Stop All the Joy Over Don Jr.’s Divorce
Feeling smug over the president’s son’s split is yet another reminder that traditional marriage is a shame-based model
Donald Trump Jr.’s wife, Vanessa, filed for divorce after 12 years of marriage and five children, ages 3 to 10, recently and immediately, Twitter exploded with “serves him right” jabs, which didn’t sit right with everybody.
“Really weird and upsetting to see folks acting gleeful at the Don Jr. divorce news. It’s his private life and he has five kids,” tweeted Sam Stein of the Daily Beast, whose view was supported by MSNBC host Chris Hayes: “Leave it alone. 100% Correct Take.”
Then Bill Maher got into it:
Even Trump wives are starting to leave. Don Jr.’s wife … filed for divorce. She’s citing ‘irreconcilable douchiness.’ Says she wants to see other creeps. No, but it’s sad. We don’t know why they broke up — you never really know with a couple. But I’m gonna go with Hope Hicks! I’m just kidding.”
That was, of course, before revelations that Don. Jr. allegedly had an affair while Vanessa had just given birth to their third child. I’m no fan of the Trumps and infidelity isn’t OK but it doesn’t always end a marriage — they had two more children after the alleged affair — yet the “serves him right” mentality surrounding the Trumps divorce is upsetting. Vanessa isn’t leaving him because people don’t like his politics or his big-game hunting or any number of reasons people don’t like him, even the alleged affair. She isn’t leaving him to “serve him right” or because he “deserves” it. We don’t divorce a spouse to punish him or her. We divorce because we want to end an unhappy, unhealthy marriage — and there’s nothing negative about that. For people to feel a certain satisfaction over Don Jr.’s divorce is yet another reminder that traditional marriage is a shame-based model — Shame on you for not making it “until death.” You’re getting what you deserve! — and that we still consider divorce as something “wrong” or “bad,” despite how common it is.
There’s nothing bad or wrong about divorce. Nothing.
None of us really knows why Vanessa wants out. As far as we know, the decision to divorce could be mutual; most couples have a sense that a marriage is doomed and perhaps Vanessa was just the first to file. And because we (thankfully) have no-fault divorce, she doesn’t have to offer an excuse to anyone, nor do any of us seeking to end a marriage. But, the reasons are irrelevant — happy, healthy marriages generally don’t end in divorce.
As a child of divorce himself, Don Jr. knows all too well what it feels like to be caught up in the drama of a high-profile public divorce. No one wants to see children be dragged into that. But, kids or not, framing divorce as something shameful or wrong or negative, that someone “got what’s coming to him,” just perpetuates old stereotypes that marriage should be “until death” no matter what. Can we finally move past that?
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