Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life

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A fully revised and updated edition of the essential guide for men and women moving through the turmoil of divorce.

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A fully revised and updated edition of the essential guide for men and women moving through the turmoil of divorce.

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Editorial Reviews

Philadelphia Enquirer
A common-sense, compassionate, human book about the crazy process that more than half of us go through. This should be required reading with all marriage licenses.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060923099
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/28/1992
  • Edition description: REV
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 165,939
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


"Should I, after tea and cakes and ices,
Have the strength to force the moment to its crisis?
--T. S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"

"She picked up her glove and hit his cheek with it,
but so lightly he did not even blink.
"I despise you," she said.
"Quite," said Mr. Mackenzie.

--Jean Rhys, After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie

People will ask you: I didn't know you were having trouble. What went wrong? You already know the easy answers--they were in the script of the confrontation scene. Then some of your friends say: I never liked the bitch/bastard you were married to anyway. You wonder if they know something you never knew. Then you go over the confrontation script again, refining your grievances, sharpening the battles. The main thing is to get this over with and get on with life. You roll the breakup scene around in your mind for a few nights. Your emotional editing process gets to work. You put the story through your memory a couple of times. It's finished, you think. The marriage is dead.

And then the ghosts start dancing on your bed at night. You shut your eyes tight. They stomp louder, laughing. These ghosts, they nag, they question, they taunt, they blast holes in your version. You run from them. You refuse to speak to your ex. You only communicate through lawyers now. The ghosts keep boogying, jeering. You fight over the house, over child support. The ghosts are clapping. You fight about custody, visitation rights. The ghosts are cheering. You get frightened.You thought you had it all figured out. Life is full of beginnings and endings, you tell yourself. After all, more than a million couples get divorced every year. But you had forgotten about the bad ghosts that go dancing in the night.

What was your marriage really like?

You have to stop a minute. When did it start? You don't have a lot of time to think just now, with all the new things you have to do--figuring out how to pay the electricity bill, explaining to your mother, hugging your children. But in that spare moment when the house is quiet and your anxiety dulled, you start wondering about what really went on in your marriage. You have to confront those dancing ghosts. Because that's the only way you're going to get through your divorce. Otherwise, you carry the ghosts with you forever.

It begins the day you walk down the aisle, your fears and hopes buried in the rituals of getting married. The wedding march, the ring, the flowers; church and state smiling down on you, the in-laws cautious. Wait. Here comes the bride. A long white satin gown, the distant veil. But something's amiss--an omen. The minister notices first: the bride's wearing red shoes! Her grandmother gasps. The ring bearer giggles. The groom is anxious. For better or for worse. You pledge your life to another. Flashbulbs, the rice raining down on you. Someone is crying. Where's the cake? The ushers are laughing. The bridesmaids are dancing. More champagne. Till death do us part.

Most people have the dream of falling in love, getting married and living happily ever after. So you barely notice on your wedding day that your future partner wants to live on a houseboat and inclines to believing in the Moral Majority; you don't think about the fact that your mother-in-law is a bitch and wants to move next door. You block out of your mind that maybe you'd like to go to law school in the fall. It's only later that you remember these things--much later, when the dream and the marriage are in shambles.

The time bomb for crisis is set early, often as soon as two people meet. You marry for all the obvious reasons--you look to your partner for stability, warmth, ambition, sensitivity, success, money, mystery. You often marry to complete yourself, ascribing to your partner magical properties that he/she may or may not have. Like a homing pigeon, you marry the very qualities you don't think you have but want to acquire. "Nature leads us to fall in love. It gets us in touch with what we don't have," says Washington, D.C., Jungian analyst Lawrence Staples.

It is here, in the twilight zone of your emotions, that you make the psychological contract of wedlock. You're not aware of it at the time, but in return for those magical properties you need so much, you make the basic marriage bargain with your spouse. The French say there is always one who kisses and one who is kissed. It's a crude generalization, of course, but in general terms it does seem to work out that in the subconscious wedlock contract, one of you takes the dominant position in the marriage and is the "kisser"; the other the submissive role and is the "kissee." One of you assumes responsibility for controlling the course of married life. The other agrees to be pleasing and supportive, the dream partner who fulfills the common wish of the marriage. One of you is the initiator, the pursuer, the seducer. The other is the passive one, swept up by the dominant one. This is the wedlock contract when you start out. The power balance reflects the psychological dynamics between you when the marriage begins.

But as James Taylor reminds you in "It Used to Be Her Town Too": "Nothing lasts forever."

