Julia is 7 years old and is experiencing her parents’ separation. I followed the couple’s process for over a year, holding hands, organizing feelings, looking for solutions to what we called a ‘disconnection’ between them. Not that there wasn’t emotional intimacy, some hot sex, and great leisure times shared between them. But also the problems of coexistence, the differences, the individual needs opened a fissure in the dynamics of the couple.
They honor more than anything the love story, which we revisited from the beginning understanding what each one felt and the expectations they projected on each other. But something had been lost, which we were not able to revive with the intensity necessary for the couple to decide to “remarry”. The separation came with a lot of pain, but also as a possibility to end the anguish.
Carefully, they warned Julia about the possibility of separation. They began to have individual moments with her, and others as a family, until the day came to explain that from that moment on, her parents didn’t date anymore. She seemed to understand.
A few days later, Julia was with her father, at home, and decided to have a celebration for the separation. They invited the mother to join them. She and her father took care of the decoration that she insisted on doing, with colored shredded paper, decorating the room.
As is usual for him – and as is usual at this age – he decided to elaborate the situation in the most playful way possible. Microphone in hand for the speeches, he stayed there, like a kind of master of ceremonies, indicating that each one should say what he liked about the other person, in the background so that she herself could hear how much father and mother admired each other, how much learned on their journey together – how much they loved each other and still loved each other, but in a different way now.
She asked for a song for each one, in order to immortalize this meeting and then suggested the dance, which, according to her, she had to have. Weddings happen that way, nothing fairer that divorces also have their triumphant celebration. In the end, they ate the muffins she had made with her father, simulating the cake, and then went on to get on with their lives.
Rituals help us to concretize symbolic meanings, and it is interesting how music, scenes and certain objects become depositories of many senses. The loves of our lives leave memories in clothes, rings, photographs, napkins written on bar tables. Ruptures are always painful and take time to heal.
The Museum of Broken Relationships (Museum of broken relationships) in Croatia, for example, emerged to provide a destination and favor the elaboration of emotional pain, receiving donations of objects from people from all over the world – who tell a ‘piece’ of a love story.
In the collection, straight from Slovenia, there is a garden dwarf, who flew in the (ex)husband’s new car, on the day of the divorce; the tickets for the 1968 Olympics in Mexico, immortalizing the first meeting of a couple; the wedding dress that never took place, as her (future) husband died in a terrorist attack days before in Turkey. There’s the compass – a romantic promise to keep the path together – for some time later, “without ceremony” the giver says “No more”. She has crocheted coasters, a treat her mother made for her Syrian daughter when she got married and lived far away; the handkerchief of the mother-in-law with Alzheimer’s, so that the daughter-in-law could dry her tears after one last lucid conversation.
It is infinitely delicate to perceive people’s narratives about such emblematic moments in their affective lives. In fact, I always tell my patients that, even if there is pain, disappointment, heartache, betrayal, it is necessary to make a positive narrative about the history we live with someone – or at least about the decision to separate.
The alliance has to be with life and not with death, with the possibility of having pleasure in the future and not with the excruciating pain of what has been lost. I know it sometimes takes time, but like everything else in life, it’s a process and even anger, if well channeled, can mobilize self-esteem reinforcement and ego protection. It’s time to lick the wounds.
Julia, barely learned to read and already has an ancient wisdom. Of course, after a few days of the divorce ceremony, she threw a tantrum and showed all her indignation at her parents’ separation. And so, probably, she will alternate between peace and war, stormy days and sunny days, just like her parents.
It’s a process, dear Julia, a process. Be patient with yourself and receive my best vibes. Thank you for helping me in this scene you set up for you; with all my psychology, I couldn’t have done better.