Many of us are guilty of envying the celebrity life: fancy cars, designer wear, a swankienda (or two) and waking up every morning to somebody who actually does look like a movie star. But what happens when it all heads south? There's the cerebral breakup, like the “conscious uncoupling” of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, and then there's the knock-down, drag-out, insult-hurling kind of divorce where the only ones who win are the attorneys.
Los Angeles-based author Wendy Paris wants to break the myth that “good divorce is just for rich people or celebrities,” and she's outlined how to “break up a marriage without breaking up a family” in her new book, Splitopia: Dispatches from Today's Good Divorce and How to Part Well. (She'll always be a Texan at heart, though; Paris lived here for ten years and attended the University of Houston, and her family still lives in Austin.)
Paris wrote the book after she and her husband announced a trial separation and received an overwhelming amount of negative feedback from their friends ("this was in New York City, a very liberal-minded group of people"), who predicted that their son would be destroyed, she would go broke and they would end up hating each other. She wanted to delve into and understand the negativity, and realized that so many of these preconceptions are rooted in old laws and customs.
“Today we have a lot more chance of having a decent parting and doing it cooperatively,” says Paris. “We still need help getting control of our emotions and choosing a cooperative legal process. [In researching the book,] I came up with the seven principles of parting.”
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Those principles address self-compassion, taking ownership of both the past and the future, recognizing that closure doesn't automatically happen when you file for divorce, survival tips, using empathy to deal with anger, avoiding comparisons and creating positive moments.
She says her book is not just for those contemplating a divorce; it can be helpful for those who are on the other side of the process. She says that, especially when children are involved, it's important to avoid ongoing conflict. “A lot of people have ongoing coparenting relationships. I have a whole chapter on bad divorces gone good. And how to improve a divorce relationship over the years.” Paris suggests that in any kind of breakup, or in any kind of relationship, we have control of our attitude with our actions.
“Divorce isn't anybody's plan 'A,' but it's possible to have a meaningful and positive plan 'B.'”
Paris will read from her book this Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m. at Brazos Bookstore, 2421 Bissonnet, 713-523-0701, brazosbookstore.com. Free.