Divorce is immature and selfish. Don’t do it.


Divorce is always on my mind because I got a divorce four years ago. Not that I wanted to. In fact, when I thought we were going to a couples therapist we were actually going to a divorce mediator. And then, when it was clear that we were going to have to get a divorce, and I had all the money to fund it, my lawyer finally said to me, “If you drag your feet any longer, you’re going to have to get a new lawyer because I’m retiring.”

So we got a divorce. I hated it. (And of course, I blogged about it the whole time.) Subsequently I have become a vocal critic of divorce. I think it’s an incredibly lame and selfish route to take. Here are five reasons why:

1. Divorce is a cliche among people in denial. 
I see divorce in every story. For example, as soon as I heard about the school shootings in Chardon, OH, I got stuck on the fact that the kid’s parents had just gotten a divorce and left him with his grandparents. I blame the parents.

Heather Armstrong is a great blogger who I have followed for years. But I’m really stuck on the news that she just announced a separation from her husband.

Armstrong supports her family with her blog, dooce.com, which is about herself, so of course, I watch her really closely. In her post announcing that she had asked her husband to leave, she said the two common, and delusional things we hear from divorced parents all the time:

“I can’t be a good parent if I’m not happy and I’ll never be happy in this marriage.”


“The kids are doing so well. Kids are really resilient.”

I’ve heard those things so many times. From parents who are getting a divorce who are full of shit.

The dad who tells everyone he got a divorce because his wife is crazy and then leaves his kids with the mom. Newsflash: if your wife is really crazy, then you are crazy for leaving your kids alone with her. In fact, you are not crazy, you’re willfully negligent. And if your wife is not really crazy then get your butt back to the house and raise your kids like an adult.

The mom who says the kids are fine. What does that mean? Do you know that if you ask kids who are living with a crack addict mom if they are fine, they’ll say yes. They’ll say they want to stay. Because kids are trying to survive.

2. Divorce is nearly always terrible for kids. Your case is not the exception.
Kids do not break down during a divorce because they see their parents breaking down. The kids see that one parent just abandoned them. Of course the kid is not going to have a compete fit and push another parent away in anger. Read The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, which is Judith Wallerstein’s 25-year study of children of divorce. It’s the only study that covers such a long period of time, and she concludes that divorce is absolutely terrible for kids over the long-term. And a wide range of studies have concurred.

It’s completely obvious how Wallerstein gets to her conclusion. Think of it this way: Two parents decide they don’t like living together and they want to start over. They can’t meet their needs by simply living together and making the best of it. They want a new chance, in a new household.

Where does this leave the kids? They don’t get a new chance until they grow up. So now they have to shuttle back and forth between two homes so that their parents can get another chance. Meanwhile, the kids don’t get a second chance at their childhood. And the most damaging thing about divorce is that the kids don’t have a home; to say a kid has two homes is the same as saying the kid has no home. Because a home is your basecamp. If you have two basecamps you don’t have a home.

And anyway, if having two homes really worked, then the parents who are so upset about living together can each have a different home during the day, while the kids are at school, and then come back to their other home. But no one would do that, right? Because having two homes sucks.

3. Divorce is for dumb people.
In case you are thinking that divorce is normal among smart, educated parents, you would be wrong. The divorce rate is plummeting among educated women. For example, among Asian women with a college degree the divorce rate is one percent. Divorce is for people who can’t think ahead enough to realize that the cost to the kids is so high that it’s not worth the benefits the parents get.

4. Divorce reflects mental illness.
I have been reading tons of books about borderline personality disorder and parenting, and I’m surprised that no one has pointed out that the decision to divorce is similar to the decision making process that you get with borderline personality disorder.

For example, a parent with BPD is often unable to separate their own wellbeing from their child’s. The person with BPD is afraid of not being loved and makes all their decisions based on that fear.

So, the person decides they are not receiving proper love in their marriage and then decides that the children would be better off if the marriage were over. The marriage being over is not good for the children. But that is not the issue.

Why do we treat people with BPD as mentally ill and people getting a divorce as adults making adult decisions?

5. Divorce is often a career issue. I can help with that.
So many times I have been coaching someone who thought they need a divorce, but really, the marriage has a career issue. So, look, when there are no kids, I don’t think there’s a lot of collateral damage when two people want a divorce. But maybe I can save a few children’s childhoods by telling you some common problems and how to solve them:

The woman is pissed that her husband hasn’t gotten a good paying job in years.
This type of woman feels overly responsible for taking care of the family. And she feels taken advantage of by the guy because she thinks he could get a job if he wanted to. (This is probably where Heather is coming from since her husband, who has been working on her blog for years, announced he is looking for a job.)

The problem, though, is that the woman married a guy who doesn’t want to have a big career. She knew this before they got married, but she chose to ignore it. There was probably something she liked about him, something she needed from him, that he provided. Now she wants something different.

The solution is to stop being angry at the guy for not getting a job. Remember that the kids love him and remind yourself the reasons you loved him when you married him. Those things are still there. If you get a divorce you are not going to be able to miraculously stop working. So bite the bullet and accept where you are and finish raising the kids.

Bonus: If you start loving your husband again you will probably love your job again because you’ll feel good that the job allows you to create a happy family.

The guy who thinks his wife is holding back his career.
Oh, god, I hear this so many times. The guy is not where he wants to be in his career. He has so many ideas, so many dreams, and he is really unhappy where his is.

The answer here is: tough shit. You had kids before you fulfilled all your career dreams. Unless you are independently wealthy, you have to scale back your dreams when you have kids because you can’t take wild financial risks with your family’s wellbeing.

So you have kids and a wife, and you have to get a reality check that you are not going to be Mark Zuckerberg. It’s okay. Just focus on being a good father and a good husband and stay with your wife and kids.

It is incredibly selfish and immature to decide your kids should have to shuttle between two families so you can take another swing at a home run. It’s time for you to be a good dad. That’s your job now. You owe it to your kids.

Bonus: Once you start taking pride in being a good parent and a good husband, you will have better self-esteem and your career will get better as a result of that.

The person who is bored and wants out.
So many people get divorced because they are bored. This blows my mind. Your kids are not bored with your marriage. Your kids need boring at home in order to have the necessary foundation to fly outside the home. If your kids are focused on creating their own stability bouncing between two parents then the kids can’t focus on figuring out who they are while they grow up. They have to spend their time figuring out who their family is. And that’s not fair to your kids.

A job absolutely 100% cannot make you happy. A happy family can make you happy and it’s possible that nothing else really even comes close to making a person happy.

So instead of messing up your family in order to make yourself happy, keep your family together and use your job to address your boredom problem. A fun job can make your life more interesting. Your spouse is not in your life to make you feel interesting. Your spouse is there to love you and raise your kids with you. Don’t ask for anything else.

If you want to feel more interesting then go do something more interesting. And come home for dinner.

The person who says they are a victim of violence.
Two-thirds of divorces take place in low-conflict homes, and in those cases, the kids are much better off if the parent just stick it out.

So let’s look at high-conflict homes: It takes two people to fight. And there’s great research to show that if you picked an asshole the first time, you’ll pick the same type of asshole the second time. (Which is why divorce rates for second marriages are so much higher than first marriages.) So instead of getting rid of your kids’ parent, figure out why you picked a person like this, and then get good at drawing boundaries.

Really, good boundaries can save even the worse marriages. Taking care of your own contribution to the mess can single-handedly stop the mess.

This is especially true of violence. At this point in the history, where women have so much earning power, women are equally as responsible for men for the violence in a household. In fact, the US Centers for Disease Control reports that most domestic violence today is a 50/50 thing. Both parties are responsible. Which means that even if you have one of the worst marriages, you have the power to fix it.

And if you don’t use that power—if you don’t fundamentally change how you are in the marriage in order to stop the craziness, then you will not only recreate it in your next relationship, but you will continue to model it for your kids.

So look, I don’t see any reason left that makes divorce ok when there are kids. Personal responsibility always trumps running away. And yes, here are the links to my own marital violence and my decison to stay and fix it. I’m practicing what I preach. I’m working really hard at keeping my own marriage together. It’s a cold, lonely place to be in life. But it’s better than the alternative.

Because divorce is the ultimate example of just running away. And, while your kids probably will not pull out a gun in the school cafeteria, long-term sadness and a lingering inability to connect to other people is an irrefutable result of divorce. It’s something that you can prevent.

725 replies
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    • G
      G says:

      That’s the plan for when my boyfriend and I get married. Open relationship now, open then. Boredom? Who’s bored?…

      • ekujo
        ekujo says:

        You just proved the point of the article with your story about your parents.

        Immature and selfish am afraid.

      • Mike
        Mike says:

        My parents stayed together as long as they could stand it and they were NOT doing me any favors. I was sick of both of them until they split, and then I started seeing them as people I could respect again. And frankly if you don’t have kids, just end it. Marriage is expensive slavery and misery made legal. Divorce is just expensive. For the man, that is. If you’re going to throw away that much money, you should at least be enjoying yourself.

        • RACHEL
          RACHEL says:

          I am on the verge of divorce and feel selfish towards my needs!! Have two kids but if i stay with my husband we just arguue and fight all the time.I do not love him at all anymore and he dosnt love me he wants to stay for the kids but i cant stand his face anymore.can`t imagine ever having sex with him again.But i love my kids so i guess ill stay and be unhappy for the rest of a long time.

          • Julian
            Julian says:

            Marriage is what you make it, just as life is. This hate did not occur overnight. That is what happens when people stop communicating an just avoid each other. Before you know it you forget what you are mad about and just know that you hate this person you are with. You were once so deeply in love, it’s still there, you just have to remember what it was. Sometimes we just have to stop being angry at everything. Trust me the Grass is NOT greener on the other side, just the part you can see over your fence. Someone once told me that a ring is a perfect representation of marriage. You start off together and as the years pass by you start to separate. At the furthest part of the circle is when people divorce. But, if you work on it and hang in there you will come back together and complete the ring.

          • Jasi
            Jasi says:

            LOVE THIS ARTICLE. It is, in my experience as a child of divorce and a woman in a real marriage, completely true. My parents emotions were always raw and they continued to fight separated with no hope of resolution because there was nothing to work for. I was passed from house to house and most of my quality time was spoiled by their moods toward each other. I had no home but two families that treated me entirely different. I was still a lucky child, there are far worse ways to grow up but both parents and I endured so much unnecessary pain due to this divorce. Even on my wedding day my father confided that his new wife is just as crazy as my mother and perhaps it wasn’t always her- that I shouldn’t consider divorce as the problem will follow. I know this today, my husband and I disagree, we argue sometimes, we fight, but we also love and work together. We work, work, work on liking each other and when we can’t, we give each other respect and space and peace. And we wait until we like each other again. We fall in love a lot this way. =D And we don’t quit.

        • bowdowntomug
          bowdowntomug says:

          what the hell did you just say about marriage?! either you have no social life or you just date the wrong people, but marriage is something you never diss!

    • Looking at divorce
      Looking at divorce says:

      Yes – I think an open relationship is a great idea. However, I’m not sure that I agree with pen that all divorcee is bad.

      My parents got divorced 3 years ago. They are much happier divorced and the family is better off for it.

  1. Chaely
    Chaely says:

    Sorry, P, but I disagree. A lot. First of all, marriage is just a contract like any other. Because it’s a contract it’s basically a business. Businesses are made to be dissolved when they no longer serve their purpose. So are marriages.

