Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce: Sex in the City for Divorcees

I'm currently watching the Bravo series, Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce, which is now streaming on Netflix.  

For ages, I avoided giving it a look because, from the promo (well, all I really needed to see was the promotional thumbnail), it looked like a bunch of obscenely privileged LA chicks enjoying the kind of post-divorce tragedies that we could only dream of.  Yes, give me their problems.  I'll have what they're having!

However, I queried some divorced facebook friends, and they said, yeah, they're watching.  So, I watched an episode and got hooked.

Basically, it's Sex in the City with 40-ish divorcees instead of promiscuous, on the prowl, 30-somethings.  Except I like the Guide to Divorce chicks much better.  Maybe it's that they're a little older, so they're more interesting as people.

I'm now mid-way through Season 2, and at this point in the story, the requisite four girlfriends are: a Latina upscale vegan bakery owner;an ex-model with a wrong-side-of-the-tracks backstory; a celebrity author who's rebranding herself as an online columnist (and toying with getting back together with an almost ex-husband -- they just haven't filed the paperwork); and a not-yet-married, elegantly beautiful partner at a top law firm (being pressured into marriage by her older, controlling, billionaire boyfriend).

So that's all a mouthful.  And, yeah, there's casual sex, but not on the ewwwww level of Sex in the City.  And, without the level of desperation that seethed under the surface of just about every SITC episode.

Here's the thing.  Though most of us won't relate to the lifestyle (or am I the only one who doesn't shop all my troubles away), I'm pretty sure that you'll identify with lots of what goes on in this show.  Especially if you're a working woman.  

If you've explored romantic relationships after divorce, you'll identify.  If you've had seemingly irrational fights with friends and said things you're afraid you can never take back, you'll identify.  If you've thought about getting back together with your ex . . . well, you get the picture.

As I write this, two full 13-episode seasons are streaming on Netflix, and there are three short, 7-episode seasons to come.  By the time you read this, the third season will probably be up for streaming.  And, of course, if you have Bravo, Season 3 has already streamed.

So, binge away!

The Introverted Divorcee

Way back the last time you were dating, there wasn't much talk about introverts versus extraverts.

If you're like me, you weren't thinking about the introversion/extraversion spectrum when putting together a list of the qualities you wanted in a partner.  In fact, there's a good chance that you didn't even have a list.

You met someone, ended up getting serious, and married him.  You may have married him even though there were one or more red flags that were bothering you.  But, you probably weren't thinking about whether you and he matched up when it came to your preferred ways of being social.

If you're reading this post at all, you're probably somewhere on the introversion spectrum.  But, just in case you think that introvert is just a synonym for shy, click here for a quick summary of these two basic personality types.

Now that so much is being written about introverts, you might be wondering how you can honor your own ways of recharging your energy -- during and after your divorce . . . as well as going forward in exploring new romantic relationships.

Well, let's take a look.

Is divorce more painful for introverts?

Yes, it might be a little more painful, since introverts don't tend to use social escapism to get through life's challenging experiences.  (Broad generalization, I know, but dividing all of humanity into two camps -- introvert and extravert -- is pretty broad, too.)  

Extraverts may tend to cope by getting as busy socially as possible, and move on much more quickly than the average introvert.  It may be years before they stop long enough to consider their deeper emotions, and start to process what happened.  Or, maybe they never will.

Introverts are more likely to blame themselves for far more of their share of the problems that led to divorce.  They can tend to drive themselves crazy with "what if" scenarios.  But, this deep-thinking quality can also help them avoid jumping into inappropriate and harmful new relationships.  And, it can also help them handle divorce negotiations and post-divorce communications with the ex in a careful and even-handed manner that benefits everyone.

We may even emerge from divorce in better shape than our extravert counterparts, since we, most likely, won't be spending too much time drinking ourselves to death or engaging in potentially dangerous sexual exploits just to avoid being alone.  It's less likely that we'll be screaming at our ex at every opportunity, or raving like a drama queen to everyone who will listen.

