Thursday, November 28, 2013

Holy crap - I did not think I could get any angrier.

I've made a point on here before about (1) why the Huffington Post has a special section on "divorce" and (2) how that section is full of very bad and ill-considered advice.  This latest piece however is offensive and incredibly dangerous so it's unsurprising to find it was written by Laura Doyle, author of "The Surrendered Wife" - a whole book about how to improve your relationship by shutting up and pretending you like it. Vom. Again vom. Hold it. Hold it. Ok one more. VOM!!!

This article has the charming 1950s-theme title "Women: Five Reasons Your Divorce Is Your Fault"* and here's every last appalling word shredded as hard as I damn well can. How dare she?

"I teach intimacy skills, but not to couples and not to men."

From the title of your piece I'm guessing your target audience is only allowed out on day release.

"I only teach them to women because we are the ones who have the power to make our relationships intimate."

Yes one person, on their own, can make a relationship intimate. That definitely works.

"When a woman learns intimacy skills, her relationship becomes passionate and peaceful in about two weeks."

Firstly - this reads like an advert. Secondly - if it is, it needs reporting to the advertising standards authority because it's bullshit.

"Clients often say, "I feel like I have a new husband.""

Ok listen up ladies. There is only one was to feel like you have a new husband. That is to get a new husband.

"But he's not the one who changed -- she did, and then he responds to her differently."

How irresponsible is this? Whatever he does, however cruel, violent, indifferent, dishonest, unpleasant... it's her fault. Vom. (There's gonna be a lot of vom I think.)

"That's how it always is when a woman has a good guy."

Oh a "good guy"? Remind me where the label is, I never can find it.

"Of course, not all guys are good guys."

Actually it is rude and offensive to men to imagine there are just "good guys" and "bad guys". In fact men are a bit more varied than that.

"If your husband is actively addicted to drugs, alcohol or gambling, or is physically abusive, or not capable of being faithful, yours is a divorce I endorse."

So physically abusive, I can leave but mentally abuse it's my fault. V... v...

"Safety comes first and you're not safe in those situations because his compulsion will always come before you."

I am honestly offended that she even pretends to have the safety of women at heart. Abuse takes many forms, it's not as simple as physical violence, addiction and infidelity. And even without abuse of any kind, if a relationship isn't working and you feel it's time to leave you can and you should. You do not need this evil woman to "endorse" your divorce. I endorse it. Go ahead.

"But if he doesn't fall into one of those categories, he's a good guy -- not a perfect guy, but one you can have a wonderful relationship with when you learn the skills that contribute to intimacy."

Yeah I mean if he just steals from you and calls you fat and stupid, he's one of the good guys. Yeah?

"Below are five ways that women unwittingly sabotage their marriages, along with the proven remedies for restoring the love and closeness you once shared."

Silly women, ruining their marriages, all on their own, with absolutely no help from their partners.

"1. Rejecting his efforts to make you happy"

Sorry where does it even say he makes efforts to make you happy?

"Husbands and wives bring different strengths and desires to marriage."

All men are alike and so are all women. Remember reading that in those science journals?! This is probably why it's impossible to have a relationship with two men or two women.

"For women, feeling cherished and desired is vital."

Ain't that right girlzzz?!! You know it...

"For a man, respect and sex are of utmost importance."

Hold up! I get cherished and desired and he gets respect and sex? I think I might be a man. And I also think that people have to earn respect and that you shouldn't have sex with anyone you don't want to.

"Men also have a powerful drive to make their wives happy -- it contributes to their feeling of success."

Some of them have a really funny way of showing it. Shouting, leaving all the housework to you, spending more time with their mates, for example.

"You might think that your husband is the exception -- that he doesn't care about delighting you -- but he may just be discouraged because he doesn't feel that he can please you."

Yes he may be. Or he may not.

"You have the power to transform your relationship by becoming pleasable, which means showing appreciation for his efforts instead of rejecting or dismissing them -- and by extension, him."

Whatever he does - act pleased. "Oh honey, I see you've left your dirty pants on the floor as a gift! You're so kind."

