Sunday 12 June 2011

The War of the Divorcées

Two women. Two divorced women. Difference of opinion. Do I hear catfight? Mental image: two hot babes in bikinis oiled up and going at it in a mud pit. Okay, I'm being irreverent and hopefully humorous. I don't think like that... too often.

Let me rewind and introduce our protagonists. Protagonist? Gee, doesn't that have a kind of pugilistic sound to it? It's the P and the consonants I think.

In this corner... Sorry. On the one side, we have Cathy Meyer, Certified Divorce Coach, Marriage Educator and Legal Investigator, Master’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Alabama, plus contributor to About.Com's section "Divorce Support" and founder of the web site Divorced Women On-line. On the other side of the divide, we have Molly Monet, B.A. from Princeton, Ph.D. and M.A. from Yale University in Latin American Studies, currently visiting lecturer in Spanish at the Five Colleges, Massachusetts, and creator of the blog Postcards from a Peaceful Divorce. Both women are divorced. Both contribute online although Ms. Meyer seems to do so from a more professional commercial basis while Ms. Monet sticks more to her personal experiences. Both talk about divorce but Ms. Meyers seems to cover all aspects of it whether it is legal, emotional, or psychological in a generalized fashion while Ms. Monet restricts herself for the most part to recounting her own experiences. Both offer advice however Ms. Meyers suggests ideas for all women while Ms. Monet talks about what worked for her.

The Fight Round 1: Molly
On March 3, 2011, The Huffington Post published "How Did I Get a Peaceful Divorce?" by Molly Monet. The author starts her article by saying, "As friends and readers tell me their horror stories about their exes and how poorly they handled their breakups, I often wonder to myself how did I get so lucky to have a peaceful divorce." Considering the plethora / abundance / glut of horror stories about those getting divorces, it somehow seems both startling and possibly refreshing to hear somebody, anybody, tell a story about divorce and getting out not just alive, but in decent shape. If anything, does this offer a shred of hope that the light at the end of the tunnel is not a train?

Ms. Monet goes on to explain some strategies she employed (she adds, "even if unwittingly") to maintain the peace and avoid ugly confrontations with lawyers.

1) I had a clear vision of what I wanted our relationship to be.
2) I held that vision in my mind no matter what the circumstances were.
3) I maintained an unwavering faith that we would work things out.
4) I reminded myself that there is a difference between a man and his actions.
5) I never lost sight of the love that we shared. He was my soulmate.

After I read her article and mulled over her words, I had to conclude that the morale of the story, if morale is the right word, is to quite simply try - emphasis on try - to behave as you would towards anybody. The person on the other side of the table isn't perfect. Getting angry may be a natural reaction but doesn't really solve anything. Whether it's a spouse, a potential ex-spouse or now ex-spouse, a child, a friend, or a colleague or God forbid, the boss, we have to try - emphasis on try - to not get angry. The goal is to have a satisfactory outcome for all parties involved. The goal is not to get mad, blow a gasket, throw a tantrum, and have a satisfactory outcome. Don't get me wrong, being a saint is difficult if not completely impossible but seeing red usually results in the other side going nuclear and then where are we?

However, I took from Molly's article that this goal of peace is just that, a goal, an ideal, a pie in the sky winning the lottery type of target that we may or may not achieve. However I am reminded that setting goals and trying to achieve them is better than setting no goals and doing nothing at all. - On a humorous note, years ago I pulled up to a stop light. As I waited for the light to turn green, I saw a bumper sticker on the car ahead of me which said, "I'm ahead of you." - If I say I'm going out to jog 4 miles but only do two, okay, I didn't hit 4 miles but I did more than if I hadn't set any goal and had done nothing.

I walked away from Molly Monet's article not thinking I could have what she has, but thinking if I set a goal and managed to achieve some of what she has, I would be better off than doing nothing at all. Not getting angry, keeping the peace is far better than going "nuclear". Life is tough enough without having to deal with steam coming out of my ears.

