Happily Ever After?

As women spend more time working -- and have let/ encouraged/ demanded their husbands do more with kids -- fatherhood has changed dramatically in the United States. Because of this, dads' roles as parents have changed even more in the last 25 years than moms'.

Along these lines comes I Think I Love My Wife, a movie that opens March 16 starring, co-written and directed by comedian Chris Rock. Rock, who is married and has two children, calls the movie "a serious comedy about dads and marriage and parenthood." The basic plot, as far as I can tell from previews, reviews and Rock's February 28 appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show, is that the main character's life is idyllic -- beautiful wife, lovely kids, good job, trustworthy friends. But he's bored with domestic bliss in a midlife, "is this all there is?" way, and easily distracted by a friend's seductive (and single) ex-girlfriend. I haven't seen the movie so I can't recommend it -- but I will go see it, if only because of its intriguing view inside a married father's world.

In real life, a friend in his 40s who's happily married with three kids told me recently that he thinks some men today stay in marriages "for the kids" the way women have for generations. He cited five friends who are unhappy in their marriages but are staying put until their children go to college because of their degree of involvement in their kids' lives. It used to be -- generally -- that men strayed or outright left when bored or unhappy. Although I have not found any research proving this, it seems men left because they could, without significant financial or legal repercussions like being tracked down for child support, and because their bonds with their children were less binding because they were less involved in their daily lives.

An alternate view comes in Terrence Real's new marriage self-help book The New Rules of Marriage: A Breakthrough Program for 21st Century Relationships. The reason we need a breakthough is simple, according to the book jacket: "A long overdue message that women need to hear: You aren't crazy -- you're right! Women have changed in the last twenty-five years -- they have become powerful, independent, self-confident and happy. Yet many men remain irresponsible and emotionally detached. They don't know how to respond to frustrated partners who just want their mates to show up and grow up."

I'm not advocating that this book -- or Chris Rock's movie or my friend's experience -- present an accurate or complete picture of marriages today. But there's a grain of truth in each perspective. I know men who stay in marriages to remain involved in their kids' daily lives. And I know several women who've left their children's fathers because they could, financially, far more easily than my mother's generation. Men's and women's ties to family have both changed in the last 25 years.

What do you see? Have you stayed in an unhappy relationship to maximize time with your children? How is your approach to marriage and kids different from your parents' generation? How are men's and women's changing roles transforming marriage and parenthood today?

By Leslie Morgan Steiner |  March 13, 2007; 7:12 AM ET  | Category:  Conflicts , Dads
Previous: Million Dollar Kids | Next: All Possible Compromises


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First!

Posted by: John | March 12, 2007 6:27 AM

First!
Wow, what a depressing way to start our week off. I can't say that I am or would stay in a marriage just for the kids. I have only been married for a few years. But I think from what I have learned from my parents and grandparents is when you get older, you really rely on your spouse. I truly think people expect too much from a marriage and are thus unhappy. It is not meant to be a 100% bliss. It is meant to weather good times and bad times. It is the longevity and committment that is truly rewarding. DH is really a romantic at heart. He sends beautiful bouquets of flowers and writes me poetry. That is wonderful and I really appreciate it. One of my friends said she wished her husband would do that. I said, I love DH and I appreciate him for doing it. But I am most touched by his day to day committment to me and our daughter. I think real love is staying up till 3 in the morning with a sick kid, holding me when I am scared about a job switch, managing to go into work day after day to help provide for our family, and knowing that I am his biggest fan and vice versa. That is what I think real love is. But like I said, we have only been married a short time compared to some people. Ask me again in 30 years. I might have a different answer.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 6:28 AM

The time stamp on comments is an hour off today thanks to the time change yesterday. This is being worked on.

Posted by: washingtonpost.com | March 12, 2007 6:34 AM

Sorry foamgnome, you're second.

Just more depressing, huh?

Posted by: John | March 12, 2007 6:38 AM

The WPost waited after the new time change to fix the problem? Way to go WPost IT department. How long have you known about this? Like months?

The WPost even wrote about it months ago.

As I said before, way to go WPost IT department.

Posted by: John | March 12, 2007 6:42 AM

Good morning John.
Yeah, more depressing.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 6:51 AM

In real life, Chris Rock has started divorce proceedings from his wife of 10 years.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 6:52 AM

Ugh, I checked out the website for Real's book. He seems to think men are morons, and that it's up to women to work hard to save their marriages, dragging the men along behind them. Charming.

I always said I would never stay married just for the sake of the kids. My parents did, and my mom in particular lost no opportunity to remind us of that fact. I used to pray they'd get divorced.

Now that I have a child, though, the position seems more reasonable. Not because I think it's better for the kids to have their parents be together at all costs, but because I cannot imagine not seeing my daughter every day. It must be devestating to the non-custodial parent not to have access to their kids more than a couple of days a week.

Luckily, DH and I don't have to worry about that, at least not now. We've been married for 8 years, and given the chance, I'd marry him again in a heartbeat. He assures me that he feels the same way.

Posted by: NewSAHM | March 12, 2007 6:52 AM

I'm with Foamgnome. I think people expect too much from their marriage. I also think that a lot of people make a stupid choice about who to marry or why.

It's an interesting notion that men, or at least some men, are now staying in their marriages for the sake of their children. Can't comment whether this is a good thing or bad thing, but I suspect that either way, children know whether their parents are happy or unhappy with their marriage, and whether their parents like each other. So I guess it would come down to: which is worse? Growing up knowing your parents don't like each other or having your parents split at some point? I wonder if anyone's done research on this.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 12, 2007 6:57 AM

I just got a sick feeling. Mcewen is going to have a field day today. We should have let him do a guest blog on this topic. Then we might hear the full story.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 6:57 AM

"Yet many men remain irresponsible and emotionally detached"

I do get a bit tired of this male bashing. The ones who are like this stick out like a sore thumb. Many, like me, soldier on in obscurity.

I do have a partial solution to this, real pre-marriage counseling. As witnessed on this board, many people go into marriage with unrealistic expectation. It amazes me that some people do not discuss such basic issues as having/not having children and full disclosure of pertinent facts such as financial condition, potential health problems and previous emotional conditions. I know that people and conditions change over time but a solid basis of truly understanding the person that you are marrying should allow a long lasting and happy marriage.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 7:05 AM

With all the kids, my wife and I are just too porr to get divorced. Looks like we are stuck with one another.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 7:09 AM

THE PRICE OF STAYING IN A LOVELESS MARRIAGE

You die a little bit every day because you are in a voluntary self destructive situation.

You set a poor example for your children, who become confused over their role in the family.

You waste years and years of your life that you can't ever get back.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 7:11 AM

LOL, Father of 4. I once asked my mother if she ever thought about getting divorce when we were kids and she STUNNED me by saying "Of course, but we were too poor." The good news is they're still married and happy after 40+ years of marriage.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 12, 2007 7:12 AM

Expect too much from their marriage??

Marriage is a partnership and you should EXPECT it to work

Maybe the problem is not the men running away. It's the women pushing them away with stupid comments like "I think people expect too much from their marriage".

Posted by: John | March 12, 2007 7:14 AM

THE HIGH COST OF DIVORCE

Divorce hurts children, even when they have long ago ceased being children.

The entire trajectory of a person's life is profoundly and negatively altered by the divorce experience.

Parents who are thinking of divorce, in your rush to improve your own life, don't assume your children's lives will improve as well. They won't.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 7:17 AM

Bitter, much? What's your beef today, John?

Or maybe the problem is stupid men refusing to recognize what's going on . . .

Posted by: to John | March 12, 2007 7:18 AM

"I do have a partial solution to this, real pre-marriage counseling"

Sounds good, but does it work? My church requires pre-marriage counseling in order to hold the ceremony in my church. Thousands of couples have attended the sessions. Even though it is obivous that hundreds of these couples are completely incompatible, only a few have cancelled their weddings. The rest go forward into the brave new world of matrimony with less than zero chance of success. If people want to get married there is little that can be done to force them to address future problems now.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 7:20 AM

A submissive wife is key to a happy marriage.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 7:31 AM

"Or maybe the problem is stupid men refusing to recognize what's going on . . ."

The problem goes both ways John. As forest Gump said 'Stupid is as stupid does"

The comment about expect less from a marriage is self-destructive to the marriage. If you think that way, you should have never got married, or had kids.

I've been married to the most beautiful woman in the world for 30 years, not because I expect less, but because I do what was expected of me when i said "I do"

Posted by: John | March 12, 2007 7:34 AM

"Sounds good, but does it work? My church requires pre-marriage counseling in order to hold the ceremony in my church."

I understand exactly what you mean, as I say, it is a partial solution. At least some of them did not get married. I think that at least, it would give couples an idea of what challenges lie ahead and an introduction to the idea of a third party as a resource for solving problems.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 7:39 AM

Many posts on parent's marriages and I think that has so much influence on how we conduct our own marriages. I know my mother has done some complaining about my dad in her later years (they are still married - 49 years!) that frankly, I didn't want to hear, but I think it is just her reflecting and I happen to be in the room. I do know that when me and my brothers were growing up in the 60's, 70's and 80's things were different, and it is hard to judge marriages back then by today's standards. Things have changed, some for the better and some for the worse.

I find it odd that someone knows 5 men that are staying in their marriage just because of the kids. Most men I know don't confide in each other about the state of their marriages. As a matter of fact the divorces that have happened to my friends, it has always been the wife that "breaks it to the public" about the marriage ending - the men seem to just kinda shrink away from social interaction or discussion for a time. Women are much more open to discussing the good and bad of marriage (sometimes ad nauseum) and men don't reveal too many intimate details - just my experience.

Posted by: cmac | March 12, 2007 7:44 AM

John, to clarify, I don't mean that people should expect LESS from their marriage or lower their standards. I just think the expectations should be more realistic. Your spouse cannot meet your every need. That is impossible for any person. You are not going to spend every waking second of the rest of your life madly and passionately in love with another person. Also impossible.

That's the kind of folly I'm talking about.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 12, 2007 7:44 AM

The person masquerading as John is an imposter. This is my first post this morning.

I don't have much to offer to this discussion since I am not a father, although I am married.

Posted by: The Real John | March 12, 2007 7:44 AM

I'm all for premarital counseling, but Fred, I have to say, I had no idea, even after premarital counseling, what being married, having kids, working, not working, moving, moving again, debt, paying off debt, 2 colleges done, 2 more to go, parents getting old, etc. etc. would be like. Life happens. One either rises or falls with life's travails. Why am I telling you this? You already know!

I'm happy to be married to the same man after all these years and experiences.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 7:45 AM

THE HIGH COST OF STAYING IN A LOVELESS MARRIAGE

You handed down a life sentence to yourself for marrying the wrong person and you are the warden of your own self made prison.

Good grief, cats know enough to take off when they have made a bad choice in a mate!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 7:46 AM

I think marriage takes work just like anything else worth doing. I know that my husband drives me crazy on occasion, but he's great with our daughter and we're in it for the long haul.

People expect things to stay the same but they don't and then they're disappointed. You just adjust and go on.

And frankly once you have kids with someone you are locked for life to that person whether you are married or not. So may as well stay with that person, unless it's really bad. If you share custody, you still have to deal with them plus their new relationships as well. You have financial ties so you still have to talk about money. And I think most kids would rather have their parents together than apart, it's as simple as that. Maybe this isn't that romantic but it's honest.

Posted by: 19years | March 12, 2007 7:54 AM

I have to say I am on the fence on this one both personally and intellectually. I am the product of divorced parents and I know it affected my development dramatically. Before the divorce I was an extremely outgoing, self-confident, thin child. After, I was far less confident and overweight - food was a great comfort to me in those after-school hours home alone as I became a "latch-key kid." Mom had to go to work full-time. I also had major issues with my Dad because my Mom blamed him for the divorce and since I lived with her I heard her "side" on a daily basis. Luckily, I worked thing out with my Dad in college.

Everything I've read says divorce adversely affects kids. On the other hand, my husband and I bicker a lot and I often wonder how that's affecting my kids. I see them lose patience with each other and scream at one another and wonder if they are following our example or just being kids. We're too poor to get divorced too and I would die if I didn't have access to my kids everyday. But, marriage is not all it's cracked up to be for me. Am I expecting too much? Maybe. Should my husband and I be working harder at getting along (especially in front of the kids)? Absolutely. The reality for me is that I'm not truly unhappy, but I definitely think I could be happier. Or maybe, I'm just expecting too much - hard to know.

Definitely a depressing topic.

Posted by: PT Fed Mof2 | March 12, 2007 7:54 AM

WorkingMomX, you're right on the money. John and others, why argue about what other people think of as the perfect marriage? Do you know what every person wants in a marriage?

The trick is not conforming to another person's idea of a great marriage (e.g., flowers every weekend and diamonds on birthdays). The trick is finding the person who wants the same thing out of a marriage. I wanted a partner, not a savior or a shoulder to bolster myself on. He feels the same way. A couple I know are blissfully happy because they both agree that the woman should be subservient.

The problem is that with the changing roles of wives and husbands in terms of work and parenthood, there are more varied types of marriages. Pre-marital counseling should address this, and conversations prior to marriage should also.

Posted by: Meesh | March 12, 2007 7:55 AM

I have always maintained that women have changed the parameters of the marriage project, but they did it without buyin from the other project stakeholders.

And think about what life was like when you were dating and then after you were married. Women marry men thinking they will change. Men marry women hoping they won't. I know my wife changed a lot when we got married and her idea of marriage was completely different from mine and she was really mad at me for a while when I didn't change. I made adjustments along the way and that has made a lot of difference.

Posted by: Working Dad | March 12, 2007 8:06 AM

Don't stay together for the kids. It makes for a miserable life for them.

Posted by: atlmom | March 12, 2007 8:07 AM

The Real John,

May name is John too and I am not changing my namer for you.

Posted by: John | March 12, 2007 8:07 AM

John, to clarify, I don't mean that people should expect LESS from their marriage or lower their standards.

Should expect less? Lower their standards?
Why get into it in the first place?

You must be in a bad or getting worse marriage because those are just bitter words.

Posted by: John | March 12, 2007 8:11 AM

I think one of the "expectations" that people go into marriage with that hurts them a lot is that marriage, by itself, will solve problems. Or that because you're married you're not going to have new problems, so they don't set up a framework to deal with issues before they become problems. For that reason I totally endorse premarital counseling - if the one thing they learn is that issues will come up, you can get mad at each other, but you can solve problems and move on then it'll be worth it. I imagine that lesson gets a hundred times more difficult to learn once children are in the picture, just as it becomes even more important.

Posted by: SPC | March 12, 2007 8:11 AM

"Don't stay together for the kids. It makes for a miserable life for them."

All current research shows otherwise.

Posted by: to atlmom | March 12, 2007 8:11 AM

I'd rather a man leave me than to stay in the family becuase of the kids... though I would still expect him to be a good father.

How does the phrase go 'most men live lives of quiet desperation'?

Posted by: single mom | March 12, 2007 8:13 AM

John, you're really looking for a fight today, aren't you? Sorry, you're not going to get it from me. If you're feeling crabby, try the NYTimes blogs. They'll squash you like a bug.

And to the Real John, I suspect that we will not have difficulty sussing out which posts are yours and which are this guy's.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 12, 2007 8:14 AM


my parents were alive, they were happily married

my wife's parents are happily married

I'm happily married.


I just don't know how people can make the mistake and marry someone they'll eventually divorce. seems like a stupid mistake to me

Posted by: sucks to be you | March 12, 2007 8:18 AM

WorkingMomX,

I have to intention of fighting with you. Just making a point.

Posted by: John | March 12, 2007 8:23 AM

Thanks for helping me look into myself a little today. I waited till my late 30s before marrying, in part because I thought I'd be sure of my decision to marry. I am not. It's rough - I keep feeling like I shortchanged myself. I try to work on things with my wife but after a while I get worn out by the effort. I like being in this relationship, I just wish it would be more interesting (for lack of a better word). The good news is my wife and I both have these feelings are working on them. Thanks folks

Posted by: Bob | March 12, 2007 8:24 AM

Fake John,

I've been posting here for some time now and the other people on this board are used to the tone of my comments. For someone else to just use "John" as their name introduces confusion to everyone reading them.

I'll hereafter call myself The Real John, though.

Posted by: The Real John | March 12, 2007 8:24 AM

My marriage hasn't always been wonderful and goodness knows it's the childrearing years that have been the hardest. So have I stayed in what was ,at the time, a very difficult marriage? Yes. Did I do it for my son? You betcha! Totally upending his life and sending him through that kind of grief and pain was not and never will be an option. He's 9 now and I have no idea how I will feel about my marriage once he is grown, but until then I will deal with it as it comes and hope for the best.

I don't feel as though I'm subjecting myself to a death sentence. I made a promise to my partner and we made a commitment to the child we brought in to this world to be a family both emotionally and financially. Breaking that promise because I feel there may be a better life with someone else would be selfish and shortsighted. That's why they make you promise to be there for better or for worse.

Posted by: Circle Pines | March 12, 2007 8:26 AM

I think many people go into a marriage thinking more about what they are going to get out of it as opposed to what they are going to give. I have been married 14 years and have two kids. It hasn't always been easy, and there have been disappointments, I am sure, on both sides. If you married before you were fully cognizant of who you were and what you wanted in a mate (most of us, I would bet!), you may find your partner lacking in a few areas. The first year I was married a friend gave me a book--how to affair-proof your marriage, or something. Maybe it was 'his needs, her needs'. It was helpful to me, and maybe the reason why we are happy together (go a head--ask me). People are not nearly as complex as they like to think they are.

Posted by: anon | March 12, 2007 8:31 AM

I was a volunteer advocate with an abused persons program in my County. I worked with battered women, child abuse victims and rape victims. What amazed me is the amount of abuse a woman will put up with and still stay with her partner (not always a spouse). In most cases the women got involved with these jerks while still teenagers. They didn't learn any marketable skills. They got knocked up while very young and depended solely on these jerks for financial security. So, there they are. Tied down with 2,3,4 or more kids. No marketable skills. No child care so they can work at a minimum paying job. And an abusive jerk who beats the crap out of them. These guys send up red flags long before you get so involved with them you can't leave. How do they treat other women, especially their mother and sisters? Do they keep strict control of your activities? Do they check the odometer on the car every time you use the car? Do they destroy your personal items as punishment? Do they harm or threaten to harm your kids or pets? Do they humiliate or berate you in front of other people? Any one of these things should send a signal to GET THE HELL AWAY FROM THIS GUY! I never married because my mother was an exact duplicate. I never wanted to get into another abusive relationship with somebody bigger than I am.

Obviously a lot of women (and men)go into relationships with rose colored glasses. After the bridal showers, the white gown, the champagne and roses, you've got to sit across the table from that clown every day of the rest of your life. BTW, I worked with a man who was on his fourth wife. With a track record like that, it can't ALL be the wife's fault.

I have no sympathy for people in bad marriages because they should have seen it coming before they took the plunge.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 8:32 AM

"A submissive wife is key to a happy marriage."

I have a feeling that we'll be getting a lot more of these comments throughout the day. I'm waiting for someone to blame working women for the divorce rates.

I will do my best to ignore them. I maintain that marriage has changed for the better. Yeah more people are dirvorcing. That's because marriages have changed but antiquated notions of marraige have not. And who cares if other people are divorcing but you're still happily married? What's great now is that people can get out of abusive marriages much faster. It's great for the parents and great for the kids.

My hope is that the next generation will see a backlash in response to the divorce rate today. They will see (and experience) the consequences of divorce and will take marriage more seriously. I mean, they have to learn something from Brittany, right? Maybe you parents can teach them!

Posted by: Meesh | March 12, 2007 8:33 AM

Real John, can you change your name to realJohn or something else? It will make it easier then new John (angry John).
John (angry John)- I think people expect too much because they think marriage will be a state of perpetual bliss and that is not realistic. I am not saying people should choose mates on the lowest possible standard.

As far as premarital counseling, I think it helps but the real test is ones ability to adapt and change. Because people change and life situations certainly change. I also think they should give refresher courses to those marriage counseling. DH and I did this week end long pre marital class. It was awesome but even then, I thought we should have refresher courses. But that is hard for people to work out with their daily life.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 8:33 AM

to anon at 8:32
Do you think you might be in the wrong profession? I can't imagine working with people going through difficult times and not sympathizing with them. In fact, your post sounds rather like something a misandrist would write.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 8:36 AM

"I don't feel as though I'm subjecting myself to a death sentence"

How long is your sentence?

'till the kids are in college or done with grad school? Or have their own loveless marriages because they followed your example?

Do you get time off for good behavior?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 8:36 AM

Gentlemen, surely having reached adulthood with a name as common as "John," you've run into this problem before? "Real John", it's great that you found the blog first but wouldn't "John the First" or something similar be better than implying your name-brethren are all fake?

I don't have a dog in this fight, just a suggestion.

Posted by: To the Johns | March 12, 2007 8:36 AM

It's Britney, not "Brittany". I thought you were talking about people learning something from France . . .

Posted by: to Meesh | March 12, 2007 8:37 AM

I have no sympathy for people in bad marriages because they should have seen it coming before they took the plunge.

I am a little confused how you help battered women if you have no sympathy for them.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 8:39 AM

WorkingMom,

Just to avoid the confusion I'll change my nom de guerre here just the same.

I've been married for nearly 23 years now; I dated my wife-to-be for three years before that. We have found that there are several things that helped us get this far:

1. Open lines of communication between us
2. Honesty; no head games
3. Give each other space when needed
4. Stay involved in each other's lives
5. Be your spouse's best friend
6. Help each other out when needed
7. Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself
8. No fighting; keep arguments civil
9. Listen to each other's point of view
10 Trust each other

Posted by: The Real John | March 12, 2007 8:39 AM

"I mean, they have to learn something from Brittany, right?"

Like what? Don't go out in public with a shaved snatch without your panties?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 8:40 AM

To the "High Cost of Divorce" and the person that couldn't leave his or her name:

My parents divorced when I was 14 and although it was tough, I can't look back on it some 30+ years later and still see it as negative. It is part of who I am today and played a part in making me independant and absolutely ADAMENT that I will do what I can to make my marriage work. That said, it takes two to make any relationship work so I am thankful that my husband feels the same. He wondered early in our marriage why I pushed communication - because I saw that as the underlying problem with my parents marriage.

CirclePines: I hope you hide it well.

As for most people staying in a bad marriage for the kids: the children see it (I did). You're providing them with a bad idea of what a marriage should be unless you're really good at hiding. I know several people who are miserable in their marriage and I feel sorry for them. I get tired of being around husband-bashing sessions and end up seperating myself from those friends. We now look for other couples that are happily married (we're 14 years) to hang around with. Unfortunately, it is hard to find...

Men - if you are looking for adventure, go see Wild Hogs. It is hilarious!

Posted by: ParentPreneur | March 12, 2007 8:42 AM

Well, when there are multiple John's in a meeting it's kind of obvious who is saying what. It's when you don't see anything but the printed word and everyone's using just their first name that the confusion can set in.

My last name starts with L. I'll use that from then on in my name.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 8:43 AM

Is that better The Real John?

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 8:44 AM

it's still better to be married than not. Better for each spouse, better for the kids. More stability for all, to use a non-PC word. How about just enjoying your spouse's presence and still feeling attracted after all these years. Works for me!

Posted by: babby | March 12, 2007 8:44 AM

Looks like we've arrived at the same solution, John Q. Works for me.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 8:44 AM

Jouhn L and John Q, see if your parents just gave you a nifty name like foamgnome, there wouldn't be any problems.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 8:45 AM

"Jouhn L and John Q, see if your parents just gave you a nifty name like foamgnome, there wouldn't be any problems."

Here Here!!

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 8:46 AM

Good, but depressing topic. As married father of a 7-month old, I struggle with these issues. Like others, my marriage has some good points and some bad points and having the baby has highlighted both of them. I can say that nearly all of my friends struggle with the same marriage issues and I'm always skeptical of those who claim to have the perfect marriage. My parents divorced when I was 5 and it has had a profound impact on my life which I vowed I would never do if I had kids. So with that said, I'm working on some issues internally that affect my relationships and if necessary, will seek marital counseling because I want my marriage to work. I think the larger societal problem for people of my generation (gen x) , is that are so many options out there that you never know if you made the right choice which can lead to lots of self-doubt...anyway, no easy answer, but I think couples should try everything before divorcing.

