By: David A. Walker
Probably the last thing on a couple’s mind when they decide to marry is that idea that they might someday be divorced. In their imagination, ten years from now, they are happily married with two or three kids. And the possibility that their marital bliss might be disturbed by domestic violence is something they’ve probably never envisioned. Even if statistics tell us that spousal abuse is one of the primary reasons given for couples divorcing.
In most cases the target of the domestic abuse is the woman. And it’s difficult to overstate the danger that the woman and the children could be in if the husband is unable or unwilling to deal with his anger issues. But in many cases, especially in cases of verbal abuse, the victim is the man. We don’t hear much about it because, in this society, men are more embarrassed to admit to abuse.
In marriages where spousal abuse is going on, the history of couples eventually working out their differences, is not promising. It can happen, if the couple is willing to have counseling and actually work on their problems. But, in most cases, a reconciliation is doomed from the start because there will not be an honest attempt to work out the problems. Even in cases where both adults attend counseling, usually one attends at the insistence of the other, not because he or she really wants to work on the relationship.
But domestic abuse affects more than just the adults in the relationship. If also has an effect on the children. Studies show that children who witness their parents fighting and beating each other, tend to be less well adjusted than even children from divorced parents. Many parents feel that it is their duty to stay together in their marriage for the welfare of the kids. But, if these studies are correct, perhaps divorce is the better option for all involved.
Both parents usually do care for their children. And if they decide together to do what’s best for the children, this may provide the best incentive for them to work things out between them and eliminate the abuse. But not every couple can successfully do this. And for those couples who cannot, an amiable divorce is probably better than an abused marriage. But it’s hard to argue that staying together is in a child’s best interest when he sees his father threatening his mom with physical violence on a regular basis. Or when he sees his mom constantly belittling his dad for perceived or real slights.
Spousal abuse can also have an effect on child custody. Many states allows a court to refuse to award a parent sole or even joint custody of the children if it can be proven that the parent has abused his or her spouse. In some states, the custody will pretty much automatically be given to the wife. But fortunately in more and more cases, an honest effort is made to determine in whose custody the welfare of the child will be best served.
There is no doubt that physical violence and emotional abuse are valid grounds for divorce. But that doesn’t mean that the decision to have one will be easy.
The couples with probably the hardest decision to make regarding divorce are those where one or both of the marriage partner’s religion prohibits or frowns upon divorce. They face the difficulty of divorcing and possibly disavowing one of the main tenets of their religion or staying together and living a miserable life by suffering the constant abuse from their partner.