Sometimes happiness comes under the most unexpected of circumstances.

The Right Approach to Divorce?

Posted: June 18th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: challenges, tips for a peaceful divorce | Tags: , , , | 29 Comments »

The Story of My Life

Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce had a big week in the blogosphere recently, as three different sites have discussed my approach to divorce.  Of course, their reactions couldn’t have been more different.  William Quincy Belle thought my article on peaceful divorce was a must read for anyone who is going through the divorce process and that I offer people hope during a grim time of personal crisis.  Cathy Meyer thought that I gave the impression that it was a divorcee’s own fault if she ended up with a hostile divorce and that with time my harmonious post-divorce family would dissolve, leaving me blind-sided and bereft.  The Bitter Divorcee rushed to my defense against Ms. Meyer and said that while my approach had made her envious at first, it also inspired her not to make peace with her ex (because that is impossible) but instead to make peace with herself.

As the topic of several of my posts has been my exploration of the attempt to get things right, I couldn’t help noting the irony that someone was angry with me for proffering my experience as the one and only right way to approach divorce.  As I question what is right for me and work through the process of finding it, I would hardly offer my experience as the only proper way to do it.  My way is certainly not the right way, nor is it the Truth with a capital T.  It is only right for me and my family, and the truth that I am expounding here is profoundly personal.  If it resonates with you, I am glad that I could share.  If it doesn’t, well thanks for stopping by.

Divorce is a gut-wrenching process that brings up a lot of anger and sadness.  Separating from the man that I loved most in this world did force me to take a look at myself, and I didn’t like all that I saw.  I’ll admit that I was very reactive and even angry and resentful in the last years of my marriage.  I over-reacted to my ex’s bad moods and let some of his habits really get under my skin.  I realized that I blamed him for my own unhappiness and that wasn’t fair.  I set about the process of forgiving myself for these faults, forgiving him for leaving the marriage and learning to appreciate us both in new ways.  I tried to be more mindful of my reactions and learned to stop myself in midstream when I was being argumentative with him.  I started to accept his behavior as beyond my control, and I actively appreciated the ways in which he was a good father and friend to me.  I decided to make our love more important than our conflict.

These actions brought about a shift in me and in him.  Yes, I am grateful that he responded, and I realize that not all exes will do that.  I’m not saying that if you try, you will definitely get a peaceful divorce.  However, I do believe that if you try, your chances at peace are better.  Several of my readers have shared with me their own success stories and I am so happy to hear that.  Yet, once again, one’s approach to divorce is a personal decision that each divorcee can only make on his or her own.  If it doesn’t feel right when you do it, then it’s not the right approach for you.

Some of the divorce coaches will advise you to look out for yourself first, and I did that.  But part of looking out for myself was looking out for my ex and my children as well.  I didn’t want our family to explode so I actively worked to keep it together.  I kept inviting my ex over for dinner and for family gatherings.  I let him know that I recognized my part in our breakup and I even congratulated him for his courage to leave our relationship, something I never would have done.  With time I have embraced his new girlfriend and she has joined us for dinners and birthday parties.  Now we are all embarking on a national job search together.

The Bitter Divorcee thinks that I am advocating for a different paradigm for divorce.  I appreciate her comment because it’s true.  I don’t believe that divorce has to destroy a family.  I want to show people that there are ways in which you can transcend your anger and resentment, reach out to your ex, and find common ground upon which to build a different type of nuclear family, one that doesn’t live together but loves and enjoys each other’s company.

I certainly never expected peace to be so controversial, although I guess if we look at it politically it always has been (fodder for a different blogpost).  So yes, I am a proud advocate for peaceful relations with an ex.  I am extremely pleased that it worked for me, but as I have indicated in other posts, it is still an ongoing process that we will never get perfectly right.

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29 Comments on “The Right Approach to Divorce?”

  1. 1 Nina b said at 10:16 pm on April 11th, 2011:

    well said! kudos to you for it all!

  2. 2 Molly Monet said at 10:34 pm on April 11th, 2011:

    Nina! Great to hear from you, dear.

  3. 3 Jon a said at 10:47 pm on April 11th, 2011:

    Nice Molly :-)

  4. 4 RC said at 10:55 pm on April 11th, 2011:

    After my husband left abruptly, I was in such a state of despair and anger. I was worried I was wearing out my family and friends with divorce talk. So I sought out others online who had been through divorce for support.

    Purely by accident, I came across Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce. Up until that time, I had it in my head that divorce could be nothing but miserable and sad. My husband and I were slinging hateful words back and forth daily.

    Then, I started reading this blog, and other stories like Molly’s story. It just seemed like the right thing. Yes, I’m still mad and hurt about the way he left us. But I’m coming to terms with my role in the whole thing. And honestly, I have worked very hard at trying to see his hurt and anger and understand that he’s human, just like me. When I stopped screaming, so did he. And I know that I’m lucky that he did.

