Thursday, August 26, 2010

Divorce of Woods and Nordegren Not Reflective of Tough Decisions Faced by Couples in the 'Real America'

The "nightmare" has finally ended for Elin Nordegren and bachelorhood begins anew for the world's # 1 sexual wanton, I mean golfer.

Divorce proceedings between Tiger Woods and Elin Nordegren were finalized on Monday in Bay County Circuit Court in Panama City, FL. almost 9 months to the day that a car accident outside the family's Wildermere, FL. home set off a media firestorm that unearthed Woods multiple and repeated spats of infidelity, apparent sex addiction, and eventual reconnection with his Buddhism (since Woods' Buddhism is much more meaningful than everyone else's). Details of the divorce settlement were not disclosed but the divorce agreement filed by Nordegren revealed that the marriage was "irretrievably broken". No kidding! After at least 13 mistresses and more coming out of the woodworks almost daily, I'd be willing to go out on a limb and concur that Tiger and Elin's marriage was broken - Humpty Dumpty broken.

"We are sad that our marriage is over and we wish each other the very best for the future," the freshly annulled couple said in a statement released by Nordegren's law firm, McGuireWoods (go figure). It was also revealed that the former couple will share custody of their two children, Sam Alexis, 3 and Charlie Axel, 1. "While we are no longer married, we are the parents of two wonderful children and their happiness has been, and will always be, of paramount importance to both of us."

Meanwhile, Woods teed off Thursday morning at the Barclays Championship being played at Ridgewood Country Club in Paramus, NJ. Woods, who is chasing Jack Nicklaus' career record of 18 major championships (Tiger currently has 14), opened his round with 7 birdies and only 1 bogey, shooting a 6-under 65 to tie for the lead at the tournament, looking more like the Perkin's waitress, Las Vegas stripper indulging superstar that golf fans (think they) know and love than the hurt, distracted shell of his former self that has been on display for the past several months. In the 5 tournaments prior to the Monday's divorce settlement, Tiger missed the cut once, withdrew from another, and finished no better than 15th at the other three. When asked on Wednesday if he was "relieved" by the finalization of the divorce Woods said, "I don't think that's the word. I think it's just more sadness. Because I don't think you ever ... you don't ever go into a marriage looking to get divorced. That's the thing, that's why it's sad."

Well, when Woods is done being sad, bereaved, doleful, pensive or any other synonym that he'd like to use to contextualize the aftermath of his self-inflicted wound, he'll settle down in his brand new $40 million bachelor pad on Jupiter Island, FL. Nordegren will reportedly split time between her $2.29 million house in Stockholm, Sweden and the couples former residence in Wildermere that is now hers. That's certainly not reflective of the America that the rest of us retreat to after a divorce or a bad break-up.

In a July 30, 2010 New York Times article, Pamela Paul discusses the phenomenon of couples separating but choosing not to divorce for mainly financial reasons but also for logistical and social reasons. For many couples without the vast financial resources of Woods and Nordegren, the status of their marriages, fraught with broken vows and devoid of love, are relegated to the gray area between a physical separation and a legal one. In a market that is still reeling from the worldwide financial crisis (where's that recovery at again?), some couples are choosing to remain legally married rather than go through the financially and emotionally costly and time consuming process of litigating a divorce.

As you can imagine, there are many factors that go into making such a life-altering decision. Some couples can't afford the costs associated with unloading their homes, often times at greatly reduced prices. Others are dependent on the health insurance offered by their spouse's employer until they are old enough to qualify for Medicare. Still others are incapable of living on their own due to inadequate salaries and a developed dependence on the tax breaks and other government incentives doled out to married couples. For example, by federal law an ex qualifies for a share of a spouse’s Social Security payment if the marriage lasts a decade. In the case of more amicable divorces, financial advisers and lawyers may urge a couple who have been married eight years to wait until the dependent spouse qualifies.

For couples that decide to remain legally married while being emotionally/physically separated, they take upon themselves the potential for significant pecuniary risks in the future because their lives are still legally and financially intermingled. "If your estranged husband goes on a spending spree", Paul states, "you’re responsible for the ensuing credit card debt. If you win the lottery, that’s community property. Finances can swing wildly, creating an alimony boon or a bombshell should one partner eventually want a divorce." If the separation lasts until death, children, relatives and other survivors could be left with a mess of Lohanesque proportions.

There are many famous examples of couples separating without tying a legal bow around the dissolution of their marriage. Warren Buffet, the billionaire chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, separated from his wife Susan in 1977. They remained married until her death in 2004. The whole time he lived with his girlfriend Astrid Menks. As Paul mentions in her article, "The threesome remained close, even sending out holiday cards signed, “Warren, Susan and Astrid.” Something makes me think that Tiger and Elin won't be sending out Christmas cards signed "Tiger, Elin, Joslyn, Jaimee,..." anytime soon.

Like Woods and Nordegren, Buffet had considerable financial resources at his disposal to make the arrangements for himself and his wives more palatable. This is not the case for men and women faced with similar circumstances in 'the other America'. In Nordegren's case, even if she wasn't married to one of the richest athletes in the world while also being the daughter of a Swedish politician, Woods repeated and egregious extra-marital affairs probably would've prompted her to end their union. The fact remains that we can only talk in terms of 'what ifs' in Elin's case. In the America that the rest of us live in, hypotheticals are replaced by uncertainty about who will and how will mortgage payments, lawyers fees, tuition, and childcare be paid.

As we sort through the details of the couple's divorce and Tiger's second bachelorhood on and in the pages of other sources of tabloid fodder, let's not forget about those men and women on the side of the tracks that are not cast in the shadow of television trucks, cameras, microphones, tape recorders and the other tools of the 24-hour news cycle. Let's not forget about those men and women who agonize in obscurity as they sit at home alone or with their children, trapped in relationships with cheating, neglectful or otherwise abusive spouses, with little to no resources or prospects of escaping.

These are the faces and names that should be flashed across the television screens on E! and in Google news feeds. After the momentary inconvenience of this week's media onslaught, Tiger, Elin and their 2 beautiful children will go on to lead lives that are happy, healthy, and relatively normal. They do not need our sympathies. Our collective hearts should belong to those men and women who are suffering through the disintegration of their greatest hopes, dreams, aspirations, self-identity and self-worth in silence.

1 comment:

  1. "Let's not forget about those men and women who agonize in obscurity as they sit at home alone or with their children, trapped in relationships with cheating, neglectful or otherwise abusive spouses, with little to no resources or prospects of escaping." - This is beautifully said. Nicely done D.