Join me for a doozy of a show where me and my guest, Jennifer, talk about the big D. Jennifer is a no bullshitter, straight shooter who has been through a divorce herself, has a popular podcast all about it, and has written books on the subject. She’s here today to unpack divorce – and marriage – to help save us from any unnecessary pain and suffering, and also to help those who might need some clarity (whether they know it or not). She tells us all about her truly unique story, her regrets, her hot take on who should come first once you have kids, her choices that backfired, and what “doing divorce right” really means. I honestly feel like this episode could save some marriages because of the real deal things she urges us to contemplate when considering divorce. Also, I think some of you won’t agree with all of it. But ultimately, there’s just so much truth here including a question that might change everything in your marriage. Jen also lays out what us married moms don’t understand about divorce, and gives tips on how to basically not find yourself in a divorce. As usual, there are also lots of laughs, some singing, a Hamilton reference, swearing, and oversharing on my part.
Brandy: Hello, Adult Conversation Podcast listeners. Today, I’ve got a doozy of a show for you. Me and my guest, Jennifer, talk about the Big D. Jennifer is a no bullshitter, straight shooter who has been through a divorce herself, has a popular podcast all about it, and has written books on the subject. She’s here today to unpack divorce and marriage to help save us from any unnecessary pain and suffering, and also to help those who might need some clarity (whether they know it or not). She tells us all about her truly unique story, her regrets, her hot take on who should come first once you have kids, her choice that backfired, and what “doing divorce right” really means. I honestly feel like this episode could save some marriages out there because of the real deal things Jennifer urges us to contemplate when considering divorce. Also, I think some of you won’t agree with all of it. I know there were parts I had a hard time hearing and you’ll hear me vocalize it and we talk through it. Ultimately, there’s just so much truth here including a question that might change everything in your marriage. Jen also lays out what us married moms don’t understand about divorce and gives us tips on how to basically not find ourselves in a divorce. As usual, there are lots of laughs, some singing, a Hamilton reference, swearing (of course), and oversharing on my part.
Brandy: I need to give a huge shoutout to my newest Patreon peeps, Tiffany Perconti and Jennifer McNeil. Thank you, guys, so much for the support! If you want to join these two heroes and many more in supporting me and this podcast, go to www.patreon.com/adult conversation. That’s P-A-T-R-E-O-N, .com/adult conversation. It’s way cheaper than you think.
Brandy: A quick update on my “Adult Convo and Chill” event in Las Vegas at the end of June. Thank you guys for such a great response. As of right now, there are only a couple spots left. If you want to meet me in Las Vegas for a “Momcation,” meet and greet, and book signing (and swag bag), head over to my website – adultconversation.com/events to get more info and sign up ASAP, so you don’t miss out. It’s kind of going to be like the podcast in person, and you’ll get to be there! Onto the show.
Brandy: I’m so thrilled to talk to you today because this is a topic that so many of my listeners are struggling with and I’ve even had people say, “Will you please do a podcast on divorce?”
Jennifer: Oh, good. Well, not good, but.
Brandy: But yes.
Brandy: I am thrilled to have found you. Today on the podcast, we have with us Jennifer Hurvitz. You’re from the Doing Divorce Right Podcast, is that correct?
Jennifer: That is correct.
Brandy: That title, we need to unpack that because I didn’t realize that there was a right way and a wrong way and I want to hear all about what this “Doing Divorce Right” thing is.
Jennifer: Let’s do it.
Brandy: Something else about you is also you have a book that’s called One Happy Divorce: Hold The Bulls#!t, which already means you’re going to fit in great here. Then, you also have a Divorce Coach’s Guide to Staying Married – that’s called Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. Is that right?
Jennifer: You got it. I have two books. Yup. It’s one for each customer. I have One Happy Divorce for people who are going through divorce, and then I have Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda: A Divorce Coach’s Guide To Staying Married which is helping those who are kind of on the fence, not really sure what they’re doing. I’ll explain both. We’ll go through both.
Brandy: Awesome. You have just so many credits, including something about Oprah. You were featured in Oprah’s magazine.
Jennifer: Twice and some more to come. It’s crazy. My life has been nuts since this divorce. I tell people my divorce gave me a whole new career. I took lemons and made a lot of fricking lemonade.
Brandy: Awesome. I want to hear all about this story and I also want to hear … I have about a billion questions and I have questioned my friends who have gone through this about, “What would you want to know from this lady?” I have some specific things too, but what do the listeners need to know about you?
Jennifer: Wow. Well, this is something very strange about me that nobody really knows. Before I was all this stuff that I’m doing now, a mom and all that good stuff, I was a DJ. For 15 years, I taught dance. I was a DJ. I did bar and bat mitzvahs and corporate parties for 15 years. That’s really the polar opposite to what I do now, which is public speaking. My friends are like, “How did you go from dancing and DJing to talking about divorce and all this good stuff?”
Brandy: This is amazing news. What is your favorite song to play when you’re DJing?
Jennifer: Oh, my God.
Brandy: What is your least favorite song?
Jennifer: Well, my favorite song always depends on like what’s cool and new. I haven’t DJed in a really long time because I got pregnant and had kids and so nobody wanted a pregnant DJ, nursing in the bathroom, which I did. I was pumping my boobs in the bathroom at parties, but whatever is cool on the radio is what I usually play. My least favorite of all time of every like wedding, bar mitzvah was, of course, I hated “Love Shack.” I hated “YMCA.” I hated those. I was like, “Please don’t play that again,” so I never wanted to play them unless the party host or the guest wanted me to play them and then I was like, “Oh, for God’s sake.”
Brandy: What’s your take on The Chicken Dance?
Jennifer: Oh, my God, I hate it, but you know what? The little babies, little kids love it. The Macarena, The Chicken Dance, I hate it. I hate it all.
Brandy: At our wedding, we had what I call – it was like a birth plan, but a DJ plan – with our DJ that said, “No Jimmy Buffett.”
Jennifer: The worst.
Brandy: I think there was no Chicken Dance, sadly, and one of the older dads the next day after our wedding that morning we saw him at breakfast and he goes, “I had this terrible dream last night that I went to a wedding and all they played was rap music.” (laughs)
Jennifer: That’s my kind of wedding right there. My kids would be thrilled.
Brandy: I know. It’s like, “Ah. Then, we’ve done something right if the older adults are unhappy with our musical choice.”
Brandy: Like you said, this divorce gave you a new career. Will you give us an overview of what your story was?
Jennifer: Of course I can. This is how shit went down. Excuse my language. I was married for 13 years, and I kind of felt like I had to get married. I think a lot of young women between their 20’s and 27ish, 28, you feel pressure. I felt pressure. I was a Jewish girl, I’m still Jewish, growing up in the North and whatever in the suburbs and everyone’s getting married. They’re dropping like flies. I was always the bridesmaid, never a bride. I got all this pressure, “Get married. Have kids. Get married,” and I found this guy and he was perfect.
Jennifer: He was perfect on paper. He was perfect in everything. He was the guy. I called him the perfect sperm, like the perfect storm. The perfect sperm. He was just perfect. I’m like, “You know what? Can’t let this one go?” I wasn’t really ready to get married. Looking back – woulda, coulda, shoulda – I wasn’t really ready to get married, but I knew that I wanted kids more than anything in the entire world. I think a lot of women, girls feel that way. They may not be ready to get married, but their clock is ticking and they don’t know they can actually save their eggs. I tell my clients now, “Girls, just save your eggs.” (both laugh)
Jennifer: So, we dated for six months, got engaged, 10 months later got married, six months later had a kid. Boom, boom, boom. You know what? I tell my younger clients now, “Wait. Enjoy. Travel. Have fun. Do your thing. I didn’t.”
Brandy: Right. Get to know this person. Build that foundation because that baby is going to just try to crack that shit right open.
Jennifer: It does. It changes everything. I’m sure you’ve had people on your podcast that talk about this all the time. I call it a trip around the sun. I have a good friend and a colleague, her name is Dr. Rhoberta Shaler and she tells everybody, “It’s a trip around the sun. Date for four seasons. Be with that person. Learn them. Know them. Take off those rose-colored glasses and get to know them because when you have that kid, shit hits the fan. Life, it’s different.” We got married and had this baby who was the best thing that ever happened to me and the minute that kid came out of my vagina, I was like … He comes out and I look at my husband at the time and I’m like, “Your second and he’s first.” I said it. I was like, “You know what? I don’t need you anymore. I got your sperm. I got the kid and I’m done.” I really honestly felt that way and my world just transformed.
