If I’d Prayed a Little Harder… : Society’s Take on My Divorce

Once again, social networking is focusing on this country’s marriage crisis. Remember these?

marriage 2

marriage good old days

no divorce again

What about these?

Your ONLY marriage? Why didn’t I think of that?

Toasters, Marriage, and the Good Ol’ Days

Divorce is not an option… you know… until it is.

Those were the products of the last time I was set off by social media’s snide little remarks on divorce. This time, however, my issue isn’t even the blog post I read. I understand that it came from a good place and that it included a beautiful message: marriage is about giving to each other, one hundred percent… with lots of Jesus undertones. Neither of these concepts bother me. I am a practicing Catholic. I dream of the day I can sit next to a man during Mass. If said man even wants to nix the birth control, I am legitimately okay with that.

What I have a problem with, is that every single uplifting marriage/put-an-end-to-divorce article I read includes a statement that goes a little something like this:

The more you love your spouse, the more they’ll love you in return.

That’s paraphrased, because I’m not trying to attack one article. I’m attacking the approach that’s being taken to the issue of divorce in this society, where everyone is forgetting that you cannot change another person, no matter how great your hugs or how fervent your prayers might be. He has free will… and sometimes that makes him a sociopath. That is just fact. Why is it that we can’t support each other without implying that anyone who ended a marriage just didn’t love hard enough or pray hard enough? After all, when someone frets over how willy nilly we’ve become about divorce, they are referring to we willy nilly divorcees. Worse, it always seems these declarations come from people who have been married for all of four months or, in some cases, not at all. Do me a favor. If you have not cleaned up your spouse’s vomit, held him through the death of a parent, watched her shit during childbirth, prayed through a miscarriage, buried a child, scraped together the money for the rent during an unemployment streak, rebuilt trust after cheating, or any of the other heartbreaking and trying things that come with marriage… then can you please take that well-intended advice and shove it up your ass?!?! That is, of course, if there’s any room left with your head all the way up there.

Think of 10 people who are divorced. Go ahead. I’m sure you can. It’s a freaking epidemic. Now, think of how many that you know, without a doubt, left for frivolous reasons. I get that the media is full of 72 day marriages and your aunt’s third cousins just woke up and decided they didn’t feel like being married anymore, but do you have any idea how rare that is? What about how hard that is to prove? Despite what my current Facebook feed might have me believe, there are still some people out there who keep their private affairs, oh, you know… private. It might look like she left because he wasn’t making enough money for her expensive tastes, but you have zero irrefutable evidence that she’s not covering up bruises with that cashmere sweater. As Gail mentioned earlier, no one attributes the rising divorce rates to the increase in mental illness or domestic violence. Everyone just assumes it’s boredom, with no verifiable facts. Regardless of the situation, being trapped in a bad marriage is like looking into an empty refrigerator for the tenth time in a night. It doesn’t matter how hungry you are or how desperately you need sustenance; it’s still empty. That was literal in my case. What was for dinner, in the summer of 2010? Tears. Tears were for dinner. 

empty fridge
My wedding portrait.

Just as it’s no one else’s business if parents spank their child, it’s no person’s business, but Man and Wife, if they decide to untie that knot. In fact, I’d dare say it’s less of anyone else’s concern, in a childless marriage. At least the children being spanked are the concern of society at the point in which their safety becomes an issue. My divorce, though? My divorce did not affect anyone but myself and my ex-husband, who was likely too busy chewing the legs off kittens to care, anyway. I don’t owe society an explanation (though it already exists within this blog). Now that I’ve received absolution from the Church, I don’t owe anyone an explanation. That’s right. By my personal faith, God is cool with the dissolution of my marriage.

fistbump with god

So society can suck it. How dare anyone make me feel like less of a Christian, a woman, a member of society for escaping abuse? You know what, though? I’ve been divorced for nearly three years. It’s been months weeks since I last cuddled my gun and cried about how he broke me. I can mostly handle the judgement without breaking. However, how dare anyone make a presently frightened, lonely, and hurt woman feel like less for wanting to escape abuse? The assumption that she’s lazy and disrespects the union of marriage does her a huge disservice in a time of great need.