If we use our natural strengths of being measured and thoughtful, we'll likely come out of the divorce process with a deal that is not only fair to the ex, but fair to us (and protects our children) as well.

As an introvert myself, I think we're more likely to spend time sorting out what happened and learning from the experience so that our future relationship choices work better for us.  I also believe that the shock of divorce temporarily shortwires our social discomfort mechanisms, so during the divorce year (or two), we're more likely to step outside our comfort zone because exploring life without a spouse becomes interesting and worth the risk and potential energy drain.  This can be a reset that opens us to more experiences in the long term.

But, isn't it easier for extraverts to move on and find a new partner?

Move on, yes, but find a relationship-worthy partner, not necessarily.

You may be surprised to learn that introverts have many advantages over extraverts when it comes to dating.  And, many of them have to do with aspects I've already touched on earlier in this post.

Dating is a one-on-one activity, and this is the type of social interaction in which introverts are at their best -- as long as we're with someone who has something to say (and we're interested in whatever he's saying).  Introverts tend to know how to listen, and to love to have meaningful conversations.  This is an advantage in dating, and in relationships in general.

For more dating advantages of the introvert, check out this summary from the book Introverts in Love.  I especially liked the insight that introverts can be seen by the outside world as mysterious and intriguing.

Don't take the advice of your extravert friends -- you have nothing to prove

You're not in a race.  There is no finish line.  Don't let anyone try to convince you that you should be going out more, that you should force yourself to jump back into dating, or that you should force yourself to have casual sex "just to get it over with" for the first time after marriage.

Now that you can live more in tune with how you want to do things, don't replace your husband's expectations with the expectations of your friends or family.  This is the time to think about what you need, and what makes you happy.

This can be difficult for introverts because we're used to trying to fit into what is overwhelmingly an extravert's world.  But, if you are true to yourself now, the rest of your life will reflect this.  If you allow yourself to be pulled off your center, it's likely that you'll be living someone else's preferences (whether it's friends, family, your children, or a future partner).

This is your chance.  Take it, and be you!

Life After Divorce: Are you a difficult woman?

Being labeled a "difficult" woman contributes to the downward spiral of self-doubt that tends to happen to women during divorce.

We get that label not only from our exes, but sometimes from family or even from our best friends.  

We hear that it's the reason husbands cheated or decided to initiate the divorce.  Or the reason why we chose to leave, and wanted and needed something more than what the marriage had turned our life into.

Women hear things like, "You're too outspoken -- if you had just kept your mouth shut more, this never would have happened."  Or, "If you had just never, ever said no to sex . . ." Or, "You expected too much from him.  Men's self-esteem is too fragile.  You can't speak freely."  Or, "You need to be sweet.  You need to know how to butter men up."  And, my personal favorite, "You're too independent."

I want to suggest that by infantalizing men (the woman must always give in, the woman can't hold a man to his word and expect that he will act like an adult, the woman needs to read dozens of self-help books about how to cater to her man . . .) we keep all of these dangerous myths in play.

Why is this dangerous?  Because it casts women in the subservient role, as if this is the way it's supposed to be.  We need to be consistently fluttering around, making sure that everything is okay -- not only for the man in our lives, but for everyone.

When, for example, was the last time you saw a man poring over a self-help book to teach himself how to understand his wife better and cater to her needs?  Such books are hardly ever written because, as any publisher will tell you, men don't read them.  Most men are not worrying about how to please us, how to make us feel confident, how to build us up, and how to be sure not to slip up on catering to our needs -- and I'm not suggesting that they should be.  But, neither should we!

Are you a difficult woman?  I don't believe that the answer lies in relation to a man's opinion, or in relation to male/female relationships at all.  Rather, are you able to sustain good relationships with friends and in the workplace -- in a way that you feel your opinions are valued and needs are met, and the needs of others are respected, too?  That's not "difficult," that's healthy.

