Posts

Why Women Initiate Divorce More Than Men

7 Reasons Why Women Initiate Divorce More Than Men

The wedding-day fantasy seems to be infused into almost every girl’s DNA. Fairy tales nurture it, movies exaggerate it, and shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings flat-out exploit it. So it may come as a surprise that women initiate divorce more than men.

Perhaps you’re thinking it’s the hype of the wedding and not the marriage that makes women initiate divorce 69% of the time compared to men. They have a lifetime of dreaming and planning, then boom, babies, bills, and boredom.

But interestingly, the initiative is pretty equally split in non-marital relationships. This suggests that there is “something” about marriage that contributes to the statistical imbalance.

So what is it about tying the knot that pushes women to make a decision that often doesn’t fare in their favor? Women, after all, statistically struggle more than men with finances and lifestyle maintenance after divorce.

And, if they have spent years out of the workforce in order to raise children, they leave their marriages at a disadvantage.

Moreover, they rarely recover fully.

The reasons for which women initiate divorce are not formulaic or limited to those discussed here. But they do tend to fall under some broad categories of dissatisfaction.

Here are 7 reasons why women initiate divorce more often than men. See if any of them hit home for you.

 

  1. Women have high and complex expectations about marriage, and those get dashed.

    Today’s bride-to-be isn’t registering for aprons and cookbooks. She expects an egalitarian relationship with shared responsibilities and benefits not predicated on colonial gender roles. Chances are that she is employed or on a focused career path. So, she is making a contribution to the family that was once the sole responsibility of the husband.

    Women today expect more. They want emotional intimacy, communication, personal growth, and shared responsibility.

    When marriage starts to feel more like wash-rinse-repeat than the promised pursuit of dreams, disenchantment can creep in and take over. Once this tension sets in, women are more likely to feel its effects. Thus, women initiate divorce more often when this contradiction arises.

  2. Equality isn’t all that “equal.”

    Change may be the only thing constant in life. But that doesn’t mean it happens cleanly or logically. In the span of a handful of decades, the role of women in society has changed exponentially. Women are equally in the workforce, earning degrees, and taking on roles of tremendous power and influence. Women are notorious for braving the front lines of initiative and necessary change. Society and entities content with the status quo, however, aren’t always so quick to follow suit.

    Technology, media, education, and a shrinking world continue to expose the always-present powers and potential of women. And yet, acceptance of those traits doesn’t seem to have caught up with married and family life.

    Despite working outside the home just like their husbands, married women still do the majority of childcare and housework. So, while blazing new trails in the world at large, they are finding themselves stuck in traditional expectations at home.

    And many women are finding that this dynamic is holding them back in life. They are capable of and yearning to do so much more. But something has to give.

    Unfortunately, divorce in transformational times is another barrier that women are having to overcome. Equality, it seems, is ahead of its time.

  3. Women are still the emotional caregivers.

    Some things, like a woman’s proclivity for emotional expression and intuition, are a reflection of natural traits. But neither gender has a corner on the market of any natural leaning, especially when choice and effort can enrich it. And yet, when it comes to being sensitive, and responsive to the emotional needs of a family, the expectation still usually falls to the wife or mother. Men may have an inclination to be less emotive and communicative, but they can and often do exploit the stereotype. The weight left on the woman’s shoulders, then, becomes extremely heavy and draining over time. This weight may cause women to initiate divorce long before their spouses.

    It also contributes to women being held back by marriage, as there is often so little energy left for themselves.

  4. Women are more inclined to reach out for support.

    Perhaps it’s because they have so much on their plate (and always have) that women have a knack for building community. Compared to men, they are far more likely to reach out for support. While the voices of wisdom and support may advise a woman to live her best life, men are more likely to stay stuck. Conservatism and emotional closure contribute to their choice to stay in a marriage, regardless of its dysfunction.

  5. Women are getting more educated.

    In the based-on-a-true-story movie Dangerous Beauty, the Venetian courtesan Veronica Franco proves to be more than just beautiful. She learns that courtesans are the only women given access to libraries and education, and she devours the opportunity. In one simple statement to the wives of Venice, she makes the power of that distinction clear: “A woman’s greatest and most hard-won asset is an education.” Five-hundred years later, there is still truth in her words. Women are now leading the graduation rates for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. And college-educated women initiate divorce 90% of the time, compared to 69% for women overall. Yet another testament to the role education and exposure to “what’s out there” have on women stepping into their full potential.

  6. Women have more opportunities today.

    It’s almost surreal to look back on the roles of women in history. Misguided theories, restrictive laws, and male-dominated societies have all conspired to build walls that women are still breaking down. And yet, for all the opportunities and glimpses of equality that women in America have, women in many nations are still living in a dark history. We have only to look at the patriarchal systems of the Middle East to know that one woman’s journey may be world’s away from another woman’s journey.

  7. Women often have nothing more to lose.

    Sometimes being the underdog has its advantages. If a woman is being repressed, mistreated, abused, or neglected in a marriage, she may see no risk in leaving. The greater risk may come from staying. This “nothing left to lose” mindset can be energizing and may literally propel a woman upward.

When you consider all that women have had to overcome throughout history, it’s natural to marvel at their strength and tenacity.

The fact that, in our modern era, women initiate divorce more than men comes with and because of conflicting messages.

On the one hand, women are taking the blinders off and shielding themselves with their own power instead of fear.

On the other hand, sometimes the rest of the world isn’t ready for what can be… and should be.

Notes

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Causes of Divorce

The Most Insidious Causes of Divorce: 107 Women Tell Their Truths

Whether you’re considering divorce or working through its aftereffects, it’s normal to fixate on why. What caused this and where did the problems begin? Who or what is to blame? In an effort to uncover the most common causes of divorce, SAS surveyed 107 women about why they are divorcing their husbands*, and some of their responses may actually surprise you.

Infidelity, as one of the most viscerally painful causes of divorce, gets a lot of press as a catalyst for ruining a marriage. What the SAS survey uncovered as the biggest trigger for divorce, however, was something seemingly less explosive and certainly teachable.

Top Causes of Divorce: You’re Not Listening

The leading cause for divorce was “bad communication,” or just a lack of it. Not feeling heard or understood was what 18 percent of women said led them to dissolve their marriages. Add that to the 12 percent who said “constant fighting” was the biggest cause of divorce and the one percent who simply named “silence,” and that means that faulty communication made up 31 percent of women’s reasons for divorce.

That’s a huge portion of divorces: almost one third of the 107 women we surveyed.

In fact, when this writer asked a small group of five people (three women and two men) who describe themselves as “happily married” what their the secrets were, “good communication” was among the top two most important building blocks to their success.

The first answer that two of the “happily married” women gave was simply “Therapy!”

The same two followed that up by saying that they went to therapy in large part to learn how to communicate better, and that good communication was hugely important in keeping their partnerships functional and strong.

One of the “happily marrieds”, a woman in her early 50s, has been married for 17 years. She owns and runs a successful business with her husband and was previously married. The other, in her early 30s, was also married once before and has been with her current husband for 11 years. Both of them have children from both marriages and work in and outside the home.