Posted by: JDS | March 12, 2007 8:48 AM

What they wanted was sympathy -- lots of it. Lots of whining and poor pitiful me. What they needed was guidance on how to get out of a hellish situation. Sympathy alone doesn't help.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 8:49 AM

"Looks like we've arrived at the same solution, John Q. Works for me."

Works for me too.

Now where were we? Oh yeah. WorkingMomX and her comments, oops, opinion.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 8:49 AM

"Looks like we've arrived at the same solution, John Q. Works for me."

Works for me too.

Now where were we? Oh yeah. WorkingMomX and her comments, oops, opinion.

Forgot the John Q HA

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 8:50 AM

If they'd added a "U" to the middle of my name there wouldn't have been any problems either...

Related to this topic, I have several friends who have opted to just not get married. Some have children, others do not, some have long term relationships that are stable as many marriages, others do not, but they are all fairly certain they just don't want to get married. When I ask them about it, some say they don't want to marry their child's other parent (citing personal difficulties already discovered), are just "set in their ways" or like to not have to get a concensus before making a big decision (moving, big ticket purchase, vacations, etc).

Most of them are in their 30's and early 40's. Has anyone else noticed this?

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 8:51 AM

No easy answers here. Parents in a bad marriage is hard on kids. Divorce is hard on kids. Think you just have to try to figure out the lesser of two evils.

Pre-marriage counseling is a great idea. But I think the people who need it MOST are least aware that they need it (I'm a good example -- my first husband and I went to church-mandated pre-marriage counseling and it was not helpful).

Instead it would be more helpful to add to the marriage license a warning each person needs to sign about how seriously this country's legal system treats marriage -- to the effect of "it takes 15-20 minutes to get married but it can take years and thousands of dollars in legal fees to get un-married." Many people head into matrimony thinking "I can just get a divorce if it doesn't work out." Crazy thinking. There's no such thing as a good or easy divorce.

Posted by: Leslie | March 12, 2007 8:51 AM

RealJohn, I want to add to your laundry list, but I want to bump this up to number one. S-e-x. This may sound superficial, but I think it is the fastest way to harmony.

Posted by: anon | March 12, 2007 8:52 AM

Marriage is difficult - I think too many sitcoms have made the American expectation of marriage that fights will resolve themselves quickly and irritating little quirks don't REALLY get on your spouse's nerve - it's merely comic relief. And that in the end, everything will work out for the best. Cue theme music.

I've only been married a few years, but I initiated marriage counseling with my husband last year. Not because we were already in trouble, but because I wanted to keep it from getting that way. (Our counselor said it was refreshing to work with a couple in that state and wished more would do so.)

Lines of communication are open and it's helping. My husband is realizing that p*ssing each other off from time to time is a normal part of marriage, and doesn't mean the end of it. I'm learning to coax that anger out of him, because it's healthier for both of us (I kept waiting for him to tell me why he was angry at me and it never came). And mostly, I'm having my husband work on the "we" concept. He never really grasped the idea that problems one of us have actually impact the other. His problems are my problems...and my problems are my problems as well. We're working on that one.

I think it's only natural when the product of a passive-aggressive family (my husband) marries the product of an aggressive family (me). So we'll find our settled ground. It won't be easy, but we'll get there.

"One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love with him or he falls out of love with you, it keeps you together until you fall in again." - Judith Viorst

"In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for divorce. The trick is to find, and continue to find, grounds for marriage." - Robert Anderson

and my favorite ;) ...

"Never feel remorse for what you have thought about your wife; she has thought much worse things about you." - Jean Rostand

Posted by: Chasmosaur | March 12, 2007 8:53 AM

Being in a partnership with children is hard work. I purposely didn't say "marriage is hard work" because (i) I actually think that marriage before kids is kind of blissful (not perfect, but the relationship is still about the couple) and (ii) I don't think it has anything to do with marriage as an institution - in other words, any long term partnership - married or not - is faced with the same difficulties. In the states, it isn't as commonplace as in Europe for people to enter into partnerships (along the lines of a common law marriage) and have kids and never get married. In fact, in the U.K., the gov't has said that the marriage rate has decreased significantly in the past decade.

My personal opinion is that the stress of raising children (financially and emotionally) can ruin relationships. Of course, children also bring the family together in ways that I think nothing else can, but I don't think many of us realized just how hard it would be to juggle it all when the kiddos came around. I only have so much time and energy in the day to spread around and I admit that my poor DH is usually the one who suffers and that ultimately makes our marriage suffer.

Though people have mentioned the importance of pre-marriage counseling, I think that marriage counseling is even more important. Sure - it doesn't solve all your problems, but it does help couples step back and re-evaluate what is important in their life in a neutral setting.

Posted by: londonmom | March 12, 2007 8:54 AM

RealJohn, I want to add to your laundry list, but I want to bump this up to number one. S-e-x. This may sound superficial, but I think it is the fastest way to harmony.

Posted by: anon | March 12, 2007 08:52 AM

Sex is irrelevant to harmony. It's akin to a time-out for grown-ups. As soon as we exit the bedroom, presto, all the issues that need to be resolved are front and center once again.

Great sex does not mean anything other than that your disputes are not in the bedroom.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 8:57 AM

to anon at 8:49
need comes in many flavours, and unfortunately is always swirled. Your claim to see and serve only one need is sad. In other words, emotional needs are just as valid.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 8:58 AM

"I thought we should have refresher courses..."

For refresher courses in marriage, Marriage Encounter is a great one. Some individuals may object as most Encounter weekends are run by faith based groups. I can tell you that they are not pushing religion but only marriage. The big caveat is that Marriage Encounter is for basically healthy marriages that need a some work. I have seen a marriage break up in front of my eyes in Marriage Encounter. For those who have troubled marriages, Retrouvaille is the appropriate weekend seminar.

There is also engaged encounter although we did not attend that one.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 8:58 AM

"Though people have mentioned the importance of pre-marriage counseling, I think that marriage counseling is even more important"

Isn't the divorce rate of people who have received pre-marriage and marriage counseling pretty much the same as the general population?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:01 AM

Londonmom-I agree. Things get harder once you have kids. Nothing makes me happier than all of us doing something together. Finding that something is the trick. One likes ice skating, one hates it; one likes tennis, the other, golf. I used to be bitter about the fact that my husband was not as involved as I wanted him to be when the kids were little. He is more involved now, but the most important thing I learned is that I can only change my behavior. I also learned to recognize his limitations, as well as my own, and to work to extend them. I feel like the leader of my family, even though I am not the major breadwinner.

Posted by: anon | March 12, 2007 9:03 AM

"Isn't the divorce rate of people who have received pre-marriage and marriage counseling pretty much the same as the general population?"

I do not know but what it can do is prevent some inappropiate marriages from happening.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 9:04 AM

John L, I like your list. Congratulations on being married for 23 years. That's quite an accomplishment!

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 12, 2007 9:04 AM

Anon,

I thought about adding sex to my list (which isn't ranked in any particular order, BTW); it has probably been the one issue my wife and I have discussed more than any other, as we've got different ideas of "what is enough?". However, as long as both spouses are comfortable with the sexual nature of the marriage and can work out any differences, it does not have to be a primary reason for staying together, at least in my experience. There are couples who've remained married even after illness or injury rendered one of them incapable of having sex, after all.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 9:06 AM

No, sex is not the key to right a failing marriage.

They don't call it "make up sex" because you do it in costume. Don't put the cart before the horse.

Posted by: Bob | March 12, 2007 9:06 AM

I suspect every marriage goes through some down times, when life sets in and you reach a certain age or point in your career and think, is that all there is, is this really what my life is going to be. It's not necessarily about your partner or your marriage, it's about you.

For us, small children have been a big stressor -- the combination of added responsibility and less sleep and always being "on" and having to plan so far ahead just to go out alone (my birthday dinner was 3 weeks late, because it took that long for everyone to be able to get a sitter). And just the sameness of it all -- mall last weekend to get spring/summer clothes, mall again this weekend because they need new shoes, lackluster chain restaurant dinner because we were there and needed to eat and the girl loves it, etc. We used to love being spontaneous (another way of putting "we both suck at advance planning"), so it takes a real effort to drag ourselves out of the daily sameness.

I think you can't underestimate the importance of personal responsibility in dealing with those times. Yeah, you can look at your husband and think how boring he is. Or you can say, well, I'm the one who chose to have a husband and a job and two small kids and a house and all those things that I am finding unsatisfying now. And it's a good life overall, so what am I going to do to make the day-to-day things more satisfying? So after kicking myself for wasting this gorgeous weekend in the mall and running errands, I have vowed that next week we will go hiking or do something else that is outside, completely nonproductive, and just FUN. It sounds stupid, but every time we spend an hour hiking or biking along the river, even when we start out pissy, we ended up laughing and having a great time.

Posted by: Laura | March 12, 2007 9:06 AM

It's Britney, not "Brittany". I thought you were talking about people learning something from France . . .

Posted by: to Meesh | March 12, 2007 08:37 AM

Whoops. Shows you how much I know about pop culture! I should watch more TV.

Posted by: Meesh | March 12, 2007 9:07 AM

"Isn't the divorce rate of people who have received pre-marriage and marriage "counseling pretty much the same as the general population?"

I do not know but what it can do is prevent some inappropiate marriages from happening. "

People rarely call off weddings as a result of these sessions.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:07 AM

The only research I know is my house growing up and it was *miserable*. I have two sisters in dysfunctional marriages, raising dysfunctional kids, b/c of it.
Having mom live upstairs and dad live downstairs was NOT FUN. At all. It was a horrible existence. So you can run your stats all you want, but I'm telling you, as a human being it was terrible. Then to think that you caused it somehow (ie, life would be less miserable for mom and dad, but you are to blame for the miserableness) is not great either.

Now I have a family and know that it can be fun and rewarding- we like each other and have a good time- I do not dread spending time with them.

My sisters learned that families are not happy places. My sister thinks she can change her abusive husband (and her kids will grow up thinking what were you thinking, rather than have the sympathy I think she wants). I feel sorry for them, actually- I see what a wonderful thing a loving spouse can be.

Posted by: atlmom | March 12, 2007 9:07 AM

It's just my personal story, no attempts of generalzation.

My husband has 3 kids with his ex-wife, 2 mostly grew up in the previous family (now adults), one was 2 y.o. when his father moved out (now teenager). The last one is the most realistic (no unjustified self-confidence that shatters when one faces reality), outgoing, hard-working kid. He had a lot of influence from both sides of the blended family (his mom remarried soon after the divorce), and he assimilated those inputs amazingly well.

He is more like me in spirit than like his mom. Loves his dad, and treats his stepdad respecfully, spends a lot of time in our house. He could be a poster child for post-divorce recovery. His mom also deserves credit -- she put tons of effort to avoid the antagonism, almost to the degree of being self-deprecating. The other two took the divorce more consciously, and went through some wishful thinking at the beginning. Seems like now they are OK too. I feel that they could have been helped more back then but my husband was so stressed out during the last few years of his previous marriage, even before I joined the picture, that it was a war zone in his house already. If anything, the divorce reduced and refocused the tension.

By the way, it's a second marriage for both of us. DH's parents divorced when their children went to college. Mine stuck together, but I think they would have been better off divorcing. They were high school sweethearts, and I have the impression they grew up in different directions, so both were basically unhappy for the whole life. I remember once mom came home tipsy after a company party (dad would come home drunk every other day for years, then quit completely), and dad was yelling he could not stand it, she dishonored him, let's get divorce... They grabbed me (13 at a time) and my 5 y.o. sister demanding answers whom would we choose to live with. Sis chose mom (predictably), my father expected to be chosen by me (his firstborn and favorite). Right. I looked at them and calmly explained that all they ever do is just talking, and divorce would be fine but they both are too chicken to really do it, so they should stop provoking the younger one and go to sleep. They never forgot it, but what the hell... I moved out at 16 and did not look back.

Posted by: Malibu | March 12, 2007 9:07 AM

I think the state should offer a learner's permit to couples before they get their marriage license!

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 9:09 AM

I'm concerned that people are givng two options: Divorce or stay in a loveless marriage. Very few have stated a 3rd option. What about doing everything in your power to make it work? Counseling and making an effort to pray together. Even though there are some atheists out there most people don't have a problem praying to God whether they go to church or not. Praying together can do mountains for your relationship. It has definitely helped my husband and me.

I also saw something a while back on TV about a Ballroom Dance Studio. The instructor said that he's had many couples tell him that they ended up dropping their therapist because the dancing brought them trust, partnership and an intimacy they never had or lost somewhere along the way. It's worth a try as a last resort right?

Posted by: B | March 12, 2007 9:10 AM

"A submissive wife is key to a happy marriage."

Not if she is fat and homely.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:11 AM

This may not be true for everyone, but at least in my case, intimacy is impossible without all of those things you named. So maybe it should go last on the list. I know there are some marriages that hold up without sex. I just don't know of any. Christopher Reeve's maybe.

Posted by: anon | March 12, 2007 9:12 AM

A priest who had worked on the Marriage Tribunal (the Catholic church body that rules on annulments so that legally divorced people can remarry in the church) told me that, in his view, there were the same number of unhappy marriages as in the past, but that people were less willing to stay in such a relationship for several reasons. One is that people expect much more of their marriages; they're not simply a social contract dedicated to consolidating capital and ensuring inheritance. At the same time, there is less social support for marriage -- in the past a spouse who "went home to Mother" would be told to head back home in short order and make it work. Another is that fewer spouses are willing to endure abuse and infidelity. And finally, people live longer, so something that was perhaps tolerable for a shorter lifespan becomes intolerable for a longer one. He couldn't tell me what makes for a happy marriage, but he said that red flags for an unhappy marriage included the inability of one or both partners to hold down a job, get along with their parents or prospective in-laws, have friends outside the relationship, or manage money. He added that drug or alcohol abuse or a history of divorce in either family were also bad signs, and that the expectation that marriage will improve the partner or the relationship is always a mistake. If the fundamental life skills are lacking, you're going to have a hard time with marriage. So those of us who are parents need to remember that in everything we do rearing our children we're preparing them to go away and make a happy adult life for themselves. We have to provide opportunities for them to learn these skills and to see and value these skills in others.

Posted by: LML | March 12, 2007 9:12 AM

My family, friends, and posters on this blog are the best marriage counselors I've ever known. The best part is that all the bad advice if free!

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 9:13 AM

Am I the only one who thinks that if you have to do premarital counseling, you're pretty much screwed to begin with and shouldn't walk down the aisle? And I'm not talking about pre-cana or other faith based premarital sessions you're required to do by your church. I'm talking about paying a therapist for therapy BEFORE you get married because you're not getting along or whatever.

Am I the only one?

Posted by: Crispy | March 12, 2007 9:13 AM

"People rarely call off weddings as a result of these sessions..."

I don't disagree with this but even if it saves one couple from a marriage that will obviously end in divorce..."

Crispy,

I was only refering to pre Cana or Engage Encounter. I really do not know enough to comment on your question.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 9:20 AM

I do not think I could function as well as I do in this world without a spouse. Not just for the stable companionship, but because my wife and I complement each other in our thought processes, emotional makeup, and interests.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 9:20 AM

I'm getting married in a few months, and have often wanted to ask people here what they wish they had thought of, discussed, or done before getting married. We feel very prepared, but I know that with years of marriage also comes an understanding of relationship we don't yet have. What do you wish you had known before you got married? Thanks!

Posted by: cd | March 12, 2007 9:20 AM

Am I the only one who thinks that if you have to do premarital counseling, you're pretty much screwed to begin with and shouldn't walk down the aisle? And I'm not talking about pre-cana or other faith based premarital sessions you're required to do by your church. I'm talking about paying a therapist for therapy BEFORE you get married because you're not getting along or whatever.

Am I the only one?

Posted by: Crispy | March 12, 2007 09:13 AM

If a couple is engaged in pre-marital counseling to address issues in the relationship, they have a helluva lot more going for them than couples putting all their time, cash and energy into picking the world's best wedding singer and bouquets.

What is it that you find troubling about two adults who have the maturity and commitment to take action to work on the most important thing in their lives -- their relationship with each other? Pre-marital counseling beats the heck out of deluding themselves that love overcomes all difficulties.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:20 AM

What good is pre-matrial counseling with a celibate Catholic priest? How can he 'sympathize' or offer advice if he's never been there, either?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:21 AM

In real life, Chris Rock has started divorce proceedings from his wife of 10 years.

Not true, your gossip is old. They are not getting divorced.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:22 AM

How ironic to find this question today...I just found out (last night) that my husband is once again in touch with an old girlfriend, with whom he's been carrying on an emotional (and briefly physical) affair for the past 6 years.

I frankly don't know why I've stayed. After 9/11, I stayed, because he survived that.I thought we could work through it.

Now, I am not so sure I ever made the right decision. We do have children together, but that isn't the only reason I stayed either.

I can't quite put my finger on it.

I know that staying has taken its toll on me. I've battled depression, weight problems, and other issues.

Right now, I'm not sure what the outcome will be.

We still do things together, don't really argue, and do caring things for each other. But this time, I'm not so sure that I can put the problems behind me.

In any case, I can honestly say that there are no easy answers.

Posted by: Kate | March 12, 2007 9:23 AM

Father of 4,

Got any better jokes? You're bombing.

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 9:23 AM

What good is pre-matrial counseling with a celibate Catholic priest? How can he 'sympathize' or offer advice if he's never been there, either?

Posted by: | March 12, 2007 09:21 AM

By that reasoning, a psychiatrist can't help with mental illness either unless they've experienced the same mental illness.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:24 AM

Crispy, I think you are missing the point. When you go to marriage counseling before you get married, it helps to identify and clarify aspects of marriage that you may not have thought about. Attitudes and opinions on many things do not crop up when you are dating and not living together. Marriage counseling may be the wrong term for it. Some marriages break up for reasons that could be corrected with ease--I have seen three myself, and there are regrets.

Posted by: anon | March 12, 2007 9:24 AM

Leslie:

Wow -- I was expecting today's blog would be dedicated to the interesting article in the Post on Sunday about employers trying to attrach 'boomerang parents' -- I thought it was fascinating that this type of effort is becoming institutionalized:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/10/AR2007031000081.html

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:25 AM

I'm getting married in a few months, and have often wanted to ask people here what they wish they had thought of, discussed, or done before getting married. We feel very prepared, but I know that with years of marriage also comes an understanding of relationship we don't yet have. What do you wish you had known before you got married? Thanks!

Posted by: cd | March 12, 2007 09:20 AM

Ooh, you asked for it now!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:27 AM

9:21: I don't know about any one else but the premarital weekend that I went to was not held by a priest. A priest was present but it was held by two couples. One who had been married 20+ years and the other couple married maybe 3-4 years. I think the priest just tells you what the churchs position on things. The real info came from the two couples. But I do think a priest can counsel on a number of subjects he has not gone through himself. Just like a therapist does not need to have been in an abusive marriage to help victims of abuse.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 9:27 AM

"I'm concerned that people are givng two options: Divorce or stay in a loveless marriage. Very few have stated a 3rd option. What about doing everything in your power to make it work?"

It's a waste of time when love has gone.
The divorce rate is the same.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:27 AM

Mom wanted to go to counseling but dad doesn't believe in it. So when she actually went thru with it, and it was too late, dad finally said okay. But it was way too late (by like ten yrs- I was 20 at the time, the youngest).

Posted by: atlmom | March 12, 2007 9:28 AM

"Am I the only one who thinks that if you have to do premarital counseling, you're pretty much screwed to begin with and shouldn't walk down the aisle?"

It sounds like you are picturing some type of "save our relationship" counseling, which is not the norm for premarital counseling.

Premarital counseling is more educational in nature. More of a fancy-pants name for a class that should be titled "How to live with one person for the rest of your lives without killing each other". You learn effective communication skills, problem-solving skills, money-management skills, etc. You and your partner think about an articulate what you expect your lives to be like when married, etc. Discussions that really ought to happen that somehow never do ("Gee whiz, honey. I never knew you wanted to quit working, squirt out babies, and watch daytime TV for the rest of your life.").

It's impossible to know what it's like to be married until you take the plunge, but it's easy to learn from others' mistakes. Many people have many misconceptions about what marriage is and should be. Judging by the divorce rates, seems like over half.

Posted by: Bob | March 12, 2007 9:29 AM

To "B," I think that finding something you both like to do together (whether it be praying or dancing) will foster closeness and intimacy. Good advice.

BTW, my husband and I wouldn't be able to keep straight faces if we tried praying together, and we both believe in God. For me, praying is strictly personal.

"Crispy," I disagree a little. Counselling is not just for people who can't stand each other anymore. For some people, counselling helps them learn how to be in a marraige. For example, there can be communication issues in the realationship. Maybe one person needs to learn how to fight without losing his or her temper. Once that problem is in the open, the couple can get past it. That type of stuff is hard to be objective about--that's why an outside opinion helps.

Posted by: Meesh | March 12, 2007 9:29 AM

cd, the New York Times had a great article about questions you should ask before you get married. It #1 was on their most-emailed list for weeks. I think it covers a lot of the hot spots.

And sure enough, the few recurring issues I have with my husband are on there. ;)

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/17/fashion/weddings/17FIELDBOX.html?ex=1173844800&en=c8b7004e907c899f&ei=5070

Posted by: Neighbor | March 12, 2007 9:31 AM

cd,

I wouldn't presume to say that my list is all-inclusive for a good marriage, but it's a start.

It boils down to this; think of all the things you like about your future spouse. Now think of all the things you DON'T like about your future spouse (yes, there are some; no one is perfect).

Compare the two lists. Now ask yourself, can you live with that "don't like" list, or are there some deal breakers in there, things like excessive drinking, smoking, abuse, children (you want them, he/she doesn't), financial irresponsibility (your list may be different)?

If you can live with the minor "don't like's" (and don't think you can change him/her; that will become a BIG problem is you think that), there are no deal breakers and that "do like" list is long, then you should be able to stay married for a long time.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 9:32 AM

You can tell when a person has had too much counseling from a trained therapist because every 4th sencence they speak contains the word "disfunctional".

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 9:33 AM

"What is it that you find troubling about two adults who have the maturity and commitment to take action to work on the most important thing in their lives -- their relationship with each other? Pre-marital counseling beats the heck out of deluding themselves that love overcomes all difficulties."

What I find troubling is that these "mature" adults don't have the ability to see that the relationship -- even if it is the most important thing in their lives -- should end if they are having major issues prior to actually signing the certificate.

Every marriage that I've known where couples went to premarital counseling has split. And again, I am NOT talking about the stuff you have to do to get married by a particular priest or church. Let's face it: sometimes, love isn't enough. Just because you love someone doesn't mean you should spend the rest of your life with them. There are plenty of couples where the people bring out the worst in each other.

Posted by: Crispy | March 12, 2007 9:33 AM

Chasmosaur,

It sounds like the counseling you and your husband are doing is more fixing him than anything else.

What are you working on about YOU? (Other than how to coax anger out of him.)

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:35 AM

crispy, I think if your headed to a therapist before marriage because you already have difficult impasses, then your right not to go forward with it. But there may be some type of pre marriage classes that are non religious that just try to better prepare people for the realities of marriage. I don't know anyone who has gone to nonreligious premarital classes.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 9:36 AM

I do not think I could function as well as I do in this world without a spouse. Not just for the stable companionship, but because my wife and I complement each other in our thought processes, emotional makeup, and interests.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 09:20 AM

John, What a great post, I hope you show your wife this!

Kate,

Sorry for your situation. The one thing you write that sticks out at me is we "don't really argue." I see this as a big sign of indifference toward you.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 9:36 AM

Here's an idea...

How about marring someone you love and you can love through thick and thin?

There would be no need for divorce or marriage counseling if people stuck to the vows like they promised to.

People who choose divorce say a lot about how much you can trust them to keep a promise. People who chose divorce can't be trusted.

Posted by: The Other John | March 12, 2007 9:37 AM

"Pre-marital counseling beats the heck out of deluding themselves that love overcomes all difficulties"

Doesn't matter. The divorce rate is still the same with or without the counseling.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:38 AM

On doing things together:

When a married couple gets a dog and joins a bowling league, you can pretty much bet that their marriage is already in the tank.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 9:39 AM

"What good is pre-matrial counseling with a celibate Catholic priest? How can he 'sympathize' or offer advice if he's never been there, either?"

