My current guest, Carolyn says she’s lucky to have an ex like hers especially since he wasn’t a good husband. One of her earliest comments on my blog was to share how she knew her marriage was over when her husband deleted some photos of a digital camera. That might seem like a small, innocent mistake but that single, momentary action conveyed so much about how her husband saw her. I asked Carolyn to talk about that incident, what it meant and how it contributed to a much big change in her view of marriage. Here’s Carolyn:
We had a digital camera and I would take pictures of the kids. He deleted a lot of the photos one day because he wanted to make room on the memory so he could take some photos himself, I think for some political thing, most likely. But I got really angry and I told him that he shouldn’t have deleted those photos without asking. He said something about it being his camera and I remember just feeling,
“That’s how he sees it. It’s his camera.”
Although it seems like a minor event, at the time, I felt just so disempowered. I hadn’t been able to make the decision about whether to be in an open marriage or not. Although later I ended up accepting it, I accepted it really under duress and I suddenly realized that to him, things belonged to him. It was his call. It was his decision. Everything apparently was his decision, and I didn’t want to live like that anymore.
I read this statistic after I left that on average, men remarry two years after their divorce and women remarry four years after their divorce. The way I interpreted it was,
“Oh that’s so sad, it takes single women four years to be able to find a new husband after their divorce and it only takes men two years to find a new spouse.”
I laugh now because I see it so differently now. I see that men, who had a pretty good deal in marriage, because let’s admit it…marriage is a much better deal for men than it is for women. Typically, they get a cook and a house cleaner and somebody to watch their children and all this stuff out of the deal, and so when they divorce, it makes sense, they’re going to go try to get a good deal again. They don’t want to miss out on those things. It’s nice having a wife. I wish I had a wife.
For a woman, it’s not typically such a good deal, and especially for a divorced woman. Assuming you’re anything like me and you’re having to learn to stand on your own and do all these things for yourself, I think as long as you’re able to meet the challenges, your confidence goes way up and you realize you’re way more capable. Now I realize it’s not that it takes four years to find a new husband, I think that once you’re divorced, it’s hard to trust somebody else and to put yourself in that position again.
I don’t want to go out and find a husband, I’m reluctant. When I meet somebody, I’m going to feel I’m making quite a leap of faith to trust another person to blend their life with mine. I have to trust that they are going to stay on the ball, maintain gainful employment, and that they are going to help me out with housework and child-work. The way I see it now is that many women are too smart to get married too quickly again.
When I was married before…this seems so insulting…I had an allowance from my husband because I didn’t work and all I did was stay home and cook and clean and do the childcare. Since he was the working party, if I wanted spending money, I had to ask him. He didn’t like being asked constantly for money, and I didn’t like having to ask him, so we worked out an allowance agreement, where he would give me a small amount of spending money each week.
I look back on this and find that epically insulting, because the work I was doing for our family was no less valuable. It was hard. In fact, I find schoolwork in some ways far easier than parenting. At the end of my few days at home with the kids, I’m like ‘oh, it’ll be so nice to go to school and do schoolwork.’
I see marriage very differently now. I see it as a partnership and it needs to be a partnership. If I ever get married again, even though they’re biologically my children, anybody that I marry is going to be expected to help out with child care and with cleaning the house and with cooking and with grocery shopping, especially because I’m going to be working. I’m not going to put up with that ever again, especially when I’m working, I’m going to expect a true partner, because I’m a human. I’m not a woman, I’m a human.
I wish I hadn’t gotten married so early, but I don’t know that I would have come to these conclusions if I’d had different experiences, so I guess I’m appreciative of my experiences.
I consider myself a feminist now. Women are often still not seen as equals, even people who pay lip service to women being equals, the fact is that there often isn’t equality, and especially in a lot of marriages. I, for one won’t put myself in that position again.
The Divorce Coach Says
Carolyn’s experience with her husband erasing the pictures from the digital camera is one of those “catalytic moments” – it’s a moment that brings the bigger picture into sharp focus with fresh clarity. Its symbolism is far bigger than the incident itself and inside, you’ll know what you have to do.
Quite a number of my guests who’d struggled with whether to end their marriage have shared similar experiences. For Emma, it was just one word, for Evvy it was finding out about another affair, and for Suzanne it was her son’s hands against the window pane.
When I hear from a woman who is trying to decide, I tell her that no one else can/should tell her what to do because it’s her that is going to have to go through the pain of the divorce process and it’s her who’s going to do the work to rebuild her life. I’ll tell her about catalytic moments and say if she hasn’t had hers yet, it’s a sign that she’s not ready to make the decision.
What’s also priceless in this segment, is Carolyn acknowledging that she had to go through her marriage, endure her controlling husband, work hard to live independently to be the person she is today. While I often hear that philosophy, I think can be very difficult to embrace it and that’s what I see Carolyn doing.
What was your catalytic moment? How did it make you feel? How long did it take you after that to end your marriage?
Photo credit: uair01 – I have to say that I. love. this.