“If I say to him, ‘you’re this’ or ‘you did that,’ he shuts down, but if I say ‘It’s hurtful when this happens,’ he’ll listen,” said Makenzi.

Darby said therapy taught her to process first and come back to the conversation later, to pick her battles, and to breathe through her own reactions before speaking.

Dancing in the Sheets and Dating Your Husband

“Someone asked me why we’re so happy together if we fight so often,” said Darby, laughing. “I said ‘Well, the sex is phenomenal.’”

The SAS survey rooted out 7 percent of women naming a “lack of intimacy or connection” and another 7 percent identifying “infidelity” as the leading causes of divorce. They did not disclose whether the extramarital affairs were their own or their husband’s. On that note, though, women of the millennial and baby boomer generations are upending the old stereotype of the hubby coming home with lipstick on his collar. In fact, millennial women are running neck and neck with men for cheating on their respective spouses.

Sexual expression is a foundational part of connection, trust, joy and loving actively. It is an important indicator of good mental and emotional health for a lot of people. Happier couples identify sexual compatibility and having sex at least once a week as one of their important indicators of happiness.

Child-Free Life

Ironically, while regular and enthusiastic sex is part of a happy marriage, the product that can come of this activity is not. Despite how fulfilling it is to raise children, they are a significant stress factor. It may not be a popular perspective, but remaining sexually active yet child-free is often a mark of a vibrant, less taxed marriage.

Of the five people I interviewed, three named sexual compatibility among their top three priorities. Both Darby and Makenzi said that having regular date nights and staying sexually connected are critical to their own happiness and the health of their marriages.

After all, if a marriage is more of a family business or a merger, then it leaves out a foundational, biologically inscribed part of what it means to be human.

If you’re both not interested in sex, fantastic. But if only one of you is uninterested, perhaps it’s time to let the one who is still sexually percolating have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Because, otherwise, isn’t it a little selfish and withholding?

Paul, a 49-year-old father of two who has been married for more than 20 years to the same woman, put it most succinctly.

“Sex I don’t have to fight for,” was his off-the-cuff description of what makes a good marriage.

Working Together

If marriage is a bicycle, the wheels do need to roll in the same direction. When one partner spins off on a new life path, as often happens with dynamic, self-actualized human beings, the other partner can’t carry the whole thing forward alone. If both people can’t work in tandem, one of them inevitably breaks off. Understandably, this inability to work together is one of the top causes of divorce.

A good marriage takes into account not only the journey of the couple, but the individual experience of each person.

“You have to have time to yourself and with each other,” said Sherry, who has been happily married to her husband for 53 years. They married when he was 18 and she was a pregnant 16-year-old. They have two daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They’ve also made it through her husband’s personality-changing stroke.

Hallmarks of a True Partnership

She and her husband play Mr. and Mrs. Claus together every Christmas, but Sherry’s individual activity is a lot less fluffy: she’s been doing cardio kickboxing classes for years. And incidentally, working together was her first rule of thumb for a good marriage, but good communication was the second. After all, how would you work together if you’re not talking and listening to each other about what and how well you’re doing it?


Thinking about divorce? But too scared to take a step, because any step could be one you’d regret?

Breathe. Then read “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.

 


Sherry’s comments touched on a few other catalysts for divorce that the SAS survey unearthed. Among them? Growing apart or evolving in different directions. Women also cited “Empty Nesting,” as one of the main causes of divorce because it makes a couple realize their kids kept them together as their only common ground.

Additionally, sometimes a union suffers too many traumas. Sherry and her husband climbed some steep hills right out of the gates, which primed them for challenges. But had they both sustained a life-altering illness, for example, or a career change turned the partnership into a long-distance one, it may have taxed the elasticity of their marriage too much.

“Sometimes when illness happens, you have to re-learn each other, and that can be challenging, but all of us change every five years or so,” she said.

“You have to know who you are so you can grow together, and so—when the kids leave the house and all the dust settles–you’re not staring at each other across the table, thinking, ‘I don’t know you… and I’m not sure I like you.’”

We Don’t Want the Same Things

A lot of factors identified in the SAS survey break down a couple’s ability to function as a team. Eight percent of respondents said a “disconnect in the value system” was their cause of divorce. That term covers a lot of ground. It could be just another way to describe sexual incompatibility.

“I still think monogamy is the answer to most people’s need for physical and emotional connection,” said Sam, a 49-year-old therapist and a divorced father of a teen.

“But it’s still a hard expectation for one person to meet all those needs.”

Needs don’t just refer to sexual ones. Value system changes also incorporate midlife crises in women and men; giving too much weight to the opinions of extended family members; addictions that one or both partners refuse to surrender; not seeing eye to eye on how to raise the children, and money problems. These causes of divorce can run the gamut from shopping or gambling addiction, hiding credit card debt, underemployment, or not telling your spouse about an investment or business venture that fails. Or, perhaps one spouse supports the other during advanced college courses but never sees the financial reward because the newly degreed trades them in for a new model.

Value Imbalance in the Household

Value imbalances are some of the top causes of divorce. One type of this imbalance involves the “second shift,” the housework that women almost always shoulder when they finish their day job.

Housekeeping is essentially a second, part-time, unpaid job and it is often ignored by male spouses. Women often feel like the maid or hired help. Men may prefer having clean clothes in the closet, not tripping over Legos in the living room, or being able to see the bottom of the kitchen sink, but not enough to actually contribute to the labor. They will even feign ignorance of how to perform a household chore (such as “I didn’t know which part of the dishwasher this went in.”) Right.

Couples who communicate about their housekeeping expectations, define their jobs clearly and then do them without their spouse having to ask or remind them are the ones creating marriages defined as “happy.”

Abuse

It’s frightening how many women who SAS surveyed named domestic abuse as the reason for their divorces: 15 percent. Abuse can be physical, emotional, or psychological. Women are more likely to encounter physical abuse, but men are coming forward with stories of psychological abuse by their wives, such as lying, verbal abuse, and manipulation.

Abuse often stems from a loss of control or a need for power. Sometimes abuse stems from physical illnesses that affect the brain, such as MS or stroke, but in other cases, personality disorders and other mental illnesses are a factor.

ADHD and anger management issues can be managed very well, but only if the individual is willing to unlearn behaviors. Abusers must take responsibility for the damage they’re doing to the people around them. Abuse is frequently exacerbated by drinking, drugs and other addictions.

Four percent of SAS surveyed-women identified narcissism as the final straw for divorcing their husbands. Narcissism is defined by an inflated sense of importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a total lack of empathy for others. Narcissistic traits such as gaslighting, lying, redirection, taking no responsibility for self, having no empathy or regard for other people’s feelings are subtle and hard to spot at first. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, don’t discount it. Talk to a professional and get help getting out.

Loveless Marriage

He may even just come right out and say it: I don’t love you anymore. There are few things that will hurt as badly. At the end of the day, there is no way to salvage a marriage where love doesn’t live in both people. Sometimes, he won’t say it but you know anyway. We can tell when we’ve become invisible to our spouse or when we are no longer cherished.

