Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Divorce, revisted

This post is more of a “comments on comments” than an actual post, but because I feel like ranting at length I’m putting it up as a post (it’s my blog and I can do what I want!).

My sister's comment on the divorce post included:

"Weren't you [Momily] the one that once noted that divorce rates may be up but that in the past due to many women dying in childbirth, men dying in various wars, and overall rampant disease wiping folks out that people didn't remain married *forever*. They often remarried as widowers/widows and often had 'blended' families and the such."
Yes, I said that. But for once I’m not a hypocrite (yay!) because I don’t think that this type of remarriage would be comparable to the 40% of marriages ending today. I don’t think that 4/10 spouses were dropping dead in the 1800s, for example. I’m going to at least suggest that I don’t think spouses were dropping dead left, right, and centre in the first 5 years of marriage anyway. However, I have nothing concrete to back this up – although I did find something (but I’m admittedly too lazy to do any math to actually determine if this backs up my point or not! It has been 10 years since stats. class!). And, I didn’t even touch on in my original divorce post the current stats. on people who have been divorced more than once. In “historical times” I think it was quite rare for somebody to be on spouse no. 3. Today not exactly commonplace, but not exactly rare either.

When I worked at the archives most of the research people did involved family history. On several occasions I helped people discover that the person they thought was their great-great-grandma or great-great-aunt wasn’t or at least there was more to the story. Often what happened was that a woman would die on the long, arduous sea voyage to Canada in say 1903. Now hubby is stuck with 2 kids under the age of 3. He remarries within a year or two (sometimes even less!!) of wife no. 1 dying. He goes on to have more kids with wife no. 2. They apparently never talked about wife no. 1 again. The kids were so young that they didn’t remember their biological mom, so future generations never knew about her (when family’s in the old country I guess it’s easier to keep quiet on things). The researchers I helped now got to add a whole new arm to the family tree. It would seem that these remarriages were either somehow a “shameful” thing or a thing deemed not worth mentioning or discussing, as it would upset the kids. Different times, different mores. The point is, a lot was done historically to preserve the family unit, to keep a family together, etc. as compared with today. People made sacrifices. People made difficult choices.

HOWEVER, I am not suggesting that the 1800s or some other time in history are a time of wonderment and that things would be better if we could live like that. It drives me crazy when people (usually women!) romantically look back at past times as if everything was wonderful and that they would be living a much more exciting, stable and wonderful life. Let’s remember that our notion of “middle class” is a relatively new thing; I think when people picture themselves living in Victorian times they imagine themselves dating Mr. Darcy as opposed to the more likely scenario of being Mr. Darcy’s charwoman or the legion of women who had to sell or give up their children to become farmhands, maids or worse. If you’re not part of the upper crust now, why would you imagine that you would have been in 1864? That's another post, though.

As for Luke’s comments, I agree with most of what you say. However, I still find it hard to believe that couples divorcing after a big 2 years of marriage fall into the category of people who view divorce as “a horrendous process that people will only follow through with if the alternative is even worse.” After 1-4 years of marriage, unlikely in my opinion. However, I think you are totally right that people are perhaps not putting adequate thought into who they are marrying and what marriage really means. It is amazing to me that in some instances people will spend upwards of a year planning their wedding, yet remain married for barely more than that. Talking to Joolz the other day we easily came up with about 8 people that we know in common who were divorced after a few years time; in all those cases the issue was one of marrying the wrong person where usually friends and family predicted divorce before the wedding even happened!

Your comment also raised something interesting to me – all those common law break-ups (with and without children) that are indeed presumably not included in any of the stats that I found. If one factors that into the “equation,” I assume the current “divorce” rate is much greater than 40%.

I think I’m done ranting now.
Best quote that I have seen in awhile:
This book is so manly that even its sentences don’t have periods.”

Image source: You can find it all over the Internet, but I took Bridezilla from here.


At 1:04 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Salma Says:

To me, rising divorce rates are a direct outcome of the feminist revolution. More freedom = more choice. More choice = more options. More options = more divorce. Tell me what option a mother of 4 who hates her husband had in the 1800s? I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say none. Stigma alone was enough to make someone stay.

The feminist revolution also allowed women the opportunity to go out and make their own comfortable living without being wholly dependant on a suitor. NICEY! Take away the NEED to remain married and all you're left with is a choice. An option.

This also created friction in the home because traditional roles were being challenged. Women are feeling that they can do anything a man can do and more. Men are wondering where that leaves them. I'd imagine this is fairly emasculating. Ask my past suitors ;-)

Just my 2 bits.

At 3:19 PM , Blogger Momily said...

Wouldn't uber-feminists and the average independent woman alike simply not get married in the first place or postpone marriage until it was "right"?

Supposedly, there is a trend of women marrying later in life or not at all. Why bother getting married to end it 2 years later?

Also, I don't think that we should assume that the majority of marriages ending in their first 4 years are being ended by women . .


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