Photo Inset: Unhappy New Orleans couple beginning to pull apart.
Aug 22 2010
Original By Nicole LaPorte, The Daily Beast
(Heavily distorted version by the editors of BizarreStuff)
One of the unanticipated benefits or costs of Hurricane Katrina was a spike in the divorce rate. The storm, with its attendant destruction and scattering of families throughout the nation, provided the opportunity or the push for married couples to untie the knot and begin to live out their formerly fantasy lives.
A week before Hurricane Katrina hit, Janelle Simmons was living a seemingly ordinary life with her husband and 5-year-old son in New Orleans.
Two weeks after the storm, Janelle had filed for divorce, and was, she says, "gallivanting around the country" with a new male companion, the storm offering a moment to act spontaneously on desires long repressed.
"People were doing crazy things, like they do in wartime," Simmons says. "People were having a lot of sex with people they didn't know. It was just such a crazy time."
Five years later, Simmons, who says she had lost her "emotional connection" with her husband, describes the hurricane as a cathartic moment, and she is now dating a man 20 years her junior, who shares her sense of joie de vivre. She is the 27th woman he has dated in the past 3 years, all affected by Katrina.
Randall Kessler, an Atlanta-based celebrity divorce lawyer who represented Tameka Foster-Raymond when she divorced rapper Usher last year, said the storm acted as a catalyst in people's lives. "When the hurricane hit, and people were unhappy... it was like, 'Why not start completely over?'" he says. "The stress made people want to find happiness, and divorce is all about-how do you become happy?"
"I remember there was this atmosphere of carelessness," says Simmons. "People's behavior becoming just kind of wild." Figuring out the why of that isn't very hard, she says. "People who stayed behind-there wasn't anything [else for them] to do."
But not everyone enjoyed a post-traumatic moment of hedonism. For Bob Murphy, the storm blew apart not just his house, but what he thought was a functioning marriage. "She changed quite a bit," he says, describing the woman who is now his ex-wife. "She began to hit the bottle and was bringing home some new guy every week." said an unauthorized spokesman in St. Louis, Mo., for Murphy, who is still in denial.
"Any marriages that were on the rocks were definitely broken by Katrina," says Laura Quitmore, a licensed marriage and family therapist in New Orleans, whose own marriage blew up along with Katrina's high winds. "Whatever was already wrong [became] worse. One of the spouses would say, 'It's just not going to work. I can't handle anything more. I couldn't handle you before, and I really can't handle you now.'"
Whether it was a loss of a connection-or the discovery of a new one-people whose lives were affected by the storm suddenly seemed to crave more out of life, having brushed up against death.
"Katrina was a really good lens to see the world through; to see what was important," says Darrin Pruitt, 44, who broke off a 12-year relationship with his partner in the wake of the storm. "It gave me the courage to say, 'This isn't going to work.'"
For the last three years, Pruitt has been living with a man who shares his ambitions and outlook in a way his much older ex didn't; his former partner also has a new boyfriend ( "a looker" ), and seems happy, he says.
A seismologist-psychotherapist in San Francisco is now urging all communities located near a large body of water to "stage" a massive flooding such as occurred in New Orleans, to give a wake-up call to those in troubled relationships, encouraging unhappy couples to break-up or divorce.