I’m Ready To Sign Them Papers: What Is a Good Reason to End a Marriage?

August 24, 2012  |  


“Would you leave your husband if he cheated on you?”
If it was only once, I’d stay.”
“And if he hit you?”
Oh, no. I am outta there. You hear me? Gone.”
“Only if it was once?”
If he hits you once, he’ll hit you again.”
“If he cheated more than once?”
I don’t know if I could stay, but I don’t know that I’d leave right away. We’d have to talk about it, go through some counseling. Work it out.”

This, my friends, is a composite conversation of overheard chats between women and a few I’ve had myself. I wondered about this discourse recently as the blogosphere swelled with commentary about Evelyn Lozada’s divorce filing from Chad Johnson. Upon learning that the couple was calling it quits after Johnson allegedly head-butted Lozada (she had reportedly confronted him about finding condom receipts), the Internet was replete with discussions on domestic abuse, the sanctity of marriage, and whether the boisterous “Basketball Wives” cast member had it coming.

Then there were the ostensibly apt Kim Kardashian comparisions: Lozada and Johnson’s union of 41 days trumped Kardashian’s 72-day marriage to NBA player Kris Humprhies, knocking it from the top spot of the shortest reality TV-boosted marriages in recent pop history. While viewers and Twitter pundits love the tabloid fodder for all its gloss and DVR-worthy glass throwing, I thought about how we common folk assess the value of marriage in our own lives.

“Quit comparing Evelyn to Kim Kardashian! Evelyn was abused ,” one Facebook friend chimed. It appeared that in the court of public opinion, Kardashian, who was fervent in her denial that Humphries ever abused her, didn’t have a “good enough” reason to leave her marriage after less than three months. As she told Oprah Winfrey in June, “You know when you just have that feeling that he’s the one? When we moved in, I had the feeling he was not the one.”

What if you know that he’s not the one for you? Some folks may not subscribe to the concept of kismet, while others don’t discount the “knowing.” (I’ll say that I’ve never talked to a long-term married couple about relationships without hearing a “When ya know, ya know” thrown into the conversation.) The reasons why a woman lets a relationship get to the altar without “knowing” that her betrothed is “the one” are as subjective and varied as the very concept as everyone having a “one.” In Kardashian’s case, she is a woman who is ready to drop an “I just want my fairy tale” in front of any interviewer and camera keeping up with her. Kismet conversations aside, perhaps when Kim realized that a multi-million dollar wedding did not make a fairy tale and that she would actually have to live with this guy, she decided to salvage her life from her hefty decision, schadenfreude-subscribing naysayers be damned. It all depressed her, she said. Leaving a marriage, no matter how brief and no matter how famous the couple, surely can’t be easy.

The alleged head-butting incident that led Lozada to seek a divorce lawyer caused a problematic chatter all its own. Never mind the 41-day marriage; some folk rendered the abuse karma for Lozada’s reality-flavored TV ruthlessness against other “Basketball Wives” cast members. Reminiscent of the dialogue surrounding the Rihanna-Chris Brown drama of 2009, the competing public narratives of  “Did she incite him?” and  “Why are we blaming the victim?” came to the surface once more. As the divorce news hit, I was expecting to hear digital applause, because a woman should leave an abusive marriage, right? Or is her filing just plain bad for the preservation of a holy union? Should she have stuck it out? Reading the comments of I-told-you-so finger waggers, I wondered this: How sacrosanct can a marriage be if your husband is head-butting you?

Going to the altar without being sure of your lifetime commitment (sans the clichéd cold feet and jitters), as with Kardashian and likely many other unnamed, non-famous women, is not ideal. And, not that the following is true in Evelyn’s case (because not one of us knows what really happened), it’s unlikely that abuse will cease just because your man puts a ring on it.

When does staying together trump the acknowledgement of our human foibles, the very ones that can often leave us dangerously in lust or committed to the hope that things will get better once we jump the broom? Does preserving the sanctity of marriage mean that you must stay bound not only to the man you married, but also to a poor choice?

I’d be remiss not to mention the idea of staying together for the kids. While neither Kardashian nor Humphries has children together, Johnson and Lozada each have children from previous relationships. Is staying together for the kids good for anyone, the kids included?

One thing I’m learning through pop culture watching, eavesdropping and chatting with my girlfriends is this: While marriage tethers a couple through “for better” and “for worse,” one woman’s “for worse” may constitute another’s absolute deal breaker.

