New York Times readers evaluate the homewrecker

“An Optimist’s Guide to Divorce” is a nytimes article by a woman who was having sex with a married man. The married guy decided to leave his wife and two young daughters in favor of the author, thus putting her into what would have been called the homewrecker category back in the 1950s when the morality of an action was evaluated from the children’s point of view (i.e., should their home be wrecked or not). The twist is that the left-behind wife almost immediately forgives both husband and homewrecker, thus enabling the mistress-turned-girlfriend to describe the resulting mashup of adults and children as a family: “I can’t tell her how much this family we all have forged means to me.”

The hundreds of comments are interesting as a guide to how Americans (well, at least coastal Hillary-supporting Americans) view the issue of marital commitment.

[My own comment:

“It was as if I had been saving my maternal love for Rose and Alice, who were then 7 and 3.”

It could get exciting at the daycare if Alice tries to explain this to the other toddlers, e.g., “My Dad really needed to have sex with some new women and that’s why he and Mom decided to spend my college fund on running two households, family court professionals, etc.”

This article does highlight that the only standard by which a lot of urban Americans evaluate the morality of an action is “Will it make me happier?” Under that standard, though, why are there any limits to what you can do at your children’s expense?

]

How should Americans think about this? Here is a NYT Pick:

Stop judging/shaming Josh and Elizabeth’s actions and start embracing the fact that people are capable of parting in a way that is loving and kind. Studies show it isn’t divorce per se that hurts kids — it’s conflict.

(The “studies show” comment is consistent with 1970s Americans wanting to back up their personal desires with “science” and advice from clinical psychology (paid-by-the-hour) professionals. Studies by research psychologists (paid by universities and grants) that we read for Real World Divorce show that children on average are harmed more by an American divorce than by the death of a parent. And even if the two parents don’t make too much use of the winner-take-all New York family law system for the next 18 years (until the 3-year-old turns 21 and is no longer a potential cash source for one parent), there is no question that Dad and Mom running two households and being out on Tinder dates will reduce the resources available to the children.)

How do (self-proclaimed elite) Americans think about this? Here are some reader picks:

(RE from NYC) How am I not surprised that it’s the mother who swallows her own happiness, pride, and security for the good of her family? … it does raise (again) the infuriating question of why women always sacrifice their own lives, their own joy, to fix the catastrophes that the men around them make.

(S Tahura from DC) If he knew he was unhappy, he should have filed for divorce before approaching other women, rather than waiting for the next best thing to come along so he could make a convenient jump.

(Sharon from NY) I’m single, never married, in my late 40s, and I get hit on by married men all the time. They tell me I’m a “breath of fresh air.” Know what I tell those men? “Go home to your wife. Get some marriage counseling. If you’re still not happy, get a divorce.”

(K10031 from NYC) My ex left me for the love of his life. He’s now on his fourth marriage. Just saying.

(Karianne from Washington, D.C.) Another affirming example of Everyone Who Has An Affair Thinks They’re The Exception. See also: It’s Not An Affair, It Was Meant To Be and Everybody Is Happy It Turned Out This Way And Our Happiness Validates It.

(Moxie M from Boston) You know the old saying: when a man marries his mistress, he creates a job opening? I hope you plan on being as gracious as Beka.

(Stormi D from Cambridge, MA) I think that what bothers me most about this piece is its lack of discretion. Professor Covington’s students don’t need to know all the intimate details of her love life, and Beka (even if she said OK to it) and the children don’t deserve to have their personal business laid out for the world to see. This is not a sweet and charming story; it is disturbing on so many levels. I miss the days when people had some boundaries.

(Alison from NY) I’m not sure why Beka is wasting all her energy on trying to “forge” a good relationship between the author and her kids. Much more likely than not, Josh will have replaced the author within 3 to 5 years (if not sooner), so this will be all for naught and cause even more confusion and disruption to the kids. … She was a temporary and easy escape from his reality. Once she becomes his reality, he will seek another escape. It’s part of the other woman’s delusional fantasy that SHE is special and of course he would never cheat on HER.

(Jenny from SF) There is nothing wrong with breaking up when the love is gone in a relationship. Josh does not need to stay in an unhappy marriage.

Related:

Philip Greenspun’s Weblog