F*** It. Get A Divorce. The Guide for Optimists (FIGAD) is a smart, insightful guide for anyone in a marriage or long-term relationship contemplating a divorce or breakup. FIGAD provides an optimistic roadmap for the divorce-curious, offering tangible resources and exercises for self-assessment and reflection. Steve engages readers with cool humor and offers relevant and timeless wisdom on beginning again and a fresh, modern take on marriage, history, religion, spirituality and tradition. Armed with tools to navigate the divorce landscape, readers will walk away with a sense of empowerment to make the decision that’s best for them.
Hi, I’m Steve.
The author of F*** It. Get A Divorce.
A few years ago my marriage went sideways, and my ex and I both knew it, and we went through therapy and other avenues and ultimately made what we thought was the best decision, but was actually a horrible mistake: We stayed together.
Staying in an unhappy relationship is a choice.
Maybe a good one. Maybe not.
But it’s almost never the only choice.
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“I highly recommend this program to anyone even remotely considering getting a divorce. It is a very practical and thoughtful guide to “consciously uncoupling” in as elegant and pain-free a manner as possible. From the title alone you know the author is blunt, funny, and bright. The program does not disappoint and I’d like to suggest makes a great gift (sent anonymously!) for anyone you know considering divorce.”
“This helped. Thank you Steven Kane. If you’re going through something, or might be going through something — I literally cannot recommend a better resource that is honest, raw, and smart. Buy this program.”
“An authentic, extremely well-written guide to a “scary” life event that ranks right up there with the birth of kids, the loss of a job and the death of loved ones. Here we gain a fresh, witty, hard-won perspective on how divorce can be healthy — how it can ultimately be a good/positive thing — for ALL involved. How many friends have you had who remain trapped in debilitating unhappiness for all the wrong reasons? “What will people think?” “What will happen to the family?” That’s the F-it part of this book … that’s the noise this book helps you cancel. If you or anyone you know is unhappy enough to consider divorce, Kane helps you cut through the clutter and find your way — and your spouse’s way, and your kids’ way — to a better, healthier place.”
“I happened to discover this program browsing and the title and images clearly garnered my attention ;-). It’s interesting as a divorcee, I decided to make the purchase. The reason is simple. I’ve often struggled with my, our divorce. It’s been the old “should have, would have, could have” mindset that has kept me from truly letting go for more years than I care to admit. Steve Kane’s honest and thoughtful approach and insights to dealing head on with one of the most difficult decisions we make in our lifetime has given me a surprisingly fresh perspective. I’m beginning to lighten up and accept the fact that was the right path. Thank you Steve!!!!!”
We’re living one of the greatest experiments in the history of humankind, to try to create what has throughout history been considered a contradiction in terms: the passionate marriage. We’re asking so many things from one person. We’re asking one person to give us what once an entire village would provide. And couples are crumbling under the weight of so much expectations. Very few people achieve marital bliss. A lot more are miserable from it. They think they’re deficient.
If you’re here, I assume you’re in an unhappy marriage or other committed relationship, or someone you care about is, or you’re not really sure how you feel about things and you’re looking for a way to try to sort out complicated, confusing feelings.
That was me, too.
And that’s why I started this work.
Creating a course like this is a new thing for me. I’ve got no prior professional experience in coaching or relationship advice. Previously I was a startup entrepreneur (you can check me out in the About section.) But a few years ago my marriage went sideways, and my ex and I both knew it, and we went through therapy and other avenues and ultimately made what we thought was the best decision, but was actually a horrible mistake:
We stayed together.
The result was a period of unhappy years, utterly unnecessary woe, followed by a much more difficult divorce—an unnecessarily painful one. And with hindsight, I ascribe that more wrenching breakup to our forced bottling up of our feelings and our true desire: to move on. But we stayed…
And that really got me thinking. About how nuts my ex and I were, to have done that. Why were we so foolish? We didn’t start out that way. And let me tell you, right here: my ex is an awesome person, partner and parent. This isn’t a blame game. Also, while eventually we became irreconcilably unhappy, before that we were more or less content for some 20 years. It wasn’t a perfect union. (Does such a thing exist?) We had plenty of potholes and misfires. But by most conventional measures, we were a decent success. And as I said, we knew we’d reached the end, and even went to therapy to try to sort it out. So why couldn’t we do the seemingly obvious, logical, beneficial thing? Why couldn’t we just acknowledge reality? Apparently we both were suffering from, what? Delusion? Paralysis from fear or shame?