    My parents split when I was 10. The first thing I said when they sat me down to explain it to me was, “good, I can’t sleep when you two fight in the kitchen all night.” They were stunned. Like, silence at the table stunned.

    They didn’t split over violence or career issues. I didn’t feel abandoned (my dad built a house on the property next door so we were neighbors until I moved out on my own). They honestly couldn’t see eye to eye on any subject & couldn’t stop getting in each others faces. It got to the point where they couldn’t even look at each other anymore without fighting. They even hired babysitters so someone was minding my sister & I while they argued over absolutely nothing.

    If they hadn’t divorced I probably would have elected to go live with a relative or in the woods with wolves or on the empty school bus after the other kids were dropped off. I think allowing that is more selfish than trying to create some peace so your kid can continue to live in her own bedroom without hearing all of the constant fighting in the kitchen at 3am.

    They had their kids, they started their business together, and that’s where their obligation to each other outlived its usefulness & the “company” folded.

    • Synova
      Synova says:

      I think that the point is that adult people can *choose* to behave decently with people they live with.

      The fighting is a choice. Treating the person you live with far worse than you’d treat a stranger is a choice. And it’s the wrong choice to make when you have children. Full stop.

      Why do we act like we’ve no choice, that if we’re in a bad mood or disagree we’ve got to be a jerk, argue, carry on.

      And then after creating that environment we tell ourselves that we’re splitting up for the kids?

      • Disgusted
        Disgusted says:

        Oh, give me a break! Most of Penelope Trunk’s advice is the worst kind of woolly-headed “Pink is the New Black” bullshit. She is the queen of pseudo-intellectuals: “Ooh, look at me, I’m so edgy and contrarian! I tell people what they don’t want to hear, like:
        – Divorce is stupid.
        – Spousal abuse is OK.
        – Don’t report sexual harassment.”

        Penelope’s “advice” may be useful for Kim Kardashian, but for the rest of us, her ramblings are about as useful as advertising jingles. “Couples should try to work out their problems.” Gee, we simpletons never thought about that before undertaking the most devastating decision in our lives. I don’t understand why some of you applaud her for the observation that marriage takes a lot of work. That’s about as profound as a greeting card.

        Synova, fighting is a choice?! My parents fought all the time, it went like this:

        Mother: WE NEED MONEY TO BUY FOOD!!!!
        Father: [silence, reads another page of newspaper]

        Divorce was the ONLY way us kids got fed, because Dad would keep all his money to himself.

        A bunch of you commenters say things like “calm down, to each their own”. Well, Penelope certainly doesn’t abide by that axiom when she spews irresponsible over-generalizations like “divorce, don’t do it”.

        Yeah, I know she’s trying to be provocative (as usual), but that doesn’t make it any less irresponsible. Divorce is a hard-fought-for right that should not be taken for granted. We need to speak up when morons attack this much-needed institution.

        • Cassie
          Cassie says:

          I’m sorry, but I disagree with EVERY SINGLE WORD. If my parents were still together, my mother would most likely be dead. My father was an abusive drug-user, who claimed to beat us all for our own good. I’m sorry, but DIVORCE saved our lives. Take it however you will.

        • Mom
          Mom says:

          My husband walked out. My children are miserable. He chose sex with other women over living each day watching them grow up. He chose to be an absent father for sex with women younger and more fit than I am. He chose SEX over putting his daughters to bed each night. He chose SEX over being there to help with homework. He chose SEX over showing girls what a husband and father do on a daily basis. He chose SEX over his kids. He is immature AND selfish because I would have done ANYTHING to save our marriage and make it work. Their lives have been completely disrupted because their dad loves SEX more than he loves his own kids.

          • Mark
            Mark says:

            Maybe if you had just swallowed your pride and gave your husband sex… you would still be together for your family’s sake…

            men are simple to please…why can’t the most intelligent women of the world figure this out… GEESE!

          • b
            b says:

            You chose not to gratify your husband and chose laziness and chose your headaches over your husbands needs and you chose those things over your daughters needs

        • loraine
          loraine says:

          The point she makes about people being imbalanced mentally is actually telling. She talks like someone who doesn’t give second chances. For example me. I was an abuse survivor who got married and had a child before I’d dealt with my own daddy issues, ptsd, depression… so by the time my 3.5 year old is molested by paternal grandpa, damage done. Her father wouldn’t commit to being a good father and protecting her. So if I follow penlopes advice. If I’m a good enough person I would be able to change him. Sorry that’s not the way the real world works. I KNOW staying with him would have been more destructive to my child. I tried staying for her. All that teaches her is to find an unsuitable partner and father for her children. Like I want her making all the mistakes I made? Just because we didn’t choose well the first time doesn’t mean we have to perpetuate misery. My mom stayed…and it resulted in physical,sexual, and emotional abuse to her kids. The very ingress she was supposed to protect! Sheehan she left, I finally knew I was important enough to be worth her discomfort. Sometimes staying in a marriage is selfish moreso than leaving. It takes gits for a victim to stand up to an abuser. Penelope would have incest victimslat down and spread their legs for more. There isn’t even a nod to protecting your children by leaving. Tsk Tsk. As a survivor, I speak on behalf of all survivors, your kind,though well meaning is spouting destructive filth emotionally damaging to those still raw from abuse. Shame on you for perpetuating abusive households with no regard for children’s well being. Your pseudo intellect does more damage than good, and applies to fewer marriages than warrant such broad generalizations. Only serving to keep abuse victimsin their place!!! Check your privelege!!!

        • Stephanie
          Stephanie says:

          I’m confused. How did your mother pay for food AFTER the divorce, but she couldn’t pay for it BEFORE the divorce. Single parents even with child support have less money than married parents.

          I feel like I’m missing part of the story here.

    • Jim C.
      Jim C. says:

      I suppose in the final analysis it depends on your philosophy of life — basically whether you are religious or not. I use a fairly general definition of “religious” in this context. If you consider marriage vows as a binding commitment to God as well as to your spouse, then marriage isn’t just a contract. If you were married in a church or synagogue, you bound yourself to keep a promise to God as well as to your spouse, for better or for worse. If you were married in a Justice of the Peace’s office, well then it’s different and it is just a contract.

    • Dave
      Dave says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Divorce, especially when it happens early enough that a child accepts it as the natural conditions of their childhood, as compared to a disruption of their childhood, can be better than some people staying together.

      While I agree that there are things that parents can to do try to stay together and give their kids a single happy (or at least unobtrusive) home, a lot of people aren’t strong or dedicated enough to take those steps. In this case, I think two homes (or no home if you want to put it that way) is a better option than one crappy one.

      As a child of divorce, I found that my parent’s irreconcilable differences taught me life lessons early on that many of friends wouldn’t learn until later, and helped me to become a more independent and iconoclastic person than I would have otherwise been, two characteristics that I’m very happy to have as part of me.

      I’m sure there are many citable statistics about unhappy children in divorce, but perhaps it is not simply the act of divorce that causes these problems. The way it is explained and the control a child feels during a process are vital factors as well. The crux of this article seems reductionist, and unnecessarily so.

    • Kandi
      Kandi says:

      Exactly! And Penelope, didn’t you grow up in a two-parent household? And aren’t you as crazy (and amazing) as I am? Okay then…

    • L31
      L31 says:

      I agree. Sometimes divorce is a wonderful thing. My parents divorced when I was 10, I was a much happier person because of it. Such narrow-mindedness is just ridiculous and immature.

  2. karelys.
    karelys. says:

    1) Bill (first comment) always makes me sick.

    2) you will prob get tons of crap comments off this because this is something that attacks many people’s personal beliefs and so now they feel like you have no room to tell them what would work in their lives.

    3) I’ve felt like divorcing before because of every.single.thing you posted (minus violence) then I took a breath and realized that my husband is so great and anything I’m discontent with has more to do with me than him.

    all in all this post is so dang great I can hardly say anything that will add to the discussion. I guess I want to say “wow thanks!”

    ps. it’s also really helpful because i can look at all the points next time we are in a pit again and I feel like running away.

  3. Dan
    Dan says:

    My father has been divorced 3 times.

    The first was before my younger brother and I were even in school. Neither of us remembers anything from that time. My earliest memory is from after the divorce. Both of my brothers and myself went with my dad. This divorce didn’t affect me in any negative way, so far as I can tell, because I was too young to even remember it. For example, the only reason I consider my mother to be my mother is because people tell me that she is, her name is on my birth certificate, and I favor her side of the family genetically. I have no memory of her being my mother.

    The second was a couple of years later. One day my step-mom told me to stay after school and walk home with my older brother (this was normal, she’d have me do that if she was going to be out running errands). When we arrived at home that afternoon, she was gone. This was towards the end of first grade for me. I have a few memories of her, all good.

    The third was when I was a sophomore in HS. They’d been physically & verbally fighting for a while. I was more stressed out when they were together than I was after they split up and we moved. This is the woman whom I consider to be “mom” to me. She was a presence in my life longer than the other two, and seemed to genuinely care about me. Once we moved out, my dad moved us into town, a couple of blocks from school. My mom came to all of my athletic events & music concerts, even though she was my former step-mom. She was under no obligation to do so, yet she did. I could tell that both of them were happier apart than they were together, and my brother & I were better off because of it.

    Was my dad selfish to divorce? I don’t know, as he won’t talk about why they happened. Besides, it’s really none of my business. I know that my brothers and I all turned out to be good people, so it must have been for the best that they divorced.

    So I think you’re wrong. Divorce can be good. I’m glad my dad & mother, and dad & first step-mom, and dad & second step-mom divorced. I’d much rather have gone through all of that than have been stuck with one parent who loved us, and another who wanted to have nothing to do with us (which I’ve heard from multiple sources, and experienced).

    • Jim C.
      Jim C. says:

      Let me quote Penelope: “And there’s great research to show that if you picked an asshole the first time, you’ll pick the same type of asshole the second time.”
      Maybe that’s why Dad went through three divorces. From your account of it, Stepmother #1 was another unloving cold fish just like the natural mother you can hardly remember. Stepmother #2 seems to have been a better person, but Dad couldn’t get along with her either.
      Penelope hit the nail on the head, I think.

    • bodybuildingteacher
      bodybuildingteacher says:

      Im a teacher and work with special education kids…all but 1 student comes from a family where mom and dad are still married(this particular student has cognitive disabilities, the other students I serve are either poor behavior or have an academic skill deficit). The implication? Your decision will impact your children greatly. The stories these kids share with me create almost impossible situation for them. For most that I work with…their skills are at the middle school level(I teach HS sped) and guess when divorce ravaged their home? When they were in middle school. Im not reporting in a scholarly way or implying what Im saying is research based…but I am suggesting..when divorce and the adult behaviors that surround divorce…take place…both parents tend to not place the same importance on their children and learning. I divorced…most foolish thing Ive ever done…putting my kids in a car and driving 1-2hours to see me every other wkend not only sucked for them…but limited the focus on academics..took them away from socializing with their peers due to having to split time between homes…traveling…etc..and I placed their mother in a position to have to do everything on her own. I have moved back to my kids..they live a block away..grades are up…I see them in my home 3-4 times a week…I can attend all their things..support them..etc. Be very careful about making decisions because you arr not “happy.” We are adults with more coping skills…why should our happiness be more important than our children’s?

