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The media is still trying to figure out the recent splits between rockers Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale after 13 years, and country singers Blake Shelton and Miranda Lampert after four years when it was revealed that The Voice co-hosts Gwen and Blake were an item.

According to Gwen, “There’s been loads of people that have helped me with this tragedy. There’s definitely key people that have pointed me into the right direction. Blake really helped me.”

I’m sure they’re not the first co-workers who have turned to each other for support and then suddenly fallen for each other. The rebound relationship is fairly common.

I’m also not discounting the possibility that they may have feelings for each other — or more — before each of them announced their divorce earlier this year, and that those feelings may have had something to do with their divorces. At least that’s what Gavin reportedly believesleave spouse for your lover

But is it bad to leave an unhappy marriage because of a desire to be with someone else?

As someone who has been cheated on and cheated herself, I have long believed that you should leave your marriage first rather than use an affair as an exit strategy. If the decision to uncouple isn’t mutual, trust me — the divorce alone is hard enough on the person who doesn’t want the marriage to end. The discovery of an affair on top of that can be devastating.

Then I read Astro and Danielle Teller’s book Sacred Cows: The Truth About Divorce and Marriage, which, despite the sometimes too cutesy cow references, I loved — except the final chapter, The Other Cow. Initially.

The Tellers are questioning the status quo about divorce just like The New I Do is questioning the status quo about what marriage “should” look like. They certainly are not encouraging infidelity in their final chapter, but they acknowledge it exists (in fact, they cite a study that indicates that in a third of divorces, one or both of the spouses were already in some sort of romantic relationship with someone else). The question they wish to explore — and a valid one — is, are you a bad person to leave your marriage because you want to be with someone else?

Most of us don’t like when that happens, yet our thoughts are, well, fuzzy at best.

As they write:

“It may not seem obvious at first, but between remarriage (acceptable to most of us) and adultery (unacceptable to most of us) lays a long continuum. The continuum consists of the time when the new partner appears relative to the end of the marriage. If partner #2 shows up while the marriage is intact, we call it adultery. If partner #2 shows up years after divorce, we call it remarriage. If partner #2 shows up while the marriage is on the rocks but before the divorce decree is signed, well, it’s not clear what to call it, other than an uncomfortable situation.” tweet

Perhaps Gavin is right — what Gwen, who has recently said that the last few years of her marriage were hard, and Blake are in is a “uncomfortable situation.” After all, their romance became public relatively soon after their respective divorces, which were announced, suspiciously to some, just weeks apart.

Are they bad people if that’s true? If a marriage is effectively over — and let’s face it, happy marriages don’t end in divorce — and one of the spouses falls for someone else, it may not be the smartest idea but should he or she be shamed and judged?

We don’t like the idea of people leaving spouses for new love yet, as the Tellers beautifully point out, many of us consider Sleepless in Seattle to be an uber romantic love story although it’s essentially about a woman cheating on her fiance to be with a man who’s a much better match for her. Yet we root for Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan … even though she’s engaged and is lying to her fiance, a “nice guy.” (As does Vicky in Vicky Cristina Barcelona).

Think about that!

There was one thing, however, that bugged me about the book’s final chapter — the voice of the children, who may or may not be as enthusiastic about living with the person whom they may see as the reason their family fell apart, is conspicuously absent. Gwen has three young boys, Kingston, 9, Zuma, 7, and Apollo, 20 months.

That’s something for the adulterous parents to figure out, the Tellers say.

But society shouldn’t get off the hook for making unhappy people feel so bad about wanting to get out of a marriage, and in some ways actually setting people up to fail.

“Because society makes it so hard for people to leave their marriage, it sometimes drives people to do extreme things, like have exit affairs,” Astro told me. Societal pressure to be married and stay married, and to honor a marital commitment “until death” no matter what — even when a marriage isn’t working anymore  — is so strong that it influences “a lot of the dynamics that lead to adultery.”

Maybe that’s what we should more upset about.

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4 Responses to “Should you leave a marriage to be with someone new?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    So the big excuse is: society makes people behave badly?

    I think there is a market to sell people a false blameless identity they’d prefer over assuming responsibility for their own poor decisions.

    Would society (in general) approve of a physically abused spouse for leaving a toxic marriage and finding a new romantic interest outside of the abusive relationship? I think so.

    But why should someone who simply decided the ‘grass is greener’ or indulged in affairs of opportunity simply for the added excitement be exempt from social disapproval?

    I’m not suggesting society should embrace the ‘scarlet letter’ extreme of public shaming. But why should anyone have an expectation of respect or acceptance for behaving badly?

    Sleepless in Seattle is a good example of fiction excusing bad behavior within a socially acceptable context of romantic fatalism. The film declares Meg Ryan’s character is not ‘meant’ to be with her nice guy fiance and an invisible supernatural influence confirms the new match with Tom Hanks by revealing ‘signs’ throughout the story. The audience buys in to this false fatalistic identity as a result of their own (mostly) unrealized fantasies: if Meg Ryan isn’t a bad person for randomly ditching her fiance they’re not bad people for doing (or thinking about doing) something similar… Nobody cares who gets hurt as long as Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are happy when the credits roll.

    • Rob says:

      Women are hypergamous and will ditch you as soon as a hotter or richer guy comes along. That’s just their nature and they don’t think they should be shamed for it. I do.

  2. OMGchronicles
    Twitter: OMGchronicles

    Thanks for your comment, anonymous.
    No, society does not make people behave badly; our shame-based model of marriage sets people up for failure because “until death”commitment trumps anything else. So we see spouses treat each other horribly — emotional abuse, anger, resentment, contempt, etc. — with no societal outcry because, her, they are lasting “until death.”

    Meanwhile, people who decide that the marriage isn’t working, for whatever reason, are shamed and blamed and face “social disapproval.”

    Does that make sense?

  3. Anonymous says:

    Leaving a marriage to be with someone else almost always results in disaster. It’s rare (do some digging, and you’ll see what the results are – these relationships rarely stick). More time is needed after marriage before the person is ready.

    Regarding affairs or cheating: it’s dishonest. Dishonesty is wrong. That’s what they taught me when I was a kid. That’s what I hope everyone is teaching their kids – that dishonesty is wrong, and not something to be applied situationally. If you want out because you’ve met someone else and are madly in love (and as I said above, lots of luck to you – you’re setting yourself up for a new heartbreak), divorce your spouse before you even hold hands with someone else.

    By the way, I’ve never cheated or been cheated on, but find it intolerable.

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