Sometimes divorce is a good thing. And sometimes it doesn’t happen like you see in the movies.
My husband of 17 years and I are divorcing. There are no plates being hurled at each other, no tantrums, and very few harsh words. We’re not bitter, we’ve worked through the anger and the grief, and it is time to move on.
We’ve done over two years of counselling, and we’ve told our parents, our children and a few close friends. Gradually the word will get out.
It feels odd. I feel almost dreamlike at times. Marriage for us had become a habit.
When I married him, I honestly believed it would be until death. I also believed that any marriage that wasn’t forever was a failure. I know differently now.
I now view our marriage, even though it has ended, as a successful marriage.
We were happy through most of it.
We have two amazing kids.
We were good partners for each other.
We supported each other.
And we’re now going our own ways amicably.
This is joint decision.
It is what is best for both of us.
We are in agreement.
We will continue to co-parent, even though we’re separating.
I trust that he has the best interests of our kids at heart.
I trust him to be fair and honest with me in his dealings.
He trusts me to be fair and honest in my dealings with him.
We are good friends.
So what makes a marriage successful? Is it just the “till death do us part” bit? Or is it something else?
I think we need to re-assess what it means for a marriage to be successful. We must redefine it, because our current definitions, quite frankly, are making people miserable. They don’t work for a lot of people, they place unrealistic expectations on couples, and they encourage couples to stay together in situations where they would very much be better off apart.
The fact is, sometimes sticking together no matter what isn’t always the best decision.
Think about it:
Is a marriage successful if two people stick it out in absolute misery until death, simply because society tells them they must?
Is a marriage successful if a couple despise each other but stay together in a sham relationship “for the kids” when everyone around them knows the whole thing is a fake?
Is a marriage successful if two people stay together for no other reason than habit?
Is a marriage successful if two people stay together simply because they are afraid to leave? Afraid of the unknown? Of the “what if…”? Is fear a good or healthy reason for a couple to be together?
Is a marriage successful if it lasts a lifetime but one or both members physically or emotionally abuse each other?
Is a marriage successful if one or both members are cheating on the other, sleeping around, lying to their partner, yet remaining married?
I’d argue that none of the above constitute success.
If that’s how we measure “success” in our society, then society has it wrong.
If that’s the best society can do, then it’s not good enough for us.
I believe my marriage was successful because we were both strong enough and brave enough to say “Now is the time for us to end this.”
We were willing to be honest with each other.
We didn’t cheat, we didn’t lie, we didn’t sleep around behind the other’s back while pretending everything was rosy.
Instead, we saw that what we had wasn’t working, and we tried to fix it. And when we realised it couldn’t be fixed, we had the strength and honesty to say, let it go.
This is a frightening time for me. It probably is for him too. I don’t know what my life will be in a year from now, in ten years from now. Separating takes away all certainty. The thought of being a single mother in her forties is scary.
I’m scared but I will face the future with what strength I have.
Why are we moving on? I can only speak for myself. I’m moving on because I have to believe that I can bring joy into someone’s life, and that someone can bring joy into mine. Life is too short to merely exist. I want my life to be rich, and full of purpose and deep satisfaction.
Maybe I’ll fail to achieve what I want, but at the end of my life if I have failed to fly, I don’t want to have failed because I was afraid to spread my wings.
Most of my friends are, publicly or not, in open relationships.
Most didn’t start out that way. Most started with the whole girlfriend-boyfriend dating thing, and moved on to marriage or permanent de facto status. Many even vowed to “forsake all others”, and probably meant it when they made those vows.
But times change, and when you’re in your twenties, or whatever, you don’t really comprehend, at a visceral level, what “forsaking all others” really means.
I couldn’t have imagined the person I am now, when I was in my twenties. I couldn’t have imagined everything I would go through, and suffer through, to get to this point in my life.
I had no idea of the changes that would happen in me, and in my partner. To say I was naive when I got married is an understatement.
