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.”

and

“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.

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  1. S. Miller
    S. Miller says:

    I think that you are right in believing that most people get divorced for immature and selfish reasons.

    I am not as pessimistic as others are about the violence in your relationship. I think a lot of conflict in your relationship comes from refusing to create healthy boundaries for yourself and from refusing to respect the boundaries that other people need to keep themselves healthy.

    It makes sense that you have these problems. However, focusing on the label of borderline personality disorder is not going to help you solve them.

      • JML
        JML says:

        But Penelope isn’t healthy and her relationship isn’t healthy either. She admits this freely.

        Shouldn’t her attempts to get better and to make her marriage better be applauded? Does it not take great courage to realize that something isn’t working and then take measures to try to fix it instead of just throwing it away? Isn’t that a pretty valuable lesson to teach our kids? That life can be so hard and that some things are worth the challenge? Violence is awful. It is. But if both parties are willing to work together to overcome it, shouldn’t that elicit compassion rather than contempt?

        • Zee
          Zee says:

          It’s difficult if not impossible to applaud or have compassion for a woman who callously dismisses others’ struggles with insults of them being “immature and selfish”.

    • Sarah
      Sarah says:

      This article is the worst researched article I have ever read regarding divorce and children. Also your information regarding domestic violence is so far out there I’m shocked you would publish anything that would contradict all information collected by reputable agencies all over the country. Even worse how do you not know that you are not actually attending couples counceling. Really you dont know the difference between mediation for divorce and counceling than I really can’t take you seriously.

  2. Purple Koolaid
    Purple Koolaid says:

    I love this post. I came from a divorced home and it sucks. My parents could have worked it out. I hope to stay married for my children. It is a 24 hour a day job and I often say I need marriage anonymous just to make it bc I have so much trouble in relationships. Thank you for writing this.

  3. Revnant Dream
    Revnant Dream says:

    My Wise Granny used to say: The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, because they fertilize it more.
    The biggest laugh is when people or even governments. Say Its for the children.
    Do you think they abort children because they do it for the Children? Same answer for divorce.
    No they do it fore themselves. Me, Myself, I.
    Peoples favorite personnel Trinity

    • K
      K says:

      What about abusive relationships? Emotional and physical abuse?

      Should a child have to watch their parent get hit or beaten? Should they themselves have to deal with being hit? We don’t want bullies in our schools, but is it okay to have them at home?

      Should a woman or man have to stay married to their abusive alcoholic spouse? (Yes, I know not all alcoholics are abusive)

      Should someone stay married if their spouse cheated on them and broke their trust? (I consider infidelity to be a form of emotional abuse) How do you stay married to someone that you don’t trust or can’t rely on? Someone that won’t take any responsibility for their actions?

      Should a woman have to stay with a man that hits her when she’s pregnant? That berates her and demeans her?

      The whole setting boundaries thing is awesome when two people can agree to it and do it. However, if someone is hitting their spouse, I’m not sure they understand the concept of boundaries.

      People can change in a marriage. Yes, they can change for the best, but they can also change for the worst.

  4. Wow
    Wow says:

    Your base, unfounded, and generalized opinions have left me totally speechless. I’m sorry that your divorce wasn’t amicable but that doesn’t mean it’s the divorce’s fault. It’s yours. As a child of divorce I can honestly say that my life and those of my parent’s is better for it. Quoting statistics to prove that more people with lower IQs get divorced therefore divorce is for dumb people? Correlation is not causation and you’d do well for yourself to learn that.

    I can’t even begin to touch on the other topics and the glaring flaws in your reasoning, there’s just too many. You seem to have some level of success, lord knows how, but I’d suggest sticking to that or at educating yourself before stepping outside of that area. I truly pity the people who look to you for “guidance”.

    • penelopetrunk
      penelopetrunk says:

      To be clear, I think anyone who knows us would say that my divorce was amicable.

      Today, my ex husband parents the children in our house on the farm, and every Sunday night we eat dinner — all of us together – and it’s a great time.

      I think divorce sucks for the kids. And I never would have initiated divorce.

      But I also think we have overcome one of the biggest hurdles, which is keeping the kids in a single home and still having both parents in care-taking roles.

      Every week I pray that I can keep the parenting situation this good for the kids over the long term. Because I have enormous guilt that I could not keep my first husband from leaving.

      Penelope

      • Pen
        Pen says:

        So what you seem to be saying (and showing) is that divorce can work out amicably, and that the children DON’T necessarily have to shuffle homes.

        Wouldn’t a more sensible post have discussed this? It seems like a positive description of how you have worked that out would be a lot truer and more accurate (and useful too).

        • penelopetrunk
          penelopetrunk says:

          I want to say that even though we have a very amicable divorce, I think it would have been better for the kids to not have divorced parents.

          That said, here are the factors that I think have been essential to us being able to parent the boys in one house:

          1. I have full custody and I absolutely will not budge on having the boys in a single home.

          2. I am willing to leave my house whenever my ex wants to come over, so he can be alone with the boys. The Farmer also stays out of the way so that my ex can feel full authority over the boys even though he’s in our house.

          3. My ex has been very accommodating of our schedule. He drives three hours to see the boys every week, and he is very reliable in his visits.

          All three of us have to be committed to parenting the kids as a team, in one house, so that it works.

          Penelope

  5. mysticaltyger
    mysticaltyger says:

    P: I think your post is both brave and crazy at the same time. I agree with you on the 2/3 of divorces that are from low conflict marriages. Most, if not all of those are salvageable and the kids are better off being in intact homes. But when there’s violence, drug/alcohol abuse and that the abuser doesn’t want to do anything about, then it’s time to GTFO and quick! I do agree, though, the one being abused or the one who married the addict needs some therapy/counseling to figure out why he/she was attracted to that type of person.

