realistic. Talking with a marriage counselor experienced in divorce to check yourself is a really good idea.

    What To Take Away

    Divorcing is a big decision, equally as big as the one you made to get married. Deciding whether divorce is worth it requires very careful consideration.

    One of the biggest mistakes people make is thinking divorce will turn out better than it will, or that it will change things that it won't.

    It's also tempting to seek seek reassurance from others that divorce will be worth it. However, be very careful to consider the likely biased perspectives of those with whom you speak.

    There's a lot to consider when deciding if divorce is worth it. It's a big, big life-altering decision. So, take your time and make sure you're making a well thought out decision, not an emotionally driven one.

    Do you have some experience with divorce? If so, is divorce worth it in your opinion? Please share your opinion with others in a comment below.

    Editor's Note: This post was originally published April 11, 2019. It has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.


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