My experiences weren’t typical – I had a harder lot than most – but everyone goes through some hard stuff in their life. And everyone’s relationships change, some for the better, some for the worse.
But now, talking privately with close friends the other night, it came out that not one of us was in the closed, monogamous relationship we’d envisaged when we’d made our vows and promises as our younger selves.
Some of my friends are cheating on their partners. Other have divorced, or are separating. Many are in open marriages, with regular partners on the side for one or other of them.
Some have had affairs. Others separated and got back together and separated again. And some are still with their partner, but just don’t have sex and are plain old miserable.
I’ve friends who have been so lonely in their marriages that they cried themselves to sleep at night while their partner snored on unknowingly beside them. Others who might as well be celibate, for all the sex they’re having. And others who have taken on same-sex lovers, after realising that the reason their marriage didn’t work is because they’re gay.
My friends aren’t unusual. They’re a pretty typical mix of 30 and 40-something middle class New Zealanders. Some better off, some worse off. Most in professional jobs, some in blue collar work. Some are stay at home mums.
But all of this got me thinking,
– Is monogamy dead? Is it something that only ever existed in name only, on a church register, while in reality it never actually worked for anyone outside of a Disney fairytale?
– Are we the first generation to experience this? Or did previous generations do the same? Are they doing the same?
– Why is society clinging to the idea of monogamy if it isn’t working for most of us, maybe for any of us? Is it time for a change? And, if so, what do we replace it with?
We’re no different to previous generations
I honestly think, looking at the evidence, that we’re no different to previous generations. With one major difference: women can leave miserable situations, whereas in the past they often couldn’t.
I look at my mother, who was the “love child” of an affair her mother had, in between two marriages.
I look at my paternal grandmother, who had (I think) five, maybe six, marriages in her life. Serial monogamy, maybe, but not exactly Disney. And one of the guys she married was a bigamist – there was scandal attached at the time!
I look at my distant family tree in the past, with relative after relative whose paternity was “under question”. My family was no different from any other. The world is full of bastard children and “young aunts” who were actually unwed mothers.
Looking at all of this, it seems monogamy was always something that people aimed for, rather than the standard everyone typically achieved.
And it shows me that we are no different to the generations that went before. Yes, single mothers get a lot of criticism – but there were always single mothers, and lots of them. It’s just that in the past their ‘sins” were hushed up and the children taken away.
I think the Disney fairytale, the “happily ever after” we’re led to believe in, is cruel and hurtful.
And it’s a fairytale – not true, nor likely to be true.
Why does society cling to monogamy, if it clearly doesn’t work?
I really don’t know the answer to this one. Maybe you do. The best I can do is wonder what would happen if monogamy didn’t exist.
Would people reform into tribes, or poly groups, rather than “nuclear” family units? Would the shape of housing change? Would children be better off with potentially more adults caring for them?
Or would women be left with the burden of supporting any children they gave birth to alone, as men moved from one partner to another without legal responsibility?
I don’t know.
In name only
What I do know is that monogamy doesn’t exist among my friends. It’s probably pretty rare everywhere, once marriages hit five years old or so.
I wonder at what point this will all become open and honest and people will start to discuss what’s actually going on in society?
Not everyone is happy of course. The Churches are looking all confused – on the one hand preaching that “God is love” while on the other hand saying, “wee-eeeell, maybe God is love – but not quite for all people. Not for you gay people over in the corner, anyway.”
And the politicians who, in not too distant memory were all iffy and uffy about same sex marriage, now rush in their full acceptance of the cause, saying, “We were on your side all along! Yes, really!”
Then there are groups who claim that same-sex marriage will persecute traditional marriage types. I’m not sure how – and neither are they, as they don’t quite specify the details – but they’re vehement on the matter.
The thing is, all this denying and delaying and complaing and whinging about being persecuted sounds eerily familiar. The same complaints were heard, and the same arguments, every time a persecuted minority (or majority) has gained rights.
