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Most Marriages Can Be Saved, New Book Claims

Most marriages can be savedA new book by co-authors William J. Doherty and Leah Ward Sears contends that most marriages can be saved, and that it’s typically the “average” divorce that can cause the most damage to children.

Doherty, a professor of family social science at the University of Minnesota and director of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project, and Sears, a partner at the law firm of Schiff Hardin and former chief justice of the Georgia Supreme Court from 2005 to 2009, have written Second Chances: A Proposal to Reduce Unnecessary Divorce.

This week, the pair released an excerpt from their book and in it characterize assumptions that “Divorce happens only after a long process of misery and conflict; and, once couples file for divorce, they don’t entertain the idea of reconciling,” as wrong.

Average Divorce Is ‘The Most Harmful To Children’

In addressing the reality of divorce, the authors write:

“Research over the past decade has shown that a major share of divorces (50 to 66 percent, depending on the study) occur between couples who had average happiness and low levels of conflict in the years before the divorce,” the authors claim. “Contrary to popular belief, only a minority of divorcing couples experience high conflict and abuse during their marriages. Most divorces occur with couples who have drifted apart and handle everyday disagreements poorly. It is these ‘average’ divorces that research shows are the most harmful to children.”

Shining a bit more light on this reality, sociologists Paul Amato and Alan Booth agree. “Our results suggest that divorces with the greatest potential to harm children occur in marriages that have the greatest potential for reconciliation.”

Why Most Marriages Can Avoid The Divorce Outcome

In Doherty’s own research, 2,500 divorcing parents “well along in that process” were asked whether they would be willing to submit to reconciliation services. “In at least 10 percent of these divorce cases, both spouses were open to efforts to reconcile — and in another 30 percent, one spouse was interested in reconciliation,” Doherty said. “Results for couples earlier in the divorce process were even more promising.”

Many spouses are so cut to the core by the words, “I want a divorce,” that they give up too early, the book contends. While the desire for divorce may be more lopsided, it doesn’t mean that “No” is the only answer.

If you’ve reached the point that do-it-yourself divorce is the option that you’re considering, give some thought to what factors are driving you apart. If DIY divorce is still your best option, we can help. But don’t give up on a marriage that’s still worth fighting for.

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