I’d like to think that these aforementioned articles and memes are just being read by other couples, happily married for 7 weeks, who are too busy patting themselves on the back to recognize this subtext, but that’s just not true. We are in a technological age, and when we need information, be it the location of the nearest yarn store, whether or not Benjamin Franklin was a president (SHUT-UP, GAIL!), how to fill out a W-4, or if Christ will forsake us for leaving a toxic marriage, we turn to the internet. As someone who once Googled “Catholicism and divorce”, I can attest to the fact that there is a man out there who needs to leave, for the goodness of his soul, reading that he’s at fault for the black eye he blamed on his two-year-old, because he doesn’t love hard enough. He’s not right with the Lord.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying the divorce rate in this country isn’t a problem. There are all sorts of statistics out there on how damaging a divorce is to the children in a marriage. There’s a .357 in my bed declaring how damaging it is to the individual. I do, however, disagree with acting as though a rancid marriage to a soulless bastard can be fixed with an extra Glory Be. I truly do not think that was the intent of the blog I read, today. But, if you looked closely, it’s exactly what the author claimed happened when his wife stuck by his side. He eventually turned things around, because she loved him enough. No. He turned things around, because he was a good person. Rather than focusing on how love can repair someone with free will, how about we focus a little more on choosing someone less toxic in the first place? Rather than posting memes about how you want your first marriage to be your only marriage…

Who freaking doesn’t?!?!?

Ahem…

… or about how the reason your marriage lasted was because you wanted it badly enough

Bite me.

Ahem…

… perhaps it would be more helpful to discuss how you chose a partner who could be your only partner. I’d really like to know the secret to immortality, because you’ll apparently never remarry as a widow. Okay. Seriously. I mean it this time. Instead of making patronizing and vague comments about how you “fixed” your marriage, tell everyone how you found someone who was willing to go through the repair process with you. You see, I actually considered marriage counseling. I really did. I just quickly realized that it wouldn’t work unless he was willing to stop lying, stealing, abusing the dog, and fabricating employment… and he wasn’t going to do that… because I couldn’t control him.

I am not just talking about the way we talk about marriage with adults. I grew up in a very religious town, where they’ve never heard of Separation of Church and State. Sixth through twelfth grade, I sat through at least 15 abstinence seminars. What if, instead of setting goals that are proven to be nearly unattainable for the average American teenager, they’d given us some information on choosing a partner, when we were ready? How about telling us some divorce statistics based on age of first marriage, while some shattered 23-year-old divorcees cried at a podium? I’m not saying it would be a guaranteed success. Teenagers are stubborn. Many will do exactly as they wish, because they are the exception to the rule… but a few may not. Why not educate them?What if society loses the assumption that every marriage can be fixed and replaces it with the idea that we should start dating with marriage in mind, rather than dating with the idea that marriage is a next step, regardless of compatibility? What if it didn’t take 48 hours to get a marriage license? What if we didn’t let children marry at 18? What if we stopped basing our view of lifelong, monogamous love on these ridiculous Nicholas Sparks books; where complete opposites, with different goals, who treat each other poorly, fall in love and spend their lives fighting over meaningless crap, without it chipping away at their relationship? What if we treat the source of the problem, rather than starting in the middle of a sickness and assuming that the cure is the same, regardless of ailment? Perhaps, if someone had given me more guidance in my choice, and I hadn’t wept on my wedding night, I wouldn’t have eventually wept the words “If I’d been a better wife, he’d have been a better husband.” Perhaps, though, I wouldn’t have done so if there weren’t so many people telling me that.

