In a recent article for DivorcedMoms.com, I stated my preferred “No Shower, No Gifts” policy to go into effect in the event that I get married again. I’m a grown woman with a house full of stuff, and I imagine I’d marry a man of similar description. Why would we need gifts?
A friend argued against my suggestion. “Presents are always appropriate,” Missy insisted.
Several days later, I asked Missy how she feels about the idea of giving gifts for a divorce.
“I’d do it for a close friend who needed support,” she told me. I peppered her with more inquiries to clarify her thoughts on the issue: She would give a card and flowers to ease a broken heart, but she wouldn’t present a present in the spirit of celebration.
“Did you get gifts when you got divorced?” She asked.
As a matter of fact, I didn’t receive any gifts when I separated from my husband. At the time, I didn’t think twice about it. I didn’t consider the concept of Divorce Gifts until…
Many moons ago, I was in a grocery store, on my way to the checkout with a big beautiful butternut squash in my hand. I was happy and hungry until I realized, due to my recent separation, I no longer owned a knife capable of cutting through my prized produce.
Since then, I’ve wondered why Divorce Gifts aren’t part of our culture. Society at large gives gifts for graduations, new homes, new babies and new spouses…. Why aren’t friends, neighbors and coworkers willing to send a smartly-wrapped spatula or small appliance to the newly-separated?
The reality is that divorced people need more than just legal advice. For instance, they’ll need a second set of beds/bedding for their children. Someone will be without pots, pans, dishes and/or silverware. One might need a new vacuum cleaner while the other needs a toaster oven. And someone will be without a basic set of tools.
A few weeks ago, I emailed a major US retailer and suggested they offer the option of a “Support Registry.” I’d love to see more Wish List options for people to communicate their material needs. Such an alternative could be utilized by anyone needing to start over, for any reason.
Maybe this idea will catch on after more families opt for a Divorce Ceremony. What do you think?
I hear the question all the time, “Well, if two people can have an amicable divorce then why don’t they stay married?”
I suppose it’s a reasonable question.
In order to answer it, I ask that you take a mental voyage with me. Let’s go to a playground full of frolicking children…
It’s a hot, sunny day and a group of kids are having a discussion.
Child #1 points to the sky. “That cloud looks like a bowl of ice cream.”
Child #2 exclaims, “I love ice cream!”
Child #3, in a sing-songy voice, replies, “Then why don’t you marry it?”
You’ve heard that one right? And it’s a positively ridiculous suggestion, is it not?
Lifelong commitments simply aren’t that simple.
According to the letter of the law, marriage and divorce are much the same: it all boils down to a legal document.
That being said, let’s imagine what life would be like if we treated the marriage process the same way we do the divorce process…
“Hi, I’m Max Attorney,” the man introduced himself.
Annabelle reached out and shook his hand. ”Nice to meet you. I’m Annabelle Engaged.” She followed Max into a spacious office and took a seat in front of his mahogany desk.
“Now,” Max began. ”What brings you here today?”
Annabelle cleared her throat and straightened her shoulders before speaking. ”Well, um, my cousin recommended you after my boyfriend proposed last month.”
“That’s fantastic!” Max exclaimed. ”Congratulations! When’s the Big Day?”
“I was hoping for a fall wedding,” she told him. ”I’ve been to several lately and I thought they were beautiful. But… my fiance’s mother would rather we hold the ceremony in the Spring.”
“I see,” said Max, jotting notes on his legal pad. ”Tell me more.”
“She thinks Spring is better because it’s symbolic of new beginnings. And she doesn’t want us to honeymoon in the Caribbean during Hurricane Season. I love her and everything, but this is my wedding. I think she should respect our wishes and let us make our own plans.”
“Is that the only issue at this time?”
Annabelle sighed. ”No. Chris and I started to talk about where to hold the ceremony and he thinks it should be inside the church, but I’d rather have it outside. He agreed to my colors, but he wants too many groomsmen. And he thinks we should spend our honeymoon at a golf resort. I hate golf!”
Max asked more questions and took more notes.
“Has Chris retained representation?” He wanted to know.
Annabelle provided the information for her fiancé’s lawyer.
“I’ll draw up a pretty simple proposal for now,” he told her. ”Then we’ll wait and see what opposing counsel comes back with. I think we should be able to get this wrapped up for the two of you within a few months, and then you’ll be on your way to the altar.”
Annabelle stood up feeling relieved and empowered. It felt good to have a seasoned professional on her side. ”Thank you so much,” she told Max. ”I look forward to hearing from you.”
As the months passed, she heard from Max often. He promptly sent her copies of correspondence from Chris’s lawyer and was always available to talk about their ever-evolving strategy to assure Annabelle her Dream Wedding.
Through their attorneys, the bride-and-groom-to-be negotiated flower arrangements, seating charts, dates and locations. After the venues had been booked, they turned their attention to matters pertaining to marital and, if necessary, post-marital finances.
“I’m willing to stay home while the kids are young,” Annabelle told Max. ”But I don’t want to give up my career forever. Can we ask that he pay for me to take classes during those years?”