The same arguments were used against the civil rights movement in the US (didn’t you know whites are discriminated against?), and the same against women rights (men are being persecuted now – didn’t you know?). It’s the same old line, used over and over.
It never held water then, and it doesn’t now.
Australia is a backwater
My home country of Australia is starting to look more and more like a backwater of human rights. I’m embarrassed. I’m living in New Zealand now, but I follow the Aussie news, and I feel ashamed that Australia hasn’t led the way on this issue. Especially when so much of the population is clearly in favour. It seems like the politicians have stopped listening to the people. Or maybe that happened a while back…
But you can’t stop change. The Churches in the UK are against this, but popular opinion is changing so swiftly in favour of this issue that they’ll soon be left behind, if they aren’t already. Just one more way in which mainstream religions are losing touch with popular culture.
These are interesting times we live in. I think there are some issues that are changing a little too fast for my liking, such as the amount of violence on TV and film. But other issues, such as rights for minorities, can’t change fast enough.
There’s been a lot of name calling going on in politics at the moment.
Apparently, women who have sex are sluts. Especially if we have sex outside of marriage. Even if we have sex inside of marriage sometimes.
But I want to ask – why? Why the emphasis on women? And if women who have sex are sluts and whores, surely men are too?
I guess that means that our mothers are sluts. And our grandmothers. And the Queen is a slut. And pretty much any women who didn’t remain a nun.
Name calling in the playground!
When I think back on primary school, I remember that kids used to call each other names a lot. And it was all about pecking order, and putting people into their social rank.
Names were used to make people feel bad about themselves. Names were used to put people down. Names were especially used by people in power to keep those who didn’t have the power from having any.
So you’d get the bullies name-calling the loser kids. And the jocks name-calling the nerds. And the popular kids name-calling the unpopular kids. Never the other way around.
So we had a nerdy kid who people labelled “Eugene” and gave him a hard time. And a girl we called “craterface” because she had bad skin. And a friend of mine used to get called “red pubes” by a group of guys because she had red hair and, well, they liked to make her feel uncomfortable.
Pleasant stuff. Real intelligent too. But it did it’s job: it made those without power feel worse, and those with power feel even more powerful. It kept those lower down the power hierarchy in their place.
And now we have grown up men calling women who have sex – and, let’s face it, the vast majority of women do have sex, so they’re by association name-calling all of us – sluts and whores.
Then they act all surprised when this is the result:
I love sex! OMG I’m a slut! And a whore!
I love sex. I really enjoy it, and yes, I’ve had sex with a lot of men in some people’s estimation. And a fair number of women.
I’m a slut! OMG! Kill me now! LOL.
I suppose, if you stretch things a little, I might even technically be a whore, because some of the guys bought me dinner beforehand. So I was PAID (in food) for sex, if you want to get nitpicky.
I have no regrets (well, there was this one guy who was pretty awful and had no clue…lol), and am proud of everything I did. It was consenting, and fun, and I enjoyed most of it.
I’m an adult, and I have the right to do what I want with my body. I believe that others have the right to do what they want with their bodies too.
If Aphrodite is the Goddess of beauty and love, then She is also the Goddess of sluts and whores. Which in some peoples eyes is all women.
I don’t understand why or how some people can hate women that much. I suspect it’s a combination of bad sex and too little of it, or maybe just lots of rejection by women in their lives. I feel sorry for them for that, but they’re not going to improve matters by hating women for their miserable sex lives.
In the meanwhile, I’m going to stand proud, as a slut and a whore, along with all my friends who are also sluts and whores, and continue to fight for our rights to do with our own bodies as we wish.
We all know that the churches of the Bible belt have been placing a massive emphasis on “purity” and virginity lately. Especially for women.
Teens are taking “purity pledges” and being “re-virginized” (whatever THAT means!) and promising to “wait” until they get married.
But have you ever stopped to ask – why?
Why the emphasis on this one aspect of human behaviour?
