RBOMusings on divorce, marriage, and religion

  • Neither of us is getting divorced any time soon (to our knowledge).
  • I refuse to feel sorry for people getting divorced.  Divorce is not a problem.  Divorce is a solution.  I do feel sorry for women who are not in a position economically to care of themselves or their children and are trapped in bad marriages, and I think we should have more economic support for women in those situations who need to get on their feet (I have friends whose mothers were briefly on welfare while getting degrees after a divorce– we could probably do better there).  But the marriage was the problem, not the divorce.
  • I also don’t think divorce is a sign of failure.  People grow and change.  Marriage itself is just a contract that makes some things easier (ex. seeing a loved one in a hospital).  Relationships end for all sorts of reasons, and whether or not a contract was entered into is irrelevant.
  • Part of not seeing divorce as a sign of failure is not seeing marriage as a sign of success.  Marriage is completely not necessary (just like children are not necessary and buying a home is not necessary).  These so-called milestones aren’t really milestones at all.  They’re choices!  Hobbies!  There’s a lot to be said for freedom.  People make their own cost-benefit analyses about these choices and just because someone has a different utility function doesn’t mean it’s wrong.  I know so many people who are happy being single or partnered but not married or married or divorced but not remarried or remarried or…  Marriage is a thing you do when you love one person enough to be legally attached to them and also want that contract that makes some things easier.  It’s not a box to tick off.  It’s certainly not something to be proud of or to feel ashamed about!
  • You have value just by being you.
  • I say congratulations to people who get married because it’s a choice that has made them happier and I like to celebrate people’s happiness.  But that’s their utility functions.  It’s not like I would want to be married to either of them myself!  But I’m happy that they are happy with each other.  And not that they checked off said box.
  • Having seen many people go through messy divorces (and some folks go through easy ones!), the process itself is painful.  But the aftermath is always so much better than the marriage before the divorce was.
  • Economically, we only look at incomes.  And for women with kids, about half get remarried to higher earning partners and end up much better off monetarily, and half stay single and have lower household incomes than they did before the divorce.  Putting these together is a wash.  But money isn’t the only measure of quality of life.
  • Religions that use marriage as a way to trap women into subservient roles are pretty awful.  I reject them.  I reject the way they force women to stay in bad relationships.  I reject the way they discourage women’s earning potential by telling them they’re bad mothers if they don’t stay at home with their children (they’re not).  I reject the way they demonize divorce.
  • I would much rather be married to someone who wanted to be married to me and who could escape at any time he wanted than to someone who is forced to be married to me because of some paper he signed decades ago.  I can’t understand men who just want unpaid servants.
  • I really like David Willis who draws dumbingofage.
  • I had a super religious friend in college who got married to a guy she didn’t like as much as I liked my (not yet) husband because they really wanted to have sex (I actually knew two super-religious people in this situation… oddly both math majors, but the guy wasn’t my friend and he got married as a freshman whereas she got married as a junior… I had a history class with him where he kept telling the professor the professor was wrong because the bible says earth is only a few thousand years old or something).  When she would complain about her fiance I’d ask if she was sure she wanted to get married (people who complain about their fiances never like it when you ask that, btw, sample size N=2).  I was also getting married that summer (right after graduation rather than a year before), and she’d say how was it different me getting married at 22 and her getting married at 21.  And I was like, well, if it doesn’t work out for me, I can just get divorced.  You’ve said you can’t!  If my only option was to be trapped in a marriage forever with no possibility of escape, I probably would have lived in sin instead.  Though also I am a strong strong believer that sex before marriage is an 1000X better idea than getting married as a freshman (that marriage did NOT work out well, though I don’t know what happened to them in the end… I think he was still married as a senior and I don’t know why I remember that he did his thesis on the Poisson distributions of pot shards, but I think maybe his wife dropped out?  Have not thought about him in 20+ years and cannot remember his name.).
  • One of my friends got divorced and then got remarried to the same guy again several years later after he did some really intensive therapy on his own during the interim years when they were literally half a world apart.
  • I love my husband huge amounts.  But if he divorced me, I would survive.  And not just for the sake of the children.  There would be a lot of changes and I would miss him terribly, but it wouldn’t be the same level of devastation as if he suddenly died (heaven forbid).
  • Divorce is one of those things that if you decide to do it, it was the right choice.
  • So, to everybody who has been through a divorce or who is going through one now, Congratulations!  And best wishes for a brighter future.
Posted in Uncategorized. Tags: . 29 Comments »

29 Responses to “RBOMusings on divorce, marriage, and religion”

  1. Mary Says:

    I like what you’re saying here. And I want it to be true. But I think, in many cases, divorce solves one problem, but generates many other problems (and I’m not even considering the financial aspects) and often has long-lasting, devastating effects.

    My ex, who I loved with all my heart, walked out on me and our kids to be with another woman. We haven’t seen him since. I’m sure he’s much happier and I guess it’s better for him that he wasn’t tied down to me and the kids, but could pursue his own best life.

