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The important truth about divorce that is too often overlooked

Although divorce is not as stigmatized as it once was, many are still critical of the practice. Anti-divorce and "pro-family" advocates sometimes bolster their arguments by citing studies showing the negative effects of divorce on children, as well as the negative effects to each spouse's overall health.

To be sure, divorce often is difficult for children and marriage can come with health benefits (compared to being single), but these conclusions are far from universal. Many studies (and personal anecdotes) have shown that it is often more damaging for children to grow up in a high-conflict home than to have divorced parents. And when it comes to the health benefits associated with being married, context must be considered. Happy marriages confer health benefits, but unhappy ones may have the opposite effect. Indeed, the results of a recent study suggest that even being in an "ambivalent" marriage can have negative health consequences.

In late 2015, researchers at Brigham Young University published the results of a marriage study that tracked 94 couples. In order to control for variables, researchers tracked only couples who didn't have children. Participants were asked various questions designed to measure the average levels of positive support vs. negativity in their relationships. Participants also had their blood pressure checked regularly and were asked to record what they were doing at the time each blood-pressure test was administered.

The results showed that individuals in ambivalent marriages tended to have higher blood pressure than those who were in generally supportive marriages. For purposes of the study, "ambivalent" was defined as a relationship in which a partner's support (or lack of support) was unpredictable. This is different than a relationship in which support is consistent but mild.

Although this study was limited in scope (as every study is), its results nonetheless make an important point that is too often overlooked. Marriage is great, but not universally so. There are marriages that don't work and can't work, which means that divorce is sometimes the healthiest option.

If you are facing divorce and feeling conflicted about it, this study will hopefully give you some helpful perspective. And if you're ready to get started with divorce proceedings, please contact an experienced family law attorney.

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