My MLCer is a Vanisher. It’s been 2.5 years since Bomb Drop. We are now divorced and have no contact at all; we do not have children. He lives with the alienator and she has a great job and no baggage. He has not wavered in leaving me or his attraction to her. Why shouldn’t I just give up?
Honestly, there is no should or shouldn’t. I can give you Reasons to Stand, but those are not rules.
First, do you want to reconcile your marriage? I imagine that you do because otherwise you would probably not be asking. You can look at this statistically and base your decision on the odds. The problem with that is there are no valid statistics for how many couples divorce and then remarry each other. We can sort of brainstorm through and create hypotheticals based on anecdotal evidence, but really guestimates are not science and I personally give some of the anecdotal evidence little credibility.
Do you want to give up (even though you really would rather reconcile) and if so, why?
For those of you who are Covenant Keepers, Standing is not simply about reconciling your marriage; it’s about remaining committed to your marital vows for life—regardless of whether your spouse ever returns. Most Standers are not Covenant Keepers, so let’s set that group aside and focus on the rest of you.
Time Since Bomb Drop
It’s been 2.5 years for the LBS above, but for some of you reading this it was 2.5 weeks ago. The reasons for Standing change with the time since Bomb Drop—though some reasons may remain. In the beginning it’s a Grace Period. I’ve talked about that Grace Period in a few places, most recently I wrote about it at the Coalition for Divorce Reform. In general, give time before making the decision. After Bomb Drop you need to heal and detach from the emotional rollercoaster. Periods of high-level emotions are not times when you should make a life-altering decision. Yes, I know, it seems that the decision has been made for you and so what’s the point. The point is that you get a say as well and you can set your decision aside even though your spouse has submitted their vote.
In addition, consider the typical timeline for MLC. A midlife crisis ranges from 2 (very short) to 7 years. Given that, a person can assume that if it’s been 8 years their general odds of reconciling are probably lower than if it’s been 2 years. Is 5 years too long? For many people, yes because they are tired of it, they don’t believe their MLCer will ever be interested in returning, they want to end their Stand for their own closure. The same is true for some at the 3 year mark. It’s a personal decision.
If you want to end your Stand because you believe there is a low chance for reconciliation and you want to start dating. Then end it! If you no longer want you ex back, end it! If you just don’t know—you’d rather reconcile, but you don’t think it’s going to happen—how about ending it and yet that does not mean the door is forever closed; it just means that your ex joins the pool of all those other people you may date in the future, but you are not counting on it or committing your life to it. That’s okay too. Standing is about maintaining the monogamous commitment, but not Standing does not have to mean you will now and forever refuse to reunite with your ex. Wow, that may be an A-ha for some of you!
Anecdotal Data: Is it Valid?
In a comment to an article she wrote at the Huffington Post Michelle Weiner-Davis said that 10% of couples who divorce remarry each other.
Nancy Kalish, Ph.D. is a psychology professor who has researched rekindled romances for two decades and published the first nonfiction account of lost love reunions (Lost & Found Lovers: Facts and Fantasies of Rekindled Romances).
According to her 1993-1996 research, ~6% of the 1001 participants had been married years ago to their reunion partners, however these reunions did not necessarily lead to remarriage or successful relationships. Please understand, Dr. Kalish’s research does not look at the overall rate of remarriage to each other for all couples who divorce.
If Michele Weiner-Davis is correct and the remarriage rate is 10%, what is the reconciliation rate of those who are not divorced after 2, 3, 4 or 5 years? Though it makes sense that the rate would go down (and divorce would become more likely) with continuing years, it also makes sense (to me at least) that couples who are still married would have an even higher reconciliation rate than the general group rate of those who divorce. After a certain number of years the separated but legally married group may statistically match the divorced group with a possible exception for those who maintain a strong and positive presence in each other’s lives.
But is Michele correct? I would love for that figure to be accurate or higher. But if it were, don’t you think we would all know of more cases like that? Though 10% is far from a majority, it still seems high-especially given the divorce-happy culture. In email correspondence with Dr. Kalish she said the following regarding Michele Weiner-Davis’ 10% statistic.