Readers, I’m asking you like I’ve asked my friends: What reason is “good enough” to leave a marriage, and who decides that? How soon is too soon to dip out if you realize you shouldn’t have married him in the first place? What determines due diligence in keeping a marriage together? How bad does the “for worse” have to be before you bounce?

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  • Lexy

    I try to follow the rule of the three “A’s: : Adultery, Abuse (Physical or Emotional), or Abandonment.

  • LD

    physical abuse is an abuse of trust. There’s no “us” after that, just “me” on guard against “your” fits of anger.The stress alone probably takes a decade off your life, and no one is worth that.Time to go!

    Me personally, if my man cheats on me it’s over, but I”m no spring chicken and don’t have time to spend “rebuilding trust”. If I were younger, I’d want to find out what circumstances caused him to cheat, and depending on those I’d stay or go. Now, if it happened again, I’d walk regardless of the circumstances.

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  • cheekee baby

    Anyone who thinks their marriage is going to last when they one, got married for a story arch in their reality show, and two, knowingly marry someone with questionable morals and a track record of whoredom.

    No she didn’t deserve to get head butted, but if it wasn’t this it would have surely been something else that broke up the marriage.

  • CarlaKah

    How bad does the “for worse” have to be before you bounce? ” When loving myself means leaving him.

  • Is It 5:00 Yet?

    Two reasons to get a divorce: Adultery & extreme physical abuse.

    • cheekee baby

      What constitutes ‘extreme’ are there varying levels of abuse? Are some acceptable or tolerable while others are not? How about a little shoving, shaking, or squeezing? Are those not enough abuse to warrant divorce?

      • Is It 5:00 Yet?

        I can see the sarcasm and shade in your comment.

        Your free to divorce someone on anything, but according to the Bible unless that person has cheated you are still marred to him/her in God’s eyes. I’m just saying.

        • cheekee baby

          LOL I’m not throwing shade, yes sarcasm. You are coming from this from a religious standpoint. Which is one of several reasons I don’t subscribe to religion. Yeah getting your head bashed in every night yet you can’t divorce cause God says so seems ridiculous. But I respect your stance 🙂

          • Is It 5:00 Yet?

            It is not a religious thing, but it is stated in every copy of the Bible. So whether you belong to a Christian religion or not it is in there.

            Also no, I’m not about to get my head bashed in every night. You have to exercise a sound mind and common sense…especially if you have children. My point is that marriage is a sacred and permanent vow. That is why it is sooo important for you to be CAUTIOUS ABOUT WHO YOU CHOOSE TO MARRY AND PAY ATTENTION TO ANY RED FLAGS BEFORE YOU GET MARRIED.

            • cheekee baby

              No arguments from me there.

  • jackieOsassin

    second chances are for video games. once trust is betrayed, it looms over the relationship like a gossamer blanket. it doesn’t affect your day to day life but in the recesses of your mind if something triggers the memory, you relive the feeling. an ocean full of “sorry”, no matter how sincere or from the heart, still can’t absolve someone not taking your every feeling into account before hurting you so easily.

  • mochamahogany

    I have yet to be married, I am patiently waiting on my “one”. I have a son who just turned 11, and I can not just marry any man. My parents have a good marriage-29 years. I saw every up and down, the almost quitting, the wanting to walk away-but then working out… but I’ve seen more marriages fail then last. It makes me nervous, because vows are sacred… til death do us part, I love life so I’m not dying… I understand that marriage is 2 imperfect people coming together for 1 goal-Partnership in doing great things in life together. No relationship will ever be a fairy tale… I blame disney- there is NO FAIRYTALE in life. But if it’s worth having, it’s worth putting in the work. Every marriage is different and it will be whatever the 2 people involved want it to be, good or bad. Your husband is not your savior, he doesn’t make you whole, and he definitely won’t make all your problems go away, he’s going to bring his own problems instead. People need to stop getting married in the “ecstasy phase” and go through some challenges and resolve some issues together first, to see if they have what it takes to make it, and if you do… walk down that aisle.

