Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Perfect Divorce: Does it Exist?


That was easy, next blog post... No, you want more than that? Okay:

Divorce is by definition about the failure of a plan. You got married, you took vows, and it didn't work out. Whether or not you are about assigning blame (and there is usually enough to go around), divorce is about picking up the pieces of a failure. Accepting that disappointment is as important a step in moving on as accepting that the marriage was over in the first place.

If you take that failure personally, you should discuss those feelings with friends, family or a professional therapist. You shouldn't ignore them because you need to find a way to move past them in order to deal with the practical realities of dividing up a marital life.

With respect to finances, divorce means dividing up a business partnership, and there is no perfect or ideal way to do this. In Massachusetts, the court can consider numerous factors in how to do this (M.G.L. c. 208 s34), but in practice most cases settle, and they settle based on what both parties can live with. You won't get everything you want, but neither will the other side.

With respect to children, even if you do the best you can parenting apart is never ideal. In many situations and for many relationships it may be better than parenting together, but even the best parents can't undue the loss a child feels when their parents break up. I was reminded of this when reading a simple quote from an interview with Jack Black in the Guardian, in which he matter-of-factly indicates that his parents divorced and as a kid the simple fact "that they can't live with each other makes you feel there's something wrong with you." In many ways parenting is about doing your best with what you have anyway, and no where is this more true than in parenting apart. You can educate yourself and make the best of it, and minimize the trauma on your children. But to do that you have to first accept that this situation is not perfect, and find ways to compensate.

At the end of the day, realizing that there is no perfect divorce is an important step in figuring out how to look at the future rather than dwell on the failures of the past. Sometimes the cliché is true: whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.

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