Our guest on the podcast today is Laura Friedman Williams. She has spent years in the publishing business, but it was only when her marriage broke up that she found the inspiration to write a book of her own. Available: A Memoir of Sex & Dating After a Marriage Ends, is a no-holds-barred look at post-divorce rehabilitation and the experiences of a woman on a journey of invention.
“Don’t judge me,” she says, and that’s one of the central messages in the book. It’s hard to re-engage, to re-ignite after a broken heart. And as much as this book is also a book about re-igniting a broken libido, it’s also very much a book about discovering who you are after you figure out the superficial sex stuff.
This isn’t a book about sexual reinvention. It’s a book about unlocking many, many new doors after sexual rediscovery. We hope this conversation piques your interest enough to explore it on your own. You can find it wherever you buy your books. In the mean time, you can follow her writing on Medium, follow her on Twitter and Instagram, or connect with her on LinkedIn.
Pete Wright: Welcome to How to Split a Toaster, a divorce podcast about saving your relationships from TruStory FM. Today on the show, your toaster is going to get its groove back.
Seth Nelson: Welcome to the show everyone. I’m Seth Nelson, I’m here, as always, with my good friend, Pete right. Our guest today has spent years in the publishing business. But it was only when her marriage broke up, that she found the inspiration to write a book of her own, Available: A Memoir of Sex and Dating After a Marriage Ends. It is a no holds barred look at post divorce relationships, post divorce rehabilitation and the experience of women on a journey of invention. Author, Laura Friedman Williams, welcome to the toaster.
Laura Friedman Williams: Thank you so much, I’m so excited to be part of your toaster.
Pete Wright: Part of our toaster, yes, join the toaster family.
Seth Nelson: It hasn’t been working well, so we’re trying to get its groove back. So we’re glad you’re here.
Laura Friedman Williams: Yeah, it’s good. I’m a technological wizard, clearly, so you’ve really come to the right place.
Pete Wright: It’s going to be perfect. So the reading the book, you talk about anything.
Laura Friedman Williams: Indeed.
Pete Wright: I mean, straight up anything.
Laura Friedman Williams: Yeah.
Pete Wright: What is it, and I want to hear the story a little bit, just to get our listeners up to the point of what got you to write this book. So can you tell us a little bit of background? How did you arrive to the point where you thought, okay, I think I need to tell everything in this book and not lie to people and just talk like a big person. What got you to that point? Because I think there’s a lot of fear that comes into honesty. How did you get over that hump?
Laura Friedman Williams: It’s definitely a process. When I started writing, it was not quite as out there as it became. I wanted to write a book about my honest experiences, and some of them were very funny. And some of them were funny, in the moment of the sex act, so I thought, well, how can you write about that, if you’re not writing about it? So I felt like my hand was a little bit forced, like, if you’re going to write a book about your sex life, you actually can’t really not write about sex. It wasn’t a language that I had, I didn’t have the words to use, to talk about sex in a way that was anything more than, like, how often I had to have it, or whether or not I was satisfied at the end of it. So it was a challenge for me. But the more I started doing it, the more it felt like, this is a memoir, this is my story. I either tell it honestly and I put it all out there, or I just don’t do it. I have a choice. I don’t have to just put it all out there.
Laura Friedman Williams: But I really wanted to show what life as a middle aged woman who’s been in a 20-year relationship with one man, what her life looks like, when that relationship ends. I wanted to be very authentic, the good, the bad and the ugly.
Pete Wright: Yeah. Oh, man, I just got to the part, Seth, where it’s like she’s connecting with a man and he’s got this 80-pound German Shepherd watching them during the act. Like I’m reading this, and it feels like it’s not real, because you can’t, like so many times I’ve seen those tropes. And those are made up. So I read yours, and I’m like, really, really? That happens?
Laura Friedman Williams: Well, yeah, I’ll say really.
Seth Nelson: Yeah, Pete would have believed it if it was a 50-pound German Shepherd, but pushing it to 80-
Pete Wright: 80 pounds pushes it way over the edge-
Seth Nelson: Right, come on, that’s jumping the shark-
Pete Wright: There’s poop involved with the dog, it’s just a whole thing. It’s a whole experience.
