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Don't Live in Denial
You'd have thought that I, of all people, would have known better. After all, I'd already lived through two failed marriages, watched my mother and grandmother struggle to raise young families on their own, and served as a shoulder to cry on for countless women friends whose husbands had traded them in for younger models or otherwise left them in the lurch, emotionally and financially.
But when my call came, I was still totally unprepared. On a beautiful spring afternoon in 1996, I picked up the phone to hear my beloved husband, Robert, say, without warning, fanfare, or explanation, "Georgette, you're not going to like this, but I thought you should know that I've just filed for divorce." I was shocked, confused, panicked, paralyzed. Most of all, I tortured myself by wondering why, over and over again.
Like countless women before me, I felt like I'd been hit by a proverbial train. Until the second before he delivered his bombshell, I'd believed I had the perfect marriage, my own personal fairy tale come true. Robert and I had been married for eleven years, together for fifteen, and I was as in love with him at the end as I had been in the beginning. As cliched as it may sound, we were friends and partners as well as lovers, and I really thought we'd be together forever. There'd been none of the telltale signs--or so I thought at the time--to let me know that our marriage was unraveling: no violent arguments, no unaccountable absences, no lipstick on his collar. But although I worked hard over the next year to put the pieces of our relationship back together again, the marriage was irretrievably broken.
Only two facts make my storydifferent from that of any other woman who's been summarily dumped by her spouse. First, I happened to have been married to a well-known and wealthy man (Robert was Secretary of Commerce during the Bush administration, and I had gained a certain degree of notoriety myself during our years together in Washington, D.C.) So my private pain quickly became public, as gossip and society columnists speculated on the demise of my marriage, and, as a result, even more difficult to bear.
The second, and far more important in the long run, difference: While I was completely unprepared emotionally for the break-up of my marriage, I was well prepared for it financially. Although I had been married to a very rich man for more than a decade, I never once in all that time mistook his good fortune for mine. I did not rely on his generosity and good intentions for my financial well-being and the security of the people in my family who depend on my support. Throughout our marriage I'd taken steps to ensure that I'd always have a roof over my head and the means to support myself no matter what happened to my husband or to our relationship. As a result, I did not
Cash is cold comfort under these circumstances. But make no mistake about it: Cold comfort is better than no comfort at all.
find myself at age fifty having to start all over again financially, as so many women do in situations like mine.
Cash is cold comfort under these circumstances. But make no mistake about it: It is some comfort. And at times like these, we need all the help we can get.
The Third Great Lie
"Don't worry, I'll take care of you, honey."
Along with "The check is in the mail" and "I'll still respect you in the morning," this is the biggest falsehood you'll ever hear from a man. That includes your husband, your father, your brother, your boyfriend, your boss--any and all of them.
It's not that the men who utter these platitudes maliciously set out to lie. I'm sure that most of them think they mean what they say at the time they say them. But the fact that they believe that they're telling the truth doesn't make what they're saying any truer.
Statistics, coupled with our own personal experiences, tell us differently. Consider these facts:
* Half of all women married in the past twenty years will eventually divorce, the Census Bureau reports.
* Of those women, only 28 percent will be granted an award of ongoing financial support from their exes. As if that isn't bad enough, more than a third of the women who are entitled to alimony or child support will never see a penny of the money that's due them.
* As a result of these and other financial pressures, the average woman's standard of living drops dramatically in the first year after a divorce--by anywhere from 27 percent to 45 percent, according to various estimates. Meanwhile, the average man's standard of living rises after a split by some 10 percent to 15 percent.