The Happy Feminist’s recent post about the positive effects of divorce (someone in the comments even pointed out that no-fault divorce may have increased women’s physical well-being, diminishing suicide and abuse), has inspired me to pontificate (I love this word) on the way the spectre of divorce is being used by wingnuts and other assorted freaks in discrediting the women’s rights movement.
Divorce bad! Patriarchy good! Think of the family!
I believe the main concept of the evils of divorce is propped up by the notion that a woman must suffer through a bad marriage no matter what, even if she’s unhappy, or threatened, or even beaten to a bloody pulp on a regular basis (something that happened to my mother with her first husband). For some reason, children who witness their mother (or father) getting abused and/or degraded are supposedly “better off” with the status quo. Women who stay in abusive relationships “for the benefit of the children”, are regarded as heroes. The idea that children might internalize the whacked-out relationship between their parents, and even go as far as seek out exactly this sort of abuse later in life, is completely beyond these people’s grasp.
I don’t think that divorce is an easy solution to anything. I don’t believe that an easy solution to a failed marriage exists. Either way, people are going to suffer. But in an abusive household, the suffering is ongoing.
My mother’s first husband, her high school sweetheart (it was customary in those days, and even now, on some level, to marry right out of high school), started drinking and beating her up. She fled. Her second husband told her that the higher ups at his job would not let him marry the woman he wanted to be with (this was also quite normal for the Soviet Union). He ended up having an affair. She grit her teeth. He left anyway.
My father’s first wife had affairs that hurt him deeply. He fled. His second wife pretended to be pregnant, so that a quickie marriage was arranged. When he confronted her about her lie, she became hysterical and nearly scratched his eyes out. She threatened to have him killed. She succeeded in getting him fired from his job. My father would have been an idiot if he stayed with her. He was also an idiot for getting together with her, but she was an actress (very pretty, I’ve seen her on TV) and so bubbly and vivacious, that my father, fool that he was, threw all caution to the wind.
You shouldn’t stay with a person just because you’re used to the routine. He’s suffering. You’re suffering. Your kids are suffering. Do a trial separation. Do somehing. Figure out how to fix this. Stop worrying about what people might think.
Assuming that staying together is automatically better than a divorce is bull. Assuming that it’s automatically worse is also a crap-idea. I think everyone knows at least one couple that struggled through personal problems, and emerged victorious. I am not an advocate of shrugging off responsibility and boldly going forth. In fact, if I hadn’t seen children screaming and crying as two “responsible adults” throw things at each other, I would not be on the divorce bandwagon.
The high rates of divorce have exposed what we’ve suspected all along – marriage is not a perfect institution. People are prone to make mistakes. Committing yourself to spend the rest of your life together with another person can be a daunting task. The idea that someone (in most cases that someone is a woman, surprise surprise) ought to sacrifice their entire existence for the grandiose symbolism of marriage is revolting.
If marriage is necessary, then encouraging people to go to marriage counseling before and after they are married is a good solution. Encouraging people to stop and think before they tie the knot is another fabulous idea. Demonizing divorce is total bollocks.