      • Phillipa
        Phillipa says:

        This is ridiculous. Not as ridiculous as saying that divorce is something people with mental illness do, but close enough. My parents divorced when I was 4 and a lot of my friend’s come from divorced homes, and I’m in a great university, I have and always have had great grades. It’s not about being divorced, it’s about keeping in touch and still educating your kids. Don’t blame divorce for poor parenting skills. Being at home and an idiot at educating children is worse than not being and caring enough to keep in touch and help them.

        This is the most ridiculous post on divorce I’ve seen. Staying home ‘for the children’, while arguing and being violent is so incredibly damaging, and will inflict as much or even more damage to them as ‘leaving the house’. Divorce may have an impact, if not handled right, but nothing that can’t be resolved. Children aren’t stupid nor made of glass – teaching children that you can leave an unhappy situation because it damages you, emotionally or physically, but still be around and do your part is teaching them responsibility.

        And shame on those who say ‘stick it out’ when one member of the couple is being physically, mentally and/or emotionally abused. Shame on you. Violence is not something you ‘endure’ nor should you alter your behavior to accommodate your abuser. You think children that grow up in a house where their mom or dad is being beaten are going to be healthy? Do you seriously think they don’t know/notice?

        Shame on you.

        • yua
          yua says:

          It’s telling that many people have cases where divorce allegedly made things worse for the kids, but nobody can actually explain how the terrible partnership staying together would have made things better.

          If you are raised by two miserable people who hate each other, yes, you’re going to be a stressed out kid. That holds true whether the parents are in the same house or in a different house. If you hate your spouse, you’re already fucking up your kids.

          At the very least, staying together is *just as bad* for the kids as getting divorced.

  4. Kusandra
    Kusandra says:

    Thank you for saying this. As a 43 year old child of divorce I grew up in an era where women had to get divorced because men were so chauvinistic, or so we all told, I suffered over the loss of my father who ended up abandoning me almost completely. I still go through stages of realizing how wounded I am by growing up this way. But what about infidelity? Not a one time thing but a regular thing either an on going affair or repeated incidents. How can one parent tolerate this? How can this be addressed?

    • drew
      drew says:

      Women who keep a good figure and a healthy libido are rarely cheated on. Women who let themselves become obese, sexless, or unattractive (or who withhold sex because they are angry, depressed, or ill) are at risk.
      Men’s needs will be met. It’s preferable for them to have a loving, meaningful relationship with an attractive partner, but often women seem to give up on themselves and on their marriages.

      • Amanda
        Amanda says:

        your comment is so inaccurate it’s ridiculous! first off, do you know that something like 40% of men and 60% of women get involved in an extra martial affair at some point in their marriages? i highly doubt that every single jilted spouse has allowed themselves to get fat or uninterested in sex. That’s a dumb assumption to make. I personally even know several attractive people who have been cheated on. There are TONS of studies that say that most of the time, cheating isn’t even about sex. It’s more due to emotional needs not being met. You can be in the best shape ever, with a healthy libido, but if you’re not giving your partner the particular emotional care they need (which also varies), they will look for intimacy outside the relationship. Sometimes, people cheat because their partner doesnt boost their ego enough, and knowing they can be intimate with someone else is enough of a reason. Yours was just a really inaccurate and horrible response

      • loraine
        loraine says:

        Wow. Your blaming everyone who’s ever been cheated on? I know some very attractive amazing people who’ve been betrayed. And what about women that cheat? Are they also totally justified or are you just as sexist and small brained as you sound? People cheat for different reasons. More women cheat than men. Most cheat because both partners let their marriage come in last instead of first. But there’s always the sex addict, narccisist, and BPD, etc and I’m sure it’s “her” fault for not loving him right… BS There are selfish people out there… and caretakers doing what they have to in order to stay. You world is very tiny isn’t it?

    • Child of Divorce 48
      Child of Divorce 48 says:

      Exactly. My parents divorced when I was in grade one. As an older teenager my mom told me she stayed with my alcoholic filandering father for seven years, but the STDs he kept bringing home to her became more than she could bear. How can anyone blame her for divorcing him? The last memory I have of him in our house was of him with my mom in a head lock, chocking her because she was leaving, and I was crying on the couch.

  5. Manish Yadav
    Manish Yadav says:

    Wow. Great article. You talk so intelligently about this issue. But why weren’t you able to make your first marriage work? Weren’t all these points relevant in your life as well when u went through with your divorce.
    One statistic that really stands out is that the rate of second divorce is higher than first. Maybe once you have been through one, you are unlikely to compromise and the feeling of been there and done that perhaps contributes to the second divorce.

    • colleen
      colleen says:

      Hindsight is 20/20. P has learned and grown from the experience of her divorce and is passing that wisdom onto the rest of us. Thanks P! Like karelys above, thanks for the reminder when I get the ‘woah is me’ feelings!

      • ferina
        ferina says:

        it’s ‘woe’ is me. not ‘whoa’ like your reining in your horse. ‘woe’ as in ‘poor me’. i presume you’re one of the ‘dumb’ people p refers to – which seems to only mean people without a college degree.

      • ferina
        ferina says:

        it’s ‘woe’ is me. not ‘whoa’ like you’re reining in your horse. ‘woe’ as in ‘poor me’. i presume you’re one of the ‘dumb’ people p refers to – which seems to only mean people without a college degree.

          • Raul
            Raul says:

            In an even greater twist of irony, it wasn’t a double post; she/he/it felt compelled to correct her/his/its own spelling mistake (using “your” instead of “you’re”).

            What I don’t get is if you’re CDO enough to go back and correct your spelling, what’s with the lazy punctuation?

  6. Chuck
    Chuck says:

    In all the years I’ve been reading your blog, this post is my all-time favorite. Thank you for having the courage to write this!

    • L-Dopa
      L-Dopa says:

      I am whole-heartedly in agreement with Chuck here. Thank you so much for saying what so many people need to hear – “Suck it up.”
      There are far fewer grounds for divorce than people think, as far as I’m concerned. I believe our casual treatment of marriage is exactly why I’m nervous about entering one. My fear only makes a beautiful (if imperfect) future with my potential spouse more unlikely.

    • Melba
      Melba says:

      I completely agree. You know, sometimes (lately especially) I think you’ve gone off the deep end – pushing drugs? Keeping your kids in an abusive environment? But then I read this post, and it really makes me think, and parts resonate with me. Thanks, Penelope.

    • Kimberly
      Kimberly says:

      I am honestly shocked, SHOCKED at the number of people who agree with this post.

      You do realize that some relationships are past the point of working it out? You do realize that every point she made was complete and utterly one sided? You do realize that other factors may be causing the conclusions she see? You do realize that sometimes divorce is good?

      Shocked. This post was offensive and inaccurate. I expected the comments to (rightfully) slam the author.

      • Phenom
        Phenom says:

        I’ve read through the comments a bunch of times and if you pay close attention, a majority of them slam Ms. Trunk for this post and the audacity of it all.

        Then there are the slams she’s getting out in the interwebs on others’ blogs and on twitter.

      • Layla
        Layla says:

        I am agree with this post and I am at the verge of a divorce. My husband is an alcoholic and has been violent. I took measurements with the police and he calmed it down. We have no children. LOTs and lots of people have advised me to get a divorce. My husband’s therapist has even look for a lawyer to help him with the papers. No one wants has counsel us to go to couple counseling, no one has told me work on my marriage, no has told him to look for help to solve his alcohol problem. Everyone jumped to help us separate for good. Quick fix! I hate the things he does, but I do not hate him, I can’t. It would be easier to get a divorce, even economical convenient for me. Bu that is not what I want. I sat down long ago thinking that If I was deceive once into a marriage with an alcoholic, probably I will be twice or thrice and maybe I’ll bite other “addictive packages”. I promised to God to be with this man and I have failed to let God work with it. My husband will continue to be who he is, a bit better a bit worse. I have to learn to teach him my stand in this marriage and if he wants to walk away is up to him. But I won’t give up on what I promised on the altar. I respect myself and I have to recognize that I could do better to help him. I have to recognize that I was lied to coz I was not careful enough. I have can’t listen to people around pushing me to a quick fix. I gave my word, my word is worth. While I humanly can, without making my life hell or endangering my health and life, I will keep my word. Some people might think it stupid. I have a word and as long as I can I will hold that word. Therefore I find this post fantastic. I do not agree 100% with it. But it doesn’t mean she’s totally wrong. I know it coz I live it. However, there has to be two to keep it, if my husband decides to give up, then I will be divorced woman, but coz I can’t force the other person to stay.

      • loraine
        loraine says:

        You have to keep in mind the audience. If you’re a selfish pea brain thinking it’s all happily ever after, you do need a wake up call. Marriage is a serious commitment. Its the idiot staying on the burning ship because once you commit you can’t break a promise…
        More power to them. Toobad they keep breeding and having more messed up kids to perpetuate eternal misery. There are legitimate reasons to get divorced. Anyone denying that just doesn’t know. Thier ignorance is no excuse for judging abuse victims and perpetuating that garbage!

  7. Paul
    Paul says:

    This post makes me want to fly to whatever remote corner of the universe that you live in and give you a high five. Kudos to you for sticking around and fixing your problems, even when you had SO many people telling you to bail.

  8. Anna
    Anna says:

    Says the woman in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage.

    I don’t know why I stay subscribed to this blog. It’s like masochism in practice.

    Shame on you, Penelope. If not for your sake, then for the sake of your children. You really are in denial.

      • Dian
        Dian says:

        Thank you for that. I was starting to feelPenelope was right that I should have tried harder or something to stay in a man who had a mid-life crisis, made is lose our life savings,and had an affair… but after reading Penelope’s previous post which covers the domestic abuse she puts up with from the Farmer, I think I made the right decision. I don’t think you should’ve giving advice given the mental state you clearly are in.

        • Phenom
          Phenom says:

          Ms. Trunk, maybe you should also take a gander at all of the studies out there that say things like the following:

          “Studies of two-parent families have consistently found that when a couple’s relationship is characterized by unresolved conflict and unhappiness, their children tend to have more acting out aggressive behavior problems, more shy withdrawn behavior, and fewer social and academic skills,” write UC Berkeley researchers Phil and Carolyn Cowan


          Staying together through any form of abuse and/or high-conflict that rages on unresolved “for the sake of the kids” is not only idiotic, but downright delusional.

      • MG
        MG says:

        I agree, children feel horrible emotional stress when they are in homes with domestic violence (physical or verbal and no matter ho much you believe you are hiding it from them you are not). I have worked at domestic violence shelters and even living in a shelter the kids are happier and more secure than they were in their two parent home.

      • GingerR
        GingerR says:

        Another person who thinks the author is rationalizing her own actions.

        I worry about media-types who makes these large generalized statements.

        Divorce isn’t always bad and it isn’t always good. The important thing is that each person/couple have the freedom to decide for themselves.

    • Liz
      Liz says:

      praise the lord! someone out there with a brain!! i’m scratching my head at all the supportive comments this post received … this woman has no business giving any sort of relationship advice to anyone!