    Financially, the kids and I are fine. My ex refuses to pay child support, but I have a good job. Emotionally, I’m not sure how we’ll ever recover from losing someone we loved so much.

    Maybe, on balance, the divorce increased overall happiness in the world. My ex can be with the woman he truly loves and share in bringing up her kids. I guess the kids and I should be happy that he’s found his « true family » (his words). It was definitely the right choice for him.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Before divorce, men like that just left, married or not. He sounds like a huge jerk. Being unable to get a divorce would not have made him a good father or husband. Instead of illegally refusing to pay child support they would hide or just blatantly refuse to share assets. Resentment could cause them to become abusive.

      Honestly, he sounds like a scumbag. Even ignoring the affair, anyone who could treat their own kids like that is a raging asshole. You may not believe you’re better off without him but it wasn’t marriage that was making him the person you loved. He changed or maybe was always secretly a selfish uncaring jerk. Marriage was just a contract, not magic.

      • Mary Says:

        Thank you! I really appreciate your thoughts. And you’re absolutely right that he never would have been happy with me, whether we got divorced or not.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        And that has nothing to do with *you* as a person.

        Jerks are going to be jerks no matter who you are or what you do.

      • Michael N Nitabach Says:

        Anecdotes aside, I suspect that there is a vastly greater amount of regret in the world over having gotten married than over having gotten divorced, thus supporting your thesis.

  2. revanche @ a gai shan life Says:

    I was thinking so much of this yesterday reading the comments! Some made it into my post for next week. I’ll never understand how people would try to repair breaking down relationships with marriage. That just ends in unhappiness and for those who can, divorce. I’ll also never understand the self righteousness of folks who went down that route, divorced, and then remarried to the right person for them. The ones I know who did that seem to have gotten up on a weird high horse (but they also married into a rather fanatical bordering on evangelical I think religion and I suppose that makes them feel superior anyway?)

    We tell JB all the time that marriage is not a goal. It’s something you do if you find someone you love and who loves you and you both are good partners to each other and you WANT to make them family in a formal legal way. They don’t quite follow yet but we’ll keep telling them.

  3. delagar Says:

    I’ve had so many students marry far too young because in the local (Arkansas) culture women who aren’t married are failures. I tell them over and over that no man is better than a bad man, and they stare at me in utter confusion — like how can that be true? It’s true for everyone, too, not just women — no partner is better than a bad partner.

    Dr. Skull and I are well-matched, but if I’d married at 18 (my first proposal), I’d now be married to a Trump-supporting “pro-life” control freak who doesn’t “believe” in divorce. No thanks!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Talk about dodging a bullet!

      I agree! No partner is better than a bad partner. For me, that bar is really high— my first boyfriend was very sweet … completely nothing wrong with him… but that’s not enough for me. (Mainly our senses of humor didn’t mesh… he was into Adam Sandler and I was into I dunno Jeeves and Wooster.)

    • Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

      My family, when I was growing up, believed that (immigrants to SoCal). Most of my cousins married the person they dated in college, that was their first permitted dating experience and they were expected to marry well before age 25. If I’d married the idiot I was dating in college, life would have been absolutely awful. There’s a reason I dumped him as a graduation present to myself!

    • Debbie M Says:

      I’d even say that no marriage is also better than a mediocre marriage.

      But then I don’t want kids, so I feel this gives me a little more flexibility. A mediocre marriage that helps with your life goals in a way that being unpartnered couldn’t might be a good idea, too.

  4. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    I married at 24, which now seems impossibly young to me, and my spouse and I are happy together, but when people I know have gotten divorced, I usually tell them “I’m sorry to hear that but I hope it improves your life overall.” Divorce when needed is… better than staying married to a horrible person, right? Or just someone who doesn’t want to be married.

    My aunt and uncle probably should have divorced 30 years ago- they don’t seem to like each other much – but my aunt has never worked and was raised Catholic and I do wish there were better economic support for such situations.

    Of my aunts and uncles (there are 7 of them), the other 6 are all divorced (some of them twice!).

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I honestly wish my parents had divorced back when I was like 7.

      • Debbie M Says:

        Yikes! I’m so sorry.

        My mom was contemplating divorce when I was in grad school, I’m guessing because my dad was a self-employed workaholic packrat who was too optimistic (=unreliable) about the finances. Everyone loved him for his heroism–he’d come fix your flat tire, give you a job and reference even if you were an ex-con or a Muslim immigrant, etc., but Mom got ulcers from never knowing when the utilities would be shut off (until she went to work and took over those) or we’d be evicted. She wished that reliably fulfilling your boring promises counted as heroism.

        Dad’s mom actually begged her to stay with him, even though she’d originally disapproved of the marriage (different religions). They stayed together because my little sister was still under 18 and my mom had to travel a lot while my dad worked from home a lot, so it was a marriage of convenience. After that, my dad supported her when she went back to college and tried in other ways to be less of a workaholic, so they stayed married after my sister grew up. They did love each other the whole time, though of course that’s not enough.