Laura Friedman Williams: There were definitely, there has been a response like, oh, this would never happen. Or, two funny responses. One, people say, I don’t know if I believe her, this never would have happened. And other people say, I keep forgetting that this isn’t fiction, and this really happened. Well, I mean, all I can say is from my mouth to your ears, it happened. I don’t make stuff up. I don’t think I could have made it up. I don’t really have that active an imagination. So these things happened and they’re part of the reason why I wrote the book. Because I told friends about it happening, about the dog watching me, about my desire to get the dog out of the room. Also, I think the first number of people I slept with, they all had dogs. So it was like a progression of getting the dog out of the room, out of the house.
Laura Friedman Williams: It was like I kept trying to move the dogs further and further away from us. Because these were all divorced men who were very attached to their dogs. And whose dogs clearly were going to always come first, which I understood, except for the hour that I was there. So I didn’t make anything up. If you don’t believe me, you don’t believe me. Listen, if I had a more active imagination, I’d be writing a novel.
Pete Wright: No, no, I’ll tell you, I believe every word of it. I think it’s fantastic.
Seth Nelson: People tell me all the time that, oh, my God, you’re a divorce attorney, you must have some crazy stories. And I will tell them, absolutely. And they’re all from the last two weeks. I don’t have to go back years and be like, oh, remember that case? It’s just constant. So I found it all believable, because of all the stories that I hear on a daily basis, on the good, the bad and the ugly, and what people do to each other and to themselves during a divorce process. So I totally understood where you were coming from. And I am, as we’ve talked about more than once on this show, Pete, I love it when people are open, honest and raw. Because that’s the real way to connect with people. And sometimes they’ll be like, did this really happen? And you’ll be like, look, it happened. You can believe me or not. But really, whether it did or didn’t isn’t the point of this book.
Seth Nelson: The point of this book, is how, like, we were kind of joking about the fact, how you got your groove back. But I want you to talk about that. But when Pete and I were talking about your book and talking about speaking with you today, there’s more to your life than just this book. Like what has happened since then? I mean, the book is in a moment of time that stopped, but your life has continued. So if you’re interested, I would love to hear about what’s going on there as well.
Laura Friedman Williams: Yeah, I mean, I wrote the book. When I started writing the book, actually, I was only about seven months out of my marriage. And so I was very much still in the moment of what was happening. That’s when I was writing the proposal for the book. And by the time I sold the book, when I looked back at the proposal, I thought, oh, I’ve come so far from even this, this feels too silly almost. It feels too much like a Sex in the City episode, I’m trying to make light of something. And that was the original goal, I’m going to make light of this. And make this a fun, readable, middle aged woman sort of version of Sex in the City. But I kept deepening, I kept getting to deeper places of saying, this is happening. And yet still, sometimes I can’t get out of bed in the morning.
Laura Friedman Williams: So sometimes I feel totally free. And like, oh, my god, I get to have 18 year old sex again. And then the next day, I can’t get out of bed. I mean, I always did get out of bed, because I had kids that needed to be fed and sent to school, et cetera.
Seth Nelson: That whole feeding and the kid thing gets in the way.
Laura Friedman Williams: It’s endless, truly, endless. You can’t take a day off from that. Although my kids are pretty good at getting like one meal a day, they’re pretty good at understanding-
Pete Wright: They’re self sufficient enough.
Laura Friedman Williams: No, they just don’t eat until I feed them. They’re used to it, being whittled down.
Seth Nelson: Okay, we’re going to put that one under attorney-client privilege, and maybe mark that one out.
Laura Friedman Williams: Thank you, I appreciate that. So what has happened is that, my libido has kind of calmed down a little bit. I’m in a relationship with one man now. It’s been a couple of years. And he was number six in the book. And he’s stuck around, and he’s still in the picture.
Seth Nelson: Yeah, I’m sure that’s how he loves to be referred to, as number six in the book.
