With all that’s going on in Rio I thought this was an apt time to write about this. You’ve all heard of the Pain Olympics, right? It’s an amazing competition where there are no winners because, let’s face it, if you’ve won the Pain Olympics then your life is pretty much shit. Sometimes it’s where someone tries to one up someone else. Oh, your husband of 15 years cheated on you with his secretary? Well, MY husband of 20 years cheated on me with my sister! To a lesser extent it can be when other people tell you that your pain is nothing compared to all the starving children in North Korea or the people who have lost limbs in war or… or… or…
I first encountered this when I was going through all of my pregnancy losses. There was what seemed like real competition between women who had children and were experiencing loss and those who didn’t have children and were experiencing loss. I got to the point though where I finally figured out it’s not that one person has it worse. It all sucks; it’s simply a matter of different issues.
When it was between miscarrying mothers the big issue that women with children faced was the fact that many times their loss wasn’t looked at with sympathy. They were frequently told to be thankful for the child or children they had. I think that’s horrible. A loss is a loss and just because a woman has one or two or more children already doesn’t mean that she wants this next child any less than the person who has no children. At the same time a woman who has no children may be gaining a lot of sympathy but she’s also facing the fact that she may never become a mom. That’s a whole other kettle of fish. They have different issues; neither has it better or worse. There are no winners in the Pain Olympics.
I sometimes see that with infidelity. And again, it all boils down to different issues. At different stages you have different issues. Different sexes have different issues. No one has it better or worse, although there are definitely some really shitty situations out there.
For example when it comes to men vs. women very few men suffer the financial struggles that a lot of women endure. I read somewhere that after a divorce a man’s lifestyle generally improves while a woman’s lifestyle generally decreases. Stay at home dads are still far and few between which means they’re not wondering how on earth they’re going to provide for their children in the event of a divorce. The last statistic I saw on women and staying at home was that 50% of women choose to stay at home. That’s a lot of women who are potentially facing divorce that are financially dependent on their husbands. The opposite doesn’t seem to happen quite so often. On the other hand it’s still an uphill battle for most men to get decent custody of their kids. Very few men become the primary custodial parent and getting 50/50 is still an uphill battle for most. I can’t imagine anything more painful than having your wife cheat on you and then losing out on seeing your kids every day and on top of that having to pay your cheating ex-wife child support and possibly even alimony. What a shit sandwich! And it’s not one that women frequently are asked to eat. Also on the plus side though is it seems most men are seen as “valuable commodities” once they’re back on the market. I’ve heard many men be told that “their stock will trade high” in the dating world. You’ve got a good job and you’re a good father? Should you choose to return to dating you will probably have very little trouble finding dates, according to what I hear.
Then there’s the difference between divorcing in your 20s vs. your 30s vs. your 40s vs. your 50s and on up. I would imagine that in yours 20s you can’t even believe that what was once a bright promising future has turned into a nightmare so quickly. You get married and you think it will be forever and within only a year or two (or maybe a few more) you’re facing infidelity and divorce. That’s the way I felt after my first miscarriage. It had taken forever to finally get pregnant and then when I did I only got to enjoy it it for two weeks before it was all over. There were days I couldn’t quite grasp that it was all over already.
I also think that as you get older more challenges present themselves. I’ve often thought that it would have been so much easier if this had happened when I was in my 30s. It would have been easier to reinvent myself, easier to go back to school, easier to get hired, and more time to make money. But then I think of those women who are starting over in their 50s and 60s. I don’t know how they do it, but they do!
They have unique challenges as well. The older you are the closer you are to retirement. You’ve probably got a lot of years together with that other person and just as you think you’ll be enjoying your golden years he or she yells, “Surprise! I’m done with you! Let’s split everything up and go our separate ways.” I’m not sure how easy it would be to recreate yourself at 50 or 60. I definitely think it would be hard to get hired and if they don’t get a great settlement (or aren’t independently wealthy) they may have a rough remaining life. I’m don’t know how you pick up and rebuild after spending 30-40 years with someone and having that person discard you.
It’s not just the financial end of it either. I think you have many more chances to date the younger you are. I also think you have a much better chance of creating a family with someone else the younger your children are; unfortunately, that usually corresponds with our own ages. And for those who say you can find love at any age? While that may be true it’s also true that women typically live longer than men which means that as you enter your 50s and 60s and 70s as a woman more and more of your potential dates are dying. Sorry to be morbid but them’s the facts!
Those who have been married many years are dealing with their own issues. I am amazed at the number of people I see over on Chump Lady who have been left after 25, 30 and 35 years. It blows my mind. For myself I feel like I wasted 20 plus years of my life with CF and I wonder if it would be any better if I had ended it after only 5 or 10 years. Perhaps I would have had another chance at happiness. I’m 47. Even if I met “the love of my life” how many years would I really get with him? And yet I feel for those who are divorcing after only a few years. Again, I think it must feel like the rug has been pulled out from underneath you. You got married and thought it would be forever and it wasn’t. I’m not someone who ended up divorced shortly after I married so I don’t know what all their challenges are but I am sure they have their own specific issues.
For me the biggest issue I have to get over is the difference between women with jobs and women without jobs. I read about these women who have just graduated or been promoted or they’re talking about how once they threw their cheater out their lifestyle improved so much. I really have to take a step back because I sometimes feel myself thinking, “Man, if I had a good job and could support myself and my kids with no problem this would be so much easier!” But I know that these women all have their own challenges.
