It may seem odd that I feel compelled to write about things I believe I owe my children because they’ve endured my divorce. Yet as an adult child of divorced parents and a mom who has been divorced, it’s my belief that children of divorce are entitled to certain rights.
That’s not to say that children raised in intact families don’t have rights – it’s just that children of divorce deserve special consideration.
Distinguished divorce researcher Elizabeth Marquardt adds her perspective on children of divorce: “The hard truth, she says, is that while divorce is often necessary, even amicable divorces sow lasting inner conflict in the lives of children. When a family breaks in two, children who stay in touch with both parents must travel between their two worlds trying alone to reconcile their parent’s strikingly different beliefs, values, and ways of living.”
On the other hand, my research sheds light on the fact that children of divorce who have an absent and/or distant parent must come to terms with this loss and grieve it so that they can heal and have healthy self-esteem, establish trust in partners, and have successful relationships in adulthood.
In fact, my research on children of divorce spans a few decades and draws on the interviews of hundreds of adult children of divorce. Truth be told, I’m impressed with the wisdom of respondents who are struggling to understand the impact of divorce on their lives and choices so they won’t repeat the past.
By the way, I’m not advocating that children of divorce adopt a victim mentality. I believe that all individuals are responsible for their own behavior and happiness.
However, children of divorce often live for many years in situations where they are exposed to far too much conflict, stress, and loss. They often navigate living in the two worlds of divorced parents; and sometimes adjust to living with stepparents and stepsiblings.
10 Things I I Beleive I Owe My Kids:
1. The right to love and be loved by both of his/her parents and stepparents without feeling the quilt or disapproval of either of their parents. If he/she decides to show open affection to a stepparent, they don’t deserve to feel bad about this and should be able to choose who they show affection towards or avoid contact with.
2. The freedom to express their feelings (both positive and negative); and to have parents who listen and validate them. There are a lot of emotions associated with dealing with parental divorce and children need to feel that their parents can provide a safe harbor for them to be themselves and express a wide range of emotional reactions which may come and go into adulthood.
3. The right to be free of being burdened by their parents’ emotional problems including anger towards their other parent. Most children love both of their parents and feel unnecessarily burdened by hearing about parental conflict or emotional issues stemming from their parents’ divorce or the aftermath. This includes infidelity, abuse, or financial issues. Children of divorce, of all ages, may experience guilt feelings if they aren’t able to love and be close to both of their parents. Elizabeth Marquardt cautions us that some children of divorce grow up too fast and to become “little adults.”
4. The right not to experience loyalty conflicts or to have to choose one parent over another. With few exceptions, children of divorce are prone to experiencing divided loyalties. This means they believe that if they are close to one parent, they are being disloyal to another. As a result, it’s important for parents to encourage him/her to spend time with the other parent and to show some enthusiasm for their activities and relationship with them.
5. The right to be kept informed about important schedule changes that impact their life and to have a say in them whenever possible. After divorce, children adjust better if they have a fairly predictable schedule that they can count on.
6. The right to be protected from my parents’ anger toward my other parent. To a life that is not filled with conflict or bad-mouthing from either of my parents. Divorce expert Rosalind Sedacca writes: “Clearly, while it’s tempting to badmouth Mom or Dad for the way they’ve hurt you in the marriage, venting to the kids puts them in a very uncomfortable position. They love both of their parents and don’t want to hear from you about the ways your ex misbehaved or initiated your divorce.”
7. A life that allows him/her to choose to go to college and have reasonable financial backing from both of their parents if possible. During many of my interviews with children of divorce, respondents have voiced their complaints about not having the comfort of financial support during their college years. In fact, one thirty-something teacher told me that her dad stopped paying her college tuition and she had to drop out of college until she could save enough to repay her college debt.
8. The privilege of spending more time with one of his/her parents for special events or occasions without feeling guilty (for leaving the other parent out). Children of divorce should never be made to feel guilty for wanting to spend more time with one of their parents. According to Rosalind Sedacca, “Here’s the key point: as a parent you need to understand that when a child expresses love, admiration or respect for their other parent, it doesn’t diminish their love for you.”
9. The right to spend time with their friends even if it interferes with the parenting plan. As I said earlier, children are not “little adults’ and they benefit from social time with peers to foster their social and emotional development. As a result, parents need to encourage their kids to have plenty of downtime and outings with peers – even if it interferes with their time with one or both of their parents.
10. The right to be a kid and to enjoy his/her status as such!Sedacca writes, “Let them be kids. Never burden them with adult responsibilities or communication. Seek out other families who have experienced divorce as part of a new network. This can provide support and new friends for you as well as your children.”
Children of all ages sense when their parents are cooperating and this will mean the world to them and help them feel calmer and to have fewer divided loyalties. Never bad-mouth your ex in front of your kids or make disparaging comments about them such as “he never pays child support on time,” or “what was she thinking marrying someone who can’t get a decent job.”
After divorce, it’s your responsibility to stop the blame game and recognize that divorce forever pits children (even as adults) between their parents’ two disparate worlds. It takes practice and skill to encourage resilience in your children by adopting a forgiving mindset as well as faith and optimism for the future.
I’m often asked, “What exactly is a low conflict marriage?” I guess since I push the idea that low conflict marriages should not fall prey to divorce, it is time I define, for those curious what I mean by a “low conflict marriage.”
My marriage was a low conflict marriage. We rarely argued, we treated each other with respect and we enjoyed each other’s company. There were problems in the marriage, neither one of us lived in a constant state of euphoria but we were satisfied and happy. Some experts refer to this as a “good enough marriage.”