Laura Friedman Williams: He loves it. He loves it. I mean, honestly, he does. He tells everybody, oh, I’m number six. It’s like, he’s getting his 15 minutes of fame out of being number six. So he doesn’t mind. And he’s also, for a while, when it was a little bit like, is it cool to be number six? Or is that weird? And I was like, number six stayed. Number six-
Pete Wright: Yeah, right, number five doesn’t have that-
Laura Friedman Williams: … [crosstalk 00:08:46] you stayed. You outlasted seven, eight, nine, come on. So I feel that for him. And I don’t have as much interest, I don’t have the time or the energy really, to be constantly going on my dating apps or looking for men. I mean, we just came out of a pandemic. So that wasn’t really possible. So I think the pandemic changed a lot. Because we were all in such isolation. And there were times where I thought, he and I will never make it through this. This is just too much time together. Now all of a sudden we’re… when we were together, it was just us, we could never see friends or really go out and do anything. We were also living in New York City when there was a curfew imposed because of all the protests and things related to Black Lives Matter. So we endured all of that.
Laura Friedman Williams: I also, during the pandemic, lived with my ex husband and three children in our house upstate in the country. We made it almost three months together, before one of us was going to die. And at that point, I suggested that he be the one to make a hasty retreat. So there have been a lot of things that have happened in our lives. Some for the better and some for the worse. I think the one thing I’m really aware of is, it’s been three and a half years now, since ex husband and I became exes. And the further I move from the relationship and the marriage, the more independent I become. And also, the more I realize he’s not my husband anymore. So that has been a process for me, because for a long time, I felt, I use the word husband-ish. He felt very husband-ish to me.
Laura Friedman Williams: He was still the guy I’d call to say, what do I do, my computer’s not working. Or, how do I manage this? So I would still put him as my emergency contact, and the doctors’ offices, because he still felt, for all intents and purposes, like my husband.
Pete Wright: Well, convenient. It’s hard to figure out who the next person is to serve that role, I imagine.
Laura Friedman Williams: And through it.
Seth Nelson: Okay, so let’s just talk about this for one minute, Laura, because this is going to go under when people say this didn’t really happen. So for a long time, I was dating my current girlfriend, and we split up for a couple of years. And thankfully, we’re back together. I always like to say that, I messed it up and she took me back. And I’m forever grateful. Previous to that, I was seeing the doctor, I was getting ready for a surgery. And I updated my emergency contact with my current girlfriend. And just recently, I went back to the same hospital to have a procedure, and they say, "Who would you like to be your emergency contact?" And I’m like, "Well, who is it now?" And I’m like, "Oh, no, that’s not a good one." That’s the former girlfriend. I think that would have been like, pull the plug. Like we’re done.
Seth Nelson: But what’s interesting about that is, years and years, I have been practicing law. And not until just recently, when that experience happened to me, did I add to my little letter, update your emergency contact information on all of your accounts and your medical stuff-
Laura Friedman Williams: Interesting-
Seth Nelson: … because it doesn’t really necessarily occur to you that, that’s going to pop up. So you never know where it will be. So what made you, in your mind or your heart or your being, make that change to say, I need a new emergency contact person. How did you get there?
Laura Friedman Williams: I don’t know that I really would have gotten there on my own. I think he kind of forced it for me, by, I think that I felt for those few years that I came first still, because I was the mother of his children. Because we’d had such a long history together. And over time, I could see his allegiance shifting to his new relationship. And I knew that she was going to come before me. And so how could I put my faith and trust in somebody who no longer holds me up here? And even though he stepped out on our marriage, and our marriage ended because he had an affair, even then, I still felt very loved by him. And like he had made this mistake. It was a big mistake, but it was also human, and it happened and he still loved me. I still was able to say that. It’s really the first time that I’m feeling like somebody’s going to be coming before me. And that is what made the shift for me.
Laura Friedman Williams: And I think that it’s still complicated, I’m still not sure what the answer is on that emergency form. I don’t want to put the burden on my children. My eldest is 21. But I don’t want to put that on her. My mom is 79. And I also feel like, doesn’t a mother ever get to stop worrying about her kids? It doesn’t seem fair to her either.
