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The Hand Rocking the Cradle

The Effects of Divorce on the Family

Family Dynamics:

There are five stages to forming any group, according to psychologist Steve Tuckman’s model, first developed in the 1960’s (Content Team, 2018): Forming, Storming, Norming, Performing, and Conforming (or Adjourning). The concepts that apply to business can also be applied to how the family unit forms, because essentially, we form our own group—a family group. When all members of a group are performing as a team, the business runs like a well-oiled machine, but throw a wrench in the process and the whole thing can fail. In this report, I will explain the dynamics of forming a [family] group, various wrenches that get thrown in the mix, along with how to survive divorce and the effects it can have on your life.

Forming: The Glory Days of Love

You see him, he sees you, or vice versa, and the romance begins. Over half of all relationships now are actually formed online, and online dating has resulted in hundreds, if not thousands of marriages. Match.com (Match , 2018) reports that forty million Americans are using online dating sites. So, whether you’re on a dating site or simply perusing Facebook, society has evolved into one that does a great deal of socialization online.

It usually takes about one year for us to begin to notice each other’s flaws. The love hormones we produce are primarily responsible for this. We see “through rose colored glasses” until the hormones wear off. This is why the first year is often referred to as “the honeymoon phase” of the relationship. We produce hormones when we are falling in love that decrease our weight, make us feel strong and young, and are also a barometer for our attraction.

The Loyola University Health System reports on sciencedaily.com:

We also subconsciously smell one another. Pheromones produced by our bodies may actually smell good, thus attracting us to someone. We are all designed to seek survival, which includes multiplying and growing our inner circles or families.

"We've just started to understand that there is communication below the level of consciousness," says Bettina Pause, a psychologist at Heinrich Heine University of Düsseldorf (H.H.U.), who has been studying pheromones and human social olfaction for 15 years. "My guess is that a lot of our communication is influenced by chemosignals."

After the dating phase usually comes a wedding. A wedding is a beautiful, emotional, sentimental event; a marriage is much more difficult to navigate than a wedding. Depicted in movies and various television shows, a wedding can be a joyous, stressful, wonderful, time-consuming, confusing, expensive, and difficult event in our lives; but what is most depicted is the idea that you can always get divorced. This idea has become so prominent, it is like creating a self-fulfilling prophesy. Carolyn Kaufman, a psychologist and writer for Psychology Today, says that “a self-fulfilling prophecy is a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it is already true. New Agers call this The Law of Attraction (see, for example, Rhonda Byrne’s 2006 self-help book The Secret), but there’s really nothing mystical about it” (Kaufman, 2012).  A good example of a self-fulfilling prophesy is like a bullied teenager. When they are told negative things by their peers over and over, they start to believe that it’s true. Entering the bonds of marriage is a legal process. It is a contract you sign and words you say in front of someone ordained and able to complete the ritual. This means that, if you enter it thinking you can always just “get out,” eventually, you will want out. If you enter it for life, wanting to see it through to the end, your chances of success may be slightly higher. Lots of marriages end even when both people were completely committed to the relationship. Other problems can arise.  Incidentally, if you are in an abusive relationship, there is a way out. Contact the National Domestic Hotline

Family Ties:

The second stage is called Storming for good reason. The rosy glow has worn off as the chemicals begin to normalize in your body, and now that the legal commitment has taken place, new expectations may come into play. How does marriage change people as a couple? What are my responsibilities and what are his? Are we having one child, five children, or no children? These are some of the questions that are answered in marriage counseling.

Since marriage classes or counseling are not required anymore in most states, what could go wrong and other questions, like expectations of one another, are never discussed. Those unanswered questions eventually come to light in the Storming stage of group formation. This is when the politeness has worn off and now the group must establish roles, boundaries, routines, and so on. The Storming stage can last months or years depending on the couple. It is not a race to the end of the five stages; the five stages simply help us to understand the process of group formation which, in turn, could help us through the difficult stages.

Marriage has become almost obsolete, as the CDC reports that only seven out of every thousand people are getting married. Out of those, three people will divorce (CDC), which also includes those who enter into permanent separation. No matter which source you site, there is a great deal of conflicting information. While some sites say that marriage has increased and divorce has decreased, they still all agree on the divorce rate being around fifty percent of all marriages.

