Of the many things to boggle at in the extraordinary email one “bitterly, bitterly disappointed” father sent his three adult children this week, the thing that stood out as the most bizarre to me was that if you get a divorce, you should consider yourself a loser.

Breaking up is hard to do but it doesn't mean you've ruined your life

Top of the list among the many ways in which retired submarine commander Nick Crews felt his kids had let him and his wife down was that they had four failed marriages.

“It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven and then to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you,’’ wrote Crews, in the email he later published.

“I for one have had enough of being forced to live through the never-ending bad dream of our children’s domestic ineptitudes.”

After the email went public, Crews said he had other parents congratulating him. Apparently other boomer parents think their kids have failed at life if they can’t keep a marriage together.

Apart from Crews’ hectoring, unsympathetic tone striking me as authoritarian, patriarchal and a possible explanation for the claim by one of his sons that he’s had low self-esteem since childhood, I was amazed he drew a line between your success as a person and the longevity of your marriage.

I’m all for marital longevity; for the kids, and the parents.

Divorce is painful, costly and a massive upheaval. It involves breaking promises you most likely made in front of the people who mean most to you, and ones you intended to keep.

No one I know who has gone through divorce did it lightly, or gave in to it easily, or got through that ordeal without a lot of suffering.

Any kid will tell you one of their worst nightmares is that their parents will split up, and parents know this. People who were kids of divorce themselves dearly want to avoid ‘doing’ that to their own kids.

But should they always stay in a marriage that makes them utterly miserable and role-models that as the benchmark for kids? And if they don’t, should they be judged?

According to Commander Crews and others, yes, they should. As times get tough and anxiety increases, it seems the old stigma around divorce is returning, to point where some people say they not only feel judged, but socially ostracised after a divorce.

In her divorce memoir, author Stacy Morrison wrote “one of the hardest things about divorce today is that you feel like you have to explain or apologise for it. The notion of divorce has become one of failure again”.

She described “the two-second blink” other parents in her conservative neighbourhood did when she said things like “Zack is with his father today”.

I have a dear friend who, after years of desolation in a dead-end marriage, late last year decided to separate. She’s intelligent, a devoted mother, and still suffering badly with the idea she is failure because she broke her commitment.

Their marriage was 20-plus years and she has made a massive amount of effort trying to keep it together. In the end, she and her partner wanted such diametrically opposed lifestyles that it just wasn’t possible.

I know another woman who only narrowly managed to keep hers together, despite a long time of feeling lonely and invisible in that marriage. As a kid of divorce, I’m right behind her huge efforts to keep it alive, for herself, her husband, and her kids.

“The thing is,” she told me once, “as they get older, the kids can sense your desperation”. I would never judge her—or him—if that marriage went belly up. Even so, it seems she may get a nasty email from ex-Commander Nick Crews.

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23 comments

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    • acotrel says:

      05:16am | 25/11/12

      After 32 years of attitudinal crap, the barn door was open with a crack of 0.0003mm.  I burst out ! - galloping up and over the mountain into the sunrise, whinnying with my mane and tail streaming out behind me in the 100mph breeze I created, as I escaped !
      I then married a woman who loves her father AND ME !
      Life is great, but too short to tolerate idiocy. I must be a loser ? -  Hardly ! !

    • She who must be relieved says:

      07:26am | 25/11/12

      “I then married a woman who loves her father AND ME ! ”  Not at the same time can we presume.  What a colourful post regarding barn doors and equating yourself with a whinnying thingy but, at the end of the day, who was it that unlocked the barn door and opened it a crack hoping you would “burst out”/  I’ll wager it was your ex-wife.  Did you stop galloping long enought to turn around and notice the barn door slammed shut again.

    • pink says:

      08:59am | 25/11/12

      @ acotrel:
      Being a horselover, I enjoyed that very descriptive escape, and as a kid I would leap aboard my pony bareback and gallop away from my problems at home in a similar fashion:)
      By the way, 32 years is like 3x the modern marriage! And were you the long suffering hubby or were you part of the attitudenal crap?

    • acotrel says:

      04:47pm | 25/11/12

      I don’t hate my ex.  I was not her father, I never hit her or even yelled at her. I understand what was in the background, and I know where I don’t want to be.

    • acotrel says:

      04:55pm | 25/11/12

      ’ Did you stop galloping long enought to turn around and notice the barn door slammed shut again. ‘

      Should I go and hammer in a few ten inch nails to make sure it never opens ?

    • Mayday says:

      05:52am | 25/11/12

      ” The notion of divorce has become one of failure again”. 

      As parents to two boys it was obvious that they were not getting anything much from their parents relationship and when it came to setting the right example, their father’s failure was his inability to see further than his own needs. 

      His lax attitude to work, irresponsible financial management and inability to see how his selfish and boorish behaviour affected everyone around him became more and more of a problem.

      Staying with this man and enabling him to undermine his own sons sense of worth was beyond reasonable and fair.  His narcissism overrode us all.
      Had I stayed with my ex husband the sense of failure would have been far greater than the loss we felt early in the separation.  Thirteen years on we all look back and see we made a lucky escape.

