FULL TRANSCRIPT – Season 2, Episode 64
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 everybody to Divorce etc. Today we have Tara Eisenhart here. She is the author of ‘The D-Word’ and we are going to talk all about the D word, meaning divorce, of course. Tara is a divorce coach, and I actually was following her on Instagram and checking out the cool stuff that she was doing. She is a child of divorce, as well as divorced herself, so she has multiple perspectives on things that you might want to hear about. So welcome to our show.
Tara: Thank you, I’m so happy to be here.
Jessica: Thank you for taking the time. I just want to say, like T.H. was just saying, when we had a prior conversation with Tara, I mean, some of her perspectives are so refreshing and not typical. That was why we felt she was such an important voice to bring on for you to hear a little bit about her story and her background. I’m very excited for today. So, why do you love divorce?
Tara: So, I do love divorce. And often, when I introduce myself to people, I will say, ‘My name is Tara Eisenhard, and I love divorce.’ I know that sounds crazy, because a lot of times people are like, ‘Wait, what?’ Divorce is some kind of a sin or something, right? Nobody’s supposed to love divorce. But I do. I love divorce. Going back to my childhood, my parents got divorced when I was a teenager, and they had a really good divorce, so my life improved as a result of that. What I learned from that experience was that divorce is a solution to a problem. As a culture, we look at divorce and we say divorce is a problem and we need to fix it. We need to stop the divorce. My perspective on that is just 180 degrees in the opposite direction. When marriage becomes a problem, divorce is the solution. That is what I lived and learned as a child of divorced parents. It’s what I lived and learned as a wife, and now ex wife. It’s a solution to a problem. It’s an opportunity for a new beginning to live a more authentic life and improve relationships. So that’s why I love it.
Jessica: I love that answer. I mean, the whole idea of looking at divorce as a solution, I found to be really eye opening and almost like lifting a weight off of the shoulders of the society stigma that goes around divorce. Because I feel like there–I’m sure you get pushback sometimes. I think there are a lot of people out there who would say, for those of us who might walk around thinking that divorce is a solution, we’re not trying hard enough. We’re not putting in enough of an effort. We’re not going to counseling. We spoke and gave vows–
T.H.: Gave up too soon.
Jessica: That’s right. And so I think that there are so many people who fall into that middle ground of not knowing have I done enough? Talk to us a little bit about that.
Tara: Yeah, so I have a few things. I always have lots of things to say about divorce.
Jessica: So do we!
T.H.: Bring it on! That’s what we’re here for. The more we talk about it, the less of a problem it is.
Tara: That whole argument that you made a promise, yeah, okay, so first of all, not everybody says those words. That doesn’t necessarily apply to everybody. But regardless of what people say in their wedding vows, we are growing and changing as human beings all the time. I am not the same bleary eyed, messy haired person who woke up in my bed this morning. I am sure as hell not the same person that I was when I married my first husband almost 20 years ago. Be that that fact, humans are changing and we’re supposed to. We’re supposed to change. We’re supposed to grow, and our personalities evolve over time. People that have had really huge events in their lives, whether it’s a horrible trauma or even something wonderful, like winning the lottery, which I’ve heard that can be a horrible trauma too–sign me up, I’d like to try it–but some kind of a life changing event like that, we change. And as a result of that change, our relationships change. The way that we relate to each other in a marriage changes, and it’s okay to be able to admit that it is actually an act of love and respect to recognize somebody for who they are and to know that they are not the person for you. There is no honor in just surviving and muddling through a horrible relationship that lasts 50 years. Like, what is there to celebrate? So yeah–
T.H.: Oh my gosh, she’s one of us, Jessica.
Jessica: Yeah! I was just going to say–
T.H.: I was like, I’ve got chills. I’m like, wait, were you just on our podcast yesterday or-
Jessica: We couldn’t agree more. But then I think the follow up question from naysayers out there would be do you believe in the concept of marriage?
Tara: Of course I do! Of course I do. And I am very happily married for the second time to the man who I refer to as my favorite husband. We are getting ready to celebrate our five year anniversary at the end of–
Tara: Thank you. So I absolutely believe in marriage. But marriage is not defined as a relationship that lasts forever. It’s a partnership that’s based on mutual love and respect. And so as long as it’s good, it’s a healthy marriage. I really like the idea of treating a marriage like we do a lease on an apartment or something, so that there comes a time when you are able to–
T.H.: Reevaluate it?
