Pamela Paul, author of Starter Marriages, examines the restigmatization of divorce within the upper middle classes:
“That this change has occurred mainly among the affluent suggests it’s not just a reaction to the divorce epidemic of the ’70s,” Dr. Cherlin said. “The condemnation of divorce is also coming from the group that is most confident it can make its marriages succeed, and that allows them to be dismissive of divorce.”
Paul suggests that it’s primarily the children that are behind the change in trend, though she notes that some people invert the normal argument and contend that an amicable divorce is better for the kids than an unhappy union.
But I was mostly interested in this final bit:
In another unexpected twist, some divorced women say they detect an unspoken envy. Other wives and mothers, they explained, were “battling it out” while dealing with the unceasing tasks of wifedom, motherhood and work.
“What I get from a number of married women in my community is jealousy of my new lifestyle,” Dr. Monet said. “Dating, going to yoga five times a week, having time for myself. Raising young kids with a spouse doesn’t afford you much time.”
Ms. Morrison also sees a subtle, unexpected reaction. “Among my college friends and my closest friends, I’m still the only one who’s divorced,” she said. “In a funny way, I think I may have turned into the groovy one.”
What’s interesting to note is the way that what has sometimes been dubbed the ‘cult of youth’ is wrapped up in the attempt to keep divorce respectable. Dating five times a week has its charms, no doubt, but they’re limited for the precise reason that one cannot make a steady diet of Snickers bars: it’s a temporary solution, meant to get you into the permanent state of marriage.
And once there, the wisdom of the institution is that if you make it through the crazy period and get the kids out of the house, then you can settle down to enjoy all that “groovy” stuff together with someone who you’ve been attached to for 30 or 40 years–precisely at the point when attempts at “groovy” start to look ridiculous.*
*Noting my own absence of arrows in the quiver, which means you should all take this with a teaspoon of salt.