Happily married? Divorce is still an option

Filed under: Just For Moms, Just For Dads, Divorce & Custody, Playground Bureau

wedding ringsHow would you describe your marriage? Happy? Satisfying? Meh? Does it depend on the checking account balance? Or how the kids are behaving? Or just on the weather? You know, divorce is always an option. And according to Ellen Tien, it is an option that many of us fantasize about on a regular basis.

In an essay titled "She's happily married, dreaming of divorce" originally published in the May issue of O Magazine, Tien describes her own marriage as "Less than bliss, better than disaster." She says that she and her husband "remain if not happily married, then steadily so." In other words, they're not divorced. Yet.

But, she claims, she thinks constantly about the possibility of divorce, acknowledges it as an option. It is just an option she has not yet exercised. In this, she says, she is not unlike other women her age and class -- we are all dreaming of divorce despite the fact that we claim to be happily married.

Tien's claim that we all yearn for divorce is one more version of the story about how feminism ruined everything. Women of Tien's generation -- my generation -- grew up believing that we could have it all: career, kids, husband, wrinkle-free skin. More than that, though, we believed that we NEEDED to have it all. And so, she says, we settled for marriages that were less than what we really wanted or really deserved. And now, when our husbands' quirks get on our nerves (Tien, after all, is not talking about women who are abused or battered but about women whose husbands don't always remember to pick up their shoes or take out the trash) -- when our marriages don't live up to our expectations, we begin to think about divorce.

But those expectations seem pretty ridiculous, really.

Tien's essay saddens me to my core. She describes marriage as "a job -- intermittently fulfilling and annoying, with not enough vacation days." Vacation from what, though? From your husband? Or from the role of wife? Time apart is good for any couple, but if what you want is not to be the wife, then you really do need to rethink why you are married in the first place.

What I do not buy is this: I do not think that my generation of wives, the post-feminist, opt-out generation, is entirely composed of women who fantasize about getting a divorce. Are there good reasons to leave a marriage? Of course. Are you a failure if you file for divorce? Of course not. But acknowledging that divorce has its place in the culture of marriage is not the same as saying that we are all longing, secretly and desperately, for a divorce.

What about you -- are you happily married and longing for a divorce?

Do you fantasize about divorce?
Yes, of course, every single day.8276 (24.9%)
Sometimes, when things aren't going well.13811 (41.5%)
Never -- that's a cop out.11188 (33.6%)

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.