Sunday, September 25, 2011

Give Divorce A Chance

Yesterday I read in some kind of news printed on paper, that family groups were up in arms over some course on offer to help couples divorce quickly and cheaply. Within 2 hours supposedly you would leave with the papers drawn up for the family court.

Why do 'Family' groups get up in arms about something designed to make the unpleasant business of divorce more painless. It smacks of the same mentality of Abstinence only groups blocking vaccines for potentially lethal STI's because the lethality of STI's is scene to discourage premarital sex.

I am not opposed to getting married, but I wouldn't marry just anyone, and thus I hope to marry somebody I am not likely to divorce. I do not wish to get divorced, but having made all this clear, I think divorce is a good thing.

Divorce needs to progress in being destigmatised, it needs to get cheaper and easier and less ugly. Obviously divorce will always carry with it emotional costs, even in the case where a family consists of two people, it is still the case that:

While it takes two people to sustain a relationship, it takes only one to end it.

One party may be the unwilling recipient of divorce, none of us ever know. Children probably almost always are, because only the parents really get a say in whether the parents stay together.

But in the dawn of this new era, almost every alternate model to an 'atomic family' needs to be destigmatised, including same sex couples, same sex parents, polyamorous and open relationships and even the basic notion that some people are best suited to having a life of short term relationships with a number of partners, and never marrying and never having children.

Divorce is a good place to start.

We are in a painful transition, from an era where it wasn't very important to pick a good life partner because people didn't get divorced. Yes counter-intuitively, I believe the ability to divorce, (and easily) has actually made the decision of who to marry harder. Before if you wound up with an alcoholic or abusive or negative partner, your marriage was cemented in, you couldn't leave and you just sucked it up. But now, the threat of divorce demands more of ourselves and more in our partners and we just don't know what to look for.

The media and often our peers are not good at teaching us to identify what qualities are important to look for. Our parents, mostly from the first generation to really have divorce as an option, and our grandparents whom really lived out their marriages without the option of divorce, provide poor guidance as well.

So its natural that so many divorces are so fucked up at the moment, so messy, so sudden, so unpredictable. But I'm confident that society will get better at divorcing and it will be widely regarded as possibly the greatest thing to happen to the institution of marriage and the emotional well being of individuals, since the dropping of arranged marriage.

Arranged marriages had their benefits, they took the stress and responsibility of the most important decision many are likely to make out of their hands. But on the downside they took the stress and responsibility out of the individuals hands who had to live with the consequences. To borrow the Japanese expression 'Love Marriages' don't guaruntee happiness and true love to people who choose their own partners, but it gives them the potential to do so, and do so for themselves.

Divorce similarly completes the migrtion form arranged marriages to marriages of choice, because it acknowledges that we are able to make mistakes, that our amygdala, the low conscious section of the brain that generates 'love at first sight' and the cocktails of drugs that our brain is addled with in the early days of a relationship are not so reliable at choosing lasting fountains of happiness.

Furthermore, it provides recourse to those who marry out of convenience and urgency, considering biological clocks, or figuring they have no real reason not to.

It's just there's so much we don't know about how to manage the fallout of divorce. But we'll get there and hopefully this shit will start being taught in schools, along with how to identify good partners.

I know of divorces that were straightforward, simple and amiable and others that were messy, protracted and far more damaging than necessary. The difference will one day be determined. I have some broad conclusions I have drawn, like those who make an effort not to make an adversery of their ex nor criticise them publicly tend to have better outcomes. Those where the parents leave no ambiguity as to how much they love their children tend to achieve good outcomes.

But there's other stuff that is still contentious, like apparently just a few decades ago, conventional wisdom was that a loveless marriage SHOULD stay together for the sake of the children, now it has moved quite quickly to the opposite, do what you can to remove emotionally toxic environments from your kids.

And so on and so fourth.

We'll get better, and divorce will come to be regarded as the best of a bad situation. But people make mistakes, and we should be allowed to.

No comments: