Posts Tagged ‘divorce’

RHOC: The key to winning over someone’s kids

July 16, 2012

There’s an art to stepping into a family — and by that, I mean that dating someone’s parent is dicey. It’s awkward enough when you’re first meeting someone’s family — their parents, their siblings, their relatives — but meeting someone’s kids is a whole different ballgame. And one preconceived notion that I despise, as the child of divorced parents, is that all kids will automatically dislike their parents’ significant others.

I do think it’s easier for people who meet the kids when they’re young — the older that the kids are, the more attached they probably are to the idea of their parents as a solid couple. You don’t want to be seen as the wrench in the relationship, but, on the other hand, young adults can probably perceive problems in their parents’ relationship and wouldn’t necessary jump to blaming the newbie.

Anyway, this is all spawned from watching The Real Housewives of Orange County and seeing Vicki try to urge a relationship between Brooks, her boyfriend, and her children Brianna and Michael. The way that Brianna describes Brooks — pompous, intrusive, condescending, evasive — are all the exact qualities you don’t want to portray. If ever there was a harsh critic, it’s someone’s kids — you don’t get brownie points for impressing them with your worldliness.

Because really, kids are just looking for their parents to date people who are friendly, funny, and genuine. I think this is who everyone wants to see their friends and family date, but adults often don’t realize that kids 1.) don’t seek an authority figure and will immediately reject someone who tries to adopt that role, and 2.) aren’t impressed by arrogance. It’s not a job interview where you need to brag about yourself to win the employer over — it’s more about sitting back, listening, observing, and feeling out when the time is right to add your two cents.

That kind of sounded harsh but… it’s true. In my experience, I’ll respond far better to someone who is just friendly and not abrasive — people who want to belittle me, tell me what to do, or make obvious attempts to assert their dominance in the food chain? Yeah… not interested. This is what Brianna was saying — families already have these set traditions and routines, so the best way to get on the kids’ good sides? Act like any guest — don’t try to take control; don’t try to rewrite the traditions.

There’s definitely some finesse to finding those spots — when to speak up, when to ask questions, when to take a backseat. But Brooks being more concerned with flaunting his wealth and ownership of Vicki than really getting to know Brianna and trying to organically find a place in their family? That’s not going to rub any of her kids the right way. Be sincere and genuinely nice; understand that it’s not your job to replace anyone; and don’t act sketchy. Brooks? He won’t tell anyone his job. You only get one first impression, and trying to avoid talking about how you make money is an instant red flag… even outside the OC.

So should kids be blamed for not being welcoming enough to newbies? Is it the children who are being stubborn because they don’t want their moms/dads replaced? I don’t think so. I think this is the misconception, but that reality shows these newbies have trouble establishing a space in an already existing family unit. And I get that it’s a tough thing to navigate. But I can assure you that treating kids with disrespect, attitude, and self-centeredness isn’t the proper path. Maybe they’re just trying to make a splash, but try wading into the waters instead of attempting the cannonball… and then bellyflopping.

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RHOC: Domestic abuse, unhappy marriages, excessive cattiness

June 1, 2011

While catching up on Real Housewives of Orange County today, I couldn’t help but notice some interesting themes: victim-blaming concerning domestic abuse, independent women and the institution of marriage, and also some of the women’s comments that make me concerned for humanity in general (I’m looking at you, Gretchen and Alexis).

1. I didn’t see any abuse, so you must be lying

Oh Jeana Keough, I loved you on this show when you were a regular cast member. You seemed down to earth, said funny things, and didn’t fit the typical blond-haired, plastic-surgery-filled mold that many cast members do. But your friendship with Tamra’s ex-husband Simon has shown a new side to you, a side that is all too common when it comes to allegations of domestic abuse: X is my friend, and I haven’t seen him act abusive toward you, so I think you’re lying.

This sentiment rings far too often when it comes to allegations of abuse. Admittedly I started watching halfway into Jeana’s sit-down talk with Tamra so I didn’t see the entire conversation, but they were discussing Tamra’s calling the police and Simon being arrested on a domestic violence charge last September. According to Radar Online, Tamra and Simon shared custody of their dog, and Simon was at the house they shared and when Tamra arrived home, Simon threw a retractable dog leash at her head.

