Oct. 20, 2009 -- Mary Jo Eustace's ex-husband Dean McDermott married Tori Spelling 30 days after they divorced. As Eustace tells her story in "Divorce Sucks: What to do when irreconcilable differences, lawyer fees, and your ex's Hollywood wife make you miserable," she also doles out advice about how to move on after a contentious marital breakup.
Read the excerpt below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
Meeting the Other Woman and Other Fun Things to Do While You're Suicidal
Up until now, you probably thought things couldn't get any worse. But if you're one of the lucky few who get to meet "the other woman" while you're still married or in the process of divorcing, you've now become a member of a worldwide club, a franchise if you will, called "Dumped While Married." Congratulations! Now you get to meet, in the living, breathing flesh, the person your spouse is leaving you for.
Perhaps she is older and less attractive (hardly!) or younger with bigger boobs (duh). Perhaps she is his secretary or trainer or maybe neither. She could easily be the girl next door pursuing her dream of bagging the elusive married man with children and a soon to be discarded ex-wife. Who knows? The permutations for romance are endless. But one thing is for certain, you are now part of a forever triangle—the new wife, your ex, and you. At any rate, this is your chance to get to really know her. Maybe you can get together for lunch, a drink, or a walk in the park. Or perhaps you already have had the pleasure of her company because she's been your best friend since college. Whatever the circumstances, you're about to connect with the woman who will now be your ex-husband's girlfriend.
There's really no better way to pass the time than chatting with the woman who helped destroy your family—especially if she opts to rub it in your face or show you romantic pictures of the two of them on her cell phone. This really is the type of situation where, unless you're highly medicated, the chances for conflict are basically a given. It's sort of like asking Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie to share their favorite Brad Pitt moments; it just isn't natural. But for better or worse, if you have children and your man is intent on hooking up with this new gal, you'll have to face "the other woman." When this occurs, the more control you can have over this situation the better—even if it involves prepared notes, electronic support via e-mail, and closed-circuit cameras. You must be ready on all fronts with appropriate backup to fortify and guide you through this experience, as well as a working knowledge of where the fire exits are at all times, because this baby could blow up at any moment.
The truth is, the repercussions of the meeting can't be known until the fat lady actually sings. I know women who have screamed, yelled, wrestled, and commiserated when they first encounter each other, because this is the perfect opportunity for a major exchange of information. Women do like to talk, especially about men that drive them crazy. This whole UN Summit can be a risky gamble—especially for the guy involved—because the ex-wife may not be a shrew, but rather lovely in fact, with impeccable taste and a keen sense of wit and style.
And what if the other woman is smart and accomplished and has been looking for love and family her whole life and she just happened to stumble upon yours? What if the two of you are similar except one is getting divorced and one is getting married? And what if you feel compelled to tell her about all the warning signs you chose to ignore and she feels compelled to join your spin class and meet for regular coffees? You begin to bond and both wonder aloud why women don't stick together more and have each other's backs. And before you know it, you begin to realize that you've dodged a bullet and that this poor women is in for a ride from hell. So being the person that you are, you let her in on a few more things before setting her up with your accountant's brother—an underwear model turned pediatrician who does volunteer work for Unicef and local nuns. After all, what good is anything if you can't pass on your hard-earned experience to someone who needs it?
Of course, I don't know how you first encountered your ex-husband's "other woman," but I sure know how I encountered mine. It was a rainy day in January in Los Angeles and I was thinking to myself, "How can I possibly top off the divorce cruise I have been enduring?" Was there an area of misery and humiliation that I hadn't fully explored? And since I was already feeling so lousy, wouldn't it be a good thing to feel twice as bad? So when my ex-husband said I had to meet his fiancé, I jumped at the chance. After all, since they were planning to marry a few weeks after our divorce came through, no time like the present, right? To be completely truthful, meeting "the other woman" was something I had no desire to do, and if my ex-husband hadn't insisted on it, I would have passed up the opportunity altogether. It was all happening a little too quickly for me to handle. But alas, the die was cast and the date was set and there seemed to be no getting out of it.
Forgive me, but I need to digress a little here and ask: has this ever happened to you? Your ex-husband's new wife writes a tell-all book about her life and decides to chronicle her affair and subsequent marriage to the man you just divorced as well as her thoughts and insights on the first time she had the pleasure of your company. You hear about it in bits and pieces from friends and family and do everything in your power not to subject yourself to something that will surely make you crazy. You avoid the media coverage at all costs so as not to relive the whole damn thing in revisionist techno-color even though a coast-to-coast tour has it plastered everywhere. Finally one day, when your willpower is low, you sneak into a bookstore and read the few pages dedicated to your meeting. Imagine your surprise when you learn that when she came to your house, she hid a knife in the folds of her purse in case you made some sort of attempt at her life or tried to poison the herbal tea you so graciously offered her. You were described as "pretty and pleasant" and she said that she dressed in a baggy tracksuit and sneakers in deference to your older age and appearance so you'd feel better about the things you were losing: your looks, your husband, hey, maybe even your life? Talk about warm and fuzzy. You start to think to yourself, "Why don't I do this "passing the baton" thing more often? It really is quite fun!
