When my son first entered kindergarten in 1998 (an all boys school) there were 40 boys. All were from families that had a very traditional structure. By the time he was in fourth grade, 21 out of the 40 sets of parents separated and had chosen alternative lifestyles. To me this will always stand as a personal poignant reminder that divorce, separation, and the options for choice are now the norm.
I feel that professionally as well. I am both a parent coordinator and a couples counselor, with a focus on advocacy for children, so when I read the New York Times Style page in August 2012 about Al and Tipper Gore entitled, “The End of a Dynasty”, I was stuck not so much by the end of a marriage but by how well the Gores have separated.
It seems that the dissolution of the marriage liberated all the members of the family. Each one of them – Al, Tipper, and their children – have chosen unexpected new directions for their lives. Sometimes ending a relationship has that effect. Thankfully for the rest of the world, it was done quietly and with elegance.
Why should a marriage that is seemingly devoid of public rancor be so unique to us? If divorces are the norm, then the process of divorce should also be made more tolerable and empathic. It is without a doubt an axiom that everyone suffers through divorce. So why not be more supportive of each other through the process?
If we can manage to look at a separation or dissolution of a long term relationship as part of a life process, then we can hold on to the good times and relish in the memories. If we can look at this process as a way to discover a different way of being – as an opportunity for a new chapter – we can also be models for ourselves and our children of how to make changes without destroying one another.