Monday, August 9, 2010

At Least They (Sorta) Tried

On the surface, the item in Sunday's Free Press, poached from the Arizona Republic, seemed like a nice story.

"More Couples Opt For Friendly Divorce," the headline said. The sub-headline added, "Kids are the primary beneficiaries of amicable splits---and it's cheaper."

Aww, that's sweet. How thoughtful!

The bottom line, according to the story written by Karina Bland:

Some of today's divorcing couples, who as kids in the '80s witnessed some wretched family separations as bitter as the movie "War of the Roses," are vowing to do it differently. Even if their own parents didn't divorce, many kids saw how hard it was on their friends.

So more couples are opting for a friendly divorce, whether through mediation, collaboration or even do-it-yourself kits. The majority of couples choosing friendly divorces are those with children.

The story went on to rave about how chummy the exes are with each other, and how they did it all for the kids. There were examples of ex-hubbies staying in ex-wives' vacation homes, and how divorcing couples sat at the same side of the table to divvy up the goods, so that little Timmy or Suzie wouldn't be as traumatized.

More from Bland's story:

This new kind of divorced mom and dad might attend parent-teacher conferences together, work jointly to get one kid to Little League and the other to piano lessons---even if it's not technically their visitation day---and share calendars electronically so Dad can arrange to take the kids when Mom's out of town on business.

"It just seems much more humane and friendly," says John Jarvis, 54, who admits that his staying at his ex-wife's house when he visits his daughter, Hannah, in Chandler does raise some eyebrows.

I get the desire to make awkward things as un-awkward as possible, especially when there are innocents involved.

But nowhere in Bland's story did it mention anything about a little thing called KEEPING MARRIAGES TOGETHER.

This whole "friendly divorce" thing is a classic double-edged sword.

I fear we're making it too easy to choose divorce, as opposed to working on marriages that could be saved.




The "friendlier" and easier-to-swallow divorces get, the more the incentive to stay married dwindles.

As you might have guessed by now, I am the child of divorced parents. I'm also an only child. My father passed away in 1996 (he re-married about a year after the divorce, in 1978), and my mother is still with us (she never re-married, but had a committed relationship to a man for many years).

I'm lucky in the sense that my parents probably had themselves a "friendly" divorce, though the term may have been rarely used back in 1977. There were no spats, no custody battles, no "this is mine, that's yours" tiffs over material things. My father stayed with me shortly after the split while my mother went on a cruise. Conversely, my mother loaned my father cash for a down payment on his new home with his new wife.

It don't get much friendlier than that, folks.

But as friendly as they were to each other, there was still one unshakable fact: they were just as divorced as the couples who went the nasty, unfriendly route.

Kids want their parents together. Period. Does this mean that every marriage can be saved? Of course not. But by making the trial of divorce all nicey-nicey, it makes it easier to go down that path rather than put in the work to save things.

And let's face it: who knows how many marriages that end up in divorce could have been saved with some hard work and commitment?

With the "friendly divorce," now we'll especially never know.

The aforementioned John Jarvis and his soon-to-be-ex, Elenore Long, sat side by side across the table from the lawyer and, together, they came up with some financial solutions and custody arrangements.

"It's not that the conversation didn't get lively and emotional, but with a mediator at the table, we kept coming back to 'What's best for Hannah?' " Long, 46, says of the couple's 13-year-old daughter. "It really asked us to be our best selves rather than our petty selves."

Ahh, "What's best for Hannah."

What's best for Hannah is probably her parents staying married.

What can be "friendlier" than that?

I get a sneaking suspicion that friendly divorces are appealing to the lazy and to the resigned. And to the selfish.

But hey---as long as it was easy and friendly, right?

For the parents.

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