There is no better truth-revealer for a marriage than divorce. All those horrible things you thought about your husband but were too nice/afraid/kind to say about his mother/underperformance at work/penis size? You say them. All the disgusting things you suspected he believed about you but would never utter aloud about your brother/weight/performance in bed? He shouts them.
Which is why divorce lawyers are such an accurate barometer of what is happening in the relationship zeitgeist. The get the raw, un-adulterated (though often adultering) dirt on how couples think, act and feel.
My friend and neighbor Morghan Richardson, a family lawyer in Astoria, Queens, New York, says that women are often stunned to hear their soon-to-be ex-husbands confess that they never really wanted her to abandon their careers and stay home. And they are confused, and, again stunned, to hear divorce and child support judges demand women work full time — no matter how many or how little their children are. In the war of mommies, the increasing numbers of female judges (who are firmly in the working mothers camp) have their say. And they say being a SAHM does not count as work.
In other words: You can argue all day long that staying at home raising children is a full time job. But the legals system decides and it disagrees. So does your husband.
I see this attitude in many of the men I date. These are progressive, feminist men who maybe at one point conceded that it made sense for one parent to stay home full time with the children. But then the kids got older. He was under a lot of pressure to be the sole breadwinner and he sometimes resented it, especially since there was another educated adult in the family. He went to work each and every day with women — beautiful women — who worked fulltime and raised what seemed like perfectly healthy children. And now they're divorced and he is so, so angry that he pays her bills since — even though she has gone back to work — she makes so much less than she could have had she stayed in the workforce and — in his words — pulled her own financial weight, which may have saved the marriage!
The takeaway? Keep a foot in the workforce, even when your kids are babies. Accept as fact you have a 50 percent chance of being divorced, and even if your husband seems to fully support heading a one-income household, deep down he likely feels very differently. Regardless of what everyone feels, the only feelings that really matter are the judge's. And as more women take the ranks of the courts, there is less legal inclination for alimony — especially when the petitioner is an educated woman who chooses not to earn a living.
Emma Johnson is a veteran money journalist, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour, Oprah.com, U.S. News, Parenting, USA Today and others. Her #1 bestseller, The Kickass Single Mom (Penguin), was named to the New York Post's ‘Must Read” list.
Emma regularly comments on issues of modern families, gender equality, divorce, sex and motherhood for outlets like CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine and The Doctors. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and a “Most Eligible New Yorker” by New York Observer.
A popular speaker, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality. Read more about Emma here.