The First Wives Snub

Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of

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44 Responses

  1. Michael Drew says:

    Am I missing the part of the quote where Ben says the issue was Jennifer, a shortcoming of hers, something she did wrong?

    Had he said that elsewhere but you chose to quote a part of an interview where he doesn’t say it?Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

      …Blaming it on a marriage he felt he shouldn’t have been in is not blaming it on her, her inadequacy as a wife, etc. He’s simply saying he wasn’t happy.

      It’s also not taking responsibility, I completely acknowledge that.

      I also don’t approve of divorce for reasons of “I’m not happy” when there are children. So I don’t condone anything Affleck has done in his private life. And obviously there are far worse things that we haven’t even mentioned. (And drinking like that as a father is bad enough on its own.)

      But I just don’t see where Affleck has done what you’re saying he’s done here. It’s like the one bad thing he hasn’t done that I’m aware of (dump on Jennifer and say that his problems with the marriage were actually her fault).

      If there are other quotes however… by all means…Report

  2. Michael Drew says:

    “I’m satisfied with making true choices and finding the woman I love, Angie, and building a family that I love so much.”

    *This* is one of the meanest things you’ve ever read, and (therefore?) a top example of men “dissing” their ex-wives?

    [Homer Simpson backing into the vines at Wrigley Field GIF]Report

  3. Philip H says:

    Another well written piece that I resonate with a lot. I’m the twice married man, and while things have worked much much better the second time around, as you note it’s no picnic always.

    Even when you’re an adult, even when you’ve been married relatively happily for quite a long time, there’s that lingering fear that if you aren’t perfectly obliging all the time in every arena that you’re gonna get dumped. Not only dumped, but dumped in such a way that everyone in the whole wide world will side with Hubby, immediately assuming that Wifey drove him to it by failing to enthusiastically appreciate a sudden interest in some ridiculous and bizarre thing.

    This one works both ways – and for me you’d just have to substitute the roles to describe how my first marriage ended. In my case it wasn’t some new sudden ridiculous interest – it was my career as a scientist, which wasn’t a “real job” or so I was told as part of the break up. The real issue was she had economic expectations I wasn’t meeting that were unvoiced until it was all over, and which frankly my background as a poorish university professor’s kid didn’t equip me well to respond to. What I also find, however, is that even in our enlightened day and age men in this situation are still held as accountable for the failure, because we should have pivoted to whatever was needed even when that need is never told to us.

    That’s all it is. A whole lot of people expect constant novelty when really even the best day to day life – even for celebrities, let alone the rest of us – tends more towards mundanity interspersed with fantastic, lovely moments that really by all rights should make it all worthwhile.

    I don’t agree with this assessment either, in as much as all the marriage counseling and relationship self help books tell you you have to do a better job of breaking up the mundane, and couples who last do seem to have a better shot at creating the new and unique more regularly. Few of the couples I know in decades long marriages or monogamous relationships sit idly by and focus ONLY on their kids, their house and their careers. They go out on real dates regularly, they travel, they try new hobbies together. and they boost each others vocations and avocations publicly. Which means those counselors and those books are probably on to something.

    Meanwhile, a woman can’t even take a goddamn bath now and then without someone muttering that she should probably be scrubbing something – like her husband’s junk – instead.

    I detect a certain deficiency being highlighted in your daily routine here. Perhaps listening to plaster and lathe discussions should be required to be done after you have had your soaking time?Report

  4. Kazzy says:

    During the brief bit of couples therapy my ex and I pursued, the issue of my having expectations that were too high came up. The therapist heard my ex out and finally responded that I was just as entitled to my expectations as she was to hers. And if mine felt too high for her and/or hers felt too low for me and we couldn’t rectify that, we had a real compatibility issue that would likely remain. That wasn’t quite the final nail in the coffin but it demonstrated that if we weren’t willing to do a lot of work, we weren’t going to make it work happily.

