As a psychotherapist specialising in divorce and separation, I was really interested to read about the Divorce Hotel in the Netherlands. My initial response was to think that it must be a gimmick. The idea is that two people who are well intentioned enough to want an amicable separation book into the hotel and with the help of a mediator dismantle their joint lives and stay friends in the process. How does this happen, when mediation doesn't always achieve this and when hostility makes it extremely difficult to have a non-contentious divorce?
Firstly, although we can assume that those couples booking into the divorce hotel already have the prospect of success on their side as they are both heading for the same goal, that doesn't answer all of it. In therapy, as in many disciplines, the setting in which an event or a meeting takes place is an integral part of a desired outcome. I can see then, how an ambient environment which is a normalised familiar environment, one which provides good wine, good food and comfortable surroundings will go a long way to facilitating a harmonious outcome. Anything which makes the overwhelming painful event of divorce easier, has to be good, but I can't help but think (mutually desired outcomes aside), that a weekend is insufficient to process and mourn an enormous loss.
Perhaps dealing with the practical side of divorce - the assets and the children, takes away much of the worry and anxiety associated with the break up itself, but it won't take away the overwhelming involuntary emotions, the sleeplessness, the lack of concentration, the inability to think straight, the loss of self-esteem and the feeling of being alone and isolated. The practical aspects of divorce are only a small part of a bigger picture. Getting a legal divorce is one thing, getting an emotional one is entirely another.
I like the idea of the divorce hotel. It can be a place where divorce doesn't need to be synonymous with hostility and acrimony. It can be a place where the couple and all they own is split and they can exit as separate but amicable individuals. My only concern is that on exit as separate individuals, each person takes time to deal with their own personal experience of pain in order to achieve their emotional divorce and see that divorce is not only an end it is also a new beginning. A weekend may be enough time to divorce on paper. It is nowhere near enough time to divorce emotionally.
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