The Ingratitude and Entitlement of One Remaried American Woman

Based on a link from Dalrok’s recent post Baby mama drama I looked at an article on Mommyish, entitled I’m Tired Of Feeling Grateful To My Husband For Marrying A Single Mom.

In this article, a single mother describes a wonderful man whom she has found. This never before married man is economically stable and established, and loves her. He also loves the son she had by her former husband, whom she left. He wants to take care of them both.

The article also describes how her friends and family were so happy for her. It describes how they were glad that she had been so lucky to find such a man, and how they said she should be grateful. Hurrah! They have continued to tell her so over time. That part she’s not enthusiastic about. She’s grown tired of being repeatedly reminded of how grateful she should be.

This sounds a bit callous, and it’s not the most stellar sentiment in the world. Still, it’s one that I can understand and empathize with. Even a person who really is grateful for what someone has done for them, and their amazing luck, can tired of being reminded of it too frequently.

The problem is not with her being annoyed or frustrated at reminders to be grateful when they are too close together, or used inappropriately. The problem is that she’s tired of being grateful in the first place. That’s the very thesis of the article. Recall the title: “I’m Tired Of Feeling Grateful To My Husband For Marrying A Single Mom”. When talking about how he cares for her son and loves him, she even asks “Why is it that I need to feel grateful to a man for being a decent human being?”

When I was first reading through the article I just stopped at that line and stared. I had to walk away from my computer, and come back later in order to finish the article. I have a rather detailed answer to this question.

1. conforming to the recognized standard of propriety, good taste, modesty, etc., as in behavior or speech.
2. respectable; worthy: a decent family.
3. adequate; fair; passable: a decent wage.
4. kind; obliging; generous: It was very decent of him to lend me his watch.
5. suitable; appropriate: She did not have a decent coat for the cold winter.
6. of fairly attractive appearance: a decent face.
7. Informal . wearing enough clothing to appear in public.
8. Slang . great; wonderful.

“Decent” doesn’t just mean “adequate” as in meaning 3, though that is one use for the word. If someone is kind, obliging, generous, respectable, and even modest about it, that’s well above average. As entry 8 says, he is wonderful. Such a man is a prize for any woman, divorced or not.

I’m going to set up some assumptions that I’m going to use for much of the article, all in her favor. Let’s presume that this woman is also decent, that she is kind, obliging, generous, respectable, and even modest about it, that she is a wonderful woman. Let’s further assume that, like most women, she did not go into her marriage seeking an eventual divorce. Let’s presume that she was a good judge of character, and did due diligence in picking her partner, rather than choosing someone who was a jerk all along, with thoughts of taming him.

She did, however, state that she left her husband, rather than the other way around. That means that something must have changed, either in her attitude, or his behavior. Since I’m making these assumptions favor her, let’s presume that she’s in the minority of women who divorced, not for “irreconcilable differences”, but rather because her loving first husband suffered an accident, or disease that affected his brain. Let us presume that because of this malady, he beat her, and had sexual intercourse with other women. Perhaps he even tied her to the bed, and raped her.

All of these assumptions together make her a vanishingly small subset among single mothers. I doubt even 1% of all single mothers can lay claim to a case this iron clad and blameless on them, so I really am bending over backwards to provide her one of the best possible backdrops. These assumptions mean that her second husband really won the single-mother jackpot.

She’s still lucky to have her husband, and she should still be grateful.

First of all, let’s make a basic assumption for her second husband, hubby #2. Let’s say that he is going into the marriage not wanting to get divorced. This is the simplest assumption we’ve made above for the author of the article, so it’s only fair that we make this assumption for hubby #2, decent man that he is.

Let’s look at how this might affect his decision. The divorce rate for second marriages is higher than that for first marriages. This catch of a man could likely find a woman who had never been married, who was just as decent and pure as this single mother, one who has no emotional scarring to deal with from her previous marriage.

Even under the assumptions above that make her totally blameless in divorcing her last husband, how does hubby #2 actually know that? Let’s assume for him, like we did the author, that he’s done his due diligence by getting to know her well, and checking up on the court documents from her first divorce. That still doesn’t adequately shield him.

First of all, the divorce could have been settled out of court, or the documents might be sealed. In those cases, he couldn’t verify that she really didn’t frivolously divorce her last husband. Even in the cases where abuse is listed in court documents, and accessible to the public, the many abuse allegations leading up to a divorce are false allegations, made for strategic reasons. These allegations are routinely brought up in child custody hearings as well, and records regarding a child are sealed quite often.

Further, if a woman is willing to lie about an allegation like that once, she’s not likely to have more compunction about it the second time around. She might even decide to make these allegations to his wider circle of friends, ruining his reputation with no evidence on her part, or recourse on his. If she makes false allegations at his place of business, it might even get him fired. Based on the assumptions above, we know that she’s not the sort to lie about abuse allegations, and ruin both his finances and reputation, but hubby #2 doesn’t.

Further, when dealing with the “family courts”, most transfer of wealth go from men to women, due to child support, let alone alimony, meaning that men have even more reason to want to avoid divorce than women do. There are also easy to understand charts on child support available.

