Friday, May 11, 2007

Evolution Example: Plan A Divorce Party

Let me share with you a little bit about my divorce story.

Right before I moved out of my home and began our separation, I found out a number of disturbing things about my wife. I found out that she had tried to cheat on me at least once; that she had secretly been planning our divorce behind my back for months; and that she had hidden money from our joint savings account into her own personal account. On top of this, I found out that she had begun recording our conversations, and my interactions with my son (presumably, for the purpose of achieving leverage of some kind). I will be frank here; I was devastated. Depressed already by the fact that we were getting divorced, I felt betrayed and humiliated by what I was learning. She clearly did not respect me; if anything, she resented me as a husband. My contributions to our relationship were not appreciated or recognized. And at every turn, she began to paint herself the victim in this process - even though she had put events in motion months ago.

Here I was. Depressed. Angry. Upset. Empty. Drained. Devastated. Neglected. Loathing myself, and taking heaping mounds of self-pity on a daily basis to make things worse. Smoking one and a half packs of cigarettes a day. Crying for no reason. Sleeping barely. Hardly able to work and focus on anything more than "what did I do to deserve this and why is this happening to me I don't understand I must be worthless why do I still love her what is going to happen to me".

In speaking with my best friend, I had a moment of clarity and asked him for a favor.

"Dude, I need you to do something for me. I think this might help."
"Sure man, anything. You name it. Just name it. I hate seeing you like this." You could hear the anguish in his voice; he was sad to see me in so much pain, and clearly wanted to help.
"I want you to get our friends together and throw me a divorce party."
"A what?" He was puzzled, but curious in a "you've got to be kidding me" kind of way.
"Dude, just get our friends together at our favorite bar on Friday. Tell them it's a divorce party. The rest will take care of itself." I was very serious with these words, so he knew I was not joking. I wanted to see my friends, and have my friends see me as well.
"You got it. Hang in there, bud." His voice had changed at this point; he had a way to help that he understood. MBF and I had been through quite a bit at work, and I recognized that he decided to use his "let's get this done" voice.

The next week, MBF set up an eVite for my "Divorce Party". The day before the party, I went to Banana Republic and bought a new outfit. New boots, jeans, cool shirt, cologne, belt, socks. The works, basically. I wanted to look good, and take pride in my appearance (the last thing I wanted to do was show people how I had been feeling through my clothes). The whole experience of shopping for the outfit was interesting. I told the girls at the banana "Listen, I need an outfit. My friends are throwing a divorce party for me, and I want to look great." They chuckled, and were very helpful. Honestly, it was nice being open about this -- it was my first time discussing my divorce publicly outside of my circle of close friends and family.

The week leading up to the party, monitoring the guest list on eVite was like watching a stock climb; it was just one of the best things for me. Every day, a few more people we RSVP. Those that could make it were excited about it; those that could not always had encouraging words to share. First it was 5, then 10, then 15, 18, 24, 28. The day of the party, over 35 people showed up at our favorite bar. It made me cry, seeing how many people decided to come out and show their support. It also enlightened me, and showed me that divorce (like any other experience) can be empowering. This was not a "let's feel sorry for the divorced guy" party. Instead, it was a celebration of friendship, where my friends each took time to express their care and affection for me. They stood up for me; they told me that things would be ok; and offered their love, support, and guidance.

The party was perfect; exactly what I needed. I will never forget that evening, the people that came, and how happy everyone was to see each other. I hugged and kissed everyone goodbye, and said "thank you for coming." I think that was the first solid night of sleep I had in weeks.

So here is my advice to you. If you have not had one already, ask your friends to plan a divorce party for you. The divorce party is an opportunity to shed your negative feelings about the process, and embrace the positive aspects of your relationships with your friends. You can also be a little selfish, which is always a good thing during these times. Here are some things to remember:

  • Plan the party in advance so that you can pull together the largest group possible.
  • Use eVite or some other invitation site to manage RSVPs.
  • Ask your best friend or some friend that you trust to coordinate the party for you.
  • Buy a new outfit, get a haircut, and look your absolute best for the party.
  • Let people buy you drinks, but do not drink your sorrows away. If anything, drink to embrace your friendships and celebrate the time you are spending together.
At my party, I had three rules that I told everyone. These rules needed to be followed, and anyone that broke these rules had to drink a shot of Bacardi 151:
  • No feeling sorry for me. We are here to celebrate our relationships, not offer pity.
  • No calling my wife names or making fun of her. We are not here to berate her.
  • No talking about my relationship with my wife, the past, or what led up to the divorce. We are not here to dwell on the past, but rather celebrate the future.
Needless to say, I had a few 151's that night. After my second, however, it was enough of a deterrent to remember to follow these rules. All in all, the party was great - and it helped to get me back on track understanding what I needed to do to set my life straight. Try it; I hope it works for you.


Anonymous said...

Good for you! What you described is exactly what I felt in my marriage. My divorce is almost final & would love to have a party.
Hope everything has worked out for you.

Utah Divorce Attorney said...

Divorce Parties are truly a great way to make the best of a bad situation of divorce. I am not in any way an advocate of divorce. But, when you go through a divorce, you have to learn to laugh or cry. The choice is yours!!