Tamra described it to Jeana a little differently and implied that Simon was in her house, not their house, so the details there are a little hazy (maybe they were better explained in the minutes before I tuned in). But Jeana’s defense of Simon’s actions included the following:

  • Jeana said she hung out with Simon and Tamra a lot when they were married and it didn’t seem like an abusive relationship, so she doubted Simon was actually abusive;
  • Jeana doubted that Tamra actually felt threatened by Simon being in her house;
  • Jeana implied that because Tamra waited until after Simon left to call the police, this somehow makes her story less plausible;
  • Jeana noted that people often throw things to a person and the object isn’t caught, so it’s likely that he simply was tossing the dog leash to her and she didn’t catch it; and
  • Jeana thinks Tamra’s calling the police is a calculated attempt to ruin Simon’s life.

Let me address these things in order. Firstly, not seeing someone physically abuse their partner is not concrete evidence that abuse doesn’t happen. It’s difficult to consider that your friends might have sides to themselves that they don’t show to you, but you can’t assume an accuser is lying simply because you personally didn’t see abuse happen. Abusers — like most criminals — aren’t usually interested in committing their crimes in front of an audience of friends and witnesses.

So when Jeana says she didn’t see it so it didn’t happen, or Bernard-Henri Levy says Dominique Strauss-Kahn is his friend and he doesn’t seem like a rapist, those bits of anecdotal evidence don’t really prove anything except that their respective friends weren’t abusive to them or in front of them. One in four women — 25 percent of women —
experiences domestic violence in her life; I wonder how many of these women’s abusers’ seemed perfectly fine to their friends?

Secondly, Jeana’s idea of abuse follows a stereotypical — and inaccurate — portrayal of how “real abuse” looks. Because Simon didn’t leave a physical mark on her, Jeana assumes that he wasn’t a threat to Tamra. But it’s up to Tamra to determine whether she feels threatened, not Jeana. And does it make more sense to call the police before abuse escalates to the point of serious violent behavior or after? In a perfect scenario, you call the police when a crime happens — when you’re faced with a person who you feel threatened by, you might feel safer waiting (if the person is leaving) so that the phone call doesn’t provoke more violence.

And the most problematic excuse of all? That calling the police can ruin someone’s life. This mentality is one reason a lot of domestic violence goes unreported — you have feelings for the person who is abusive, you care for them, and you don’t want to give them or add to a criminal record. These are often women’s husbands, people they are legally tied to, committed to, living with, the fathers of their children, and having them hauled off in handcuffs and a police car is seen as a very last resort because of these close relationships. Finally calling the cops? That could ruin someone’s life; but then again, so could constant abuse.

Jeana’s defense really pissed me off, because she threw around the classic arguments that merely blame the victims of domestic violence for the abuse they endure. You should’ve called the police sooner, you shouldn’t have acted like everything was fine, XYZ action really isn’t abuse, you’re just trying to tarnish his reputation or ruin his life — all statements commonly thrown at women who accuse men of domestic abuse, and all statements that don’t at all consider the complexity and the danger that comes with abuse.

2. All you women who independent 

Vicki is this show’s independent woman — she is the breadwinner of the family, she works long hours and prides herself on building her own business from the ground up, and she doesn’t rely on her husband Donn for anything. But this independent exterior broke into pieces as she confessed to Tamra that she was convinced she should stay in a loveless, passionless marriage with Donn.

“I believe in my commitment to him as a wife,” Vicki told Tamra. It is a bit surprising that she holds traditional values inside the home when it comes to gender roles, considering how outside the home she doesn’t follow these gender roles. She believes in the institution of marriage (though she has been married once before), and she believes as a woman that she should honor the commitment she made to Donn under any and all circumstances.

She goes so far as to acknowledge to Tamra that continuing her marriage would be out of obligation and not desire. “I can exist in this,” she tells Tamra. “If I have to, I will.” This is what I find so remarkable about the idea of marriage as an institution, and the disdain many people have toward divorce. Everyone gets married with the intent to stay together forever, but the reality is that people change and become incompatible. Or the marriage becomes unhealthy. Or both parties are just miserable. Should people be forced to stay legally bound to each other to satisfy some social institution’s expectations?

