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I came at "This American Ex-Wife" from the perspective of a husband who credits my almost forty year marriage as the foundation of everything good in my life. I had a few takeaways from the book:

1) I live in a marriage bubble and should not judge the institution of marriage from my own. It's a single data point.

2) Being able to afford comprehensive childcare and housekeeping support is a big advantage in defusing some of the tensions in a marriage. I realize it's very rare to be able to afford that support. It also helps to have grandparents close by who are willing and able and eager to help with childcare. The book made me appreciate these privileges a lot more than I had.

3) The U.S. spends an appallingly low number on family support. According to the OECD we spend 0.7% of our GDP on family support whereas comparable developed countries spend 3-34x that amount. As Lyz writes, other countries have a safety net. The U.S. has women.

https://www.compareyourcountry.org/social-expenditure/en/2/553/default

4) Although the book was aimed primarily (I think) at women, reading the book gave me some tips to improve as a husband. Mainly, don't wait to be asked to do something to help around the house. For example, take out the garbage on your own initiative. It's perhaps a small thing, but it can make a big difference.

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Mom rage is actually marriage rage. Yes! I’m currently in my own milieu of power renegotiation in my relationship and the thing I keep coming back to is “boy scout culture.”

The other night my partner and I were talking about reflective communication (a thing he’d never heard of but was game for learning/applying). And I finally was like, “you’re an eagle scout! What tf did they teach you about communication?” Surprisingly? Not much! “There’s a communication merit badge,” he said.

And I think that boy scout reward culture is also in the mix of a lot of these habits and inequalities — we train boys from a young age that to be a man is to exist in products and accolades and citizenship and merit badges for “serving others.” But the house work, the intimate work, the being connected and accountable to the people you live around work? Is that anywhere in the boy scout curriculum??

I’m guessing NOT.

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I appreciate a lot about this, looking out at the world from my DINK marriage on the eve of my 40th birthday. We have our ups and downs, but we've also deliberately maintained a ton of independence (like solo international travel and smaller stuff, too). So, I recognized and related to a lot of the positives you both described re divorce. But, I noticed the whole frame seemed to assume that the divorce involves the dad still co-parenting and providing support via time at least, if not also a tacit assumption of $ support from him. But, I have experiences of dear friends (multiple brilliant, strong women) whose self-initiated divorces led to their having full custody, solo parenting and little if any child support. (And none of them were financially independent, and it's been really hard since.) The ease of time and space, the solo nights, etc., aren't part of their lives and won't be until their kids leave home. I'm genuinely interested in your takes, Lyz and Virginia, on what the considerations are for folks facing that kind of dynamic vs. one that's more supportive. And also, thoughts on what the support network from friends might be asked to do. Thanks again for opening this up this topic. It's given me a lot to think about.

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Feb 29Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I can't lie, the divorce lit and numerous articles about divorce scare me. I've been programmed to be scared by it. I have known a lot of women in happy marriages but I also see a lot of my peers (mid 30s, 1 or 2 kids) struggling. And I hear from these friends that kids have really, really affected their marriages.

I am a big therapy nerd and have found the work of Esther Perel and Terry Real (both couples therapists) to be super helpful in how I navigate my own relationship that hasn't felt the impact of kids (yet) but has gone through a miscarriage, job loss (mine), and a cross-country move in like, the last seven months. It has been hard as shit! But I also joined an inter-generational household - my husband and I are living with my Dad and having a 3rd adult around has some real perks! We share cooking, cleaning, pet caretaking, meals together, etc. It's a small eco-system that low key has me dreading going back to just a 2-person household without some serious changes to our domestic labor patterns.

I'm really enjoying everyone else's comments here, thanks y'all!

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Feb 29Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

As a woman who’s been married 40 years, and felt all the happiness and rage that comes with that, I will tell my granddaughter that she is not required to be married to be happy. She should pursue a career that makes her happy, and she should be sure whatever she chooses, she can take care of herself. No one will be coming to save her and the deck is stacked against her.

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Mar 2Liked by lyz, Virginia Sole-Smith

There’s a very clear bridge in my mind between the Thomas Jefferson comments and the experience of friends and acquaintances wanting you to be sad post-divorce.

Even in divorce, it is baked into our culture that the only lens through which we relate to a marriage ending is that a man “did it.” Whatever “it” is — cheated, left, died (!), you name it. But the woman is surely a poor, wrecked, grieving bystander in this man’s reality. People are still so uncomfortable with a woman being centered, a woman “doing” instead of having something being “done to her,” that there is no frame of reference for any emotion besides sadness to appear in that woman.

