I asked my now-ex-husband for a divorce in November 2006, and the divorce was final in November 2008. Since it became public that I was getting a divorce, people have been asking me questions about it, so I’ve created some projects to help people with their own process.
My column at Huffington Post Divorce. I write about divorce and thriving after divorce at Huffington Post.
Flourish Through Divorce. I ran this as guided online small-group workshops in 2012 and 2013. I’ll be turning it into a self-paced, unguided manual in 2015. Watch this space.
Writing Through Your Divorce. This is a project I run with Deesha Philyaw of Co-parenting 101. Our website WritingDivorce.com hosts a blog that we edit with writing about all topics related to divorce, mostly short stories, memoir pieces, and poetry. It’s extremely fine work and we’re so proud of the writers we’ve published. In our bookstore you can buy our workbooks that guide you through the process of writing through your divorce on your own: Writing To Survive Your Divorce (Without Strangling your Ex), So S/He Had An Affair: Writing To Keep From Losing Your Sh*t, and So You Had An Affair: Writing While Wearing A Scarlet Letter.
Should I get divorced? I have no idea. No one knows the truth of someone else’s relationship. Most of us don’t always even know the truth of the relationships we’re in. If you tell me your story I can tell you what you feel about your relationship right now, but there have been plenty of couples who have worked through some pretty serious problems, and plenty of couples who are far, far happier apart. But you’re the only one who can decide for you.
How do I know if I should get a divorce? For years I’ve been saying that when it’s time to go, you’ll know it. And I hear that from person after person, that they went through a long period of wondering and being really unsure and conflicted, and then it just suddenly seemed like the only good option. If you’re trying to make a decision, my personal opinion is that if you don’t feel safe (physically or emotionally) with your spouse, and don’t respect him or her, it’s time to go. Everything else you should try to work through and give it the best effort you can. If you’re looking for a more formalized way of deciding, check out the book Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay by Mira Kirshenbaum.
Won’t getting a divorce hurt my children forever? Yes, it will. But staying together with someone you can’t get along with and forcing your children to live in the middle of that will hurt them, too. If the choice is between having a happy marriage and getting a divorce, obviously we’d all pick the happy marriage. But despite what some people want to sell you, it’s not possible to make every combination of two people be happy together. Especially if you initially married for the wrong reasons or if one or both of you have personality or mental health issues. The actual choice may be between being miserable together while hurting your children and taking a chance that you can work on yourself to become healthy apart.
Why didn’t you try everything to keep your marriage together? I realized one day that divorce wasn’t the worst option. Feeling like my soul was dying every day was far worse. So I took a chance that getting out of the poison of my marriage would help. I didn’t expect it to fix all my problems, and it didn’t. But it removed a pervasive sadness and fear from my life, and now I can be a full participant in life again. Basically, I wasn’t willing to continue to hurt myself to work toward a goal that wasn’t even healthy for me.
It sounds like you actually like being divorced. I do. Getting divorced saved my family. My ex-husband and I can co-parent our kids together now in a way we could never work together when we were married. I’m always going to carry some hurt from my marriage, but I’ll always be proud that I cared enough about myself and my kids that I was willing to get us out of a bad situation. And being on my own is excellent. I’m always sad when I find out that someone I know is getting divorced, because I know they must have been in awful pain to be able to get to that decision. But I’m always glad it’s an option for them.
I’m getting divorced. What books should I read?
For sure read Uncoupling by Diane Vaughan. It’s a timeline of how couples come apart, including typical thought patterns and behaviors. No judgments, and it’ll tell you what to expect from you and your ex-partner.
If you have kids, read Deesha’s book with her ex-husband Michael D. Thomas Co-parenting 101: Helping Your Children Thrive in Two Households After Divorce. It comes from the assumption that you’re divorcing for a reason and your goal is to parent your kids the best you can with their other parent. Very useful no matter how good or bad your relationship with your ex-partner is.
If you want to figure out why you married the wrong person in the first place and how to stop being attracted to people with those same incompatible qualities, read Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix.
If you’re looking for humor and comfort, Nora Ephron’s Heartburn gets me every time, and the recipes are all fantastic, too.