The Power of Friends

I know that when I was going through the worst parts of my divorce, I felt not only hopeless, but helpless. And not only helpless, but, impossible to help. Which is a totally different thing. So many friends would say “Let me know what I can do for you,” and my mind would just go blank.

So I wrote a few articles for this website about that (here‘s oand here). And I was asked to write something for the great, smart website wowowow.com, and I chose to write about the power of friends there as well. You can read the article here—and don’t forget to email it to a friend who’s been keeping you in touch with the you you used to be as a way of saying thanks for her silent, but so-helpful, help.

In Search of The Answers

My least favorite part of divorcing—well, besides the divorcing part–was how suddenly I turned into a one-woman referendum on Why Marriages Fail. Everyone had a reason or two for why my husband had left me (and if you read the comments on articles I’ve written for other websites, like HuffPo and CNN.com, you can continue to delight in the fun). The top 3? Because I made more money than he did. Because we married too young. And because I worked too much.

Actually, he left me because he didn’t want to be with me anymore, and not because I made too much money or worked too much. He just felt like we wanted to live different lives, and not share the same life anymore. It took me awhile to accept that simple truth—mostly because I was looking for a reason or two that made me look good or wronged or anything other than being someone Who Was Left—but once I did, everything stopped hurting so much. Truly. (Which is why I can laugh when I get all those funny comments about why my husband left me on my articles; because I know the truth and don’t need to care what anyone else thinks anymore.)

We, as a society, are so desperate to make divorce something that happens for a REASON: and not some meaningful reason, like, we’re living in a society that only knows how to stimulate and reward individual growth and sucesss, not the growth and happiness of family units (hello! government policies to help with work-life balance, childcare and so forth!). So instead, we focus on minute, probably irrelevant details that possibly divine the end of a marriage, to make us all feel like it’s something that Happens To Other People.

So that brings me to a hilarious, fascinating, potentially useless article from the Daily Beast that explains some of the “high-risk” factors that make us more likely to divorce. Such as: having a child with ADHD (sure, knew that one; it’s very stressful), to having two daughters instead of two sons (huh?), to if you didn’t smile for photos in high school (triple huh???), to if you happen to be a choreographer or dancer, and so on. I love the comments on this article, I have to admit: someone points out that if you don’t pluck the hairs off your big toe, you’re more likely to divorce as well. Maybe *that’s* why Chris and I didn’t make it after all!

Sometimes the Bad Turns Good

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Today a fellow divorced mom stopped by my Facebook page to leave behind a link to an amazing post she wrote about her long drive back home to St. Paul, Minnesota with her three kids, leaving her ex-husband behind in Portland. Let me tell you people, it is filled with wisdom! I wanted to type that part in all caps because I feel it so strongly, but i also didn’t want to shout at you.

This is what is left behind after grief subsides: wisdom. And you know what else was left behind? Her favorite summer trip with her kids, EVER.

Let this point be a lesson to us all: That which at first glance seems like a hard time (driving alone across our big, lonely country with your kids all by yourself as your marriage has ended, watching your idea of your perfect life get smaller in the rearview mirror), can later turn out to have been a beautiful revelation. So revel in it, those revelations. That’s what they come to us for, little sparkly souvenirs that are left behind on the beach after the storms have retreated.

Thanks for sharing, Molly!!!

If A Rock Star Can Say It..

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Remember that quiet, dirgelike song from Elton John in the ’70s that goes like this?: “It’s sad [so sad], so sad [so sad], such a sad, sad situation.” The sad situation he’s singing about is when love dies and one partner doesn’t want to make it work anymore. But the name of the song—and the point of the song—is “Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word.”

At its core, divorce isn’t angry or mean or lying-cheating-stealing (even if those are involved): it’s sad, heartbreak of the highest order. And for some reason, we tend to make it worse by covering up all the sad, turning our back on the fact that divorce is the death of a dream more than its a failure of one or both people.

And Elton’s right: “Sorry” may be just a word, and a hard one to say at that, but it goes a long way in starting the healing process. I know that when Chris and I found ways to apologize to each other as we were breaking up—for saying stupid sh– to each other when we were fighting about, I mean negotiating about, the separation agreement; or, near the end of the process, when we apologized to each other for all the mean things we’d thought about and said to each other during our marriage—were some of the most profound, and freeing, experiences in my life. And yes, it was hard to say. But absolutely worth it. Because it helped set us free from each other.

Remember, forgiveness isn’t about letting your partner off the hook; it’s about letting you off the hook. (In the Simple Truths section on this website, I posted this quote I heard from someone else and LOVE: “Hanging on to resentment is like swallowing rat poison and wondering why the rat isn’tdead.” Ha!) And even if you’re angry at your partner for some of the behavior, you can still be sorry that it didn’t work out. Because, aren’t you? Even if in the end you know moving on is better for you? There’s still a lot of sad in letting go of what you thought was meant to be. Honor it.

But the rock star I’m talking about in the headline of this post isn’t Elton. It’s Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood, whose ex-wife let the world know that he apologized to her when their divorce was finalized a day or so ago. Says56-year-old Jo Wood, “It was nice of him,” before saying she’d forgiven him then and forgiven him now. Then she delivered this gentle wallop: “It’s the first time I’ve ever known him actually to say I’m sorry, so that was quite amazing.” (Click through to here, to see his obvious discomfort.)