"When you reject his efforts because they aren't what you had in mind (e.g., a present that isn't what you want, cleaning that's not to your standards, or a compliment you don't agree with), there's nothing he can do to improve the situation, but there is something powerful you can do: receive graciously."

There's lots he can do to improve the situation. Exchange the gift, clean more thoroughly and be more thoughtful in what he says. And remind me, what exactly should I do if he doesn't bring me presents, clean or compliment me?  Oh that's right - blame myself, yes?

"Remedy: Try an experiment for the next two weeks: However small or imperfect his efforts, receive what your husband offers when he is trying to please or help you."

Within two weeks he'll have decided you're perfectly happy with shit all over the bathroom floor and box set of a series you don't like for your birthday. That'll make your relationship better eh?

"Thank him for his thoughtfulness."

Thoughtfulness would mean getting the present I actually wanted.

"Notice how quickly this creates more intimacy as you practice the skill of receiving graciously."

Ah yes, the vast improvement in intimacy that comes from lying through your teeth. Well known that.

"2. Taking the same approach at home as you do at work"

Well lets see, I'm a comedian. The usual way I interact with people at work I talk to them through a microphone, they sit in silence and laugh and if they interrupt me to talk I take the mickey out of them for doing so. All these years I've been coming home and replicating that. Was it a mistake?

"We women can create a gratifying culture of intimacy, if we know how."

Is she talking about starting a lesbian commune...? Interesting idea.

"If all we've ever been taught is how to get ahead in school and career, but not how to foster intimacy, it's pretty hard to change hats when the work day is done and we want a loving, supportive home."

Is that all women have been taught? Amazing the pay gap's still so big then eh?

"At work we have to manage projects and staff, move the bottom line and get that promotion."

No at work I have to tell jokes. Women. Not. All. Same. Capiche?

"At home the goals are different; we want to feel appreciated and wanted and get more help around the house."

Get more help around the house? Who says housework is a woman's job and the best she can hope for is for a guy to "help"? I don't want a guy to help. I want him to take responsibility for at least half of it. Hopefully more. I'm busy.

"But if you treat your husband like an employee, he will rebel."

You better hope he doesn't unionise. Also he's only an employee if you are the one who manages the home. And that doesn't have to be your job. If he acts like an employee, waiting to be told what to do - and then doing it badly - you have a problem.

"Respecting your husband by saying what you want instead of telling him what to do gives him the opportunity to make you happy in a way that no amount of managing ever will."

Great advice - be passive aggressive. Don't ask him to do things directly, just sit around dropping hints. "I really want that litter tray to no longer contain cat faeces." (roll eyes upwards, whistle)

"Remedy: For two weeks say what you want, but not what he should do or how he should do it."

For example say "I want a clean bathroom floor". But remember when he only wipes the taps you have to act thrilled even though the bin's overflowing and there's something that looks like shit on the floor.

"Be patient and allow him to find his own way of pleasing you."

Sit around in a relationship that doesn't work and pretend it does...?

"Remember, he wants to. Let him, and he will."

That's the big problem, eh? All these guys out there dying to be better husbands and us awful women just not letting them. Thank goodness Laura Doyle is on hand to set us straight. Ok, trying to resist but... Vom.

"3. Withholding sex"

Vom, vom, vom. If you don't want to have sex - don't.

"Most men need sex more than women to feel intimate."

Where's the science on this? The idea that men want more sex than women is not supported by science. It's a dangerous myth that leads to hyper-masculinised culture and feelings of shame and inadequacy on all sides.

"You are his only source for that vital form of connecting, and when you withhold -- whether to punish or because you're exhausted -- you miss a chance to receive the intimacy that you both crave."

What about if he's the one who doesn't want sex? Or does every relationship fit your brain-dead one-size-fits-all model? Because all men are horny all the time and all women are horrified by this, right?

"Remedy: Over the next two weeks as you start experiencing more intimacy, consider making yourself available for sex at least once a week in support of your mutual goal of connecting."

