Amicable Divorce, A Myth?
According to Lauren Howard, a Clinical Social Worker with a private psychotherapy practice in New York City, amicable divorce is a myth. While I can align conceptually with a few points that she makes, for the most part, I disagree with her point of view.
The article was posted in The Huffington Post on July 14, 2011, if you would like to read the entire article. You can find it on line at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lauren-howard/the-myth-of-the-amicable-_b_897823.html
So first, in her defense, let me say that I don’t believe being best friends is necessarily the goal of the divorced couple, at least to the extent that they would be involved in each other’s intimate lives. To me, that is clearly unhealthy. However, I do believe that the majority of couples want to and can be friends, respectful of each other’s privacy and caring about the long term well being of the ex-spouse. This is especially true for the couple with children. Thinking back about your past relationships, didn’t they develop as friends first? If so, then you can certainly end a marriage being friends, but yes, there must be healthy boundaries in the new relationship that is forged in the amicable divorce process. If not, problems are sure to set in over time. Friends, like an acquaintance or a neighbor, where in the future if you needed help with something, say a garage door that was stuck or a lift to the airport if you had no other options, would be appropriate. Not someone who abuses privacy of personal and financial information to control the other one. There is a big difference between these two situations.
As a mediator, I am familiar with post divorce situations that have resulted in the lack of boundaries, which often will cause future misunderstanding and confusion in the relationship. Many times this is an oversight and often it can be a reticence of one of the parties to draw clear lines out of guilt or fear of retribution from the other party. These situations should be rectified during the dissolution process, so the couple can work together to co-parent their children while still having separate and distinct personal relationships of their own. In mediation, I work with the couple to maneuver these very issues to help the couple build trust while developing healthy boundaries. This is in fact, is very good for the children to witness.
Delving into the rest of the article, I am appalled at the attitude of this so called professional. While I don’t have a CSW degree, I have a lifetime of experience that provides me with unlimited compassion and understanding. As a matter of fact, I am currently enrolled in a Masters Marriage and Family Therapy degree program so that I can provide even more support to couples. What professional, whose job it is to work with couples to continue to live separately but in harmony, would say that it is impossible to do that? I would say this could be one of those professionals that makes her living by sending couples unhappy in their marriage to vicious attorneys , known to be adversarial, in order for the couple to tear each other up emotionally and financially, providing ultimately more profits for the attorney and little resolution for the couple or the family. Now that is what I think is a shame.
No one deserves that. The adversarial process is absolutely devastating personally and financially to both parties. I have experienced it personally and witnessed it from couples coming to me after hearing of the distress they can do to their spouses from family law attorneys or well meaning friends or family. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy and if you care about yourself or your children, I can’t imagine why you would want to hurt their other parent.
Yes, I agree that children can be confused if parents don’t develop clear boundaries, but the most devastating aspect of marriage or divorce is for children to witness their parents arguing about them. If you don’t know the answer to this from your own experience, ask any child what they would prefer and I don’t think you would ever get one to say their parents disdain for each other does not break their heart. And to hear anything negative about one parent from the other parent is a direct assault on your own child, for he or she is half the parent that is being put down.