Brandy: You didn’t feel that beforehand? When you were making the baby with him, you were still like, “No, I’m on board. This is what I want,” or did you always know he was a means to an end for you?
Jennifer: You know what? I think this is- (laughs)
Brandy: Like deep down maybe?
Jennifer: I knew. I looked at him, I remember saying to him, “I just want your sperm. Is that okay?” and I thought I was kidding, but I really wasn’t.
Jennifer: I really authentically in my heart, if I’m being truthful here, I really knew. I just loved everything about him to be a dad and he was going to be the best – and he was. He was the best father on the planet Earth. He was a shitty husband and a great dad and I was a shitty wife, but a fricking fantastic mother. I was the best mom ever, but I was the shittiest wife. In a marriage you need to put your kids second. In a divorce, you need to put your kids first. You need to own that. You need to put your kids second because your relationship should be first. I’m getting really deep here, but when you’re married, you need to really foster in love and nourish your relationship so that your kids can see what a good foundation they have. You know what I mean? Love each other up, mush each other up, so that your kids can see what it’s supposed to look like. Because if you love each other and all that oxytocin is pumped in and you got that cuddle hormone going on, you’re happier, right?
Brandy: Right, but everything is so skewed now with this intensive mothering thing where we have to do all these things to be a good mother that there’s no way you can also be a good wife unless you stop doing mothering stuff. I think a lot of women aren’t willing to drop that stuff for their husbands or they hate their husbands and so they don’t want to.
Jennifer: Right. I hated my husband because you know what happened? Guess what happens when you stop having intimacy and sex? You resent that guy and he resents you and it all falls to shit and guess what? You lose each other. You’ve got to work. It’s work. It’s a choice. It’s a choice to love each other. It’s a choice to put that partner first because if you don’t, you’re not going to make it.
Brandy: So do you think, had you taken your own advice back then, do you think you would have stayed married even though you knew he was like sperm donor in a sense?
Jennifer: Yes, because here’s what happened-
Jennifer: Here’s the thing. People say to me all the time, “Why don’t you just get back together?” Because my ex and I, forgot to tell you, are best friends. My ex-husband and I are best friends right now, five years out of my marriage.
Jennifer: No, I don’t want to get back together with him. I have a great relationship. I’m in a two-year relationship with my boyfriend. I love him to death, but here’s the thing, woulda, coulda, shoulda. Had I known then what I know right now, I never would have pulled the plug. I wish I could take every married woman and sit them down and say, “Listen to me please and read my book.” Look, I’m not saying to stay in an emotionally abusive or physically abusive relationship. Please get out. Everybody, listen carefully. Please get out.
Brandy: But I think what you’re saying is what one of my friends said, and she’s with somebody new now, and she says, “If I had known I was just trading an old set of problems for a new set of problems, I might have stuck with the first set.”
Jennifer: I love her. (laughs) Absolutely.
Brandy: You would love her. She would love you.
Jennifer: It’s the devil you know, for God’s sakes. Look, stay with that guy. Stay with your husband because it’s fixable. It’s workable. It’s doable.
Brandy: If it’s fixable and workable and doable.
Jennifer: Of course. If it’s not, get out. For God’s sakes, don’t stay in a marriage that’s not healthy. Look, by all means, if he’s not abusive, he’s not beating you, he’s not hurting the kids, he’s not a drug … You know what I’m saying?
Jennifer: if you’re just not having sex and you look at me, you come into my office and you sit down and you go, “I don’t love him anymore. My heart doesn’t pitter-patter, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah,” I’m going to look at you, I’m going to say, “Go home and…” Can I swear?
Jennifer: “Go home and fuck your husband. Go home and love each other up because you’re going to end up divorced if you don’t do the work.”
Brandy: That’s what everybody talks about. When we’re younger and we get married and all the older people are like, “Well, marriage is work.” We’re like, “No, it’s not work. It’s fun.” Then as you get to be in this age, you have moments where you’re like, “Oh, this is the work they’re talking about. I’m seeing this.” (both laugh)
Brandy: Was there a moment … How did everything go down? Did you just grow apart or was there something that happened? How did you know you guys should be divorced, and was he on the same page as you?
Jennifer: Well, are you ready? We stopped having sex. We stopped having sex. My kids came first and I just cared more about them and he was second. In his boat, the work was first, kids were second, I was third. He would tell you that flat out. Here’s what happens with men. Of course, work is first because why is work first, Brandy?
Brandy: Because of capitalism and the patriarchy.
Jennifer: Right. (laughs)
Brandy: Probably not the answer you’re looking for, but yes. (laughs)
Jennifer: Close, but work is first because they have to put, men or women, whoever’s the breadwinner, let’s say it’s the opposite – not being sexist. But let’s say the women work, that work comes first because they have to feed the family. They have to put money on the table, they have to bring home… Right? So of course work comes first. Why are you yelling at your husband because he’s working all the time? Stop that. Stop beating him up because he’s working all the time. He’s providing for your family. Stop beating up your wife because she’s working from 9:00 to 5:00 and coming home exhausted. She’s exhausted because she’s working to support you. Of course, work comes first. And you’re at home with the kids or vice versa, whoever, right? It’s exhausting. I was exhausted. Mark came home, that’s my ex-husband, Mark, my “wasband,” I call him.
Brandy: I have a friend who says that too.
Jennifer: Mark came home at the end of the day and I’d be like, “Oh, my God. I’m exhausted. Take the kids.” You know what? He had a hard day at work too.
Brandy: Right. Well, I think that’s the thing is that equality issue where they’re out providing for our family financially, and then we’re at home – if we’re a stay-at-home mom – providing for our family emotionally and physically there.
Brandy: This is what I always say is you get two exhausted people that have to spread themselves in all these different roles, it’s like, “Is it even really possible to do that without something taking a back seat?”
Jennifer: Right. You’re right.
Brandy: The amount of energy in this modern era that we put into parenting, I don’t know that two people can actually do that and also have jobs and have meaningful relationships with each other. Something has to give.
Jennifer: I agree. Something always does give, but here’s the thing about it. What I really believe, it’s a choice on what takes the back seat. It’s a choice.
Jennifer: So you just have to choose what’s going to take the back seat. Is it going to be X? Is it going to be Y? Because in my opinion, being in love is not a feeling. It’s a choice. Everyone says, “Oh, I’m not in love anymore.” Well, guess what? You get up in the morning, you choose your underwear. You choose what color you’re going to wear. You choose the cup you’re going to pick out. You choose. It’s a choice. Wake up and choose to be in love with your husband. Everyone is like, “Oh, my God, she’s crazy.” No, I’m really not. It is work but so is a divorce.
Brandy: If you were to say this, and maybe you have, maybe you talk to husbands as well, would you say the exact same things to the husbands and say, “Wake up every morning. Choose your wife?” Is there a difference between what you tell husbands and what you tell wives?
Jennifer: The only difference I say is most of my husbands that I talk to will say, “All she does is nag. All she does.” It’s the number one I think I hear from men is, “All she does is nag.” You know what? Do you nag? Are you a nagger? I say to the guys, “Well, why is she nagging? Why is your wife nagging?”
Brandy: Thank you.
Jennifer: “You know what? Why is she nagging? Because guess what? If you would just do the shit she told you to do, she wouldn’t nag, right?”
Brandy: Thank you, Jennifer. Thank you.
Jennifer: Here’s the thing I say to the women, “Stop nagging because here’s why it’s going to end your marriage, because nothing should be that important. Don’t give the power to that thing, that towel, that dish in the sink, that shit he doesn’t pick up off the floor, leave it, walk away from it. Let it be his issue.” It’s so hard for us. It’s a control thing, right?
Brandy: Right. It totally is and you’re right about how there is this both-sided thing. On my podcast, we talk a lot about the gender inequality in partnerships and in parenting. And so we’re talking about, a lot of times, moms are asking these dads to step up and help more with things, and because of so many systemic reasons, dads are like, “Yeah, I’m not going to do that. I don’t have to.” But there is a fine line between: if you have a real deep issue that your husband is not helping you with and you go sit him down and say, ‘I really need this from you,’ and you ask for that thing and you demand that thing, that’s different than micromanaging where he’s putting his clothes every five minutes.
