Unless you live on Mars, you know that Kim Kardashian filed for divorce from Kris Humphries after a mere 72 days of not-so-wedded bliss. She credits “getting caught up in the hoopla” for the early demise of her union to the NBA star.
I do not consider a reality television super star a shining example of normal in life or divorce, but the fact that her announcement is NOT surprising does represent the new normal for marriage. More than 50% of the time, marriage is temporary, and there is now a trend to actually commemorate and celebrate its temporary status. We expect it to end prematurely, and many modern vows reflect this shift. It is no longer till death does us part but as long as love lasts. This implies we have no impact on love lasting, which of course is not true.
My parents are divorced, and, as a result, I also believed marriage was temporary until I met my husband, Victor. I married when I was in my mid 30’s and inherited three angry teenage boys in the process. It was the hardest job I ever loved and without consciously working on making and keeping it good, we would not have made it. As a therapist, I understand the myriad of psychological reasons couples divorce, but celebrating it seems counter intuitive. It strikes me that people want the party and the status but are less interested in the work and compromise required.
As a country, we love our rituals and ceremonies. Across the country, divorce celebrations are becoming more commonplace, like weddings or house warming parties. However, the U.S. is not alone in our need to create a ceremony of closure when a marriage ends. Divorce ceremonies gained momentum in Japan after the massive March earthquake and tsunami. Unhappy couples reassessed their marriages at such a fervent rate that it spawned the creation of a new industry. The ceremony to commemorate transitioning back into single life costs 55,000 yen ($690), which includes a buffet meal and ends with the ritual of smashing the wedding rings with a gavel.
When Jack White from the White Stripes and his wife Karen Elson decided to divorce, they sent out ornate, wedding-like invitations and threw a huge, celebratory bash. Their joint press release read, “We remain dear and trusted friends and co-parents to our wonderful children, Scarlett and Henry Lee. We feel so fortunate for the time we have shared and the time we will continue to spend both separately and together watching our children grow. In honor of that time shared, we are throwing a divorce party. An evening together in Nashville to re-affirm our friendship and celebrate the past and future with close friends and family.”
I am in total support of amicable divorces and was excited to see a trend that considered the children. I praised the fabulous party idea in an earlier blog. My husband, Victor, took issue with the blog and his insightful comment inspired me to reconsider my position. He wrote, “I think the notion of preventing collateral damage is extremely important when it comes to divorces involving kids. If the divorced couple commits themselves to making sure their egos don’t get in the way of the greater good, which is the healthy development of the kids, then their actions will speak very clearly and over time will be understood and appreciated by the kids as they grow older.
A ‘party’ celebrating the divorce sends a different message and instead sounds narcissistic to me. Sorry, can’t buy this one. The Tao speaks of the most effective leader being the one who’s leadership is least noticed. Likewise, a successful parting is the one where the commitment to the welfare of the kids speaks volumes over a superficial event. Besides, do people get married with the intention of divorcing? I don’t think so. Choices like these are never joyful even if relief is a byproduct, but they happen and they require healing and learning from the experience. Leave the parties to birthdays and holidays.” Vic’s comment was good food for thought.
Now I am interested in your thoughts. Do you believe people still enter marriage with long-term intentions? Is divorce sought too quickly as a solution? As a society, has our collective idea of marriage as a life-long commitment changed?
Please drop a comment here and share your thoughts and experiences.