Ask a Divorced Person
My family’s visiting this week and as much as I know I don’t have to clean (and will certainly not clean to perfection) there’s still the compulsion to do so. (For my eternally cycling thoughts on the subject of house cleaning, I’m still pretty much where I was back when I wrote “That Pink Ring Around the Toilet is Not a Moral Failure.”)
There’ll be a glorious mega-links post this Sunday, but in the meantime: I wanted to set up the infrastructure for something I’ve been thinking about since writing about “blue” marriage and the terror of divorce earlier this year. The piece turned out to be one of the most popular I’ve written, and I’ve watched as its themes manifest every time I do an Instagram call-out or survey that offers space for people to talk frankly and privately about their lives and relationships.
Divorce isn’t the solution to every relationship problem. It is, however, the solution to some. Still, for many people, noxious ideological and social forces - particularly amongst bourgeois couples - render it unimaginable. But the truth is that divorce can be liberating. It can be a way of saying no to decades of future spite and resentment. It can ultimately be great for your family as a whole and, just as importantly, for you as an individual. Divorce itself sucks; being divorced can be incredible. I know people know that. But sometimes, when they find themselves contemplating it, they need other people to help them know that.
And, to be clear, this isn’t divorce boosterism so much as making divorce visible as a legitimate option: sometimes, when the foundation itself is crumbling, and the beams are collapsing, and you’re keeping the entire structure in tact yourself — you need someone to tell you it doesn’t have to be this way. (Some people who’ve performed this function for others think of themselves as divorce “doulas,” which seems right: you don’t get a doula when you’re not pregnant. You get a doula when giving birth becomes inevitable.)
And so — if you find yourself in a relationship that’s resistant to change, if you’re continuously unhappy, and yet you’re terrified of the prospect of losing the safety net of marriage — here’s a place for you to submit questions anonymously, which will be answered by a panel of divorced people of different ages and lived experiences.
And if yourself want to be part of that panel — here’s where you can volunteer your services (you can be as anonymous as you’d like). I’ll pair questions with panelists and publish the results next month.
Why these questions, why here? Because amongst other things, this newsletter is all about figuring out ways to let go of arbitrary ideological bullshit that keeps us from providing care for ourselves and each other. And sometimes we do stay in situations that make us feel stunted and small out of shame and fear of economic precarity. Sometimes, again, we just need to know that other ways forward exist.
Now I’m going to clean the bathroom, but not clean the windows with dog nose prints all over them, and not feel bad about it.
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