If you’re as selfie-obsessed as so many others seem to be, you might be aware of Chris and Shannon Neuman, the Canadian couple whose smiling selfie outside the court house, where they were about to end their 11-year marriage, went viral. I usually don’t pay too much attention to selfie news, and so I ignored this one for several days — until I stopped to consider why this might matter. And it does.
While somewhat similar to the divorce parties and divorce cakes that began making the news not that long ago, the divorce selfie actually goes further, signifying a shift in divorce just like the conscious uncoupling of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin about a year ago.
A party and cake may be great ways to celebrate one’s newfound freedom post-marriage, but that’s about all they do — they celebrate an individual response to a divorce. If you are divorcing and have kids, however, they might not be as celebratory as their parents are. But a photo of smiling parents who are about to divorce means that instead of feeling bitter, angry and vengeful toward each other, they are honoring the years they had together kindly and acknowledging the years they have ahead — as co-parents in separate homes.
Just look what Shannon Neuman wrote on Facebook next to their photo, er #divorceselfie:
“Are we smiling because the partner we chose for forever turned out not to be the forever partner we needed? Of course not. We’re smiling because we have done something extraordinary (we think anyway!) (The children) will never have to choose. They’ll never have to wonder which side of the auditorium to run to after their Christmas concert or spring play, because we’ll be sitting together. They won’t have to struggle with their own wedding planning because we’ll be sitting on the same side of the aisle — THEIR side.”
“(The children) will never have to choose.”
Because their parents have, wisely, chosen to put their kids front and center even if their romantic partnership has ended. Because kids tie a couple together forever, and fathers, who have historically been demoted to weekend dads, want more time with the kids nowadays — as do their kids. So Mom and Dad need to consider that when they are no longer able to be married. Kids would prefer not to have to deal with their parents’ romantic drama and parents should be able to, as Shannon writes, “respectfully, thoughtfully and honorably” be “parenting partners” for their children.
Parenting partners mean numerous things, from couples that come together, often platonically, for the sole purpose of raising children together, to couples that remain married but remove the romantic and sexual aspects of their marriage in order to lessen the impact on their kids. A parenting marriage makes sense when you consider the cost of divorce, not only financially but also emotionally.
Are we seeing a shift in how we view divorce, especially parents who no longer love each other but love their kids? I hope so. Divorce isn’t always the problem and marriage isn’t always the answer.
One Cleveland family court judge even has a “Wall of Happiness,” filled with photos of happily divorcing couples. “Some of the couples are just so incredibly happy, happier than many of my friends who are married,” Judge Francine Goldberg says. “I always tell couples when they dissolve their marriage, don’t think for one minute that you failed. You built something together, especially if there are children. You have built a family together, a life together.”
“You built something together,
especially if there are children.”
Kids don’t need their parents to love each other to have happy, healthy childhoods. In fact, love-based marriage has the potential to do more damage to kids if that marriage doesn’t work out and the couple ends up continuing conflict post-divorce. No one really wins in that scenario.
So if are about to divorce and think you might want to post a #divorceselfie, fine. But if you have kids, you are going to have to do more than smile as you sign the divorce papers — you’re going to have to “respectfully, thoughtfully and honorably” transform yourselves into “parenting partners.” Then, your kids will be smiling, too.
Interested in having a parenting partnership? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Originally published at omgchronicles.vickilarson.com.