Let me first say that my lawyer is not happy when I blog about my divorce. But now that I’ve been in a front-page article of the New York Times for blogging about the divorce, I think we’ve passed the point of discretion.

And anyway, I think it’s okay to blog because I am the transparent type, so it would be weird for me to have this huge thing in my life and not write anything about it. How is this blog at the intersection of work and life if I cut out the life?

Also, I noticed that Nino has started commenting on my recent divorce posts, and he seems to be updating my family about our divorce via Facebook, so at this point I feel that all is fair in social media. And maybe working out one’s divorce is going to be the killer app for Twitter.

So the first thing I’ve done to make sure the divorce doesn’t undermine my career is that I’m not pretending that it is irrelevant to my career. But here are some other steps I’ve decided are important for trying to keep both the divorce and the career on track.

1. Surround yourself with smart people. They’ll help you make faster progress.
I hired the two top attorneys. As if there is top anything in little Madison, Wisconsin. But alas, in any sea, there are big fish. I spend most of my time worrying that Nino routinely complains of me stealing our marital assets. Like, he’ll mention it while we’re watching a soccer game, or under his breath taking the kids to violin class.

Usually this accusation is reserved for men who buy a yacht and a condo for a hot little mistress and twelve first-class airfares to see her. So the accusation won’t hold for me. But still, my attorney decided that our best strategy is make sure that Nino has a great attorney so it is two smart lawyers who are used to negotiating with each other and things will go faster.

I hope this is a good strategy. If my site starts loading slower you’ll know that the lawyers have been so expensive that I had to cut back on bandwidth.

2. Be consistent — be the same in the divorce as you’d be in your work
Our first official divorce fight was Nino refusing to refer to me as Penelope in his emails. I told him he has to use Penelope, but I tried to say it in a nice email so that we were not having animosity. In my heart of hearts I still believe the most important thing is to be nice.

So we tried. He wrote a long email about how my old name—which I’m not even writing here because I’m so done with it—is more appropriate. I ignored the email. He ignored my pleas. It’s like we’re still married. Oh. Wait. We are.

3. Keep a sense of humor — it gives you fresh perspective.
Surprisingly though, our efforts to downplay the divorce animosity are paying off. For example, on Mother’s Day, Nino agreed to go on a hike with me and our kids and our eight-year-old neighbor who spends tons of time at our house. It was a big favor for him to do because I’m the one who really wants the kids to feel like we’re still a family, and I’m the one who likes hiking.

On the hike, the boys comforted me by being their normal boy selves, and they turned mud piles into cannon balls and every long stick became a sword. We sat down to rest at a campsite.

Nino said, “Wow, they have everything at the campsite, even a place to chop wood. If you have a hatchet.”

The eight-year-old neighbor says, “We have a hatchet at our house. My mom’s boyfriend bought it for her last Valentine’s Day.”

Nino and I looked at each other, incredulous, and smiled. And for one, small second I felt like we were a family—the parents sharing an inside joke while the kids try to kill each other.

4. Be a good time manager; the divorce takes time, so manage it well
Ignoring the fact that my lawyer’s time is probably more expensive than mine, I had him meet me at McDonald’s. I had breakfast with my two-year-old and then, while he was crawling up and down in Ronald’s Playland, I gave my lawyer a summary of our debts and assets. My son asked two or three times who the guy was. I said, “It’s my friend, Allan.” And as I said it I thought maybe this would make it so I get the hourly rate for friends. (Do divorce lawyers have any friends?)

My son offered Allan an ice cream, which he declined, (and then Allan’s clock ticked in Playland while I bought my son the most expensive ice cream ever purchased.) Then my son asked if Allan wanted to go down the slide. He asked if Allan was coming to our house. All this made me wonder about eventually bringing home some guy to live with us. Though honestly I can’t wrap my head around integrating another man into our life beyond some guy coming to Playland with us.

But I know it happens. I know that somehow women work this out in their lives. And since I learn so fast from stories, could people write stories in the comments section about how they introduced a step-parent successfully?

5. Be honest. If you are shady about your divorce people will think you’re shady about everything.
It would be so fake to tell you that I’m not worried. I’m very worried.

I’m worried that I’ll never fall in love. That’s normal, right? I mean, I know it’s normal if you are fifteen and get dumped, so it must be true now, too.