Has anyone EVER advised men to improve their relationship by "making themselves available for sex"? The whole phrase makes it sound like sex is something men do to women, who just lie there and put up with it. If this is how it works in your relationship - that is a problem.

"4. Initiating divorce when the problem isn't insurmountable"

If the other person doesn't want to address the problem - the problem is insurmountable. Unless you're in one of those one-person marriages.

"Women initiate between 66% and 90% of all divorces."

Thank you science. What does initiate mean in this context anyway? Maybe sometimes men initiate by being a pain in the backside and women relent and admit there's a problem. The evidence also shows at least 75% of women say they are happier one year after divorce, so on the whole women were right to initiate.

"You might think that's because men do things to make marriage untenable -- like cheat or hit them -- but I hear about women divorcing because he didn't help with the baby, he was emotionally unavailable, or because they grew apart."

Hands up everyone who wants to spend the rest of their life with an emotionally unavailable guy who doesn't help with the baby?  Also it's not "helping" with the baby - it's his kid too and his job too to take responsibility for the baby.

"Countless women tell me they divorced because their husbands weren't capable of meeting their needs."

And you tell them sorry, no bruises? Then this helpful counsellor can't endorse the divorce. You need to try pretending to be happy and having sex when you don't want to.

"When the women I work with learn intimacy skills, it changes the way they see a previous marriage."

Yes when you tell women their relationship problems are all their own fault it probably does make them feel like crap.

"Some women tell me that they realize they were married to a good guy, but divorced because they lacked the skills to have a happy relationship."

Some people believe your bullshit? What a shame.

"Sometimes it causes them enormous grief."

Then don't say such horrid untrue things if you know it's going to upset people. It's called bullying.

"It is heartbreaking to see marriages end because of a simple lack of skills."

It is and that's why home economics, cooking and cleaning should be on the national curriculum for both girls and boys.

"It's no different than seeing someone try to drive a car without a single lesson: A crash is inevitable, but it's preventable."

It's very different. Many people who have never even heard of your advice and indeed think it's utter bullcrap have happy and successful relationships. And I'd also bet some people do exactly what you say and it makes them really miserable.

"Remedy: Consider taking divorce off the table just for the next two weeks, keeping in mind that intimacy needs safety to thrive."

So to recap - you wanted to divorce this guy because he gets shit presents, doesn't do his share of the housework or the child care, says thoughtless things and demands sex all the time when you don't want it. And her advice is to pretend you don't want a divorce, not challenge him about the housework or child care, pretend you like the presents and the weird compliments and give him sex whenever he wants? Well I'm sure he'll love that but what exactly are you getting out of this? Aside from exhausted?

"In my experience, any woman who has a good guy can bring her marriage back from the brink of divorce and transform it into a happy, loving relationship by practicing the intimacy skills."

Pretending to be happy when you're not really shouldn't be called an intimacy skill. If anything it's an acting skill.

"You can do the same."

Yes you - you with the guy who steals your money. You with the guy who's just realised he's gay. You with the guy who screams at you and calls you a bitch. All you have to do is say "thank you for the compliment" and do all the housework yourself.  Even if this shit worked, at best it would create the fake appearance of a happy relationship. A good relationship means you get to ask for what you want.

"5. Waiting for him to improve"

So mistake number four is initiating a divorce and mistake number five is waiting? And doing either of these things make the relationship mess your fault? Of course!

"You might wonder why there's no article for men explaining what they can do to improve their marriages."

I think it's because you're a nasty evil misogynist Laura. Anyone else?

"Even if there was, you couldn't make your husband read it or do what it says. "

Are you in a relationship with a guy who would refuse to read a newspaper article if you told him it was important to you that he did?  I will not date this guy. He's a tosser.

"You can change yourself, and he will respond to you differently."

Yes - change yourself. Vom. Just be someone else. Someone who likes shit on the bathroom floor and crap presents.

"Remedy: Instead of pleading, criticizing or demanding that your husband change, try the remedies above for two weeks."