    I know that the support I found here is helping me forge a better relationship with my ex than we would have had otherwise. We are now mostly civil towards each other. We’ve gone from hateful to sometimes kind.

    One last thing. I felt very vulnerable when I sought out support online and I wonder how things might have been different if I’d run across another sort of blog instead of this sort. :)

    RC

  5. 5 Sarah Buttenwieser said at 11:09 pm on April 11th, 2011:

    I took a quote about gardens & it strikes me as being about my family–& yours, all about in progress (or should it be process?).

    You guys are amazing models!
    Sarah Buttenwieser recently posted..In Progress

  6. 6 Molly Monet said at 8:55 am on April 12th, 2011:

    RC, I am so glad to hear your story. I do believe that our notion of divorce could be so different if we didn’t stay fixed in the anger and bitterness. That’s the inspiring part of the Bitter Divorcee’s blog is that she is working to shake off her bitterness because she knows it doesn’t serve her or her kids.

    It is so wonderful that you have found a way to cool your tempers and move toward civility. With time, it might even turn to friendship. Thank you for sharing!

  7. 7 Molly Monet said at 8:58 am on April 12th, 2011:

    Sarah, my very first post used our anniversary gingko tree as a metaphor for our post-divorce relationship. A garden is another great one. The only constant in life is change so our families must always be a work in progress. And yes, I love the word process too. Maybe I’ll post on that one day.

  8. 8 MomZombie said at 9:55 am on April 12th, 2011:

    When I was getting divorced, I had many people tell me I should have tried harder to make it work for my daughter’s sake. To that I said I grew up in a house where the mother and father were profoundly unhappy in their marriage and were unbelievably cruel to one another. I always wished they would divorce so I could have peace in my life. They didn’t. They stayed together for us. Ha! What did that do? I married a total jerk who treated me as poorly as my father treated my mother. I’m sure I was no prize wife, either. My brother never married. I think the thought of marriage gives him hives. Divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me. It allowed me to examine my self, my childhood, my whole life, and to address the dysfunction in all my relationships. I believe I am a better mother and wife (second marriage) now because of those experiences. I shudder to think where I’d be today had I stayed in that marriage for my daughter’s sake. Kudos to you, Molly, for starting the conversation and being so thought-provoking.

  9. 9 Lee said at 11:11 am on April 12th, 2011:

    I think it is admirable and great that you two can have such a good post divorce relationship, and in fact, mention you in an upcoming article on Thursday on my site! So, watch out for it.

    I also think that sometimes even if you strive for peace after divorce with your ex, you can’t get it, because it does take two to break a marriage up and two to make a positive relationship for the children after divorce. If one party won’t do it, it just doesn’t work. The key is to how you respond to it, and if you stay above the mud slinging, then you are still doing something right for the kids.
    Lee recently posted..Smart Insurance Choices by Suzanne Cramer

  10. 10 Molly Monet said at 11:43 am on April 12th, 2011:

    So right you are about taking two to tango, Lee. But sometimes we wait for the other person to ask us to dance. I guess I’m just advocating that we initiate that dance. And if our partner turns us down, then we can dance by ourselves.

    Can’t wait to see your piece!

  11. 11 Laura Furey said at 5:24 pm on April 12th, 2011:

    I so admire how you’re putting yourself out there and communicating with detractors. It sounds like your approach to divorce (and life) is really working for you. It’s a wonderful thing, Molly and I know you’re helping others in similar situations.

  12. 12 Molly Monet said at 6:15 pm on April 12th, 2011:

    Thanks for the encouragement, Laura. Just like in academia or law, engaging with your critics is a good way to sharpen your own arguments. I want to publish a book someday on my experience so it is good for me to see what the criticism of my approach may be in order to refute it.

  13. 13 Michelle Zive said at 6:53 pm on April 12th, 2011:

    Molly–You’ve chosen (or did it choose you) a tough topic. There really are no winners when it comes to divorce. But I, too, have a relatively peaceful divorce which took years of reminding ourselves that what really mattered was our girls. You definitely have to have a willing ex to play fairly in the sandbox. What would be awesome is to hear ex-husband’s perspective on this peaceful solution. Hmmm…

  14. 14 Molly Monet said at 8:07 pm on April 12th, 2011:

    Michelle- I have asked him to write a piece but he’s too private to share. He’s a great writer too. He said maybe someday…

  15. 15 Josie said at 12:39 am on April 14th, 2011:

    I’m looking forward to reading more about your joint job search and move. My ex floated the idea of moving to an area with better schools and just that has me stressed out as the two bedroom apartments there are barely within reach for me.