The Fight Round 2: Cathy
On April 7, 2011, Cathy Meyer published on her web site Divorced Women Online a rebuttal to Molly Monet's Huffington piece. In the article "Peaceful Divorce: It Isn’t a 'One Size Fits All' Solution to a Problem", Ms Meyers quite rightly points out that there is no one solution to divorce. She also points out how bad some divorces can be which would require a completely different set of strategies. After all, if the other side declares World War III, as opposed to waving a white flag, it would seem fighting fire with fire must be the rule of the day. The difficult times the author details of her own divorce is more than enough to prove a divorce has the potential of being very, very difficult.

One curious point of Ms. Meyer's rebuttal comes here: "There is a belief among those who were able to come through a divorce fairly unscathed that those of us who didn’t handled our situations poorly, that if we had worked a bit harder we also could be going out to dinner with our ex and taking 'family' vacations." I qualify this as a curious point because I at no time interpreted Ms. Monet's message in that fashion. If that was her message, if that is the message coming from others who have had a "peaceful divorce", then I too would be just a tad miffed. Okay, I'm mincing my words; I'd be royally pissed. No two situations are exactly the same and just because you're having a nice day doesn't mean my day is as nice as yours. I understand perfectly what Ms Meyer is saying, but, I have just never interpreted what Molly is saying in that manner.

When I read Molly Monet, I know my situation is not going to be like hers because the protagonists in my story are not like her and her husband. Yes she has a strategy but how much of her success is due to her husband being receptive to "her approach"? I have read a number of stories where the spouse or ex-spouse has been anything but receptive and the result has been WWIII. Nevertheless, I do like the idea of trying to remain cool, calm, and collected in the face of adversity and being forgiving of others. I also recognise the wisdom of Ms. Meyers; there is no one size fits all and the finality of divorce and its sometimes draconian measures means a prudent, well-prepared, and take-no-prisoners approach may be necessary.

The Post-Divorce Chronicles
In the April 14, 2011 article entitled "Why can't we co-parent?", the author Lee Block talks about co-parenting alone or as she calls it "parallel parenting", that is, when the other parent doesn't want to be in the picture.

In the best of circumstances, you have those like Molly Monet, from Postcards From a Peaceful Divorce, who is the model of co-parenting and getting along with their ex after the divorce, and at the very worst, you have people like me and Mikalee Byerman, writer of Me 2.0, whose ex will hardly speak to her and they were actually told to practice “parallel parenting”, or no co-parenting.

Why can't we all just get along? Well, for starters, if we did none of us would be divorced, and we are, so that answers that question.

The Bitter Divorcée
In the article "A New (and Welcome) Paradigm for Divorce" by Annie Parker (Apr 11/2011), the author writes about this rebuttal by Cathy Meyer to Molly Monet's Huffington article.

So why does Cathy Meyer have her undies in a bunch?  When I first read Molly Monet’s voice over at Huffpo Divorce months ago, my undies bunched, too. It prompted some serious self-reflection. I realized the reason her new paradigm bugged me was because I also had a part in perpetuating the high-conflict nature of my own divorce. Molly’s work made me feel guilty, like she was pointing a stern blaming finger at me, telling me I hadn’t worked hard enough at peacemaking. Had she been, she would have been right.

I repeat Annie's interesting confession, "I also had a part in perpetuating the high-conflict nature of my own divorce."

Final Word
On a humorous note, I have read a number of stories written by female bloggers which paint an unflattering portrait of the male side of the fence. Unflattering? Ha! I think from now on when I turn on my computer to surf the Net; I'm going to wear a cup.

Seriously though, I think divorce has the potential to make anybody nuts. That's an explanation, however, not a justification. While Molly's Zen-like approach to dealing with her ex may help all of us to bring it down a notch, I think Ms. Meyer is right in advising a series of self-protective measures. If your spouse is nuts those measures may include buying yourself a dart gun. See my posting Tricia Walsh: Let's divorce on YouTube for the story of the public divorce from hell.