Monogamy and marriage take tenacity, imagination and an ability to see each other as the new beings we become over the years. Comfort is one thing but too much laziness in a marriage will starve it.

As Sherry said, “You have to remember why you first fell in love.”

 

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist, and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com.

 

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or rebuilding your life post-divorce, the most important decision you can make is to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*At SAS, we support same sex marriage. We may refer to your Ex as “he” or “husband” for the sake of ease.

Divorce survival strategies

35 Divorce Survival Strategies & Insights from Divorced Women

Divorce: it’s one of the most isolating, unraveling, confusing experiences you can go through. And the fact that millions of women have survived it or are going through it alongside you doesn’t make you feel less alone. But what if you could tap into the divorce survival strategies of these women? What if you could fortify your journey with the insight of those who have already traveled theirs?

In an effort to “help women help women,” we sent out a survey to 36 women who have survived divorce. We asked each woman to share her most important piece of advice for other women contemplating or going through a divorce.

Some of these divorce survival strategies will hit home for you. Some may even surprise you.

But all will give you experiential wisdom to contemplate as you navigate your path forward.

Hopefully, you will also recognize the desire and willingness of women to help hold each other up through the tough times.

That’s what SAS for Women is all about: support AND solutions for women.

And the contributors to this survey all carry that compassionate, supportive tribal gene.

They’ve been where you are—through every stage of it. And they want to help spare you any unnecessary pain they can. We know that when you’re in crisis you have limited bandwidth and need to hear the most important messages clearly distilled.

These are the things you must take in! Depending on where you are in your journey—thinking about divorce, in the throes of it, coming out of it—see if you can connect with at least one quote from each section.

Important things to remember before, during, and after divorce:

  1. “You deserve to be treated with respect, to be told the truth, and to live without fear in your marriage.
  2. “Do not ever lose your self-respect.”
  3. “Trust yourself.”
  4. “You are valuable and deserve to live the life you choose.”
  5. “You are right, and you deserve to be happy. Listen to your gut and then create a coalition of support.
  6. “Get organized, and take practical steps from the beginning.”
  7. Get affairs in order prior to filing.”
  8. “Find housing and get rid of belongings as best you can ahead of time.”
  9. “Remember while you are going through it, he* is no longer your partner, ally, or trusted friend. Verify everything.

If you are in the thinking stage, you may be sitting on the fence between leaving and saving your marriage.

You are not alone and no, you don’t have a monopoly on feeling crazy. These women have been there, too. So, which one of these divorce survival strategies stands out to you as a must-do if you are serious, too, about breaking the cycle of living in the crazy zone?

  1. “Don’t think about it for years. If there are problems, put in the work to resolve them or get out.
  2. “Get counseling and focus on yourself first.
  3. “Participate in Christian marital counseling before filing.”

(*SAS note: A religious approach to counseling may or may not be what you seek. If not, consider discernment counseling to find out if there is any hope left in your marriage.)

  1. “Make sure you gave your all to save your marriage so you won’t regret the decision you made to divorce.”
  2. “Arm yourself with information. I think I waited so long to say I wanted a divorce because I didn’t think I could financially make the break or raise my child on my own. The pre-divorce class I did helped so much to give me the validation and confidence I needed. Podcasts helped, too!”
  3. “Think about what’s best for you and your life. You deserve that.”
  4. “Just rip the bandage off and leave. Don’t sit with the unhappiness.”

Ahh, the finances….

Women statistically suffer financially more than men during and after divorce.

This area may be uncomfortable for you, especially if you weren’t in charge of the finances or didn’t work outside the home.

But there’s a reason that 20% of the respondents focused their divorce survival strategies on finances.

Please pay close attention to this section. The antsier a piece of advice makes you feel, the more relevant it probably is.

  1. “Be savvy about the finances.”
  2. “Be on top of your financial situation.”
  3. “Sort out your finances carefully and thoroughly. Make lists and tick them off.”
  4. “Make sure you have the financial means to get a divorce.”
  5. “Have enough money to survive for a year.”
  6. “Prepare financially if you can. If you can mitigate daily financial pressure, you can work on recovering after divorce.”
  7. “Never lie about the finances.”

Take care of YOU and get support!

Women have a hard time thinking about themselves first, or at all. More often, we put everyone else (the kids, our spouse, the dog, the work projects, the volunteer commitments) in front of our own needs. And yet if we don’t take care of ourselves, we are of no value to those we love. This is why it’s so important to have support, to remind you that you matter and that you deserve to honor your one precious life. Sometimes we need our friends or support team to remind us of our own value or to give us a smack and, to paraphrase Cher in Moonstruck, say “Snap out of it!” Whether you’re standing on the other side of divorce (or in a marriage you worked to save), you’ll recognize the lifeline that supports you once you have it. You’ll find it makes all the difference in the world.

  1. “Spend as much money as you need to create a support team. It’s worth every penny.”
  2. “Identify your mentor or coach. And don’t talk to everyone about your situation. Not everyone deserves to hear the gritty details.”
  3. “Find a support community. My Pals (short for Palomas) are my lifeline.”

Understand your feelings will ebb and flow.

Grief is a natural part of divorce. But all your other emotions (guilt, anger, sadness, hope, rejection, smallness, etc) will run the gamut, too, and not always in a predictable order.

  1. “Prepare your heart.”
  2. “Prepare for loneliness.”
  3. “Be prepared for the emotional swings.”
  4. “Go with your gut feelings.”
  5. “You will find a way, because you deserve to be happy.”

Look for the big picture, and stay committed to your future.

Be realistic about the challenges of divorce. But, just as importantly, be confident in your ability to overcome them. You have encountered difficult times before. Remember? There’s a survivor in you, and behind her is a champion.

  1. “Divorce is a long, yet worthwhile process.”
  2. “Be strong. Have the big picture in mind, and time will heal you.”
  3. Be happy no matter the outcome. Second-guessing once it’s over will only stress you out.”
  4. “Make the pain of tearing your family apart worth it. Don’t squander your second chance. Don’t be afraid to make your life meaningful, and don’t be afraid to connect with people again.”

In the vibe of saving the best for last, there’s one final point sent by one of the women:

36. Bonus! You will survive!

(And, just in case you need a little energy behind that mantra, Gloria Gaynor has you covered.)

Have a piece of wisdom or a divorce survival strategy to share with the SAS tribe? We invite you to share what’s gotten you through tough times in the comment box below. Why? Because we know firsthand, amazing things happen when women share with and support each other. 

 

Notes

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. 

SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*SAS supports same-sex marriage. For the sake of clarity and simplicity, we may refer to your spouse as “he” in this article.

Marital separation

Will Your Marital Separation Lead to a Divorce?

Is this a new beginning… or the beginning of the end? It’s the million-dollar question when it comes to marital separation. It is about space to figure things out or space to ease your way out?

When your heart is aching and your head is buzzing with what to do, you’re obviously in an emotional quandary: a separation or a divorce? Or can I somehow force myself to just stick it out?

