The Case to Rebrand ‘Divorce’
Ending a partnership — personal or corporate — is generally seen as an admission of failure
When Bill and Melinda Gates recently announced their divorce, people expressed a surprising amount of shock and disappointment. Seattle’s second-wealthiest divorcing couple will be fine as money is the modern world’s shock absorber.
Similar to its effect on so many other things, the pandemic has acted not as a change agent for marriage but as an accelerant: Inquiries with divorce lawyers heated up a third during the lockdown while 58% of surveyed Americans said the pandemic strengthened their marriage. The strong unions got stronger; the fractured split wide open.
It’s not just couples that are reevaluating their bonds. Last week, Verizon parted ways with its media harem (Yahoo, AOL, TechCrunch, etc.). It was a divorce everyone saw coming — at the ceremony of this corporate marriage, the attendees smiled politely and wondered why it was even happening. In D.C., the Republican Party is renewing its vows with Donald Trump, ignoring Liz Cheney’s sober reminder that their abusive relationship is bad for everyone.
Breaking up is hard to do
Ending a partnership — personal or corporate — is generally seen as an admission of failure and one that sticks. Frequently on administrative forms, the options for marital status are single, married, and divorced. (How is “divorced” a status? Isn’t that just single?) Five years after my own divorce, telling people about it still inspired a depressing mix of pity and judgment from those whose (married) lives rested somewhere between denial and awful.
Companies, likewise, experience shame after a failed marriage. To avoid looking foolish, firms resist writing down the value of an acquisition or selling it outright (as Verizon did with Yahoo). After unwrapping the gifts and evangelizing the synergies to shareholders, they’re loath to admit they were wrong. The disarticulation of any union is expensive and painful, and most people and corporations would be better served to acknowledge the mistake sooner.
As if stigma and pride weren’t enough, divorce was once legally impossible or impossibly burdensome. Couples seeking divorce…