Priests hear confessions all the time. They know the things that none of us admit out loud to anyone except a priest. I've talked to a lot of priests about this and they've said that, not only have they heard everything, and are shocked by nothing, but by knowing the inner sins and struggles of all the Joe Schmoes out there, they know enough about the human condition and emotion to offer good advice and counel.

Posted by: B | March 12, 2007 9:39 AM

When a married couple gets a dog and joins a bowling league, you can pretty much bet that their marriage is already in the tank.

LOL!! I agree with this, but I would say if they get a cat, it's even worse.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:40 AM

cd - I would just add to John L's post to include all those "little annoyances" in the "don't like" side of the list now and then multiple them by 10 to "really don't like" and decide if you can still live with them and are still not outweighed by the "do like" side. And then, promise yourself that - no matter how annoying the "really don't like" things get after 10 years of marriage - you will still not nag DH about them.

Posted by: londonmom | March 12, 2007 9:40 AM

Kate, in our premarital classes we learned about fighting fairly. The class said that fighting/arguing was inevitable. But you needed to learn to fight fairly. I am a little concerned that you do not argue at all. Slow and building resentment can be really dangerous. I hope you find the help that your relationship needs. Best of luck.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 9:41 AM

A few thoughts:

1) I like Leslie's concept of "sameness" -- I think that's a big thing for me. Love my husband, love my family. We are really quite strong at the foundation, and I think we'll be together for the long haul. But it's the "sameness" of it all that causes me to sometimes wonder if this is "all" there is. As someone said, it's not really about my husband. It's about me -- I never really LOVED routine.

2) Sex -- we really shouldn't discount this. I am not saying it's necessary (for instance, if someone is physically incapable) OR sufficient. But it certainly helps bring more intimacy between the couple -- and that can open doors to more communication because it means a break from the typical distance between the two.

Posted by: MDMommy | March 12, 2007 9:41 AM

Getting better Father of 4

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 9:41 AM

Compare the two lists. Now ask yourself, can you live with that "don't like" list, or are there some deal breakers in there, things like excessive drinking, smoking, abuse, children (you want them, he/she doesn't), financial irresponsibility (your list may be different)?

If you can live with the minor "don't like's" (and don't think you can change him/her; that will become a BIG problem is you think that), there are no deal breakers and that "do like" list is long, then you should be able to stay married for a long time.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 09:32 AM

John L, this is a good start, but it still assumes that big problems, or the root of big problems are apparent at the outset.

We met when we were both in our thirties. The two biggest problems in our household stem from drinking and financial irresponsibility. Neither was an issue at the time we married, which was 2+ years after we met. Before we had our first child, DH drank a beer or two 3 evenings a week or during weekend sports viewing, and we shared information on expenditures, etc. at least every other day. He was not in a job that involved travel or submitting receipts for reimbursement.

Flash forward 12 years. He drinks daily and excessively, does not submit receipts for reimbursement for months at a time and if he does, he does not follow up on them. He does not write his checks down or otherwise track his transactions, but promises to do both almost daily.

Yes there are idiots who marry persons who exhibit problematic behavior prior to marriage and the problematic behavior is ignored. In my experience, the biggest marital issues driving the average couple apart are the result of changes or changed choices that come with children, age, and the realization that this is all there is.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:42 AM

Gee, Frieda and I have not have a verbal disagreement since,,,,, oh last night. She was asleep when I left for work this a.m.

Fred and Frieda now celebrating their 32nd year of married life.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 9:43 AM

"The good news is my wife and I both have these feelings are working on them."

Fact the fact that you married the wrong person. Do yourself and your wife a big favor. Quit while you are ahead, cut your losses and move on.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:43 AM

to The Other John
(so we now have three Johns?)

Some couples are lucky and the love they felt for each other when they were 25 is still there at 75.
But surely you must realize that there is no way that you can predict when you make that promise what life will throw at you in a decade or two, how you or your spouse will change, etc.
I think most people who get married mean their vows sincerely, but it is unrealistic to think that they should therefore be held to them in perpetuity.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:44 AM

I don't see it as a death sentence because I view my relationship as a work in progress. It may totally suck at some points but then things turnaround, life evens out, and we coast for a while in a state of familial bliss. My point was that just because I am unhappy at any given point in time does or even for a very long stretch of time - I stay. It does not diminish my growth as a person, it does not stifle my potential, and I do not feel trapped.

I remember one very low point on the marital barometer when we were engaged in a very emotional debate (and I'm pretty sure a coparenting issue was the trigger on this one) when we both were drained from the discussion. We looked at each other and said "No one gets to leave". It's the knowledge that no one gets to leave that forces us to continue to work on our marriage. If either of us felt there was an out - why try?

Posted by: Circle Pines | March 12, 2007 9:44 AM

Fred,

My wife already knows this; in fact, if she were here she'd say the same thing about me. We provide each other the stability both of us need, while at the same time giving us the freedom to be ourselves.

This didn't happen overnight, but it built up over time as we learned each other's preferences, moods, needs and desires.

Dating each other for three years before we married was very helpful, too. During that time we worked out a lot of the kinks that can derail a marriage if the couple moves too quickly, IMO.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 9:44 AM

I love my wife and my child. However, without the child, I doubt that I would stay married to my wife. On the whole, though, the quality of the love I feel for her now has changed significantly and lessened. There's not much passion there anymore (in part for biological reasons, but also for emotional as well), I don't look forward to coming home to her in the evenings, we have little in terms of shared interests beyound TV and our child. We mostly just exist together, watch some TV and get on each other's nerves.

At this point, even if I could find the time, energy and enthusiasm to invest in renewing our relationship, I'm not so sure that I would want to. I've go so many other things on my plate that require my attention that I think can be improved by the application of these personal assets. I don't think that my marriage relationship would significantly improve or stay improved no matter how much of myself that I invested.

Why don't I leave? I know that answer because I've asked myself a thousand time: my special needs son (elementary aged). If the quality of my life and my wife's life decreases because of divorce, I figure that we deserve it. His, however, would also decrease. And that's not fair to him, especially since he's been dealt such a crappy hand to begin with. He really needs one parent constantly. So if either of us (my wife and I) are to get anything done, one does their thing, while the other tends to my son.

Heaven help us, when my demented (but loveable) MIL moves in with us.

So, I grin and bear it. At least we don't yell at each other much. For now, I can maintain this charade. And while I may not love my wife as much as I would like, I do love my son incredibly. That will have to be enough for now.

"So now I'm praying for the end of time / to hurry up and arrive / cause if I've gotta spend another minute with you / I don't think that I could really survive. / I'll never break my promise or for get my vow / but gawd only knows what I can do right now. / I praying for the end of time / that's all that I can do. / I'm praying for the end of time / so I can end my life with you."

Posted by: Quiet Desperation | March 12, 2007 9:44 AM

The research on divorce is not as clear cut as most are suggesting. There are only a few studies that have compared children of divorce with children in unhappily married families (instead of children in all types of marries families -- most of whom are reasonably happy). Those studies suggest that children in unhappily married families are not better off than children whose parents divorce.

But it's really up to the adults how well the children fare. A few guidelines:

1) Do not ever force the child to choose between the two parents or to be a go-between -- you are the adults in the situation, so act like it.

2) Get yourself help to grieve the loss of the relationship -- don't turn to your children for this support. They have their own grief (get them help, too) -- and they can quickly become "parentified" if you turn to them.

3) Keep it together as best possible with the kids -- this means maintaining your role as the adult, keeping life going as normal, then crying to your friends and family if you need.

4) Don't bad-mouth the other parent, especially not if the child still has a realtionship with him/her.

Posted by: Divroce and children | March 12, 2007 9:45 AM

"My family, friends, and posters on this blog are the best marriage counselors I've ever known. The best part is that all the bad advice if free!"

Well, my mother always said you get what you pay for...

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:45 AM

I thought I read that money was the number one reason people split up. Not the issue of not enough money or how to handle money. But the issue of people NOT being on the same page about money. Just a thought.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 9:45 AM

It only takes one person in a marriage to make it a failure. My wife had an emotional affair with a close family friend in our 14th year of marriage. With a girl and a boy both under the age of 8, this was an incredibly hurtful thing to do not just to me, but to the family. My way to deal with this is to divorce her, even though she is remorseful and wants to remain married. We're doing it amicably, with the kid's interests as a priority. My opinion is that this solution is better for our kids than having them live in a household where resentment and distance define their parents' marriage.

Posted by: Almost Divorced | March 12, 2007 9:46 AM

"Women marry men thinking they will change. Men marry women hoping they won't."

That's some funny and very true stuff.

My mother told me that a successful marriage isn't about marrying the right person, but being the right person. That is, if you both work to be the right person, it works. Sometimes, people put the resonsiblity on the other to make it right, when changes made by both will solve it. My 2 cents.

Posted by: moxiemom | March 12, 2007 9:46 AM

To anon at 9:25, that's an interesting article. Of course, I have to ask if men could also take advantage of the program. They should be encouraged to stay home with the kids as much as women are.

But this is a good starting point in my opinion. I would absolutely jump at this opportunity, although I doubt I would take all 5 years. The companies are very smart for offering these types of programs.

Posted by: Meesh | March 12, 2007 9:47 AM

The most important thing to talk about before you get married is the thing you've been avoiding talking about for fear that it will damage the relationship. It's different for every couple. Search your heart, there's most likely something. For us it was, "Am I going to come before your job and your mother?". The other one that cropped up was when we wanted to start our family. I thought it would be 2 years after the wedding; DH wasn't ready for 5. We didn't discuss that aspect before the wedding, and that was hard. Other common ones are how are we going to spend our time (work, parents, friends, hobbies, each other, future kids) and our money (saving vs. spending, what's a luxury vs. necessity); how important is sex to each of us and how will we accommodate each other's needs; how do we plan to care for our children, if any; the role of religion in our life together; how do we resolve disputes; and how do we live with each other's quirks and habits. Each of these has as many correct answers as there are couples -- you have to work it out together. Openness -- no secrets -- and communication are key. Good luck!

Posted by: LML | March 12, 2007 9:48 AM

Posted by: | March 12, 2007 09:44 AM,

But surely you must realize that there is no way that you can predict when you make that promise what life will throw at you in a decade or two, how you or your spouse will change, etc.

Your spouse didn't change. Just more of the curtain was pulled back.

I'm merely suggesting that you pull the curtain back as much as you can before you commit.

Posted by: The Other John | March 12, 2007 9:48 AM

"You can tell when a person has had too much counseling from a trained therapist because every 4th sencence they speak contains the word "disfunctional"."

Actually, Fof4, good therapists never use the word "dysfunctional." It's a term that's been popularlized by the pop-psych, self-help industry. Any therapist worth her/his salt wouldn't use the term with a patient.

Posted by: pittypat | March 12, 2007 9:48 AM

John L.

Great!

I sometimes want to show Frieda something I have posted about her but she says get off that damned blog! She knows how much I like to talk to people. She is such a Luddite!

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 9:49 AM

Meesh,

Your comment, "my husband and I wouldn't be able to keep straight faces if we tried praying together" made ME laugh! HA!

You could always try just praying sliently but at least being physically together side by side, or whatever. Then if you ever felt comfortable to vocalize you could if not then don't. Prayer is what you make of it. There's no regiment or rule. It's just talking to God as a friend.

Just a thought. Thanks for the laugh.

Posted by: B | March 12, 2007 9:50 AM

People who chose divorce can't be trusted.

Posted by: The Other John | March 12, 2007 09:37 AM

bwahaHAHAHAHAHAHA!

He's abusive? stick with 'm or you can't be trusted.

She's slept with three of your best friends - in '07 along? stick with her or you can't be trusted.

He's become a judgmental, closed-minded boor and is contemplating quitting his job so he can watch more of FOX News daily? see above.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:50 AM

"People who choose divorce say a lot about how much you can trust them to keep a promise. People who chose divorce can't be trusted."

Wow, a little black and white there? It could just say that they got married too young and for the wrong reasons and were smart enough to figure out that they would be miserable together.

Like, say, my mom. Who just celebrated her 31st wedding anniversary to my (also divorced) stepfather. I think they trust each other just fine.

Personally, if my husband didn't want to be married to me any more, I wouldn't WANT him to stick around just because he promised to a long time ago. I deserve someone who loves me and wants to share a life with me -- and so does he.

Posted by: Laura | March 12, 2007 9:50 AM

to anon 9:42:

I'm not advocating staying married to someone no matter what, based on what you know at the start of the marriage. People change, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. If things turn sour, nothing is helping and one or the other spouse is unhappy, divorce is always an option.

I know of many couples who married, found they were not compatible, divorced, found someone else and are now happily married. Sometimes it's just realizing a bit more about --yourself-- and what you want (or can provide) in a marriage that makes the difference between divorce and a happy marriage.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 9:52 AM

1. Don't get married until you know yourself
2. Always be ready to walk out.
3. Be self-sufficient economically.
4. Keep your own house.
5. Have cleaning service.
6. Don't negotiate.
7. Write a prenup.

Posted by: Golden | March 12, 2007 9:53 AM

"Fred and Frieda now celebrating their 32nd year of married life."

Fred,

I'm disappointed that you've changed over to spelling you wife's name "Frieda." I always assumed that "Fred" and "Fredia" were strictly blog names and that "Fredia" was a sort of feminized version of "Fred" -- like "wife of Fred" -- for purposes of the blog.

I always thought that was a fun way to name yourselves.

Posted by: pittypat | March 12, 2007 9:55 AM

The Other John--
Sorry, but I just don't think pulling the curtain back on a 25-year-old will show you a 50-year-old parent.
People do change. They react differently to new responsibilities, to significant setbacks, to tragic events they don't understand how to grieve for.
The best you can do as a couple is be mindful of one another and, if you can't stay together, try to split up in the most respectful way you can.
I have no answers about the role of children in this--I just don't know what's worst for them in that situation. But to believe that you can avoid all separations by making sure you "love" the person you are marrying strikes me as naive.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 9:55 AM

Men are definitely doing more housework and are more actively involved in raising their children, all of which are fantastic developments. But I think Meesh had it right --that divorce is a reflection of changes that have occurred in marriage (mostly for the better) and the fact that the world hasn't quite caught up with those changes.

One case in point: despite the greater effort men put into household and child rearing duties, women are still more likely to be the "managers". They are the ones who worry about what needs to be done, even if the men are just as likely to be the ones who actually do the work. They know the kids' routines, their schedules, what they eat and when. They worry about when the family should leave to go out, given nap schedules, etc.

This is a tremendous burden for women, and I would guess it's a major reason why many women continue to feel dissatisfied in marriages even after things have evolved so much (along with evolved expectations). My husband and I have a remakrably egalitarian relationship. But I am still surprised by how much caregiving I am doing -- worrying about when our children need to nap, when they need to eat,etc.

In addition, I find that the men I've known -- on average -- tend to be more self-focused when it comes to getting their own needs met. They are less likely to delay their own needs (e.g., hunger, thirst) in order to keep the family's routines and schedules moving smoothly. There's also quite a bit of research suggesting that when they feel a particular emotion (e.g., anger, sadness) -- this emotion is more likely to be translated to the whole family than when a woman feels that way. So when daddy's sad, everyone's sad. This is not the case with women.

Men have come very far. But, frankly, I think there's more to do in this arena. It's a product of socialization more than anything else, I think. And it's certainly not true of ALL men. But most families would still have to honestly admit that the family would fall apart if the mother wasn't around, (at least for a little while as the father figured out the details of managing the household.)

I am sincerely NOT trying to man-bash. I have a wonderful husband. But I am just stating what I've witnessed in most families. Men bring other strengths to families. But I think many women are still feeling terribly overwhelmed by the depth of their responsibilities in the family.

Posted by: women still manage the household | March 12, 2007 9:56 AM

To Kate,

If you have the time, you may want to read Joshua Coleman's book, "Imperfect Harmony".

I'm so very sorry. Clearly his actions are taking a toll on your well-being. Please take care of yourself!

Posted by: MdMother | March 12, 2007 9:57 AM

"Personally, if my husband didn't want to be married to me any more, I wouldn't WANT him to stick around just because he promised to a long time ago. I deserve someone who loves me and wants to share a life with me -- and so does he."

Laura, amen to that!!

Posted by: Meesh | March 12, 2007 9:57 AM

"I'm merely suggesting that you pull the curtain back as much as you can before you commit."

But until certain life experiences (illness, job loss, parenthood) happen you don't know how you or they will react, especially if your spouse isn't the type to be honest with themselves.

Posted by: Divorced mom of 1 | March 12, 2007 9:58 AM

Pittypat, it sounds like you have a lot of experience with therapists? :-)

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 9:59 AM


Pittypat,

Yes, these are blog names but I always meant my wonderful spouse's name to be Frieda. But my slightly dyslexic fingers got the better of me in the beginning.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 10:03 AM

Fof4 --

Yes, indeed.

Posted by: pittypat | March 12, 2007 10:03 AM

My stepfather just left my mother after 22 years of marriage. It was a midlife crisis thing. Now, of course, he wants to consider getting back together, now that he realizes how cold the world can be when you're only after one thing. It wasn't a "is this all there is?" thing, or a "staying in for the kids" thing (we're all grown, and he was never really all that involved with us anyway), he just got distracted by something younger and more fun.

Having lived a less-than-stable life, their marriage was the only thing keeping me from believing that men are dirtbags and cheaters, and my faith in their commitment allowed me to find a healthy relationship with my now-former BF. Once their marriage fell apart (for the second time in two years, BTW), the insecurities crept back in, BF decided he couldn't handle it, and now he's gone. So it looks like I won't be having children after all. But I appreciate all the advice and conversations I've had here with you all, and I'll check back in periodically to see how you're all doing.

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 10:03 AM

Father of 4,

You're just about ready for standup!

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 10:03 AM

To cd:

It sounds cliche, but make sure you are both similar in your planning habits, or at least have determined a way to show your spouse when you mean business and are not just being arbitrary.

For example, my hubby is an emotional shopper. He just HAS to have something and nothing else will do. Not for any logical reason - just for the way it makes him feel. Fine for clothes and food and small toys, but a problem on big purchases.

When we moved to the Midwest, he absolutely HAD to have a huge house, despite the fact that we knew he'd be travelling frequently and that the property taxes were significantly steeper in Wisconsin than Virginia (our monthly tax payment is pretty much 40% over our mortgage payment). The house really was (and is) more my daily concern than his. Not because of gender roles, but because of the amount of time I spend in it.

I did manage to get him to choose a smaller house than the 5,000 sqft+ houses in the middle of 3+ acre lots he wanted to buy, but we still have something much bigger than the starter home I had in mind.

He now realizes two years later that I wasn't kidding - bigger houses have bigger maintenance needs and is glad I talked him out of the bigger houses. I do know that if we have to move again, at least he will keep that in mind, but I feel like it was a high price to pay.

Because while I do love our house, there are some days I wish I had been firmer with him when we were house shopping. I think I was just so worn down after three months of doing the scout work with our agent and him refusing to even go into some houses (there was a great house on a nice lot that was painted a really pale, pleasant and cheerful yellow color - he didn't like the color when we pulled up to the open house) or he couldn't see past the owner's belongings and decor (I can strip wallpaper and paint like a champ, so not a problem for me).

I know on the upside we probably couldn't afford this house in a few years and we got an insanely low fixed mortgage rate. But I just feel like that's serendipity, not long-range planning.

Know when to hold your ground. Saves resentment and frustration in the long run.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | March 12, 2007 10:04 AM

A day after I divorced my first husband, I walked into my (shared) office, and within 15 min received 2 marriage proposals. Granted, one of them was from a non-descript overweight guy who had very high demands when it comes to a girl's appearance. Another one was from a married man who harbored warm feelings for me for the previous couple years. Being as insensitive as I still am, I never noticed but his wife did. I thought we were just friends, hanging out at work, after work, and at his house with my kid and his two. Long story short, I had to explain to both of them that I did not divorce a perfectly acceptable husband to marry them the very next day. Still, it kept me smiling for the next few years, until I met The Real One. After all these stories how women have problems remarrying...

Posted by: Lin | March 12, 2007 10:04 AM

"studies suggest that children in unhappily married families are not better off than children whose parents divorce."

Studies also suggest that children in "blended" (Brady Bunch families) are no better off than children in single parent homes.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 10:04 AM

Hi Almost Divorced -- Hardest thing to make someone who's never been divorced understand is that while it takes two to get married, it only takes one to make the marriage fail.

In other words, you have no control over the success of your marriage. You do your best and let go of the rest. The only thing worse than getting divorced is not getting divorced when you need to; I feel terrible for women in countries/religions that don't allow them to divorce their husbands.

And sometimes, it is good for kids when their parents divorce. Kids know when a relationship is over. Sometimes divorce teaches them to be wary (in a good way) about getting married too hastily themselves. Not in my case, unfortunately, but oh well.

Posted by: Leslie | March 12, 2007 10:08 AM

Marriage is a commitment to your spouse. You and your spouse start a family - hence your commitment extends to your family as well. Marriages go thru cycles of anger, boredom, lack of spark, etc. etc. etc... but it is the COMMITMENT to make the marriage work that should keep a marriage going. The only thing constant in life is change, and to keep a marriage going it requires constant changes to keep up with all the activity in the lives of the married couple. Jobs change, kids behave differently and have different activities at different ages, health problems come into the picture, stress levels change, etc.

You don't stay in the marriage just for the kids. You stay in the marriage because you love your spouse and you commited to them for life. And you work hard to keep that marriage alive.

The problem that happens to marriages after the kids are born... is married people forget to take the time to be attentive to each other.. the stress of children, paying bills, attending activities, etc etc becomes overwhelming and folks lose sight of their marriage. They think they are only staying in it for the sake of the kids. What they doing realize is they have THEIR part to sustain the marriage.. schedule those weekend get aways with your spouse and GET AWAY!

Keep your marriage intact - it is worth it!

Posted by: C.W. | March 12, 2007 10:09 AM

The key to a happy marriage is the excrsize of humility. I've even had to, on several ocasions, done the dishes to save my marriage. So guys, if you feel that your wife is thinking about leaving you, it's probably a good idea to leave a stack of dishes in the sink, just in case of an emergency.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 10:12 AM

My mom and my stepfather have been married for over 35 years, and I expect they will remain so. It has not always been an easy road for them, and at times, I do think that they stayed together for the sake of the kids. Neither of them is a bad person. At times though, they don't mesh very well together. My stepfather can be overbearing, he drinks too much, he withdraws when he is angry, he is a master manipulator. At the same time, he is very needy. My mother was a SAHM. She is a long-suffering kind of person and can be very passive in some respects. She puts up with too much, and then complains about it, but never takes any real action to change the situation. But emotionally, she is very even keeled. I have never seen her have a meltdown or tantrum. Now that her kids are grown up, she seems to be more of her own person. She has friends and outside interests. My stepfather has become very reclusive. He seems to depend on my mother for all of his companionship. In some ways, they seem happier now than ever before, probably because there is less stress in their lives now that the kids are gone. And thanks to their staying together, family life for the kids was more or less stable. Yes, there were sometimes fights at home, but we kids always had our routine. We had to tiptoe around our parents sometimes, but I guess it was better than divorce and poverty.

But then I wonder about my mother's life, and what she sacrificed. I think she could have been so much happier and fulfilled if she had not had to forgo so much of herself in order to maintain her marriage. I don't know that I personally could have been able to suck it up for so many years. It would have involved a herculean effort for me, and made me bitterly unhappy. I guess this is one of the reasons that I made a conscious effort to be independent and self-supporting. I never wanted to feel like I needed to stay married in order to support myself or my child. I always wanted it to be a free choice. And so far, it has been. I have been married for 10 years to a man that I love. I can't say that it has been easy always, we have had our bumpy spots. But overall, it has been pretty good. I love my husband. I like being with him. We are friends and companions. I can be myself around him. I don't think I would be here otherwise.

Posted by: Emily | March 12, 2007 10:12 AM

Working Dad writes:

"Women marry men thinking they will change. Men marry women hoping they won't."

