The myth of the shallow divorce

People get married for shallow reasons. Not everyone, not all the time. Most of the time people get married for all the socially designated appropriate reasons, and for the most part, they mean it when they do. Sometimes, however, it’s just because someone wants to have a wedding or be acknowledged as an adult. ((If you need such acknowledgment, you’re probably not there yet.))

The marriage rate has slowed as little girls break from the “plan your wedding for your entire life” programming and start looking at the relationship instead of the floor show. Boys are also being more conscious, up front, or not buying into it.

Still, marriages can indeed be shallow. Look at Britney Spears.

As to divorce – despite a selection of bitter and spiteful things I’ve heard over the years, I have to say… divorce ain’t shallow.

After talking to nearly 200 + individuals (with more to go) about divorce I know without a doubt that divorce is never requested on a whim, for a bad reason, or just because of boredom.

In the course of 200 authentic conversations, no one gave me what I would consider a frivolous reason for divorce. That 200 people have been so gracious as to answer my series of  questions on such an incredibly touchy subject has been to me a humbling miracle.

Yes, a few might be lying, but the Vegas odds on that are about 1%, which makes possibly to prevarications so far. While the reasons given are all very private (and that I will generalize to the point of non-identification later), I can tell you the common reasons the loud and bitter claim – and the reasons I am not hearing or seeing as I work on this book:

  • Boredom. No one left his/her spouse because s/he got bored.
  • Money. No one divorced anyone in order to get money. Pagans are not wealthy, and even amicable divorce gets expensive. When rearing children, forcing financial support outside the house decreases income – between alimony or the security of a present and accounted for spouse, staying married is the financially smarter option. ((It is not, however, what is better for the children.))  If a married person with children wants a spouse out of the house now, it’s because there’s enough emotional (and in a third of cases physical) violence to endanger the children. No one divorces as a financial strategy. They do, however, divorce when marriage has failed them as a financial strategy. When spouses can’t hold jobs, refuse to discuss money, or can’t control spending or money hoarding behaviors, it can seriously damage a relationship.
  • Sexual incompatibility. Yay for premarital sex and Viagra, you can’t marry a person without knowing this stuff first. I do not count “changes” in sexual orientation in this, because that’s so far from shallow as to live in a different universe on a different shelf of self-help books.
  • Another man/woman. In less than 5 cases did someone marry the person that s/he committed infidelity with. In all cases of infidelity (polyamory being excluded) there was emotional abuse, and in half the cases, physical abuse preceding the infidelity.  I acknowledge that the emotional abuse is highly subjective and may need probing, as some personalities consider “No, this is what you agreed to,” as abuse. Right now, however, every respondent that has raised infidelity as a marriage-dissolving issue has reported it alongside an environment of emotional violence. Both the cheaters and the cheated on consistently report  these tensions. In cases of polyamorous infidelity, while so far there is less violence reported (admitted? understood? recognized as violence?) it literally has to be examined with each and every relationship contract established – it’s definitely possible to cheat/be unfaithful/do the dishonorable thing in polyamorous and polyfidelitious relationships, and from what I’m hearing and seeing as I ask these questions for my book is that there are more ways to do it.

I’m not here to judge “shallow!” or “not shallow!” I’m here simply to understand, to look for patterns, to answer the problems at hand from my own place as a Wiccan divorcee’. The big pattern I’m seeing behind marital failures so far all leads back to a)not understanding at the outset of a relationship that emotional violence is real, and therefore not having the tools to avoid commitment to people who do this and b)a sense of “marriage” as status that makes marriage itself an entity that has little or nothing to do with the actual relationship of the people married to each other.

Those of us with Christian backgrounds still think of marriages as somehow “belonging to God,” and especially as Pagans, that somehow short-circuits a spiritual connection between the two people that worked beautifully until marriage set in.

Marriage used to be mainly a financial and property arrangement including sex; it lingers as an impersonal social status that we mistake for a personal relationship. Marriage is a contract, and while unromantic to westerners, it is very much about compatibility beyond romantic response. Just as businesses dissolve when they no longer profit their owners, marriages similarly fall away.