Seth Nelson: Yeah, yeah. Pete’s got nothing going on, you can just write his name in. You’re good-
Pete Wright: Do you know what, I’m fine, you’re good-
Laura Friedman Williams: He’s so far away though, he’s 3,000 miles away, different time zone. I don’t know. Pete, let’s talk about when you turn your phone off at night, okay?
Pete Wright: Okay, all right. Noted. I think that’s a fascinating question. And what I’m hearing in my head as you’re describing your relationship with your husband or your former spouse, and his experience, it sounds like, oh, maybe he already changed his emergency contact and you start to feel that. Like that’s a distance building kind of thing, that increases the distance. And I think you can sense it, when it happens.
Laura Friedman Williams: Yeah, I did sense it. I sensed it.
Pete Wright: There is a passage in the book, we’re talking about somebody named Johnny. And you’re waiting for Johnny outside in front of the car, and there’s somebody howling at you from a window up above. And you speak to yourself here. And you say, "I’m already judging myself more harshly than she possibly can, when Johnny gets into his car. I’m tempted to yell up to her, don’t judge me, my husband of 27 years shattered my heart, and I’m trying to put it back together. I’m just starting to figure this out at the most infinitesimal level. So be kind." That provides for me, an anthem, to my experience reading the book. And there are two pieces of it that I think are so fascinating, for anybody listening, who’s in this sort of rebuilding stage.
Pete Wright: First, there’s a part of me that’s connecting to you as a 20 year old, like the pre-married person, who is sort of living out this dating experience that you never got. And then there’s this part that’s like, now I need to learn how to be this person that I am now, after 27 years with the same man. Do you ever have a sense of that division yourself? Because for me, as I’m reading the book, it’s pretty clear. Like there are two women I’m reading about in the book. Are there two women for you?
Laura Friedman Williams: I always feel like, I’ve got this, I see what’s happening. I’m a very introspective person. And I like to think I’m very self aware, so I always think like, I see what’s happening, I know what’s happening. I see what I’m doing. And then in hindsight, I look back and think, oh, my God, I had no idea what I was doing. I was reeling, I was reacting, I was putting myself in unsafe situations. The Laura today would scream at the Laura from 2019 and tell her to get out of the street. Tell her to get out of that man’s apartment. There’s a million ways in which I am judging myself today, of the things I did. I don’t judge myself that harshly, because I also feel like I had to learn. And I guess I got lucky that I didn’t get too hurt along the way.
Laura Friedman Williams: But it is very confusing, when the last time you’ve dated a person is when you’re 20 and childless. And really just, you’re still on your parents’ health insurance. And then now you’re 47 and you’re legal now, somebody could actually buy you a drink, and you wouldn’t have to pull out a fake ID. And you’ve given birth three times. And you own property. You’re like a real adult now. So you’ve got the trappings of an adult life, but inside, you still know what dating is like from a teenage perspective. So I think it’s fair to say there were two of me, and that I probably am a little bit more of an adult now, in my relationships. Although I’m an adult on my own terms. I think it’s very important to say that it’s on my own terms. I do not want to replicate what I had.
Laura Friedman Williams: So when I was 20 years old and looking for a relationship, I was looking for a husband, and a father for my children. I really wanted kids, that was very important to me. I wanted them young, I wanted a bunch of them. And I got that. I got my husband, I got the kids. I don’t want anything now, but a companion, sometimes.
Seth Nelson: I think that is so important, what you said for people listening out there, is you’re not trying to replicate what you had. You’re at a different stage of your life. And you’re looking for something that is much different. Obviously, you’re not looking to have more kids, you’re not looking for a father of your children to be, you’re looking for someone to walk this earth for as long as you have, with you. And I find it very interesting these days that, if you look at Hollywood, back in the day, there was always what they used to call, the derogatory term was the trophy wife. And now it’s like the power couple. There’s a shift in our society, on some of these issues.
Seth Nelson: But I think that that happens when you get divorced, and then you look at your own life, and you’re like, what do I want my life to be? Does that include bringing someone else into it? And if so, it’s now going to be on my own terms. Not that you don’t compromise on things, but you’re not going to compromise the core of who you are anymore. Because that leads you to where you don’t want to be.