Personally, I think not. Divorce is very sad and shouldn’t be taken lightly (I don’t think marriage should be taken lightly, either), but people shouldn’t stay in unhealthy marriages simply because they feel obligated by the pressures of society. Vicki feels that her obligation as a wife is to stay committed to Donn even when they are both unhappy, don’t communicate, and don’t even hug each other. Vicki’s views on marriage are also based on her faith, and I can’t really speak to the religious background of how extensively the Bible promotes marriage and/or condemns divorce.

3. Things people say that make me bang my head against my desk 

Gretchen is sometimes annoying, but she really took the cake when she insisted that Vicki’s absence at Alexis’s fashion show was rude. Oh, by the way, Vicki was being rushed to the hospital because she was hemorrhaging out of somewhere in her body (Tamra implied it was her ass?) and bleeding internally, but Gretchen thought it was “ironic” that Vicki was hospitalized at the exact time of Alexis’s photo shoot.

First of all, “ironic” doesn’t mean “suspiciously coincidental” or “weird” so stop repeatedly saying it’s “ironic” because it’s not. Secondly, shit happens. Thirdly, as someone who does start drama at events that are going peacefully, Gretchen should not be making accusations that Vicki and Tamra are always trying to rain on everybody’s parade. Who’s first inclination when someone is claiming they are hemorrhaging is to think that’s just an elaborate excuse??

Fourthly, Alexis, why on earth are you more concerned with how “rude” it is for someone to keep leaving their seat at your faux fashion show to check on a friend who is in the hospital than that person actually being OK? You are promoting a fashion line that isn’t even out yet and is already being criticized by your guests, and Vicki is potentially bleeding to death. If she wanted to skip your event, I think she would’ve just skipped it instead of claiming she was on the operating table. Gretchen and Alexis: currently making me question humanity.

Breaking news: Young, unmarried women are easier than ever

March 3, 2011

I always love being reminded that, if women had their way, we’d marry the first guy we met to ensure we didn’t become lonely spinsters. Not men, though — as this article from Slate points out, guys are getting their way, and their way is sex — lots of it, and without having to even charm ladies or promise them any kind of commitment. Let’s take a look at this article’s assertions about heterosexual relationships, dating, and sex, and point out where the article is terribly misinformed, shall we?

1. If women ruled relationships, marriages would be on the rise

It’s a good thing the author advises the reader to “call it sexist, call it whatever you want,” because his entire article is founded on the idea that men want sex, women want marriage, and any data derived about sex and relationships must be interpreted through this stereotypical and played out lens. Here’s the foundation:

But what many young men wish for—access to sex without too many complications or commitments—carries the day. If women were more fully in charge of how their relationships transpired, we’d be seeing, on average, more impressive wooing efforts, longer relationships, fewer premarital sexual partners, shorter cohabitations, and more marrying going on.

This is sexist against both men and women — assuming that men just want sex and women just want marriage. Under this very scientific premise, a drop in marriage rates obviously must mean that men are winning the battle against women, who are always on the attack and trying to cage them and force them into settling down and not having all that random sex.

Perhaps the author failed to realize other causes for the decline in marriage, such as high divorce rates (cautionary tales for young people), people going to college and focusing on a career rather than getting married right out of high school (it’s true, women are choosing to delay marriage), women being financially independent (choosing not to be financially dependent on a man), cohabitation, and a decline in religion. So while this author chooses to say that a decline in marriage rates is an obvious sign that men are, to quote Charlie Sheen, “winning,” it’s more likely that rates are declining because society is changing.

2. Outdated studies from the ’70s and ’80s speak for today’s youth

It’s baffling that this guy uses studies from the 1980s and applies those findings to the present — 30 years later. Thirty years ago, my mom was my age — the other day, she used the term “necking,” and when I told her that young people today would call that “making out,” she told me that “making out” was something much different and closer to sex. So maybe using outdated data to back up your thesis is not a great idea?

Here’s one example:

In one frequently cited study, attractive young researchers separately approached opposite-sex strangers on Florida State University’s campus and proposed casual sex. Three-quarters of the men were game, but not one woman said yes. I know: Women love sex too. But research like this consistently demonstrates that men have a greater and far less discriminating appetite for it.

