Constance Ahrons, Advocate of ‘Good Divorce,’ Dies at 84

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Her efforts to trim the stigma of divorcement included coining the word “binuclear” to notation to families successful 2 abstracted households.

The therapist Constance Ahrons successful  an undated photo. Her publication  “The Good Divorce” helped popularize the conception  of collaborative divorce, successful  which some  sides hold  to disagree.
Credit...Susan O'Haver Young

Katharine Q. Seelye

Dec. 5, 2021, 11:21 a.m. ET

Constance Ahrons, a salient psychotherapist and mediator who challenged antagonistic stereotypes astir divorcement and sought to amusement couples however they could execute what she called a “good divorce” — a conception that besides provided the rubric of her astir fashionable publication — died connected Nov. 29 astatine her location successful San Diego. She was 84.

Dr. Ahrons was diagnosed 2 months agone with an assertive signifier of lymphoma and fixed a abbreviated clip to live, her daughters, Geri Kolesar and Amy Weiseman, said. They said that Dr. Ahrons, an progressive subordinate of the Hemlock Society, ended her beingness done the process laid retired by California’s End of Life Option Act, with a doctor, caregiver and household present. She believed powerfully successful choosing however 1 lives and however 1 dies, they added, and she wanted radical to cognize of her choice.

When Dr. Ahrons (pronounced similar “Aarons”) began her vocation successful the precocious 1960s, divorcement was inactive profoundly stigmatizing. No-fault divorce, present recognized by each states, was not yet successful vogue, which meant that either the hubby oregon the woman had to beryllium blamed for atrocious behavior, and this lone exacerbated the rancor and shame.

Twice divorced herself, Dr. Ahrons was an aboriginal champion of collaborative divorce, successful which some sides hold to disagree; they proceed to collaborate successful raising the children and debar going to court. This was not a caller concept, but Dr. Ahrons had done probe to backmost it up and helped popularize it with her provocatively titled 1994 book, “The Good Divorce.”

Written not for academics but for the wide market, the publication proved immensely popular, was translated into respective different languages and landed Dr. Ahrons predominant appearances connected speech shows and the lecture circuit.


“The bully divorcement is not an oxymoron,” she wrote. “A bully divorcement is 1 successful which some the adults and children look astatine slightest arsenic emotionally good arsenic they were earlier the divorce.”

A divorcement could beryllium made good, and could beryllium amended than an unhappy marriage, she posited, if couples handled it close — if they did not bad-mouth each different to the children, and if they cooperated successful gathering the children’s affectional and carnal needs. “In a bully divorce,” she wrote, “a household with children remains a family,” adjacent if the parents and children reconfigure themselves successful antithetic homes with caller radical successful the picture.

She became a lightning rod for immoderate blimpish and spiritual organizations, which accused her of promoting divorcement and contributing to the breakdown of the family.

But Dr. Ahrons insisted that she was not “pro” divorce. Rather, she said, she wanted couples to recognize that determination were ways to minimize the upheaval. And she wanted nine to spot that divorcement was arsenic overmuch a societal instauration arsenic marriage, a communal acquisition alternatively than a deviant one, and that it could person beneficial outcomes.

“Connie was not trying to archer you what to do,” Stephanie Coontz, a prof of past and household studies astatine Evergreen State College successful Washington, said successful an interview. “But erstwhile you decided what to do, she wanted to assistance you bash it successful the champion imaginable way.”

Dr. Ahrons’s research, which included a longitudinal survey that was begun successful 1977 and stretched implicit 20 years, recovered that not each divorces were acrimonious; successful astir fractional the cases, the couples maintained amicable relationships.

She viewed connection arsenic an important instrumentality successful helping to destigmatize divorce. She coined the word “binuclear” to denote 2 abstracted households connected by familial bonds, and to regenerate pejoratives similar “broken home.”

“The Good Divorce” was followed by “We’re Still Family” (2004), successful which Dr. Ahrons studied however grown children viewed their parents’ divorce.

A subordinate of galore nonrecreational organizations, Dr. Ahrons was among the founders of the Council connected Contemporary Families, a nonprofit radical of household researchers that utilized peer-reviewed world probe to supply an alternate to ideologically oriented deliberation tanks.

“A existent scientist-practitioner,” Eli Karam, a prof successful the mates and household therapy programme astatine the University of Louisville, described her successful an email.

Through her “groundbreaking probe and objective grooming model,” Dr. Karam said, “she pioneered some the creation and subject of moving with divorcing families.”

Constance Ruth Ahrons was calved connected April 16, 1937, successful Brooklyn and grew up successful Somerville, N.J. Her father, Jacob Ahrons, calved successful Russia, and her mother, Estelle (Katz) Ahrons, calved successful Poland, owned and operated an appliance store successful Somerville.


Connie, arsenic she was known, was the archetypal pistillate successful her household to be college. She went to Upsala College successful East Orange, N.J., and joined astatine 19, erstwhile she was a sophomore. She had her archetypal kid astatine 20 and dropped retired of school. Soon she was spending her days washing clothes, raising 2 children and seeing a psychiatrist, who enactment her connected tranquilizers.

Then she work “The Feminine Mystique,” Betty Friedan’s landmark 1963 manifesto of the women’s movement.

“It slammed maine successful the face,” Dr. Ahrons was quoted arsenic saying successful “A Strange Stirring” (2011), a publication astir the power of Ms. Friedan’s publication by Ms. Coontz, the Evergreen professor.

Dr. Ahrons said “The Feminine Mystique” was a revelation to her astir the societal forces oppressing women. “Now I could sanction the occupation and cognize it didn’t originate successful my ain psyche,” she said. When she finished speechmaking it, she threw distant her tranquilizers and returned to Upsala, graduating successful 1964 with a bachelor’s grade successful psychology.

She went connected to gain her master’s successful societal enactment from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, successful 1967 and her doctorate successful counseling psychology, besides from Wisconsin, successful 1973.

After graduating, she taught astatine the university’s School of Social Work for respective years and co-founded the Wisconsin Family Studies Institute, wherever she worked arsenic a therapist.

She started teaching sociology astatine the University of Southern California successful 1984. She became manager of the university’s Marriage and Family Therapy Training Program successful 1996 and a prof emerita successful 2001.

Her marriages, to Jac Weiseman, a lawyer, successful 1956, and Morton Perlmutter, a therapist, successful 1969, some ended successful divorce. She often said that the archetypal was contentious; Ms. Kolesar said that the acquisition helped transportation her parent to dedicate herself to “changing the trajectory” of different people’s divorces.

In summation to Ms. Kolesar and Ms. Weiseman, Dr. Ahrons is survived by 4 grandchildren; a brother, Richard Ahrons; and her longtime partner, Roy H. Rodgers, with whom she wrote her archetypal book, “Divorced Families: A Multidisciplinary Developmental View” (1987).


Dr. Karam, the Louisville professor, interviewed Dr. Ahrons precocious for an upcoming occurrence of a podcast that helium hosts connected the topics of matrimony and therapy. He asked however she would similar to beryllium remembered.

She said her extremity had been to springiness families a affirmative relation exemplary for however divorcement could beryllium done with minimal harm, truthful that “children tin turn up not untouched by divorce, but not mentally sick due to the fact that of the divorce.” She besides said she was pleased that her work, and the word “binuclear,” had go portion of the culture.

“A bully divorce,” she said, “has been a popularized concept.”

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