I need to add to my earlier post. Let me hasten to add, it’s nothing specific you all have said, just a set of feeling and thoughts I’ve had since I wrote this morning. Probably unthinkable and unfeelable until I got that first part out of the way.

I am not saying that a marriage without children has no meaning.

I am not saying there there is no virtue in trying, and hanging in there, and persevering.

I am certainly not saying that Kim Kardashian has it right.

I am not saying that if you’ve promised to care for someone and you break your promise it’s a good thing.

I am not saying shame should not be felt over infidelity, abuse, neglect, misuse, deceit, denial.

I am only saying that when it’s all over, if there are children, more attention should be paid to their well-being than anything else, including shame. That society might want to scaffold the process a bit more carefully. And if I am truthful, I am saying all this now and wishing I could have said it 35 years ago, and 25 years ago, and 20 and 15 and 10 years ago. But I didn’t know.

And now, maybe, I can say I hope you are having a wonderful weekend and I do apologize for having dug up sorrow in the deconstruction.

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  • There is no escape from sorrow when discussing divorce, whether children are in the picture or not. I do not believe an apology is warranted for your thought provoking entry this morning. I do know that the pain subsides over time.

  • What Veronica said. What you wrote was/is brave, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, no apology necessary.

    As a child of a messy, bungled divorce, I swore like we all do that I’d Do Things Differently when it came to marriage. Of course, now that I’m an official member of that institution, it’s certainly a much-more nuanced thing than I’d expected.

    Like you said, there’s no one right answer here, but if the failure rate of any societal institution is consistently failing, and failing those for whom our duty of care is highest at that (e.g., our kids), then that institution merits deconstruction.

  • Yes, I see now what you are driving at. I know that I have watched at a distance as my children repeat my mistakes…

  • “I do apologize for having dug up sorrow in the deconstruction.”

    Do not apologize.

    An opinion: The objective/process/definition of classical literary Deconstruction is [roughly] Destruction. One of a handful of differences between classical deconstruction of a text and blogging deconstruction of divorce is that you had no solid texts to work with in your essay. In the absence of literary texts, together with your being an avowed atheist, the only material remaining for you to Deconstruct were those within the scope of your own memories, your own thoughts, varied folkways and non sacred beliefs. That your outcome was Sorrow is at least one sign of your success.

    Deconstruction is a sophisticated system. I think you handled it as ably as one might given nothing particularly solid to work with. I think this is what you sensed was going on in the back of your mind, that your readers are made of more complicated “stuff” than can be casually deconstructed/destroyed in the classical sense. That would be like you, that is why we love you so much and trust you with our [rambling, verbose] thoughts.

  • Oh, LPC…your apology is gracious. Your post is brave and well-designed. Marriage and the staying-in or getting-out-of is so multifactorial that any deconstruction is a bit sticky. And difficult. Not unlike marriage. ;)

  • In reading your previous post I never got the sense that you were saying that childless marriages are meaningless. However, sometimes I do scratch my head, wondering how to explain to others that despite its representing an evolutionary dead end, mine still fulfills a profound need. I often perceive that many people with children see marriage as something no one would endure if not for procreative purposes, and I find that not outrageous but tragic.

    I am always heartened by people who jointly make a superhuman effort to ensure the emotional health and welfare of their children throughout their divorce. Even so, children–whether at the time their parents’ marriage dissolved they were adults, like my siblings and me, or children, like X and his sibling and step-siblings–are still deeply affected by the loss throughout their lives. Sometimes parents (like my father, who turned out not to be the man I thought he was) are clearly at fault and should be held accountable; sometimes the end of a marriage is simply an inevitability resulting from a flaw no one detected in its earliest, most hopeful years, and parceling out blame is unproductive.

    But children are incredibly resilient. Dear friends of ours have made the best of the situation and, with their subsequent respective partners, collaborated in raising two bright, happy, well-adjusted twin sisters, expanding the notion of what family should be. They seem to have managed admirably to mitigate the consequences of the failure of what is in general an inherently poorly-constructed, risky endeavor. And from your descriptions of your children and your relationship with them, it sounds as though you have, too.

  • I should add…an *expensive* endeavor whose success, like any rocket/satellite/probe launch, appears to be based in large part on luck. The more I think about it, the more apt your metaphor seems to be.

  • Your coda is well stated. Don’t forget truth when talking about such things. Truth to yourself & your children as well as others.


