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更新时间:2015-7-29 9:43:56 来源:纽约时报中文网 作者:佚名

A New Cadre of Experts Helps Women Navigate Their Divorces

The women are architects, film industry executives, skin care consultants, product managers at tech companies, psychologists. They have worked in finance, publishing and television, though some had scaled back or left the work force when their children were born.


Divorce is what they have in common. Their stories are varied: the breadwinner wife whose husband’s career hadn’t quite taken off and who found comfort in an affair; the husband who never really adapted to parenthood; the wife with Ivy League degrees who stayed home with her child but lost her way in the marriage while the husband thrived in his international career.


One Sunday morning in early June, seven of them gathered for a boot camp/workshop in the brick-walled ivy-tendriled backyard of a century-old Brooklyn Heights carriage house that had been remade into the sort of place location scouts covet: an aspirational set for the next Nancy Meyers movie.

6月初的一个星期日上午,七位这样的女人来到布鲁克林高地一处拥有百年历史的马车屋后院,四面的砖墙上爬满了常春藤,被改造得有点像童子军的聚会场所,用来拍南希·迈耶斯(Nancy Meyers)的下一部电影再合适不过。她们是来参加一次培训,或者说学习班。

Blending motivational exercises, not altogether successfully, with a physical exercise routine, the workshop was led by a former music industry executive turned lifestyle coach. She was young and earnest, and if her instructions were sometimes incomprehensible (obfuscated by a dizzying array of New Age-isms), Elise Pettus, whose house it was, offered subtitles.

学习班的内容包括动机训练(并不完全成功),也有身体练习,由一个生活方式教练主持。她以前在音乐行业担任行政人员,年轻而热情。她的指示有时显得高深莫测(混杂着让人眼花缭乱的“新世纪”内容),不过房子的主人伊莉斯·佩图斯(Elise Pettus)会做解释。

“She wants us to say something we’re excited about, and something we’re not,” Ms. Pettus said after one particularly knotty passage, “even if it makes us feel icky.”


One woman, a European-born Internet executive, raised her hand. “I am excited about my fantastic new job,” she said. “Not excited? This week I don’t feel so solid inside. But I have one issue: What is ‘icky’?”


For the last two years, Ms. Pettus, 52, has used her soaring glass-walled living room and backyard to help women mired in the weeds of divorce navigate that which is profoundly icky. She provides community, respite and, most important, resources by hosting monthly panels, seminars and workshops on topics like collaborative law, litigation and mediation, raising teenagers, financial planning, real estate, grief, dating and midlife sex (zinc, apparently, is very important here), led by experts.

过去的两年里,52岁的佩图斯在自家有玻璃墙壁的高大起居室和后院里帮助在离婚泥沼中挣扎的女人们走过这段非常可厌的旅程。她为这些女人提供小团体和暂时的休息,最重要的是每月都举行专家主持的讨论、研讨会和学习班,内容包括家事协调法(collaborative law)、诉讼及和解、抚养青少年子女、财务计划、房地产、如何应对悲伤、约会和中年性爱(补锌显然很重要),从而为这些女人提供资源。

Untied is what she calls her accidental business, but you might call her a divorce saloniste — or a connector, in the Malcolm Gladwell definition of the word. In a neighborhood that is an avatar of a certain kind of upper-middle-class family ideal, her venture is a clever and intuitive use for a home that is suddenly empty, but spectacular looking. Not that she planned it that way.

她给自己这项附带的业务命名为“解脱”(Untied),不过你也可以称她为一个离婚沙龙的女主人,或者按照马尔科姆·格拉德威尔(Malcolm Gladwell)的定义,是一位“联系者”。她是附近一带中上层理想家庭的典范,这个冒险行动聪明而自然地利用上了这栋突然空下来的漂亮大房子。她的计划本来不是这样的。

Trained as a journalist and filmmaker, Ms. Pettus saw a market niche when she went through her own divorce five years ago. On the night that she and her husband and their two young sons moved into the house they had spent three years renovating, Ms. Pettus’s husband turned to her and announced he would like to separate. He moved out a month later.


“It was an out-of-body experience,” she said. “I was so stunned, so collapsed by grief, but I thought, thank God for the Internet. I’m going to find these really intelligent women I can ask, ‘What kind of lawyer do I call? Do you need a lawyer? Did your kids turn out O.K.? Did you regret keeping the house?’


“When my mother was sick with cancer, there were all these listservs. But I couldn’t find that place. And you can’t really put up a sign at your kids’ school asking people to meet you for coffee to talk about their impending divorce.”


Ms. Pettus is not alone in her efforts. While New York has trailed the rest of the country in terms of divorce law — the no-fault divorce did not land here until 2010 — grass-roots support systems surrounding the process have been growing, according to Lauren Behrman, a psychotherapist who specializes in divorce, following the lead of groups in states like California, Oregon and Minnesota, the birthplace of collaborative law. (Collaborative law starts with a commitment to settlement, not court.)