Brandy: That’s a different thing. I think it can sometimes be hard because it’s so complicated. You can have a need, something that you want from them, something that you’d like their help with or their support with, and if they say no to you, then it can be that any time you ask for it again, you’re nagging. But actually it’s because they haven’t done the thing. But then there’s that line where, “No, it is just nagging,” and how do you tell that sometimes? It’s really hard to tell if you’ve gotten into the space of, “Okay, this is nagging,” or not.
Jennifer: I agree with you and you know what else too? That is such a good point. I think that sometimes it becomes a lack of respect. How do you know if it’s a lack of respect? Here’s the thing. If they leave the dishes in the sink over and over and over, is there something underneath that, they’re just not doing it because… or is it because they clearly do not respect the fact that you’ve asked them 15 times to put the dishes in the dishwasher?
Brandy: Exactly. That respect thing, I think, you’re spot on. That is at the core of it because you can feel it if you ask for something and somebody just blows you off and they know it’s meaningful to you, but if it’s something as stupid as a dish…
Jennifer: Don’t give it power. Don’t give it that power, but here’s what I did once. This is the truth. Once my ex-husband, my wasband, he would leave his shit all over the house. One time, this only took one time, I collected everything he left around the house and I put it on his pillow: dirty dishes, his socks, his whatever. I put it on his pillow. When he got into bed that night, it was stacked up, all the shit. He looked at me and he said, “Oh, my God, what the fuck?” I said, “I don’t know. What the fuck?” He said, “Are you kidding?” and I said, “I don’t know. Are you?” He said, “Well, what is the shit doing in the bed?” I said, “I don’t know what is that shit doing in the bed?” He said-
Brandy: (laughs) Oh, my God. Troll Level 100. (laughs)
Jennifer: He said, “Jennifer. Oh, my God, this is so beyond crazy.” I’m like, “I don’t know. Is it?” I kept just going back and forth and he said, “Jennifer, I don’t understand,” and I said, “I don’t understand how I can tell you for the last six months that I just need you to pick your things up off the floor. But now they’re in the bed, so you have two choices.” I treated him like a kid. How degrading, right? I said, “You can either put your things where they go or you can sleep in another place because it looks like all your shit’s in the bed, Mark.”
Brandy: (laughs) What happened? What did he do? What did he do? What did he choose?
Jennifer: That night, he chose to sleep in the other room, but it never happened again.
Jennifer: Never happened again. So, it’s just to a point where like, “How far are you willing to go to make your point?” Now, of course, I’m divorced. (laughs)
Brandy: Wow. Wait real fast. That’s what I was going to say is I was going to say, “But wait a minute. Is the lesson here that we do take them to task or is the lesson that if you do that you will be divorced?” (laughs)
Jennifer: Yeah, exactly. You know what? It’s a fine line. I don’t know, you guys. Let me know how it works for you. The thing is, it’s just the point where, “How far do you push someone before they just crack?”
Jennifer: What’s the breaking point?
Brandy: That’s both ways, right?
Brandy: That’s such a good point is both ways. Maybe that’s a great conversation starter for a couple who’s having a hard time is, “How far are we going to push each other until we crack? Do we need to do that or could we work on things before we crack?”
Jennifer: It’s a lot of ego involved. I think that, especially for me, I had to see this after I was divorced. That’s why if you can’t own your mistakes, if you can’t say, “You know what? I was wrong. I’m sorry.” And “I’m sorry” is not… this is what people always say to me too… You’re allowed to fight. You can fight all you want. Fighting is actually okay. It’s how you fight, how you resolve conflict. Saying, “I’m sorry,” is okay. Saying, “I’m sorry, but,” that’s not an apology.
Brandy: Or, “I’m sorry you feel this way,” the classic.
Jennifer: Right, or, “I’m sorry, but I…” No, just, “I’m sorry.” That’s it.
Brandy: I’m so curious about, what was the day, like did it lead up? Had you guys talked about divorce?
Jennifer: All the time.
Brandy: In your fights, did you talk about divorce?
Jennifer: All the time. And you know what I did too? Really, really, I threatened. It was always, “Well, you know what? This is… Just, I’ve had enough,” or, “One day, we’re going to get divorced. You know what? You should just leave.” That is nonproductive, all over the place, all over the place. You should never make the other person feel like their marriage isn’t safe. Threatening divorce, that’s not good for anybody.
Brandy: Yeah like it’s being dangled in front of you.
Jennifer: Right. We both did that. “Well, just leave, Jen, if you don’t like it.” Finally, I think we didn’t have sex. Oh, my God. I can’t even tell you how long it was. Here’s the other thing too about sexless marriages. People don’t realize… We would sit around with our friends and we weren’t fighting all the time either. We were just angry and resentful because we hadn’t had sex in so long, right? People would say to me, “Oh, we haven’t had sex in six weeks. We’re fine. Everything’s great,” or, “We haven’t had sex in six months. Oh, my God. It’s fine. We’re busy.” It’s not fine. You’d be surprised by the definition of a sexless marriage. Do you know that sexless marriage, that term, is googled over 10,000 times a month? It is the most googled phrase out of any other phrase in love, marriage, relationships. Sexless marriage is a marriage that you have sex less than 10 times in a year.
Brandy: I’m having a hard time with this part because I struggle with this idea, especially for moms who are newly postpartum or who have toddlers in the house.
Jennifer: Right, that’s different.
Brandy: I was going to ask you, does this shift, is there a certain timeframe where you’re like, “Yeah, when you have any kids that are under three years old or two years old or six months old, whatever it is, the rules change a little bit?” Because I know, we all know just how exhausting that stage can be and to also have the idea that, “Well, I heard that sexless marriage is we have it less than this many times a year and so I should be having sex,” it’s like at the end of the day, you finally lay down after caretaking people all day and then you’re like, “One more person waiting for the handout,” and you feel guilt because you don’t want to be in a sexless marriage. Where’s the limit on that for you in terms of like how old people’s kids are that that’s acceptable?
Jennifer: I don’t think that you need to put parameters and I don’t think you need to put a definition per se. What I really believe is it’s not always about the sex. It’s more about the intimacy.
Jennifer: Let’s say that again. Let’s not beat ourselves up. Let’s not say that we have to have sex 10 times a year. Let’s not say we have to have sex six times a month. Let’s just say to ourselves and each other, what works for you in your relationship? And you know what? As long as you’re having open and real conversations with each other and you’re not on separate sides of the bed, if you get in bed at night and you’re both exhausted and you look at each other and you say, “Honey, I am so exhausted, but goddamn, I love you and I wish that we could have sex tonight, but I can’t do it,” that’s the difference. There’s a difference there between that and getting in the bed and rolling over on your side and being like, “Oh, my God, I just can’t fuck you tonight.”
Brandy: Yes, I used to tell my postpartum mom clients this same thing (and the dads) “If you are feeling guilt that you’re not having sex, have a conversation with him about that guilt, so that he knows it’s on your mind. So it’s not necessarily that you have to cave in and do the thing, but at least he knows you’re thinking of this. This is on your mind and he might have some compassion for it.” I think you’re so spot on about the communication piece and the intimacy because intimacy can exist in so many nonpenetrative forms.
Jennifer: Absolutely. I know that my boyfriend and I, even when we are in bed and we’re exhausted, every night he’s holding my hand. He reaches across the bed. He’ll rub my back and we just hold hands and we go to sleep. Even if we’re not cuddling. Sometimes, I don’t want anybody on me. I’m like, “Can we just hold hands?” Even if it’s laying on the couch together and touching, I don’t care what it is. It’s just the lack of intimacy is when your marriage starts to break. It’s just so important because with any kind of touching, the oxytocin starts to be released, which is the cuddle hormone, I like to call it. So just keep that going. I don’t think you need to beat yourself up, especially if you have young kids in the house. Oh, for God’s sakes, I remember my son, Jonah, has Asperger’s. We say he fell off the spectrum, so not anymore, but I was raising a special needs kid. There was no way on God’s green Earth I was having sex. I was exhausted. I just couldn’t do it.
Brandy: Yeah. So when it all went down, was your divorce … Were you guys angry at each other? You say that you’re best friends now, but was it nasty? What was it like?
