On divorce and the "you just didn't try hard enough" myth

May 12 | Guest post by Rachael
Divorce sucks greeting card from Etsy seller glamourGreets.
Divorce sucks greeting card from Etsy seller glamourGreets.

The reasons for my divorce are complicated and their own story, one that is between my ex-partner and myself. The Cliff Notes are that for a myriad of reasons, not being together as a couple anymore was the best decision for our family. There were issues on both sides, no one is to blame, and we had A LOT of very important, mature conversations that, frankly, should have happened long before a wedding. A few weeks after my ex moved out, our three-and-a-half-year-old kid looked at us and said, "Thank you for not fighting anymore." I think that explains enough.

What I feel the need to write about are the reactions. I didn't know what to expect from friends and family (and, as I was soon to find out, strangers). I had kept many of my relationship "issues" away from family — not wanting to harm our image as a couple should we work things out — so it came as a surprise to some of them. Though, for the most part, family and friends (especially) have been supportive, there is a certain rhetoric around divorce that really started to bother me.

"Marriage is hard. You just need to try more."

I understand where this statement comes from. We live in a culture of seventy-two day marriages, marriages for money, marriages for fame. There is this idea that marriage isn't taken "seriously" anymore, or that committed relationships in general aren't taken seriously anymore. However, the "marriage is hard" argument has become overused, and when dealing with someone who has tried and tried and realizes that their family is heading down a dark path and divorce is the only way out, a very hurtful and damaging statement.

Marriage IS hard. It's hard living with someone, communicating with someone, making your needs and desires known, sharing a life — talking about finances, the "boring, adult" stuff. All of that is hard. And marriage takes compromise. It takes each person waking up every morning and choosing to make the relationship work.

However, compromise is different than sacrifice. What I found myself doing was sacrificing fundamental parts of myself to try and make the relationship work. I don't blame my ex for this, I did that to myself. But I somehow had lost myself in an effort to do the "right thing," and all it did was hurt my partner and my son. And "hard" is different than "difficult" or a "constant uphill battle." Yes, there will be arguments and disagreements, but every day shouldn't be a battle. Every day shouldn't feel like either walking on eggshells or trudging through a foot of mud.

Had I realized that earlier, I would have saved us both a lot of pain.

When I first started telling people about the divorce, a lot of response I got was that "choosing love" idea. But it takes two people for a relationship to work. It takes trust, communication, openness, and honesty — things my ex and I had lost or never had.

Divorce is an incredibly personal, difficult decision. And what it comes down to is that no one, but the people in it, knows the dynamics of the relationship. When we first made the decision, I had my week of crying, of freaking out, of feeling lost. But then I gathered myself up and started working towards making the best life I can for myself and my kid. Many people took my pragmatic, positive attitude as either not caring or the divorce being solely my decision. I know there are a lot of people out there who are disappointed in me. But if I've learned anything from becoming a mother, and now going through a divorce, it's that I can't control how other people act or what they say, but I can control how I react and how those things make me feel.

I'm learning that it's okay for me to do what I know is best for my family, despite what others think. It all goes back to that old metaphor about putting on your own oxygen mask first. I don't think that's selfish. If I am going to be a good mom (and eventually a good partner again), I need to make sure I'm taking care of myself, too — that includes physical, emotional, and intellectual needs.

I know I'll hold a stigma — maybe only for a little while, maybe forever — but I have learned more about myself, love, and relationships over the past four years than I ever have in my life. For that I am thankful.

And I know that if a friend ever comes to me in the same situation, I won't fall back on "marriage is hard," or "well, did you try?" or "love is a choice." Instead, I'll offer support. I'll be someone to listen. I'll help with a new budget, or childcare, or going out for drinks — whatever that person needs. The best response I ever heard was, "I'm sorry this happened to you. What can I do to be supportive?"

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  1. I often get that judgmental gaze when people find I'm divorced. Those who ask about it learn only that I spent TEN YEARS trying to make it work to no avail. Those who knew us during our marriage asked why it took so long for us to do it because they could see that my ex and I were bad for each other.

    Still, I find it annoying that Judgeys accept it as "hm, okay" since we didn't have children. I could write a book about that, but I'll refrain.

    20 agree
    • Teacake, I, too, was married for 10 years. When people ask 'but, why? you two were so perfect for eachother' or 'what happened' I never really knew what to say. I had so many reasons but I had the hardest time verbalizing them because these people were his friends too. That last 6 months with him was miserable and I was quite sure that wasn't what a healthy marriage was. It just spiraled, so quickly.. How hard or long were we supposed to keep trying? And what about our partners? Weren't they supposed to bust their asses, too? Thankfully, we didn't have kids either.
      I hope you've found the peace that we all deserve.

      13 agree
    • Yes. There definitely seems to be a double standard for people with children — that it makes the divorce "worse." Also, I was amazed at how many people wanted or asked about intimate details that were not any of their business, nor mine to share because divorce involves more than one person. It isn't just my story.

