"Good Providers" Can Be Rotten At Marriage

The belief seems to be that by providing money one will have met his responsibilities and deserve to be acclaimed an accomplished parent and spouse. But that's not how it works.

by Honorable Anne Kass. Ann Kass is a District Judge in the Second Judicial District State of New Mexico

Recently in my divorce court, a soon-to-be-ex-husband, told me he did not want the divorce to happen. He insisted he had been a good husband and father. As proof he noted that he had provided all the money his wife and children needed to live materially-rich lives.

That scene has been played out in my court more times than I can count. The point of view seems to be that money is the measure of a successful spouse or parent. The belief seems to be that by providing money one will have met his responsibilities and deserve to be acclaimed an accomplished parent and spouse.

But that's not how it works.

These "successful" spouses and parents do not seem to recognize that someone who works 12-hours-a-day, 6-or-7-days-a-week is not available to participate in family events in any meaningful way. There will be little or no attendance at school functions, no family recreational time or time just hanging out with the kids. Indeed some workaholic parents may have trouble picking-out their children in group school pictures. High school students may drive new cars to school, courtesy of their "good provider" parent. However, if that "good provider" does not invest time in his family, he will not be considered a success at home, no matter how many cars he provides.

"Good providers" often insist that they ought not be divorced if they don't want to be. But I frequently see "good providers" being divorced, and their families have few regrets.

Two grown sons of a couple who were being divorced after many years of marriage told me their parents' divorce would not change much of anything. Their father had rarely attended their activities or even a family picnic. Another young man told me he had refused to follow in his father's footsteps as the father had wished because he (the son) wanted to know his children. The father was a wealthy attorney who had received many professional accolades, but in his son's eyes both he and his profession were viewed with hurt and anger.

People need to know that money is not what it takes to keep a marriage intact. It takes time and energy and love.

Spouses who provide time, energy, and love truly are good providers. I don't ever remember seeing one of them being divorced when they didn't want to be.

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