This study was published in 1989, using data gathered in 1978 and 1982. All this demonstrates is that 30 years ago, men were more likely to sleep with complete strangers than women — why is sleeping with strangers the measuring stick for sexual appetite?

3. Women are battling pornography for sexual power

According to the author, women — though having a weak appetite for sex — should theoretically have power in the sexual relationship because the guy is always ready to go, but he has to wait for the woman to agree. But this power is threatened by porn:

And yet despite the fact that women are holding the sexual purse strings, they aren’t asking for much in return these days—the market “price” of sex is currently very low. There are several likely reasons for this. One is the spread of pornography: Since high-speed digital porn gives men additional sexual options—more supply for his elevated demand—it takes some measure of price control away from women.

Since when is pornography and masturbating an additional sexual option? Men could masturbate before the digital age, so pornography — though offering a helpful stimulus — is simply a masturbation aide. If a guy wants to have actual sex, with an actual vagina, he’s likely not going to be as satisfied by doing it alone. I doubt women fear masturbation as a form of retaliation for not putting out enough — in case you didn’t know, women can masturbate, too.

4. The amount of sex you have should be directly correlated to how successful you are in life

The author keeps trying to put forth the idea that sex is a game, and men have the upper hand because, despite being generally less successful than women, they are still having lots of sex:

The terms of contemporary sexual relationships favor men and what they want in relationships, not just despite the fact that what they have to offer has diminished, but in part because of it.

I guess that with fewer men in the workforce, in college, and with their salaries on the decline, the standards are generally going to drop, and women are going to be forced to choose from a dating pool that isn’t as successful as it used to be — this means women are going to have to lower their standards when on the prowl.

Or, could it just mean that women aren’t necessarily always prowling for a guy who is rich? Maybe because women are more successful and independent, they know they won’t be financially dependent on a man so don’t highly prioritize income? Isn’t it funny how a man could date a woman who isn’t super successful and wouldn’t be labeled as “settling,” but a woman dates someone less successful than she is and suddenly she’s given something up?

5. If you give out the milk for free, he’ll never buy the cow!

The author would also like to remind you that women, you’ll never find love and marriage if you keep putting out so easily:

Yes, sex is clearly cheap for men. Women’s “erotic capital,” as Catherine Hakim of the London School of Economics has dubbed it, can still be traded for attention, a job, perhaps a boyfriend, and certainly all the sex she wants, but it can’t assure her love and lifelong commitment. Not in this market. It’s no surprise that the percentage of 25- to 34-year-olds who are married has shrunk by an average of 1 percent each year this past decade.

This is just … what? Am I reading this wrong, or is he also implying that women are trading sex to get jobs, too? And that giving out the milk for free isn’t going to find her love and a husband? And that men only marry women to have sex? I thought they could just watch porn and masturbate for that?

______

The overarching theme is that sex is a commodity that women “sell” to gain long-term commitment from men, but the pickings are so slim these days that women are willing to “sell” their bodies without even asking for things like flowers and jewelry and marriage in return, which is a “win” for men but a “loss” for women — yeah, that’s sexist and misguided on a bunch of levels. It also takes agency away from women by implying that they wouldn’t choose any non-Disney-princess-fairy-tale life, so they must be miserable, desperate, etc.

How about this: Young people are more open to casual sex than 30 years ago, when that “frequently cited” study was conducted. Young people aren’t marrying as early because they go to college and settle into careers first. Young people cohabitate. Women aren’t always on the prowl for a rich husband, because they can make their own money.

Or maybe I’m the one who is misinformed, and porn really is to blame for all of this.

16&P: Abortion, uneven sacrifices, distance, disappointment

November 10, 2010

This week on 16 and Pregnant we met Emily, a 16 year old who was kicked out of her mom’s house when she wouldn’t agree to get an abortion. Emily was living with her dad and stepmom and also dating Daniel, an easygoing guy — well, easygoing as long as he was getting his way and not having to take care of baby Liam.