      12 agree
  2. I feel like this is such a refreshing take on divorce. "I'm sorry this happened to you. What can I do to be supportive?" is a fantastic response. My first marriage was overwhelmingly difficult, but everybody told me that marriage was hard. I thought I was doing it right! When I finally had the courage to leave a common response I heard was, "What took you so long?" That one always stung.

    23 agree
  3. " It all goes back to that old metaphor about putting on your own oxygen mask first."

    This, so this! I told that to one of my friends last summer. He had been with the same woman for 6 years and they were going through yet another rough patch. He told me "yeah, I could leave, I want to leave. But would you leave a friend in that situation?" And that's when I just had to pull the oxygen mask metaphor. You can't keep putting yourself and your needs on hold for another person. That is not about being selfish, it's about taking care of yourself so you are able to take care of others afterwards. I don't know if it was that conversation or a combination of factors (most likely), but he did finally leave, and so many things have changed for the better in his life. I still struggle with my own oxygen mask sometimes, but it's a process.

    You did what was best for you and your kid, and I commend you for it. Thank you for sharing your experience, Rachael. 🙂

    19 agree
  4. I think divorce scares people so they say "Marriage is hard work. You just need to try more." not as a way to comfort the person getting divorced but to comfort themselves that they'll be safe because the amount of work that goes into their own marriage is controllable. Besides, it's not like getting divorced is easy!

    And yes, staying married "for the kid(s)" is stupid.

    36 agree
  5. Great perspective on this difficult topic. In the past couple months, 3 different couples I know have or are currently making the decision to divorce. It's scary! And it just proves your point that you never know from the outside what the dynamics of a relationship TRULY are. These marriages range from 2-20 years long, too. Maybe some marriages never should have happened in the first place, but maybe some marriages just have an expiration date as well?

    Any time someone takes proactive steps to improve their situation, I am impressed with their self awareness. Best of luck to you!

    8 agree
    • "maybe some marriages just have an expiration date": I really believe that this is a healthy attitude to take. Maybe it seems easy, in that crazy-in-love stage at 20 (or 30 or 40) to swear that you'll be with that certain person forever, but people change and sometimes those changes move a previously solid couple down different paths. I know that the things I want today aren't the same as the things I wanted 10 years ago, so who knows what I'll want 10 years from now. Hopefully my partner and I will be able to find a road together, but if we don't, and being healthy and true to ourselves means that we part ways, I hope we can do it in a supportive, friendly way.

      13 agree
  6. It also hurts when you set boundaries to protect yourself and make a plan of what you'll do when those boundaries are crossed, and then your spouse and everyone on the outside acts like your boundaries were stupid and you just want to punish your spouse. A lack of healthy boundaries got you there in the first place. If you're doing something really destructive and damaging to our relationship and after so many years I finally say, "stop or get out", and you don't stop, what should you expect? And then the in law comes in to say I should give you a chance like you gave me when I screwed up. Seven more years of chances? Because that's how long this has been going on. Am I going to waste another seven years in distrust, a tug of war where you're never honest? No.

    6 agree
  7. Thanks so much for writing this. When I divorced my ex, I was pretty floored by the way people acted, and by the things they thought it was appropriate to say to me. People, especially people who are happily married or who have never been in a long term relationship, are quick to come out with the usual "love is a choice" rhetoric and suggestions for things like therapy…their automatic assumption seems to be that the person getting a divorce just didn't try hard enough somehow and while they may be well-meaning what that really is is insulting. Total strangers felt it appropriate to weigh in about what they, and of course God, might think about my decision to end my ten year relationship. Family members said hurtful things behind my back, and some of them even stopped talking to me. A dear cherished friend dropped me like a hot potato because she couldn't "deal with" my divorce and the fact that it meant that she herself might get divorced someday. 0_O. I stopped getting invited to parties. My married and coupled friends suddenly started acting like I was somehow bad luck, like my evil divorce ju-ju might rub off on them somehow. Not only did I have to deal with the logistics of a not so friendly divorce, moving, rebuilding my life…I did it without the majority of what I thought of as my support system because they either couldn't or wouldn't deal with me…or because their attempts to be "helpful" were worse than being alone on a Friday night with bad TV and cheap wine. It wasn't as if I had been cheating, or that I left my relationship so I could focus on partying…the analogy I've used most often is chewing off a limb to escape a bear trap. But because I've never been a person who goes on at length about my personal drama to friends and family (for the reason the OP stated above) everything was so "sudden" to the people around me and they just couldn't understand what happened. Why anyone not in the relationship NEEDS to understand why someone else got a divorce, I've never been able to figure out.