Tara: –does this meet my needs? Or have I outgrown this space? And sign up for it again, or not. But yeah, the length of a marriage has no bearing on how healthy or valid it is at any given point.
T.H.: If you’re uncomfortable answering, you don’t have to answer, but I feel like you won’t be, so I’m going to ask it. A lot of people, and my fear with my children, of course, is that they’re concerned about getting into a relationship because we got divorced. They don’t want to get divorced. My fear is that they’re not going to try to be in a relationship for fear of getting a divorce. And so you were in a relationship, you did get a divorce, and you’re fantastic and bright and awesome, positive energy and in a super healthy relationship now, but did you go through a time after your divorce–so when you realized that it wasn’t working out, to feel like holy shit, is this type of relationship and commitment going to work for me, because of where I came from? So this is like my no BS question. So answer as you’re comfortable.
Tara: Yeah, absolutely. I can answer that in two different ways too. Because as a teenager, when I saw my parents get divorced, initially, when that happened, and I was like, this is a terrible thing, my life is turning upside down – in the beginning, and I was very angry. There was a point where I said I’m never going to get divorced, because divorce is a terrible thing, and my parents just gave up, whatever, all that social programming came out. And so I was like, yeah, I’m never going to get divorced. Then I grew up more. Then a couple of years passed, and I realized how much better my life was and how much better my family was. And so I got to a point entering into adulthood where I said the words to somebody in a conversation, I said, ‘You know what? Yeah, I might get divorced at some point. I might get married and divorced. I’m fine with that. That’s like, the adult thing to do.’
T.H.: And it’s the adult thing to feel. To say it and feel it are two very different things. What did you do to be able to say that and believe it?
Tara: Well, I just had gotten to a point where this perspective within me had grown to that point where I was able to say, yeah, you know what? Divorce, it was better for my family. So yeah, that’s okay. If I find myself getting divorced someday, so be it. Then I got married. And of course, I didn’t want to get divorced. It wasn’t like I got married and thought–
T.H.: Of course. None of us want to.
Tara: But I did. And of course, after I came out of it, my marriage was bad. I was really happy to get out of my marriage because it was just such a relief and a weight off of my shoulders when I finally admitted, yeah, this is wrong. Yeah, there was part of me that said I’m never going to do this again. This is stupid. Marriage isn’t for me. But again, we grow and we change. That programming that I had gotten through my parents’ break up, to be able to say divorce is a solution to a problem, marriage is good while it’s good, then I found myself ready to do it again. And it took a while.
Jessica: I’m curious to know at what point as you were going through college or whatever education/career path, that you decided that you were actually going to be a divorce coach to be able to help people through this process? How did that come about?
Tara: Yeah, so that came about after my divorce. I got divorced, and again, I was really happy to be divorced. That’s when I realized how weird I was. Because when I told people that I was getting divorced, nobody was happy for me. Everybody was angry or they were very sad. They wanted to push me to some high priced lawyer and make my ex pay for everything, yada, yada, yada. That was not where I was at. That wasn’t the kind of process that I wanted. I wasn’t sad. I mean, it was–
Jessica: No, I hear you.
Tara: It was for the best and I knew it. But that was when I realized that for most people divorce is a horrible, traumatic event that just destroys everything. When I realized that–so at first I was just really confused, and I went looking for books.
Jessica: What was your career at the time?
Tara: I was in marketing. I was a marketing manager for a financial institution.
Tara: So I’m going through this divorce, and I go looking for resources. First, just why isn’t anybody happy for me? I want to read a book about somebody who’s happy to be divorced. The closest thing that I found when I went to Amazon, the first purchase I ever made on Amazon was the book, ‘The Good Divorce’ by Constance Ahrons. And it was a long study about people getting divorced. I learned so much about divorce and couples and the way that people process it, through that book. So I got really interested in the information. Then eventually, I started dating a divorced dad, and he had this crazy ex wife who hated me. There were these children in the middle, and I didn’t understand my role in that situation. And so I went looking for information about that too. The more I started to live this new path, knowing that I’m very strange, nobody sees divorce the way that I do, people didn’t have the same experience growing up that I did, and here now I’m involved in this family with these children and trying to make things better for them, I really became very passionate about my own–knowing what I knew, knowing that it didn’t have to be so horrible, I wanted it to be better for other people. And so, initially, I thought, I’m going to go back to school, and I want to be a divorce attorney. But then I realized, it’s not their fault, but they’re part of the problem. It’s just ingrained in our culture you get an attorney, you go to war, and it’s what you do. It’s not as much like that now, but it was when I started down this path. Then I joined Twitter. When I got on Twitter, I found a woman who was the divorce coach, and I looked into what she did. I had been looking for something that was outside the current paradigm, and that was it. She was offering training, and I signed up. And here I am.
