Subscribe via RSS

Divorce and the Great Happiness Hoax



Today Penelope Trunk published a controversial blog post titled “Divorce is immature and selfish. Don’t do it.

Her primary argument is that if you have children, in almost all situations you need to figure out how to stick it out. Divorce is absolutely terrible for children, and it’s often solvable. It’s immature, and it’s selfish.

Her argument about divorce fits perfectly into my happiness hoax theory. The Happiness Hoax is the idea that the entire world is trying to sell happiness, which only perpetuates the idea that happiness is something that some people have and other people don’t.

This is an enormous load of shit.

It’s an equally enormous load of shit that some people have perfect marriages and ending yours so that you can “find the love you deserve” is an adult decision.

#1 – It is easier to be a victim than it is to take responsibility for your own happiness.

Everyone loves to be a victim. Everyone loves to bitch. It’s easier to be tired than to be energized, to be poor than to be rich, to be fat than to be thin. People are also brilliant at rationalizing, and it’s amazing the excuses we can come up with to allow ourselves to stay in these places.

“The trick is not how much pain you feel–but how much joy you feel. Any idiot can feel pain. Life is full of excuses to feel pain, excuses not to live, excuses, excuses, excuses.” – Erica Jong

 #2 – Happiness is a conscious choice that takes an enormous amount of work

Aside from clinical depression, where there is an imbalance of chemicals in the brain (something I experience every month with PMDD, so I understand), happiness is something that you can decide to have.

How? You replace frustration with gratitude. You choose to be motivated by abundance and possibility instead of fear. You choose to see the beauty in your life and circumstances rather than focus on the gaps, the holes, and the inconveniences. You start seeing your problems for exactly what they are – first world problems. Realities. The universe isn’t conspiring against you, and if you get off your ass and work hard and make good decisions then good things will start to happen. I promise.

I already said the alternative is easier, so making these choices will take physical effort and consistent determination. If you don’t want to work, then don’t expect to be happy.

#3 – Marriage isn’t dating. It’s a lifelong commitment, and you need to be an adult about it. 

First of all, people make horrible decisions about who to marry.

Before marriage, you need to be sure you’re making a good decision. In my opinion, you need to live together (yes, I know about the cohabitation effect, but I still argue for it). You need to sleep together. You need to experience things together. You need to know each other inside and out, emotionally and intellectually, sexually and non-sexually, good days and bad days. You need to talk about things. You need to talk about the things that are embarrassing and uncomfortable to talk about – like whether or not you believe in spanking children, or how much money you envision a successful future having in it. Is your dream home $100,000 or $1,000,000? Will you be angry if you can’t be a stay at home mom? How much does sex matter to you?

There was a great moment in Dan Savage’s advice column, Savage Love, where a guy wrote in about the whole sex after marriage issue. He was a man that considered himself semi-adventurous sexually, but he married a woman who claimed she didn’t want to do certain things (i.e. most sexual things) until there was a ring on her finger, and now that there was she had lost interest in sex almost altogether. He felt duped. She got her ring. Sex wasn’t happening.

Here, according to Dan (a brilliant, brilliant man), were the guy’s options:

“Stay married, stay faithful, and stew in your own frustration and resentment until you die; stay married, cheat with cause, and hope you don’t get caught; inform your spouse that you’re not going to ask her to do things she’s not comfortable with but you’re also not going to ask for her permission to do those things with other women, and be cast as the villain when she files for divorce; or initiate the divorce yourself, find a new partner, and make sure your new partner both enjoys sex and enjoys the kinds of sex you do before you marry her. (Hint: if she likes sex, and likes the stuff you like, she’ll want to do that stuff whether you’re married to her or not.)”

I recognize that my ideas on pre-marital relationships aren’t condoned by the Bible and the 50′s. Do you know what else isn’t condoned by the Bible or the 50′s? Divorce. So, when divorce is on the table, then so does figuring out what you’re getting into beforehand. Unlike Jesus’s time, we have the internet. We have access to every ex, to tons of weird-ass fetish porn, a thousand dating options at any given time, and life expectancies that are three times as long. Till death do us part is suddenly a much bigger decision. In this world, I think you sure as hell better test drive that car before you buy it.

