The Upside of Divorce Hardship

The pain and suffering of divorce is not without reward, according to new research, which suggests that people who have suffered in the past savor things more in the present.

The 2013 study, “From Tribulations to Appreciation, was recently published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, and conducted by Alyssa Croft, Elizabeth W. Dunn and Jordi Quoidbach. The researchers at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada and the Barcelona School of Management, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, found that experiencing adversity in the past predicts greater savoring in the present.

The study seems to support the adage that “what does not kill us makes us stronger” and enables people who have gone through difficult circumstances to appreciate small pleasures more easily.

The researchers surveyed 14,986 adults, first asking participants about exposure to adverse events including divorce and death of a loved one and whether those hardships were in the past or ongoing. They then presented the participants with six real-life positive scenarios – such as gazing at a waterfall or going on a hike – to determine their ability to enjoy positive experiences.

Croft and her team discovered that “individuals who had dealt with more adversity in the past reported an elevated capacity for savoring.” In other words, those who had previously experienced pain were more likely to appreciate life’s small pleasures. Conversely, respondents still in the midst of their struggles – for example, currently going through a divorce – reported a “diminished proclivity for savoring positive events.” Their ability to find joy in the everyday was worsened by their hardship.

These results are not surprising. A person in the midst of a divorce is likely consumed by the struggle and attempts to reach a resolution that life seems joyless. The good news, however, is that divorces come to an end. Once a person has experienced the low of divorce, it follows that they appreciate the little things a bit more. A small thing like sitting outside on a beautiful day feels amazing to a person who has gone through a horrible divorce and come out on the other side. Conversely, a person in the middle of a divorce may not be able to enjoy the same beautiful day because the pending court date consumes him or her.

In short, a divorce commandeers life and drains of joy, but while the road may be an uphill climb, getting through the hardship of divorce may actually benefit you in the long run.

“The present research lends some credence to the notion that bad days might make the good ones better,” the study states.

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