    If you're the one who made the final decision to end things, but you still feel the need to grieve the loss of the relationship, that's somehow wrong because it was your choice. If you seem too happy after extracting yourself from a miserable situation, that's somehow wrong because you're not conforming to society's idea of how penitent and ashamed a divorced woman should be. And you carry a stigma for a long time, if not forever. I recently read an article on another site written by a woman who'd divorced an unsuitable partner about how much better and lighter she felt now. I should know better than to read the comments….but reading the comments on that article took me back 7 years to my feelings as a brand new divorcee. People who have never even so much as sustained a 6 month relationship, talking about all the things that THEY would do differently. People who just had to point out that OBVIOUSLY, she should never have married her ex in the first place. Guys who claimed that they could never date a woman who'd been divorced, because obviously she was somehow flawed or unwilling to do the "work" that marriage takes. And people with happy marriages, talking about how they could just never imagine leaving their sweetie-honey-bumpkins because without them they would just die.

    Of course marriage is work. Anything worth having is work. But it shouldn't be miserable, thankless, emotionally destroying work. And maybe people do sometimes give up too easily…but sometimes they stick it out for years after things turn sour, and suck it up and don't complain to their friends about it because they're living in the middle of it and when they're out with you the last thing they want to do is even think anymore about it much less talk about it. I agree 100% about what the OP says to say to your friends going through a divorce. Even if they initiated it. Even if you thought they were happily married and you're surprised by it. Even if you don't understand. Treat it like you would treat any other stressful thing that is happening to someone you care about, and unless they ask you for marriage advice, keep it to yourself.

    34 agree
    • "Why anyone not in the relationship NEEDS to understand why someone else got a divorce, I've never been able to figure out. "
      I've never been divorced, but this line really spoke to me. Because yeah, we don't need to pry – and often I'm sure I wouldn't even understand if I asked, because I wasn't living their life.

      13 agree
      • I think a lot of people want to know why so that they can avoid that "mistake" or say to themselves "that would never happen to me/us".

  8. As one of those divorce kids, a BIG thank you to you, my parents, and everyone else who is brave enough to take that step. It's not like divorce is an "easy way out," at all, especially if very few people around you have done so. I was one of the first kids in my class to have separated parents at 6 years old, and I'm sure my mom had a rough time being a single parent surrounded by my classmates' married parents and fielding judgmental comments. Some of them would get divorced themselves, much later.

    I actually think that younger kids tend to have an easier time handling their parents' split, or at least it was true for me. I then watched my friends struggle to cope when their parents divorced during high school and older, and what they though was normal got totally shaken up. On the other hand, little kids can pick up on it when things aren't right, and feel much more at ease when there isn't yelling and fighting at home. You did the right thing, and it sounds like your kid knows it too.

    23 agree
    • This is always refreshing to hear. My parents separated (were never married) when I was only nine months old and I'm so happy they did. Growing up with them together would have been much worse than growing up with them apart. And now I have two amazing stepparents that I love! Stories like yours always help me feel better about my decision.

      12 agree
    • As a kid, I went to a special group in school for kids of divorced parents. I remember the counselor often asked if I hoped my parents would get back together. Um, no. They fought all the time. It was miserable and awful. I definitely DID NOT want them to get back together.

      As an adult, however, I can see that my parents would have actually been a really good long-term fit for one another. Their subsequent marriages were mismatched, unsuccessful, and even abusive at times. Had circumstances been different (mostly they just needed to be older/more mature), they would have been really good for one another. That's a weird thing to realize. But still, I'm not sure things could have unfolded much differently at the time, and their separation was probably still best for my brother and me, even if they may have been able to eventually have a strong relationship if they had "just tried harder."

      2 agree
  9. This, all frickin day, this: "Many people took my pragmatic, positive attitude as… not caring… I know there are a lot of people out there who are disappointed in me. But if I've learned anything from … going through a divorce, it's that I can't control how other people act or what they say, but I can control how I react and how those things make me feel."

    I don't blame people for trying to figure out what happened. But at the end of the day, it's a decision not taken lightly, and not done without many months or years of reflection and trepidation.

    Personally, I have been most surprised by many people's reactions to my lack of public suffering after my divorce. Though I often claim that I have other things to do than cry over spilt milk, the truth is that my suffering was never anybody else's business. It was never on display, and it never will be. Does it make me look cold and callous? What does it matter, if I'm 500% happier, healthier, and stronger?

    9 agree
  10. You should be proud of yourself that you made a difficult decision that is the best thing for you and your child and your ex-husband.
    I feel that there are times when bad habits or relationship patterns that have developed can be almost impossible to undo and in the end is it worth the heart ache to the people involved to try and fix something that is not really fixable?
    I don't think so, life is short and you all deserve to be happy, supported and loved.

    3 agree
  11. I speak as a person who has never been divorced (and has only been married for a little less than a year), so feel free to take this with a grain of salt.

