Damaged Goods

One of my friends had been seeing a guy for a couple of months when he came out with a secret.  He’d been married before.  He was divorced.

She thought he seemed ashamed of it when he told her.  She didn’t care or judge him for it, but he seemed to think that she would, or that it would be some kind of dealbreaker for her.  He said that it made him “damaged goods”.  Like he was somehow worth less to a potential partner than he would be if he had never been married.

Another example.  I remember an episode of Sex and the City where Miranda is dating a divorced guy who has a son.  Discussing him with her friends, she says, “I don’t wear vintage clothes.  I hate flea markets.  I don’t collect antiques.  Is it too much to ask that he not be, I don’t know… used?”

Sigh.  I mean, I get it.  I do.  Everyone has a past, but divorced people have more of a past than most.  It means you made a promise that was supposed to last a lifetime, but for whatever reason, it didn’t.  A lot of people see it as some kind of failure.  It’s something that you will always carry with you into any future relationships.  At some point you will have to say it: “I was married before.”

But hold on a minute.  Is it really true, that being divorced means that you are flawed in some way?  I suppose it probably does mean that at some point you made a mistake, whether it’s that you ignored red flags and married the wrong person or did something to trigger a breakup or didn’t pay enough attention to your spouse or whatever the case may be.  But who hasn’t made mistakes?  And what about all those people who stay in unhappy and unhealthy marriages because they are afraid to be alone?  Maybe they are the “damaged goods”… not us, not the ones who weren’t too afraid or too proud to admit that they had made a mistake.

A reader commented on my blog once that it takes a strong person to leave, but sometimes it takes a strong person to stay.  And that is certainly true.  I’ll be the first to admit that marriage isn’t a fairy tale, it has its ups and downs, and it takes a lot of hard work to keep it together.  But what about those marriages, like mine, where you are so clearly wrong for each other that there is no hope you will ever be happy or fulfilled?  Should we be considered to have less value as people just because we chose to leave?

I recognized that what I perceived to be his shortcomings were, in reality, simply incompatibilities between us.  And then I took action to put both of our lives back on the path to happiness.  How can anyone look down on me for that?

Would I be more “damaged” if I had stubbornly refused to end my marriage?  I think so.  I know that I am marked forever because of the decisions I made.  But I’m okay with that.  It is better than the alternative.  If people judge me or look down on me for it, and I know they do… so be it.  I live my life fully now.  I am a happier person and a more loving and patient mother than I was when I lived with a man I did not love.  And that is worth any price I have paid.

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  1. by Erinn

    On June 6, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I can’t say for certain as to whether or not YOU would have been damaged by staying in an unhappy marriage, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that you would have forever damaged your little girl if you had. When you weigh the two out (me versus my child) honestly, who wins?

    ‘Nuff said.

  2. by Megan

    On June 7, 2011 at 9:37 am

    First, I agree with Erinn, 100%.

    Second, after my divorce, “admitting” to people that I was divorced was difficult. It felt so odd to feel weird about it, because I knew I had made the right decision for both my ex and me. At the same time, I did hesitate before telling anyone. Long story short, I learned that the people who mattered didn’t think of me as “damaged goods” but as a human being with a past that included a rough decision. :)

  3. by Ali

    On June 7, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Thanks so much for this article. I’ve been on the other side of the issue. When I was 25 I met this wonderful, charming, handsome, funny man. We had an amazing first date and really clicked. On out second date he told me that he was divorced. I felt just like you said. He had “made a promise that was supposed to last a lifetime, but for whatever reason, it didn’t” however, I didn’t “see it as some kind of failure” I was more concerned that if our relationship got serious then how could I be the most special person in his life if he had already made the same commitment to someone else (and marriage is the highest commitment that someone can make it my mind)? I wouldn’t be unique, just second. After a lot of talking about how he felt about his marriage and his ex I realized that she was not as special to him as I was and they had some serious issues that could not be resolved, whereas we really had the same views, morals, and values as each other. Now, five years later we are blissfully married and have the most amazing boy in the world. Yes, there are people out there who will judge you, but the important people will hear you out and love you unconditionally.

  4. by Raerae

    On July 13, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    I don’t think staying in an unhappy marriage is ever good for anyone. Obviously relationships work but as you have mentioned if your not comparable with someone it’s like your trying to fix something that can’t be fixed not to mention torturing yourself. Your daughter will appreciate it becaus edge won’t be raised around 2 unhappy parents whose relationship is dysfunctional which is more damaging. I’ve never been married but have a baby and I’m sure people will talk about my “baggage” but I would take my baggage any day over being in a miserable relationship for the sake of society…