佩图斯不是唯一一个进行相关工作的人。和全国相比,纽约在离婚法律方面处于落后地位——直到2010年才有了无过错离婚条款。目前,根据离婚心理治疗师劳伦·贝赫曼(Lauren Behrman)的说法,继加利福尼亚、俄勒冈与明尼苏达(明尼苏达是家事协调法的发源地,该法律通过承诺达成协议,并不诉诸法庭)等州之后,纽约的草根离婚互助系统也在成型。

“The biggest challenge is to let people know they have options,” said Dr. Behrman. “That divorce doesn’t have to be this scorched-earth horrible litigation process. But the key is to get to the right professional first. If you walk into the office of a litigator, things are going to go a certain way. If you walk into a mental health professional’s office, it might go another way.”


While divorce rates over all have declined since their peak in the 1980s, the rate for those older than 50 has doubled in the last quarter-century (those over 50 account for half the married population). Nearly two thirds of these so-called gray divorces are initiated by women, an AARP study shows.


It is this confluence that underpins the female-centric nature of divorce support services and groups like Untied. That, and an anecdotal sense that women in crisis may seek community more often than men.


Divorce coaches, another burgeoning specialty, offer one-on-one services, for example, for fees that can hover around $100 an hour and may include a session to plan what to say to one’s lawyer, to streamline the process and thus minimize legal fees.


SAS for Women is a three-year-old divorce coaching business started by two women who had gone through very different divorces but faced a huge learning gap, said Liza Caldwell, one of SAS’s principals.

“女性SAS”是一家离婚指导公司,有三年历史,由两个女人创办,她们经历了艰苦的离婚过程,但是面临巨大的知识鸿沟,SAS的负责人之一丽莎·卡德威尔(Liza Caldwell)说。

“We realized there’s a whole lot more to divorce than just the paperwork,” she said. “How are you going to skin this cat legally? How are you going to pay for the divorce? How are you going to go back to work, if you’ve been a stay-at-home mom? How are you going to help your children heal?”


There are also professional organizers who specialize in divorce, like Gayle M. Gruenberg in Bergen County, N.J., whose services include the Suddenly Single Sanity System, which covers paperwork, real estate and objects. “There was no real guidance on this when I was going through my own divorce,” Ms. Gruenberg said. “No, ‘This is what you do and here’s a checklist.’ ”

还有一些专门处理离婚问题的职业组织者,比如新泽西州卑尔根郡的盖尔·M·格伦伯格(Gayle M. Gruenberg),她提供的服务包括“突然单身清醒系统”(Suddenly Single Sanity System),帮助客户处理文书工作、房地产和物品。“我离婚的时候并没有类似的指导服务,”格伦伯格说。“没有人告诉你,‘你应该做这些事,这儿有一份清单。’”

Wevorce, a tech start-up, offers an algorithm and a website that aims to connect those in the divorce process with certified experts in all fields, from finance to mental health, just as Untied does.


Stephanie Coontz is co-chair and director of education at the Council on Contemporary Families and an expert on coupling and uncoupling. Groups like Ms. Pettus’s, she said, are “microcosms of a new understanding that we have to develop norms for divorce rather than take sides.”

斯蒂芬妮·库恩兹(Stephanie Coontz)是当代家庭委员会的联合主席与教育主任,也是婚姻与离婚专家。她认为佩图斯女士的团体之类组织是“一个缩影,标志着我们对离婚有了新的认识,而不是只顾采取立场。”

“As divorce has become more common,” she continued, “people have begun to stop seeing it as a personal loss or betrayal. It’s a process that can go badly or go well, so in many different ways there are people trying to make divorce less disastrous.”


Ms. Pettus was not yet legally divorced when she held her first event, a panel led by Jeff Landers, a financial strategist and Forbes columnist who focuses on women going through financially complex divorces. Ms. Pettus sent out emails to friends and friends of friends, and 19 people showed up for a talk on the top 10 things to do immediately after deciding to divorce. (Among them: “Make sure your ex is no longer your health care proxy. Open a separate bank account. Change your will.”)

佩图斯举行第一次活动时还没有在法律上正式完成离婚手续,那是由理财专家与《福布斯》(Forbes)专栏作家杰夫·兰德斯(Jeff Landers)主持的座谈会,他专门研究女人在离婚时如何处理复杂的财务情况。佩图斯给朋友和朋友的朋友们发了电子邮件,最后有19个人出席,讨论了决定离婚后首先应该做的10件事(其中包括“确保前夫不再是你的医疗授权代理人。开一个单独的银行账户。修改遗嘱。”)

Ms. Pettus convened lawyers and mediators for another panel, and more women attended. (Choose the less expensive lawyer, one panelist suggested, because in many cases he or she may be more responsive.) There was catered food, a wine sponsor — “Wine is important early in the divorce process,” Ms. Pettus said — and after a while she began charging, first $25 per event, then $45 (Untied members pay $97 annually).