The Week of 1004 Dates: The Match Event

I’m still adjusting to my new, somewhat split-shift, work schedule and have (mostly) been enjoying birthday plans. Therefore, it’s been a week of decorating Toms with Gail, cupcakes made by my step-momma not being hurled at my front door, lunch and shopping for Dollar Tree fall decorations with my Gramma, and doing crafts and downing a half-pint of For Realz Moonshine with Niki. It is because of these wonderful events that I haven’t been on any dates since The Week of 1004 Dates. I’ve also delayed the final installment in this series. It’s called suspense. You’re welcome.

The story started on Saturday, with Insurance Salesman, an offensive and unattractive Peter Griffin. Yeah. That’s my point. It continued on Tuesday, with O&G, a kind and chivalrous Bostonian who played lots of tabletop board games, had an extensive knowledge of trivia, and thought it would be wonderful to one day live somewhere that’s not right the fuck here. It was a good date and a good time, but neither of us saw any foundation on which to build a relationship, so we never contacted each other again. All this time, I’ve been clear that it wasn’t really 1004 dates ::gasp!::, declaring that it was “almost” three. How does one have an “almost” date? Why, with a Match Event, of course!

Date 3… Almost – Thursday – The Match Event

In addition to the typical online dating features, match.com offers Stir Events. Before my date with Insurance Salesman, I RSVP’d for one of these face-to-face get-togethers.

Me: “I’ll probably just flake out and skip it at the last minute.”
Gail: ::laughing:: “Uh… yeah. I’m sure you will.”

Despite Gaily’s obvious attempt at reverse psychology…

… on Thursday morning, I still hadn’t made up my mind. I didn’t have to work that evening and I didn’t substitute teach, but I had had relatively regular plans with Niki to watch The Walking Dead and crochet. When she messaged earlier in the week, however, I declined, telling her that I didn’t want to make it quite so easy to ditch the Stir Event. Regardless, the event started at 7:00 and when Gail texted me at 5:30, I still wasn’t sure.

Gail: What are you wearing?
Me: I haven’t decided if I’m going.
Gail: Seriously? Get dressed and go.
Me: But sucking my thumb and reading this trashy romance novel is also nice.
Gail: While sitting on a bench? 

I’d spent the whole day making new candles from the remnants of my old candles, like a boss, and figured that if the last candle was finished melting in time to go, it was a sign that I should get off my ass and socialize with some real life people. So, I put on the Magic Dress I wore to Grandpa Geff’s funeral. A Magic Dress is one that can be either “good little Catholic girl” or “sex kitten”, depending on accessories. At Grandpa Geff’s funeral, I wore sensible interview heels with my grandmother’s opal and got numerous compliments. To the Stir Event, I wore heeled leather boots with gun-metal jewelry and… got numerous compliments. I’m getting ahead of myself.

The event was at a pub in the city and I was more or less broke, as I’ve been trying to catch up from the time I spent looking for a job this summer. Admission and a single drink were free, however, so all I had to be concerned about was the gas to get from Shetland to the northern part of the metro, about 30 miles away. I have no idea why I was so nervous when I got there, but I felt more jittery than I ever do when I’m just meeting a single person. Maybe it’s because, here in the Midwest, we still attach a lot of stigma to online dating. Despite the fact that everyone is doing it, we’re not allowed to talk about it and entering a Stir Event sounded a little embarrassing. As is usually the case, however, Gail’s voice sounded in my head…

Why do you care what these people think? Even if they do think anything of you going to a match event, which they won’t, because they’re worried about their own crap, big damn deal. Go and talk to people and get your free drink. You won’t be the only one doing so. If it sucks, you’re allowed to leave. 

Then my own voice sounded out loud into the car…

“Suck it the hell up. You can’t afford to waste the kind of gas it took to get here to just turn around and go home.”

I was still looking for reassurance and texted Gail while fixing my makeup:

Me: I can’t do it. I can’t go in there. Maybe next time I’ll make it in the door. This was progress, though. Yay me.
Gail: Ugh. Fine. I guess I’m not really surprised.

Gail misread my sarcasm and search for encouragement as a quest for approval and support for my decision. I rolled my eyes at myself, put on my big girl panties, and headed inside… only panicking a little.

