Tag Archives: Divorce

Irrationality and Divorce

How’s this for a redundant statement? Divorce is a divisive topic.

I feel like I should pay the Muppet Studio to have Fozzy read this blog post – anything that obvious deserves a good “wakka wakka” at the end of every line.

I of course have a strong point of view on divorce and marriage – and I am open about my very uncomfortable place within the construct of marriage and divorce as its establishment has evolved since 1929. I am no fan of the institution nor of the practice. I am, however, a big fan of my partner and she is a big fan of marriage. Blame Iowa.

I say I blame Iowa because I can, not because of any historic reason. I blame Iowa because Iowa is there to blame. Marriage and divorce is, in nearly all situations, irrational. It is irrational to believe marriage strengthens society (good marriages, maybe.) It is irrational to believe divorce is a social ill. (Shouldn’t bad/abusive marriages be viewed as the social ill?) It is irrational to think that divorce is still “merely” a women’s and children’s issue.

It’s very easy to assume that divorced people are exploitative and jerky. After all, there seems a collective belief that only selfish people file for divorce. Even in the face of overt violence and battery, the person that files may still get blamed and shamed – even as welts blossom befoer the witness’s eyes. It’s irrational, a projection, a dredging up of associations for our unique pasts that we try to apply to absolutely everyone – an inversion of special snow flakism. Sweeping statements are made. Politics are enacted. None of it makes a damn bit of difference because none of it can cover every situation.

There is no single character flaw all divorced people share. But consistent personality disorders appear among those who have opinions about divorce in relationships they have never experienced.

You just don’t know the whole story. I can say this much:

plenty of people get married for stupid and shallow reasons. No one gets divorced for a shallow reason.


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Divorcing a Real Witch Book Cover 1st edition ... probably only, but whatever.This book hits print on May 30, 2014.

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So what if you’ve never been divorced?

The next most common question I get after the “so what’s a real witch, anyway?” isn’t a question, it’s a statement usually by someone under 30. “But I’ve never been divorced, so I’d probably never read this book.” Now, on a surface level that makes sense. Why read about something you know nothing about?

091110 203 -2010 Autumn Stillwater

On a deeper level, there’s a big problem with that, especially if you are Wiccan and work with a coven. It’s even more problematic if you ever want to lead a coven.  I’m not saying that anyone should or shouldn’t read the book – it wasn’t a party to write and it’s almost painful to know how fast it will be read given the 9 years it took to research and write it. But even for those who have never experienced divorce themselves, it’s relevant. At least, it’s relevant within the Wiccan religion. Also, reading is the first thing most of us are supposed to do when we know nothing about something. That’s how we take care of that “nothing” part.

Presumably, some of these Wiccans that have never been divorced are community leaders. 2nd and 3rd degrees that lead covens. Maybe they have friends outside the coven that come to them for spiritual needs, too. I certainly did the entire time I still practiced with a coven.

If you are leading a coven or assisting with spiritual needs… divorce is going to come up. Any competent clergy person has to have some understanding of the other person’s experience, even if that clergy person hasn’t gone through that experience him or herself. If you are sincere about serving the community as part of your priesthood you’re going to need SOME set of tools to deal with divorce. Not just your own divorce, should that happen. Believe me, divorce will happen in your community, it will happen to someone you know and it will happen more than once to someone you know. Not everyone will talk about their experiences and it won’t ever be the same experience from person to person. But someone in that mix will need your help – a priest/ess for a handparting ceremony, some advice on breaking the psychic ties. In nasty cases, protection magic plus some serious tailoring for a given situation.

Real priesthood – any religion – isn’t about showboating. It’s never about power. Oh, powerful people are chosen as priests – and they are chosen to serve. The people picked tend to have plenty of power with or without the witchcraft. Yes, Wicca is a very celebratory religion but it’s with the understanding that life will be serious for us from time to time. When that happens, it’s fine to be mirthful – but a good priest will still, with careful judgment and reason, help those going through a spiritual crisis.

So if you’re serious about attaining a 3rd degree elevation (if your tradition does that) or serious about using magic to make the world a better place, understanding how divorce impacts other Pagans and having a few tools to help those people along the way is a good idea. Maybe someone will read Divorcing a Real Witch, get all worked up, and present a much better set of ideas and assistance than what I’ve put forth. I think that would be awesome! Better material for better priests! Yes!

Ultimately, it’s the same conundrum as dealing with death. I’m sure most of these people have no idea what it’s like to die, either. If they are competent, responsible members of the priesthood they still have to do something to plan for a funeral service and maybe even get some grief counseling workshops along the way. Divorce is an extension of this same issue. A good clergy person of ANY religion must comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. Divorce will definitely become a huge part of that over the years for any priest/ess.

