Watching the Red Table Talk with Toni Braxton made me reflect on my own marriage and subsequent divorce. Toni talked about the breakdown in communication. Her sickness. Financial stress. Feeling responsible for going out on the road to provide for the family. She discussed the resentment when they divorced and she was forced to pay alimony. They established this alimony payment in the prenup agreement prior to marriage.
Toni’s situation closely mirrored my own marriage. The day and age where the man is the primary provider has far been gone. It does cause resentment when we as women are responsible to be the providers financially and gasp pay alimony or child support. Look at the widely publicized cases of Toni Braxton, Halle Berry, Jennifer Hudson, Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige. All made substantially more money than their spouses and served as the primary provider for the household. Upon divorce, all the women were responsible for paying alimony and the social media community harshly criticized the men for receiving the payments. The question is: Why?
I believe society still makes us feel that the women being the primary breadwinner is wrong. Subconsciously even when we voluntarily enter into these marriages where our income is higher or we are the sole providers, we resent it. It doesn’t matter if the male spouse satisfies all other needs or provides us happiness and support in multiple other ways.
I have to own that feeling of resentment. I felt it deeply. It transpired into my marriage. It impacted the way I communicated with my husband. I lost a certain level of respect for my husband each month he remained unemployed or underemployed. He was my biggest cheerleader whenever I’d accomplish something major at work or in life. He was my best friend. He loved me immensely. He did everything that a husband was supposed to do, except provide. The resentment of him not financially contributing to the household built up. I shut down. Ultimately this led to the demise of our marriage.
Fast-forward to the divorce. Imagine having to pay your ex-husband alimony. No matter how “okay” we say we are it is not a good feeling. I left my marriage after my husband hit me. I told him from the beginning that domestic violence was my one dealbreaker and I meant it. I was active-duty military in the Air Force. Located on a military installation. The local police had no jurisdiction on a military base.
As the military member, I was responsible for the well-being of my spouse even though a police report was filed after the domestic violence incident. It didn’t matter that my ex-husband confessed to hitting me. The military issued a stay away order. This meant we were not allowed to stay in the same residence. The judge banned my husband from base, he was mandated to attend batterers intervention counseling, and given probation. I was still responsible to ensure he had adequate housing and was ordered to provide financial support to my husband.
Was I mad that I had to provide alimony? No. I understood my responsibility. Did I harbor resentment? Yes. I questioned the logic of providing financial support to the abuser. This was my reality and the reality for many women in uniform.
As active-duty military women we carried the weight of marriages on our shoulders. We served our country and many of us struggled to balance work and family life. There were military husbands that stayed home with the children and were the primary caretakers. This was used as leverage when going through divorces or separations. Military women faced judges that deemed them unfit mothers because they were on call for the military 24/7, worked shift-work or deployed. This was the reality of my military sisters who oftentimes didn’t have the financial means to pay substantial legal costs to fight custody or complicated divorce cases. It’s a dangerous situation as sometimes out of desperation to keep their children or fear of going through a messy divorce many military women felt the only choice was to stay in toxic marriages.
I made the choice to divorce. It was not an easy choice. My now ex-husband wrote on the divorce paperwork that he desired to receive couple’s counseling and wanted to remain married. I declined. For years I struggled with the guilt: Should I have stayed? I sought individual counseling for many years to heal. Divorce is not an easy process. It can take years to heal. Even when you are ready for the marriage to end you still go through a cycle of grief. Eventually, after many years, I forgave him and forgave myself. That was freeing.
Things I learned from my marriage and divorce:
• Put God First in the Marriage. Without a solid foundation the marriage will crumble.
• Communicate. Talk to your spouse openly. Don’t hold on to things.
• Seek Counseling. Ongoing counseling is important to getting over barriers and resolving marital issues.
• Surround yourself with positive and loving couples. It helps to have others around you that are in a healthy and happy space.
• Walk in your truth. Be honest and upfront with each other.