Previously, I asked the question, “What if we did marriage the way we do divorce?” The situation was somewhat silly, as the post was meant to inspire consideration. My true intention was to introduce a new question:
What if we did divorce the way we do marriage?
Let’s start by reviewing a traditional wedding… when a couple plans their ceremony, they consult with various professionals. It’s likely they’ll visit multiple locations before deciding where to hold the event. They’ll spend some time at a bakery. They’ll price a few potential caterers and florists. Quite often, couples meet with a spiritual leader for pre-marital counseling. The Future Mrs. procures the products and services of a bridal boutique while the groom and his dudes rent tuxedos at another specialty shop. The honeymoon is planned with the assistance of a travel agent, or at least a travel-specific web site. Throughout the (sometimes incredibly stressful) process, family and friends provide assistance, opinions and recommendations while the couple makes all final decisions.
When the Big Day arrives, the bride and groom are surrounded by those who love and support them. Old stressors are erased by new joy as The Kiss commences, dinner is served and the gift table grows heavy with celebratory offerings selected from a registry. As the husband and wife embark on The Rest of Their Lives, they feel confident, supported and loved.
Now… what if divorce looked more like marriage? Imagine, if you will….
Allan and Jamie have been married for nearly 15 years. They have twin teenage daughters, one hyper dog, two autonomous cats, six exotic fish and a bunch of other assets and debts that aren’t as much fun to itemize. After a decade of pretending to be a happy couple, they decide to stop pretending and separate.
As a team, they broke the news to their daughters, parents and best friends (on separate occasions). They assured their children that they were committed to being parents, regardless of how their living arrangements might change. Their parents were shocked, yet overwhelmingly supportive of what they knew was a difficult decision. Their friends remained supportive as well and offered to help in any way they could.
After that, Allan and Jamie scheduled an appointment with a therapist to assist with the emotional processing of what would take place. They met with a financial advisor to discuss the options of their investments. They talked to a real estate agent about their home and vacation property. They sat down together and looked at their bank account balances while considering new budgets. While the details came together, they held regular family meetings in which updates were shared and feelings were expressed. Knowing the needs and fears of their children, they spent some time with a mediator to construct a schedule illustrating how Allan and Jamie would share their parenting time for the first year. The mediator also helped them have a more productive conversation around some hot-button issues they’d been frustrated with. Throughout the discovery process, Allan and Jamie remained in control and on the same team.
When they’d painted a clear-enough picture how to proceed, they put their plans into action and filed the appropriate legal documents. They commemorated the occasion with a small ceremony during which they exchanged vows of respectful release to each other, as well as vows of unwavering support to their daughters. After the ceremony, family and friends gathered for a party to celebrate this new chapter for the family. Gifts included a vacuum cleaner for Jamie and a coffee maker for Allan. Games and dancing continued into the night.
As the family members stepped forward into The Rest of Their Lives, they felt confident, supported and loved.