The Answer to Divorce Prevention

People keep asking: How do I prevent a divorce?

Children of Divorce
Children of Divorce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Delayed marriage.

That’s really too simple. But it’s a start.

Personally, I don’t think divorce should be prevented. When you banish divorce you raise the murder rate. Allow divorce and the murder rate goes down.

What about the children?

Any children divorce damages were screwed up by their parents, not by their parents’ divorce. Divorce doesn’t change the people in a relationship. If they were loving parents who put the kids before their egos while married, this should continue after. If a parent was dysfunctional and the other parents expended energy keeping them in check that will come out as well. It would come out sooner or later, with or without marriage.

What about these children?

It’s only been recently determined that the human frontal lobe doesn’t complete development until age 25. Maybe it finished formation much earlier in generations far past – but these days, no. 25 is still very young. While I don’t advocate denying the rights of basic adulthood until age 25 ((although some already are ranging from car rental to colleges acknowledging student as financially independent)) I do think that as a personal choice, deferring marriage to at least age 26 is optimal. If you don’t want to defer having children too long, I see no reason to connect that to creating a marriage contract with the person you make children with – a parental contract would likely be more in order, especially one separate from a marital agreement.

The 21st Century Prenup

A new breed of prenuptial has become popular: one that does not plan for the event of divorce but that lays down how a marriage shall proceed. While the people that use it who make TV appearances are creepy types who believe in wife subjugation and the like, it’s actually a great idea for sane people to try. It forces people to have conversations before marriage that get skipped to often – like “how do we negotiate buying a car?” and “do we need a job chart?” Even “So one of us gets laid off. Now what?”

A parenting contract might also prove helpful and preserve the safety and rights of prospective children. Co-parenting is often a separate issue from marriage – I definitely suffered from a parenting style that placed parenting as subordinate to the marriage partnership, and this is how I wound up being abused by one parent with no intervention by the other. This still happens to others and perhaps in the process of discussion about said contract you can see any red flags regarding the person with whom you plan to combine your genetic material.

I still don’t believe divorce is something that should be prevented. Saved marriages don’t actually save people and until women got the right to file for divorce far too many wound up dead. Given the still appalling rates of domestic abuse worldwide, we need that safety valve – and I think that we need to change how we think about marriage and admit it’s not the right stabilizing force for a healthy society.


Gay marriage, gay divorce

Wedding-chantelois-gomez (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are two admonishments that have accompanied the creation of Divorcing a Real Witch:

1)Don’t forget the children

2)Don’t forget same sex couples.

Same sex marriages can also end in divorce. Straight or gay, we have the same somatic cues built into us, have the same ability to love or hurt our partners and have the same issues going in and out of marriages.

The added complication to this is that while more states legalize same sex marriage, those same states are not legalizing same sex divorce.

As gay marriage becomes increasingly legalized, I do think what will happen is this: 50% of the marriages will fail.


Because 50% of all marriages fail – and marital failure does not always mean divorce.  This marital failure rate is used by some parties as an excuse to harken back to “good old days” that were really quite dreadful. This failure rate continued even in places like Alabama that attempted to make divorce illegal. Along with hideous messes involving inheritance, bastards, and mistresses, the murder rates skyrocketed. Once Alabama allowed divorce again, its overall mortality rate improved.

Divorce, whether for couples gay or straight, is a necessary safety valve on society.

I would hate to see someone exploiting the circumstances created by denying same sex couples the right to divorce to “demonstrate” through false circumstances that same sex relationships are more violent than heterosexual relationships. The statistics – including the probability of violence and the factors that contribute to violent behavior – remain the same. Sexual orientation does not factor into that.

So as we draft these laws allowing full human rights, let’s be thorough. Remember the children. Remember the gays, and their right to marry and divorce. Remember what’s needed to keep mortality rates low.




Divorce at School

Grounds for Divorce (song)
Grounds for Divorce (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Divorce at home: it just wasn’t done, not in a good family. School sent me a completely different message about divorce from the one I got at home. Literally half the kids in the second grade had divorced parents.

At age 8, we were all too busy being 8 year olds to be concerned about the whole “broken home” aspect, and when our 2nd grade teacher tried to teach about divorce, she got a crash course in how generations don’t experience even traumatic events the same way. Careful inquiries were made as to what a child’s last name and what his/her parents’ last names were. On the first day of role call, each of us were asked whether to call mommy or daddy when we got sick. Looking back, that had to be the direct result of some teacher’s in-service.

