I’ve recently been struggling through another bout of post-divorce shock, or maybe aftershock would be a more accurate descriptor. The prolonged impact of this (un)natural disaster has continued long past necessary. In much the same way, nine years post Hurricane Katrina, sections of New Orleans remain in disrepair. I can’t quite imagine when the fury of the storm that has continued to circle my path will meet it’s maximum destructive potential, diminish and decease. I wonder what might appease the storm maker. I wonder how divorce could be less destructive.
And then without warning, a torrential storm of media input comes by way of Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband Chris Martin. They recently announced their separation. She wrote about it. She coined a beautiful term, Conscious Uncoupling. I read and reread the phrase, turning it over in my mouth like it is manna from the heavens. I want to feel each syllable with my tongue, carefully and joyously. Like saying juxtaposition for the first time, or snicker-doodle or piccalilli. Conscious Uncoupling, it sounds so much sweeter than Divorce. There are criticisms and commentary about the Gwynethness of it all. As though she twirled and whistled atop the corpse at a funeral. Instead, she is deciding to twirl and whistle her way toward something personal and private and possible and perhaps loving and respectful of her children and her partner, husband, friend.
Do the critics and most others prefer Unconscionable Uncoupling? The accepted form of devastation and destruction that comes far too frequently from divorce leads me to believe so. From my own experience and those close to me, from the scores of memoirs, articles, self-help books, manuals, DVDs and post divorce reconstructivist retreats, I can safely venture to say….Yep it seems some of us take great pleasure in inflicting pain and prolonging the nightmare of divorce. It would seem in our culture, we do have a need to make divorce some form of hellish punishment because the marriages that we are in need of ending weren’t quite sad, or dangerous, or unhealthy, or simply just, incompatible enough. Why would anyone want to be able to leave a marriage peacefully when instead you could destroy the lives of your former spouse, your children, and anyone else closely related, or unfortunately in your path? While paying great heaps of cash for the pleasure? With my head tilted sideways and through a perplexed expression, I just don’t get it!
I don’t know why Ms. Paltrow and Mr. Martin are separating or divorcing or Consciously Uncoupling. I only know why I needed to. I once wished to shake hands and say good luck, good day, be well, go in peace, may the force be with you, thank you very much, gracias de nada, kisses, hugs and good onya. It took a great long time to get to that. The years preceding most divorces are long and difficult, inconsistent, intermittently hopeful, sad and lonely, despairing and tense.
Divorce is not viewed as a positive life choice. The barbaric battles to create terms of divorce are easily supported, if not orchestrated by lawyers that profit on prolonged contention. Results are far removed from divorce law and often compromise legal rights in the name of a "fair settlement" that can be anything but. Too many divorce battles would make watching the gladiator fights seem like watching grass grow. The unchecked tactics that many attorneys allow, promote and engage in with ease, furthers the damage of divorce. Threats, unfounded allegations, fabricated tales of abuses abound without ever seeing the light of your big day in court. These tactics help set the course for one party to submit and retreat.
Someone once close to me suffered greatly in his marriage. It was like watching a train wreck. He drank to get through personal problems and issues related to his hidden sexuality. He drank more to mask a growing depression. He went missing, finding escape in gambling and feeding his poorly hidden drinking habit. It became harder and harder to face his demons. He couldn’t face his wife, and he was more and more vacant from his children. Finally after he was arrested for a DWI following a gambling binge his wife moved out. They had been discussing a separation for some time prior but weren’t sure how to proceed. Instead of feeling relieved, he became enraged and retaliated for being left. He neglected to see how he had left them all long ago. He neglected to see they all would have supported any attempts for him to get healthy and heal.
Watching as he abandoned his children, I could only guess he was afraid of being exposed. I don't think he could face being the man he imagined they saw him as. Instead he accused his wife of being emotionally unstable and abusive, he tried to deflect and dodge any perceived harm he imagined might come his way. He believed his very public job as a school administrator might be threatened. While he wasn’t able to convince the courts of abuse, he was able to lead his wife into a settlement far from equitable to end a painful and devastating relationship and an unfathomable divorce. If he Consciously Uncoupled rather than attempting to Unconscionably Unhinge he could have learned how much and how long he was missed and still cared for, and how ending his marriage could have been carried out with compassion, how a peaceful divorce or Conscious Uncoupling would have been possible for him and helped him to heal, as well as, and more importantly his children.
To what end do divorces need to be so damaging? For what purpose? Must we embark on Competitive Uncoupling? Everyone loses in divorce this way. Yes even the champions that get to give up less and gain more on paper. Maybe the champions of Competitive Uncoupling’s lose most of all. They seem to remain dedicated to staying involved in a marriage long ago ended. With the mantra, why be difficult when you can be impossible (and also destructively create suffering while also remaining stuck).
I know of a lawyer that represented someone under the false premise of being an abuse victim. The lawyer fought hard against the spouse, as a self-proclaimed advocate for domestic abuse victims. Did this lawyer fail to see the spouse she attacked had left the home without financial resources, without a car and without most of her clothing and other worldly possessions? How could a domestic violence expert fail to spot the obvious? In this case, her client, the purported victim, was a male, 8 inches taller and over 80 pounds heavier, with a Domestic Incident Report and additional police reports written against him. And still the lawyer fought ruthlessly on his behalf. Why? What needed to be fought or won? Split the assets, set up an account for the children, shake hands, see ya bye-bye. Why churn up the underbelly of a couples darkest moments? In the end, they still get divorced. Why can't marriage end without added scars and missing limbs?
And still I have this way of being hopeful and wanting things to work efficiently, kindly, without pain or malice. So here goes my big idea: What if lawyers got involved with Conscious Uncoupling? Say maybe, helped plan the after party, reviewed the real-estate deeds and assets, equitably distributed resources toward on-going costs of childrearing including college contributions. Better yet, what if a divorce had to be determined and presented to the courts by one single lawyer? In the same way only one Justice of the Peace or clergyperson marries a couple? Wow! Just think of how that alone would change the outcomes of so many divorces. There are in fact, divorce laws that could be adhered to without need or desire for combat and destruction yielded in every direction. Nah….that’s just silly. If divorce were kind and consciously determined that would alter the negative impact and support positive family life in America…but we still haven’t embraced healthcare….maybe one crazy idea at a time.
I didn’t have the opportunity to Consciously Uncouple. I did suggest the hand-shake, it went over as well as Gwyneth’s post. But Gwyneth still makes me all twirly with positive joy and possibility. I have endured all types of weather, what’s one more storm?
I’m Country Strong and I have an Apple in my eye….
I’m Country Strong and I have an Apple in my eye….
OK I’ll stop…