Welcome to another episode of the exEXPERTS DIVORCE etc… Podcast where we give you all kinds of information and tips on everything divorce. Why? We’ve lived it, so we get it! We’re T.H. & Jessica.
T.H.: Welcome, everyone to today’s Divorce, etc podcast. We found Abby King. She is a divorce coach in Philly, she is a mediator, and she is an author. Those things are all very impressive, but her real-life expertise and the way that she shares her learning and ongoing lessons of growth and awareness are what make her such an amazing addition to our exEXPERTS community. So welcome to our podcast.
Abby: Thank you. Thanks for having me
Jessica: Thank you so much for taking the time.
Abby: My pleasure.
T.H.: Abby is going to tell us a little bit about her story. I want to touch on the first article that she wrote because her mission is, and she’ll tell you more, is really to talk about divorce. Let’s just talk about it already. She wrote about it to start and help reduce the stigma around it. And her first article was “An apology to my kids” and it is so phenomenal. I feel like it’s something that you should go back and look at every once in a while, just to remind yourself.
Jessica: It was so poignant.
T.H.: Yeah, it’s just as apparent even, the fact that you wrote all of that. So tell us a little bit about you. Tell us how this even started, this need to share and speak out. Why did you feel you needed to do that?
Abby: In my former life, I was a marketing executive at L’Oreal. I had two kids, I stopped working entirely, something I would not advise, but there were no options back then for working from home/remote. Obviously, this was 20 years ago, so those were not options. I stopped working, and when my kids were toddlers, I planned to go back to work. Unfortunately, my marriage was disintegrating fast. I decided to stay home with my kids instead of trying to figure out what my next step was. And in the meantime, I was writing a little bit about divorce, women’s issues, relationships, and a friend suggested that I publicly share. I had never done anything, and I wasn’t even on social media. This was about 10 years ago. I put up a blog post – I had written an apology to my kids on the subject of my divorce, and it kind of went viral. It was picked up on a couple of different websites, and Scary Mommy picked it up. It really went very quickly from there. Anything that I wrote about divorce, I got inundated with emails and texts of friends, friends of friends, and tons of emails from strangers if it was national publications or some local Philly media. I got divorce arrangements sent to me and what were my opinions? I mean, people were asking crazy advice, and I’m not trained. I had no idea what to say other than my own opinions.
Jessica: Did you chalk that up though to just there not being enough out there in terms of resources and information?
Jessica: It was like people are starving for stuff.
Abby: Starving and I don’t know if this is now, because I have since been trained and I am in it professionally, I’m not sure if this was available when I was going through it, but I got divorced when I was in my mid-30s and obviously, when you get divorced, that’s not day one. I mean, people will talk about when did it really start to go bad? Was it my first date? Or was it 15 years later? I don’t know, somewhere in between? But when you get divorced, obviously, there was a period of time beforehand where things were not great. But I was the first one of my friends. I’ve now had so many go through it. Luckily nobody in my family has had to deal with it, but I had nobody to talk to. Maybe it was on social media – because I wasn’t. I don’t think so. I think now on Instagram and Facebook you can find so many resources, but nobody talked about it. It was still whispered about like they used to whisper about cancer. It was whispered–
Jessica: But not just that. I feel it’s also like when people are writing articles, as you know, about parenting, and it’s the articles where someone’s like, ‘I love my kids, but it’s fucking hard to be a parent’.
And being honest about all of the shitty, sucky things about being a parent, it’s like that’s the kind of stuff that people are starved for too. And so you writing about divorce, I think it falls into that whole topic of things that people don’t want to talk about, but it’s really true.
Abby: It’s so true. It’s really true. And there’s ‘What to Expect When You’re Expecting’ and we all bought that book. We’re all around the same age, and so I’m sure you guys had that book. There was nothing. Everything in the store was either very prescriptive or workbook-like. I really didn’t want to project. I didn’t want to workbook. I didn’t want to think about my goals. I didn’t want to promise 10 things in five years. And so that wasn’t it. Or they were very psychological, which is awesome, but I was already doing that work for a long time. I really, at that time, didn’t need to dig deep psychologically. I had already dealt with that. But there was nothing. And I think that people really appreciated just somebody talking about it. I was in my mid-30s, with two little kids, and I had what looked like the perfect marriage. We had a nice house, we met in college, we were the same religion, the same race, and everything that you think should be a winning combo.