I won’t go into detail about the marital problems but will say that each of us suffered some emotional distress and were not equipped with the relationship skills needed to find solutions to the problems. Our lack of those skills was the eventual undoing of our marriage.
Our children were secure, healthy and happy. They had a good relationship with both parents, were not subjected to arguments and domestic violence in the home. I can say with certainty that neither had ever thought of the possibility of their parents divorcing.
We were your average, middle-class family. There were two cars, a beautiful home, and an active social life. Our home was filled with friends and family for regular “get-togethers.” We laughed a lot, communicated deeply about our problems and planned for our future.
It was not an “eat, pray, love” atmosphere BUT it was a marriage in which most of the needs of both spouses were met. It was satisfactory but not always satisfying. There were moments when I wondered what life would be like outside the marriage. Could I meet someone who filled my every need? My ex had similar moments I’m sure.
There were times when I couldn’t stand the sight of my then husband when everything he did irritated me. I’m sure; that he had such moments also. We were not starry-eyed lovers; we were husband and wife raising a family and taking great joy in the results of all the hard work.
Our marriage didn’t make it though. Like a lot of low conflict marriages today, we fell victim to divorce…to taking the easy way out in spite of the fact that what we had was a perfectly acceptable union.
The reason I encourage clients and friends in low-conflict marriages who are considering divorce to attempt to work it out is for the children.
Check out the statistics below and you will understand.
About 55% to 60% of divorces occur in low-conflict marriages. Divorces in these low-conflict marriages are very damaging to children, says sociologist Dr. Paul Amato of Penn State University, because the surprised children have not been aware of the discord.
“Low-conflict divorces are very disturbing for children. The first time they discover something is wrong is when they come home to find Dad has moved out. Paul Amato, Ph.D., professor of sociology, demography, and family studies at Penn State says “the irony is that these divorces occur in marriages where there is some kind of reconciliation, some kind of positive outcome possible if there were an appropriate intervention.”
A study by Dr. Amato found two categories of children who are most at risk for future psychological problems: those who grow up with parents who stay married but remain conflicted and hostile, and those whose parents are in low-conflict marriages and divorce anyway.
I find the last stat of most interest. Think about it, a child who lived with parents whose marriage was low conflict grows up to have the same level of psychological problems as children who lived in hostile, angry environments where the parents didn’t divorce.
I can’t think of a better reason to define your marriage…low conflict or high conflict and work on saving it before divorcing than the possible negative consequences of divorce on your child/children.
“Good enough, rather than the fairy-tale model, which is a big disappointment, is a reasonable way to picture married life,” says Louanne Cole Weston, Ph.D., WebMD’s sex and relationship expert.
I’ve been divorced for 10 years and have done quite a bit of personal inventory since the divorce. I can look back now and realize that we both had a romanticized notions and high expectations of marriage. We were looking for the “fairytale” and for marriage to make us happy.
I’ve learned that happiness doesn’t come from outside of us. A relationship or marriage will NOT make us happy. We bring happiness to the relationship and marriage, not the other way around.
So, if you’ve found yourself unhappy in your low conflict marriage maybe it isn’t the marriage that is the problem but your expectations of the marriage.
When I was a kid, we always had really big Thanksgiving celebrations—loud, crowded dinners where aunts and uncles and distant cousins five-times removed would eat too much and tell dirty jokes that went right over my head.
I loved the noise and the chaos and the attention my brother and I got as the only kids in the group. We would put on an original Thanksgiving skit (with costumes) or perform some made-up rap song about turkeys. Then revel in the audibly wet lipstick kisses of great-aunts, and the perfunctory attention from cool teenage cousins that always smelled a little bit like cigarettes.
My divorced parents always came together on Thanksgiving. My dad and my grandma were invited guests to the mayhem. I know that I was lucky, of course. Most divorced parents can’t even be in the same room with each other—mine were a united front for our birthdays and holidays and soccer games.
Every Sunday, we had dinner at the same neutral-ground restaurant for the joint custody hand-off. We even visited the Grand Canyon together. I was glad that my parents weren’t married anymore, and never held out hope of reconciliation. I didn’t want that. They were such good friends and strong co-parents—their divorce had been relatively easy on us.
When I was 14, my dad remarried. Our stepmom was caring and involved and wanted to be like family to us, but she was also young and jealous and didn’t like my mom. So, there went that friendship between my parents.
No more Sunday dinners or family vacations. And Thanksgiving was split into two—we’d spend the day and dinner with my mom’s family and then leave early to get to my dad’s house by dessert.
I’d still get the raucous meals with my funny, inappropriate uncles, and my dad’s signature pecan pie later, but it was all fractured, hurried. We were always half-there.
I knew how much my mom hated rushing us to our dad’s before the dinner plates had even been cleared. I knew how much my dad wished we could spend the day watching football with him and helping his wife cook her chef-quality food.
They both felt our absence, and we felt their low-grade heartache. And there wasn’t anything we could do about it. All of that love from our parents, that need to be with us as much as they could—for that, we were so grateful. It also made it that much sadder.
The holidays always came with an underlying tension, some pot that was bound to bubble over.
One parent or the other was always disappointed and it was impossible for them to hide it. I always felt guilty, like somehow it was my fault we couldn’t be in two places at once. I’d be tap-dancing and smooth-talking, trying to soften any sadness with “we’re here now!” enthusiasm.
Later, when my brother and I were adults living in New York, we sometimes felt relieved when we couldn’t make it home for Thanksgiving—no one’s feelings to hurt.