On my way, I heard the bouncers make approving comments about my outfit, and that eased my nerves a bit.

The Stir Event was held in the upstairs bar area, which had been reserved for just this occasion. There was a lady positioned at a podium, who took my name and gave me a slip of paper with a unique characteristic on it. The idea was to encourage conversation, because if you found someone who had lived in another country or was a vegan, you could put your name into some kind of drawing. It was a nice option, though I didn’t really participate.

The first thing I noticed about those in attendance was the ratio of men to women. While I’ve read that speed dating in this area often has higher female participation, there were far more men than women at this event. Match only allows for so many to RSVP and splits it by gender; for example, 30 men and 30 women can plan to attend, including guests. So, basically, women are just flakes. At least I wasn’t alone in that idea. The age range was pretty wide as well, but Match had reported that online, stating it would vary from 21-43. I appreciated the warning and would’ve been uncomfortable with the variation, had I not known what to expect.

I sat at the bar to get my free drink and started talking to Texan Engineer, who was in his late 20s/early 30s and friendly enough. He wasn’t my preferred type physically, but as I’ve stated, I’m trying not to limit my associations with people based on trivial factors. Is it really fair to look at a man and think I wish he were a little bulkier if I don’t want him looking at me and thinking I wish she weren’t quite so bulky?

When I told Texan Engineer that I was a librarian, he said he’d messaged me, as I have the word “librarian” in my screen name. As we chatted, I could not, for the life of me, figure out why I hadn’t messaged him back. I looked at his profile later and realized that a small part of it may have been the fact that he was clearly one of those men who just does not know how to take his own picture. Though he wasn’t a man you’d give a double-take, he wasn’t unattractive. His pictures not only didn’t do him justice, they disgraced the poor guy.

Still nervous, I decided I could go ahead and buy one drink to loosen up. Now, I rarely drink, y’all. It’s expensive and it makes you fat, which may have been part of the reason I was about 100 pounds overweight in my heavier drinking days, which was the apparent sole reason I could handle my drink of choice so well: Long Island Iced Tea. I only had one. I swear.

“Well, it’s funny, because Gail doesn’t even read erotica…”
Geez, Belle. You are not seriously telling this story!
“… and she’d tell me if she did. I mean, we tell each other everything…”
Change the subject! NOW!
“… but one day, we were browsing Amazon together and she had this idea…”
Stop talking. Just stop talking.
“… that we should start a super creepy book club…”
Oh, don’t fucking sugarcoat it.
“… where we read the most disturbing erotica we could find. It was a terrible idea. I recommend you avoid the words ‘dubious consent’ at all cost.”
If the words ‘tailed butt plug’ come out of your mouth, you’re immediately setting yourself on fire.


Do not Google “humiliated gif.” Will someone let that poor girl out of the cage?!?!?! Is that a woman on a Lazy Susan?!?!

I blame Gail for ever creating that two-person book club. Still, I eventually texted her to let her know that she was right.

Me: This isn’t so bad.
Gail: ?
Me: I got dressed up. I went out alone. I talked to people. I’m proud of me. I’d never have been able to do this a year ago.
Gail: You went!!
Me: Well, duh. I was kidding about leaving. I’m far too cheap to waste that gas.

Even though I’d confessed to the reading of disturbing porn, Texan Engineer told me all about living in New York during college and how he desperately wanted to leave my home state one day, as he’s only here for the job. Clearly, this was important to him, because he even asked if I’d be willing to leave. In hindsight, I realize that my answer wasn’t as honest as it could have been, since the words “hell no” were not employed. You see, it’s not just that I love my Gramma, Gail, and my daddy. I am a Librarian in two of the few library systems that are not facing budget cuts in this economy. Our primary funding sources are neither state nor federal, but ad valorem taxes in communities where the Libraries are heavily advocated and much-appreciated. I’m not leaving my family. I’m not leaving my calling. I’m. Not. Leaving. I gave Texan Engineer a far less passionate explanation of that and we continued to get to know each other.

