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Venting to the World

Divorce Sucks

 

I wish I did not have to use the word “sucks” on this title but I can not think of a better way to express how divorce impacts peoples’ lives negatively.

I have seen too many stories and cases around me to affirm that divorce should be avoided if all possible, especially when there are children. When there are no children from the relationship, the impact is a lot less (in some cases if the couple has been together for decades there is an impact on the in-laws, nephews and nieces as well as common friends. And obviously on the couples’ finances).

I am not advocating that people stay in bad and unhappy marriages. I am sure there are many cases when it is much better for all if the couple splits. I have heard stories of children thanking their parents for splitting because the home atmosphere was too toxic.

I also think that in cases where there is drug and alcohol addiction without improvement, physical and emotional abuse, financial dishonesty and irresponsibility, neglect and contempt it  is all the better to move on to a more positive life.

So I repeat, divorce can be a savior in cases of continuous drug and alcohol abuse (after attempts to fight addiction), domestic violence (not once over a heated argument, but repeated physical assault), emotional abuse, mental ilness and infidelity (in a few cases even infidelity can be forgiven-this is very individual).

I for one would have a hard time forgiving infidelity. It is a total break of trust and intimacy between a couple. I cannot be “French” when it comes to these things (pardon me French people for the stereotyping).

Now, divorce can be avoided if the reason for the split is boredom, lack of sexual attraction or pure incompatibility.  These things CAN be worked on. A boring phase or a conflict ridden phase can go by. Most couples who stayed together will tell you that they had many rough patches. It is not easy to share a life together, you need to give up certain things (which people seem less and less inclined to do in an era of instant gratification), compromise and negotiate. It is also not easy to stay away from temptation, but if you tell yourself that you do not want to cheat, you will be able to escape temptation.

Many conflicts can be resolved. Passion can be regained. Sometimes some distance resolves that. Lack of sexual attraction is normal as we age, but both parties can do their best to look good-it’s a nice thing to do for your partner.

When people decide to divorce thinking that will be the end of all their problems, they forget that any of these things can happen:

 So I repeat, divorce can be a savior in cases of continuous drug and alcohol abuse (after attempts to fight addiction), domestic violence (not once over a heated argument, but repeated physical assault), emotional abuse, mental ilness and infidelity (in a few cases even infidelity can be forgiven-this is very individual).

1) Your children will be like ping pong balls from one house to another;

2) Your children will not have mom and dad together any longer-they will lose their original sense of family and have to be with one parent alone or share that parent with strangers; there is nothing sadder than a single Dad vacationing alone with his 2 smalls kids or sitting in a chain restaurant with his 2 kids, clearly sad and lonely.

3) Your children may resent any new BF or GF you start a relationship with and will sometimes create problems for you;

4) Your children will try to compete with your new GF or BF (girls are worse and try to compete with father’s GF’s);

5) Your new GF or BF will never love your child like their natural mother, unless she or him has never had children, raised your child since an early age and the original mother or father is dead or totally out of the picture.

Do not fool yourself that your new squeeze will have the same level of interest/worry that you do towards your children. It won’t happen. Even if they treat them well, they will never do for them what you and their real mother/father would do. It is not their child and sometimes they don’t bond with them. Sometimes the stepchild looks like your spouse’s ex and is a reminder of him/her. Your stepchild may also be raised in a very different way than you would and which you don’t agree with and can do nothing about. Sometimes you see how your stepchild is being manipulated by his or her other parent who is bitter and revengeful. Sometimes your stepchild is rude to you and your new spouse is afraid to take sides, endangering your new marriage.

Because of that, your kids will probably not have the same level of care and benefits if the parents had stayed together.

6) Situations like Thanksgiving, Christmas, NYE, birthdays and other family celebrations will always be difficult You will sometimes spend these occasions alone with your new spouse even if you have 4 children, because they might be with your ex and his new wife/husband.  And after your kids get married they will have to split their time between your household and your ex’s household and their own spouse’s family. So be prepared to spend many occasions without a sense of family.