I don’t think divorce is the end of the world, even when you have kids. I think some couples simply can’t make it work, and when that happens, it’s best for everyone if they go their separate ways. Amicably, if they can.
I think everyone in my family is happier than we would be had they stayed together. I can’t even imagine them married now. I can’t even figure out how they got together, to begin with.
That being said, when you’re a child of divorce, you’re always a child of divorce.
At a young age, you’re so busy trying to protect your parents’ feelings, you’re not even sure what you want anymore. You feel like it’s your job to shield them from any hurt because you must love them more than anyone else.
I’m not sure why it happens, but I know many grown children of divorce who still feel this way—make each parent happy first, deal with your needs second. And, still, it’s never enough. Sometimes a parent asks for what they really want, often they don’t. But we know better. We can read the subtext.
Adult Children of Divorce & Thanksgiving
I thought that once I became an adult with my own family, I’d get over it.
In fact, I think it’s just gotten worse. For the last several years, we’ve been eating two Thanksgiving dinners—one right after the other, my dad’s house and then my mom’s. The first year we did it, I ended the night with my head over a toilet bowl, puking my guts out.
At least I got to see everyone, right?
So, last year, we decided to host Thanksgiving dinner at our house. No shuttling our kids around town, gorging ourselves on double helpings of turkey and mashed potatoes.
No need to explain that the macaroni and cheese is terrific, but we’re saving room for my mom’s stuffing later.
No need to explain that yes, this second dinner is as delicious as the first but, see, those yams from our 1:00 meal are still sitting like a rock in our stomachs. Yep, this year, we invited everyone to come to us. We’re doing this once, and all are welcome.
But not everyone came. It was a nice thought, I guess, but apparently unrealistic.
When you’re grown, it’s tough to get your whole family together for Thanksgiving, even without divorce. My brother was with his wife’s family. Still, I wished for the sake of my little boys that their Gaga and Papa could have sat at the same table.
My dad could have brought his girlfriend and her family and they wouldn’t have felt awkward about it. My parents could have shared in their love for their grandchildren at least, talked about their high cholesterol, gabbed about the USA shows they both seem to love. It’s a child’s need. I know that. But maybe it’s my need as a mother too.
When we sat down at our Thanksgiving table, I loved seeing my sons wearing their silly turkey hats, reveling in the attention and the food and the family. It was perfectly OK that not everyone we love was there to see it.
Divorce sucks. That’s the simplest phrase for it. People get divorced for many reasons including finances, a lack of communication, a lack of passion and compassion, infidelity and overall dissatisfaction. While it can be assumed that no one enters into a marriage with the intention of getting divorced, life happens and sometimes the only remedy is to part ways.
When it comes to dating or being in a relationship with a woman who has been divorced for any amount of time, there is a possibility that she may still be hanging on to a few lingering feeling from her past love. It’s normal and it is a part of being human.
As a man who wants to show her that you are interested, when she opens up to you, be ready to listen more than you speak and don’t put up your defenses. Everybody wants and needs to feel the excitement of dating, being in a new relationship and forgetting about painful pasts.
If you meet a woman who has experienced divorce, here are 6 traits a divorced woman looks for in a man.
1. A man who isn’t afraid to have hard conversations.
There is no way to really get to know someone without talking with them. Women love to talk. Not just about how their day went or other mundane topics. Women like to be able to bear our souls without fear of judgment. And guess what? She is looking for a man who isn’t afraid to hit the ball back to her by asking questions that tap into real feelings and emotions.
If you’re considering dating and entertaining a relationship with a woman who had been divorced, don’t shut down she asks you questions about the future or about your past. If you too have experienced being divorced, use it as an avenue to find more common ground.
2. A man who knows what he wants.
No one likes someone who is lukewarm. Dating is all about options but when it comes to dating a woman who has been divorced, you have to be clear about your intentions. If you are looking to have fun and see multiple people, tell her. If you are open to being in an exclusive dating situation, tell her. More often than not, she doesn’t want to get married again tomorrow.
She just wants clear direction about how and where she should focus her energy especially is she has children or a busy schedule. Divorced women tend to know a little bit more of what they want in a man so they need a man who is sure of what he is looking for in a woman.
3. A man who is open to change.
Men are creatures of habit. Women know this. But it’s refreshing when a man gets bit by the adventure bug and wants to try something different. If your ideal date is dinner and a movie and hers is indoor rock-climbing and a sip and paint, be open to trying something new. Women are prone to put themselves in situations where they can get to know you better. You can’t talk during a movie but you sure can get a lot of laughs and good conversation over a glass of wine and a relaxing environment.
Being open to change doesn’t mean change with the wind. It just means that you can be open to changing your style of doing things to show that you care about someone other than yourself sometimes.
4. A man who is sure of himself.
Women love a confident man but there is a fine line between confident and cocky. A divorced woman may feel that she lacks in this area because for some, they think that being divorced is like wearing a D that resembles the scarlet letter. Women can sense a man that has an authentic picture of himself and his life.
When you paint the picture that she can relate to, you’ll have a better chance of getting her to be confident in herself as well.
5. A man who allows himself to be vulnerable.
Love is all about vulnerability. Vulnerability is all about giving someone the ammunition they need to possibly destroy you, but hoping that they will not. Women aren’t the only emotional beings and as a man, it is okay to show that side of you. Talk about your fears, your past, your desires, wants and needs.
Yes, women do love manly-men but they also want a man who can cater to their emotional needs. Don’t wait until you decide you want to be committed to be open. Vulnerability starts from day one.
