Living in a bad marriage is very costly…expensive to your health, your wealth, and your entire family. People get physically ill in bad relationships. Research shows that chronic relationship troubles increase the rate of heart disease, diabetes, weakens your immune system, and slows or inhibits healing from illness. Yet just saying “we really don’t get along” or “we’re just not in love anymore” may not feel like a compelling reason to leave, especially if you have children.

And divorcing is even tougher on your health than living with marital problems.

Only the death of a spouse is more stressful than divorce according to decades years of research.

Divorce ranks #2 as the second “Most stressful,” life events with 73 “stress points” out of 100.

Why people stay in bad marriages

Being happily married contributes to financial success. Millionaires are overwhelmingly in long-term, stable marriages.1 But what about the cost of divorce?

Let’s  start with the numbers:

  • A divorce attorney’s retainer for an amicable divorce may range from $3,500 to $5,000 or more EACH.
  • The “cheaper alternative,” Mediation, runs $2500 for 4-5 sessions.2
  • A “no frills, do it yourself” divorce runs $1135.3
  • The average cost of a “less severe heart attack” is about $760,000.4
  • What would it cost to run two households, instead of one?
  • The “Engel Estimator” finds that the percentages of total expenditures devoted to children, on average, are: 33 percent of the family’s total income for one child; 39 percent for two children; and 49 percent for three children in an intact family. These figures are considered when assessing child support.5
  • But beyond the financial impacts, and despite the media hype, divorce deeply impacts children. An in-depth 10-year study of children after divorce8 shows powerful consequences.

The cost to kids living in a bad marriage and the impact of divorce

For children and teens, divorce is even more stressful than it is for the adults involved in a terrible marriage. While adults rate the stress of their divorce 73 out of 100, children rate their parents’ divorce as impacting them by 90 “stress points.”6 They don’t feel safe during or after a break.

While there are ways to reduce the harmful impacts of divorce on children, these lower, but do not eliminate the stress children experience. The average child suffers with this stress for 2 years. And long-term daughters of divorced parents are more likely, themselves, to suffer troubled marriages, according to research.

Divorce impacts children an average of 2 years…a long time in a child’s life.

But sometimes the cost to children is great either way. One of my graduate students put it beautifully, when reflecting upon her own upbringing in a severely troubled household:

Fists of fury, angry outbursts, sheltering arms of fear. This is what love looked like [to me].7

Sometimes divorce is a necessary “useful tool,” but should never be the first response to marital unhappiness, especially for those who are parents. When to leave a marriage with kids is one of the most torturous questions people in bad marriages ask themselves. It’s also the reason why putting in the effort and spending time in meaningful conversation is so important for married couples considering the pros and cons of divorcing versus working it out.

Hope for people living in a failing marriage

If you are like most people, you’ve been living in a bad marriage for years…on average 6 years. You may feel hopeless, even depressed. You may label it a “loveless marriage” and pay attention to what’s wrong more than on focusing on what’s working.

Your work has suffered, and you really wonder if seeing a family therapist and going into couples therapy will be throwing good money after bad. You’ve tried “date night” and romantic vacations that ended in disaster. You want a healthy relationship but have no idea how to get it.

You are our typical client.

And we’re here to tell you there’s hope for a bad marriage.

We’d like to tell you more about a therapy designed by Dr. McMahon for troubled couples and those couples on the Brink of Divorce.

It’s called: Last Shot Couples Therapy.

Research reveals that the severity of your marital troubles has very little to do with how likely you are, in the end, to be happily married. Even marriages with serious problems survive and eventually prosper.

Relationships where there is ongoing physical violence are exceptions. But even in these extreme cases8% of violent couples radically changed the way they relate to one another and ended up happily married 5 years later.

Last Shot couples therapy is for those who have it in them to devote just one more push, a single weekend, to see if they can get the kind of marriage that is full of respect, admiration and support. Even passion.

Torn about what to do next?

Many attempts at couples therapy fail because one or both spouses are deeply ambivalent about whether to commit themselves to the therapy process. If this is you–if you are still undecided about whether you are willing to work to improve your troubled marriage, we can help you to decide.

Slow down and get help reflecting on your options. There is a short-term (1-5 sessions) structured, method to help couples just like you decide whether divorce, marital therapy, or doing nothing is the right move for you. And it can save you thousands of dollars.

Learn more about this effective short-term work will help you to decide if marriage counseling is right for you. It’s called “Discernment Counseling.” Just by reading about Discernment, we’ll provide you, free of charge, the opportunity to talk to a trained member of our staff at Couples Therapy Inc on how you might talk to your “leaning out” spouse so they will listen…in one or more telephone calls. Learn more about Discernment Counseling, to learn how to obtain your free consultation.

What would it cost to run two households, instead of one?


1. Stanley, T. and Danko, W. (1998.) The Millionaire Next Door. New York: Gallery Books.

2. Divorce Mediation Cost 2024 

3. Court Filing Fee ($215.00), Parent Ed Program ($85.00 x 2) if there are minor children, Optional Pension Valuation ($400.00), and House Appraisal ($350.00) or Free Market Analysis, Total $1135.00

4. How Much Would a Heart Attack Cost You? Found at:

5. Economic Analysis of the Massachusetts Child Support Guidelines.

6. Holmes, T. H., & Rahe R. H. (1967). The Social Readjustment Rating Scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. (2):213-8

7. Submitted for verification of the course “Human Sexuality and Sex Therapy, at Cambridge College, Cambridge, MA Jessica Perrine, 2013 Quoted with permission.