Tips For Adulthood: Five Smart Posts About Divorce

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

Talk of divorce is in the air this week.

It all began with an article in last Sunday’s New York Times Styles section by Pamela Paul entitled How Divorce Lost Its Groove. The thrust of the article is that, at least among a sub-set of affluent, well-educated couples, divorce is not only less prevalent, but also more stigmatized.

And the blogosphere has been alight with discussion of divorce ever since.

I enjoy reading about divorce. Not because my own marriage is jeopardized (at least at the moment!). But because I have so many close friends and family members who are divorced. So I’m always heartened when people are open and honest about divorce, rather than treating it like cancer. Which is why – among other reasons – I was so pleased when Nora Ephron opened up a divorce vertical at Huffington Post.

To that end, here are five smart posts about divorce for all of us  – divorced, married, single and “to be determined”:

1. Over on Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams endorses Paul’s main thesis, arguing that at least in her own nominally progressive, helicopterish-parenting social circle, divorce does lead to social ostracism. As she writes: “There’s great — and by that I mean terrible — irony in the way that the most supposedly enlightened and liberal of parenting enclaves can feel suffocatingly like a meeting of the Harper Valley PTA.” Williams concludes that we’d all be better off if we treated divorce as a messy reality of contemporary life, instead of as a personal achievement. And it would be better for our kids too.

2. And speaking of kids, over on the Huffington Post, recently-separated Stephanie Dolgoff (of Formerly Hot fame) talks about why, sometimes, you really do need to “put your kids second.” In the aftermath of her own separation, Dolgoff, too, was subjected to the stares and idle gossip of her close-knit neighborhood. She was aghast at how few people could actually hold back from implying that by divorcing, she had completely ruined her children’s lives. In the long run, however, she firmly believes that in securing her own happiness, she will secure her daughters’ as well.

3. Over at Slate’s XX Blog, K.J. Dell’Antonia disagrees with the premise that our attitudes towards divorce have fundamentally altered. Harkening back to her own childhood in the 1970s, she speculates that divorce was always difficult and always stigmatizing for those going through it. She encourages us to think of divorce as a phenomenon that’s still finding its groove, rather than one that’s lost it.

4. Some of the most thoughtful blogging on divorce can be found at Big Little Wolf’s Daily Plate of Crazy. Here’s an earlier post that Big Little Wolf wrote called Something Like Marriage, in which she explains how, despite being married, her husband never really “showed up.” This post goes to the heart of the sort of disillusionment with marriage that can drive one to divorce, even absent an affair.

5. Finally, to end on a positive note, I really liked this essay by Katie Brandi in the New York Times Modern Love column last year. In it, Brandi recounts her own disillusionment with marriage, and how she rose out of it – despite the tears, the disappointment and the new-born – to fashion a new, happier life for herself.

As I read these over, I realize that it might sound like I’m pro-divorce. As these essays recount, however, I don’t think anyone is pro-divorce, least of all those who go through it. But divorce is a painful reality of modern marriage and the sooner we face up to its myriad complexities – emotional and practical – the better.


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





  • Reply Lynn T

    June 22, 2011, 4:28 pm


    My mother and father were married for 26 years. I like to think, some time, in all that time, they were happy. But if they were, I NEVER, ever saw it. And I knew something was wrong by the time I was eight. EIGHT.

    I kept my door closed. I came out to greet my dad when he got home from work, and then went back into my room.

    I ate by myself. Every night.

    We put on our Lee-Press-On smiles and made nice.

    When my mother sat me down, my first year of college and said, “Honey, your dad and I are getting divorced. I know this is surprising…”

    “No. It isn’t. What’s surprising is that it took you THIS LONG.”

    I was not damaged by my parents splitting up. I was damaged by them staying together.

    • Reply Delia Lloyd

      June 24, 2011, 11:35 am

      @Lynn, I don’t think you’re alone. And I love the “Lee Press On” smiles. I think so many families feel ashamed about divorce that they feel like they have to fake the whole happy family thing. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Reply Howard Baldwin

    June 22, 2011, 9:36 pm

    Emotionally violent as divorce might be, I could have done with a less gruesome image.

  • Reply Lisa

    June 22, 2011, 10:10 pm

    Delia, I wrote this post about my own divorce., which details my extreme shame. And I have often thought that while all the shame-mongering may prevent some unnecessary divorces, it certainly makes the more necessary ones all the more painful. I just don’t known how much of the damage to children is caused by the misery society puts divorcing parents through, and how much is innate to the process.

    I too was heartened by the HuffPo divorce section. Although I’m not pro-divorce either, so many well-meaning people find themselves there I’m just not sure it’s right to shake our fingers all so vigorously.

    • Reply Delia Lloyd

      June 24, 2011, 11:38 am

      That’s a beautiful post, @lisa and thanks so much for sharing it. I think you capture the shame of divorce perfectly…and how it lingers. Maybe some day we won’t all treat it, as one of the authors writes, as a personal failure but just that sh#$ happens. Thank goodness life does go on!

  • Reply Kim

    June 23, 2011, 11:21 am

    I thought number 5 was quite sad! I’m currently, the girl who ‘sits in the car with one leg on the dashboard, singing along to music, lightly scratching the scruff of his neck as he drives.’ It makes me really sad to think that we might split up after such an amazing start :o(

    It’s really good that people are talking about divorce in general though as no one should be miserable when there’s a way out. On the other hand, I wish there were as many articles from people with successful marriages, so people at the beginning of marriage/partnerships could gain insights into how to make their relationships as long lasting and as good as possible.

    On a happy note, I’ve been reading your blog for a while, and after your posts on yoga a few months ago, I was inspired to take it up myself – I’m loving it!


    • Reply Delia Lloyd

      June 24, 2011, 11:40 am

      Don’t fret, @kim-some relationships do work and are happy! No need to think it’s all going to end in tears. Funny, but I feel like there’s way too much written about happy and successful marriages and not nearly enough about the painful reality of separation/divorce. But maybe we are just reading different things! Anyway, glad you are doing yoga. I’ve started pilates myself. Love it.

      • Reply Kim

        June 28, 2011, 9:21 am

        I’ve tried pilates too – really good stretches, especially if you’re sitting at the computer all day! You’re right, some relationships do last and it is good to know that if things do go wrong that there is life beyond…

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