    Reading this article and the comments really made me think about why people say the things they do about divorces. I have had a friend divorce her husband after 10 years of marriage. My aunt and uncle divorced when I was about 4 or 5. I have known people who have been divorced or are remarried at various points in my life, so my experiences with it are tangential at best. I cannot possibly fathom the difficulty that you go through to get divorced. I cannot possibly fathom the hurt, the anguish, the combination of all kinds of feelings that come with that decision. No one can. I don't even think other people that have been divorced can understand your specific situation because we are all different people.

    I really think that people brush off things with the "you didn't try hard enough" or "love is a choice" because fear is an incredibly strong emotion and they are afraid that it could one day happen to them. They fear it is contagious like a cold or the flu. But I think marital discord that leads to divorce is much more like cancer. It could happen to anyone. It can sometimes go on a long time without detection. Sometimes you manage to cut out the cancer and work through it. Sometimes it's too far along. Sometimes you try your hardest and it doesn't matter that you have. Sometimes at the end you're relieved that it's over. Sometimes all you have is regret. But what you have is something you didn't predict. No one expects it to happen to them. No one wants it. No one is happy about it.

    The difference is when you survive cancer, you can proudly call yourself a cancer survivor. People commiserate with you and feel empowered by your journey. When you're a "divorce" survivor, you're made to live in shame and that's dumb. You've gone through something incredibly difficult, and I, for one, applaud you for doing what you need to do to make your life into what you want it to be. Be proud of your strength because you made it through. One day at a time.

    46 agree
  12. I hate the comments too, people ask the most personal questions, my favourite being 'don't you think you should have stayed for your daughter, I can't imagine not trying to make it work?' That one still stings. I actually left because after being increasingly verbally abusive, my husband attacked me, but I don't want to share this with every minor acquaintance who finds out I am divorced.
    Everyone divorces for painful and intensely personal reasons, and they should be respected.

    11 agree
  13. This is an excellent post.

    Had to go through it myself at 23 while dealing with being on a ship at the time. It was hard, took a year, and incredibly frustrating.

    Trust had been lost, and I wasn't who I was.

    1 agrees
  14. An acquaintance recently separated from his wife of eight years. I just saw him the other day, and learned that the divorce had finalized. I said, "I'm sorry" and he said that I was honestly the first person who'd said that to him; all he'd heard was "Good riddance!" or "Now you can be free again!"….I was the first person to remotely acknowledge that divorce is NOT the outcome that he wanted at the end of the day. However, he still recognized that it was the best option for his family.

    8 agree
    • I'll second this. When searching for the right photo to illustrate this post, I stumbled into a world of really harsh reactions, "congrats on your divorce," "You FINALLY got rid of him," "Congrats on your divorce, I always hated that cunt," "I'm so glad you're finally divorced," "I'm so glad that fucktard is gone." I mean HOLY SHIT, y'all. Someone needs to start making "I'm sorry this happened to you. What can I do to be supportive?" cards.

      22 agree
      • Yeah, it's the same thing after any kind of breakup. Sometimes getting into that relationship was pretty much one entire big mistake, but even then people didn't get into it because they WANTED it to end badly. And if the realtionship was great in the beginning and stuff changed and shit happened, or if the fit wasn't really right from the beginning, but it took some time to figure that out, but it was really nobodies fault – then there are very likely to be moments of anger, but also the knowledge that there was (a lot of really) good stuff in there too! And that some aspects of that person didn't fit with some other person doesn't mean that those aspects are horrible. Also, just calling their ex an ass: way to put down the past self of the person you're talking to and calling them an idiot for ever liking that person.

        I'm also seconding: Maybe some relationships really aren't meant to be forever! Not just those where it takes some time to figure out that too much doesn't fit, but also those where at the time they really were the greatest thing ever! And to accept that is such scary shit!
        Also, as long as somebody isn't talking about seperation (and maybe purposefully hiding the worst of it!), making some vague noises about: That shit is hard, might be that easiest way to acknowledge that you see them struggling without being too pushy.

        I'll close with one of my mottos: HUMAN BEINGS ARE HARD! (relationships are harder (and that includes knowing when to end them and to then do it))

        4 agree
        • Yes! I definitely agree. Some of my best friends are exes and while I know it can't always be that way, I always think, "why should I hate someone who I loved for such a long time"

          I think some people think they can do some ego-recovery with that kind of "good riddance" attitude, but as you said, in the end you're really just beating yourself up over how you could have been with this person to begin with.

          1 agrees
          • Yeah, I had a drawn out breakup where we (well I?? I don't even really know) tried for friends, but couldn't but I still don't like people just saying: Well, yeah, he's weird anyways. Because YES he is! But so am I! And the things you're putting him down for might not even be the reason we split? They might even be things I really liked about the guy? And putting exes down for stuff that's not socially accepted (being poly, not caring about looks, other shit) is also perpetuating prejudices. So, well, it migth be nice to hear what essentially amounts to: I like you better than him! But there were reasons you liked that person. And sometimes you have to deal with the fact that that person really is BAD and you have made a mistake, but often the overall fit just wasn't right, but that doesn't mean that NOTHING fit, and that I might not actually share or like or at least support some of the things you're putting down. (And acutally I don't want to have to go around defending that person I'm trying really hard to distance myself from.)