      • drew
        drew says:

        Obviously one should leave a relationship with someone whose unbalanced or disturbed.
        But the vast majority of domestic violence arises after one partner angrily attacks or provokes the other.
        And the is wrong EVEN WHEN A WOMAN DOES IT.
        You are in the wrong f you slap your husband. You ARE in the wrong if you withold sex, refuse to do any housework, or let yourself grow fat and repulsive.
        Penelope is absolutely correct, as well as brave, to correct some of the incorrect, unfair, and cruel myths that turned marriage into a minefield, reducing men to sperm donors with bank accounts and slender to legalized prostitutes.
        More men will marry, and more, healthier families and children will result, when women.learn that they, too,must treat their partners with love and respect.

  9. Beth
    Beth says:

    Thank you for writing this. I teach at a college part-time. After we read all the literature, I ask “is there such a thing as a good divorce when children are involved?”.

    I’m adding this log post to the literature if it is okay with you?

    Thanks again.

    • Beth M.
      Beth M. says:

      You teach children at college this kind of right-wing, Dr. Laura-style rhetoric with slanted questions such as “Is there such a thing as good divorce when children are involved?” You should be ashamed of your biased, conservative teaching style where you’re obviously imposing your values on impressionable young adults. Blech.

      And blech to you, Penelope. I used to think much more highly of you. Now you obviously seem locked in a state of denial veiled in a dark cloak of profound self-righteousness. Of course, OF COURSE, people should divorce if the household is profoundly unhappy and dysfunctional. This “stand by your man” crap worked in 50’s but we don’t have to endure intolerable situations – nor do our children – in this day and age.

      I’m frankly shocked by your take on this but you kind of lost me when you insisted women need plastic surgery to keep up professionally. It’s like you’re just plopping out incendiary and dangerous rhetoric for the sake of attention.

      Can you imagine the torturous circumstances a child must withstand dealing with year upon year of a tense, fraught household? Can you imagine the modeling you teach your child when you withstand an abusive situation? It’s kind of unconscionable, what you’re saying. (And somewhere inside, I think you know it.)

      Sure, some people divorce too easily and they should have stuck it out. But you’re making ALL divorces “bad” like some morality police woman. It sounds so stodgy and judgmental. Are you going to tell us that all birth control is bad since every unwanted child deserves his/her chance for survival? Are you going all fundamentalist on our ass?

      My friend read this and sent this to me. She just went through a horrible divorce after her husband cheated on her repeatedly and bordered on abusive. Her children were doing VERY poorly in the household. It took her everything she had in her to get them out of a totally dysfunctional situation…and then she read this?! Luckily she’s too mature to let this reductionistic, overly simplistic thinking affect her too deeply. Good thing, because had it affected her, I would have been really pissed at you.

      • martin
        martin says:

        So well said, you could not have said it any better. I too am going through a very tough divorce. My wife and i have been fighting since we got married five years ago. We have a 21 month old baby boy. I’ve tried to leave in the summer and something kept clawing me back, something kept telling me to keep my family together at all expenses. I even went to marital counseling by myself as she refused to come until I moved out. I don’t think our problems will ever be resolved & the good thing is that my baby thinks it’s normal for dady to come and go. For me that is the toughest part of the separation because I loved, enjoyed & held my full time father hood as my most prized asset. It’s ripping me to shreds that now I cannot see him smile first thing in the morning, help him bathe and get ready for bed, read him a bed time story and do all of these normal things. I just had to do what’s right for the long run & this constant every two day massive blowout is so detrimental to my mental state & my babies future mental state. I still wake up every morning wondering if I made the right decision, wondering whether or not we can fix things or whether or not a marriage fairy will grace us with her magic wand & make us happy & content with each other once again.

      • loraine
        loraine says:

        I want a friend like you!! ***high five***
        I WAS Penelope spouting thus garbage. Then I PUTmy CHILD before my own SELFISH insecurities and became a real woman!!! Tradition be damned! It would have kept my father raping me, and my daufhter would have been raped had I not left in time. But hey, God expects his kids to keep promises they made when they were too messed up to pick a good partner.!!!

  10. Kyre
    Kyre says:

    Anyone, and I do mean anyone, who thinks that a violent marriage should just be ‘fixed’ is someone who came from violence and is happy to cycle through it again in their own life. That’s fine. But, please, don’t give that advice to others. Thinking that marriage is simply ‘worth fixing’ and that divorce is simply a lazy solution, is absurd. You need a good class in diversity and difference. Perhaps your white ivory middle-class tower has blinded you to life on the ground, honey.

  11. CS
    CS says:

    Now if only you could take that willingness to have an unpopular opinion, analytical ability, and avoidance of self-serving conclusions and apply it to your decision to homeschool your kids AKA you think you can socialize them and do a better job educating than a school full of full-time professionals all the while pursuing full-time work yourself.

  12. Happily Divorced
    Happily Divorced says:

    My opinion of divorce is the exact opposite of the author. I was married at 26 on the understanding that if we never had kids it would be okay with both partners. Five years later my husband changed his mind and decided that he wanted me to make babies and stay home instead of going to graduate school. What is your solution to this? Divorce is bad, so two people with completely different desires in life should stay together? Sounds pretty short-sighted (and naive and judgmental) to me.

        • Janna U
          Janna U says:

          Ah, I see this at the very end ” I don’t see any reason left that makes divorce ok when there are kids.” I guess reading between the lines, one could say that she means divorce might be ok when there are not kids.

          • LizC
            LizC says:

            “So, look, when there are no kids, I don’t think there’s a lot of collateral damage when two people want a divorce.”

          • distraught
            distraught says:

            Of course here is collateral damage when partners don’t have kids. What about the effect on friends and family?

            I pleaded with my wife for us to seek help through a non-partisan third party such as a marriage counsellor, to resolve our difficulties. No chance – maybe she felt she would be exposed, who knows. So now I’m getting divorced when I feel we could have worked it out. It’s the saddest thing and horribly frustrating.

    • my honest answer
      my honest answer says:

      I think Penelope is only referring to divorce when there are already children involved. I think she says that if there are no kids, there is little collatoral damage.

      I’m not saying I agree with her, just that, in your case, I don’t think she’s totally anti-divorce.

    • Anon
      Anon says:

      I say I disagree w/Penelope. I too, was promised (before, during) in my marriage that I COULD (excuse me, as far as I am concerned we are all responsible for our own choices) get an education, which I’ve wanted to do, not hidden from him for over a decade. He said this in light of having children. What happens? We have kids HE goes to school, on my parent’s dime, infedelity takes place, and I hang on for another six years with no change, endless marriage counselors, and ME being the one “fighting” for the thing he wants no part of. I made the MOST difficult decision in my life after I had children , after I woke up and smelled the garbage of false promises and sickening belittling I had sat in for so long. You can only choke on regurgitated promises for so long. I gave it my all. He wanted no part of it, I’ll be damned if I teach my children that THAT was what a marriage is supposed to be. You know, P, personal responsibility is just as you say it is, and if the people on your post are saying this is the MOST difficult thing they’ve ever done in their lives, perhaps you ought to write a blog of support, instead of one that’s written from a life filled with insecurity and placing all of your innate worth on your children. That’s not healthy either honey.

      • Dr. Hunged
        Dr. Hunged says:

        What is that you say you gave it all? By the way, he do not sound like a bad guy(heck, it actually sounds like he is trying hard to better himself for you and your kids).

        Another thing. Is it infidelity from him or jealousy from you? It sounds like you just married him for the things he offered or promised you and not because you loved him? …hummm? I hope I’m wrong, poor guy.

        Now Listen Honey, as long as you fulfill your role of a good wife by satisfying some of the most basics of your husband’s needs, he will never, EVER, cheat on you and he will cherish you and love you forever and break his neck to make you and your kids happy, because he will have the desire and the passion to make you all happy any way he can, because you make him happy.

        He will still need other basic needs to be met, but I’m sure, you as a wife, know what they are, right? …..no???, you don’t know? Geesh, okay, here you go:

        He needs these main things from you ASAP before he drifts away from you:

        UNCONDITIONAL LOVE-aka SEX regularly with beloved wife,

        UNCONDITIONAL RESPECT- aka never EVER treat him like a child, belittle or emasculated him,

        ADMIRATION-like if he unclogs your pipes you genuinely say to him “Wow you’re done? You’re good!”(here’s a good chance to give him love and say” would you please check my plumbing later on Mr. Plumber? (Make sure you warn him that you would have to make some sort of “other” payment arrangements because you are broke, wink wink ; ).

        GRATITUDE-“thank you so much handsome, I appreciate it. It feels so good to have man who can fix things.” , etc.

        Treat your man Right and he will treat you right by instinct and he will truly love you for ever. Remember when you.were.his girlfriend and you were so nice and loving and how he was all over you? Well are you still like that or did you turn into an evil nagging B-witch? We are simple creatures to please compared to the opposite side, where the list is insanely big. But as long as were happy, is our pleasure(not a burden) to make you girls happy. It’s just our instincts by nature.

        Trust me honey, I know, I’m a real man. ;)

        • loraine
          loraine says:

          Please! First of all he broke promises, cheated, and didnt try to work on it. Secondly, I was that perfect wife. Hubby with held sex, love, and was passive aggressive. If you were the “real” man you claim to be, you’d know there are just as many men to blame as women. Women aren’t chattel to be used when a man has needs and treated like garbage the rest of the time. You may feel wronged by women, but your total lack of regard for their feelings is why you keep getting, and will continue to get, “wronged” by women. No woman in her right mind would put up with your narcissism long enough, and she may try to explain before she hits the road, but you’ll only see it as nagging and attacks on your masculinity. Pathetic (((witch from Little Mermaid voice))))

  13. MM
    MM says:

    You might get some shit from Dooce’s insane clown posse of followers for daring to mention her, but good for you for this post.

  14. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    You think divorce is immature? Try teaching your sons that beating up women is okay because they deserve it. That’s worse than immature, that’s criminal.

    • Katherine
      Katherine says:

      Seriously, that’s what I can’t get over. You’re teaching your children that it’s okay for Daddy to beat up Mommy. Gross.

    • XtremeWave
      XtremeWave says:

      All of the people who think that Penelope is Full of Crap because she doesn’t seem to understand that divorce is better than living with abuse are forgetting one important thing – ITS NOT AN EITHER/OR CHOICE!!!!. There are other options.

      No one is advocating acquiescence to abuse – just consideration that maybe the relationship can be salvaged and both people can learn a better way of resolving their conflicts. People can change. People can learn. People can grow. I guess that I believe that is what marriage is about – learning to resolve your conflicts and become truly intimate with other people even when you don’t agree on everything.

      Penelope – I disagree with you often, but not today.

      • loraine
        loraine says:

        So how long should mommy let daddy rape me? She tried counseling, praying…she should have tried harder? She almost killed me staying, she should have stayed, if she’d been a real woman, she’d have made him get help, then I would have been “able” to be violated by being subjected to his parenting me? What sick @#$/!!!! There are sick people with kids. Doesn’t mean the kids shouldn’t be removed from them. You’d have my dad still raping me, and me having to kill myself to escape. Oh wait that would be selfish, so I’d just havento deal with God’s will. Buy a clue!