I think someone made that up. …If it were10%, all of us would know numerous people who divorced and remarried, like we know left-handed people (10% of population). But rarely do you come across a divorced/remarried couple!
[She went on in a later email]
This is ridiculous. They are researching divorce records of all 50 states, over several years, and trying to match later marriage records to this? Of course not. Impossible. This is a made up stat. I hate when people try to fake science.
I also contacted Michele Weiner-Davis; she responded and told me that she no longer quotes that statistic because she doesn’t know where she got it.
So there is an unknown rate for the general population, but how does Standing change the odds? Regardless of the general rate, it makes sense that it would be higher for Standers who are Paving the Way with the Unconditionals. How much higher? Well, sorry but I don’t know and even if I knew the rate for Standers it seems there is not a general rate for comparison that is based on peer-reviewed research.
Will an MLCer Restore a Marriage After Divorce?
Since this is a site of Standers, it goes without saying that most of you are interested in reconciliation, but what about your spouses? Why would your MLCer be interested in reconciling after divorce?
Though a Distant Contacter may come to the conclusion that the grass is not greener, it is more likely a commonality of Close Contacters. The Distant Contacter may realize it and do nothing feeling it’s too late or they may not realize it until a reunion years later. Close Contacters may learn that the grass is not greener quickly and are yet still caught in the addiction of an affair as well as still progressing through their midlife crisis.
Distance, Loss and Fonder Hearts
Absence does not always make the heart grow fonder, but it can. But the realization of what is lost is even more powerful. It is this fear and realization that in-part keeps Clinging Boomerangs clinging. But what about Distant MLCers like Vanishers. Many of the more Distant Contacters drop off the face of the earth and seem fine with their new life on planet Whatever. It is less about realizing what is lost and more about maturing through their Liminality and self-reflection.
Liminality and Self-Reflection
Some Vanishers may be more spiritual and relaxed, but you don’t really want to hear that do you? And yet some men or women who leave at midlife and even have affairs may be in transition rather than crisis. I’m not saying that a Vanisher is more likely to be in a non-crisis transition than a crisis; I just don’t know. Though I do think they are more likely than Close Contacters to be in a non-crisis transition. But many Vanishers slip into isolation and spiral downward more privately; they aren’t embracing their journey and more spiritual, they’re just more withdrawn than Close Contacters.
Those that seem the most lost for longer periods may be the MLCers who are Close Contacters in early MLC and become more distant—again, I don’t really know and am merely speculating. I recently heard back from an LBS whose MLCer was initially a Boomerang for about 2 years, then he spiraled and eventually vanished, abandoning her and their young children completely; he pays no child support. He married the alienator and recently his new father-in-law reached out to the LBS—wondering if she might want back child-support, but she thinks he was hoping she could help them deal with her MLCer as he is still lost and having some legal problems. I was in regular contact with this LBS for the first couple of years of the crisis and he appeared to be a typical Boomerang. Then he spiraled out of control at the 18 month or two year mark and eventually transitioned to being a Vanisher.
Those who vanish sooner and remain more consistent in staying away may be embracing their journey more than those who are close at first and distant later because the consistency is a strength. They may be more liminal and cycle less. Of course there are also the situations in which the couples both drift more apart with time; though perhaps this is more common when the LBS is not or no longer Standing.
What does all this (speculating) really mean? Distant Contacters who reconcile may do so much later than Close Contacters. This does not mean that their MLC is or is not toward the longer end of the range, rather it may take longer because both couples move apart and build new lives and so their reconciliation may be less the result of a long-time Stand and more the result of a reunion years later. But please understand, I have no evidence for anything I am saying; this is just me brainstorming. It also logically follows that if this is the case, the rate of reconciliation will be higher if an MLCer is a Close Contacter. But, of course, this is also due in-part to both spouses not being interested in reconciling—no one is Standing—after many years and distance.
This is not to say that contact with Distant Contacters remains at zero. It just means there is greater emotional distance. There may be regular contact for co-parenting such as child-exchanges and later family events—sporting events and recitals, graduations, weddings, funerals… Something may then happen—trigger—to bring the couple together, such as a traumatic life event for which one or both provide support to each other.
This topic has also been discussed over at the forum. If you would like to comment, head over there and restart the discussion! Why Stand When You Could Move On?