If that last question causes a nauseous dread and quickly falls into the bucket of impossibilities, you have a couple of choices.

The Options Available to You

You can start a marital separation or you can go straight to filing for a divorce.

A natural question, however, is the statistical link between separation and divorce.

Is there a mystery connection there that you won’t know until you’re in it? Will you somehow be sucked into an “inevitable” divorce without wanting it or being prepared?

The answer isn’t as black-and-white as you might hope.

The “absolute,” therefore, is going to reside with you and your spouse.

You may be overthinking when to leave your husband. That’s to be expected, especially if you have been married a long time.

You may also have a lot of fear about stepping out on your own, either in a marital separation or a divorce. This is understandable, and you certainly aren’t alone.

But this is the fork in the road where your complete honesty—first and foremost with yourself—can ultimately be decisive.

Statistically, 80% of couples who enter a marital separation end up divorcing. And, on average, they remain separated for three years before finalizing their divorce.

On the other hand, 10% of those who separate end up reuniting, on average within two years.

Making Separation Work for You

And therein lies the call for your fearless and complete honesty, both with yourself and with your spouse.

If the two of you are struggling in your marriage but know you want to work things out, you can use a separation to your advantage.

That means you will have to be clear about the rules of engagement—and disengagement.

If you’re truly separating to work on your marriage, then you need to separate and work on your marriage. No dating, no accepting fix-ups, no singles functions, no online dating apps.

In that scenario, it will be important to keep children’s routines as close to normal as possible. Those details will also have to be worked out in advance.

Who is going to leave? Where will that person live? Will the kids go back and forth, or will you switch homes every other week so the kids can stay put?

And, if you’re committed to your marriage, despite the loneliness and uneasiness of separation, will you be going to therapy? Individual, couples, family—all these forms of therapy may be warranted to give you the best tools for healing your marriage and family.

But let’s go back to that 80% because that’s where you may be if you’re vacillating in your thoughts and decisions.

There are very good reasons that most separations end in divorce. You may not want to fess up to them at this point in your journey. But read on and contemplate the truth for yourself.

By the time most couples separate, at least one person has had one foot out the door for some time.

Let’s say that person is you.

You don’t know if you should seek a separation or divorce. You don’t know if you can handle “finality” right now.

Follow Your Intuition

It’s all (understandably) so frightening. So many moving parts. So many things to think about. There are so many things you can’t undo once they’re done. So many things you can’t predict.

But chances are you already have a strong hunch about where this is heading.

If your husband wants to stay married, but you’re staking your claim for time and space alone, you probably have your answer.

Have you been fantasizing about life on your own? A place of your own, a schedule (mostly) your own, a chance to fully express your own tastes, your rules? Is there an Inner Voice talking to you?

Even the mental escape can be a detour from marital dissatisfaction. The mind is very adept at finding ways out of pain.

Without realizing it, you end up nurturing a new mindset that doesn’t include your husband. You have a head start to the door, even if you don’t want to fully admit that’s where you’re going.

The danger of a separation to the possibility of reconciliation is the loss of proximity and contact. You’re either working back toward one another or you’re not.

And the assurance of a separation to the probability of a divorce is the loss of proximity and contact. Again, you’re either working back toward one another or you’re not.

So what happens with that 80% of separated couples who end up divorcing?

Probably the biggest factor is the tendency for at least the partner who initiated the separation to become comfortable with (perceived) singlehood.


If you are thinking about divorce or separation, or even, beginning the process, you may wish to know about Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual group coaching program for women only.

Read more about Annie here


Side Effects of Separation

You start focusing on only the bad parts of your marriage to justify how you feel and what you want now.

You get used to seeing your kids on a set schedule and having time to yourself.

Maybe you feel excited by the prospects of a new relationship—or even an occasional dinner date.

You get used to operating on your own clock and calendar. And the thought of going back to whatever your marriage has come to represent to you feels imprisoning.

And, finally, you are away from the stimulus—or at least the reminder—of your unhappiness.

Basically, you create and get used to a new reality. And going back would be like…well, “going back”…

…or maybe just backward.

What’s important to take from this article isn’t a green light to go sign a lease on a jazzy new apartment. It’s the awareness that, through all the uncertainty, divorce guilt, and yearning for happiness, you really do have the power.

Your responsibility is to be honest—to yourself, to your children, and yes, to the marriage you entered all those years ago.

Because, if you don’t confront your truths (and personal accountability) at this moment of consequential choice, you will confront it at another moment.

And this is one of those major life journeys that a divorce coach can help you navigate.

Whether you stay in your marriage or move on to grow on a different path, coming to a place of conviction within yourself will dramatically influence your future happiness.

And there is always help for you to get there.

 Notes

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are thinking about divorce or already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and not go it alone.

Cheating wife

The Cheating Wife Phenomenon

Move over, husbands with lipstick on your collars, and give the ladies some room. The cheating wife is the latest trend in women’s sexual evolution and the numbers are undeniable.

Globally, Ashley Madison membership numbers nearly match the number of married couples in the United States, and women make up half of the members on the (cheating) app. Think of that: there are enough unfaithful in the world to fill the third-largest continent — and half of them are wives. Ashley Madison, the world leader in married dating websites, had 60 million registered members worldwide as of 2019. In comparison, 62.34 million married couples exist in America as of January 2020.

Looking for Greener Grass

This means that at least 30 million women across the world are looking for sex with someone other than their husbands. And Ashley Madison is just one site. Their numbers don’t include the people on dating sites like Match, Bumble, and Tinder who are lying about their “single” status in order to land lovers on the side. That estimate is one in six. With those numbers and the topic “cheating wife” netting 5,400 hits a month on search engines and divorce sites, a new picture of sexual relationships is emerging.

Not only is cheating big business, but it isn’t just for husbands anymore.

Even the infamous 2015 hack into Ashley Madison’s database didn’t deter new users for long. Ashley Madison’s net worth added up to $1 billion six years ago—right about the time the hack occurred. As breaches go, it was explosive. Hacked information doesn’t get much more sensitive than a database full of cheating spouses, and members’ desire to maintain that secrecy doesn’t get more emotionally loaded. The hack exposed an estimated 32-37 million members’ intention to cheat, but the company boldly added another 30 million members—effectively doubling their numbers. Before the breach, they were signing about 30,000 new members every day and were back to adding about 22,000 daily just four years afterward.

The Cheating Wife & The Gender Gap

In essence, the numbers show that people are willing to risk a lot for sexual satisfaction and there is no current difference in cheating rates between the genders. But that equality has been a long time coming. Among Baby Boomers in the 57-75 age range, 25 percent of men and 10 percent of women have infidelity in their interpersonal portfolios. Just two generations later, among Millennials aged 25-40, females outnumber their male counterparts for infidelity with 11 percent of women cheating versus 10 percent of males.

So, while spouses may lie, the numbers don’t. An equal number of women and men are putting their marriage vows, family solidarity, financial well-being, and emotional equilibrium on the line for sexual expression that is fully joyful. In short, they’d risk upending their lives for the sake of feeling alive.