I’m also worried about money. How does anyone separate their career from their divorce? A divorce comes with a promise to earn a certain amount of money. All the things I’ve done in my life to insure that I have flexibility to do whatever career I want could be going down the tubes. I’m very scared about that.

I also worry that you are only reading this stuff because I’m a train wreck. People like reading about other peoples’ divorces because they feel better about keeping their own marriage together. So, okay. I hope I can make some of you feel smug today, because sometimes I write posts and I’m the one feeling smug. We should all get our chance.

96 replies
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  1. Alan Wilensky
    Alan Wilensky says:

    Penelope:

    You are so delightful and wonderfully honest, I’d be your boyfriend without a thought. Ha! Although Im unemployed (self employed, underemployed) and threw a valley career down the toilet for speaking my mind…and live in a one room craphole….

    You are a beacon for the independent thinker – and for my part, and my two short marriages that I fully take my fair share of responsibility for kiboshing….you keep it up…..don’t doubt yourself for a minute. There ain’t another like you.

  2. matt
    matt says:

    my parents divorced when i was 16. it was hard, but i wish they had been as honest with themselves as they thought they were being with me. of course this is age appropriate advice and i know that you have discernment regarding your child.

    as far as the train wreck stuff goes, no, i dont come for the preceived train wreck. i come because i think you try to walk your life out as messy as it gets at times. and though this might seem odd or strange to you or the fellow readers, i do pray for you, nino and your kid.

  3. Katybeth
    Katybeth says:

    I don’t feel smug but you did make me laugh–hope that is ok. I also hope at least part of the time you are laughing with me!

    Best of Luck!

  4. Anna
    Anna says:

    Penelope,
    I enjoy when you post about your divorce because part of what I enjoy about you as a blogger is that you don’t pretend that you aren’t also a person with a personal life. And you do your best to incorporate your personal experiences into your articles in a legitimate way. In a way, it increases your credibility and authority.
    Good luck with your divorce. Just keep doing what you’re doing, and don’t focus so much on finding “the next one”–focus on completing your divorce and working on your company first.

  5. Kim
    Kim says:

    Be Honest? When are you going to start?

    Definition of a train wreck: Introducing your kids to your lawyer. Dating before you can even remember to say “ex husband”. Placing your future before the future of your children.

  6. beckie
    beckie says:

    It took 3 years for my divorce to be final. Those closest to my at work knew about the divorce, and they were very supportive. But even with their support, I still managed to screw alot of things up. Thank goodness I’m not a surgeon! By the time the divorce was final, I felt I could be fired anyday. Now, alot of that was in my head; apparently my errors were not earthshaking, but that didn’t stop me from feeling like a walking talking imposter. I wanted advice on how to manage career and divorce, and I never found it until I came upon your blog. Thank you for sharing. It really does get better.

  7. Tia
    Tia says:

    Brava. Go deliberately and with curiosity, not perfectly. My divorce was declared final two weeks ago, narrowly missing a full trial. I spent 3 of the past 7 months in hiding, while running a business. Yesterday a client said, “I had no idea all that was going on in your life”. I was relieved to not have to hold up the facade any longer. Life and work intersect and somehow we have to run them both even when they get messy. Smug people should watch out…chances are they’ll get their chance to test their theory in more vivid color than they may have intended.

  8. Holly Hoffman
    Holly Hoffman says:

    I read because I like watching people walk through the difficult things in life with grace, dignity and poise. I haven’t been there (yet), but I’d like to know that if/when, I’ll have watched someone else make it out OK. You’ll make it.

    This is really cheesy, but when I am afraid I won’t find love, I ask God/Yahweh/Allah/the universe to prepare my mate as He/She/It prepares me. A good friend used to tell me that you can’t bake the cake until you take the mix out of the box. So, I focus on me. Just like you are.

  9. coyote
    coyote says:

    Hmmm… having a strange man around all the time, calling Mom, her going to meet him WITHOUT the kids…

    or introducing him to your kids as your friend Alan, and going to McDonald’s, and acting like it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

    The first one isn’t suspicious at all, won’t cause the kids to talk about it with their friends or feel insecure… and the second one is worth of reproach?

    Be real.

    If she was a man and already dating all the guys would be in here cheering him on. This marriage was over a long time ago. Mentally she’s halfway ready to date. The other half is going to take a very, very long time. And some people think about EVERYTHING in a situation.

    How dare you think about anything but your children??????? BAD MOM. I’m being facetious. But worrying about how you feel and how you’ll manage your career is ultimately how you’re going to support your children and if you feel secure about it, they will feel secure about it.