Jennifer: Well, I’m going to be 100% authentic with you. I said to Mark when we got divorced, “We will not be nasty. If you can’t do this divorce the right way or correctly or be amicable, you won’t get it.” (laugh) And I laugh, but that’s what I said. People, they’re like, “You’re kidding.” I’m like no. I was like, ‘Look, we’ll do this the rest of our lives and we’ll be married and we’ll make this work,” but at the time we were both so angry and so resentful. Umm, did I pull the plug too soon? Probably. Do I think if looking back, if I would’ve stayed, we would’ve probably, maybe…I don’t know. I just don’t know. I don’t have-
Brandy: Right, you can’t.
Jennifer: I can’t know, but it was not a choice for me. We put our egos aside and we put our kids first.
Brandy: Was there one thing that happened or did it just build up and one night, you were like, “You know what? I’m actually going to just go”?
Jennifer: Actually, the straw that broke the camel’s back was actually we hadn’t had sex in a really long time and then we finally did and I looked to him and I was like-
Brandy: What’s a really long time? Will you give us an idea?
Jennifer: Yeah, I want to say almost, God, it must have been six months, maybe longer, maybe nine. And we had sex and I looked at him like, “Oh, my God. That was like the worst thing.” He’s like, “That was the worst thing.” I was like, “That was basically like having sex with my sister.” He’s like, “I think I’d rather have sex with your sister.” (laughs)
Brandy: Wait a minute.
Jennifer: Yeah, it was bad.
Brandy: So you hadn’t had it in six to nine months and then you decided to have it and then you both thought it was awful?
Jennifer: You know what it’s like? This is how I explain it and people think I’m nuts. You know like when you’re driving in a parking lot and someone steals your parking place and you’re like, “Holy shit, that guy just took my parking place,” and then you walk into the restaurant or the bar and that guy sits down next to you that stole your parking place and then he’s like, “Can I buy you a drink?” You’re like, “No, you cannot fucking buy me a drink. You just stole my parking place.” That’s the exact feeling. Do you see what I’m saying? Does that make sense?
Brandy: Yes, that makes sense because it doesn’t matter if he’s perfect in all these ways and there could be a future with him if things have already been ruined. It’s already been burned. It’s like one of my family members who’s been divorced says, “You can’t unscramble an egg.”
Jennifer: Exactly. You can’t un-ring a bell.
Brandy: Once that’s done, which it sounds like maybe sometimes you can try, but-
Jennifer: I think if we could have, so crazy, because I think if looking at him now, we are such good friends that my kids even say to me, “Would you guys stop being so close? It’s annoying. You’re supposed to be divorced.” People, they can’t believe it. My friends are like, “How is this possible that you guys are so close? Why don’t you just get back together?” Because we’re not in love. And I don’t have regrets and I don’t feel guilty and I’m not sorry that I’m divorced, but I want to help other people learn from my mistakes because I know exactly what I did wrong.
Brandy: What do you think was the exact thing you did wrong? Just not prioritizing him and him not prioritizing you?
Jennifer: Yeah, he didn’t do anything for me. I didn’t do anything for him. We’d go out on Saturday nights. I thought I was the best mom ever. I thought I was the best wife. We’d go out every Saturday night. And guess what we’d talk about?
Brandy: The kids.
Jennifer: The kids.
Brandy: See, this is all in line with so much that we talk about here which is this complete… As a mother and as a father too when your personality and your conversation completely revolve around your kids. It’s not healthy and it affects so many other things in your life and you are just like illustrating that for us in a really different way that I didn’t even expect.
Jennifer: I’m glad, I think. (laughs)
Brandy: Thank you for that. So, one of the things from the outside listening to your story that I think is, “Wow, your husband wasn’t a sociopath narcissist,” like so many ex-husbands of people that I know. One of my friends had this question, so what happens when you divorce a narcissist or someone who is a total unworkable jackhole? It sounds like your husband was at least a decent human being on good faith.
Jennifer: He’s a great guy. I just fixed him up last week. I did. I swear to God. You know what? Here’s the thing about my podcast too and when I do my show is that I always have to remember that very few people are in my position.
Jennifer: Most people have horrific divorces with asshole narcissists that you wish you never had to speak to again.
Brandy: So what do you tell them? How do the rules change for them? I would imagine, it’s like what my friend was saying, my friend said to me today, “One of the hardest things is that unless your ex is physically abusive, there’s no protection for you. If he keeps abusing you mentally and emotionally, your friends get sick of hearing it. Your new partner does. You just accept it.” She said, “On the surface, it looks like we co-parent well, but below the surface is this awful abusive secret,” and nobody can protect her from it.
Jennifer: Well, I have people. That’s something that I’ve made really my mission. On my show, I have brought on some of the best people to help with that kind of thing. There are so many amazing therapists and people that work with narcissists. And here’s the thing too, I’m really careful not to throw out the word “narcissist.”
Brandy: I bet.
Jennifer: Unless you’re diagnosed, it’s very easy to say someone’s a narcissist when they’re really not. The diagnosis itself is very specific, so you have to be careful. Narcissistic men or women, both, I deal with them all the time and they’re sick, sick people.
Brandy: Then how, because my friend said … I said, “I’m doing this podcast today. Is there anything you’d want to know?” and she says, “I guess what I really need to know are concrete things that can protect me emotionally, physically, and financially.”
Jennifer: Oh, my gosh. Well, I’m going to give you a name. Dr. Virginia Gilbert, she deals with high-conflict divorces and she wrote a book called Transcending High-Conflict Divorces, I think is the name of the book. I’m going to get it for you.
Brandy: And do both people have to be involved for that to work?
Jennifer: No. And also, there’s a great app, let me give you this too – it’s called coparenter.com, one of the most amazing apps that you can actually co-parent and never speak to your ex.
Brandy: And is it recorded so that if somebody wanted to send you threatening text messages?
Jennifer: Yes, ma’am. It is the most amazing thing you’ll ever see in your life.
Brandy: Wow. So you could say to your ex, “The only way we’re going to co-parent is on this app because I do not trust the way that you are treating me.”
Brandy: Oh, my God.
Jennifer: You know what it also does? It also, if you’re texting and he starts to text in a negative fashion or something, the app will stop it. It’ll say like… Let’s say you start to get nasty, the app will say, “Are you sure you want to send that?”
Brandy: Oh, my God. Like that old… In Windows, in Word, that little paperclip that bounces up, it’s like, “Sorry, you’re being a dick. Maybe, don’t say that.” (laughs)
Jennifer: You know what else it does too? There are judges. There are lawyers. There’s everything on the app itself, so everything becomes documented. You can actually contact a judge immediately.
Brandy: But these abusive exes will actually say yes to signing up to it? I could see them doing a power move like, “I’m not signing up for that.”
Jennifer: Well, guess what? If he doesn’t, you go to your attorney and you get a court order that says he has to. Because here’s the thing, no one should be in a position where you have to be put through that constantly every single day. And here’s another thing too, a really big tip that I learned for your girlfriend and all your listeners too: short and sweet is best. Short and sweet is best. When you’re dealing with an asshole, or a narcissist or someone who just wants to light you up because it makes them feel good, say, “Less is more.” Send a text that has nothing but the facts. So, “You wanna take… Jamie has to go to the doctor tomorrow and whatever, blah, blah, blah.” “Jamie has a doctor’s appointment at 4:00.” That’s it. Not, “Hi, how are you? Gotta see you, blah, blah, blah.” No. Nothing nice. Nothing nuance. Nothing. Just the plain facts and move along.
Brandy: Yeah, like a telegram, like you’re paying for every letter.
Jennifer: Every letter counts, and when he wants to write back and he wants to bullshit you, don’t even respond. That’s really hard sometimes because you know what? A narcissist wants to egg you on.
Brandy: My friend was even saying, she goes, “The twisted thing about being with somebody like that is you can’t even see it because they’ve manipulated you to believe these things about yourself, so it takes a while to untangle that.”
Jennifer: Oh, my God. I can’t even imagine.
Brandy: So then because your situation is so different, tell us about how do you divorce right. How do people do this?
