Amicable divorces?

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by HARVEY YODER

Sad looking siblings with their arguing parents behind them

No one goes into marriage expecting a divorce, so how can you deal with the disagreements and issues that arise? ©Adobe Stock

In the introduction to his book “Helping Your Kids Cope With Divorce the Sandcastles Way,” M. Gary Neuman opens with, “Why do couples divorce? Usually because one or both partners believe that ending the marriage will free them to create happier, emotionally healthy lives for themselves and their children.”

After that optimistic assessment, Neuman goes on to explain if parents handle their divorce in a mature and respectful way their children will do just fine. In other words, he’s suggesting it need be no more traumatic than, say, a damaging house fire or a cross country move.

But is this usually the case?

Thankfully, many children of divorce do manage to recover well in spite of the dismantling of their household as they have known it. But in reality, amicable divorces may result in even greater distress for children than the angry ones, the ones where they regularly witness outrageous and awful behavior on the part of one or both of their parents.

Why? Because in those circumstances, or when they witness ongoing adultery, addiction or abuse, children clearly understand the reason for the divorce and may even feel real relief when it happens.

But when two otherwise loving, supportive parents call it quits and then try explaining how they are going to have a nice, friendly parting of their ways, children are confused. Why can’t these nice people just work things out, just as they expect their kids to do when they’re not getting along?

Many children of divorce do manage to recover well in spite of the dismantling of their household as they have known it.

Nevertheless, for better or for worse, 612 couples in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County decided to call it quits last year. This represents a dramatic increase over the next highest annual number, 484, in 2013.

Meanwhile, the number of marriage licenses issued last year was 985, fewer than the high of 1003 reached in 2001, when our population was lower than it is today. Some of that is because more and more couples are choosing to be in “undocumented” marriages, relationships that often are as bonded, inclusive and intimate as the legal ones, just without the benefit of the license and a formal ceremony. And when those experience an emotional “divorce,” the partners and children involved are equally devastated.

But this isn’t just about numbers. Assuming local divorces involve an average of one child each, that’s over 600 of our young whose lives will never be the same, to say nothing of the hundreds of parents, grandparents, friends and neighbors also affected.

P.S. I will be leading what may be a final four-session Marriage Maintenance Class at the Family Life Resource Center from 7-8:30 each Monday evening in April. Rather than charging a fee, each attending couple will be encouraged to make a generous tax-deductible donation to FLRC.

Harvey Yoder is a family counselor and teaches parenting and marriage classes at the Family Life Resource Center. Questions relating to family concerns can be addressed to FLRC, 273 Newman Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22801 or to Harvey@flrc.org. His blog can be followed at harvyoder.blogspot.com.

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