    Divorce is messy and embarrassing and difficult and anyone who hasn’t been through it needs to take a big step back from the judgement soapbox.

  10. Jonathan S
    Jonathan S says:

    Front page of the New York Times? Please… If I remember correctly, a tiny picture was on the article, and maybe two short paragraphs at the end of the article were about you. And, it was NOT the front page. Don’t get ahead of yourself…

    * * * * *
    Yikes! I always know I’ll face a tough crowd here, but I never know quite where the discussion will head. But even though your angle is unexpected, you’re right about the article. So I changed some prepositions up at the top of the post so I don’t upset the hyperbole police.

    Penelope

  11. Andy
    Andy says:

    You’re right to worry about money. Certain decisions in divorce (alimony, child support) are predicated on the assumption of a certain level of income. Once these are established in the divorce settlement, they are hard to change, and often require a court action to change. This will reduce your flexibility in your career, e.g. it will make it much more difficult to take time off, or to take a big pay cut to pursue a different line of work or an entrepreneurial activity, etc. Bottom line is this: divorce is expensive and disruptive to all aspects of your life, and should be avoided if at all possible.

  12. Lucy
    Lucy says:

    Hang in there Penelope. I went thru absolutely all of this last year. It gets better…you start to figure it out…clarity remains elusive but it does strike at strange moments and those keep me going. Thanks for the honesty!

  13. Deneen
    Deneen says:

    I don’t read your blogs because you are a train wreck. I read your columns because your blogs give a healthy perspective of a woman in the “real” world…attempting to balance work and life.

    Thank you for your transparency!

  14. Laura
    Laura says:

    oh penelope, I love my crazy roommate from college. Smugness has nothing to do with it.

    ps your husband’s name is Nino? That’s like finding out Big is “John”.

  15. tinyhands
    tinyhands says:

    You’re going to become a completely different person over the next few years. Your wants and needs are going to change, as will your perspective on divorce. I don’t find it remotely strange that you can’t imagine falling in love, that dating is weird, or any of that other stuff. I can’t promise that you won’t wind up hopelessly “broken” from the process through which you’re currently going, but don’t assume too much. As I suggested yesterday, the book ‘Stumbling on Happiness’ teaches us that our vision of the future is clouded by what we think and feel today, since we cannot possibly know what we will think and feel in the future. It’s somewhat counterintuitive, but it also makes perfect sense.

  16. Rcket
    Rcket says:

    Penelope

    A wonderful blog. Really. I’ve already forwarded link after link here to many people I care about.

    You’re clearly speaking to that intersection of work and life in a way that informs and resonates. What a unique voice you have! And your topic selection….so relevant. Good luck in continuing to grow and refine your voice and this site.

    Mixing in this highly personal element adds real context, but it also feels like a fine line to walk in not having the blog become strictly personal. I’m sure you’re thoughtful about balancing that intersection.

    Anyway as a long time Madisonian I will take some umbrage with the sorta cheap shot in the first point. Perhaps you meant it sarcastically, but I also sense some pain there too.

    How much, if any, did your move to this new place challenge this relationship?

  17. Kim
    Kim says:

    Unfortunately your lawyer doesn’t subscribe to your statement that “In my heart of hearts I still believe the most important thing is to be nice.” What would Nino say to this? Are you really being honest? Or are you only concerned about finding sex, a date, a fresh bikini wax, and another box of chocolate covered fruit? You’re hardly being consistent P. Which is the real you?

  18. Nii
    Nii says:

    Divorce can never be a good thing – and there is no playing around it. Unfortunately, the west has come “adore” divorce so much that even if your partner drops a pin the wrong way, the other is running off for a divorce. It is a shame! There is only one reason why a divorce should be “tolerated”, where infidelity is the factor. Even in this case, to forgive is divine. This mindset will save so many families if American and the rest of the west for that matter will get it into their heads.

  19. Charles
    Charles says:

    Penelope,
    Blogs have been found to be very therapeutic and have helped many people get through the "dark times" because they provide an outlet for thoughts, require personal reflection and allow others to give a fresh perspective on a person's underlying motives and challenge their rationalizations. Conclusion: blogs have been proven to be effective therapy tool. I can find the articles if you like.

