So, you’re getting divorced? We feel for you – the breakdown of a marriage can be incredibly painful, even when the split is amicable. And when it isn’t so friendly? Welcome to nightmare city, right? But what about after all the fighting is over, the legal hurdles are cleared, and it’s finally over? Well, then it’s time to move on, and for some, that means taking some time to stew, for others it means working things through in therapy, and for others, it means…party time.
Yup, parties aren’t just reserved for celebrating weddings anymore: they’re also for celebrating what for some is the second best day of their life, the day they are finally divorced. So what do these divorce parties look like, and could throwing one be right for you, to help you move on and celebrate starting a new chapter in your life?
The State of Divorce in the US Today
It’s hard to think of entering into the blissful state of marriage as a risk, but you know what? It is. While divorce rates have been falling for the past few decades (well, until the Covid pandemic hit!), Americans are still more likely to get divorced than people in other parts of the world, with at least 44.2% of married couples calling it quits in 2022.
So who’s statistically most likely to get divorced? People who get married super young are most likely to split up, but surprisingly, those who get married after 35 are more likely than those who get married in their later 20s to get divorced. Your state also seems to matter: according to the US Census Bureau, couples are more likely to get a divorce if they live in Texas, Oklahoma, Nevada, Utah, Arkansas, Kentucky, Alabama, and Mississippi.
And why are we entering Splitsville, population: you? 73% of people said lack of commitment, 56% blamed constant arguing, and 55% cited infidelity as the reason for their marriage failing. And looking at that list – and at other lists that include reasons like abuse, not having shared priorities or a vision of success, or lack of individual identity – can remind us that divorce is not necessarily a bad thing.
Remember, there was a time when divorce carried a huge amount of stigma, and people (especially women) would often remain trapped in marriages that were terrible for them. Now, we have an out, and although it can be costly and time-consuming (as well as painful, especially if there are children involved), divorce can eventually allow us to move on with our lives, if we approach it in the right way.
Why Throw a Divorce Party?
When we say “approach divorce in the right way,” we mean not looking at it like a battle. In fact, you could say that focusing on yourself – your needs, the role you had in the breakdown of the marriage, what you need to move forward – is a far healthier way to deal with divorce than making accusations and getting wrapped up in hating someone you once loved.
And that focus on yourself can include doing something to mark this momentous occasion in your life. In fact, while in our culture we often speak about divorce in hushed terms and tend to feel a bit ashamed about it, in others, they have ceremonies to recognize the transition from married to unmarried. For example, according to The Guardian, “In Judaism, a divorce document called a get is presented from husband to wife, in the presence of rabbis and witnesses, to spiritually dissolve the union. Divorcing couples in Japan smash a wedding ring with a mallet. Members of the North African Beidane ethnic group hold divorce parties to welcome women back into the community and signal to potential suitors that they are available to remarry.”
So why shouldn’t we celebrate the end of an era, too? According to New York-based relationship expert Jane Greer, “It’s a good thing to celebrate your new sense of freedom, autonomy, and identity.” Therapist Ammanda Major agrees that divorce parties can be helpful: “It shows you’re ready to embrace the next stage of your life and talk openly about what happened … [and] celebrate the fact that you took action to end something that wasn’t working for you.”
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
It all sounds very positive and uplifting, right? But, like most things, especially those involving human emotion, there can be an ugly side. For example, it might sound cute and lighthearted to feature, as some people do, pinatas with the ex’s face on them, or melons carved to look like the ex that guests can angrily throw, but using your party to bash your ex is not really the mature way to celebrate moving on. Things can also escalate, with people burning wedding clothes, or even the bed they slept in while married, which is obviously not helpful OR safe.
And some parties get even uglier, and downright hurtful. One woman, for example, told The Guardian that her ex planned a party at her local hangout, invited all their friends – who he was actively trying to turn against her – and even left the guest list and party planning info in plain sight for her to find. He had intended to hurt her by doing all of these things, and that is 100% NOT the way that a divorce should be “celebrated.”
How to Celebrate Your Divorce the Healthy Way
So how can you celebrate your divorce the healthy way? Well, as we pointed out above, you should try to focus on yourself during the divorce process, so you should also make any party you choose to have a time about you and your support network, and a celebration of your life moving forward. So, if you do think a divorce party might be right for you, think about the following tips for making it a healthy and happy one:
Make sure you’re in the right frame of mind
It’s no use celebrating a new beginning if you’re just not feeling it. Again according to Greer, “If you’re feeling awkward… and you’re feeling a disconnect with your identity, then it’s too soon.” With that being said, though, she does suggest that, if you want a divorce party, you throw one within a month of your split becoming official. “If you’re going to make it a rite of passage, that’s when your new identity is still kind of fresh,” she says, “and you want that to be a marker to your friends.”
In addition, if the reasons for ending your marriage included harassment or abuse, a cocktail party to celebrate the end might not feel like it carries the appropriate amount of seriousness, and could just add to the feelings of devastation.
Take other’s feelings into account
While your feelings about the event are the most important things, you still have to be tactful and take into account how throwing a big bash after your breakup might affect others. Greer explained to HuffPost: “So many times, couples share the same people in common, from friends to family. Your friends and family don’t necessarily have that same sense of freedom. They [may] want to maintain contact with your partner. They might feel uncomfortable being there and betraying the other person. You might feel betrayed if you invited them to celebrate with you and they decline the invitation. You have to really have a mindfulness around it in terms of who you’re inviting to the party, and what their choice to show up or not actually means.”
Be sensitive if children are involved
If you and your ex share children, you definitely have to tread lightly when it comes to celebrating your split. You can still enjoy a divorce party, but you don’t have to go into all the gory details. As Greer says, “I would be discreet about the nature of the party, what it’s actually about, and maybe just say, ’I’m having a party with my friends to celebrate this new chapter going forward now that your dad [or mom] and I are officially divorced.”
Choose healthy activities
We’re not telling you what to do, BUT maybe throwing darts at a picture of your ex’s face isn’t the healthiest thing to do at your party. Better alternatives would be, again, to focus on yourself and talk about your future goals and the fun things you’re going to do, like travel. Sound a little too ho-hum? There’s nothing that says you can’t have a witty cake, and a rocking dance party to let off steam. But most importantly, use the time to celebrate not only your new journey, but the people who are there to support and love you.
Consider alternatives if a party isn’t right for you
There’s also nothing that says your “celebration” of your divorce has to be a party. If that doesn’t feel right to you, consider taking a trip to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, or joining a club or a group activity that you’ve always thought about. Just make sure it’s something that feels new to you, so you can mark this new chapter in your life.
Ok, divorce sucks, we’re not going to lie. But hey, when it’s done, it’s done. And it’s up to you what route you take and how you start your new journey. If that includes dancing the night away while eating a “Happily Divorced” red velvet cake, more power to you. And if it doesn’t, you’ll find another way to move forward – we know you will.