No Blame No Shame. Why removing the blame is a crucial for having a good experience of divorce
Updated: Apr 7
The ‘No-fault Divorce’ comes into effect in England and Wales today, 6 April 2022. Under the new laws, couples will be able to get divorced solely on the basis that the marriage has broken down, without needing to cite one of the five reasons for divorce , which included adultery or unreasonable behaviour, as was previously required.
I hope this will substantially improve the quality of people’s experience of divorce. The concept that ending a marriage is somehow dishonourable is long past its sell by date and so removing blame from the legal process frees people up to make conscious choices about their future with less judgement.
Whilst caught up in the pain of an unhappy marriage, most couples are seldom in a fit state to decide whether divorce is the right things for them, and it’s a decision of great magnitude with long lasting and sometimes irrevocable consequences. Whether or not it is legally blame-free it’s in every individual's interests to make peace with their partners as a condition for making a good decision about whether to separate or re commit.
Much depends on how well the divorcing couple manage their relationship beyond the legal aspect, but removing blame from the formal part of the process, at least, will help children because there won’t be a formal guilty party. As children we are deeply loyal to both our parents - as a condition of our survival - and if our parents are conflicted we experience it as conflict within ourselves. Taking blame out of the legal process won’t guarantee there’s not blame in the personal arena but it’s a start.
Although divorce brings closure for the financial and material parts of the relationship it is not a substitute for emotional closure which will only come when both parties have made peace with each other and have grieved the end of their dream, so can move on. Anyone who didn't marry casually will feel the grief intensely. This emotional element needs the same support in its way, as the legal process. Beyond lawyers and mediators there’s a very important place for relationship coaches and therapists. We all know what a bad goodbye looks like and good goodbye is worth the investment.
As Bert Hellinger said in his book ‘Loves Hidden Symmetry’: "When separation doesn’t go well, there’s often a tendency to look for someone to blame. Those involved try to get out from under the weight of their fate by blaming someone else. As a rule, a marriage doesn’t end because one partner is at fault and the other is blameless, but because one or the other is entangled in the unresolved issues of his or her family of origin."
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