I said elsewhere that getting married was fun, being married was a joy, but divorce sucks. It is not the nicest of things one may do in their lifetime. It is an emotional rollercoaster and debilitating experience for everyone involved and the pain and anguish can put anybody in the loony-bin. Easing the pain is sometimes just biting onto a stick so you don't swallow your tongue.

I am reminded though of the wise words of Raoul Felder. This lawyer to the Hollywood stars has encapsulated his 40 years of divorce experience in a book (see my posting Raoul Felder: The Good Divorce) where he states: Marriage is never as blissful as people expect. Divorce is never as devastating as people imagine. I see in those words a caveat about marriage not always being a joy and a ray of hope that divorce is not utter ruin. In a time of emotional highs (both marriage and divorce), a little objectivity is welcomed if not warranted.

From Ms. Meyer's description, she seems to have an unpleasant divorce. I'm sorry. Nobody deserves that. In perusing her writings, she does offer sound advice and I would say her practicality reminds me of the saying, "Hope for the best but expect the worst and you'll never be disappointed."

I don't have any statistics but it seems that Molly is living the exception to the rule. How much of her peaceful divorce is due to her approach to divorce and how much is due to the receptivity of her husband to a peaceful divorce? In reading a number of bloggers telling the tale of their own circumstances, it would seem a lot - the majority? - of divorces do not play out peacefully. (Hello Tricia Walsh!) Nevertheless Ms. Monet's strategies of remaining calm and focusing on the goal are inspirational. Laura Munson has a similar story (see my posting Laura Munson: Save your marriage by doing nothing) when her husband had something of a personal meltdown slash midlife crisis and told her he didn't love her anymore and wanted a divorce. She replied, "I don't buy it." She remained calm, gave her husband space to work it out, and after four somewhat chaotic months he came back. Today, things are turned around and they are still married.

Okay, I could continue writing blah, blah, blah and citing all sorts of stories saying things pro-Meyer or pro-Monet, but is there a "right answer", a single unique right answer? Not that I can see. I read Cathy Meyer; I read Molly Monet. I read Annie Parker (The Bitter Divorcée), Pauline Gaines (Perils of Divorced Pauline), Sophia van Buren (A Non Custodial Mother), and even Pamela Madsen (but that's not about divorce, but it could have been!) and there amongst all of them I see pieces of me, a bit here, a bit there, but I don't exactly see a single unique answer. I'd love to have what Molly has, but that doesn't seem to be on the table. Come to think of it, Michele Weiner-Davis (The Divorce Buster) and her ideas of saving a marriage would be welcome but that doesn't seem to be on the table either.

I think all of the above have interesting things to say and from each, I take away a little bit which applies to me. No one person gives me everything. If I disagree with Cathy Meyer in her article mentioned above, it's that I have never felt Molly Monet was telling me if I worked harder I could have what she has and it's my fault if I failed to change my situation. What I do take away from Ms. Monet is like Rudyard Kipling's If: "If you can keep your head when all about you, Are losing theirs and blaming it on you..." A little Zen never hurt anybody, especially in the emotionally charged situation called divorce. But on the other hand - and this is my personal caveat - if one side decides to lawyer up, the other side has no choice but to lawyer up too and once you lawyer up, you have completely changed the nature of the game. (see Divorce Mistakes to Avoid) I still have to chuckle as I look at this as the couple is no longer getting a divorce, the couple's lawyers are getting a divorce.

An old saying comes to mind: Time spent in getting even would be better spent in getting ahead. Ah, so easy to say, so difficult to do. Molly tweeted the following: The greatest discovery of any generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitude. - William James

At the end of the day, being happy is up to each one of us. - Yes, that is difficult when a lawyer is serving you with papers. - A little of Molly for some peace, a little of Cathy for some preparations. Be calm, but be ready.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go reload my dart gun. And I'm not ruling out that sometimes I should use it on myself.


The Huffington Post - Mar 3/2011
How Did I Get a Peaceful Divorce? by Molly Monet

Divorced Women Online - Apr 7/2011
Peaceful Divorce: It Isn’t a "One Size Fits All" Solution to a Problem by Cathy Meyer

The Bitter Divorcée - Mar 23/2011
No-fault divorce #HelpingYouStayMarried? by Annie Parker
[This article has Annie and Cathy going at it about no fault divorce. I am preparing the mud pit.]