7) Same for empty nest syndrome. When your kids go to College and come home to visit you will have to share the little time you have with them with your ex.

8 ) If you and your new spouse have separate finances, you won’t be able to provide for your kids or give them the gifts you could if you were married to their original parents. Especially if you have a spouse who is ungenerous with your kids and have the attitude that those kids are not his/hers.

9) Weddings and graduations and funerals are extremely awkward. Where to sit, some exes can’t stand each other, etc. In some occasions there is only space for one couple, how to fit 2 couples? And how to avoid hurting people, how to avoid ignoring the new spouses? Do you go to your ex-husband’s/wife’s funeral, someone you knew for years or decades and whose death you will likely mourn? Why not, because the new wife/husband does not want you to?

10) You will always miss the original nuclear family unit that you formed with your ex-husband/wife and your kids. No matter how happy you become with a second (or third or forth) mate, the first family will always be in your mind. Likewise, a man or a woman tends to be more committed to someone who is the parent of their child. When you do not have children with your spouse, it makes divorce a lot easier.

11) Be prepared for second marriages where your new husband does not want to share anything with you because he was “burned”-at least in his eyes-by his first wife.  You will miss the  sense of partnership and common goals that you had in your first marriage. Many have separate finances, separate savings. One spouse can accumulate money and grow financially while the other is stalled, causing the really awkward situation of a rich man married to a poor wife or vice versa. The implications of that are resentment, different lifestyles and control.

12) After a divorce your ex-in laws become strangers. There is no way you can continue having the same relationship with them as invariably they will take your ex-spouse’s side. The same happens with good friends you two had together. If they were lifelong friends, you will miss their friendship. When you hear that your ex’s new partner/GF/wife is now friends with your old time friends you will feel a bit sad. Like someone took something away from you. You will hear about events and occasions where your ex is together with relatives and friends you liked and wish you were there too, but you cannot be.

13) Additionally, your new in laws might still be connected to your new husbands/wives ex and resent you. If your new mother in law liked his ex, be prepared to always be a second rate citizen in her eyes, and that can poison your new relationship if your new husband does not take a stand for you.

14) You might date/marry a man who has an ex-wife from hell (sometimes an ex-husband from hell). This interference will create hell in your life and affect your new relationship. If the ex from hell cannot move on with her/his life he or she will try to make your life and your children’s life miserable. Exes from hell like to poison their kids against their other parent and against the new wife/husband. Exes from hell will resent if their ex-husband is spending any money with their new wives. Exes from hell will be jealous if the new wife gets anything. Exes from hell will live in an illusion that their marriage still exists and never accept its end.

15) On the other hand, new wives and even new husbands will resent how much you spend with the kids from your first marriage and your ex-wife if there is child support or alimony involved. Especially if there is not enough money left for the new family (single women, think twice, thrice and more before dating divorced men).

16) After several years living apart from their kids, many parents start feeling disconnected from them. They participate less and less in their kids lives until there is litle interest in common. That is sad for both parents and kids.

17) Kids suffer the most from divorce. When a parents gets remarried, they no longer will be as important. The new spouse and sometimes children born from the second marriage will come first, because if they don’t, the new marriage will not survive either.  These older kids sometimes become latchkey kids and start giving their parents trouble, like using drugs and alcohol, to get some attention.

18)  After a divorce, many adults with children feel free, young and single again. Some fall hard into the single lifestyle, with many parties, booze and drinking. They leave their kids with babysitters and relatives. They simply are enjoying life too much to do family type things with the kids.  No need to explain how the lack of a family life affects kids, especially the younger ones.  Teenage girls will have their 40 something mothers at bars dressed like 20 year olds, so much for the mother figure (think Dina Lohan).

