When Your Divorce Is Happier Than Your Marriage

After ten years in an unsatisfying marriage, writer Wendy Paris wrote about her divorce in the New York Times.

“While I yearn for a deeply united, soul-mate-style connection, he wants something looser, more independent, less enmeshed…This difference created friction almost immediately; still, we wanted our romance to last. We took a Calvinist approach to our union, as if “hard work” could yield a better match.”

What she says next should come as no surprise to anyone who regularly reads this blog:

“My husband is a good person: hard-working, committed to social justice. But I’ve come to a startling truth about myself: I might be happier with a less ambitious partner, someone less focused on his career and curing the ills of the world and more focused on me, actually, and the piddling details of our family life”.

But what she discovered was that divorce was definitely the right decision: “It takes real work to hold the nuances in your head, to remain kind and considerate, to remember why you married in the first place and still push forward to separate. As a culture, we understand that a good marriage takes work. Why not work equally hard to have a good divorce?…While we never saw marriage the same way, we have nearly identical views of a positive, empowering divorce.”

As I’ve said before, just because he’s smart, funny, successful and charismatic doesn’t mean he’s going to be a great husband. There are many incredible people who are terrible life partners. Find a man who’s a good life partner, instead of looking for a series of character traits that add up to attraction.

Have you ever dated someone who was a great person but a bad partner? Tell me about it below:

You can read the rest of Wendy Paris’ article in the New York Times here.

2
0

Join 8 Million Readers

And the thousands of women I've helped find true love. Sign up for weekly updates for help understanding men.

I hate spam as much as you do, therefore I will never sell, rent, or give away your email address.

Join our conversation (27 Comments).
Click Here To Leave Your Comment Below.

Comments:

  1. 1
    Jackie Holness

    I think that she needs some therapy in a good way, not like she is crazy – but the family does have a legacy of divorce that would be good to address…other than that…I totally get what you’re saying…especially by this line – I’ve longed for that us-against-the-world unity for years. In our separation, he is finally expressing it…She should have gone for the B-list type of personality, huh?

  2. 2
    Kay

    My ex is neither a good partner or a good person but he is a darn good charlatan and knows how to keep his public persona together! Even goes so far as to possibly speak ill of me, while dating someone new, only to send me emails of his still burning torch over the “connection” and the “closeness”.

  3. 3
    Chau

    Wow…just read her article and I could sense another divorce coming in the future.

    Evan, I actually think her husband has the core ingredients to be a good husband…a man who’s too into his work, too ambitious, too independent…isn’t a bad thing like she thinks.

    He loves her…but there’s still doubt in her mind…

    It really is in the way she thinks about marriages…

    “But while I yearn for a deeply united, soul-mate-style connection, he wants something looser, more independent, less enmeshed.”

    This is one of those problems that never really gets resolved–like how to raise your children. Even if they both care about the soulmate connection, there will always be something else to worry about.

    Such as…

    “I’ve longed for that us-against-the-world unity for years. In our separation, he is finally expressing it.”

    Anyhow, great article….

    It’s a perfect example of what NOT to do if you want a deep and lasting marriage.

    PS: Just so everyone knows, I reached out to Evan for some advice yesterday and he was very wiling to share his experience and knowledge….Awesome guy.

    Thanks again!

    -Chau

  4. 4
    Fusee

    The problem is not that there are too many divorces, it’s that there are too many marriages.

    I disagree that this story is about a bad husband. There is no data to support this claim. Some people need more individuality in their union (like this man), some need more merging (like this woman).

    My suggestion: look for someone who have similar needs, and/or work at moderating yours if you are at either end of the individuality/merging spectrum, so that you become compatible to a wider range of prospective partners. I used to need a lot of merging but I learned to become more accepting of men who need their time apart, as long as they are active participant in the growth of the relationship. Wanting to give more time to a career and needing more time apart does not make someone a bad partner. Not understanding one another’s needs and refusing to make compromises does. Oh, and marrying someone without having explored one another’s needs and expectations in depth, and without making sure one can fulfill one another’s reasonnable and legitimate needs is the recipe for divorce.

    Can’t believe that divorcing amicably is now becoming glorified…

  5. 5
    Quinn

    Seems to me there are a lot of folks out there who expect their spouse to be their ‘everything’. Who cares if your husband won’t try Zumba? Go with a friend, it’s healthy to cultivate outside relationships.

