“We are gathered here today to witness the union of these two individuals …” or so starts a wedding ceremony. It is one of the big milestones in the lives of the couples getting hitched. It is a start of a new chapter in their lives. It brings them closer together and helps them build a new life together. But when that bond breaks and the couple no longer wants to be married, then there’s only one option left – divorce.
But not quite.
Earlier this year, when actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s marriage to rocker and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin broke down, the couple chose to go for a ‘conscious uncoupling,’ rather than go through with a messy and often expensive divorce. And apparently, the trend is catching on.
Recently, a couple from California, Clark and Valerie Tate, decided to call it quits by holding an ‘uncoupling’ ceremony on a beach. All their friends and their ten-year-old son, Jonah, were the attendees of this unique ceremony. The couple took off their wedding bands they had exchanged 14 years ago, and gave them back to each other.
Clark said, “These rings do not symbolize who we are to each other anymore.”
To which Valerie added, “So we’re releasing them.”
Although they are still legally married, they no longer consider each other husband and wife, not even romantic partners. They will continue to live together in the same house in different bedrooms, and share assets, so that they can raise their son together.
Of the uncoupling ceremony, Valerie said, “We grieved a lot of our relationship so long ago, this is just sort of marking the time.”
Apparently, the couple had been going through problems since 2007, but divorce was never on the table for them. For Clark, this is his third marriage, and he didn’t want to go through divorce once again. And he admits that a fourth marriage isn’t on the cards for him. But for Valerie, this was her first time walking down the aisle.
“I’ve been through that road before, and I knew the other side of it. I knew that wasn’t exactly what I wanted,” said Clark.
And she hasn’t ruled out another marriage. In fact, she is in a relationship with another man named Joseph.
While Valerie said, “We weren’t considering really changing the structure of our family unit.”
The ‘uncoupled’ couple believed that this was a way to be divorced, without actually being divorced. They wanted to avoid any animosity between them so that they can keep their family unit a whole, without ripping it apart. And that means they have a kind of open marriage, with both of them dating other people.
“We started talking about the possibility of dating other people,” said Valerie.
To which Clark said, “I remember hearing it, initially being shocked. And then being like, well, that sounds interesting to me, too.”
According to Valerie, their marriage was “magical,” and that there was “so much love, so much beauty” in their relationship. For the first few years, the couple said they were living in love, but then as time went by, the spark, the intimacy started to fade.
About their open marriage, the couple admits that it has been an experiment. Although their particular arrangement may seem weird to many people, they have been trying to work it out with unwritten dating rules.
“We give each other private time,” Valerie said. “Maybe Jonah and Clark are out of the house, or vice versa. But most of it is, private time spent elsewhere.”
But the most important rule the Tates have set for themselves is that they only introduce serious partners to their son, Jonah. But to an outsider, there is still room for awkward and baffling moments.
Clark admitted that it has been hard to describe his non-traditional marriage to potential dates. “The biggest hurdle being that women have is they can’t see where they fit into my world, and they don’t understand how I can still be close with Val and close with them,” he said.
Of the way forward, Clark said, “I think we’re through the tough stuff, which was questioning jealousy and insecurity and what happens and who we are, and what is this?”
“The unknowns,” added Valerie.
Whether their ‘uncoupling’ works or not, this is one trend which is sure to catch the imagination of couples who are going through a rough patch but can’t afford to go through a divorce.
Featured image source: Google, copyright-free image under Creative Commons License