I do think the kids of divorced parents were treated differently. By the time we all graduated, our class valedictorians and salutatorians all seemed to come from nuclear homes that either had money or kids from “good” homes that had strong connections to higher-ups in the school system. The one exception, KS, had phenomenal test scores and parents that held her captive in the name of God.

The teachers assumed an attitude towards children of divorced parents – unless divorced themselves.

But the kids themselves didn’t repeat those behaviors, at least not at the elementary school I went to. Notably, along with the divorce rate it also collected the lowest income students in the township.

“Yeah, my parents are divorced. They have been since I was 2. It’s really no big deal.” More than one kid said this about themselves. Not one mentioned any desire for Mommy and Daddy to get back together, although a few wished Mommy or Daddy would ditch the annoying boyfriend or girlfriend. I didn’t even hear someone make that wish until a friend’s parents divorced when we were 16.

The used in parental battles understood their parents machinations. Dad thought his life sucked because Mom took everything, and Mom still didn’t have enough money to raise the kids. The children of divorce knew neither parent benefited financially or socially from the divorce.

It seemed to me that children who saw their parents split up after they hit their teens took the split harder than the younger children. The Catholic-versus-Baptist influence tended to direct its claws most directly at teens; the prevalence of both judgmental religious views probably made the trauma worse.

The irony of this is that parents likely waited until their children were teens, assuming they could handle the divorce at that time with more ease. Perhaps some chose to wait until they no longer needed a partner for childcare. Some knew of their parents conflict – those who saw the fighting expressed relief when the divorce happened.

8 year olds didn’t take their parents’ divorce personally but teens did. I wasn’t privy to what other children hears in their own houses about divorce. All I saw was what they brought to school with them. Some, I knew, assumed I lived better because my parents did not divorce – and they couldn’t know what I went through any better than I knew what they went through.

The Affair

Un divorce, roman de Paul Bourget
Un divorce, roman de Paul Bourget (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She expected judgment. Now I know it wasn’t just low self-worth – she judged everyone else.

I was struggling with graduate school, isolation, a marriage that disappointed rather than enriched. I failed to notice how little I heard from her. She often skipped communication for months, even years at a time, saying that she did not have time to write, that she didn’t like to, and since we both worked for less than living wage, phone calls did not happen often if at all. She did struggle to verbalize, and I did not think about it. When I did work in a call, she told me of circumstances stark, but common to our age: a boyfriend become roommate, dropping out of college because of a family illness, and the frustrations and loneliness that come from living in an area of the country with little opportunity.

After my divorce I emailed her my new address. She called me within a day: she had a new boyfriend she wanted me to meet. When I called her back, she said “He knows about my past, and he doesn’t care.”

That was strange. “What past?”

“Oh… I had an affair.”

I wasn’t shocked she had one. I was shocked she didn’t tell me. I said so.

“Well, you were married at the time, and I figured you would be mad.”

She thought I would judge her because she would judge herself. She didn’t understand that I cared about her first.

The man had kids. The wife knew. As usually happens in these situations, my former friend wound up the final sacrifice on that couple’s altar to whatever meanings they attached to marriage. The man, having explored what he needed, went back to his wife and kids. The wife used her for a free babysitter for a little while, then dropped her.

When she learned of my divorce she judged me like she would judge herself. It had to be my fault somehow. We were “only divorced on paper.” I had to be taking advantage of him.

Clearly, something was wrong with me. I couldn’t make a marriage work.

She couldn’t break one up.


The 21 Year Old Divorcee

She was 21 when I met her. She spoke loudly about her name change to our newspaper advisor with no regard for the others in the room. When I asked why, she fed me a line about adoption. That she was divorced came to me through rumors from other people, an explanation for why she got that extra large dorm room all to herself, why she lived on campus year round.

The idea of it – a divorcee close to my age – seemed strange and out of place at  the small college.

Over the next two years, I heard bits and pieces of the story. Most of it came from her. Some of it was gossip about her – how she cheated on him, how he was part of the mob, how wealthy he was.

I was inclined to believe the bad stuff based on how she treated me. She made three threatening phone calls to me in the course of my time there. Disks for the newspaper got “lost.” My name ended up on some appalling things, and at one point I think she started a rumor I was having an affair with a married staff member. When she got in disagreements with that staff member, she would actually scream at me if I didn’t take her side. I recognize now the hallmarks of a narcissistic personality. I never connected her to divorce to her behavior.

My roommate did. “You can’t trust a 21 year old divorcee,” she said after a 4 am phone call from her ended in a broken, collector’s item Mickey Mouse bank.