  6. Mary
    Mary says:

    I am a child of divorced parents. My husband is too. I made a film about my parents’ ugly and painful divorce. http://www.thewatershedproject.com I had two parents who basically never grew up. I think both my parents had BPD. They had seven children. We were changed forever by their mistake. Which isn’t to say we weren’t changed forever by lots of other things but it is interesting how that event was so huge in our lives. By the way, many therapists buy my film which I did not anticipate at all. Thanks for the post.

  7. Srini
    Srini says:

    Reading this post made me feel just uncomfortable. I am about to become a parent and the more I read about it, it sounds like most people are even more miserable after having kids.

    Though your point makes sense, I don’t agree that selfishness is a bad thing. We are all selfishly trying to find our peace & happiness – that’s a fundamental motivation for human beings. And if that is not possible in the current marriage, then sometimes it has to be done, despite knowing that kids suffer as a result.

    That does not sound immature to me either. In fact, a sign of maturity in understanding that life is not always fair to everyone and that parents are often the cause of kids’ unhappiness despite being the very people that love them the most.

  8. Jwalshe
    Jwalshe says:

    Penelope, from earlier posts, it’s clear that you have come to understand how important boundaries are in your life. Does that understanding extend to this blog? It worries me to see you exposing yourself to all this online judgement and vitriol. Sure, some people agree with you. I know I often do, but many cast stones and I wonder if on some level, you might be exposing yourself (and to some degree you family) to that negativity as part of a harmful pattern. You are a talented story teller and you can make your living and master your medium without sacrificing the sanctity of your private world.

  9. jessi
    jessi says:

    I couldn’t read this whole post. It seems like an episode to me and you are on a tangent. Its not your job to convince people that divorce is wrong, dumb ror selfish its your job to convince yourself which is what I think you are doing. I agree that divorce shouldn’t be your only alternative. If you are bored in marriage. But reality is if you don’t want to fix it it will only get worse….extramarital…usually leading to lack of trust. Or worse loss of respect. You loose trust you can’t get it back. You lose respect i dont think its ever the same again either. When farmer hits you, he has lost respect for you. He knows you could get hurt but does it anyways. I guess I just wonder….when is your when? Have you asked yourself that!?

  10. Anthony
    Anthony says:

    I agree with you up to a point. I divorced my wife because she was a drunk and a drug addict. There is no sticking around for that shit. I took the kid and he starts college for electrical engineering in the fall. His mom finally got sober two years ago. We are all better off without her.

  11. Grace
    Grace says:

    Sometimes divorce is necessary. For example, my husband’s parents got divorced when he was in elementary school because his mother developed a severe, untreatable mental illness (she is still institutionalized 20 years later).

    I would argue that being married to an addict (or violent person) who refuses to seek help/improve is similarly a case for divorce. The key here is willingness to change: if someone has that, it’s a very different situation from one in which you are just enabling bad behavior.

    I completely agree with this post for the most part (at least for people with children; divorces of the childless are completely different), however.

  12. Passingby
    Passingby says:

    On open relationship could be a good
    compromise.
    This is how marriage was handled until recently in the western world.
    Different libidos, no intellectual estimulation, even lack of love. It didn’t matter; people would stick to it.
    I think that’s the way is handled in some eastern cultures, too, so no biggie.

  13. Allana
    Allana says:

    I have also seen too many people give up on their marriage when I do think they could have saved it. Some of your points are valid.

    But really, Penelope, all I want to do is jump through this computer and hug you because in saving your marriage you have clearly given up on yourself. And let’s be honest, no matter how much “advice” you give it can not mask the true issue here.

    Give your children a better outlook on marriage by getting the hell out of the one you are physically and emotionally suffering through.

    You seem way too smart to live this life.

  14. Mike
    Mike says:

    ~P, My wife and I will have been married 34 years this May. We have two adult daughters. For the first 15 years of our marriage I was a holy terror. I was verbally and emotionally abusive – never physical – (although that’s a little like saying, “But I only shot her once officer.”)I was unfaithful, spent money like a drunken member of congress, had mood swings that would have given an Indy-car driver whip-lash and drug her across the country and back for my career, at the expense of hers (one of the places I drug her was to Neenah, WI.) We fought constantly. To her credit many times she stood her ground and many times called me on my bullshit knowing it would lead to a two-day scream-fest.

    One Day I had a melt-down at work and wound up in a psych. ward. Seems I have Bi-polar II disorder with rapid cycling and anxiety disorder. I’ve been on meds with heavy doses of talk therapy since. It took time for everything to settle in and down for both of us but she stuck with me. As opposed to those people who have “grown apart” in their marriages, we have grown together.

    I said and did things in those first 15 years that can not be forgotten, taken back or made-up for. I scared my wife emotionally. The bulk of my therapy sessions now is devoted to trying to forgive myself for the emotional and financial damage I have done to our family in the past.

    Both daughters have told us that there were times when the were afraid that one of us would hurt the other and they often cried themselves to sleep but the thing they were MOST afraid of was that we WOULD get divorced. My wife had all the reasons (excuses) to leave me an nobody, even me would have blamed her, but she didn’t. Our girls now see that adult relationships are hard, complicated and not always what they seem. The four of us are extremely close, very happy and I am very grateful.

    Stick to your guns kiddo, when you are right, you are right.

  15. Wow
    Wow says:

    I just read some of your other posts, specifically the one where you defend “the farmer” for beating you, and not only insult but blame battered women for the abuse they received. And all I have is this to say:

    You make me physically ill.

    GET HELP. You’re sick.

