This post has been recorded as a podcast. I’d suggest listening while you read this one.
Did you know I have apparently been destroying families since 2010?
It’s true. After all, a few people have very blatantly told me that now. Most let me know by email. One woman went on a long diatribe after one of my posts. She started out with the line, “Single Dad Laughing: promoting the destruction of marriage and the nuclear family since 2010.”
It was in the comments of my post “Tiny Fist in the Wind.” In fact, the whole comment was a wondrous doozy, so maybe you should just read it (click to enlarge):
To be honest, I laughed when I read it. And I’ve had it on my to-do list to write a letter back. So here goes. On the next page.
A beautiful response to a message that may not have deserved so much. I look back at the shell of the person I once was living in a marriage that was not meant to be. I fully believe if I had not taken the steps to file I'd still be in that toxic relationship and my son would have no idea what it is like to live in a peace filled home without yelling and the physical and emotional abuse from his father. It's hard to believe that one would allow themselves to be in such a situation but it is the internal "messages" received from the "till death do you part" mindset that they fail to realize that the marriage is a lifetime commitment between two people in love- and not a death sentence or even a lifelong prison sentence. Hope this person finds the true meaning of love as it seems it might be missing if they would accuse you of such a destructive life purpose. :) thanks for sharing!
I was about 25 when my mother tearfully announced the divorce.
My response? "Thank God, and what took you so long?"
I had lived and grown up in the #3 situation for most of my life. Those two had become brilliant masters of hurting each other in the name of keeping the family together.
My own ability to form lasting, functional relationships was severely harmed by that environment. Putting this another way, situations #3 and #4 are, in fact, more destructive to families than any kind of loving alternative lifestyle, because they imprint patterns on the children that cause those children to pursue unhealthy relationships as adults.
My parents' divorce guaranteed that my two younger brothers received a college education. (Alas, too late for me.) My parents' divorce gave my mother time to heal, and grow, and find a wonderful man to share her life and love her unconditionally. My parents' divorce gave my father time to find himself and learn to make loving choices. His hermitage led him to find a wonderful zen-master-healer to be his second wife, and their relationship is a thing of beauty and harmony.
I was there, and I can tell you that neither of my parents would have been able to make that journey if they were together. They stayed together out of a sense of obligation, mostly impressed upon them by our religious dogma.
If we'd had good examples of strong relationships to follow, I suspect that my brothers and I might have gotten married much earlier in life. As it stands, we're all so shell-shocked that I only just got married at age 35, my younger brother flits from dating lots of girls to having intense monogamous relationships which end in drama, and my youngest brother lives with a lovely girl who flatly refused to get married.
Disfunction can happen within loving alternative lifestyles, just as it can with a "traditional" family structure.
TL:DR I agree with you, as a child of parents who waited WAY too long to get divorced.
Poor Liza. She needs lots of good energy sent her way. Judgmental people are just scared little boys and girls inside who don't know how to allow others to have their own opinions without it threatening their views. She probably suffered much shame in her childhood and thinks that she is supposed to shame others in keeping with tradition and 'good citizenship'. So in keeping with my values and my idea of good citizenship, I'm sending my prayers and good energy her way in hopes that she feels loved and valued and shame-free today :) And by the way, I am a widow and I LOVE single dad laughing. However way we arrived at single-hood, laughing is one of the best tools in our belts to help us through! Way to go SDL!
I was in situation #3 at one time, contemplating number 4. We had a job-enforced separation thrust upon us. That gave us some distance & some time to communicate outside of the stress of living in what our lives had become. We had a number of heart-to-heart discussions so that when he was able to return home, we could work on returning to situation #1. We aren't perfect, we are not always at our best, but even in those moments when we let our ugly sides show we're able to remember that we love each other even if we don't like each other at this moment in time. We stay together for each other, not just for our kids. I am so very Blessed.
