I find it really poignant that so many people are Googling “love” and turning up my Valentine’s Day blog post on how I was very happy, last February, to be awash in family love, even though romantic love was absent from my life.
That my Valentine’s Day post is the single most popular post on Transition Times is just evidence of how many people are yearning for love, and happy to find affirmations that there are alternatives to the stereotypical “and they lived happily ever after.”
As the 50% divorce rate in the U.S. attests, very few of us live happily ever after.
For the other 50% who stay married, well—I would like to know how many of you folks consider yourselves truly happy.
My guess is that something like 25% of the people who dutifully marry in their twenties find themselves compatible enough to live happily ever after.
So what does that mean for the institution of marriage?
Is it good enough that a quarter of those who marry in their prime child-bearing years are likely to stay together through the rigors of raising children?
What are the alternatives?
Unfortunately, in our society, there are few alternatives. Women of means can choose to have children via artificial insemination or surrogate motherhood, without needing the fathers in the picture.
But this is the exception, not the norm.
For most mothers, having the financial, emotional and practical support of fathers (or co-parents, in the case of lesbian couples) is essential.
Raising children is hard. Raising them alone is much harder. I can say this with conviction since I’ve been a single mother since 2009, and going it unofficially on my own for longer than that.
For the most part, divorcing women tend to argue hard for custody of our children. We can’t imagine being separated from the little ones we once carried in our bellies—even when they’ve become big hulking teenagers. They are ours in a way that must be honored.
And yet…they are their father’s children too. It never ceases to amaze me how fathers can be so casual about their offspring. They will insist on custody to stick it to their divorcing spouses, but for the most part they don’t have the emotional attachment to their children that we women have. Or if they do, it is something they are willing and able to forego if need be.
Please correct me if I’m wrong, guys—this is just what I’ve perceived from very unofficial observations of my own family and friends.
All this to say that those who are avidly reading my Valentine’s Day post should be aware that my feelings about love are very complicated indeed.
I love my children. I love my parents. I love my brother and his family. My ex-spouse? Well, I am grateful to him for the good times we shared, including bringing our two boys into the world.
I wish we could have survived as a couple.
And I am ready to move on.