Confessions of a Semi-Happy Wife
My high-powered, high-earning friend discovers that her magnificently indolent husband has been having an affair with a coworker; she threatens to give him the heave-ho, demurs when he demands that she pay the rent on his new apartment, and decides to work it out. For now.
A woman I know, the stay-at-home wife of a mogul—a really nice mogul with multiple houses, a jet, a chef, the whole pizza pie—throws it all over, packs up her two young children, and leaves him in search of greater satisfaction.
I watch in frustration as my son desperately tries to talk to Will through a newspaper or computer screen or whatever other large, flat surfaces fathers place between themselves and filial communication, and yet I know in my heart that I would be mightily hard-pressed to remove this father from his son's house.
Reasons and rationalizations abound and rebound. It doesn't matter whether the infractions are big or small. At a certain point, we stop asking why and start asking how. How did it come to this? How much longer can I go on? When there are no hows left, the jig is up.
I recently stood by as a designer, a mother in her 40s, announced to a group of women that she was divorcing her husband. The women's faces flickered with curiosity, support, recognition, and—could it be?—yearning. Not a one of us suggested that she try harder to make it work. No voice murmured, "What a shame."
Because it isn't a shame. Divorce is no longer the shame that spits stain upon womanly merit. Conventional wisdom decrees that marriage takes work, but it doesn't take work, it is work. It's a job—intermittently fulfilling and annoying, with not enough vacation days. Divorce is a job, too (with even fewer vacation days). It's a matter of weighing your options.
A friend once compared the prospect of leaving her husband to leaving her child's private school: The school wasn't entirely to her liking, but her daughter was happy there; it wasn't what she'd expected, but applying to other schools involved a lot of costly, complicated paperwork and the nagging uncertainty of whether another school would accept her and/or really be that much better.
Another friend viewed divorce as being akin to an extended juice fast: You're intrigued but skeptical, admiring yet apprehensive. Is it dangerous? Does it work? You're not completely sold, but then again, you could envision yourself attempting it down the road.
What this says to me (other than: my friends sure do come up with awfully good metaphors!) is that women don't view divorce as a scary, shadowy behemoth. It's an unpalatable yet manageable task—like changing schools or extreme dieting—that may or may not yield a better result.
To be sure, there will be throngs of angry women who will decry me for plunging a stake into the heart of holy matrimony. "My husband is my lifeline," I've heard said (and that's bad news for the aorta). "My husband and I never fight" is another marital chestnut—again, bad news (not to mention a big fat lie), since according to the experts, the strongest relationships are the ones in which people can continually agree to disagree. "My husband is my best friend," others will aver.
No. Your husband is not your best friend. Your best friend is your best friend. If your husband were your best friend, what would that make your best friend—the dog? When a woman tells me that her husband is her best friend, what I hear is: I don't really have any friends.