How do you spell Misery?

Clearly, there are some marriages that need to end. Abusive marriages. Loveless marriages without children. But after two divorces, I'm here to say that divorce sucks, and is to be avoided at any reasonable cost.

Why divorce sucks

  1. It can have devastating effects on the children of the marriage. As I develop this page more, I'll share what I've learned about outcomes for children of divorce.
  2. It never really ends, particularly in cases with children.
  3. It impoverishes both parties
  4. The option of divorce encourages flight, when learning to fight, fairly, would yield a better long term result
  5. It provides a forum for fighting, and a process (the adversarial legal system) that encourages it.

I could go on, but others have touched on these issues, and I hate being repetitive. Read the Alt.Support.Divorce Newsgroup FAQ for more reasons why divorce sucks, as well as the Four A's that DO indicate it's time to put your running shoes on.

What's the alternative?

Build Better marriages

Another Opinion:

From: VLH
Newsgroups: <alt.support.divorce>
Date: Monday, July 31, 2000 12:44 PM
Subject: Re: What makes a good spouse?  

(Indy) wrote:  

<snipped discussion on currently bad spouse>

>What makes a good spouse? true being a good provider might have been the end all to be all at one time, but what about love, communication, partnerships,friendship , emotional side of things??  

In the order of importance to me:  

- SENSE OF HUMOR - it's going to be a long 50+ years if you both don't have this!
- maturity - mature enough to have a realistic picture of marriage, day to day life, and to understand that people do not have the RIGHT to change their spouse to suit them.
- commitment - without this everything else is worthless. To me this is the glue that holds everything else together.
- trust and honesty - for this to exist both people must feel SAFE being honest. Secure in the knowledge that their comments won't be ridiculed or used against them at a later date.
- friendship - if you aren't friends throughout your marriage what do you have to fall back on when times are hard or when children leave home?
- communication or someone who will attempt to communicate (communication skills are LEARNED) - again both parties MUST feel safe in communicating with the other.
- a basic kindness and consideration toward each other
- a willingness to work on problems - there will always be problems in life and if the two people can't work them out they are pretty well doomed.
- desire to create the best life for both - this doesn't mean the most financially secure life, but the best emotionally secure life possible for both.
- love - I put this last because I think it is very much overrated. While I think marriage needs to have love in it, I don't think anyone should ever get married solely because they love someone. Love alone will not keep any marriage together.  

I didn't list sex because I believe if you have a spouse who encompasses the above you'll have someone who is responsive, considerate, and desires to please. Everything else you can learn or be taught ;-)  

I also didn't list being a good provider because I think it's a worthless consideration. I know one woman who wouldn't date anyone who didn't have a new car and an upper income job. She married him and now about 30 years later he lost that job after they were first married and she still works. Financial security is too nebulous. Any woman who marries should be willing to be the major breadwinner.

VLH was my favorite poster on Alt.Support.Divorce, a fine Texas gal full of good sense and good experience. She will always have my gratitude for the kindness and honesty (sometimes mutually exclusive, of necessity!) she showed me and other strangers as we struggled with divorce.

Good as her list is, my current thinking is that there is a more general theory of What Makes a Good Spouse. A work that's influenced me is a book by Sam Hamburg, "Will Our Love Last? - A Couple's Roadmap". He posits the theory that compatability is everything. He breaks it down to Avoid Bad News (Abuse, Alcoholism, etc), Practical Dimension (operational stuff, like messy/neat, but also what sort of relationship), Sexual Dimension, and Wavelength. He has exercises to feel out (literally, they involve hand movements) how compatible you are. He also has hints on how to move toward agreement from a place of difference, when it's possible to do so.

Simply put, compatible relationships are easier and more sustainable.

I recommend this book quite strongly, for everyone contemplating a marriage, or looking hard at a troubled one. Unfortunately, it's out of print, but Amazon used books can get you a copy, no doubt, or Powells.

Another worker in the field of relationships that seems to me to have a good handle on how to build functional relationships is John Gottman. Compatibility, therapy, they're all ho-ha to him. The whole deal is how we "bid" for connection, what we do with those bids, and how we work on "repair" of the relational micro-bleeds that happen all the time. What I like about Gottman is that he has DATA. Highly recommended.

Nurture the marriage you've got

Keep doing whatever it was that got you together. Develop new shared interests to supplant/replace old ones. Go on dates, even if you have to schedule them 6 months in advance. Try that new sex position. Whatever it takes. Flowers. Frequent oral sex. Doing the damn dishes - together, with some light banter thrown in. Phone sex.

