Let’s Digress about Divorce Connotations
Love is Blind season three recently released. I watched season one because I found the concept interesting at first and then it quickly became boring. Gabby and I watched season two together because one of her friends was on it. And now, season three…
Look, I try to be a good husband and watch these dreadful reality shows she likes for some reason, but I just don’t think I can do it. In fact, I called her at work a couple of nights ago and told her as much and she just giggled at me. She knows they’re lower-quality entertainment. Besides, Gabby would rather I watch the true crime genre that she really prefers anyway. But I digress, sort of.
This one guy in the episode was talking to the female love interest about how he had been married for a few months and then got divorced, which lead to the female basically saying, “Man, that sucks. I bet it was so difficult.” Then the guy pretty much said, “Yeah, but it was a good thing and lead me to you…” blah blah blah normal divorce talking points.
And that lead me to this thought: Why is divorce almost always portrayed as a positive thing?
Disclaimer: I haven’t been divorced, nor do I have plans to be, so I suppose I can only have a limited amount of first-hand experience with it. But I’m not sure if that actually changes things.
If a spouse dies, it’s a tragedy. If spouses divorce, it’s more often than not an empowering journey of authenticity, self-fulfillment, a way to quickly lose 130-200 pounds, and not seen as anything remotely negative, at least not after the first couple of years.
At first I thought that perhaps this was possibly due to only the “good” divorce stories being told and boasted about, especially in our era of “lived experience” and one’s never-ending journey of being “truly present and authentic.” This seemed even more likely since it’s common knowledge that the divorce rate is somewhere around 50%, if not more.
At least that’s what is told. My problem now is I’ve read a few well-resourced books that challenge that entire narrative. They presented some pretty compelling arguments.
According to one of the books, The Good News About Marriage by Shaunti Feldhahn, the divorce rate is actually closer to 20-25%, not 50+%. According to the 2009 Census Bureau data, 72% of people are still married to their first spouse. And of those who aren’t, many were married for years until a spouse died (page 38.)
Also interesting, some of the previous divorce rate statistics double counted. Meaning if a husband and wife were divorced, it counted that as two divorces, not one.
Anyhoo, what really intrigued me was this section from The Abolition of Marriage by Maggie Gallagher
“Marriage is a powerful narrative of erotic triumph: of faith over doubt, of love over fear. The marriage plot affirms the potency of love, for from one’s love springs a whole new creation, a new universe, a new family. In making a marriage, we make love real; out of our love we make something important indisputably happen. Because we dare to say “I do,” the world is changed forever.
Or maybe not.
For the spouse who leaves, there is a new narrative to replace this lost love story. For the divorce winners, the marriage plot is superseded by the divorce quest: The lone individual who against great odds triumphs over adversity to achieve his (or her) passion. The great man who does not allow himself to be bound by society’s petty conventions (such as the marriage contract) but who relentlessly pursues authentic experience wherever it takes him. The ugly duckling flowering into a swan. The peasant who becomes a prince.
But for the person who is being discarded (and very few divorces are truly mutual decisions), divorce is no quest. The spouse who left is not an actor in a new narrative because, for the spouse who is left, divorce is not an act at all—it is something that happens to him, something over which he has no control. Divorce transforms him into an object that is acted upon, a disagreeable bit player in someone else’s story: a spear carrier or at best a villain.
It is an unbearable position. This is why so many people who passionately opposed their spouse’s decision to divorce will, five years later, tell you, “It was the best thing that ever happened to me.” The alternative is to remain a failed story line, to declare oneself a permanent loser. And, in America, nobody loves a loser.”The Abolition of Marriage pages 24-25
The Abolition of Marriage was published in 1996, so perhaps Gallagher’s sentiment is dated and out of touch, but I have my doubts about that assertion. Gallagher also had some interesting thoughts on how the rise of no-fault and unilateral divorce would degrade the institution of marriage as a whole and would eventually lead to marriage being virtually defined out of existence by continually expanding what is legally recognized as “marriage.”
Her timeline actually wasn’t too far off pertaining to the legalization of same-sex marriage. She kind of underestimated the impact of what Supreme Court decisions and progressive agendas would do, but hey, it was 1996.
Speaking of the impact of progressive agendas and redefining marriage and such, if you really want to make your brain roll around, check out this book: The Meaning of Marriage by Robert George and Jean Bethke Elshtain.
Maybe I will keep watching this awful show. In addition to showing Gabby the lengths I’ll go to show her my undying affection, it might just supply more blog material. Besides, a little masochism is good for the soul sometimes.
Questions? Comments? Concerns? Opinions? Comment below or shoot an email to Adam@LetsDigress.com! And please, be kind and grammatically decent.