There are many factors that contribute to the divorce rate, but marriage has been a social tradition for thousands of years. Society’s ills tend to be a barometer for the divorce rate, such as the online world for us. If a person is permanently separated, are they still married? This gray area and the human need for sex and interaction has created a culture of people unlike we have ever seen before in the past. The online world lets us be whomever we choose, so if someone is separated, in their mind, they are now single. Legally they are not single, but being separated for too long can create this illusion.

Performing, & Conforming:

Once a couple enters the Performing phase of the relationship, they begin to establish healthy routines, roles, and boundaries. Once this has happened, a couple begins to “perform.” They begin to work through smaller kinks in the relationship faster and become accustomed to the life that they are living. This is where the love can begin to grow to a deeper level as both people have relaxed, expectations are clear, and communication is good. The content team of MindTools.com say that “you can’t expect a new team to perform well when it first comes together.” This is only because learning to work as a team takes time and effort. Stephen Covey, author of First Things First (and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), talks about how getting to know one another is not a short process. Technically, we re-get-to-know our spouse at each stage of their lives. The twenties are different from the thirties and forties. We all change, inevitably, as we grow as people from stage to stage.

We all fall down!

Sometimes, divorce happens even when we do not want it to. The effects of divorce are long-lasting and difficult. Some have compared it to the five stages of grieving. First, denial of the problems and the inevitability of the negative outcome; then comes anger. This one needs no explanation. Anger is a common emotion when dealing with courts, legalities, and the ending of a partnership. Next comes bargaining; sometimes one person in the partnership will say things like “if you don’t leave, I’ll get counseling,” and the other partner must decide if this is enough, or if the partnership is going to end. Then comes the fourth stage, depression. Many people seek counseling to deal with the depression of divorce. There are many support groups for adults and children of divorce. Support groups help vent residual issues and deal with all the issues that come with a divorce. Acceptance is the final stage. This stage also needs no explanation.

Resources for getting out of a bad marriage are similar to the help resources for an abusive relationship. They go hand-in-hand sometimes. The effects of divorce are well-known, but in the heat of anger, paperwork and tough emotions, it is difficult to make a rational decision. Let’s look at some of the effects of divorce according to Prevention.com, a health and wellness site, they say that:

“No two people experience a divorce the same way, but most can agree that it's an extremely painful and difficult situation, both mentally and physically. Though you'll be busy filling out legal paperwork with your attorney, it's essential to pay attention to your mind and body: Research shows that divorce can take a serious toll on everything from your sleep habits to your heart (no surprise there). Knowing about the following conditions will allow you to take charge of your health and do everything you can to prevent them from developing.

