Divorce the Drama!: Your No-Drama Guide to Managing Any

Divorce the Drama!: Your No-Drama Guide to Managing Any "Ex"

by Melissa Sindeband Dragon Esq.


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781452582795
Publisher: Balboa Press
Publication date: 01/02/2014
Pages: 138
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.32(d)

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Divorce The Drama!

Your No-Drama Guide to Managing Any 'Ex'

By Melissa Sindeband Dragon

Balboa Press

Copyright © 2013 Melissa Sindeband Dragon, Esq
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4525-8279-5


My Personal DTD Experience

"Once upon a time I was falling in love, now I'm only falling apart ..." sang Bonnie Tyler in 'Total Eclipse of the Heart'.

Everyone has their own private, heart wrenching mortifying dramatic divorce story—mine was no different. When the honeymoon literally ended and we touched down from the lily white wedding cloud we were on, the trials and tribulations of real life continuously challenged our union. We grew apart after years of being 'that perfect couple;' love turned from warm feelings of belonging and care to rancid feelings of irritation, frustration, and eventually hatred.

Legal Eagles: My Gnarly Divorce Drama

Rob and I met in law school; we came together as friends and gradually became romantic with the best of intentions. Being that we were law students, we were both argumentative by nature and neither wilted in the face of conflict. The problem here is that each of us was right, until someone was proved wrong or became exhausted trying.

Our first major argument was three months into our relationship in which each of us stormed off in a huff at one point during the multi-hour fight. This was before we had children so we had that kind of time to waste on dysfunctional relationship drama and theatrical demonstrations conveying the depth of our hurt feelings and intense anger.

We complicated our relationship by planning out a law firm that we would open together straight out of law school. As we started the firm as poor graduate students with no startup capital and not a single client, tensions soon ran high.

Yes, money was tight and the basis for arguments was endless. We argued over internal business management, external case strategy, treatment of employees and unequal contribution of effort, time and money at the office as well as lack of intimacy issues when we were at home.

Our arguments became verbally abusive as a matter of course with obscenities hurled back and forth at each other as if we were players in a twisted tennis match. Sometimes the arguments escalated to soap opera level drama with me threatening to throw myself out of a speeding car while Rob held onto my wrist and stepped on the gas. Other times, physical struggles would ensue when one of us would block the other's efforts to leave our home, exhausted from the never-ending battle over who did what to whom and who was "right."

Clothing would get torn in the struggle and small projectile objects would become briefly airborne when flung in the other person's face. Storming off into the night in a profanity laden huff after a dramatic and deafening door slam became the way we commonly parted ways. We had not just become loveless roommates due to the constant fighting; we had become HOSTILE, HATEFUL roommates.

Despite our toxic relationship and destructive method of conflict resolution, we stuck it out together for the sake of our struggling marriage and business enterprise. We worked twelve hour days, six days a week to make the firm succeed.

In the little downtime we had, we made regular trips to the marriage counselor. Issues of who worked harder and more efficiently were an ongoing source of conflict for us. More than one counseling session ended with one of us storming out before the session was over.

As we grew our business and took on staff, paid employees got to witness our feuds as well as see phones pulled out of walls and hear office doors slammed in dramatic shows of frustration between us. During one particularly charged argument, the tenant of the office below ours rushed upstairs to intervene. Chaos was the norm and the collateral damage we were leaving in our path was extreme.

Living in a Powder Keg and Giving Off Sparks ...

As Bonnie Tyler poetically summed it up, we were "... living in a powder keg and giving off sparks ..." My marriage with Rob was going from bad to worse and it seemed inevitable that one of us was going to rip the other's face off in due time if something didn't change ...

Call it a hormonal clock that ticked away mercilessly, or call it "baby fever" (aka, temporary insanity), but instead of ending what had become a mutually abusive and unstable union, I became singularly focused on having a baby. I believed, as women often do, that a baby would smooth over the rough spots in our marriage and bond us together as an indestructible family unit.

Our son's birth was a defining moment; for me as a mother as well as for the three of us as a family unit. The first day of Benjamin's life, Rob was distant due to being consumed with anxiety over delayed installation of the infant car seat. Meanwhile, I was off in my little world of amazement and wonder over the arrival of our son. Joy soon was overshadowed by constant stress between Rob and me due to the need to care for our infant son 24/7. Gone was the luxury of time, energy and emotional resources otherwise used to beg, plead, scream, and yell our way out of life's challenges.

Introduction of a baby into a union raises the stakes for any couple. Introduction of a baby into a hostile and unstable relationship can quickly highlight the severity of an untenable dynamic in a way years of therapy cannot. I remember we both made a solemn promise, on behalf of the baby, to cease hurling obscenities and insults at each other. During one heated argument when our son was three months old, I looked at our baby with gratitude that he was sleeping and was not witnessing the wall being punched during one of our rage filled exchanges at the office.

In an effort to shield our son from our mutual rage at home, I furiously scribbled my list of grievances on a piece of paper only to have Rob read it, snicker, ball up the paper and toss it in the trash. Our unhealthy union was on life support with little hope in sight for our future as an 'intact' family unit.

