What Makes People Decide To Leave?
Do The Top Three Reasons We Divorce Top Your List?
The decision didn’t come easily for Amy Marcantel of Atlanta. She and her husband tried to find their way around divorcing, but it just didn’t work.
The final straw came to her one night as she got out of bed because of a headache. She found her husband passed out on their couch with a revolver in his hand. It hit me that night,” Marcantel said. It was safety. And I couldn’t forgive myself if something happened to my kids.”
Marcantel and her former husband are no different from millions of couples who struggle with the decision to divorce. There are a variety of reasons that might push a couple over the edge, but according to a poll conducted by GFK Roper,commissioned by Wevorce.com, about 36 percent of Americans polled said they divorced because of verbal or physical abuse. That figure was higher for women “ 48 percent.
GFK Roper spoke to more than 1,500 people by telephone in September to discuss marriage and divorce issues with them. Slightly more than half of the respondents, 860, were women, and the rest were men. There is a margin or error of plus or minus 2.6 percent for the sample.
While bothgenders cited abuse as a reason for divorce, men weremore likely than women to divorce overfinancial issues, 23 percent, or sexual issues, 22 percent.Sexual issueswerehigh on the listfor men, but low for women, at11 percent. Christie Lawrence, who hosts Pathways Life Management Seminars in Texas, said the divergence makes sense because when women aren’t happy in their intimate relationships, theyare less likely to wantsex — which men see as a sign of intimacy.
Disagreements about how to raise children ended marriages for 13 percent of the full group. About 12 percent of the people who responded said they left their marriages because they were bored. The decision of whether to have children ended 6 percent of the marriages, and religion was a reason for divorce for 4 percent.
WHEN TO GET DIVORCED?
There’s no answer for the person who struggles with the question of divorce. The beginning of the end of the Marcantels’ marriage had been coming for months before that final moment. Marcantel’s husband had been abusing alcohol. For several years, I didn’t realize how bad it was, and it was getting progressively worse,”she said.
Eventually, hewas arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, she said. That was a wake-up call. He began going to Alcoholics Anonymous, Marcantel said. They went to an addictionologist to try to understand his addiction. He did well for a few weeks,then fell off the wagon, she said. They fought so vehemently, she said, she had to call the police to report domestic violence. It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Marcantel said. He won’t stop drinking for his family.”
She asked him to leave their home, and he said he would. It was that same night that she found he had crept back in their house and passed out on the couch, she said.Their divorce was final in January 2007. Marcantel said she knows she made the right decision. She said she tried to stay in the marriage to help her ex-husband and to keep her family intact. It just didn’t work.
When the day comes to explain why they divorced to their children, Marcantel said, she is confident in what she will tell them. I stayed. I tried. I did as much as I could have,” she said.
Now that she looks back on her experience, she is shocked. It’s one of those things, as it happens, you don’t think it was that bad,” Marcantel said. If it had been someone else, I would have said don’t take that, you don’t have to.”
Sheryl Cates, the CEO of the
National Domestic Violence Hotline and the Texas Council on Family Violence, was not surprised that abuse rated high as a reason to divorce. No that doesn’t surprise me at all “ however people’s definition of abuse varies. How it’s defined for the couple who is divorcing may or may not fit into the definition of what we recognize as domestic violence,” Cates said. Cates has spent more than 22 years working to end domestic violence. She has made several appearances at the White House to discuss violence issues.
Family violence can show its face in many forms, Cates said. For example, domestic abuse is a pattern of coercive control that one person exercises over another.She defined battering as a behavior that physically harms, arouses fear, prevents a partner from doing what they wish or forces them to behave in ways they do not want. Battering includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation. Cates also said there may be financial control, using the children, sexual violence, or for religious couples “ taking Scripture out of context.
Cates recommended that anyone in these kinds of situation
find help. The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799-SAFE, provides advocates who are available for victims, and anyone calling on their behalf, to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to support and services within the caller’s community. It received more than 215,000 calls last year. The hotline is the only center in the nation that has access to more than 5,000 shelters and domestic violence programs.
INCREASED SOCIETAL AWARENESS
Emilio Viano, a professor of justice, law and society at American University in Washington, D.C., said another reason that so many people report abuseas the reason for their divorce is because there is more public awareness of domestic violence. Viano conducts research into victimology and victims’ rights. He is the author of “Intimate Violence: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Critical Issues in Victimology, Crime and Its Victims and The Victimology Handbook.” At some point it clicks, so to speak, and society understands it,” Viano said. It becomes a relevant variable on which to make decisions in our lives.”
In days past, the decision to leave a marriage because of abuse was not common, in part because it was not feasible, Viano said. Women didn’t earn their own money and could not support their families. Beyond the financial ties, previously women faced extended families that were not supportive of divorce, and they had to contend with social and legal complexities that are not as prevalent now.
No doubt that there was abuse in years past,” Viano said. However women now have more chances to leave. That is the most crucial variable. People stayed, particularly women, because they had no choice. Where would they go?”
The women of today understand that violence in marriages does not have to be tolerated, Viano said.
Michele Bush Kimball has a Ph.D. in mass communication with a specialization in media law. She has spentalmost 15 years in the field of journalism, and she teaches at American University in Washington, D.C. She recently won a national research award for her work.She can be reached at