To My Friend Who’s Thinking About Divorcing Her Husband

The last time we had cocktails, you confessed that you’re thinking of divorcing your husband. You said couples counseling isn’t working. You feel angry all the time. You’re tired of accepting unhappiness. You wonder if there’s something better out there for you. 

I nodded and sympathized, because I’m your friend and I care about you. But I wasn’t completely honest. I didn’t say what I was really thinking, which was this: Don’t do it. Don’t break up your family.  


Maybe you’ve rationalized that it’s better for your 7-year-old daughter to have her parents living separately than fighting in front of her. I’ve heard that one before. But I don’t buy it. 

Your own parents have been happily married forever, so you don’t know firsthand what happens to kids in a divorce. I’ll tell you what happens. You would recover, and so would your husband, but I’m not so sure about your daughter. If she’s anything like I was when my parents split up, this is what she’ll have to look forward to:

Her heart will break for the very first time, and when it heals there will always be a scar. 

She’ll learn about love and sex from watching her parents date other people. Some of these people will be lovely and some will be awful. The awful ones will tend to leave the more lasting impression.

She’ll develop survival tactics, like lying, manipulating, and keeping secrets. And she’ll become two different people, one for you and one for him. 

Eventually, she’ll sleep with too many guys just to prove that no one can hurt her.

She’ll reject the love of kind and suitable partners because she’s terrified of getting hurt. “I leave,” she’ll tell herself. “I don’t get left.” 

But she’ll burst into tears the first time a boyfriend leaves her apartment in a huff with his toothbrush and spare shirt because it reminds her of watching her Dad pack all his belongings and move out of her house.

She’ll spend a fortune on therapy. She won’t spend a fortune on drugs, because she’s a pretty girl and boys will buy them for her. But there will be drugs.

She’ll have kids way too soon, or way too late, or not at all because how could she bring kids into a fragile world like this? 

Maybe none of this will happen. Maybe you and your future ex-husband will be the model of cooperative co-parenting. The step-parents will be warm and nurturing. You’ll all gather around one table at Thanksgiving, and not make her choose. I hope so. 

But before you make your decision, just pause for a moment and really think about her. You’ve already lived so much of your life. Hers is just beginning. 

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