  16. Ingrid Schaffenburg
    Ingrid Schaffenburg says:

    Powerful post! Though I divorced at 29 with no kids, I look back now and realize I let go of a really good guy because I was unhappy with myself. I fell under #5- for me it was a career issue. I was unhappy with it but I took it out on my marriage instead since it was the only thing I felt I had control over. I’ve done a lot of growing up since then and next time around will handle things MUCH differently! Thanks for the wonderful reminders here.

  17. Penny
    Penny says:

    Wow, this is terrible advice. This advice can be summed up as: tough shit, stick it out for the kids.

    I think there are many steps between “I’m unhappy” and “I want a divorce,” and that many people fail to step through the process to try and turn it around, but “tough shit” is not helpful. Not taking steps to improve your situation turns parents into angry and depressed people and that has many long term, negative ramifications for children as well.

  18. redrock
    redrock says:

    Maybe your editor should also check the links. You blame the oarents for the kid in the Ohio school shootings because they did get divorced? And did not provide a good home? Yet the article from the link is about th e failure of parents to scure their guns at home, Wich is clearly the parents fault, but not related at all to the question of emitional stability of a home which appears to be the topic of the blog. There are similar issues with quite a few of the links.

    • penelopetrunk
      penelopetrunk says:

      Here’s the great thing about blogging: you can click links to see how I formed my opinions. In print articles you have no ability to judge for yourself whether or not you like the data the writer used to form their opinions.

      Redrock, you argue with me in just about every post you comment on. So it seems like you really enjoy clicking the links. And, actually, I think your comment is sort of a thank you note. I read it as: “Dear Penelope, thank you for telling me the data behind your post because I really love arguing and links make it easier.”

      Penelope

  19. KellyGreen
    KellyGreen says:

    Interesting…the two “best” divorce situations I knew of growing up both dealt with the housing issue in a way that was hell on the parents but great for the kids. One family found the mom another house on the same block so that if tennis shoes were still at Dad’s, it wasn’t a big deal. The other family did leave the kids with the house and both parents got an apartment/condo nearby with some space for their stuff, and the parents rotated in and out of the house for custodial stuff, and had joint dinners a few times a week. It was breathtakingly complicated to watch from outside but even as a child, I admired their dedication to leaving the kids’ lives as intact as possible instead of just saying, well, we’ve ruined their lives this much, what’s one more major change?

  20. MockingbirdDont
    MockingbirdDont says:

    This is the first I’ve read your blog and will only speak on this particular post:

    I agree.

    I am the product of divorced parents. And yes, it felt like my Dad abandoned us and yes, he still does. But then I also hated my Mom for staying as long as she did, but then behaving so dangerously after he was finally gone. My siblings and I played mediator for years and as adults still do. I’m glad there are parents out there who don’t do this to their kids when they divorce but I don’t appreciate them assuming we all bode well when our folks split up.

    Secondly, I was knocked up by my boyfriend after 4 months of dating. Right then and there I had to decide if I was going to raise my child in a broken family but have my freedom, and my dreams and bla bla bla, or accept that my decision led to this outcome and now I have to do what’s best for my daughter. So we got married. And it’s been 5 years and it’s tough. And I’ve thought about giving up and walking out. Because we were two broken people with so many issues and we weren’t even really in love.

    And then an amazing thing happened: we fell in love about 2 years ago. He fell sooner, but I followed suit. I began appreciating that he’s a good father, and he’s faithful, and he works hard. Starting our the marriage with almost no chemistry was hard. But now he’s my best friend. We’ve grown together. I can’t imagine life without him.

    Will all couples have our success? Maybe not. But I dont think many do what we did. (Tough it out for our daughter.) And guess what? She’s one well rounded, brilliant, loving, incredible kid. And I too homeschool.

    I’m glad you said this. Our culture is so selfish. And our nation’s children DO reflect that. Whether certain people choose to accept that or not.

    • Penny Rene
      Penny Rene says:

      You are rare. Thank you. As the mother of 2 small kids, all I can hope for is that other couples try as hard as my husband and I do to stay together and work it all out so that our kids turn out better than previous generations.
      I know people want to believe that divorce is no big deal to most kids, but that is a lie. MOST people get divorced without doing EVERYTHING to work out their problems. Frankly, especially here in the US, anything that is remotely painful, we abandon quickly. We have no idea what we can do because we don’t try hard enough.
      Every situation is different, yes. But it’s so selfish for most people to think they are the exception. Do the math, people.

  21. Heather
    Heather says:

    It is amazing to me that anyone can assess marriage or relationships as black or white–right or wrong to end a marriage. There are so many factors that are completely unrelated to selfishness or laziness and have to be accounted for. Yes, clearly some people leave for extremely selfish reasons, but often it is much deeper than that. We all deserve to be loved and in a healthy relationship. But it takes two, and if you walk away knowing that you’ve done everything you could, you made every effort (and definitely there are times where you don’t make an effort, you just leave for safety’s sake), then you can hold your head up high. Many of us are children of divorce, and we feel the effect of that no mater how the divorce or years afterward were handled. On the other hand, many of us lived through marriages that should not have continued. See–there’s a trend: on one hand it’s this and on the other hand it’s that–it’s not black and white.

  22. sophie
    sophie says:

    Wow, some of these comments are pretty harsh on you Penelope. Personally, I think you hit things right on the head. It’s time adults stop thinking only of themselves, and think about their spouse and their children. Marriage is not a contract. It’s not a business. It’s the joining together of people’s lives. It’s the making of a family. Thanks for a good post.

  23. Pat
    Pat says:

    As someone who *is* in an open relationship (and with many friends in open relationships), I can safely say that it can’t happen at all unless there’s a firm base of trust, communication and loyalty.