    However, lawyers work best when you stay out of their way (and not feed your adversaries) and let them do their job. Having only read you blog for a couple of weeks, it is pretty obvious you are a type that follows your heart. You'll figure out which course of action is best.

    On stealing assets: Having gone through a nasty probate, your ex's unfounded fears can be expected. He probably doesn't feel in control of this adversarial situation (in his mind for sure) and by creating a stink he is attempting to assert it. As far as dividing assets: studies have shown that most people think that they are fair and honest and will split things "down the middle". Truth is a most people believe this but feel their fair share is 60-75% and a split "down the middle" should favor them by at least 10%. The best thing you can do in this situation is to be firm and keep an eye on his underlying motivations.

    As far his refusal to use "Penelope", it is once again a way for him to feel in control of the situation. (As might be your insistence he uses it.) If it is very important to you, be firm and clear in your assertion. For divorce purposes it might be a small point that distracts from the bigger issues. That is for you to decide.

    Keeping a sense of humor is very important. It often diffuses the tension and allows an opening to reach a mutual understanding. Good point.

    Time management and a clear perspective are important. In stressful life transitions it is always important not to try to rush through to get to the next step. While you may be thinking of eventually integrating a new man into you life, there is no reason to feel you have to be ready to do it at this time. This might be best thought of as a "future project" and time spent pondering such actions be spent on other things.

    “I'm worried that I'll never fall in love. That's normal, right? I mean, I know it's normal if you are fifteen and get dumped, so it must be true now, too.”

    Yes it is very normal to have moments of doubt. The good news is that it is also silly. You have a lot going for you and on top of it you have enough common sense to know that true love, like anything worth while, takes time. My recommendation is not to rush to find the next best thing.

    “I'm also worried about money.”

    “Don't worry about money, it'll show up.”
    -Alaskan Proverb

    The biggest fear of not having money is the fear of not having money. Having grown up in the scarcity of the 70s and 80s and often being hungry as a child, not having money was a scary prospect. I, like you, made sure throughout my life I've had enough funds insure flexibility and security, but it wasn't until I willingly took the risk to pursue my dreams regardless of money that I learned that if you have an ounce of brain power, you'll do just fine. Another important thing to remember friends are more valuable than money. If times ever get so bad, friends will step in and help out. Penelope: You are smart and resilient. While times might get tough from time to time, you will always do just fine. This I guarantee.

    “I also worry that you are only reading this stuff because I'm a train wreck.”

    Honestly, I do not believe you are a train wreck. Nearly everyone goes through personal crisis and loss of faith in one's abilities during their lifetime. This is a real, quite normal and nothing to be ashamed of. One positive note is that many people have been through this and are willing to help you. You will be a stronger, wiser and more compassionate person because of this. Good things to look forward to.

    -Charles

  20. Maria
    Maria says:

    I’m amazed at the vitriol expressed in some of the comments – get a life, people.

    I’m reading your blog because you offer practical advice and insight. The divorce aspect is a bonus, as I’m one year away from discovering my (now ex) husband’s infidelity. Penelope, you’re doing fine, you’re experiencing “normal,” and I am impressed by your openness about what most people hide away from public view. You’ll be fine, even if it doesn’t always seem like it now.

    When you’re ready to contemplate falling in love again, you might consider reading Mira Kirshenbaum’s “Is He Mr. Right?” Despite the cheesy title, the book is a useful distillation of what to look for and what to run away from in new relationships. Had I read it six years ago, I would have spared myself the last year. I am happier now, though, then I was before the affair started – this is a great time to focus on what you and your son need and then go for it.

  21. Lane
    Lane says:

    I find it interesting that so many people have judgments to make, to tell you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. I’d imagine that many of the people still flogging you for getting a divorce, or spewing about how you don’t care about your children have no basis from which to understand the situation at all.

    So many people go on about how divorce is BAD, but never stop to consider why marriage is GOOD and WHY it should be upheld no matter what.

    With regard to your worries, my own personal experience says that those things work themselves out, and that spending time looking for love/relationships/etc usually ends up in finding more of the same mistakes. At some point it becomes about “flow” – doing what feels right at the time, damn all the critics. To me, you seem to have a love-hate relationship with flow.

    I blogged about divorce, including your impending divorce and people’s common “judgments” on divorce, on my blog. http://exponential.steelbuddha.net/2008/04/07/divorce-common-bad-adviceassumptions/

  22. Margaret W
    Margaret W says:

    Not to tell someone else’s stories, but this is really about *a friend* of mine. She was the super success story of all my friends — super hardworking, earned her PhD while working f/t and playing in a rock band! Met her future husband when she was 24; married at 30, two adorable boys.

