"Without autonomy, the passion of consumption would consume society, and during a divorce, creating that autonomy is to create an identity again."
Consumer culture plays a factor in many aspects of our lives.
It is a form of capitalism, in which the economy is focused on the selling of consumer goods and the spending of consumer money. In many ways, marriage and divorce can be considered a part of this consumer culture.
Marriage is often viewed as buying into a culture that is selling the buyer a spouse, a home, and a lifestyle that creates value within the market of his life and the lives of his or her family and friends. When one seeks a divorce, some view the act as the selling of the lifestyle that was previously purchased, or an expression of “buyer’s remorse.”
The effects of materialism on relationships
There are many reasons why a person seeks a divorce, but there are a few specifically that lend themselves to the consumer behavior of this expansive culture, which has become prevalent in the United States.
Materialistic attitudes and compulsive consumption behaviors within the context of marriage can establish the framework of reasons for a divorce, such as infidelity or abusive tendencies. Consumer behaviors that lead to infidelity can create moral and legal problems during divorce proceedings.
Despite no-fault divorces becoming the norm in most states, there are tactics in the dissipation of assets where infidelity might become a factor in the decision. Proving that a spouse in a marriage abused or intentionally threw away marital assets to deprive the accusing spouse of their fair share is known more commonly as marital waste, and it can prevent the presumptive 50/50 division.
Financial faux pas
While the presence of physical, mental, and emotional abuse are clear reasons to enter into a divorce, the tendencies of overconsumption that financial abuse can manifest can create the motivation to dissolve the union. Furthermore, financial abuse also can be used as a coping mechanism.
Extravagant spending on cars or property, as well as high credit card bills are indicative of the financial abuse often described in divorce proceedings.
They also can occur after an individual makes the conscious decision to pursue a divorce. Self-rewarding through consumption can lead to dangerous and harmful behavior that can have a negative impact on divorce proceedings. Moderation is key.
Those entering or planning for a divorce often begin to prepare themselves through self-improving activities, such as enrolling in school, putting away money, and establishing personal bank accounts and credit cards. These types of activities enable natural tendencies of consumer behavior, while still preparing for the future.
Much of that preparation entails investing in your own support. Seeking counseling and support programs is a consumer behavior that seeks out groups in similar situations as the individual going through a divorce, in order to find commonality.
Stability also is an aspect that is sought for consumption during divorce proceedings. The idea of familiarity can be an attractive comfort, whether that is familiar daily routines or simply being near possessions. The consumption of comfort is often disrupted by a divorce, and behaviors to return to that level of comfort could complicate emotions and proceedings.
While divorce is often considered a negative life event, there are many positive facets, as related to one’s consumer behavior. The lifestyle of a newly-divorced individual may include a newfound freedom to exercise autonomy and to experiment with changes in self-concept and lifestyle.
Many aspects of this newfound autonomy lend itself to an experimental outlook that rejects structure and allows for pushing self-imposed boundaries. This consumer behavior is a rebellion against the previously established social norms that could open up social circles, new sexual behaviors, outward appearance, and self-expression.
Some who test this experimental outlook are consuming the rejection of previously accepted social structures, which can often cause a reevaluation of other structures such as a religion, family, and work. This behavior creates a developing identity with a new focus on one’s self, the development of competency in consumption, and the achievement of a sense of autonomy.
Without autonomy, the passion of consumption would consume society, and during a divorce, creating that autonomy is to create an identity again. Having control over decisions combined with what’s perceived as a fresh start, enables those seeking a divorce to adapt to their new lot in life and the ability to ‘continue shopping’ through dating and other forms of consumption.
As previous articles and videos have stated, waiting until the divorce is finalized to begin dating ultimately will benefit your case in court. As much as the idea of waiting goes against the consumer behaviors of autonomy and anti-structure, a judge’s positive perception of your activities during what still is considered a marriage will only benefit you in the long run.
If uncontrolled, consumer culture can create an insatiable passion that can only hurt divorce proceedings and start a newly single life on the wrong financial foot. It’s important to explore these new behaviors and seek what creates your sense of comfort, in new relationships, in possessions, and in the environment you occupy.
Dan Pearce is an Online Editor for Lexicon, focusing on subjects related to the legal services of customers, Cordell & Cordell and Cordell Planning Partners. He has written countless pieces on MensDivorce.com, detailing the plight of men and fathers going through the divorce experience, as well as the issues seniors and their families experience throughout the estate planning journey on ElderCareLaw.com. Mr. Pearce has managed websites and helped create content, such as the Men’s Divorce Newsletter and the YouTube series, “Men’s Divorce Countdown.” He also has been a contributor on both the Men’s Divorce Podcast and ElderTalk with TuckerAllen.
Mr. Pearce assisted in fostering a Cordell Planning Partners practice area specific for Veterans, as they deal with the intricacies of their benefits while planning for the future. He also helped create the Cordell Planning Partners Resource Guide and the Cordell Planning Partners Guide to Alternative Residence Options, specific for seniors with questions regarding their needs and living arrangements.