I've been through one divorce, which for me is one divorce too many. I did everything within my power to make the marriage last and work. Now, I realized I should have left much sooner than I did. I would say I should have never married him in the first place, but then I wouldn't have my three marvelous children. I've been remarried a little less than a year ago. My current marriage is 180 degree turn from my last one. My kids are happy. I'm content, and I'm learning what works. I've picked a different sort of partner to be with, and we are a good, if not always happy family. my husband and I work well as partners, we have a low level of conflict in the relationship, and our kids are learning what it means to work together for everyone's benefit as a family should, instead of catering to the demands of one selfish individual, and one resentful martyr.
I really get discouraged with comments like these, or with comments like some below that you are contributing to the idea that marriage is something to be taken lightly. Divorce is incredibly painful. For the average person it's expensive, heart-wrenching, time consuming, and it can get very ugly. It doesn't look like the tabloid headlines for all of those glitzy Hollywood stars getting married and divorced in the same week, where they get back to partying and screwing their next love interest. It's far dirtier than that, and is in no way a pleasant or desirable outcome. In my case it was the last and only resort I had for my children and myself to have a chance at something remotely resembling a normal life.
I certainly didn't tender my current wedding vows lightly either. If anything, when I went to write them, my divorce made me consider longer and harder the gravity of what I was doing, and the potential consequences it could have for both myself and my children, if for any reason this relationship fails. (All signs point to being on the road to success so far, so hopefully it won't.) My husband and I were very realistic with each other. Neither of us are naive enough to say divorce isn't an option. Life has proven to both of us that it most certainly is. So our jobs as spouses is to make that the least desirable option available. We do this by valuing each other, and valuing ourselves, but not valuing ourselves more than each other. So far it's been a good recipe. Time will tell on whether or not it's ultimately going to lead to us growing old together and sitting on the porch swing holding hands at 70 years old, while we recount the memories we've made together. That is ultimately what he and I want to do. But we also know that we both have to be willing to do the work to make that happen. Marriage isn't and never has been a disposable thing to either of us. The people we got married to, however, did a good job of talking the talk, but didn't do so well at walking the walk. And so both he and I tried to pick up the slack and make it work, but ultimately those efforts were in vain. My ex was already looking to marry another woman when I left, and his ex was sleeping with another man. There's not a lot you can do when your spouse has decided the relationship isn't worth the work, and that it's just easier for them to find a new one.
I wish you had hit on her notion of 'sacrifice' in marriage. Sacrifice is a huge marriage killer, because it creates resentment. It creates martyrs. I am a huge fan of marriage. I love being married. But it's hard being married. It is even harder when one thinks they 'should sacrifice' for marriage. No, you shouldn't! 'Compromise' is another bad word. Every decision should be enthusiastically agreed to by both spouses, or it simply won't work. A spouse who refuses to reach agreements is the one to be wary of, not the one who refuses to sacrifice.
I don't think you're destroying families, and certainly if you were it wouldn't be many. However, there is *some* truth buried in that farcical letter. The oath of marriage should not be given lightly, and it's true that many people do get married because they are happy at that exact moment, still basking in the glow of neurons drowned in hormones. So there is a certain truth to the fact that you and your ex-wives have made light of something that should not be made light with.
Yet on the opposite end of that spectrum, your words will not convince those who weren't inclined to divorce anyway. You aren't creating more broken families, you're just one voice among a great many who have contributed to marriage as just one more throw-away item in our civilization. Human relationships are as disposable, now, as your smartphone or leftover hamburger. If it makes you happy, says society, then go do it, even if it's detrimental in the long run to your own life, the lives of your children, and indeed the very future of Western civilization. Happiness is not the sole purpose of our existence (but it does have importance).
The author of that letter has misplaced anger and has unfairly selected you as the target for that frustration. You're not the disease, or even a bad person. On the contrary, I think your motives are heartfelt and honest (even if they are wrong). But your views are also a symptom of the "Me" generation and the general decline of civilization as a larger whole.
