The Japanese have an interesting culture ~~ very different from ours. In many ways, it's pragmatic, minimalistic and rather sensible. When things go wrong in their lives, they learn to cope in practical ways, and they don't seem to be encumbered with the emotional baggage that we in the West carry with us. Many of the decisions we make are impeded with feelings of guilt, responsibility, duty, the desire for a lifestyle that we are told we should want, when in fact many of us don't want it. You know the drill ~~ marriage, a house, two cars, 2.5 children, all the best appliances ~~ a guilded nest. The nest becomes our life and then for some of us it becomes our prison.
When I was married, I was not happy being married. To me, it felt as if I were trying to squeeze my feet into someone else's shoes. They were painful, and they did not fit. I admire people who have happy and successful marriages, but I often look at them and wonder, "Are they really, honestly happy, or have they made a huge compromise?"
According to a recent article in The Huffington Post, 50% of all marriages fail. Of the 50% that remain, 25% of those are unhappy, leaving 25% as satisfactory. That means, three-quarters of all the married folks out there would rather be somewhere else. Somehow, that doesn't surprise me. The author of the article suggests, "Specifically, take an honest look at your marriage as it exists today. With your partner, confront whether you want it to continue. That is, your aim is to clarify whether you want to stay with this person for the rest of your life." It takes a lot of courage to walk away.
The Japanese have an answer for that ~~ a divorce ceremony. The inventor of the ceremony, Hiroki Terai explains, “I started this ceremony...thinking that there should be a positive way to end a marriage and move on by making a vow to restart (a couple’s) lives in front of loved ones.” Terai officiates the ritual. He thanks the witnesses for coming, explains how the couple has grown apart, and acknowledges that it is time for the husband and wife to say farewell. Then, the couple continues to act out the end of the marriage.
•While jointly holding a hammer, the husband and wife pound the wife's wedding ring until it is beyond repair.
•There is a divorce reception after the ring-smashing ceremony, where the couple sits back-to-back at separate tables.
•After the large feast or small meal, the couple thanks their friends for coming and says farewell to each other.
•Each spouse bows toward the other and walks off to begin his or her separate life.
A divorce is like a death. There is a certain amount of grieving that needs to take place, and then folks need to move on. What better way to do it than with a ceremony finalizing that chapter of their lives? We all want to believe in the "dream", but for some people it just doesn't work, and no one should be made to feel guilty. Trust the Japanese to come up with a civilized solution.