    Cheating happens when you know that whatever you’re doing is going to betray the other person. It doesn’t usually happen in open relationships, because the “open” part takes care of the thing that’s usually encompassed in cheating. But cheating can still happen in open relationships, especially when you get really emotionally intimate with someone who isn’t your permanent partner. With that in mind, cheating is difficult to forgive, but it is forgiveable. It also takes trust, communication and loyalty, but mostly time. It’s just something you have to want to stick out.

    I would *not* recommend an open relationship to people who are resorting to it as a last-ditch effort to save their marriage. It will almost always fail. The reason is simple: you can’t be in an open relationship unless you whole-heartedly believe that your partner’s body does not belong to you, and if you have a desire to share it and your own body with other people. But this can only happen if it is your fundamental belief. Your beliefs can change with time, but not if your motivation is to avoid a divorce.

    Does an open relationship make our marriage better overall? It’s difficult to say. It does because we’re both non-monogamous people, and were so before we met. This arrangement suits us both, and we have a wonderful relationship with the same ups and downs as everyone else. If we were both monogamous, then an open relationship would be difficult to pull off. I’m not here to convert people; do what comes naturally. Non-monogamy isn’t for everyone. If your partner is and you’re not, there’s a serious mismatch that’ll inevitably become a major issue. It’ll be difficult to reconcile, despite your best efforts.

    As for divorce, I can say from my own experience that it’s not irresponsible or immature for a person to leave an abusive situation that’s clearly not going to change, despite therapy and interventions. Divorce is never ideal for children, but they adapt, and provided that they’re left with a responsible parent, that adaptation gets easier with time. What breaks kids even more significantly is instability caused by indecision, constant conflicts and neglect. Some parents provide that as a couple. What options do the children have if that doesn’t change? Are they better off with divorced parents if it’ll eliminate that instability? What does the research say?

  24. Now I'm really annoyed
    Now I'm really annoyed says:

    I think you jump the shark with this one. So you’re saying -you, the marriage expert- that I should have stayed with the bastard who pushed down a second story flight of stairs (I was 6 mo pregnant) threw me out of a car doing 50 mph, beat me so many times I lost count of the concussions and injuries -and you DARE to insinuate I was an abuser too? You are really and truly full of shit. And moreover, having been stupid enough to have made one mistake, that because I’d be doomed to repeat it in my second (and also get divorced again) that I should have stayed with the bastard who made my life a living hell? You are so completely full of shit.

    Frankly, I am amazed the farmer hasn’t divorced you. You loved sporting those bruises and I am absolutely certain you pushed him to it. That doesn’t mean the rest of us did that too.

    And stop telling people you have asperger’s; you’re a liar. It just is something you use to dress yourself up with to sound more interesting.

    • kristen
      kristen says:

      Temper, temper.
      You WERE tho one who let an abuser impregnate you and married him. Yes, that is the main problem.
      Then you were the one who kept the baby and decided that this life was so precious to you that he/she should have an abuser for a father.
      Perhaps some forethought was called for.
      However, since that didn’t happen…water over the dam now, and all that. Perhaps, you should focus on your own issues rather than lashing out at other people. After reading your reply, I was feeling abusive.
      I’m not saying you should have stayed with him. Given your history of poor judgement, I doubt you could have worked through any of these problems. But the situation is still wrong and you still screwed over your child. Maybe divorcing him was OK but making this bastard a father was not. You need to apologize to the world for that one, lady.

  25. redrock
    redrock says:

    I doubt that many adults who are very unhappy in their lives will be wonderful, positive role models for their kids at the same time. A person who is profoundly unhappy in a relationship is usually much more prone to reflect this on their relations and behavior towards their children. Despite the many voices here who think personal happiness of the parent is not relevant – i think a happier person can be a much better parent than someone locked in a poor marriage without hope.

  26. Erica
    Erica says:

    As a professional counselor working with children, their exposure to parental relationships creates an important template for later functioning. I think we might agree on that one point. But it ends there.

    Exposure to violence (physical, verbal, and emotional) is EXTREMELY damaging to children. There is significant evidence that the #1 correlate for juvenile sexual offending is exposure to domestic violence.

    I get that you’ve got your own issues. And I get that people abuse the institution of marriage. And I think you should probably not post about important things where you’ve got such personal distortion and profess that it’s “informative.” You’re perpetuating a lot of your own damage here…

    • kristen
      kristen says:

      Alright, Erica, I’m in a “helper” kinda mood tonight, so I’ll help you to understand reality as it should be when real grown-ups are involved.
      “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.”
      She doesn’t appear to be saying that exposing the kids to violence (physical, emotional, blah, blah) is OK. She appears to be saying that it would benefit everyone if you learned how to diffuse the situation with boundaries as well as womanly wiles. I understand that most people can’t figure out a way to do that but if they could, wouldn’t that be something phenomenal to model for the kiddies? Supposedly, we, as readers of a somewhat intellectual blog, have a decent IQ and EQ. Can we apply it here? I think this would be great to aim for. “Just pick up your ball and go home” seems to set the bar pretty low.

      • Jane
        Jane says:

        Oh Kristen. I would just love to hear your tale of how you deterred a violent abuser with your “womanly wiles” and saved the day.

        LOL4ever, I can’t tell if you’re a troll or just a moron.

      • MG
        MG says:

        I get the internet has trolls that just love stuff like this and judging from your comments I know you have to be one but that said, please comment on posts that aren’t harmful to children.

  27. A
    A says:

    From your post I gather that you really love your kids. Maybe when it’s good with the farmer, it’s good for all of you, and you care about that deeply.

    When I’ve had intense relationships that were hurtful, it has always felt like I’d never meet anyone else with his ability to understand me and soothe me, provide stability and caring, despite the bad times. He becomes useful and necessary in certain ways.

    It’s like I get stuck on this ideal vision of what I want our life to be and what I saw when it started, and I’m so hopeful that it will improve. I want to repair it and make it better so badly.

