Dissecting Individualism in Divorce Culture

  • Just as the institution of marriage has a surrounding culture, so does the institution of divorce.
  • Individualism surfaces in societal views on divorce, as a culture.
  • The rise in availability of divorce has led to an increase in marriages and a decrease in divorces.

"In fact, many may argue that they are strengthening one another. With the prevalence of no-fault divorce, unhappy and dysfunctional marriages are ending, allowing stronger and happier marriages to flourish."

In any institution, a culture develops around it. As they grow, cultures can add depth to the institutions they surround. Topically speaking, related interest areas continue to grow the institutions and the built-up culture that followed.

Just as there is a culture of marriage, many theorize about the culture surrounding the institution of divorce. Despite negative connotations surrounding its prevalence and how it affects the culture of marriage, there is no denying its existence. Entire industries are built around the ending of individual marriages. Many businesses offer support, representation, and resources for those seeking a divorce, and while these businesses are predicated on the ending of a union between two people, the culture itself is not as ugly as it may sound.

For some, divorce can appear so pervasive that many naturally assume it has seeped into the social and cultural mainstream a long time ago, according to The Atlantic. However, that is not necessarily the case, nor an accepted notion in every social context. There are many that would argue that divorce itself is what hurts marriages, but that is not necessarily the case.

With how socially accepted it has become in many circles, other social circles can often confuse it for an institution that is attacking happy marriages, as opposed to an institution that is ending unhappy, dysfunctional, and even abusive ones. The marriages that are ending are not ending because divorce is available to them. They are ending because they are no longer interested in being a part of an unhappy, unsatisfying, abusive, or dysfunctional relationship. They are ending out of protecting futures, both the spouses that are ending it and the children that may be caught in the crossfire.

Individualism and divorce

These varying opinions regarding the institution of divorce have been studied at length. One study at the University of Nevada, Reno examined how divorce attitude are around the world and distinguished the impact of culture on evaluations and attitude structures. They found that individualist societies exhibit more favorable divorce attitudes than collectivist societies, but that there is a curvilinear relationship between culture and the type of divorce attitude. This means that highly individualistic and highly collectivistic societies are similar with regard to the structure of prevailing divorce attitudes.

This study showed that the more a society focuses on the individual, the more accepting they are about a potential divorce. In measuring the global perception of divorce and how it is socially viewed, you can understand the changes that continue to occur in how divorce affects the individual.

From a historical perspective, the psychological revolution that went from the 1950s into the 1970s, had a major part in society’s changing views on family well-being, according to PBS. This is when society began to view it in a more emotional and individualistic way, which forced marriage, as an institution, to bore the burden, according to Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, author of “The Divorce Culture.”

Marriages that did not deliver on the happiness and well-being of the individual were subject to divorce. It changed how we, as a society viewed family. From society’s perspective, the institution of marriage was no longer about the relationships and obligations passed down from older generations. It no longer became about the ethics of obligation, but rather, the ethics of self.

Understanding those ethics allows for individuals to understand the culture of divorce. Those unfamiliar with it, due to never experiencing it first-hand, try to communicate with the idea of an ever-changing idea of a family unit through exposure to different types of family dynamics. That can involve the creative process and allowing others to view the individualistic side of divorce culture for themselves.

For many, it is trying to understand or relate to it. Whether it is in books, television, movies, or podcasts, many outlets have explored the relatability of the divorce experience by exploring the individualistic side of the process. Whether it is a television show detailing infidelity and divorce or a movie detailing parenting and divorce, creativity has created an outlook to explore the emotional tapestry of the individualistic side of the divorce culture.

Marriage and divorce

The culture of divorce is not only felt in the way that it reaches others, but in a way that stands independent from marriage and its culture. As related institutions, they both are allowed to exist. One is not killing the other.

In fact, many may argue that they are strengthening one another. With the prevalence of no-fault divorce, unhappy and dysfunctional marriages are ending, allowing stronger and happier marriages to flourish. This is causing a decline in divorces and a rise of marriages, according to Bowling Green State University’s National Center for Family and Marriage Research. From 1980 to 2015, the divorce rate decreased by 25 percent.

This has led to not only more fulfilling marriages, but also relationships themselves being taken care of. Many were able to see cracks forming in their relationship or marriage and were able to repair it, before things became irreparable. Fixing these relationships was done through utilizing every resource at the spouse’s disposal, including professional help, effective communication, external support, and quality time together.

These methods improved marital satisfaction and allowed for improved marriages, according to a study at St. Catherine University and the University of St. Thomas.

With a clear picture of the individualistic tendencies that the culture of divorce can display and how the institution of marriage interacts with the institution of divorce, the trends and perceptions that permeate from these intersecting worlds can allow us, as a society, to grasp the evolution of how these entities got to where they are today.

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