Death do us part used to mean between 40-50 years old. People did not live as long as we do now which changes everything. My husband and I have been married for 25 years..we are not the same people we were at 23 and 26..our lives are different..we are not raising children anymore.we are embarking on a new chapter in our lives and wonderfully, we still want to do it together..we have survived empty nest syndrome and still have stuff to talk about. It is amazing that people stay married as long as us and beyond..a lot don't..I think that is okay..everybody deserves to be happy and sometimes that means making changes. I think staying married for the kids is ridiculous. I wish my parents had divorced when I was still at home..it was painful..I understand though..there is no way my mother could have supported 6 kids on her own plus, being a good Catholic wife, divorce was a no-no. I am glad she finally found the courage to kick my father out..he was having affairs plus being emotionally and verbally abusive. My mother has since found a loving man who adores her and all of us..they will be married 25 years as well in September..he is more my dad than my biological one. Suffering does not make you a good spouse or parent..
The stuff you right is funny. It makes me laugh and that makes me feel better so when I turn to talk to my kids or my husband I am in a better frame of mind. That's a unique gift. Don't stop.
Well said Dan! I think people need to start being more concerned about their own life and stop telling other people how they should live. It makes me wonder how "happy" the person who commented is in their own marriage and life.
Heterosexual marriage is a fragile thing that can break at the slightest whim. This is why we must use heavy-handed encouragements to get young people to marry early, make divorce illegal, and remove any knowledge of alternative family structures. Because no one would choose a heterosexual marriage otherwise, amirite?
Well said, Dan. Family is an idea, a construct for the support and protection of all those involved. It is neither an absolute, nor is it meant to be. Plain and simple, if Family doesn't support and serve the greatest good for all it's members it is not a family it is a broken thing no one wants to participate in. But when it works it is nurturing, supportive and lifting, creating better people who have better relationships. The idea that marriage and family are all about sacrifice and suffering is as ridiculous as jealousy as a proof of love. Family can work anyway you stack it if all the people involved are willing to do the work they need to do to make themselves better people and for that you need space. Many families at best choke the dreams, ambition and self worth from people good solid functional family doesn't do that.
My husband and I will be married two years in August. We had our daughter BEFORE we were married. We will always have that tie if (Gods forbid) we should ever separate. As of right now we are happy with each other. We love each other. The nuclear family died out so long ago it should be put in museums. You had nothing to do with it. If what you write gives someone the motivation to leave a loveless, unhappy marriage, then GOOD. Apparently, Liza is on the losing side of a bad marriage and is out to blame everyone but the two people in that marriage. You were just in her crosshairs at that point. I'm sure she probably wrote to many people blaming them, too. I don't know why so many people have the picture of a nuclear family in their heads when they themselves get married. We are not the same people that grew up during that time. Why should marriage remain the same?
My parents were married 29 years, 6 months…. about 20 years too long. Dad was miserable and didn't want to be there, but stayed 'for the family' thus making us all miserable and dysfunctional. The funny thing is, as bad as he treated my mom, until the day she died I'm positive she would have taken him back. That's the thing about love… it takes 2 to work, but only one to wish.
