« begin | Main | springy »

February 07, 2012





I had a meditation teacher once whose husband had left her while she fought cancer, and she'd sometimes talk about the divorce stats for cancer patients. But I haven't ever seen a book on "keeping your marriage together while facing medical crises" sort of book.

It can't be that there's no need, so maybe it's just that nobody knows how to do it.


I don't know how you aren't seeing the absolute amazingness of your writing this very moment. And I think a bitterly humorous book about all the stupid advice you ever received about marriage would be a raging best seller. How completely accurate your assessment of not putting your career "ahead" of your husband is. The atheist versus the religious zealot argument... it is all gold. George is really one of my least favorite people right now but boy he is a great character - villian that is. I'm sure many people will disagree with me but in my experience fathers aren't particularly important. My mother (and I suspect this is the same experience my children are having right now) was and still is the foundation and the game changer. What I am is due directly to my mother. And your daughters have an incredible mother.


I also love, love, love your footnotes.


I guess the advice book is a bad idea, as I clearly also did not know how to get it right. But maybe some interviews with those that did and did not succeed in keeping it together, along with some take-it-or-leave-it analysis might be useful. Hmm.

And I do love my wonderful, kind neighbor. I wouldn't exactly call her a religious zealot, or at least I would say that she has a fantastic sense of humor for a religious zealot and has always been very accepting of our differing beliefs. She had a lot of good advice to give me, though.

I would hate to paint Joerg as a cartoon-y villain in all this. In fact, that's one reason I've been making it public rather than indulging in a bunch of private seething. Yes, I'm hurt and angry, but I'm trying not to take it too far. And my girls still have to be able to look up to him, and love him. So give me a heads-up if that's what I'm doing!


I think of him as Yergh. But then I think of another guy that way, too (no, not my ex), and his name's Andrew.

Anyway. What happened -- and why the men leave in general -- is going to sound way too simplistic and dependent on an offensive stereotype. Most men aren't very strong. Most women are stronger than most men. That's about it. They break way before we do. That stuff about how women are built for distance events and have more stamina? Well...it's true.

Most men are also scared, and won't leave a marriage in favor of nothing. And they'll wait until some woman comes along and "makes them stray", and signals that she'll catch him if he jumps. Then there's a safety, and then they can go.

And then...well, there's what my daughter says, despite all my propaganda about Rah Daddies Go Awesome Yay Men. The other night she told me, in the midst of explaining something else, that moms care more about children than fathers do. And when I flinched, she explained that it was probably because the kids grew inside them.

As for career etc: If you can figure out how to explain to women not to give up valuable things for men, ever, and make it stick, I will send you the best chocolates in the world. Maybe you can fold into it something about all the excuse-making we do in order to convince ourselves that distinctly non-awesome men are awesome.

(Yesterday my daughter was chattering away about what my ex wants to get his girlfriend for Valentine's Day. The $18 necklace is too expensive, so apparently she's getting a large stuffed dopey-looking gorilla that he likes. And I thought: Poor woman, she's got a Bad Boyfriend, and she'll have to pretend to have wanted that stupid gorilla all along. Someday you will have a moment like this.)

About that motorcycle: Do not set fire to it, but find the highest reasonable valuation for it you can.

I totally agree that your daughters have a worldbeating mom, but that has more to do with the normalcy-in-the-midst-of-serial-lifesaving than it does with anything Yergh's doing. And I hope your generosity towards him is for your own sake and the girls' and not for him. Meanwhile, they will in short order recognize that he's a turd, no matter what you do. And they'll revisit and rediscover that for the rest of their lives.

About the PhD: you already know this, but even if you had one, it wouldn't do you much good right now. What does seem to help in freelanceland is "working on a PhD".


As the aunt of three wonderful kids who didn't grow in their mama's tummy, I can tell you for sure that the love doesn't depend on the uterus-growing-phase! :) And I know some dads who are pretty involved in their kids' lives, and some moms who might be less so. But I guess as a generalization it surely is true that there are more moms showing up for PTO than dads, and more moms sitting on the side of the pool watching their kids swim, and on and on.


I think also that men know that they will not be socially punished for leaving, whereas women would.

Men leave, and can still get partial custody if they want it. Men leave, and their circle of friends will still accept them. Men leave, and their employers think nothing of it.


My situation has a straight line drawn in red Sharpie marker from my cancer experience to his living across the Puget Sound shacking up with someone who cares enough about her dog to buy $40 vegan dog food, but couldn't muster the compassion for his children to stay away when he asked her to.