      “A man can fail many times, but he isn’t a failure until he begins to blame somebody else.”  John Burroughs

    • BJ says:

      08:35am | 25/11/12

      I loved that last quote. A divorce is a failed marriage. Having failed doesn’t necessarily mean that the people in it are failures, but it does mean that they have failed at something important.

      Some people accept that they have stuffed up and learn their lesson. Some people go through divorce and don’t seem to learn anything. Only the second group are the real failures.

    • acotrel says:

      04:51pm | 25/11/12

      @BJ
      The price of the lesson was too high, and the result was foreseeable in the first five minutes.  I know when I’ve been stupid.

    • ronny jonny says:

      07:07am | 25/11/12

      From what Commader Crews says in his letter it sounds to me as if the divorces in his family were caused by his sons not being able to keep their “snakes in the cage”.  Hence his use of the phrase “copulation driven”. Doesn’t sound to me like they were suffering through years of misery, sounds like they threw their marriages away by feckless cheating. If that’s the case then yes, they are losers. If you throw your relationship away for a drunken quickie you are a loser or the relationship was rubbish to start with and that makes you a loser too. The problem with the whole thing is we don’t know Nick Crews or his family and so many people have been quick to jump on him as being cold and unreasonable, maybe his kids are losers and dills. A grown man who is still blaming his parents for him having low self esteem is pathetic for a start.

    • Richard says:

      07:14am | 25/11/12

      I’m sorry but I don’t feel like a failure. Married for 10 years and separated for 5 years, I have just filed for divorce. Better to separate rather than fight in front of children. The hardest thing is re-establishing yourself which I am still doing and will continue to.

    • acotrel says:

      05:01pm | 25/11/12

      There are planty of really good women out there who would actually appreciate a conscientious trier. A bad marriage is character building, sort of like being lost in the desert with natives and bankbook eating lions chasing you !

    • Gregg says:

      08:27am | 25/11/12

      Divorce is something that most of us would not have on our aspirational list or not at least the development of reasons to have it there.
      What I have been amazed on is that an email from a 67 year old to his adult children has received so much media attention and that it has generated so many articles.
      Clearly the 67 YO might well have been having a really down period in his life to go to the extent he did, maybe early age snility or something beginning to settle in.

    • marley says:

      08:35am | 25/11/12

      I read Cmdr Crew’s letter and understood it slightly differently than the author.  I thought he was complaining about the kids because they weren’t taking responsibility for their own roles in their marriage breakdowns, were repeating the same errors, and were dumping everything on their parents (and their kids) rather than deal with things like adults.  Certainly, the comments of the son, who was, I think, about 35, suggested he had a lot of growing up to do.  In other words, the divorces were symptoms of the underlying issues and it was those issues, the immaturity, not the failed marriages per se, that he was attacking.

      Well, that was my take on it, anyway.

    • SAm says:

      08:40am | 25/11/12

      so that explains why Boomers are so grumpy, cranky and pissed off at everything..keeping together dead marriages

    • ronny jonny says:

      09:07am | 25/11/12

      I think you are quite right. My parents divorced about 6 years ago at age 59 after 30 plus years of a marriage that was often bitter and quite nasty. They were completely unhappy. When the divorce finally happened my mum in particular was very upset because in her opinion good people don’t get divorced. We all said it was about time and they should have done it years ago. Mum and dad now both have new partners and both seem very happy with life. They can even be in the same room without constant sniping and arguing, which they never could before. If you’d met them when they were still together you’d have thought what a pair of miserable, grumpy old baby boomers, now you’d think what a lovely pair of old farts they are.

    • pink says:

      08:47am | 25/11/12

      Relationships of all persuasions are totally unique and it is no one else’s business to judge the complexities that cause the breakdown of a marriage.
      I think it is appalling that a parent would publicly critcise their childrens private business and it brings into question the nature of such a person

    • NESLIHAN KUROSAWA says:

      09:06am | 25/11/12

      Hi Wendy,

      Divorce can be a bit of a traumatic experience for some, simply because as a society we always emphasize the importance of an ideal relationship which might only come in a package of “marriage”. We tend to highlight the romantic and material side of a marriage, the wedding day as well as all the highly anticipated eternal love and bliss.  But is that really like that in reality?  When we all have such high expectations from wedding certificate and the actual union of two human beings, we almost tend to forget that nothing could be so further from the truth. 

      Marriage is actually a lot of hard work and responsibilities followed by some bitter sweet rewards along the way.  And looking from outside in some marriages seem almost perfect, however in reality there is no such a thing as a perfect marriage. Divorce is absolutely nothing new in our world, however only when we begin taking those steps to comprehend fully what happens behind closed doors, then we might be able to have a clearer picture and understanding of everyday realities of some families. Just like some of your replies suggested there is absolutely nothing worse than children watching their parents arguing in front of them constantly. And if parents really care about their own children’s well being and happiness, they will try to do their out most to keep on loving and supporting their children even long after a divorce.