There are those who are mourning the fact that they were madly in love with their partner and those who thought of their spouse as their best friend with whom they did everything. Some people are dealing with serial cheaters. Others are dealing with spouses conducting long term affairs. Some are dealing with partners who have cheated since the very beginning (or maybe even before!) of the marriage and others are dealing with people who are wondering what they did to cause the cheater to cheat after x number of years. Some people are dealing with a cheater who leaves for the whore. They walk out the door and never offer the betrayed spouse a chance to win them back. While that sounds horrible (and is basically what happened in my situation) there are those who would say we are the lucky ones. Sometimes they try to hoover you back in and they mess with your mind. Those who deal with the cheaters who try to come back swear that’s the worst. Some are left for others who are seen as physically more desirable or are younger while some wonder what on earth their dipshit spouse sees in the whore. People deal with the whore being a co-worker, a best friend, a family member, a long ago girlfriend or boyfriend or a random stranger. Some deal with the fact that their spouse is cheating with prostitutes. There are all kinds of possibilities.
And of course, when you’re talking about unprotected sex you need to mention STDs. Some people have been “gifted” with incurable diseases, others with the more curable type. One woman shared her story of how she miscarried thanks to the STD her husband passed along to her. Others talk about cervical cancer that was caused by the HPV virus their husbands gave them. Awesome!
I always wonder if it would be easier to be left for someone of the opposite sex, i.e. if CF was gay. I hear about this on occasion. I truly don’t know how I would feel. On one hand I think, “Well, it’s not me. Obviously I’m not his type.” On the other hand I could very well be thinking, “Why the hell did you waste my time? Why did you have kids with me when you knew you weren’t into women?” In the end though I think cheating is cheating and it would hurt no matter who it was.
Then there are the people who abandon their children vs. those who mindfuck the kids. People who are engaged in nasty custody battles and people who are cheated on that end up losing their kids to the cheater’s mind games.
While I am grateful I don’t have to share my kids with the whore due to their ages I also realize it will make it much more difficult for someone else to come in and be a father figure to them. At the same time, I’m sure that those with very young children who must send them off and then listen to them talk fondly about the affair partner think I’ve got it made. Other people deal with their kids having a relationship with the other parent and their affair partner even though the kids are grown. Again, I can’t imagine the heartache behind losing your spouse AND your children to a home wrecker. I can’t imagine dealing with my children having a fantastic relationship with Harley.
Some people divorce and yet they are able to keep the family home and their kids remain at their current schools. Other people end up having to sell the family home and perhaps even move out of town. Some are living at homeless shelters or on air mattresses in empty apartments.
I’ve heard of people who have never received a dime in support from their cheater whether because they got screwed in the divorce or because the cheater just never paid while others end up with incredibly generous settlements. And most men, of course, don’t end up with support orders, although I suppose they could end up with a nice settlement (perhaps not having to split a pension or 401k, or getting the house). I’ve heard of cases where the cheater spent college education funds, mortgaged the house to the hilt, and blew through all the savings and retirement accounts.
There are people who are dealing with abusive cheaters, people who have had their lives threatened. One of the saddest cases I’ve ever heard of was a woman whose son was murdered by his cheating father and then later his family burned her house down, killing her family pets. There are no words to express the horror of that situation.
I’ve also heard of people who find out about the cheating or are left by the cheater while they are dealing with a serious illness, usually cancer. Others are dealing with the serious illness or death of a parent or child when the cheater pulls his or her shit. Nothing like being discarded just when you need someone the most.
Some of us are extremely lucky to have very supportive friends and family. We don’t deal with so-called Switzerland friends and we don’t lose many friends in the divorce. Some of us even keep the in-laws. I know that I am very fortunate in that I have a mom who was more than willing to open her door to me and my kids while others are living in less than stellar conditions. I know there are those that lose friends in the divorce or whose in-laws never talk to them again (yeah, that would be me- no big loss). Some don’t have family left, or the family that is left is either not supportive or they’re outright hostile about the divorce and support the cheater. Again, I can’t even imagine.
There are so many different “events” in these Pain Olympics. Does it really matter who has it worse? It all hurts. It all sucks. There are so many crazy variations. While we might get lucky in one area we could very well get run over with a bus in another area. I’ve got supportive friends and family. I have a place to stay and my children are in no danger of turning against me. I have no STDs and so far our divorce has been free of violence. However, I also wasted 20 years of my life with a man who left me for his cousin, spent our money on her and her kids, abandoned his kids, and has pretty much once again dismantled our lives, causing us to start all over. My kids don’t live in the family home. They’ve had to switch schools. Oh, and I have no job and the douche I’m married to is quite possibly faking a nervous breakdown so he doesn’t have to pay me anything. I’ve got my struggles and other people have theirs. I have a friend who was also moved over 2000 miles across the country before her husband declared he couldn’t be married to her anymore. Unfortunately for her they moved to a state that didn’t give her alimony, despite the fact she had been a stay-at-home mom to four children for more than ten years. A fellow blogger had two babies in diapers when her husband walked out, moving over 2000 miles away to start over with someone else. What the hell is it with men and moving 2000+ miles away? Is that the magic number? Another friend of mine who was divorced long ago dealt with an abusive cheater who cleaned out their bank account and managed to brainwash their child and turn him against her for almost ten years. As if that wasn’t enough he also dragged her to court repeatedly, despite the fact that he earned six figures and she was barely scraping by. We’ve all got horrible stories. I like to remind myself that everyone has their own Hell to journey through because again, no one wins when they’re competing in the Pain Olympics. By it’s very nature winning means losing. I wonder if that means losing means winning?