19) You will lose the family continuity. You and your ex-spouse will never have the pleasure of together enjoying your grandchildren. You will have to share your children and your grandchildren with your ex’s new partner. You will always miss important moments in your children and grandchildren’s lives because you have to share them.

20) Half brothers and sisters (which genetically speaking are more like cousins), several step this and that, diluted finances, loss of family names and inheritances, etc, the big mess divorce causes is usually overlooked when a man decides his “sweet” co-worker is hotter than his boring wife or when a woman decides that the guy at the bar is more exciting than her old “comfortable slipper” husband.

I know there are many people who have successful arrangements, where everyone gets along with their exes and new spouses and the children are thriving. But is not prevalent, and the road to success is not smooth.

If you are contemplating divorce and you are not really sure, read this. And these are only some of the problems that might occur,  I am sure I overlooked some others. 

Men, don’t forget to tell your wives how you love them, pay attention to them, compliment them when they look pretty, try to make romantic gestures, continue with the PDA and show sexual attraction to them. 

Women, don’t get lazy and ugly just because you now are married. Stay in shape, kiss your husband, touch him, laugh at his jokes, compliment him often even if you are angry at some little thing he did.

Men and women, avoid yelling, avoid threats to divorce and NEVER call each other names. That is demeaning. Stay married and fight for your marriage is my advice.

And finally, recognize that life has ups and downs, and that if you treat your marriage like you would treat a house or a job or a car, which you can change at your whim or when they present  problems,  your marriage may end because of selfishness, impatience or materialism.

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November 27, 2007 Posted by | Relationships | Leave a comment

Customer service in the U.S.

Customer Service as a marketing tool for better sales was started in the U.S. In many places in Europe the notion of customer service is still unexistant and sometimes you feel bad for “bothering” the poor salesperson with your presence.

In the U.S. the “customer is always right” notion is prevalent in almost every restaurant and mall in the country, with the exception of small family owned businesses. Chain restaurants have a set of rules which employees have to follow. In many ways it is satisfying to have the cold food sent back without a battle, geting some free desert or having the  bad item taken off the bill when the food is not satisfactory. 

However, it has been taken too far. The “how are you doing today” and “have a nice day” are as fake as they can be. The niceties are insincere and unnecessary.

Do you really care how my day was?  

The fake smiles, the excessive selling of menu items at the table and the constant interruptions to ask “Is everything ok?” has made dining out on chain restaurants sometimes a torture. I don’t want to have dinner with the waitress/waiter!! I want my food ordered, brought 0ver and the bill presented discreetly at the end.  I don’t want to be in the middle of an interesting conversation with my fellow diners and have someone come every 10 minutes to ask me how the food is! I don’t want to be in the middle of a romantic conversation with my date to have some kid interrupt, break the mood to ask me if everything’s all right! If it is not ok I will let you know! Simple as that. Leave me alone!

Learn with the French: after you arrive at the restaurant, sometimes you are allowed to choose the table you want to sit (in Brazil you seat yourself, which is very good), then you order your food. The waiter does not spend 10 minutes going over the “specials”, unless you ask. Your food is brought discreetly. The waiter does not constantly ask you if you want another glass of wine or beer when yours is still half full. No need to even ask “do you want anything else”?  The waiter/waitress watches your table from a distance. They observe their customers and if it seems you have finished and are looking for them. When you make a sign, they come over and present the desert menu.  If no desert is ordered, they bring the check. Few words, just polite small talk.  That is the norm in most classy restaurants throughout the world (here in the US as well).

Americans eat out a lot. I eat out a lot. But often enough I feel harrassed by the servers. No, I don’t want to be your buddy, I want to eat and have peace. If you want to flirt with the waitress, go to redneck joints like Hooters. I especially do not want to be interrupted to be asked if anything is ok. If something is not ok, you will be the first to know!!