  16. 16 Molly Monet said at 6:48 am on April 14th, 2011:

    I’ll be keeping everyone updated. It is a bit frightening to look at rents elsewhere but I am keeping an open mind. You just never know what can happen with you are open to change. Often it turns out to be for the best, just like my divorce.

  17. 17 divorcedpauline said at 10:19 am on April 14th, 2011:

    Glad you’re hanging in, Molly–you’ve had quite a week!

  18. 18 Molly Monet said at 10:58 am on April 14th, 2011:

    Thanks for your support, Pauline! But it has given me good exposure too, and in the ends, I just want to share my message.

  19. 19 Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce » Blog Archive » My Divorce Community said at 4:40 pm on April 14th, 2011:

    [...] week was an interesting one, as my Huffington Post piece on peaceful divorce caused a brouhaha in the divorce blogosphere, making me wonder, ever so briefly, if I was tilting at windmills in my post-divorce quest for [...]

  20. 20 traci whitney said at 10:48 am on April 15th, 2011:

    You’re so right, and in the end, you can be proud of your attitude! Can the people that put you down say that about themselves? I doubt it.

    Feeling good about your decisions and how you handle yourself, and treat others – I mean, what else is there in life that you can actually control? Not much!!

  21. 21 Molly Monet said at 10:53 am on April 15th, 2011:

    Traci, You make a good point. We only have control over our own reactions to life, and feeling proud of our actions is one of the greatest feelings that we can have.

  22. 22 Carabini said at 5:56 pm on April 16th, 2011:

    If you don t you risk.losing EVERYTHING or at least much more than a fair share of your assets in the divorce.For example many men are paying way too much in child support and alimony without even knowing that! Although you may be thinking at the moment that your wife.is different and will not use the divorce often brings out the lowest.instincts in people so you need to be prepared for an ugly battle.

  23. 23 Molly Monet said at 2:28 pm on April 17th, 2011:

    I agree that divorce brings out the lowest instincts in people. That’s why I’d like to show people that we can reach for higher ones and achieve a much better future for all involved. But I certainly acknowledge that not everyone feels that way.

  24. 24 Postcards from a peaceful interfaith marriage - Homeshuling said at 4:22 pm on April 24th, 2011:

    [...] it to the Huffington Post – yay, Molly!), she’s incited some not-always-so-peaceful debate. I recently re-read a bunch of her posts to see what all the fuss was about. In a nutshell, her [...]

  25. 25 Chris Candow said at 9:43 am on June 18th, 2011:

    I’m so happy to hear that there are others forging a new direction for divorce. I know people find it strange to hear that my ex and I have dinner with our daughter together on Sunday evenings, and that we even take the occaisional day trip together. It is HARD sometimes, but we know she gets so much out of seeing us all together that it is totally worth it.

  26. 26 Mandyland said at 12:15 pm on June 18th, 2011:

    I’m so glad that you’re writing.

    I have been reading and referring our friends and family to your blog because everyone we tell immediately wants to make it a war.

    Team Mandy, Team Chad, who’s at fault, why, what about the children, how could you do this…the comments and opinions are, at times, more painful than the actual divorce.

    We keep telling everyone that we’re not breaking up our family. This isn’t a tear down. It’s a remodel. We’re restructuring and hoping to one day add on to our family with future partners.

    Which sends everyone into a tailspin. They don’t seem to know how to handle our lack of anger and animosity.

    I’m so glad I stumbled onto your blog. You’ve helped more than I can even say.
    Mandyland recently posted..A Little Help

  27. 27 Molly Monet said at 1:28 pm on June 18th, 2011:

    Mandy, I’m so glad to hear that. It always warms my heart when I hear that readers appreciate and benefit from my posts. It is definitely a new divorce paradigm that we are forging and not everyone completely understands it. But when they see you together and see how the kids are benefiting from it, they will understand. Keep up the good work! xo

  28. 28 Miriam said at 10:20 am on June 19th, 2011:

    I just read about your blog in today’s NYT- thank you! We were married for 21 years and the last 8 were constant fighting- there was no one happier than the kids when we finally split. The wierdest thing is how everyone acts like we should hate each other now. Occasional anger- yes. Regular sadness- yes. Hate his guts? Absolutely not.

    It was only last weekend- after 5 years of writing, cards etc on my end- with no response at all- that my ex and his new squeeze had me over when his mother was visiting. After 21 years- those folks are your family, too! To be cut off from them- because they assume you hate your ex? was really hard for me.

    Thanks for being out there- we can forge this new model, I know we can!

  29. 29 Molly Monet said at 11:45 am on June 19th, 2011:

    Miriam- Welcome to my blog! I’m so glad that you have been able to take a positive step in a loving direction with your ex. It is hard to “lose” people that you love and it is great when you are able to have a continued post-divorce relationship with them. Keep in touch!


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