Just a thought that I wanted to share! It felt like such a direct correlation to me. Great interview.

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Feb 29Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

Loved this conversation, Virginia! I got married and divorced young and without any children (thank goodness - it was an emotionally abusive situation and I’ve never been happier to never talk to someone again!). I remember feeling so struck by how wonderful it was to not have to think about someone else’s feelings all the time and just do what I wanted to do. I hadn’t realized how much of a shell of my former self I had become, and how much I had carefully molded myself in order to not create friction. It was freeing and scary at the same time.

On a total side note, I always read these transcripts rather than listen, and I have to say the image choices are the best. I’m not sure if that’s you or Corinne, since I think she edits the transcripts, but reading about training your husband like a golden retriever followed by a picture of said golden retriever made me laugh out loud.

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Honestly, as I see my friends' relationships develop, I don't think marriage is the problem. I think it's the nature of committed heterosexual relationships, especially with children. I have friends in longterm relationships who are not married, and they have exactly the same problems as the ones who are — and untangling those relationships when they fail is just as expensive and difficult.

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Feb 29Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I absolutely love Lyz Lenz. Thank you for having her as a guest. She is honest and kind and intelligent and funny, and so many more things. I am inspired by her ability to talk loudly and respectfully about hard or difficult things or things that usually get whispered about.

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Mar 1Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I loved this interview and look forward to reading this book. When I ended a long relationship I had so many friends say I was making a mistake and one even said that my ex was worth staying with “because he was polite”. 😂 I had to explain to her that him saying please and thank you and using the right fork was not enough to make me happy. I was so surprised by how many of my friends discouraged me from ending my relationship based on “but he’s a nice guy”. I’m allowed to be unhappy in a relationship and want to move on, EVEN if it’s with a nice guy!

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Feb 29Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I’ve been married for 25 years, am in my late 40s, and child free by choice. (I think context is important, so wanted to include mine.) While my marriage is easy, I’ve read enough to know it’s an anomaly. Marriage as we’ve imagined it in this country is broken, especially for families raising kids I think. We have so little societal support for families, childcare is in short supply and extremely expensive. Many workplaces are openly hostile to the needs of parents. Schools are underfunded. We don’t have enough safe housing. All of this would stress even a good partnership. Two people cannot carry the weight that should be spread among many.

Side note - it seems that school districts need to take advantage of technology to manage communications with parents. I was surprised to hear that actual papers are still being sent home with kids. The teacher shouldn’t have to keep track of how many copies of what needs to go where for each family, and if there was some kind of sign up at the start of each school year and those comms were handled electronically, they wouldn’t have to. Maybe this already exists however and I misunderstood the situation being described.

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I have the mum/marriage rage, but I’ve mostly been a stay at home parent and the last year I’ve been a part time student too. I feel like I’m not allowed to because I don’t contribute financially. I also worry that in an effort to counteract my own parents putting too much on us too early, that maybe I haven’t delegated enough to my children. I’m mostly tired of hearing myself give orders and being the project manager 😵‍💫🤷🏻‍♀️

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Feb 29·edited Feb 29

I think that when we talk about the systemic gender imbalance when it comes to kids/home responsibilities, even when parents are divorces, we need to go even deeper than the systems: the infrastructure isn't there to support two equally-responsible people. I work a lot with customer databases, and I have never found one that doesn't make you list one person as the "primary" contact. Schools and the like are set up to fail us on this no matter how much individual teachers and administrators want to be equitable and/or smash the patriarchy because, when they pull a list of parents to email, the email is always going to go to the primary parent. (And manually adding the second parent for every child whose parents both want to be copied in is beyond the bandwidth of our overburdened teachers and administrators, even if they wish it weren't!)

Basically, capitalism. We need to get mad at the tech companies that architect the infrastructure by which the patriarchy is upheld. Woo!

ETA: just saw your comment above about having a shared email address, Virginia - brilliant.

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Mar 23Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

I want to push back on the bus stop scenario...I'm not sure it is fair to insist bus drivers keep track of your custody schedule. Bus drivers are not extremely well paid, and are not door to door transport service. I think your solution is great, but also you are asking a lot of people in a stressful, not well compensated job. Just some thoughts on how we treat and talk about service workers.

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I just finished listening to this episode and it's SO GOOD! I am in the "still married and mostly happy" camp at the moment, but it was so great to hear how divorce positively impacts women. I *especially* loved that Lyz has a cleaner home and less chores! Haha.

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Mar 2Liked by Virginia Sole-Smith

My audiobook came in and I’ve been devouring it! Really enjoyed this conversation.

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