            2 agree
          • Yes! Part of my reasoning as well was recognizing this wasnt going to work. Although there are definitely high emotions, we can still see each other and effectively parent togetjer. We're in comtact almost everyday about our kid. Although we aren't staying together as a couple, we are and always will be parents together. So if people go to those negative comments, i defend him, because no matter what, he's my kid's dad.

          • Rachael, that's exactly how my parents saw it too. While they weren't always perfect about never badmouthing each other, they made a huge effort and were very respectful as a whole. They even did some holidays together for my sister and me, or both came to school concerts. It was sometimes awkward, but now I have tremendous appreciation for the fact that they tried and wanted us to have both parents totally involved in our lives. They don't bring each other up very often now, since I'm long gone from the house, but occasionally they'll say something very nice about each other (usually related to parenting skills) and it makes me happy.

          • I notice people get really contemplative when I admit: "I miss him as my writing partner more than as my husband." The ones who know me instantly understood the whole story of why I loved him when I said that. Our passion was our writing – non-consummated marriage, no equality between us, he wanted a mommy instead of a wife – but when we wrote together, we made Magic.

            I miss that Magic sometimes. My fiance doesn't write, but I won't trade him for it – this allows me to focus on the relationship instead of on the fictional worlds in our heads. I get distracted by a good plot and characterization so easily, you know. 😉

            4 agree
  15. The Husband and I have both been divorced previously. I don't know how everyone reacted to his, other than his family and many friends who were greatly relieved because they didn't like her. With mine, we'd been married almost two years and apparently everyone I knew was shocked it has lasted that long. I got at least half a dozen "I'm so sorry….though…I can't say I'm really surprised…." comments. The thing I found the most frustrating was that those who weren't super close to us jumped in trying to "fix" our marriage. It had been over long before it even started, but neither of us were ready to admit it. Then suddenly our friends were all "How many therapy sessions did you attend?" "Did you try telling him you were feeling neglected?" "Did you ask him to stop hitting you?" "Did you try losing weight? He might want to have sex with you if you were hotter…." Eventually I managed to get it through to them that it takes TWO people to save a marriage. I couldn't do it by myself even if I wanted to at this point since he had no interest in even having a conversation about it. Finally they dropped it.

    I thought it was over until 5 years later when Husband and I were about to get married. We'd been together for 4 years, living together for 3 of them. And now, suddenly, everyone was doling out the "Are you SURE you want to get married again? We all saw how the last one went…You don't want to end up divorced TWICE. Maybe you should just live together forever and not actually get married"

    Sometimes, it helps to shout "I DIDN'T MAKE THE CHOICE TO MARRY LIGHTLY, WHY WOULD YOU THINK I'D MAKE THE CHOICE TO DIVORCE LIGHTLY?!? ALSO, BUTT THE FUCK OUT!" …..though, maybe just in your head.

    8 agree
    • Also this idea that a relationship is somehow easier to end if you're not legally married is ridiculous. I've been through a divorce and through the end of an 8-year abusive relationship that didn't involve legal ties, and I can say that walking away from my marriage was easier. At least when I divorced, my family didn't pretend like nothing significant had happened.

      (Also telling someone that you're glad the relationship is over because you never liked the ex is NOT HELPFUL. At best, it leaves the new divorcé wondering why no one ever mentioned that apparently everyone hated their partner. At worst, it makes her wonder why no one offered help to get out, if everyone knew how terrible it was.)

      My best advice is to ask the divorcé whether she wants congratulations or sympathy, because getting the wrong one in either direction is just awkward. The last thing I wanted when I got away from my abuser was someone telling me they were sorry!

      8 agree
      • Thank you! I appreciate how hard divorce can be, but it really hurts when I hear people say break-ups of long term non-married relationships can't hold a candle to them. Don't belittle my pain because I didn't sign any paperwork or have a ring on my finger. No one ever knows exactly what it's like for any break-up unless you're the one involved.

        And thank you, Rachel for this post. I'm still reeling from an awful non-marriage break-up only to suddenly watch my parents marriage end. At the end of the day I'm happy both are happening; I'm better off without my ex, and it's amazing my parents tried as long as they did, but for a while it has just been "going through the motions" and I'm glad they've come to their senses while they're still young enough to experience life without each other weighing them down. Divorce is hard. It's never a choice made lightly. But it's also not a bad thing. That's not to say you should belittle someone's ex-partner at all, but rather I mean that staying in a non-functioning relationship when it makes you both miserable just to save face is a horrible choice. Moving on is a good thing, and so is reflecting on the past, both good times and lessons learned.