So, the number one thing about being an adult about marriage is that realizing marriage isn’t going to change anything. The person you’re marrying is the person you’re with, and if you think a band around the finger is suddenly going to make them a freak in the sheets you’re bound to be disappointed. This is what dating is for. I do not understand people who get married and then want a divorce because their spouse is “lazy” or their spouse in “inattentive.” Where were you during the dating process? That is the time to be a critic. That’s the time to jump ship because you’re unsatisfied. Once you go through the bells and whistles of a wedding, it’s time to start a family. It’s time to stop being a child, fueled by selfishness and instant gratification, and bone up the realities of making something work.

#4 – There’s no such thing as buying happiness, and there’s no one in this world who is going to be your perfect spouse

I have witnessed a really, really happy marriage. My parents are the happiest couple I’ve ever seen, and they have been my whole life. They eat lunch together. They work together. They are best friends. They laugh hysterically and go on dates all the time. I think they love having me and my brother out of the house. They miss us, but they love getting to just be them again. As dorky as this sounds, I’ve always been a big family person and I used to feel left out because the two of them were so close and I wanted to be in on it. They couldn’t love me more, but they’re partners and that’s the way it’s always been.

Are they perfect? Far from it. News flash: They work their butts off to stay in love. They are just as proactive about “dating” as they are about being married. They’re as conscious about their time together, and make as much of an effort to stay connected, as Chase and I – who have been together for 10 months and don’t even live together. Yeah, we’re in that first year, so of course we work hard to learn each other and be close and kind… but after 30 years? Who does that after 30 years? My parents. They bite their tongues instead of talking down to each other. They apologize when one of them snaps. They get lunch together and have special ringtones and check in with one another. They support each other’s hobbies and both keep themselves up physically so that they can be proud of each other.

The Psychology Today article, Are You With the Right Mate, shared this anecdote:

“(A man) attended an anniversary party for friends who had been together 25 years. When someone commented on the longevity of the relationship, the husband replied: “Every morning I wake up, splash cold water on my face, and say out loud, ‘Well, you’re no prize either.’” While you’re busy being disillusioned with your partner, you’ll do better with a substantial dose of humility.”

#5 – Get over yourself. Find what’s wonderful in your life and get high on it. Love the one you’re with – because if you’re lucky enough to find someone that loves you, you sure as hell better cherish every moment of it.

I work my ass off to be happy. I work my ass of to love and be lovable. I work my ass off to be proactive in my relationship so that I, and we, become a team. I work my ass off to learn who I am and what I need so that when I get married it won’t be a mistake. I know that now is the time for mistakes and learning the ropes – not after I say “I do.”

I set boundaries with myself.

I work my ass off to not be fat and still enjoy great food. I work my ass off to build a career that I adore because I choose to make the most of my one life here. These are my choices. And guess what? I’m happy. That’s not bragging, that’s a fact. You couldn’t get me to leave my job, move away from my family, or cheat on my boyfriend for a million dollars. I work my ass off and it pays off, because I’ve found happiness. That, to me, is something I work for and can boast as much as any medal. It’s not bragging, it’s a feat. Your choices are your own. But if you choose to be happy, I’m here for you every step of the way.

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your feed reader.

22 Responses to Divorce and the Great Happiness Hoax

  1. Melissa says:

    Hi Jen,

    Wow your blog is AMAZING! You are such a fantastic writer!

