I recently wrote a post about the film, Marriage Story, which depicts a somewhat bad divorce. That story fit into very common negative narratives about bad divorces and divorce lawyers. Of course, there are bad divorces and divorce lawyers – though probably not as many as suggested in popular culture. Indeed, to reflect some balance, I wrote another post, It’s Not All the War of the Roses.
I mention this now because the NYT Modern Love column featured a story of a good divorce: “‘We Found Our Groove in Splitting Up.’ If my husband and I weren’t going to succeed at marriage, then we were going to excel at divorce.”
That column briefly mentions processes our field has developed, workshops for divorcing parents and mediation. It would be nice if the descriptions of the processes in this case would have matched our aspirations for heroic, win-win processes resulting in euphoric reactions (which sometimes do occur, though probably not most of the time). Instead, it reflects the reality of routine procedures for a continuing flow of divorces, managed by normal human beings. For example, it describes an interaction in which the mediator was absent-minded, at least momentarily.
Although the depictions of the divorce workshops and mediation don’t live up to our idealistic images, these processes probably contributed to the good results that the author describes. Rather than being egged on to engage in adversarial battle as in Marriage Story, the procedures normalize and encourage a process helping spouses to cooperate if they want.
The author described a text he sent to his ex-husband: “Thanks for being a grown-up. Thanks for not being a jerk.”
That’s a pretty good outcome, and our field has contributed to similar results in many cases like that.