    We weren’t willing to do that work. Recognizing that allowed us to eventually get to a place where we could look fondly upon the time we had and forge forward with a different relationship, one focused on co-parenting our two children. While we probably shouldn’t have abandoned couples therapy as quickly as we did, it was very helpful to learn that it wasn’t an issue of fault but one of compatibility.Report

  5. LeeEsq says:

    You either have a marriage system where either party has the right to quit at any time for any reason or you don’t and force unhappy people to be together. A system where, assuming a heterosexual relationship, where either the husband or wife has the right to call it quits at anytime for any reason but the other party has to be brave, loyal, good, and true because tradition just won’t work. Right now it just seems that everybody is looking for maximum freedom and power for their side and the people they feel sympathetic for in heterosexual relationships while wanting to bound the other side by tradition.Report

  6. LeeEsq says:

    And I definitely feel that there is a very gendered thing with these types of pop culture entertainment news divorce stories where if a man decides he is unhappy and wants out of marriage/relationship he is the worse villain in the entire world while if a woman decides she needs out it is just natural and the man should let her go. This type of dual standard isn’t how reasonable people should behave in the relationships.Report

  7. John Puccio says:

    Is there a person on the planet outside of the entertainment industry who is on Team Ben at this point?

    PS: Argo was one of the worst movies ever to win the Oscar for Best Picture.Report

  8. Pinky says:

    Affleck and Garner both seem like the type of actor who falls in love on set a lot. They’ve each got half a dozen SAG romances on the books. I remember the Brad / Jennifer / Other Jennifer / Matt / Gwyneth pileup a few years back when it seemed like Access Hollywood was playing mad-libs with celebrity names.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Pinky says:

      I assume some of that “love” is “my carrier needs more work”.

      Similarly one of the last things I’d do to help a relationship, past or present, is go on the Howard Sterns show.Report

  9. Jennifer Worrel says:

    I’m replying from the perspective of a second wife to someone who makes a living as an entertainer.

    People – men – who have found professional success (or perhaps, are not successful but still keep doing the thing regardless) in certain kinds of occupations do those job partly because they derive fulfillment from the attention / adoration from others. Their vocation is not a choice between being an accountant or an engineer– its literally who they are as a person.

    Part of marriage is folding socks, nursing sick kids, and cleaning up after the dog.

    I’m TeamJennifer / TeamAnna, for sure, but I just don’t find it surprising that people with a need fulfilled by being center-stage pull the rip cord when they find themselves competing with laundry and vomit for attention.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Jennifer Worrel says:

      Male entertainers might have a particular bad case of wanting to be the center of attention but in nearly every relationship I was in, there were days or even sometimes weeks where I was subjected to radio silence only to have contact suddenly resume like nothing happened. Meanwhile, maybe I can get away with putting off a conversation for a few hours from my end if I was really busy with something. There seems to be some expectations that a lot of behavior that would be seen as dickish or even kind of abusive coming from a man to a woman is tolerable or even acceptable in the reverse. Like I don;’t think a man could get away with radio silence for days or weeks in a relationship and just resume things like nothing happened.Report

  10. Damon says:

    In the years since my divorce, all the women I’ve dated, and many casual male friends have asked me “what went wrong”. I still struggle to understand what did go wrong, but I have never blamed my ex. Yes, she initiated the divorce, but I’d never accuse her of being the cause-no, rather it’s a joint thing.. In the words of my stepmother, My ex “is a wonderful person.” Women particularly find it odd I won’t trash ex–one of the things I dislike about the cattiness of women.Report

  11. Oscar Gordon says:

    Undiagnosed or untreated mental illness in men is probably a strong contributing factor. We have a friend who has 3 kids. One day, out of the blue, her husband goes off the deep end and accuses her of essentially making him the junior partner in their marriage. It was BS, but that was the story he was going with.

