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Father-Brained

Doug French is a father of two boys who writes his personal blog Laid-Off Dad, co-founded the Dad 2.0 Summit, and co-parents When The Flames Go Up with his ex-wife.

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Divorce ain’t nothing but a thing

By Doug French |

Some of you may be aware that Magda and I used to be married. To each other. And we write a blog about co-parenting called When The Flames Go Up, where we try to talk candidly about our experience as divorced co-parents. The other day Magda wrote a post about reacting to other people’s divorces, and how stunning it can feel when two people who seem happy together announce that they’re not. When I read it, I was surprised by my reaction, and by how sanguine toward divorce I feel I’ve become.

This wasn’t always the case. When I saw “When Harry Met Sally …” in the theater, it was 1989. I was 23 years old. In the first present-day scene, at the Central Park Boathouse, Carrie Fisher’s character wants to fix Sally up with a guy from her “little black recipe box.” And when she finds out he’s married, she folds the corner of his index card and replaces it. When I saw that, I thought, “What? He’s married! You can’t keep his card. Rip it up! He’s off the market now!”

Pathetic, right?

Three things changed that.

First, I got divorced. Soon afterward, a lot of people began asking me about what divorce was like. What’s involved exactly? Is it doable? That kind of thing. And it so blew my mind that I wrote a post on Laid-Off Dad called “Faulty Joists,” which included this:

When people ask my advice, that’s fine. But when they say I make divorce “look easy,” I feel my esophagus cramp. Some days are fine, and some are rottenhard; the only reason it might look otherwise is that I don’t write about the rottenhardness. The ways to make divorced parenthood as bearable as possible are pretty simple: Pick your battles, always think about the kids, and have faith that soon a less fecal day will dawn.

Next, I was invited to speak at BlogHer about blogging and relationships (Magda was too, but she had school that weekend). The discussion touched on how 1) many people start blogging because they seek the audience they don’t have at home, and 2) the solitude of blogging runs counter to spousal interaction. At one point, I asked the audience if they felt their spouse didn’t “get” blogging and/or resented them for it. Over half of the hands went up.

And third, the other day I was idly sifting through my favorite photos on flickr and came across this one, featuring five of my favorite bloggers whose work inspired me to start LOD back in 2003. I’ve always admired them as writers and liked them as friends. All five were married when the photo was taken, just under four years ago. Since then, three of their marriages have collapsed.

When I hear that friends are divorcing, I still feel sad for the pain they and their kids are about to endure. I am by no means a divorce advocate; everyone has a responsibility to try to save their marriage, especially if kids are involved. But if the decision has been made, and the excrement is about to hit the fan, I can’t see it as a purely negative thing. It’s taken a lot of hard work (we’re by no means “done,” that’s for damn sure), but I feel happier than I’ve ever felt in my life. I’d wager Magda feels the same, and that has to reap dividends for our kids somehow.

Divorce is bad, but it happens. And just like root canal or a tax audit, it can be endured. You can hold your friends close, concentrate on the things you can control, train yourself to maintain some kind of optimistic resolve, and it’s very likely that, one day, you’ll feel like all that fecality has been flushed away.

Read more of Doug’s writing on Laid-Off Dad.
Follow Doug on Twitter @LOD.

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About Doug French

dougfrench

Doug French

Doug French is a father of two boys who writes his personal blog Laid-Off Dad, co-founded the Dad 2.0 Summit, and co-parents When The Flames Go Up with his ex-wife.

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15 thoughts on “Divorce ain’t nothing but a thing

  1. Magda Pecsenye says:

    Have you watched WHMS since the divorce? It’s so much deeper for me now, not just Meg Ryan being cute. I always identified with Carrie Fisher’s character and loved that foldover scene, but now it’s even funnier and sadder to me.

  2. Jeanni says:

    I needed to hear this today. Tomorrow marks a week since I moved out of my house and into an apartment. The kids have slept at both places now & still call the house “home”. I’m trying so hard to make this a fight free (or a least limited fighting) divorce. But it’s hard. I’m also mourning the loss of my spouse. We were an entity & now a limb seems to be missing. My goal right now is to show the kids how much we both still love them & how they still have a family, just one with different branches than before.

  3. DesperatelyErin says:

    I think the thing that stumps me–and I get how just obnoxiously ignorant this may sound, as a (sofar) happily married person–is when I hear people who are divorced talk about how much work they put into their relationship with their ex. If you and your former spouse are able, as unmarrieds, to tolerate a certain amount of poo and compromise, then why did the marriage fall apart? Why does it work when you’re not married, but not work when you are? For someone who has not seen that side of things, I think exploring that would be very enlightening.