Finally, what is it with the constant snatching of glasses and bottles and plates from our tables while we eat? Can’t we be left alone?  Is the dishwasher going to run away if you don’t fill it up right now? What if my martini glass still has a drop of liquid, do you realize it is worth about 1 dollar because it is an absurdly overpriced drink? That little bit of beer left in the bottle, who said I don’t want it? So can you please clean up at the end after I leave? I did not come to the restaurant to have a meal with the serving staff! Here’s my suggestion: let’s get eletronic. Each table will have a few buttons to push. When you need the server, you press the button, which will show on the server’s pager. One button should be for “check please”, another for “another drink please”, etc. Easy and uncomplicated.

November 19, 2007 Posted by | Difference between cultures | Leave a comment

How I became an activist atheist

 

I call myself an activist atheist not because I take part in street protests or carry banners (well, I used to have a “In Reason we Trust” bumper sticker on my car…)

But I do talk about it whenever the subject of religion comes up, and I do frequent some atheist meetings, conventions and parties. I am out of the closet and I openly tell people I am atheist. I don’t go saying it out of the blue, but within context and if I am asked about my religion. And I don’t care what people will think of that. If they are ignorant enough to judge me because of that, or think I am evil encarnate, than I don’t really think I want to be associated with such a small minded and unintelligent person.  If people don’t understand what being an atheist means then they are probably not very well read…..

For many many years I was skeptical and questioning many things I was told about heaven, hell, angels,etc. My logical mind could not fathom such stories. You could call me skeptical. Later, I  called myself agnostic because it sounded better than atheist,  more than a passive atheist. I did not believe in god nor did I like the rituals of the Catholic church;  I just didn’t care. I had never stopped to think about it.

I can say that it was 9/11 that prompted me to be more outspoken about this. If you have watched United 93, you will remember the scene where the attacker was trying to fly the plane and talking to “god”. Things like that make my blood boil. Because of the belief in a fantastic creature people can do things like that. How can my god be better than your god if there it is supposed to be one god? And who is right? Christians, Catholics, Muslims or Jews? Whose god is better? What if there is NO god?

Some time ago there was the case of the Westboro Baptist church that protested at a soldier’s funeral. That clearly shows the dangers of religious extremists. It is stuff like that that make me want to educate children and society that even though some of the religious stories are very nice, they are folklore. And when you want everyone believing in your fantasy (and if they don’t agree with you, you will murder them) then atheists need to speak up. 

Atheism is not a religion folks, as some theists have accused it of being. We are non religious. We don’t mind you going to church and praying to your statues but we don’t want you to teach our children creationism, we don’t want them scared of devils or a wrathful and revengeful god, we don’t want your fairy tales influencing government decisions and we don’t want the intolerance (such as the prejudice against gays} that some churches spread.

We are for freedom of religion. Believe in what you want. If going to church provides you with some entertainment, some sort of social life and purpose, some sense of hope for your difficult life and some sense of belonging all is fine and dandy. You can worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster (Dawkins :)) if that makes you happy. Again, keep it out of government and schools.Atheism_symbol_svg

November 2, 2007 Posted by | Atheism | 2 Comments

The engagement ring trap

I have to agree that an engagement ring is a pretty thing. But why so expensive?

Ok, so maybe the diamond engagement ring is an anglo-saxon tradition. It certainly is not a Latin tradition. Here is what they do in Brazil: there is no formal proposal. Couples who are dating decide to get married together. The woman does not wait passively for the man to make that decision.  It sounds so much more 21st. century to me!

After that, the man buys 2 wedding bands, usually gold. He then presents it to his fiance. Some couples have a small family gathering to celebrate the engagement. They both wear the band on their RIGHT hand. That way both seemed engaged, not only the woman. Here in the US the woman seems taken while engaged while the man still seems free as a bird…

At the wedding the bands are brought by the ring bearer and the couple will wear it on the left hand. Simple.  Not expensive.

