Nanci A. Smith’s new book, Untangling Your Marriage, is an elixir to the stereotypical stagnation of divorce as a concept, let alone a chapter in one’s life. It’s something that can be definitively christened as a twenty first-century book. I don’t think I would have seen something so knowledgeable, so statistical, but so surprisingly compassionate and compassionately focused ten to twenty years ago. These days, the stigma of being divorced – particularly as a woman – does linger.
But it’s juxtaposed with a progressive mentality on an increasingly societal level that such a trait, however undesirable, is not the end of the story – and not something from which one has to struggle away from being defined. In the spirit of Gwyneth Paltrow’s very conscious, deliberately titled Uncoupling from Chris Martin back in the late aughts, Untangling Your Marriage provides an extensive roadmap for how to settle matters in a divorce setting with grace, humility, and a sense of professionally informed maturity. This is indicated by the word choice in the title. Untangle doesn’t imply something akin to End or Escape. Untangle indicates the ball is in your court, that you bear responsibility, and from that responsibility you can take up the mantle in a way that is on your terms, and that is far more empowered than disempowered.
Part of this entails knowing what to look for in a legal team that helps you navigate this process as smoothly as possible. “On a macro level, we are living in a time of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA). This was a phrase the U.S. military used to describe the post-Cold War era, which has since been adopted by current thought leaders in organizational development and executive leadership circles,” Smith writes in this vein. Then, she continues, “On a micro level, the period of going through divorce is exactly like that. The most effective strategies in times of VUCA are to remain open for possibilities, to innovate, to remain nimble, to set safe boundaries that are not too rigid, and to allow enough room to experiment. When it comes to your divorce, you (and your spouse, if he or she chooses to come along for the ride) are being asked to become the leader of your newly evolving family. This is an opportunity for personal growth and transformational change.”
“You are being given an opportunity to create the next iteration of yourself; a new parenting paradigm and a new relationship with your spouse and extended family and friends. The times are changing, and you can exert more control over your divorce process than you may realize. Collaborative divorce, an out-of-court dispute resolution model, fits this paradigm of thinking and is a way to make meaning of your life during your divorce.”
Immediately this kind of introductory wording and sentiment reassures the reader they are in good hands. That there is light at the end of the tunnel. Some divorces, particularly if there is a power imbalance, can lead to devastating life choices. Smith has the style and charisma to keep the reader engaged, and a literary bedside manner to boot which helps them feel calmed, with their feet on the ground, and steered in the right direction.