T.H.: There you go. What are the biggest things that you find come your way now when people go to you, your clients? What are their biggest quandaries? What are their biggest struggles? Because certainly, they’re not the only ones, and especially in today’s day, it’s like a shit show, even if it’s not a shit show. And so what are you being confronted with now? Because everything is different. We separated from our husbands in 2008, and there was none of this, that you’re doing right now, let alone half the resources. There was no Googling anything.
Jessica: And there was no exEXPERTS, which is what you’re saying is exactly what our whole goal is. I mean, this is our intention. We wanted a place where people could go and find respected, vetted information and hear stories from people like us who’ve been through it, so people will feel like there’s a sense of relatability and they’re not in it alone.
Tara: Yeah, so you know what? I’m going to say to you what people say to me all the time, where were you when I got divorced? [Laughs]
T.H.: We’re here for the next crowd. That generation couldn’t do what we’re doing, but we’re all going to do this. And Jessica and I talk about it all the time, the stigma of divorce, and you’re talking about social programming. I mean, it’s for everything, right? It’s the way you look, it’s your hair, it’s the way you act, it’s the way you speak, whatever. But around divorce, even if you’re the ‘hero’, there are still children, there’s still negotiation, and there’s still co-parenting if there’s children. You’re going to have a different kind of relationship with the person who you didn’t like or respect at the time, and now you’re going to have to respect him in a different way. So what are some of the biggest questions you’re getting now?
Tara: The main things that I hear the most from people are issues around communication with the ex, people who share children and that whole thing there, whether it’s co-parenting, or it’s the that whole I just don’t know this person anymore.
This is not the person I married. Which, yeah, you’re right. We’re changing all the time. So I work with people on co-parenting issues and to build a new relationship with this new person and the person that you are now – so having a new relationship or new regard for the ex. Also, being able to get past relationships where there was an infidelity, that’s a big one, and that’s something that I experienced too. I actually–
T.H.: All three of us are right there with you. Yeah, we’re all there.
Tara: Obviously, that is super hard to get over there. I work with people on that. Self-esteem issues and the shame piece are huge.
Tara: People just feel like they’re bad people, they’re bad parents, they’re bad partners. Look at my life now, I’m such a failure. And so that’s another big one that I work with people on. Nobody ever expected that they’re going to be in this situation, of course. There’s just a whole lot of stuff that comes with it.
Jessica: And so this whole conversation that we are having constantly about the stigma around divorce, and the shame and the guilt, and all of the feelings that men and women carry with them, because we have found out from some of the people that we’ve spoken to, and some of the podcast episodes that we’ve done of Divorce etc, that there are stigmas and shame that are associated with men when they’re getting divorced, that we as women didn’t even know about. It carries over for both sexes. What are some of the things that you think that we as a society can be doing to really try to shake the stigma out of things? It’s one of our biggest missions, but the conversation has to keep going on. You’re coming from a place of never having felt that growing up, so how do we do that now for the next generation?
Tara: The good news is that it’s getting easier because divorce is coming out of the shadows. We are seeing a whole lot more resources available. There are much more productive processes available, which allow people to be able to talk about it more. So that’s all good. We are definitely on a much more positive trajectory than we were. So it’s good to just recognize that. But I think just in general, we are becoming a much more inclusive society, which also helps too. We need to be able to look at the word family and realize that it is not necessarily mom, dad, and 2.1 children. Family means all kinds of different things, whether it’s mom and dad that are divorced, or mom and mom or dad and dad that are together, or divorced, or children who live with foster parents or adoptive parents or grandparents, whatever. Or family is just like the Golden Girls, just friends hanging out and living together. Family means different things. We need to recognize that. We also need to talk more about divorce and see it more. So things like programming on TV shows and characters getting divorced, going through things like that, beyond soap operas, that’s all really good too. Supporting people who are going through divorce, this is an idea that I’m really hoping catches on a lot more. There are more people that are doing it a little bit, but separation ceremonies, where either people can come together and release each other in some kind of like a combination of wedding and funeral sort of thing, or just to do it as a personal, just one person–
Jessica: Having some closure.