6. A man who doesn’t remind her of her past love.
A divorced woman typically is more open and honest about her past. She will tell you what worked and what did not work. She will tell you what she loved about being married and she will tell you about what she hated. Pay attention to what she says. Always be yourself and allow her to see the real you. Because people are people, there are some characteristics we all share.
Ask her questions about her past and talk with through things that she may not understand. Some things are men habits. Some things are people habits. If she still has negative feelings towards her past, it doesn’t mean she isn’t ready to move forward. It could mean that this is your opportunity to help her see her past in a different light.
Men deserve love. Women deserve love. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Divorce is a life event, not a life sentence. When you meet a woman who has been through a divorce, if you’re interested in her, use her past to learn about her and how you can love her best.
Congratulations! You have found love again after your peaceful (or not-so-peaceful) divorce from your first spouse. You have decided that you want to live together and blend your lives, just like in your first marriage when you were fairly young. What do you need to know about baby boomers marrying again?
You (and your fiancé) believe marriage is an institution that will support your high level of commitment to each other. You want to do more than just date, or live together without being married. You see your relationship as permanent and wish it to be life-long and supportive throughout old age.
You believe you learned some lessons from your first marriage – both in terms of your choice of a spouse and how you can create a peaceful marriage. You are better prepared to support a marriage through its ups and downs and handle the inevitable conflict that goes along with marriage.
However, there’s a little fly in the ointment. Both you and Mr. Right #2 have children from your previous marriages. They are in high school, college, or are in the process of launching their young adult careers. You both also have assets accumulated during your first marriages – you each have a home, retirement accounts, and other assets. You’re not particularly rich, but you do wonder, what happens if you divorce again. You also may be wondering how to leave a legacy to your children if your marriage stays together, but you die before Husband #2.
Baby Boomers Marrying Again: Here’s Where Pre-Nups Fit In
Most people would like to leave a financial legacy to their children when they die. And many of our grown (and semi-grown) children need some financial help from us while we’re living, both in securing their education and helping them embark on their adult lives. Our parents helped us, and we want to help our children. It’s a natural inclination, and an embodiment of parental love, which is fierce and protective.
But you also have another intention that you want to fulfill – providing security for your new Baby Boomer spouse. You love that person, too, and with love comes a sense of protectiveness.
You are remarrying in your 50s, 60s or even 70s. One of the aims of a “gray” marriage is to support each other as you grow older, enjoy retirement together, and care for each other as you age. This is part of a long-term marriage. Your allegiance and commitment to your new spouse must be very strong in order for a second marriage to succeed. And that includes, in most cases, a financial commitment to your new spouse.
A challenge faced in Baby Boomer second marriages is how to balance the competing interests of our new spouse and our children. We want to support the well-being of our new spouse (who we love), and also to help our children by giving them a financial “leg up” during our lifetime and after our death.
What happens if I die without a prenup?
Most states have laws that protect the interest of a surviving spouse to inherit from his or her deceased spouse. If someone dies without a will (this is called “intestacy”), depending on the state and the family composition, a surviving spouse could obtain from 30% to 100% of the deceased spouse’s probate assets. Non-probate property (such as life insurance and retirement accounts) is distributed in accordance with the account owner’s beneficiary designations.
You can enter into a discussion with your fiancé before the marriage as to what your estate plans would be after each of your deaths. Will your assets be split between your surviving spouse and children? Will the surviving spouse hold some of your property for future distribution to your children?
In all states, a spouse has the right “to elect against the will.” That means, that if that spouse has been disinherited or receives an unreasonably small legacy, that spouse may apply for a statutory share of the deceased spouse’s estate. Depending on the state, this provides a widow or widower somewhere between the income generated from 30% of the estate and 50% of the entire estate outright.
An estate plan that provides a surviving spouse at least what this spousal election against the will or intestacy would provide (if that’s consistent with a spouse’s estate distribution intentions) would be a good way to divide an estate between a person’s (second) spouse and his or her children from a first marriage.
However, sometimes the surviving spouse will need to be supported during his or her lifetime before assets are distributed to the children of the first spouse to die. This can be done by estate planning that includes QTIP trusts, credit shelter trusts, and lifetime interests in real estate. All these possibilities need to be thought out carefully, with the guidance of an estate planning attorney.
The downside of relying on premarital (or post marital) discussions and decisions is that people can change their minds any time before their death. Also, sometimes flexibility is important in estate planning. Things can and should change as events unfold. But people can change their estate plans and beneficiary designations right up until the time they die. Sometimes this can result in a very undesirable surprise.
Then there’s the issue of divorce.
If the second Baby Boomer marriage ends in divorce, there is a full panoply of laws dealing with property division and spousal support. These laws have developed over many years. Their intent is to provide an equitable result based on the facts and circumstances of that particular marriage.
But some Baby Boomers have felt burned by their first divorces, especially if they had the bad luck of having a highly litigated divorce. (There are many better ways to get divorced!)
Where do Prenups fit in?
Prenups can provide certainty on these three issues: what happens if one of the spouses dies during the Baby Boomer marriage, what happens if there is a divorce, and if there is a divorce, how do you avoid litigation? Prenups can also provide ground rules as to how the couple will spend money and support each other financially during the marriage.
In a prenup, children of the first marriage can be protected, while balancing the financial needs of the new spouse. Divorce terms that seem fair and equitable can be included, and even some flexibility can be built in if things change in the future.
If there is a divorce, the method used in the divorce can be specified. It can be an alternative dispute resolution process such as mediation, collaborative law, or arbitration.
