They stood before their friends and family hands tied together with red cords. The official placed her hands on top of theirs....
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to bear witness for our friends. The last time many of us were together in one room was 15 years ago when we last met to bear witness for this couple. We watched as they were joined in matrimony, the two becoming one. We listened to their vows. We congratulated them. Then we drank their liquor and danced the night away. Can I get an Amen?"
And the crowd responds with an Amen and some scattered laughter.
"Today we are gathered again to bear witness."
And with that she started to unwind the cords from their hands.
"We understand that the road they have walked has not been smooth. It was not what they expected when they joined here in front of us so many years ago. When they made their promises. And now they come before us again so that we might witness the one become two once more."
The crowd watched the untying of the cords. The smooth way her hands moved as she talked.
"Many of us refer to a marriage as failing if it does not last forever. I do not agree. These two standing before you had a successful marriage. Not everything is destined to last forever. Some things are made to last for a day. Or a week. A year or 15. But their marriage was a success. They shared their lives, their dreams, their hopes, and then they shared the decision that they wanted to no longer be tied to the dreams of the other."
And with that the officiant held up the now released cords from the couple's hands.
"Some ties are easily undone. However some are not."
And with that the cords were held up to show there were four.
"Much time has been spent over the past few months dividing property, reaching agreements on housing, on names, on time. And this has been no different. Many of you were once here. Making the vows that they will soon be making. Remembering how difficult some were to keep."
Laughter again from the crowd bearing witness
"Four blood vows were made during this marriage. Four times an agreement that cannot be undone was reached. These cords represent half of each of you. The best half. And the best parts of your marriage. The part that lets you know it was a success. And now, though the couple is no longer, the family remains. New promises will be made. Please hold your hands open."
As the couple opened their palms she laid the cords across them.
"Do you vow to remember that these four lives are in your hands?"
"Do you vow to never say something negative about their other parent when the children are in ear shot?"
Laughter again from the crowd
"Do you vow to abide by the parenting agreement laid forth between the two of you before this ceremony?"
"Children please join us."
As the four children joined their parents at the alter they also held out their hands. The cords were wrapped over them as the officiant began speaking again.
"We have spent some time meeting as well. These four and me. We've had a lot of talks about how much this sucks. Because it does. And we've had a lot of talks about how much better this will be for their parents. Because it will. And we've also talked about how they have to resist the temptation to play one parent off of the other. Because that temptation will come, or has already come. Right?"
Four sheepish grins met her stare.
"But mostly we talked about how they are loved. And how this decision does not change that."
And with that the cords were finished. Wrapped around the hands of the children with their parents holding them.
"This vow is a blood vow. This vow does not end at 18, no matter what people will try to tell you. You are tied for life, the six of you. Tied by blood, by bond and most importantly by love.
By the powers vested in me by the State of Oregon I pronounce you a family. You may kiss the children and shake hands with your parenting partner.
And to all of you. Thank you for bearing witness to the end of one chapter and the beginning of the other. The family asks that you join them for a reception, split 50/50 in cost, where you may drink their booze and toast their new futures."
Having reached the age where more friends are divorcing than getting married I've had the talk with a few of them about the end of marriage. And more than one has stated how anticlimactic it all is. That final point where the papers are signed and filed and the marriage is done. There is nothing. No trumpet blast. No shift in feeling. It's just...done. So today as yet another friend goes through it I started thinking and I wondered, what would it look like if we treated the divorce like the marriage?
If we did pre-divorce counseling like pre-marital counseling to iron out the details, like the no bad talking in front of the kids. Huge that one. Trust me if your ex is an ass the kids will figure it out, you don't need to be the one to tell them. And you don't want to be the one to tell them. Because they know who their parent is, and if you are spewing hate in that direction there is a good chance they will wonder if some of that is coming their way as well. Also reaching a parenting agreement. Like no major decision will be made without the other parent. And setting the frame work for reasonable expectations and then no butting in when it's not your night. Like Dad grounds the kids for not doing their homework you can't unground them when they get back to your place. Little things you would do if you were still together, but now need to do the same even if you aren't.
And if there was a ceremony how would it look? I've seen the tying of the cords in a few weddings and I liked the symbology. I thought it would fit in this service to be an untying and then retying in a new formation.
Not sure how many couples could actually do this in a friendly manner, but if we treated a divorce as a change instead of a failure maybe that would make a difference as well. The legalities get handled, alimony, child support, custody arrangements, asset division, but there is no acknowledgment. No shared moment to mark the end of one part of your life and movement on to the next.
And I think we need that in life. We do it with births, with deaths, with marriages, with milestone birthdays and anniversaries. Maybe we need to start doing it with divorce as well.
An un-coupling ceremony.
Just an idea.