Francesca Livoti is Italian-American, dark and beautiful, from New York City. She once had a small part in a Broadway show. For a while she lived with a British architect. Bill Taylor is an all-American boy from Dayton, Ohio, who has never been out of the country. They meet in his hometown, where she has a job with a radio station. He is going to night school to learn engineering. His people are farmers. His arms seem too long and he's shy. Francesca is six years older. She meets him in a furniture store. A few days later she calls him up. It's not long before she seduces him. To Bill she's the most exciting person he's ever known. He falls deeply in love. They marry. The bargain: She gives him the worldliness and adventure he seeks; he promises her the small-town American security she desires. The wedlock contract: She's dominant--after all, she knows more when they start out; he's submissive--he owes her for opening the door to adventure.

In time, he becomes an aeronautical engineer. They move to California, where he gets a job with an aerospace company. There are overseas assignments: Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia. He becomes vice-president in charge of government contracts. It's an expense account life: the Asian ruins of Angkor Wat and the Mozart festival in Salzburg. She raises dogs and dreams of a farm in Ohio. He wonders: What happened to that worldly woman with adventurous eyes? She wonders: What happened to that shy farmboy? One day he buys a car without consulting her; then he announces they are moving to New York. She is outraged. How could he do this without asking her first? He smashes a glass in the fireplace and spends the next weekend with another woman. She stays at home and develops a bad back. Who's dominant now? The marriage bargain is betrayed, the wedlock contract broken.

The man is submissive on the way to independence; the woman is dominant on the way to dependence. They each marry the person they want to be. But instead of renegotiating their basic marriage contract as they both changed, they remained trapped in their original dominant-submissive relationship. Instead of a wedlock contract, they have a Deadlock contract in which they are stuck in unequal and opposing roles. As a result, they are not able to negotiate what they need or want in the marriage. She behaves like an aggrieved mother; he like a rebellious child. In this case they break out of Deadlock by breaking up the marriage.

Think back: Who wielded the psychological big stick in your marriage? When you first met, were you the kisser? Or the one who was kissed? As the ghosts dance gleefully around your head, you want to know: When did it start? You stare at the ghosts. To more and more family therapists, the genesis of divorce is rooted in the original wedlock contract couples make when they get married.

What attracted you to your spouse? Were you very young? Did you need someone to give you what you didn't get from your parents?

"A lot of people have very low self-esteem when they get married," says Suzanne Keller, professor of sociology at Princeton University. "That means you are going to put a lot on the other person to make the world right for you."

The more you need your spouse to "make the world right for you," as you get deeper into the wedlock contract, the more you will be willing to accept emotional inequality in the relationship.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 24 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 24 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    a "must read" for those on the brink, in process, AND already divorced

    I highly recommend this book for both men and women -- not only for those who are going through divorce but also for those who are considering it and those who already have their legal divorce (but maybe not their emotional one) in their rearview mirror. If you are thinking about divorce, then this is far superior to the ridiculous book "Too Good To Leave, Too Bad To Stay," which reduces the decision to divorce to an objective test of what the other person brings to the relationship without ever requiring you to look at your own patterns and contribution. But I digress. There is no doubt that divorce and the pain leading up to it make us crazy. Although some of the social context in Crazy Time is dated (having been written in 1992), the message throughout the book is helpful, hopeful, and enduring. Ours was a bitterwseet marriage for 28 years, and I wish I had discovered this book 10 or more years ago. I read it for the first time shortly after my husband finally decided to pull the plug, and have read portions of it again while going through the process and now that I have begun dating at the age of 53. For those of you still in the throes of pain, there is reason to hope for a full and abundant life after divorce! I wish each of you as little pain and as much recovery as possible.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 11, 2007

    Ending the Roller Coaster Ride

    Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life has just the right tone to help someone stop playing the blame game and start healing. This book is an excellent tool for understanding the anguished feelings that arise when going through a divorce. I recommend adding this volume to the repertoire of anyone dealing with the traumatic divorce or separation situation. Sherri Donovan, Esq., author of Hit Him Where it Hurt$-The Take No Prisoner's Guide to Divorce.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 26, 2002

    Stop blaming and start healing.

    I read this book when I was going through the worst of my break-up. He, basically, just walked out of my life. He'd return for just enough time to sabotage whatever progress I had made, but he was, essentially, vanished from my life. He had a child with someone else a year and a half into our 'separation'. This book helped me to stop blaming and get on with healing. I stopped worrying about WHY this was happening and dealt with the fact that it WAS happening. I think my ex and I set ourselves up for our divorce before we were even married. I've grown and some of that growth is due to my break-up. I took something from this that made my life better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 10, 2011

    Great book for supporting someone going through a divorce too...