    • MarcKS
      MarcKS says:

      She addressed this in her post – IF you actually read the majority of her posts you would realize that P is equally responsible for any violence in her relationship with Farmer – Well before she wrote about him her she was smashing dishes/vases (I can’t remember which) during arguments – It seems obvious to me that if P is smashing dishes around she is also probably doing a little pushing as well (and the bruise from the bedpost could have easily just been pushing back)

      Kudos for P to admit that domestic violence is frequently a two-way street (and that her relationship is not an exception to that)

      • T
        T says:

        First of all, shame on this author who in any way attempts to tell women to stay in abusive relationships, and that they need to look at themselves to see what they’re doing to cause it. Shame on you! Same thing to people saying they’re going to teach this nonsense to students, and to those who agree with this. I truly cannot believe it.

        Also, as someone who has studied criminal justice, read countless literature on DV, and currently works on training criminal justice professionals on DV, women and men are not EQUALLY violent in relationships. Many of the findings suggesting that women are do not distinguish between actual injury & defensive injuries. On top of that, breaking a dish because you’re angry is not the same thing as a man punching a woman in the face. Additionally, a woman shoving is technically considered DV, but so is a man hitting a woman with a closed fist. Again, NOT the same in terms of the amount of harm caused. Are both DV? Yes. But, they’re not the same. Do women cause the majority of DV in a few households? Yes. But, overwhelmingly, it’s men who are the aggressors. On top of that, two people with this much anger shouldn’t be together anyway. And, if people can change, well then, the woman can leave and pick a better, more decent man who will treat her well the next time she gets in a relationship.

  15. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    Great post. We are in a society now that says marriage is supposed to be like a day at the fair: if it rains or you run out of money, you can leave. But it used to be a lifelong commitment as a foundation for raising a family. The vows used to mean something.
    Even if a couple doesn’t have kids, I would argue that divorce is bad. The basis for the decision is still selfishness. The other person needs to change, not them.

    • Jana Miller
      Jana Miller says:

      Agree! Hollywood would have us believe the lie that relationships are easy and dreamy all the time. Being married is tough. And it’s worth it.

      If you bail out…you just get someone with different problems. At least with your present spouse, you probably have them figured out already. And have some good strategies in place already.

      Then next one isn’t going to be perfect because you aren’t perfect either.

    • jkuhnosius@gmail.com
      jkuhnosius@gmail.com says:

      But sometimes the other person develops extreme new behaviors (addiction, abuse, etc.), that weren’t there when the marriage started. You can change yourself, but you surely can’t make an addict stop their addiction. Some people can find ways to live with addiction, but I think it’s each individual’s choice of whether or not they are going to live with it.

    • CV
      CV says:

      Amen. LOOK AT THE PREMISE OF WHAT SHE’S SAYING PEOPLE. This blog post obviously hit a nerve, but if people actually took the time and bothered to have enough introspection, they would realize she has a VERY good point. Marriage is supposed to be a life-long commitment, and divorce should be a last-resort option, not “one of the options.” Perhaps less people would obsess over their fairytale weddings, and less people would marry if they understood this, because guess what? marriage is not a walk in the park. It’s just life, shared with someone you choose to love, sometimes when you don’t feel like it.

    • Kimberly
      Kimberly says:

      I believe you are looking at the past with rose colored glasses.

      Spouses have been dropping out of marriages and abandoning each other for much of human history. Divorce grants each party division of assets and a fair way to allocate support and child custody.

      Without divorce, people would still leave their spouse. There would just be less legal logistics and less financial and emotional support.

      • Jim C.
        Jim C. says:

        “Divorce grants each party division of assets and a fair way to allocate support and child custody.”
        It certainly does for the more powerful spouse (which nowadays means the one with the more expensive lawyers).
        Remember King Henry VIII? He wanted a divorce from Catherine of Aragon because be couldn’t beget a son with her — no fault of hers, as his later liaisons proved. He founded his own church to get that divorce. Did it solve his problems? Not really.
        He had two later wives framed for treason and beheaded them. He cancelled his engagement with Ann of Cleves because he simply didn’t care for her looks. Jane Seymour, with whom he had cheated on Ann Boleyn before he murdered Ann, died of complications from childbirth — but Henry got himself a son! The only lucky one was No. 6, Catherine Parr, because Henry himself finally checked out before he could decide to knock her off.
        On the face of it, divorce didn’t solve any of Henry’s problems. (It wasn’t too good for his wives either.)

  16. Beth
    Beth says:

    I think you’re brave and completely understand your rationale. I have to wonder though, what about the well-documented cycle of violence in families? If children witness it (and certainly if they are part of it), and it is the “norm” in their household, it continues.

    Is passing that cycle on worse that divorce? Is demonstrating disrespect towards those you love a trait they should admire? Where do they then learn examples of loving, nurturing relationships?

    • penelopetrunk
      penelopetrunk says:

      I am very familiar with that cycle — I think I’m probably part of it. Here’s the post about my childhood:


      That said, if you recognize that you are part of the cycle, then you can stop it. Staying in a marriage and dealing with your own contribution to the violence is a great way to teach yourself to stop the cycle. And your kids will watch you stop it. And you will look powerful. That’s what I’m betting on for myself.

      If I’m terrible at being in a marriage, so I leave a marriage, how do I get good at being in a marriage?


      • Dan
        Dan says:

        Maybe you’re just not meant to be married.

        Years ago at a former job, I was promoted to assistant manager. I’d been a shift leader, and had been good at it. I sucked as an assistant manager. I was demoted back to production, which I love and am damn good at. Why should I try to become a manager when I’m already doing something I love and am good at?

        The same thing could apply to marriage. You may be a great entrepreneur. You may be great at getting start ups funded. You may be a great mother. It could be possible that you suck at being a spouse. There’s nothing wrong with that. Recognizing one’s limitations is a sign of maturity.

        • suze
          suze says:

          Yes, yes, yes — I am totally with you, Dan. I can’t support beating my head against the marriage wall when it’s not what I am wired for. yes, I made the mistake twice, the second time with kids, but being a shitty married person doesn’t help anyone.I just can’t figure out how to fix it — or rather, can’t find the guts to.

      • hedgie
        hedgie says:

        OK, I am new to this blog, but I think I’ve read most of the links provided in this post.
        I don’t know whether you’ve had the help of a therapist in getting past your childhood issues, but the fact that you’ve chosen to marry, and stay married to, someone who finds it acceptable to resort to violence to make a point — violence against someone he theoretically vowed to love, honor and cherish — and that you are actually advocating staying in such a marriage indicates that you have not.

        I will grant you that domestic violence does often involve physicality on the part of both partners. HOWEVER…Have you done the research on the number of women killed by their spouses/romantic partners vs. the number of men killed by their women? The guy who gets out of control is FAR more likely to inflict permanent or even fatal damage than the woman is.

        You ask, how can you get good at being married? You can’t, until you’ve dealt adequately with your upbringing, in therapy. Trying to get good at being married while you haul around that baggage is kind of like trying to get good at playing tennis after your leg has been amputated. Yes, it can be done; the odds against it are so overwhelming that it would require a singularity of purpose precluding any other activity — like parenting, or work, for instance.

        I’ve been married 30 years this month, and I do believe children lose out in most divorces. However, I think they lose more in cases when they see the person they love most being battered — especially if they decide to come to that person’s aid and end up being beaten themselves. It happens far too often, which is why I think divorce is the lesser of two evils here…and the one that may save their lives.

      • Asma
        Asma says:

        This post, one of your few, is full of shit!

        You are in a mentally and physically abusive relationship.
        Where is that abuse going?
        All human beings need to release the stress that they feel.

        You have thoroughly documented the physical abuse that you have been a victim of by your husband.
        Is it a mistake to assume that he is controlling and abusive in other areas of your life? http://www.theduluthmodel.org/training/wheels.html

        So now that we have established that you are a victim but that you are at the same time resilient. How are you parenting your children? How can you parent them adequately when you are living in a war zone?
        Don’t fool yourself into thinking that your children will not be the collateral consequences of the abuse in your marriage.
        Divorce is preferable to them being given a front row seat to their mother being victimized and in turn releasing that stress onto them.


      • Lara
        Lara says:

        That’s a good solution for you in your circumstances. What an incredibly arrogant thing to post. Your contribution to this topic reinforces lack of respect for people based on a personal ideology, in the vein of a certain talking head who similarly makes a living from the decibel level of his inflammatory, judgmental and harmful detraction from civility in our national dialogue.

      • loraine
        loraine says:

        I made the same bet. Stay, go to counseling, better myself…insanity. There was no way he would stop violently assaulting me. In front of my child. That relationship ended with him in the front yard, surrounded by seven police officers, weapons drawn, being told to drop it. Fortunately the pepper spray made him drop it. Just as one of the cops was pulling the trigger. Barely stopped in time. Right in front of my seven year old daughter.
        I thought i was responsible, wouldn’t keep shut up to the verbal abuse, shoved him out of my face while he screamed obsene accusations right in front of my child… it’s ugly to stay to the extent you BECOME what’s done to you. More disturbing is advocating the abuse and neglect be eternally perpetuated by other mothers upon their kids. The selfish thing is to stay. Your putting your fear of a failed marriage before what’s right for your kids. Period. Been there done that. Takes one to know one. I was you, spouting this arcane destructive garbage. Justifying my own fear of a failed marriage and being alone with conservative poison. You need help. You need professional help. And until you leave your just another mental patient preaching to an assylum full of …. mental patients.

  17. Kenneth Wolman
    Kenneth Wolman says:

    You really should stick to commentary on business and changing coffee filters. When it comes to matters like divorce, you have no idea what you’re talking about. Big news. I stayed in my marriage long after the damned thing had collapsed on both of us. “For the sake of the children” and all that happy horseshit. I was married 28 years and the last five were a living hell. My older son observed that we were both happier without each other, and he was right and remains so. I don’t like her and she doesn’t like me. So damned what?

    Oh…you stay now with a man who physically abused you. What does hanging around with Farmer Gray get you? Points for loyalty? Getting laid a couple of times a week? How dare you preach to anyone about domestic relationships when yours are so clearly and irreparably fucked up.

  18. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    Very thought provoking. Just read a book called Love and Respect. Some may thinks it’s archaic but it’s made my good marriage even better.

    I use the word “respect” in place of love in my vocabulary with my husband. “I respect you for working so hard for our family. I respect you for going to work every day.”

    Women want love and we don’t want to earn it from our man. We think they should just love us unconditionally no matter how we act towards them.

    Men want respect and we think they should earn it from us. Choose to respect them and they in turn love us back. It becomes so simple. Things can still get crazy but realizing that your spouse is generally a good hearted person can keep things in perspective.

    Someone has to go first. Give it a shot. It works!!!

    I’m glad you are speaking out Penelope…and you are someone who knows firsthand !

    • loraine
      loraine says:

      Penelope knows her shit about as well as you. Only an idiot thinks all men are the same. Does my abusive father have anything in common with my boyfriend? Besides having male genitalia, no. Are you seriously thinking women married to child molesters should just stay? Loving kind patient words and deeds, prayer, diets, it doesn’t matter what you do…abusers only get worse. Like my second husband, I waited until he broke my leg and was poisoning me with mouse poison to leave. I’m surenyoudssurenyoudsay I should try harder… you want his number? I could set you up on a date…

  19. Ryan
    Ryan says:

    These are strong arguments, but they all assume a marriage with children. What would you say to couples who have chosen to be childless, whether heterosexual or homosexual?

    • Kirstin
      Kirstin says:

      She said in the article that she thought there was minimal fall-out from divorce in childless marriages. Her main argument for not divorcing is children.