    After it has ended, I always meet someone even more understanding and lovely than I ever thought possible.

  28. kristen
    kristen says:

    I completely agree and this is one of my go-to issues when I want to argue with people.
    My biggest complaint is that people get married and have children somewhat thoughtlessly. Then when it gets hard they want out. They’re not happy. Whoever promised us that we would get to be happy?
    We get to pursue happiness. That’s in the constitution and most think that means leave your spouse and pursue it right out the door. I disagree. It means you get to make your own happiness. You are responsible for your happiness. I could lecture for hours on how to make a marriage work and “love the one you’re with”. Also, I’m harsher than you on this topic.

    I always blame the mother for putting her kids through a divorce.
    Husband cheated on you?
    Beat you?
    Got addicted to something on you?
    Well, you have shit judegement and had no business marrying him and making him the father of your children. Oh, there are tons of excuses but at the end of the day you got to choose whom you let put his dick in you and procreate. You kept the baby and you married him, in whichever order you preferred.
    Your kids didn’t get to choose.
    You did.
    Now figure out how to make it work.
    I know most of you can’t because of your intellectual failings and the fact that there is an easy way out – divorce.
    But you suck.
    And you’re fucking up our nation’s children and therefore the society I live in and I don’t like it. I can’t fully respect you, no matter what other great things you may do.
    Sorry, Penelope, that goes for you, too.

    • Right
      Right says:

      And sometimes people make mistakes, gain a little maturity, then hold up two situations, and pick the one that’s best for their kids, whether that’s divorce or not.

      Personally, I don’t blame a mother for not being able to predict my father’s addiction seven years in advance. His friends and family didn’t see it coming either. It’s not an intellectual failing to be unable to foresee disease and failed attempts to fight it. This is a completely childish and reductive suggestion.

      I am grateful she had the courage to leave when it was clear staying was damaging me more than leaving. This WAS figuring out how to make it work.

      Also, misogyny, much? Is the mom the only one who decides who she’s going to procreate with? Why is she the only one responsible for making decisions based on the future happiness of said children? I seriously don’t understand where this is coming from.

    • Jane
      Jane says:

      “Oh, there are tons of excuses but at the end of the day you got to choose whom you let put his dick in you and procreate.”

      Charming. I see you used your Big Intellect to come up with that “logic”.

  29. Emma
    Emma says:

    My ex-husband had grown up with a tough family life, and our relationship soon escalated into constant, scary fighting. I had never before fought like that with anyone, and I haven’t since. Was I part of the problem? Sure. But he had been raised in a state of conflict and almost seemed to need it to survive. I am not one to judge the decisions you’re making, but I hope for your kids’ sake that you can find a way to stop the cycle of violence so that they can form healthy relationships in the future.

    • Valerie
      Valerie says:

      Many people have posted here about spouses with abusive behaviors. Were there signs before these marriages took place?

      • Penelope Trunk
        Penelope Trunk says:

        Yes. Of course. Just like there are signs that someone is unemployable, or someone has a history of cheating, or someone is a narcissist. We all see the bad signs before we get married, and each of us makes a bet that the bad sign will not be the worst case. A marriage is a bet. There are no assurances about what someone will do when they get middle-aged with a mortgage and two kids. Everyone change. You can never really know how someone will change. from year to year, even. Each of of marries someone who is fatally flawed. We all are.

        Penelope

  30. Cathryn
    Cathryn says:

    It is too bad that you think you are an expert on this topic just because you have been divorced. You don’t know what goes on behind closed doors and I wouldn’t suggest that your experience is that of others. I feel as an over 60 woman with children who have left the nest, that I need to ask myself what will bring me happiness in the last phase of my life. And living with someone who is a roommate instead of a lover is not what I want. So don’t judge others, just figure out what works for you and I will do the same.

    • Jane
      Jane says:

      ” I feel as an over 60 woman with children who have left the nest, that I need to ask myself what will bring me happiness in the last phase of my life.”

      As a 25 year old woman I applaud your decision. Do it! I think it’s silly to expect people and their needs won’t change. :)

  31. Lisa H.
    Lisa H. says:

    I totally agree. I left my first husband 10 years ago because of his “clinical depression” and “agoraphobia” that he chose to let me know about when I told him I was leaving. He claimed he needed help after a 7 year marriage in which I was to blame for all failure. I worked really hard to make a nice home and to be “perfect” while I finished up my Bachelors in Marketing. We did not have children and that was a main fact to get the divorce. I was doing everything to keep the house and finances together and seemed like a situation with a roommate who never paid the bills. So, I left. It was super difficult and I look back and see my mistakes as well. That I expected perfection, wanted vacations, needed a man to not watch TV after work all the time and never going out with me. I have a new husband and it’s challenging, I don’t want to be the same person with him. I really loved my first husband, but love is not enough when you have bills, kids, mortgages… I have realized I do need stability, emotionally and spiritually from someone in addition to the love to help create something. Yes, if you do not have kids, and you can do it, do it. But I would never have left if I had them.

  32. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    Wow…I found this blog just today. I was looking through past articles and liking what you had to say…until this article.

    In NO WAY is abusive EVER ok. And to say that not only is it ok, but women who gather the courage to leave abusive relationships are selfish??

    Women in abusive relationships often never leave because they are too afraid. Many women are killed because of abusive relationships.

    I think it is FAR more important to teach your kids that they do not deserve to be hit EVER, and to teach them to walk away from any relationship like that, than it is to tell them to sit back and take it.

    Your whole article is about the kids, and yet I see a huge disconnect. You are teaching your sons that it is ok to hit women, to hit your girlfriend/wife. And you are teaching daughters (do you have daughters?) to stand there and take the abuse.

