New Web site creates an online community for people living through divorce
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Just about every week, it seems, another sex scandal breaks -- Gov. Mark Sanford, Sen. John Ensign, Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino. And that's nothing compared with all the cinematic scripts playing out behind closed doors, the ones that most people never hear about. Recently, a few dozen people had drinks on the waterfront in Georgetown to celebrate the launch of a Web site, talk about cheaters and toast the idea of moving on.
LousySpouse.com was founded this summer by two women from Alexandria, one of whose marriages ended so badly that, with a flair for the dramatic and a strong desire not to make her divorce any more complicated than it was, she wore a disguise -- a wig and pink sunglasses -- to the restaurant. (She refused to have her name published in this story.)
The site was started to give support, resources and options to people who have just been knocked upside the head, figuratively speaking, by their husband or wife. After all, 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?
LousySpouse.com provides information on lawyers, private investigators, finances -- even movie suggestions to help people laugh off their louse. And, with a nod to Halloween, the Web site also offers some horror stories.
Lousy, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. But the site comes at a time when half of all marriages end in divorce, some studies say at least 40 percent of all spouses are unfaithful, and there's so much demand for an online dating site designed for married people that its officials recently launched an iPhone app. So a Web site meant to help people get through the morass seems not only inevitable, but maybe even necessary.
It's the flip side of all those wedding videos, the beautifully shot black-and-white scenes with everyone tossing rose petals as the groom scoops the bride into his arms. Southerlyn Reisig, the site's co-founder, knows those movies often have a surprise ending. She looks like Grace Kelly in her wedding video, but a couple of lawyers, a therapist, some painful conversations with her two children and tens of thousands of dollars later, she said she knows a thing or two about ending a marriage -- and how much she could have saved if she had only known more at the time.
What the world didn't need was another Web site sponsored by divorce lawyers, the founders figured. They knew there were options available: The Jewish Social Service Agency offers sessions locally on ending marriages amicably, for example, and coaches will guide people through divorces for a fee.
But they wanted something that people could use at 3 a.m. when they realize their wife isn't coming home that night, or when they hear the baby crying -- a positive place that was free and always available, where people could rant, get advice, make coping plans and maybe laugh a little.
The site has links to resources, financial worksheets, advice about insurance, books to cheer people up, supportive comments, a creepy quiz about whether a spouse might be cheating and a forum blistering with fury and disgust.
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. But he wasn't the only guy there who was trying to salvage a marriage or trying to get out of one.
There was a private investigator (she pretends to be an artist and paints while she spies), a handful of supportive friends, some angry exes and heartbroken women and men. They talked about the moment they found out about a cheater and what they did next. (Do you tell your parents? Or do you wait in case you can patch things up, so they don't hate her forever? Do you know which friends will stick by you? Do you call a counselor or a lawyer? Do you shut down your bank accounts? Throw him out? Tell the kids?)
A father of four said the best thing the site could do was act as a brake, to stop people from acting on their first instinct, get them to breathe, calm down and think things through.