Divorce ends 46 percent of marriages in the United States, the seventh
highest rate in the world. Sweden holds the record with 55 percent of marriages
end by divorce. In the Canada of my childhood, divorce was uncommon. Canadian
laws made divorce difficult and expensive to arrange. Divorce laws began to
change in 1968 by popular demand. As the grounds for divorce became less
stringent and the legal process less expensive, divorce rates in Canada climbed.
The most divorce permissive change in law was the Canadian Divorce Act of 1985
which was followed by 96,200 divorces in 1987, the highest rate recorded. If
you examine divorce rates per year of marriage in Canada, the highest rate is
25.5 divorces per 1,000 marriages during the fourth year. The rate of divorce
declines progressively after the fifth year of marriage.
disruptive and expensive. Humans are creatures of habit and the bonds between
any two people and their children are strong even when the bonds involve
destructive behaviors, abuse and suffering. When a couple divorces, their
external and internal infrastructures change. Since married couples are densely mapped into each other’s behaviors, a
prolonged period of unlearning and then relearning day to day living strategies
follow every separation. Common wisdom recognizes that nearly separated person
is usually not ready for another relationship for months to years.
interwoven with possessions, the comforts of the home, food, clothing and
shelter. Childless couples will often split with a battle over common property.
Couples with children have a more complex and protracted separation tasks.
Every family is a small business and when the partners in a small business
default, the business tends to fail. A single parent often requires more
money, extraordinary commitment, new knowledge, new skills and a new fiscal
discipline to balance the budget.
Children are vulnerable when their parents
divorce. Co-parenting by divorced parents is usually conflict-ridden and harmful
to children who just want "normal parents' who keep the home intact and look
after their needs. Children want to be part of an intact family and do best when
they are participating in the day to day chores and have a sense of membership
in a stable family home and some control over their own destiny.
easiest arrangement in a family divorce situation is that the father leaves the
family fully functional in the family home and sends monthly payments to mother
so that she can keep the family in business. In the best case, another man
eventually arrives to take his place. Occasionally, mother leaves dad with the
children, runs off with her new lover and no longer contributes to the family.
If the father leaves and does not pay, the mother often cannot afford to keep
the family in business, she and kids have to move to a less expensive lifestyle.
They feel cheated and deprived.
Increasingly, governments support single
mothers running the family business alone at a minimal survival level with no
prospect of growth and development. A single mother may try to find a male
replacement but smart, single men are reluctant to take on the responsibility of
another man’s children. If they do step into an existing family, they are often
poor fathers and short-term mates. Even well-motivated and resourceful men will
have prolonged difficulties winning the approval of the children of another
father while they cope with the mother’s lingering attachments to her previous
Stepparents and mixed families are routinely troubled since the
advantages of early bonding and blood-ties are lost. Children resent stepparents
routinely and stepparents have to be patient and noble or strict and oppressive
to establish even a basic level of cordiality at home. Stepparents are not
devoted to step children by innate bonds, which are the strongest bonds, and are
not inhibited by sexual taboos that regulate sexual and aggressive behaviors
within a biological family. Stepparents physically and sexually abuse
stepchildren more often than biological parents do.
Divorced parents suffer a
variety of injustices from each other and from the communities in which they
live. There remains a stigma attached to divorce. Divorced fathers have become
victims as much as their ex-wives and their children. Laframboise
[i] reported, for example, the suicide of Darrin
White, a 35-year-old father of three children who was ordered by a family court
judge to pay twice his take home pay in child support and alimony every month: “
Researchers have known for decades that divorce is harder on men than it is on
women… men experience significantly higher rates of suicide, mental illness,
physical health problems and accidents than do women. Yet, we remain indifferent
to their anguish.”
[i] Laframboise D.
Father’s suicide becomes rallying cry for fairness in court. April 1 2000.
- The book, I and Thou, focuses on intimate relationships. Innate tendencies are hard at
work when people meet, become lovers and end with arguments and fighting. The
same tendencies determine how family members interact and explain why so many
families are “dysfunctional.” When lovers form an enduring pair bond, they often
become parents and everything changes. Humans seek bonding with others and are
distressed when they become isolated. Humans bond to each other in several ways.
The most enduring bonds are kin-related, based on closely shared genes. The
deepest bonding occurs when mother and infant are together continuously from
birth and mother breast-feeds the infant. Bonds among family members are the
most enduring. Bonds to friends, lovers and spouses are the next most
significant. Bonds to colleagues, neighbors and even strangers that are admired
from a distance are next. Friendships are often temporary bonds, based on the
need to affiliate with others for protection, social status, feeding, sex and
- I and Thou is available in a print and an eBook edition for
download. 199 Pages.
I and Thou eBook
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exchange rate. The author is
Stephen Gislason MD
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