The questions women are asking ourselves and each other is: Why? If we are unfaithful, how do we live with it? And where did we get the idea that women feel less sexually motivated or “more monogamous” than men?

A Powerful Motivator

In the cheating wife trend, we are seeing sexual stereotypes debunked. The dusty old beliefs that women aren’t as interested in sex as men, or are motivated to have extramarital affairs because they want emotional intimacy rather than great sex, are getting exposed as a myth. Social norms made these false or only partial truths appear to be the “Truth.” Generally speaking, women didn’t want to rock that boat and men wanted to command it.

In my experience and from the woman-to-woman conversations I’ve heard, we are just as interested in sex as men are, if not more so. Our conversations about it tend to be much more explicit, as well. The current research, articles, and statistics match that impression.

Women might be more aware than men of the potential impact of sex since we bear the consequences of it in the form of pregnancy, childbirth, and most of the child-raising. We’ve also experienced sexual shaming across many world cultures. Historically, sexually free women get slapped in the face, stigmatized, or killed. (Sexually free men? A slap on the back and a high-five are much more common than recriminations). But women risk it. Women don’t go lightly into affairs, either, but they do it. When they do, it’s often because, despite therapy and many attempts at communicating their needs, they are still not reaching the intimate connection or orgasm that they seek with their husbands. While some may love their husbands and want to save the marriage, years and years of emotional or sexual flatlining is intolerable. The joy of intimacy is something they decide they want.

Sex and Emotions

In my opinion, the story that women have sex to forge greater emotional connections or are more aroused when they do feel an emotional connection has truth to it. And so does the story that we love variety in our partners and great sex—both of which motivate women powerfully. The larger, more compicated “Truth” usually lies somewhere in the middle.

“One reason women cheat is that being new to someone, being seen as interesting and desirable exactly who we are at the time, is really important, and so is being with someone who delights in us,” said one friend. “We’re not the same old person to someone new and they’re new to us. We’re not being compared to who we were 20 years ago.”

And of course, there is the added titillation of doing something forbidden.

What happens when we are denied something? It becomes more desirable. Add that zest to the spice of variety and you have a strong motivator despite the risk of being caught and despite the risk of divorce. Among “ever-marrieds,” 40 percent of those who cheated are divorced, compared to only 17 percent of the faithful being divorced. Factoring in the adrenaline of danger adds even another degree of excitement.

Guilty Pleasure or Good for the Goose and Gander?

There are also the more emotional consequences of cheating, but even those aren’t nearly as clear-cut as you’d think. One Catholic-raised friend who did cheat on her husband felt guilty about it but also knew she was unhappy in her marriage to a controlling man. Like many women, she used the affair to leverage herself out of the marriage.

The only thing that her guilty feelings really impacted was the financial fallout from her divorce.

“My mistake was that I let him make me feel guilty enough about cheating that I didn’t seek more of a settlement of what I was legitimately entitled to,” she said.

You might think that guilt would stop women from being untrue to their mates. However, a lot of us do not feel the guilt and shame that society taught us to feel or have inflicted on each other.

Reported Benefits of Infidelity

“For these women, the release they experienced through sex with an affair partner saved their marriages. Prior to participating in an affair, they doubted their own ability to stay in the marriage. They simply didn’t know how much longer they could live sexlessly or with a sex life absent pleasurable release. However, the thought of dissolving their marriages evoked sadness and despair. But the sexual relief of being a cheating wife made them feel capable of continuing to stay in those marriages—something they very much desired,” writes Alicia Walker, Ph.D. in her article “The Secret Lives of Cheating Wives.”

“With their sexual needs met, at least periodically, they found themselves better able to endure the daily frustrations of a shared life. They could overlook an unequal division of household labor, irritating habits, and even inattentiveness, in part because they kept such a large, stigmatized secret from their spouse. Many pointed out that when they got angry with their husbands about something small, they checked themselves with some version of the thought: ‘I’m a cheating [b-word].’ But aside from the guilt about their behavior, the sheer power of having their sexual needs met enabled them to be a more gracious version of themselves.”

Her Story, Not His-Story

What we are seeing as women become primary breadwinners, business moguls, national leaders, and power brokers in greater numbers is more than a sexual evolution. It is a resurrection of women’s original sexuality.

Look back at the Goddess-centered cultures that covered the globe for the Paleolithic period. There was no passage of property linked to children, who were only guaranteed to belong to one man by control over his wife’s sexuality. Wealth, the means of making it, and children belonged more to the cooperative group than the ruling few.

It wasn’t until the much later and much shorter epochs that cultures became more hierarchical and violence-dominated. Wealth moved upward to a chosen few male leaders and their consorts, instead of funneling down and out to the greater community. (This is kind of the “One Ring to Rule Them All” model). Those few men of means began to want a guarantee that their children were theirs before making them their heirs. So, women became property, and their sexual power came under control, scrutiny, and often, punishment in one form or another.

We have since learned to normalize that control and the resulting muffled female sexuality. It clearly isn’t natural. When we look at how much longer the Paleolithic lasted than later periods, and the sexual norms that went with it, the rising tide of “cheating wives” seems to indicate more of a return to nature rather than an aberration.

What we are seeing in the cheating wife trend may be disturbing to some and vindicating for others. Regardless, it is an indicator of women taking their power back and re-writing their story themselves.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist, and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves wordcraft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com.

Since 2012, SAS for Women dedicates time and effort to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusion afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

How to tell if you're in a bad marriage

How Do You Know You’re in a Bad Marriage?

So, you had a fight. All couples fight now and then. So, you can’t remember the last time you had sex. You have young kids and a full-time job, and you’re exhausted. So, you don’t talk about anything but work and the kids. What is there to say that hasn’t been said already? Is all this normal, or does it mean you might be in a bad marriage?

For all the bliss and pixie dust that locked you into saying “yes,” you know that marriage isn’t a fairy tale. It’s hard work—boring at times, lonely at times, even briefly regretful at times.

But you’ve known enough couples happy in their lifetime marriages to know that the work is worth it. Marriage fulfills, heals, teaches, and gives life.

And yet, you’ve had this inner voice nagging you for a long time. Something’s not right. Why am I having doubts? And why am I so unhappy? Why do I feel so unloved? Who is this person I’m living with? How will I survive ‘forever’ like this?

You know better than to say anything to any of your friends and neighbors because all they see is a happy couple. Everything looks great from the outside, so saying anything would just rock the boat.

But they don’t see your life on the inside. They don’t feel the little blows of disrespect and sarcasm. They don’t see the physical and emotional distance that has become your norm.

Besides, your husband doesn’t even know that you’re struggling inside and wondering if you’re in a bad marriage. Would saying something make him angry, hurt him, make him not trust you?

Where to Turn for Support

If this is your first marriage, you have no prior experience for comparison.

If your parents were divorced or had a bad marriage, you have that negative modeling rooted in your psyche.


Should You or Shouldn’t You Divorce? Watch our free video class for ways to understand yourself.


