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“We Grew Apart”

Chump Lady recently got into an exchange of comments with a fellow “Zalkreb” on Huffington Post. (Should we trust the opinion anyone who sounds like a Klingon extra on Star Trek? To be fair, I self refer as “chump” lady… anyway…)

He was very polite, but essentially said that there just aren’t that many divorces that result because of cheating.

No, people divorce because they “grew apart.” Studies say so!

But come on, Zalkreb — do you think most people are going to cop to affairs ending their marriage? “Oh yes, Carla and I divorced because I would not stop fucking people I met on Craigslist.”

No, Zalkreb, when people ask, they’re going to say something banal and a bit poor sausage-ish like “We grew apart.”

As if their spouse was a helium balloon that became untethered and floated away.

Zalkreb writes:

I’m saying that infidelity is a minor cause of divorce. Many
if not most people say and perhaps believe that male infidelity is the major
cause of divorce. It’s not. The major cause of divorce is female feelings of
lack of emotional fulfillment, i.e., feeling unappreciated, lacking a feeling
of closeness, lacking adequate communication. This is not my opinion, my
theory, my personal experience, the experience of my friends or something I
read about in Cosmo or a blog. It’s the consistent finding of many research
studies involving surveys and interviews with divorcing couples. Here is an
excerpt from the summary of the most recent study on the topic I’ve seen:

“A sample of 886 individual divorcing parents in Hennepin
County, Minnesota, in 2008 responded to a brief survey after mandated parenting
classes. The two most common reasons given for seeking a divorce were “growing
apart” (55%) and “not able to talk together” (53%). ”

Reasons for Divorce and Openness to Marital Reconciliation,
Alan J. Hawkins, Brian J. Willoughby & William J. Doherty, Journal of
Divorce & Remarriage, August 2012.

There are many more, going back decades, published in
peer-reviewed academic journals and consistently reporting the same thing. You
can take a look at them by checking or going down to
your local library. I’m sure the librarian would be happy to help. And who
knows? You might come up with good material for your next blog.

Thank you Zalkreb for the blog fodder! I’m far from home right now, and so I couldn’t make it to my local library to ask for help. (“Can you please show me the card catalog section on Stupid Cheater Euphemisms? Thank you.”) But I’m going to take your word for it — that when social scientists ask, people give “we grew apart” as their stock divorce answer.

IMO, as research goes, it’s not very deep. If someone were to tell me “We grew apart” I would ask WHY did you grow apart?

Cheating? Addiction? Mental Illness? Gambling? Dirty socks on the floor?

Nowhere do I argue that the majority of divorces result from infidelity — maybe they do, maybe they don’t. Who knows? There sure appear to be a hell of a lot of cheaters, however. And there must be some good money to be made at infidelity  or fuckbuddy sites like Ashley Madison wouldn’t exist. Or Craigslist hookups. Or whatever the latest is these days. Not that you need a dating profile to cheat. There’s Facebook high school flames. Coworkers. Neighbors.

All that seems very COMMON, but according to research, you say, it doesn’t lead to DIVORCE.

Which makes me think, Zalkreb, that I really need to be trying harder. “Leave a cheater, gain a life” is the motto here after all. If all that fucking around is happening and people are NOT divorcing over it? We have a problem.

But what I suspect is people divorce every day and either give euphemisms, or thought they “grew apart” but were unaware that the other party was cheating.

I also believe, of course, that many honorable people do actually divorce for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with infidelity.

But divorce is fucking painful. And costly. And I do not know a single person that has ever gone into it lightly for reasons as sugar spun as “lack of appreciation.” Humans are wired to BOND, and those bonds do not break easily IMO unless there are serious breaking points, in which it is more painful to stay than it is to go.

I truly despise all this crap from conservatives that people divorce willy nilly. Because they get a wild hair and don’t feel appreciated, and so they harrumph off to their lawyer’s office and draw up papers. Ye-AH. All these single mothers just WANTED it like that. They’re sitting around feeling very liberated and self actualized, neglecting their children as they selfishly paint their toenails in preparation for another night out at the disco.

And if anyone asks, as she tipples another high ball at the bar, “Where’s your husband?” She can reply “Oh, we grew apart.”


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  • Okay, I take back what I said about Zalkreb being a polite person. This just in:

    “I did read your blog, Chump Lady. It’s pretty much the garden-variety stew of denial I see all the time. I doubt many people who know anything about this topic are going to be swayed by your quarter-baked theories, unfounded speculations and original insights.

    As a general rule, when we encounter people who prefer to believe their own self-serving hypotheses in preference to the consistent findings of many research studies done in many ways over many years and published in many peer-reviewed academic journals, we call those people closed-minded, ignorant bigots. I’m sure you’re an exception to this rule, but I’m not sure why. What do you think?”