I didn’t agree that a person’s marital status indicated trustworthiness. But there was definitely something wrong with that particular 21 year old divorcee.

Can we turn the frame on relationships upside down, now, please?

I wouldn’t do what this woman is doing. But I respect her right to make the choice to wait for an ambivalent partner, especially as she has turned that energy and attention more to herself than to him. It seems right to me, because she’s directing her energy to herself. He’s learning what he needs to, and so is she.

But reading the comments on the post make me insane, because each poster likely TOTALLY believes what s/he is saying. The beliefs expressed, those I share and those I don’t, are so limiting, and so projective of their values rather than understanding of hers, that it makes me completely nuts.

Reading this, you have to understand:

1)The fiance’ did the “traditionally” right thing and broke the engagement before getting involved with the “other woman.”

2)SHE was the one who insisted they need not break up.

This does not sound like the usual manipulative crap men do when they define their masculinity through acts of infidelity. It doesn’t sound like co-dependence.

This sounds like, to me, honesty.  It also sounds like she is choosing a third option, over “ultimatum or leave,” that I find refreshing because I believe this is one of many ways to go about building a healthy love, even if the odds are for her it won’t be with this guy. Even if everyone’s intentions are totally good, this couple is surrounded by people who won’t support an unconventional choice. Culture is oxygen, and this particular oxygen has a lot of old-school attitudes polluting it.

Here are suppositions about relationships I encounter a lot. Less, slightly, because I’m married, but I had my fair share of narrow-minded stupid both during my first marriage and while Mike and I were dating. Bear in mind, I say these things from the status of a monogamous relationship:

    1. It’s important to have a relationship. (No, it’s not. It’s important to have a series of relationships, perhaps, in a community and ideally family sense. What these people mean is “you need to get back your social status with a romantic relationship.”)
    2. The only working option for a romantic relationship is traditional monogamy.
    3. Unless it has the absolute possibility of permanence and commitment, it’s not worth engaging in.
    4. If not monogamy, polygyny. No one would even consider she might enjoy a partner of her own at the time, for her own pleasure and maintain her loving connection to her partner. That would make her a “slut.”
    5. Women’s value has the span of a fruit fly. She better hurry up and find someone to replace her partner, because her value as a woman and a human being will disappear in a “poof!” of being over 30. Perhaps she will die before she can mate. She better “hurry up.”
    6. It’s more important to HAVE  a partner than it is to have a partner that suits you. There are commenters urging her to “be available for the next person,” as though it’s a mere matter of replacement. It’s clear to me that this woman does not do casual relationships, something I can relate to and respect. From that point of view, you don’t just replace a person when you share a real connection.
    7. To consider any possibility other than “exclusive” even on her side is immoral, even though both parties appear to be fully informed and consenting to the relationship. Why? Because, more or less, “The Bible/Mom/the religious authority says so.” This failure to distinguish  between basic civility and outright, somewhat malicious control under the guise of “what’s good,” is infuriating to me. No one will ever campaign on a platform of “Legalize murder and theft!” (Pro-“lifers” can STFU.) At the same time, we need to start distinguishing bits of the Biblical outlook that we live by that don’t work, and if you read the Old Testament, relationship jurisdiction had more loopholes than goats, but only for penis-holders. I’m a full believer that the Bible, for the most part, was written by manipulative and self-serving human beings, so I just don’t buy into the “right and wrong” that supposedly formulates how relationships are “supposed” to work.

      I don’t think, at her age, I would have made the choice she’s making. At the same time, I think for her, it’s a good choice: the only way to absolutely prevent divorce is to not get married, just like the only way to totally avoid STDs is to not have sex. This gives her the time to be who she needs to be, as a whole and I hope healthy individual. If that person is someone who can wait for her partner to choose or not choose her, I admire it. If she were the type to expand the relationship and really go counter-culture with polyamory, I’d respect that, too.

      In one of the many piles of books on divorce I’m reading for Divorcing a Real Witch, an author stated that only 10% of America actually lives in the nuclear family ideal. Given that around 30% of younger Americans end up moving back in with their parents because of life disasters beyond divorce, it looks more like we’re going back to our original system for those aware US history actually started before 1950. Not just divorce but death, job loss and illness force reconfigurations. Why does the white picket fence configuration break so easily? Because, for most people, the nuclear family ideal doesn’t actually work for everyone. Engagement and marriage are the first steps almost always to building a nuclear family structure – but while the marriage may last for decades, the family structure still has an excellent chance of changing as children grow up and parents need support in old age. Deferring for the sake of true compatibility seems like a strong choice to me.