Think about it for a moment. How is a “good person” or a “valued member of society” usually defined?
Think of the people in history you’d consider to be heroes. They might be Jesus, if you’re a Christian – but I bet his sex life was never a big issue for you (do you even know how many sex partners he had? is it even mentioned in the Bible?)
Or you might think of Nelson Mandela. Or you might be thinking of Martin Luther King Jr. Or Marie Curie, if you’re a scientist. Or Fred Hollows, who restored eyesight for countless people in the world.
What about Mozart and Beethoven, and the beautiful music they gifted the world? Or Van Gogh, for his stunning artwork?
Or modern composers like Eric Whitacre, and the gorgeous pieces he’s currently writing for us to enjoy?
Other heroes you might consider could include people like your family doctor. Or a favourite teacher. Or the physiotherapist who helped you to walk again after you had a terrible brain injury.
They’re all heroes. Every one of them. All doing good works. All worthy of admiration.
If you believe in Heaven, every one of them deserves a place, wouldn’t you think?
I sure would.
Were they virgins when they married? If they married? And does God even care?
Of all these people, do you know for certain if any of them were virgins when they married? Did it matter? Did it make a difference to them being good people?
Did it affect their being valuable people, of worth to the world and those they loved and that loved them?
I’ll answer the question for you: not one bit.
Their sexual status when they married didn’t affect their contributions as unique individuals. And neither does your sexual status affect your contribution as a unique individual.
Don’t think so little of God!
If you think the Divine is so petty as to care about your virginity, well then, you’ve got one really petty little God you’re worshipping.
If you think God will judge you based on whether you’ve had sex or not, you’re really underestimating God. Plus, you’re really overestimating your own self-importance. The Divine has better things to worry about.
So why do the Churches care?
Firstly, don’t get Church and God muddled up. They’re NOT one and the same. Churches are made up of people. People with all their human frailties and mistakes and bigotries and confusions.
Churches have been telling people what to do and what to think for a long, long time. And a lot of the time, they simply represented what society thought.
When society got it wrong, so too did the Churches.
For example, when society didn’t know better and thought the sun revolved around the earth, the Churches defended this belief to the death. Literally. Galileo was tried by the Inquisition for his challenge to this theory, his books were banned, and he spent the rest of his life under house arrest. Other scientists that challenged the same belief (such as Giordano Bruno) were burned at the stake by the Church.
This all happened a long time ago, but what I’m pointing out is that the churches are fallible. They make mistakes, because they’re controlled and made up of people. They reflect common beliefs of society at the time. And sometimes not so common!
What’s more, the Churches, due to their generally conservative nature, tend to lag behind society, and are slow to change and update as society changes.
Society has changed, but the Church is still playing catchup
This is what we have now. Reliable contraception is relatively new (the pill was first approved in 1960, very recently in historical terms) and was a massive change to how women could control their fertility.
With that huge change, the status of women changed quickly. Women were suddenly no longer tied to house and children. We could choose to work and pursue careers, knowing that pregnancy wasn’t lying in wait for us unexpectedly.
Reliable laws supporting safe termination followed swiftly in 1973 with Roe v Wade, enabling women who did find themselves unexpectedly pregnant to end it with a safe termination. Terminations are very common – I’ve had one, as have about half of my friends. These days they’re safe and supported by public health insurance in most western countries – the days of backyard coathangers are thankfully over.
But all these changes, including other further advances such as the morning after pill (1997), are very new. Too new for the Churches to cope with. They’re still more than a century behind, back in the Victorian era, advocating abstinence until marriage.
But what’s wrong with abstinence?
Quite a lot, actually. But let’s start with numbers.
The average age of menarche (first period) for girls in the US is 12.5 years of age. Boys hit puberty on average at age 13.
So if they’re going to be abstinent, women are going to, on average, have to be abstinent for 14.4 years. Men are going to have to remain abstinent for 15.9 years.
