Handparting isn’t a breaking

In some relationships, divorce (Paganese: “handparting”) is the best option, and for all those who say “But what about the children?!?” I would like to give my personal response: “I only wish my parents had gotten divorced sooner.”

Echidne wrote recently about how people who argue in vague generalities that divorce is bad for children are seldom honest about what alternatives they have in mind. Many of us know from personal experience that some relationships can’t be fixed; do the anti-divorce crowd really think that it’ll be better for children to see their parents angry all the time and fighting all the time? Or worse, that it’s a good idea for children to grow up seeing a marriage that is essentially a loveless, cold, meaningless contract to be endured – for the sake of the child? What do they think children are going to learn about themselves and their potential futures in those situations?

After my parents divorced, my mother and I went to a Presbyterian church for a while. This was 20 years ago, and in less urban areas, divorce was still relatively uncommon and regarded as always a disaster, especially for the children. The church organized a special youth group event for all the kids whose parents had divorced. They sat us all down in a circle and announced that they thought that since we all came from “broken homes,” we might want to talk about that with them and with each other.

We all looked at each other blankly for a minute, and then I spoke up: “I don’t come from a broken home. My home was ‘broken’ when my parents lived together, because they didn’t love each other any more and they couldn’t stop fighting. That was broken. Them getting divorced fixed that. My home now is not broken.”

Several other kids chimed in to agree with me, and the meeting broke up quickly. The youth group never organized another event like that.

As I look back on this, it makes me even more glad that Paganism not only recognizes and sanctifies “non-traditional” love relationships (marriage equality, polyamory, etc.) but that in general Paganism tends to acknowledge that relationships are living things: they develop, they grow, and sometimes, they die. When things die, we acknowledge that. We accept it, although not necessarily joyfully, and we act accordingly.

I love that the Pagan term for undoing a handfasting doesn’t imply that something is “broken.” It’s not easy, and sometimes it’s very acrimonious, but handparting isn’t necessarily a breaking; it can be the start of healing and renewed life, too.

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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