When my husband and I announced our intention to split in 2012, I was surprised by the doom-and-gloom forecasts of some of our friends. We believed we could part amicably, and be good co-parents, but some of our friends were far less certain.
Why were they so negative about my divorce? I set out to discover the truth about today's divorce. The results of my research and my own experience with divorce are in Splitopia: Dispatches from Today’s Good Divorce and How to Part Well (Simon & Schuster/Atria, 2016).
Splitopia shares my story as well as insights from the family law reform and positive psychology communities. It also shares stories of former couples living successful, happy lives, and children of divorce. It challenges the negative assumptions and inaccurate reporting about divorce, and exposes the outdated, flawed studies that still circulate. Splitopia separates the facts from the fiction and helps those facing this tough transition get through it and thrive.
Splitopia proposes an updated, practical, empowering mindset about divorce, and provides concrete steps to support ourselves and our families during what may be the most difficult time in our lives. It shares the encouraging conclusions of hundreds of studies on child development, resilience after loss, growth, happiness, savoring, and more.
Before writing Splitopia, I spent many years of my freelance writing career covering weddings for glossy bridal magazines. I also wrote about honeymoons. During my single years, I went on 20 honeymoons. Alone. Sometimes with a group of other travel writers.
I love weddings, but at the time, I had dreams of being a literary novelist or more serious-type journalist, not a wedding writer, someone charged with creating copy to go around the ads.
But when I began working on Splitopia, I suddenly saw those wedding-writing years as perfect. They couldn't have been better. I felt so grateful for those years covering weddings because they allowed me to bring to my investigation of how marriages end a deep knowledge of how we get into them in the first place. I entered into my Splitopia research with a genuine compassion for the intensity of our hopes for marriage, an understanding of the love and fantasy with which we enter our unions. The champagne. The honeymoon. The cake. The dreams that our lives will finally come together into a happy ending.
Having worked as a self-help wedding writer to pay my bills in Manhattan gave me an unshakable connection to the full spectrum of our intimate relationships, our reverence for marriage. It shaped my belief that divorce is not a stand-alone, freak occurrence on the opposite side of marriage, the black to marriage's white. For so many of us, it's a difficult stage in a relationship from which we'd wanted so much more—a relationship to which we owe our respect.
Gaining a new appreciation for this part of my past also informed the philosophy of Splitopia: there can be much to gain from an experience or a relationship, even if felt wrong at the time or did not last. We never know how our days are adding together into our best selves.
Praise for Splitopia
“Splitopia is the essential resource for anyone who wants a “good” divorce—one that allows both partners to pass through this wrenching transition with mutual respect and affection. Packed with research, insights, and illuminating (and often funny) examples from Wendy Paris’s own divorce experience, this book is a practical and reassuring guide to parting well. Divorce isn’t a happy experience, but for many people, it can lead to a happier life." — Gretchen Rubin, author of the New York Times bestsellers Better Than Before, Happier at Home and The Happiness Project
"In Splitopia, Wendy Paris has set out not only to write the essential and supremely practical guide to the good divorce, but to change how we think and talk about the way we dissolve what were once expected to be indissoluble unions. Rather than lasting until death, Paris asks, why not see marriages as successful for lasting as long as they last? Filled with history, research on everything from child development and mediation to loneliness and resilience, and a wide array of engaging stories that themselves serve as a reminder of just how common divorce, and often the bad divorce, is, Splitopia makes a compelling case that it’s high time for a new definition of Happily Ever After—for everyone." — Brigid Schulte, author of the New York Times bestseller, Overwhelmed: Work, Love & Play When No One has the Time. Director The Good Life Initiative at New America foundation.
"Combining insights, stories and research, Wendy Paris has created a smart and interesting guide that can be extremely helpful for those going through divorce." —Tal Ben-Shahar, positive psychology lecturer and author of Happier.
"Splitopia is a wonderful blend of storytelling and social science—a book that amuses and captivates while dispensing shrewd advice based on solid psychological research. It's a practical guide that also lifts the spirit. Breaking up is hard to do, but reading Wendy Paris is a pleasure." — John Tierney, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength.
