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Why Women Shouldn't Settle For Unhappy Marriages

I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage lately. Or, more precisely: unhappy marriages. And I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t time...

I’ve been thinking a lot about marriage lately. Or, more precisely: unhappy marriages. And I’m beginning to wonder if it isn’t time for more women to – as we say in politics – “throw the bums out.”

I got to thinking about this after my colleague, Melinda Henneberger, wrote a post last weekend about one of those marriages about which we know just a bit too much: Silda and Elliot Spitzer‘s. You may recall Spitzer as the former Governor of New York who resigned from his job when it was revealed that he’d been patronizing a prostitution service. And you will certainly recall his wife, Silda, who stood next to him as he resigned in what has to go down in history as one of the most painful “stand by your man” performances of all time.

What Melinda zeroes in on is a quote attributed to Silda Spitzer in Peter Elkind’s new book, Rough Justice: The Rise and Fall of Elliot Spitzer. Referring to her husband’s penchant for hookers, Mrs. Spitzer says: “The wife is supposed to take care of the sex. This is my failing. I wasn’t adequate.”

Take a moment to cringe. Please.

And when you’re done, do some reflection. Because we all know plenty of Sildas, don’t we ladies? Strong, confident, loving female friends who dissolve into a pool of self-doubt and self-loathing when their husbands stray or simply fail to live up to their expectations.

Read the rest of this article here

Image: Divorce by jcoterhals via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

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  1. sandy April 29, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    Oh, goodness. I was made to come here today. I’ve been struggling this weekend with what to do with a 15 yr very unhappy, unfulfilling, unsatisfying, dead marriage. I stay for the children.

    I can’t believe I was led here via another blog. WHen I saw your post title, I gasped. I’m going back to read again.

    The wonders of the internet, how did it know???

    • delialloyd April 30, 2010 at 10:31 am #

      thanks everyone for the very thoughtful set of comments on this post. I agree with @biglittlewolf that we can never know what goes on in a marriage and there can be all sorts of reasons that people stay, including (gasp!) love. The post was just meant to speak to people like @sandy who may be in a relationship that makes them unhappy but don’t feel empowered (yet!~) to make a bold move, if that’s what’s called for. (or people like @deborah who have and should feel vindicated.) @kristen-haven’t seen that show b/c not in London (yet!) But love the concept. so glad you have all chimed in with your very different responses!

  2. BigLittleWolf April 29, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    Interesting discussion here, in so many respects. Many marriages (political and celebrity) have been in the public eye in the past year, and I also find the “stand by your man” approach to be a throwback to another time, and likely, a bad idea for the woman and children alike.

    But we never know what goes on inside the family unit. And our (US) family court system has tremendous problems, with incredible inequities that result daily, and usually in women and children getting the (financial) shaft.

    These high profile marriages may indeed offer examples of spouses putting up with too much, but we don’t know the emotional, logistical, or financial consequences that may underlie the reasons for staying. We also don’t know what divorce and its aftermath can mean for the “average” woman and her children. Is it better to stay through some things, and put up with them?

    Sometimes, perhaps so.

  3. Kristen @ Motherese April 29, 2010 at 7:05 pm #

    The case of Eliot and Silda Spitzer is one that has captured my imagination and boggled my mind. As Big Little Wolf says, I can’t pretend to understand the dynamics that go on behind the closed doors of their relationship, but I do know the effect of that Silda Spitzer quote that you cite in your post: cringe-worthy indeed. Meanwhile, Eliot Spitzer seems to be everywhere these days, writing and making public appearances as a Wall Street watchdog. I haven’t heard him talking about his inadequacies as a husband in quite some time.

    P.S. Have you seen the American TV show The Good Wife? A fictionalized version of the political wife scorned with some outstanding performances from a powerhouse cast.

  4. Deborah April 29, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    Dear Delia, I enjoy your posts very much – so often you write about subjects worthy of our thought and discourse. As a 55 yr old woman who has just ended a marriage at year 22, and who now believes that was 10 years later than I should have, I agree completely with your comments. A marriage needs to have 2 happy people in it; not 1 desperately trying to make the other 1 happy without any help. Poor Silda – as a mother of 3 daughters I wish she had immediately stood up for herself, but it just may be taking her a little while, like it did me. Bless her and best regards to you.

  5. Kevin May 2, 2010 at 7:34 am #

    This by far is the stupidiest article i have ever read, I now feel even dumber.

    I am sure all the kids who are dysfunctional to begin with will enjoy the feminist and stupid view of dumping your husband so they can grow up and be even more screwed up than they already are.