Maybe men used to see change as bad because men were educated at schools like Harvard and Yale. The Harvard alma mater extols the College as "First flower of our wilderness, star of our night, calm rising through change and through storm." Here, "calm" is praised, whereas "change" is lumped with "storm" -- and "storm" usually has bad connotations. Down in New Haven, the Yale alma mater asserts (hopes?) that "Time and change will naught avail to break the friendships formed at Yale." Here, "change" is seen as a force that will try to "break . . . friendships," -- hardly a benign force. If "change" is gonna try to break your friendships, why not assume that "change" is gonna try to break your best friendship, viz., your marriage? Watch out for change, and don't let it break you up.

Now that these schools, like so many others, educate women as well as men, maybe more women will come to see "change" as a force operating against permanence. Be glad that your husband remains what he was when you married him, "calm rising through change and through storm." And remember that time will work its own changes on you over the years, and that those involuntary changes are bad enough without your making changes on your own initiative, changes that operate to break the promises you made to each other at your wedding.

Notice that our President, George W. Bush, is married to his only wife, Laura. This should not be surprising: he holds degrees from both of the above schools, and probably has resolved not to let time, change or storm ruin his marriage.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | March 12, 2007 10:13 AM

Moma, I am so sorry for you. Please keep us posted and join in whenever you need us.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 10:13 AM

A reputable study on happiness once found that people who were basically happy before they got married were basically happy during their marriage and were less likely to divorce ...

My point is that people who expect too much from marriage are probably unhappy with themselves or their life and look at marriage as a way to find "true happiness." Then they go nuts when, lo and behold, life's not a bowl of cherries.

Personally, I expect my wife to be my best friend, my business partner, my lover and my bartender. If that's expecting "too much" then so be it.

Posted by: Alex | March 12, 2007 10:14 AM

Matt in Aberdeen--
I am a twice-Yalie and that's the most ridiculous argument I have ever heard. Sorry.

Posted by: Yalie | March 12, 2007 10:15 AM

"Notice that our President, George W. Bush, is married to his only wife, Laura. This should not be surprising: he holds degrees from both of the above schools, and probably has resolved not to let time, change or storm ruin his marriage."


Don't know what your point is (as usual), but a Dry Drunk President isn't much of a poster boy for marriage or anything else.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 10:17 AM

Father of 4 is on a roll. As your new agent, you have to start charging for these.

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 10:18 AM

Moma, I am so sorry for you. Please keep us posted and join in whenever you need us.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 10:13 AM

I meant to Mona

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 10:18 AM

"This should not be surprising: he holds degrees from both of the above schools, and probably has resolved not to let time, change or storm ruin his marriage."

Nope, just let his country go down the tubes in record time!

Thanks a lot Bush for putting my kids in jeopardy.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 10:19 AM

OFF-TOPIC Alert

Laura/Mona,

I am very sorry to hear, well, everything you submitted today.

I am also the sort of virtual friend that says, "Good riddance" to a boyfriend who either doesn't have the fortitude, or is insufficiently committed, to be there for you at a time like this - a time when you really needed him to hang in there and work through this with you. His failure to hang in there and work through this with you says alot about how he'd have handled any one of a number of tragedies and disappointments in life, and says very little about you.

You don't need someone in your life that doesn't get your insecurities and expects you to cover them all up, just be good, and be low-maintenance. Your departure for law school this fall presents a good opportunity to start a new chapter in your life that. It's all about you - get the counseling/assistance you need if you're ready -- and, if you want, find a loyal guy who loves you. The decision to have children will take care of itself later, IMHO.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 12, 2007 10:20 AM

I think one of the problems with President Bush is he wants to stay the course. He needs to adapt and change his current Iraq plans. Not necessarily full withdrawl. But definitely something needs to change.

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 10:22 AM

Bush is an A**. Don't you dare throw his name into this fight as a paragon of anything except white male privilege riding daddy's coattails and pandering to a bunch of right-wing freaks.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 10:23 AM

Hey Mona,

I'm sorry to hear about the BF, but don't give up all hope on having children! You'd be surprised by how many people meet their future hubbies in law school! This probably sounds harsh (and I don't mean it to be), but better you know now that he isn't in it for the long haul - for better or worse and all your insecurities - than after potentially making a huge life decision for him (such as where to go to law school). Things will get better!!

Posted by: londonmom | March 12, 2007 10:24 AM

OFF TOPIC
Everyone--thanks so much for the many helpful suggestions about DC area neighborhoods.
I wrote everything down!

Posted by: hopeful | March 12, 2007 10:24 AM

"For now, I can maintain this charade."

Man, you are killing youself, inch by inch, day by day. Get the hell oughta there and save yourself before you crack under the strain and blow away your whole family!!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 10:26 AM

I'm wondering if maybe we all expect more of marriage today because the social networks and institutions are much less developed now than they were in the past. I'm thinking of those studies from that book "Bowling Alone" about how most of us no longer live near family, have all that many close friends and so forth. I'm thinking of some of my moms' friends who seemed to spend a lot of time socializing with other moms and families in the neighborhoods. Maybe if your husband isn't a stunning conversationalist or doesn't REALLY want to hear for forty-five minutes about why you're never going back to that hairstylist ever again, why you hate your boss, etc. etc. etc. -- it matters less if you have a sister, close girlfriends and so forth next door. I'm find I'm usually most demanding/unreasonable towards my husband after we've moved and I'm incredibly lonely. I seem to expect him to fill a role in my life that he probably isn't cut out for (You know, do these pants make me look fat?)

BTW, the best marriage book I ever read was that "5 Love Languages" one. The author talks about how men and women show their love in different ways -- so, for example, my husband fixes things around the house rather than bringing flowers. It's an excellent, very practical book and I think anyone contemplating marriage should read it.

Posted by: Armchair Mom | March 12, 2007 10:27 AM

Notice that our President, George W. Bush, is married to his only wife, Laura. This should not be surprising: he holds degrees from both of the above schools, and probably has resolved not to let time, change or storm ruin his marriage.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | March 12, 2007 10:13 AM

He has resolved to never revisit any of his decisions. And she smokes just to get through each day with him.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 10:27 AM

I don't know the answer to the question of whether it is better for parents to stay together or get divorced - that is really hard to determine. My parents fought constantly in front of me. Screaming, yelling, threats of leaving, slamming doors, getting out of the car and walking home...you get the idea. Yet, they have been married 43 years and seem to be at their best with each other in times of crisis - when mom lost her best friend this year, dad was very supportive and attentive to her emotional needs, when dad was injured in a car accident, mom was very supportive. Clearly it is not a perfect marriage, and I am here to tell you that if you fight in front of your kids a lot, it will affect them. As an adult in my personal relationships, I have a really hard time "fighting fair." I find myself yelling, pouting, giving the silent treatment, etc, all the things my parents did. Also, I get a physically ill feeling in my stomach every time I am around a couple that is in an escalating bicker situation. So, clearly I am still affected by it; but, I know this and have sought therapy and am hoping that with my next relationship I can improve. On the flip side, b/c my parents stayed together, they have benefitted financially and were always very supportive of me. So, I am happy in some ways that they stayed together. In summary, I still don't know if their decision to stay together was better for us as a family, or if it was simply one of two equally unappealing options.

Posted by: Arlington, VA | March 12, 2007 10:29 AM

Hey - WaPo moderator, could we grab a link to the article (and, there may have been a discussion) about the report published last year about the long-term affects of divorce on children? I know you printed one, I just can't find it....

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 10:30 AM

Q: What do you do about a wife that smokes during sex?

A: Use a lubricant.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 10:31 AM

I am living this right now. My marriage has not been the same since before our twins were born almost two years ago, beginning with the stress of fertility problems. The kids are a blessing, and I consider myself a very involved dad, splitting chores and childcare with my wife. But our relationship has suffered. If not for the kids, I would probably have left by now.

Posted by: Joe_Bloe | March 12, 2007 10:32 AM

5 languages summed up. Alphabetically. (Save your money, in other words, it's pretty freakin trite stuff.)

Acts
Gifts
Time
Touch
Words

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 10:34 AM

"I seem to expect him to fill a role in my life that he probably isn't cut out for (You know, do these pants make me look fat?)"

Yikes, no wonder men cheat!

Talk to your pets, for Pete's sake! Stop bring your husband to death!!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 10:34 AM

I think most people want life to be exciting, etc. Part of the reason society is enthralled w celebrities, the royals. But life is boring. So when you settle into some sort of routine you may start thinking- is this all there is? Which of course is growing up and also a litle depressing too.

My life growing up was hardly boring as you never knew when dad was going to blow up. I think my sister thinks that's the way life is supposed to be, so she married an abusive husband so that life could be exciting. So she got an immature person who is allowed to act like a baby b/c she let's him. But there's never a dull moment, I guess. Me, boring is fine as long as someone is not yelling at me all the time. It is to be expected.

Similar to scarlett loving her life and then figuring out how things were after marriage (ie boring-unless you have a civil war)

Posted by: atlmom | March 12, 2007 10:35 AM

I know someone else who likes that book "5 Love Languages" You could also read M. Scott Peck and get the same message because it draws heavily from his writings.

My Opinions:

Marriage Counseling - try a housekeeper.Ending spats over who will do housework can be a big boost to a marriage

Staying Together for the Children - parents of small children may be happy, but if not necessarily. Hang in there! If you have small children things will not always be the way they are, they can improve.

I think we expect too much from marriage and the media glamorizes single parenthood. Working it out together isn't for everyone but it can be rewarding.

Posted by: RoseG | March 12, 2007 10:37 AM

These really are the hardest years for you and your wife. Things tend to settle down once they are a little older and in school.

Probably your marriage would NOT have suffered so much except for the fertility treatments and the kids. But there they are, children DO place strains upon a marriage. But rather than view things as a "burden", try using the word "challenge". Sometimes word choice makes ALL the difference in the world.

So does going out for a good run.

Posted by: to Joe Bloe | March 12, 2007 10:37 AM

Mona, my heart sank when I read your post. I'm sorry that things did not work out with your BF. I have no advice for you, only sympathy. You seem like a good, smart, positive person. Keep your chin up.

Posted by: Meesh | March 12, 2007 10:37 AM

To anon at 9:35:

I didn't say I didn't have problems - I had my assumptions that I have had corrected as well. I gave him back some chores I thought he expected me to do, making me feel less used. I am learning that his dyslexia does on occasion actually make him say the wrong word at the wrong time, and I should ask for clarification if something sounds wrong. I am learning to be patient with the fact that his reaction to a stressful situation is to pretty much shut down (the opposite of me), and that I will specifically have to ask him for help to work through it.

But my husband admits he has a good deal with me. Many of his friends - with kids or without - do not have a fraction of the freedom I give him. I share many of his interests and always ask him about his day instead of telling him about the bad parts of mine. I agreed to move halfway across the country away from family and friends so he could have a slightly slower pace of life so he wouldn't burn out. That part at the expense of my career - there are no jobs for specialists like me where we transferred to for his job.

All I ask is for things like a hug and some comforting when a routine blood test showed to the surprise of my doctor and myself that I have diabetes - I had to instead comfort him though I was scared out of my mind. Or that he actually shows up for the rare meetings with our lawyer or accountant I schedule around his convenience when we need his signature. Or even that when he asks me to meet him somewhere after work that I'm not left sitting alone for two hours while he chats with his colleagues after turning off his cell phone on his way out the door.

He's a good man and I don't see him as a fixer-upper or a project. But he was the one who pushed for marriage, not me. I thought that meant he was ready to share his life, instead of expecting me to fit into his empty spaces and not expand into any of mine. He understands how crappy that made me feel now, since an outside counselor helped me communicate that to him.

Posted by: Chasmosaur | March 12, 2007 10:37 AM

It is interesting to see this today, on my 30th anniversary. There were years that were very hard for both of us. However, marriage is a commitment and we did not want to quit because it was hard. Now we are in our mid fifties and we are so happy. We look back on the hardships and see that they made us stronger. Those hardships helped us grow as human beings also. People ask me all of the time what our secret has been and I tell them that you have to laugh and be willing to sometimes just stick your head under the pillow and scream. The truth of the matter is we have always deeply respected each other and ourselves.

Posted by: 30 YEARS | March 12, 2007 10:37 AM

Father of 4,

I'm laughing

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 10:40 AM

I have to say that I agree with Atl Mom. And, I'd being interested in these "studies" that say it is more beneficial (or whatever was stated) to stay in a troubled marrriage. No amount of research will prove to me that staying in a troubled or loveless marriage "for the kids" is a good thing.

I can speak from the experiences in my own hom and can emphatically say that it was a MISERABLE experience. A verbally -and at times physically, but nothing "major"- abusive dad who kept us all living in fear. He also had a habit of giving us the silent treatment for weeks on end. My mom stuck it out for 20 years, divorcing him only when I was in college. Then, having not had a life for 20 years, acted out like she was a 22 y.o. (very embarassing behavior). They provided no good role models for how a healthy -not perfect or idyllic, but healthy- marriage was supposed to be. Not only that, I had no (and still don't to some extent) have the need for a strong "family bond" as many have. I spent my entire childhood and adolescence preparing myself -good grades, working, getting into college- to be able to run screaming from my family. Moreover, what I now see looking back is that I initially made some poor choices in mates prior to my husband. I was making the same choices, and putting up with the same behavior, as my mother did with my father. It wasn't until I was in my late 20's that I saw those patterns being repeated and nipped them in the bud.

I am in a very healthy marriage (I waited until I was 29 to get married) to a great guy. However, I still struggle with the scars of my childhood . . . they manifest themselves much more subtly these days, but they are there. I see them. My hubby and inlaws see them. I work on them.

I can say that my situation is not limited to me. I've seen many other friends who have mirrored the bad marital/child-rearing decisions of their parents.

If you can work on problems, great. But, just be aware that everything you do is watched by/absorbed by your children. I firmly believe this.

Posted by: JS | March 12, 2007 10:42 AM

To Quiet Desperation:

How is "existing" fair to your wife and child? You make it sound like you're doing something heroic and noble, but you are not. Don't use your child's special needs as an excuse to glide along and just get by ok.

You and your wife deserve to be happy. If it's not with each other, and you're not willing to work it out and uphold the vows you made, then let go. Staying complacent is the worst thing anyone can do. It's not fair to all involved.

Posted by: JRS | March 12, 2007 10:42 AM

Thank you so much, foam, londonmom, and Megan's neighbor. I'm trying not to let it get me down, and trying to keep my head up. The insecurities had been coming back for awhile now, mostly (I think) because of law school and moving cross-country, starting a new life, and being unsure of my capabilities. Megan's neighbor, everything you've said is correct. I always wondered, if he can't handle my insecurities now (and trust me, I stayed up all night with him when he had his own), what's going to happen when/if I get PPD, cancer, death in the family, etc? He's been there for me through a lot of stuff, and helped me out greatly, but he clearly doesn't have the fortitude to stick it out in the long haul. His parents, though they're great, didn't do him any favors by giving him the "perfect" life. Now he's unable to face possibilities that are all to real in this life, because nothing really truly bad has ever happened to him, and he's going to be unprepared when they do.

I appreciate all your words of comfort and reassurance. It really means a lot to me. :-)

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 10:46 AM

To atlmom and JS, you guys are talking about extreme situations here. Abuse in any form in a marriage should not be tolerated. I think that everyone in the field agrees with that. The question is, if you're talking about your average, run-of-the-mill lives of quiet desperation, not happy but not abusive, etc., relationship, is it better to stay for the sake of the children or head out because you want a better life for you?

And there are LOTS of studies, books, etc., that say it is better for the children that the parents stay in the marriage. Obviously, if it's a case of abuse, all bets are off.

Posted by: Crispy | March 12, 2007 10:50 AM

Alex and Atlmom: I think you both have an important point. Reminds me of the great line from Buckaroo Banzai Across the Eight Dimension (ripped from elsewhere, of course, but first time I heard it): "No matter where you go, there you are."

Point is, you can have a great house and great kids and a great husband and great cars and superwonderfulfabulous vacations and everything you ever wanted in life. But at the end of the day, you're still you. So if you're someone who's generally happy with what you have, then you'll likely find a way to be happy with whatever life hands out. Whereas if you're looking for a husband to "complete" you or that better boss who won't take you for granted or that fancy car to show the world you've "arrived" or that gorgeous house to make that "perfect" life -- well, you can get all of that stuff, but it won't make you happy, because you'll still be you.

I found that out recently about myself: always had a bug about having a house that fit my mental image (not big luxurious thing, but the picture-perfect old house on an older street with big trees and the yard and all). Now I've got it -- even the stupid little white picket fence. And you know what? It didn't make our family life perfect. It makes a very pretty mental backdrop to all those memories we're building in our children, which is somewhat important to me. But the MOST important thing -- the family life itself -- is as imperfect as it has always been, because that life is made up of the still-imperfect people who live in that perfect little house.

Posted by: Laura | March 12, 2007 10:51 AM

My experiences were similar to Altmom's and JS's, and I grew up believing that real people in real families yell and scream at each other constantly -- except when they're not speaking at all -- but still "love" each other.

I had two decades of disastrous relationships (incl one marriage) and developed a deep sense of self-loathing.

Years of therapy have helped me to sort things out and to become someone I can be a little bit proud of. My kid brother rejects this road and struggles with everything.

I can honestly say that, in the case of my family, divorce would have been far better for the kids.

Posted by: anonymouse | March 12, 2007 10:53 AM

Arlington, VA, My parents got divorced after years of fighting in front of us kids. As an adult, I get a sick feeling when people yell at each other and especially when my husband yells at me. I don't even like movies where the characters are always yelling at each other (think The Big Lebowski).

My husband is quick to yell and rant. I think it's a product of his family's unspoken aggression. I think he thinks it's better to yell and fight than to let things boil under the surface.

My parents divorced; his stayed together. Which is better? Who knows.

Posted by: Meesh | March 12, 2007 10:55 AM

Laura,

They ripped that one off from Walt Kelly, who wrote the "Pogo" comic strip. I think I also heard it replayed in "Mrs. Doubtfire", spoken by Sally Fields.

Just FYI, and really really trivial, I know!

Mona--

Crisis reveals character.

While I'm sad that this relationship didn't work out for you as you had hoped, I am relieved that you know this NOW and not after you say, "I'm pregnant!"

Good luck in law school. Not that you need luck, you work too hard.

Posted by: MdMother | March 12, 2007 10:55 AM

"They ripped that one off from Walt Kelly, who wrote the "Pogo" comic strip. I think I also heard it replayed in "Mrs. Doubtfire", spoken by Sally Fields."

There's also a book with a similar title. One of those Zen-y things. Jon Kabat-Zinn, I think.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 10:57 AM

Mona, let me add my own I'm so sorry to the mix. And please keep reading and posting -- you have an interesting perspective that I'd miss.

Posted by: Laura | March 12, 2007 10:57 AM

I never saw my parents kiss, hug, or laugh together. My parents never mentioned the word love to me or to each other. I'm not sure how to love another person or my country or my God because I've never seen love in action.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 10:58 AM

You guys are so great. I wondered if I should say something or just disappear from the board, and I'm glad I let you all know. You're so right about everything. I guess it's better this way, and definitely better that I found out before I moved to California. I haven't missed the deadline to enroll at American; I'm grateful he dropped this bomb on me before I'd committed to a school 3000 miles away. There are many things that could have gone much, much more terribly wrong than this, so I guess his timing isn't all that bad. Thank you guys for being there. I'll definitely continue to visit the board and offer opinions where I can, and listen when I can't. :-)

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 11:02 AM

Finally, a topic I can relate to yet I'm hesitant to post. I'll just comment on a couple of things.

"Divorce or stay in a loveless marriage. Very few have stated a 3rd option. What about doing everything in your power to make it work? "

I believe this statement can only be made by someone who has never been in a *loveless* marriage. Not a bad marriage where you love your spouse but there are things that can be improved, but one where you truly don't love the other person. No amount of counseling or work can make you love someone if the love isn't there in the first place.

"Parents who are thinking of divorce, in your rush to improve your own life, don't assume your children's lives will improve as well. They won't."

Once again, you have obviously not been there if you can make blanket statements like that. My older children's lives have improved *immensely* in the last 9 years. They have 3 parents who love and care for them, they have stepgrandparents who adore them, they live with 2 parents who love and care for each other, they have better financial security, they have a mother who is far more present than she was when she was married to their father, they have younger half siblings who have added joy to their lives.

Posted by: momof4 | March 12, 2007 11:05 AM

Toddlers are stinkers. All 4 of my kids, when they were 2 years old, would get in between my wife and I and push us apart when they saw us hugging and smooching in the kitchen. Anybody else?

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 11:06 AM

"Personally, if my husband didn't want to be married to me any more, I wouldn't WANT him to stick around just because he promised to a long time ago."

We promised to be married until death. While we have had ups and downs, leaving was never an option for either of us. When you throw out that option, then all that is left is working to make it better or co-existing peacefully.

"I deserve someone who loves me and wants to share a life with me -- and so does he."

Children deserve to have both parents in their lives in the same household.

My husband and I both come from 'broken families' and vowed that our children wouldn't have to live that way.

Someone said a while ago that they couldn't believe that people still used the term broken families rather than divorced families. Having grown up that way, I can assure you that broken is an apt term.

Posted by: xyz | March 12, 2007 11:07 AM

Mona,

From a guys perspective:

First, I'm sorry to hear about your breakup.

However, you are headed to law school, which means you have a pretty good head on your shoulders.

Despite what some nay-sayers think, you ARE going to find someone else, if that is what you choose to do, but for now use the time to reflect on what you want. What you want out of life. What you want out of love.

And once you find out what that is, go get it.

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 11:09 AM

Okay, we need a tangent now. This is just too depressing.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:09 AM

Fo4:
All of our 4 kids did the same thing. I remember, even though for some it was a long time ago. I'm not senile yet. By the way, my dog tries to get into the middle too!

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 11:09 AM

Fo4:
And my cat tries to bite anything sticking out of the covers at inadvantageous moments.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 11:10 AM

Father of 4,

I had it happen with only one child. It

Started at about 2 years old.

It hasn't stopped yet.

My child is 16.

She finds new and creative ways to do it.

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 11:12 AM

'I am relieved that you know this NOW and not after you say, "I'm pregnant!"'

That happened to a friend of mine; got out of a toxic relationship with a controlling, manipulative --thing-- (I refuse to call him a man), she got pregnant with the rebound BF she found afterwards.

Now the toxic --thing-- shows up in her life last week suddenly, as if nothing has changed between them, leaving her hurt, confused and bewildered as to what he intended by the visit, what he wanted from her, etc. I lended both a sympathetic ear and a friendly shoulder to cry on, and agreed that she shouldn't see him at all.

She still feels something for this
--thing-- (can you tell I despise this person?), but she's equally determined to stay with her baby's father and work out their differences rather than fall into the old pattern she had with the --thing-- in her past. For her sake I hope she can do it.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 11:13 AM

"I never saw my parents kiss, hug, or laugh together. My parents never mentioned the word love to me or to each other. I'm not sure how to love another person or my country or my God because I've never seen love in action."

Wow, that's so me (except I love my country). I remember the first time I heard my parents tell me they loved me (I was in my 20's and they were going on a vacation without me). Now that I live in another state they say it, I say it back, but at this point, does it have any meaning? It just sounds so empty. I do love my goddaughter, but that's a different love.

I'm 33 and single and an only child. While I would never tell them this to their faces, my parents relationship or lack there of (they're married almost 37 years) probably has had a big impact as to why I'm single! I've never even been in a "relationship" longer then 6 months! Most of my dating happned in college some 10+ years ago, too. I just don't want to end up like them and I probably work too hard at that.

Posted by: Columbia, MD | March 12, 2007 11:13 AM

Toddlers are stinkers. All 4 of my kids, when they were 2 years old, would get in between my wife and I and push us apart when they saw us hugging and smooching in the kitchen. Anybody else?

Dude! Don't you know why? They're begging you not to make another sibling who will take up space in the communal bed! No more! No more!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:15 AM

"However, you are headed to law school, which means you have a pretty good head on your shoulders."

ROTFLMAO!!!! As if.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:17 AM

Mona, please don't leave the board! I'm so sorry for the current situation, but things will look up soon - I would miss your last wordism on here :)

I appreciate hearing so many heartfelt stories today - it is definitely becoming more common for people to view partnerships without marriage as viable options - especially in my generation! I have very mixed feelings about marriage, and not because I want to see it through rose-colored glasses. I definitely think marriages are work, and for the most part, also think it is the kind of work I would be willing to do. However, I've kindof gotten to a point where I see kids as being the only reason for a marriage. If I'm not going to have more kids (still up for debate at this point), then why should I get married? I don't think my attitude is "right", I just think it's interesting when I hear of others, usually in my same age range, who agree.