    Now, to 2004: she strikes up a casual email exchange with an old friend that quickly morphs into a passionate affair. She’s on the east coast, he’s in Chicago. Within the span of a year, she gets divorced, finds a fab job and home in Chicago and moves to be close to him. Problem is, he’s still with his wife… and they just had another child…

    …but bless her, she finally figures out that he’s a heel, and starts to rewrite the story. Not “I took a bomb to my old life, and this guy dumps me”, but rather “I was brought to Chicago for another reason.” Find a lovely mensch, he is a doll, he took care of her after she suffered a serious injury, loves the boys, and this weekend I just attended their wedding. She’s calmer than I’ve ever seen her, and it seems like she’s found her true home.

    So it can work out, it can!! Two words: J Date. : )

  23. prklypr
    prklypr says:

    I enjoy every moment of your blog. When you are going through something like this, it absolutely affects your work, whether you are a blogger, an exec or a postal clerk. This is the ultimate example of the ‘intersection of work and life’. If I make it thru the day without throwing up or crying quietly in a bathroom stall, I consider it an accomplishment. Trust me, your situation is good compared to others. At least you have the money to pay for the best lawyers, even if they are only the best in little Madison, Wisconsin.

  24. Alice Bachini-Smith
    Alice Bachini-Smith says:

    I’ve been through it all and come out the other side (and went through all the stages of hell on the way) and am now pretty pleased with how things are- 4 years on so far. That’s nothing for a total life change- the time it takes to get a college degree. And life is much much better now, but different, and some of the differences themselves can feel worse. Both financially and in terms of your kids’ welfare, you feel tied to someone you’d prefer not to be so closely related to. And you really are. I spent a lot of time this week discussing one of my kids, who is having a bad week, with my ex- because I want him to do what I think best, of course, and the fact he won’t makes me feel totally powerless because in their house I have no say at all. Then there are the times when everything seems perfect, and I’m really grateful about it.

    My kids also adore their step-dad, and they did meet him very early on and were positive from the start because they were still quite young, and he befriended them. An older child will be happy for their parent to have a partner, but a younger one will be happy to have a new adult playmate. If the guy is not going to be their sports buddy or whatever, go slower so it’s not a big deal.

    (I don’t know how you put up with some of the comments here, if it was my blog they’d be deleted and banned for rudeness. That’s why I only have about 4 readers I guess :) )

  25. Jim Eiden
    Jim Eiden says:

    Take it from personal experience. The younger the children, the easier it will be for them to adapt.

    My parents divorced when I was 18 months old. I’m now 42. In Illinois my parents were one of the first to have Joint Custody of me. I was an only child between them.

    The marriage was doomed from the start.

    I spent my childhood living with Mom and visiting Dad on weekends. My Dad remarried when I was 6, and he and my Step-Mom have been together ever since. In fact their anniversary is this week.

    I never knew what it was like to live as a normal family. This nomadic life was my “Normal.” It forced me to become more independent.

    I lived with Mom until the end of Jr. High. Then I was sent to live with my Dad & Step-Mom. That was a huge adjustment to go through your teen years while living in a new house. I had to make new friends all over again as well as integrate with my 1/2 sister & 1/2 brother.

    My Step-Mom could’ve said no. But she welcomed me, although i still had that “You’re not my Mom.” attitude. Her entire family accepted me as their own. Her parents became an extra set of Grandparents, her Brothers and Sister and their kids became uncles, aunts and cousins. To be honest her family accepted me as one of their own even before I moved in with them.

    But it was not easy. Being a teen can be very difficult in addition to having to live in a new environment.

    I stayed there until 1/2 way through JR. College then moved back with my Mom until I went to away to finish my Bachelors.

    When I was in High School, I was in a Drum & Bugle Corps. We traveled all over and were gone every weekend during the summer. My Mom came with on a lot of my trips.

    When I finally went away to school, I never had the homesickness that others had, I was used to being away and being nomadic.

    I think that is why being a consultant fits me so well. And I think that is why my Wife’s job of her traveling 100% every week is not as bad as it could be as a husband. I guess I married what I am used to.

    My advice is this. Now that your husband is moving on, your kids are your #1 focus. Feel free to date (You’re only human), but I highly suggest that you do not get remarried until the kids are out of the house. No one said it would be easy, but you and your husband made this decision and have to live with the consequences.