Some panels can be harrowing. Jenny Douglas runs the Brooklyn Cottage, another townhouse-based organization, centered on meditation and the arts. Its programming grew out of her divorce when she, like Ms. Pettus, found herself alone in a big house on alternate weeks. She leads a workshop at Ms. Pettus’s home called Grief and Gratitude, a central exercise of which is to bring a photograph of a happy moment in the marriage that is ending.

有些讲座很让人伤心。詹妮·道格拉斯(Jenny Douglas)是布鲁克林小屋(Brooklyn Cottage)的经营者,这也是一个在家庭举办的组织,专注于冥想和艺术。和佩图斯一样,她也是在离婚之后,发现自己孤零零地生活在一栋大宅里,于是开始了这个计划。她在佩图斯家里做了一个讲座,名为“悲伤与感恩”,这是一种核心练习,需要带来一张照片,内容是已经结束的婚姻中的快乐时刻。

Alison Rona, an architect, recalled how shattering that was. “To look at pictures at the height of our happiness, to remember what was good and to say goodbye. …” she said, breaking off. “I had a very negative image of women going through divorce. I didn’t want to be a classic bitter victim. So this was liberating, if scary.”

艾莉森·罗纳(Alison Rona)是一个建筑师,她说这种练习让人难过极了。“那些照片是我们最快乐的时候照的,看着它们,回忆那些美好的时光,然后说再见……”她停顿了一下。“我原本对离婚的女人有非常负面的看法。我不想成为那种典型的怨妇。所以这其实是一种释放,虽说有些可怕。”

Other panels are more festive. A recent one, Sex and the ReSingled Women, led by sex therapists and an ob/gyn clinician, was particularly instructive. You don’t have to be such a good girl, one expert said. Do sleep around. You don’t have to tell anyone.


“I loved that message,” Ms. Pettus said. “I loved that she was telling women to play the cad a bit.”


You would imagine that Ms. Pettus — five years after her split and currently in a relationship (she met her boyfriend through a collaborative lawyer who spoke at Untied) — would be less than eager to keep revisiting examples of her past self. But she said she finds it exhilarating.


“Women are going through this terrifying time, but they are also figuring out their lives, who they want to be, or wanted to be, before the marriage years squeezed all that out,” she said. “They are firing on all cylinders. Being divorced is kind of a gift. You’re a lot less inhibited when one of the worst things that can happen already has. You’ve already walked through the town square naked. Because of that, things are funnier, juicier.”


Last fall, after a panel on online dating, women began clamoring for singles events.


Ms. Pettus’s solution was the Good Part: curated dinners at various Brooklyn locales for 12 “resingled” individuals. Finding men was a challenge, she said. “I emailed 120 women from my list” — Untied has over 300 subscribers — “saying, I’ve got this great stable of attractive, intelligent, funny women. Now all I need is a parallel group of men and to please send me one name.”


She got eight, two of whom did not reply to her initial invitation. At the third Good Part event, in June, one male attendee, a South African health consultant, seemed bewildered as to how Ms. Pettus had come by his name, but utterly game for the evening, which began over baby lettuces with pickled rhubarb in the garden of Vinegar Hill House.

最后她得到八个男人的名字。其中两个没有回应她最初的邀请。六月的第三次“好伴侣”活动只有一位男士参加,是一个南非的健康顾问,对于佩图斯何以得到他的名字似乎感到有点困惑,但还是饶有兴味地出席了当晚的活动,先是在醋山屋(Vinegar Hill House)的花园享用小莴苣配腌大黄。

From there it was off to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, where the group strained to hear unintelligible programming, because of a balky P.A. system, by the Lost Lectures, an organization that plants performances in “secret” locations, all of which turned out to be a bonding experience.

之后一行人来到布鲁克林海军工厂(Brooklyn Navy Yard),费力地听着不太清楚的节目,因为扩音系统不太好用,演出由“迷失演讲”(Lost Lectures)带来,这个团体专门在“秘密”的地点举办演出,这些活动都有助于增进感情。

The aftermath included a collective but mild hangover. And one confirmed hookup.


As for the boot camp workshop a few days later, it wrapped up on the pier below Ms. Pettus’s house, with the lifestyle coach asking the group for an intention (“that’s something you’d like to happen,” Ms. Pettus said helpfully) for the coming weeks.


A film industry executive who said she had been walloped by depression in the last month (her daughter was about to meet her ex’s new girlfriend), and was truly struggling to get out of bed each day, said tentatively that she would like to start dating.


“Let love in, that’s good,” the coach said.


And Ms. Pettus, ever practical, added, “You know you wouldn’t have to get out of bed for that.”