Once what I call the Pleasure Bond goes to shit, you can pretty much stick a fork in your marriage, it's done.

Remember "It's Cheaper to Keep Her".

Here are some thoughts, some experiences, from others, I gleaned from the UC Berkeley Parents Network:

Revitalizing marriage
Through a confluence of events too lengthy to describe here, I 
attended a ''marriage preparation'' session recently even though 
I've been married for about 8 years now.  Part of it had to do 
with keeping the romance in your marriage, which tips I am 
pleased to share with you. Do little unexpected things for your 
mate - make a favorite meal, send a note, give flowers, a back 
rub, tell him/her to take a couple of hours ''off'' on the weekend 
to do something he/she enjoys (guilt-free).  Mini-dates to the 
coffee shop (if you don't have time for real ones). Try to learn 
one new thing about your spouse - don't act or think that you 
know everything there is to know about them, but treat them like 
a new (and interesting!) person. In short, act like a newly-in-
love person, and it will help you to feel that way. Good luck! 
My husband and I went through a bad period about ten years ago 
where we fell out of love and things looked kind of hopeless.  
But we really wanted to make the marriage work.  What we did was 
make lists of the things we loved/liked about each other, and 
agreed to think about those good things, and not to dwell on the 
things we didn't like about each other.  Everybody has faults, 
but they also have good points.  By following this simple 
procedure of thinking good things, we fell in love again and are 
very happily married with two great children, and have survived 
the stresses of parenthood and illness.
So it can happen!  We are coming up on our twentieth 
anniversary and still hold hands, send each other little notes 
of love during the day, and look forward to talking and 
cuddling at night.  My husband and I have very different 
interests, but we support and listen to each other's interests 
even if we're not totally enthralled.  Here's a quote we use to 
remind ourselves:  ''Love must be made and remade each day, like 
bread.''  In other words, building a loving relationship takes 
work, daily work and attention.  You don't just find that 
perfectly compatible person and coast along.
Good luck!  Rebuilding your relationship is worth it (assuming 
he is not abusive).  You have all that history together, the 
times you loved each other.  It is worth preserving that.  
Besides, if you jump ship now to look for someone else, how do 
you know it won't happen again?  We are so happy together now, 
and I have a feeling that if I had left him ten years ago, I 
would be thinking about leaving the new person again today.
In love again
Your message certainly resonated with me, and I'm sure with many 
(most?) others on this list.
I don't have the solution, but one thing I've found is that if I 
behave outwardly with more affection to my mate (consciously 
making an effort to touch, kiss etc), I actually feel more 
affectionate to him. And he of course responds in kind. I think 
the risk is in becoming isolated from each other--of not finding 
solace in each other, but seeking solace away from each other. So 
I am trying to be mindful of our togetherness, and reinforce our 
connection physically and emotionally.
good luck
Everything you say sounds familiar. You might check out a 
book called Passionate Marriage. I've forgotten the author's 
name. A lot of it is about sex, which may or may not be part 
of what you are dealing with. What I found really great in this 
book was the message that marriages are strengthened by 
going through just this sort of period you're talking about, 
and that in fact, few marriages will survive *without* this kind 
of mid-term crisis. I know many people who have found this 
book a real eye-opener. I hope it will help you. I look 
forwarding to reading the advice that others give.
I HIGHLY recommend ''The Passionate Marriage'' by Dr. 
David Schnarch, if you want inspirational words of hope 
AND practical advice. Dr. Schnarch has been a marriage 
and sex counselor for over 20 years and his approach is 
NOT the same old thing that people get from typical 
marriage counseling, as far as I can tell. This book has 
been very inspirational to me and makes a LOT of sense. 
Please pick it up and see if you agree.
Best of luck.
When you've been married for a while, little things that get 
between you accumulate. And then you have a huge wall 
separating you, which a brick at a time, didn't seem like 
much. In little ways you have each given up on the other, 
whether it's the ability to trust or something you'd wanted in 
a marriage but it hasn't happened that way or you're just 
disappointed, angry or sad. So, the wall is a shelter too, and 
each person increasingly begins to follow separate 
interests, because separate activities compensate for what 
the marriage fails to give you. 
Certainly, people keep going, wall intact, as my parents 
have. Or one person turns outside the marriage for what 
they need and has an affair. Or one person seals off the wall 
utterly and demands a divorce.
If you want to revitalize your marriage, make the decision 
*together* to not ''settle'' for what you have. Take the plunge, 
be ready to have your heart broken, and attack that wall. It's 
good you're going to a counselor. Marriage counseling can 
be a safe place to start this process, since you'll probably 
discuss how you've hurt each other deeply, and it's painful to 
take responsibility for that.
I feel shy about discussing my own marriage, about getting 
into specifics and away from metaphors, but I've found 
success by figuring out where I disappoint my husband, and 
then working on that thing. Often I'm initially met with 
skepticism, then cautious acceptance, and then surprised 
pleasure: Yes, I am actually going to stay awake with you as 
promised after the kids have gone to sleep, and watch the 
movie we rented. Yes, I am going to do the errands I offered 
to do, and not gripe like a martyr afterwards. And for your 
part, keep an open heart about his/her attempts to do the 
same, and accept and trust those efforts. Continue to 
commit to getting through to each other, even when it 
seems you've made progress.
My husband and I tell each other whenever a friend says we 
have a great marriage or somesuch, and we just laugh. I 
guess it must look easy from the outside, because in here, 
it's very tough. If you're not pulling down that wall, you're 
letting it get higher. It's so hard and so worth it. Take 
courage - falling in love again can happen.
My advice: if you really love each other and aren't 
just ''attached'' then besides counseling, maybe you could try to 
have some fun together. This sounds silly perhaps but I advise 
you to play hide-n-seek, tag, go sledding on the same sled 
(wear helmets), play at a park, skate together, jump on the bed 
together, anything that seems ridiculous and childish that 
might make you laugh. Do something adventurous together.  Write 
each other love notes.  Remind each other about funny and happy 
times in your past. Do something together regularly - community 
service work or take a class together (stimulates conversation 
about something other than kids and you will have something in 
common). Dress up in your sexiest clothes for dates or just at 
home.  Go dancing regularly or learn to dance together in a 
class.  Talk about your personal dreams (big, small, abandoned)
and brainstorm together about how to achieve them, then help 
each other work toward the goals. 
I am in the same boat, and couples counseling has been good but 
there is just too much time between sessions where we just don't 
work on anything.  At the recommendation of our therapist, I am 
reading a great book called Getting the Love You Want, by 
Harville Hendrix.  It is really helpful and I am feeling much 
more hopeful already.  I bought it on Amazon, used (excellent 
condition) for less than half the cover price ($14).  I highly 
recommend it!  Even if only you read it (I don't see my husband 
actually sitting down and reading it, but I am summarizing it 
for him as I go)--it's worth it! The last section is exercises, 
so at that point both people become involved even if only one 
has actually read the book.
Best of luck to you!
The things that have best held my otherwise rocky marriage 
together and kept the love alive are continually letting each 
other know we are on the same team, just acting loving even when 
we feel plenty of reason not to, and both trying to give what 
the other wants first instead of trying to get what we each want 
for ourselves first. These are the things we both strive for 
whenever we can remember, and both acknowledge are the most 
important every now and then when we can see past whatever else 
is usually in the way. Best wishes.
My heart goes out to you to find the flames missing in your
marriage.  I feel that I am in a similar situation in feeling
like my husband and I are having less in common.  What helped is
trying to make some time together and doing something fun and
putting that huge task of parenting aside and remembering why we
came together.  I made a deal with him that I would be willing to
do something of his interest if he would share something of my
interest.  While the results aren't always ideal, we have
appreciated each other more.