    I was lucky. I have a fantastic Step-Mom, although it took me decades to come to that realization. I love my Step-Mom and in public she introduces me as her son to others along with her two kids.

    This was my Step-Mom’s first marriage and my Dad would take me on dates with them (Cubs Games, etc). My Step-Mom has known me longer than her own children.

    My Real Mom never remarried. But that is OK. She dated and several of her boyfriends I actually wanted her to marry. But as a kid, I would get extremely jealous when she went out on a date. Some of the men, I came to like, but that is another extra burden a child takes on.

    They just know that someone is stealing time away from you and them.

    My situation is not perfect, I am extremely lucky. But please consider your relationship choices very carefully and how that impacts your kids.

  26. Bob Beardsley
    Bob Beardsley says:

    Your blog reads like the life journal that it is. Someday, you’ll collect all the posts and some of the comments and put them in a best selling book!

    As for divorce, better times are ahead. I know from experience. And I will look forward to reading your posts about some of the crazies out there when you begin dating!

    your Twitter Buddy,

    Bob Beardsley

  27. Kaya
    Kaya says:

    As someone who is currently in the middle of a divorce (and trying desperately to sort MY goals from ones I developed while married)I found your post very refreshing.

    It’s hard to keep my mind on the career development I have been perusing while also walking through the minefield that a breakup tends to mirror…I wish you the very best of luck and I will keep reading for your insight and honesty!

  28. karen
    karen says:

    Think of my reading as a way of offering support from 2100 miles away. You’ve got great goals set for yourself while going through this. Sounds like you’re recognizing that ‘this is your life’ instead of just ‘hanging in there.’ I see a book on ‘how to live life through a divorce’ in the future. ;P

    And don’t be afraid to be YOU, whoever that may be. I think you’ve owned being PT well and it’s who you are!

  29. Barbara
    Barbara says:

    About the things he says under his breath and fear of stealing assets, I went through this over 5 years as we tried to work out a financial settlement. I had been the primary breadwinner. He would not talk to me about specifics, but would drop little verbal bombs to the kids who would (as expected) pass them on to me. He began to feel less scared about being left in poverty when he learned he could draw Social Security based on my earnings rather than his. He really wanted to keep the house and that was fine with me. It worked best for our lawyers to talk these things out. Good luck.

  30. Becky
    Becky says:

    What I LOVE about your blog IS that it is honest and authentic – life is messy and it would not be interesting any other way (consider this a mantra)! A train wreck? No more so than any other one of us – you are living a full life and that is what makes it valuable – to live, experience and share it with others.

    Carry on!

  31. Barb Moran
    Barb Moran says:

    Hi Penelope,

    I haven’t been able to blog about my impending divorce yet. I’ve been an open book on other big things in my life (breast cancer, reconstruction, etc) but haven’t gone there.

    Fortunately we don’t have kids, and he’s out of state already, but it is H A R D ! ! ! Dating is really H A R D too. I was so lonely in my marriage I am looking for companionship and a playmate right now, not a husband. It’s just hard to find someone you click with….and puh-lease people, drop the judgemental crap….unless you’ve walked in someone elses shoes, don’t go there.

    Take care, Barb

  32. leslie
    leslie says:

    I don’t see anything wrong with introducing your kids to your lawyer. They are going through the divorce too in their own way. The less they feel you are hiding from them the more secure they will feel.

  33. Amber
    Amber says:

    Penelope-

    We all read your blog because you are brilliant and bold. It takes a lot of courage to air your dirty laundry, so to speak, and express doubt about how well you’re doing. I went though the same experience not too long ago (sans kids, however). It’s a scary time, to be sure, and the ambiguity about how life will shape up in the future is paralyzing at times. What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger (cliche, yes, but also very true).

    I’ve recently read “Brazen Careerist”. One of the things you said I actually repeat to myself: “If you never switch careers, never risk being a beginner, never bet on yourself, you will put your career in a coma”. I think the same holds true for relationships and that you will land securely on your feet, happier than before. I’m not happy in my current career and I really think that having broken up with my Ex-husband that I am much better prepared to break up with a job that I’m not so fond of.

    Thanks for all of the insightfullness you share with us and stay authentic!