The other comment I wanted to second was the part about unhappiness in a marriage not being permanent. It has taken a long time to view unhappiness in my life in general as being temporary - sometimes I get in a funk, and sometimes it has a reason I can fix, like needing a different job or going on vacation or learning a new skill, and sometimes it doesn't really have a reason, and in those times, I try to remember, it eventually goes away. I imagine marriage to be like that - and hope that if I could remember to be patient, I could weather the unhappy times in a marriage also.

Posted by: TakomaMom | March 12, 2007 11:17 AM

All 4 of my kids, when they were 2 years old, would get in between my wife and I and push us apart when they saw us hugging and smooching in the kitchen. Anybody else?

No, Fo4, we have not had this problem with our kids. Our kids are not competing with us for attention. Neither child thinks that hugs and kisses given to a parent represent love taken away from the child. Our kids love to see us hugging.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:19 AM

Marriage is definitely not easy, it is the blending of two different people with different backgrounds, moral systems, etc. My wife and I (married 6 months) are always working to communicate better because our relationship is important and valuable enough for us to continue doing that.

Having said that, not every marriage is worth salvaging. I grew up in a divorced household - my parents divorced when I was five.

My father changed as my parents were married, started using drugs, having affairs. He was incredibly emotionally abusive with my older brother and with my mother. After the divorce, my father had little to do with us. For me, I know that my life was better. My mom was such an incredible example - she was loving, hard working and devoted to her children. Had she stayed married to my father I'm not sure that she would have been the person that I love and respect now.

I'm proud that she made the tough choice to end the marriage for herself and her children.

Posted by: Nno | March 12, 2007 11:19 AM

To Quiet Desperation

I admire that you are putting your child before yourself. Some time ago, I heard advice for those who are no longer in love but are still together. I don't know if it works, but I guess it can't hurt.

Live in the past a bit. Remember when you were in love and try to recapture those times.

Pretend you are still in love. Treat your partner as you would if you truly loved her, even if you don't feel like it. Try to do things that make her happy and act happy yourself even when you don't really feel like it. If you live as if she is cherished and loved, then she may treat you the same way and maybe you can truly be in love again and not just acting.

Stay in the same room. Do not retreat to a different part of the house. Don't accept that this is all there is. Build on it and make it better.

Good luck. FWIW, if it doesn't work, I still think you are doing right by staying for your child, as long as neither of you is verbally or physically abusive to the other parent.

Posted by: xyz | March 12, 2007 11:20 AM

I disagree with the comments about marriage "not being easy" or about it "being hard work." If you are in the *right* marriage, it is not hard work and it is very easy. I speak from experience.

xyz - do you love your husband? Do you respect him? Does he love and respect you? Do you treat each other kindly? If so, then I would be careful about making statements that suggest that couples should stay together no matter what, because not all marriages that end in divorce - probably very few of them, actually - are situations where love, respect, and kindness exist. Not being able to get along all of the time is one thing and couples can choose to make it better or "peacefully co-exist", but situations where there is no love, no respect, no kindness....it's close to impossible for that to happen.

Posted by: momof4 | March 12, 2007 11:24 AM

LML, re the big questions we should have asked, for us it was the question of time spent with other people. Mr Bee would see friends and family every night if he could, in big groups if possible. I like to entertain at our place about once a week and spend one other night with one or two couples. When we meet in the middle I'm always stressed out by our social pace and yet he's still yearning for more.

This is partly why we have decided not to have kids (so far). I simply can't stand the thought of more people in my life. And Mr Bee can't stand the thought of less variety in the people in his life.

Posted by: worker bee | March 12, 2007 11:24 AM

"Some time ago, I heard advice for those who are no longer in love but are still together. I don't know if it works, but I guess it can't hurt."

The advice doesn't work. When real love is gone, it is gone forever. A lot of fake mind games won't bring it back.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:25 AM

For anyone who wonders about the "damage: a divorce can do to a child, the following book is a good read: "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study" by Julia M. Lewis and Sandra Blakeslee. As a child of divorced parents I could very much relate to many of the people in this book.

Bottom line: marriage takes the WORK of both people.

And although I think married people should stay togther and work on their issues when there are children involved, I certainly would add that in the case of any sort of abuse divorce may be the only solution.


Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:26 AM

to anon at 11:19 (or really 12:19)-
Jeez, you read so much into kids getting into the middle. I always saw them as 'saying' they wanted a hug too...

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 11:27 AM

My grandmother divorced my very abusive grandfather back in the 40's. She had been staying with him for the sake of the four boys, but when the two oldest ones returned from WWII, they told her something would have to be done about their father's abusive ways or they would take care of the problem themselves (he was still beating the two younger boys).

She divorced him at that point, remarried later on, and lived to be 103, outliving both husbands.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 11:28 AM

momof4 - I agree that sometimes you just can't make it work if there is abuse, infidelity, criminal activity, etc.

I was directing my comments toward those situations where someone is asking "Is this all there is" or feels like they just don't love the spouse anymore.

In 20 years of marriage, my husband and I have loved each other as well as strongly disliked each other and every other emotion in-between.

Posted by: xyz | March 12, 2007 11:31 AM

Maybe totally off topic, but I see this happening so often-
Do readers/writers here reinterpret what they read depending on who wrote it? I mean, if Fo4 changed his moniker for a post and posted his question about kids getting into the middle of a hug with a different name, would readers/writers interpret the question differently? I think so.

By the way, I find Fo4 terribly humerous. I agree with Emily on this.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 11:32 AM

"Never let a fool kiss you, or a kiss fool you." - Joey Adams

Oh, well, for Mona too!

Posted by: for John Q's friend | March 12, 2007 11:33 AM

No one is "wondering" about the "damage: a divorce can do to a child,"

WE know the damage done by growing up in a home without love. It crushes the soul and spirit. It's the genesis of generations after generations of people who don't know how to love and be loved.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:34 AM

I'm sorry, I meant for John L's friend.

And Mona.

Posted by: Oops | March 12, 2007 11:35 AM

I wonder if people know of couples who've agreed to stay together for the children but who also agree to live separate lives, that is, sleep/have affairs with other people?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:35 AM

The NYT today has an article today about blended families...this one includes the recent Rudy Giuliani flap. The bottom line is, being in a long-term, committed relationship is tough AND it's tough to be a kid. Finding a balance in a relationship and being a kid are kind of the same. You're looking for a way to be at peace with the "you" you've chosen. Every family (person?) is balancing one or both of those interests.

Here's the link:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/11/fashion/11blended.html

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:37 AM

-- When we meet in the middle I'm always stressed out by our social pace and yet he's still yearning for more.

I simply can't stand the thought of more people in my life. And Mr Bee can't stand the thought of less variety in the people in his life. --

Would it be possible for him to go out and be around people without you? You could stay home and have less social time and he could have the social time he craves? Maybe that would be a better solution than a compromise that isn't really working for either.

I am more extroverted than my DH, so I do many things on my own. It works for us.

Posted by: to worker bee | March 12, 2007 11:38 AM

"I wonder if people know of couples who've agreed to stay together for the children but who also agree to live separate lives, that is, sleep/have affairs with other people?"

Yes, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Also, the Clintons.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:38 AM

xyz - but I'm not talking about just cases of abuse, adultery, etc. I'm talking about situations where there is no love, no respect. If you always go back to loving your husband you just can't understand what it's like to know in your heart that the love is gone and that no amount of hard work will bring it back.

I think it's great that you and your husband have made a commitment to each other. But you obviously have an overall "good marriage" even with its ups and downs if you think that people should live in a loveless marriage or "peacefully co-exist" when they could be living lives which don't force them to fake it every moment.

Posted by: momof4 | March 12, 2007 11:39 AM

Thanks for the quote; I think my friend would really appreciate it, especially since when the --thing-- showed up last week, he said he still loved her (yeah right) and kissed her as if they were still together.

IMO both parts of the quote applied to that situation.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 11:39 AM

"By the way, I find Fo4 terribly humerous. I agree with Emily on this."

I agree too. Another amazing thing about Fo4 is that he always turns the other cheek-- does not retaliate or counterattack. Impressive.

Posted by: Neighbor | March 12, 2007 11:40 AM

Mona,

your ex-boyfriend will find a perfect partner. He knows what to look for. Not everybody is broken down/needy/cat person. I always told my male friends to stay away from the girls from troubled or low income families. They can't handle stress, unpredictable and often learned to compromise their principles for the sake of survival.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:40 AM

Unfortunately, I don't think that "abuse" is an extreme. Esp. the more subtle forms of abuse. Extreme controlling behavior, some types of verbal abuse, for example. So, I don't think these can be so easily dismissed as just being out of the norm.

But, even assuming you're correct, parents can (and do) still pass negative behaviors on to children. Parents who don't speak to each other. Parents who tolerate each other. Parents that don't show affection or warmth. THe constant tension these things inevitably convey to children. That is not healthy either. Don't get me wrong, I didn't go to the fairytale school of what to expect from a marriage. But, some degree of warmth -not necessarily lust, sex, etc.- but genuine affection (even if manifested in small ways) is vital, imo, to a happy, healthy marriage.

That is my opinion, only.

Posted by: to Crispy and others | March 12, 2007 11:40 AM

I sure wish MY parents had that arrangment (sleeping with other people). At least they'd be getting some and my homelife wouldn't have been the disaster it was.

My parents should have gotten divorced by the time I was 13 -- at the latest. My mother was emotionally and physically abusive (with both my dad AND us 3 kids). My dad sat in silence and watched and let it happen.

But me? I think I turned out to be a great member of society. Despite it all. I was able to take the first "get the hell out of here" card I could and went away to college and learned to be me.

Sure, my going away had a bearing on who I am now. But I sure as hell am NOT a carbon copy of my environment. I got out of relationships that turned abusive and I don't stand for it now.

While I marriage is work at times (see NNo's comment above), it is worth it to me. And if there is ever a time when it's not, we'll both do something about it.

Posted by: JNo | March 12, 2007 11:40 AM

"I disagree with the comments about marriage "not being easy" or about it "being hard work." If you are in the *right* marriage, it is not hard work and it is very easy. I speak from experience."

oh, please. I speak from experience, too, and so does everyone else posting today.

I love my husband very much, and he loves me, BUT. He is the product of a single parent household (insert obligatory, not that there's anything wrong with that, disclaimer) and does not have the slightest idea that marriages, or non-married committed relationships, take either work or effort. The idea of regular date nights or prioritizing time together as a couple, and not always talking about, and focusing on, the kids, the kids, the kids is foreign to him. He doesn't have time for marriage counseling because our son participating in baseball is more important than counseling. His mom only had her kids to consider, and she did not have to make time to keep a marriage healthy. She could be 100% mom 24-7. I have a lot of respect for her as a parent, but she was not in a position to teach her kids how to be good at marriage. They needed to figure that out for themselves, and not one has. This is not intended as a criticism of single parents. It is not. No parent or set of parents can teach everything to their kids. However, when people say look at how he treats his mother and siblings, and you check off that box because he treats both wonderfully, consider that there may be implications for your marriage and relationship that relate to being raised in a single-parent household and that are not revealed by the mom and siblings checkbox.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:40 AM

"I wonder if people know of couples who've agreed to stay together for the children but who also agree to live separate lives, that is, sleep/have affairs with other people?"

Yes, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.

Also, the Clintons."

And all of the Kennedys.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:41 AM

Wow, a lot of posts since I checked out earlier. Fascinating the directions this blog takes. I never know what to expect, but it keeps me coming back . . .

Mona, I'm sorry that you're going through this now but it will be better in the long run. Enjoy your freedom and use it (as one of the Johns suggested) to figure out what you want and then go for it.

Posted by: WorkingMomX | March 12, 2007 11:43 AM

Heh, last wordism. You've pegged me perfectly. ;-)

Thanks again for all your words of encouragement. There have been good times and bad, and many of the bad times I've gone through, he's helped me through, but in the end, there was just too much baggage to weed through. I always wondered if he'd be better off with someone like him--someone who had a stable family life, with good parents who took care of their children's needs, who didn't have to raise themselves, who never had anorexia or OCD or insecurities, who did everything right the first time. Maybe he will be. Maybe instead, that kind of girl will follow him into rose-colored glasses land, and reality will deal them a heavy blow. I guess time will tell--I have to thank him for the positive presence he was in my life throughout our relationship, and for realizing he couldn't handle it before he committed to me for good. :-)

In other words, THANK GOD I am not pregnant!

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 11:46 AM

To Mona:

You're doing the right things. However, I don't think ex-BF was necessarily a totally bad guy, otherwise you wouldn't have been involved with him. But that doesn't automatically make him husband material for you either. Incidentally, you won't be surprised to learn that I also had a long-term relationship leading to engagement, but broke it off -- and still consider dumping him one of the best decisions I ever made, because I concluded that all the problems between us would only worsen upon marriage, not improve.

You still have your options ahead of you, Mona -- and you live an "examined life," which is important. Please stay in touch with this board, because you bring your own fine perspectives to the rest of us.

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 11:46 AM

momof4 - I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. I do believe that I would stay together 'for the sake of the children' if I no longer loved my husband and thought I could never get it back.

I think that it is best for children to be raised in an intact family, and my personal happiness is second to that.

Everything can be personalized. My beliefs are strongly colored by growing up in a broken home, yours are colored by your experiences. That doesn't make either of us right or wrong, just different.

Posted by: xyz | March 12, 2007 11:47 AM

"oh, please. I speak from experience, too, and so does everyone else posting today. "

I didn't say that everyone wasn't speaking from experience - I said that I disagreed with the idea that "marriages are work" based on my own experience of comparing two situations - a "bad marriage" and a "good marriage". I've been married twice and the first one was hard work and far from easy. My marriage now isn't work at all.

I don't think it should be considered "work" or "effort" to put your spouse first in your life once in awhile. Yes, some people don't do it and it can be caused by many things, including the situation you described with your husband. But that doesn't mean that it's "hard work" to do so. Maybe it's just a difference in the definition of "work".

Posted by: momof4 | March 12, 2007 11:47 AM

Mona,

your ex-boyfriend will find a perfect partner. He knows what to look for. Not everybody is broken down/needy/cat person. I always told my male friends to stay away from the girls from troubled or low income families. They can't handle stress, unpredictable and often learned to compromise their principles for the sake of survival.

Posted by: | March 12, 2007 11:40 AM

un-friggin-believable. Are you smoking crack, dude?

He will not find a perfect partner. He will find someone that doesn't need him. When she stops wanting whatever he does provide, she'll move on to someone else.

The rich, spoiled kids are the ones who are unable to handle stress. They get so used to their connected parents stepping in and making problems go away, by pressuring the basketball coach to put them on the team when they don't have the ability, by paying off the pregnant girlfriend to leave town, by hiring them at dad's company so poor work performance is not a problem.

I hope you found someone who thinks like you so the rest of the gene pool is not corrupted.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:48 AM

"I always told my male friends to stay away from the girls from troubled or low income families. They can't handle stress, unpredictable and often learned to compromise their principles for the sake of survival."

ANS, MM and Oprah are the most famous examples.

Oprah Winfrey

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:52 AM

I truly enjoy being married, despite the occasional rough times.

I enjoy being able to talk to my wife about anything and everything, knowing nothing is off limits.

I enjoy doing things for her and seeing her appreciate the effort I put into what I did, be it dinner or a jewelry box.

I enjoy feeling her warmth next to me on a cold winter night (although her feet are cold!).

I enjoy greeting her in the evening when she comes home, wearing my "Kiss the Cook" apron.

I enjoy the times we spend exploring new places together, whether they be real or virtual.

I enjoy working out problems together, and knowing we can rely on each other for support and encouragement.

I enjoy looking at her and see her smiling, as we share a secret without having to say anything at all.

I enjoy doing spontaneous things with her, for no reason at all other than I love her.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 11:52 AM

My parents had a bad marriage and stayed together for the kids. Part of me resented the guilt trip that put on me and wished they would get divorced. In retrospect though, I'm glad they didn't divorce. My friends from divorced homes never saw their mom because she had to work 3 jobs to support the family, and hardly saw their fathers who would typically ger remarried and focus on their new family.

My friends from divorced homes also had lots more financial hardships than I had...which was good in a way because it helped them have a good work ethic in order to afford college, grad school etc.

Posted by: jenn | March 12, 2007 11:56 AM

Mona,

....who didn't have to raise themselves, who never had anorexia or OCD or insecurities, who did everything right the first time......

You also need to start giving yourself more credit. You saying all the things that he saw in you.

Who cares what he saw. It only matters what you see in yourself.

Someone will come along as see those same things that you see in yourself and then you will have found what you were looking for.

In the meantime, don't leave the board. It's clear to me that many people here are going to miss you if you go.

You seemed to have made quite and impression here.

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 11:59 AM

to 11:40

Maybe he focuses on the kids all the time because his father wasn't around to focus on him. Try making plans that include all of you but will allow the kids to go off by themselves (day at the park, stand together watching the kids playing).

DH and never had regular date nights. His motto was that we had our time before they were born and we'll have our time after they're gone, but now it is their time. We go out as a family and have our "couple time" after they have gone to bed. And we do have occasional date nights, just not regular.

This doesn't mean that we spoil our children and make them the center of the universe. We just approach our lives as a family rather than a couple with children.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 11:59 AM

Mona, and I mean this in the best way possible, focus on being less needy and stop identifying yourself with all those negative labels. You can be whatever you want to be. You don't have to be a victim of your past.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 12:01 PM

Mona,

I second (and third) the supporting comments you've gotten here. Look at this breakup as a learning experience that will allow you the next time to be more sure of what you want in a boyfriend/prospective husband. It's not the end of the world although it may feel that way to you right now.

(That's probably enough cliche's for one post...)

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 12:02 PM

And Mona, I suspect you will enjoy this site.

Check out the "Manipulator Files". I spotted ALL of "Joe Smooth's" moves, even if I couldn't name them.

Don't forget "Romeo is Bleeding" too.

And quit thinking (or talking) about yourself in terms of the stuff you went through that bothers you. Myopic. You are more than just those things, you know?

Believe me, I'm no wearer of the rose-coloured glasses, but if you opt to strap Sh*t Goggles onto your face, all you will see, smell and taste will be Sh*t. Give yourself more credit than that.

I suspect we will see less of you while you are in law school because you will be working so hard. The first year is AWFUL--just expect that part. My cousin is a lawyer and has told me so. Repeatedly.

Now go outside and enjoy listening to the birds screeching. Because I said so, damn it! (Okay, you're supposed to laugh, not cringe.)

Posted by: MdMother | March 12, 2007 12:07 PM

"I agree too. Another amazing thing about Fo4 is that he always turns the other cheek-- does not retaliate or counterattack. Impressive."

He doesn't need to, there are plenty of "regular" posters who kiss his a$$ to do it for him!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 12:11 PM

Laura/Mona,

A guy can be fabulous and still not be right for you. You are fabulous, but not right for him.

If you've struggled with anorexia, et al, and made it through to the other side, I have near total confidence that you can cope with hair loss, job loss, sagging boobs or a disabled child. When other people become anxious about whether their home owners' association will approve a change in paint color, people with a background like yours tend to laugh and say, you're worried about what? Don't discount the value of the perspective you've got on what matters in life. That perspective comes from having gone through he**.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 12:11 PM

I often wonder whether we would marry if our inevitable conclusion weren't worm food. If I could stay 24 forever, as I am now, would I ever marry? Attempting to guarantee companionship is a great idea--in a kinetic, finite life. I come from rural Michigan, where kids marry by 23; in cities, it seems rare to be hitched by 28. I believe this is because we city folk have longer to enjoy life's simple pleasure before realizing we're too old to get away with a gladular life anymore, whether it be because we're too old to be accepted, too decrepit to keep up or running out of childbearing time.

I am counting on marrying. Why not?

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 12:12 PM

to "to worker bee": Thanks for the good suggestion. I have thought of this also (fairly recently, once Mr Bee and I figured out that we really were quite different this way). However, part of his needs include me being with him. He says he doesn't have as much fun if it's just him; he likes to show me off; he doesn't want me moping at home; or on occasion he believes that I dislike the people he wants to see. He's been like this from the beginning of our relationship but I didn't bear the brunt of it until after we married--I think he believes there's something wrong with a marriage where the wife doesn't want to spend 24/7 with the husband. It's an uphill struggle trying to show him I love him while still getting my necessary me-time.

Posted by: worker bee | March 12, 2007 12:13 PM

"Toddlers are stinkers. All 4 of my kids, when they were 2 years old, would get in between my wife and I and push us apart when they saw us hugging and smooching in the kitchen. Anybody else?"

From 1 until about 1.5 my son would literally throw himself on the floor and scream if he saw my husband so much as hug me, lord forbid if there was a small kiss involved as well. So yes I had my own oedipus rex.

Posted by: Centreville Mom | March 12, 2007 12:14 PM

*glandular life*

oops

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 12:14 PM

re: loveless marriage
Never said I love you to anyone til my first serious boyfriend. Never had had it said to me either. Oh, well, life sucks, you move on.

But it wasn't abuse in the formal sense, just that my parents clearly were unhappy, dad probably suffers from some personality disorder/depression (but doesn't believe they exist), etc. and at the time staying together for the kids was the modus operandi. Look, it's never good, but if you can't show your kids what a good relationship is, they are probably doomed to repeat a bad one.
And certainly, love alone is NOT enough. No where near. You need so much more - same values, ideals, etc.

Posted by: atlmom | March 12, 2007 12:14 PM

"Youth is wasted on the young"

Few truer words were ever spoken.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 12:16 PM

Mona - I know the posters have probably already said things better than I could...just want to say I have been there (a few times) and things do get better and you will be happy. It may not feel like it at first, but it definitely will happen!

Posted by: Missicat | March 12, 2007 12:16 PM

Okay, have to try for this positive spin after skimming all of this for the first time today: who loves their partner MORE since you've had kids? Just watching my husband with our daughter Friday night, trying to fish out a straw that had fallen into a bottle of juice so she could have a drink, almost made me start to cry. Could be the pregnancy hormones, though...

Posted by: niner | March 12, 2007 12:17 PM

ANS, MM and Oprah Winfrey?

MM: clang to men desperately, died from drug overdose.
ANS: ironically, slightly more advanced. Refused to marry the tycoon until she landed a clean career with Guess? and mainstream movies. Still, her system jusrt could not handle drugs, diet supplements and emotional rollercoaster. Poor children, too.

Oprah Winfrey, the steel magnolia. So smart, she would not marry, so she maintained complete freedom to do what she wants with her time and money. Probably has no illusions about fellow humans.

2 examples out of 3 are off mark, and that's the best you can come up with? I give Mona more credit than to compare her with MM and ANS. She gained my respect (for what it's worth) by handling the blow. If she was so cool with her ex, he is a fool to give up. But sometimes women feel too relaxed and into "being themselves" with their closest people. Truth is not just blurting out whatever comes into your head, it's more like looking deep inside yourself and thinking: is it really what I want to say/do.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 12:18 PM

Gee, sounds like he wants to be attached at the hip. Wish I knew someone who could perform unattach-ectomy surgery.

Posted by: to worker bee | March 12, 2007 12:19 PM

Okay, have to try for this positive spin after skimming all of this for the first time today: who loves their partner MORE since you've had kids? Just watching my husband with our daughter Friday night, trying to fish out a straw that had fallen into a bottle of juice so she could have a drink, almost made me start to cry. Could be the pregnancy hormones, though...

Posted by: niner | March 12, 2007 12:17 PM

niner, seeing how wonderful my now-spouse was with his great-nieces and nephews was part of why I fell in love with him in the first place!

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 12:19 PM

When my parents told me (age 16) that they were separating I can remember feeling a huge sense of relief. I think my first thought was "good, maybe now somebody can be happy". There was no abuse but they did argue a lot. It was most obvious that they were both miserable.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 12:21 PM

Do I think that you should stay married for the kids? No, but only if you have done everything in your power to try to fix it. I have been married for 13 years and have two children - 6 and 3. My two cents on a few of the ideas thrown around:

Myth 1) Premarital Counseling is a Waste: We went to premarital counseling because my DH had been married before to an unfaithful wife (3x over), had a child from that union, his sick parents would be living with us and I had huge issues related to intimacy due to molestation as a child and rape as a young woman. Our therapist was wonderful and taught us how to communicate, how to recognize when DH or I was reacting based on previous experience, not what was actually going on. We were taught words that were good at difusing (sp?) a situation and healing. We would not still be married TODAY if we hadn't learned those skills BEFORE we got married.

