At dinner the other night, I met a delightful woman who told me a little about her divorce. Eight years ago, she said, she and her husband had separated, and they were both worried about the impact of their separation on their young daughter. Their friends and families began to rally ‘round, but much of their support involved denigrating the other spouse, for example, suggesting ways of “taking him to the cleaner” or “showing her who’s boss.”
Both she and her husband were distressed at the impulse of their families and friends to take sides. They realized that their daughter needed them both, and that she couldn’t flourish if she felt that her dad’s family disliked her mom, or if she heard her mom’s family disparaging her dad.
So they created a “We’re Getting a Divorce” announcement, a card with a big photograph of their daughter on the front. Inside the card, their message was something like, “You supported us on the day we got married. Please continue to support us both, for the sake of our beautiful daughter, as we’re getting a divorce. We want to go through this process without bitterness and hostility, and we appreciate your help in reminding us that we married in love and hope, that we love our daughter dearly, and that we can end our marriage in kindness and respect.”
This has to be a rare event, one in which people actually ask their support people for help in managing the negativity of divorce for the sake of their child. But it must have worked. Both of them are in happy relationships, they communicate well with each other and each other’s new partners, and their daughter is thriving.