After the divorce: why they're happier

WORKING WOMAN

July 18, 1993|By Niki Scott

A friend of mine left her husband six months ago -- not for another man, which is what he chose to believe, at first -- but to live by herself in an apartment across town.

He is not only heartbroken, this 52-year-old man, but baffled, bewildered and angry.

"I don't drink. I don't gamble. I don't chase women. I never abused that woman in any way. What does she want from me . . . what do all you women want from us?" he asked when last we met.

Too bad he couldn't have been a fly on the wall three days later, when I met four women (all divorced) for lunch and asked them what the No. 1 reason was for the breakup of their marriages.

"My husband wanted me to be his mother, not his partner -- someone who would bring in money and cook and clean, and pick up after him, and tell him when to get a haircut, and nag him about his checkups and dentist appointments -- while he plunked himself in front of the TV every night and went out with 'the boys' every weekend," said a woman we'll call "Sheila."

"And when I gave him just what he wanted -- including gaining 40 pounds so that I even looked the part of a mother -- the sex between us came to an absolute halt because, as everyone knows, it's taboo to think about having sex with your mother!"

Her friend "Diane," a corporate executive in her early 50s, nodded emphatically and said, "I don't know if my ex-husband wanted me to be his mother, but he sure did refuse to grow up.

"He told small, dumb lies until I couldn't believe in him anymore and broke small -- and large -- promises until I couldn't trust him anymore.

"He behaved like a jackass to my relatives until I dreaded every family reunion, got fired from job after job until I couldn't count on him for financial support, either, and expected me to forgive him endlessly and keep right on adoring him. Just like good old Mom. I guess you all are right.

"He was flabbergasted -- just like your friend -- when I told him: 'I'm leaving you. I'm self-supporting, and I'm an adult. And I have a right to more happiness than this.' "

The results of a brand-new study conducted by the National Center for Women and Retirement Research (NCWRR) of Long Island (N.Y.) University indicates that many women like "Diane" are indeed happier divorced than they were married.

The majority of the 352 women throughout the country who enrolled in NCWRR-sponsored "Pre-Retirement Education Planning For Women" seminars are "not only surviving, but thriving in their post-divorce lives," according to the "Divorce Over 40" study.

The third woman at our lunch table, married and childless for 12 years, divorced eight years ago.

Today she's a successful free-lance writer raising seven foster children on her own.

"It wasn't so much that my husband wanted a mother," she said, "but that he was absolutely incapable of an emotional connection; he didn't want to talk about his feelings, and he didn't want me to talk about mine.

"So after 12 years of begging for some sort of emotional -- not just sexual -- intimacy with him, waiting and hoping and doing without it year after year, it dawned on me that if I couldn't have an emotional connection with this person, what was the point?"

And the fourth woman in our group echoed many of the women in the "Divorce Over 40" study, as well, when she said, "My ex-husband wants us to get back together. He thinks that I

should fall back into his arms now because he's been to counseling and joined a male support group!

"What he doesn't understand is that I've moved on, too. I'm a lot more self-confident. I like my work. I like myself. I lived with this man who was totally unavailable to me -- emotionally, spiritually, sexually -- because I didn't know any better, but I know better now.

"To go back now would be like stabbing myself in the back."

) Universal Press Syndicate

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