Tara: Having some closure, making some vows to yourself, looking forward to the future, and then social support around that with like gifts. When people get married, we bring them presents and we recognize that they’re starting a whole new life, and so here are some presents to help you get started. You’re going to need a coffeemaker or a tea kettle or something like.
T.H.: It’s so funny that you’re talking about this because we were talking about a registry. Because if you’re moving to a new home, or someone gets some things, other people get other things, and even if it’s not things you need, it’s things that would make you feel really great like a gorgeous candle, or new bedding, or new towels, or whatever fills you up to bring you joy. The other day, I put on our story, and I found one of the Shutterfly mugs. I used to make them for all my family with pictures of the kids. My kids had to be six, eight, and maybe 10. They’re now 18, 20, and 22. So this mug was in the back, and I’ve got like 30 mugs. I pulled it out, and it made me so happy because it brought me back to a place, and I was a good mom, and look at my kids. They’re so freaking cute! They’ve got big smiles on their faces and they look so goofy. That’s a great gift. Get a picture of their kids or a happy time and give them a mug or whatever. It doesn’t have to be a lot of money, but it’s something that is going to brighten their day.
Tara: Yeah, and it’s authentic. Divorce is this opportunity to live a more authentic and aligned life. So on one hand, we’ve got households that are separating, somebody took the coffeemaker, and somebody needs a new coffeemaker, but on the other hand, yes, you know what, if this person hasn’t painted since college, a new set of watercolors might be the absolute perfect thing. It’s not a life necessity, but hey, you’re making a fresh start for a more authentic you.
T.H.: Right. I mean, I love, love, love all of that and that whole thought. People over think things too much and don’t know what to say and don’t know what to do. So just keep it simple, and the gesture will be so appreciated.
Jessica: Yeah, I agree. So tell us, before we have to wrap up, about the book, ‘The D-Word’, that you wrote. Why? Where did it come from? Tell us what it’s about.
Tara: ‘The D-Word’ is the story of divorce from the perspective of a 12 year old girl. It’s not my story. It is unfortunately, a much more traditional divorce, with much more animosity between mom and dad. So initially, I started writing it, and I thought that I was writing a book for 12 year old girls. I’m a huge Judy Blume fan, so I wanted to this to be like the, ‘Are you there God? It’s me, Margaret.’ Which she did write a book about divorce, it’s called, ‘It’s not the end of the world’. It’s very good, but I wanted mine to be better. [Laughs] Lofty goals there. But I started to write it, and I realized that although it was a story for children, I wanted it to be a tool for parents and for other adults to be able to read this book, and to see what is happening and understand this process through the eyes of this girl who’s watching it between her parents, and her younger brother and her older brother and everything, and the struggles that she’s having. Because one of the huge issues that we have in divorce is that the divides get very deep, very quick. We go on to our sides. It’s not just in divorce, it’s in life in general, but especially in divorce, we tend to assume that the people who are on our side see things exactly the way that we do. Their perception might be a little bit different. And so for parents, especially for a custodial parent, where the children don’t see the other parent quite as often somebody who has more time, it’s very easy for that parent to assume that the child sees the other parent the way that they do. They assume the child sees the parent the way that the parent sees their ex. And that’s not the case. So that’s what I wanted to illustrate for the book.
Jessica: I love that.
T.H.: Why didn’t you write your own story?
Tara: [Laughs] Mine’s boring.
T.H.: Because your story, and maybe that’s your next book, but your story is a lofty example. Like kudos to your parents that they were able to separate. You were a teenager, which has got to be the hardest time for parents to separate, and look at you now. I mean, really, I give them an applause because back then it wasn’t easy. It was all about going to court and ‘The War of the Roses’ and ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’, and they took the high road. So I just wanted to do a shout out.
Tara: –actually saw ‘The War of the Roses’. I remember them leaving me with a babysitter while they went out to go see that on a date night at some point. So they must have taken something away from that and said we don’t want to be like that. [Laughs]
Jessica: Right, right.
