The Family Editor of the Cleveland Jewish News, Ellen Schur Brown, recently asked me what couples should consider before deciding to divorce. She included some of my comments in an article, “Before Divorcing” that appeared in the CJN. Collectively, the attorneys, rabbi, and marriage and family therapist that Brown interviewed echoed similar refrains: Divorce is no panacea for unhappiness in a marriage. The financial, emotional, and social costs can be staggering, especially when children are involved.
Divorce may be the best solution where irreconcilable differences exist, but extreme care should be taken to safeguard the wellbeing of the children. Obtaining the right kind of professional help, whether a counselor, mediator, or attorney, is important. After considering the toll that divorce may take, many couples renew efforts to resolve their differences and improve their relationship.
For my part, I was reminded of the “good-enough” descriptor that the British psychoanalyst D. W. Winnicott applied to the ordinary, devoted, though imperfect mother. Infants and children don’t require perfect mothers, but a loving, “holding environment” in which to grow. What if there is a corollary to the good-enough mother for marriages – the good-enough marriage? Not perfect, not ideal, but good enough to keep and to work at making better. Successful marriages aren’t made of perfect couples any more than successful children are made of perfect mothers and babies. Divorce lawyers and therapists alike know couples that realized in time that their marriages were good enough, and the price of dismantling them would be too high. In my practice I see these couples, but also individuals and couples for whom too much damage has been done, too little effort has been made, or too little interest remains. Divorce or dissolution is the better path for some, but for others, working at staying together is good enough.