    I wholeheartedly agree that a happy marriage is a major contributor to overall happiness, but maybe the way to get there is not by trying to change your spouse (who will undoubtedly change in many unforeseen ways throughout the course of a lifelong marriage anyway), but by changing your expectations.

    I think far too many people expect their partner to make them happy, and that just isn’t realistic- it only sets the marriage up for failure. Make yourself happy whether single or otherwise, find a man you respect, whose company you enjoy, and who has the ability to make HIMSELF happy.

  6. 6
    RW

    Interesting article. I’m left with very mixed feelings at the end of it. She’s not wrong. If you’re going to divorce, do it amicably. However, better still would be to not divorce at all and to not cheapen marriage by saying that second and third divorces are normal and acceptable. I’m getting married in a week so I’m full of hope and I speak without the benefit of long years of experience. I sincerely hope though that this will be my only marriage. I also yearn for that “soulmate connection” and my fiancé, though deeply in love, is much more independent. We already know that and we hope to still make it work. I will lessen my need and he will become more sensitive to it. I used to be a very independent person but I have surprised myself by doing a 180 since I’ve met him. I’m sure these feelings will calm down and we will settle into an emotional routine. As Quinn said, I will learn to go to zumba without him and he will find that sometimes zumba can be fun if done with me. It’s not easy and it will take a lot of work but he is worth it. Ultimately, that is all that is important. Is your spouse worth it? To Wendy, he is not. Kudos to her for making this tough decision. I hope she realizes though that sometimes a better match does not come along. It will just be a different match with its own pros and cons. If you are unsure, don’t get married. If you do, be prepared for the commitment of a lifetime. If anything, her parents’ situation should be a lesson. Even after a slew of marriages, they seem to have come back to each other (perhaps romantically, perhaps not, she doesn’t say). How would her life have been different if they had toughed it out and stayed with each other?
    I realize that I may receive comments from those who have been in this situation, gotten a divorce and been happy at the end of it. I’m not saying don’t ever divorce. I’m just saying, think carefully about marriage. Don’t treat it lightly.

  7. 7
    susan

    Absolutely a good divorce is better than a bad marriage, but I agree with the comments above that its a sad state of a ffairs when we start to consider second or third marriages as the normalised way of being.
    I will forever carry a sadness that my marriage did not turn out to be a ”forever one”.
    And the outcome could have been worse – as for my FDH and I we have found a new way of normal and co=parenting and would consider ourselves friends, despite much pain to reach this place.
    And yes, whilst one could argue there are not perhaps too many divorces we need to be worrying about, but maybe too many marriages, never EVER did i think, when i took my vows that there wouldn’t be happily ever after. And I doubt there is anyone out there that really considers it as a possible outcome when they get married. For the vast vast majority Marriage is not treated lightly. And neither is divorce.

  8. 8
    Mia

    It may not be polite to say this, but people who are getting divorced two and three times have serious emotional issues, I would think. They are either impossible to please or cant make a clear eyed assessment of partners based on character and compatibility. I’m sure some are the same types that chase “hard to get” women and play by traditional “rules” and demand constant challenges and fireworks in dating, when lo and behold, a good ltr is not about that crap.

    And yes, there’s a lot of good people who are bad partners. I recall being annoyed when Evan once wrote something to the effect of not wanting a woman who’s out trying to cure cancer or running marathons, the point being that he wants someone whose focus can be on relationship and family. But now I get it. I fell for a guy who was just like that — was constantly traveling the world for fun, working 18 hr days to open a business, had tons of social obligations, and as it turned out no time or mental energy for a relationship. I don’t think having a ltr and being ambitious and busy are mutually exclusive, but a lot of times those people are not good relationship bets. Who cares how great the person is if you can’t sleep in with them Sunday, they’re never around for dinner, they can never get away for a weekend trip? No amount of money and prestige is worth that.

  9. 9
    Mark

    One word…sad.

    An older couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary was asked how they managed to still be together and happy after all those years…the man said “we come from a different generation a generation where we fix things that are broken instead of throwing them away.”

    We come from a disposable society where everything is disposable including people. My grandmother always said A new broom sweeps clean but an old broom knows the corners.

    Her reasons for divorce seem trivial. And she illustrates just how trivial AFTER she is separated she realizes…”I need a lot less from a future ex, and he is far more able to give it”.

    Some people like the “idea” of commitment and the “idea” of marriage. The reality is totally different. Neither good nor bad just different.

    This is a very sad commentary on marriage and relationships and it sounds like it runs in the family.