T.H.: I hope so. Well, good. Let that movie have resonated in that way. But it is also true that, I mean, look, we’re talking to you today to hear your story and share it and give you the opportunity for more exposure of your story. Because it’s the idea that the more people hear other versions and other kinds of stories, it’s empowering, it’s relatable. It helps people see another perspective. Your perspective is, as I said in the beginning, it’s so refreshing because it’s so different from most people’s. So at some point, your story will resonate with people. Maybe when you wrote ‘The D-Word’, society or you weren’t ready for it because everybody was still focused so much more on litigating divorces and the contentious divorces. But the trend is changing. I mean, it is really more about collaborative divorce these days, and more and more people are mediating. And so I think that your specific story is very inspiring, which is why we wanted to talk about it today. As a total unrelated aside, I just have to say, because you mentioned Judy Blume, I met Judy Blume once. I was in graduate school, and I was working as a cashier in a retail store on Madison Avenue. I had no idea what she looked like, because even though I’d read all of her books, we didn’t see what the authors looked like back then. At this point, I’m now 22, 23 years old, and I’m behind the register. She comes up with a bunch of stuff, and I’m ringing her up. We start talking, and she probably asked if I did anything else. I said I was in graduate school, so she asked who was your favorite childhood author? And I said, Judy Blume. She handed me her credit card, and I nearly fell over. So to this day, I was like, thank God that’s what I said. But it was totally the truth. And it was one of the most exciting celebrity sightings I’ve ever had in my life. She had such a piece of our childhood of all her books, so I hope that your book resonates like that with everybody else who reads it, because that was a very exciting, meaningful experience.
T.H.: So we have one more question for you.
T.H.: What do you wish you knew, that you know now, but didn’t know then when you were married? So going through your divorce, what do you wish you knew?
Tara: I think it’s a great question, and there are so many things. Most of them have to do with–the number one thing that I wish I knew was you don’t have to get married. That’s probably a whole other conversation.
Jessica: Right, exactly. But once you’re married, and you’re going through divorce, what do you wish you knew?
Tara: No, I think I wish I knew at that point that my experience wasn’t typical. For me, personally, I wish I had recognized that my experience wasn’t typical. Because I think that I probably hurt some people when I went cartwheeling out into the world and said, ‘Yeah! I’m so happy to be divorced.’ But in general, I think I wish I had known a little bit more about some of the collaborative options that are much more prevalent now than they were at the time. So my ex and I, we knew that we wanted to work together, but we had never heard of divorce mediation. And so the way that we did it, we just did this kind of DIY mediationish sort of thing–
T.H.: Wow, that’s great.
Tara: –with an attorney. We had lunch with him. We sat down at a Chinese restaurant, and he was like, okay, so here are some of the things that typically go into a divorce agreement. What do you want to do about X, Y and Z? Who’s going to move out? And when are you going to do it? We just talked to each other through it and–
T.H.: So you had good communication with your ex, it sounds like, which is everything.
Jessica: You’re lucky.
T.H.: You are. You’re very fortunate, because not everybody has that. I certainly didn’t have that. Jessica had it to a degree. But that’s great. So the one thing you wish you knew is that a type of collaborative model could have been an option for you?
Tara: Yeah, that it existed. We were very lucky that we had that option, that opportunity, because we knew somebody who was an attorney who could sit down and have lunch with us and do that. If we didn’t have that, we probably would have just been pressured into getting separate attorneys, because that’s just what you do.
T.H.: That’s right.
Tara: And everybody that was telling me, here, call this attorney, or make sure you ask for this, it would have been really easy to go down that path because I didn’t know any better.
T.H.: Yeah, I’m glad you didn’t.
Jessica: Right. Well, I will say for everyone listening, I mean, listen to your gut. If you feel like you’re getting advice, whether it’s solicited or unsolicited, from people, and it doesn’t quite sit right with you, and it’s not what you are hoping for or envisioning with what your process is going to be, and what your journey is going to be, and what it’s going to look like on the other side, talk to more people. Check out everything that we have going on at exEXPERTS. Just talk to enough people so that you really know what your options are. It is not one size fits all. It doesn’t matter if your best friend gets divorced at the exact same time, because everyone’s circumstances are different. And so I love the fact that you guys were able to do it in a way that worked best for you, even though what exists today didn’t really exist. You guys kind of figured that out on your own, and that’s really admirable. I think that’s very inspiring.
T.H.: And awesome.
Jessica: Yeah. So for everyone listening, you’ll see Tara’s page on our exEXPERTS website. It’s www.exexperts.com. Check out ‘The D-Word’, the book, the Judy Blume type book written about a young girl’s experience with divorce. Let us know if you have any questions, and we’ll have all of Tara’s information there so you can reach out to her directly as well. Thank you so much for taking the time Tara.
T.H.: Thank you Tara.
Tara: Thank you so much for everything that you’re doing. It was so great to be here and talk to you.
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