As we were talking, Texan Engineer enlightened me to a legitimately shocking trend: apparently… women are bitches. I’m aware that I’m not the best at letting someone down easy or you know, not marking their number as spam after a first date, but I was genuinely surprised by some of the things this man reported women having said to him. We were discussing our online dating experiences and he was telling me what some of the women he’d met had cited as deal-breakers. I was horrified. Even if he were a bag of dicks, I cannot imagine actually telling a man that he’s not stocky enough, let alone grabbing his bicep and saying “you need to put a little more meat on right here.”

Are you fucking kidding me?!?! That is the equivalent of a man grabbing my roll and declaring that I need to tighten things up a little! I’m not a violent person, but if a man did that while touching my body, I would actually slap him. What the hell makes a woman think that this is okay?!?! If he asks why you’re not interested, tell him there’s just no chemistry. Hell, just ignore him like the coward I am. Do not tell him he’s not “man enough” and squeeze the reasons why. Texan Engineer said he understood that this is just the stereotypical ideal for men in this part of the country. I agree. I would be more attracted to a man who made me feel dainty, but ladies, if he can’t have a No Fat Chicks paragraph, you don’t get to have a No Scrawny Guys conversation. Thems the rules!

Even though I was getting along with Texan Engineer, I did feel a little irritated that I’d put myself in a situation where I wasn’t able to mingle more, without being rude. I commented on the ratio of men to women and Texan Engineer told me that this is the norm at Stir Events. Woot. We chatted about politics (surprisingly agreeing on our more Libertarian stances) and shared our online dating thoughts. Then, I realized why I’d been ignoring Texan Engineer’s messages. It wasn’t his atrocious photos.

Me: “It drives me crazy when people put ‘I’ll tell you later’. Don’t tell me later. Tell me now. That’s the whole point.”
TE: “Yeah, that’s what I do on religion. I just say that I’m agnostic straight out.”

At this point, I had already mentioned multiple times that I was a practicing Catholic. I realized that the differing religious beliefs was my main reason for ignoring Texan Engineer’s messages from the beginning. Don’t get me wrong here. I have numerous friends with different religious commitments. I don’t care if they’re atheist or agnostic or Jahova’s Witness or what-have-you. That’s their business. I’m also not considering raising children with any of them. I had a coworker once tell me “I could never date a Christian. No offense.” None taken. I think it’s a completely valid point if your religious beliefs are important to you and this girl was a strong athiest, just as I am a strong Catholic. Just like she knows that there is no higher power, I know Christ died for my sins. I have every intention of sending my children to Catholic school. I don’t really want to go to Mass alone every week. I feel it’s just too big of an issue on which to disagree that strongly, so I usually don’t respond to people who who make that stance apparent in their profiles. Texan Engineer and I had been getting along, though. I decided it would be unfair to just write the guy off without giving it a shot.

TE: “I grew up Methodist and I used to believe. Then, I went to college and I just can’t believe in any of it now. I know too much about science. It’s just too ridiculous.”

Did you just call me stupid for believing in Christ?!?!?!?! Also, if all that school made you sooooooo smart, maybe you shouldn’t be declaring yourself an agnostic, or “a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God”*, when you’ve just quoted beliefs that are clearly atheist, or “disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.”* You’re not agnostic. You’re an atheist with commitment issues. I’m not just too busy scratching my head over the conundrum that is science to realize that my religious beliefs are illogical. I believe in spite of that. That’s what makes it faith. I was so taken aback by the implication that I just hadn’t been paying enough attention in college, that I didn’t comment before Texan Engineer elaborated.

TE: “I even went out with this girl once and we seemed to get along great. We talked for like two hours and then she just kind of stopped talking to me. So when I asked why, she said it was because I wasn’t a Christian. I mean, she really doesn’t want to be with me over that? That’s just stupid. She was an engineer too, so I didn’t even get how she could believe.”

