Put on your own oxygen mask first
A while ago, we had a medium-sized crisis involving one of our kids. One of the first thoughts that raced across my mind was “Just when I finally thought I had my act together — now this!!” Then I immediately caught myself. Would I rather it happen while I’m drowning in three other crises? Or when I feel like I’m in a position to let everything else slide for a bit while I focus on my child’s problem?
Meanwhile, my husband jumped up to the plate as well, and we both found solace and emotional replenishment in each other’s arms while dealing with the problem.
This incident came to mind when I read the following comment:
Excuses like the kids would want me to be happy that adults use to justify their divorce (news flash your kids dont give a damn if youre happy. Kind of like how you dont give a damn what they think about the divorce. Funny how that works).
Sure, most kids (being, by definition, immature) don’t consciously care much about other people’s happiness. But having the emotional and physical energy to deal with crises (as well as with day-to-day parenting) is not something you can fake or simply conjure up by force of will. It’s the parents’ responsibility to provide a safe and healthy environment for their kids, and it’s the adults’ responsibility to figure out what they need to do to create that environment. It is the couple that knows whether their marriage is a source of comfort and solace or whether it is a source of additional stress, hindering the parents’ efforts to focus on their kids’ needs.
When people say that no-fault divorce is destroying the family, I take issue with that personally — because if it weren’t for no-fault divorce, I probably wouldn’t have the happy family that I have today. I remember thinking that if the point of restricting divorce is for the sake of the kids, I shouldn’t have even had the six-month waiting period for my no-fault divorce. If a childless couple has already decided to call it quits, the last thing you want to do is insist on giving them another opportunity to bring a child into this picture. Of course, even for couples with kids, if they’ve decided to split amicably, it’s not necessarily in the kids’ interest to insist on turning it into a fight.
Now, I know that the defenders of traditional marriage will say that the point is that if they create more obstacles to divorce, maybe the couple will choose not to divorce. Because that’s what a stress family needs: more obstacles. (Aside: A historian studying Victorian-era illegitimacy told me that there was a high rate of cohabitation and illegitimacy due to one or both partners being unable to obtain a divorce from an earlier union.)
Studies on kids’ “outcomes” have shown that kids whose parents stayed married do better than kids whose parents are divorced. But if these studies are used to tell people that they need to stay together “for the kids” (and they are used for that, consistently), then the fact that some of families in the “married” category actually didn’t even want to split up is a major factor that should not be glossed over. The only relevant studies are the ones that specifically compare outcomes of families where the parents wanted a divorce (but decided to stay together for the kids) to the outcomes of families where the parents divorced and cooperated in child rearing. And, to be credible, such studies should be free of major funding conflicts of interest.
Sometimes I get the impression that people who want to “defend” (heterosexual-only) marriage don’t really think very highly of marriage, even straight marriage (see this recent critique of straight marriages where the spouses are in love with each other). Personally, I think marriage is a commitment rather than a prison, and — even though it represents some amount of work — on balance it is a comfort and joy rather than a punishment.
I already told Julie I would stop responding.
But I’ll break that promise (sorry) just long enough to say thank you to muucavwon for your sincere advice. I will think it over and try to self-reflect on how this thread went and what I should have done better.
Other than that, I’m done this time. Seriously.
Julia, If there are people who still want to participate in this conversation, it’s not your place to tell them to stop, just because you don’t like what that does to your inbox. If it troubles you to follow this post, do your “cranky brain” and everyone else a favor, and UNSUBSCRIBE FROM IT.
I just came across a personal history blog entry that I’d like to add to this discussion:
I’d like to quote you the entire post, but I’m trying to limit this to fair-use teasers to get you to read the whole thing.
OK, one more — apologies if I’ve quoted too much:
This was the whole point of the OP. Yes, it would be great if nobody ever needed to divorce. But when it happens, it’s not about choosing the parents’ happiness over the kids’ happiness. It’s that some marriages are more of a hindrance than a help to raising children well.
Thanks for the link, Chanson. The comments on the post are worth reading too.
I am currently watching two divorces unfold; one couple is LDS and one is not. It’s shocking how wrenching the decisions were to arrive at, how much difficulty is involved at every step. On top of all the other issues involved, the LDS couple has 1) over twice as many children as the other couple, 2) a smaller income base to support those kids with, and 3) all this shame and heartache about the failure of a temple marriage that was supposed to last for all eternity and bring the people involved in it joy and perfection along the way.
It’s the height of cruelty to set people up for such spectacular failure and misery, and then inform them disapprovingly, when they fail so devastatingly and their misery is more than they can bear, that the ultimate problem is their “selfishness.”
I found this article completely fascinating. It’s on the interrelationship of sleep, health, marriage, sex, happiness, and sharing a bed. A bit long, but worth the read. http://www.salon.com/2012/08/14/separate_beds_are_liberating/
Very interesting idea.
I imagine it depends a lot on the particular sleeping patterns of the individuals involved. When I was just visiting my parents in MN for a month, they put us in a room with separate beds — and it was one of those things where it might have been an epiphany of sleeping well, but it wasn’t really. I wasn’t happy with it. I was happy to return to our one common bed in Switzerland.
But I can understand how that would work better for some people, in the same way I believe my friends who’ve recounted that putting their baby in a room down the hall worked better for them (even though I felt more relaxed having my baby in my bed with me, way back when I had babies). Sleeping patterns (and your mileage) may vary. 😉
Yes, one of the things I found most interesting was the anxiety around what others will think of what works best for you, whether it was worrying that sharing a bed would give kids the idea that their parents had sex, or deciding that you wanted separate rooms would suggest that your marriage is about to end.
found this recent story relevant to the larger discussion here: http://www.cnn.com/2012/09/10/opinion/coontz-poverty-marriage/index.html?hpt=op_t1
In other words, a way to increase marriage and strengthen it when it happens is to increase the social safety net.
It took me a while to realize that I had as much right to be happy as my former wife and our child. She initiated the separation and I initiated the divorce. I don’t think there is a good way to do either, but in retrospect we handled both decisions well. We fell out of love but still had respect for each other. That has served our son and ourselves well. Thank you for a very well reasoned post.
@360 Divorce is difficult, but sometimes it really is the best option — for everyone in the family.
My wife is still struggling with some mental trauma from her first marriage/divorce. I really wish that I had met her first, but… It took about a year worth of therapy just to get to the point where she was capable of a serious relationship, let alone marriage. She is still waiting for something bad to happen which will make me leave her like her ex did.
I think that her divorcing him was the best thing she could have done. The guy was (and still is) a compulsive lier, manipulative, and abusive. The only thing that they had in common was that they were drinking buddies. He tricked her into having sex without protection, by claiming that he had taken a shot (much like women can get) which made his body stop producing sperm, which resulted in her first pregnancy. The pregnancy resulted in basically a shotgun wedding. Then, he was shocked that when her son was born, she withdrew from her college party girl lifestyle, and went back to being a good Mormon girl. That was the beginning of 8 years of lies, deception, and pain, before he left.
I believe that getting the divorce was the best thing that she could have done. Not just because she ended up being my wife, but I don’t believe that environment is good for anyone (and I’m a big proponent of marriage).
I truly believe that everyone that is involved is better off. Although the ex is still trying to make her life miserable.
@362 Exactly. I’m a big proponent of marriage too because I see it as a source not only of joy, but of comfort, strength, solace, and rejuvenation. If you treat marriage like “you’ve made your bed, now you’ve got to lie in it” — eg. as a punishment, if you chose wrong — then you are doing it wrong and have no business giving other people marriage advice.
There are times when divorce is the best option for all involved, including the children, if any. Not always, but in a non-trivial number of cases. And in such cases, divorce isn’t the “selfish” choice, it’s the responsible choice.
Thanks to facebook friends, recently came across this essay from a couple months back about the benefits of sex before marriage, for both individuals and society: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/sep/24/moral-case-for-sex-before-marriage
Very cool article — thanks!
Here’s another testimonial of the point I was making in the OP:
“The conflict and struggle inherent in denying such an integral part of oneâ€™s self canâ€™t not affect his ability to be a kind and loving father and husband. Youâ€™ve seen evidence of that when â€œR.J.â€ takes over. R.J. isnâ€™t his gay sideâ€”itâ€™s his conflicted, self-denying side; itâ€™s a symptom of the emotional scarring that such conflict and self-denial causes.”
Also, here’s a post I wrote related to Holly’s point @34 about Jane Eyre.
Just noticed, in looking up my comment @34, that all previous formatting for blockquoting is gone. Can we somehow get that back? It renders this conversation (and a great many others) basically unintelligible.
OK, this has been on my to-do list for a while — figure out what happened to the blockquotes.
As far as I can tell, the stylesheet says that blockquotes in comments should be formatted just like the blockquotes in the main post. Yet the formatting in the comments is not working for some reason. Does anyone here know something about WordPress styles and themes, and have an idea of what the problem might be…?
OK, it’s a bit of a hack, but I think I fixed it. I also added a new tag <superquote/> which is the same as blockquote except that the background will be
Now I just have to fix all of those stupid quotation marks that don’t display correctly…
Yeah, those are super annoying, but at least you can still make sense of a thread even with the weird little symbol that has replaced the quotes.
Anyway, thanks for addressing the blockquote problem!
And I look forward to finding a use for the
It would have been ideal for certain comments on this thread. 🙂
Any possibility that “superquote” could have the Superman logo superimposed over the red strip? You’ll work on that? Super!
@374 That would be fun — and it might actually even be possible…
I would like to save one more article reference on this thread: