Every public divorce contains a private divorce, when one spouse contemplates ending the marriage.
The protocols of the public divorce are the stuff of marriage and family law, established by the jurisdiction and not easily budged by the two spouses – the terms and conditions of the property settlement, the logistics of separation, rituals of custody and visitation. The workings of the private divorce, however, are known but to, first, the spouse contemplating the end of the marriage, and then his or her partner, who is very often blindsided by the revelation.
The private divorce begins when one spouse begins to disengage and distance himself or herself from the other. There are no routes or roadmaps when partners drift apart.
The public divorce has mileposts and markers that begin with the filing of a complaint and end with a divorce decree. The private divorce may go no farther than an accommodation when one spouse lives a separate life from the other, and both spouses wear masks for the world to see.
Only the person who crosses it knows the terrain of the private divorce. Sometimes a spouse begins this journey not even knowing he or she has started, and only in hindsight does he or she realize how the marriage faltered.
Sometimes the longer and more difficult the trek, the more inescapable the divorce becomes.
When the public divorce begins, the breakup takes on a life of its own.