During the most recent presidential election in 2020, one of the requests that we heard from all corners of this country is that we were looking for a president who would not be the president of the red states or the president of blue states. We were looking for a president who would be willing and able to serve as President of the United States. In an age where opinions are divided sharply in many cases regarding the important issues of the day, having a leader who could unite the country was a lofty ambition, to say the least. Regardless of your opinion on whether our President has succeeded in doing so, one thing remains true: there are obvious differences between states in our country. This has always been true, but it perhaps has never been more true than it is today.
One of the areas that interest the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is how the divorce rates compare between red states and blue states. Before we go into today's blog post on that subject, I wanted to make sure that everyone out there reading this blog post knows what I am talking about when discussing a “red state” and a “blue state.” Red is the color associated with the Republican Party and blue is the color associated with the Democratic Party. The states that vote for Democrats more frequently are known as Blue States and the states that vote for Republicans more frequently are known as Red States.
What do you think- before we go into the numbers- the answer would be if I asked you which states have the higher divorce rate- blue or red? On the one hand, blue states would seem to have a higher population of people who are accepting of divorce, blended families, and non-nuclear families. On the other hand, red states have lower per capita incomes compared to blue states, and divorce rates are higher among lower-income people than higher-income.
A study that came out in 2014 tells us that it is Red States that do have higher divorce rates than Blue States. This study makes the argument that because Red States are more religious than Blue States on average the social and religious customs of those states work against people remaining in marriages when compared to the less religious Blue States. You can read the study here if you are interested in seeing just how the study was done and the specific conclusions that the researchers came to. A key point that was made is that marrying earlier and not cohabitating as much compared to Blue States makes a marriage less likely to last for extended periods.
Whether you agree with the findings contained in this study or not, the information that comprises the study is at least something to base a discussion on. When we talk about divorce rates and use a comparison between red and blue states it is surely going to get people's opinions to be expressed. Our point in bringing up this study and comparing the divorce rates of different states is not to say that one state is better than another or that one kind of lifestyle is better. Rather, we can look at divorce rates and try to figure out how to improve the quality of your marriage so that divorce never becomes an option. Let's reverse-engineer these results.
Avoiding divorce- a roadmap for overcoming marital adversity
Anyone who has ever gone through a divorce will tell you that if they could have done something to avoid the divorce, anything really, they would have done so. Even those people who are convinced that divorce was what is best for them would also tell you that the process was difficult. When you think about it, divorce shouldn't be an easy experience. It should be tough so that it encourages you to never have to go through this process ever again. That doesn't mean that the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan won't work hard to make sure your divorce is productive and to spare you from the worst of what the process has to offer. However, a divorce is no fun, and we won’t make any two ways about that.
What you want to be able to do is to avoid the divorce completely rather than hope that your attorney can turn a nasty process into a less nasty process. It can be done. You and your spouse can control how intolerable the divorce process gets simply by working to be civil with one another and not to create a lot of acrimony unnecessarily. However, even in a situation where you and your spouse have agreed to do your best to put down your swords that does not mean that you are going to necessarily be able to eliminate all the negative parts of a divorce.
One of the things that we wrote a lot about during the pandemic was how all that time being at home, isolating from others was a real inflection point for many marriages. It was a situation where you and your spouse may have been at home together for the first time in a long time. How you used that time was something that could have made a huge difference in your marriage. You could have used that time to try and talk through issues that were causing you problems. Put aside your phone, make sure the kids were in bed, and focus on what was ailing you as far as your marriage is concerned. That could be easier said than done, however.
The reality is that for many couples the pandemic exposed some troubling truths about their relationships. Maybe you and your spouse were among the people that figured out during the pandemic that your marriage had issues. Your lives were so busy in the period before the pandemic that you could not slow down enough to talk to your spouse and realize that what used to be a stable and happy marriage may be anything but that now. What used to be a situation where you could confide in each other found you looking at your spouse through a new set of eyes. You no longer knew your spouse and you were having trouble seeing a future in the relationship.
How full is your toolbox?
Each of us has skills and talents. You can think of those skills and talents as tools and the container that those tools are kept in would naturally be known as the toolbox. When you are going through a rough patch in your marriage you need to think about how full your toolbox is. Do you have the right tools for the job? When you are trying to fix a marriage, it takes certain tools. You cannot use the same tools that you would use to fix a relationship at work or to talk to your child about their day. Rather, you need a particular set of tools to be able to talk through certain issues with your spouse.
Many of the tools that you need to work through a difficult patch in your marriage are based on communication. If you cannot communicate effectively in a stressful situation, then you probably do not have what it takes to sort out your problems as they relate to marriage. Nobody is born a great communicator. Rather, these are skills that you need to intentionally focus on them to improve. If you have not spent your life trying to purposefully improve upon those communication skills then you are not going to find yourself in a good position when it comes to sorting through marital problems with your spouse.