She was an engineer, too?!?!? So, what? Obviously you guys are supposed to be the same level of so fucking brilliant that you know the secrets of the universe and all the little morons of the world are still fumbling around in the dark, worshiping Santa Claus?!?!? She can’t have faith and work in the sciences, because being intelligent and believing in God are mutually exclusive? You’re not only intolerant, but an elitist as well? Dude…. fuck off. The fact that you can even say it’s stupid is exactly the reason she doesn’t want to date you. You don’t get the importance of those beliefs and that’s the whole friggin’ problem. Maybe some atheists out there could understand how passionate those beliefs are, but I imagine that would be because they passionately disagree… and that’s okay. They’re still probably not the best matches for devout Christians. I’m not even comfortable being friends with someone who thinks I just haven’t opened my eyes to atheism, because I’m not that bright. In fact, If that’s how he feels, he should probably clearly state a “non-Christians” preference on his own profile. You can’t ask that someone respect your lack of faith if you’re going to imply mine is the product of stupidity. Dick.

I felt really uncomfortable at this point and didn’t talk a whole lot more. Texan Engineer had just put me in a really awkward place by stating that I’d be closed-minded not to want to date him for his religious beliefs. It really wasn’t even that he didn’t believe. At the first mention of the word “agnostic”, I was still interested in talking to him. I’ve never actually dated someone with completely different thoughts on the subject, so I might as well give it a go if we were getting along. After hearing his explanation that he was surprised an engineer was stupid enough for prayer? No. Just no. I was polite to Texan Engineer and wasn’t sure how to express my disinterest, so I went ahead and gave him my number before leaving about fifteen minutes later. The next day, when he texted though, I sent him the following:

I really enjoyed talking to you and getting to know you last night, but I don’t think I could have a relationship with someone with such different religious beliefs. Good luck with Match.

I should’ve just used the word “intolerance”, since that was the real issue. After I sent that message, I spammed his number. I’d already heard plenty of what he had to say. I wasn’t sure if he was going to be a dick or not, but I didn’t want to deal with that, knowing his opinion on a woman not wanting to date him for the same reason.  It’s a shame that this will encourage him to think women are being closed-minded about his thoughts rather than being insulted by them. Oddly enough, before the Stir Event, my profile already said:

“I try to go to Mass every week. I’m realizing that, while meeting someone Catholic would be great, the only deal breaker is a non-Christian. I respect your beliefs as a person, but ‘the family that prays together…’ and all that jazz.”

Texan Engineer just chose to either not read that, or ignore it before liking several photos, messaging me, and winking at me. Once I looked at his profile and realized who he was, I remembered that I’d been seconds from sending him a message that stated I wasn’t interested, because I didn’t think two people could have a successful relationship with such different faiths. I actually decided not to, because I wanted to give the guy a chance if we met at the event.

So, for date number three… almost, I tried my very first Stir Event and realized that it was quite similar to just being at a bar with guaranteed single people. I recognized the importance of mingling from the start and learned that one LIT has me telling masturbation stories. I found out that I’m not nearly as bitchy, when it comes to dating, as I thought… at least not by comparison. I gave a guy a chance, despite my theory that religious beliefs are too important for debate… and that opinion was validated. I decided I would still talk to a guy who told me he was agnostic, in the future… especially if he knew what agnostic meant. On the way home, I stopped by a gas station and the man told me how nice I looked. Yay for the Magic Dress.

In one week, I went out and talked to people and put some real effort into the dating world. It was exhausting and I don’t know that I’d do two dates and a match event in a week in the near future, but I feel like I’m putting in some real effort and learning things about myself. Go me.

Last week, I was searching PoF for old classmates and stumbled on my adored Facebook friend/high school acquaintance, Catherine. Oddly enough, we were best friends in daycare, when we were four. I messaged her:

So… I did something creepy and found your PoF account. Have you ever tried Match? 

It looks like I might have a new online dating gal pal and an accomplice for the next Stir Event. Go me.

http://www.google.com/#q=define+agnostic&safe=images

http://www.google.com/#q=define%20atheism&safe=images