      • "Also telling someone that you're glad the relationship is over because you never liked the ex is NOT HELPFUL. At best, it leaves the new divorcé wondering why no one ever mentioned that apparently everyone hated their partner."

        Completely this! Especially when it comes from people close to you – either they've been faking liking them for the last x number of years lying to me, or they were seeing stuff I didn't until the end and not telling me about it! Likewise, while there's occasions where a bit of therapeutic name calling helps, sheer hate and anger is so draining, I don't want to embrace being that kind of person, part of leaving was about finding a more positive me.

        4 agree
    • Seriously, people say you should have to *ask* for your husband to stop hitting you? I think I would seriously reconsider that person's friendship status, if it was someone close to me. Because in my mind hitting your spouse is an unexcusable act, and even one time is "enough" to lead to divorce. (Aside from consensual BDSM activities.)

      9 agree
  16. I think the thing that galls me most about comments like "you need to try harder!" is the implication that because they didn't see you trying, you didn't try at all. Being an adult means keeping some of that shit contained to the parties it involves. What, you wanted me to post Facebook statuses about what a dick my husband was being for a couple of months? Then you could SEE me trying? It's the lack of trust in judgement that makes it so condescending. Just because I'm not airing my dirty laundry in public doesn't mean we're not working on it, and implying we haven't done any work because you haven't been part of it is just…ulg.

    12 agree
  17. Thank you thank thank you for this!!!!

    When my husband and I separated last summer, I got all the same condescending non-supportive reactions from my family. Including a lengthy email from my mom about how she "never thought I was such a quitter". Deep down, I know that they really care about me, and want what's best for me, and just don't know how to express it, but it doesn't change how hurt and abandoned I felt (still feel). Even though my husband and I have reconciled our relationship with a vengeance, my relationship with my family will never be the same.

    ps Is it a little too passive-agressive to email this to everyone I know? What about just posting it on Facebook with a nice snarky tagline?

    6 agree
    • I say go for it – Facebook it. (Then if someone gets personally butthurt about it, claim that *their* comment was only 'a bit hurtful/insensitive'.)

      5 agree
      • Unless they said something really awful, in which case just like their comment and let them be butthurt.

        "How to be passive-agreessive on facebook" by Claire, E-Lyz, and Foxie.

        3 agree
  18. When I told my friends about the divorce, too many of them said "Well, it's about time." People who didn't said things like "What about the children?" (They are much happier now.) And "Well, you knew what he was like when you married him." (But the guy I divorced was not the guy I married). So do what you have to do for you and your children, and don't let those turkeys get you down.

    4 agree
  19. As a now adult(ish) child of divorced parents, my only advice is take comfort in knowing that what you did was the best thing for your child. My parents was awful together and fantastic apart. We lived in a small village and there was a lot of talk and a lot of judgement but my mother knew she had done the right thing by her children and in the end, everyone within our family did too. Myself and my siblings got to have parents who didn't scream and take their issues with their partner out on us. THAT is epic parenting, not staying in a negative relationship 'for the kids'.

    3 agree
  20. Speaking as the adult child of parents who didn't get divorced but ought to have, married to a man who did get divorced and is much happier for it, I want to say thank you for your bravery. I'm 26, but I believe I know just how your 3 1/2 year old feels. I would have given a lot for my parents to get divorced and stop fighting. Unfortunately, they believe that "God hates divorce", and dragged all of us kids through their hell. "Stay together for the kids?" Bullshit. We would absolutely have been better off if they had divorced. And my parents pretending that their non-marriage makes them better, holier people than my awesome husband is extra bullshit, or acting like there must be something wrong with him if he's divorced. I hope eventually the stigma surrounding divorce is gone and people see it for what it is- a painful realization that the path you're on is the wrong one, and you need to change it. Heartbreaking, sure. But absolutely not evil, sinful, selfish, or any of the other perjoratives (sp?) people throw at it. Heartbreaking, but for the best.

    4 agree
    • As a person of faith, I think there needs to be better talk about what "God hates divorce" might mean. I think God hates divorce like God hates chemotherapy–it's a painful, draining process that no one should have to go through but that can ultimately result in healing and even a saved life.

      11 agree
  21. Last week I told my husband I wanted a divorce, we have been married 28 years and I can't be married to him any more. We have 4 "kids", the youngest is 18 and 3 are glad I am doing it but 1 hates me. I need to try to work on helping her understand but I need this and she is an adult now. Thanks for the support from afar.

    4 agree
  22. thank you for writing this. before i divorced my husband/father of my children, i read tons of books on it. i knew it was best for everyone. but his disapproval as well as the disapproval of others caused me to backpedal several times, trying to work it out. now we have two more kids together & are still having the same problems. some people just should not be in a relationship. i've tried, and i'm sure he has tried in his way. even though i love having all of my kids, i wish we would have figured out not to keep doing this a long time ago.