  1. Divorce has a strong effect on mental well-being. It causes depression, anger, uncertainty, insecurity, and a range of other issues. According to Prevention.com, women who divorce are far more likely to develop something called “metabolic syndrome”; this is when several serious conditions all roll into one, such as high blood pressure, low blood sugar, excessive belly fat, and so on.
  2. Your children will suffer the long-term effects as well. Studies show that children raised in two parent homes are far more likely to succeed than children of divorce. It is not to say that it is impossible to raise a normally functioning adult, but it is extremely difficult for a child of divorce to develop a real sense of security in their world; divorce often causes them to suffer abandonment issues (whether there is contact with both parents or not), depression, and metabolic health problems (Bianchi, 2015). Children of divorce often need help to cope with all the changes in their lives, and if there is a great deal of arguing over custody, they can often take it upon themselves to feel responsible for the fighting, thus responsible for the divorce.
  3. The physiological effects of divorce are perhaps the most complicated. This is because the effects on your mental well-being are directly connected to the rest of your body. When you stress, you produce stress hormones that can cause rapid weight changes; these hormones can also cause pain as the toxins they produce deteriorate nerve endings. So when you say “you’re getting on my last nerve”, you may sometimes be correct in that you have worn the covering off the nerve (called the Myelin Sheath, made of electrolytes). Your nerves need this covering to control the flow and bounce of your nerve impulses. When impulses are not being conducted (directed) properly, pain can center in parts of your body where perhaps it should not be. A common belief by medical professionals is that most pain is psychosomatic (pains that are born of excessive emotional stress) Common areas to develop psychosomatic pain are the spine and neck. This is not to say that there is not legitimate injury to the area. Psychosomatic pain affects everyone differently. Women are most commonly affected, and the diagnosis Fibromyalgia (muscle, nerve pain) may be made. Fibromyalgia is most common in women, and is truly a difficult and sometimes life changing diagnosis. Fibromyalgia occurs when you have worn the Myelin Sheath off of most of your nerves and your body now conducts impulses randomly and without direction. You may stub your toe, and then feel the pain in your spine later. Fibromyalgia (Fibro) is a painful nerve disease that affects the whole body, not a single part. You can’t have Fibromyalgia in just your arm. Doctors who do not subscribe to the very new disease/diagnosis of Fibro, (though scientifically proven), use it as a “trash can” diagnosis. This IS VERY HARMFUL! Mostly because now, of course, you want the disease treated. This puts you on drugs that you do not need that can affect you for the rest of your life. They can cause drug dependence, increased bodily process issues (digestive or thyroid issues, even blood pressure can be affected), and a myriad of other problems specific to your bodily make-up. All of this information comes with your prescription in the “Side Effects” section of the informational paperwork that is included. Since nerves are necessary in every bodily process, the whole body is affected. So Fibromyalgia can cause digestive problems, long-term issues like neuropathy (nerve disease), and mood disorders, just to name a few.
  4. Single mothers are of the highest population in the US receiving welfare assistance. Most of these women are either divorced or were never married. This is how divorce taxes our system. Women (and sometimes men) end up bearing the brunt of raising the family and thus need help. In this society, especially with our economy, it is very difficult to raise children without two incomes. This is not meant as a shunt on people who need help after divorce, especially for someone who was a stay-at-home, entering the work force again can be highly stressful. There are many things that now have to be done that did not have to be done before the divorce; childcare, a new budget, and new routines are just some of the stressors in a newly divorced person. Adjusting to these changes can take a person months or even years.
  5. And last, but certainly not least, the effect on the court system. Family court is perhaps the busiest court in any county. Men go to jail for failure to pay child support (how are they going pay it from in jail?) thus costing the economy around $32,000 per year per inmate. This is about $3,000 per month. The NY Times reported that New York is the most expensive jail system, costing about $80,000 per year (NY Times) or $7,000 per month per inmate. Someone going to jail for the standard ninety days costs YOU $21,000, since paying for our jails falls to the taxpayers (Santora, Mark, 2013). Some of these costs are actually deducted from your child support in small amounts as fees, and if you are welfare dependent, you “pay the state back” via some of those fees from your child support.

What do I do now?

If you are facing divorce, be sure to get involved in support groups and counseling. This is not just for people who are depressed. Many support groups teach finances, coping, and also help children to understand what is going on. Research has shown that counseling, support groups, and even some social groups. Help a divorcing person to be successful in recovering from divorce. Research also shows that if you are happy and well-adjusted, your children will be too.

By:

Mj Angel



Works Cited

Bianchi, J. (2015, February 8). 8 Surprising Ways Divorce Affects Your Health. Retrieved from Prevention: https://www.prevention.com/sex/marriage/divorce-and-health-effects

Content Team. (2018). Understanding the Five Stages of Group Formation. Retrieved from Mind Tools: http://mindtools.com

Hadhazy, A. (2012, February 13). Do Pheromones Play a Role in Our Sex Lives. Retrieved from Scientific American: http://scientificamerican.com

Kaufman, C. P. (2012, October 11). Using Self-Fulfilling Prophesy to Your Advantage. Retrieved from Psychology Today: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psychology-writers/201210/using-self-fulfilling-prophecies-your-advantage

Match . (2018). Retrieved from match.com: http://match.com

Santora, Mark. (2013, August 23). The New York Times. Retrieved 04 23, 2018, from mobile.nytimes.com: http://mobile.nytimes.com

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