  20. Susan Rubinsky
    Susan Rubinsky says:

    What a bunch of shit.

    NO ONE should stay in a marriage in which they are not cherished, loved, respected and honored. If one spouse is continually disrespected by the other, then the children grow up learning that is how you treat people.

    Nobody wants kids learning that.

    • Erica Peters
      Erica Peters says:

      If one parent shows ongoing disrespect, counseling may help resolve that issue. Your other elements “cherished, loved, and honored” — I don’t think it would be terrible for children to see that you can stay with someone even without having all three all the time.

  21. Sara Madison
    Sara Madison says:

    Oh, Penelope, THANK YOU for this post.

    47-year-old child of divorce here. Happily married, great husband, great kids, great life. However …

    Long-term sadness? Check.

    Inability to connect to people? Check.

    I can change a lot in my life, and I have, but I can’t leave those two constants behind. It doesn’t matter where I live or how friendly and social I try to be. There’s something cold and unfriendly and disconnected inside me, and yes, it is definitely due to my parents’ ugly divorce.

    Kids don’t ask to be born. People who bring them into this world had better be hell-bent on giving them two loving parents and a safe, stable nest from which they can eventually spread their wings and fly.

    • Judy 2983948
      Judy 2983948 says:

      My parents didn’t divorce and I have your same problems. My dad didn’t leave but he threatened it near constantly. My dad wasn’t a horrible person, outsiders would call him kind and gentle.

      So are these issues that follow us into adulthood the result of divorce or the result of have at least one terribly flawed person involved in our upbringing?

  22. Josh
    Josh says:

    So look, I don’t see any reason left that makes divorce ok when there are kids.

    Uh, your spouse is abusing the kids.

    Or, your spouse has an addiction, won’t or fails to get help, and spends all your money.

    Or, even though it takes two people to fight, your spouse continues to abuse you, physically or otherwise, no matter what you do, and isn’t interested in fixing the problem.

    For sure, there are a lot of immature and selfish divorces out there. But there are also plenty of genuinely untenable marriages, and numerous stories of people who got out and whose kids will attest to being better for it.

    • Becky
      Becky says:

      Thank you Josh. I have seen some divorces that (in my unsolicited opinion) devastated children for the sake of childish fantasies on the part of one or both of the adults. I have also seen some divorces that were blessed relief to children who were suffering in deeply messed-up households.

      It strikes me that a large number of college-educated people of Gen-X and younger are getting better at discerning the difference between these two types of divorces. We’ve seen selfish divorces from the child’s point of view, and we are not impressed. But, we still have work to do as a society developing healthy norms around this issue.

      I will echo Penelope’s note that if there are no children, or if the children are adults, the ground changes dramatically.

      • Yesss
        Yesss says:

        Seriously. Growing up, I didn’t know anyone whose parents divorced because of immature nonsense. Usually it was because of addiction or abuse (domestic, child, etc.), or a depression that the other party had no interest in ever improving.

        Because of that, I have no idea who this post is directed toward. Are there that many people with kids and no sense of adult responsibility reading this blog?

        I also honestly have no idea what it really means to just draw up some boundaries to avoid being abused. I’ve seen the study that shows abusers only go as far as whatever they think they can get away with. But I have no interest in having to stay vigilant about protecting that line either–it shouldn’t be questioned. That’s not marriage and not worth modeling to children.

        • Synova
          Synova says:


          Most people I know who got divorced did so because she decided that her husband “didn’t meet her emotional needs.”

          Thing is… there was usually small children involved and when you’ve got a toddler there isn’t a person on the planet who can “meet your emotional needs.”

          So get a divorce and then at least you can’t blame HIM anymore for being tired and strung out and emotionally drained. Then, all of a sudden, it’s because it’s hard to be a single mom.

          • MrsG
            MrsG says:

            You must have a bunch of really selfish and immature friends. Most of the people *I* know who got a divorce (including me) did so because of abuse (emotional or physical), alcohol or drug addiction (his or hers, have seen both) or infidelity.

    • Pen
      Pen says:

      Hey come on now – you’re ruining the nice, clear, black & white theories in the post!

      (I’m always circumspect when someone takes a difficult or complicated issue – one that has so many facets – and turns it into a nice, tidy, “Here’s what’s right” package.)

  23. Frank
    Frank says:

    Penelope, I love you man. You’re an awesome writer and a great wit, and you have some brilliant insights, but sometimes you’re so full of shit you don’t even know you’re doing it. You’ve convinced yourself of the certainty of your position because you recognize some fundamental truths (divorce is almost always damaging for kids) and then you stake out this extreme position. I don’t think you even really believe what you think you believe. You’re like my wife! What is it that makes smart, insightful women jump to wild, illogical conclusions?
    I’m really sorry to hear about Heather. Love Dooce.

  24. Sunny
    Sunny says:

    Believe what you like and what all of your research and studies say.

    I am alive today and my son is alive today because I separated from and divorced my (now) ex-husband which, incidentally was caused by non-“fixable” violence.

    I believe in divorce. It’s the SMARTEST choice I’ve made in my life.

  25. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    This angers me tremendously. Let me paint a picture for you. Up until recently, I have been leading what I & everyone around me thought was the “american dream.” Then suddenly, one day I find out it’s all been a lie. Completely BLINDSIDED. My husband & I had been married for 10 (what I thought was happy) years. We have 2 beautiful children, have done financially well, have many friends & a wonderful extended family. The picture perfect” life. A year and a half ago, I went for what I thought was going to be a regular check up at the gyno & found out I had an STD. BOOM! My world was turned upside down! My husband came clean that he has a sex addiction & a drug addiction & has been cheating on me with multiple women through the duration of our marriage. Who was this man sitting next to me on the couch? Who was this man who was there with me when I gave birth to our two children? Who was this loving man who was affectionate towards me, wrote me love letters, took me on wonderful vacations? Who was this man who helped me through the pain of the unexpected death of my father? How could I be so close to someone who I thought was my best friend and find out one day that they had been living two completely different lives? He has no interest in saving the marriage, has continued to see other women & says he refuses to get help for his issues. He said he was never ready to get married in the first place & I deserve better than him. He promises that if he stayed in the marriage he would just continue to hurt me. This is a man I saw myself growing old with. A man I saw myself dancing at our daughter’s wedding with. The man I’d someday go to the hospital with at 3am when our first grandchild was born. I am absolutely in shock. I barely have the strength to make it through the day sometimes. The only thing that has kept me afloat is my children. Knowing that they need one parent, who no matter what, will be their rock. This hits especially close to home and I believe your article & opinions are extremely insensitive, narrow minded, ignorant & broad. The truth is, I would do anything I could to “fix” my marriage but I don’t have a choice. He doesn’t want to be married to me. What kind of example would I be setting for my eight year old daughter if I remained in a marriage with someone who treated me like this? Divorces happen for many different reasons. Your article only touches on a few. I have read “The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce” as I am a child of divorce myself. And for that reason alone, I would walk to the ends of the earth and fight til my death to save my marriage if I knew I could. The last thing I EVER wanted was to risk putting my own children through what I had gone through as a adolescent. It just makes it that much harder that my worst nightmare is now coming true. But like I already said, when only one person wants to save it, you don’t have a choice. The only choice is to try and stay healthy for your children. To show them that happiness can be achieved in many different ways. That to raise healthy, well adjusted & emotionally stable children, you don’t need a mother & a father living under the same roof. Especially if that roof permits unhealthy, degrading, & emotionally abusive circumstances. I will show them that I am positive enough to hope that someday god will bless me with a marriage where there is “true” happiness & “true” Love. The marriage that I thought I once had will someday be real.

    • Erica Peters
      Erica Peters says:

      This makes me so sad. If you were happy together for ten years, isn’t it possible that he only lied because he was scared of losing you? Sometimes people find it hard to be faithful; it doesn’t mean that he is evil, or that he was being unloving during your marriage. When he wrote you love letters, took you on wonderful vacations, and helped you through the pain of the unexpected death of your father — those things are real, and show real love, and don’t have to be undone by his thoughtless cheating. Take some time to think about this, and realize that you have a choice moving forward. You don’t have to stay with him, of course — but you can. It doesn’t make you a bad parent to be in an open marriage.

      • penelopetrunk
        penelopetrunk says:

        Erica, this is such a lovely comment. I think it’s important to give people permission to stay with someone who has huge problems. Look, he has a sex addiction. He’s messed up. But you will still be involved with him for the rest of your life because he’s your kids’ father.

        The STD is really bad. But I have a feeling that lots of marriages are filled with really bad things. I wish people would talk about that more. It would make us have a more realistic picture of marriage. And I think if we would all talk about the awful stuff we’ve had to go through in marriage we would feel less lonely and insane for staying in the marriage. We might, maybe even, feel strong and brave for staying.


        • Phenom
          Phenom says:

          Like another person said: this man put her life at risk! That is a boundary that is NOT forgivable when crossed. End of story.

          I am in the middle of a divorce at 29 (I turn 30 next month) from a man I was with for 6 years total, married for 2. We have a one and a half year old son.

          I found out, 6 months into our marriage and only a few months into my pregnancy, that my STBX husband had paid for prostitutes, escort services and was hoarding a secret sex and porn addiction throughout our entire relationship. He could have infected not only ME, but our unborn baby with God only knows what. I can’t even think about it without getting teary. After months of marriage counseling, where I was the only one doing any work, I was advised BY MY MARRIAGE COUNSELOR that the healthiest option was for me to leave. That he was narcissistic, anti-social, manipulative and would probably never change. I learned that the only person I could change was myself, and I wasn’t about to change into a doormat that just put up with a never-ending supply of disrespect, abuse and bullshit from my spouse for the rest of my life. What sort of example would I be setting for my son if I did that?

          So I left. I filed for custody, and won, and my STBX husband has limited visitation with our child because of his issues. He has every opportunity in the world to change himself, get help for his instabilities, etc. so that he can have more access to our child and he chooses not to. I am trying my best not to think that his problems are MY fault. I can only take responsibility for myself and my own choices.

          This post of yours is so illogical, inflammatory, ignorant … most of all it screams blatant desperation to defend your delusions about why it is better for you and your sons to stay in a high-conflict, abusive relationship.

          • Lynn
            Lynn says:

            “…most of all it screams blatant desperation to defend your delusions about why it is better for you and your sons to stay in a high-conflict, abusive relationship.”

            Exactly. A therapist once told me “You’re so smart, I think you could rationalize just about anything” — and I think that’s exactly what’s going on here. Penelope has decided, based on emotion, her needs, and what SHE wants, that she wants to stay. I don’t know why — fear of abandonment, fear of being lonely, whatever — but that’s what she wants. And now she is turning her considerable intellect on full-power to logically defend that decision.

            She can write a thousand posts with a thousand links about how she’s doing this “for the kids” and I still won’t buy it. (I personally doubt she’s homeschooling “for the kids” either, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.)

        • Tia
          Tia says:

          What if you found out that your husband was sexually abusing your sons? Then would you think divorce is selfish, and any problem can be worked through? What if he was beating your children, or verbally abusive to them? Would you tell your sons that violence is a two-way street, and stop bringing it on? Was your childhood happier because your parents stayed together and abused you? Because if one parent is abusive to the kids, or even just to you, and you allow it.. You are an enabler. And you are guilty of abuse yourself. It is your job as a mother to provide a safe & secure environment without constant anxiety for your children. THAT is more important than any vows you took to remain a wife.