    I think you’re a hater, Zalkreb and one of those wing nuts who thinks there isn’t a single, legitimate reason to divorce someone. Only “selfish” people do it. Which I find rich. Because in my experience, selfish people do selfish things to drive their marriages into ditches, but when spouses throw themselves out of the careening vehicle, they’re labeled “selfish.” And intent on damaging their children. It’s total blame the victim. And if you point out that, yeah asshole, there ARE victims in this shit — then they point and say you’re “playing the victim.”

    Divorce is selfish? NO, INFIDELITY IS SELFISH. No one should martyr themselves to stay married for the sake of the children. Model self respect. Your children will thank you when they grow up to be nobody’s doormat.

    • Excellent point on the ‘blame the victim’ stuff. My STBX went through a phase where he would constantly say ‘you just want to play the victim/be a victim’ and I would sit there thinking ‘but I AM victim’ because that idiot was cheating for YEARS while I had no clue.

      So yeah, had to get that off my chest. Ahem.

      • Exactly! my STBXH was a hooker-humper. I’ve been following the whole zumba-prostitution scandal in the northeast with interest. I *hate* reading the troll comments under the articles saying “Legalize prostitution!! It’s a victimless crime!” Ummm…hello!!??? There are LOTS of victims in that scenario. You think that all hooker-humpers are swinging singles?? Tell that to my two little children who will eventually find out about what a slime their dad is!

        • Yeah, that’s the tough one: the kids. Mine know that he had an affair and that broke up the marriage and while they are suspicious there’s more I haven’t told them anything other than ‘your dad did not respect our marriage’.

          I’ve had quite a few people say that they don’t need to know. Ever. Then I had some people tell me that when they found out, years after the divorce, that their dad/mom was actually a serial cheater and not someone who just screwed around once, they felt like they had to relive all that pain once again.

          My therapist says be honest, within limits, with the kids. She approves of using the respect line as it isn’t a lie and it keeps the door open for future discussions when the time is appropriate. I’m going with that for now.

          • What’s especially rich is when Zalkreb says that children would be better off if mothers said to their children, “I left daddy and evicted him from our home just because I thought I would be happier without him around.” Even if there is a single case in which Z’s sick scenario is true (which I doubt), in what universe does this help children? I also re-read the HuffPo comment rules, and his comments seem to violate many of them – especially in terms of being off-topic. In another post that was about putting children first when their is marital distress, he actually said that “the central premise” of this blog was to say that divorce makes you happy, and then of course went on to give his usual drivel. Why is this allowed?

  • Right *ON!* Chump Lady!

    Actually, I would have taken my ex husband back after he announced his affair. I begged him to come home–I did the humiliating dance and the whole nine yards.

    But, ultimately, he picked her, the alcoholic home-wrecker, over his awesome wife and three awesome kids. Ran up his credit card into the tens of thousands of dollars, to boot.

    No, he is not right in the head. Yes, I divorced his ass. No, I didn’t take it lightly. No, I don’t regret it. I didn’t do anything to cause him to bail. Was I perfect? No. Does he regret his choices? Yes–even if he won’t admit it yet. To borrow a phrase from my teenagers, “It sucks to suck.”

    Sorry, but infidelity is a form of abuse, and I don’t take abuse from anyone. I sure as shit don’t share a home with a cheater/liar/thief. I am not friends with known cheaters/liars/thieves, either, so the ex and I will not be friends–until such time as he shows proper remorse and makes restitution. (…HAHAHAH, like THAT’ll ever happen!)

    Call me selfish. I’m not afraid of that word.

    I am selfish in a healthy way. I take pleasure in healthy relationships, in being effective, in doing what I love. I think my selfishness makes me a really great neighbor, coworker, family member, volunteer.

    I think not letting a cheater occupy my time and space is a really smart thing. I have more time for my children, my parents, my friends, and my dogs. I am more financially secure, too.

    I love being selfish. Some day I hope to meet a selfish single man who takes really good care of himself and his responsibilities and the people HE loves.


    Selfish is awesome! Cheaters suck! (They are self-destructive rather than self-serving. Big difference.)

  • I’ve never understood why cheaters want to get married. They can just stay single and enjoy their freedom and variety. I’ve read that cheaters don’t get a high on the sex. They get high on the deceit. Sick.

    • Cheaters marry you (the serial cheating kind, I think there are exceptions to this), because you are of USE to them. You’re a good care taker. You have something they want and you provide a cover that lets them pass as normal.

      • I think serial cheaters marry for similar reasons. Mine didn’t want to end the marriage, he just wanted to have his sidepieces and apparently didn’t understand (and still doesn’t) why that wasn’t going to work and why I didn’t just ‘get over it’.