Prenups can also set the terms of how the new couple will financially assist their children from their previous marriages. Will there be lifetime gifts made equally to all of them? What if one child needs more help than the other children? What funds should this assistance come out of – previous premarital assets or assets and income earned and accumulated during the marriage?
Prenuptial agreements are not always the magic bullet they are touted to be. Because they are done right before the marriage, they often cause painful conflict between people who love each other at the very time feelings are the most tender. They pit people in opposition with each other, and often under the guidance of attorneys, the result ends up being extremely unsupportive of the financial needs of one of the new spouses, to the stark advantage of the other.
That’s because many attorneys view prenups solely as “asset protection” contract, without thinking about the health of the marriage or the well-being of a less-moneyed Baby Boomer spouse. Remember, showing caring and compassion to each other (even if you are negotiating a prenuptial agreement) bodes well for the health and survival of your new marriage. In fact, caring and compassion for the other is at the core of a successful marriage.
Prenups are generally enforceable, so the terms you have chosen will not be changeable unless you mutually agree on the changes. In this way, people entering into them can have peace of mind as to what will happen during their lives and after their death. But the downside is situations may change, and one of the spouses may be unwilling to change the terms of the prenup when the other spouse feels it’s appropriate to do so.
Remember to play fair.
If you’ve decided to negotiate a prenup, remember to play fair. Show your love of the person you are marrying by providing in the prenup for a soft landing in case your marriage ends in divorce. And as hard as it is (and despite a possible bad experience from your first divorce), remember that divorce laws can be good guidance when formulating terms in a prenup to address a split-up in a fair and compassionate way.
So, congratulations on your Baby Boomer second marriage. You have some choices to make –including whether or not to have a prenup. Also, you may want to have some serious discussions about the terms of your marriage and how you will handle your estates if one of you dies at a time when your marriage is intact. Be sure to get the guidance and information you need to understand the issues involved and how to address them. This will help make things clearer between you and will serve to make your marriage stronger when you tie the knot again.
Sexual consent in marriage or a relationship takes on a very gray hue compared to the traditional views of sexual assault. Incredibly, researchers estimate that 10 to 14 percent of married or formerly married women have experienced at least one forced sexual assault in marriage by a husband or ex, according to the National Online Research Center on Violence Against Women.
Walking down the aisle does not give your husband blanket consent to have sex with you at any time. No still means no.
Sexual experiences should be enjoyable for both parties! That’s the whole point, right? (Well with the obvious exception of procreation.) Marriage starts out (usually) because you love each other. Sexual intimacy takes things to another level. But what happens when one partner isn’t in the mood?
In any long-term relationship, there will be times when one partner wants sex and the other doesn’t. It’s part of the natural rhythm of life. A loving relationship has something called sexual communal strength, which is each person’s motivation to meet their partner’s sexual needs. Sometimes, the person who isn’t in the mood delights in seeing their partner happy by meeting their needs, so they oblige because they too gain pleasure. This is still a mutually beneficial situation.
Unfortunately, sometimes this can turn negative. When coercion is involved or when a person ignores their own needs, we enter the territory of unmitigated communion. Those mutual benefits are missing. As you can imagine, this can lead down a slippery slope of dissatisfaction, resentment, and negativity. (And yes, marital rape.)
Sexual coercion is defined as unwanted sexual activity that happens when you are pressured, tricked, threatened, or forced in a non-physical way.
That means that using guilt, continually asking after being told no, yelling, calling names, and threatening to withhold something else from you if you don’t submit are all acts of non-consensual sex and toe (and often cross) the line of rape. Yes, even in marriage.
Sexual Assault in Marriage: Forced Consent via Coercion is Not Consent.
Lack of consent, while you are sleeping or drunk, is not consent either.
Legitimate consent is the presence of an enthusiastic “yes” (verbal or non-verbal) void of manipulation, threats, or head games, not just the absence of a “no”.
After the drinking began, this part of our relationship began to go downhill. I disliked being close to him more and more. His actions annoyed me, his breath disgusted me, and his constant hounding made even the idea of sex less desirable.
I would say no. I would say I was too tired. I would use the kids as an excuse, anything to avoid a fight or him getting angry.
At first, I wanted to protect his feelings. I would oblige as often as I could bear, but I would spend the entire time just hoping and praying one of the kids would start to cry. Often they did and I was saved.
Over the years it got worse. Every pop of a beer can, every drunken sway was another nail in the coffin our relationship in general, never mind in the bedroom.
But he never saw that. He saw a spiteful, cold woman who didn’t desire him.
I saw in him a selfish, addicted man who put himself before all others.
I would give in to avoid the badgering and fighting. It was often easier to submit and just get it over with.
I would shudder at his touch at least half the time. I can’t say I never got any enjoyment out of it, of course. There were some decent times over the years but it got harder as time went on. I couldn’t always escape in my mind enough to give in to the moment. I would imagine I was with other men. A few of my favorite TV characters got me through the nights over the years.
Sometimes he’d notice and give up. Sometimes he didn’t care.
Was that really consent?
Was saying “no” the first five times in an evening but eventually giving in consent? Was saying “fine” or “I guess” truly consent? What about saying nothing? What about drawing back when he touched me?
Was this really enjoyable for him? How could a man who insisted he loved me treat me in this way and be perfectly ok with it?
Sexual Assault in Marriage
It’s absolutely mind-blowing that 10 to 14 percent of women who are or have been married have been assaulted by their partner, don’t you think?
Why might it be this way, you wonder? For starters, marital rape wasn’t even a crime in all 50 states until 1993. That means that until then, women were still treated more like property than free citizens. In the United States. In a lot of our lifetimes, or at least our parents’.
