One of the most controversial marital models in The New I Do is no doubt the Parenting Marriage (although some might say the Open Marriage or the Safety Marriage — we’ll let you decide!)
What makes the Parenting Marriage hard to understand for some is that we ask you to choose the best person to co-parent with, not the best romantic partner, soul mate, The One, or the person who is going to “complete” you. You marry someone with the same values and goals about parenting and children, and who is as hand-on dedicated to being the best parent he or she can be. If you want to give your children the love, support and stability they need to thrive, marrying for love is not the way to go. All you have to do is look at the high divorce rate to know that’s true.
Children do not need their parents to love each other. But they absolutely need their parents to not fight with each other. As child psychologist Naeema Jiwani, says, “Compared with conventional parenting where the mother and father have to constantly be ‘in love’ in front of their child, co-parenting doesn’t include the ‘strain’ of marriage.’”
And, as we point out in our book, you can restructure the marriage you are already into a Parenting Marriage. We’ve spoken to couples who have done that, and done it well. And many have done it with Susan’s help.
So this week’s story on Nightline, about San Francisco couple Valerie and Clark Tate, caught our eye (earlier this year, they told their story to the New York Times‘ Unhitched column). They have transformed their marriage into a Parenting Marriage for the sake of their son. Read on:
In front of all their friends and their 10-year-old son, Clark and Valerie Tate came together for a special ceremony on a California beach.
But this couple wasn’t renewing their vows. They were “uncoupling.”
In a new age ritual that might only be found in San Francisco, Clark and Valerie took the wedding rings they exchanged 14 years ago and gave them back to each other.
“These rings do not symbolize who we are to each other anymore,” Clark said.
“So we’re releasing them,” Valerie added.
They no longer consider each other husband and wife, not even romantic partners, but they have decided to continue living together in the same house in order to raise their son Jonah together.
In other words, it might be the most amicable divorce-non-divorce in history.
“We grieved a lot of our relationship so long ago, this is just sort of marking the time,” Valerie said.
Divorce often gets ugly and expensive. Even actress Gwyneth Paltrow and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin decided to “consciously uncouple” earlier this year.
The Tates, who went with their own version of “uncoupling,” believed this was a way to break up their marriage without animosity, but it required an unconventional approach — Clark and Valerie still live together in the same house, with separate bedrooms, and maintain joint assets, but have an open marriage, meaning they date other people.
Interested in learning about ways to re-create your marriage? Read The New I Do: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels (Seal Press, September 2014). Order the book on Amazon, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook. Let’s Occupy Marriage!