Good for you, Ronnie. Thanks for serving as an example. If the rich, famous, and professionally spoiled among us in this world can apologize when a marriage reaches its terminus, so can the rest of us.

(And if I’ve given you a persistent ear worm with the snippet of the Elton tune, click here to see Elton at his finest in 1977, pre-toupée.)

Falling Apart, Now In Easy-to-Carry Paperback!

Today Falling Apart In One Piece comes out in paperback, and I’m pretty damn excited. It was thrilling a year ago when Falling Apart came out in hardcover, because, well, it just was so convincingly a book, you know? But now that it’s coming out in paper, I keep imagining all the places it will go: to the beach, to book clubs, on long train rides, to the bedside table with a lot of turned-down corners, from friend to friend. Hardcovers you keep; but paperbacks you share and digest and enjoy and spill coffee on. To me, that kind of love is the greatest compliment a book can receive.

I want to take this moment to repost my favorite review, ever, where Michelle of the Red-Headed Book Child stumbles across my book, and loves it, even though she hasn’t been divorced.  I love the questions she says the book raised for her, and I know that in the year since the book has been published, I’ve been having fascinating, amazing, complex conversations with hundreds of readers who have emailed me or posted on this site. Falling Apart may be a story about divorce, but in the end, the book is really about coming to terms with the strange transition of midlife, where we all have to start letting go of the idea that Every Single Dream We Ever Had will come true. And that we can do that in a triumphant way. In a joyful way. In a connected way.

And in just one week, I’ll be unveiling the new www.fallingapartinonepiece.com. So that we can all share these kinds of conversations together, whether about divorce or finding our way through any of the rough-and-tumble spots in life, with our optimism intact.

Thanks for joining me on the ride!

Newsflash: Divorce Isn’t Entertainment

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Sometimes—okay, most of the time—I feel like I’m a teeny, tiny voice shouting into the wind tunnel of American life, begging people to reconsider how they think about divorce.

Yes, more and more couples are seeking out mediation instead of backing into a corner and lawyering up; yes, we can all name couples who are co-parenting with good humor and grace (most of the time); yes, we are starting to understand that not every divorce story has a villain in it.

But this also means that suddenly divorce has become interesting. And in our entertainment-crazed culture, that can mean only one thing: bring on a bottom-feeding TV show. So enter The Divorce Wars, CNBC’s new show (set to debut March 23), which promises to show us how big, multi-million-dollar-net-worth divorces aren’t all about the money. Maybe it’s about betrayal, hurt feelings, loss, and heartbreak—but believe me, they’re fighting about the money, because the money is all that’s left to fight over.

I’m sorry that this show will continue to make people feel that the only way to react to the awful, awful shock of the end of your marriage is to fight like hell. Because anyone who’s been through divorce knows: nobody wins.

Sandra Bullock Proves I’m Not Crazy

When I was kinda-sorta watching the Academy Awards on Sunday, I have to admit that I was wincing inside when Sandra Bullock did her on-camera interviews. I just knew that all the reporters wanted to ask her about her divooooooorce, since the last time we saw her at the Oscars, she was onstage thanking her then-husband in a tearful acceptance piece just days before she and the world discovered that he was a scoundrel. Ugh. I’m no celebrity, but having been through a divorce feels like a public humiliation no matter what your Q rating.

It turns out that a journalist did ask Sandy what life was like post-divorce. And I just loved her answer: That divorce has made her a better person. Because that’s what I’ve always said about my divorce. And then I went so far as to explain exactly how that transformation happened in my book, because people seem genuinely confused that something so “bad” could end up having a lot of good in it, too. Yes, there’s screaming, there’s yelling, there’s a lot of crying. And after all that? There’s the calm of coming to know who you really are. It feels good.

Hey, Sandy, if you’re ever in New York let me buy you a drink! Namaste!

Can You Mediate Away Your Anger?

We’ve been doing divorce so wrong as a society for so long—making it about anger, money, and the destruction of any good memories the couple shared—that I’m always surprised by a piece of news that shows that somehow, somewhere, we are starting to understand the damage we are doing to ourselves. Case in point: Nassau County in New York state has just announced the unprecedented step of requiring divorcing couples to attend one joint mediation session, as opposed to immediately “lawyering up” and backing away from trying to have substantive conversations about how to break apart gently.

Of course, the courts aren’t solely interested in this to help us all find a less acrimonious way to breakup; the courts are being driven by the overwhelming caseloads that are on their dockets, and, frankly, the judges probably understand that they can never really give a contested divorce the time and attention it would require to really get inside what’s riven the marriage and make reasonable judgments about how best to help the couple break apart. That’s asking too much of them, perhaps.

But whatever the motivation, I’m glad to see that some of the authorities who have such a powerful position in how people break apart are trying to urge couples to set down their weapons and work as a team to figure out how to reconstitute their lives, their families and their finances post-marriage. And I urge all of us to remember that there’s no way to “win” a divorce. The best we can hope for is to be able to live with ourselves and forgive ourselves the failures our marriages contained. So why not therefore focus on NOT creating new failures as we’re breaking up? Why not aim for dignity? Those are goals worth shooting for, however it is we get there.