This month in America, we see all kinds of stories about freedom and independence. This made me wonder if divorce is actually about freedom or, like the name on my door, transitions in life.
Because, a person can feel free within a marriage, right? And a person can feel caged, too.
Likewise, a single person can feel stunted or yearning, or independent and available. The legal state of a person’s relationship status has nothing to do, really, with freedom.
Maybe it’s a state of mind?
Certainly, in cases of domestic abuse or assault, a person can be in a very real situation where they are denied freedom of identity, movement or thought. In those cases, divorce can be a lifesaver, and a necessity. Every person should have the freedom to determine how they will live and with whom.
Beyond that, though, it’s important to realize that freedom is a choice, a perspective, a belief. We can limit our lives by believing that we don’t have options. Simply separating from a partner does not guarantee that a person will have any more freedom of thought, movement or opportunity than they had before. They must decide to make it so.
Photo by Josh Hild on Unsplash
When a divorce client comes to Transitions Legal, we are careful to explain that they must set realistic expectations for the process ahead. There will be ups and downs, and emotions (plenty of them). Sometimes it will seem like an impossible and endless situation. Sometimes they will feel hurt by the proceedings, and by the person they called partner and love for so many years.
And by the end, most clients feel a mixture of relief, possibility and optimism, but sometimes the hurt and raw emotion continues. It’s not always over when the judge pounds their gavel or the ex-spouses sign the divorce judgment.
To be free of sadness, loneliness, hurt and betrayal is something one works at. It takes time to heal, and sometimes help is needed to get there, fully.
That’s why I think I’m saying that divorce is about transitions (hence our firm name!) and not necessarily freedom and independence. Freedom is something to shoot for and which everyone can attain, but it does not merely come with a divorce.
Americans are waiting longer to marry these days, with some deciding marriage is an antiquated institution that they want no part of according to a Pew Research Study. But that doesn’t stop couples from cohabiting and even having children together.
So, what does that mean for divorce and co-parenting?
Well, obviously, if they’ve never married, going through the legal process of divorce is eliminated, but these parents still face the rigors and questions of co-parenting in two homes and as a result, family law attorneys see plenty of cases with never-married couples who want to legally codify a parenting plan to guide their lifelong responsibilities and ensure financial security for their children.
The divorce rate in America has been steadily falling for some time, but the downward trend of marriage in America isn’t that significant – yet. The 2019 Pew study reported that 58 percent of Americans were married in 1995 and now, it’s 53 percent. The study also revealed that more than three-quarters of young adults today are comfortable with the idea of living with a partner outside of marriage; and it’s not surprising that views about marriage vary according to religious affiliation.
But even with all of these changes in how people are now viewing marriage and parenting, married adults show higher levels of happiness in their relationships, along with more trust, than unmarried cohabiting couples.
Photo by Ramin Talebi on Unsplash
Today, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the divorce rate is 2.3 per 1,000 people. And, more people were married in 2021 than in 1960 – perhaps due to a more robust nationwide population!
A lot of factors influence whether a person is likely to marry, cohabitate or stay single. Regardless, we are definitely in an age when the question of parenting exists outside of and separate from the question of marriage. If children are the future, then isn’t it wise for unmarried parents to commit to protecting their relationships with their children even when they themselves are no longer a couple.
Could this impact where we are in a decade or two from now? Who knows!
This week, the United States inaugurates a new President, with a major change in Administration after a tumultuous election season. There are many reasons why change can be good, and in this blog, I’d like to focus on how the new American presidency might affect divorce, marriage and the way people get along in our nation.
We know that Americans are deeply divided. If the last year showed us anything, it’s that we may all be united by citizenship, but we remain in opposition to one another in ideology, belief, practice, and politics.
Whether America can survive as a functioning democracy remains to be seen. More than 8 million people are excited this week about Joe Biden becoming our next U.S. President. And yet, 7 million people voted to retain Donald Trump for another term.
That’s a big gap.
What lies ahead for our nation depends on whether we can find a way for ALL Americans to believe in the possibility of America once again. Can we come together in shared values and vision?
After the November election, it felt like some of the rampant divisiveness calmed a little. I hope that the Biden Administration gives us time to try to readjust the scales, get back into balance.
Some people who are more progressive, or did not want to retain Donald Trump, but who may not quite be on the Biden bandwagon, may have expectations for what lies ahead. Wherever we stand on the political spectrum, we must be careful to hold realistic expectations for what is possible.
A President is ONE human trying to make decisions on behalf of one of the largest nations in the world, populated by so many varieties of people. It is not an easy job for anyone, and I have yet to see a candidate who speaks and moves for ALL the people.
We’ve debated and discussed, blocked and welcomed. We’ve argued over what is best for our people, what is the way forward.
As a divorce lawyer, I look at the lessons we are beginning to pull from the last year, and the last four years, and the new presidency ahead, and I think, there is advice in all this for marriages and relationships. Here is what I have to offer:
Just like a President can only do so much in the first 100 days of an Administration, so too a relationship can only withstand so much effort and energy in its early days.
We must have realistic expectations for every relationship – and for the humans in those relationships.
We are, as a species, easily disappointed, and easily excited. The healthiest place is to live in between those extremes.
We cannot put all our hope into one person to lead us forward. Whether a President, or a spouse/partner.
That said, we must respect the expertise of our leaders. For a marital relationship, that means take advice from those who’ve endured through decades – don’t think you know better than they do how to make a marriage work! (I’m thinking of all the Dr. Fauci haters who think they know how to handle a pandemic better.)
There is no perfect partner. Only you can strive to be the best you can be and forgive the faults of your partner. (We should remember this when President Biden isn’t perfect. He can’t be. He’s human. He’ll do things we won’t agree with, but that doesn’t make his Administration evil.)
Keep your expectations in check, stay realistic, and remember there is no perfect system.
Whether it’s a marriage or a political position, or the leader of the free world, we’re all doing the best we can. Go into it with this perspective – knowing that there will be disappointments, arguments, and reasons to celebrate.