Myth 2) That if your marriage isn't always happy and passionate, that it MUST be over and you should just move on: We have been through a lot and got through, but the biggest challenge to our marriage was having children. I'm blessed with a man who understands, while not pleased with it, that when our kids are little, my energy is sucked into them. I try to ensure that when he gets home, everything's in order and dinner's cooking, but sometimes that doesn't happen. He understands that sometimes I'm just exhausted and it doesn't mean I don't find him attractive and that I don't love him. But I understand too, that sometimes even thought I'm exhausted, he needs me and I need to be there for him. There are times when I don't like him much and I'm sure he feels the same way about me. But I know that I love him and he loves me and we'll come round again. We always treat each other with respect and when we do have disagreements, we make every effort to not do so in front of our kids.

Myth 3) Some how you should just know that the person you're going to marry is the right one. Did I know 13 years ago that it would work? No. I BELIEVED I was marrying for life and I've lived every day with that mindset. Marriage is hard work and I think people just don't want to invest the energy. When it gets tough, or your spouse gets fat, or loses their job...then you move on.
Now there are situations when you must leave and I think most of those have all been covered.

As to my marriage, yes I'm blessed that I found the right one, but he could have turned out to be the wrong one. What made the difference? We had the sense to acquire the tools we needed (counseling), we treat each other with love, respect and understanding and we BELIEVE in the worth and value of each other and our relationship.

Posted by: Quatsch | March 12, 2007 12:23 PM

dotted: yes I think we read posts from regulars differently because we have so much back ground information already.

Who is MM?

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 12:23 PM

KLB SS MD, my husband and is brother felt the same way when their parents split. He said that in spite of the whole depressing situation, it was funny because my MIL and FIL expected them to be sad, but their reaction was pretty much "It's about damn time!" They were good parents who raised two boys who are now devoted and excellent fathers.

Posted by: niner | March 12, 2007 12:24 PM

""Don't stay together for the kids. It makes for a miserable life for them."

All current research shows otherwise."

Back it up?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 12:25 PM

Whoops, forgot my last sentence on that last post: meant to say, "they just had and awful marriage."

Posted by: niner | March 12, 2007 12:27 PM

MM= Marilyn Monroe

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 12:27 PM

My husband and I have been happily married for 18 years. We dated for six years first (we were in college and graduate school), and during that time had specific discussions about finances, children, religion, and various other hot button topics that tend to get married couples in trouble. We had our big fights about these issues while we were dating and got it all out of our system before saying "I do."

My husband's parents, who are immigrants, are in what started out as an arranged marriage. They barely knew each other when they got married and moved to the US, but over the last 45 years they have certainly grown to love and respect each other as they've worked toward common family and financial goals. As a result, my husband views marriage more objectively as a true life partnership. Similarly, I grew up in a house where marriage was about more practical things than undying romantic love. My stepfather married my mother, a young widow with 3 children, because he wanted a family but wasn't getting any younger. We became his ready made family. While there was some romance in the mix, family desires and financial survival formed the primary basis for their successful marriage.

While our marriage is a "love match," the partnership aspect has always taken priority. Romantic passion ebbs and flows, but the respect we have for each other has never wavered. That respect will get us and our three children happily to that golden anniversary and beyond (God willing).

Posted by: MP | March 12, 2007 12:30 PM

I am getting married in 2 months and some of what I have seen above scares me!

Neither my future husband or I would stay in a loveless marriage for any reason, kids or otherwise. We believe that we will be together always and that our relationship can weather any storm. But we are also realistic. He could leave. I could leave. We could become unhappy or realize we want something else. A million things are possible.

We believe that only if we are truly happy as individuals are we good for one another. That leads to mutual respect, love and support for that happiness, and the hope that we have this together always.

We are both children of divorce and I would venture to say that we have just as many "problems" as our friends with parents that stayed together (happily or otherwise).

If we did split up and we had kids, we have agreed that we would do our best to keep that mutual respect and support as an example for our children. Even if the reason for our split is painful, we would put that aside.

I would hope that of all the vows I commit to in May, the vow of respecting this man (no matter what) is the one I uphold for eternity, especially if we have the gift of children.

Posted by: LB | March 12, 2007 12:31 PM

When I married I thought it would last forever. When I read the comments here I have to say that we had a solid foundation for the fist 10 years of our marriage. Nothing could have prepared us for the dramatic changes we'd each have in what was important to us in life. We had both changed in opposite directions and it made our marriage intolerable to both of us. We are now divorced and both much happier. Looking back, I don't know how we could have anticipated the changes that came 10 years down the road.

Posted by: LoveSnow | March 12, 2007 12:32 PM

I truly wish my parent got a divorce when I was a teenager. Sick to death of the bickering and always being put in the middle of their crisis. 21 years later with them in their 60's and I'm darn near 40, they're still bickering and putting me in the middle of their arguments. I hate it because I avoid talking to them a little more each week and my brother avoids them completely and he lives directly behind them! I tell both of them that I don't want to hear the bad mouthing of the other parent but they have been doing it so long, it just everyday conversation for them.

It's unfair to every family member to stay in a unhappy relationship. Why should grown people pretend to be happy for the sake of their kids until they grow up and just wind up shocking them anyway that their parents were unhappy along.

It's just never good to live a lie.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 12:37 PM

"They barely knew each other when they got married and moved to the US, but over the last 45 years they have certainly grown to love and respect each other as they've worked toward common family and financial goals. "

Sounds good, but no sale here. Have you read the Forsyte Saga? Some people are disgusted by the touch (or the proximity of certain individuals and can barely stay in the same room for more than a minute. Common goals aren't always enough. Some people want to be sweethearts, not roommates.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 12:39 PM

Fo4

#4 still takes great delight in me telling about how he would snuggle up to Frieda and then kick me in the back when he was 2.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 12:43 PM

"Common goals aren't always enough. Some people want to be sweethearts, not roommates."

Maybe so. but there are a whole lot of people who marry someone on the basis of being in love, with little if any thought to whether they have common goals. They are the ones five years later saying, I loved him or her, but it wasn't enough.

Hormones make for a fine long-term relationship, but hormones alone are an insufficient basis for marriage.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 12:45 PM

Congratulations on your upcoming marriage! You and your future spouse have a realistic take on things in that you realize things could turn out unexpectedlyit's not at all bad that you feel this way. My husband and I feel the same way: we never want to leave each other, we hope it never comes to that (not just for the sake of our 2.9999 kids but for us as well) but nothing is guaranteed.

Posted by: LB | March 12, 2007 12:46 PM

Sorry, duh, that should have been *TO* LB...

Posted by: niner | March 12, 2007 12:49 PM

Cultural Tidbit of the Day

"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away."

Henry D. Thoreau from "Walden; or Life in the Woods".


Writing is hard work. To spell out the right cadence and tone in a paragraph is an art. Thoreau worked on the above quote or variations of it from 1839 until 1854 when it was published in Walden.

Tomorrow on CTOTD, e.e. cummings

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 12:49 PM

Mona: so sorry to hear - but you have lots of great things on the horizon.
Good to know a person before getting married/having kids, etc.

Meesh: maybe you are repeating a pattern, finding someone like your family? Just a thought. The first step...and other crap...

Posted by: atlmom | March 12, 2007 12:53 PM

Mona,
Late here today as I couldn't get the link to work. Look at the upside - now you don't have to figure out how to move your cats across county! I know - it is lame but I had to try.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 12:53 PM

To suckstobeyou

Some people make decisions based on information they don't know to be false. For instance, my ex forgot to mention to me (and maybe even himself) that he was gay until many years into the marriage. Oops. Stupid me. I'm sure no one else ever believed the lies they were told by someone they loved.

And for all those who stay together for the children, I'm just curious: Do you ever think about the example you're setting in terms of how you want them to live their lives? Would you like them to remain in a miserable marriage when they are adults if they have the misfortune to end up in one? Or is it more important that they honor the letter, if not the spirit, of the commitment? I can see arguments in favor of each; I'm just wondering if anyone else considers it.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 12:53 PM

To lighten things up a bit:

After retiring, Frank went to the social security office to apply for Social Security. The woman behind the counter asked him for his driver's license to verify his age. Frank looked in his pockets and realized he had left his wallet at home.

Frank told the woman that he was "very sorry but he seemed to have left my wallet at home I will have to go home and come back later."

The woman said to Frank, "Unbutton your shirt."
So Frank opened his shirt revealing his curly silver hair.
"That silver hair on your chest is proof, enough for me" and she processed Frank's Social Security application.
When he got home, he told his wife about his experience at the social security office.
Frank's wife replied, "You should have dropped your pants. You might have gotten disability too."

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 12:54 PM

I just want to let you all know that I'll be copying and pasting your great, supportive, uplifting comments (including the ones that were necessarily harsh and meant to bring me back to reality--I loved the comment about s#!t goggles!) into a document that I can read when I have weak moments. I'm so grateful to all of you for giving me back a little bit of much-needed confidence. I hope someday I can return the favor!

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 12:55 PM

Fred, when my wife sees me laying on the couch, she comes up to me offering affection, wraps her arms around me, tells me how much she loves me. I know what she's doing. She jockeying for a good position to pin me down and tickle my armpits to watch me thrash about.

And I fall for it every time, just like Charlie Brown with Lucey and the football.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 12:57 PM

Mona, your presence on this blog is all we need. Really, as much as people mock this blog. It has turned into a little on line community who cares. It is not meant to shut out new comers. But just enhance the ones that choose to be "known."

Posted by: foamgnome | March 12, 2007 12:57 PM

Books that back up my "argument" on divorce not being good for kids:

The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study

Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce

The Love They Lost: Living with the Legacy of Our Parents' Divorce

Generation Ex: Adult Children of Divorce and the Healing of Our Pain

Adult Children of Divorce: How to Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents' Breakup and Enjoy Love, Trust, and Intimacy

Just to name a few. The titles of these books say it all. Show me a book that talks about how divorce is GOOD for kids (other than when abuse is involved). Just try to find one.

Posted by: Crispy | March 12, 2007 1:01 PM

When I was 4 my mother was pregnant with my little brother. When I asked her where babies come from she told me that daddies plant a seed in the mommy's tummy. I accepted that - sounded good to me.
The problem was that I had no idea how that seed got planted. I would get upset everytime they kissed because I figured it came from dad's tummy into mommy's mouth and into her tummy. I pictured it looking like a watermelon seed. I was so afraid that they would stop kissing and a seed would fall on the floor. I would panic because I had no idea what to do if that ever happened.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 1:01 PM

I was one of those who stuck around for the kids. My two daughters turned out fine and they're intelligent and well-grounded young women. I do wonder (and my daughters bring it up) about all of the fighting between my wife and me and how it affected them. I also overlooked and forgave a lot of things I shouldn't have and so I look weak in my the eyes of my kids and my wife. My wife's not a bad person - she just never dealt with the hurt in her childhood. She also kept the psychological problems well hidden for the first years of marriage (yes we did have pre-marital counseling which didn't reveal any of those issues.) Now my wife is just lost in her own morass. I don't see myself staying now that my kids have grown. I can't take any great life lesson from this other than life takes you down some unforeseen roads despite the best efforts at communication love etc. And the investment in the kids does pay off, even though there is a high personal cost.

Posted by: Chuck | March 12, 2007 1:01 PM

Thing will get better Mona.

We all have weak moments. It's how we handle them that defines who we become.

Father of 4 is having a weak moment right now because I haven't seen any good jokes from him in the past couple of hours.

As the manager of his comedy act, I am very disappointed.

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 1:05 PM

Fo4,

Are you sure that she is just not trying to find the remote or the loose change in the couch?

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 1:06 PM

Mona, I just had to join in and say that I enjoy reading your comments, unintended jokes, and appreciate the supportive things you say, to myself and others. Take care of yourself!

Also, in light of a recent blog, I am changing my name from "s" to Mountains

Posted by: Mountains | March 12, 2007 1:09 PM

OT to Mona: I will add to the chorus that things will get better and your best relationship is yet to come. Nietzche's "that which does not kill us makes us stronger" comes to mind. Just remember the t-shirts from last week - you can write your own happy ending.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | March 12, 2007 1:10 PM

Niner,
I didn't expect to see you here today. Is baby going into overtime yet?

Posted by: Rockville Mom | March 12, 2007 1:13 PM

Ok, Father of 4. Fred is making jokes now too. I'm going to have to switch to the Fred camp and manage his standup act if I don't see another good one from you soon.

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 1:14 PM

I didn't know Nietzche said that - I thought it was just my mom being a pain - goes along with trials helping you grow...

Posted by: Mountains | March 12, 2007 1:14 PM

Just a general observation of those who "stick it out" or are "existing, not living."

There's no cookie for staying with someone who you claim to not love anymore. So, why do it? If all efforts to try to fix the problem have proven unsuccessful, then why stay? Comfort? Fear of being alone? What?

Furthermore, I think it muddies the picture for those who weathered the ups and the downs of 20, 30, 40, 50+ years of marriage, and can still come out and say that they love each other, and couldn't imagine being anywhere else. If that's not you, then why are you still there?

I'm no advocate for divorce. But if it's to the point where life is just sliding, and no one is really happy, what's the point?

Posted by: JRS | March 12, 2007 1:14 PM

Mona,
You are in your 20s, right? Don't swear love and children off yet. I was married and divorced in my 20s. I did not meet the right guy for me until I was 29. I always compare my 20s to a first pancake. You gotta make it, but you also end up throwing it away.

Posted by: Emily | March 12, 2007 1:14 PM

"Oprah - the Steel Magnolia -- so smart she would not marry. . . " No truer words were ever spoken. My grandmother always I was the smartest of the bunch because I stayed single.

My sister and brother-in-law (see, I can spell out complete words) were both divorced when they married. Combined family gave them three daughers. They paid for three weddings. All three ended in divorce and produced 4 grandchildren. Really great track record for them, isn't it? Maybe children, like white rats in a laboratory, learn by observing.

Posted by: To anon at 12:18 | March 12, 2007 1:14 PM

John Q, I'm been trying to get Mona to smile for some time now without stooping to lawyer jokes.

I tell you, she's a tough nut to crack.

*Going off to pout and find a can to kick*

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 1:18 PM

F04, bring on the lawyer jokes! I need ammo! :-)

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 1:23 PM

"Are you sure that she is just not trying to find the remote or the loose change in the couch?"

This is her excuse when she goes to get in a good position to tickle my feet.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 1:23 PM

Emily ~ I'm having Gilmore Girls flashbacks. Is that where you got the pancake analogy, or did you hear that somewhere else? =)

Posted by: dlm79 | March 12, 2007 1:25 PM

Father of 4 or Fo4 as they call you,

While a commend your restraint to not use lawyer jokes, Mona needs cheering up.
I was told you were than man to do it.

If it takes a lawyer joke to make her smile, then say it. I will run interference for you. That's want good standup managers do.

So stop pouting, put away the can and cheer her up.

Your audience awaits Fo4.

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 1:29 PM

Was that a smile from Mona?????

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 1:30 PM

A poster earlier was remarking on a priest's comments, "he said that red flags for an unhappy marriage included the inability of one or both partners to hold down a job, get along with their parents or prospective in-laws, have friends outside the relationship, or manage money. He added that drug or alcohol abuse or a history of divorce in either family were also bad signs, and that the expectation that marriage will improve the partner or the relationship is always a mistake. If the fundamental life skills are lacking, you're going to have a hard time with marriage."

This is so true. You can't expect a marriage to work unless you have yourself in order. The world is increasingly complex and it takes more now to buy a house, more education/skills to get good jobs, much more is expected of you as a parent than in previous generations (providing for college, being active participant in kids' activity, -- a little bit of helicoptering is expected - and also it seems like every other child is designated as "special needs" requiring more time, energy, and financial commitment from the parents). All of these factors are contributing to the divorce divide. People with college degrees who are at least 25 years old when they get married have much lower divorce rates (around 22% I read somewhere). They seem better prepared to handle all of these added expectations. People without college degree and/or people who were married at a younger age are much more likely to get divorced. This is especially troubling because the children most likely to have divorced parents also are more likely to have less mature and less financially secure parents.

One of my friends married young, 22, after flunking out of college. She married a man who also flunked out of college. Both parents of the couple encouraged the marriage. Although both had decent jobs (union members), I remember thinking at the time these people couldn't get it together enough to get through a few classes and they both also had problems managing money - so I don't know how anyone would expect they would be able to handle a marriage so why encourage such a union. It was because both sets of parents of the bride/groom were married young and also didn't graduate from college and since they did it, they assumed their kids could do it....but their kids came of age in an entirely different world. The young couple separated right before their 2nd anniversary and later went through a bitter divorce battle and custody battle for their honeymoon baby, leaving them both bankrupt. I thought this was a big DUH moment, but not for the families -- they acted shocked!

The Parenting blog today is about arbitrary rules in high school. A while back another one was about holding kids back so they start kindergarten a little later. This makes the situation worse. With kids starting school later and later, we have adults in high school that aren't allowed to go to the bathroom without a pass and not allowed to their cars (if allowed to drive at all) to get a text book and are subjected to other dehumanizing rules. We increasingly shelter kids and treat what would have been considered an adult like a kid, so obviously they aren't going to be ready for marriage at the same time their parents were in a world that is more complex. I have heard of some helicopter parents actually calling companies who were interviewing their adult children for their first jobs and asking why they weren't hired! Are you kidding me! The products of helicopter parenting and overly confining high schools are people that aren't able to mange themselves and aren't willing to take responsibility for their own actions. Obviously these people aren't going to have successful marriages. You want to be happy and content, make it happen. Take responsibility. Marry someone who shares your values and goals. Make sure your life is in order and the spouse-to-be's life is in order as well. Yes sometimes people change, but not always all that much. If your life is dull, spice it up.

Posted by: AllisonNY | March 12, 2007 1:30 PM

Yep! :-D

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 1:31 PM

F04,

Your even better that I thought!!

She smiled without a lawyer joke!!!!

......now can we hear some lawyer jokes?? :)

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 1:34 PM

My parents never fought in front of the kids, so we were completely shocked when they split up. We had no clue there was anything wrong between them. Being children, we thought Daddy left because he didn't love us anymore, not because of problems with Dad and Mom.

My children have seen DH and I fighting. They have also seen us kiss and make up and know that they don't have to be afraid that we are divorcing just because they hear raised voices. IMHO, this is healthier than never seeing anyone arguing.

Posted by: my two cents | March 12, 2007 1:40 PM

OK, Mona, I'll resort to a real life story.

I was riding the Metro train to work and sitting in the "priority" seating reserved for the elderly and persons with disabilities. I overheard a woman talking about her current pregnancy while she stood up and conversed with several of her friends.

So, like a gentleman, I got up and offered her my seat.

She declined.

I insisted.

She declined again.

I insisted.

Finally she accepted the seat with a gracious thankyou. I heard her friends cheer her on.

Them, in typical Washingtonian style I introduced myself, "Hi, my name is [Fo4], and I'm a computer specialist. Do you do computers too?"

Her voice sounded a little indignant, (snotty), as she answered, "No, I'm an attorney!!!"

I replied, "In that case, can I have my seat back?"

Laughter ensued.

but there you go, a little ammo.

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 1:41 PM

What's the definition of mixed emotions?

Watching your attorney drive over a cliff in your new Ferrari.

Posted by: if we must, John Q | March 12, 2007 1:44 PM

A ninety-year-old couple decide to get a divorce. They go to the judge and say, "Judge, we want a divorce."

The judge says, "You've been married 70 years and now you want to get a divorce? Why did you wait so long?"

The couple say in unison, "Well, we wanted to wait until the kids were dead."

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 1:46 PM

What do you call 50 lawyers doused in gas and set on fire?

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 1:46 PM

What do you call 50 lawyers doused in gas and set on fire????

A slow start

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 1:47 PM

Thanks, niner.

I am so glad to know that other couples have this realistic outlook as well!

At the end of the day, the only person I can count on is myself. If I do right by my needs, I will be good for others.

That motto has kept us both grounded - and connected!

Posted by: LB | March 12, 2007 1:49 PM

Q. What should you do if you see your ex-husband rolling around in pain on the ground?
A. Shoot him again.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 1:50 PM

given the lawyer jokes, can I do my acc dance? woo hoo

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 1:51 PM

What do you call a bunch of lawyers standing neck deep in wet cement?

Not enough cement.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 1:51 PM

Ok, you all made Mona smile.

And now when she becomes a big Washington lawyer, she is going to sue us all for slander.

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 1:54 PM

A man went to a brain store to get some brain to complete a study. He sees a sign remarking on the quality of professional brain offerred at this particular brain store. He begins to question the butcher about the cost of these brains.

"How much does it cost for engineer brain?"

"Three dollars an ounce."

"How much does it cost for programmer brain?"

"Four dollars an ounce."

"How much for lawyer brain?"

"$1,000 an ounce."

"Why is lawyer brain so much more?"

"Do you know how many lawyers we had to kill to get one ounce of brain?"

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 1:54 PM

For Mona:

A man sees a gorgeous woman at a bar. He goes over and asks her if he can buy her a drink.

She sits up straight, looks him in the eye and says, "Let's get one thing straight, buddy. I like sex. I love sex. I have since college. I can't hardly get enough of it. I'll have sex anywhere, with anyone, anytime. In the car, on the car, in your house, with you and friends, on tables, from chandeliers. You name it, I'll do it!"

He says with his jaw hanging open, "You're a lawyer too? Which firm do you work for?"

I have NOT told that one to my cousin, the lawyer. You're the first! Lawyer, that is.

Posted by: MdMother | March 12, 2007 1:54 PM

This is a visual joke but you will get the idea.

How do lawyers look for landmines?

(Put both hands over your ears and reach out with one foot tapping the ground in front of you)

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 1:55 PM

dotted - I will be occupied tomorrow filling in my brackets. Congrats on Tyler not letting the mask get in his way.

notice how no one ever pines for engineer jokes? sigh.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 12, 2007 1:56 PM

Why did the lawyers's submarine sink?

Because they forgot to close the screen door.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 1:56 PM

How do you get a lawyer happy first thing in the morning?

Put a picture of a traffic accident on the back of a milk carton.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 1:58 PM

I have to say that I have never understood the concept of "staying together until the kids go to college." I am 28 years old and my parents amicably divorced when I was 7. My parents shared custody equally and enthusiastically and I never really thought their divorce affected me much - UNTIL I went to college and moved away from home.

Now I dread every visit to my hometown, because every precious moment I spend at home has to be apportioned out between my parents. Every holiday, every life event. If and when my parents can no longer live alone, who has first dibs on living with us? When my husband and I have our first baby - who gets to visit first? Since we will probably travel even less once we have children, who will get to visit us for thanksgiving and christmas? If we alternate equally between my divorced parents and my husbands', that's one Christmas every four years for my mom.

On top of the logistics, it has been harder to deal with my divorced parents as an adult because they no longer view me as needing protection from their emotional (and other) issues. When parents can't depend on each other for support, it puts a lot more stress on the children - whether the children are 7, 18, or 30. When my parents are lonely or sad or sick or just miss me, I can't help feeling like it is my fault, because I never have enough time to give each person as much as I want. I never felt this way as a child.

So - to all those who think that divorce has no consequences once the kids leave home - don't be naive. Parents don't stop being parents when kids leave the house. Unlike marriage, divorce lasts a lifetime whether you want it to or not.

Posted by: AdultChild | March 12, 2007 1:58 PM

You certainly have a lot of friend here Mona. you gonna stay with us?

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 1:59 PM

How can you make a lawyer keep smiling on Sunday?

Pay him his retainer, in cash, on Friday.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 2:00 PM

Fred is on fire here. Look at the jokes flowing!!

Posted by: John Q | March 12, 2007 2:02 PM

I just found my late father's favorite lawyer joke reprinted online, in assorted versions, but this comes closest to the way he told it:

Did you hear about the lawyer on vacation whose sailboat capsized in dangerous, shark-infested waters?

He surprised his traveling companions by volunteering to swim to the far-off shore for help. As he swam, his companions were startled by the appearance of two dorsal fins -- great white sharks, heading straight toward the lawyer.