So when I moved to the U.S. I became aware that men are supposed to spend thousands of dollars in a diamond ring. I also found out that women want a big diamond. The appropriate stone size moved from less than 1 carat or now 2 carats.  Let’s call it the carat inflation.

What caused women to “demand” bigger rocks? Hip hop artists? JLo? Bigger cars (SUVs) McMansions and body sizes?

Struggling young men have to hustle to buy the “perfect” ring. It cannot be a low grade stone, it has to the the purest diamond! I feel sorry for these young men in their 20’s trying to impress their GF’s and everyone else around them. They would do better in putting that money towards a home.

Then there are the older guys who just want to impress their friends. He is not doing this for his fiance, but so she can show off her left hand in public and everyone will be impressed by his generosity-and his success!

Anyhow, unless you have money to flush down the toilet, I think it is unwise to spend so much money in a ring. The diamond industry wants you to think diamonds are rarer than they really are. So how about alternatives? How about freeing yourself from the diamond industry power and thinking of alternative stones you can use?

What about rubies, saphires, aquamarines, emeralds? They also make beautiful rings.

And lastly, what about man made diamonds? There are some really good quality lab made diamonds (with properties very close to the mined ones) out there now. I am proud to say a sport a 2.5 carat moissanite engagement ring (yes, I live here now so I got into the tradition). It is beautiful and sparkly, and I always tell people it is a moissanite instead of a diamond, to their surprise. Can you believe 2 jewelers were not able to tell the difference between my moissanite and a diamond? I had to laugh.

There are even less expensive man made diamonds (moissanites are on the expensive side). I know many websites that carry beautiful moissanite and top quality cubic zirconia rings: www.schubach.com, www.bornfromastar.com, www.joalan.com, www.russianbrilliants.com, www.diamondnexuslabs.com, www.czinventory.com, www.orleansjewels.com, and many others.

So think about that before demanding a big rock from your future husband, unless he is the king of Bahrein.

November 2, 2007 Posted by | Difference between cultures | 3 Comments

Do men use mirrors?

Ok…here’s a controversial post-.sorry guys, but why is it that many average to unnatractive guys, boring guys, or not-so-bright guys all think they can score a Playboy centerfold look-a-like? Was it growing up looking at these same centerfolds, is it internet porn where all women look perfect-and photoshopped to death- or is it an inability to see themselves as they really are: older, balding, beer bellied and just regular? Women seem to get it. If they are overweight or not coventionally pretty,, they acknowledge that they will not find the dark, tall and handsome (and rich) prince charming. So they will have to give in some, if not most of these things..so they settle. I have met several average looking middle aged guys with bad teeth, protuding belly or bad skin who are still single, and searching, for the model-like skinny babe who will fall for them. No, I am not talking about Donald Trump who would certainly be married to Mrs. Frump if he were he owner of the local gas station in small town America. Then there are those who are not wealthy, drive a “reliable” car and dress drabilly in loose khaki pants. They join dating sites, go to bars, and turn down any woman with a “few extra pounds” or a plain but pleasant face. They sometimes succeed in engaging a hot babe, only to be dumped after the first date. They are unaware as to why she did not want to date such a fine man like himself. What I am saying is that every pan has a lid. Couples are usually formed based on similar levels of education and looks and or in an exchange of these traits, The money for looks exchange is the most common one. Sometimes you see some mismatches where someone amazing looking is dating someone plain and poor, or someone very rich with a plain looking wife who he adores. In those cases, there is more than just the surface: love, a sense of obligation, family ties, a common goal, joint assets, causes, political views or an obsession with that type of person. Men who have the centerfold complex need to get rid of the tiranny of looks. Be realistic of who they are and what kind of woman they can attract. And be content to find companionship and someone to share life with instead of spending years and years being rejected by beautiful women. Ok guys, I know you will say that without physical attraction nothing happens, but have you tried to give the mousy lady a chance? Maybe the attraction can grow once you get to know her-and there is nothing better than having someone wanting us too-that is half the work. Contestant Igor Zhivotovsky NBC's Average Joe: The Joes Strike BackChris Haston - Wednesday, September, 20, 2006, 9:20 PM

November 1, 2007 Posted by | Relationships | 1 Comment

Atheists and Morals

ten-commandments.jpg

One of my major gripes about the way atheists are viewed is the belief that morality is exclusive to and attached only to religion.

