This weekend the New York Times featured a story on remarrying exes, “You Married Them Once, But What About Twice?” — an idea most of us would find as repellent as plucking our eyes out with a plastic spork.
But no, in this era of Conscious Uncoupling, why not stay friends and later admit that you miss the ol’ bugger?
“Many people don’t ever account for the fact that after the intensity of the separation and divorce dies down, there will come a time when they’ll actually miss their spouse,” said Michele Weiner-Davis, a marriage therapist and director of the Divorce Busting Center in Boulder, Colo. “And they think, what could I have done differently? That’s when they begin to wonder whether they made a mistake.”
Weiner-Davis, as you’ll recall, is the infidelity genius who gave us the “180.” Perhaps if you perfect #18 — “Do not be nasty, angry or even cold – just pull back and wait to see if spouse notices and, more important, realize what she will be missing” — you can win them back! Wouldn’t that be awesome?
“People really can change through loss,” said Wendy Paris, author of “Splitopia: Dispatches From Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well.” “They don’t change through criticism in a contentious marriage.”
“After divorce, your ex still has your words in her head,” Ms. Paris said. “She could change into someone you get along with a lot better. Also, you might change. You could become more confident and reconnected to important parts of yourself once you’re no longer locked in the adversarial position-taking that often develops in a bad marriage. That confidence or clarity can translate into being more generous and magnanimous of spirit, more accepting.”
Ms. Weiner-Davis concurs, saying, “Very often they come to the relationship with a new maturity and a willingness to learn how things got in disrepair to begin with, and they’re more willing to take a look at what each person can do differently so that they don’t find themselves in the same position again.”
I wonder if these shrinks ever wonder what creates a “contentious marriage”? Could it be that there is actual validity to one’s criticisms?
Look, unless you’re a vapid Hollywood creature (of the sort profiled in this article), you’ve probably divorced for very painful, deal-killing reasons — like infidelity, untreated mental illness, or addiction, to name but a few.
The undercurrent of this How to Part Well narrative is that your divorce reasons were frivolous and immature. You were overly critical and head-strong! You lacked confidence and self-assuredness! You needed artistic space!
Moreover, this narrative of the mysterious Contentious Marriage is that both parties are equally at fault. You both have to be “more willing to take a look at what each person can do differently.” Oh hey Michele, you know what I started doing differently? I stopped being a chump.
Thank goodness for the voice of sanity in this article:
“Very, very few try to start over again,” said Nancy Kalish, a former psychology professor at California State University, Sacramento, who has been studying divorced couples for decades.
Most divorced people “don’t ever want to speak to each other again, and some struggle to do so for the good of their children,” she said.
It’s nice that these misguided older people decided that living in Sedona wasn’t as important as reconnecting with a Hollywood producer who lives in a 10,000 square-foot building in Manhattan. I mean, that could happen to any of us.
If these folks are happier for reconnecting decades later? God bless. If you’re able to do that, and have the raw materials to work with (i.e., a nice person who just leaves his shoes in the hall), I wonder why you didn’t have the strength of character to stick it out in the first place.
You grew, you evolved, you reassessed? You wanted someone age appropriate? That’s remarkable. And aspirational.
And has absolutely no bearing on 99.9 percent of the rest of us. Most people want to bond. For someone who is committed, it takes a tremendous amount of distress and trauma to sever marital bonds.
If you divorced because someone didn’t understand your artistic vision, or you wanted to be “more” than a wife and mother? Glad you grew up. The truly disordered never do.