My divorce was several years ago. But I haven’t stopped that thinking. And that’s changed my life. Made me a different person. Better? I hope so, but that’s not for me to judge. Different? Definitely. For I now want to devote a major part of my time trying to help people who are just like that previous me. To assist folks in unhappy relationships to at least know what their options are, how the process of unwinding things can work, which issues need to be considered and which ones don’t, and how breakups may feel—euphoric and painful—along the way. And to offer a little reassurance: You’re not alone. You’re not a bad person. You’re not a failure. You’re just a wildly normal human. And if you feel stuck, trapped or unsure about an unhappy relationship, you have two perfectly good, workable options: Stay. Or, go.
You can consume the material here any way you wish. It’s available as videos, podcasts, downloads, even a high quality paperback book. I suggest a sequence to follow, but you can navigate in any order. Almost all segments are followed by brief “Exercises,” some abstract thought experiments, some very practical, but all conceived as a way for you to not just listen to me, but to start to listen to yourself, too. What do you really feel about this or that? Offered a simple, clear explanation of a plan you may have to make, map out what you might actually do. Finally, I offer a lot of what I call Additional Resources, readings, links, music and playlists, videos and podcasts that I hope will be informative and even fun. Breaking up is rarely party time, but it doesn’t have to be a funeral—and for the sake of everyone involved, I believe it shouldn’t be one. After all, sometimes when we’re feeling blue or confused it’s best to just crank up a good tune and dance like a nutjob.
In addition to my own personal experience, I cite a lot of other experts, counselors, quotes and media offerings. I hope you find them as useful as I do. But, while in my searching for others’ wisdom I looked hard for other coaching or advice specifically for people who want to explore breaking up, I found basically none. Yes, there are millions of programs, coaches, whatever, that help people work harder and recommit, try to renew stale or unhappy relationships. But ones that say, Come on already, maybe it’s best to just break up and move on? Few, if any.
So probably this is a first for you, too. And you’re wondering, so where does this end? Where does it lead me? And leave me? Well, know one thing: I have no idea if you should break up. I don’t know you. But hopefully this material will lead you to a place of greater knowledge and understanding about what all your options are, and how breakup stuff works and feels, and how to candidly assess your possible futures. And to really, really know: There’s more than one.
Given the title of this work, you probably know what I think most people in unhappy relationships should do. But like I said I don’t know you, so if you’ll forgive the metaphor, in the end I have to leave you at the altar. Break up, stay put, do something, do nothing, that’s up to you.
So what do you think? Check it out?
I ❤ Marriage
I’m very in favor of marriage.
Straight, gay and otherwise.
I buy the “traditional values” view that marriages and nuclear families are essential to a successful culture, to creating a society that provides an optimal foundation for people, particularly kids, with the love, education and support humans need to try to pursue happiness.
And that view is more than just a totem—it’s a fact, supported by science and empirical data.
But I also have an open mind about what is a “family,” and what makes a family functional, best able to offer such foundations.
So I’m also very in favor of divorce.
Of people breaking up unhappy relationships.
I think the alternative—staying—is worse. For nearly everyone.
A successful family does not have to have two adults, let alone two “committed” ones. Or the same two adults for eternity. Or, well, anything in particular. Whatever works, works. We’re homo sapiens, an unusually intelligent, resourceful species. We invent, explore and engineer the universe as our default setting. We can have successful societies and great lives and families whether we stay with one partner or not.
There, of course, I depart from some of the more strident notions about “traditional values.” Most important, I don’t care what culture, religion or history have to say about, well, much of anything. Call me crazy, but I prefer to make up my own mind. For example, I reject that marriage, or any form of lifetime couple-dom, is an end unto itself. That there’s some ultimate reward or dignity gained through relationship perseverance. Instead, I buy the cliche—the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.
I likewise reject that relationship persistence is a form of altruism. We can take care of others and ourselves. We can be selfless yet not deny our self—a unique organism with but one life, and complex emotions and thoughts that are not ennobled by denying them. Or by acting as though “sucking it up” makes us a more mature or better person. Or by turning from the world, persuaded that denying longings is more enlightened than acknowledging them.
Of course, I don’t live in any time or culture other than my own, so I won’t—I can’t—judge too broadly. I acknowledge that, today and throughout history, most humans say, do and believe what they think is right at the time. But as I live here, and now, in what by most measures is a blessedly modern, liberal culture, I will be judgmental about that:
For modern humans “til death do us part” may be the dumbest oath ever.
I mean, ‘til death? Really? No matter how long we live? No matter how unhappy a person is? No matter how many indignities one may suffer?