      However in some divorce settlements children are often used as a bait to settle old scores.  I most certainly believe that when mature adults start acting like grown ups then poor innocent children will stop thinking as if it was all their fault all along.  And surprisingly children are much more adaptable and resilient compared to their divorced parents.  So the actual solution lies in the fact that we should take all the obligations which might come with a marriage seriously first, and even if it falls apart try to continue to provide a stable and loving environment for children who just happen to be caught right in the middle of an emotional battle ground.  Kind regards.

    • Bitten says:

      10:10am | 25/11/12

      “It makes us weak that so many of these events are copulation-driven and then to see these lovely little people being so woefully let down by you,’

      He didn’t seem to be attacking divorce to me. Rather, he was attacking the unthinking and selfish production of children who you could clearly give less than two hoots about because you think with your c***/c*** and then going on to give these little people a most confused and unstable upbringing because you’re off to f*** the next thing that caught your eye.

      Is it wrong to point out that that IS an entirely selfish way of life that without question causes harm to others, in this case, the children you brought into the world without any true desire to have them, but because the use of contraception is apparently intellectually above your reading level? Nope, I’m with Mr Crews on this one.

    • Tubesteak says:

      10:55am | 25/11/12

      Divorce is a failure. The marriage vows are essentially “love, honour and obey through sickness and health, richer or poorer, better or worse until death do you part”

      These days marriage seems to be “I’ll stick around for as long as it suits me or for as long as I’m happy because Disney and Hollywood told me I am supposed to live Happily Ever After and I still get half anyway even if I didn’t contribute half and sometimes I get more if I can take the kids”. I would never marry a woman that didn’t believe in the former.

      The only justification for breaking the vows you made should be beating, cheating and not enough sex. These things should have been established in the 5+ year courtship ritual that you went through before walking down the aisle where you assessed each other’s suitability for marriage.

      Most of the problem these days is expectations. I’ve talked to divorced people and they say some of the most trivial things. Women will say that their husbands don’t give them enough attention despite them being as boring as wet cardboard and he’s just had a long day at work. Men need a few hours of fire-gazing every night. This means watching TV in silence.

    • thistle says:

      11:51am | 25/11/12

      Divorce is a failure

      And a heapawords won’t change that fact

    • Bluebell Possum says:

      12:13pm | 25/11/12

      I hope I can share my story. from the perspective of the child. I am an only child, and have memories from about the age of 5 of seeing my parents deeply unhappy. They were cold to each other, argued bitterly late at night when they thought I was asleep (I wasn’t, I was awake and listened to every word), my father would verbally abuse and put down my mother and neither of them appeared to want to put in any effort into saving their marriage. To me, they were great parents and did the best they could, but they were the worst possible model of husband and wife that any child could have.  I spent years trying to plead with them to go to counselling. From age 5 to 19 I witnessed the deterioration of their marriage from angry fights into cold silence and complete isolation - two separate lives under one roof. My pleading for them to repair their marriage turned into a plea for them to divorce.

      No one, absolutely no one who is unhappy and struggling for so long - should feel bad about divorcing. Parents who ‘stay together for the children’ like mine did, make the wrong choice, in my view. I do not blame my parents, I feel that they did what they thought was the best choice, so they could both be there for me. But no child wants to see their parents unhappy. This is not a good example to set for your child.

      Marriage is beautiful, sacred, at times difficult, painful, and you have to work hard at it. But people are human, and love can vanish, people can make the wrong choice.

      In the end, marriage, divorce - it is such a personal journey, and no one should be judged by society by what they choose to do.

      My two cents, anyway.

    • Sickemrex says:

      05:33pm | 25/11/12

      That’s very understanding and touching.

    • NotSoSimple says:

      12:24pm | 25/11/12

      Fidelity seems to be the major issue with this father “these events are copulation driven.” He seems to be horrified that his children’s marriage break-ups are being brought about by the inability of his children to keep  vows of exclusivity. He views their behaviour as irresponsible and not in the best interest of his grandchildren. It perceived selfishness  and laziness he’s railing against, perhaps with good reason. Perhaps not.

      Perhaps he’s being too simplistic. There may well be other reasons for his children’s divorces of which he is unaware.  Perhaps infidelity was a symptom of other problems within the marriages. He is judging from the standpoint of a traditionalist who believes in marriage for life, meaning sexual fidelity and cohabitation for life. Many people these days are questioning whether this model of parenthood and family  is the only one which works. It may be the one which provides the most stability for offspring, but stability isn’t the only need which children have in life. Love, protection and education from both parents are their greatest needs. This can be provided even if the parents live separately, or have an open marriage, as long as they are adult about their responsibilities. One gets the impression Cmdr Crews does not feel his children are being adult. Judging by his son’s reply, blaming his dad (however, he has been publicly shamed by his own father and anger is an expected response) he may be right.

      I think Cmdr Crews decision to go public with this rebuke to his offspring was a very poor decision. Sure, communicate your concerns to your kids, but keep it private. He may have effectively sabotaged any hope he has in maintaining their relationship and influencing his kids behaviour by this action. 

 

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