1. What the teen wants vs. what the parents want

It’s not uncommon for the teen moms of 16 and Pregnant to disagree with their parents concerning their teen pregnancy — Farrah wanted an abortion and her mom was against it; Lori wanted to keep the baby and her parents wanted her to put it up for adoption; but this episode, both of Emily’s parents wanted her to get an abortion and Emily was against it. In fact, her mom was so against the pregnancy that she kicked Emily out when Emily refused to get an abortion. Emily’s parents are divorced, so — despite his objection to her keeping the baby — her dad agreed to let her stay with him.

Emily’s dad asked her if she thought that she was qualified to make such a decision, and she simply replied that there was “no turning back now.” But who is more qualified to make the right decision — the teen or the parents? The parents obviously are more aware of the stresses and sacrifices involved in parenthood, and perhaps Emily’s mom saw Emily’s refusing to get an abortion not only as a statement of Emily’s personal beliefs, but as a direct act of defiance against her. Although I don’t have a problem with people getting abortions, there is a problem with forcing someone to get an abortion, or using threats or coercion to get that person to agree to an abortion.

2. An unbalanced sacrifice

Emily put it best when she said, “I hate the fact that I’ve given up way more than [Daniel] has.” Not only did she lose her relationship with her mom because of her pregnancy, but she was on the verge of failing her classes because she was missing school because of morning sickness. Eventually she left her high school and enrolled in home schooling, but keeping up with her homework and graduating high school proved difficult once Liam was born.

Because Emily’s mom kicked her out, she moved in with her dad, who lived about an hour from Daniel. Daniel would come and visit, but he didn’t have nearly the responsibility of taking care of Liam that Emily did, and Emily told her friends that Daniel hadn’t spent more than two hours alone with Liam because Daniel got bored and tired of taking care of him. It also didn’t help that Daniel also told Emily that taking care of Liam wasn’t that hard, hence why she shouldn’t complain about having to do it all the time.

“What you do isn’t 24/7, you have a break,” Emily told Daniel, when she was telling him that though school and work is hard, they eventually end — taking care of Liam was round-the-clock, and she didn’t have his support to make it easier on her. She sacrificed her homework and graduating on time in order to take care of Liam — Daniel worked, but he admitted that he didn’t visit Emily as much because he was trying to enjoy his “freedom” before they moved in together.

It takes two people to make a baby, yet Emily doesn’t get an opportunity to “enjoy her freedom.” Because she has a uterus, the responsibility falls on her to take care of the baby and sacrifice her education, though Daniel played an equal part in making the baby and thinks he has a right to take advantage of his free time and tell Emily that what she does isn’t that hard … despite the fact he avoids doing it.

And Emily’s dad made a good point that, when discussing their plans with Daniel’s parents, it seemed like the plans revolved around Daniel furthering his education and Emily simply taking care of the baby. Her dad said he didn’t want to see her at the Piggly-Wiggly as a cashier because she had sacrificed everything so that Daniel could go to college and graduate. Eventually, Emily confronted Daniel about she was prioritizing her own education and future — Daniel wasn’t pleased about that.

In many of these episodes, the teen moms take on far more responsibility than the teen dads — if the teen dads even stay involved — and they sacrifice so much more than the dads do. It pains me every time one of the teen dads brushes off the teen mom when she explains how exhausting it is to care of the baby, though the dad is never jumping to prove his point that taking care of the baby isn’t hard. Both parents need to take responsibility and shouldn’t be expected that the mom will make all the sacrifices.

3. Absence … doesn’t make the heart grow fonder

Emily seemed to insinuate throughout the episode that things would be easier if they lived together — they were getting on each other’s nerves, but living together and being married would change all that. The problem there is that the fights they have are not solely related to distance — Daniel doesn’t have the attention span to take care of Liam, Emily needs support in order to graduate, and Daniel thinks they should be married solely because they have a child. It’s not the distance that is preventing Daniel from being more involved — it’s his own attitude.

Emily might be falling into the trap of, “It will be better when …” and might make some decisions she later regrets if she banks on living together or marriage fixing their problems. Of course having Daniel there to help her is going to be better, but only if he takes the initiative to help her. By the end of the episode she was realizing that it was probably too soon to be married, but the idea that huge steps like cohabitation, marriage, or even having a baby will fix a problematic relationship is common but misguided — and it avoids actually addressing the problems at hand.