To their surprise, the sharks allowed the lawyer to take hold of their fins, and escorted him safely to shore.

When the lawyer returned with help, his companions asked him how he had managed such an incredible feat. The lawyer answered, "Professional courtesy."

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 2:04 PM

A married laywer couple named Justice had a baby girl.

Yes, the baby's name was Mis.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 2:04 PM

Fred is a cruel man with no sense of loyalty to his virtual friends. *sniff* *sniff*

and so, a non-lawyer joke:

The grief-stricken man threw himself across the grave and cried bitterly. "My life, how senseless it is! How worthless is everything about me because you are gone. If only you hadn't died, if only fate had not been so cruel as to take you from this world, how different everything would have been."

A clergyman happened by and to soothe the man he offered a prayer. Afterward he said, "I assume the person lying beneath this mound of earth was someone of great importance to you."

"Importance? Indeed it was," moaned the man. "It's my wife's first husband!"

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 12, 2007 2:05 PM

What did the female lawyer tell the male lawyer?

Let's get together and compare briefs.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 2:07 PM

"The entire trajectory of a person's life is profoundly and negatively altered by the divorce experience."

Haven't read through all the comments, but only got that one and felt fire in my belly!

The best thing that ever happened to me was that my Ex-husband couldn't deal with the responsibilities of a marriage and child (his words, not mine), and left me. I now earn 40% more than I did when I was married to him, I have an incredibly close and intimate relationship with my daughter, and I'm fully happy about 75% of my time (as opposed to less than 50% when I was married!).

Most people who think that divorce is all negative are the products of messy divorces whose own childhood (or adolescent wounds) were never fully addressed by the divorce process. Trust me, divorce can be a positive experience..and that starts with society starting to believe that divorce is not such a dirty word.

Posted by: Single Mom in SS | March 12, 2007 2:09 PM

As some of my virtual friends know, I am all about the cheap laugh!

Which joke did you like best?

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 2:10 PM

I'm a 37 year old woman. I have been in my one and only marriage since I was 25. My husband and I love each other a great deal. That said, I believe that our relationship is unique in many ways. Despite being raised in a family where the mother stayed at home and the Dad worked long hours, I never saw myself in a "stay at home mom role". I worked my way through college and had no intention of letting my education and job skills get stale. My husband seems to like the idea that we were equal partners in everything from the beginning. We both make roughly the same money (though he has pulled ahead significantly in the last few years), we each contribute to the housework, he cooks, I shop and clean. And lately we have even switched our responsibilities just to see what life is like for the other. From speaking with friends and relatives, this is a rare thing. I was appalled to learn that a baby boomer's concept of women's liberation was that the woman worked a full time job, and maintained the traditional female role in the marriage and home as well. I think these boomer women screwed up royally. How in the world is doubling your workload "liberating"?

I made it very clear to my husband before we got married what my views on career and traditional roles in the marriage meant to me. If I work as many hours as he does, and bring home as much money as he does why in the world should I be expected to wait on him hand and foot? He agreed totally and 12 years later, he is still living up to our equal partnership. It hasn't all been a bed of roses, we have really had to work hard at it.

As much as a marriage is what you make of it, outside influences do creep in. We always laugh when we sit down for a dinner of soup and sandwiches. Soup and sandwiches aren't really all that hilarious until you hear this story. About a week after our wedding my husband's boss (a baby boomer/husband/father/Southern Baptist Deacon) called him into his office and settled down for a "man to man" talk. He gently told Chris that being married was the greatest thing in the world. But to be a good husband, he would just have to understand that sometimes his wife will be tired in the evening from working all day. When this happens occasionally, he should just be satisfied with a meal of soup and sandwiches and to not be discouraged or worried because his wife will get back on the ball soon. My husband merely smirked and said, "obviously, you don't know my wife" and left it at that. So now, when my husband puts a bowl of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich on the table, I just sigh and say, "Sometimes you just have to be satisfied with soup and sandwiches..." and then we crack up.

We waited 10 years to have a child. There was much discussion and planning on the division of labor to begin after the child was born. Of course, not everything went smoothly--we had one fight during the pregnancy where my husband refused to meet the cable guy at the house because as he explained to me he was trying to get all his work caught up before he had to take a whole week off when I have the baby. Needless to say he was quickly made aware that I would be taking three whole months off from my job to care for the newborn infant after having endured pregnancy and childbirth. Clearly there was no way to "get all caught up" in life and he would just have to let go and let someone else deal with it for one short week. He quickly came around and it makes for a really funny story. Along those same lines, I had observed that many women while complaining that their husbands do not help with the kids were also not allowing their husbands any responsibility with the kids. They were so wrapped up in being the "uber-mom" and gleaning fulfillment via their children that they couldn't let go of anything for fear it would not be done to their high standards. I vowed that this would not happen in our house. There is no division of labor before the birth unfortunately. Some gender roles are difficult to trade with out a lot of surgery. He couldn't help much with gestation or birth, though he did cook whatever I thought I could keep down on any given day at a moment's notice. My request was that at the end of my maternity leave, that he take 2 weeks vacation and tend to our baby all by himself. He gladly agreed and it has made all the difference in the world. He now understands what it feels like to be solely responsible for the child's welfare and he excels at it. He anticipates diaper changes and thinks ahead for meals and snacks. In return I sometimes have to endure his criticism at not doing something up to his standards. A big eye roll from me usually takes care of it. And he has really worked hard at being a very involved Dad. My husband takes our daughter to the sitter every morning and takes time off from work to take her to her well child Doctor visits. He even helps care for her when she is sick.

I do not feel that I am the only one who can successfully care for our child. I wouldn't have it any other way.

Posted by: bobina | March 12, 2007 2:12 PM

look up p-whipped in the dictionary and see a photo of bobina's husband.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 2:15 PM

This is for you, MN:

Two engineering students were walking across campus when one said, "Where did you get such a great bike?"

The second engineer replied, "Well, I was walking along yesterday minding my own business when a beautiful woman rode up on this bike. She threw the bike to the ground, took off all her clothes and said, "Take what you want."

The second engineer nodded approvingly, "Good choice; the clothes probably wouldn't have fit."

Posted by: Meesh | March 12, 2007 2:18 PM

Have we jumped the shark yet today?

Posted by: Father of 4 | March 12, 2007 2:20 PM

Since you asked, Fred, I liked Meesh's joke the best. By far. I'll be back after I drop off my shark costume at the cleaners.

Meesh - you are a goddess.

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 12, 2007 2:21 PM

Bobina's husband is not whipped, he's just been given a dose of reality from the woman he shares his life with. I can think of no better candidate to dispense such a dose. There's nothing wrong with a dad taking care of the babe all on his own. Dads don't "babysit." They parent. As Army Brat's dad once said (paraphrase): If your unit can't function without you, you haven't done your job.

And yes, I do have some great friends here. You've all made me smile today, and given me a lot to think about. I appreciate all of you, even the snarkers, but most of all, those of you who are honestly and sincerely concerned, commiserative, helpful, and funny.

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 2:23 PM

Another favorite from the engineers:

An engineer was crossing a road one-day when a frog called out to him and said, "If you kiss me, I'll turn into a beautiful princess." He bent over, picked up the frog and put it in his pocket.

The frog spoke up again and said, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a beautiful princess, I will stay with you for one week." The engineer took the frog out of his pocket, smiled at it and returned it to the pocket.

The frog then cried out, "If you kiss me and turn me back into a princess, I'll stay with you and do ANYTHING you want."
Again the engineer took the frog out, smiled at it and put it back into his pocket.

Finally, the frog asked, "What is the matter? I've told you I'm a beautiful princess and that I'll stay with you for a week and do anything you want. Why won't you kiss me?"

The engineer said, "Look, I'm an engineer. I don't have time for a girlfriend, but a talking frog, now that's cool."

Posted by: Meesh | March 12, 2007 2:24 PM

Good one Meesh. I have known a few engineers myself and find your joke to be especially apt.

Posted by: Emily | March 12, 2007 2:25 PM

There was not, is not, and never will be something as nice as a nice piece of "the strange" after being married for far too long. A lot of guys stay married and cheat because they miss the strange, the wife has become sexually unavailable (or undesirable), and they don't feel like giving up 1/2 of their hard earned money to live in an apartment while subsidizing their wives in the home they live in. Not that complicated people.

Posted by: The Stranger | March 12, 2007 2:25 PM

Extremely OT and possibly offensive, so please don't read further if you're easily offended, but I wonder if anyone here does dream interpretation? The night before he broke up with me, I had a dream that I killed his whole family with a machete, except his dad. (In the dream, I didn't witness myself doing the killing, but it was known that I had done it.) His dad grabbed a knife and chased him and me into his childhood bedroom, where we slammed the door shut. When he tried to get in, I hacked at his arms with a machete. Eventually he went away, and I cried out of fear and remorse. The BF held me and told me everything was going to be okay.

I'm totally confused as to what this could mean. Did I just have some bad wine?

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 2:26 PM

Great story (novel), but what exactly is your point as it pertains to today's topic?

Posted by: to bobina | March 12, 2007 2:27 PM

bobina's post is fake, but its point is that she has done everything right in life and we can all learn from following in her every perfect footstep.

He "even" helps care for their daughter when she is sick. If the rest of bobina's post about her perfection and her perfect handling of her perfectly equal loving relationship is to be believed, then why would she note that her spouse takes care of his sick daughter? by definition, that's what equal parenting is all about, when both partners pitch in regardless of gender.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 2:32 PM

Lawyer story:

My parents stayed married for life. My mother was a Democrat, and my father was a Republican, so there were political arguments, but nothing personal. In fact, he even got her to vote for Eisenhower.

My father practiced real estate law. So when he died suddenly, my mother, who had worked in real estate all her life, was able to finish up much of the work he left over, except for a few cases that had to be finished by a licensed lawyer. There was one divorce case, however, where the only thing the client needed was to get the final divorce papers from the court.

My mother went to the courthouse, and asked the clerk for the papers. After he found them, the clerk returned to the window, handed the papers to my mother, and said, "There you are, ma'am. You're a free woman now!"

Not what my mother wanted to hear, but still good for a laugh whenever she told the story.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | March 12, 2007 2:34 PM

Never hire a real estate lawyer to handle your divorce or you'll be telling lawyer jokes online in your bitter old age.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 2:36 PM

Mona,

You didn't happen to watch the original "The Shining" movie before going to bed that night, did you?

Engineer joke:

A genie appeared before a scientist and an engineer. "Both of you can have the beautiful woman at the end of the hall," he says, "but you must walk to her by only going half the distance at any one time."

The scientist threw up his hands. "There's no point in trying!" he exclaimed. "I will never get there!".

The engineer smiled as he walked to the woman. He knew he'd get close enough for any practical purpose...

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 2:36 PM

But I'm an engineer and I'm female....

I need some female engineering jokes, and spare me the obvious.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 2:37 PM

Matt wrote: "My mother was a Democrat, and my father was a Republican, so there were political arguments, but nothing personal. In fact, he even got her to vote for Eisenhower."

How many people think they could be married to (or even have a serious relationship with) someone with opposing political views?

And Matt, did your mother ever get your father to switch HIS vote?

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 2:37 PM

Why aren't women very good engineers?

Because they are told all their life that this (hold hands 3 inches apart) is 8 inches.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 2:39 PM

Reading over all of these comments is interesting. I come from a family where my parents, although married for years and years and years, weren't what I'd call "happy" when I was growing up. In fact, I'm somewhat convinced (although not 100 percent) that if us kids hadn't been around, my parents would have gotten divorced way back in the day. Nevertheless I can't imagine looking back and not having had both of them in my life, my house, my activities, etc., day in and day out.

I'm seeing similar perspectives from kids of divorce, that is, couldn't have imagined growing up in a different way. Maybe that just goes to show that neither staying together "for the good of the kids" or getting divorced "for the good of the kids" is really "for the good of the kids" but for our own good, and the kids will adjust accordingly.

Does anyone else come from a background like mine and have similar thoughts about being really, really happy their parents stayed together "for the good of the kids"?

Posted by: foodforthought | March 12, 2007 2:39 PM

Catlady,
My aunt and uncle were married for almost 55 years - one democrat and one republican.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 2:40 PM

"The advice doesn't work. When real love is gone, it is gone forever. A lot of fake mind games won't bring it back."

Not at all true in my case! Feelings CAN change, what was lost can be found again! We've been married 12 years and are happier now than in the beginning.

Posted by: Fairfax | March 12, 2007 2:41 PM

How many people think they could be married to (or even have a serious relationship with) someone with opposing political views?

My husband and I do, though, we seem to agree on the larger core topics such as abortion, right to bear arms, the death penatly, etc. Even though we register under different parties, neither of us are really entirely committed to one party's belief system.

Posted by: JRS | March 12, 2007 2:41 PM

To KLB, who wrote: "My aunt and uncle were married for almost 55 years - one democrat and one republican."

Hmmm, do you suppose they enjoyed making up after political arguments?

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 2:44 PM

Catlady,
He is still alive and is a very staunch democrat. She passed away almost two years ago and was a middle of the road republican who, on occasion, voted democrat. My father was a REPUBLICAN! Boy could he and my uncle argue - my aunt was the referee.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 2:46 PM

To JRS, whote wrote: "we seem to agree on the larger core topics... [but] neither of us are really entirely committed to one party's belief system."

I think JRS has struck upon the the larger issue, namely one of basic values. Thanks.

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 2:46 PM

2:32 - and that pertains to today's topic how?

Oh wait, I get it. Obviously if you have a perfect, equal marriage you will never stop loving your spouse, never become unhappy in your marriage, never get divorced, and never ruin your children's lives by doing so.

Purpose of today's blog? To draw the holier than thou's come out of the woodwork to let the rest of us know how bad we are.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 2:48 PM

Catlady asks:

"And Matt, did your mother ever get your father to switch HIS vote?"

My father was a Democrat who became a Republican only after seeing, first-hand, the corruption in the Democratic New Deal programs. Namely, people with political connections got a lot of money from the programs, while his small-time, unconnected clients were frozen out. So he switched his vote to Republican on his own, before he ever married my mother.

My father did not live long enough for my mother to get him to switch his vote. He died suddenly not long after John F. Kennedy '40 became President. I am sure that if my father had lived long enough to see the corruption in the later Republican programs, my mother would have had no trouble getting him to switch his vote away from the Republicans.

Posted by: Matt in Aberdeen | March 12, 2007 2:49 PM

KLB, I told my wife (also an engineer) that one and she didn't get it... ;)

When I married my wife, she was a staunch Democrat, while I had always voted Republican. We had some rather heated discussions about politics initially, and eventually agreed to disagree on this particular subject.

As years went by, I found I was becoming more moderate (always was, just more so) while my party took a sharp right hand turn. I ended up voting more and more Democrat, so I guess she eventually won out.

Posted by: John L | March 12, 2007 2:54 PM

klb-you're the bestest

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 2:57 PM

Dotted, this one is unisex:

A pastor, a doctor and an engineer were waiting one morning for a particularly slow group of golfers.

The engineer fumed, "What's with these guys? We must have been waiting for 15 minutes!" The doctor chimed in, "I don't know, but I've never seen such ineptitude!" The pastor said, "Hey, here comes the greens keeper. Let's have a word with him."

"Hi George! Say, what's with that group ahead of us? They're rather slow, aren't they?" The greens keeper replied, "Oh, yes, that's a group of blind fire-fighters. They lost their sight saving our clubhouse from a fire last year, so we always let them play for free anytime."

The group was silent for a moment then the
pastor said, "That's so sad. I think I will say a special prayer for them tonight." The doctor said, "Good idea. And I'm going to contact my ophthalmologist buddy and see if there's anything he can do for them."

The engineer said, "Why can't these guys play at night?"

Posted by: Meesh | March 12, 2007 2:58 PM

John L,
The same thing has happened to me. I think it is called AGE! I hate to admit it but I find that I become more conservative as I get older.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 2:58 PM

Matt wrote: "My father was a Democrat who became a Republican..."

Thanks, Matt. In other words, your parents very likely shared core values, as do JRS and her husband. And perhaps your father was still a Democrat at the time of his marriage to your mother.

What I'm curious about is whether anyone on this board knows firsthand of successful marriages where the partners had diametrically opposing political views and basic values.

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 2:59 PM

"How many people think they could be married to (or even have a serious relationship with) someone with opposing political views?"

My husband and I are different political parties and different religions. But we actually believe a lot of the same things deep down -- we just have different defaults for how to get there. And the religion thing sure helps at holiday times -- no arguments who gets Christmas this year! :-)

Political differences are no more (or less) important than any other difference. You don't need to marry your twin; you just need someone with the same fundamental values. And then to learn how to manage the other inevitable differences with consideration and respect.

Posted by: Laura | March 12, 2007 3:00 PM

OT to anyone: I am thinking of going to New York for my birthday (the big 30, wahoo!) - anyone have any suggestions for things to do?

Posted by: mountains | March 12, 2007 3:00 PM

"I was appalled to learn that a baby boomer's concept of women's liberation was that the woman worked a full time job, and maintained the traditional female role in the marriage and home as well"

I am a baby-boomer born in 1956 and don't know anyone who belives what you say is the baby boomer's concept of women's lib. My friends and I always believed that women's lib gave women the choice to do whatever they wanted. I have friends across the entire spectrum - women who are strictly homemakers, women who work but still believe they are responsible for running the home, women who are 'equal' partners in and out of the home, and women who work in the traditional man's role while the man stays home.

So maybe you learned of 'A' baby boomer's concept, but you didn't learn of 'all' baby boomers' concepts of women's lib.

Posted by: to bobina | March 12, 2007 3:00 PM

To Single Mom in SS - I am sure there ARE some positive aspects of divorce - FOR THE PARENTS! Though you may be right about other divorced parents not attending to the needs of their children, don't ignore or minimize the impact a parent leaving the home has on a child, whether it's a good thing for you or not. There are all kinds of emotional issues surrounding this kind of loss that you may or may not be aware of but that do exist.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 3:01 PM

Catlady,
I have one friend who is a laid back, democratic Berkeley grad who married a republican from Michigan. They had many heated arguments about politics - so heated that there were times I had to excuse myself. They are now divorced. That isn't the only reason as they really were opposites and never did agree on the above mentioned core issues.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 3:02 PM

mountains/s, the thing I loved best about NYC was Broadway. We saw Beauty and the Beast and it was fantastic--Gaston stole the show! We also enjoyed the Met and watching the fireworks from the East River on July 4. Try Lombardi's pizza and Rice to Riches. The horse carriage ride was a little boring, although we liked it because it was very romantic.

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 3:09 PM

To 3:01,
There are also all kinds of emotional issues for children whose parents live in a loveless marriage without affection too. I would like to have seen affection between my parents. Children learn what they live. It isn't fair for them to grow up thinking that a home where the parents fight constantly is normal.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 3:09 PM

catlady,
My parents have been happily married for over 50 years. They disagree on some major core issues: primarily so-called women's issues like abortion, feminism, working, etc. My father is anti-all of them. My mother quietly supported us girls to want and do more in life at all times.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 3:10 PM

OT to mountains: congrats on going over the hill like the rest of us. ;-) For NYC Time Out is a good resource for all kinds of happenings (clubs, museums, whatever your interests are)

http://www.timeout.com/newyork/

Unless you have friends to stay with priceline is a good way to score an affordable hotel room in NY.

Posted by: Product of a Working Mother | March 12, 2007 3:11 PM

To KLB, I wonder whether the earlier-mentioned premarital counseling could've prevented that politically diverse couple from ever marrying in the first place. I feel for you having to be around them when they argued. We once knew a couple like that, and the big debt for their wedding reception actually outlived their marriage!

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 3:11 PM

Mona, sorry to hear about your situation, but please stay on this blog - you contribute good stuff (to use the technical term for it)

Catlady, with the exception of the James Carville/Mary Matalin situation, I don't know anybody who is married to a true polar opposite and has it succeed. I suppose it's possible, but you just have to not take the poltical arguments seriously.

In our case, I'm a Democrat and my wife's a Republican. But we do have very similar core values; it's just implementation details that differ - and I don't think either of us is really religious about our party affiliation; we mostly vote for the candidate and often vote for the same one.

My mother was a Republican who became a Democrat because of GW Bush; Dad was a Democrat because he grew up in the south in the 40's when there was no such thing as a Republican - you were Democrat or you were a by-gosh Communist! (actually, there are a lot of other adjectives in there, but I'll leave 'em out because this is a "family blog".) I know they often disagreed on politics (and religion; she's a non-practicing Catholic and he was a Baptist), but they had the same core values.

Posted by: Army Brat | March 12, 2007 3:13 PM

Sounds silly in retrospect but the thing that I think needs to be covered first and foremost is dedication to the institution of marriage itself.

I think my ex was one of those "marriage is the happily ever after" types and when it got rocky and quick fixes didn't work, it stayed rocky and got worse because my ex was just incapable of being open and honest about feelings and unwilling to put the real work into it. Instead the "I'm unhappy, this was a mistake, I'll be happier somewhere else" won in short order and I was single again by age 25.

You can't have a marriage when only one person "shows up" to do the work.


Now, obviously, we were young. But it could have worked if it had been given a fair chance(however, in retrospect I'm glad it didn't). I think that I just assumed that everyone had the same ideas about and dedication to marriage as I did.

Posted by: to cd | March 12, 2007 3:14 PM

Once the fighting was so bad I took the kids and left. Part of the problem with them is that she "settled" when she decided to marry him. She wasn't madly in love but figured he would be a steady, stable husband and father. She was wrong in so many ways. She ended up being an abusive alcoholic who liked transgender porn (no, not making this up). The porn is the main reason she divorced him as she didn't want her boys to be exposed to it. She also didn't want them to think that her life with him was the way marriage and relationships are supposed to be.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 3:15 PM

I had my children when I was older because it took me a long time to believe that my husband and I wouldn't get divorced - not because we were having problems, but because my parents were divorced as were many of my friends' parents.

I had questioned my mother many times about why she married my father since he was such a loser. She always said that they had a good marriage in the beginning but things changed.

It took many years for me to get over my insecurities about my husband possibly changing and leaving me. That was a very big impact that divorce had on my life. Having unnecessary trust problems with your husband is not be something I would wish on anyone. Also, I wish I had been younger when I had my children.

Posted by: anon this time | March 12, 2007 3:15 PM

Thanks, Army Brat. Interesting point you raise, re the Carville/Matalin marriage. I've read that, despite belonging to and working for opposite parties, he's privately more conservative than most Democrats, while she's more progressive than a lot of Republicans -- suggesting that their core values are not so far apart, which seems to be the crucial issue in most of the cases our chatters have raised.

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 3:17 PM

A couple notes...

I'm not sure if people literally mean "loveless," but coming from a religion that advises me to love my enemies, I can't imagine getting to a point where I wouldn't have that feeling for my wife. (Yes, I know this sounds like damning with faint praise.)

If we define "love" as wishing the best for people, preferring good things happening to them than bad, then it is fully within my power to ensure that our marriage is not "loveless."

Now, this doesn't mean I will always be filled with warm feelings for my wife, but there will always be that baseline of love, of wishing the best for her, from which we can base it.

---------

Second, I would stay in a marriage for selfish reasons -- I value my time with my daughters too much to ever give it up, and I would not take them away from their good mother in order to do that. Whatever the state of my relationship with my wife, I believe that they benefit from living with both of us.

And I think it's a false choice of either divorcing or exposing the kids to the ugly underbelly of your relationship. You can still control yourself enough not to get into screaming matches in front of the children.

Posted by: JohnMcG | March 12, 2007 3:20 PM

Except for family, don't most of us gravitate towards people who DO have the same values we have, whether it is friends or future spouses?

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 3:20 PM

DH and I agree to disagree about politics and we just don't talk about it. We are typical busy, two-career parents who many days are like ships passing in the night. We can find plenty of things to talk about when we are together other than politics.

We save our political discussions for like-minded work buddies.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 3:21 PM

Is it possible for a UNC fan to stay married to a d*ke fan?

What do you do if your kids ask for an NC State jersey?

What if your daughter brings home a boyfriend from UNC-W!!! The horror!