When our son was nine months old, well-meaning family members sensed our troubles and set us up for a "date night" out to help our damaged union. Unfortunately, an accidental fender bender occurring at the end of our "date" led to heated conflict, slamming of doors, mutual screaming, and blame. When the dust settled, Rob stormed off into the night as I shook all over from the intensity of it all and the sound of our baby crying from his car seat in the back. Our lives were spinning out of control with conflict and projected, toxic rage at one another becoming a daily norm. Rob and I had become our worst enemies and our precious child was caught in the crossfire of our nuclear war. We had grown to spend so much of our time with each other in a state of conflict and domestic warfare; we had no peaceful way to be together for our son.

While visiting with my parents on vacation, I confided to my mother that my marriage was crumbling and had become destructively dysfunctional. My mother was not surprised and noted that the degree of our mutual misery was obvious to the casual observer. Something had to change in a massive way and tough, painful decisions would have to be made.

That afternoon, I asked Rob to go on a walk with me as our two year old son napped in the stroller. As we walked along the Beach, I told Rob that I was done with our lives of daily fighting and mutual misery. I reminded Rob that we had tried for years to find a new way to interact that did not involve constant conflict laced with mutual verbal abuse and profanity. Despite our efforts, our fights were more frequent and destructive than ever. We were bringing out the absolute worst in each other and consequently had nothing positive to offer our son. I then walked Rob through how I saw dividing up our assets, transitioning the firm, and sharing time with our son during the week and weekends. My hope was that a separation and potential divorce would end our conflict and provide a peaceful structure through which we could co-parent our son.

Rob replied that he did not want to divorce and would not cooperate in any way if it meant we would be divorced. He stated that, if I proceeded with plans to divorce, he would fight me on every issue that could be fought over in order to delay the process and deny me a divorce. Rob promised to fight me over dismantling the law firm as well as fight me for custody of our son. He predicted that divorce would lead to my "financial suicide" for which there was no way out.

I remember hearing these ominous threats and feeling the sting of panic in my chest as Rob listed all the negativity that was headed my way if I continued on the path for divorce. Meanwhile, our lives together had become a living hell. Our precious child was becoming negatively affected by the constant air of hostility in our home. Time and again we relapsed into unhealthy, conflict ridden, obscenity laden fights, in full view of our son, as well as other family members. I felt like I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. As awful and daunting as the road ahead of me looked, I knew this was a path I had to continue on if anything was ever to change for the better.

I remember walking along the beach and looking out at the water, the horizon and the vast blue sky as the sting of Rob's threats landed on my heart. As the sting wore off, my years as a practicing divorce attorney came to my aid. I then replied in a steady and measured tone:

"You can TRY to destroy me. You can try to bankrupt me. You can try to take our son from me. Give it your best and come at me with all you've got. In the end, you will not succeed because I am a survivor. I have made money before and I will make it again. This child was conceived in my body; we have a bond you cannot break as I am the only mother he will ever have. I seek a divorce to put an end to this constant warfare between us. I will forever love you because without you, our son would not be here; his life and love has transformed me. So come at me, attack me, call me names and seek to destroy me. Give it your all. Just know that from this point forward I will not retaliate. I will not return your insults with my insults, your hate with my hate. As we are divorcing, I seek to divorce all the conflict that has poisoned our union. I will extend myself to you from a place of loving appreciation for your role as my son's father and I shall ignore the ugliness of the rest of what you may do or say.

Rob scoffed and snickered, dismissive of my 'emancipation proclamation.' He angrily questioned how I would be able to "force him to be my friend" and snidely reminded me that I was "no Dr. Phil" so I could take my self-help books and shove them up my ass. I angrily replied that the history of our marital conflicts proved that I could never force him to do anything. What I would do, I explained, would be to refuse to engage in the hurtful and destructive fights with him anymore. Rob was free to be as argumentative as he felt necessary to be, however I would no longer be his dance partner in that rage. My inspiration for seeking out and remaining on higher ground, I explained, was our son. If we lived together, the conflict would continue to consume me. However, living apart would hopefully grant me the opportunity to be strategic in limiting my contact with Rob, thereby reducing our opportunity to constantly fight.

Living separately would eliminate many points of disagreement and conflict between us as a couple. Living apart from each other, our only point of ongoing contact would be how to co-parent our son and provide for his needs. Surely, we would be able to respectfully co-parent our son without conflict, I reasoned.

I drew up a co-parenting schedule and set a date certain that we would stop living together.

Was I able, from that fateful day of our divorce discussion, to successfully take the "high road" with Rob every time we came into contact? HELL NO! I am human and I admit to relapsing into a pattern of conflict with Rob that we had cultivated and perfected over close to a decade together.

Giant Red Flags Along the Road to Recovery

I specifically recall an incident that occurred in the early months of our separation. We were in our son's preschool parking lot arguing. Embroiled in conflict, tempers flared over the method of selection of our son's preschool. Out of maddening frustration I screamed at Rob: "You IMPOSSIBLE A*****!I'm SO F*****GLAD I'M DIVORCING YOU!"

