On the day of their divorce, Shannon and Chris Neuman from Canada decided to upload a "Divorce Selfie" – a photo they took of themselves in front of the court house right after receiving their fresh printed divorce papers. The casual photo went viral within that week, with over 37,000 shares.
In a post Shannon shared to Facebook, she wrote, " We're smiling because we have done something extraordinary (we think anyway!) We have respectfully, thoughtfully and honorably ended our marriage in a way that will allow us to go forward as parenting partners for our children."
This might sound like a rare case, a divorce which ends well, but there are quite a few similar photos under the hashtags, #divorceselfies and #divorceselfie on instagram, and you would be surprised to find out that even in our tiny country, there are quite a few couples who have uploaded a smiling selfie taken on the steps of the rabbinical court. I spoke to two of them in order to understand how they reached the ideal stage of finishing divorce proceedings with a smile, in light of the difficulties.
'The distance helped'
Sharon Inbar, an actress from Tel Aviv, and her ex-husband Dave Zlutnik, were married for two years before getting divorced last year. Dave recalled: "we met at a wine tasting that was hosted by a friend of mine. I got her number and from here to there we were together for two years, one year of which we were engaged. After a one-year engagement there was a 'rupture' between us and we spent a whole year apart. After the year we met and got back together, and then proceeded to get married. We were married for two years total before we got divorced."
Why did you break up?
Sharon said: "We really love one another, to this day, but it didn’t matter how hard we tried, we simply don’t get along well as a couple. The dynamics between us don’t work. When we decided that it was over, I left the house for three months, and during that time we didn’t speak or meet. We only spoke through text messages, and had no contact beyond that.
How did you go from no contact to a smiling selfie on the Rabbinate steps?
"After three months we met and decided that we are going to go about it in a friendly manner. Divorce can be very traumatic if its done with anger and disgust, and we didn’t want that to be the case. The opposite was true, we did with a fun attitude and even spent the rest of the day together," Sharon said.
Dave added, "I'm not saying that divorce is easy, because it's an emotionally difficult process, but we spent the day together in the best way we could. We went together to the rabbinate, and from their to the Interior Ministry, and we even had lunch at Sorona after that. The mood was generally pleasant. When we asked someone who walked by to take our photo next to the rabbinate, I remember that people started asking us if we were getting married, and didn’t believe that we were actually getting divorced."
"I believe I was really lucky, because as they saying goes, you don’t just need to know who to marry, but also who to divorce. But beyond that, it was also the decision we made. Its really easy to regress to fighting and anger, we decided not to go there."
"The picture itself was both a way to tell people that this was happening, but also to show them that you can do it and everything will be fine, we even wrote a funny status," Sharon said. "It wasn’t just pretending like everything was alright for Facebook, it really was like that."
What would you recommend for other couples who want a divorce?
According to Sharon, the time apart made the difference: "For three months we were apart, each of us let go of their anger, their frustrations and sadness – either alone or with friends, and then when we met we were already a lot calmer. You don’t really try to change the person in front of you because that doesn’t matter, and you stop looking for who to blame, you just go about doing what you have to in a friendly manner. In my eyes, the time out was really important."
'For our kids and our future'
The skeptics among us might say that it was easy for them because they had no kids in the picture, but exactly one week ago Lee Tal (29) from Karmei Yossef, and Noam Tal from Ramat Gan managed to accomplish the same feat – uploading a smiling divorce selfie, even though they have to young daughters. The two met seven years ago in Sinai, where Noam was on vacation with friends, and Lee was relaxing with family.
Noam recalled: "I saw her from far away, a girl cleaning the beach of plastic bags and bottles, and I was impressed, because she looked good and seemed to have good values. A bit later Lee her brother and her mom were walking on the beach, and passed by us, so I invited them to sit with me and my friends and we invited them to join us in playing some music later on in the main hut, and they actually showed. A short while later we left the group, and began counting stars, and since then we have been inseparable. Officially we have been married for six years, and we have two amazing daughters ages 2 and 5. About a year ago we split and I left the house, but we only just got divorced last week."
Why did you break up?
Noam: "We broke up because certain characteristics we didn’t like about each other became stronger after the first baby. We both tried very hard and gave the most of ourselves in order to please the other, until we lost ourselves. It's really frustrating to live like that, and the big problem was that we each blamed the other for not giving enough. The frustration put a lot of tension and stress into out home and everyone suffered as a result, and that’s why we decided to end it before it was too later and the girls would have to grow up in that type of home."
Lee continued, "We felt like we aren’t a match as couple, but we are good friends, and good parents. We put our daughters at the top of our priorities, so for their good and ours we decided to stay in good touch with each other.|
Who has the girls?
Noam explained: "The girls stay with Lee and I have set visitations. I am involved in whatever happens in their lives, I have paid child support from the day I left the house, but most importantly – I make sure to honor my reliability. Our girls know that mom and dad love them and each other, but don’t get along as room mates."
What caused you to take the picture?
Noam recalled, "We were waiting at the rabbinate. It’s the type of process were you go in and out of the room a number of times. My witness finished his statement and left, and it was boring to sit alone, so I called her over for a picture. After I took the picture I thought about uploading it and she agreed. I didn’t really think that it would get build any buzz." Lee adds, "I think it came out of the need to show that you can end it this way too, and its better for everyone."
What do you think helped you to go about this so well?
According to Lee, "You need to remember that there is a person on the other side, with feelings and difficulties of their own. Both sides go through a process and its better to help each other then go against each other. Peace is more important than money, and its worth a lot more too. In a case involving kids, it's really important to preserve mutual respect, for their mental health as kids and adults. "
Noam added, "It went so well because we already learned that it is not the end of the world, its really true for us. I love her as the mother of my children, but not as a spouse. Additionally, we went through an arbitration process in reaching our divorce agreements, which helped us. Obviously not everything went as smoothly as possible in that year, but we reached a point where we can hold a conversation and work together."