Yes don't try to change things by directly challenging problems or talking to him like an adult. Instead sneak around lying to him in the hope that you can manipulate him into changing.

"To learn how, get the free 17-page e-book Six Lessons for Lasting Love at"

Yes this is a line in an ARTICLE on Huffington Post. They should admit they're no longer about journalism, they're just a blog for marketers. Creepy misogynist ones.

"If you want peace in your marriage, then let it begin with you."

If you want anything in your marriage then both of you have to have a frank talk about it and agree on a plan. If you don't do this fairly regularly anyway there's not much hope for you.

Bottom line is this - the message that "the problem is you" and "I'm just reacting to you" is EXACTLY what emotionally abusive partners say to retain control. And just because a guy isn't violent or on hard drugs doesn't mean he's a "good guy". In fact maybe this article is all a clever trick. Show it to your man, if he thinks it makes any good points, dump him - he's an emotional abuser.

To suggest that women and women alone are responsible for making relationships work, that housework and childcare are the woman's responsibility, that divorce is always a bad thing which must involve blame, that men are all the same and women all the same, that gender roles should be strictly adhered to. These are attitudes from a bygone era. And then, and now, they're bollocks.

PS Dear Laura, while I was writing this my boyfriend has cleaned out the cupboard under the sink of his own volition. I have no idea what my husband was doing, he hasn't lived here for nearly two years. Please remind me what I'm supposed to feel bad about, it's so confusing.

*Do not adjust your clock, it is still 2013. I know.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

36 Facts About Divorce - Corrected Version

Why exactly the Huffington Post thinks it needs a special section on the subject of divorce is beyond me. I never turned on the news to hear "And after the sports headlines we'll be getting a brief update on global divorce news". And for the record I don't think sports are news either!  Today a particular piece caught my eye and ire. And I do have some experience in the matter so here's a corrected version of "36 Things I Wish Someone Told Me About Divorce".

"1. It's nothing at all like when your husband was away on business and it was nice to have the bed to yourself. That gets old. You get lonely."

1. Once you're divorced you can sleep around guilt-free.

"2. He's not going to be there. Ever. Never again in the way that he was. He's gone. For good."

2. That was the point. If you wanted him around you wouldn't have gotten divorced.

"3. Don't rush things unless you are in an abusive situation."

3. Don't waste your life putting up with something that isn't right and doesn't make you happy.

"4. You may want to hide when you are first going through divorce. You won't want to talk about it with anyone."

4. Yes you may feel this way. Or you may not. You may want to go out and enjoy yourself. That's ok too.

"5. You will have to remind yourself that you are not a failure. That the relationship simply ran its course, it had an expiration date."

5. If anyone tries to suggest that divorce is a sign of "failure" stop being friends with them and don't go to their church.

"6. You may never feel truly sure you made the right decision particularly if you have children together."

6. Or you might be confident that this is the best thing for you. And the best thing for you IS the best thing for your kids, they don't want to be raised by two people who don't want to be together.

"7. There is going to be an in-law situation and you won't know how to carry on your relationship with them."

7. You can stay friends with the in-laws if you want. You don't have to. Mine are lovely, we hang out.

"8. When your kids are sick, you are the only one home to care for them and he's not there to ask him for help."

8. You might need childcare support. The absent parent should help with this, financially or practically.

"9. When you are sick, he is no longer there to care for you."

9. Lets hope your hot new boyfriend knows how to stick a Lemsip in the microwave.

"10. You will miss his cooking, even if he isn't a good cook, but simply because there was someone else there to make meals and it isn't all on you. And if he was a good cook, it's going to be even harder."

10. If you had a long day - you can order delivery food. Or just have a sandwich.

"11. You still may call him by the pet name you had for him and it slips out when discussing a matter and it hangs there in the air and hurts."

11. If you ever called him "snugglewumps" in Starbucks you are weird.

"12. If you thought talking about money with your husband was hard, try talking about money with your ex-husband."

12. If it was always a problem talking about money, you were right to consider divorce.

"13. There will be no more "stay here with the kids for an hour so I can run out to do errands.""