    Yes, some people get divorced for bad reasons. Stop using your anger at your own divorce and your obvious discomfort/insecurity at staying in a abusive marriage to try to guilt the people out there who divorced for good reasons.

    I can’t even begin to describe how sick I feel reading an article that tells women to stay in abusive relationship. I don’t understand how this is ok in anyway. And I pity your children, for being forced to grow up in an abusive environment. Man up. Stop being selfish. For your kids sake

    • kristen
      kristen says:

      So, so predictable. Nicole and all these other “It’s not EVER ok” responses. Let’s pretend it is 300 years ago and there is no such thing as divorce. You married an unreasonable man (bad idea but it was probably your father’s, at that time anyway)is there anything you can do? You can’t leave, you’ll be thrown in the stocks and then beaten some more. Do you think, perhaps, you might learn some ways of mitigating the problem? Now fast forward 300 yrs to a much more permissive culture where women are concerned. There’s really nothing you can do. I know it’s not ideal and you shouldn’t have to…but this is your children’s father, for christ’s sake. Are you going to let him have them on weekends? That sounds far crazier to me than staying with him and teaching your children how to deal with (not just take it, btw) someone they love who is occasionally irrational. Far better to teach them to steer clear of these assholes, but too late for that. And if you do leave, because of abuse, you are just as much of an asshole (if not more so) if you ever allow your children to spend one unsupervised moment with him.

      • Jeff
        Jeff says:

        Kristen is absolutely right. If you were stupid enough to marry someone that turned out to be violent and crazy, you DESERVE whatever you get and you are an ASSHOLE if you even consider leaving. It’s better for children to see their mother beaten to a bloody pulp on the reg than for a clearly hopeless marriage to be put out of its misery. It will make your children strong to see you endure such pain! Just make sure to give them a wink and a nod as you lay on the floor about to pass out from the pain. They’ll get it, and love you for it.

  33. frieda
    frieda says:

    I couldn’t agree more. My parents divorced when I was young because they weren’t “happy.” There was no violence or even fighting visible to us kids.

    Life after divorce did not make either of them any happier. It was miserable for all of us, and for us kids, a huge change for the worse. Having to travel between two houses made me incredibly resentful, and you know how that works out in adolescence.

    The effects of that one decision were so profound. If I had known I would have chained myself to their car or something to force them not to do it.

    Divorce will make your kids sad. But supposedly the parents will be happier. Yeah. right.

    I’m also in shock and sad about Dooce’s divorce.

  34. Dean Trippe
    Dean Trippe says:

    This article is so incorrect, I had to read it multiple times to make sure it wasn’t an elaborate joke.

    As a (happily married!) child of divorce, I can tell you IT’S THE BEST DECISION MY MOTHER EVER MADE regarding my biological father. Staying married to abusive, criminal, or drug-abusing spouses is an IDIOTIC choice for one’s children (and personal safety)!

    Staying with such spouses not only endangers one’s children, but endangers others they’ll come in contact with, by letting their criminal/abusive parents teach them by example. Do the world a favor, and stop advising people to stay married based on faulty logic, poor arguments, and statistics engineered to promote archaic dogmas.

  35. Sane Girl
    Sane Girl says:

    Wow, although this is the most judgmental blog post I’ve read in a long time, you had a few good points, which I’m willing to give you. However, you lost me (and I’m sure most other sane women) at the point where you stated that most domestic violence is 50/50 in terms of responsibility. Trash of the highest order. I don’t believe in censorship, but I think that putting crap like this out into the universe is contributing to poisoning young women’s minds. Domestic violence is NOT usually “50/50”. That is ludicrous, and it’s irresponsible for you to even suggest it.
    In addition, if you want to be taken seriously, learn to spell “well-being”, which is not one word (wellbeing).

    • kristen
      kristen says:

      Nobody thinks your smart when you end a reply with a spellcheck. We just think your arguement is a little weak and needed some support by your fantastic spelling ability.

      • Sane Girl
        Sane Girl says:

        Well, unlike you, Kristen, it makes people think I can spell. Besides, if that’s all you got out of my comment, you’re doing it wrong. That is hardly the most important point I made, but reading your other comments I can see my point is lost on you anyway.

        • Jane
          Jane says:

          Yeah, she’s kinda frothing at the mouth…I’m sure it makes it harder to type correctly. I’d give you a pass on your spelling, too, Kristen, if you weren’t bringing so much other crazy to the table.

          I wish there was one of those voting systems for comments, I want to “thumbs up” at Sane Girl.

  36. Shocked
    Shocked says:

    Just because you are an abuser who lives in a mutually abusive home gives you absolutely no right to tell anyone who has been an actual victim of domestic violence that they were wrong for leaving their abusive spouse. I stayed in my deadly first marriage for way longer than I should have because I felt it was my fault, that if I was a better wife or some other lame line of bullshit that the abusive would stop, that it was MY fault that he was felt the need to beat, stab, throw TVs at, hit with a truck, throw me out of moving vehicles…I got to the point I dreamed about my ex killing both myself & my newborn son in one of his drunk driving rages so that I wouldn’t have it on my conscious that I couldn’t fix my marriage. Eventually I sucked it up, packed what I could physically carry & left that marriage with a 13 month old in tow.

    It has been about 9 years since I walked out. I met my now current husband almost 8 years ago, we’ve been married almost 5 years. We’ve had some very rough patches, but not once has he raised a hand to me, thrown something at me, or otherwise made me fear for my life or the lives of our children. Yes, even though my ex husband biologically contributed to the creation of my oldest my husband, father to my daughter, is the dad to my son as well. My son absolutely adores him.