Jessica: We’re like peas in a pod.
T.H.: Right? I know. I was telling you. Abby is…
T.H.: Like us. We found someone like us.
Abby: And I think that people just really appreciated having somebody say something. I tried for so long–I’m terrible with promotion, but I tried to reach out to some contacts in Philly saying, ‘If there’s a segment on Mother’s Day on your local news, the two weeks before, what to get your mother, what to do for her – can we also include what if you have a stepmother? What if you’re a single parent?’ And nobody said yes. Nobody wants to hear from me. Nobody wants to talk about it. I was just told they will turn off the TV if we bring up something like divorce. And so luckily, there were a lot of online outlets, and also the Philadelphia Inquirer published some of my essays, and it went from there. Then I was researching something for an essay I was writing, and I came across divorce coaching. I kind of rolled my eyes and I thought it was bullshit. I looked into it a little more, and my husband, was really the one saying, why don’t you actually maybe do the training and see if it’s legit? Because people are asking you for advice, and you’re just–I mean, and everybody knew I have no training, that I was giving my own two cents, but it’s like, why don’t you look into it? And I looked into it. The program that I found, where I was certified, was legit and a lot of work, much more than I anticipated, in a good way. It really taught me how to coach clients. Then from there, I also became a certified mediator, because that was something else that some of my clients were looking for. It really just snowballed. I never really expected to do it, or really practice. It’s been several years, and I have a nice practice, and I love helping my clients. Hopefully, we’ll get back to publishing some writing soon.
Jessica: It’s interesting that the writing is where it all started from.
But I just love the idea that your personal experience, writing about it, helped grow into the business that you’re doing today. That’s like where T.H. and I are totally coming from. I think it’s really important also, for a lot of people who are listening, especially a lot of women who have taken a step back in their career during the course of their marriage now are getting divorced and are trying to figure out what is going to be that next step, and what can I do to be able to continue to support myself, support my family, it’s like, you guys, listen, what matters to you? What do you care about? What are you passionate about? T.H. has spoken about it numerous times. Do you like to travel? Look into being a travel agent. I also love the fact that you took something important to you that wouldn’t have seemed like an obvious career path, and now that’s what you’re doing. And it’s so meaningful and so helpful to so many people.
T.H.: I also think what makes Abby stand out is her transparency, which Jessica and I, as we speak more and more on all the podcasts and everything, we are transparent. We’re no bullshit.
There’s a fine line because we all have children. At a certain point, you don’t need to know more. Then it’s just salacious nonsense. But in your writing and in your essays, you touch on so many feelings, and you’re validating them for people. That’s why they’re reaching out to you. You’re basically indirectly telling them it is okay. It’s totally okay to feel like shit, to be angry, to feel like you’re a shitty mom once in a while. But know that you’re not. Just the whole way and really encouraging, we’re going to put a link if we don’t post the ‘Apology to my kids’ article on our website, because it’s just fantastic, really. So do you journal? Did you journal before? Where did this writing come from?
Abby: No. Copywriting and writing were part of my previous professional life. I have tried–a lot of people say ‘to write, just write’ and ‘write 10 minutes a day’ and I’m not–
Jessica: Going to do it.
T.H.: But you are.
Abby: And literally when I’m inspired, and especially for several years, writing was what I was doing every day. When I’m inspired, I’ll stay up till three in the morning and work it and edit it and edit it and edit it. Then this has been taking my focus now. But no, if I have an idea, and right now because I have been so busy with coaching and mediating and momming and everything else and pandemic, I receive a note on my phone of a long list of topics, and I’m remarried for a couple of years, and blending family, and what is second marriage? I have so many thoughts on my notes on my phone, and you guys are inspiring me. My husband’s always poking me, like, why don’t you write something? – Because he had enjoyed what I did.
T.H.: It’s very healing. It’s very healing for you. I know it is for us, so it must be for you. So as you’re writing and putting all this stuff out there, that must be an integral part of your own growth. I mean, you said in my past life and in my life now, you grew to where you are now. I bet that writing had a lot to do with it to allow you to move forward.
Abby: It’s tricky though. As you said, we have kids. We all have kids. I definitely know that the salacious details don’t really matter because if those things didn’t happen, we still weren’t a good couple anyway.
