Failure. Failure to communicate. Failure to thrive. Failure to launch. Fail to give way. Doomed to failure. Failed marriage. Let’s just hang our heads because it all sounds so black, doesn’t it? It’s not a word we usually want to hear, unless we’re hearing ‘the nuclear bomb has failed to reach your destination’! How are we to think about divorce and ourselves when a marriage ‘fails’? Are we a failure?
Is Divorce The Biggest Failure?
It was certainly the key word that came out in a public announcement from divorced couple Drew Barrymore and Will Koppelman when they separated. They said, “Sadly our family is separating legally, although we do not feel this takes away from us being a family,” the pair said in the statement. “Divorce might make one feel like a failure, but eventually you start to find grace in the idea that life goes on. Our children are our universe, and we look forward to living the rest of our lives with them as the first priority.” Their honesty in how they felt about their decision has resonated with many other divorced couples.
In a separate interview a while later, Ms Barrymore said, “I can’t tell you how incredible it was to feel because I put in my statement about divorce the word ‘failure,’ because it’s so honest,” Barrymore responded. “You break up with somebody, and you’re just like, ‘Yeah, that didn’t work.’ And you get divorced and you’re like, ‘I’m the biggest failure. This is the biggest failure.’ It’s so shameful and hard to actually go through that, even privately.” It may have been felt even more strongly by a woman who has been divorced three times.
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Divorce is Just An End
But not everyone looks at a marriage that has ended in the same light. Kerri Sackville looks back at her 17 year marriage and focuses on the positives. Her question is: why do we see marriage as being any different to friendships that have drifted or come to their natural end? Because we enter into marriage hoping that it will last forever (at least, that’s what the majority do) when it doesn’t pan out that way it’s often viewed as a failure. Divorce is viewed through the lens of marriage and often through the end of it rather than the beginning.
Ms Sackville says, “And so to dismiss a relationship as a failure or dysfunctional seems wrong to me, and somehow sad. Of course there are relationships that should never have happened. Of course we’ve all had relationships we regret. But most of us can find something good in the relationships that ended, and it is that good that makes them worthwhile no matter how long they actually last.” So maybe we can still use the word ‘fail’ in describing a divorce because it is the end of what was an attempt to be together forever, but maybe we don’t need to say the our marriage or that we ourselves were a failure. Divorce is an end, but what kind of end may be up to us.
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There are some marriages that should never have started and where the end of them is a life-saving event for some. Divorce for most, regardless of the circumstances, is usually very sad. Ms Sackville says, “The end of a marriage or intimate relationship robs the partners of so much – of comfort, of support, of love, affection, sex, intimacy. But it also robs the partners of their dreams and plans for the future, which can be just as devastating as the actual, present losses.” There’s no denying that divorce brings with it a great deal of hurt, anguish and maybe anger – for a whole host of reasons.
Some people have a tumultuous end to their marriage and a nasty divorce, like Les and Joanne Young from Sydney. Their split became very ugly when he kicked her out of a hotel they owned together after accusing her of stealing. He then put down her dogs. Ms Young was found to be falsely accused and the court has since ordered that Mr Young to pay his wife $2.7 million dollars. But then there are others who manage to divorce much more peaceably.
An Australian divorced couple, Jodie Fox and Michael Knapp, co-own and co-work in their successful shoe business, Shoes of Prey. They co-founded the company together after they were married but under the strain of working together, their marriage broke down and they divorced. But neither of them left the business amidst a “very amicable” split. Jodie admits that working with her ex-husband can still be challenging at times, “but that’s called being human”. Being human also means that we aspire and dream of what may be.
Champions – Not Failures
Angela Dunne is a divorce lawyer who sees many people come through her office. She has a very positive and encouraging view on those undergoing a divorce – she does not see them as failures. In lieu of the Olympic Games being such a recent event, she was inspired to compare her clients to Olympic athletes with dreams of winning. There are many who go in the hopes of getting a medal, but the majority don’t and dreams are shattered. She says:
“Every day in my office I see dreams come undone. From the day a person asks or answers the question of marriage with a joy-filled heart, the dream begins of joined lives spent aging gracefully together. This dream expands and grows through each passing anniversary. Then one day it disappears with a divorce filing. . .I see men and women, swallowing disappointment, picking themselves up, and taking action to get back up. They move forward despite losing a life dream. Not only that, but they persist in creating new dreams. To me, they are the champions.”
Champions – not failures. That’s a great way to look at yourself if you are going through a divorce. Our friendly, experienced divorce lawyers will help you through the process.
If you would like to speak to one of our family lawyers then please contact us today. We offer a free, 10-minute phone consultation.