  • realadulttalk

    It’s hard to work things out when you don’t really know the person you married-that’s what I see as 90% of the problem with the marriages you mention. For me–it was time when bashing his skull in was more likely to happen than giving him a kiss. I had already lost myself–I didn’t like who I had become (what I had allowed him to make me into really) and the arguments were so mentally abusive that I’d have preferred the physical and wounds that can heal. The day I had a very vivid visualization of me beating him to death with a baseball bat–I left. That day. Called my gf and told her I needed to come over. I packed a few bags and only came back to retrieve the rest of mine and our daughters things. He knew it was time too–I told him a few years later why I left so rapidly and he thanked me. He said he saw hatred in my eyes and was actually afraid of what I might do b/c things had just gone too far. I didn’t want my daughter to ever have to side with a parent like I did as a child…leaving was the best decision I could make for all of us. And now-he and I are friends…which is all we should have ever been anyway.

    • realadulttalk

      You never know what you are capable of until someone pushes you to your limits…realizing I have the capacity to really hurt someone scared me senseless. That day–I had a complete understanding of temporary insanity–I give praises to God for making me walk away.

      • MLS2698

        I know what you mean. I’ll just say there was an incident in the kitchen that included a head-butt from ME when my arms were being held…….the knife rack was nearby and…….most can figure out the rest. No, I didn’t do it because of God and my child. The root of the argument: he was cheating.

        • realadulttalk

          I dealt with the cheating too–what pushed me over the edge is when he was blaming me for his cheating. WHAT?!?!? How’s it my fault we had an argument and you met some chick in a store and did your thing?? I was sitting at home (probably in tears) or blowing up his phone while he’s out smutting. And guess what–he’s still a cheater. Seems it wasn’t my fault at all. Lol Girl embrace your happiness–it was like a weight was lifted off my chest when I moved into my own place.

          • MLS2698

            I thank God I moved on because it’s no way I can ” work out ” my situation. My ex still blames me for all kinds of things. He blames me for having to get a SR-22 in our state. What is that you ask, cause I sure didn’t know; it’s insurance through the DMV for people who can’t afford insurance because of their driving record. I took him off of my car insurance when we were separated, and he got a couple of speeding tickets and a charge for carrying a concealed weapon in his vehicle ( his mistress had a husband, so it was for protection). But I’m to blame………I’m trying to quit cussing, so……..

  • guess

    I will be celebrating 20 year next month to my husband and yes those things did happen in the beginning. We worked through them and God has bless us and our family. As long as you are sorry from your heart not your mouth.

  • ThisChick

    I’m still very young and I havent really seen a “good” relationship but my deal breakers are cheating and abuse. Honestly these things are things that are hard to deal with and overcome. Growing up I seen and heard of a lot of this going on and I made a promise to myself to not say in a relationship if it harms me. Vows are very sacred to me and the person I end up with I plan to spend the rest of my life with but if the person I’m with doesn’t respect me, love me or have enough self control to not be lead to commit adultery I don’t feel I could stay with that person. It may have been a one time thing but what if it continues? I can’t sit around thinking the person I unitied with is around cheating on me. Cheating makes a person sneaky and causes them to lie about varies things, all traits I don’t want to be committed too. It would make me question myself. What’s wrong with me and lead to insecurity issues. As far as abuse goes that’s explainitory. Some may say these people can change and that may be true but it is usually a deep rooted issue they have to face. sSme who never change and I would rather have my sanity and hold my head high alone then to be in a marriage that I regret everyday. Std rates it too high and I dont need a man hitting on me possibly killing me one day.

  • tex

    I left when it ceased to be “us” (not that it ever was) and became me struggling to breathe in and out each day… I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror and LOVE me. I believed that my life was a lie… a waste of space. I could have stayed. I could have “gotten over it” like he suggested I do, and continue to let myself suffocate… but in the end, it wasn’t about the affair, it was about the abuse. I left in order to save myself AND my children. They didn’t need to grow up thinking that was normal.

    Would another woman stay? Of course, and many do. For me… I chose to leave.

  • IllyPhilly

    Whatever reason apparently since it’s done so much, so fast. It’s like wow. I forget what the guy said on That movie What Happens in Vegas .”Listen, I’ve been married for twenty five years to the same wonderful,
    infuriating woman. And granted there are days when I want to light her
    on fire but I don’t, because I love her. And that would be illegal. And
    you know something, and I might be old fashioned but when I said those
    vows, I meant them.”

    • MLS2698

      I meant my vows , too. But I can’t overlook cheating and possibly exposing someone to a deadly virus. And, I understand ” infuriating.” Everything can’t be worked out.