Recent years have witnessed a growing number of books aimed at demythologizing human relationships and recasting them in the light of our growing understanding of the dynamics of human psychology. This work takes a fresh look at divorce.
The author, a practicing psychotherapist and a lecturer at Columbia University and Union Seminary, attacks the view that "a broken home is worse than any kind of intact family." He contends that "divorce . . . may be a way of increasing the child's capacity for the growth of love."
In opposition to the "friendly divorce," where the estranged couple attempts to maintain contact for the sake of their children, he recommends complete psychological separation in addition to the usual legal and spatial retreat- what is termed "divorce with freedom."
These positions are predicated on the observations that (1) the child who discovers that his parents are held together only by a common concern for him experiences profound guilt; (2) the concepts of human relationships imparted by the hypocrisy, self-deception and shallowness of friendly divorce may cripple the child's chances for a loving marriage; and
(3) a divorced parent's possibilities for achieving a satisfactory love relationship with a new partner are greatly hampered by any form of contact with the former mate.
One disturbing feature of this book is the space devoted to advising divorced parents who attempt to maintain contact for the children's sake. Given the author's conviction that therapists wrongly counsel regular visitation of the children with the noncustodial parent, one would have thought that he would be far more concerned to detail ways for providing adequate psychological substitution for the missing father or mother.
Perhaps the author's ambivalence betrays a lack of complete conviction in the book's campaign for total separation as almost always best for all parties. This highlights the need to minimize the incidence of divorce between parents by discouraging the common view that the immediate and central aim of marriage is procreation. Of equal importance is the campaign to encourage trial marriages without children, dissolvable at the behest of either party, as a means of establishing whether a home of love and understanding is a realistic expectation.