  34. B
    B says:

    Divorce is not evil. There is no moral failing in figuring out that you and your partner are incompatible to the point that staying together would do you and your children irreperable harm – even if it is only to the psyche.

    I’ve been through a divorce. And I came out on the other side a much wiser person. I did nt have children with my former husband, but even if I had, it woulnd not have been in either of our best interests to prolong the marriage simply because marriage is “good” and divorce is “bad”.

    I am married now to a wonderful person, and we have two children. I am a much better wife to my dearest hubby than I would have been had I not tried so hard to fight for the first marriage. Eventually you figure out what is worth dealing with, and what is unacceptable.

    Most women try so hard to make it work, and they’ll do everything they can to make it work…until they just can’t do it anymore. When you’re done, you’re done.

  35. kristi
    kristi says:

    Penelope,
    I think children pay the price for divorce. We as adults pay while we’re stuck in a soured marriage, but kids end up paying for a long time after that.

    OK, even though I believe that, I also know that you must do what is right for you, so that you have your needs met and have more to give to your children.

    I divorced the first time with two children under 5 and remarried about 18 months after the physical separation. My second husband met my kids right away and instantly became a stabilizing force for me, a very young mom, and for them. After a year of marriage, he adopted them and we went on to have our daughter.

    The 2nd marriage fell apart for many reasons, including infidelity, but what became the problem in the divorce was that what attracted me to him in the first place changed from something positive to negative.

    His “stabilizing” became “obsessing” and “controlling”. (Imagine going on a date AFTER the divorce has been final for months and coming home to YOUR apartment to find your ex sitting on your sofa at 2am, having sent the babysitter home.)

    After 5 years, I remarried and had two more beautiful children, so love does come again. Apparently I’m considered marriage worthy, even with kids and baggage, so believe that it will come for you if you desire it.

    My advice based on my experiences: dating soon is OK, but hopping into a serious relationship without allowing yourself space and time first, isn’t the best idea.

    I think of relationships as fabric. You have your fabric, he has his, and you weave them together into a family. Divorce is like tearing your fabric apart from his, and there are many frayed ends. Take the time to weave your ends back in, so that you have a complete fabric (self) again, and then choose a man who has also repaired his own fabric before you try to weave them together. Otherwise, you’ll keep having loose threads that will eventually unravel and weaken the fabric (relationship). Hokey, but the imagery helps me understand what I will have to do if I ever find myself single again.

    One more thing, my sister-in-law once told me that the thing you have your first major fight about will be something you continue to deal with throughout the relationship. So far, that has been very true for me.

    Hang in there–you are an amazing person and worthy of having the life you desire.

  36. Joan in Alaska
    Joan in Alaska says:

    I stayed in a long marriage–18 years–for a lot of reasons: for our daughter; because I was afraid to strike out alone again in my mid-40s; because it was easier to deal with what I knew, even though it was unpleasant, than to face the unknown; because I had promised “forever” and really meant it, until I couldn’t do it anymore. I know how hard it is to come to that decision finally to divorce.

    Then after I divorced, I had a handful of the same crowd that seems to be in here telling me that I shouldn’t date, that my daughter needed to be my priority. My daughter has ALWAYS been my priority. But sacrificing myself as a woman didn’t strike me as a healthy way to display her importance in my life. I had been in a loveless, sexless marriage for so long that I had lost all confidence in my attractiveness, my sexuality, my intelligence: I honestly didn’t know whether any guy that I thought was worth spending time with would find me worth his time. But I had been so lonely for so long that I wanted to find out. Not dating seemed more like a cop out than good parenting.

    I did date, and made lots of mistakes along the way. It was in fact kind of fun, because my daughter was in her teens, and she was starting to date, too, and we wound up comparing stories and analyzing each other’s relationships and feeling sometimes more like roommates than a parent and child. And yet she knew that she could count on me–that I paid the bills, and made sure she had tutoring or gymnastics lessons or whatever else was important to her (with very little assistance from her father, whose court-ordered child support was based on the part-time liquor store clerk job he had when we were married; stunning how quickly after our divorce that he was able to find a full-time job paying as much as mine, yet could still afford only $250 a month to help with our daughter’s expenses. But I digress….).

    What I meant to say here was that you will discover what path is right for you as you wander this meandering road from divorce to freedom. You know in your heart that your children are most important, and you will look after them. But that doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice your own possibilities of happiness, in career or romance or adventure, along the way. These are mutually attainable. And yes, you’ll make mistakes; and sometimes be inconsistent (even here in your blog–quelle horreure!)–and all these aspects of you, despite those of your readers with nothing better to do than to point out your flaws (probably never bothering with enough self-examination to discover and work on their own), are what make you the charming, insightful and unique woman you are.

    I’m one of your relatively new fans, and so we don’t really know each other yet, but Penelope, you will be just fine. You are making good choices. Your children will have questions and moments of sadness or fear, of course, but as long as you maintain loving respectfulness and honesty with them, they’ll be fine, too.

    I wish you great happiness.

  37. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    From a child-of-divorce perspective: ignore the people here who say or think that you should stay together for the sake of the kids. My mother left my abusive and addicted “Bio-Dad” when I was an infant and my brother was 7 yo. Six years later, she married my wonderful step-father who raised us as his own. He was (and still is) a fantastic father, but their marriage was toxic – full of arguing and sniping. When my mom announced that they were getting divorced (when I was 28), my response to her was “finally.” I truly believe my aversion to marriage has a ton to do with the fact that, in my experience, marriages are full of fighting, fighting, fighting.

    Now my brother, who is currently in the middle of a divorce of his own, has learned from the experiences of our youth and is doing what I think are fairly admirable steps with his kids. He and his wife are actively working on staying on friendly terms with each other through the divorce process. But, they are not sheltering the kids, either. He took the kids along to help him find a new apartment when he moved out of the house (so the kids would have some say on where Dad lived and where they would be staying part-time), they ask questions about the divorce and what their life will be like afterwards all the time (and get truthful, non-BS answers from their parents)…. I don’t know if either of the kids have ever met the lawyers, but their parents certainly don’t keep the kids away from the phones when the lawyers call. The transparency has allowed the kids to understand as much as they can about the process so that they can get their fears addressed and get on with their kid lives.

    I think what’s best for kids is to have two happy, stable parents — divorce or no divorce. Beats the hell out of all the arguing and back-room drama that happens in families when parents think they are “saving their marriage to protect the kids.”

  38. Ken
    Ken says:

    P or A Your transperency is just your way of sorting out problems. With life there is no grantee that you will be happy just that you will get the chance to wake to a new day and start over. My advice, take it and run!

    Oh yes! I didn’t know about the name but if I find out that is not realy you in the picture. I am going to delete you from my “Favorites”

  39. Drew
    Drew says:

    Can you publish the details of your husband’s twitter and facebook page? This is great stuff; a regular soap opera, and I’d love to see more.

    Thanks.

  40. Caitlin
    Caitlin says:

    1. Sitting around with your soon-to-be-ex-husband at a campsite talking about hatchets. Did neither of make the joke about burying it?

    2. Why, especially if you are worried about money, do you both need expensive attorneys? Why do you need lawyers at all? Sure you need a neutral mediator to help you divide up the assets fairly? (In some countries you can get one appointed by the court and it’s legally binding).

  41. Rob
    Rob says:

    As an attorney, it is a continual struggle to get many clients to set aside their need to purge and seek approval by discussing their case/situation with anyone willing to listen. I certainly take advantage of it when the other side does it.

    If you’re going to pay for high-priced lawyers, for God’s sake follow their advice. If I represented your husband, I would have a field day with your blog. If I represented you, I would probably fire you as my client.

    Perhaps demonstrating restraint and knowing when not to speak might set a better example for your readers as well. They don’t need the soap opera as much as you need to protect your personal and financial affairs.

  42. Priscilla
    Priscilla says:

    We come for your forthright honesty. Marriage is the toughest thing in the world, probably second only to raising kids. I admire your willingness to share your experience with the blogosphere and face the criticism you receive constantly.

  43. Jessica Bond
    Jessica Bond says:

    I don’t know anyone that was able to totally separate their divorce from their work-life. People wouldn’t expect a co-worker who was diagnosed with a major illness to act as if nothing happened. The same holds true for divorces which are one of the most traumatic personal events a person can endure.

    Conversely, managing the logistics of a divorce like a business seems to pay off. I know it is hard eliminate the emotion, but as a good friend told me – remember you are in the middle of one of the biggest business transactions of your life.

    You will endure and thrive!

    Jessica Bond
    Medical Careerist

  44. KC
    KC says:

    Just have to note something here… the majority of those commenting against your choice to share this trying time in you life are men…:) I’m curious if this is an automatic defense of another male or an issue of different communication styles?

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