I lived in number 3 status for many many years... After 21 years of marriage - My kids were begging me to leave their dad on a daily bases... We all walked on egg shells and feared him... all the pastors, counseling, praying, couldn't change him... I stayed much longer then i should of but when i left i did so that i could fully say - i had tried everything and done everything and that leaving him was being good to my kids... by then i didn't care about myself any more anyways... he had beaten any life and dreams out of me... but my mother instinct clicked in and i pulled up strength from some where and we got out... Best thing i ever did. Remarried and for 5 years life was really good...then life threw us a curve ball and its been a rough road... but what i learned is... better to have come from a broken home then to live daily in a broken home... I use to live married as a shattered tile - all broken in a heap with jagged edges every where.... now i live my life as a mosaic tile master piece... God took all those pieces and filed them smooth and put them together and formed a new sign to be hung above... rescued and restored... with OUT the ex..who would not cooperate with God ( even though he said he was a christian ) and was destroying me and the kids... We are so much better and happier now... 9 years later and my kids no longer hide in their closets for fear of their dad. I made a mistake... just cause some one is willing to go to church and says they are a christian - doesn't make them one.... he started to go - just for me... he attended half hearted all our marriage... and once we divorced he stopped... a real christian... doesn't stop and wont encourage his kids to give up the faith - as mine did afterwards... God has blessed me so much more since I left and life has been better for us all. By the way no one i know divorces half haphazardly... most in fact struggle for years before they decide and Its not a bad thing to want to be treated good by your spouse. No one should have to live with someone who they fear and don't like and maybe even hate. i really like your response Dan and i love your wisdom as you write. Well done.
My sister & I are right now learning why these things aren't that simple. Our parents struggled with their marriage all through our childhoods. And there were times we both thought it would be better for them to separate. And they even talked about reasons why they didn't. Even though at times it was extremely frustrating seeing them struggle through it. I'm glad they stayed together, even if it was for my sister and I.
My sister & I have both dated guys now with children. And seen the struggles that come about with that. We've both also been married, but neither of us had kids. I very well might be one of those people that if I got married I'd stay for my children. I don't know. People's marriages and the struggles that come about with them are unique to each situation. The best thing we can try and teach our children is to not rush into a marriage, and really take the time to find out if this person right for you.
The thing I learned through all my personal trials. Wait until you're ready to settle down and start a life/family with someone. Otherwise there's no rush, and life may pull you in different directions in the meantime.
Dogma and tradition are not reasons to inflict emotional and psychological damage to one's progeny. We are the examples our offspring will follow, so it would behoove us to give them strong values and love not rooted in dogma or tradition. This is the 21st century, in which the family comes in many colors and flavors. But it's that true sense of security, happiness and love that children will carry with them forever. Do not make the mistake of thinking dogma or tradition are the rocks on which a marriage is built... because they are not. I am a once divorced, proudly remarried stepmother of 3. We are stronger and have more love and happiness than we ever imagined. Keep us laughing, and keep the truth flowing, Dan. Apparently, it is much needed within today's public...
Maybe when people quit forcing their views and definitions of what they think marriage should be on others, especially when rooted in dogma, we can all accept there are many ways to live happy lives.
I pity the humor-impaired, how do they get through life ??? Keep up the good work, Single Dad, keep us laughing !!!
LOL, Dan told her. Marriage is over ratted, many men & women now a days marry for money. If not money then because one of the two is crazy in love with the other while the other is an idiot. or they get married because they think their in love then two months down the line are divorced. in the end if you stay in a dysfunctional marriage, and there are kids one or two of both parents are unhappy your hurting the child(ren) not the partner.
I definitely agree with you Dan. I just recently left a marriage that was miserable and I can say that on the 4 months since I decided to leave, my children have been living a happier life. I really appreciate what you said about having to make hard decisions to encourage a healthier environment for the kids. I admire you so much and I hope that more people get to read this so they arm themselves with hope for a better life for them and their babies.
We are currently #4, I believe. I wish it were different but its not. I was IN #3 for a long time and took the steps to remedy that. Happily remarried but sadly Still firmly planted in that awful place with their father...God bless ya, Dan!
Great post, Dan. Very few people leave a marriage on a whim. It is a heartbreaking decision, even when all the reasons are right. But the fact remains that sometimes divorcing is the best choice for a couple and any children they may have.
Great response Dan! Some people just get up on their high horses and don't have a clue what other people are going through. Every relationship is different, with different, ideals, and belief systems, and she can't possibly know what you or anyone else has been through.
