Last night, I read an article called ‘The Divorcee Stigma That’s Alive and Well,” published by the Huff Post Divorce Blog. It was written by D.A. Wolf.
(For some reason I can’t hyperlink it, so I’m just going to post the link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/d-a-wolf/the-divorcee-stigma-it-st_b_4039529.html)
In it, the author discusses the stereotypes of the divorced woman. She writes, “It conjures a sexy little ex-missus in cocktail dress and kitten heels, presumed to be on the prowl for another woman’s husband.” She suggests that the most effective way to dissociate from this stereotype is to remarry. She states, “And if you haven’t somehow compensated for divorce by walking down the aisle a second time, you’re regarded with suspicion, pity, or at the very least — bewilderment.”
Now that Jack and I are no longer a couple, a significant portion of my acquaintances are all, “Oh my goodness! Now what are you going to do?” As though being partnerless is a crisis, similar to an exploded tire on the interstate or a drained bank account. I’m a failure, it seems. Unwanted. Trapped in a merry-go-round of singlehood, desperate to get off a ride that’s purposeless and leaves you feeling faintly queasy.
I didn’t date Jack with the intent to remarry. We were together with the intent of being happy. Supporting each other. Regardless of any variables that led to us not being together, we’ve always enjoyed each other’s company. We loved seeing our kids together. We successfully cultivated a sense of family for a long time.
That being said, I do understand the appeal of getting remarried. The implied sense of security. Blending two incomes and retirement accounts. Sharing parenting responsibilities. Sex, companionship, extended family members, and someone to help hang Christmas lights. There’s something about belonging to the “I’m somebody’s wife” club that has a certain appeal.
But there’s a harsh reality to marriage, especially a second marriage. You are more at-risk for divorce, not less. You have the potential to bring the baggage of your first marriage into the second. Blending two families–especially if both include children–is hard, and research indicates that adjustment is typically bumpier between the stepmother and stepchildren (versus the stepfather and stepchildren). While I think remarrying can be very brave, I also think it can be entered into with naiveté and self-delusion, especially if it occurs within the first months of a new romance. After all, your new partner seems perfect at first; everything your former spouse was not. But with time, you reveal your faults to one another; maybe someone is rife with emotional insecurity, spends money foolishly, or has no patience for their partner’s work. Worse, a mental illness may be uncovered, there may be an unhealthy preoccupation with their ex, or, most horrifyingly, one might learn that their partner is not actually a good parent.
So, if I’m lucky enough to find a wonderful new partner, there will be no rushing into marriage here. No jumping into something, fingers crossed that it will work out. Now that some time has passed since parting ways with Jack, I’m enjoying my status as a single woman, and dipping my toes into the dating pool seems fun and promising, not intense or goal-driven.
The kids, considerably older now than when I met Jack and having experienced the highs and lows of their father’s remarriage, are titillated by the possibility of their mother dating. Sydney, in particular, is fascinated with the process and yearns to be included in the details. Me, always on the lookout for an opportunity to role-model healthy behavior, intends to discuss things like proper pacing of a relationship, desirable vs. undesirable characteristics in a partnership, and walking the line between forming a connection with a new partner and maintaining balance with your work, friends, and most importantly, your home life. I want them to understand that while a partnership may be a positive addition to my (our) life, it’s not a mandatory component.
Last week, after learning that I had been asked to go to dinner by two different men, Sydney asked, “So which one are you going to go out with?” “Um…neither,” I answered. I want them to understand that being partner-less is highly preferable to being with the wrong man, and happiness is self-cultivated, not gleaned through the attention of another.
So, I guess I’m telling you to stay tuned. Oh, and feel free to offer me any advice.