Several posters recommended "Passionate Marriage" and I'll agree, it's a pretty good "cookbook" of hints, but I found the authors tone a little annoying.



I'm not a big fan of marital therapy. At best, it can teach you some tools that the two of you then have to apply, on your own, outside the therapist's office.

And I've found very few therapists willing to really kick ass and take names - most seem more inclined to nudge than shove, probably for very sound psychological reasons. The client must want to change, after all. But sometimes, it takes a reality check, an intervention, a fuckin' disaster, clearly spelled out, and preferably in advance, to get people willing to do the work, and that's where most marital therapists are NO HELP AT ALL. It's worth a try, but a more comprehensive, and I daresay spritual approach is probably a better bet.

John Gottman, mentioned above, backs me up with data, on the relative uselessness of marital therapy. YMMV.

You may have heard of Marriage Encounter. Primarily designed to enhance basically functional marriages, it's been going strong for over 30 years, and may have something to offer you.

The "Industrial Strength" version of Marriage Encounter is a program called Retrouvaille. This teaching comes out a community of faith, in particular, the Catholic Church in Francophone Canada, but it is structured to be quite ecumenical. They have groups all over the US and Canada, and if I had been given the chance, I would have given it a shot. The emphasis is on rekindling love, and learning better, fairer communications skills; another way of putting it would be addressing the power dynamic within the marriage.

