What's the Deal with "Divorced"?

So, I’ve noticed that when a pollster calls, or when I’m asked to fill out a form, they ask if I’m:

A) single

B) married

C) divorced

D) separated

E) widowed

What I want to focus on for a moment here is item C: divorced.  I’ve read my divorce papers, and what they say is that when a couple divorces, they become single persons with no control over each other’s assets, etc.

So, why is it that although supposedly marriage is “’til death parts you,” and over 50% of married couples don’t make it that long, if you get a divorce and you don’t re-marry, you’re now “divorced” ’til death takes you?

If the two formerly married partners are, as the law indicates, now single people, with no control over each other’s assets, etc., then how is it that “divorced” is a category?  And that being said, if you did get a divorce and you re-marry, technically, according to the logic displayed in these questionnaires, you’d have to check two boxes–both B and C–because the fact that you re-married does not negate the fact that you are still divorced from your previous spouse.

I invite all those who are affected by this question to simply indicate that they are single.  That’s what I’ve started to do.  Because, you know, when you get divorced from your spouse, that’s what you become in the eyes of the law: single.


9 responses

  1. What got me was one night I got an automated call from one of the pro-life groups and two of the questions that were asked should never have been asked. They wanted to know if I was male and if I was Catholic.

  2. Yeah–it’s like they want to affix this “failure” label to people for (in many cases) dissolving a relationship that was a failure.

    In business, that would be considered a successful move–the new CEO would be lauded and the stockholders would applaud.

  3. I have always seen it as extremely intrusive: none of your business is what I have to say to that! It is interesting, though, that we are all hardwired to answer the questions to these polls truthfully!

  4. And it is true to say that you are single if you’ve gone through a divorce and are not re-married. It is also true to say you are single if you were widowed and have not re-married.

    What strikes me is that there’s still this “stain” of divorce that, unless you get hitched again, you’re supposed to carry around for the rest of your life–a Scarlet “D,” if you like, that can only be removed if you appeal to the church and state to sanctify your relationship once again.

    I reject it!


  5. So, I am a voice of dissent. (That seems to be the case, often). As a researcher, we try to predict events or identify causes/relationships. What personal/marital/social qualities relate to differences in opinion or behavior? Those who were previously married, but now single, may hold different opinions than those who were never married at all. When I ask these questions, there is no judgment attached. I just need as much information as possible to help advance knowledge and better understand our society. To me, “divorced” simply means “previously married, but not right now.” If people respond with a different category, then our understanding of the world gets muddied.

    OK, so I also think that political pollsters hired by lobbying groups intend to muddy our understanding – but that’s a different issue.

    If the survey is for research, they can not link the information you share with your identity, unless you tell them that it is OK to do so. That’s something to ask when you get a survey call – is this confidential.

  6. Oh, you statisticians! 😉

    Yes, I had considered that, for the purposes of research, the life experiences for those who are, and have always been, single are different than those who were married but are now single.

    The problem I see with the term “divorced” is that it’s not a state of being like being married or being single or even being separated (“widowed” is much the same as “divorced” in this respect).

    “Divorce” is an act that should not result in a person being labeled “divorced” for the rest of their lives unless they re-marry.

    But for the purposes of hard science, I concede your point, and offer this solution: “previously married” as a sub-category of “single.” And, perhaps “widowed” should be a further sub-category of “previously married”?


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