And still it continues, not just in gen X or Y, but millennials too, even though we grew up in a changing world that appeared to set women free.
There is something fundamentally wrong, in my opinion, with a culture that essentially allows this to go on still. How is it ok to coerce someone into the most intimate act between two people? And even more disturbing is: why would someone want to have sex with an unwilling “partner”?
I’ve heard stories from many women in my single moms’ community of sexual manipulation and coercion.
“With my ex, no wasn’t an option he accepted often. Woke up to him on top of me more times than I can count.”
“I was guilted all the time and made to do things I wasn’t comfortable with because I didn’t want him going somewhere else to get his needs met. He did anyway though.”
“You can’t deny me the right…”
“If you don’t, I will…”
“Since I have to beg for sex you’ll see how it feels to beg for something that you need.”
“If you won’t have sex with me, I’ll find someone who will.”
The back rubs that could never just be.
The constant insistence where you just finally give in to make it all stop.
Drawing the Line
I recall the day I told him NO, forcefully, and with confidence.
And I told him I wasn’t doing it anymore. At all. Maybe ever.
We’d been trying to save our marriage. He’d gotten sober to appease me once he realized I had one foot out the door, but none of it felt genuine or real. (And it wasn’t, as he has told me since then.)
I did it unwillingly for years and years and completely disrespected myself in the process.
I had a lot to think about and I didn’t need to be doing something I was regularly coerced into overshadowing it all.
You see, I still wondered if it was my fault. If there was something I had to change inside me…could change inside me…that would make me want him and love him again.
Months later he tried to make things better by sending me several links to articles that tried to imply what a horrible human I was for not having sex. They included such gems as “letting Satan into our relationship” and that “God was crying” over it. (His addiction had nothing to do with any of this, of course.) He made it clear that he was unwilling to let me try to heal at my own pace, and that he was seeing my harnessing of my power as a betrayal to him rather than something I owed myself.
I had always thought that his nastiness over sex was more related to his drunkenness but it wasn’t — he actually meant it. No matter how much I tried to get past the barrier and negative association I had with him and sex it was all about his comfort and not mine in the end.
He couldn’t accept that when I set a boundary of no sex while I sorted out the future of our marriage that it was his fault. He tried to use guilt, religion, obligation, anger, and more to make me change my mind.
In the end, the only way for me to break my chains was to set myself free.
I was fascinated by sappy Love song lyrics from the 70’s and deeply moved by even sappier romantic films. I remember being completely enamored with movies like The Way We Were, The Other Side of the Mountain, and Love Story.
When I first got married at the very young age of 23, I hadn’t had much personal experience with falling in Love. And as I stood on the altar in June of 1986, I was pretty sure neither my groom nor I were deeply in Love.
I remember thinking we were getting married because it seemed like a good decision. My soon to be husband was the complete opposite of my father and I was convinced that alone could be the key to a successful marriage.
We were just a couple of broke college kids, but I had all the hope in the world we would grow to love each other. And as each of our three children were born, a light of Love between us seemed to ignite… but, inevitably just flickered out.
I’d chosen a man I thought was completely different from my father, but it turned out only his ‘choice’ of addictions were different… yet, every bit as toxic and damaging.
Both men (just for completely different reasons) were incapable of having a healthy, genuine relationship with another.
To be fair, beneath all my dad’s damaging behavior, there was the capacity to Love. When he was at his best, he was capable of connecting and showing genuine Love. And it was that one important difference between the two men, I wish I’d known before taking vows on that altar.
Because, after decades of trying and trying, it was heartbreaking to realize I couldn’t create a bond of Love between us… no matter how hard I tried.
And then there was the moment when it became painfully clear…most things are possible with LOVE- but, the most important things are not possible without it.
Can a marriage survive without Love? Mine didn’t.
The one thing that gave me hope during my divorce was I still deeply believed in Love.
Love, compassion, and kindness became the feelings I wanted to give generously to others. Giving was easy… I struggled to believe I was deserving of receiving them in return.
Believing in the power of Love was natural. Because it was missing from the foundation of my marriage that failed, I was convinced it was the one powerful ingredient needed to sustain a healthy marriage or any close relationship for that matter.
Sure, Love waxes and wanes.
I get it.
But try to find a successful marriage that never had it.
After all, Hallmark has made a fortune based on the sentiments describing the Love between a man and woman, the Love and devotion between a husband and wife.
I’d read card after card during the 23 years of my first marriage and it was absolutely devastating I could never relate to any of them. But I knew if people were buying them, someone must be able to relate.
And then a man walked into my life and re-enforced my faith in Love.
Now, at the age of 55, I’m married to a man I Love deeply and best of all I feel his Love in return.
So, when I sat in a theater excited to watch the new Star is Born… I felt my life journey, which had taken many twists and turns, had prepared me to fully appreciate the raw naked beauty of eternal Love radiating from the core of this Hollywood blockbuster.
A Star Is Born.
The movie whose timeless message of how the unexplainable power of Love alone can connect two people with such intensity. This message has remained unchanged throughout four successful Hollywood remakes.
I couldn’t wait to finally relate on an intimate level with the intense depth of Love shared between two human beings…a Love that can uphold you and sustain you throughout the most challenging of times.
Why then… am I the only person on earth to be so disappointed by Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga’s adaptation of this all-time classic?
Let me explain.
Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga were AWESOME!
The soundtrack is PHENOMENAL!
It was the storyline which left me cold and, quite frankly mad as hell!