        He wanted his mother/wife at home, his kids, his nice house, his nice life, a bit of fun times with the family but also the freedom to come and go as he pleased.

        I just CANNOT believe how dumb I was and how blind to his double life. Incredible. 🙂

      • Why is a cheater concerned about appearing as normal? I’m not sure that’s true. Staying married for appearances would be very unsatisfying and a lot of work.

        I think a serial cheater is addicted to risky behavior. Sneaking around and getting away with something they shouldn’t be doing produces a high that’s probably better than the sex.

        The serial cheater is probably also tempted by other vices such as gambling and drinking too much.

        • I think you’re both right. They do want to appear normal, but it is a fantasy, and then, yes, when they realize they can’t maintain it, of course they take it out on the nearest person – their spouse.

  • “Cheaters marry you (the serial cheating kind, I think there are exceptions to this), because you are of USE to them.”

    I don’t think there are exceptions, actually. Even if you look closely at those super-sobbing first-timers, so desperate for Reconciliation … they can tell their APs for months & months, sometimes years they are in love with them, plan futures together, and then BOOM! Thrown under the bus on Dday. Then, with the encouragement/orders of the BS they repaint the AP as cartoon-evil with the most disgusting hatred!

    That is a person who clearly demonstrates that they use people! And the BS (I was one of them thar Chumps) thinks this is an indication that yes HE/SHE loves ME! “Oh, yes, that makes sense … the fog (puke), MLC/Brokenness ….they hit rock bottom and hooked up with the scum at the bottom. Yes, the AP is permanently broken/evil and my newly-devoted spouse is fixable.

    No, no. They are so desperate for R because they want to a) keep their money, b) keep the facade to family/friends/community, c) deny what they KNEW ALL ALONG – I deserve to be DIVORCED when I CHEAT.

    • Well said, Bunk. That’s exactly how I felt when I discovered STBX’s A. He only wanted to stay with me to save his money, to gain his mommy’s approval, and to preserve his “nice guy” image. Although I lost many years to him, at least I saw through his fake claims to want R so that I ended the M a few days after DDay. I don’t know how you ever work through that or trust that person again. You have to be pretty damn awful to do what my STBX did to me, and there was no coming back from that as far as I was concerned.

      Hence, why I love Chump Lady. Somebody sees through the bull and totally gets it!

  • As you point out, it is fairly mind boggling that this Zalkreb person, when presented with the “we just grew apart” explanation, does not take is a step further and inquire,”how so?”.
    I am sure my first XW would come up with something like “we just grew apart” or ” the relationship lacked connection” etc. She would never offer” I was having sex with strangers” as the reason we “grew apart”.
    I am sure some folks divorce after feeling they no longer love each other. But, infidelity is also one of the major reasons for divorce. It is rampant these days.

    • Ugh. The ‘lack of connection’. What that really means is that they aren’t getting hot for you in 3.2 seconds like when you first met and early relationship sex is hotter. Of course it is: you just met, you want to fuck like bunnies six times a day and this lasts for quite some time. Over time that subsides and there’s a different kind of sex (although those hot times do come back here and there). The sex with a couple who’ve been together fora long time can be even better, if you aren’t always out looking for that high.

      Serial cheaters are eternally looking for the high, and I swear that my STBX thinks that each one will be the one who ‘satisfies’ him forever. Until they don’t.

  • To be fair, I did not see anywhere in Zalkreb’s reply that he felt it was selfish for anyone to divorce. I see he does not attribute divorce to infidelity very much. But, where do you get that he feels it is selfish? Maybe I am missing something.

  • People trying to avoid well-deserved blame often cast events in the passive voice. “We grew apart?” Really? And what ACTIONS/CHOICES put the distance between you? That’s where the horse is burried.

    “We grew apart” is to cheating spouses what “shit happens” is to slacker-stoners and “mistakes were made” is to failed generals.

    • Indeed. My STBX and I ‘grew apart’ because he was busy chasing other women and banging some of them. Hard to feel ‘connected’ or ‘together’ when your attention is on anyone except your spouse.

      Idiots, the lot of ’em.

    • Exactly. My XH and I ‘grew apart’ because he had yoga on Mondays, fucked the mistress on Tuesdays and Thursdays and got ‘extras’ from lap dancers on Fridays and Sundays. Of course, he wasn’t ‘looking for an affair, it just happened’ but she’s a lot fun and they have a ‘real connection.’

  • Hey – a bit harsh, throwing Zalkreb under the bus IMO. He had an opinion, a wrong one if you ask me, but I feel you could have spoken about him without actually mentioning his name and huffpo. But that’s just me.

    Cheating. There’s no excuse for this, none whatsoever. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and ask why “he/she didn’t break up with me instead”.

