No, You Can’t Divorce-Proof a Marriage

Just ask Elizabeth Gilbert, Elizabeth Vargas and Glennon Doyle Melton

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None of us wed thinking we’ll get divorced. Oh sure, most of us are that divorce is an option, but not for all, whether for religious beliefs, a desire to make it work no matter what (commitment being a commitment), fear of “failing” or perhaps good ol’ stubbornness.

And then, stuff happens.

Stuff happened to three popular, powerful women recently: Elizabeth Gilbert, Elizabeth Vargas and Glennon Doyle Melton. Different stuff, but the end result was the same — each is divorced or getting a divorce.

Which is why my head explodes whenever I read about the efforts to make divorce harder for parents of minor children. No one enters divorce lightly, because it’s typically an emotional and financial clusterfuck. But even for the childfree, divorce is usually the last resort. Need proof? Read on …

Elizabeth Gilbert

Gilbert, author of the best-selling doesn’t have children, but she famously divorced the first time exactly because she didn’t want to have children and somehow that wasn’t a discussion she and hubby №1 had. Still, her separation from Jose Nunes, her partner of 12 years and husband of nine, isn’t because anyone cheated or sexted or did anything “wrong” or “bad.” Gilbert realized, at age 47, that she’s in love with someone else, her best friend — who also just happens to be a woman. “Love is always complicated,” she wrote in . Yes, it is.

Elizabeth Vargas

As I’ve written before, I’m a big fan of Grammy-award-winning musician Marc Cohn, who has two young children with Vargas, anchor of Vargas has a new memoir, , in which she talks openly and honestly about her struggles with alcoholism and admits that Cohn left her days after she ended rehab — her third relapse, in 2014. He had filed for divorce while she was trying to get better. She was blindsided but she admits that he was unhappy about her drinking even before they were married, in 2002.

Glennon Doyle Melton

Doyle Melton, the hugely popular, Oprah-approved blogger at Momastery, had been open and honest about a lot of her marriage except one huge aspect of it — her husband’s infidelity. Three years ago, right around the publication of her first book, she confessed that she and her husband, Craig, were separating over something he disclosed when they were in therapy. She was vague about details but said they were determined to work at it — they have three young children together. In February she laid a bombshell — her husband had confessed to cheating on her throughout their marriage but they were staying together, a journey detailed in her new book . And then in August, right before the book was published, an announcement — they were separating again.

What does it mean?

The only common thread among the three women is they are divorced or in the process of divorcing, not what led to their split. I have no doubt that when each of them stood before her husband and said whatever vows she said, she meant them. That’s how most of us marry — with good intentions.

And then, as I wrote above, stuff happens.

For the people who want to make divorce harder, shaming couples into “working harder,” well, I think all of us can agree that Glennon Doyle Melton worked pretty damn hard to salvage her marriage. Nevertheless, it is still ending. I also think that we can agree that no amount of “working harder” was going to give Elizabeth Gilbert’s marriage a happily-ever-after ending. And while Elizabeth Vargas didn’t ask to be divorced, her addiction helped create a situation her husband could no longer be part of — one he most likely didn’t want their children to be around either.

Who is going to fault any of them for having their marriage end?

So the next time you read an article or listen to a so-called expert exclaim how you can divorce-proof your marriage, think of these three women. Then you’ll know the truth — you just can’t divorce-proof a marriage. And you may also realize that people do not “give up” on their marriage easily and quickly nowadays.

Each of these women has made a career out of transparency and truth-telling, yet for a long time they did not tell the real truth to their fans, their spouses and even themselves. No one really knows what goes on in someone else’s marriage.

But those in the marriage know. As Doyle Melton says about being a woman who doesn’t ignore what she knows or betrays herself, “you never promised yourself an easy life, but you did promise yourself a true one.” And sometimes, that truth means you need to divorce.

Written by

Award-winning journalist, coauthor of “The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels,” mom, changing the narrative about older women

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