So, you're getting a divorce. And it's not the amicable kind. You didn't talk it out over late-night coffee and come to the mature, mutual decision that your love just wasn't meant to last. Well, what now?
A new Web site is attempting to help spurned spouses figure it out. The Washington Post's Susan Kinzie attended the launch party for LousySpouse.com, an online community catering to men and women facing messy divorces. Founded by two women (one of whom wants to maintain anonymity and showed up at the event disguised in "a wig and pink sunglasses") who have been through the ringer themselves, the site is designed to combine emotional support with practical information. "One thing that kept popping up in both of our experiences was the inaccuracies and discrepancies in available information about the divorce industry," the women write. "From lawyers to mediators to friends and neighbors there is a glaring lack of reliable advice."
LousySpouse certainly isn't the first online network for people going through a divorce. Over a year ago, I wrote about First Wives World, a community geared solely to women. But there are some major differences between the two sites. First Wives World is an immaculately professional endeavor, rendered in soothing pastels and illustrated with slick stock photos. It features professionally written articles and teems with self-help language. While it does provide helpful advice on legal and financial matters, the focus is on healing, beginning new relationships and ladies' glossy-style first-person storytelling.
LousySpouse is both scrappier and scruffier, with its amateurish, orange-and-turquoise design. The site has less content but devotes much of its space to "Law Stuff & Lawyers." This section is a gold mine for anyone scrambling to bring a lousy spouse to justice, featuring everything from information on when and how to secure a private investigator to dig up dirt on a suspected cheater to a helpful list of forms and worksheets to download. "After all," Kinzie notes, "for people who relied on the Knot Web site to plan their wedding down to the tiniest of peau-de-soie details, and BabyCentral.net to get advice on pregnancy and nursing, Google doesn't do so well at answering the question: What the hell do I do now?" That's not to say there aren't problems with the site: Its forums could certainly be more active, and the minimalist design could stand to be more user-friendly. And perhaps wallowing in pain isn't the best way to deal with a messy divorce. But LousySpouse does a good job of balancing complaints with practical advice. (For readers who have been blindsided by a breakup, the "What do I do first?" section seem invaluable.)
Perhaps what I like best about LousySpouse is that it's a coed community. Judging by the first names on forum posts, women do outnumber men. But guys are active on the site, too, doling out advice and griping about their own woes. When dealing with betrayal, abandonment or even the pain of a less dramatic divorce, it may become difficult to see the good in the opposite sex. ("One man who came to the Web site launch party at Sequoia restaurant in Georgetown said he planned to keep his head down at the bar until he was sure it wasn't just man-hating women at the event," Kinzie writes. "But he wasn't the only guy there who was trying to salvage a marriage or trying to get out of one.") LousySpouse proves that shadiness knows no gender and could even help to foster trusting connections between those who have been hurt. What the site lacks in style, it makes up for in potential.