“Are you insane?” Chris grumbled to Annabelle after he received her most recent request. ”You want me to work to support you and the kids, save for them to go to college and pay for you to go to school too? Do I look like I’m made of money?”
“Tell it to my lawyer,” she instructed him.
“I can’t afford to do that either!” Chris exclaimed. ”And why should I have to? Our marriage and family isn’t about them. It’s about us! You and me and our kids and our money and our decisions. Our lawyers don’t even know us. Why are we paying them to tell us how to divide our paychecks and raise our children?”
I have to agree with Fictitious Chris. The process of creating a marriage involves an abundance of personal discussion and decisions that will affect the Rest Of Their Lives. Yet, people do it all the time without retaining counsel to speak for them. Why can’t divorce be the same way?
(Shhh. Don’t answer. Just think about it.)Google+
My ex and I had a peaceful divorce; one full of cooperation, communication and compassion. It cost less than $400 and took only as much time as the state required.
When I refer to my experience, some people dismiss me. After all, I’m the exception, not the norm. Most divorces are ugly and expensive because most exes are assholes. And I couldn’t understand that, because my ex is obviously a really great person, otherwise I would’ve had a more typical divorce.
As I read about divorce I find more and more articles to help people identify and deal with various personality disorders. The most popular one I see is narcissism. Narcissists are focused only on themselves. They lack empathy. They engage strategically. They want only to win. They don’t compromise, and communication is difficult.
It seems these days most exes are narcissists. I don’t know if mine is/was because, to the best of my knowledge, he’s never been evaluated by a trained mental health professional. But I can tell you that if I’d been a student of divorce when my journey started, I’d probably have diagnosed him myself.
You see, although my divorce was peaceful, my marriage was not. No, he didn’t beat me. But we fought. A lot. We screamed and slammed doors. Sometimes things got broken. We called each other names. He put down my job and my friends, and he knew how to “push my buttons” (don’t all married people know how to do this?). He thought he was right about everything. And if he was right, I was wrong. And if I was wrong, I was stupid.
The marriage wasn’t a good fit for either of us. Quite simply, we wanted different things, and we each resented the other for imprisoning us in the life shared. As a result, we got angry. And things between us got ugly. Oh, and he got himself a girlfriend too.
When we decided it was over, we could’ve run off to separate lawyers and began the traditional proceedings. We had enough assets to fight over and enough money to fight it out. I could’ve spent an hour (and several hundred dollars) telling an attorney how difficult my ex was to deal with. And he could’ve done the same. We could’ve easily had a typical divorce.
But we didn’t. Instead of feeling angry about the end of our marriage, we were relieved and grateful. Instead of calling lawyers, we sat down together to talk through the division of our assets. We remained logical, compassionate and, at times generous, as we discussed budgets and timelines. And when we were done, we put our plan into action.
About two months later we’d separated everything and were living in different homes. The only thing left to do was legally dissolve the marriage, so I called a lawyer.
Like any good attorney, he was thorough. He wanted me to tell him everything, but I refused.
“I just need to file for divorce,” I insisted.
He explained that there was much more to divorce than simply filing the documentation. He needed to know about our bank accounts, properties, debts, etc.
“We’ve already divided everything,” I explained. “The only thing left is the paperwork.”
My attorney agreed to send me some forms to sign and return with a check. I complied. My ex complied. Three months later, I received a divorce decree featuring an official gold seal. The divorce was done, and six weeks after that, I had a new (old) last name.
The experience left me with the knowledge that a good divorce is possible following a bad marriage. Because our separation was a welcome solution to a problem, we found ourselves joyously in agreement about our future. It was easy and exciting to work together as we accomplished our shared goals.
In short: I didn’t have a peaceful divorce because my ex was a saint. I had a peaceful divorce because we chose cooperative communication over hired guns and mudslinging.
Marriage is a womb. Divorce is a birth.
This metaphor has been taking form in my head for months… I figured it was time to write it down. Have you ever considered it this way?
In the beginning of a marriage, there is room to grow. We are warm and protected and the environment is nourishing. It’s fun… safe… soothing… and comforting to know that we are cared for by another.
And then things change.
Sometimes we feel too cramped and we reach out in search of greener pastures. Other times we are extricated from the womb by unforeseen forces.
In either case, birth commences.
To say it’s uncomfortable would be an understatement. We’re squeezed in many ways as the whole world changes. We cry. We’re trembling. We feel exposed, vulnerable and in desperate need of support.
At first, we can’t hold our heads up, let alone stand on our own two feet. There are no words to express how we feel, and we need help with just about everything. If we’re lucky (and most of us are), we’ll find ourselves surrounded by those who cherish us, even in our weakest moments. They patiently offer support and guidance as we learn to be human.
Eventually, we learn to hold our heads up, and we find our voices. We become more mobile as we curiously explore this different life, and through new experiences we continue to grow.
As time goes by, we become. We learn the art of self love. We make new friends. We provide for ourselves, and we conquer new heights.
Divorce is a birth. And, from a safe distance, it is a miraculous gift.