For The Couple Who Says “I Don’t”June 22, 2010 1 Comment
It begins with an “I do,” lovingly staring into each other’s eyes.
But when it ends, mountains of paperwork must be sifted through and signed off on. At best the couple avoids each other, but at worst they hurl invectives down telephone lines and internet cables.
But Japan has a better idea — the divorce ceremony.
If you find the idea awkward, think about the other ceremonies we celebrate. All of the other major life cornerstones are marked by these events — birth, marriage, death, and in many cultures, entering adulthood.
Divorce is a life changing event, some experts say that it is as stressful as a spouse dying, and yet there is no formal support for people going through this misery. We pat them on the back, wish them luck and desperately hope they don’t want to talk about it again.
Funerals can be just as uncomfortable for the people attending. Those closest to the deceased lay all their sadness bare and no one wants to see that vulnerability.
But we continue to have funerals because they are so important for the living. It gives the community a chance to formally acknowledge the death and gives the family a safe space in which to grieve. It provides closure.
Some people believe that those going for divorce could use a similar ceremony to help them prepare for their new lives ahead.
“I started this ceremony in April last year thinking that there should be a positive way to end a marriage and move on by making a vow to restart their lives in front of loved ones,” said Hiroki Terai, a Japanese entrepreneur who began to offer divorce ceremonies after a split between his friends.
“A ceremony at the end of a marriage gives the couple and their friends and family the opportunity to gain emotional closure.”
The couple hold a gavel together and use it to smash their wedding rings in front of their cheering guests. Then they go off separately, the former bride with her guests and the former groom with his, and celebrate their dissolving of the marriage.
“When we smashed the ring together, I felt like “oh, this is the end of it, really” and my heart and soul felt renewed. Now I feel I can have a new life and start all over again,” Mr. Fujii, a 33-year-old businessman, told Reuters Television.
“The moment I saw the smashed ring, I said to myself, “Yes! That feels so good,”" Mrs. Fujii said.
Japan is not the only nation where people feel the need to mark this life-changing event. Divorce parties are a growing trend in the United States.
The events tend to take a tongue in cheek approach to the proceedings and usually vilify the ex-spouse. They are much more raucous affairs than the staid Japanese ceremonies, and resemble hen parties, only the plastic grooms are being hurled off the cake and toasts are made to freedom as opposed to unity.
“This party is the end of the story, and once you finally get there it’s really therapeutic,” said Belisa Vranich, a psychologist specializing in relationships.
“I really recommended it — if you’re going to get divorced, mourn but then have a party.”
Divorce is a sad fact of life, and perhaps it is time we acknowledge the event instead of pretending that it doesn’t happen. As Terai said, “Everyone deserves a fresh new start.”