    2 agree
  23. Thank you thank you for writing this! This could have very well been written by me, except thankfully, my ex and I hadn't had a kid together yet. This is so much exactly how I feel, words I have said. I feel like I did everything I could to 'make it work', and instead was not only NOT making it work, and we still had lots of fights and lots of problems, but I also was losing my identity.

    I used to be one of those people who would say 'well marriage is hard' and secretly think that people who got divorced just hadn't tried hard enough unless there was abuse or cheating or something huge going on. Boy am I eating crow. I have learned my lesson, and I want to go back and apologize to the handful of friends that I have that got divorced before me (well… technically my divorce hasn't happened yet. It's in process) for what I'm sure was an insufferable, know-it-all attitude. I wish that I had read this then. And thank you for writing it now.

    1 agrees
  24. This is perfect! Going thru a divorce right now & this is everything I've been trying to express but couldn't find the words!

    • I'm so happy this helped. That was my purpose in submitting it — to hopefully help others in the same situation or know someone going through the same situation.

      1 agrees
  25. This was an interesting read… I had no idea divorce-stigma was still a thing. My Parents divorced when I was 5 or 6, I think that was a good thing. I think my step-dad's family had a problem with my mum being a divorcee, but I always figured that was just becuase they're a bunch of phychos (seriously, there's something wrong with those women.) And I don't actually know anyone else close to me who's been divorced.

    Personally I'm of the "could just never imagine leaving their sweetie-honey-bumpkins because without them they would just die." persuasion (That's almost as good ad Doots' description of other peoples childeren as "darling-angel-magical-crotch-droplings") we've both been through a lot of shit, we made a consious decision to say "forever" in our vows and we meant it. But I'm also aware that sometimes shit happens. People change. Or maybe they don't and that's the problem. Or other shit. Whatever.

    But I think also, divorce is tricky. It's hard to know what to say to someone, if you don't know the circumstanses. Possibly someone saying "what happened?" is not inteded as prying but maybe means "how should I react to this?" Maybe you haven't aired your dirty laundry to the world, so the "you could have tried harder" reaction is just that someone's shocked and that's the first thing that comes out of their mouth (Tactful? no. Malicious? Possibly, but in most cases probably not?). I'm not saying these things aren't hurtful, but maybe not always as judgemental as they sound?

    I dunno, maybe I'm rambling again.

    Having said that, divorce celebration cakes squick me out. I mean sure, obviously if you've made the decision to divorce you've done it for a reason, but as someone said above, it wasn't the end-result you were hoping for when you got married. Even in the case of abuse, divorce doesn't seem like a "happy" occasion because surely there will still issues that you're going to be dealing with for a long time? But then… we're here on OBH and everyone deals with their stuff in their own ways I suppose. But I think it's a bit weird.

    1 agrees
  26. I'm 5 weeks into ending my marriage, and so grateful to see this topic addressed on my favourite safe place on the web – we can read the comments here! Thank you to the author 🙂

    1 agrees
  27. I am not divorced, but I am someone who has been a part of relationships that failed. Much of what was discussed in this article I can relate to. Once you make that difficult change and acknowledge yourself in the process, there is joy and happiness around the corner. I am still grieving not having the family I wanted and in that I'm learning to love, accept and celebrate the family I have.

    1 agrees
  28. 'Try harder"? Total bullshit.
    It depends on how to conceive life, of course. But for me, life is a meaningless gift, and our only interest should be being happy by any means. I believe in selfishness in a big proportion. A husband that no longer satisfies you should be thrown away with absolutely no regrets, offence or questioning. Some people are more vulnerablle to society's pushings, and tend to lecture others about their lives. I think they're envious. If you're writting this, you don't believe so hard enought darling 😉

    • You bring up a really interesting point — I think some of the push back I get is from women who wish they had left their husbands, but never did. Also, one of my biggest supports has been my mom. She divorced my stepdad after 23 years and she constantly tells me how brave and smart I am for getting out early, when I saw that this wasn't going to work out. I do think there is a certain amount of envy other people feel in the "freedom" of what I've done, of making a decision I felt was best for myself and my son. And, ideologically, I'm a much bigger bad-ass in my head. I need to work on holding my ground when confronted. As a friend told me recently, "Just act as happy as you are. It's hard for people to be assholes when you have sunshine coming out of your ass."

      3 agree
  29. Thank you for sharing your story.
    "I'm sorry this happened to you. What can I do to be supportive?" << This phrase works so beautifully in so many situations.
    I am a firm believer that relationships are between the two people in them and the choice to begin, grow or end them is personal and not up for public debate. It so hugely arrogant for people to offer judgmental comments and "side eyes" when things don't work the way they thought they would/should. As someone who had large doubts about continuing an engagement, I appreciate this post that highlights the hurt that intrusive and ignorant comments can have.