Of course, the basic storyline was there; a famous musician hitting his bottom falls in Love with a talented woman and guides her to the pinnacle of a successful career in the music industry. They share an indescribable Love that carries them through the most difficult and challenging moments.
In the 1978 adaptation, their Love remains steadfast and the husband’s death is accidental.
BUT. In the 2018 version. The husband commits suicide.
There may have been a hundred reason why he made that decision.
BUT. I wanted to believe there was only one reason why he shouldn’t have made that choice…. LOVE.
Because I wanted to believe their Love could sustain them through all the good and bad…through sickness and health…and it didn’t.
No marriage. No relationship is perfect.
I get it.
There are times our Love, Like and Lust waxes and wanes…but our Love should remain steadfast.
And, that is why A Star Is Born made me Mad as Hell.
Because I don’t want to stop believing.
What helps get us through life’s toughest challenges?
What is the secret recipe for a happy life?
What makes a relationship successful?
I wanna believe in one thing:
And that’s why I have the Star is Born Soundtrack on constant repeat because all the lyrics powerfully reinforce the magic powers of LOVE.
Chris Watts and his attorneys have reached a plea deal in the highly-watched murder case out of Frederick, Colorado. Watts is accused of killing his wife, Shanann, and his two young daughters, Bella and Celeste.
Shanann was pregnant with their third child, a boy.
Watts could face three consecutive life sentences.
The request to not seek the death penalty came from Shanann Watts’ family.
Investigators say Watts killed his family and then dumped their bodies on the property belonging to an oil company. Watts had worked for that company until the allegations arose.
The girls’ bodies were found in oil barrels and Shanann’s body was found in a shallow grave nearby.
Watts claimed Shanann had killed one daughter and was actively trying to kill the other when he attacked her in an act of passion.
He will be formally sentenced on November 19th.
Why did Chris Watts murder his family?
A Denver criminologist has claimed that the father accused of murdering his pregnant wife and their two children did so because he wanted to start a new life with his lover.
After the murders police discovered that Watts ‘was actively involved in an affair with a co-worker,’ something he had initially denied.
Denise Mowder, an associate professor of criminology and criminal justice at MSU Denver, says she believes that Watts may have wanted to rid himself of his family to be with her.
‘I think he had a vision of another life with this other woman — carefree, no responsibilities,’ she said. ‘Two children and another on the way, that’s a big responsibility.’
Mowder also said that most cases of men killing their children were triggered by rage but 30 percent were sparked by spousal revenge, and another ten percent say they don’t know why they did it.
She said that the fact he tried to point his finger at his wife, was typical of domestic abusers.
My personal thoughts on Chris Watts.
Mowder has labeled Watts a domestic abuser. But, was he? All evidence points to Shanann viewing him as a loving husband and father. I’ve not been able to find any references from family or friends that indicate there was a history of abuse in Chris and Shanann’s marriage.
Last week I watched an episode of Dateline. A husband who had been married for 40 years killed his wife out of a desire to be with the woman he was having an affair with. There was no evidence of past domestic abuse. Their children and friends had never known him to be anything but a loving husband and father.
Out of the blue, just like with Watts, these apparently loving husbands chooses to murder their way out of their marriages instead of choosing divorce.
In the Dateline episode, the man was asked why he didn’t just divorce his wife, why he murdered her instead. His response, “Divorce never even occurred to me.”
I doubt divorce occurred to Chris Watts either. Why? Why do some men murder instead of divorce?
My opinion…men find it difficult to face the financial losses that come with divorce, spousal or child support and sharing assets. They don’t realize the wheels they set in motion when a man kills his wife. They are shortsighted and fail to understand that spousal support, child support and sharing assets is a hell of a lot easier than life in prison. Bottom line, men kill their wives because they think they are going to get away with it.
According to an article in The Atlantic, the CDC analyzed the murders of women in 18 states from 2003 to 2014, finding a total of 10,018 deaths. Of those, 55 percent were intimate partner violence-related, meaning they occurred at the hands of a former or current partner or the partner’s family or friends.
In 93 percent of those cases, the culprit was a current or former romantic partner. Strangers perpetrated just 16 percent of all female homicides, fewer than acquaintances and just slightly more than parents.
Advocates told NBC News that many abusive partners turn deadly when a victim tries to leave a relationship.
“Lethality increases the moment a woman says she’s leaving,” said Tiffany Turner-Allen, program director at UJIMA, the National Center on Violence in the Black Community.
What these statistics tell us is that women are more likely to be murdered by a husband or boyfriend they trust or one they are attempting to leave or divorce. And, the vast majority of these women, just like Shanann Watts would never entertain the idea that their lives were/are in danger.
If you suspect your husband of having an affair or, if you are separated or in the process of divorce, it’s in your best interest to make sure you protect yourself. Regardless of whether there is a history of domestic abuse or not, some men don’t respond well to emotional upheaval and, like Chris Watts can do the last thing you’d expect them to do.
The aftershocks of a divorce are stressful, and even traumatic in some cases, on everyone affected by the transition, but children might experience this more acutely because they shoulder the impact of a situation they often don’t understand.
While over time, many children adapt to the changes in their lifestyles and routines, during the initial period of adjustment, they can feel rejected, anxious, withdrawn, confused or angry.
These emotions are normal since children often lack the cognitive maturity to process the disturbance of their family structure, even if it was necessary or unavoidable. Children don’t always grasp the reasons behind a divorce, nor should they be expected to. They just know that Mom and Dad are separated now, and they’re being shuttled from one house to another without the permanence or stability that used to exist under a single roof.