I showed my husband your "16 ways I destroyed my marriage blog" when we were having a rough patch and it was the first thing i noticed to spark a change in us. Your blog has helped me personally and my marriage become stronger, wether or not my husband realizes how much of it has helped. I really want to thank you for your blog and for making my family stronger. Far from destroying it. I know that in the grand scale is nothing extraordinary but for my small family it is everything.
The fact of the matter is marriages do break up and there are many different reasons for that, and NO Dan you are definitely not one of those reasons, unfortunately there are those who believe in the sanctity of marriage and go into it believing that it is forever and those who do it for a bit of bling and an excuse for a party, and know it won't last. Let me ask the question if you had a crystal ball and could see into the future that your marriage wasn't going to last, would it stop you from getting married ??? Cause I honestly don't think it would, I was married for 13yrs and even after the heartache of a very bad divorce, if I knew what would happen 13 yrs later I'd still have got married, because its about LOVE and its that love however strong or broken it is that defines who we are. Dan you have a big heart and so much to offer with your blogs, this woman sounds very unhappy, sad and alone, and that's just sad in itself, but unfortunately mate you got the brunt of it that day, I hope she reads your blog today and responds, would be interesting to hear her thoughts on the matter now :)
I think the whole to divorce or not to divorce thing boils down to two questions- Do you want to live the person for the rest of your lives and potentially hate the other person, or do you want to to divorce to give you both a shot a true love and happiness. I didn't want to divorce out of pride, and even religious reasons, but after I really sat down and thought about those truths, I realized that I had to ask for a divorce. BEST decision I ever made, because I am completely in love and love my husband for going on 8 years now. The way I see it is that once you stop caring for your spouse and treating them with respect, that you already broke your vows. It's not about " death do us part" when vows are already broken- u know other vows like "love, honor, cherish, obey ( yes obey) ,) yea those are important too. Try to work it out as best as you can, but when you KNOW that you will NEVER be happy with that person then it's over.
Apparently people don't think others can think for themselves! Harumph!
Seriously, are you so powerful and influencial or people so sheep-like and completely without ability to think for themselves that your posts would have driven people to do that? Yes, people DO sacrifice-- actually sometimes too much, so much that people stay in abusive relationships all of the time (which to me is BAFFLING!) *shakes head* I kinda get her point, but you really aren't the all powerful ruiner of lives, here. People who would read your posts and advice were already on the edge and you woulda just given a little nudge, via intention or not. You have good intentions, Mr. Pearce, and I am grateful that you exist and feel so driven to share with us folk.
PS: "What you understand is not my fault." Might come in handy for ya.
Your blog to me is the complete opposite of what that comment was trying to say. They do not understand the true meaning of your blog. Obviously.
I separated from my husband a little over a year ago, and am in the process of getting a divorce. AND IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT, DAN! No, in all seriousness, your blog actually DID give me strength and hope for a brighter future when my present was at it's worst. My husband and I separated briefly in 2007, but ultimately decided to pull it together for our little girl...which led to another beautiful little girl, but our relationship didn't improve. With a history of his occasional drug abuse and disappearances, as well as passive/aggressive behavior and emotional abuse, it was miserable. For a couple of years I was determined to make it work, to at least survive it until the girls were adults and I could move on with a good conscience. Unfortunately, that is not always easy or even possible. We tried very hard to only fight when the girls were supposedly asleep, but the early morning/late night tirades of degrading and insulting each other grew steadily worse, with such negative feelings and opinions toward each other that it carried over into our daily lives. We became sad and bitter people who no longer even knew what fun or happiness looked like. I fell into a depression that left me nearly dysfunctional, with serious feelings of abandonment and resentment. He leaned toward escape and avoidance, working out of town for as long as 5 months at a time. Eventually we could no longer pretend to be happy together. We could barely stand to be in the same room together, much less sit down to a peaceful family meal with our children. When we tried, often those negative feelings would bubble over, and a reaction to some innocent comment would create a heated argument that tainted the environment for our kids. It finally reached a point that my entire life was spent trying to convince myself it wasn't as bad as it seemed, and healing from another emotional wound he'd inflicted.