Rob mockingly laughed at me: "Way to keep our divorce classy and friendly, Melissa. You must be SO proud of yourself!" In that moment I truly could have ripped his face off with my bare hands ...

In a state of blind, intense rage, I peeled out of the parking lot. Instead of feeling satisfied that I had told Rob what I thought of him, I immediately regretted my words and actions. As I sped away from the scene of my emotional relapse, I felt nothing but venom in my heart and chest. It was awful; I felt like a world class failure at conflict management. Here I was, trying my best to improve our lives and REDUCE hard feelings while parenting from two homes. Yet, my own words and choices of reaction seemed to fan the flames of our rageful conflicts like nothing had changed at all.

My dreams for myself and our young family had turned nightmarish. The chaos, anger, and pain of our failed union seemed like a dark cloud that would never lift. Something had to change fast. If I could not change HIM, I would change ME.

After all, the level of drama and conflict felt like still being married to him, only WORSE!

Looking back on that crazy time now, I see that my problem was that I could not separate myself from my pattern of dysfunctional drama that we had cultivated between us over a decade. Old habits die hard. Meanwhile, the emotional dynamic between us remained raw and high voltage.

When my heart rate returned to normal and I came to reflect on the preschool parking lot rage relapse incident, I realized that if I expected anything to improve, I had to be committed to changing MY behavior when dealing with Rob. I did not quite know how I would do it, yet I knew I had to try to find a new way to manage my relationship with my ex if anything was going to improve post-divorce.

While I didn't have all the answers then, my rage relapse that fateful day did give me a renewed goal and a higher ideal to imagine and strive for: friendly co-parenting with my ex even if he remained as nasty, hostile and argumentative as ever.

I know it did for me, and it does for my clients more often than not. I have witnessed firsthand how the lingering conflict breeds toxic resentment between adults, drains financial resources and no one emerges a winner.

There comes a time in your life when you either throw in the towel or you stand up and fight to forge new ground. It's the fight or flight response that happens under extreme duress.

After the preschool parking lot incident, I was there. The time had come; I was ready to stop fanning the flames of conflict.

The Dog Fight Analogy

Looking back on those early days of my separation and divorce, I am grateful for the ugliest moments because, if not for them, I would not have re-trained myself on a new way to interact with my ex. So take heart if you currently find yourself at your wits end with your impossible ex. Change is coming and better days lay ahead!

"Our greatest glory is not in never failing but in getting up every time we do" — Confucius

To better demonstrate the profound extent to which re-training the way YOU behave results in changing the dynamic from hostile to peaceful, I analogize it to dog fighting.

With dog fighting, both dogs have been raised/trained, over time and repeated agitation, to resolve conflict through harsh and violent means. If asked, "How to make the dog fighting stop?" the obvious answer is to first, separate the fighting dogs. Do not allow them to be face to face with one another.

Next we must insure that these dogs, if allowed to come in contact with each other again, will NOT attack. So we must RETRAIN each dog on how to approach conflict and resolve conflict. Only when both dogs are re-trained can we allow them to come into contact with each other again.

In the same way as one would re-train a dog, I set about establishing a new way of interacting with Rob that eliminated the opportunity to engage in live conflict and toxic relationship drama.

I worked to re-train myself to not engage in arguments with Rob as we lived separate and apart from each other now. My new mindset was that any way Rob chose to live his life and conduct himself was no longer my business. I would focus on improving my life moving forward, rather than re-hashing the past pointlessly.

The new way that I had to learn to be after my divorce was to own my part in perpetuating the conflicts and ongoing madness with my ex. In thinking of our past relationship in a way that did not feature me as victim and he as perpetrator (as I had at times during our marital arguments). Instead I owned my part in perpetuating the fight. In doing so I came to learn how to act differently and much more effectively in my dealings with my ex. Through ownership/ awareness of MY part in our relationship conflict, I came to learn and see a new way to deal with my ex. When I learned a new way to approach my ex, I changed for the better. In my changing our old, combative dynamic to a new "just the facts" type dialogue, our way of interacting changed for the better. After all, a person can only wage a unilateral battle for so long before they look completely foolish.


Excerpted from Divorce The Drama! by Melissa Sindeband Dragon. Copyright © 2013 Melissa Sindeband Dragon, Esq. Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction: You all have the same impossible 'Ex' ... Drama, Drama Everywhere and Oh how they drive you to Drink!, 15,
Chapter 1: My Personal DTD Experience, 19,
Chapter 2: DTD and the Emotionally Abusive Ex, 41,
Chapter 3: DTD and the Physically Abusive Ex, 53,
Chapter 4: DTD and the Addict or Alcoholic Ex, 67,
Chapter 5: DTD and the Emotional Terrorist, 83,
Chapter 6: "If It Is To Be, It Is Up To Me", 101,
Chapter 7: Divorce the Drama FOR REAL to Bring Order to Chaos, 110,
Drama-Free Resources, 133,
About the Author, 137,

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