How, then, are you supposed to figure out if your marriage is just going through a predictable phase or is actually a bad marriage?

Thankfully the internet has infinite choices for reading up on relationship problems and how to deal with them.

But, in the long run, it’s that same inner voice that’s making you question your feelings that’s also going to lead you to answers.

That’s not to say you have to find those answers on your own. At a time when your self-doubt is mounting, you need to have reliable sources of wisdom and guidance.

That may be your best friend who knows you better than you know yourself. It may be a therapist or divorce coach capable of listening for critical cues and giving you feedback on what’s “normal” and what’s not.

What’s important when you’re questioning yourself and your marriage is that you seek the help of someone with expertise and wisdom.

Can this person look beyond the veneer of your life and reach into the deeply planted seeds of discontent?

Can this person help you discern the difference between a bad marriage and a marriage that simply needs help?

A Word of Caution: Talking to Your Parents

One suggestion worth considering: You may have a close relationship with one or both of your parents. But unloading your marital concerns on them can actually work against you.

The fact that they’re from a different generation than you means they made decisions and life choices in a different context.

And the fact that you’re their daughter means they will instinctively side with you to protect you at all costs.

That alliance may feel good, but it won’t help you examine yourself and your marriage objectively. And it can also cause your parents to worry about you and/or view your spouse differently.

So how do you figure out if you’re just in a rut or actually in a bad marriage? Isn’t there a spectrum of “good and bad” for marriage? “Wonderful, great, good, OK, needs some work, all about the kids, unsatisfied, unhappy, miserable, afraid”?

There are definitely predictable signs to look out for. But no single sign is going to point to divorce. (You didn’t think it would be that simple, did you?)

You may want to start your query with a legitimate marriage quiz from a reputable source. Knowing the right questions to ask is a huge step toward satisfying that unsettled inner voice.

Below are several signs that your marriage may not be as happy as it should be.

(I’m being careful not to use the term “bad marriage” here because most marriages—even deeply happy ones—experience some of these symptoms.)

  • You’re not having sex anymore, or only infrequently. 

Physical intimacy is one of the exclusive gifts of marriage. It elevates your relationship above all others. And it’s an essential part of the connection between spouses.

Is one of you avoiding sex? If so, why? Are you exhausted from raising kids and working a full-time job? Do you not feel good about yourself and therefore don’t feel sexual?

Do you and your spouse discuss your sex life openly, or do you keep your desires and dissatisfaction to yourself?

Have you experienced sexual abuse, either from your spouse or from someone else?

There can be a lot of reasons for a decrease in sex. But an honest examination of and discussion about those reasons is essential to restoring this important part of your marriage.

  • There has been an infidelity.

Does having an affair mean you will divorce? Not necessarily.

Believe it or not, affairs can happen in a happy, “good” marriage just as they can happen in a bad marriage.

So, as heart-shattering as an affair is, it doesn’t necessarily point to divorce. It may be the impetus needed to learn the skills necessary for communicating needs, wants, complaints, and love in a healthy way.

  • You fight all the time. 

Living that way is exhausting. The volley of shouting, blame, and criticism can make you walk on eggshells and wonder why you’re even together.

  • You have stopped fighting altogether. 

Fighting, however, isn’t bad in and of itself.

It’s how you fight, when you fight, and especially why you fight that matter.

If you’ve muted your interactions in an effort to avoid the altercations, you may have decided you don’t have anything worth fighting for. 

  • You don’t feel heard. 

Marriage is supposed to be that safe haven where you can bare your soul and at least feel heard on a heart level.

Couples don’t have to agree on everything in order to listen from a place of love and concern for one another person’s highest good.

Not feeling heard—or feeling you just get “blah blah” lip service—is an important sign to pay attention to.

Likewise, are you listening to your spouse or shutting him out?

  • You don’t feel respected. 

Couples can go through tough times but still feel and demonstrate respect for one another.

When sarcasm, negative body language, interruption, control, and other disrespectful behaviors creep in, it’s time to pay attention.

  • You daydream about life without your spouse. 

Having the occasional thought of “What would my life be like if I hadn’t married?” isn’t unusual. Nor is wondering what it would be like to be one of your single friends.

But fantasizing about life without your spouse or with someone else points to deeper issues that need to be addressed.

Confiding in a therapist can help you determine if, for example, an underlying issue like depression may be affecting your perspectives.

  • One of you has an addiction. 

Addiction can’t survive without an enabling environment.

If one of you is an active addict, your marriage is inevitably riddled with codependency.

And, if your marriage is going to survive, you will both need to get help.

  • There is abuse. 

As with addiction, abuse can’t continue without an underlying dynamic to support it.

Domestic abuse is not something you can figure out or solve on your own.

If you and/or your children are being abused, it is imperative that you seek professional help and safety immediately.

  • The Four Horsemen come riding in. 

No one has done more research on the predictability of divorce than John Gottman.

If your marriage is being visited by what he calls The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse—criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling—pay attention. These are definite signs of an unhealthy marriage pointed in the wrong direction.

No one walks into a marriage with a perfect formula for making it work. But everyone who walks into marriage does so with a moving truck of history, experience, and learned behaviors.

Some issues, like addiction and abuse, demand immediate action and professional help.

Other issues, however, aren’t always so obvious.

If you and your spouse don’t have the communication skills to discuss them in a healthy way, that’s part of the issue. Communication is the issue.

You’re the only one who can decide if your marriage is worth saving. No one else can look at your life and tell you you’re in a “bad marriage.”

It’s your intuition, your desire, your choices, and your commitment that will ultimately direct you.

It really does come down to YOUR inner voice.

Listen to it.

Notes

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

 

Best Divorce Help

The Best Divorce Help Centers on These 4 Things

The mere prospect of divorce can be overwhelming, lonely, isolating, and confusing. And figuring out where to get the best divorce help, regardless of whether and when you decide, can be daunting.

Sometimes the most difficult part of a task is simply getting started. And that’s especially true with something as life-altering as ending a marriage.

Where do you even begin?

How do you strategize the pragmatics while navigating all the messy emotions and relationship issues?

Do you explore the process of divorce on your own, or share your thoughts with your spouse?

Do you separate or stay in the same home?

What about the kids? What about income?

What about…? What if…? How? When? Who?

You may be nagged by your inner voice telling you that something isn’t right. Something hasn’t been right for a long time. You can’t live like this anymore, but you don’t know what to do about it.

And so the clock ticks and the calendar pages turn…

And then you finally reach a fork in the road. You realize you have been overthinking leaving your husband, but haven’t taken any action. And you can’t keep living this way.

At the very least, it’s time to get answers, even if those answers lead you to stay in your marriage.

No matter what the outcome of your exploration is, the only way to deal with your fears is to move through them.

There are so many aspects of divorce, and no one but a divorce attorney goes into marriage well-versed in them.

What’s important to remember from the start of your journey is that divorce is a whole-life, whole-person experience. The approach to it, therefore, needs to be just as holistic.