      • Nancy
        Nancy says:

        And does not want to change his behavior. She should run fast and far far away!

        • phase
          phase says:

          She can’t run far away. Dad’s access to the kids will not be cut off (he will get to see them at least bi-weekly, and perhaps up to 50% of the time), so they will have to co-parent until the kids are at least 18.

      • Pen
        Pen says:

        But an “open” marriage is not anything like this. At least not the ones I know. They are based on trust, honesty, communication, and openness with each other. The welfare of the primary relationship is paramount.

        (Granted, there can be all kinds of open marriages, but to suggest that this marriage simply be “flipped over” into an open marriage and then all will be okay seems rather absurd to me.)

        • OMG
          OMG says:

          Erica and Penelope are personality disordered. They have distorted thinking patterns. If he gave her HIV, she is going to just move on? Who are these people- robots of some projected god?
          Seriously, she is supposed to have an “open relationship” so the kids can learn what? How to never have to deal with sexual boredom? Her husband has no interest in intimacy or her. His behavior says everything and he is not going to change- but she now has to do all the changing? Wow, sexism incarnate. I am so sure men would put up with being treated this way. Yes, indeed.
          Concrete personality disorders lack insight and often are as dogmatic as religious extremists.
          The aspie dx is not helping either.

    • Singles in paradise
      Singles in paradise says:

      Dr. Laura addresses this. She wisely points out that if you keep him around, he may be out with bimbos, but at least you shield your kids from the bimbos (and who knows what else). You divorce him, but then every time your kids are at his house, they get to be around the bimbos. Sorry ladies, once you decide to go all fairy-princess about marriage and kids, you need to live with the consequences.
      Side note: why is it always the women with the “perfect lives” that nag we singles about getting married? We can see through the veneer…those that are a little more honest about their lives are the ones who say “take your time.”

      • Meg
        Meg says:

        So, what you’re saying is that staying with a man who abuses you in front of your children is okay? Your saying that if her son walked into the room to see his father with another woman — that is a good example?

        Stephanie, I think you are showing your children the image of a true hero. Superman, spiderman, wonderwomen… they never took the easy route, they didnt just watch the villains take over the cities — someday your children will see this resilience in you. You chose pain to protect them. This isnt a fairy tale, this is teaching your son that treating women right is important. And it teaches your daughter that she is worth a man that loves her unconditionally.

        Cheating is not okay in a marriage, and staying with someone you are unhappy may protect them from bimbos, but it will leave them with half a mother.

        Go, Stephanie! Show your kids that the image of a woman is more than being beat down, that the image of a modern woman is being respected.

      • Stephanie
        Stephanie says:

        So, Singles in Paradise…Forgive me for going all “Fairy-princess” on you. I’d like for you to explain that one to me. My marriage and my life has been far from it. I have worked & struggled tremendously for everything I have. How on earth do you shield your children from the Bimbos when you are given an STD while you are pregnant? How on earth do you shield your children from the bimbos when their mother contracts a life threatening disease like HIV? If you think that by staying in a marriage like this “shields” your children, your out of your mind. It’s only a matter of time until these children grow up, get smart & catch on to what is happening in their parent’s marriage. At this point, they will lose respect for their father for his behavior & lose respect for their mother for staying with a man who devalued them to the extreme. I guess, Singles in Paradise, maybe you’ll wise up when you finally have to live with the consequences of your own ignorance.

        • Singles in paradise
          Singles in paradise says:

          HAHAHAHAHA…consequences of my own ignorance! Good one!
          Look, I’m sorry that happened to you. It sucks. But instead of being completely embittered (understandable), why don’t you realize your life can be a lesson to younger people? It might be too late for you, but it’s not to late to ask young women to put down the romance novels and be honest with themselves.
          BTW, was this an example of birds of a feather flock together, or opposites attract? ;) might as well laugh about it!

      • Genevieve
        Genevieve says:

        I listen to Dr. Laura almost everyday and have read a few of her books( and yes I consider myself a liberal feminist) she often brings up the bimbo factor but she also says anything with the 3 A’s can warrant a divorce. Kids or no kids. Abuse, adultery, and affairs. Also Penelope, I have a borderline mother that is getting married for her 4th time in November. My father was the 1st and I’m 28. I wholeheartedly agree with everything you wrote. I married an amazing man 3 years ago and we both agree the big D is simply not an option and doesn’t exist in our vocabulary. I watched my mother marry out of fear of being unloveable and divorce when she wanted more attention. It’s a cycle that never stops with BPD’s.

      • yua
        yua says:

        A good reminder of how fucked Dr. Laura is.

        It’s the wife’s job to stay with her cheating husband so that she can take on the ADDITIONAL burden of keeping the “bimbos” away?

  26. Haas
    Haas says:

    You’ve rationalized it all quite well, as is your standard. Especially with the DV part – I made the same choice as you. I left, I came back, I toughed it out. I lost friends, I lost family members for this choice, but it was mine and I owned it.

    This is my children’s childhood – watching their mother disengaging in all altercations and still subjected to their father’s outbursts and rantings. Sometimes, being a martyr isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. In 10 years, let me know how you feel. Because right now, I know how you feel. It may be the same. It may be a complete 180.

    The only thing you didn’t rationalize is infidelity on the partner’s behalf. Is divorce acceptable if they refuse to stay in a committed, monogamous relationship? Is the risk to your personal health worth less than toughing it out? Where is the value in testing positive for HIV or any STD for that matter?

    At one point is it acceptable to leave a toxic person or situation so that you can show your children what is normal is – who will teach them if not yourself?

    • MrsG
      MrsG says:

      What will be really sad is when you find out your children learned from you to allow someone to hurt them or to never be able to assert their own feelings/needs in their relationships.

      What we do as parents scars our children, period. We owe it to them to make better choices – and sometimes the best choice *for now* is to do the best we can to mitigate the stupid choices we already made.

      Sometimes that means divorcing.

  27. Sarah Griffith
    Sarah Griffith says:

    I would have to agree, but perhaps you could offer some advice to get the children through the “long term sadness” and “lingering inability to connect to other people.” It’s too late to un-divorce, but maybe you have some insight into damage control once the decision has been made. Thx.

  28. Stephanie
    Stephanie says:

    Is there any data about the effect of divorce on kids after they’ve left home for college/the “real world”/etc? I wonder how divorce affects kids when it happens later on in their lives.


    • Tracy
      Tracy says:

      My daughter was 20 when my husband left, away at college. We have 3 younger children who were in high school & elementary school & I thought the oldest would be fine & the younger ones would have trouble but the oldest fell into a really deep depression & left college & has never returned. That was 2 years ago & she just now is talking about going back to school. It was really rough on her. I found this whole blog so interesting because my ex was diagnosed with BPD but insisted he didn’t have it.

  29. Tiffany Grace
    Tiffany Grace says:

    For the first time over the past year that I’ve been hooked on your blog, I was actually hurt by something you said. I agree that divorce can be childish in some cases, most in fact. However, I feel personally that your logic on “high conflict” situations is incredibly off point. Coming from a childhood where the situation was just that, I can say 110% that I would have had a much better childhood had my mother left. I begged her to do so on many occasions. When my father finally died and I was 16, she DID re-marry and to a man without a violent bone in his body. Maybe if her friends and family stopped telling her that the marital issues were of her own devices and that she “needed to stick it out”, she and her children would have suffered significantly less. I will not venture to lecture you on life at the age of 27 I have no right, but I hope that no one has to die for you to forgive yourself a reason to leave.

    -Tiffany Grace

  30. Donna
    Donna says:

    Great post, I agree completely from my circumstances. I have 2 boys and they are better off and I’m willing to sacrifice my personal happiness for their benefit.

    Put me in the “The woman is pissed that her husband hasn’t gotten a good paying job in years.” I have a great job, with an amazing organization for 16 years and I try to be optimistic about it, it could be worse.

    And I read your blog and fantasize about quitting, moving, starting by own business and divorcing. I’ll probably never do any of it.

  31. Chris McLaughlin
    Chris McLaughlin says:

    Yes. You’re probably right about many/most divorces. People do things for selfish reasons. In their personal lives, in their careers, in everything.

    Telling my kids their dad and I were getting divorced was like putting an ax through their heads.

    It was the first time I chose my happiness over everyone else’s. I chose their emotional pain over my own suicide.

    Somehow, we all survived. And did a little better than just surviving.

  32. Robert P
    Robert P says:

    When I was a teen I really tried hard to persuade my mother to leave my father, but she never had the courage. Seeing your parents beat six kinds of shit out of each other is NOT good for you. Not too long after this my mother fell ill and died. I never experienced what it was like to grow up in a secure home, which I would have done if she had been able to overcome her cowardice and Catholic divorce guilt.

  33. Marita
    Marita says:

    Kids are the victims of the adults, exposed to their every whim. Nobody asks them. No matter how ‘good’ and amicable the divorce is, it’s a lot of work for the kids and occupies a lot of mind space. It’s energy that’s better spent on having fun or doing constructive things.

    I don’t think it’s always both people in a divorce that are stupid and selfish, but usually one is.

  34. Mel
    Mel says:

    In general I agree with you. Marriage is hard and I think too many people give up when the going gets tough. However, I also agree with the people who wrote comments regarding domestic violence. I do think you are trying to justify your own situation, which is messed up. I only hope and pray that your children are not exposed to any of the physical abuse that you say the farmer subjects you to. What kind of role model are you being to them? No matter how clever and logical you sound in this blog post, there is no way around this reality.

  35. katrin
    katrin says:

    I just can’t understand why it is that when some people comment on blog posts they feel the right to get super nasty. What’s up with that, folks?

    P, I think you make some great points, but I wonder if you underestimate how wrenching it is for kids to grow up in a household with chronically miserable parents. Unhappy parents often become mean, irrational parents. That’s not good for kids.

    But people give up too easily on marriage, that’s for sure. When the fairytale scenario doesn’t work out the way they thought it would, people flee. How is it that the most sane, intelligent people refuse to accept that marriage is hard work a lot of the time?

  36. Jen
    Jen says:

    This might be one of the most powerful blog posts, or pieces of writing in general, that I’ve ever read.

    After reading it I was so blown away that afterwards reading how cutting and mean people can be in the responses – wow. You are an incredibly brave woman for saying something that you know is going to evoke a powerful (and not often positive) response in everyone that reads it.

    To the cruel people that responded to this in such gross and unintelligent ways – I wouldn’t want to stay married to you people either, so I’m glad you’re advocates of divorce. To everyone else that’s excited about a new era where we again fight to keep marriages together – even if only for the children – cheers.

  37. Andi
    Andi says:

    I want to agree with you. What you say makes great sense & sounds ideal. But having come from two marriages (the first violent, wherein he only married me cuz I got preggers, & then proceeded to remind me that he never loved me on a daily basis; & the second emotionally void because I was too needy to see through the charming BS that covered an emotionally empty shell of a man), I can honestly say I’m happy now where I am. I finally ended up with my best friend, & we’ve been together for five very happy years. He is raising my children & they both adore him & call him “dad”. So as much as I WANT to agree, I can’t.