So to continue, there I was, standing at the door as the rain fell all around me, awaiting the women who had profoundly changed my life forever. I scanned the house and saw the life that had been compiled together spread out before me and took it all in. I think I probably looked a little tired but I really didn't care. I waved to my neighbor across the street as Tori's car pulled up and parked out front. I waited for what seemed many moments as she lingered outside—perhaps there was a little hesitation at the other end. Finally, the car door opened and out spilled my afternoon companion with two blonde pigtails, snuggly fitted jeans, and thigh-high boots clicking up my walkway. I remember taking a deep breath and hoping for an earthquake, just enough to render me unconscious for three or four days—but it didn't happen. Instead, I stood there, practicing my opening line for the most important meeting in my life. But looking back now, I can't even remember it. I also have no recollections of tracksuits and sneakers and knives or poison, but then again, I am getting older.
The Most Important Meeting in My Life
Really, this meeting "the other woman" is the hardest thing ever, and if you've had to do it and suck it up to make things run more smoothly for your family, then good for you for trying so hard. I know how you feel, because that's exactly what I had to do. My freedom was riding on this meeting. If I hadn't been forced into this get-together, I might have had a completely different agenda. But I was in the middle of fighting for "my move away"—a legal agreement that would allow me to move back to Canada with my children unfettered. I took the meeting as requested to secure my deal without a very expensive and drawn-out court case. So I think it would be fair to say for that Saturday afternoon in January, I was on my very best behavior.
If things had been different and I wasn't so beholden to my circumstances, things might have gone quite differently. As we began to talk, I told her I thought the behavior thus far had been the height of insensitivity and rudeness and that I wasn't some cliché inconsequential housewife sitting in the San Fernando Valley. I tried to explain that we were a real family with a new baby and a substantial history, and there were serious consequences to all of this. But whenever I felt I was coming on too strong, I pulled back for fear of jeopardizing my deal and would retreat into "understanding but sad ex-wife" mode who was letting go of her husband of thirteen years.
I felt she had questions she would have liked to ask about the whole scenario and part of me wanted to tell her everything, and I easily could have. But instead I made a point of saying her journey with her new partner would be one for her to figure out and not me. In good conscience, I really couldn't say anything bad about my ex. This was a no-win situation and I had way more important issues at my door than figuring out their relationship. At that point I was just hoping to get my life back.
On the whole, things went rather smoothly. Although I was tempted many times to the contrary, I went out of my way to make it a clean meeting. No broken bones. The toughest moment was when my husband kept calling her to see how the meeting was going. She told him it was "going great" and joked that we were quickly becoming "soul mates." I left the room on that one.
Three hours later, after asking if she could give me a hug, she left. After she was gone, my husband quickly buzzed by to get my impression. "Do you like her?" "Isn't she great?" When I suggested that I thought she seemed quite vulnerable, he recoiled. I quickly added "in a totally good way," and that seemed to do the trick.
Although meeting the "other woman" was tough, it was definitely worth it. A month later, just before our divorce was finalized, I was given permission to move back to Toronto without any legal restrictions. I put my heart and soul into this part of my divorce. I could not bare the thought of being prisoner in a place I didn't want to be, or going through all of our hard-earned savings on more legal battles. So I worked very hard and did what I had to do to let all of us get on with our respective lives, even though it meant at times doing things I wasn't entirely comfortable with.
Now you would have thought that one emotionally draining, incredibly significant meeting would have been enough, but there was another one to follow. And this one was a total surprise.
Meeting the "Other Man"
One sunny day shortly after my first emotionally draining, incredibly significant meeting, I received a letter in the mail from someone I had never met but who was inextricably linked to my present situation. His name was Charlie and at the time, he was Tori Spelling's husband. The letter was one of the most thoughtful, lovely things anybody has ever sent to me. He mentioned how sorry he was for my suffering, and even though it was awful for him as well, he felt that mine must be tenfold because of the young children involved. He went on to offer his support and wondered if in the future there was a chance that we could perhaps get together. I was so surprised and caught of guard by this letter that I sat on it for a few weeks.
At first, I even suspected the letter was a joke. Perhaps someone was trying to pull something off or implicate me in something unseemly. I was so distrustful and paranoid at that point, I just wasn't sure of anything. But after I showed the letter to a friend and she felt that it was genuine, I decided to make contact. Charlie immediately responded and we made a time to get together at my house.
A few days later, after the kids had been put to bed, I was waiting for Charlie to arrive. I was a little nervous—I again had no idea what I was in store for. Would he have a knife? Poison? Ponytails? Good lord, what should I expect? How about a great, funny, articulate guy who I liked right away, because that's exactly what I got.Charlie wanted nothing out of the situation except to get his life back. In the press, they portrayed him in a negative light, as some sort of opportunist, yet he was anything but. He was very close to his family, a hard worker, and a very private man. He helped me understand some of the things that had transpired in my situation but would never dish the dirt or betray trusts. We had a weird bond because for many people, it was hard to understand the surreal nature of our respective situations, and at that time in my life, he was the only person who really understood what I was going through. The best part was, we laughed—really hard and often at how ridiculous our lives seemed at times.
I must say that many people in his shoes would be upset about being treated disrespectfully. But Charlie didn't have a bitter bone in his body. He faced many of the same fears I had about feeling powerless in the presence of the Hollywood machine, but he never let those fears get in the way of his determination to move through this phase of his life stronger and more emotionally in tact than before. We would have several meetings over the months to come and I would grow to respect him more each visit. I found him to be a very wise and thoughtful moral compass and always helpful when I needed a little perspective or guidance.
Even now, I would love to pass on his number to all the great single woman out there. However, I have a feeling he is probably doing very well all on his own. But if I hear anything, I will definitely let you all know.