“Finally, a book that shows there really can be a good divorce (even after the marriage has turned bad). Splitopia is a great resource and an engaging, moving read by a wonderfully subtle, skilled writer. Drawing on the author's own experiences, changes in divorce law and practice, and hundreds of studies, it has useful advice, helpful hints—and much humor.” —Naomi Cahn, Harold H. Greene Chair, George Washington University Law School. Coauthor of Marriage Markets and Finding Our Families
“Splitopia is an important book. Divorce is hard, but there are approaches that minimizes the pain and set people on a path to healing. When kids are in the mix, this work is crucial. A lack of relationship or a negative relationship undermines our capacity to care for our children and our country. Great solutions come when you have the benefit of the best thinking in the room, in divorce and in politics. In an adversarial context, that kind of creativity and benefit just can’t happen. With parents, we want what’s best for out kids. With our country, we want what’s best for our country. When we get caught in an adversarial dynamic, we lose sight of our bigger shared goals. We need to be able to focus on our shared aspirations. Splitopia suggests a path for how to do this." — Joan Blades, co-founder of MoveOn.org, Momsrising.org and Livingroomconversations.org. Co-author of The Custom-Fit Workplace: Choose When, Where and How to Work and Boost the Bottom Line and The Motherhood Manifesto
“A smart, thoughtful and well-written antidote to the popular idea that divorce is a toxic event for parents and children. Think of it instead as a family reorganization—a period not just of crisis but also of opportunity for growth and development. Ms. Paris shows that a carefully planned and thoughtfully executed divorce can result in a better quality of life for parents and children. She is particularly astute in recommending that couples consider innovative options for the legal aspects of their divorce such as mediation, unbundled legal services and collaborative law. They help couples avoid protracted courtroom combat that can become all consuming for them and their children, make wise choices for the future and get on with their lives productively.” — Andrew Schepard, Max Schmaltz Distinguished Professor of Law at Hofstra University. Director Emeritus of the Center for Children, Families and the Law. Editor of Family Court Review
"A good divorce is possible. Wendy Paris makes that case and explains how. Through Splitopia’s compelling stories and deep research, we gain insight into marriage, separation, and life well-lived." — Shane J. Lopez, author of Making Hope Happen. Senior Scientist and Research Director of the Clifton Strengths Institute
“This a really, really wonderful book. I think anybody going into a relationship should read this. In many ways, this may be the most comprehensive approach to relationships that I’ve seen.” — Tonio Epstein, host of the Magical Mystery Tour on WGDR-FM/NPR, Plainfield, VT
Splitopia in the News
CBS-LA, November 21, 2016
Good Day Austin, March 29, 2016
Time Warner Cable News, April 5, 2015
"11 Questions to Ask Before Getting a Divorce" by Eric V. Copage, New York Times, May 17, 2017
"What Does 'Closure' Even Mean, Anyway?" by Emily Esfahani Smith, New York Magazine, February 16, 2017
"Divorce American Style: Splitopia Book Review," by Naomi Cahn & Jana Singer, Family Law Quarterly, Spring, 2016.
"Divorcing with dignity: How modern exes are treating a split as an awakening," by Zosia Bielsky, The Globe and Mail, June 23, 2016
"Go ahead and thank Gwyneth Paltrow: Her "conscious uncoupling" tapped into "a sea change in separation" that's trickling down to the masses," by Caroline Jumpertz, Salon.com, May 11, 2016
"Is 'birdnesting' the stupidest--or smartest--divorce trend yet?" by Anna Davies, New York Post, April 28, 2016
"How to say, 'I'm Getting Divorced' and avoid a pity party," book excerpt, The Washington Post, March 14, 2016
"You Married Them Once, but What About Twice?" by Abby Ellen, The New York Times, March 3, 2016
"Is a good divorce possible? 'Splitopia' author says yes," by Kathryn Peterson, Houston Chronicle, April 12, 2016
"8 Tips for Better Co-Parenting After Divorce," by Carlin Flora, Parenting.com, March 29 2016
"A Stepping Out Into the World: Author Wendy Paris on Writing, Relationships and her UH Experience," University of Houston Alumni Magazine, April 2016
"How to Be Friends With Your Ex After Divorce," by Beth Levine, Grandparents.com
"It's Not Marriage That Matters So Much, But How We Attend to Our Relationships," Q&A with Wendy Paris by Gretchen Rubin, Gretchenrubin.com, March 1, 2016
"12 Women Share What Got Them Through The Worst Breakups Of Their Lives," by Zahra Barnes, Self.com, Feb. 12, 2016
"Tough Love: Straight-Talking Self-Help Books Show Readers How to Weather Any Emotional Storm," by Alex Palmer, Publisher's Weekly, Oct. 19, 2015
"5 Ways to Deal When Someone You're Dating Totally Ghosts On You," by Suzanne Zuckerman, Self.com, August 6, 2015
SELECT RADIO AND PODCASTS
- Kimberly Kaye Show
Like a Mother podcast with Emma Johnson of Wealthy Single Mommy, recorded in Midtown Manhattan.
Help wanted podcast, with Valerie Nies and Regina Soto, recorded in Austin, TX.