Are divorced people selfish? Can we even really answer that question, because do we ever really know what’s going on in someone else’s life?
“People who get divorced are selfish,” he said. He went on to tell me about a teenager he knew who recently committed suicide, and the note left behind seemed to indicate that he blamed his parent’s divorce for his decision to end his life. I was told about how his mother was unhappy and chose to leave her son’s dad. “Why couldn’t she have just stuck it out long enough for the boy to leave for college? Instead, she just selfishly left because she was unhappy, he killed himself, and it’s her fault.”
I winced at these comments. First of all, the loss of the young man’s life is tragic, under any circumstances. The fact that he chose to take his own life is an immeasurable heartbreak for his family, no matter why he did it.
Suicide has been in the headlines a lot lately because of celebrities who succumbed to it; but, we can never say with complete certainty what plagues the deepest, most innermost corners of another’s mind. Even the father of famous designer, Kate Spade, noted that he spoke to her the night before her death, and she seemed happy and was even making travel plans with her daughter.
Certainly, a divorce is a catastrophic event in a child’s life, and they need lots of support to overcome the loss. I won’t pretend to know how recently this teen’s parents divorced or what the circumstances of their split were. No divorce is pretty; however, some are more contentious and unsettling than others.
Perhaps he was so distraught about the break-up of his parent’s marriage and needed more emotional supports than what were available to him, and he acted out in the most desperate way?
Perhaps, like so many teens, he was struggling under the weight of the many pressures teens face, and felt he couldn’t handle it anymore?
I have no doubt that his parents will forever mourn his loss and wonder what they could have done to prevent this tragedy.
The question, however, persists. Is it selfish to divorce? Was this teen’s mom selfish for seeking a divorce from his dad?
A divorce might be considered selfish if:
One asks for a divorce because they’re bored with the relationship or with life in general.
One seeks a divorce without being willing to work on repairing the relationship or owning any part of the problems in the relationship.
One jumps out of a loving marriage to pursue a new sexual partner.
One doesn’t care about how their actions will impact those left to live with the consequences.
I’m sure there are plenty of other ways a decision to divorce could be purely selfish!
No matter what reasons prompt a couple to divorce, I doubt that most of us will ever fully know or understand because we’re not a part of their most intimate moments, nor privy to their thoughts and feelings. I guarantee you that when I was going through my divorce, no one knew everything going on in my home or my relationship. I was too ashamed to admit so much of what was going on, and often avoided talking about it or letting others in on my personal torment.
Again, we don’t know what was really going on between the parents of the deceased teen. We can say “she just left her husband,” but do we really know what life was like for her in that home? Had she endured years of abuse, infidelity, or neglect, or did she really just up and leave on a whim? To an outsider (or even a child who has been kept in the dark) the decision to divorce may seem “sudden,” but might have actually been years in the making!
We can say that she “should have waited it out until he was old enough to go out on his own,” but do we know for sure what we would be asking of her?
Maybe she felt that leaving was a way to extinguish the conflict between her and her spouse so that her son could have a more peaceful existence to finish his childhood in? Maybe there are things that happened between her and the boy’s father that he was not privy to because she shielded him from it, and he didn’t understand because he didn’t know?
Had I been forced to remain with my children’s father until they were old enough to move out, I may have turned to suicide, myself. I don’t say this in jest as sometimes people do (“Oh, I’d kill myself if I had to do _____!”). No, I was in a deep depression over the state of my marriage and the hopelessness I felt!
The only thing keeping me alive was my love for my children. Some part of me, though, knew that I had a better chance at climbing out of my depression and being whole again if I left my husband and that if I could be whole and happy again, this would roll over onto my ability to be the best parent possible for my kids! Not only did I think I divorce could be the final solution for myself after years of trying to save the marriage, but that it could help my husband be a happier and better person, too, and I was right!
I would dare anyone to call me selfish for getting a divorce! Seriously, bring on the judgment and criticism because you don’t know!
One statement I could make about the people who are often so quick to make judgments about those who have divorced is that they often have no personal experience with living in the hell of a bad marriage! I’m so happy for them! It is really easy to stand outside of a situation, not knowing all the fine and private details, and assume to know what motivates others and what it must be like to be them!
Others have no idea how long problems have existed in the marriage, what interventions have been attempted, what acts have been committed. They can say divorced people “gave up”, “took the easy way out”, or “were selfish”; but, the only ones who really know the full truth is that couple! And, let’s not forget that every tale has two sides, so just because one spouse has their perspective doesn’t mean that a whole other set of details doesn’t exist within the other spouse’s perspective.
The truly selfish people who have bailed on good spouses and salvageable marriages make everyone else who’ve had to turn to divorce look bad! The majority of us never wanted to be divorced, and we also never wanted to be mistreated, unloved, and jerked around by the people we trusted with our hearts! For most of us, divorce was a decision landed on after agonizing through the options and being left with no other choice.
What we can say about such a situation is that because divorce takes such an emotional toll on everyone touched by it, we have to be sure to take care of ourselves and others who are affected. Sometimes we (or the ones we love) are all too good at hiding the pain from others. So, just as we have to be careful about making assumptions regarding other people’s personal lives, we also must try not to miss any signs that the people we care about need help. And, if we need help, we should be sure to get it!
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, open 24 hours per day, can be reached at 1-800-273-8255.