Finally, there is the book "Fighting For Your Marriage" and the movement based on the research and techniques of the authors. Also grounded in a faith-based community, this time mainstream Protestant, it has more of a therapy feel to it. It also has solid social science research to bake up their findings, and to track it's effectiveness, and the results are solidly positive, although far from a sure bet. There is a new edition of the book, and companion editions for Jewish, African American, and Empty Nest marriages.

If there is still love and commitment in your marriage, but you need to cool the conflict, and blunt the wedge driving you apart, these steps MUST be tried before proceeding onward. You owe it to yourself, your partner, and your kids, to give it your best shot.

Divorce the right way


Rule 100-Valley Process Service
The Self Help Law Center California Child Suppoˆâ A child support calculator for California
Divorce Source: a legal resource for divorce, cˆâ
A Short Divorce Course: Information to Keep Youˆâ A excellent introduction to the process of divorce
Divorce Helpline's Rates and Services An excellent law firm, with a practice strictly limited to divorce by agreeement. Run the by the prime author of the excellent Nolo Press Occidental book "How to Do Your Own Divorce in California", and the publisher of " How to Do Your Own Contested Divorce in California". I used them to review the materials I either prepared myself, or was about to sign.
Superior Court of Alameda County
Family Law Articles by Patricia L. Trent, Att...
UCB Parents Advice: Joint Custody Arrangements
Free California Judicial Council, Legal Forms...
Gifted and Inherited Property You may get to keep some stuff, all to yourself, depending on where it came from
JOINT CUSTODY The current default in many states and counties, it's a sword with two edges.
Washington State Courts - Washington State Pa...
Stop Default Don't give up your power if your partnere is suing for divorce
Family Law, Ala Cty California
Local Rules Ala cty California
Rituals for a Meaningful Jewish Divorce There are courts beyond those of the State.
Family Law AdvisorÆ INCOME TAX FAQ's

Get Support

Lean, hard, on anybody or anything that can take the strain. That emphatically DOES NOT mean your kids. It does mean your family, your church, synagogue, mosque or temple, your friends, your boss, any support groups in the area, and the internet.

Alt.Support.Divorce is a big, unmoderated, high volume newsgroup, and a mixed blessing. There is a lot of whining, more than a few trolls, and a lot of good advice and fellowship. Try it, see if it works for you. It helped me a lot initially, then I got real busy with the divorce, and with life itself, and left it behind. Daisy maintains a "Who's Who" and a great resources page.

Get Your Business Fixed

I've now done two divorces, Pro Se, I.E. acting without counsel, one in Connecticut (little property to divide, no kids), and one in California (Bannana Split, with all the toppings). In both cases, my spouses chose to be represented, and I elected to keep my powder dry, and my money in my pocket.

In both cases, I consulted with lawyers. It's amazing what you can get done in a billable hour if you have your questions lined up ahead of time.

I also had, in the second case, a lawyer picked out, the best I could find, in case I needed to go to war. I didn't want to, didn't have to, but my reserves were trained and ready, behind the lines.

It also helped me a lot to think hard about my objectives. If your goal is to make your spouse PAY for - whatever - you'll pursue different tactics than if you feel guilty and want to do penance.

In my case, based on my research on the outcome of divorce for children (Judith Wallerstein's influenced me heavily, although I've learned there are holes in her research and in her insight, check the web for more recent work)I want it done as quickly as possible, with as little rancor as possible, with two caveats: I keep as much custody as possible for my son, roughly 50-50, and I keep the house. All else was negotiable. And I gave a lot of ground, but I met my objectives. I have a cordial relationship with my son's mom, my son is happy, at my home and at hers, and I pay the mortgage on this place in my own name now.

The books from Nolo are invaluable, even if you're not doing it yourself. If you have complex finances, SOMEBODY is going to have to do a lot of documentation, you WILL need to be involved at some level, so you may as well study it, and do as much of the work as you can.

It is a lot of work. I burned a lot of midnight oil, and used a lot of leave from work. And it took about a year to work through the legal process. And probably $500 on my side, and $10,000 or so for my son's mom - half of which I paid.

3 years later, Winter 2004

Spousal support is over, and my ex- thanked me at the end of it for helping her build a new life apart. Our son seems to be doing fine in Joint Custody, although I do believe, as Judith Wallerstein points out, that Joint Custody takes a joint custody kid, and two joint custody parents. I've experienced new love, new loss, and new love again. I'm never getting married again, but I still believe in marriage.

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