We frequently discuss the transactional nature of divorce on this site, primarily as a caution not to lead or make decisions from your emotional place. Too often, women will back down when it comes to finances and assets, or they don’t think ahead to the future. This is an area, for example, that warrants a compartmentalizing of thought, emotion, and action.

But emotions are a huge component of both marriage and divorce. And they need to be acknowledged, dealt with, and supported, too.

For purposes of this article, we’re going to focus on four main areas of your well-being as you think about or begin divorce.

The smartest approach is the village approach. It involves strategizing the various areas affected by divorce and finding the best help, advice, and support possible for each area.

In essence, your first job in thinking through divorce is to build your village, your trusted circle of experts, friends, and support.

There are four common categories of support that you may require:

1. Clarity and Encouragement

It’s important to remember to think in terms of the big picture. Who has the familiarity, expertise, personal experience, and resources to guide and support you through this?

Perhaps you have a sister or best friend who has gone through the divorce process. She can be a tremendous source of comfort and been-there-done-that support.

You will also want to include expert professional help that can bring objectivity and strategic guidance to the table.

There are therapists who specialize in marriage and divorce issues. Finding one early in the process can be an emotional and procedural anchor for you, even after a divorce.

Some of the best divorce help you will find is from a divorce coach.

You may not have even known that profession existed. However, a divorce coach could be your greatest asset while navigating a divorce or a legal separation.

A divorce coach knows the process from start to finish. And a big part of her job is pointing you in the right direction at each stage of the process, based on your specific story and needs.

She will have access to resources you may not otherwise know you need. She will have experience working with other professionals in the area of divorce. And she will be able to steer you toward quality divorce help.

Think of a divorce coach as the ultimate guide and concierge for your varied divorce needs. A divorce coach had perspective, knowledge, resources, guidance, and support, all bundled into one person.

If you can’t afford to work one-on-one with a professional at this time, consider joining a group coaching program. You will not only receive guidance, but also you’ll receive support in the context of camaraderie with others going through the same process.

2. Emotional Stability

Sometimes the best divorce help is right inside you.

Your emotions are messengers, loaded with information that can lend insight and direction to your decisions.

I mentioned earlier that we often talk about separating your emotions from certain decisions. In no way does that mean that you should disregard or sacrifice your emotions.

Finding emotional support during the divorce process is of paramount importance.

You will need a place to “let go”—to vent, cry, stomp, question, and speak freely. You will also need safety and the assurance of like-minded, compassionate people who can help you discern the messages in your emotions.

All that fear, self-doubt, anger, sadness, grief, worry, exhaustion—you’re not the first to experience that cauldron of emotion. And you won’t be the last.

Sometimes the people you turn to for clarity and support—fellow divorcees, a counselor, coach, or support group—can help prop you up emotionally.

There is also an element of emotional stability that is often overlooked.

Self-care and good survival skills have never been more important than at this time.

We hear certain advice so often that we become numb to it, but now is the time to listen. Get plenty of sleep. Eat nutritious foods. Have a self-care routine. Exercise. Get out into nature. Meditate. Pray. Have a hobby. Create. All of these bits of advice are common for an important reason: they work!

The divorce itself, involved and exhausting as it is, is just the beginning of your new life. We need you healthy, strong, and encouraged for the journey ahead!

3. Legal Options

The time to have a legal consultation with a divorce attorney is before you tell your husband you want a divorce. And, regardless of your intended style of divorce (e.g. DIY, mediation, uncontested, contested, collaborative, etc), it is always best to have a legal consultation first.

If, however, you find yourself on the receiving end of divorce papers, you will want to find an attorney immediately for an understanding of what you should and should not be doing. This is where a divorce coach can be a diamond on a rough path.

Every state has its own divorce laws and procedures, and a divorce attorney will spell those out for you.

He or she will also walk you through the best- and worst-case scenario so you can be prepared and put yourself at the best advantage.

Whatever you do, don’t rely on Google for your legal advice! Sure, you can do some cursory research to generate questions and gain general familiarity about divorce laws in your state (alimony or custody laws, for example). But learn what the law says about your circumstances, and what you should optimize, from a lawyer who is looking at the details of your marriage.

4. Financial Choices

Yes, your divorce attorney can walk you through all the legal steps and their possible outcomes. But a huge part of any divorce is the division of assets. And that can get messy, depending on the length of the marriage and its accumulated investments and assets. Having a smart financial expert as part of your “village” is absolutely essential.

As a woman, you can’t afford to not find out what would be the best LONG-TERM plays for you because research says it’s harder economically for women after divorce compared to men.

So, don’t rush to get through the negotiation just because you want to be done. Be sure to learn what your must-haves are.

A good financial advisor (meaning one who has been in the business for more than 15 years and has seen various markets come and go) will be able to tell you about what’s in your interest in the near and LONG run. For this, SAS for Women adores Ronit Rogoszinski at Women + Wealth Solutions because she speaks plainly, educates, and clearly understands what women go through when they divorce. (And no, SAS received no “kick backs” from Ronit. We share her name openly because she’s impressed us with her service to our diverse — both, economically and geographically — female clients.)

Divorce is something no one needs to tackle alone. There is help available in every area of this painful (but liberating) journey—emotional, legal, financial, parental, etc.

The best divorce help starts at the center and works its way out. Establish your core supporters and allow them to help you expand your village from there.

By making a few wise choices at the foot of your journey, you may very well create a support system that sees you through life.

Notes

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Suing the other woman

Suing the Other Woman

A recent lawsuit in North Carolina has called attention to the presence of “the other woman” as a cause of divorce.

There are only six states left where a woman (or man) can file this kind of lawsuit—the other five being Mississippi, South Dakota, Hawaii, New Mexico and Utah. The legal suit, termed “alienation of affection” and its precedent dates back to the 1800s when women were still considered property. Initially, only men could make such a claim. That right shifted later to married women as well, but most states have repealed the dated laws in part because they were vehicles for revenge, greed, and blackmail. There is also the slipperiness of trying to litigate what makes a good marriage. Even the most practiced lawyer might find that tying the ideals of partnership, commitment, respect, and trust to the pragmatic iron of money is a bit like trying to put the mercury back into the thermometer.

In the case of N.C. residents Elizabeth Clark vs. Adam Clark (U.S. Army Major, Special Forces) and Dr. Kimberly Barrett (U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and an ob-gyn at Womack Army Medical Center), the questions of infidelity and revenge include both the plaintiff and defendant. Both Clarks cheated on each other during their marriage, but later renewed their vows and went to marriage counseling. Regarding the issue of revenge, the former Mrs. Clark sought and won punitive damages against Barret for alienation of affection.

Details of The Clark v. Clark Case

The motivation for seeking these damages may have had more to do with child support than revenge, as Major Clark allegedly refused to pay most of it on behalf of the two children the couple had together. In retaliation, Clark posted nude pictures of his now-ex-wife on dating web sites, along with the claim that she had sexually transmitted diseases. Aside from being against the military code of conduct and behavior unbecoming of an officer, these were pictures that Clark had sent to her husband while they were married. He had been the only recipient—the only one, that is, before he made them public and publicly humiliating.