While I still struggle with depression and the healing of wounds left behind by a poisonous marriage, mostly I am HAPPY now. My children say they wish we were still together, but the truth is they are HAPPY. They have two calm and loving homes versus one volatile and hateful one. They have two parents who ARE BETTER PARENTS SEPARATE THAN THEY WERE TOGETHER! My children deserved better. I deserved better. Even my husband deserved better.
For someone to say I should spend the rest of my life like that is insulting. Additionally, I thank you for being a source of inspiration for me during those initial days of my separation...not because you had anything to do with my decision, but because your words often guided me toward hope rather than hopelessness.
Bravo! I left two abusive relationships. It had nothing to do with your blog though. I could they were not good and tried to fix things, but alas it was not healthy for my girls. Ex #2 has made some strides and we are currently a #2. Ex #1 is a very angry man and thinks his children are for his convenience and for that reason we will always be a #4. Thank goodness he is mostly out of their lives.
If something you say can break up a marriage, then that marriage wasn't built on the right foundation anyway!
My parents were married until ma dad died at 69...they were NOT happy, but stayed together for me and my 2 brothers. They fed off of each others fears----one of being alone--2 of thinking no one else would want them. I have been married and divorced 5 times--wouldn't take any s**t, but my 4 children have suffered. Applause to you!!!
i was a 3, then a 4, now i'm a 2. i left a crappy relationship because i realized my son had never seen my capacity for joy, and i felt very strongly that i owed him that. best thing i ever did. sorry, dan ~ i did it all by myself.
Why do I have this crazy feeling that Liza is one of those women who write and follow religiously, those blogs that tell women that it's all their fault their marriage is falling apart? We've all seen them, we've seen them in books. Twisting bible verses around, telling women that if they want to save their marriages, they have to praise their husband even when he's being a jerk. I've read these books, I've read these blogs. I mean the ideas for date night on the cheap, and the reminders to keep doing the little things for each other are great. Here's the thing I've learned in my 26 years of life and two years of marriage, if you spend no time on your own happiness and put all your effort into someone else's, you will be miserable. Relationships are two way streets, that's what everyone needs to see. It's not all the wife's fault or al the husband's fault. And yes, there are times were leaving is better, with or without children. You're not helping any body if you are truly unhappy.
My final opinion..we need to all focus on our own relationships and stay out of everybody else's. That is all.
Wow! If I had know it was you who was breaking apart the fabric of marriage, I would never have voted against "marriage equality" (just kidding)...Sometimes, people need to vent in the hopes that they will be rescued...I hope someone reaches out to her to make her understand that happiness comes from within!
I got divorced in 2007 and IT WAS ALL YOUR FAULT, DAN. Thanks a heap.
This is why I fervently wish that being stupid caused physical pain. Oh man- that would RULE. (I would hurt often, tis true- but so many others would be screaming in agony every day of their lives, in too much pain to be able to type awful dumbass crap and then post it on the Internets. GAH!
When people like your commenter try to be broad-minded, they talk about the Judeo-Christian tradition. And yet...Jews have had divorce for the last 2,000 years or so. All of them. 'Till death do us part' isn't even in the Jewish vows. To further warp your mind, remember that Jesus lived all his life as a Jew.
@justme - I'd tend to define "sacrifice" as putting the needs of someone else ahead of your own needs. Having been married for 20+ years, I can tell you that it is impossible to "enthusiastically agree" on every decision. It cannot be done. That is when sacrifices have to be made. With sacrifice, with give and take, it can work, and in the long run, work well. The teller though, is who does the sacrificing....it is one partner or the other, or the kids? In a healthy relationship, both partners, over time will sacrifice sometimes, and you hope that the kids always get what they need (if not what they think they want), and that you both work well enough together that resentment never takes hold for more than a moment and is released just as quickly. :)