Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Divorce Ceremony...

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.


SparkleFarkel said...

I wish I was Japanese. *sad sigh* Life would truly be easier. Especially today. Especially the past 31 years...

Journey said...

What an interesting and civil concept! Having gone through a not-so-nice divorce, I think it's a wonderful idea!!!

Nerissa said...

really interesting culture......

Linda Myers said...

Good idea, the ceremony. Nearly everyone I talk to who got divorced says their spouse was a jerk. That's probably not how they felt about it in the beginning.

I wonder how the Japanese handle the splitting of money and kids.

The Bug said...

I'd say you're right about happy marriages & compromise - but as a happily married person I would say that if the desire to be with the person, the love you feel for them, and the desire you have to continue being with & loving the person outweigh the negative aspects of compromise, then it's a winning situation. I look at an compromises I've made & think, hmmm - harmonious marriage, or control of the clicker - it's a no brainer for me. But then I don't really like to watch TV anyway :) Of course, I haven't had to compromise my values or (lack of) desire for children, or anything really important, so that definitely makes a difference!

Leslie: said...

Great idea! I realize how much I like my freedom and probably would never go back.

Cloudia said...


Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral


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PinkPanthress said...

The are two big mistake, imho, why marriages fail most of the time.
First, most peopl marry too young and/or too early.
Second, others tell us that it is the right way to do so, so they marry.

I do not understand why people have such hard times to divorce, that they need ceremonies for that, too.

Whitney Lee said...

Well, divorce is certainly as life altering as marriage so it makes sense to acknowledge it. Of course, most of the divorced couples I know couldn't have spent that much time around one another in a civil fashion...


Oh my, Jo -- you know I'm on my sixth and final marriage (whew).

I must say we were fortunate. I went to my first husband's second marriage ceremony; we were good enough friends to END the marriage but keep the respect and we had 2 children together.

My second marriage - we had two children; again, I attended his second marriage as did MY FIRST HUSBAND AND HIS NEW WIFE - we made it a real 'family affair'.

My third husband - wonderful to the 1st and 2nd - still friends; I'm friends with his wife - we live 2600 miles from each other, but stop in to see them when we visit my daughter who still lives about 30 miles from he and his wife and two children.

The 4th husband - again, no children but we remained friends - still visit on occasion, but his new wife doesn't feel as comfortable, so we keep it minimal.

The 5th husband - well he nearly killed me when he beat me up a few times; so, off to jail - nope, that one was very ugly and frightening!

My 6th husband has met my 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th husbands as well as briefly, my 5th - just before he was sent to jail back in 1993.

I dated my 6th husband for 7 years; we've been married 11 years - finally we have 'connected' with each other (he has one failed marriage), and we believe that while the marriage might have failed, the friendship doesn't have to. So, I see his first wife on family gatherings - we see my former husbands as the family also meet for reunions.

The divorce ceremony was an easy thing for me except on the 5th marriage; we were all civil - we all wanted either a good marriage or no marriage at all. So, I've had good marriages; good divorces (except one), and now have good friends.

So, if the shoes doesn't fit, say good-bye politely and find one that one likes sore feet!!

Auntie sezzzzzz... said...

If you were *squeezing into someone else's shoes,* I'm glad you left!!!

Is any marriage perfect? No.

Are any marriage partners HAPPY, every day? No.

Are all marriages made up of lots of compromises, along the way? Yes.

Are some people glad, after going on 53 years, that they are still together? Yes. :-) Not jumping-up-and-down-with-glee happy. But... happy. Content. Damn glad to still have each other. :-)


myletterstoemily said...

that is a sensible custom, but the smashing
of the ring is also a vibrant word picture
of the death you describe so well.

i'm glad you are happier and hope that
someday you will meet someone who
lets your feet wiggle around a bit.

DJan said...

I am on my fourth and final marriage, and I would have LOVED to have a divorce ceremony. All of my previous husbands happen to have died by now, but not while I was married to any of them! :-)

My current marriage has more "room" in it than any other previous ones. We live our lives separate and apart, and it works for us.

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Wow. I am an avid student of ancient Japanese culture, but have never heard of this modern custom. It's wonderful! I have always thought there should be a ceremony to lay a dead marriage to rest with dignity.

joanne said...

that is a remarkable idea. It seems so civilized to have an ending ceremony and leave all the bad feeling in one place.
Did you leave your unhappy marriage before his untimely accident? just curious.

Travelingrant said...

Interestingly enough, divorce itself is a rather new thing in Japan. A lot (though certainly far from all) of Japanese marriages are sadly rather loveless. Which is why there are so many affairs and trips to hostess bars. For those who don't know, a hostess bar is a place where men can go for female companionship. Not sex, but rather jokes, conversation and banter. How dry does your home life have to be to where you must pay a woman to converse with you? Culturally the Japanese love to endure what must be endured. You will often hear people say shogunai, "it can't be helped." However, things are starting to change in the love and marriage realm. Divorce is on the rise, hence the new ceremony!

Katy said...

An interesting and timely post for me I must say. Though, I will add that I wouldn't want to live in Japanesse culture. As a people they are motivated by what they MUST do, not by what they actually want to do or even what is logical.

Still - I've been wondering lately if I'm even meant to be married. I seem to be far to independante for most men's tastes.

Paula said...

Most of these comments made me profoundly sad. This blog seems to be visited primarily by divorcees and serial divorcees. It made me even more grateful that nearly 39 years ago I married my best friend and that we're still best friends. We've been through many a crisis; our home life is our refuge. Twice I have waited in a hospital to know if my husband would live or die; I cannot comprehend feeling the way most of you seem to feel.....

lovelyprism said...

I like that! I don't know if I can get Father of the Year to participate, but maybe I'll do it myself with a friend!

Unknown said...

I never knew this culture in Japan , I wish this is adopted across the world because the couple divorcing is very exhausting process and a good Lady matrimonial Lawyer can thus ease the process. Thank you for sharing this wonderful article.