Monday, February 27, 2012

I Don't Understand Divorce

I am not a regular reader of this blog, but I have enjoyed it in the past. I especially admired the author's taste (not surprisingly since she's an artist). I remember reading her post about her child's nursery, which I thought was one of the most beautiful nurseries I'd ever seen. In addition to my admiration, more shamefully I felt like a bad mother for sticking poor little R in a rather ugly room with a old sea-green hand-me-down chair, the cheapest crib from Ikea, and no cool details whatsoever (since I am not crafty, artistic, nor enterprising). (I realize this is a stupid reaction.)

Her post about her child's birthday party was pretty impressive too. Three cakes? A darling circus theme, complete with little tin animal decorations? Wow. It was all I could do to buy little R a cake and wrap some presents for her (it honestly didn't even occur to me to buy balloons until now, as I am typing. Why didn't I? Bad mother). I can't imagine having the wherewithal to pull off an elaborate themed party.

So anyway, I admired her and her family's life, and rather envied it all (especially because they live in my hometown of Oakland, California, where life is terribly terribly expensive; beautiful nurseries like that don't come cheap). A few days ago I checked out her blog again and was SHOCKED to read that she is getting divorced.

It was especially surprising because her husband wrote this post only a few months ago, in which he states,
I love my wife now more than ever before...Some couples encounter relationship difficulties after being parents for the first time, be it due to stress, uneven household workload, etc. Our relationship actually grew stronger. Don't get me wrong, we fought, and still do. However, I've never felt this close to Sara before.
I didn't find this at all a surprising statement because I don't feel as if my marriage has really changed since having a baby, for better or worse. Now I am totally confused. How do you go from the above statement to divorce in only four months?

One of my biggest fears is getting divorced, not because it's at all likely (the statistical likelihood of us getting divorced is something like 5% or less; plus I can't imagine either of us being happy without the other, though of course things can change), but because it's basically the worst thing that can happen to a child. Stories like this give me chills. How does a divorce happen? How do people get to a place, where leaving your husband when you have a needy toddler and work as an artist (=don't make much money, no health insurance) in one of the United States' most expensive regions is the only thing to do?

People are hardly ever frank or forthcoming about the reasons for their divorce (by which I don't mean "He cheated on me!" but the relationship dynamic which led up to that point, and made you decide that the damage was irreparable), especially when they have kids. I can understand not wanting to air your dirty laundry, especially on a public forum like the Internet, but I desperately want to know how/why.

It is unlikely this blogger will be posting about it though. I hope everything works out for her and her child.


  1. I don't read that blog, but yeah, I'm definitely with you on not understanding divorce in many, many situations. It's baffling to think about from my perspective of making sure I found a partner who would be a good life partner. That includes life's ups and downs...bad days and bad months, and doing whatever it takes to get through life as a team.

    Mike and I often talk about how scary and real divorce it could be as simple as someone saying "I don't wanna" to the commitment. It's certainly brought up debates along the lines of "should marriage start out as a shorter contract?" I am always sad for people who go through divorces...I can't imagine how I could cope if what I had ended.

    But then again, could people who get divorced have had the connection I have with my husband if they're so quick to toss it away?

  2. I thought a lot about this yesterday and discussed this post with Mike. I might have been a little insensitive in my comment because I really don't know the state of many people's marriages. I don't understand divorce though still, and it's mostly because I haven't experienced it closely in my life.

    1. Yes, it's so hard to know what is really going on. A marriage is sometimes like a secret society, and only the members know the truth of the matter. That's one of the reasons marriage and divorce intrigue me so much.

      On the other hand, marriages in the modern world are almost always made voluntarily, by people who profess to love each other passionately. We all know what the broad expectations are, yet somehow people aren't able to keep/uphold them for whatever reason. What changes?

      My parents aren't divorced, and none of my close friends are either. B's parents are divorced, but in that case the reason is crystal clear (his mother developed a severe, untreatable mental illness after 15+ years of marriage). Some of my other relatives are divorced though, and in their cases sometimes it comes down to "should never have gotten married" (husband was a drunk without interest in quitting, for example). Often though, it seems puzzling, like my aunt who divorced to "find herself" in Vancouver. Now in old age she is lonely and has never found another suitable partner.

      I wish divorced people would be more honest about their experiences. I think it would be a valuable public service.

  3. 90% of marriage end when one spouse is bipolar.

    1. I am not exactly sure what you mean: I think you mean that if one spouse is bipolar, the divorce rate is 90% (at least per Dr. Google). I can believe that; actually my husband's parents are divorced, because his mom is bipolar (she has other stuff complicating it though, it's a long story).

      But bipolar disorder typically hits in late teens/early twenties, so by the time most marry someone will have already developed the disease (meaning that the other partner should have been aware already, if not of the exact diagnosis then of their behavior in general).

      Also, bipolar disorder is not that common (affects only 2% of the population), so the vast majority of divorces have nothing to do with it.

  4. Intersting topic and there is certainly a lot of twaddle out there as to why divorces happen.

    Some of the most common reasons given are that the partner changed for the worse, or having kids changed the marriage or the people involved. But in my experience/observation (and I've been divorced twice) people don't really change that much - they become what they were all along.

    Obviously there are exceptions - as in yr husband's family, or where one or bith partners have behavior such as compulsive cheating or horrific circumstances (such the abduction and murder of a child). All of those can throw the marriage a curveball. But in each of my failed marriages, in hindsight, I can see where I talked myself out of insights I had very early on. I would realize we had fundamental differences in our approach to life that just weren't resolveable. And I'd spend the next 5 years trying to ignore that realization.

    In each case, I kept trying to 'fix it', teeter-tottering between trying to change the spouse or change me. It was exhausting, and finally there was sort of a click in my head as I realized it couldn't work, no matter what we tried. I think many people get to that point and start to use escapist routines to cope (mine eas taking 60-hr per week jobs; I've seen colleagues do 'conference
    /business trip affairs.

    Often along the way, I would try to 'be positive' and talk very lovingly about the spouse, even while very real and deep conflicts were going on behind the scenes. that may explain things like positive comments on a blog.

    It's common to blame the other person as the source of the problem, and that is dangerous. Also it puts a person at even greater risk for another divorce later. In my case, eventually I figured out that I kept choosing the same problem situations, just in different permutations each time, and then I'd try to fix things with the same ineffective strategies, and fall into the same dead-end behaviors. Only then was I able to choose the right person for me, be truly honest about who I am and what I want, and establish rock-solid bottom lines for what I wanted in marriage.

    I've been married to my current husband almost 10 years and we have a toddler. As it turned out, we experienced just about every tragedy one could imagine in the first five years, but the marriage has lasted. I think this is because had learned how to show our true selves to another person.

    Wow, this has turned into quite a tome (probably an overshare) but there is so much befuddling psychobabble out there about why marriages end, that I wanted to chime in.

    1. I think your perspective is so interesting, and absolutely agree about what you say about marriage, that intimacy is not possible without honesty: about your spouse (that they are who they are, glaring flaws and all, and will never be different), about yourself (that you are flawed also, and won't be different either), and about your relationship (as in, what you want, what you need, and what you expect).

      I am not sure if I really agree with you about the fundamental differences that weren't resolvable being the cause of divorce though. This is because most married couples have at least a few unresolvable yet important differences. They just sort of live with them (though they tend come up in conflicts over and over). Issues can include sex, money, the role of family, or basic values.

      Maybe happy couples only have a few differences (so mostly they are in harmony) and unhappy ones have a lot? It's true that people who are really similar are happier together (despite what they say about opposites).