F*** it, get a divorce.
It’s not virtuous to suffer. No one gets into paradise based on how masochistic they are. It’s not heroic to limit one’s own potential—or let circumstances or others do so.
In truth, for some of us, “‘til death” is an archaic, unrealistic pledge, even as we say it. We live in the modern world, getting more so by the nanosecond, and we know what that can mean to longterm relationships. So some of us say those words out of nostalgia for simpler times, or some aspiration to banish loneliness, but we don’t say such things out of a belief that we won the lottery—that, somehow, we randomly met another human who’s so right for us they’ll make us content day in, and day out, decade after decade. We certainly hope and pray for that, but we also know that far too often time changes everything and everyone.
Now, I’m not saying we should abandon ship at the first sign of rough weather. On that, I am a traditional “traditional values” person. Functional relationships and families aren’t received. They’re manufactured, through continuous recommitment, honesty, communication, humility, self-awareness, and hard work—and a willingness to forgive, then forgive again.
So no, I don’t think you should quit your relationship easily. You were happy the day you got hitched and for good reason—your partner is a good person who you loved that day, and on so many other days, and who loved you. It’s absolutely worth it to work hard to sustain that blessed state, that flickering candle of human harmony.
But let’s be real: Sometimes the candle flickers out. Actually, it does so quite often. And sometimes we run out of matches—one or both partners has irretrievably lost their basic emotional attachment. The candle is never getting relit.
So then what? Do nothing? While away what may be eons of remaining life in longing and resentment?
F*** it, get a divorce.
It’s ok to have not won the lottery.
More important, it’s not only ok to want to move on from an unhappy coupling, it’s normal and wise to do so. Our right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” doesn’t end or get restricted when we pair off. Hopefully, that pairing is an exciting, core part of that pursuit, but if it turns out the relationship has stopped being fulfilling, no longer provides the comfort, security, inspiration—the love—which was our expectation when we entered it, then, well, duh. We really do only get one life. Why would someone who can move on, can start over, can return to the basic human quest for a little happiness, choose to not do so?
As you’re undoubtedly thinking: For all sorts of good reasons.
Loyalty. Fear. Money. Kids. Inertia.
That was me and my ex, alright. And we made the worst decision: To be righteous. Hang in there. Dig deep. Persevere. Keep it going if not for ourselves then for the family, the kids, the image.
Whatever lofty words are used to describe it, truth is, it was dumb. And a path to hurt. Our marriage was done and we knew it. But we wouldn’t face it. We’re not quitters. We’re taking one for the team. Even though “the team”—us and our kids—became happier as a result of our divorce, not the slog years. Our ostensibly noble motives were actually a pressure cooker, which made our ultimate break up much more painful than it would have been had we just been honest and said:
F*** it. Get a divorce.
What stopped us? We caved. To fear. Cultural pressure. Internal personal pressure. Anxiety over being perceived a failure. Of hurting the kids (a false fear, as you’ll see.) And of course, we caved to inertia. The devil we knew. That devil.
By the way, please know, up front, emphatically: None of this is to blame or point fingers at my ex. She was—is—terrific. Charming, brilliant, loving, funny, generous. A great partner and parent. That’s why I fell in love and married her. And despite many years and life changes she was still that basic, good, loving person. She still is. But even great loving people make that bad, keep-going decision, despite that after those many years, from dating to mating and marriage, kids, careers and all the rest… the thrill is gone. To put it mildly.
Now we’re divorced, amicable exes and co-parents. Yay! But it sucked getting here. Expensively, awkwardly, destructively sucked, sucked, sucked and sucked. It sucked. And all because we were unwilling to just face reality and decide. To just deal with it. For the longest, stupidest time. And we paid the price.
But you don’t have to.
F*** it. Get a divorce.
Let me tell you what this programs isn’t:
It’s not a textbook explaining arcane divorce issues. It’s not a how-to manual for getting away with anything or besting anyone. It’s not a bunch of tips on how to get more, give less or work the system. The premise here is, be amicable and generous regardless of circumstances. You’re unhappy so end the unhappiness, but aim for the best possible split and new beginning. Get expert help, divide things fairly, leave kids out of it and don’t do or say anything you may regret later—later arrives quickly and you don’t want your old unhappiness haunting you.
Most importantly, this isn’t a program where I pressure you to do what I think. Yes, I say what I think and lean on you a little. But only to try to help you decide—what do you want to do?
Is this you?
I made a commitment. For better or for worse. I can’t just walk.