    I hear from my ex every few years after he’s been arrested for violating the terms of his parole – he raped a 5 year old, had to serve 4 months, 4 years on paper, & once in a while the state will catch up with him and realize he’s not registering as a sex offender like he’s supposed to. The state also occasionally catches up with him about the child support he refuses to pay…so I hear from him when he wants to have the child support dropped, by insisting on getting 50/50 custody and I drop the back support. His reasoning is that he never wanted a divorce, that I was just being a bitch for leaving and just left him for the money…because $200 a month for child support payments is REALLY something.

    It does sadden me at times that the only reason he wants anything to do with my oldest is so that he’ll stop going to jail for non-payment of support, but that’s not MY problem. I’ve offered that he terminate his rights so that my husband can adopt, I’d sent letters, pictures, cards, the like every, single year to him & his family, for 7 years. Only once has anyone in that family even called & that was when my ex was living with his mother & she called trying to smooth things over so that I would agree to 50/50 parenting, when my son was 7. At the court hearing that my ex showed up for 3 hours late & my son was in there with me, my husband, and daughter – not once did my ex even look at his son. He didn’t try to talk to him when we left & walked out, all together, more interested in talking to his drug dealer that came with him about where they could score some more drugs…a conversation that my son overheard.

    You have absolutely no right to say anyone is selfish for leaving an abusive relationship or that it’s harmful to the children of that divorce. My staying in that marriage for as long as I did resulted in the premature birth & death of a daughter & two miscarriages, but because I ‘provoked’ my high, drunk husband by the vacuum lines not all going the same direction or water spots being on the kitchen faucet or by getting up after going to bed to take some Tylenol for a headache, I deserved the beatings, the knife wounds, the deaths of my unborn children.

    It was selfish of me to stay in that relationship as long as I did because I had no one to support me, not even my own family. I lived on friends & strangers couches for a few years with my toddler, moved more than two dozen times, even called CPS on myself over it all…they didn’t even bat an eye at me because I was doing what I had to do to keep my child & myself safe. Because I chose to leave my son has a real chance at knowing happiness and how a real man behaves, not how some abusive coward behaves.

    I do agree that MANY divorces are sought out of selfishness, but there are real and legitimate reasons for divorce and any divorce that is handled properly & maturely can work for the benefit of the children. Just because YOU feel that you divorced for selfish reasons does not mean everyone else has.

    • Phenom
      Phenom says:

      I’m in the middle of divorcing a narcissitic, addictive sociopath and this comment made me bawl my eyes out because it struck so close to home for me.

      Thank you for sharing. And for putting Ms. Trunk and her ignorance in its place.

    • Jane
      Jane says:

      Sounds like you did your best in a bad situation, and I’m glad things are much better for you now. Your story and those like yours are harrowing, but also inspiring in that you turned a terrible life into a good one.

  37. Max Robinson
    Max Robinson says:

    I would love to hear you try to give this speech at a battered womens shelter, you absolute horse’s ass.

    • kristen
      kristen says:

      Perhaps that is not her intended audience, you moronic tit. She writes a blog that educated people, who are interested in start ups and homeschooling, read.
      Let the greeters at Walmart talk to the women who go to the shelter.

    • Sane Girl
      Sane Girl says:

      Yes, Max. This.
      And, don’t bother engaging Kristen; you’d be wasting your breath.

      I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with an unarmed person.

      • Jane
        Jane says:

        Ok, seriously, there needs to be a button so I can give you symbolic internet props. Who controls this site? Federated Media?

        Dear Federated Media,

        Please add thumbs up to the comments so I can show my solidarity with Sane Girl, albeit in the most meaningless way possible.

        TY.

  38. Gib Wallis
    Gib Wallis says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I’ve been reading your blog since about 2006.

    Something I’ve been slow to realize that makes your writing so provocative is that you write about personal topics in a very analytical manner. One of your running themes is that you pick an idiosyncratic decision you’ve made in your own life that sounds counter intuitive or counter cultural and then you back it up with statistics and studies to wake people up to a new perspective.

    I think that’s a wonderful strength you have and your whole appeal, both to the lovers (like me) and the haters (like some of the commenters).

    What I’m seeing in my occasional disagreement with your posts is that we are not always statistics. And even when we are, we can choose the wrong set of statistics and studies.

    That’s what I think is happening here.

    In this post, a lot of your links cover the damage to children of the two biological or adoptive parents divorcing.

    Your situation doesn’t match that because you already divorced your ex. The damage has been done.

    If you were to discuss your current situation, you’d need statistics and studies for divorcing a step-parent when the the other parent (in your case, their father), is still an active part of their lives.

    Although, really, if I remember correctly that you’re not legally married. You’re hoping one day to register your time with the Farmer as a common law marriage.

    A lot of the pain of divorce can be completely side-stepped by you because you have not reached the 7 year mark for registering the previous 7 years as a common law marriage.

    You haven’t achieved the longevity necessary to receive all the legal responsibilities and protections of marriage. The Farmer didn’t ruin his finances or take on your debt to the IRS because you’re not legally married yet. And if you throw yourself in front of his tractor again and he can’t stop in time, he won’t be making your medical decisions automatically as a legal spouse would.

    What you have currently is a relationship with a future retroactive start date because it’s a convenience and a way to feel truthful during your 7 year trial period.

    You wouldn’t need to get a divorce before becoming eligible for a common law marriage. You can move out or stop calling him your husband and it’s over. Divorce-free.

    Where are the statistics and studies on a once divorced woman with kids who still have relationships with their father and no legally binding commitment or longevity?

    Although there are a lot of great, provocative points in this post, it doesn’t accurately convey your marital situation or the risks to your kids if you ever decide to leave or if the Farmer throws you out.

    PS: If a parent is mentally ill, divorcing the ill parent is probably better for the kids and even better if contact is cut off or scaled back.