Pete Wright: I’ve got to interject here, because I think so much of the book can be read as salacious. And that leads to this sort of false tropey interpretation of, you finish this marriage, you divorce, you’re dealing with the grief and the heartbreak that comes with it, and now you’re really living some sort of glory days, trope. That’s like, oh, I need to recapture my youth and do all the things I never could. But I am not divorced, but what I’m hearing from both of you is that, it’s much more complicated and nuanced than that. It’s not the Hollywood experience.
Laura Friedman Williams: No, I don’t think it is. And I think part of the problem is that the Hollywood experience is still based, in my mind, on the happily ever after. And the happily ever after almost always involves hitching yourself to another person. And I see this a lot on social media accounts, also, people I follow or divorce coaches or inspirational speakers. And it’s sort of like, listen, I was unhappily married all of these years, and now I’ve got this partner. And it’s so amazing. I never thought I’d find a partner like this, life is so great. And that’s really not something I want to ever say. What I want to say is, my marriage was good, and then it was bad. And now I want to celebrate that I’m on my own. And I don’t want to hitch my wagon to anybody else’s. Maybe someday I’ll change my mind. But for me, the happily ever after is not that I am now with somebody else. The happily ever after is that I found myself. Whoever I am today.
Seth Nelson: I’m going to take it a step, a little bit further in the inquiry on that. Because from my perspective, I’ve found myself and with my girlfriend now, I am at my best. She absolutely brings out the best in me. But that doesn’t happen unless I became comfortable being on my own. Comfortable in my career. Comfortable in my parenting. And not that I don’t make mistakes, and that I’m always trying to improve. Pete knows, we talk about it all the time, I’m always challenging myself in new and different ways. But that is fulfilling to me. And dating, for me after divorce, was very easy. Because I was no longer worried about, am I finding the right one? I was no longer worried, if someone didn’t want to go out with me again, how that was going to impact me. I was like, really? The last time I split up with someone I was worried about when I was going to see my kid, and what we were doing with the house.
Seth Nelson: The fact that you don’t want to go out next Thursday night is really not a big deal in my life. And then when you tell them that, they get all offended. And then I’m like, I don’t know why you’re offended, you’re breaking up with me. But okay, sorry.
Laura Friedman Williams: That’s funny.
Seth Nelson: But that’s part of finding who you are. And being more in tune with yourself and knowing what you need to do to live a content life. I’m not big into happily ever after, I’m not even big into I want my kid to be happy. Because happy is an emotion. And it comes and goes. If you got a kid who’s happy at a funeral, you got a problem. And that’s just our society, we say we want happiness. And I just translate that, I want my son to live a fulfilling life, and to make his path and to have his journey. And within that, will bring happiness along the way. But you don’t necessarily be happy go lucky all the time. I just don’t think that’s the way it works.
Laura Friedman Williams: Yeah, I remember my mom saying that to me. My mom was so devastated for me when my marriage ended. And she said, "We have this emphasis on our kids being happy. And our happiness is tied into our children’s happiness. So I can’t be happy, because you’re not happy." And she said, "And I think we’ve got it wrong. I think that what we need to instill in our children is not the need to be happy all the time, but just the ability to be resilient. Because you have to know that you’re strong, and you’ll come back from it." And I remember thinking that, and a little later, my daughter was home from college visiting, and she said, "Mom, you seem so much happier now." And I said, "I think I’m happier, because I’ve redefined happiness. It’s no longer about bouncing out of the house and greeting the world. It’s about being peaceful." My happiness is now defined by how peaceful I feel.
Laura Friedman Williams: If I feel at peace with myself, I feel happy. And so I carry that forward. That that is enough. That is what I want, a lack of internal strife. A sense of I am where I should be, that brings me peace. If I have clarity, I have peace. So I try to achieve inner peace now, more than I say I try to achieve happiness.
