So now you’ve made it through the crud of divorce. You and your spouse have finished your negotiations with each other, and the divorce decree is final or at least in the works. What’s the natural thing to do? Throw a party, of course.
When to do it
I don’t need to tell you this, because you know. The whole idea of a divorce party is that it’s a rite of passage — a way of erecting a big bright sign for yourself and your friends to say “It’s over. That part of my life is behind me now.” So you obviously want to wait to have your party until it really is over.
Besides, you’re in no mood to party until you know what your divorce decree is going to say. So that means you wouldn’t want to have a party (at least not to celebrate your divorce) until after the settlement agreement is signed. I don’t think it matters as much whether the judge has actually signed your divorce decree, but it’s nice to be able to show off the decree at the party, so that may be reason enough to wait. If the settlement agreement is already signed, you probably don’t have too long to wait anyway.
If you’ve ever been a drinker, you’re likely to end up getting drunk at your divorce party. Don’t ask me why; you just are. So that means you want to plan your divorce party when your kids are with the ex (or someone else), when you don’t have anything important you need to do the next morning, and when you have someone whose judgment you trust who will stay with you throughout the party and make sure you get home safely (preferably without anyone of the opposite sex to accompany you).
Whom to invite
People who have been through divorce are usually the best guests to invite to your divorce party. Your divorce lawyer will probably appreciate being invited but probably won’t come. Most women I know invite only other women, and most men I know (who are far less likely to throw divorce parties) invite both genders. Because of the probability you’re going to get stupid, you probably should avoid inviting anyone from your workplace or others whose impression of you would change if they see you in a (ahem) state.
Unless you and your spouse are really cooperative, your divorce party is no place for your children, even if they’re adult children. Your children need to maintain as good a relationship as possible with both their parents, and inviting them to your divorce party is unlikely to help.
I’m going to scare many of you when I say this, but you shouldn’t think it heretical to invite your STBX. For many of you, the whole idea of this is to celebrate not being with your spouse, and if so, you shouldn’t consider inviting your STBX. But knowing as I do that most couples who divorce don’t hate their spouse, I understand that far more divorcing spouses get along with their STBX than the culture realizes. If you and your STBX still have friends and interests in common and would enjoy spending the evening together, by all means throw a party together.
Alison and Johnny were one of the many thoroughly cooperative couples who used me to prepare the papers for their uncontested divorce. Johnny was in treatment for his alcoholism and wasn’t drinking, but the damage to their relationship was too deep and too painful for both of them. Reluctantly, they decided to divorce. Having seen some of their friends fight each other to claim sole custody of one friend after another, Alison and Johnny wanted to make sure that didn’t happen with them.
They agreed on a Saturday afternoon when both of them would be at the house, and they invited their friends to drop by and visit. Because of the obvious baggage attached, they opted not to serve any alcohol. It was a pleasant afternoon, with lots of stories and laughter, a few tears, and mostly a lot of sighs of relief from their friends, who actually came to understand that they could remain friends with both of them.
Alison and Johnny didn’t have as many people come to the party as they had originally thought. They invited 100 or so, and only 18 people actually made it to their house. Even so, they’re proud of the way they went about this. As they figure it, even those people who didn’t come got a clear message from their invitation that it was okay to stay friends with both of them.
What to do
What you do at your divorce party depends on how you feel about the divorce, whom you invite, and just how impaired you get. Here are some of the things I think make sense at divorce parties:
- Stupid cards, balloons, and signs
- Obscenely decorated cakes. My favorite so far (at a female only party, of course) was the anatomically correct testicles and teeny tiny phallus. The climax of the party was the ceremonial cutting off and flushing down the toilet of the tiny phallus, followed by cutting up and enjoying the balls. I can’t imagine why a man should find that funny, but I do.
- Lots and lots of stories
- A reasonable amount of alcohol consumption
- Watching First Wives Club (or Le Divorce, or War of the Roses, or Waiting to Exhale) on TV
- Burning of the marriage license
- While we’re on a burning theme, consider writing down all the terrible things your spouse did to you during the marriage and burning them. You might consider having everyone else write down something they want to shed too
- Divorce songs
Now forgive me for playing daddy, but there are a few things I hope you won’t do at your divorce party:
- Allow your friends to go pick persons of the opposite sex and bring them to you in some real or imagined beauty contest to get you interested in them. Your divorce party should be about your becoming independent, not about your hooking up in a sordid one-night stand with somebody else. If you need sex, go masturbate. Trust me: you’ll love yourself in the morning.
- Do anything that inflicts harm or embarrassment on your STBX. This is about your healing, not about hurting someone else.
- Allow anyone to record or videotape what goes on. If you’re like most people who are going through divorce, you feel more anger now than you will later, and you are almost certain to say and do things you will want not to be reminded about a year (or 10 years) from now. ‘Nuff said?
- Burning of the photos from your wedding or the love letters you wrote to each other. They may not mean anything to you, but if your marriage produced children, those pictures and love letters will mean something one day to your children.
Now go have a good time. You’ve earned it.