Jennifer: You take a big breath because there’s nothing worse than having to talk to someone that you can’t even be in the same room with. First of all, there’s all these rules that I put in play for co-parenting. The main thing that when you do divorce right is you have to put your kids first. Here’s the thing about it that’s so funny. Your whole marriage, you’ve put your kids first. What should be different? Why should anything be any different? It wasn’t easy. My divorce didn’t become really, really good until after I was separated for a full year. In North Carolina, you have to be separated for a year and it wasn’t easy. It was work. It was really hard work to do my divorce right.
Jennifer: We weren’t happy all the time. There were things we had to go through. The mediation was tough. We also chose to mediate instead of using an attorney because I feel strongly that, no offense attorneys, giving attorneys your money doesn’t benefit anybody but the attorney. I believe in mediation because then your money stays within your family unit, and really, who gets that money? Your kids. Please, if you need an attorney of course, get an attorney.
Brandy: But if you have two reasonable people who can meet without it, then do that.
Jennifer: Right, and it’s hard. Mediation is really difficult because you have to really be able to mediate amicably. You have to be able to give up things and give and take. Look, you can’t fight over the beanbag. You can’t fight over the piece of art that grandma whoever gave you. Does it really matter in the scheme of things? No. You’ve got to remember that every $350 an hour that goes to that attorney could be going to your kid’s school.
Jennifer: Another trick that I like to use a lot is, whenever I’m speaking to my wasband, if we start to get flustered, I use their names. I use the kids’ names.
Brandy: Give us an example.
Jennifer: I’ll say, if we’re talking and it gets a little bit heated or whatever, I’ll be like, “Well, for Jonah blah, blah, blah or Zach really needs.” Instead of saying the kids, the kids, the kids, I actually personalize it because a lot of times hearing the kids’ names, when you’re talking, it checks you. It checks everybody.
Brandy: Yeah it re-centers you for what’s at stake here.
Jennifer: It checks your brain to say, “Wow, it’s not about me. It’s about the kids.”
Brandy: I’m loving all of these tips. Do you have any other, like your go-to top three? You’ve given us a couple.
Jennifer: When it comes to co-parenting, obviously, we know you never badmouth each other, the parents, your ex in front of the kids.
Jennifer: I think people forget this, but your kids are part of both of you. When you badmouth your ex, you’re actually badmouthing your child. You also never talk about things like finances, money or hardships or things that are not … The kids, it’s not their problem. They didn’t ask for this divorce. They didn’t walk into your room one day and say, “You know what, mom? I really think you should leave dad. He’s a real asshole.” That is why every day I wake up and I think, “They did not ask for this. They were put into this position because we chose it.” It’s really sad, isn’t it?
Brandy: I know, but it’s life.
Jennifer: It’s life.
Brandy: None of us are getting through this unscathed, including our kids.
Jennifer: You’re right.
Brandy: Actually, this is unrelated, but the other night, my son and I (who’s 12) got into this talk about sex because his forensic science class in seventh grade decided they like out the gate, week three, needed to talk about semen samples for rape.
Jennifer: Oh, my- (laughs)
Brandy: I was just like, “Don’t we have fingerprinting, saliva and blood? Why did we come just straight there?” He asked me a million questions and so we were talking about STDs. He was asking about them, “Can you die from them? I’ve heard, whatever…” and all this stuff. I was trying to be careful, of course, not to shame an STD because if he ends up picking up one along the way, he’s… life is life. So, I basically said to him, “Listen, I’m going to tell you all this stuff and I know you’re super cautious-
Jennifer: You’re a good mom.
Brandy: … about all of this stuff anyway,” because he’s like, “Mom, I’m never doing any of this.” I said to him, “But listen, buddy, nobody gets through this unscathed. If you have an STD in your life, if it’s not an STD, it’s something else.” Some people might be like, “That’s maybe questionable parenting,” but it’s this idea that none of us get through it unscathed. Our kids, we cannot make this perfect for them. I even told him, because I’m about these bigger life lessons which is, “Even though you do everything right and you try to prepare and do it all and there’s like a formula and a way to do it, life is funny and it will laugh at you and you don’t know where it’s going to get you, but it’s going to get you.”
Jennifer: That’s really funny you said that because I had my boys on my podcast. I very rarely edit anything. I’m like, “Oh, they’ll be great. I’ll just ask some questions and they’ll answer and they’ll say everything right and blah, blah, blah.” We chose to nest after we got separated. I don’t know if you’re familiar with nesting.
Brandy: Oh, my God. That was one of my questions for you.
Jennifer: Great. We’ll do it. We’ll talk about it. We chose to nest. I said to the boys, “Guys, what did you think was the best part about the divorce? Was it the nesting?” Jonah goes, “Oh, it’s the worst part.” I’m like, “Oh, wow.” I’m thinking to myself, “God, I wish I edited,” because I thought the nesting was the best thing we ever did. It’s funny how kids will just kick you when you’re down because I thought to myself… “Nesting is the most difficult thing you could possibly do as a parent because you have to be 100% selfless because you’re giving up your space, your everything for your kids.” Meanwhile, I thought I was doing such a great thing and he’s like, “That sucked.” I’m like, “Oh, my God.”
Brandy: Oh, my gosh. That’s exactly what my friend, Kathie, who’s been on here before, she goes … She has seven grown kids and she’s got grandkids.
Jennifer: Oh, my God.
Brandy: She knows her shit. She was like, “The funny thing is you’re going to fuck them up no matter what.” She goes, “The funniest part is it’s the thing you didn’t think it would be. You were over here trying to do defense on something else, and meanwhile the thing you thought was going to help them, they’re like, ‘I hate you for that.'” (laughs)
Jennifer: I couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. I called my ex-husband, I’m like, “Oh, my God, Mark. We thought we were doing the best thing ever and they hated it.” He’s like, “No.” I’m like, “Yes.” It was so funny.
Brandy: Okay so, nesting. Tell us about that and tell us how it went for you and your kids.
Jennifer: Nesting is when the adults, so the parents, actually move out of the house and the kids stay in the big house. The parents move in and out like every week. Look, you can only nest if you get along because if you are in a horrible divorce and it is dangerous, whatever, it is not for you.
Brandy: And/or if you don’t have the money for it, right?
Jennifer: Yes. Right. Here’s the thing too, but Mark and I actually shared an apartment.
Brandy: Oh, my God, what? I didn’t-
Jennifer: Oh, my God, you’re going to die. You’re gonna die. Mark and I shared an apartment, two bedrooms, two bathrooms, thank God. We shared an apartment. Every Monday, we would switch in and out of the house. Here’s what nesting does. It very quickly teaches you and shows you what your kids are going to be doing for the rest of their lives. Think about that. Here, everyone’s saying, “Oh, it’s no problem. The kids move back and forth. They’ll be fine. They’re resilient.” Guess what?
Brandy: You got a firsthand look at what all the kids and divorced families do.
Jennifer: I sure did. I was like, “Oh, my God.” I would leave on Sunday night to go to the apartment and I’d have to pack my whole bag. Of course, I had stuff at the apartment, but I was like, “Oh, shit. I forgot my work outfit. Dammit.” You realize really quickly what they’re going to have to go through.
Brandy: Right. I’m feeling for all the listeners out there who are divorced and whose kids go back and forth who are just having a moment of like, “Fuck.” I feel for that. Not that there’s anything to do differently.
Jennifer: You can’t, but it’s like, you know what? That’s the second part of my book, Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda. The first part is what divorce really looks like because I think that it’s really important that married people and family members who don’t get it get it. Until you’ve gone through a divorce, you really have no idea.
Brandy: I’m sure.
Jennifer: No idea. I needed to be really brutally honest because people just, no offense, don’t get it. My married friends had no clue. My parents had no clue. They’re married. Even therapists and lawyers who are married, they don’t understand and they’re looking at it through a different lens. They’re looking at it through a married lens.
Brandy: Well, with you guys doing it where you shared this apartment, the people that I’ve known who have done it have had two separate apartments which is why I’m like, “Wow, you have to have enough money to do that.” And so, in a way I joke with some of these friends like, “I wish I didn’t like my husband enough that I could move out and have my own apartment.” My friends and I have talked about, “We should just get an apartment and split it.” I’m like, “We don’t have the money for it, but we should do that,” because it sounds so lovely to have a space that nobody else is allowed in.
