As divorce attorneys well know, there are infinite reasons why people get divorced. However, these reasons usually fall into three categories:
- broken promises or agreements by one of the partners;
- infidelity or discovery of hidden facts about the other partner;
- abuse by one or the other partners (which would include not only physical abuse but mental/emotional abuse).
Whenever a new divorcing client came in for their initial consultation, I would always ask them, “would you rather be happy, or right?” Luckily for me, the vast majority wanted to be right and were willing to pay a big retainer to prove they were right.
The second question I would ask them was “why did you get married?”, followed by “what happened?” A psychologist once told me that men marry the partner they think they know when they propose. If they discover that their partner isn’t who they thought they were, or if their partner changes, then problems arise. Women tend to marry the partner they think their fiancé will become with their love and guidance. When the partner refuses to change, then problems arise. This is, of course, an oversimplification – but it does have some basis in fact.
Are Political Differences Driving Divorce?
“Trump Derangement Syndrome”: A New Wave of Disagreement and Dissolution
In 2016, a new basis for divorce was created when Donald J. Trump was elected President. The circumstances under which he was elected, and the polarization of the country the election evidenced – and the increasing the polarization that followed – seems to have had a tremendous impact on reasons for divorce.
A 2017 study by Wakefield Research discovered that a significant number of divorces were now due to political disagreements within the marriage. Entitled “The Trump Effect on Relationships,” the study surveyed 1,000 “nationally representative U.S. adults,” and their collected data revealed that:
- 11% of Americans – and 22% of Millennials – have ended relationships over political strife
- 22% of Americans – and 35% of Millennials – know someone “whose marriage or relationship has been negatively impacted specifically due to President Trump’s election”.
- One-third of Americans stated that they would get a divorce if their spouse supported Trump.
Political differences in a relationship were no longer merely annoying – they had become capable of ending marriages as well as friendships.
The Opportunity to “Agree to Disagree” is Becoming the Exception
I am a scarlet conservative from North Carolina and my wife is an aqua blue liberal from California. We initially simply agreed not to discuss politics if it involved who was right and who was wrong. One secret to the ongoing success of our marriage is that we value our relationship more than being right about politics. When two people engage in a black-or-white argument about politics, both sides are bound to lose.
Increasing, I see that we have lost the ability to use critical thinking and have reasoned discourse. We have lost the ability to “agree to disagree”. We have allowed political commentators to convince us that propaganda is Truth. Unfortunately, too many people simply repeat what they have heard on TV or found on the Internet without analyzing or taking the time to discover whether it is fact or fiction. And many Americans have elevated political comradery above personal companionship.
Albert Einstein lamented that we can’t fix a problem with the same thinking that created it. When a politician is elected only by a relative handful of votes, we can be sure that people will start building metaphorical walls around their positions and refusing to listen to other ideas. That is a dangerous situation to be in, and it can potentially be fatal in a marriage.
People Divorcing Over Political Differences is Nothing New
The question I have is: “What is so special about Trump that a significant number of marriages failed because a partner voted for him?” Trump, like all politicians, has both positive attributes and negative attributes. I am sure that just as many Republicans have strong feelings about our current President, Joe Biden, as Liberals do about Trump.
Unfortunately, Trump drew criticism like metal in a lightning storm and he is an easy man to blame. Regardless of Trump’s successful policies, the “bull in the China shop” approach had a disastrous effect on politics and the nation. Now that he has announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election, we may be in for another round of Trump Syndrome Divorces.
Unfortunately, our country seems to have lost the ability to focus on what we agree on rather than what we disagree on. I would hope that all Americans agree that violent crime, pollution, unsafe borders, high prices, debt, and inflation are problems. I would hope that people realize that letting politics decide policy is a problem. I would hope that people agree that rhetoric and demagoguery are problems. We should be seeking solutions to these problems, not blaming them on a president or a political party.
What Can We do about Trump Syndrome Divorce Rates?
Divorce attorneys owe a debt of gratitude to Trump for making their lives more prosperous.
And now that Trump has announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election, we may be in for another round of Trump Syndrome divorces.
When political differences are driving divorce, couples who want to stay together must focus on creating and maintaining healthy relationships than on putting their relationship eggs into two separate political baskets.
The marriage and divorce rates in America have fallen over the last decade – although the divorce rate has doubled for people over 50 and tripled for those over 65 – so perhaps the Trump Effect on relationships is more of a blip than a trend?
Scarlet Red and Aqua Blue on the Home Front
I married someone who is loving, supportive, and kind regardless of her political beliefs. We got honest with each other and found out that our core beliefs were similar, and we wanted the same things for each other. I agreed with a lot of her criticisms of Trump; she agreed with a lot of my criticisms of Hillary Clinton. By the time 2020 rolled around, we really didn’t care who won – we had each other.
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