Divorce used to be illegal in Ireland, being explicitly forbidden in the 1937 constitution
That meant marriage was for life, even the most disastrous ones.
We were asked in 1986 to reconsider this Handmaid's Tale arrangement, but again we decided to protect our sanctified image of ourselves and ignore the thousands of real-life Irish people trapped in broken marriages.
Think about that for a minute, the sheer human misery of it, to know that your only escape had been sealed off by your outwardly pious neighbors.
But now we're finally in the era of what Gwyneth Paltrow called “conscious uncoupling,” which is just a fancy Upper East Side way of saying calling it quits, but amicably, if at all possible.
Kate Gunn is a popular lifestyle and parenting blogger and head of social media for Ireland's top parenting website everymum and her book "Untying The Knot, How To Consciously Uncouple In The Real World" arises from her own hard-won experience of the pain and conflict of divorce.
Gunn takes the reader through the process of separation first as parents then as friends, two important distinctions with their own unique demands. She tells her own story and offers advice based on how she charted her course through the first grim days of what she calls “unfathomable heartache.”
She offers us practice advice like how to tell the children, how to address the family home, how to deal with the inevitable conflicts, and how to hold yourself intact as you navigate through the eye of the storm to the end of the tunnel.
It's said that marriages change people and families, but so do divorces. Each chapter allows Gunn to share what she's learned about that painful path, and even what she's learned about her ex-husband, Kristian.
What you might not expect is that divorce changes you as much as the people around you she discovers and so Gunn makes ample space to acknowledge and embrace her new identity as an ex-wife.
Her new book she goes right to the really hard stuff: first nights spent alone on the sofa, wondering who you are now that you're not who you used to be, realizing that you'll have to get the milk yourself (with the three kids in tow in the car) because no one else is there to help now, what she call's the truly hard stuff.
It's the little things that let you know just how much your life has been altered she writes, and they can be the hardest parts of the whole experience to endure.
Filling in the forms that change you from Mrs to Miss. Filling out the box that lists Separated. Then the shame of the double-takes that strangers do when Gunn's kids ask in public when they are going to “dad's house.” It took her years to work through all that, she confesses.
Gunn writes: “I want to explain to a room full of people that 'actually everything is fine, thank you very much. It's a very amicable separation if you must know. And yes they will be staying and their dad's house tonight. It's FINE.”
Moving on is the big challenge and Gunn has some truly useful advice to offer about it. First, you have to wade through unfathomable despair and it can last far longer than you would prefer it to.
In her second year of uncoupling, she finds despair gives way to what she calls a silent sadness, a noting of what has been lost and what she can no longer have.
But with endings come new beginnings and after months of resistance, we see her agree to a date with a divorced guy that her friends suspect will be perfect for her. To her surprise, when she finally consents to meet him, she discovers he may well be.
From how to take care of your battered heart to how to find legal aid to process your annulment, Gunn writes about every side of the difficult journey back to herself with uncommonly clear and compassionate eyes.