  10. 10
    Draga

    It seems to me that she’s talking about their different attachment styles…

    If anybody is interested in finding out more about this topic I would suggest taking these two tests:

    http://www.web-research-design.net/cgi-bin/crq/crq.pl

    http://www.yourpersonality.net/relstructures/

    and then reading the explanations here:

    http://internal.psychology.illinois.edu/~rcfraley/attachment.htm

    Another great resource for those more interested in this would be the book:

    http://www.attachedthebook.com/about-the-authors/

    Once again, thank you Evan, for all the advice :)

  11. 11
    DinaStrange

    Woman sounds deranged. Why to marry to divorce? And why to keep on marrying to get divorced – makes zero sense. I guess I am not surprised anymore, in a market economy you get market relationships. Let’s all trade each other. Mark to model.

  12. 12
    Helen

    This one sentence in the NYTimes article struck me as inane and oxymoronic: “I know this may sound as if my family doesn’t respect marriage, but we care about it deeply: we keep breaking up mediocre ones in pursuit of a better match.”

    To “keep breaking up” marriages is neither respecting nor caring for the institution. The point, as others above have commented already, is to not rush into marriage, but to thoughtfully make a commitment to one with whom you could imagine living for the rest of your life. After that, respecting a marriage means doing one’s best to make it work, not breaking up “in pursuit of a better match.”

    I agree with others that of course it is a good idea to make divorce as civil as possible – but this woman really does need counseling if she thinks that hers is a good definition of respecting and caring for marriage.

  13. 13
    Henriette

    I’m glad that they’re trying to make their divorce civil and kind – especially for the sake of their child – but this writer has a modern sensibility regarding marriage that bothers me. Worse, perhaps, was the fear that she expressed of growing old with a poodle for companionship instead of finding someone else to marry. Seriously?!? I see too many people terrified of being alone that they get married to unsuitable mates and make each other miserable. Oh, and these tend to be the same people who look at me with pity and/or disdain that I’m in my 40s and never-married.

    I am all for divorce when marriages are truly unsalvageable. I just believe that too many people wed, too easily.

  14. 14
    Catharine

    I married at 24 to my first serious boyfriend. When asked by the judge during our child custody hearing to tell him one positive thing about our marriage, all i could say was he paid the bills on time. After 10 yrs of living with someone who viewed marriage as something to cross off his to do list, i wish i had dated more and waited until i was older to get married.

  15. 15
    sarahrahrah!

    @ Mia #8

    “It may not be polite to say this, but people who are getting divorced two and three times have serious emotional issues, I would think. They are either impossible to please or cant make a clear eyed assessment of partners based on character and compatibility.”

    That is not only impolite, it is flawed logic.

    A marriage is a relationship between two individuals. Each of those people contributes to and is a part of the relationship. Every day, every individual in the world has some choice to make about his or her life. Sometimes we choose to honor our commitments and “do the right thing”; sometimes we don’t. The point is that we have free will and that the person that we were when our partner met us several years ago is not the same person we are today. It is through our ongoing, moment-to-moment choices that we either choose to evolve or regress.

    By your logic, a woman who has a partner who leaves her (because he wants to be free, etc., etc.) and then has another husband who cheats and then she chooses to leave because she feels unsafe has “serious emotional issues?” That makes no sense to me. I wonder what constitutes “serious emotional issues,” too.

    NOBODY can totally predict the future and what their spouse might do 10 or 30 years down the road. People are responsible for their own actions; if a person chooses to cheat, that is NOT their spouse’s problem. Sometimes, it is an indication of an underlying problem in the marriage, but every individual is still responsible for his or her own actions.

    It seems to me that when you make assumptions about people based on their circumstances (“have serious emotional issues”), you are really passing judgement without knowing the full situation and demonstrating your ignorance. Since most people aren’t privy to the intimate details of others’ marriages, perhaps it would be best to continue to strongly value marriage, but also recognize that every situation is unique and sometimes unfortunate things happen — more than once — despite one’s best efforts and assessment of a mate’s character and compatibility.

  16. 16
    Margo

    I dated a man who seemed crazy enamored with me the first time he saw he. Then we started dating. Here’s the thing, they weren’t really dates, they were webcam dates because he went to fight slave trafficking overseas three days after we met. We had one dance then he was gone. He was to be away for 9 months on this volunteer assigment. We talked via webcam for 5 months during this time. First it was everyday, then every other day, but it started to become irregular.