Abby: There is a fine line of what do I want to share publicly, and my ex-husband has been very clear that he has not enjoyed any of my writing. I’ve tried to be really fair and not really dish too much. I mean, I don’t really think I’ve dished any dirt other than my own feelings, but it’s a fine line of–
Jessica: Well, we have thoughts about that. I mean, a couple of things, first of all, while I was going back and reading some of your stuff, the article about ‘cheating is really a gift’, it is so true. Because you’re in a relationship that regardless of whether the person is having an affair, is that really the kind of relationship that you want to be in anyway? Don’t you feel at the end of the day that they’re doing you a favor in a horrible way, but releasing you to be to do something else? That’s totally my story, and that’s totally T.H.’s story. We’re on board with what you’re saying 100%. But I also feel that’s the stuff that people need to hear to know that there are other people that have gone through it. I couldn’t tell from the article whether or not that was your story or somebody else’s story. It doesn’t matter because I think that what you were writing about was very on point. I felt that it resonated with me [me too] as someone who came out of a relationship where my first husband had an affair. I also talk to people, including T.H., look, my first husband, I don’t think he listens to everything, and he’s read some of the things that I’ve written about in the past. He’s actually pretty supportive of me. Despite the cheating part of it, he’s a pretty stand-up guy. He owns up to what he did, he takes responsibility for it, and he’s moved on in a positive way for himself. He’s a great dad, and that’s all fine. But I always say to people, it’s my story. I understand that it involves him because obviously we were married and those were the circumstances of my marriage, but I love when people feel like they aren’t then being held prisoner by someone else who doesn’t want the truth revealed. And I’ve said that to T.H., it’s her story to tell. She can choose what she doesn’t want to say based on how she feels about it and what she doesn’t necessarily want out there because of her kids. But I was like, you shouldn’t feel you can’t talk because of your ex-husband. He made the choices that he made. But I did want to ask about your style, presumably from your writing, is very kind of matter of fact. You’re just putting it out there. You’re saying what you’re saying. And I love it. It’s so direct. It’s totally like exEXPERT’s style. I’m curious about your style when it comes to divorce coaching. And when people in your life found out that you were being a divorce coach, because we’re definitely of the same age range, and T.H. and I when we first got divorced 13/14 years ago, there was no such thing as a divorce coach. When we first heard about the idea of divorce coaches, we were like, seriously? Divorce coach, health coach, life coach, it’s just another thing. I’m curious to know because now we totally understand the value of having someone like a divorce coach, I’m curious what your reaction was and how you explained it away to people who were like, come on, Abby, give me a break – kind of thing.
Abby: Just to go back to what you’re saying though, about that article, the reason that you couldn’t tell if that was my own experience or not wasn’t an accident. I do not feel at all imprisoned by my ex. He doesn’t like what I’ve shared, and I thought it was fair, and I’ve done it. It was just for myself. There are two people in the world that really know my story and really know almost everything that even went on, and how can you even tell somebody everything that went on? And I may share some of that in the future with my children or not, or with the public or not, but no, the same things happen again and again with my clients when they’re talking about being cheated on. My view was, well, it’s a gift because you weren’t happy. I just want to make that clear publicly. It was not a personal statement.
Jessica: But that was what I was saying, I didn’t–
Abby: I know and I appreciate that. Yeah, I appreciate that. I just wanted to clear that up since I’ve also got my own story at this time. But my writing style and my coaching style is kind of the same. I mean, I write the way I speak, and I don’t sugarcoat it. But I am a cheerleader.
I mean, some of my essays and some of my coaching is sassy, and some of it’s really earnest and silver lining. I meet my clients where they are, and there are times when a client’s not going to be the right fit. The same thing happens with a therapist. You might have to try them all, or even just a doctor or gynecologist, you have to find the right fit. I’m not going to be for everybody. I can tell on a consult call, which is free – no charge, if a client’s right for me. There are certain situations I don’t want to get in, and there are certain personalities it’s just not going to be a good fit. People that I work with and that really value my help, want both. They want, ‘I will give it to you real. This is going to suck. This is hard. This is what you have to do. Let’s hold you accountable to your goals,’ which they set out, and also, ‘I’m going to cheerlead you when you need cheerleading, and 50 is not over the hill, and you look amazing, and you’re going to be amazing, and you’re going to feel good, and you’re going to be happy, and you’re going to have great sex, and you’re going to cry when you drop off your kids’. There’s so much that goes along with it. Those are the clients that I take on that want that mix. I know that there are a lot of coaches out there that are like the workbooks, very prescriptive. I’m going to send you these sheets, we’re going to do this, and we’re going to do this. That works for some people. And some people need a softer, almost a Laura Ashley approach, and I might not be the person for them either. So if you want a mix, and you want reality, those are my clients. As for the reaction, my friends were nice about it. I mean, I was the biggest eye-roller. I thought it was complete nonsense. So I get it. My friends know me, there’s no bullshit. It got past my no-BS meter. My friends were nice about it. My brother gets a lot of laughs and a lot of enjoyment out of the fact that I am a divorce coach, let me just say that. He is a couple of years older, and I’m sure he won’t listen to this. I will send it to him, and he will chuckle. But yeah, I’d say he gets the most enjoyment out of this new career that I have.