Cultural expectations for women's behavior in male/female relationships can't be held as the standard for whether or not you're "difficult."  So much is expected of women that is never expected of men.  Often, merely expressing an opinion is seen as "high-maintenance."

The same thing goes for how you're seen within your family.  Often families are structured to enable the needs of just one family member, sacrificing the rest of the family in order to keep up the charade.  If you're part of such a family, it would be devastating to trust their various biased opinions of you.

So, unless absolutely everyone in your life is telling you that you have serious issues, you're probably just a woman who dares to have a brain and an opinion, and who wants to be fully alive while she's living.

And that's a good thing.

Divorcees: Books *not* to read, and what to do instead

After my divorce, I read and read and read.  I bought self-help books.  I borrowed self-help books from the library.  Friends lent self-help books to me.  

I spent hundreds of hours reading these books, self-diagnosing and trying to discern my numerous faults (because, if I weren't so flawed, I wouldn't have made so many mistakes in my life -- including having married my lying, cheating husband).

Of course, I can't stop you from reading self-help literature as part of your healing journey, but I sincerely do feel that it's a waste of your precious time.

The top three self-help categories that will drain any woman going through divorce

  • Books about the stages of grief that confirm your distressing belief that it will take years to feel better)
  • Books about how to attract and keep a man which carry the message that we have to cater to their needs, never say no to sex, be sure not to overwhelm them with too much conversation . . .
  • Books about narcissism and co-dependency that anger you and frighten you in equal amounts.

If you feel you're becoming more exhausted and confused with every book you read, it's time to stop.

When your mind is constantly cycling, trying to figure out what went wrong and how you can fix it, self-help books seem like the perfect fit.  If you just read enough of them, you'll figure it all out.

It feels as if you're doing something productive.  Especially if you're too exhausted to actually "do" something else.  With a book, you can curl up in bed and just read.  But, after a few months of this (or a few years of this), why isn't it getting better?

So, I'm going to suggest some things you can do instead of reading self-help.  (But, no worries, if you absolutely must read this kind of book, scroll down to the bottom of this post for my top picks.)

What to do instead of reading relationship fix-me (or fix-him) paperbacks

Of course, you could watch an engrossing series on Netflix (and this will give you a break from the pain and anguish), but, how about learning something new that can not only stop the anguish for a while, but replace it with something new and fun in your life? 

What's important when choosing this activity:  Make it something totally unrelated to your divorce.  

Here are some things I did:

Learned to play ukulele.  Ukuleles are comforting to hold -- plus they're fun and easy to play.  There are hundreds of youtube videos that teach you how to play just about any song you love.  When I felt blue, I'd go to sleep and wake up by playing my uke in bed.  It never failed to make me smile and feel better.

Became certified as a yoga instructor, so I had trainings to attend on weekends with people who, like me, loved yoga.

Got outside my comfort zone socially (and I don't mean dating!).  I remember being so shell-shocked that it was actually easier to get out and try new things than it ordinarily would be for me, since I was too numb to know whether I was comfortable or not.  I started attending a singer-songwriter friend's weekly open mike night.  I showed up to a monthly experimental jazz evening with some acquaintances I hardly knew.  I said yes to literally anything to which I was even tangentially invited.  I turned up to business networking events where I knew no one. This was the perfect time to stretch my boundaries, because I was by turns too numb or in too much pain to feel social discomfort.  It was better than staying home with my tortured thoughts.

But, what if you really, really need a book to help you in divorce recovery?