Are you beginning to see a problem? I sure am! Can you imagine, as an adult, going without sex for about 15 years? It’s just not practical or reasonable to expect young people, at the height of their fertility, to not have sex for that long.
Furthermore, the same communities that are preaching the abstinence mantras are typically
a) not providing young people with full sex education, so they are more at risk of pregnancy, STIs and dangerous / abusive relationships should sex occur
b) not providing young people with access to contraception or teaching them how to use contraception properly
c) dumping guilt on young people when the inevitable does occur and they do have sex.
In other words, they’re preaching a virtually unachievable mode of behaviour for all but the most asexual of young people, then blaming those same young people when they cannot meet unrealistic expectations.
So why purity?
Purity has, and always will be until it finally suffers a permanent demise as a concept, been about control. It’s a way of making people feel: dirty, cheap, worthless, not good enough, not able enough. It’s a way of judging people and labelling people and keeping people (women) in their place that is hurtful and can be very cruel.
Yes, the pretty white dresses and “purity rings” are all very nice, but they’re a veil over a brutal attempt to control women.
What to do?
Don’t buy the lie. Don’t buy into the purity lie.
Instead, focus on being a good person. Do good works. Let your actions speak for who you are and what you believe is important and right. If you choose to wait until you find someone you love for sex, that’s only your business: no-one else’s.
It’s not the church’s. Or your minister’s. Or your parents. Or your friends.
Ignore the purity rings. And the purity balls. And the purity pledges. Be a good person because that’s who you choose to be, not to fit into someone else’s rules and regulations and guidelines and boundaries.
Have sex when you choose to. With who you want to. With as many or as few people as you choose.
Do it safely. Feel no guilt, because sex can be a beautiful, fun, pleasurable gift when you do it right.
But the only purity that you should ever concern yourself with is the purity of your food and drink. Because that’s the only purity that matters.
Flowers are expensive. You can pay fifty bucks or more – perfectly good dollars that could be spent on something useful, like a dinner or a movie or some chocolates or some wine – for a bunch of flowers that will wilt and die in a few days.
Flowers are pointless. They don’t have any purpose. They just sit there looking pretty until they keel over in a wilted mess, and you pour the browned, icky water they were standing in down the drain.
Most guys don’t get it: why do women love flowers on Valentine’s Day?
I’ll tell you why: because you spent money that could have been spent on useful, important stuff on some flowers for the woman you love. And that tells her that you love her more than all of that “useful stuff”. She’s more important that any of it.
When you buy a woman flowers, you’re saying a lot of things.
You’re saying you love her more than the chocolates you could have bought.
Or the dinner.
Or the movie.
Or the wine.
And you’re not a money-grubbing cheapass that didn’t buy her anything, and couldn’t even be bothered springing her a few flowers.
You were willing to buy something beautiful for her that doesn’t last, simply because it’s beautiful and she might enjoy it.
You were willing to take a leap of faith for her. You’re not a money-loving guy. You love her more than your money. Enough to spring for a few lousy roses. You’re not cheap.
You were willing to buy something beautiful that she might appreciate, and think screw the money! because she meant more to you than those few dollars.
I spent my whole life making excuses for lousy guys who didn’t buy me flowers.
Oh, they had plenty of excuses: “I’d rather buy you some chocolates” or “I’d rather take you to a movie” or “I’d rather we went out to dinner” or “I just don’t buy into that Valentine’s Day stuff – it’s too commercial for me. It’s just the shops making a fast buck.”
And I was weak. I’d nod my head, and agree, because I didn’t want to hurt their feelings, and come across as grasping and greedy and shallow – as someone who might be swayed by something as unimportant as a bunch of flowers.
Most women would do the same. They’ll say nothing, or they’ll make excuses for you. Because they love you and don’t want to hurt you.
But inside they’re disappointed, wondering if you really don’t think they’re worth even a few bucks for some flowers. They’re wondering why. Would you have bothered if they were prettier? Younger? Thinner? That’s what went on in my head, year after year, when I never got any flowers given to me on Valentine’s Day.