T.H.: So explain to everybody listening, what is it that you do? As a coach, I’m calling you, what are you going to do for me?
Abby: So you’re going to call me and you’re going to tell me in 15 minutes to 45 minutes what you think is relevant for right now – I don’t need every detail, and what your most pressing issues are? Are you freaking out about having to share custody? Are you freaking out financially? Is the thought of leaving your house have you under the covers? Are you not even sure that you want to leave your husband? Have you not talked to anybody? Are you doing it, but you haven’t talked to your family and you need to talk to me about having some language about how to tell your family? Are you doing it, but you’re not sure how to tell your kids? And for whatever reason, maybe you don’t want to reach out to a therapist who can also help with that? So really, anywhere along the lines of ‘I’m thinking of getting divorced’ to ‘I am divorced and now what?’ I can meet my clients anywhere. If I think that we’re a good fit, and the client thinks I’m the person for them, we’ll make a list of priorities and we just start going through it. Do you want to come up with custody scenarios? Let’s do it. Are you concerned about staying in the house? Do you think you want to? Are you not sure? What about dating? When to tell the kids? How to tell the kids? What should I do?
T.H.: There’s a lot.
Jessica: There is a lot. I feel in an interesting way, that was, I think, the best description I’ve ever heard of someone trying to explain what a divorce coach does.
Abby: But that’s what I do. That’s not what all coaches do. This is what I do, and maybe that’s why you haven’t heard it that way before. There are a lot more structured coaches in really–that’s when I say prescriptive, it is a plan. It’s a five-point plan.
Jessica: We have spoken to a number of divorce coaches, whom we respect and admire greatly, and all of whom we think are great resources for people out there looking for divorce coaches. But some of them, it seems like maybe the focus is a little bit more on being part of a divorce team. They’re also working closely with the lawyer. It almost seems, I don’t know how to articulate it, but I just feel the way you explained it just now, I think was very understandable. Like, okay, which aspect or aspects of what you’re going through are the things that are freaking you out the most right now? Let’s focus on those. That was just a very refreshing definition, I think.
Abby: Well, thank you. I mean, that’s how I approach it. I have lawyers, realtors, financial planners. I mean, I can refer anybody that my clients need. I can offer those personal referrals, and I have lawyers that will reach out to me: I have this client, and they’re wasting my time and their money. I’m going to give them your name and talk to them for a couple of hours and we’ll save them money. This isn’t legal, what they’re asking me.
T.H.: Right. So that’s the problem for the lawyers is you walk in and you spew your emotional stuff everywhere, and they’re just about the business. Finding a coach or therapist who understands the process of divorce, or some type of support to help you through – that way you’re not paying–we’ve had so many conversations about this. You’re paying by the hour, so let your emotions out. That’s not the best use of your money. And by the way, that’s not the right person to put it on. That’s not even the right skills person to put it on. As much as you want to get him for all he’s got, or make her life miserable, they’re following the law.
Abby: Let’s say that I really didn’t have support, and not because I’m sure if I reached out to people, they wouldn’t have supported me, but as I said, I was the first one, so nobody really knew. Let’s just say you have your best girlfriend and you can talk to her about certain things. And ugh, this is going to suck with custody, what should I do? If they haven’t been through it, they’re not going to know that a 6 pm switch on a Saturday is a horrible idea. If you want to do that, of course, your lawyer is going to be like, yeah, this is legal, but I know from my own personal experience, and now all of my clients, what works and what doesn’t. I can walk you through the reality of let’s come up with three custody scenarios, and no, this isn’t going to work. Watch out for this, and look for that. I have no idea what the statistics are, or if there are – probably nobody’s even looking, but I wonder how many divorce coaches haven’t been through a divorce? I think-
Jessica: I was just thinking that! I was literally just going to use the analogy of men are gynecologists, they haven’t had babies, but there are certainly obstetricians who deliver babies–
Abby: But that’s science.
