Divorce is said to be one of the most significant grief events many of us will ever suffer. Is it any wonder then, that during divorce, good people suddenly seem to be mad?
As a Divorce Lawyer I have seen it all. People who in any other situation are entirely ‘normal’ all of a sudden turn into crazy versions of themselves- acting in ways even they would never expect. You see heartbreak does this to us. Love is a roller coaster of exhilarating highs and sometimes the lowest of lows. Perhaps the lowest moment for many of us is that moment when you realise that love has passed, that moment when your stomach has that sick, sinking feeling and you realise love, as you wanted it, is over.
If falling in love is a romance novel then heartbreak would have to be a choose your own adventure novel- while it seems like you should have control, you don’t and it feels like you are turning pages of your life hoping the ending will be good, only to have to turn back 4 chapters and start all over again. Like any good novel though, it does come to an end- eventually.
Just like falling in love, we all experience heartbreak in our own way. For some, it appears to the outside world to have no impact at all, but that persons insides will be tearing apart as they try to manage their grief. Others will run around the streets screaming at the top of their lungs, letting everyone know their pain. And most of us will fall somewhere between these two extremes.
Relationships encompass so much of our lives and yet we are given so little education in how to fall in love, stay in love and fall out of love. Divorce is still such a ‘dirty’ word and yet if you choose to get married there is a 50/50 chance that divorce will form part of your marriage. So why is it that ‘divorce’ continues to be such a ‘dirty’ word? Why is it that we can’t start to see a divorce as part of a marriage- the part where you could constructively say ‘thank you’ for the experiences and time you have shared together?
It is time we rethink the word ‘divorce’- it should not be a scary word, a dirty word or something we are embarrassed by. A divorce should be seen as a part of a marriage that we can look back on with some pride.
Earlier this year Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin hit the front pages of the news with their wacky idea that they were ‘consciously uncoupling’. They were not ‘getting a divorce’ instead that had made a conscious decision to bring their marriage to an end in a positive way. In fact they had untangled their marriage well before we were even aware of it. Their idea of ‘conscious uncoupling’ took the world of divorce by storm but few were critical of their decision. Instead, we were amazed that this could even be done.
It can be done, you just have to choose it. And the key I guess is to choose it together. That doesn’t mean that your heart won’t still break, that you won’t want to yell, and scream but the choice you are making is no matter what to find a way together to consciously fall out of love with respect, dignity and even some grace.
As a divorce lawyer I get to see it all I guess. I get to see the damage that heartbreak causes to families- the financial damage is one thing but the emotional damage is something else. We know, thanks to countless studies, that children who experience the divorce of their parents are at risk of significant harm- not because of the divorce, but because there is a very good chance that their parents will then commence a cycle of conflict that will never end. That conflict ensures that those children will never reach their true potential in life.
So if there was only one thing that you could do to give you, your children, your family the best chance of surviving your divorce I would say it is this-
Change how you think about your divorce. It doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It is part of your marriage, a part that you should be able to look back on with some pride.