    I got this book to help me understand the emotional and psychological process of a divorce, as my boyfriend (whom I started dating after he already decided to file) is currently going through his own divorce. I don't have a lot of knowledge about this situation, as divorce is not something that has been widely experienced in my family, and this book really shed light on why he sometimes goes a little insane, why he needs his space and why he generally behaves the way he does at this point in his life. It has been a really good eye-opener for me to understand the huge amount of pain, despair, guilt and anger that he feels, even if he isn't telling me. Overall, great book, and I'm about to re-read it with a highlighter...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 1, 2010

    Very Helpful. I keep going back to read sections.

    This books is very informative as to the emotional process of breaking up a marriage. I have been divorced a year now and still find that I get encouragement from reading the chapters that deal with starting over. Divorce is hard. This book addresses the process of healing yourself. I could not have survived without it. Very well written with plenty of examples.

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  • Posted April 18, 2010

    Crazy Time

    This book should be required reading for all people going through a divorce. The book lets you know that you were not the one to blame for the end of a relationship. If that is the case. It talks about adultery and how it makes your marraige breakdown. It also shows you that going through a divorce is really a crazy time and the feelings and thoughts that you are having are completely normal. I felt like the book was written just for me. I've been married for 21 years and my husband has been having affairs for half of our marraige. A real eye-opener. I will re-read this book again and again. It really makes you feel better and lets you know that you ARE NOT alone. I highlighted certain sentences as I read that I thought pertained to me and my soon to be ex. Half the book is highlighted. It might have been written in 1992, but the same information goes for todays divorces.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2008

    A master piece

    I am very impressed with the wonderful writing skills. She not only went trough it herself, but she went in depth, searching for answers to this painful process, to know when it started, and gives hope that it will end. It has given me a sense of peace because I am more aware of the dominant versus dominated patterns of relationship, witch make it very confusing a times--blaming just him or blaming all on myself. I understand so much more know. This book should be given to every counselor, therapist, pastor, etc. Could save many marriages, and or help people already going through this overwhelming process like me. It's been for me God's sent.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2008

    New Reviewer, Just my thoughts.

    It has been years since I've seen this title, but I read it cover to cover and can truely say it helped me deal with the emotional frenzy I was facing after my husband dropped the bomb on me. Really a help.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2007

    It is helping

    I at least am able to understand some of the feelings. It makes it easier for me to get through the day knowing this is normal. Divorce stinks, but this helps you get through it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2007


    This book really puts things into perspective for people going through a divorce. It's so incredible and accurate that I no longer feel alone and in despair. I could even identify what stage of 'Crazy Time' I am in, so I now know what to expect for the future. Thanks!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2006


    I did not realize the emotions that I was experiencing in my divorce was normal. I picked up this book 2 years after my divorce. I realized that I had a relationship with someone too soon as well, once that relationship fell apart I went back to feeling the initial feelings I was left with after the first year of my divorce. Very insightful, I felt someone understood and explained the exact experiences I had gone through. Plus, it gave great examples of other relationships that showed me what I should avoid. Take a chance, pick it up and read it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2006

    What your feeling is absolutely normal

    In the early part of my divorce, I thought I was loosing my mind. I was on an emotional rollercoaster and none of my family could understand me and neither could I. I started counseling and my counselor loaned me this book. FANTASTIC! I couldn't put it down. I saw me and several others I knew at different stages in a bad relationship. It helped me understand that what I was feeling was normal and there was hope for the future no matter what my final decision may be. I stopped blaming myself, and stopped wondering WHY and looked forward to the future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2000

    Set Your Mind at Ease- You're Normal!

    When your marriage is in-the-brook, And you can't see the forest because of each and every tree, Take some TIME to read this book - it surely helps, BE - LIEVE me!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 11, 2000

    An execellent guide for understanding your feelings an behavior during divorce.

    I picked up this book in a clinicians office moments after my husband had left our marriage counselling session angry, wanting a divorce. I felt like I was going crazy. Instantly the information in the book started to make me feel normal, rather than insane. It was enormously helpful to me in understanding my own behavior and feelings as well as other peoples. I highly recommend it to anyone going through a divorce.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 1, 2000

    It helped me a lot in 1993!

    June 2000 A counselor recommended this book to me in 1993, when I divorced my husband and had a three-year-old daughter. It perfectly described the craziness I was going through during that first year! Now, I am purchasing it for my 18-year-old niece, because her mother (my sister) is going through the same thing (but probably won't read the book). My niece has 'gotten an earful' from her mother and needs some help understanding, too!

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    Posted January 2, 2010

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    Posted April 19, 2010

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    Posted January 20, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2009

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    Posted November 17, 2009

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