Posted by: box4 | March 12, 2007 3:22 PM

John McG,
We can agree to disagree. My parents didn't scream and yell but they did argue. What was the worst was the all encompassing sense of misery and sadness they both had. I grew up not seeing them smile or laugh (unless they were with one of us kids). Like I said before, we all just knew they were miserable from a very early age.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 3:23 PM

klb- I know I gravitate towards people with similar values. One can argue it makes for a dull unicultural life, but I don't find it to be so. It is too difficult to be friends with fanatics of any stripe whether too much more or too much less.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 3:23 PM

How do you know if an accountant is an introvert or an extrovert?

Introvert: stares at own shoes
Extrovert: stares at your shoes

(also works for actuary...statistician...etc...)

Posted by: atlmom | March 12, 2007 3:24 PM

box4-
You've made my day. I actually like the way NC state has been playing, by the way. Impressive state of mind.
And I live in a neighborhood about 1/2 UNC and 1/2 Duke. We all get along. he he he.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 3:25 PM

Dotted,
Not dull at all as I am sure that you have some different interests. It isn't the interests (my friend loves to sew and I prefer to do crossword puzzles) but the things that you consider important to your soul (lying, cheating, stealing, etc) that make you who you are.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 3:26 PM

klb-
I have a semi-former friend who has become too religious to continue our friendship. Her beliefs think going out to a bar and having a couple blue moons with a twist of lemon is just not right. Her rigidity is overwhelming her personality.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 3:29 PM

Is it possible for a UNC fan to stay married to a d*ke fan?

What do you do if your kids ask for an NC State jersey?

What if your daughter brings home a boyfriend from UNC-W!!! The horror!

Posted by: box4 | March 12, 2007 03:22 PM

1.Stay married? Duke and UNC fans don't even hook-up. If a pair got married, it would indicate one of them committed fraud.

2. Tell him what it costs and recommend he start saving. Privately pray that he develops better taste in schools. Agree with son that Sidney Lowe is a fine, fine coach.

3. you got that right, but look on the bright side, he could be from Virginia Tech.

box4 - glad to meet you:>)

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 12, 2007 3:30 PM

Dotted,
And that is her choice. Your choice is probably to distance yourself. Most people don't want to be preached to by someone other than their religious leader. She may feel very strongly about her ideals but it isn't fair to impose them on you. She will find like people in her gatherings.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 3:32 PM

As for where men are, here is what I think a lot of men's perspectives are:

1. I am contributing more to household chores and childcare than my father ever did.

2. I am receiving less from my wife than my father ever did.

3. I am still the object of criticism, such as columns like this one where it seems every other column is about how men don't get it, men aren't involved enough, men still aren't pulling their weight, etc.

---

Now, I understand that basing our expectations on the outmoded model of our parents' marriage isn't completely valid. But acknowledging that intellectual fact doesn't make the feelings go away, and shouting at us to realize this is the 21st Century, stop trying to turn back the clock will only make us bury our feelings until they manifest themsleves in uglier ways, perhaps in an affair or a file for divorce.

Perhaps Rock's movie will help break the silence on the frustration many married fathers are feeling now. I am not suggesting that we turn back the clock, but neither do I think the current model, wherein we demand more of married men while rewarding them less, is sustainable.


Yes, I know this injustice pales in comparison to the plight women of previous generations of women faced, and many women still face today. Agreed. Again, that doesn't make my frustration go away.

Posted by: JohnMcG | March 12, 2007 3:33 PM

The delicious irony of post after post on a board that glorifies the "stay at home" mom experience would raise a topic like this. I'm (thankfully) not married or have any children, but my buddies who are, and are miserable (which is almost every one), won't leave because their wives tricked them into "letting" them stay home with the little ones and now if the hubby leaves, he has nothing and the wife gets to keep everything. Make up your mind ladies. If you want equality, get out in the workforce or renounce the claim to 50 percent of your husband's $ when he trades you in for a newer model ...

Posted by: Fox | March 12, 2007 3:38 PM

OT
Does anyone read self-help books? Just watching Montel and he has the guy who wrote the Chicken Soup books (Jack Canfield).

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 3:38 PM

To: KLB SS MD - I do agree with your comment about kids being affected by parents who constantly fight. This is what I experienced before my parents divorce. In all honesty I was glad to not have to hear it anymore. However, I was incredibly sad when my dad moved out and still feel their effects of the divorce today in my own relationship and personal insecurities - and I remember their fighting/arguments MUCH less that the pain and guilt of his leaving. I guess what I wish for anyone in a marriage where there are children and there is an excess amount of arguing is for the parents to step back and figure out how to deal with the arguing so that they don't overly-expose the kids. I do believe that some arguing is perfectly normal in a marriage and kids can learn about conflict resolution in this way (of course this excludes violent or extreme situations).

Posted by: 3:01 | March 12, 2007 3:38 PM

"What I'm curious about is whether anyone on this board knows firsthand of successful marriages where the partners had diametrically opposing political views and basic values."

How about James Carville and Mary Matlin?

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | March 12, 2007 3:39 PM

'Her beliefs think going out to a bar and having a couple blue moons with a twist of lemon is just not right. Her rigidity is overwhelming her personality.'

Is she trying to preach to you or convert you, or is she just not going to bars anymore? Maybe there are other things you can do together. Maybe you are being rigid in the 'must go to bars' way ;-).

Posted by: Just a thought | March 12, 2007 3:39 PM

Whoops didn't read far enough...

Posted by: CentrevilleMom | March 12, 2007 3:41 PM

3:01,
I must admit that it was equally the sadness and the arguing that made it such a lifeless house. They did not argue loudly or even in front of us much (we could hear them thru the furnace registers at night). It was a house without life.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 3:41 PM

PS - I also had a friend who is now a former friend. We used to hang out at bars together, but when I grew tired of that we went our separate ways. She wasn't interested in hanging out at home with friends, or going to movies, or day trips. She was happy still going to bars and I was just no longer interested.

We were no longer interested in the same things. I hope she didn't think I was being rigid.

Posted by: Just a thought | March 12, 2007 3:42 PM

To Centreville Mom: As I posted earlier, re the Carville/Matalin marriage: I've read that, despite belonging to and working for opposite parties, he's privately more conservative than most Democrats, while she's more progressive than a lot of Republicans -- suggesting that their core values are not so far apart, which seems to be the crucial issue in most of the cases our chatters have raised.

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 3:46 PM

KLB, I went to B&N yesterday and visited the self-help section for the first time. I'm not the kind of person who eschews such a thing, it's just that many of the authors don't speak to me in the ways I think. I don't mean to stereotype, but it seems that many self-help books are about "finding your inner butterfly" or whatnot, and I'm not really interested. I don't want an inner butterfly or a field of poppies and rainbows, all I want is to stop being so b!tchy and insecure. I did find one good one--"Shaolin Way" written by a Shaolin grandmaster. It's realistic, gritty, and does not contain one single useless platitude. Of the three books I bought, I think it's going to help the most.

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 3:47 PM

to Just a thought-
My friend is disparaging of people going to bars all of a sudden. Having one drink means you must be getting blotto. She makes faces and says things like "oh, that is so wrong.' quite judgemental really. We never have gone into a bar together. I don't condemn people going to a bar. We do other activities together. Believe me, that is the only way to continue contact. It is her newfound rigidity and judgementalism of me and many other people that is killing things.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 3:47 PM

to anon this time:

But your life would probably be more shattered if after 30 years you saw your parents get divorced. Then you think: ack - how could *anything ever* work out? Your whole belief system gets shattered...

Posted by: atlmom | March 12, 2007 3:47 PM

On the topic of today - I have no experience with an unhappy relationship, so I can't comment. (Keeping fingers crossed; 20th anniversary is in July and I'd like to make the 50th like my in-laws will in August.)

My own parents argued in front of us on occasion, and it used to bother us when we were younger. To be very honest, the worst times were when Dad had been gone for a year or so (Korea, Vietnam) and Mom had been a single parent. It took a few months for things to settle down after he got back.

In hindsight, it didn't make me happy seeing them argue, but I did learn that disagreements are part of life, even part of a happy marriage, and so when my wife and I would start to disagree and argue, I had a frame of reference that told me we can work through this and be stronger. My wife claims she only heard her parents argue once in all the years she lived at home, so she had no frame of reference - when we argued she was convinced the marriage was over. It was several years before she finally understood that if you do this right - get a disagreement between you resolved; don't let it fester; and always treat each other with love and respect even when disagreeing - it's not going to be cataclysmic.

Posted by: Army Brat | March 12, 2007 3:48 PM

To Centreville Mom: No harm, no foul.

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 3:49 PM

their wives tricked them into "letting" them stay home with the little ones and now if the hubby leaves, he has nothing and the wife gets to keep everything.

hmmm. fox, explain this tricking business slowly with lots more words. Are your friends especially stupid or is this revisionist history? I bet your friends thought it would be grand if the mother of their precious son stayed home back when son was an infant. No childcare costs, no juggling sick days. Free house-cleaning and appointment management. It's only later that your friends thought this gig wasn't a good one.

and you don't think her contribution to raising their children is worth 50% of the marital estate? You're not the only one who is thankful you are not married.

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 3:49 PM

By the way, I do go to the neighborhood bar to catch up with the locals. It isn't a bar really, but rather a grill. It is sort of like cheers, in that everyone knows everyone's name. I've never barhopped though, even 20-30 years ago in my youth.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 3:49 PM

To KLB SS MD: I too know how that feels :( Now, with my own kids, I would try to move the Earth (counseling, classes, or whatever it takes!) to keep my relationship from that fate (and we've got our fair share of issues) and the kids from that pain -- and that, for me, means divorce is not an option.

Posted by: 3:01 | March 12, 2007 3:50 PM

Hey MN,
did you catch my comment on Friday's blog re: not slamming UVA? Sidney Lowe is indeed one fine coach. NC state did almost go the whole way.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 3:51 PM

to atlmom,

I don't know if you can measure how you would be more shattered by divorce in childhood or 30 years later. I think you are shattered either way, but as an adult you may have more maturity, wisdom, and insight to cope with the divorce.

Posted by: anon this time | March 12, 2007 3:53 PM

Thanks for the clarification. When I gave up the bars, I didn't stop drinking and I didn't think that everyone else should stop either. I just became more of a homebody.

Posted by: Just a thought | March 12, 2007 3:55 PM

yes, dotted:>)

Posted by: Megan's Neighbor | March 12, 2007 3:56 PM

Hey just a thought,
A bar/grill just isn't fun for me unless I know everyone there. An instant party. I'm pretty much a homebody otherwise myself.

who did mimosa's last Friday? I remember someone calling out for mimosas!

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 3:57 PM

As a kid I felt sorry for my best friend who came from a divorced family. She spent one night a week with my family because both of her parents worked and she and her other siblings got shuttled around a lot.

When she and I were reminiscing recently, I mentioned to her how I felt bad that she was always pulled between her parents. She told me that the fights between them had been much worse before they split, and she was always glad they had moved apart even though neither of them found new happy marriages.

Her viewpoint is that bad marriages are hard on kids. Period. Whether the parents stay together or not.

Posted by: worker bee | March 12, 2007 3:59 PM

MN,Who are you picking to go all the way? Kansas? Ohio State? Florida (gasp..please dont say Florida)!

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 3:59 PM

What is the biggest stressor on a marriage?

For me, it's working full time. I'd rather work part time or not at all.

Posted by: survey idea | March 12, 2007 4:01 PM

To Dotted: Do you find your semi-former friend to be sanctimonious in non-bar situations as well? (I'm guessing yes).

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 4:06 PM

I did mimosas!

3:01,
I hope for your family's sake that you can manage to work thru the issues and stay together. Just so you know - kids are really smart :-)

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 4:10 PM

catlady-oh yeaaaaaah...you should have seen her look when I mentioned I missed church because of one of my kid's out of town sport activities.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 4:11 PM

I really shouldn't rag on my friend. It isn't right of me to do so. I don't like what she does, or is doing. But I shouldn't rag on her. My apologies.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 4:12 PM

klb-you're the woman!

talk to you all later.

Posted by: dotted | March 12, 2007 4:13 PM

Mona,
This may sound strange but I have found that quiet contemplation is a huge help for figuring things out. I use the time I when I am walking the dog or when I am cleaning up the kitchen. I purposely do not turn tv, radio on rather let thoughts come to me. It is amazing what pops into your head when you aren't concentrating on anything specific. It has helped me by not letting the things bother me that used to make me crazy/frustrated. You can't push it - the thoughts just have to come to you.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 4:14 PM

What ever happened to "commitment?" People who get married take a solemn oath to stay in the relationship for life (absent physical or mental abuse, I would think), so people should stay in it...or is there something about "commitment" and "promise/vow" that I'm missing? Marriage isn't just about being happy and blissful; it is about responsibility and keeping your end of the bargain. People tend to forget, nothing in today's society makes it mandatory to get married, which was true 20 or 30 years ago. So maybe people should carefully consider when they take on the heavy burden that is marriage...just maybe?

Posted by: Bernard | March 12, 2007 4:19 PM

I like reading all the support for Mona. Good luck, dear. Take care.

Others may wish look at Peter Kramer's book, _Should you Stay?_ He looks at the role of depression, including mild dysthymia, as a serious stress on marriages.

One sad but true thing about divorce. Two pledge themselve to a marriage; YET,
one person can violate the bond, jeopardizing and perhaps breaking this promise.

This is what is happening to me. I find that each day, I must choose to be steady and loving for myself and my children. I try to care for my separated spouse by being reasonable and fair.

The devastation is a hurricane-disaster zone. All are hurt. All are wounded.

Undiagnosed depression and a measure of denial can sink a family.

Posted by: Former poster occasional Lurker | March 12, 2007 4:21 PM

To KLB, Well, that doesn't sound the least bit strange to me. My mother used to attain that same zen level while ironing. For me, it's while weeding in the garden (also while washing my hair). In any event, it's something that a person can do on semi-autopilot, so there are plenty of "little gray cells" freed up for thinking while being somewhat relaxed.

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 4:22 PM

" Jeez, you read so much into kids getting into the middle. I always saw them as 'saying' they wanted a hug too..."

That's what dogs want, too.

Cats? Who knows what they want?

Posted by: wenholdra | March 12, 2007 4:24 PM

Yeah, I'm with KLB too. I usually clear my head when I'm running or cleaning, even if I use music. Sometimes I sit down and do a formal meditation session. I used to have some really useful visions those times. Maybe I should try that again...oops, let the inner hippie slip out...

Posted by: Mona | March 12, 2007 4:24 PM

To Bernard: You make an excellent point. But the bind is when one partner fails to uphold his/her share of the bargain, and nothing the other partner tries can fix it.

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 4:25 PM

i'm sick of hearing about how men have come such a long way. men haven't changed, they just think they have and they need lots of pats on the back. i know a lot of women and haven't heard of one man who does the amount of work that myself or these other women do to keep the family going and we get no pats on the back, it is what we have to do. there are some men out there that are the exception to the rule, but few and far between. this is not male bashing, it is the honest truth.

Posted by: dragonlady | March 12, 2007 4:26 PM

To wenholdra, who wrote: "Cats? Who knows what they want?"

Have you ever heard this saying? Dogs have owners, but cats have staff.

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 4:27 PM

Bernard :
Not everyone who marries takes the traditional vows now. Mr Bee and I did not. We do plan on staying together for life but we had other, specific promises we wished to make each other. Many of our friends have made other vows according to their various beliefs. I'm not saying they _expect_ their marriages to be temporary, but I don't think there is necessarily a breach of promise if they do end up divorcing.

Posted by: worker bee | March 12, 2007 4:36 PM

Catlady,
I had to laugh out loud when you mentioned the zen of ironing. Remember the book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"? There was a cartoon once that showed a man ironing and a woman throwing something at him. He was saying "I don't know why you complain about ironing - it is wonderfully mindless".

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 4:38 PM

Re ironing being wonderfully mindless -- I hope the guy didn't accidentally burn himself! One has to remain a bit engaged, to avoid physical harm, or melting a synthetic fiber (oh, the horror!).

Posted by: catlady | March 12, 2007 4:41 PM

Well, if he did burn himself or his clothing it would teach him now wouldn't it? I personally hate ironing. If the tv isn't on I can't even force myself to do it.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 4:48 PM

Re: female engineer jokes- the "talking frog" one works pretty well with the genders reversed, too. A talking frog _would_ be pretty cool!

Posted by: SheGeek | March 12, 2007 4:49 PM

I just got the coolest gift from my brother - an autographed picture of Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs!

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 4:56 PM

... and once in a while I wish I could kiss DH and turn him into a talking frog. Not very often, though.

Posted by: SheGeek | March 12, 2007 4:56 PM

Regarding Real's book, does he really think men are going to respond positively to a book whose theme is, "You're the problem! You're "irresponsible and emotionally detached! You're wives are completely right about you -- you suck!"

I have no doubt this may be true in some cases. And Mr. Real will sell many copies to women like dragonlady above, but is this really going to be the foundation on which more effective partnerships are built?

Posted by: JohnMcG | March 12, 2007 4:58 PM

SheGeek,
Watch out for warts!

Posted by: KKLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 4:59 PM

JohnMcG,
I agree - maybe if books were written without gender and addressed issues and solutions they would be of more use? Women can be cold, uncaring, unhelpful too (no, I really didn't say that did I?).

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 5:02 PM

Q.How do you drown a lawyer?

A. Put his retainer at the bottom of a swimming pool.

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 5:10 PM

Q. How do you drown a legion of lawyers?

A. Put a class action suit at the bottom of a swimming pool!

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 5:12 PM

Don't worry, I'd never kiss a frog without protection!

Posted by: SheGeek | March 12, 2007 5:13 PM

Q. How do you drown a load of lawyers?

A. Flush

Posted by: Fred | March 12, 2007 5:13 PM

"a board that glorifies the "stay at home" mom experience"

BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!

It does?????????? Since when??????

Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 5:49 PM

AdultChild - Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree. Completely.

To those of you considering divorce because of abuse, infidelity or substance abuse issues, my heart goes out to you. You've got a difficult choice ahead.

To those of you considering divorce because you're unhappy, think again. Divorce is hard. Happiness lies in the eye of the beholder. It's entirely likely that you'll wind up at least as unhappy as you are now (if not more so) post-divorce. And the logistical issues that AdultChild lays out so clearly last a lifetime.

Posted by: Friend | March 12, 2007 6:26 PM

Lot of people here blaming their parents for how their current marriage is and for their happiness. I understand that how you grow up impacts your development but at some point you get to make choices about what you will and won't be and how happy you will or won't be. Adults take responsibility for their actions, their marriages and their happiness.

Posted by: Chris1458 | March 12, 2007 7:09 PM

Friend,
Again, we must agree to disagree as being the product of a very unhappy household I truly feel that my family did better once my parents split. My mother was the one who moved out, leaving me, as the oldest, to run the household. I still feel that was the best decision for our family.

Posted by: KLB SS MD | March 12, 2007 7:10 PM

" It's entirely likely that you'll wind up at least as unhappy as you are now (if not more so) post-divorce. "

This is such BS. The only unhappy divorcees that I know were people who didn't want to be divorced but whose spouse made the decision for them (by being abusive, by committing adultery, by abandoning them, or simply by saying they wanted out.)

It's amazing the judging that's gone on today, what with the "marriage is a commitment - you took a vow" folks and the "your happiness doesn't matter" folks and the "there's no way you can divorce without permanently scarring your children" folks. This is supposed to be a blog about balancing your life - how on earth can staying in a bad marriage (and "bad marriage" should be defined by the person experiencing it, not by anyone else) be considered being BALANCED?


Posted by: Anonymous | March 12, 2007 7:43 PM

Re: Democrats married to Republicans and other examples of diametrically opposed married couples (staunch Catholic married to staunch Jew, etc) -- IT'S NOT WHAT YOU FIGHT ABOUT, IT'S HOW YOU FIGHT.

My kids can fight over a dirty dishrag (seen it happen). My husband and I fight about keeping the door open or closed when one of us takes a bath. God! I'd much rather fight about politics or religion.

But again, the point is how you fight, not what it's about. I know lots of happy marriages between two very different people.

Thanks for a great blog day, everyone.

Posted by: Leslie | March 12, 2007 8:34 PM

MS (MRS.) Steiner,

This is not a challenge- per se, but how do YOU stay married?

You, yourself?

You have children, a very busy life I am sure. I'm wondering how you take this type of information?

Seriously.

Posted by: Jael Sprinkle | March 13, 2007 12:16 AM

I am staying married for the kids. It is not easy. Yes, we made a mistake getting married: hindsight is 20/20. We did the premarital counseling, we loved each other - it went fine for awhile. And how come you can marry entirely the wrong person and end up with the right kids? But it turns out that we have fundamentally incompatible values, and those were buried until the actual conflicts arose. Those same character flaws that were doable when we did not have kids suddenly became overwhelming when we did. Issues, problems, and engrained prejudices that had no reason to surface before kids suddenly appeared.

So we try. We keep on going. But I can genuinely attest that, if a man turns out to be a disappointment as a father, your respect for him in every other way will nosedive. But he is their father, that part is sealed.

I've been married for 15 years. Seven of those with kids. And I'll keep shouldering on until they grow up or something radically changes. Then we'll see if I still have any interest in my husband, without the pressure of hating him for being a lousy father on a daily basis.

And just to register on some of the issues swirling around this discussion, I could leave. I am the breadwinner, and I do all the domestic chores. And depression in a bad marriage? Very chicken-and-the-egg kind of issue: good luck staying cheery when what should be a source of support is a big white albatross tied around your neck. I am staying because my children love their father, and I don't want him taking care of them without supervision. I don't even like for him to have them unsupervised for 3 hours, forget 3 weeks (nor does he, for that matter - he's overwhelmed by them and so he just sits at his computer and lets them run wild). Either they'd be at risk the whole time they were with him or, worse, he would pass on his visitation and their abandonment would be complete.

So please try and remember, before flaming me, that no amount of snark is going to improve my life, or my children's, one way or the other. I reassess daily trying to decide what is best for them, and frankly, what is best for me is a very secondary concern. At some point, however, I can't be what they need while miserable. I reassess and reassess and try to make the best decisions I can. But no one ever knows what it is like in anyone else's marriage, so I personally find that advice and comments from the outside have little place. Most people do what they can with the hand they got, and no one can ask much more.

Posted by: working hard hard hard | March 14, 2007 9:48 AM

Sorry I came off as trying to say I was perfect. I am not. I was describing my approach to marriage and parenting. But hey I'll take a compliment if that is how you saw it.

The topic was, "What do you see? Have you stayed in an unhappy relationship to maximize time with your children? How is your approach to marriage and kids different from your parents' generation? How are men's and women's changing roles transforming marriage and parenthood today?

My posting was about how my approach to marriage and kids is different from my parents generation.

Posted by: bobina | March 14, 2007 11:22 AM

Okay, I admit to being slightly confused. No. Extremely. I'm using my real name to write on here, and I can see from the last post and re-reading the article who Bobina is. I understand the question, and I'm not prepared to answer, because it ain't over for me. There are days I'm madly in love and moments where I feel like running away. Unlike Bobina, I am not the breadwinner. I could be,(recently gave it a trial run) but with six children, I'd be suffering as well as they-- from lack of sleep, messy house and absolute chaos. He is not prepared to take over. And?

I've decided that that is in my best interest. I'm not so sure being liberated has brought us closer to happiness. I'm still wondering as I try to finish school so I can obtain a career suitable to pay bills and put my husband through school. When I do? I may find he's not up to par with my abilities. But? I'm in no hurry. I've thrown away my obsession with success and if it takes me five more years to obtain my diploma, those are five more years in ignorance and bliss, as far as I'm concerned.

I've decided being poor and livng the slow life may ensure a certain amount of happiness... I don't think twice before making out with my husband because right now, I don't have to, and I'm not borrowing trouble from tomorrow-- when I possibly may feel to resentful to hop in the sack and have fun.

I have plenty of material (as in lack) reason to be angry. But in real life, my husband doesn't drink, fool around, look at other women or even smoke for heaven's sake. We argue. Alot. But we started that before we married.

So, to whoever it was that thought I flamed them, I've now shared intimate details of my life with you. I didn't mean it that way. I really meant, how do successful women stay married? And the answer, I suppose, is, they don't.

Which is one more reason I question "success." It seems to be in the eye of the beholder. For me, I'd rather be unsuccessful and happy than successful and unhappy.

But for others that is not the right choice. No insults intended.

Posted by: Jael Sprinkle | April 6, 2007 11:13 PM

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