I think the book is a brilliant idea - whether it is an advice book or a book to let those of us who are spinning in the aftermath of that whoosh know that we aren't alone, and that what happened to us wasn't a rejection.


I love your writing and your insight - "because it's worthwhile to stick with what's right even if it is harder" sums it all up, really. So maybe an advice book on a more general level is not such a bad idea after all...
All the best -


I also did not think at the time that my career was important and did not folllow the same advisor to get my Ph. D. (Btw, one student that did finished in 2001). I switched to a new different field and began from scratch (easier at 29). I continued in gradschool as the best part-time job to raise kids. My 5 grad degrees have not resulted in a job so far that reflects my level of education (did finish my dual Ph.D. in 2010) because I still need to raise the children. I find the older they get, the more challenging it may become at times, and do not want additional stress and time demands. I am also responsible for my oldest daughter who is not likely to be able to live independently ever. Plus I've been in court for the last 5 years with my ex, who mysteriously had to change his residency training midway (4 years of taxpayers subsidized training down the drain), and in for yet another custody battle in April... I am happy with the supportive environment and a flexible job in this situation rather than high pressure of getting tenure.

Re: advisor. Doing extremely well professionally, with children fully grown and close to their mother. Her ex was on his third marriage (the affair did not last), not at all popular with his students in a minor college in California, living a very different lifestyle (hippyish) than his first ex.

Best of luck with everything - it will pass and you'll be happy again - it's a choice. I agree with the comment above that men do not leave a marriage to be alone - mine was very nervous his newly found love was not going to leave his husband for him, and waited to jump ship as long as possible... Just wondering - how can a happy person (actually, couple) keep suing for so long instead of enjoying life together and their soon-to-be 3 children in 4 years that they have to keep interfering with our lives?

Take care, with much admiration,


P.S. just noted a freudian typo - "his husband" - should have been "her", but she is his boss now in residency, and undoubtedly calls all the shots (thus the one wearing the pants).


Interesting, taly. I had no idea how everything played out with our advisor. I can't believe how silly I was not to keep working with her, even if it meant a leap into the unknown. Not surprised to learn that she is very close to her children, nor that her husband's affair did not last.

I know I keep thinking going back to grad school would be the simplest thing for me, but I know that it is also no guarantee of a job. Divorce sucks.


"Indeed, research suggests that Cassidy's experience isn't an anomaly, and that women are more likely than men to be victims of what's known as partner abandonment. A 2009 study published in the journal Cancer found that a married woman diagnosed with a serious disease is six times more likely to be divorced or separated than a man with a similar diagnosis. Among study participants, the divorce rate was 21 percent for seriously ill women and 3 percent for seriously ill men. A control group divorced at a rate of 12 percent, suggesting that if disease makes husbands more likely to split, it makes wives more likely to stay."

From: http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Why-Men-Leave-Sick-Wives-Facing-Illness-Alone-Couples-and-Cancer#ixzz1lu66ZZfO

I've seen this study in a few places. Umm, yes, men are far more likely to bail when a serious illness hits. Frankly, putting on my temporary misandrist hat, most men are raised with a mind-boggling sense of personal entitlement, which I have had a close view of in the past few years of dating. They will grow up and marry pretty girls who will take care of them, so they don't need to learn how to do all that icky laundry/shopping/housework stuff. Their wives will also manage not only the marital relationship, but all of the other relationships, including their own immediate families, so they don't need to worry about buying greeting cards or remembering birthdays ever again. The wives will stay pretty after giving them the children they want, and if they get stretch marks or gain weight this is fair game for leaving. Since it is the wife's job to do the taking care of, if anyone gets sick and they are expected to pitch in on the nurturing front, this is also fair grounds for divorce. And since as a previous commenter pointed out, men are much much less likely to leave a relationship without another waiting in the wings (there are stats for that one too), they'll cheat in order to find a replacement so that they never have to be alone, never have to be responsible for themselves.

AND, because wives are responsible for relationship management, this means no matter why the divorce happens or what led to it, IT IS THE WIFE'S FAULT. It is truly the icing on the cake. I have seen so many left women rake themselves over the coals for what they did to "make" their (former) husband lie, cheat, deceive, quit, whatever--and the men just hum along merrily with an "Oh well, it clearly wasn't meant to be, the spark was gone, I fell in love with someone else, I couldn't help it, not my fault!" song in their hearts.

(This is why I am taking a break from dating at the moment. "So, in what way are you an asshole?" is really not the best sentiment with which to begin a potential relationship, no matter how justified it feels at present. I do recognize that there are good guys out there ... but the bar for "good" really seems to be set too low, and their expectations set way too high. I'd rather be single, frankly.)

