Thursday, August 12, 2010

Abigail Trafford Explains It All For You

In this, another piece devoted to issues of divorce, our subject is the quintessential self-help guide for this life-shattering event, written by a DC-based author, journalist and lecturer by the name of Abigail Trafford. Her work was mentioned last December, in a piece entitled "Christmas 1990":

... [T]here are stages which one endures. The best book to describe them is Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life, by Abigail Trafford. Most other books of this variety are written for women ("Leaving Him Behind", "He's History, You're Not", "From Ex-Wife to Exceptional Life", "Ask Me About My Divorce: Women Open Up", "Not Your Mother's Divorce", "A Woman's Guide to Healing the Heartbreak", "I Used To Miss Him, But My Aim Is Improving", I could go on ...). Maybe they think men are just supposed to go out and get drunk or hang out at the race track for several weeks.

... and this is the real tragedy, the assumption that divorce only hurts women. I have seen big, grown men cry like little girls, after crossing several state lines to visit their children, only to find that the mother has changed her mind. They don't always get the court's permission to pull a stunt like that.

Get in line, ladies. Divorce hurts EVERYBODY, and the only real winners are the lawyers.

I've told my own tale often enough at this site, so I'll spare you for now. Back then, after experiencing the exercise in malpractice that was the "separated and divorced ministry" of the Diocese of Arlington, I discovered this book. It was then that I realized that I would be on a mission from God. And so, in the space of twenty years, I have passed out nearly twenty copies of it. Trafford interviewed hundreds of divorcees, and details numerous examples throughout her book, crafting a defined set of emotional phases of the process, which can assist the reader in making right choices at said phases.

One caveat is worth nothing. Trafford does treat issues of sex in relationships as if indulging them without the benefit of marriage is a necessary rite of passage. Those who have had this experience can tell you there is little to show for it except a trail of broken or hardened hearts (including one's own), and this area of the book should be treated with caution. One ultimately becomes aware during the course of reading, having been out of the "dating game" for some time while married, of the precise nature of near occasions of sin, thus it may serve as a worthwhile component of spiritual direction, given the benefit of a good priest-confessor. Some might disagree with my approach to this issue, but I'm certainly not endorsing the behavior.

Besides, maybe one of you geniuses has come up with something better.

Nah, didn't think so.

1 comment:

donna said...

As the author of Ex-wife to Exceptional Life and a psychotherapist in practice for 25+ years, I would like to comment on why my book is specifically for women. While it is absolutely true that men suffer as much as women through and after the process, the experience is different for women in the following three ways- Economically women still suffer more from divorce than men do. Secondly, women still maintain the majority of the responsibility for ongoing day to day rigors of child-rearing and lastly, if there is domestic violence, it is more likely to be directed toward the women. Of course, there are exceptions to the above, but these issues make divorce a uniquely different experience for each gender. Certainly, men deal with the financial and parental changes as well.

Writng from the women's perspective does not diminish men's pain. Indeed I encourage women to "take the High Road", maintain paternal involvement and develop respectful discourse.

Abigal Trafford's book is a classic in the field and I would also recommend Rebuilding: When your Relationship Ends by Bruce Fisher. Both address the needs from the perspective of both parties.

Donna F. Ferber, LPC, LADC