    • MsMorphosis says:

      Thank you!! I heard you’re starting a blog yourself! That’s awesome news :) You should check out my new site,, for resources and articles on making your own blog. It should be really relevant and good timing! xox

  2. Anonymous says:

    Im have to politely disagree with you on some things, and just want to share my opinion. Im mostly looking at the paragraph where you talk about you need to live together, you need to sleep together, you need to experience things, and so on. If you say that then whats the point of marriage? You say that you should test a car before you buy it, thats fine, but this sounds more like completely trying to understand the manual, knowing how to change the wiper blades, knowing which side the gas tank is on and basically living from the car. You will pour too much of yourself into each non-successful relationship and that leaves nothing special about marriage, other than changing the last name, having a couple rings and a tax break.
    And the thing about people is, we are constantly changing. You will never completely know your partner. Ever. The thing you need to do is decide to fully commit. Love them no matter what. That means being unselfish.
    And another thing ive found very helpful (actually probably the most helpful thing ever) is having other people involved in your relationship. Not just your friends. People who are older and wiser than you. People you want to be like someday. People that you genuinely trust. People that you can say, hey I need your help with making my relationship successful like yours is and I give you permission to tell me what to do and I will do it no matter what. There are very wise people out there who have successful marriages and would love to help and guide yours to the right place. And when things are going wrong, you always have someone to talk to, to work through problems with. Someone who can bring sense to misunderstandings or whatever else is going on.
    I could probably go on and on about having a healthy and successful relationship, because Ive been through a lot, and have somehow managed to do a lot of things right. I have 2 great couples that can talk to either of us about anything and we will never lie to them. We trust them and they trust us. We dont live together, nor do we sleep together, because we both see that as something very special that we want to save for each other (even though years back we both have had adventurous relationships). We dont just wait because we dont want to (trust me…), we do it because there is a lot of value in sharing yourself intimately with someone and we want to save that for when we are made one through the vows of marriage. It causes us to love in other ways first, which is where we really get to learn about each other.
    Just some things to maybe think about. Our culture now seems to be just a bunch of people who dont know who they really are, are selfish and mostly just seeking personal pleasure, and are terrified of responsibility and commitment. I’ll stop rambling now. Just had to get a few thoughts off my chest. Goodnight.

    • MsMorphosis says:

      I absolutely understand and respect your opinion, and I know a lot of people (many whom I love and respect) share your beliefs. Here, I’m just presenting how I’ve chosen to handle my own life and beliefs. I definitely didn’t say to go full force into every relationship, but I don’t believe you need to wait all the way until marriage. At least, for me, I want to know someone in that respect before I marry them.

      Personally, I think there’s a MUCH bigger point to marriage then sex. Sex is a very deep, emotional act with someone (well, most of the time – whether or not “casual sex” exists is a whole other question for another day) but anyways, in terms of relationship sex, it’s a big deal, I totally agree. But marriage? Marriage is committing to being a family for the rest of your lives. For the rest of your one precious life you have in this world.

      To me, that’s a HUGE deal, and much bigger than sex or cohabitation.

    • Mgt5888 says:

      Honestly if u desire a sex life with someone, after getting married to someone, and they don’t meet your need i can guarantee you that you going to inevitably become less happy ad less happy about it. In most men’s cases it’ll lead to cheating. Statistic’s show that men cheat more after marriage than women do only based on the fact that they aren’t satisfied. funny thing is is that they share the christian ideal. I love god and i know i fail him in having sex before marriage, but if i didn’t i know know it would inevitably lead to divorce and believe the same would happen to you regardless to you noble ideals. Trust me the author completely correct in this.

  3. I totally agree! Happiness is your own responsibility and about your own mind set. Marriage is hard and it takes a lot of work. There’s no such thing as a prince on shining armor. You make a choice to work on your marriage and make it work to the happiness of both individuals.
    great post!
    Jennie Jackson recently posted..Born a Jew, Raised Christian with a Brother who was Born Muslim, and in the End I Became BuddhistMy Profile

  4. don gordon says:

    this is so good! I think most divorces can be prevented. About 2/3 of divorces occur in marriages where the satisfaction with the marriage is fairly good, no bad conflict, but one person wants to “grow” or thinks they can find someone like a soul mate. So the kids are trashed while this immature person is seeking something they are very unlikely to find–a great relationship that does not take a lot of work. I really agree with this writer.