If you and your spouse cannot solve these issues yourself then to whom can you turn if you need assistance?
Fortunately, even if you and your spouse are not in the best position to talk through your problems there are people that you can turn to for help. First, have you considered speaking to a counselor or therapist about the problems that are being experienced in your marriage? Certain stigmas still exist when it comes to talking with a therapist, but I think those stigmas need to be evaluated and then disregarded. Working with an experienced marriage and family counselor can be one of the best decisions that you have ever chosen to make.
One of the benefits of working with a marriage and family counselor is that you can find one who suits your needs and that you are most comfortable with. Let's say that you are a Christian and live in a Red State like Texas. In that case, you can find a local counselor who is also a Christian who can sit with you and your spouse and listen to your problems and help you and your spouse establish an open line of communication. That is what a good counselor does most prominently- help you and your spouse figure out more effective ways to communicate with one another. Counselors are not there to place blame for a particular issue that comes up in the therapy or counseling session. Rather, a counselor will help you and your spouse focus on a particular issue and then help you to overcome that issue.
Many times, the costs associated with the counseling session are what turn people off from the idea of attending therapy. Why sit with someone to be told that you're to blame for the problems in your marriage- and then must pay money on top of that? This is an argument that I have heard before from people when It comes to counseling. Fortunately, many times your health insurance covers the costs of counseling so that you and your spouse do not need to pay out of pocket. You can contact your health insurance provider to verify what counselors in your area are covered by your plan, if any.
If counseling is not something that you are comfortable engaging in then the next thing that you can do is reach out to a religious leader or other person that you feel can help you and your spouse. Remember- a counselor can be a person who tries to teach you and your spouse about communication and the benefits of having an open line of communication more than anything else. Your pastor at church may also have experience and training in counseling, for instance. Try speaking to him about what he may suggest. There may also be groups at church that meet every so often to help focus on the problems and issues in marriage. Young married groups, married groups with kids (where childcare is provided!), and even empty-nester married groups are all things that exist within various church communities. See what you can take advantage of as far as nontraditional therapy and counseling is concerned.
One of the things that I have read about in various places online in recent months is how we as Americans are not socializing or otherwise "getting together" with people outside of our economic class/neighborhood to the same degree as before the pandemic. This is an interesting development that sees less mixing of people who believe differently than we do. When we talk about a blue state versus a state divide, this is exactly one of the things that were foreseeable regarding how our country may not be as cohesive as we once were. Communication skills and even the willingness to communicate with one another seem to be sorely lacking in our lives these days. If that is true in your marriage, then you can decide to overcome that with a willingness to reach out to your spouse to see what his or her feelings are on the subject. This is something that you can do to save yourself time, money, and grief in a divorce.
If a divorce finds its way to your house, here is what you can do
Unfortunately, no matter how hard you try a divorce may be unavoidable. If that is the situation that you and your spouse are encountering, it does not have to be something that you go into without a plan. We would argue that to wander into a divorce is possible but to wander out of a divorce is an even worse mistake. Once you find yourself involved in a divorce you need to be intentional in your mindset and approach. This means making decisions that are geared toward certain goals and outcomes.
Tying all this back into our theme of Red States and Blue States, we can look at things to close out today's blog post from the perspective of the issues that matter most to you- depending upon your family, your beliefs, and even your politics. If you are a person who identifies more with Blue State residents, then you may have fewer children in your family. Studies show that conservative-leaning people in the USA have more children than couples who lean liberal. As a result, if you are someone who has no children but has worked hard to build up your retirement and your savings then having a focus on subjects like community property division would be a good idea. If you are not familiar with what a Qualified Domestic Relations Order is, now would be a good time to learn. This order is also known as a QDRO and will be responsible for dividing up retirement plans in your divorce- if that is something you and your spouse end up agreeing to.
For those of you reading this blog post who identify more as a Red State sympathizer then you may be more focused on issues that have to do with your minor children. Pay attention to conservatorship rights, for one thing. Conservatorship rights have to do with your and your spouse’s ability to make decisions on behalf of your children. Some of those decision-making rights relate to religious preference and practice. Being able to share in the religious upbringing of your child is very important- especially if you and your spouse do not agree on what traditions your child should be brought up in. Other examples of decision-making rights that you could focus on include medical, educational, and psychiatric.
In any event, the Red State versus Blue State debates do not seem to be going away any time soon. Rather than immerse yourself in debates and situations that are beyond your control, why not take the time to connect better with your family and see if you can build stronger bonds with your spouse? If you are at a point where divorce is on the horizon, however, contacting an experienced family law attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is your best, next step to take. We serve people of all backgrounds and beliefs- and do so with a great deal of pride.
Questions about the material contained in today’s blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as how your family's circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.