Divorcing Rituals

I was reading in the NY Times today about people suggesting that there should be a ritual for divorce. Something like this:

In October, the former couple stood before a roaring fire at a lodge in Lakewood, Colo., with views of the Red Rocks Amphitheater and the Continental Divide. Nick Meima, an officiant from the Celebrant Foundation who led the event, had sent out a questionnaire in advance, asking the couple to describe what they were letting go of and what they would miss about each other. At the ceremony, he handed them a rope made of two different colored strands. The couple took turns expressing what they were leaving behind while cutting the cord. “When it was all over, they each had half of the rope,” Mr. Meima said. “And then I extended it, and I said, ‘Now you are literally at loose ends, and it’s up to you to choose how to weave these things together in your new life.’ ”

Ms. Shores said, “The ceremony provided a way to acknowledge the good things we had together, and provided a continued path for forgiveness and moving on.,” She added: “Emotionally, it was more draining than I thought it would be. At the same time, it was very releasing.”

Another couple did a 90 day hike from separate ends of the Great Wall of China, they met in the middle, embraced and then left each other.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that this is ridiculous.

The issue at hand I believe for many is not that they need a ceremony (which this really is–not a ritual) to emancipate themselves from their marriage. Rather, what they really needed was to take the ritual that is marriage seriously.

Any many don’t. For many, marriage is a next step in a friendship with benefits. Something that you can dissolve if the going gets tough and worrying about it not working out doesn’t even enter their mind because they have an escape hatch in the back of their mind. My firm opinion is that if you enter marriage with the attitude of “well if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just divorce” then you almost surely are halfway there already.

Now, I want to also admit that some marriages need to be dissolved. There are couples with irreparable issues that even with God’s help, they have a hard time healing from. The truth is that even in these marriages at least one partner doesn’t take the vows seriously enough. Some don’t plan to be true to the other, or to place the needs of the marriage ahead of individualism. Some don’t come freely or without obligation—they are trapped in their own addictions–perhaps even of romance or sex. Others feel obliged to be married at a certain age or at least at a certain time in their lives and they’ve committed to that-but not to the partner.

What people often don’t realize is that marriage is not always a carnival. Sometimes people get annoyed with one another. Sometimes people don’t live up to expectations. Sometimes people aren’t exactly who you think that they are. Sometimes people are just downright crappy to each other and sometimes bad things just happen that people will have to work through and support one another through.

Life is unfortunately never perfect. And marriages are never perfect either.

Marriage is centered on commitment. The marriage ritual is centered on celebrating the commitment that two people take so seriously that they are willing to stand before their family, friends and God and vow to stay together through thick and thin. There are no games, there are no deals.

That takes a lot to be able to say. And getting into marriage means that you realize that the person you are marrying is far from perfect and that you will also disappoint your husband or wife continually throughout this marital relationship.

Woo-hoo, sounds like a party, huh?

The truth is that every bit of it is not wonderful, unless you can look back and see that this kind of commitment led you into a greater sense of love for one another–despite your own pig-headedness, despite the cards that the fates handed you. Living the ritual and not divorcing one’s self from it is a calling that clearly isn’t for everyone. Perhaps it’s not even for most–because nearly half of the marriages end in divorce.

But to ritualize the fact that you didn’t take your vows seriously in the first place is not necessarily helpful.

In fact, it’s kind of silly.