    Years later, after the divorce is pretty much final, he finally sees a doc & gets diagnosed Bipolar (we’d been telling him to do that all along, but, you know, male egos and all that). Marriage is toast, but at least he’s medicated and getting help so he can try and be a good father to his kids.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      I think undiagnosed or unrevealed problems in partners of any gender can put a lot of stress on a relationship. The uninformed partner, and I know this from personal experience, can find themselves in a situation where something just occurs and they don’t know what to do or whether it was something they did. The difference I think is that women are more likely to be diagnosed and also that there is a cultural expectation of support during their times of hardship while men do not have this expectation of support because they are supposed to manage their own problems.Report

    • Dark Matter in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      There is a very long history of addiction and mental illness in Affleck’s family.

      Ben himself is known to suffer from anxiety, depression, & alcohol addiction. He may also have issues with gamboling (although he’s professional level good so maybe not).Report

  12. So, sincere question: is there any way these men can say nice things about their second wives that doesn’t come across as hurtful or mean to their first ones? Genuinely curious about this since you don’t site any counter-examples of men who did it “right” assuming it can be done right at all.Report

    • InMD in reply to Michael Siegel says:

      There is no way. Dudes are dogs and chicks are unsung martyrs, especially the ones with millions of dollars and legions of adoring fans.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to InMD says:

        The unfair sex is a trope for a reason. A lot of heterosexual relationships seem to be a demand for men to give all the traditions while women ask for freedom from all traditions.Report

    • Pinky in reply to Michael Siegel says:

      To leave a spouse for someone else isn’t an honorable thing, and I can understand why all subsequent statements will be judged in that light. But that does go in both directions. I don’t know all the timelines on this, and how many of the splits were whose mistakes, but Ben Affleck was Jennifer Garner’s second husband, and Chris Pratt was Anna Faris’s second husband. As for the new girls, Brad Pitt was Angelina Jolie’s third husband, and Mary Elizabeth Winstead had been married before. This article is never complimentary to the new girls, I’ll give it that. But this just feels like the Jerry Springer Show, where you can feel sorry for a few of the people, but there’s not much to admire.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Pinky says:

        Really? The modern understanding is that relationships are supposed to be something close to at will contracts where if one partner is not happy, they should be able to leave at anytime as long as they are honest about it. People really don’t like this in actual practice and there are still gendered expectations in heterosexual relationships with more anger directed at a man who leaves for another woman or just leaves than a woman who leaves for another man or just leaves. The man is seen as more of shirker in his obligations even if the couple isn’t married and there aren’t any kids involved.Report

        • InMD in reply to LeeEsq says:

          This is going to make me sound like a reactionary but the new norm on it is wrong and IMO leads to a lot of preventable unhappiness. Which isn’t to say the old norm was all peachy keen, especially to the extent it trapped people (and let’s be real, women in particular) in legitimately abusive situations. But we can and should do better.

          I think one of the best things my wife and I did was get married Catholic, and I think she agrees, even though she grew up Methodist. There were some farcical moments like where the couple with 9 kids comes in and says you can totally control your fertility with natural family planning or whatever silly euphemism they had. But what they did do was force us sit down and talk out the tough stuff like finances and children and careers and other issues where lack of communication and unrealistic expectations just tank marriages.

          Now it certainly helped a lot that we were over 30 when we did it and had developed some wisdom of our own. But I’m comfortable saying we’d all be better off if we dropped the ‘love conquers all mentality.’ The dysfunction it wreaks is real and everywhere, as is particularly apparent in frivolous celebrity marriages like those discussed in the OP.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to InMD says:

            Humans aren’t going to create a perfect romantic system and every system is going to have it’s big pluses and massive minuses. I think the problem isn’t necessarily the at will nature but that most people for different reasons can’t really accept it because they don’t know what they did wrong in terms of a particular relationship, it could be very well nothing and the other partner just isn’t feeling it anymore, or that people are still dominated by the old expectations especially if they work out in their favor. So in heterosexual terms that means they want the other gender to give them their traditions while wanting freedom from the traditions they don’t lie.Report

          • Oscar Gordon in reply to InMD says:

            My wife and I will celebrate 27 years this fall, and that is almost entirely due to being very pragmatic about marriage as a partnership first and a romance second.Report

        • Pinky in reply to LeeEsq says:

          That’s a very provincial way of looking at things. A small percentage of the population and the laws of California see things according to this “modern understanding”. Even then, a good number of the people who claim to see things that way really (as you note) see things the way I described, and they’re either going along with it because they don’t want to embarrass themselves or their recently remarried sister, or because they know of some situation where it looked like a couple broke up over “unhappiness” but there was something really serious going on underneath.

