Submitted by: Cathy Meyer
I recently read an article by Molly Monet over at the Huffington Post Divorce section. Molly has been divorced a couple of years and thinks she holds the secret to a “peaceful divorce.” She has managed to build not only a civil relationship with her ex but they have remained friends. So friendly in fact that they have family dinners and take family vacations together.
If only the outcome of divorce could be half that pleasant for all of us! The reality is though, Molly and her situation isn’t the rule, it is the exception. But in Molly’s opinion those of us who ended up in a high conflict divorces did so because we didn’t behave ourselves during the divorce process.
She says, “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.”
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 take exception to that belief! As someone who bent over backwards and played nice doggy when her ex was withholding money, disrespecting his children and using the legal system to abusehis family it gets my dander up for someone to tell me my ex behaved badly because I handled my divorce poorly.
I respect Molly and what she is striving to do for her family. I think the issue with Molly and people like her is that they are unable to view divorce but from one perspective…their own. They believe that if they made it work for them then everyone should be able to make it work also.
I was a lot like Molly when I first divorced. I had this idea in my head of no longer being married to my ex but building a friendship with him and co-parenting our children in a manner that promoted their best interest.
I had experience with divorce in my family. My paternal grandparents were divorced. They were friendly with each other. We used to go visit my grandmother and my grandfather would stay in her home during our visits. When he became ill with cancer she took him back into her home and cared for him until he passed away. They neither one ever remarried and are now buried next to each other.
My mother was married and divorced before she married my father. I have a half brother as a result. My mother and her first husband weren’t friends but they were civil toward each other and worked together for the sake of my brother. My brother has a collection of photos taken with him and both his parents throughout his life. If there was a gathering and both parents were there they made sure to get a “family” photo of the three of them. There was never a time that I remember seeing my mother and her first husband engage in conflict. And I certainly never heard her disparage him in anyway.
When my ex decided he could no longer stay in our marriage I naturally thought we would end up having a relationship similar to those that I had experienced as a child of divorced relatives. I expected more than my ex was willing to give me, his children or himself.
Every time I extended the hand of friendship it got slapped. The man wanting NOTHING to do with being civil. It took me 3 years of attempting to play nice to realize I was pissing into the wind and only damaging myself by continuing to “work” at building the kind of relationship with him that I had witnessed as a child.
In the comment section of her article Molly said, “A friend of mine posted something beautiful on my FB link to this article. She quoted Emily Dickinson saying “Luck is not chance; it is toil. Fortune’s expensive smile is earned.” Our peace took work and that’s what I want to show people. Others who are willing to make the effort could get similar results.”
Molly has this stubborn need to believe that those of us who have spent years suffering the negative consequences of the bad behavior of another person or just unlucky because we didn’t “toil.” We weren’t willing to put forth the effort so we must have earned what we got.
Those of us who have dealt with abusive exes do without a support system because of beliefs like that. We learn to keep our mouths shut and suffer in silence because opening up and talking about our high conflict divorce doesn’t get us empathy, it gets us judgments from those who haven’t learned that their perspective is not the only perspective.
I’ve been in a very lonely place for over a decade. My family is not supportive. After all they experienced “peaceful” divorces and in their opinion there must be something wrong with ME, if not my ex would be sharing meals and taking vacations with his children and I.
The majority of my friends and family suffer the same lack of insight that Molly does. They have an inability to look outside their own experiences and realize that every story is unique. Our own perspective shapes what seems right and wrong. Seeing something from a different perspective can raise our awareness and enable us to show compassion and empathy for the situations of others.
Molly filters everything by her own personal history, her beliefs, motivations and concepts that she holds true. So do I but the difference between Molly and I is that I’ve seen both sides of the coin so my perspective is broader. I’m able to see things from her perspective and my own because I’ve lived both. And, I’m also aware that just because something worked for me doesn’t mean it will or should work for everyone else.
It can take courage to see the perspective of the other person’s situation, acknowledge it and then look for the best solution for both. I think Molly believes she has a one size fits all solution to the problems that arise due to divorce. That belief is dangerous for Molly and women who buy into Molly’s advice. Molly isn’t offering solutions; she is misleading people by showing only her perspective and dismissing the idea that there isn’t one solution for all situations.
I’d like to talk to Molly again in ten years after her ex has remarried and has a wife who doesn’t buy into him having dinner and taking vacations with his ex-wife. Or, after her ex-husband gets tired of playing house with his ex-wife. When she has some true experience with the outcome of divorce I’d like to talk to her.
I’ll do something for her at that time that she hasn’t done for women like me, I’ll listen, attempt to view her problem from her perspective and show her some empathy. I don’t wish Molly conflict in her life BUT things change and with her inability to understand that her situation isn’t static the time is going to come when Molly will need understanding, empathy and compassion. Good thing for her there will be women open enough to not only offer her support but listen to her without judgment.