    He told me that our connection was from God, then he started talking about a future together, saying “God doesn’t make mistakes”. What I found out during the 5 months that we were talking via webcam is that he just got out of a 10-year live-in relationship with a woman that became his fiancee. He left her for 28 months to take an assignment overseas. She threatened to leave if he did, he left anyway, and when he got back from Iraq, she left him. He said that put him on the verge of suicide, but when I asked him why he would leave her for 28 months, he said, “I guess I loved my job more”.

    When I first started talking to him, he ensured me that he would be back in 9 months and that he knows he can’t keep continuing to leave the country and leave those he loves behind. He has two grown daughters from a previous marriage. Well, guess what? He started talking about his ex-fiance all the time. He had the nerve to tell me that she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Yes, he wasn’t over her. When I said something uncomplimentary about her, he told me, “I’ll hurt you”. He came back the next day and apologized saying he felt “convicted” and that he wasn’t really “taking up for her”. We started arguing a lot. I was angry that he wasn’t over the ex, and that he led me on about coming back home after this assignment was over. I guess I should have seen the signs. When he first contacted me before he left on volunteer assignment, we talked a bit, and he said he was “jonesing” to be back overseas.

    Then he told me one day that he had decided to apply for a job overseas and the one that he really wanted would keep him gone from the U.S. for 70% of the time. He told me that he needed me to accept that if we were going to be together and that when he actually did come home, “it would be wonderful”. He said these are the kinds of jobs he likes and they just happen to be overseas.

    Then after I wasted 5 months of my life talking to him mostly every other day via webcam while he was in India, he told me we had “no future”, and “no connection”. He SAID he wanted to remain friends, I didn’t reply. That was the end.

  17. 17
    Goldie

    The author sounds ambivalent about her decision. I wouldn’t want to date someone like her ex, because she’ll always be looming on the horizon, “gazing at her future ex” (wha?) and threatening to “reconnect” (whatever that means). His new GF/wife will never know where she stands.

    Your divorce is happier than your marriage in one case only — when you realize you may spend the rest of your life single, and to you it is still preferable to being with your spouse — and if you can name one or more valid reasons why. This woman is already talking about “a better match” that may never materialize.

    I recommend a book by Mira Kirshenbaum called “Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay”. It helps you analyze your marriage and determine whether you’ll be happier divorcing and starting on your own, or staying together and working things out. (I went to counseling, as well. Invited my then husband to join me, but he declined.) From the article, I don’t get the vibe that any of that analysis has ever taken place.

  18. 18
    Kristen

    I agree with some of her friends that she might be in the “honeymoon” stage of divorce. After breaking up with my live-in fiance, I felt a sense of relief but then I became nostalgic and really struggled with missing him and feeling lonely.

  19. 19
    Teresa

    The pain of staying in the marriage is greater than the pain of leaving the marriage is what did it for me. To those who criticize how many of you have been married? All marriages are unique just like the individuals in them.
    the problem as someone stated above is not that divorce is too easy it’s that marriage is. The bottom line is that no one knows 20 30 years down the road if you will still be together because life is about change.

  20. 20
    LC

    She’s upset that her husband won’t try Zumba? She is bonkers. You don’t leave a good man just because he won’t act like a chick.

  21. 21
    Mia

    Sarah – one divorce I can understand, for the reasons you explain, but two raises questions. I suppose there are times when it really is bad luck.

    What cracks me up is the stupidity with which so many men select their wives (worth focusing on since women initiate more divorces). They only want girls who are insanely hard to get , who turn them down for dates at first, who don’t return calls, who make them wait like puppies for 6 months before having sex. You even see this in pop culture – in How I Met Your Mother, the guy who wants to get married, Ted, keeps chasing girls who are impossible to get and erect massive barriers. Well, does it ever occur to men that maybe these girls are hard to get because they’re not into them or manipulative? I mean, God forbid a man marry an affectionate girl who enthusiastically accepts dates and enjoys sex with him! Then men sit around bitching that their wives don’t put out , nag, control, and only care about their money. Evan’s courtship with his wife obviously isn’t like that, but it seems to be rare.

  22. 22
    Margo

    I see a lot of you on here praising the independent man. However, like the man I wrote about above, who wants a selfish man who continually puts his self and career before his family? It seems like a lot of you on here are advocating that. She deserves a partner who will put her needs BEFORE his career goals. Isn’t that what love is about??

  23. 23
    LC

    Doesn’t a man work to feed his family & wife? They feel a heavy responsibility to provide, and a lot of times, women nag and nag about him not being home when he’s really just out there trying to take care of his family’s needs. Perhaps a little understanding from her side might be more beneficial than griping about him not trying Zumba and being her “soulmate.” It’s hard for a man to feel close to a woman who’s pissed at him for trying to be a good guy and work hard.