          Above, you said “You either have a marriage system where either party has the right to quit at any time for any reason or you don’t and force unhappy people to be together.” I was really struck by that because most all of human experience lies between the either and the or. Not force, and not quitting for any reason. Sometimes prudential judgment, sometimes a bad idea, sometimes subtle pressure but everyone knows if things got bad enough you could always get out. Sometimes Margaret was seen at the well with a broken arm and a bloody nose and then two weeks later her husband is killed by a misfired arrow while out boar-hunting. Imperfect but that’s most of human experience historically, and I wouldn’t bet against it in the future.Report

          • LeeEsq in reply to Pinky says:

            I think the usual historic norm was that husbands could get pretty well away with performing rather brutal violence on their arms with little to no formal or informal consequences rather than these fantasies about mysterious accidents of justice happening.Report

            • Pinky in reply to LeeEsq says:

              Depends on the place, depends on the family. I didn’t cite it because it’s ideal; it just seemed far more realistic than your choice of “any time / any reason” versus force.Report

          • Chip Daniels in reply to Pinky says:

            I’m old enough to remember the early 70s at the height of the Sexual Revolution when it was commonplace to read articles predicting that “in the future” meaning around the “Year 2000” that marriage would be obsolete, or just become a contract that would be renegotiated every 5 years or that people would just be entirely free of any sort of long term commitment at all, or any other sort of Free Love variation.

            And yet what is odd, is that here we are, half a century later, and the concept of marriage hasn’t really changed all that much at all.

            Sure, almost everyone cohabits prior, so yeah that’s a big change. But otherwise, the idea that the normative value is that we all find a mate and settle down into a monogamous relationship and build a family unit is still the ruling assumption.

            In some ways it validates both the conservative position (that marriage and family formation is universal and not socially constructed) and the liberal position (that the freedom to divorce or cohabit prior to marriage isn’t the End Of Civilization).Report

  13. Burt Likko says:

    I admit I put off reading this article because celebrity culture really doesn’t interest me almost at all. It’s something I look into literally only to be able to keep up with questions about it that inevitable arise in pub trivia.

    But what really strikes me about all of these mens’ antics described here is that celebrities actually behave quite a bit like the rest of us. Granted, they tend to be more attractive than us, and to have more money at their disposal, and with more public platforms for their behavior. But really what I see here are permutations of relatively common human imperfections, writ across gossip tabloids. I think we all know people who claim to not have favorites amongst their children but really do; people who whether explicitly or implicitly slight their previous spouses in conversation; people who engage in addictive behaviors and cause pain in their families.

    “Yes, but celebrities do it so publicly! They ought to be more circumspect about these things knowing that they are so public!” That’s true. They’re human beings. They mess up. Including about being circumspect about their flaws, with relentless paparazzi surrounding them at all times and a culture that criticizes a few pounds’ weight gain, having maybe one too many drinks while out to dinner, or a casual comment that wasn’t thought all the way through on a hot mic. You and I would make PR biffs too.Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to Burt Likko says:

      Male celebrities also have a lot more opportunities to cheat. It’s easy to say that you’d never cheat on your wife when you’re middle-class, bald, and out of shape and the odds of ever having a beautiful 24-year-old come on to you are precisely zero. But really, what percentage of men would actually resist the temptation if it presented itself on a regular basis?Report

      • CJColucci in reply to Brandon Berg says:

        My wife and I have a One Celebrity Rule. Each of us is entitled to a one-off for a legitimate celebrity. Whether this is a long-running joke or a real Rule must await the first opportunity to apply it.Report