13. You can say "stay here with the kids for an hour so I can run out to do errands." to neighbours, friends, relatives, that hot new boyfriend or your lodger. Also you can drop them off with an absent parent and have a spa day.

"14. It may feel natural to reach out to hold onto his arm when you go out for coffee to discuss the kids, but you aren't supposed to hold onto his arm anymore."

14. Missing out on intimacy? Buy a dildo.

"15. You will miss your wedding ring... feeling it there on your finger and what it represented."

15. Your wedding ring represented a relationship that wasn't working. Take it off.

"16. Your wedding album is like a ghost."

16. Why are you sat around flicking through old photos? Go out and get laid.

"17. You won't know what to do with your wedding dress."

17. The only people who ever get to re-use a wedding dress are divorcees.

"18. If you knew what you knew now, you wouldn't have spent all that money on that wedding dress. Instead you should have banked it to save for couples' therapy."

18. Couples therapy is usually overpriced.

"19. You might have to politely ask your parents to take down your wedding photo they still have hanging on the wall in the living room because it hurts too much to see it."

19. If your parents keep some photos up it should save you all that time spent flicking through old albums.

"20. It's not easy. Not even if you are the one who wanted a divorce."

20. Being in a relationship that doesn't work is exhausting. Making some meals for one is not so bad.

"21. You'll wonder if he's dating someone new and if he's thinking she's better than you."

21. You'll start dating someone new. That'll take your mind off things.

"22. When he gets serious with another woman, dealing with that woman being around your children is going to be harder than you could ever imagine."

22. Great news, if he starts seeing someone else she can help look after your kids while you run those errands. Plus kids benefit from relationships with a wide range of adults.

"23. After all the hurt subsides, you remember all the good things and sort of forget the bad and the hurt starts again but in a different way."

23. The relationship ended for a reason. It wasn't working.

"24. What if... there will be lots of these."

24. What if you meet someone great? What if you get a job on a tropical island?

"25. You will look at your kids, that are his kids too, and wonder how in the world are you going to be able to make it through all these holidays for the rest of your lives and still figure out how to be a family that is no longer living together."

25. Your kids will grow up. Then they can choose where to spend Christmas. As can you.

"26. You may notice it feels weird to still have the gifts he's given to you over the years, even if it's something as mundane as a toaster. And you may start having nostalgia about the toaster."

26. You may need counselling.

"27. You might fondle the silverware gifted to you at your bridal shower and feel bad that all your friends and family gave you all these wonderful gifts for a marriage that didn't last."

27. Who the hell fondles silverware? Get a vibrator.

"28. You may worry some of your friends might be thinking about those gifts they gifted you."

28. Anyone more bothered about the gift they bought you than about your wellbeing is not your friend.

"29. You may lose some friends."

29. You'll have more time to spend with your friends. You may gain some friends, reconnect with some old ones.

"30. Some of your family may not understand why you are getting divorced and that can be very challenging to deal with on top of dealing with divorce itself."

30. If your family are unsympathetic, divorce them too.

"31. There will be a bit of pain when you refer to him as "Daddy" to your kids, but that's his name and how he's addressed, so you must deal."

31. Use whatever term you're comfortable with. Your kids will adapt.

"32. You are going to want to confide in your ex because you are so used to doing so, but you have to learn how to stop doing that."

32. You're going to want to spend more time with friends. That'll be nice.

"33. It may take a long time for you to be "friends" -- whatever that means. It may never happen."

33. You can stay friends. You don't have to.

"34. There will be a time when your kids will wonder how the two of you were ever together in the first place. They may never even remember a time when you were together."

34. Your kids will grow up. You will wonder if they were ever small. You will be glad you didn't raise them in a house full of arguments.

"35. You remember what it was like to fall in love with the man you married and you truly wonder how in the world did it all fall apart."

35. You might wonder how you hung in there so longer.

"36. The above makes you terrified to ever get married again."

36. Next time you get into a serious relationship you'll probably do things differently.