The dirty details of your divorce

Divorcing a Real Witch is in beta right now, which is great. I ‘m getting super valuable feedback that will help me make changes to the book before I send it off to my editor at John Hunt publishing. I have refused to rush the book – my contract allows two year for me to turn it in, and I’m using that time to turn out the best work I can do on a difficult subject. I’m glad I’m taking the full time with the process, especially since one of my beta readers brought up a really valid point: she wants me to share more divorce stories from other people. The problem is that while people willingly share stories about the divorce from outside the relationship, when it comes to the relationship details itself… those details get pretty sparse.

English: Marriage and divorce rates in the US,...
English: Marriage and divorce rates in the US, 1990-2007. Source: Statistical Abstract, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pagans really do not like talking about divorce. As a result, my book mostly focuses on my story, and I’m sincerely hoping I can get a few people to go on camera to talk about their experiences but I suspect it may take a bit of bribery and bewitchment.

Divorce among Pagans is common, and in theory there’s no stigma for it among Pagans (there totally is in practice.) While on a social level plenty of men and women have taken visible pleasure in saying nasty things about their exes, when asked to go on camera to talk about the actual experience, I’ve received near total shutdown. Even on the survey, with no risk of identity exposure, a few people responded to questions about their divorces with “that’s private,” thus begging the question… why  take the survey?

I expected the research on divorce to be hellish,  and I expected the two extremes you get whenever you work with Pagans: on one hand, an absolute willingness to help to the point of burnout, and on the other hand a cussed determination to be as uncooperative to the project as possible because it might lead to something resembling organization, and that might lead to organized religion – chaos!

Along with the above fully expected behaviors,  I’ve learned a few things about why it’s difficult that were somewhat unexpected. Many make sense when I really think about it, and it falls into that puzzling silence/not silence line where sometimes the silence does the harm, and sometimes the breaking of the silence does the harm. As uncomfortable as it is, when it comes to divorce, I really do think there’s a lot we actually need to know.

  • People are generally happy to badmouth their exes – but ask for what really happened, and they immediately shut down. Even when I explained (hopefully clearly) the purpose before I asked if they wanted to talk about it,  the response was awkward silence, that weird clamping-shut, rather than a polite decline. Years later, being asked truth about divorce often led to emotional shutdown/shut out. I wasn’t even asking for the salacious details – I was telling these individuals about  the project, and not asking them any personal questions.  I still got that reaction.  That’s probably bad for the people with kids, since we subconsciously try to model our marriages based on our parents’ marriages most of the time.
  • Multiple men have tracked me down and expressed beliefs that they are wholly unsupported in the divorce process. My first reaction to this is to say something snarky about how the whole of culture supports men, but after more thought, I did have to consider this: men receive ALL other support in our culture EXCEPT emotional support. The men’s rights movement doesn’t fill in the void so much as it makes the emotional problems of men much, much worse, mostly by making them completely paranoid that all women are out to steal their used condoms and take all their money. Statistically speaking, men still tend to come out the winners in divorce financially and socially, with a 42% rise in disposable income the first year after. Men also lose far fewer friendships and only rarely have to bear the burden of family disapproval, whereas nearly all women experience losses on both counts. Yes, this improvement of station does include the guys that have to pay child support. As far as I’m concerned, the ones that complain about paying child support are just being selfish jerks – because they’ve made it about winning for themselves, not about making sure their kids win. So, with the “but you do better lifestyle wise” caveat, I do have to acknowledge that men do NOT likely receive that much emotional help in our culture at all, let alone in divorce. That does need to change. I don’t think that separate men’s and women’s groups are the way to go on this – very much the opposite. Divorced men and women do need to come together to support one another – they just need to do it in groups where everyone agrees never, ever, to have sex with each other.
  • People like to have relationships. It makes us feel safe. Divorce brings on a sense of profound danger, and thus we scramble to replace our old locks with new ones.  There’s a lot of relationship overlap that happens among Pagans between marriages. I have another blog post on back log that explains why a period of abstinence or at least of strictly casual sex is a really good idea during the first year or two after divorce, because the frequently of relationship overlap seems to be part of repeating negative patterns, based on what my survey found.
I Want a Divorce
I Want a Divorce (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So while I know quite a bit more about divorce and not-workable marriage among Pagans, as to the personal experiences, people were more comfortable sharing stories of what happened outside the marriage as a result of the divorce. This could be a flaw in the survey – while marriage may be defined by the couple, divorce is defined by society. To break a marriage is to drastically alter your relationship with society.  Most participants  did not want to talk about the dynamics of the dysfunctional marriage bed in and of itself, which of course makes it more difficult to compare mistakes and sense patterns.

That said, I’m still working up the nerve myself to ask people, “So, how did you ask for a divorce?”

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