If you're a book person and really need a friend (in the form of a book) as a companion on your divorce journey, there are a few I do recommend:

Eat, Pray, Love  Either you'll love it or you'll hate it.  I loved it.  Here's the story:  Author Liz Gilbert is married to an underachieving Peter Pan, who is pressuring her become a mother in addition to continuing to support him financially.  In the divorce, he refuses to settle until she gives him all of her assets just to get it over with.  Having to start her life over, from scratch, she gets a publisher to fund a year-long odyssey in which she heals by traveling to three distinct places which have always intrigued her.  Even though we may not all be able to engineer this level of divorce healing, it's inspiring to read Gilbert's journey -- and it may give you some ideas of your own.

Ask and It Is Given  The Esther Hicks classic.  I don't know whether Hicks' advice comes from channeled beings or not, but it's simple to understand and easy to put into practice in daily life.  You'll learn the importance of (and exactly how to) feel good, no matter what is going on in your life.  And, in the process, you'll learn exactly what kinds of thoughts have been habitual for you, and you'll have many aha! moments about the path you've been on so far.  The book gives specific advice and "processes" to put yourself on a path that takes you where you want to go.

I Need Your Love -- Is That True?  A simplified version of self-inquiry questions used in cognitive therapy (although author Byron Katie claims to have originated it). Katie leads you through four questions that truly work fast to slow down or stop tormenting thoughts.  If you're looking for a quick fix that has a logical basis rather than positive self-talk/affirmations, this is it.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up  Is there anyone who hasn't heard of this book?  One of the things I love about Marie Kondo's decluttering system is that it's based on having only things in your life that "spark joy."  Post-divorce life can be made more difficult when you're still carryiing around all sorts of mementos of your married life, as well as objects that keep reminding you of your ex.  One of the most empowering things you can do is to go on a decluttering rampage, keeping only the items that feel good to you, or have an important practical purpose in your daily life.

My parting thoughts on self-help for women in divorce

Truly, if possible, stay away from self-help books specifically related to divorce, your ex, your ex's problems, and male-female dynamics.  There will be a time for trying to figure out who did what, why he did it, what to look for in a new partner, how to find a new partner, etc, etc, etc.  

That time will be after you prioritize yourself, remember who you are, decide what you want as an individual, and start to feel strong and confident.  After that, when you are feeling terrific about you, there's plenty of time to read a book or two about narcissists, co-dependency, what men want, or whatever will give you a better understanding of what went wrong in your marriage.  You'll be in a better position to be objective and understand his part in what went wrong as well as your own.





Divorce guest blogger: Don't be afraid to let go of old friends as you change

So many major changes have been happening in my life of late and I have grown and changed considerably as I continue to move into my full sparkly self.

As a result I have found recently that a number of people I once considered to be good friends seem to be no longer there. For a while it baffled me that some of them seemed to be getting really angry and upset with me, lashing out and blaming me for the problems in their own lives, playing the victim and telling me what a horrible person I am.

Following a blog post I read, it occurred to me that the reason for this is that I am no longer resonating with them energetically, we simply aren't on the same wavelength anymore.

As I have changed and raised my energetic vibration, I am just out of sync with them now so they are being drawn to others who are still vibrating on the same frequency as they are. That doesn't mean I am any better or worse than they are; it just means we don't resonate anymore.

It is not my job to rescue them or to try and force them to change, as they have their own life lessons to learn and will do so in their own time. It simply means that they will be drawn to different people than me and may continue to play the victim, blaming others for their problems until they realise that everything that happens in their life is their responsibility alone.

I'm just not going to accept their issues and blame anymore.

However there are still lots of wonderful friends who support my growth and continue to resonate so beautifully with me, no matter how much I change and grow as a person and as an energetic soul.  And many wonderful new people are starting to come into my life who resonate with me at a whole new level of understanding and love.

Don't be afraid to let go of old friends as you change, and don't be angry or sad, just send them love and compassion and understand this is you moving on with your life as you grow.

Debbie Holland is a spiritual life coach and writer based on Darwin in the NT. From here she runs her blog, is finishing up her first book and runs a variety of workshops and events including full moon meditations every month. To learn more, visit Debbie on Facebook.