    But you are right in that it’s causing harm to my kids. My son is old enough that he knows the score & is happy with the outcome, but hurt that my ex no longer spends time with him. My daughter is little enough that she doesn’t get it, & wants more time with her “other” daddy. Was I selfish to leave? I want to say no. I want to say that by leaving my ex, I’m teaching my children that they are able to make bad decisions & learn from them, to grow & make better choices in the future. I want to say that they are much healthier in the family unit we have put together now. Maybe I was selfish, & maybe I have caused harm to my kids. But I don’t believe they would be any less harmed had I stayed in an empty marriage.

    I think ultimately there can be no blanket statement on this topic. Sometimes it’s smart to stick it out. Sometimes it’s smart to call it done. I don’t think anyone can know what’s best for each of us. I don’t think you can judge a situation on its current grounds; only hindsight is 20/20. Time will tell which of us made the better choice. And time will tell if the answer was, “You’re both right.”

    Compromise: another trait important in marriage, & in any controversial dialog.

  38. ohjennymae
    ohjennymae says:

    i’m happily married with kids and have no plans to get divorced, but i wouldn’t be here if my dad and mom had not divorced their first spouses. and i have more than one girlfriend who left a loveless marriage to show her children that it’s more important to be happy than “stick it out for the kids.” kids will grow up and may resent the unhappiness more than if parents had divorced. everyone’s situation is different and the sweeping generalizations are what i think is immature.

  39. Lisa Earle McLeod
    Lisa Earle McLeod says:

    Thanks for being HONEST!

    Judith Wallerstein’s book saved my marriage. I read it in a self-pitying, woe is me, my marriage is hard, period of my life. It was like she bitch-slapped me across the face.

    In a good way.

    It was like she came into my home, and said, “Girlfriend, wake up, come out of your selfish cave and start acting like a grown-up.

    That was 10 years ago. We just sent our oldest to college, and I can honestly say, we’ve been a happy family for most of her childhood.

    Marriage is hard, get over it. You are at least half the marriage, fix yourself and life will improve dramatically.

    Thanks for telling a truth people don’t want to hear. A generation of children will thank you.

  40. Aletha
    Aletha says:

    Penelope, this was a great and insightful post as are some of the comments. On most counts, I agree. There are some days I wish my husband would do things differently and I get so frustrated. But if I feel this way I have to give him the acknowledgement that he surely must feel that way about me sometimes. We married each other, as we are, and while both people change in a marriage, change what we expect from one another, there is one huge, big, fat fact that remains: we got together and remain so because we have each others backs. Period. No matter how much he royally pisses me off at times and vice versa, my husband is on my team and we play a hard line of defence for one another.

    And we have kids. You and I discussed parenting the other day. It is so freaking hard to be a parent. No parenting paychecks, medals, certificates of attendance…only the happiness that comes when you’ve raised kids that don’t suck or shoot up schools. Can’t imagine my kids growing up without both of us, in the same house. And lord knows I can’t think of anyone who would want to walk into this circus if my husband and I were divorced.

    But there is a point I would like to make about where this blog post fails. Maybe it is not a failure, rather, an opportunity for continue dialog…my parents got divorced 6 years ago when my brother and I were 34 and 28, respectively. It sucks balls. Perhaps we would have been better off if they got divorced when we were little, maybe we’d be used to it by now. After 37 years together of bad behaviors, poor choices they ended things. My dad ran into the arms of someone else and my mom moved on weeks later. You don’t move on that quick from that long unless your foot has been out the door for a while, in my opinion. The people they are with (still) are great to my children which is all I care about in the whole mess. But I hate that they divorced. I hate that because I’m an adult they say things about each other that they would never, ever tell me if I were 12. Or would they? I do not believe they handled things with grace or dignity and that is what stings.

    I now realize that even as an adult, I need my parents to model “how its done.” And now that they have new lives, they can’t be the parents or grandparents I had always hoped they’d be. They don’t suck but the situation does. They try and sometimes succeed but it just doesn’t feel like it should.

    Staying together to raise the kids is vital. Divorce is sometimes necessary, I see that. I also understand that everyone who has been divorced and split up their family feels that they truly are the exception, in an exceptional situation that will not, no matter how hard they have tried, work out. Yeah, everyone is an exception. I can’t imagine ever finished being a model for the children that my husband and I willfully chose to have. We made that choice and it involves the evolution of “our marriage” into “out family.”. It is no longer just us. We are only two beans in this entire burrito. And burritos have a long fucking shelf life, by design.

  41. Jude
    Jude says:

    Was divorced when my son was 4. Still breaks my heart. Children suffer. To say that they don’t is denial. People will not like this article because it hits them where they live. If your marriage sucks, change it. Grow up. Make the best of it. Whatever it takes. Don’t be a quitter.

  42. Carol
    Carol says:

    I appreciate that this post was written partially to generate comments on both sides of the issue. My first husband and I divorced when our son was 6. He’s now just turned 18, and we have lived with my second husband for the past decade. When I met my first husband, I was 22 and in love with his poetic nature and eccentricity. However, as we moved into our 30’s, it became more clear that my role would increasingly be one of working ever harder to support his creative needs…and sublimating mine. Although we tried to keep our frequent arguments separate from our son, the conflict was tangible and affected all of us. I am convinced that choosing to divorce was the best choice for us and our son – it allowed both of us to find partners we are much happier with – a much more positive model for our son. Without a conflict-ridden, draining marriage to constantly “work on”, we have had more time and energy to devote to our son’s wellbeing.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      I, for one, loved your response. I was thinking that it was one of my favorite comments on this blog, ever. I love how truly thoughtful it was.

      I think that there is a ton of great information and advice in P’s post. Of course it can’t be applied to every situation and of course there really are exceptions. But not nearly as many as people choose to believe. Surely people see that P does take black and white positions for shock value and traffic, but that is what generates comments such as yours. A heartfelt response whose impetus may have been to counter all of the dashed off “you are wrong” responses that were probably also heartfelt, but not written from a place of true reflection.

      Last Fall my husband I went through a really icky patch (10 years together, married 8.) I was devastated when I asked him if he still loved me and his response was “I’m not sure” and “I’m trying.” I cried for days, but really tried to hear what he meant and not just what he said. I realized that he just didn’t like me that much at that time, but that he still loved me. That I could handle. I don’t like me at times and he can drive me nuts! We really talked and got things back on track and things are really great now. We have a 6 year old and I can’t say if we would have worked through things if we were childless. I’d like to think we would have because he really is the one for me.

      Wow Aletha, so I have a mini dissertation just to say that I appreciated yours. . . and that I think there is a ton of wisdom to be mined from Penelope’s post.

  43. MrsG
    MrsG says:

    Yes, because you, the divorcee who lives with a husband who knocks her around, is an expert on marriage in divorce.

    I wouldn’t even comment, but you’re so judgmental it makes my brain hurt.

  44. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    “I can’t be a good parent if I’m not happy and I’ll never be happy in this marriage.”


    “The kids are doing so well. Kids are really resilient.”

    Neither of those quotes, nor anything resembling them, appear in the Dooce post you linked. This reeks of schadenfreude.

  45. Teresa Crawford
    Teresa Crawford says:

    If I was in the same situation again I wouldn’t get divorced. It never occured to me that my ex-husband would just cut his daughter off from him and start a new family, in which she is not welcome. My daughter is fairly damaged from this, and while it’s not my fault, as I didn’t carry out this behaviour, I should have done my best to prevent it. I did my daughter a huge disservice, and given a do-over I wouldjust suck it up and make the best of the relationship. Of course, that assumes my ex-husband wouldn’t have left us anyway at some point.

    • penelopetrunk
      penelopetrunk says:

      This is so honest, Teresa. Thanks. I think very few people, when they are deciding to get a divorce, think about what it will be like when their spouse has another family that is more important than the children from the first family.

      And, for that matter, I don’t think people who push for divorce think about the huge hit they will take in terms of standard of living. Most women take a 73% hit in standard of living. And most men remarry, which means they have a 50% decrease in standard of living if they are being honest with themselves and supporting all children equally.


    • Lauren
      Lauren says:

      There’s no excuse for a father “cutting off” his young child, “new family” or no “new family”. A person who is capable of mature love doesn’t do that. Period. Based just on this, I’m pretty sure you were right to divorce him. If you had stayed married, he would find other ways to hurt her, and she wouldn’t be able to get the distance to see (which she eventually will) that the problem was in him, not her. Don’t blame yourself.

      • Mandla
        Mandla says:

        Most men will cut off the children if the divorce was messy and there is a lot of resentment, the children are used as pawns to draw money from husband, or the new wife may discourage contact with kids from previous marriage. All these are not an excuse but its not fair too for men to see their children by arrangement. Men often feel they have no family anymore, they feel their kids have been taken away from them. No one listen to men. The family laws automatically give the children to the wife leaving the men at the mercy of the women that they resent to have contact to their children.

  46. katsprat
    katsprat says:

    So children of divorce experience “long-term sadness and a lingering inability to connect to other people.” What about children of NON divorce (bastards, happy marriages, unhappy marriages, whatever)?

    Sadness and isolation are universal facets of the human experience. Proving they exist in one subset of people doesn’t tell us anything about their relative prevalence. I demand cross tabulations. Oh, and my 15 minutes back. Damnit if I don’t keep coming back here because your writing is great lately.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      I can say with all my convictions that my own long term sadness is the result of my parents not getting divorced but being lodged ina horrible cycle of ever escalating emotional cruelty.

      • Lynn
        Lynn says:

        Some people are going to be sad and have trouble connecting to people no matter what happens in their lives — it IS a facet of personality. And there’s no way to discern with any kind of certainty that it’s because of the divorce or that it would be any better had the parents not divorced.

        If you’re an adult and you deal with lingering sadness and an inability to connect to people and it bothers you — do something about it. It’s way past time to stop blaming your parents for it.

        • Lynn
          Lynn says:

          Redrock, that wasn’t directed to you — it was a response to the earlier comment from the person who knows “without a doubt” that her issues are from her parents’ divorce. There’s just no way to know that.

          • redrock
            redrock says:

            there is probably no easy answer in linking one’s adult problems with sadness or such to childhood experiences. Sometimes it is very clear, because one can recognize patterns of behavior or things which hurt disproportionally from childhood experience.There is probably only one obvious link which is that children growing up in abusive families of whichever composition (single parent, two parents, extended family) will suffer.

      • Pen
        Pen says:

        My exact same experience. My parents were ill-suited to each other, and there was much emotional cruelty and they had little bandwidth leftover. They also did not model a good relationship. As a result, I’ll probably never get married.

        They divorced when I was 14. I only wish it had happened sooner, as they were not bad people when not married and it was a much nicer environment all around. (In fact, I used to wish for them to divorce, but they stayed together for us.)

        Unlike Penelope, I will not claim that my experience is what everyone should do, and that everyone else is immature and selfish.

  47. cholling
    cholling says:

    So… from statistics about divorce rates and education levels, you conclude that “Divorce is for people who can’t think ahead enough to realize that the cost to the kids is so high that it’s not worth the benefits the parents get”? Tell me, in all your education, did you ever hear the phrase “Correlation does not imply causation”?

    I also wish you’d tell my mother, to her face, that when her first husband hit her so hard it broke her jaw, it was also her fault, she just wasn’t good at setting boundaries, and she was stupid not to stay in an abusive relationship and tough it out. And that she was stupid to marry my father, who never laid a hand on her or any of her children.

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