Public Divorces

Kudos to Veronica Lario, wife of Italy’s Premier Silvio Berlusconi, for filing for divorce from the scoundrel. I don’t personally know the man–and couldn’t converse with him if I did–but I’ve read enough about him in the news (as reported by Salon’s Broadsheet blog) to form an opinion. “Scoundrel” was the mildest term I could think of.

Berlusconi is fond of extramarital flirting and his wife and mother of his children is tired of it. (It’s not clear how far the flirting goes.) They have taken their disagreements public, shooting off salvos to each other in the press. There is obviously no love lost between them and no respect either. My question is: why didn’t she file for divorce sooner?

Another divorce in the works is that of Sean Penn and his wife, Robin Wright Penn. She was sitting with him at the Academy Awards, but when he won for Best Actor (for playing Harvey Milk in “Milk”), he made a glaring omission in his acceptance speech: he didn’t thank her or acknowledge her in any way. What a slap in the face. Anyway, a little over two months later he files for divorce.

Apparently this is nothing new for the couple. They filed for divorce in 2007 and for some reason didn’t go through with it. Now, a little over a year after the dismissal of their divorce action, they are at it again. I haven’t heard if she filed her own divorce action. I hope so. I’m a firm believer in getting it over and done with when it’s obvious that the marriage is no longer working. Divorce is never easy, but there’s no reason to prolong the agony either. It only makes things worse.

And yet another public divorce: Mel Gibson’s wife (also named Robin, only it’s spelled Robyn) filed for divorce in April after 28 years of marriage and seven children (and no prenup). He says they have been separated for three years. No reasons have been given–although it is apparently true that he has a pregnant girlfriend. Possibly she got tired of his public behavior and alleged drinking problem. I say more power to her, and may she enjoy half of everything he’s worth.

Lest I sound like a man-hater, let me explain where I’m coming from. Women tend to stay too long in bad marriages, for a variety of reasons: they’re long-suffering, they’ve been taught that it’s their responsibility to make the marriage work and keep the family together, they’re afraid of being alone, they want to hold onto their identity as so-and-so’s wife, they don’t believe that they can support themselves. While money won’t be an issue with any of the above women, the other pressures are probably at play. (Although, unfortunately, they will probably be known as their husbands’ exes–and then again, maybe not: who even remembers anymore that Madonna and Sean Penn were once married?)

But women need to stop blaming themselves when their marriages don’t work out. I’ve known women who feel this way even when they were the ones who filed for divorce. (I’m one of them.)  We are not in charge of marital harmony. And we have as much right to get out as a man does. Life is too short to stay in a relationship that diminishes us. And we might just be surprised to find that we prefer being on our own.

[For more about the reaction to Veronica Lario’s divorce action, read here.]