The statistics around divorce in Australia are stark – currently one in every third marriage ends in divorce, with the average Aussie marriage lasting 8.8 years. Far more promising than Kim Kardashian’s last effort, but a long way short of the lifelong union most couples strive towards when saying ‘I do’. We have subsequently seen the popularity of divorce parties rise around the world as a way to put a positive slant on a split.
Divorce parties have certainly attracted a mountain of publicity over the past few years. The hype peaked when rocker Jack White announced the end of his marriage to supermodel Karen Elson with an event invitation which requested invitees celebrate the couple’s “sixth anniversary and upcoming divorce.”
The merits of divorce parties continue to split public opinion, partly due to a pervading stigma surrounding divorce and an assumption all parties are thrown in poor taste. So which side is right? Do divorce parties represent a positive step forward, or are they fifty shades of wrong? Most importantly, do they send the wrong message to our kids?
It is a fact of life that many marriages fail, despite the best of intentions. People continually grow and change throughout their lifetime, and not necessarily together. When a partnership becomes irretrievably broken down, I believe celebrating a new phase of life following the trauma of a separation can be a positive step. It can provide an incentive to focus on a fresh start rather than obsessing or getting stuck in the past.
It can also be a chance to release any negativity surrounding the separation through practicing forgiveness and acceptance, and to get clear on what you’ve learnt from the experience to ensure you have a healthier relationship with yourself and a future partner.
This being said, I do think a few boundaries should be set in order to throw this type of party the right way – with integrity and respect for your previous relationship.
Make sure you have exhausted all avenues before resorting to divorce.
It is important to work with your partner to ensure any differences cannot be reconciled, particularly where there are children involved. Remember that the court requires you enter relationship counseling if you have been married for under two years before they will grant a divorce. Gathering your loved ones together to celebrate the new phase of your life is a big step, and you should be absolutely sure about the split.
Ditch the name.
I don’t think the term ‘divorce party’ necessarily helps the cause,
given its casual and trite connotation. Why call it anything at all, besides a gathering of loved ones?
Make sure the dust has settled.
Timing is everything – make sure you’ve recovered from the initial shock and sadness before gathering together. This can take months and even years, as often our sense of identity and our hopes and plans for the future is closely wrapped up in our relationship.
The occasion should be about embracing the future, and it’s therefore best to ensure you’ve already moved through the five stages of grief – denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
No partner sledging.
Forget games involving throwing darts at your ex partner’s photo. The emphasis of these gatherings should be on the future and gathering support from loved ones in moving towards more positive times. While letting off steam can be positive, it shouldn’t be at your previous partner’s expense. This is particularly important when there are children involved.
Bitterness will get you nowhere if you have children.
It is in your interest to work towards a peaceful place, as you will always be in each other’s lives – at sporting matches, graduations and weddings. It will pay off to learn to treat each other with dignity and care.
Make time to celebrate the positive aspects of the marriage.
Just because a relationship doesn’t last forever it doesn’t mean it has no worth. Time should be taken to reflect on the good times and what you learnt and gained through the marriage.
We tend to lean heavily on our friends and family throughout a separation, and this is the perfect occasion to thank your support network for their help in getting you through the split and staying positive.
Lorrie Brook is a family lawyer and owner of ourchildren.com.au, Australia’s first website offering tools to help separated parents keep better records, communicate more effectively and avoid unnecessary legal action and conflict.
Lorrie is passionate about protecting children throughout separation and ensuring they are not used as ‘messengers’ between their parents. She is also the proud mum of her baby girl Tehya.