Jennifer: I’m going to tell you a story. Are ready for this one? I went to my apartment and the kids were in the big house. We called it the “big house.” I would go to the apartment and I’d get there and I swear to God – Mark was dating at the time this girl and I swear she was wearing my shoes.
Brandy: Oh, my God.
Jennifer: I was like, I would call him and be like, “Fuck. Mark, I swear to God, your girlfriend, she’s wearing my goddamn shoes.” He’d be like, “Jennifer, she’s not in your closet.” I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. She’s wearing my…” It was so funny, but it really wasn’t funny. Then, I would go back to the house the next week, the big house, and it would be a disaster because you have to remember, there’s something else that no one gets either. He’s never been a single dad, right?
Brandy: Right. Oh, my gosh, right.
Jennifer: This house looked like a fraternity house. It was destroyed. There’s dog shit and there’s popcorn and there’s whatever because he has a full-time job and he’s now a full-time dad. I get back to that house and all I’m doing for the week is cleaning. I gotta tell you, it was a fricking nightmare. We did it as long as we possibly could for the kids.
Brandy: You’re no longer currently nesting?
Jennifer: Oh, my God, no. We did it for eight months and it was the worst eight months. I could not-
Brandy: (laughs) It sounds even worse than being married. It sounds-
Jennifer: Right, it was.
Brandy: Because you have the expectations that you would have your own space and then you’re like, “Your girlfriend is wearing my shoes. And like beard hairs in the sink.” You’re still like, “I should get to reap all the benefits of divorce and this is not that.” (laughs)
Jennifer: Right. Exactly.
Brandy: Now, how does it work? Now, you have the kids go back and forth?
Jennifer: Yup. We sold our big house, and now, we each have our own houses.
Brandy: So then they are doing the back and forth thing that you were like, “Oh, man. This is a lot””
Brandy: And how do you make peace with that or are you just like, “That’s just how it has to be,” now that you know what it felt like to be doing that?
Jennifer: It’s hard. You know what? They’re older. They’re a little bit older. Jonah drives now. They’ve been doing it now for four years and they’ve grown up. It’s hard. Trust me, I have such guilt. You know what I mean? You just have divorced parent guilt, and of course, it’s how it is. You know what? They’re okay. They’re good. They’re doing okay.
Brandy: Well, it sounds like they probably prefer it to the nesting since they talked about hating the nesting. (laughs)
Jennifer: Yes, they did hate it.
Brandy: So you know you’re good there.
Jennifer: Well, I had no idea until the podcast. I was like, “Oh, my God, you guys. Great.”
Brandy: You’re like, “I think I need to learn how to edit now.”
Jennifer: That’s exactly right.
Brandy: Those are my favorite moments though where you expect somebody to say something and then it totally… you’re like, “Oh, not what I was expecting, but real moment here.” (laughs)
Jennifer: It gets even worse because then I said to Zach, “Well, baby…” On the podcast, I said, “What was the best part about the divorce?” or I said something like that. And he said, “Well, there wasn’t a best part. You should just never have gotten divorced.” I was like, “Okay. Check, please.” I was like, “Wow, okay.”
Brandy: “All right. (crackle) We seem to be having a bad connection. (crackle) We got to wrap it up.” (laughs)
Jennifer: (laughs) “Start over. Wrap it, right?”
Brandy: Well, with some of my friends who are divorced, again, I always fantasize about the court-mandated free time that from the outside seems like you get when you have to split custody of the kids. In my mind, I’m like, “Wow, half of the week you would legitimately get some me time or whatever.” I romanticize that in a really surface-y way, not actually, but I’ve talked to my divorced friends and a lot of them have said that being home alone without your kids is so depressing when you’re not the one who chose it. In terms of when you’re still married and your kids aren’t there, it’s like, “Oh, I got my time,” but one of my friends said, “There is nothing worse than the feeling of being without your kids when it shouldn’t be this way, when you can’t be with them. It’s not that they just aren’t there, it’s that you can’t be with them.” She said, “I couldn’t even enjoy my time for such a long time because I just sat there crying.”
Jennifer: That was me. When you don’t choose to be alone, it’s different than choosing it. When you get to go out with your girlfriends or whatever, you come home to a house filled with people. I go out with my girlfriends or I go out on a date and I come home to an empty house. Not because I’ve chosen that, but because it’s the way it goes. It’s God awful. I want to rip my heart out thinking about it. (laughs)
Brandy: That is, I think, one of the pieces of it that those of us moms who have been in the intensive stay-at-home mom, around our kids all the time don’t understand about it. Even though that would be a glorious break on one hand, the cost of it is really, really high.
Jennifer: Absolutely, and those are the things you have to think about too when you’re thinking or contemplating, “Do I want to stay in this marriage?” Think hard. Think really, really hard. That’s what I tell my clients that come to me and they’re like, “I just don’t know. I don’t have that pitter-patter in my heart anymore. It would be so much more fun to date.” I’m like, “Really? Let’s talk about dating.” Think long and hard because things changed for me that I never ever even thought about when I was going. I thought, “Oh yeah, my life will change. My lifestyle will change. I’ll lose my married friends, blah, blah, blah.” I never thought my kids would be affected. Their friendships would change. I never thought for one minute they’d lose their friends.
Brandy: Interesting. In what situation did they lose friends?
Jennifer: Name it. All of our married friend have kids, right?
Jennifer: Now instead of like… they’ll do barbecues or they do family parties, and I just thought, “Well, Mark and I stayed friends, so they’ll just choose one of us and then they’ll have Jonah and Zach too like usual.” Well, now, they don’t even get to go.
Brandy: Because they choose none of you?
Jennifer: Right and it’s awful and you don’t think about it.
Brandy: There are so many things in life where you don’t know until you know, until you’re in it, but this actually leads me to my next question, which is, for somebody who’s out there who’s contemplated divorce, who isn’t sure if it’s right for them, how does one know if divorce is the right option and what are some steps? I guess maybe this is also related maybe to some of your tips for staying married. Do you have a little plan you can walk us through that’s like, “Okay, if you’re not happy in your marriage, I would do these first couple of things and then if X doesn’t happen, divorce might be an option for you”? Do you have anything to fill in the blanks on that? I know that’s super neat and tidy and probably not. (laughs)
Jennifer: Wow. Well, I do have… actually, it’s funny. In my book, I do have four steps. I call them the four secrets of a successful relationship or a successful marriage.
Brandy: Can you give us one of them?
Jennifer: I can. Well, you’ve gotten a couple already. I didn’t even tell you about them. One of them is speak less, listen more. Basically, it’s about talking less and listening more. I stole it from Hamilton a little bit, but-
Brandy: Wait a minute.
Brandy: Hold up. Hold up. This has now turned into the Hamilton Fan Podcast. Are you kidding?
Jennifer: I love Hamilton. Don’t you love it?
Brandy: Oh, my gosh.
Jennifer: He says, “Talk less, smile more.” Smile more, talk less. You know how like women-
Brandy: (singing) “Don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” Do I know it? I’m about to sing you the entire song.
Jennifer: Right. I love it.
Jennifer: That’s my thing. I thought to myself, “You know what? Men are always saying that women nag all the time, but then what do women always say? ‘My guy never listens. He never listens to me. He never listens to me.'” I feel like if we could just get that, if women could just say, “Guys, zoop.” I always say zoop like zooping your ears. “Listen, listen, listen. Women just want to be heard. We just want to be heard.” You know what? Everyone always says-
Brandy: And not gaslit. Not gaslit.
Jennifer: Right. Oh, God, that word, I know and we don’t, we just want to be heard and understood and responded to. We’re emotionally charged and I get all that, but then men always say, “Well, all she does is nag,” right? We talked about the nagging, but it’s like, “Let’s just get on the same page.” I feel like that’s just an easy one. Then of course, for me, the biggest one for me is the sex and the intimacy. I have the three Ss. I have the speak less, listen more, sex and intimacy and then I have putting your kids second. That was my biggest one. I really do feel super strongly that… This is so dumb, but it’s really obvious if you should get a divorce based on dangerous things, right? Clearly if you know, if you’re being… and those are sometimes the hardest marriages to get out of because it’s so obvious, it almost smacks you in the face, but then how do you go forward, right?
