We’ve been doing divorce so wrong as a society for so long—making it about anger, money, and the destruction of any good memories the couple shared—that I’m always surprised by a piece of news that shows that somehow, somewhere, we are starting to understand the damage we are doing to ourselves. Case in point: Nassau County in New York state has just announced the unprecedented step of requiring divorcing couples to attend one joint mediation session, as opposed to immediately “lawyering up” and backing away from trying to have substantive conversations about how to break apart gently.
Of course, the courts aren’t solely interested in this to help us all find a less acrimonious way to breakup; the courts are being driven by the overwhelming caseloads that are on their dockets, and, frankly, the judges probably understand that they can never really give a contested divorce the time and attention it would require to really get inside what’s riven the marriage and make reasonable judgments about how best to help the couple break apart. That’s asking too much of them, perhaps.
But whatever the motivation, I’m glad to see that some of the authorities who have such a powerful position in how people break apart are trying to urge couples to set down their weapons and work as a team to figure out how to reconstitute their lives, their families and their finances post-marriage. And I urge all of us to remember that there’s no way to “win” a divorce. The best we can hope for is to be able to live with ourselves and forgive ourselves the failures our marriages contained. So why not therefore focus on NOT creating new failures as we’re breaking up? Why not aim for dignity? Those are goals worth shooting for, however it is we get there.