As children grapple with these dynamics and acclimate to their new circumstances, they might internalize blame for the divorce and assume they misbehaved or initiated a conflict to produce this outcome.
However, as the parent, you can neutralize these worries and help children navigate this transition as smoothly as possible when you avoid certain topics of discussion. While it’s reasonable to feel bitterness toward your former spouse, he is still the children’s father, and informing them of all the areas he wounded you is neither age-appropriate nor constructive for their healing process.
When it comes to talking about your divorce here are 4 details you shouldn’t tell your children about your ex.
Just because these details might be true, does not mean it’s beneficial for their young and sensitive ears to absorb that information.
He Was Involved in an Affair
If your ex-husband desires a healthy relationship with the children and active participation in their lives, then disclosing his infidelity to them is bound to deter that endgame. This could be a source of vindication for you, but it’s unfair to the children if they’re still on positive terms with their father.
Once they know his decision to be unfaithful was an impetus for the divorce, the children might feel pressure to choose your side of the conflict and harbor guilt over wanting to maintain a connection with Dad.
He Does Not Help Financially
It might be an ordeal to persuade your ex-husband to be more consistent with child support, but even if this stretches your finances, the children don’t need to experience that added stress. When you discuss complaints about money or their father’s reluctance to contribute, this can make children fear they are financial burdens to either one or both of their parents.
Your hassle with the child support arrangement is not an issue that children should be forced to worry about, much less have an awareness of.
He Drinks Too Much Alcohol
When your ex-husband lives with a pattern of substance abuse, the ramifications of his behavior will impact the children, but in most cases, you can still protect their innocence and preserve his relationship with them. Addiction is a complex disease that children wrestle to understand.
But while it’s tempting to make dismissive comments like, “He’s selfish, lazy or erratic because he drinks too much,” addressing their questions with compassion will offer the answers they seek without vilifying their father.
He Prefers Being at the Office
Often a divorce is the result of your ex-husband seeming to prioritize his career over time spent with his family, but to express your grievances about this in front of the children is basically to communicate, “Dad thinks his work is more important than you.”
Even if this was the implicit message you received while married to him, there is no reason to give your children that same impression. For their own emotional security, children need to believe they are both Mom and Dad’s number-one priority.
Because a divorce is painful and bewildering territory to fumble through, it’s impossible to shield your children from all the sorrow or upheaval. But making a commitment not to treat them as sounding-boards for your frustration will reduce the chance of them feeling like pawns in the tension between each of their parents.
This works to rebuild a sense of both normalcy and safety in the home which has a positive effect on children’s emotional and psychological development in the long-term.
In general, society looks at the other woman as being the responsible party in an affair. It’s understandable that they become the target for the rage and anger the deceived spouse feels.
Blaming the other woman keeps us from having to take responsibility for the problems in the marriage and our own feelings, so we like to pretend that if it hadn’t been for that other person there would have never been an affair.
Problem is, there would have been, it just would have been a different “other” person.
How you handle the fact that there is another woman has a great deal to do with whether or not you end up in divorce court or, are able to save your marriage. I have a few suggestions that will help save your sanity and possibly your marriage.
4 Healthy Ways to View The Other Woman
Don’t Make The Other Woman More Important Than They Are
She happened to be in the right spot at the right time. She is nothing special. Your spouse was looking for an affair, not looking for that person in particular. She is not superior to you, she is simply different from you. You are the wife, all she is is a distraction or an addiction. Your role in your spouse’s life far outweighs their role.
The circumstance is more important than the person your spouse is involved with. Spend your time and energy focused on the problems in the marriage that led to an affair and finding a solution for those problems.
And, please know that does not shift responsibility for your spouse’s affair to you. In most cases, there are marital problems that lead a spouse to cheat. These could be problems you are aware of, they could be problems you are unaware of. The bottom line is this, a cheating spouse is choosing to find solutions to problems in a destructive manner instead of a productive manner.
What you need to do, if you wish to save your marriage, is focus on what is more likely to do that instead of following your spouse’s example of behaving destructively instead of constructively.
See The Relationship For What It Really Is
The relationship with the other woman is an intoxicating fantasy relationship with no foundation but lies and dishonesty. She is showing your spouse only her best side, she is being all she can be to your spouse and all she believes your spouse needs.
No one can carry on that kind act for long. Her true nature will show itself and the fantasy will wear off. When she starts making demands of your spouse, clinging and attempting to control the course of the affair the fantasy will wear off and your spouse will see them for who they really are…someone who has sex with another person’s husband.
An affair is not a rejection of you but a rejection of his role as husband and the restrictions it brings. You should not take it personally because it is not about you as a person. Given time and patience, most affairs go down in flames.
She Is Not A Reality, She Is An Illusion
Your spouse may see her as someone who offers up a new life, someone who will take them away from the burdens of having a wife and family and marital problems.
In the end, they discover that all the old burdens and issues that came along with the marriage are the same, the only difference is, the person they feel responsible to is different. The only thing that changed was the players, not the game. Even if your marriage ends in divorce and your spouse chooses the other women you can bet, given time, reality will hit hard.
Don’t Internalize Your Feelings
When a person views the world through a self-critical perspective, the outcome turns out rather distorted. Don’t allow the actions of an unfaithful spouse cause you to feel shame or unworthy. Such feelings can lead to depression, self-loathing and anxiety. Whether your goal is to save your marriage or divorce your unfaithful spouse, you need to keep a level head and develop good coping strategies.
Plus, they say that living well is the best revenge and, you certainly want to get revenge—in a manner that helps you heal instead of causing you more pain.