Virginia Ironside's Dilemmas: Should I have a divorce party?

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Dear Virginia,

I've got my decree nisi and I'm finally free of a marriage that has been – apart from a happy few years at first – increasingly stressful. My husband started drinking and his behaviour has driven me to near-breakdown. Finally I'm free – and I'm thinking of giving a party. One of my friends has suggested making it a "divorce party" – she says everyone's doing it. I've never heard of such a thing. Do you think it's a good idea?

Yours Sincerely, Dinah

If your child died, would you have a party? If you lost your job, would you celebrate? If your house burnt down, would you mark the event with a disco evening? I think not. So why your friend, unless she's been watching too many American soaps, would dream of suggesting something as repulsive as a "divorce party" is beyond me.

The truth is there is never such a thing as a "good divorce." Even if you're partner turned into a cruel dictator with psychotic tendencies, you could never call a divorce "good". Because a divorce isn't a person, it's the end of a contract, marriage, that was originally made with love, respect, kindness and attraction, a contract that was intended to last, lovingly, for the rest of your life.

Even Dinah admits that to start with, her marriage was happy for a few years. So she knows what the relationship could have been like. The fact that it failed could never be something to celebrate, only something to mourn.

And I wonder if you have any children? How would they feel about hearing that their mother was actually drinking and cheering on being separated from their father, someone who, whether they like him or not, has the genes which make up half their identity? And would her friends really want to come or, if they did, would they really feel comfortable? No doubt they have witnessed your husband's descent into alcoholism, but I bet some of them never felt the pain he inflicted on you, and many may have seen a charming and sweet or social side that he'd kept hidden from you for years. Some, who knows, may wish to continue being friends with him now he's separated from you.

It doesn't sound to me, anyway, as if you're really the sort of person who'd relish a divorce party, however thrilled you are to be rid of a man who sounds, poor ghastly wretch, as if there's not much hope for. There is nothing to relish in the collapse of a dream. It's your friend who perhaps herself has never known the misery of marital breakdown who's suggested this bitter and empty gesture. But don't take her advice or you'll be marked as the sort of person who gloats when disaster happens and when friendships fail.

When I broke up with someone I'd come to detest after a year-long relationship I cut off all my hair into a bob, and had a party. But it wasn't to celebrate the death of what had originally been a loving romance. It was to cheer myself up during a time of mourning.

To have a divorce party is like celebrating a miscarriage. It is insensitive and heartless. If she really wanted to connect the party to her divorce, Dinah could still have her friends around for a dance and a drink. But don't call it a party. Have the decency and honesty to call it what it is – a wake.

Readers say...

Focus on the positive

You've been through a really tough time and prevailed. Please don't celebrate such a negative thing – I'm sure your divorce was forced on you by horrible circumstances.

Instead, celebrate your personal strength or the love of your friends that helped you through and celebrate the future. It might not trip off the tongue as well as throwing a "divorce party", but it would be celebrating something positive not something that, however happy you are that it's over, is a negative.

Katie

By email

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Change the emphasis

Why not change the emphasis to a celebration of an exciting new beginning rather than dwelling on the divorce? A party is a great way of acknowledging the endless support (as well as meals and possibly somewhere to stay!) that your friends and family have undoubtedly provided over the last few months.

Alternatively, you could consider taking a smaller group of close friends out for dinner if the party idea does not appeal to you. In my experience, marking the end of the divorce drew a line under one of the most difficult times of my life and helped enormously with process of moving on.

Oh, and buy some fabulous new shoes to mark the occasion!

Helen Blackhurst

By email

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Don't celebrate divorce

It is a horrible idea. It is as if you were saying a whole big chunk of your life had been a mistake and you were putting it out of your thoughts forever. That nothing was ever good about it. Some of it was good, wasn't it? And that husband of yours, from whom you are now divorced, would he be invited? Of course he wouldn't.

It's nasty to think of people who came to your wedding coming along and saying how they always knew he was horrible and wrong for you. All your loyal friends, in other words. Give a party by all means, a Christmas or New Year party. A fancy dress party even. Always good fun. But not a party to celebrate a divorce. Think positive.

Helen Rogers,

London, NW3

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You should go for it

Dinah, of course you should have a big party for all your friends to celebrate your freedom.

I knew a young woman some years ago, who, upon her divorce, not only had a party, but placed a "Just Divorced" notice in the back window of her car, surrounded it with white ribbons and flowers, and drove around with it for about a week. Go for it. Mr. N.

F. Edwards

Great Hale, Lincs

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It's your decision

You've spent goodness knows how long living with someone who, presumably, has stopped you doing what you wanted to do. Now you're free, you're worrying about whether or not to go for the "divorce party" your friend has suggested. Dinah, what do YOU want to do?

It doesn't matter what anyone else thinks – if you fancy the idea of celebrating throwing off the shackles of your marriage with a big hurrah, do it. If you think having a "just not married" party is a bit tacky, invite some friends over just to have a fun night of catching up now that you're moving on in your life. Now's the time to do what you want to do, whatever it is.

Bonnie Lee

Hastings, East Sussex

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