Since we filed for divorce, and I began telling the people around me and that I come into contact with, I’ve noticed a trend. A startling trend, honestly. It’s happening everywhere.
It’s an odd topic in the first place, not one that you automatically bring up during a first meeting, or standing in line at the grocery store. But once it’s out there, it begins to take on a life of it’s own, and other people begin to own part of your story and connect it to others that they’ve heard. It makes it more familiar I suppose, easier to digest. Especially if it’s happening to someone else and not you.
But the stories get connected nonetheless. More often than not, I would hear “yeah, the same thing happened to my (fill in the blank; sister in law, friend, neighbor, cousin, etc) The stories are incredibly similar, too. Usually men in their late forties or early fifties, married for over 15 years, and she was a stay at home mom for most of their marriage.
Sometimes the story includes marriage counseling for months, or even years, but it still ends the same. He’s driving a new Mercedes and dressing like a 20 year old and she’s left fighting for her family and the life that they had, while being a full-time single parent.
The divorce usually starts off amicable (who’s fantasy was that anyway, “amicable”?) but within no time, turns ugly and spiteful. Usually once the actual numbers are on paper and the reality of losing not only half of his assets, but close to half of his salary, becomes a real thing. He is willing to leave her and their family with almost nothing, if he can get away with it. Sometimes he has even taken early measures to protect himself for this very situation.
This isn’t just one or two common stories that I’ve come across, it’s a dozen or more within the last six months. And I’m sure that there are many more that I just don’t know about.
Is this an epidemic?
The sad part of all of this, at least to me, is that all of the women I have talked to or heard about, and heard their stories, have a common thread. They all quit working once they had kids, and stayed home to raise them. They did the what most mothers of recent generations have done, they gave their all to their family – caregiver, housekeeper, manager, volunteer, taxi driver, etc.
They didn’t necessarily “give up” their jobs for their husbands, but as a couple they made the decision to have her stay at home, and mother full time for the benefit of the family. The studies constantly quoted in my early adulthood, regarding the benefits of a full-time stay at home parent (and let’s not forget breast feeding), being drilled into our heads, and possibly filling us with guilt if we chose to be working moms instead.
In most cases, they not only mother and care for their children, but their husbands too. Taking care of the details of their lives, like an executive secretary would for her company. Many of these women have been stay at home moms for close to 15 years, some even longer.
They have been out of the workforce for so long that they are now obsolete in their field. But now, this isn’t working for him, so it’s time to cut and run.
These women are trapped.
They are cornered. They are desperate for answers. They are angry and hurt.
What are we doing as a society to raise men like this? What are we telling them, as they grow up, that makes them believe it is acceptable to walk away from their family when they get tired of being in it? To toss out a family because it no longer serves their purpose?
Because, believe me, they not only leave their wives. They leave their children, too.
When I read or hear about the statistics on divorce, half of all marriages end in divorce, I have to wonder if there is a common thread. It can’t just be a coincidence, there must be something lacking, something ignored, something we are overlooking. Is it a lack of communication? A misguided idea of what marriage really is?
Are we going into “forever” with a real idea of what that means? Or are we now living too long for that to even be a reality?
It’s become an epidemic and it has to stop. The cycle will continue with our children, and their children to come, if we don’t figure this out.
That’s a sad, dysfunctional world to live in.