Mommyish Debate: Does Divorce Mean A Marriage Has Failed?

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Will Smith and wife Jada are rumored to have split up after 13 years of marriage and raising two children together, and as one of the few longstanding couples in Hollywood, many are disappointed. But as the Mommyish editorial team discussed various reactions to the rumored separation, it prompted an even deeper discussion about how to interpret the conclusion of a marriage and if a divorce signifies that a marriage was unsuccessful.

Lindsay Hartman: I’m not emotionally devastated or anything, but I definitely thought, “Oh my Gosh, that’s sad.” And Twitter has a million people saying, ‘If they couldn’t make it work, there’s just no hope for marriage.”

Koa Beck: that’s alarming.

Mollie Hemingway: I think it is true that other people’s marriages affect ours, though. we look to others for inspiration and guidance. How they behave influences social mores.

Lindsay Hartman: There was a similar reaction when Al and Tipper Gore split.

Mollie Hemingway: It’s sad that their marriage didn’t work because they actually did seem committed to it, even if they’re previously married or what not. And they were a good example of a black man being very loving to his wife and to his children — something that is woefully under-represented in most media and culture.

Lindsay Hartman: Yeah, the other comment prevalent on Twitter is “All we have left are the Obamas.”

Mollie Hemingway: I would seriously be upset if the Obama broke up. And I’ve never met them. But I’m sad whenever ANY marriage breaks up, to be honest.

Lindsay Hartman: I’m sad that high profile examples continue to make it seem more acceptable. I realize that divorce happens and sometimes it needs to happen. But at the same time, both my husband’s and my parents sat us down and said, “This is a lifetime commitment and you need to be prepared for that.”

Koa Beck: It’s interesting to me though how a consensual divorce immediately translates to a failed marriage. If Will Smith or Jada were killed tragically tomorrow, their marriage would culturally be deemed a success. But because they or other couples decide that they mutually don’t want to be together anymore, the relationship is considered a failure.

Lindsay Hartman: I see what you mean, but I guess I’m part of that problem. For me, if ending your relationship is an option, then you shouldn’t get married. Date, live together, do what’s right for you. But marriage is a promise of forever. If you aren’t going to honor that promise than you shouldn’t have made it. I wouldn’t use the word “failure” but I have to admit that when I hear about divorce, I see it as quitting.

Lindsay Hartman: I realize that my opinion is not popular or right for everyone. And maybe its’ not even fair. But its still my first natural reaction.

Mollie Hemingway: well, it depends on whether you accept the norm of marriage as a lifelong commitment or not. If you don’t, if it’s just something that’s happening right now, divorce is in no way a failure.

Koa Beck: I agree. I’m also against the superficial notion that you could spend (in the case of the Gore’s for example) 30 years together and just because you decided it’s not the best arrangement anymore, the marriage is instantly considered a waste

Koa Beck: despite raising kids together, parenting together, etc..

Lindsay Hartman: I get what you’re saying.

Lindsay Hartman: I think you’re definitely right that its not a waste when they loved and supported each other for so long.

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