    Thanks for putting the kids last. The problem is actually the opposite, people get divorced because they get a blade of grass up their butts sideways.

    You know what kids are saying–they rather their moms and dads fight it out than get divorced, that should tell you something.

    We just had a case here where mom got divorced and found a new boyfriend who had “an edge” to him and this “bad boy” beat the 4-year old to death for wetting his pants. Guess, what, their are some good step-mom and step dads out there, but for the most part it is difficult for the new boyfriend to accept another guys kids and so the kids are at risk–for sexual, verbal and physical abuse. Wake the heck up!

    The problem with society is me,me,me and more me.

  6. pov May 4, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    While all parties involved are responsible for “making it good” often women are repressed their eros more than men. If the status quo appreciated women embracing their sexuality/sensuality things would be very different. Instead it preaches (in subtle – and not so subtle – ways) that good women are reasonable chaste, demure, etc.

    Also, in many ways the prevelance of “cheating” is again something that is mostly a result of society proscribing one fixed type of relationship for all.

  7. Chris May 4, 2010 at 1:45 am #

    Just wanted to say, as a man, that I agree 100%. I also think your advice is universal, i.e. not gender limited. It can work the other way around as well. Rather than Male/Female, it can be more a question of whether one or the other member of a partnership feels inadequate or somehow otherwise deserving of having to bite the bullet. Men particularly, but women also, can develop a convoluted sense of responsibility precisely because they might exacerbate perceived inadequacy in the partner, feeling they need to stick by the other because “who else will”, not realizing that they may be robbing that partner of a happier future by locking them into the mediocre situation.

    Anyway, good article. In this age of “forget about Mr. Right” advice, it is nice to hear a contrary voice. It is OK to wait for the ideal partner, just that you will only get as good as you give yourself, and that “ideal” doesn’t mean “lacking in hardship”.

    • delialloyd May 4, 2010 at 7:43 am #

      thanks chris. couldn’t agree w/you more!

  8. Daryl Boylan May 4, 2010 at 1:47 am #

    I had hoped that the “must be my fault” or “can’t afford divorce” (emotionally, financially, whatever) was much less prevalent in this generation than in mine. Clearly, it’s still alive & well. That being said, we know all marriages go thru’ bad patches & I don’t think quitting then is necessarily bad unless children are involved. Then I think both spouses must take a long, hard look at the painful process of working things out. A marriage has to be very destructive indeed to everyone involved for it to be worse for children than divorce.

  9. Cecilia May 5, 2010 at 2:58 pm #

    I survived my parents’ difficult marriage and then married a man who came from a family of divorces, people who didn’t believe in settling for less. I remain confused about what is the “right” answer when it comes to marital dissatisfaction. Though our experiences were on polar opposite ends, my husband and I both received unhealthy messages about what family/marital commitment means. In the end the most important thing is to be self-aware enough to try and choose the “right” person from the beginning, if at all possible…

    I do think Daryl above says it perfectly.

  10. niconica July 12, 2010 at 4:24 pm #

    Great post! It’s very insightful and the image is certainly thought provoking. :)

    Cheers, Niconica
    http://niconica.wordpress.com

  11. Kelly July 28, 2010 at 6:22 am #

    Dear Delia,

    As a Man, I instinctively wanted to rail against what I thought your point would be: As Women you are Faultless and that the Men in your lives were nice, but ultimately millstones dragging down the “Sacred Feminine”.
    As a confession I am in a “Functional Marriage”(19yrs). I have come to the realization that: I am responsible for all the things that I do, and that I am responsible for changing things about myself that do not fit with Who I want to be. I hope that my wife can see that I am working it, and that she will have the patience to stick around. If that’s something she can not do then you are right: some growth can only be done for (both people), if partings are made. I hope it doesn’t go that way, But on a good note, I think that I have grown enough to accept things with minimal anger and hurt. I am working on being able to see it as a growth experience. (Along with every thing else that happens in life.) I think that the main conflict here is personal growth with acceptance of others. Pressure and friction in all this, come at us from all sides; Friends, Family and the bombardment of information. Society and individuals want stability; So the questions are ; “what do we put up with?” and “What do we put ourselves though?” to get it and still grow at the same time?
    I haven’t given up on marriage totally, I have started to think about put into practice, what it takes to have meaningful mature healthy relationships. Which, in the end is really what I wanted in the first place.

    I’m be back to see what you are saying about things.

    Kelly

    • delialloyd July 28, 2010 at 6:37 am #

      I couldn’t agree with you more, Kelly. Sounds like you’re giving it all you’ve got. In the end, of course, it’s a personal decision. Good luck!

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