The home that hubby #2 already owns is probably the single biggest investment of his labor in the job market. He’s taking a larger risk of losing it by marrying her, than he would in marrying a woman who had never been married.

I should also note that when someone has been married once, it can be much harder to form the emotional bonds to a new person. The fact is that he chose the single mother over someone who hasn’t had to deal with divorce, and is thus risking a higher chance of divorce by marrying her. This is an outcome we’ve already presumed is one he wants to avoid.

That covers some of the risks associated with a divorced woman, but what about her son? The author is the biological mother of her son, and hubby #2 is not the biological father. Remember, we’re assuming that this woman is a decent woman, so there’s no way that she’ll wind up doing drugs, or in a mental institution for disease or felonious crimes. As a result, we know that there is no real chance that the state would give hubby #2 primary custody of the author’s son.

According to a study done by Professors Margaret F. Brinig and Douglas W. Allen, “These Boots Are Made for Walking”: Why Most Divorce Filers Are Women, not only are women the primary filers in divorce, but also:

We have found that who gets the children is by far the most important component in deciding who files for divorce, particularly when there is little quarrel about property, as when the separation is long.

If her son is a minor, and has been under hubby #2′s protective care, in some locations, family courts can order hubby #2 to pay the author child care payments for her son in the event she eventually does divorce him.

Men are often ordered to pay funds not based on how much a child costs to rear, but based on how much he makes, or is expected to be able to make, even if unemployed in a down economy. Keep in mind, he’s risking losing his career over false allegations, and at the same time he’s risking having to pay more in child support payments than he actually makes if she divorces him.

If hubby #2 married a woman who had never had a child, he wouldn’t have the risk of child support payments unless they actually had a child together. Even then, he might actually get a chance at custody since he’s the biological father, and he knows he’d be passing on his genetic legacy in return for that risk.

Now, let’s look at the intersection, a man marrying a “single mother” of a child. For most men and women who marry, there is a period in which the two are enraptured with each-other. Parents, siblings, and extended family exist, but the two are able to be caught up in each-other. It’s also a period where they have the support of family, but usually don’t have to worry about supporting children yet. Hubby #2 is giving that up.

He is marrying a woman who already has a heavy and heady responsibility on her shoulders. Aside from a honeymoon, while family watches her son, this will keep her from devoting her attention solely to him. He is also coming in to help shoulder the responsibility of raising a child that he did not help to create. He’s giving up something precious, and also giving of himself at the same time.

I’m sure that we all know that divorce can destroy a person emotionally. By marrying this woman, he risks not only having his heart torn apart by losing her, but also from losing her son, whom the author agrees he loves. That is not a light matter.

In his case, I think that “generous”, “obliging”, and “wonderful” are the operative sub-definitions of “decent”. I think that the author would agree with me. She herself said that he’s like a saint. This man, who already has his own resources, is willing to take these chances on a single mother, that he wouldn’t have to take on a woman who had never wed or born a child. Her second husband has been willing to open up his heart, his home, and his wallet to give this woman and her son a chance.

Those are all huge gifts he is giving her. Most single mothers these days who want these gifts don’t get them. When someone gives you a gift, particularly a rare and precious gift, of course you should be grateful. This is especially true when giving that gift comes with great risks. Sadly, many people aren’t grateful for a lot of things that they should be grateful for.

The author is annoyed by her friends telling her that she should be grateful, and that she’s lucky. Doesn’t she have any friends who have never been married, and are as decent as she is? Don’t they deserve him? Why shouldn’t he have chosen one of them, who is just as decent, and carries less risk? What about other single mothers in positions like her own, rare though they be? What about all of the cat-ladies, and cat-ladies-in-waiting out there, who couldn’t get even a first husband nearly as good? In failing to show gratitude for how lucky she is, she’s shown quite a sense of entitlement.

Remember, she’s a decent woman, except for her ingratitude and sense of entitlement. So obviously she didn’t mean that a man who chooses to give these awesome gifts to single mothers is merely an adequate man, and by extension that any man who does not choose to give these gifts to single mothers is an inadequate man. That sort of stance would inflate her sense of entitlement from merely worrying, to outright insane.

Some of the commentators over at Dalrok’s blog have suggested that this woman has been putting out feelers in order to see if she would be validated by her peers were she to divorce her husband, but in this article I am giving her the benefit of the doubt, and presuming that she is a decent woman.

If my presumptions are wrong, and she does divorce him, she will be harming him, and showing both ingratitude, and a lack of awareness. Not only that, but she will also hurt women everywhere by making this man, his friends, and many men who hear of his story, much less likely to provide these gifts to any other women in the future. That might well include her own son choosing not to give them.

With all the risks that marriage carries for men these days, that this man chose to marry in the first place is amazing. That he chose to marry a woman who has already born a child, and then “left” the father is a gift that is both rare and immense. It is a gift that should be met with lasting gratitude. I’m not saying she should ponder how lucky she is to have him daily, or continually shower her husband with praise for marrying her. I am saying that she should realize that she has been far better treated by life, and this man, than the vast majority of single mothers. This is even more true when considering women who are single mothers by choice.

Now, just think about how grateful she should be if not all of the assumptions I made above are true.