  24. 24
    Ruby

    @ Mia #21: To give you an example, I have a friend who is in her fifties and twice divorced. She married for the first time in her early twenties, when she and her husband weren’t really mature enough, and didn’t have a serious view of marriage. The marriage lasted less than 2 years (ever heard the phrase “starter marriage’?)

    Remarried in her early thirties, had 2 kids, and stayed married for 20 years. The standard phrase I hear after these long marriages break up is, “We just grew apart”, which seems to be, at least in part, code for “We stopped having sex.” Husband initiated the divorce, and moved right into a relationship with a thirty-something woman.

    While she is not perfect, I wouldn’t say she has “serious emotional issues”. OTOH, second and third marriages are even more likely to break up than first marriages, so it would seem that people are not taking the time to resolve the issues that caused their first (or second) marriage to end.

    As far Wendy Paris’ article goes, the phrase that really stood out for me was “I’ve always had an optimistic view of divorce.” While an amicable divorce is much preferred to an acrimonious one, I’d guess that most people would dread the idea of divorce and a failed marriage even under the best of circumstances.

  25. 25
    helene

    @ Mia

    I think its important to understand that with any marriage problem, you cannot solve it on your own. For issues to be resolved, BOTH PARTNERS need to be willing to work on the marriage. Something that can frequently happen in a marriage is that one partner becomes unhappy with some aspect of the relationship (whether its how much time the partner spends on career/outside interests, quality of sex /emotional intimacy over the years, how money is spent, how children are raised etc…etc…)whist the other partner is happy with things as they are (or have become) and has no desire to instigate any changes. The unhappy partner raises the issue – often repeatedly – whilst the other partner (happy with the status quo) either ignores it or makes sympathetic noises but no real changes. The unhappy partner may then embark on a one-sided (and likely ill-fated) attempt to  fix things – eg. in my first marriage I became unhappy that my husband dedicated too much time and energy to his work, so I ended up giving up MY job, so at least when he was home, I was home too and the housework was done so we could have more time together… but these one sided efforts often just make the problem worse – the unhappy partner is now investing MORE time and effort in a relatiohsip he/she is unhappy with, whilst the other partner, happy with the status quo, continues to resist change. The problem is considered to be the unhappy partner’s problem – the other one says “Hey, I don’t HAVE a problem!”. The unhappy partner may ther try several different strategies to try to communicate their concerns and “fix things” but unless the other partner is equally concerned and they agree on changes they are BOTH going to make to improve things, then these attempts too are doomed. Eventually, the unhappy partner leaves – or the happy partner leaves cos he’s fed up being with someone who’s unhappy. End of marriage.

    How much and on what issues your partner is going to be prepared to compromise and work with you throughout a marriage is really quite difficult to assess before marriage – often we ourselves cannot correctly anticipate how we will react if a certain situation arises. I like to think I’d rescue a child from a burning building, but who knows? Maybe I’d run and hide from the flames.

    So I don’t think you can say that people who are divorced one or more times have “serious emotional issues” When I see the unhealthy state of the emotional relationships in some marriages where people have stayed together, my main conclusion is that those who divorce may simply be braver, or more determined to get OUT of an emotionally unhealthy situation than others.

  26. 26
    Margaret

    It’s always interesting, isn’t it…different ways love expresses in different people. Cleasrly, his love was expressed through the language of “acts of Service” and hers. through quality time. Many men express their love for a woman through “providing”. Trick for us is seeing what their narural “providing” style is…does he like to fix things for you? does he always get gifts? does he express his love through his paycheck? does he always insist on togetherness? does he need or give constant “words of affirmation?”
    The biggest question I have, is, how to have togetherness and healthy autonomy in a relationship if hes into togetherness and you are all about independence? I don’t have your book yet but am a newly single 55 yr old very athletic woman who can be a handful(yeah i’m hearing you!) but really wants a great companion and someone who adds to and increases the ease of life. I seem to attract needy beta boys and I can relate to the “calvinist approach” Wendy speaks of!!
    Good luck to everyone here in our quest for that twin flame connection!!

  27. 27
    starthrower68

    If I had known 20 years ago, I’d have known what I know now my life would probably look very different.  I would not have married my ex.  However, I would not have been blessed with three beautiful, amazing children.  I can’t regret all of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>