In her new HBO series “Divorce,” Sarah Jessica Parker’s character, Frances Dufresne, slogs through a life many might brag about: She has a husband, Robert (Thomas Haden Church); two children; a nice house in Westchester; close lady friends; and an executive position in New York City.
At first blush, I wanted to relate to and like Frances, as I did Carrie Bradshaw. It gets hard, though — pretty quickly. Even though I can’t say that I enjoyed what I’ve seen of “Divorce” thus far, there is something to be learned from it.
In the vein of “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days,” I offer: How to lose your marriage in five steps.
1. Be grateful for nothing. This includes, but is not limited to, your aforementioned home, spouse, kids and job. Make sure to look at all with utter disdain, so they know what a bother they are to you. When your husband asks, as Robert did, what brought on these feelings, blame it on his recently grown mustache. This way, you’ll be not only nasty but petty. Of all the legitimate reasons to break off a marriage, this it not one.
2. Choose friends who know only how to be miserable. In fact, make sure they are even more unhappy than you are, so as to drag you down farther. Frances is not Carrie, who has a squad willing to show up at 11:55 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, so no one has to ring it in alone. Her friends hate their husbands; one of Frances’s sidekick’s even pulls a gun on hers. It’s easy to get sucked into becoming what one beholds; Frances is equally guilty of this behavior. I know people who criticize their husbands, although they usually punctuate their remarks with affectionate things like, “But he’s my couch potato.”
3. Mistake lust for love. Frances is having an affair. Whether this is a good idea, I shall not judge. Yes, there are people who have left spouses for lovers. And others who claim an affair brought them closer to their husband or wife. But then there are lovers who wait indefinitely for their married companions to leave their other halves. In Frances’s case, she begins to think that her single paramour wants more than rolls in the hay, even though he has never indicated as much. This presumption that her side guy will be her safety net allows Frances to arrogantly mention to Robert: “Sometimes when I get home from work, I feel happy. I actually feel happy. Then I see your car parked outside and I realize you’re home, and my heart … sinks.” There’s nothing that can turn people into swaggering, hurtful “truth tellers” like thinking they have a fallback plan they don’t actually have.
4. Make your spouse feel second-best. It’s not enough to compare your spouse to someone else’s more successful or romantic better half. Frances wants Robert to forget all her crushing remarks. (He and his mustache are looking better ever since the art history professor she’s been sleeping with got that oh-no look on his face when she mentioned she was contemplating dissolving her marriage.) Robert may be boring, but he’s not stupid. The former Wall Streeter-turned-struggling-house-flipper figured out he was being cuckolded with a simple scroll through his wife’s phone. “You know that divorce you wanted? I want one, too,” he says to Frances, having locked her out of the house. We all go through down cycles, during which a supportive spouse can be a godsend. But, if you cross the line, don’t be shocked when they retaliate.
5. Never pursue your dreams. Frances always wanted to own an art gallery but got sidetracked. It happens. If you really want something, though, you find a way. Despite the economy, I know a number of people who have reinvented themselves: A stay-at-home mother re-entered the ad world on the corporate side instead of at her former agency level. A financial analyst got a teaching degree. My onetime art director became an interior designer. She had to start small with a course or two on weekends, before she could transition into finishing up as a full-time student. It took six years to get her credentials, and then get her business up and running. Fulfilling a goal can take money and time, but both are worth it to feel satisfied with life.