One of the most frustrating things to those who have any concern about human relationships in the manosphere is what we call frivorce: a divorce that takes place without physical abuse, adultery, or profound abandonment of the marriage. (for instance say someone moving away from their spouse and literally having almost nothing to do with them) A common notion is what is referred to as ‘unhaaaapy’ which is a mocking way of referring to how women in particular talk about feeling unhappy in their marriages. Often you hear in such cases things like “He’s a good man, i’m just not in love with him anymore”. We seem to hear this a lot more from women than from men. And you often hear about how the woman doesn’t want sex with the man anymore, how the idea of it makes her skin crawl.
I think the worst case I’ve heard of like this comes from a writer and apparent educator called Renee Jain, who wrote an article published in the Huffington post. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/renee-jain/why-being-selfish-is-the-most-unselfish-thing-you-can-do-the-martyr-mentality-myth-_b_3438103.html
I was young, successful on all accounts and looking at my life from the outside in. Yet, I sat in a daze as the plane taxied down the runway. “Should oxygen be needed, a mask will drop down from the compartment located above your seats. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, be sure to secure your own mask first before assisting others.” I sat, silenced, as I let the words of the usual take-off ritual sink into the depths of my mind.
Now my thought of this is: of course. Because you actually cannot physically assist someone else if you are experiencing oxygen deprivation, in fact you could pass out and you could both die. However she continues:
Suddenly, sitting up straight as if I’d been hit by a cue of inspiration from the unknown, the message I received was distinct and powerful. In fact, I was stirred into action. I turned to my husband at the time (whose name has been changed for the for the sake of this piece), and said, “Kal, I want a divorce.” I watched as the blood drained from his face. After several long moments, he responded, “We never fight, I treat you well, and our careers — well, they’re thriving. I don’t understand what it is that you want?”
“I want love,” I replied simply.
You know, when Saul was on the road to Damascus, he had an epiphany, and realized that he had been sinning against God, after he was struck blind, and repenting became a follower of Christ. This woman, told that she should look to her immediate safety before looking after others, had a revelation about selfishness. Go figure. Anyway let’s see how that cruel fellow, her husband at the time, responded.
“Renee, we’ve only been married six months. We can make this work. Anyway, we don’t get divorced,” he said with a now discernible edge in his voice. The “we” he was referring to were Indians. Like our first generation peers, we identified strongly with both our culture from India and from America. With respect to marriage, most of us erred on the Indian side. I believe “just make it work” was the unwritten rule. As we prepared for take-off, Kal continued to appeal to my sense of tradition. A protective hand found my forehead in response to the memory that now bombarded my brain as I listened to Kal desperately try and reason with my new charge.
Wait, what? He appealed to the traditions by which they had gotten married? He talked about how they could work together to make the marriage work? My goodness that’s…well I have to admit I don’t have words. Let us read on.
“Why did you agree to marry me?” I could hear Kal’s voice shuffle through my foggy memories. I thought about it and the answer was utterly lucid: I had put the happiness of others ahead of my own. I had been a martyr for the happiness of others. This is something we all do far too often.
This union fulfilled a dream of my parents and my culture. Although encouraging of my desires, I sensed a consistent overlay of cultural influence directing my decisions — a roadmap of sorts. Here was the roadmap: Get good grades, get into a good college, get a great job, find a great man, get married and have kids. For most of my life, I buried my own desires and followed the roadmap. By marrying Kal, I fulfilled a lifelong dream of my parents; their sacrifice to come to this country was not in vain. By marrying Kal, I fulfilled an age-old Indian tradition of finding a suitable mate and building a suitable life. Yet by marrying Kal, I began to forfeit my own dreams, values and desires as they did not align with those of my parents and culture. I thought by trading ‘one’ for another, I could still flourish.
I was wrong.
I turned to Kal and said, “I believed that to be happy myself, I could simply float on the happiness of those around me. I now see that life just doesn’t work that way. Kal, the flight attendant instructed us to place an oxygen mask securely on our own face before offering assistance to even our own children. This concept was never intuitive to me, but I now understand it. It’s a basic survival skill — a prerequisite for happiness. Before extending happiness beyond my own person, I must first offer it to myself.”
The day after the flight, I made the most difficult and most wonderful decision of my life — I filed for divorce. I was 25 years old; it was time to start drawing my own roadmap.
One thing I found bizarre about all this is that “Kal” refers to this “We never fight, I treat you well, and our careers–well they’re thriving.” And when he asks what she wants, she says “I want love”. Later on she talks about fulfilling her dream of developing a new educational program for children. it is never made clear why she could not have done this and stayed married to this man. It’s simply that she had ‘walked into the biggest mistake of her life”.
This doesn’t appear to have even been one of those cases where she was in some hidebound old fashioned tradition of barely leaving the role of wife and potential mother, since her former husband referred to ‘their careers’. It is not clear why she could not have worked on her marriage.
This is a typical story, but it stands out for me because for once we have input from the husband. This is a good example of why we condemn frivorce. There was no physical abuse, there was no adultery, heck there was no obvious reason why she could not have said “I’m not happy with my career”. In fact there is no clear notion that she’s even unhappy with this guy in particular.
However I read something else by her where she was talking about the importance of grit–which she doesn’t seem to apply to this particular story–and said that she had been a lifelong quitter, afraid of failure, and learned through a workshop class how to see things through.
I wasn’t so much interested in what she has achieved since as I was interested in that. I think it is a good example of how we need to carefully examine the character of someone we get married to. In this present and likely in the future marriage laws are unlikely to change to something more traditional–it is too lucrative for the current system and for the women who benefit from it to change it. What men need to be aware of is that a woman can use her emotional state as justification to end a marriage regardless of what is actually happening in the relationship. So we need to learn as Christian men to be more discerning about the character of women. I’ve made this point before–I’m making it again.