  • The debate over the extension of civil marriage rights during the past few years has made me wonder if the whole institution needs a redesign. It seems to me the societal purpose of civil marriage in 2012 (in no particular order)is 1) to provide for boilogical or adopted children of that union (but what of children born outside of marriage?) 2) to provide for a legal next of kin other than a blood relative. This implies a legal obligation to “take care” of and make decisions for the other if incapacitated. 3) a legal way to pool financial resources and have the couple treated as a single financial unit for tax and other purposes. Everything else may have great religious or personal meaning to the couple, but society at large would not seem to have a legitimate interest in whatever specifics a couple decides to observe. It seems to me a given couple might want to commit to 1, 2 or all three in a specific relationship, but we don’t have a great way to do that. I would argue for stronger protections of the interests of all children (married or unmarried parents), but beyond that, I’m not sure what “marriage” should look like.

  • No need to apologize for a subject that can bring up some sorrow – sometimes it’s good to bring it up for some air at times. I would like to add some advice for anyone going through a divorce, which BA mentioned in her post.
    TRUTH, which of course has to be modulated depending on the age of the child. In my case, my parents divorced without much exploration, but I awoke one night and learned the truth when I overheard my mother and my grandparents discussing it. I kept it to myself for over 12 years, which took a huge toll on me, and I had a lot of anger at my father which I had to suppress, and which eventually ended our relationship, when I confronted as an adult with the truth. My husband found out the truth about his father’s role in his parent’s divorce at his father’s funeral. He had an uneasy relationship with his father after the divorce and was never sure why. It was very sad for him, that he wasn’t able to resolve things before his father died.
    It’s a tough decision about what to say, or what not to say – but the old “Mommy and Daddy don’t love each other anymore” line, seems to leave out the knowledge, that children sense way more than we used to realize.

    7:46 am
    kathy said...

    I meant “explanation”, not “exploration”.

  • I agree with you and don’t think you should ever apologize for how you feel. My parents divorced when I was 12 and I don’t think it had a large impact on my life–but maybe it did. I just think celebs don’t have normal family lives ever, divorce or not

  • Your thoughtful posts are helping me as I come to terms with the divorce of two people (relatives) I love very much – when I first heard that it would happen, I promptly chose denial as my coping mechanism, and it has served me well (if I didn’t already know them both, I would promptly introduce them and hope for great things because so much of their synergy is admirable). My biggest concern is their biggest concern – caring for two beloved children, but my second biggest concern is anxiety about finding ways to love and show love to everyone involved, parents and children alike, as their identities evolve. My greatest fear is somehow losing one of the adults, who might drift away under the impression that the married unit was more important than the individual (no, no, you can’t escape that easily – you are still someone I love). We grieve loss, and we should do so, but we do that best when we also resolve to stay open to potential for new/revised relationships. A razor’s edge, and your sensitive reflections are useful in helping me, for one, decipher it within all the emotional turmoil.

  • An interesting post Lisa.
    I second your opinion. Children´s welfare most go first. They did not ask to be born, we parents wanted to have them.
    When I view the comments on this post, it seems to me, that divorces run in the family.
    People of our age, have parents who divorced, we divorced, and most likely our own children will get divorced.
    Why? Why do so many couples get divorced in the first place?
    A new statistics here from Finland reports, that couples in their mid 60´s or even older ones are having a divorce boom.

    An interesting subject to ponder is, what could be done to prevent the tragedy of a divorce?
    Are we willing to give up too easily, when the first dark clouds appear?
    Do we set our own welfare above the welfare of the child?

    2:12 pm
    kathy said...

    In the US also. I’m always so shocked when people over 60 decide to divorce, but I see it more and more. And contrary to what people might think about the man wanting a younger woman, but in the case of the couples I know in this situation, it’s the woman who wants it! She wants to be free suddenly and not particularly interested in other men, just free to finally live her own life. It’s something to think about, isn’t it. Not getting divorced, but making sure we women are living enough of our own lives all through our life ~ so this sudden crisis doesn’t happen?

  • I like DocP’s comments. Throughout history and in much of the world today, marriage was an economic and social institution. Couples married to ensure legitimate offspring to carry on the blood line and to preserve capital (if well-to-do) or survive (if not). With shorter life spans, as well as deaths in child birth, accidents, war, etc. marriages were not expected to last 50+ years. Today we lump all of that in with also being a source of personal happiness and well being. That is a lot for one relationship to bear. Perhaps it is time to rethink — keeping in mind that if children are involved their interests must be paramount.