4. Where did I go wrong?

I don’t recall an episode yet where a parent candidly asked, “Where did I go wrong?” and expressed disappointment not only in the teen for getting pregnant, but in themselves for not communicating an abstinence or safe sex message better. I’ve heard some parents say it in a more accusatory way, e.g. reminding the teen that s/he was told about the consequences of unprotected sex — but Emily’s dad genuinely looked distraught about his own message of abstinence being ineffective.

I’m curious, though, what his message was — from what he said, I inferred that his message to her was simply, “Don’t have sex.” That’s not a very effective way to prevent pregnancy — it’s basically a command, which like any other parental command, teens are apt to shrug off. It offers no explanation of why the teen shouldn’t have sex, and no explanation of contraception should the teen go against the parent’s wishes and choose to have sex. It’s quite a gamble to just assume that a command alone, without explanation, will prevent your teen from having sex.

This also brings up how children are taught about sex when they grow up with divorced parents. I’m curious if the dad expected the mom to more closely discuss sex with their daughter, and I’m curious what exactly the mom did tell Emily about sex. If there isn’t communication between the parents about what message is being sent about sex, the teen might get mixed messages — or no messages at all.

Additional commentary on ’15 Ways to Predict Divorce’

May 20, 2010

This Daily Beast blog on “15 Ways to Predict Divorce” had some … interesting things to say on how to predict divorce (read Anna North’s two cents at Jezebel for a full and insightful analysis), but I have some additional observations about some of the circumstances author Anneli Rufus said were predictions of divorce.

Example 1: If you argue with your spouse about finances once a week, your marriage is 30 percent more likely to end in divorce than if you argue with your spouse about finances less frequently.

Rufus attributes this excessive arguing to money woes — that’s one possibility. The first thing that actually popped into my mind was that couples who are more argumentative are more likely to get a divorce because both parties speak their minds and aren’t going to be submissive to one another. I think it’s probably weird that was my first thought.

I mean, it’s obvious if you don’t have financial woes you’ll have one less thing to fight about, but arguing less about finances might mean you argue less about a lot of things — maybe you deal with problems in a manner other than arguing, which is probably a lot more healthier and calmer than just ripping each other’s heads off. Not to mention less stressful.

Example 2: If your parents were divorced, you’re at least 40 percent more likely to get divorced than if they weren’t. If your parents married others after divorcing, you’re 91 percent more likely to get divorced.

Rufus cites Divorce Magazine’s  (yes, there is a magazine about divorce) publisher, who says that witnessing parental divorce reinforces our ambivalence about marriage. I think more than that, though, it’s not that we are ambivalent but it’s just the norm — it’s not as taboo.

My parents are divorced, and it’s not that I don’t take commitment or marriage as an institution seriously — it’s just that I’m not morally opposed to divorce because I can understand that two people grow apart over time. I can’t imagine my parents actually being married, and knowing they are both happy without each other gives me some piece of mind that divorce isn’t going necessarily ruin a person’s life.

Also, the publisher — who says,  “In most people’s minds, it’s easier to get a new car than fix the one you’ve got,” — makes it seem like people who get divorced give up. I disagree, because it implies that every marriage with problems is fixable. Sometimes a broken marriage is beyond repair — children of divorced parents don’t think spouses are “disposable,” but I think we’re realistic about the fact that people can change and grow apart.

Example 3: If you’re an evangelical Christian adult who has been married, there’s a 26 percent likelihood that you’ve been divorced—compared to a 28 percent chance for Catholics and a 38 percent chance for non-Christians.

The divorce rate tends to be higher for non-Christians because there isn’t any religious ideology that holds them back from divorcing. Other studies have shown that cohabitating couples are more likely to get divorced, but one theory behind that was that the same people who don’t believe in divorce (likely for religious reasons) probably don’t believe in living together before marriage (for religious reasons).

Example 4:  If both you and your partner have had previous marriages, you’re 90 percent more likely to get divorced than if this had been the first marriage for both of you.

This interested me because it does seem like round two would be more successful — but it isn’t entirely surprising. Getting divorced the first time is difficult — I’d imagine the second time around it would be easier. You’re less likely to put up with someone’s BS because the threat of divorce doesn’t scare you — you’ve been through it already. It’s like getting your first tattoo — once you know how it feels and what the pain is like, getting another one isn’t as big a deal.