Revenge and punishment make up one aspect of the Clark v. Clark case.

Another is the question of property—begging the question addressed in some articles of whether it is possible to steal a spouse as a thief might steal a car or necklace. Marriage does involve property, but holding to the idea that such lawsuits are not valid from a humanist/feminist perspective because they sustain the antiquated, demeaning idea that the spouses themselves are property is one-dimensional. A more accurate interpretation is that this is far less about property than it is about a spouse violating a contract—that promise to love and cherish that are typically part of the marriage vows.

The Other Woman

It is not the “Other Woman” who made that vow; it is the spouse who is responsible for his (or her) end of that stick.

So why should a spurned wife go after the other woman for punitive damages—an action characterized as simply revenge, just a way to lash out at her for being his new choice?

The spouse breaks the vow; why should the other woman be on the hook for a promise he made? Because, in making the decision to get involved with and pursue a lasting relationship with a married man, the other woman is an agent of that contract violation.


If you are dealing with infidelity, consider reading What to Do With Your Cheating Spouse


She may not have made any promises to the wife of her lover, and she may not have signed a non-compete clause, and he may have cheated with someone else if he hadn’t with her.

But the fact remains: she helped him cheat.

There are grey areas, of course, and love does make things messy with some frequency. Occasionally, the spouse who is being betrayed is venal or toxic or has some other aspect of character that their mate finds unsustainable and unlivable. People are also organic; they change and grow, and the partners who once fit now don’t, and both of you may now fit and feel better with someone else. The other woman may have been one agent of a marriage’s demise, but there are almost certainly others, and it is not often appropriate or healthy to blame her. One could make intellectual and spiritual arguments about the role of the “other” in a marriage.

Professional Implications

Cheating may not be illegal in most cases or most states, but it is a question of ethics–particularly for a woman who took the Hippocratic Oath to “abstain from that which is deleterious or mischievous.” (Technically that does only pertain to patients, though). We may not marry the guy or the gal, but when we mess around with a married person, we help them cheat. Grey areas or not, who took the vow or not, that fact does remain.

In the case of Dr. Kimberly Barrett, not only has she made a high-powered, highly educated career out of facilitating the birth of other women’s families, she sat there in the courtroom and watched her lover denounce the love he told his wife he had for her all along. He said out loud on legal record that he lied to her, and Barrett watched with complicity, so that she could avoid responsibility for her participation in the corrosion of another woman’s marriage.

Apparently, the court agreed that she was culpable. On charges of alienation-of-affection, libel and revenge porn, Clark (a Fayetteville bartender) won $3.2 million from her ex-husband and his (new) wife.

Facing Facts

All grey areas, intellectual and spiritual perspectives and angles aside for the moment, it does make you want to ask, “How dare you?” to both parties, as Annette Benning’s character in the new movie Hope Gap says to that other woman, after her husband of 29 years tells her he is leaving her for his new love.

Not only did Clark cheat on his wife (as have hundreds of thousands of other spouses, male and female, across the globe), he stood up and testified in court that he never loved her, despite telling her throughout their marriage that he did. Barrett and Clark used the defense that Clark never loved his wife; ergo, Barrett wasn’t guilty of despoiling the sanctity of anything. The court disagreed.

To a sharper point than alienation of affection laws, then, perhaps one should give more focus to making illegal and subject to punitive damages the practice of marrying someone and maintaining that marriage under false emotional pretenses.

Notes:

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

What Women Are Doing to Divorce

Women and Divorce in Transformational Times

Those sounds you hear are the shattering of a glass ceiling and the fetters of an old patriarchal paradigm breaking wide open as something gorgeous emerges. 

That Something Is Us.

The recent election of Kamala Harris as the first woman of color to serve as U.S. Vice President has ushered in a new frontier of possibility made real. Women are bringing about massive social and political change, reaching from the Oval Office to schoolrooms and kitchen table classes across the country, where little girls—many of them future, grown women of color—are seeing for the first time a vice president who looks like them. Simultaneously, family dynamics and parental role models are rapidly evolving. Just as political and social evolution are dovetailed, women’s partnership with themselves is expanding as new social and industry innovators, like divorce coaches, empower them to consider marriage from a place of choice. This reframes marriage as not being a necessity—and a marriage’s end, not as a failure, but as rite of passage to their own next level of self.

The Long View

Consider what we’ve done: one hundred and one years ago, women in the United States still weren’t allowed to vote, and white women suffragists threw their black counterparts under the bus of that movement for the sake of political expediency and placation. But recently, not only did women vote, they helped lift a woman of color to the second-highest office in the country. We now have a female vice president for the first time in our history. American women, once considered patriarchal property, continue to shift out of the old, claiming not only new representation in leadership at the highest public level but also at the most intimate interpersonal level.

According to a 2015 American Sociological Association study, 90 percent of all divorces in the U.S. are initiated by college educated women.

Publicly, globally, through the connectivity of the internet, women are linking arms with each other and becoming more of a village. They are taking oaths of office, but they are also taking a stand on behalf of other women as they face doubt and scorn, naming their sexual abusers. They are serving as truth-seeking journalists and challenging dictators who seek to distort reality. Privately, they are choosing to have children with or without a partner, or not to have children at all, or not to marry. Continuing to break with the norms, they are leveraging their divorces as transformational ritual journeys. These women are stepping resolutely out of marriage as a primary definition of their value and worth. Or they are picking themselves up off the ground, and making real on the adage: “it’s not how many times you fall but how you get back up that matters.”

Relinquishing the Shame of Divorce

Many women are fortunate to live in countries like the United States where divorce is an acceptable option and has been so, fully, for three generations. Baby Boomers may be surging to the divorce court in large numbers now, but they didn’t always find the topic so approachable. For many Gen Xers, Millennials and Gen Zers, the heavy stigma associated with divorce no longer exists. And it is easier to discuss divorce and go through with it successfully than ever before.

What is the first step? Women have learned it’s about getting support and recognizing they are not alone when contemplating, navigating, metabolizing, and conquering an alien terrain called divorce.

So, don’t be afraid of the noise. We are literally transforming how the world understands power, property, subject and object.  While one woman is second-in-command of a nation—joining other countries where women already serve in the highest office—thousands of others take greater command of their emotional and professional well-being. This includes their mental health, their finances, their children, their life trajectory, and themselves.

Divorce in a Transformational Time

While the landscape of divorce continues to shift in favor of liberation, women are gaining better control over their happiness and personhood. Interestingly, having divorce as an option also serves to validate the search for joy and fulfillment, whether that be living peacefully with yourself or making space to find a better-suited partner. The backdrop of history continues to progress towards greater empowerment and equal treatment of women. Socially and culturally,  the zeitgeist continues to accommodate new models of the woman that expand beyond stereotypes and reproductive utility. While there is still so far to travel, women are embracing the transformational power of divorce as a signpost for other women, and for their own personal evolution.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

If you are considering or dealing with divorce, or recreating your life in its afterward, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your free 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion and integrity.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”