The myth of the ‘happy divorce’


Our society likes to claim that children are resilient and can get over the effects of divorce easily. But 30 years of research has found that divorce changes kids.

Margaret Harper McCarthy, an assistant professor of theological anthropology at the John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., brought together 18 family and marriage therapists, professors and researchers, including some from divorced families, in her new book “Torn Asunder: Children, the Myth of the Good Divorce, and the Recovery of Origins” (Eerdmans Publishing, $34).

“We wrote the book to challenge deep-seated culture doctrines,” McCarthy told Our Sunday Visitor. “These were the driving force behind the myth of the ‘good divorce.’”

She explained that there are two deeply ingrained notions that have encouraged divorce. “One is that we are what we make of ourselves; our past doesn’t matter,” McCarthy said. “The second is that to be a free, consenting adult, we need to have a whole range of options open to us. Marriage, accordingly, has to be reconceived as open-ended, something one can easily get out of.”

The problem with those doctrines, she said, is that in reality, the scars of our past become a part of who we are regardless of our age, and secondly, exiting marriage because it no longer interests us does not offer real freedom or happiness.

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