    • MsMorphosis says:

      Thank you so much, and thanks for the great feedback/reinforcement. I like the “2/3″ idea. Of COURSE there are circumstances where people should get divorced. It happens. But a lot of the time people are looking for their “soulmate” and abandon their family, rather than working to fall back in love with the life they’ve built.

      Thank you so much for reading and I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  5. Amy says:

    LOVE this one! I know I say that about every post, but I agree with every word you said! ESPECIALLY about test driving the car before you buy it! You said people need to realize “marriage isn’t going to change anything. The person you’re marrying is the person you’re with.” Some people want to ‘save’ certain things for marriage and I think that’s silly. I want to marry someone for who they are, not the potential of who they might be after a party with all our friends. Like you said and I believe, marriage is about starting a life together, not a date on a calendar.

    To Anonymous above. Yes people change, but usually they don’t fundamentally change, and if your married, and constantly working on that marriage, chances are you will change together, as a couple.

    I also disagree with you that others need to be involved in your relationship. I think it is wise to get an outside perspective and learn from other couples. I think it does help keep you in check and give you ideas and examples you may not have thought of; but ultimately, YOU are the only person who knows whats going on in the relationship. You are the only person who can make the right decision for your relationship.

    I also love #5. NEVER take for granted the fact that someone loves you because they DO NOT have to.

    • MsMorphosis says:

      Thank you!! I love your thoughts about how only you know at the end of the day what’s right for your relationship. I have a girlfriend that used to always preface her relationship advice with saying, “first of all, only you know what goes on behind closed doors.” That little piece of understanding always meant the world to me, and I really appreciated it. At the end of the day, only you know what goes on behind closed doors.

  6. [...] I wanted to share her argument and add to it all at once. So that’s what I did, and the post Divorce and the Great Happiness Hoax was posted a few hours [...]

  7. elizabeth says:

    What a great post! I agree with you. It takes work. That’s exactly what our blog is all about too…
    elizabeth recently posted..The over-apologyMy Profile

  8. Andi Brunett says:

    I want to agree with Penelope. What she says makes great sense & sounds ideal. But having come from two marriages (the first violent, wherein he only married me cuz I got preggers, & then proceeded to remind me that he never loved me on a daily basis; & the second emotionally void because I was too needy to see through the charming BS that covered an emotionally empty shell of a man), I can honestly say I’m happy now where I am. I finally ended up with my best friend, & we’ve been together for five very happy years. He is raising my children & they both adore him & call him “dad”. So as much as I WANT to agree, I can’t.

    I was so steamed over this article that I ended up writing a response on my blog. If you would care to check it out here is the link:

    • MsMorphosis says:


      I’m proud of you for leaving your marriage. Penelope is a brilliant writer who makes incredibly controversial statements. I agreed with her argument, but agree with an earlier commenter on this post (Don Gordon) that it’s a “2/3 of the time” thing. I still think there are good reasons for divorce, and I’m so thrilled that you got the happy ending you deserve.

      Lots of love and I will definitely check out your post. Thank you for sharing :)

  9. Liz says:

    You make a lot of great points in this post, as with many of your others. While I agree with many of the points that you and Penelope argue regarding divorce, I must say that making such absolute declarations about divorce always being the wrong choice seems to be a very limited point of view. As a child of divorced parents, I can attest that I rejoiced when my mother finally, after multiple attempts, left my dad (largely due to my own encouragement). I am not a quitter and I believe in trying to make things work when you’ve made a commitment. That being said, some relationships are far too toxic and unhealthy to continue fighting for, particularly if both parties are not making that effort to relfect and change their harmful patterns. I firmly believe that the instability that I experienced in my childhood for over 10 years as a result of my parents staying together has resulted in greater psychological damage for me than if they had gone their separate ways. Should my parents have even gotten married to begin with? Probably not, but people make mistakes. Sometimes you have to know when to decide not to commit to your mistakes and move on.