Jessica: I’m just saying when I was much younger, I had a male gynecologist before I had kids, and then I switched to a female gynecologist. And then I remember when I was about to have my babies, you’re getting over six months or something, and you have to start switching through all the doctors in the practice because you don’t know which one is actually going to deliver for you. PS with my first one, it was actually the male in the practice who delivered it. But I do remember sometimes going just certain appointments and you’re complaining about random obscure aches and pains. Like, this guy has no fucking idea what I’m talking about. He’s heard about it from other people, but he can’t be like, ‘You know what helped me when I did that?’ So I do think that there’s so much more of a benefit to being able to, obviously, if you’re going to go to a divorce coach, someone who’s been divorced. Frankly, I don’t think my divorce lawyer, either of my divorce lawyers for either of my two divorces, neither of them were divorced.
T.H.: Mine wasn’t either.
Abby: And I think for a lawyer, it’s even less necessary because every lawyer is only going to advise you on the law.
Even if your lawyer was divorced, they’re probably not going to give you a personal insight into their custody schedule and how it worked. That’s not their job. I mean, if you want to pay–
T.H.: No, but there’s an empathy that can go with it. But if you have a bulldog, then you’ve got a bulldog, whether they’ve been through it or not. Anyway, what are some of the biggest questions you’re getting right now in this crazy time and things upside down? Are you seeing more people trying to stay? More people separating or going back to court? What are the scenarios that you’re being presented with right now?
Abby: In the height of everybody staying at home for eight months, a lot of consults on: what can I do right now while I’m stuck? We can’t move out. We can’t do anything. Is there anything that I can do now quietly while he’s sleeping next to me and living with me and we are both stuck at home and working from home?
So that was a lot of it, and there are things that you can quietly do if you’re still stuck in a situation. It doesn’t have to be a pandemic, and there can be so many reasons why couples want to separate, but it takes a long time to get out of the house, whether it’s emotionally, financially, logistically. I walk some clients through that, what they can do to prepare while they’re still stuck. – And a lot of should I go, or should I stay?
Jessica: Yeah, it’s a big decision.
T.H.: Well, you don’t walk away with guilt.
Jessica: Right. Right.
T.H.: You want to walk away–
Jessica: You want to make sure you’ve done you–
T.H.: –when you’re done.
Jessica: Right, you want to be able to walk away and feel you’ve done whatever it is that you should have done, so that know your decision is true, and that you don’t look back and regret it.
Abby: Absolutely. You need to know that for yourself, but you can’t judge your partner. For some people, doing everything they should, and knowing and sleeping well that they did everything they could, that includes couples counseling, let’s say. For some people, just merely–I know people that have said, well, they won’t go to couples counseling anymore. But shouldn’t they try everything? I can’t believe he won’t go. My answer is, well, if you’ve been married for 15 years, and you’ve been in the home together most nights for 15 years, maybe their most that they could do was stay for that long, and they know what this relationship is. If you’re living with someone and you’re living in a relationship, it’s not three months, it’s not six months, it’s 15 years, maybe that was the most they could do – it was not leaving five years ago. Therapy isn’t for everyone. Not everybody has to go to couples counseling. And so I think that you have to know that you did everything you could. For a lot of people, that would include reaching out for help. For some people, it’s just staying. For some people, it’s I am miserable, but I’m not going to cheat because I want to just try to focus on it. Maybe you don’t know what somebody else’s ‘they did everything they could’ is. We don’t know what their line is. So focus on your own line and what’s going to make you sleep well at night. Try not to focus on what your spouse is doing on their end, because they have to live with themselves.
Jessica: I love that.
T.H.: Very nice.
Jessica: That’s a great place to end for today. We have a lot more things I think that we could dig in on, so hopefully, we’d love to have you back. But thank you so much for taking the time. And your perspective, I love how open and just transparent it is. Everybody out there listening, you can go onto our website. You’ll find Abby’s experts page on our website with links to her stuff. You’ve got to go and read some of her articles, her writing, it’s amazing. And reach out. So thank you so much Abby for being with us.
Abby: Thanks, guys. And it was so nice to meet peers and moms, and women my age, and New Yorkers, and yeah, definitely we’re the same. Thank you.
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