And the mothers thing? Yep. The whole drive for microcredit in third world aid was driven by the statistical observation that women spend 7x more of their income, proportionally speaking, on their kids than dads do. The old big projects spent a lot of money on men's wages, figuring this would trickle down to their kids, but it didn't work--they spent the money on themselves. Then they did the studies and figured out that if you want to end child poverty, you need to give the money to the moms. Hence microcredit for small, home-based businesses. (These are of course averages. There are exceptions and overlap, as with any other gender difference.)

kathy a.

((( moreena ))) such lovely writing about such painful things. in case you think you lost your sense of humor -- it's still there. ;)

you are a fabulous mom; the love and constancy and resilience are all things the girls need, and you are good at it. that's what they need to become full and decent humans.

george has earned the respect he's getting around these parts. it's such a cliche, too: middle-aged professional gets bored and lands a hot new love -- happened to my fabulous aunt, too. (this being the late '70's, uncle tony also acquired a disco-style perm, a puka shell necklace, and a red 2-seater sports car, leaving my aunt with 3 kids [one with challenges due to birth accident] and no career whatsoever.) so, my fabulous aunt secured her part of the community property, developed a couple of careers and some amazing hobbies, and she is still going strong. it was miserable at the time, but it did free her up to be all of who she really is.

i don't think you should beat yourself up too much about decisions made in the past for reasons that were good at the time. the only direction we can move is forward. xoxo


Andrea, I agree with your observations and generalizations because they match my experience. I do see plenty of males that are not narcissistic (I work in a mostly all-male profession), but then they are all invariably married and have families. I had one advisor who stuck by his wife with severe depression for many years despite it taking a very significant toll on him.
I would be grateful if you had references to the studies on moms' vs dads' spending patterns.
Moreena, I never worked with our advisor after she left - would not have been financially feasible for me. She'd love to hear from you, I am sure.
I agree with Kathy that divorce freed me to be myself. Betrayal sucked, but I'd rather live the truth instead of supporting an unsustainable individual whose high maintenance continues to show its toll wherever he goes and with whomever. It is crystal clear from the choices you made in your life which path you are on and where you will end up - wherever you want to be. Gradschool is not the answer to all, but may be the right thing for you at the right time - trust your guts. I am doing research on the side now in the spare time I do not have, but there is no pressure on me to do it either. I appreciate a decent job with supportive people.
P.S. Kathy - your aunt rocks! My grandfather I never met left his wife with 4 children, no education or work. She did great as well and passed on with her daughters at her bedside. She was illiterate, my mom is an engineer. I remember her always cheerful although she did not have two nickels to rub together. Cheers!!!


Your girls are amazing and so are you!

Anni M

Oh, Moreena. I'm just catching up after a long hiatus from this blog and my heart is breaking for you and your girls. I am amazed (but, honestly, not at all surprised) by how you've written about this terrible experience - your words are simultaneously beautiful and eloquent and funny and painful. I'm sending you, Anni, and Frankie a million hugs and plenty of thoughts for happier days ahead. Keep working on those baby steps. You will feel whole again.

Much love.

kathy a.

((( moreena ))) i'm actually responding to your newer post, the one where comments are closed, because i just need to send you a hug. xoxoxo



My dear...... please take care of yourself. You are a wonderful person.There is so much for you to discover. I want you and the girls to know that you will be in my thoughts and prayers. Sure will miss your writing. I feel like this is a good bye letter. Even though we have never met.

Deb B


My mum has always told me that geographical distance is a great help when the heart is broken, and I found that for me at least she was right. I hope the move helps you all. I don't comment much but have been reading your blog for years. Hang on in there xx


Moreena, I'm so sorry that you and your beautiful girls have to go through this. You have all been through so much. Many thoughts and prayers from us, your fellow Chicago liver family. Emily & Grace S.


Thinking about you today Moreena. XO

kathy a.

yes, thinking of you and the girls. xoxo

The comments to this entry are closed.

Falling Down, November 2004

  • Balloon in hand, my 4-year-old
    twirled across the kitchen floor,
    singing nonsense words
    in her own key.
    "It's my gift!" she declared
    to the world at large, which
    was really only me,
    sitting at the table. Enough
    twirling, and she lost
    her balance, tumbling
    to the floor in a theatrical
    slapstick of elbows and knees.

    She lay on her back
    for a few seconds,
    at the textured ceiling
    with the mysterious
    spaghetti sauce stain.
    Suddenly she
    flapping her arms and legs
    there on the floor, as if to swish
    the imaginary snow
    into a snow angel.

    "Falling down is also a gift!" says she.

My Photo

Mostly here now