  5. CG Says:

    Hmm…I can think of a few divorced couples I know where in my opinion neither spouse is better off now that they’re divorced. But I guess they don’t agree, or they would remarry each other. One was a grass is greener situation where it’s really…not. I don’t think the leaving spouse is very happy in hir new, very complicated, family life, and the one who got left is pretty lonely. The others were “gray divorces” where in both cases now one spouse is depressed and the other is totally off the rails. I think all of those couples were better off before they got divorced. But again, they must not see it that way, and I only know what I observe from the outside, so obviously I don’t know everything about what their lives were like pre-divorce.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Things may have been better before the divorce, but something happened to *cause* the divorce. In the absence of divorce that thing that caused it would still be there! It’s not the divorce that is the problem, but whatever it was that caused it. And whatever caused it could also be causing the negative effects that occurred post-divorce.

      For example, one spouse going off the rails. Staying together isn’t going to help either of them. Case in point: my parents. Who are not divorced. (More on that next week.)

    • CG Says:

      And to be clear, in all of these cases one or both spouses was unhappy prior to the divorce. I just think both spouses are now even less happy.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        But you still don’t know the counterfactual– things were getting worse to the point of divorce and would likely have continued on that path.

    • xykademiqz Says:

      A majority of my kids’ friends’ parents are divorced. Most of those were pretty crappy marriages for a long time before the divorce (no violence, but so, so many loveless and/or sexless pro forma relationships, some irreconcilable differences, and the occasional cheater). In all of them, one parent quickly remarried, while the other remained single. All but one of the quickly remarried partners are men.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        #2’s parents are like that.

        The patriarchy is a terrible thing– I suspect part of the reason for it being is so that even the worst men can continue to have sex on a regular basis and have someone to take care of them in their old age. Women are the sacrifice for that. And ending abortion is a way to keep women trapped.

  6. xykademiqz Says:

    My parents’ relationship was in its death throes when I was finishing high school and beginning college. It took several years for them to formally divorce (sometime when I was in college). Honestly, I wish they’d done it much sooner, but it was mostly because of economic reasons that my mom (who btw always worked) stayed as long as she did. Dad was a good dad, but a terrible husband. There was never any warmth between them that I remember. He was always condescending to her, and later I learned he was a philanderer. (I got to learn way more than anyone should ever know about their parents’ personal lives because my mother, unfortunately, treated the older-teen me as a confidante; her own family was not supportive of divorce on principle). When I was old enough to notice how my friends’ happily married parents interacted with each other, it was clear that my sister and I never had a healthy relationship model. My sister never married. My own personal life (married 22+ years) could’ve been much more chaotic than it is; I credit my husband’s endless patience and his own parents’ largely healthy relationship. Hopefully husband and I are better models for our kids than my own parents were for me.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I don’t know anything about if my father philandered. But the rest of everything else sounds very familiar to me. I think my sister does plan to marry her current boyfriend eventually but she did remain single for a long time. I always wanted parents like the ones on Family Ties. And ditto the patient husband with the healthy parents.

  7. SP Says:

    Can you explain what you mean by this? ” think we should have more economic support for women in those situations who need to get on their feet. (I have friends whose mothers were briefly on welfare while getting degrees after a divorce– we could probably do better there)” Are you saying that welfare is insufficient economic support / not enough money to get on your feet?

    I got confused by this, but yes, otherwise agree with most of it. Divorce is a choice, just like marriage, and I am glad people have that choice if they needed it.

  8. Debbie M Says:

    Thank you, I really like this post. Especially: ‘Religions that use marriage as a way to trap women into subservient roles are pretty awful. I reject them. I reject the way they force women to stay in bad relationships. I reject the way they discourage women’s earning potential by telling them they’re bad mothers if they don’t stay at home with their children (they’re not). I reject the way they demonize divorce.’

    I did grow up thinking that marriage was a milestone, and then that it was something I wanted. Only now that I have an actual person in mind am I forced to see it as a contract with good and bad aspects. (The good include easier hospitalization visits–though I think that’s changing–and other situations where you get to be treated as a family, better results if you have no will or messed it up, better Social Security benefits, an extra way to get insurance, and no questions asked when you want to make your last names match. But the bad includes having to do joint income tax (or pay more), bankruptcy of one bringing the other down, and that problem where both people have to be poor for one to get Medicaid.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah the money stuff can go either way depending on the circumstances. I have more than one set of friends who got married so one could get on the others health insurance pre-ACA who had been happy together without the contract before that.

  9. omdg Says:

    A good friend who is recently divorced would often tell me that it wasn’t *just* her fault that her ex was abusive — she could be difficult too — and therefore maybe they shouldn’t get divorced. I remember saying that if anything that meant they should definitely get divorced! She’s doing better now though still pretty unhappy. A lot of women feel like they need a man in order to be happy. I wonder why that happens.

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