But you know what? The little things matter.
That guy who makes excuses for no flowers today will be making excuses for no attention tomorrow. He’ll be ignoring your needs in a whole stack of ways. If he can’t be bothered with flowers do you really think he’ll be that supportive when you really need him?
Give us the flowers we deserve!
Very few women will be forthright and admit that we love flowers. We’ll deny it with blank faces. You can tell the women whose partners are ignoring them, because they’re the women who are embarrassed to look at the flower displays when Valentine’s Day is near. They’re ashamed at how forgotten they are.
Being forgotten and ignored hurts.
Women will even agree with you when you say it’s a waste of money to spend your hard earned cash on something that will die so quickly.
But inside, the little girl in all of us wants flowers.
My father used to buy me daffodils when I was a little girl. No reason – he just did. And even now, as a grown woman, I still love daffodils, and love that bright colour yellow. When I moved into my house one of the first things I did was plant hundreds of daffodil bulbs. They make me smile every spring. They mean happiness to me.
Buy your girl flowers. Show her that she’s important enough to waste a few dollars that of course you could spend on something much more useful.
Show her that she’s more important to you than all the useful things in the world. That’s what love is about, after all.
Here’s the proposal, and you’ve heard it before: gay couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry, because marriage is about children, and having families. Gay couples can’t have children together, so they shouldn’t be allowed to marry.
If a society allows gay marriages to happen, it’s saying that marriage is more about sex than having a family.
I’m going to pour cold water on that one right now.
Case 1: My grandmother, a widow, got married again in her seventies (my grandfather died when he was 49 from cancer). According to the logic above (let’s call it “Santorum logic“), that marriage shouldn’t have been allowed, right? Because there was no way on earth my grandma was capable of having kids with her new husband, who was rocking along in his mid 80s.
Case 2: Then there’s a friend of mine, who is in a wheelchair, and can’t have kids, thanks to a car accident when he was in his early 20s. He’s getting married next year, to the woman he got engaged to before the accident. She’s been with him through all his therapy, and if that ain’t true love, I don’t know what is. But they’ll never have children.
So, according to Santorum Logic, they should also be shoved in the “NO MARRIAGE FOR YOU” box. Right?
Cases 3 and 4: My husband had two great aunts, both of whom got married then found they could neither of them ever have children with their husbands. I’m sure they really wanted to, but couldn’t. Some people just can’t have children. If you’re religious, you can call it an “Act of God”. And it’s cruel.
Does that mean that their loving, lifelong marriages with their husbands were something less than a “real” marriage because children didn’t happen? Or maybe, according to the Santorum Logic that “having kids is what marriage is for“, their husbands should have dumped them by the side of the road, Bible-style, and married again?
Of course, we don’t know that the problem was with the women. Fertility problems are actually pretty even between the genders. But hey, this is a patriarchal society, so let’s go right ahead and assume that the blame should be laid on women.
Oh, and while we’re at it, let’s clarify what “Biblical Marriage” (that often bandied-about term) actually is. Here’s a handy graphic:
Doesn’t sound that lovely to me!
I’ve just outlined four cases below that I know of, with real people that are friends or relatives of mine, where their marriages were NOT anything to do with children, and where to have children wasn’t an option.
Yet so many anti gay marriage people would never say a word against their marriages.
So let’s call this anti gay marriage hocus what it actually is: bigotry.
It’s bigotry. Hatecrime. Based on suspicion and fear.
I don’t believe any person should have the right to control or prevent the happiness of another. This is a human rights issue, loud and clear. It’s that simple.
So to end my post, here’s a lovely photo of some happy senior newlyweds, in honour of my grandma who I loved:
And some happy disabled newlyweds, in honour of my friend, who I care for:
And some happy gay newlyweds, in hope that all my gay friends will one day have equal rights everywhere: