At a recent Melbourne Romance Writers Guild retreat, I played…
This weekend I chanced upon a post by Matt Walsh titled, ‘My wife is not the person that I married’ and what he had to say about the topic of divorce really ground my gears. So much so that I find myself inspired to stand up for anyone who has been divorced and had to endure needless ignorance at the hands of people who, often have no experience of what a bad relationship is. I’m doing this not because I am a divorcee, but because one thing divorcees don’t need is more judgement and shame.
Let me preface what I’m about to say by mentioning that I grew up in a family where everyone would have benefitted from my parents getting divorced. While I hate to quote Doctor Phil, he got it right when he said something along the lines of, “It’s better to be from a broken home, than to grow up in one.”
In Matt’s post he openly admits his own marriage is a relatively short one of three years (though he states he’s already endured some trials via having some kids and all that goes with it). He also states his marital inspiration comes from the strength of his own parents thirty-year marriage.
His article begins with this lovely/ sarcastic gem:
“Divorce party: a celebration of a broken vow. “Hooray! We quit on ourselves and each other! Now let’s dance!”
I want to make it clear, my argument is not directed at Matt per say, but the assumptions anti-divorce advocates make when they claim that people who divorce do it for shallow reasons. I know a few divorcees, none of them ended their marriages for light reasons and none of them are named Kim Kardashian.
The people I talk about are people whose partner’s had taken to substance abuse, who were no longer safe around their children, they are often people who took themselves out of a marriage to save their own mental health.
“I guess that’s what people really mean when they say they want a divorce because their spouse “changed.” It’s not change itself they oppose, but changes that challenge them and make them uncomfortable. What they should say is: “I want a divorce because she changed in a way that doesn’t fit inside my comfort zone.”- Matt Walsh, My wife is not the same woman I married.
When the people I mention left their marriages (many of which were decades old) they did not do so because their partner decided switch to a different flavor of ice cream. They got out because it was a choice between the relationship and certain mental, physical or financial death.
Some might read this and say my examples are extreme, yes they are, but the nature of emotional abuse isn’t always easy to spot. I’ve never been divorced, but I have had partners ‘change’ on me, my choices to leave were not because they simply didn’t ‘fit my comfort zone’.
Within a few years I’ve seen partners go from seemingly loving and well-adjusted individuals, to cold and sometimes cruel perpetrators, who readily doled out psychological abuse. The only thing that separates me from being one of the divorcees Matt mentions, is that despite my years with these partners, I was fortunate to leave before I made it down the isle.
Some people are not as lucky as me. Some partners hide behind their mask for years before they show their true colors. To argue that divorce is a flippant act, is to spit in the face of a range of abuse victims and worse still, is when one does so from the vantage point of a privileged position.
What Matt and those who might agree with his simplistic point of view fail to see, is that bad relationships are a slow and often invisible form of torture.
There is a relatively well-known story aligning bad relationships with being like a frog in hot water. If you place a frog in a pot of hot water, it will notice the heat and jump straight out. However, if you place the frog in lukewarm water and gradually increase the temperature the frog will not notice the heat and stay in the water until it dies.
It’s poor form to pressure or shame those who were brave enough to save themselves. Marriage shouldn’t be about grinning and bearing; to imply so is to guilt people into staying in sometimes-perilous situations.
The home I grew up in was akin to a warzone, for me that was ‘normal’ and I sought out the same kinds of familiarity in my earlier relationships. The fact my relationships weren’t as bad as what I’d experienced as a child meant I stuck it out longer than I should have. It took me a decade of dating to redefine what ‘normal’ actually was.
What Matt and others who hold his viewpoint fail to see, is that not everyone is afforded the same positive experiences and perhaps it’s best to take an “if I don’t know, don’t judge” approach to such matters.
“Divorcing someone because they change? You might as well divorce them because they breathe.” – Matt Walsh, My wife is not the same woman I married.
As the Sam Cooke song says, ‘change is gonna come‘, most reasonable people and divorcees realise this when they walk down the isle. What I refuse to agree with is that the mere fact of changing should be so trivialised. Yes, in my relationships I too changed, and thank fuck I did. I left and now I’m alive, in love and incredibly happy. I don’t, for a second, regret ‘quitting’ on those relationships. I would have done the same, marriage certificate or not.
We need to be aware that when society obtains certain rights, there will always be individuals who want to take it back to how it was. They have their own agenda; they don’t question how relinquishing these rights might effect others. I say this as someone who was born in the Mediterranean island of Malta. They were the second last country in the world to legalise divorce and that only occurred in 2011. My mother often told me stories of priests on the island knocking on the doors of women who had fled marriages. Many being victims of domestic violence or in situations where they’d moved on from a partner who, unbeknownst to them, had been carrying out illegal acts and gotten themselves long-term prison sentences. These women had no legal right to end their marriages and the priests would visit every week to shame them into going back to their partner’s and to steer them away from their ‘lives of sin.’
Divorce is a right many have fought hard for, and like any right, it needs to be honoured and protected. Not for the Kim Kardashians of the world, but for those who would be voiceless and powerless amidst the hell they might otherwise be living.
Not all divorces stem from conditions as severe as I’ve mentioned, but imagine being in a marriage where one person, ten years in, decides they longer want to have sex – no explanation given. Their partner might suggest counselling or try to resolve the issue in other ways, but what do they do if this does not work, or the other person isn’t interested? Should the other partner be forced to endure a lifetime of celibacy? And chances are there are more issues to this relationship than just sex.
Many anti-divorce arguments ignore the fact that sometimes people find themselves divorced out of no choice of their own. A partner might run away with another lover. They might simply stop caring. Sometimes ‘change’ happens because one person has grown when the other hasn’t moved an inch in decades. This is why a lot of people who marry young don’t make it and why, these days, we encourage young ones to wait before ‘taking the plunge’.
I can understand why people speak against divorce. I get it. Divorce is scary, no one wants to believe it might happen to them and worse of all, no one wants to watch their dreams disintegrate around them. But to base opinions on fear and limited experience is, by nature, short-sighted and dangerous.
It is not fair to expect anyone to wait until their mental health or lives hang by a thread for them to justify leaving a poisonous relationship. ‘Sticking it out’ for the sake of ‘sticking it out’, in the end, does no one any favors.
Divorcees do not need more shame. What anyone does with his or her life, which has no effect on you, is none of your business. If somebody wants to celebrate getting out of a bad situation, you know what? That’s fair enough.
Hope you enjoyed today’s post. I love reading and responding to everyone’s comments, so feel free to leave a comment of your own.
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