As I struggle to provide effective guidance and assistance to partners and spouses moving through the demise of their formerly-loving relationships – sometimes serving as a lawyer but increasingly as a mediator – I continually say to myself: if only they had some perspective on their lives and were able to frame their divorce experience in a larger emotional picture, this process would not be so excruciatingly difficult.
The cycles of anger, blame and aggression rarely lead to any positive resolution for either party; instead, they bring both partners into a maelstrom of bitter arguments and contentious legal conflicts. In my professional role it can be quite challenging to exhort my clients to back up, see the bigger picture, and re-focus their priorities in a constructive and collaborative manner.
Now, thanks to Diana Mercer and Katie Wennechuk, there is an accessible and thoughtful guide to doing just that. Every chapter of their wise treatise goes to the heart of the challenges of dissolution, by focusing not on the legal technicalities but on the emotional realities that distract nearly every divorcing couple from a positive path to separating their lives. As mediators who have worked with divorcing couples for decades, they have grounded their approach on the practical insights and lessons revealed by the turbulence of their clients’ lives, for better or worse.
Diana’s infectious spirit and savvy insights are both personal and universal. As she demonstrates in her lively blogposts and her on-line video messages (http://www.makingdivorcework.com), overcoming the barriers to a peaceful divorce is not easy work, but it can be done. It starts with an understanding of the way that our social programming and cultural patterns regarding the causes and consequences of divorce tend to pathologize the situation, inspiring a battlefront atmosphere that drags far too many partners into a vortex of blame, anger and revenge. Most lawyers have finally come to realize that the legal process of divorce works best when it can be no-fault, practical in its focus, and fostering of settlement – but we know all too well that this can only occur when the parties to the dispute are able to participate in the process in a positive manner. Most divorcing spouses also know this truth, even in the midst of their own divorce, but knowing how to implement these lessons is not at all simple.
That is why this book will be so helpful. There are lists of key lessons to be learned, tools for re-conceptualizing your goals and your values, and even an e.journal that readers can adapt for their own situation. Speaking as a professional working in this murky field, it should come as no surprise that my favorite sections of the book are the analytical insights. But be distracted by the theories -- there also are abundant practical instructions that will be useful on a regular basis to anyone in the midst of their own break-up. And these lessons aren’t just for straight married couples -- as I point out in my own writings (www.MakingItLegal.net), finding a way to discern your own truth and making your way through the difficult transitions of separation is something that couples face, whatever their sexual orientation. The book’s guidance is equally valuable to those who cohabit without the legal structure of marriage: resolving conflict and rebuilding one’s life is just as important for those whose relationships lie outside of the divorce framework.
Making Divorce Work functions like a private coach, teaching you the essential lessons and enabling you to craft your own resolution process. It explains the importance of maintaining a clear focus on your mission statement, learning tools for de-escalating conflict, and facing the practical challenges of housing, finances, custody and debts with an awareness of the possibilities of peace. This is a book that divorcing spouses shouldn’t just buy and read once – rather, they should turn to its valuable lessons throughout their passage into their post-dissolution lives.
Reviewed by Frederick Hertz, Attorney/mediator/Author
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