When Women Leave Good Men
On honoring your own feelings rather than society’s expectations
My fingers were flying across my keyboard late one night after my husband and I split, hoping Google would be able to validate my seemingly tactless behavior. I searched “My husband is great and I left him,” “I left a good man, now what?,” “Am I making a mistake for leaving a good man?,” and “Why did I leave a good man?”
My eyes darted across the screen every time I pressed “enter” looking for someone — anyone — who could reassure me I wasn’t making a huge mistake. As it turns out, there aren’t a lot of childless twentysomething women on the first few pages of Google writing about divorcing their all-American college sweethearts after a half-decade of marriage. Stories about women leaving their abusive husbands filled my search results. Finally, I stumbled across an article written by a woman who left her praiseworthy husband because she felt like she had no other choice. Something wasn’t right.
As I scrolled to the end of the article to evaluate its length, hundreds of comments — the kind you can’t look away from — popped up on my screen. “Women who leave good men are selfish!” said one woman. “This woman is frivolous and is setting herself up for future regret!” said another. The vengeance from the you-can’t-leave-a-good-man commenters grew with every woman who attempted to defend the author, whose story — as I later read — was eerily similar to my own: a young divorcee trying to make sense of her evolving life.
As I continued into the depths of the internet, the comments from these anonymous women started eating at the outer edges of my already broken heart. The ounce of relatability and validation I found from the author was suddenly buried in centuries of beliefs about life and marriage. No matter how hard I tried to push the comments out of my mind, they kept barging their way to the front, forcing me to listen.
While outwardly insignificant, the comments held weight for me. Growing up, I was conditioned to believe marriage was black-and-white. There was a tried and true template, and once the final word of your vows left your mouth, your job was to sacrifice a part of yourself because that’s what marriage is. Leaving was not an option unless you had good reason…