    I’ll be a realist here and say this – cheating totally sucks, but breaking up/divorce, though honorable isn’t exactly a whole lot less painful.

    • “cheating totally sucks, but breaking up/divorce, though honorable isn’t exactly a whole lot less painful”

      Couldn’t disagree more with this statement. About as un-“realistic” as could be.

      It’s not just about honor, either. Divorce involving long-term serial infidelity played out in a secret life is much worse by any measure you want to use. It’s one thing to realize your marriage is at an end and you need to start a new chapter. It’s another to realize that whole decades of your life, including your raising of your children, was a lie. There are also often mental health issues that arise from years of gaslighting (i.e., trying to fix a marriage by making your needs smaller, accepting false criticism that you are the problem rather than the secret affiars, accepting blame for the cruel choices of others, etc.).

      IMO, a person could only say this if: 1) they never head a marraige end due to infidelity; or 2) they had already checked out of the marriage when the affair was discovered; or 3) they had a heart of stone.

      • WEll said, Nomar. When I discovered the extent of his cheating is made me look back on ‘our’ life and realise that so many events were sullied by the fact that he had sidepieces at important times, boring times, any time.

        The worst part is that I helped him get through some pretty hairy career moments and he would run around telling people how great I was and how lucky he was to have me. Yet he was still screwing other women.

        Makes the whole thing feel false and like a massive waste of my time. Nothing worse than realising you loved someone who is capable of mass deception, and that they try to blame you for their own fucked up issues.

        • Couldn’t agree more Nomar and JL. Nothing worse than finding out the hand that was squeezing your back when you were making love actually had a knife in it! Kinda takes your whole life and destroys the foundation. If your marriage is on the rocks, fight for that shit, try and fix it. If there are kids, try that much harder, if it doesn’t work out, divorce on civil terms, just don’t cheat!!

  • Chump Lady, kind of depends on what side of the fence your on. My ex. entered into a willy-nilly relationship with about 6 different guys, filed for divorce due to emotional unfullfillment, abandoned our 4 kids, has her nails done once a week and goes to the bar everynight looking for the next Mr. Wrong. If you ask her why she left, it wasn’t because she wanted more cock that KFC sells in a year, it was because she felt unappreciated and now wants her freedom.
    Oh, and our wonderful court system makes me pay 3K/month in child support and alimony because she never held a job outside of the home and although she doesn’t see the kids, she has to have the ability to see the kids if she changes her mind.
    She filed for divorce for her own happiness, she got more in court just because she is a woman and the kids and I are too be damned and have to sit back and suck on it.

    • Why are you paying CS to a woman who abandoned her kids? You need to iron that shit out in court. I responded to your other comment in detail, just fyi.

      Whatever it costs you, you’re better off without this woman in your life. A lot of guys would like to be you and have the kids. Just be the best dad you can be and detach from her. She’s a wreck.

    • Hahahaha…she felt unappreciated? This is cheater’s code for ‘you didn’t focus solely on me and make me the center of the world and didn’t take full responsibility for my happiness.’

      Your ex is another emotional infant who thinks it’s someone else’s job to fill that gaping hole in their soul.

  • This is precisely the kind of tragedy she is talking about. Your ex is a psycho cheater who PRETENDED that the problem was “growing apart.” Nothing depends – Chump Lady is on YOUR side.

    I don’t know about the alimony part, but it sounds like you should contest the child support order if she doesn’t see the kids.

  • Yes, many people cheat and yes, that is why many people divorce in a hurry.

    But, there are people, loads of people, who have been in relationships for very long…20 years plus, who DO feel disconnected from their partner, can not talk about much anymore or do not feel appreciated. Its a long time to feel that way, even if it is just for a few years near the end. Many people stay in relationships for financial reasons or for the kids and do not run off to screw someone ASAP.

    I understand what this Z guy was writing and I do not assume that the research is hiding cheating. I do think, yes, people grow apart. Its painful and eventually, people split. Not everyone is horny douchebag who ‘grow apart’ and fill the void with some extraneous genital bumping. Most people are eager to discuss their spouse cheating on them or even that they found ‘true love’ (aka. temporary fix post long, monogamous relationship).

  • ‘We grew apart” is exactly what my ex told a former friend of his who asked why we had split. HAH!!!! “We grew apart because I wanted her to keep trying hard and investing in the relationship and loving me like crazy and showing it in all sorts of ways, while I did pretty much none of that, criticized her and everyone/everything else constantly, and never even thought about my responsibilities in the relationship, to her or to our children. Then I was resentful, and had an opportunity to screw around with someone who would give me tons of ego kibbles while on a business trip, so took it! Oh, and it wasn’t the first time I was unfaithful, either. ” That would be the more honest version. But if a researcher asked him …..

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