  4. amyp says:

    I’m sure there are quite a few readers trying to figure out the blogging/divorce connection. I know as a reader, I’ve definitely tried to figure out why nearly all (but not ALL) of my favorite bloggers have split. I think it’s really just that lots of marriages don’t work out for whatever reason. I moved into a new, wonderful sub in 2004, nearly all of the neighbors were young families just like ours with young kids, new babies coming, and lots of love and hope. Guess what? About half of those families have split up for whatever reason – some splits are shocking, some not so much, some are sad, dark and troubling. It seems that all of the bloggers are splitting up because those core bloggers are the same young families growing up and apart (or closer together, or something else entirely) just like everyone else. Living in the sub was like creating an artificial world for ourselves where everyone was just like us -kind of like the blogging world you participate in and I just follow. Reality has a way to show us that we’re not all the same, we don’t think the same, we don’t choose the same kind of partners (whether we choose the right or wrong kind of partner for ourselves).

    Living in the sub showed me that surrounding myself only with people ‘in my demographic’ is probably pretty unhealthy. It was easy to look around and start to panic that the world is ending when things started to look more real. The fact is the world is still turning and there are lots of different kinds of people living in all sorts of situations, and we all still have something important to say apart from what our toddlers did today (even though some of my most important lessons in life came from those days).

    Here’s to finding a voice in divorce and beyond, or beyond the walls we’ve constructed that we think define us.

  5. Pauline Gaines says:

    So great to read a measured take on divorce that doesn’t doom those of us who are divorced, and our kids, to lives of misery. And also…that’s a little scary about 3 out of your 5 favorite bloggers breaking up…

  6. Doug French says:

    I’m sorry to hear that, Jeanni. Mourning is a bitch, but it won’t last forever.

    Erin: I think the difference is the overall goal. When we were married, we had the added burden of a marriage that was making us miserable. With the marriage over, we’re just co-founders of this enterprise of caring for the kids, and we can devote ourselves fully to the common goal. And stay hopeful for happier coupling, like you have.

    It’s not the greatest situation, but it’s the greatest we can muster. The key for me is recognizing that in every situation lies opportunity.

  7. Linda says:

    “Reality has a way to show us that we’re not all the same, we don’t think the same, we don’t choose the same kind of partners (whether we choose the right or wrong kind of partner for ourselves).”

    Hear, hear. A few years ago I was the “oddball” – I went through a nasty breakup around the same time most people in my immediate social circle were in marriage/mortagage/kids phase. I didn’t quite fit in to their crowd so I was dropped and even mocked by at least one mean spirited type. I realized that they were trying to protect the world they had very carefully crafted for themselves and the ugly reality that things don’t work the way we’d like was too much to bear for some of them.

    Fast forward to today and I saw four divorces in 2011 and just heard of the first in 2012 on Tuesday. I may not be thrilled with my life every day, but I know I’m far more comfortable with where I am than several of the “mean girls” I used to know.

    This isn’t schadenfreude, but a cautionary tale. You not only don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors in your freinds’ lives, you also don’t even know what’s going on in your partner’s head. Be careful as to how much you judge those who don’t follow the script; they could be your one port in the storm.

  8. Rod Earl says:

    Everyone has a first time…. For some it is devastating, a feeling that they feel they will never recover from. For me it was a death, I believe the longer you’ve been married, the longer the mourning. I asked for the divorce. There wasn’t anyone else. It was simply too painful. Married for nearly 25 years ….it took a while, I rudderless for years.

    I initially jumped into the dating pool, the world had changed. Dating was weird,(still is) I finally met someone who said, your not ready, your still in love. She was right.
    I have a friend who was divorced after a little more than 2 years or marriage, he recovered over night.

    Another person lost their mate after 37 years… I heart ache for her.

    You do get past the hurt and anger (if your smart-its a choice) and you do eventually recover… Just give yourself time to heal, hopefully well meaning friends will respect YOUR healing time.

  9. Beth says:

    I am sitting here with tears on my face. My relationship is in a very bad place right now. I think we are both fighting our hardest to hold it together. I don’t want my kids to have divorced parents. But I find myself thinking, more and more regularly that maybe it would actually be better for them to not be surrounded by our negative relationship right now. Don’t get me wrong, we try our hardest to keep the adult stuff between ourselves, but kids are pretty damn perceptive. We had a fight this afternoon that resulted in my spouse asking if she should move out. I said no, but a little part of me wanted to say yes. She has left the house and I don’t know where she is, or when she will be back. I don’t normally comment on anyone’s posts, but this one clearly struck a chord with me. Thanks for writing so honestly.

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