Brandy: Exactly. And have you been manipulated to think you deserve it or the fear that usually comes along with that, but what about that level that’s before that? Maybe it’s not even as like sinister or even violent or abusive, but what about a situation where there is that gray area where you don’t know what you should do? Do you have any tips for somebody in that area?
Jennifer: It takes two people. It’s very simple for me to say this, but if you’re going to go into this alone and you’re planning on doing this work alone, it ain’t going to work. Does that make sense?
Brandy: Yeah. If he’s not onboard to meet you halfway to do this work. Because I guess that’s what’s behind my question is you can be the most well-intended, self-worky wife that wants to make things better, and if he’s not going to be onboard with that and he doesn’t value it, then you’re spinning your wheels. I guess those are the women maybe I’m speaking for here.
Jennifer: Right, and I guess too, here’s the other thing too, and I’m almost grateful for this. I’m going to say it first and I’m going to explain myself. If your husband or your wife comes home and they say, “Look, I don’t love you anymore.” You know what? Good. Because here’s why. You don’t want to be with someone who comes home one day and says, “I don’t love you anymore.”
Jennifer: If that person walks in the door and says, “I’m cheating on you. I don’t love you anymore. I don’t want to be here,” then guess what? It’s simple. That’s a simple end to your marriage because no one deserves or needs to be in a relationship where you’re not wanted or loved. Although I’m sorry for you and that’s devastating and that’s horrible and horrific, but I’m also at the same time relieved and grateful and happy that that person let you go because there’s someone out there for you that will give you the love you need and deserve. That’s an easy fix. That’s easy. That’s, “You know what? Bye-bye.”
Brandy: But most of them feel like they’re not that. Most of them feel like there’s some hazy shade of, “Is that true? Does he love me? Do I love him? Can we make it work?” where you’re like, You don’t know.
Jennifer: You can. You can make it work. That gray area, if you’re asking those questions, “Can we make it?” you can make a work. It’s a choice.
Brandy: Okay so the very fact that you think that there is hope there?
Brandy: But both people have to have it, right?
Jennifer: Yes. Absolutely. If there’s a glimmer of hope, if there’s that glimmer of, “We can do this,” you can do it. You can do it. You both need to do it. If you have kids, you need to try. You need to. You owe it to your children. It’s almost so frustrating for me. People will come in, they’ll be like in that gray shade and and I look at them and I’m like, “No, no, no. You need to do this. You need to do the work. You owe it to yourselves, you owe it to your kids.” Then if you put in the years of work or you put in X amount of time and it’s not working, then you go.
Brandy: Okay that right there is what … I’m totally relieved. I’m sitting here like, “Oh, I hear what you’re saying and I’m agreeing with part of it,” but I’m partially feeling like all the people out there who were like, “Listen, we didn’t make it work,” but I think that’s such the key is if you have to do that, at least for some certain amount.
Jennifer: Look, if you’re going on for years and years and four years later, you’re still not having sex and you still hate each other, bye-bye. If you’ve both put in a concerted effort, that’s the key. Now look, if one of you is having an online affair on Facebook with your ex-boyfriend from high school, that’s not putting the effort.
Brandy: No, that’s not.
Jennifer: You know what I’m saying? Don’t give me the bullshit because I’ve had that too. I’ve had clients walk in my place and they’re like, “Oh, we’re trying. We’ve tried so hard. Then I find out later this guy’s been sleeping with a girl from high school.” Give me a break. Be honest with yourself and true and authentic and give your partner the respect that she deserves.
Brandy: In your book, the Woulda. Coulda. Shoulda book, do you talk about the realities of the cost of divorce, the things we’re talking about that people don’t realize that once you get divorced, like you think, “Oh, I’ll get to date and I’ll have this freedom,” but you don’t realize you lose access to your kids part of the time, these really painful things?
Brandy: Do you detail those?
Jennifer: Oh, yeah. That book is hard. That book is a hard read.
Brandy: So, I wanna point people towards that who are in that gray area and just wondering what it’s like, the real deal of it. I think that that could be a sobering look at, “Oh, okay. You know what? I think I can work on this,” versus, “I don’t think I can work on this,” I think that that could give people some clarity.
Jennifer: Totally clarity. Totally right there. It’s also funny, there’s some funny parts about dating and how you have to shave certain parts now when it’s not the same as it was when you were married. That was very eye opening for me. I was like, “Oh, wow. I actually have to-
Jennifer: … get naked again. Oh, my God.” There’s a chapter on that. There’s funny stuff. It’s a good read.
Brandy: What does Mark say about you talking about him? Is he just fully supportive or what does he say?
Jennifer: You know what? It’s funny. I think he’s just so happy that I found my groove.
Brandy: Oh, my God. Well, he’s amazing.
Jennifer: He is. I’m smiling so big, it’s funny. He’s good friends with my boyfriend and people laugh all the time. They’re like – he sits on one side of me and Jim, my boyfriend, sits on the other. We’ll be out or something. They’re like, “How is this possible?” I’m like, “It just happened. We just made it work.”
Jennifer: It took work. It took five years for me to get here.
Brandy: Did Mark basically say you can talk about whatever or are there certain things that you know are boundaries that you can’t cross or things you can’t tell?
Jennifer: I definitely can’t talk about where he works. I have some TV things that are in the works and he can’t be involved. He can’t be on TV. I don’t post his pictures, although you can find him. I think he just laughs. I think people just really respect our relationship and the fact that he’s just such a good person. I thank him for letting me do what I’m doing. I think he just really is proud of me and he’s proud of where I’ve taken this because we were both in such a dark… It was hard. It was really hard.
Brandy: I just love that his ability to drop the ego about this and something that could be very triggering. Recently, I did a post about… For people, for dads, who think that my podcast is anti-man or anti-dad, and the reality is it’s pro-mom. It’s not anti-dad. It’s pro-mom.
Jennifer: I love that.
Brandy: In order to be pro-mom, we’re going to have to talk about some systems and relationships that are unsupportive to women. Since men rule the world, that’s going to include men, even the woke ones. It’s funny because, I love men, I have a background where I have worshiped them in a weird way. I grew up in a way where the masculine version of things was something to idolize and anything that was feminine were flaky or needy. It’s like, “We don’t want anything to do with that.” Most of my friends in high school and later were all guys. I lived with all guys in college.
Jennifer: That’s weird. Me too.
Jennifer: That’s so funny.
Brandy: I’ve always felt like, “Well, guys don’t have drama and they’re funnier and you can say whatever around them.” I’ve lived this way where I’ve put men on pedestals and I’ve protected them. I was, even years ago, the kind of girl that would be like, “Well, she was wearing a short skirt. Was she asking for it?” I’ve definitely been that girl. Once I became a mother, you can imagine my shock at having to own all the parts of myself, including and especially the feminine side because motherhood has so much of that that I really had to come to terms with like, “What is this thing?”
Brandy: Now, I’m doing this podcast and my book and this work that’s pro-mom. To see guys get their egos dinged and then feel defensive about this, my husband and I were actually having a great conversation about it right before me doing this podcast today, but their reaction is about them. It’s not about my stuff. And so, I’m so grateful. My husband, he was just like, “Man, the work you’re doing is so important and if any guys feel dinged by it or are defensive, that’s their own shit.” But here’s the thing – Mark sounds like he’s made from the same cloth, but I was naming to my husband today, “I could name you a handful of guys that I think probably have this take on me that I’m anti-man or anti-dad or something when it’s so not the case.” Actually, them thinking that proves my point even more. It’s like, “I bet you think the song is about you.” It’s not about you.
Jennifer: (laughs) Yeah, it’s not.
Brandy: It’s about supporting people who have felt unsupported. Anyway, I just like want to give a huge shoutout to your husband for being so supportive of you because that’s awesome.
Jennifer: Yeah, he’s great.
Brandy: I mean ex-husband. I just called him your husband.
Jennifer: Wasband. It’s so funny, I call him my husband too sometimes and I’m like, “Oh, crap. Whatever. Wasband.”
Brandy: Sorry, Jim.
Jennifer: It’s funny. Jim’s on my podcast too sometimes. He’s a great guy, but it’s funny. People think that he’s a lot like my ex and I’m like, “Yeah, I just went from one to the next. That’s just fine. They’re all the same.” It’s so funny, but I also think it’s interesting to, Jim, my boyfriend, he has done some major work on himself since we started dating too probably because of the work that I do. He’s owned a lot of his, I don’t want to say mistakes, but his part in his divorce, which I don’t think that he even realized.