But I’m unhappy. And I have little certainty that’ll change. Don’t I deserve to try to be happy?
Divorce is failure. I’m not a quitter. I’m resilient. Dedicated. Failed marriages are for failed people.
But I’m exhausted. My relationship isn’t satisfying anymore. It was hot but now it’s cold. In truth, I don’t even look forward to being with my partner. It’s a chore.
But I need to be an adult. I made my choices. Who said long term relationships stay exciting? Actually, everyone says all relationships cool. I’m acting like a spoiled child.
But I miss intimacy. Holding hands and meaning it. Snuggling. Kissing. Pillow talk. And sex. I really miss sex. Is that wrong?
I know I shouldn’t, but I do care what other people think. If my marriage fails, people will judge me. I can’t handle that.
But I don’t even have dreams anymore. I’m trapped. How can I stay in an unhappy place for so many more years? Decades!
But I don’t even know what it’s like to be single anymore. I’m a couple now. That’s my identity. My social circle. My life.
But I’m missing out. Missing feeling life can be an adventure. I only get one life. Shouldn’t I try to get as much out of it as possible?
Who am I kidding? I can barely manage life with my partner pitching in. How will I juggle work, parenting, money and housekeeping on my own?
If that’s at all familiar, this program may be for you. It’s a mix of the personal and practical—been-there-done-that reminiscences, plus some science and data, plus interactive exercises to help you start re-imagining your life in privacy and safety. How does one prepare for a breakup? What’s it like to say, It’s over? What happens next? And next? What are the hangovers? The emotional gauntlet we navigate after the breakup?
Spoiler alert, here’s the whole enchilada: You want to go? Go. Unhappy relationships are normal. Messy lives are normal. Trepidation and paralysis are normal. You’re not alone. If you’re guilty of anything, it’s only of being human. No shame. You’re off the hook. Free to do as you wish. You can reinvent yourself, over and over, and pursue happiness as you see fit. There’s still time and opportunity. There’s always time and opportunity. And with the right mindset and preparation, no one needs to get badly hurt. Breaking up is always a disruption, but it doesn’t have to be a tragedy. And shouldn’t be. The end result can be upbeat, a fresh start, a shedding of seething, resentments and unhappinesses, for everyone. In the end, it’s not the end, it’s a beginning, with relief and renewal, and not just for you.
So come join us other frail humans? All us reasonably well-adjusted, reasonably smart, reasonably functional folks who find ourselves in a rut, gripped by indecision, feeling isolated, hamstrung by anger, confusion, fear and shame? There’s no magic remedy here but we’ll breathe deep and mull over some of the issues involved with moving on from a longterm relationship. You’re not obligated to do anything, except consider. Think.
And remember: There’s no guarantee you’ll make no mistakes, feel no pain. You will. Breaking up hurts. No matter what. It’s one of the most profound life events, involving deep reflection, emotions running rampant, tempers flaring and people getting bruised. I wish I could save you from all that. But no can do.
Still, I say:
F*** it. Get a divorce.
I think for most of us the price is worth it. I think it’s better to feel than to not feel. Which means life hurts sometimes. And avoiding hurt means avoiding life. Some years ago I was lucky to do work with the great life coach (and friend) Jerry Colonna. My problem is I get too emotional about things, I told Jerry, I need to stop feeling everything so much. What should I do?
Nothing. Jerry said. You’re human. An emotional being. That’s what being human is. Turning off emotions is to be less human. Is that what you want? We all know people who’ve done that. Do you really want to be more like them?
I don’t. So I embarked on a mission: To feel grateful for life itself. Hurts, indignities and all. It’s a constant struggle. I fail often. When life sucks, it’s hard to be thankful. But by at least trying, more living is possible. More opportunities. Because I spend less time brooding. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it. And the alternative—more anger and despair—is worse.
Ditto, unhappy relationships. Meaning, if we prepare ourselves, and try to stay focused on the positives, the hard breakup stuff can be lived more easily. Moving on needn’t be a zero-sum game, with “winners” and “losers.” With forethought, and basic gratitude for life, everyone can emerge with love and dignity. A break up is not a death. It’s a birth. Painful and messy, but also something new and wonderful.
So. Here’s your first Exercise. Say this out loud:
I’m in an unhappy relationship. I’m thinking about leaving. Which means I’m a normal, good person.
Earth still turning?
Happiness requires the ultimate sacrifice: To give up one’s unhappiness.
Are you unhappy?
What is happiness? Philosophers, artists, preachers, therapists and gurus eternally ponder that, grasping for positive definitions, distillations of the essence of contentment.