References about Cathy Meyer

The Huffington Post: blogger bio: Cathy Meyer
Cathy Meyer, a certified Marriage and Relationship Educator, holds a Master’s Degree in Psychology from the University of Alabama. A certified facilitator of marriage and relationship programs, Cathy has offered seminars and workshops to couples who are serious about building and nurturing healthy relationships. In addition to helping couples with their relationships, Cathy writes and edits the Divorce Support site at and is the founder of the online magazine for the divorced woman, Divorced Women Online.

About.Com: Cathy Meyer
She is also trained as a Marriage Educator and has presented workshops and seminars based on The Marriage Breakthrough Seminar, How to Keep Love Alive developed by Michele Weiner-Davis. A program developed to assist couples build relationships that are more loving and lasting.

Divorced Women Online: About
What do millions of adult women all over the planet have in common?  DIVORCE.  And thanks o Divorced Women Online – an online magazine written by divorced women, for divorced women - they don’t have to navigate it alone. Whatever stage women are at - contemplating divorce, hashing through legalities, plowing through the dating trenches or embarking on a new career,  DWO offers support, information, and expert advice and referrals every step of the way.  Says DWO Founder, Cathy Meyer, “Readers need to be reminded that first and foremost they are WOMEN, not just divorcees.”

References about Molly Monet

Huffington Post: blogger bio: Molly Monet
She is currently a lecturer at Mount Holyoke College and her work has appeared in several international academic journals. She received a BA from Princeton and a PhD from Yale.

Five Colleges Faculty
MHC Molly Monet-Viera Visiting Lecturer in Spanish, 2010-2011, Yale University: Latin American culture and literature, second language acquisition.

Five College Course Offerings by Five College Faculty, 2010–2011
Molly Monet-Viera, Visiting Lecturer in Spanish
Ph.D., M.A., Yale University; B.A., Princeton University

Personal note: I would like to explain the inclusion of the following reference as a tongue-in-cheek, irreverent bit of humour. I am a strong man and can resist anything... except temptation.

Rate My Professor
Name: Molly Monet-Viera
School: Mount Holyoke College
Location: South Hadley, MA
Department: Languages
Overall Rating = 4.8
Helpfulness = 5.0
Clarity = 4.7
Easiness = 3.3
Red Chili Pepper = "Hot " professor!!!
* Molly is amazing. I had a horrible teacher last semester and this is was such a nice change. She has alot of energy and really warm/nice person. TAKE HER CLASS!
* Molly is just excellent. She's lots of fun, has lots of energy, and makes Spanish so fun. She makes it effortless to learn and is very understanding. Definitely recommend her, the best prof by far to take 102 or any class with!
* In a department where they expect way too much, she is a breath of fresh air. She's very encouraging and nice. She makes you want to learn the subject.


Site Map - William Quincy BelleFollow me on Twitter

1 comment:

PollyAnna said...

As someone who apparently reads the same divorce blogs that you do, I read this with some interest. The line that stood out to me was this:

Annie's interesting confession, "I also had a part in perpetuating the high-conflict nature of my own divorce."

I can only dream of Molly's peaceful divorce; I don't see my ex as bringing the same things to the table as her ex apparently does, and it does take two to make that happen. But Annie's line is telling (and I think it's incredibly brave of her to say it publicly), and I don't want to make things worse on myself, or my daughter, by adding to the conflict.

My divorce isn't over yet, but I hold tight to the idea that if I don't want it to be high conflict then I'm going to have to avoid adding fuel to the conflict fire. I'm getting divorced because I don't want to live in constant conflict, and because I want to model something better than that to my daughter. I don't want to carry the kind of anger. I can't control what my ex does (and some of what he does makes me angry, no doubt about that)...but I am trying to control what I do. Easier said than done some days, but I really am hoping to end up ahead, as you say. I hope I can hold true to that, and that it works.