Nothing can be further from the truth.

Religions have grown from a set of rules usually determined by a “holy” man-made book written thousands of years ago, or even decades ago (such as Scientology).

Like the 10 comandments, religions advocate moral behavior which is inherent for human survival. Without those behaviors, society as we know it would not be viable. Stealing from your neighbor, killing your neighbor or sleeping with your neighbor’s wife will only provoke considerable conflict which ultimately can wipe mankind. So it is a question of survival to behave in what we call a moral way. 

That said, I have no problem with commandments number 6-10. Honoring your mother and your father who raised you and fed you and gave you love is just the right thing to do, and you also want your kids to do the same. Finally, the Do Not Covet commandment just saves you from being eternally unhappy and frustrated because someone will always have more than you. Commandments 1-5 just don’t make any sense.

Morals are passed from parents to children. Children observe how their parents treat others and how they behave. Values are passed on from parents and educators as well. People with higher IQ tend to make better decisions. People who are emotionally healthy and grew up surrounded by love, attention and discipline are less impulsive, therefore making better decisions in life.

Parents do not need religion to raise thoughtful, respectful, polite and emotionally healthy kids. This is the great fallacy that so many people in this country and in other religious countries still believe in.  Delinquent behavior, drug and alcohol abuse and teenage pregnancy are found amongst the less educated and are very frequent in religious communities.

Family is the key. Divorce is negative for kids. If it can be avoided, it should. A strong and stable family is the still the best foundation for a kid to progress. You can be an atheist (a sign of higher intelligence in itself :)) and raise your children to be very moral kids without creating in them the fear of god’s wrath, the belief in supernatural beings and the damnation from hell. You can teach them respect, kindness, honesty and generosity. You can tell them about the dangers of drugs and the emotional consequences of promiscuous behavior. You can teach them about STD’s and the damage that chemical recreational drugs do to your brain and body.  You will provide love and understanding in their difficult moments. You will encourage them to be responsible and considerate with others.

They will become well rounded and stable adults without ever setting foot in a church or a synagogue or attending mass.

Call me a Moral Atheist. I conduct myself in a moral way and I raised my children that way as well. Believing in heaven and hell, angels and a man called Jesus whose existence we are not sure about is not going to make me a better human being.  Treats others as you would like to be treated. That usually is a golden formula. Empathy is a quality that not everyone has but helps you be the kind of person who conducts a moral life. Without religion nonsense.

November 1, 2007 Posted by | Atheism | 5 Comments

I hate SUVs

 

A lot of people hate them: tree huggers, environmentalists, me. I hate them for a simple reason: they don’t belong in the city, they belong on the road.  They block my view, they hog parking spots, they go too slow.  And if you look inside, you usually see ONE person on that big car. They are not transporting any cargo, they don’t have 3 people sitting on the back, it’s just one person driving a big vehicle: what’s the point?

When I see a SUV, I think conservative. Conservative politics, religion, habits.  Any idea how much I hate being sandwiched between these monsters on the beltway?

Yes, they are wonderful vehicles for the road. Very confortable indeed. But please leave your truck at home when you make a run to the local grocery store to buy milk. Any sedan is also a good vehicle to transport kids and it has a smaller chance of rollover. And if you never drive anyone else, a 2 seater or a small 4 seater is appropriate enough.

 But again, some people feel safer in them, more protected. Soon we will be driving tanks?

November 1, 2007 Posted by | Difference between cultures | 1 Comment