Brandy: Or thought about before.
Jennifer: Right. You really have to take ownership in your divorce before you can move forward in your new relationships. I think a lot of people don’t realize that, even forget divorce, any relationship, friendship. If you can’t take ownership, how can you move forward and grow?
Brandy: Right, and then you’re wounded, you’re carrying this baggage.
Jennifer: Right. You’re also saying how a lot of your girlfriends have these narcissistic ex-husbands and that’s a definite sign. If they can’t take ownership of any part of that divorce, that is a real issue. If they really believe that it was her that was the cause or that she was root or it was her fault, they’re never going to be able to move on there. They’re always going to be angry and resentful and hurt.
Brandy: Well, that’s what one of my friends talks about. It’s almost like his life isn’t to move forward in his own life. It’s just to make hers miserable.
Jennifer: It’s awful.
Brandy: I’ve known her for a long time and so we think about when she gets true freedom from that is when her kids turn 18.
Jennifer: Oh, my God, that is so-
Brandy: Because she can’t move out of state. She can’t even like get away. It’s just-
Jennifer: It breaks my heart.
Brandy: I know.
Jennifer: Breaks my heart.
Brandy: And the sad thing is she’s the same one who said the thing about, “I really wished I had stayed to try to work it out because I traded one set of problems for another,” but it’s like also maybe you shouldn’t have stayed because this guy sounds like a grade A asshole.
Jennifer: Well, I’m glad she got out.
Brandy: One of the things that I think is just fascinating about marriage is you find somebody when you’re younger, if you’re getting married younger, and you choose them to be your partner based on some really pointless shit. I think I chose my husband off of his love of Snoop Dogg, which we both share, and other rap music, his ability to make me laugh, and he was a nice person.” I always said, “I don’t care what I’m doing with him. We could be digging ditches or cleaning out sewer drains, but it would be a great time.”
Jennifer: But I think that’s good.
Brandy: So you choose somebody though on these things. Every year that we are together, it amazes me that, “Wow, our choices panned out because he’s such a good dad and such a supportive, wonderful husband.” Obviously, we’re all human, so we all have our flaws, but I think we take for granted, or at least those of us who are in marriages where we grow together, I think we take for granted the fact that that is happening because that doesn’t always happen for people. You may have picked somebody based on 20-year-old ideals who’s an awful father, who doesn’t actually support your dreams after you become a mother, and you couldn’t have known that.
Jennifer: Well, there’s actually a reason, a scientific reason for that. How old were you when you got married?
Brandy: I don’t know.
Jennifer: Do you remember?
Brandy: How would I know this? I got married in 2004. I hate math. Let’s just say I was in my early 20s. Let’s just say I was 25. I have no idea honestly.
Jennifer: 25. This is really funny. I don’t know if you have time for this quick little piece of info-
Brandy: Of course.
Jennifer: … this nugget. Now, they’re actually calling marriages that people that get married between 20 and 26-27, they’re called starter marriages because statistics show that if you get married between 20 and 26-27, the divorce rate is actually higher and you exactly just explained it because what happens is that your amygdala, which is in the frontal cortex of your brain, it’s in charge of your emotions, right? It’s actually not developed. It’s not developed until you’re around 25 years old. When you say to things like what you just said, where you don’t grow together, you actually don’t. You’re growing apart. When someone comes to me and they say, “Well, we just grew apart,” you actually did.
Jennifer: It’s funny. Literally, you did because your amygdala isn’t grown yet. It isn’t matured yet. That person that you knew when you were 20 actually did change when they were 30. They weren’t the same person that you knew. You either technically grow together and you stay together or you grow apart. Luckily, you and your husband were lucky enough to actually stay together and grow together.
Brandy: It amazes me like what are the odds? What are the odds that that would happen that what I thought was important at my 20s actually panned out? It’s amazing.
Jennifer: You’re right. That’s the point. That’s what I’m saying. I tell my kids all the time, you’re not allowed to look at a girl until you’re 35 because really technically the chances of them getting divorced are much greater if they get married before they’re 27. It is really, really crazy to me that we expect people to stay together for this long and our lifespan is so much. The point you just made is so spot on because how can you be with someone and know exactly what kind of person they’re going to be all these years?
Brandy: Yeah and parenting-wise, you don’t even put the parenting thing… There was nothing… I mean, I guess my intuition about, “He’s a kind, nice person that makes me laugh,” that then panned out later because then guess what? He was that to my children. But you don’t even know the questions to ask before you’re in it. When relationships don’t work out, in a way, it’s a shame, but it’s also like, “Well yeah,” because I think it’s rare when it actually really truly does.
Jennifer: Here’s the thing that I always think about. I actually thought the same things about my ex-husband that you thought about your husband, but my problem was that somewhere in my 30 to 40 range, I missed me. I lost me. I was that woman who was like, “I need more. I need fulfillment. I need to feel sexy. I’m not getting it.” And it was all about… Instead of thinking to myself, “I loved that guy who was nice and kind and a great dad,” I got caught up in, “I need more. I need to travel. I need to find the spotlight.” That’s where I lost that. What I should have been thinking was, “Jennifer, stay with this man. He is everything that he was (because he was older than me) – he’s everything he was five years ago that you were looking for. You just got to check yourself,” but I couldn’t.
Brandy: That’s the thing too about us moms once we become mothers, having time to find what’s important to us and what lights us up and not getting so sucked into the identity. I don’t know if you follow the work of Esther Perel. She wrote Mating In Captivity.
Jennifer: Of course.
Brandy: One of her lines that I absolutely love is she says something to the effect of, “When wives cheat on their husbands, it’s not because they want a change of partner. They want a change of identity. They want to get out of their role.” That is just so brilliant to me because I think that that’s exactly what you’re saying. That’s what’s at the core of that. It’s not, “Maybe, I want a new guy.” It’s, “I don’t want to be the wife, the caretaker or the mom.”
Jennifer: I didn’t. I was looking for everything everywhere, everywhere. Everything to get out of my marriage in my head, it wasn’t him. It was me. I said that to him, I can’t imagine how many times I said, “This is not the life I want. I want bigger. I want better.” He was looking at me like, “Jennifer, you’ve got everything you want right here. I’m giving you everything.”
Jennifer: Woulda, coulda, shoulda, right?
Jennifer: Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
Brandy: Wow. I am so grateful for you coming and talking to us about this today. I know that this is going to be helpful to so many moms out there.
Jennifer: I hope so.
Brandy: It’s been super eye-opening for me too, but I just thank you so much for giving your time.
Jennifer: Thanks for having me. I loved this. Thank you, honey. Thank you.
Brandy: Tell people where they can find you.
Jennifer: It’s easy. It’s jenniferhurvitz.com is my website. Then I’m jenniferhurvitzbiz everywhere else, Instagram and Facebook and Twitter. My book is everywhere. My podcast is Doing Divorce Right Podcast.
Brandy: Awesome. Thank you, my friend. This was amazing.
Jennifer: I loved it. Thank you for having me.
Brandy: That was a lot, I know. And maybe some of your heads are spinning, but my hope is that this episode offered some clarity. Whether that’s clarity that you want to try harder to work things out, or maybe you know you need to leave, or you’re grateful for what you’ve got in your marriage, or anywhere in between. Wherever you are, my hope is that you’ve at least learned something about yourself and your relationship here today and can walk away with one small thing that you’re going to do with your new knowing. Maybe it’s a conversation or a choice or just a new feeling.
Brandy: I didn’t plan this, but I recently went to breakfast with a woman whose story blew me away. Of course, I had to interview her so I could share it with you. Her story is coincidentally a bit of an opposite point of view from Jennifer’s here today. If you were listening to this episode going, “But what about being happy and not settling? What about finding yourself? What about finding your one true love?” then make sure to listen to the next episode where you’ll hear a courageous story of someone who felt all of those things and risked so much in exchange for her own happiness.
Brandy: And don’t forget to pre-order my book, Adult Conversation: A Novel. It comes out May 5th! If you like this podcast, you will likely love the book. It’s a darkly comedic novel about the relentlessness of motherhood and maybe Snoop Dogg as a side character. You’ll have to read it to find out. You can find my book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound and in stores May 5th. As always, thanks for listening.