  30. Thank you so much for this! I amin a relationship where I am so unhappy, and I can feel he is too. I want to bring up the dreaded d word but he's been through that before, and we have young children. The whole thing makes me nervous, but I feel like I should have seen all these concerns before our wedding day anyway… your take on divorce is so refreshing and I hope I can get myself to that point too.

    2 agree
  31. In case this thread is still open… This article was great. One thing I would add is that I hate it when people say the divorce was both of our fault. My ex-husband was verbally, emotionally, and mentally abusive. I tried hard to make it work with prayer, trying to get him to start going back to church with us, counseling, etc. But in the end, his behavior worsened. He exhibits traits of narcissistic personality disorder and made the divorce process an expensive, drawn out hell. But people tell me not to blame him; to identify my role in the mess; see how the divorce and discord is half my fault. The guardian ad litem in our divorce case said we both contributed to the high-conflict divorce because I wouldn't just give him what he wanted. He said that if I gave him what he wanted, there would be peace, and that in divorces, both parents are bad if they can't agree with each other. He ignored the bullying, controlling behavior of my Ex and actually encouraged me to just give in – in order to end the divorce case sooner. In the end, I'm glad I stood up for myself and my children. And my Ex is still acting a fool. But his behavior during and after the marriage was NOT my fault. The divorce was NOT my fault. His abuse was NOT my fault. It's amazing how parents are good when married, but bad if divorced. I hate this stigma and the assumptions/judgments.

    3 agree
  32. My parents split when I was 6, and I don't have many memories of their marriage. I remember things that happened during their marriage, but they're snapshots of my life, not theirs. However, if their marriage was anything like their divorce, I am eternally grateful that they divorced before we were old enough to be paying attention. It was bad enough that I had to suffer observing my dad's volatile second marriage – in my opinion, with information that I didn't have until his second wife was dead, they had no business ever being married. At least I didn't have to spend every day with them, and I wasn't as invested in their relationship as I might have been if it were both of my parents.

    I believe that marriage is work and that love is a choice, but I also believe that people enter into a marriage with baggage, and usually acquire more as they go – and some people just can't handle the baggage. Eventually, the effort of handling their partner's baggage is in conflict with their self-care, and at that point, it's not quitting to say that the partnership is not working. I would rather admit to my limitations than suffer, because I have seen the consequences of the alternative.

  33. I honestly feel that if you want to question someone's relationship… do it before they are married. A friend of mine was getting married and a few of us spoke to both of them WAY before a date had even been set, just to say 'are you sure, and either way I am here for you'.

    I don't think I would do this if someone was getting divorced, because that is such a difficult decision, and an unhappy one (even if it is the best solution and they are unhappy). If someone wants to talk to you, they can reach out, or they have probably already talked to someone else. Weddings are often joyous occasions, and it's easy to say yes (I have said yes several times, but only married once). When my other two engagements didn't work out, there were a lot of snarky comments from people who didn't approach me or talk to me at the time of the break up. That hurt, but haters gonna hate and all that.

  34. "not being together as a couple anymore was the best decision for our family" given once that there already was a family. But the best decision ever for your family would have been to not become one in the first place and, below, I show that you have ended up saying exactly that yourself
    "no one is to blame, and we had A LOT of very important, mature conversations that, frankly, should have happened long before a wedding. " Given that conversations should have happened long before a wedding, both of you are to blame for not having those conversations! Even if every other married couple on earth duplicates the mistake.
    "It takes *** things my ex and I had lost or never had. " This just returns the discussion to what was just said: if certain necessary ingredients were never there the marriage should never have taken place- for the sake of your child!
    "Marriage is hard *** It's hard living with someone, communicating with someone, making your needs and desires known, sharing a life — talking about finances, the "boring, adult" stuff. All of that is hard. And marriage takes compromise" I think none of that can be generalized and that there are couples for whom it is never true: I never, in decades observing my parents, saw even one of those problems in my parents' marriage. They were in love and I cannot recall ever seeing them argue. They respected each other; held all their money jointly and deferred to each other’s skills. I have seen the same in many other marriages. If you think I did not look well enough it may just as easily be that most people see what they want to see when reflecting upon bad outcomes.
    You end up saying it yourself: "Had I realized that earlier, I would have saved us both a lot of pain."
    So, why did you and so many people deem it perfectly ok to not realize things before they make these big mistakes in life? One of those who had pain was your child who never had any say in any of it. How is that ok! You not merely entered into a marriage that was a mistake by not bothering to make sure you knew certain things and by not choosing quite simply to not get married; but you selected each other to be the only natural mother and father your child will ever have. By necessary implication you deemed each other fully fit in every possible way to be that parent. How would any person be worse off now if both of you chose to just not get married? You would not need to get divorced.

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