Elizabeth Elizabeth is a divorced mother of two elementary-aged boys. She is a former English professor and lay minister who now manages the office and communications for a local church. When she's not working or writing, you'll usually find her cooking for her loved ones or hanging out at coffee shops and bookstores. Contact her by e-mailing her at Elizabeth@mumblingmommy.com.

Dear Guy Who Mansplained My Divorce To Me,

I’m glad your marriage is happy and perfect. I’m glad that your wife of 19 years and the mother of your children still excites you sexually, despite all of your previous youthful encounters with “many women.” I didn’t necessarily need to know those details about your personal life, but I am genuinely happy that you found true love. I hope you have many more years of good companionship and great sex (though I don’t need the details; I really don’t).

I appreciate your sudden interest in my personal life, I really do. I’m sure it comes from a place of mutual respect, concern, and our shared humanity. Now that I’m home, and not futilely trying to work at my desk while you stood awkwardly over me asking personal questions, I’d like to take a moment to address the concerns you raised re: my divorce (which, let’s remember, was 2 years ago.)

I realize that divorce can feel like an epidemic, especially to the perfectly-happily-married. I realize that it’s a sad and serious subject, especially when there are children involved. I understand why you look at my children with pity, even though my children are happy and emotionally stable, are close to both of their parents, and know that they are loved. (I also understand why you refuse to believe me when I tell you this.)

I understand that your values tell you that families should stay together, no matter what, and husbands and wives should honor their vows forever. Those are fine values, and I hope they serve you well.

You said that people divorce too quickly these days, “One fight, one argument, and they divorce!” I admit, only my parents’ training in good manners kept me from laughing out loud at that one.

I have met many divorced people, and none of them abandoned ship after a single argument– at least, no one who was married for more than two weeks (I was married for 16 years). For most of us, unhappiness is a slow drip, a gradual erosion of love that starts small and grows over the years until the grooves are so deep we can barely see a way out.

You said repeatedly that I had no reason– none!– for my divorce and that I had had “the perfect family, the perfect life!” before I “ruined” it. That’s an interesting conclusion for someone who has spent the last year or so chatting with me about the weather. I doubt that those conversations have revealed very much about me as a person, and I know that you’ve never met my ex-husband. So I’m not quite sure why you feel comfortable positioning yourself as an expert on my relationship or my feelings.

You listed your “only three acceptable reasons” for divorce as spousal abuse, child abuse, and substance abuse. Then you looked pointedly at me and said, “You didn’t have any of those things, your life was perfect!” You were almost daring me to contradict you, as if you could goad me into revealing damning information about myself or my former spouse. I said nothing because I don’t see why I should have to convince you that my ex-husband was evil just so that I could be blameless in your eyes. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not willing to slander the father of my children or reveal my most private feelings to a relative stranger.

Being married yourself, you should know that all marriages are like an iceberg: what you see on the surface barely reflects the whole thing. All marriages have dynamics that are hidden to outside observers, even the couple’s own children.

You can know a married couple for decades and not really know what they’re like behind closed doors. So you, my interested acquaintance, must have some rare psychic power if you can look into my marriage– having never even observed me with my former spouse– and declared it perfect, free from problems.

You looked me in the eye and told me, “Admit it, you still love him.” I said of course I do, as the father of my children, but I no longer love him as a husband. You declared that “impossible” and revisited the “perfect family/ ruined life” theme.

At that point, I realized how futile it was for me to argue with you. You and I have very different ideas about love. Love, to you, must never change in order to be real. To me, it is something that is always changing and evolving, either into deeper connections or drying up almost entirely if it is not cared for. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t real or that it doesn’t exist.

But what do I know? I’m only a woman who was married for 16 years and then had the gall to get divorced. You are an outside observer with the advantage of inexhaustible male insight. How can I argue with that?

Category: Divorce

Tags: combined families