  • Statistics and shrinks will tell you that parents should remain married… You ask ANY child who had parents remain together for their sake and they will tell you they wished their parents had just gone ahead and gotten divorce… that living with two people bickering, fighting and not getting along is not healthy. Not in the least. These same Drs and statistics will also tell you that the older the child (into adulthood) the harder it is on the child. I know for a fact that had I had to get divorce to protect my children – not from abuse, but from repeating patterns they witnessed. I do not want my boys talking/treating their spouse like their father and I do not want my daughter married to someone like that either.

    I don’t think you needed to add this – You are always very gracious in your posts.

  • What an interesting discussion. When my first husband and I divorced, after losing our only child, I think we both felt a sense of relief. I was seeing a counselor at the time, while we were making our decision, and I asked her how people really, really knew it was time to divorce. She said that people tend to stay together far too long, and really make each other good and miserable before it becomes glaringly obvious that divorce is the only answer. I really think my ex husband and I were at that point, so all I really felt once he moved out was freedom.

    If people tried to shame me about it, I didn’t notice. I can be completely oblivious at times, but I think I would have noticed that. I do know that in the eyes of my ex-husband’s family, I am the “bad guy” but, truthfully, they were never that supportive of our marriage to begin with, so they all need to take a long look in the mirror when looking to place blame.

    I am fortunate that he and I were brave enough to call it quits while we were still sufficiently young to go on and have children with others, which I have done. I don’t know whether he has. I wish him no ill, but I also have no desire to see him.

  • Coda – I first thought this was on Co-Dependents Anonymous ;-)
    I absolutely agree: I heard myself saying not just once “At least there are no children who get hurt” when couples without children divorce.
    Not getting a divorce can hurt the children, too. Or even make them sick. The subconscious plays a huge part, when parents don’t speak out their problems and children become their “antennas”.

  • “I am only saying that when it’s all over, if there are children, more attention should be paid to their well-being than anything else, including shame. That society might want to scaffold the process a bit more carefully”

    Well said. VERY well said. I am a direct result of parents who didn’t divorce and stayed together because of the children. I’ve lost count the number of times I’d wished they had divorced instead of staying together. It did more harm than good, honestly.

    I find myself lashing out and attacking, during arguments with my husband, as my parents used to. I learned how to fight from them and have brought it into my home. I’d have rather dealt with the fall out of a divorce honestly than the baggage my siblings and I are left with.

    Sometimes in the process of trying to protect, and not hurt their kids, parents do worse damage. There is no right or wrong answer to this situation. But as you said, there needs to be a stronger awareness of the children and the impact on them, whatever the decision may be, regarding divorce.

    Kudos to you for touching on such a raw subject :)

    7:10 am
    MJ said...

    Ugh, yes, another child of parents who stayed married who gave me excellent lessons in “what not to do.” I am married, quite peacefully, likely because I learned what not to do – don’t get married too young (we were 30 and 34), pick a complimentary personality, etc. Pick another person who reads – that was key. Also, most critically, don’t act the way my mother did – enraged and emotional every day about what she hadn’t done with her life (and that is on her and her domineering parents, not on my extremely passive dad).

    We have no children. I’ve never had interest in doing so – for some internal reason I’ve never “gotten” the appeal of a lot of female life roles, and tend to think of myself as a genderless “person” rather than a “woman/wife/mother.” I’m also realizing in midlife that I would have been very happy married to my job, or ordained and married to that role. However, I also know that reinforcing my pre-existing life choices is the knowledge that I could never, ever, tolerate myself morally if I created a child just to torment it and subject it to my misery and a bad relationship. And I got that 100% from life with the long-married parents…

  • In the youth mentoring field we talk alot about about the missed generation – that we are working with the young people, but also their parents who missed so much. Every cooking event I led for girls was overrun by parents excited about learning new skills. It’s exhausting for the leader of the activity but its important to try and serve both generations in order to rebuild families. And the girls lose interest in direct coorelation to how excited their moms and dads are about it….its a balancing act to decide whose needs are priority.

    Also, to realize that one important change for this generation of youth is that most do not have a home base; a place of emotional stability. Most of the previous generation’s children had at least somewhere that was stable – one set of grandparents, an aunt and uncle, etc. Today’s youth have broken homes back three and four generations. It makes it difficult for our young parents to commit and change course to create that stable home again.

  • I think you are saying, in effect: “Divorce is unavoidable. Destroying the children is not.”

    What’s interesting about this sentiment is that, while noble, it carries the underlying assumption that divorce is inevitable. I think that’s quite a comment about our generation; that the discussion has shifted from how to avoid divorce to how to avoid hurting the children.

    7:20 pm
    Lisa said...

    I don’t think I’m saying it’s inevitable. Only that if it happens, protecting the children is more important than shaming the parents. And that all of society can participate in many ways.