Not me. I give up. The question’s too neat. Happiness isn’t a thing. It’s a whimsy, a “know it when I feel it” ephemera. And each person’s happiness is unique to them, evolving and changing moment by moment.
So then, what the heck? The main premise of this program is that we all deserve to seek happiness. And should do so. And so therefore, by definition, we should not stay in unhappy relationships. But if I can’t even be bothered to say what happiness is, how dare I tell people to turn their worlds upside down, to go after it?
See, here we rely on a negative definition of happiness. Meaning, I’m pretty confident I know what’s it’s not.
Happiness is not being unhappy.
I know, that’s messy. But stay with me, I think it’ll do.
And I daresay: We all know what unhappiness is. And we all know what it feels like when we manage to remove a cause of unhappiness from our life.
It feels good.
Or at least, it feels like relief. Like our inner balance scale, with happy on one side and unhappy on the other, is tilting just a wee bit more to the happy side.
For me, that’ll do.
I’m not going to try to convince you I know what happiness is for you. Or for anyone. But I am going to try to persuade you that we can best pursue happiness, whatever it may be, by eliminating people and things that make us unhappy.
I mean, if I jab you with a pin, when you grab the pin away, you feel happy, not because grabbing the pin is a “happy” event in and of itself, but from getting rid of the poking. Imagine I wasn’t jabbing you. Would you feel happy grabbing a pin away from me? I know, it’s not a shattering or novel insight. But I’ll take it. Because it works here. Here, it doesn’t matter that I don’t have a clue what happiness is for you because if I do know you’re in an unhappy situation, then I feel confident saying that eliminating unhappiness is a positive. It’s just common sense.
Clear as mud?
1. I won’t pretend I know how to make you happy.
2. If you say you’re unhappy, I accept that you are.
3. I’ll try my best to help you become less unhappy.
By the way, this is not relationship therapy. Or personal therapy. The world is full of valuable and wise “fix your relationship” and “fix yourself” counsel. But this isn’t that.
Probably, you’re perplexed how you got from “there” to “here”—from delight and sex to tedium and texting. We blink and ten years have passed. What happened? Naturally, we want to try to understand. Just, not here. Relationships go sour in a million ways, but for our purposes, it doesn’t matter how you got to an unhappy place. All that matters is, you’re unhappy. And that, maybe that can change.
Yes, it does matter why your relationship isn’t working or may never work again. Yes, it matters what choices you made, what you did well and poorly, and what you may be able to do better going forward by being more reflective and self-aware. But still, this isn’t therapy. It can’t be. I don’t know you. And in any case, I believe that regardless of how one gets in a funk, the single most important step towards getting out is to be able to say, I’m in a funk. And I want it to stop.
It doesn’t matter how you got there. You’re in an unhappy relationship. And that’s totally OK. And marriage is indeed a valuable, important institution. And commitment is essential to successful relationships. But it’s no sin, no failure, to find oneself feeling unhappy to be bound to one human for an entire life. On the contrary, it’s utterly predictable. Most couples today end up unhappy. In the modern age, it’s just not reasonable to think two people will meet, randomly, then commit for life, then not come to regret that decision, ever, decade after decade. Both of them.
Of course, the decision to move on is a huge one, a literal life changer in every possible way. To even think about making such a momentous choice, maybe it’s best to start small, carefully consider whatever factors should go into such a resolve. Say, like answering a basic question:
Are you unhappy?
Of course, most people feel they are just one “me,” just one person for their entire lives. But there’s an interesting counter view: Actually, we’re not just one person. The “me” of 20 years old is quite literally a different “me” at 40. And 60. Or wherever we place the age breaks. Consider: if the “you” of 20 met the “you” of today, would they agree on everything? Violently disagree on some things? Think the other one was an utter fool or even repugnant about anything?
For this exercise, try to imagine: What will make your “me” of, say, 20 years from now unhappy? Or happy?
And don’t just imagine all this in your head. Make a visual aid. There are several, excellent, free smartphone apps that can eerily, accurately age your selfie pictures, showing what you will probably look like X years in the future. Download one of these apps. Age your own picture 20 years. Print out that “Future Me” picture, put it in a nice frame on your desk or someplace you see it often, and get in the habit of asking “Future Me”: What are you unhappy about? How long have you felt that way? Was there anything I (now) could have done to make your life less unhappy?
There are many “make me look old” apps. Search “make me look old” on the Google Play or iTunes App Stores. Or here’s one well reviewed app, Oldify.