    • MsMorphosis says:

      I absolutely understand and validate your opinion. Of course, any sort of claims like these are incredibly broad and not all-encompassing, they’re just meant to be a shocker and perhaps a paradigm shifter. I agree with an earlier commenter that described it as a “2/3″ rule – I think 2/3 of marriages could be stuck out for the kids. I’m mostly arguing against 1) getting married without knowing each other well enough, 2) getting lazy (relationships, especially marriages, take daily work. Lots of work. Insane amounts of work – that gets tiring), and 3) leaving the person you’re with because of 1 – an affair, or 2 – you think you “deserve something better”/want to go looking for some sort of soul mate. Penelope is a little more aggressive than I am about the abusive factor, and thinks you should stick it out even in those circumstances. My personal opinion is to not stick around for abuse or addiction – those two are controlling, each in their own way, and are far greater than an individual can handle and cope with.

      Thank you so much for reading and sharing your story, and I’m glad that your mom eventually had the strength to walk away.

  10. [...] write on MsMorphosis about my opinions on sex, marriage, and my body. I’m often terrified, because sometimes people pay attention. Penelope is far [...]

  11. Claire says:

    Marriage is really, really hard. It sounds like you’ve had an awesome example to look up to, and also like you are doing a really good job of knowing yourself and making sure you’re sure before you commit to your guy. I think that’s so wise and will really help. Don’t do anything unreflectively! :)

    I’d like to hear you write back on this topic again (keeping marriage together) once you have been married a few years. Life is unpredictable, and people do change in ways we can’t predict (it’s truly not all out there for us to perceive! ) It also seems to me that there are parts of us that unfold that we don’t expect either, even if we are people who work hard to understand ourselves. (I could be biased in my perception of this, as I married young, and without full attention to all visible issues. But some arose later!) Sometimes these forces can conspire to create a seemingly unworkable situation. Hard work has it’s limits, too, commendable as it may be. Sometimes your hard work on the relationship seems to push the other person away. :( It is likely that none of these dynamics will be present in your marriage. I’ll still look forward to hearing your insights from inside the phenomenon!

    Thanks for your posts and all the topics you tackle. Your posts are thought-provoking, and your approach to life invigorating and inspiring!

    • MsMorphosis says:

      Hey Claire! Thanks for the sweet words and opening up. Life is so unpredictable – I am very curious how Chase and I will evolve together, as well. I am hoping that the fundamental dynamics that have kept us strong will continue to, but only time will tell. I promise to keep blogging throughout the engagement and marriage, and I hope to hear more from you, too. xoxo

  12. Stefanie says:

    I agree with so much of the article. I’ve been married for eleven years and we did live together during our engagement. Living together was good for us, but we would have still gotten married regardless. The truth is that you really can’t completely know your partner until you’ve been married with children. Kids change the dynamic of the relationship and for us, this has been a very difficult stage. Nothing is equal, nothing is fair and at times we both feel neglected and resentful toward one another. If our relationship was this way before kids, I would have walked away in a heartbeat. Now that we’re parents, I absolutely put the kids first. Being a grown up is hard and not always pleasant, but its what I have to do for the kids. I don’t think any “soulmate” on the planet could make real life easier. Easy is lazy. Dealing with the downs of marriage is hard work and it doesn’t make me feel super happy, but that’s life isn’t it. If you think ,marriage is a big commitment, try having kids. That, my friend, is a serious commitment.

    • MsMorphosis says:

      Hey Stefanie, thank you so much for reading and for opening up. You know, I studied in a developmental psychology class that a couple’s happiness levels PLUMMET with the birth of the first kid and slowly go back up and hit around “normal” again when the kids leave the house. Seriously! Having kids drains everything – your energy, your money, your tolerance of the other where you have different ideals. I bet it’s all going to change with kids, and we’re going to hold on tight. I’m glad you’re holding on tight, too. xoxo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

CommentLuv badge