    • Dee Dee
      Dee Dee says:

      I always read that catchy titles and controversial topics generate a lot of traffic to websites and this is a perfect example of just that.

      I read (amazingly) all of the comments posted so far and yours stood out for a variety of reasons. I’m sorry your site is currently under construction because I am sure I would love to read what you’re writing.

      As for this post, it does a great disservice to people who get divorced because it really is the rigth thing to do. I am not talking about ‘starter’ marraiges, but relationships that simply, for whatever reason, can not be made to work in a way that is healthy for all involved.

      The tone of this post is not surprising – again, controversy breeds traffic, but still.

      Even the characterization of Heather’s own divorce is neatly packaged but misses her husband’s devotion to her while she dealth with mental illness. And his announcement of his job search? It was because Heather announced they were separating…

      Back to the reasons for divorce: It’s wonderful that we all get to chime in on what works and why people should do certain things, but it’s extremely judgmental to assume my reasons are the same as yours and yours are the same as someone else’s.

      In a relationship, you answer to yourself and immediate circle – not to the world and especially not to strangers.

      I’m grateful my parents divorced. My mom couldn’t, in her emotionally fragile state, have been a good wife AND mother if she had stayed married. I’m happy she did her best to be a good mother to me and a good person to herself.

  39. Ben
    Ben says:

    Penelope, we are the same age and sometimes I swear, you can read my mind. Keep doing what you do. I’m loving the free therapy.

  40. Bevotee
    Bevotee says:

    This is so dead-on. Thank you so much. I wish I’d written it myself — not to mention been able to show it to my soon-to-be-ex before we finished mediation. The divorce should be final within a week, and this is exactly what I tried to explain to her. And she said the same things you said she’d say. It’s a helpless feeling to watch your child’s world destroyed.

  41. RMA
    RMA says:

    I read this blog entry when you first posted it this afternoon and have been thinking about it all evening.

    I think that the real issue here is the decision to have children and who to have children with. Kids lock you in and force you into accepting life circumstances that you would otherwise refuse. That can mean residing in the suburbs when you thrive in an urban lifestyle, accepting a job you hate simply because it pays the bills and, in many cases, living with an incompatible partner so that your children will grow up in a stable home.

    As a 26-year-old married female without kids, I think about these issues often – more often than I would like to admit. Penelope, I feel like you just laid out the concerns swimming around in my mind.

    Does having kids automatically mean that you have join the rat race? I think that the type of divorce scenario that you are articulating has to do with disappointment about how one’s life has played out. It’s easier to take risks, make less money to pursue creative endeavors, travel and explore life’s possibilities without the responsibility of children. If you have a fulfilling life, you are more likely to have to have fulfilling relationships, including marital relationships. Perhaps the reason that divorce rates among the educated are falling is because couples are conceiving later in life.*

    Also, I respect your courage for publishing thought-provoking content.

    *I do not know if this is factual. This is merely my speculation.

  42. Wenko
    Wenko says:

    Wow this is the best post that you have ever written IMHO.
    If I could I would give you an award hehehe.
    I’ve been married for 12 years now and these are the reasons why I stuck it out all these years.
    It’s a delusion to think that the second time with another person will work out when you can’t even handle your partner the first time.
    It’s really not fair to the kids and the damage it will bring them is simply not worth it.
    Kudos to you and I support your struggle 100%. It’s not easy to stay married to anybody. It takes hardwork and definitely love, love and love esp. for the kids and not necessarily your partner. But eventually it will come if you care enough to give the kids the best that they deserve. ;)

  43. Deborah Hymes
    Deborah Hymes says:

    To me, the clear takeaway from *all* of these comments is that no one — *no one* — has the ability to speak from any perspective other than their own. Yet nearly everyone assumes that what’s right for them is the path that everyone else should follow, as well.

    P, to my ear, your polemic reads like the flip side of Sandra Tsing Loh’s article in the Atlantic a couple of years ago (“Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”). Remember that? She argued equally passionately *in favor* of divorce, reporting on her life from inside a 10’x10′ UHaul. And of course she concluded that everyone else should stop clinging to “all the abject and swallowed misery” that she observes in modern marriage.

    It’s an odd debate, yes? Happiness & misery, fulfillment & futility, are only meaningful in personal terms. And each person defines them differently. To each his own. ;)

    • Jane
      Jane says:

      Agreed. I think most of the comments can be sorted into a few rough categories:

      1. People who are applauding this post, hopefully because they missed the endorsement of staying in an abusive relationship for the kids.

      2. People whose parents got divorced and they hated it.

      3. People whose parents didn’t get divorced and they hated it, wishing they had.

      4. People whose parents got divorced and they loved it (or at least, understood it).

      Oh, and then there’s Kristen, who hates women AND divorce. But she is her own category.

      I’m in the third camp, but how do I know what someone’s life was like in camp 2 or 4? Just because I begged for my own parents to divorce doesn’t mean that someone else was lucky if their parents did. Every life, relationship and circumstance is going to be unique. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

  44. Agnese
    Agnese says:

    My favorite part: “If you want to feel more interesting then go do something more interesting. And come home for dinner.”

    Thank you for this post, Penelope! I appreciate the reminder that some things in life are not about “you”.

  45. Katherine
    Katherine says:

    Deborah, I couldn’t agree more! One of life’s truths is that everybody looks at situations differently and it all comes from your personal experience.

    One can make statstics look any way they want but the fact is that staying together or sticking it out has positive and/or negative effects depending on how the child takes it in and has their own reaction.

    I don’t think divorce should be easy but MY personal belief is that if you work hard on a marriage for years and can see that everyone is miserable, it can be for the best. I know. My parents have stuck it out for 55 miserable years. Both will die miserable. That’s the saddest ending to life I can ever imagine.

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