Pete Wright: Well, that I think that is so illustrative of a point that I would really like to get across here, which is happiness is a learned response to stimulus. And it takes me back to the great, great Seinfeld episode where Jerry’s dating a woman who, she’s a crier. It’s the big crier episode. And she drops a hot dog on the ground and she starts bawling. And then a minute later, she gets a call that her grandmother has passed away. She’s like, well, that happens. And it’s not a big deal. I think about that all the time. There is a way, as you describe, Laura, that you can retune your response to the things that make you happy, that bring you joy, that gives you that surprise, sort of shock that life is well worth living on a day to day basis. And I think coming out of a divorce, as we have heard for a number of seasons now, it’s hard to retrain out of grief.
Laura Friedman Williams: Yep, it’s really hard. And I think there’s a lot of framing, there’s a lot of framing that we do for ourselves on a daily basis of how we perceive ourselves. Do we perceive ourselves as a victim? As the loser of a situation? As the one who got dumped? The one who got left behind? I mean, the way we frame our perception of ourself is huge. And for a long time, I did perceive myself in some really negative ways. I perceived myself as the biggest loser of all time, very damaged and broken. Because I thought, I think I look good enough at my midlife, that my husband should want to stay with me. I’m smart, I’m fun, I cook really nice dinners, our home is immaculate. So if he doesn’t want me anymore, if he’s rejected me for another woman, then he sees something in me that nobody else can see, not even me. I can’t even see what he sees. And it must be so bad that he had to go and find love elsewhere.
Laura Friedman Williams: And that made me feel very negative about myself. And I remember one day talking to this, we’d been seeing this couples therapist, we’d definitely already decided that we were going to get divorced. But we were seeing this couples therapist to help us sort out co-parenting issues. And I said, "He’s just damaged me so badly, I feel so damaged." And she said, "I really don’t like that word. You’re not a damaged human being, you’re just hurt. And you’re in recovery, you’re grieving, you’re not damaged." And I thought, that was so powerful for me.
Seth Nelson: The grieving process is, it’s real. It is something you’re going through and people go through when they’re going through a divorce. And as a divorce practitioner, as a lawyer that deals with this every day, part of what I do that my clients sometimes know and sometimes don’t, is I evaluate where they are in the grieving process. And sometimes what will happen is, a potential client might call and just say, well, I’m just thinking about it, the word divorce has come up. And my friends said I really need to talk to a lawyer, so I’m talking to you, but I’m not ready yet. And then a year or two later, they’re calling me like, I’m ready, I’m done. And I’m like, whoa, okay, now we’ve got to deal with the legal divorce. I know emotionally, you’re now ready. But it’s not going to go that fast. And that grieving doesn’t always happen in a straight line. And step by step, it comes and goes.
Seth Nelson: And sometimes they’ll be like, I just want out, I’m done. Give it all away. And then I’m like, I can do that, we can sign that document. Let me pull out the goals that you told me at the beginning. And now you’re going against that, I think it’s because you’re grieving, I think you’re in the bargaining stage, or I just don’t care stage, I just want it done stage. And there’s all this stuff. And once you get to acceptance, and you can be more level-headed about it, and start moving your life in a direction that is more positive for you, it gets a lot easier. But it’s grief. And we should call it grief. And when you can understand that’s what you’re going through at the moment, then maybe we’ll kind of take a breath and step back, and it won’t be as hard.
Laura Friedman Williams: I think that’s a very fair point and a compassionate point of view. Because I think what a lot of people don’t realize is I didn’t… I mean, how many people that I know growing up whose parents were divorced. And I just thought-
Pete Wright: I’m going to guess a lot, because I think we’re in the same generation. That’s a lot.
Laura Friedman Williams: Yes. And most of my friends came from divorced homes. And my father had died when I was young, and my mom remarried. And the man she married had been divorced. So it was all very familiar and comfortable for me. And I didn’t see it, as, because my father had died when I was young. And my mom was widowed at such a young age, to me, that was the absolute worst thing that could happen. That you could grow up and never know your parent, or that you could be left on your own. And that’s pretty bad. I mean, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, that is really hard. But divorce is death. And I think it’s very hard for people to understand that when they haven’t been divorced. But when you have your hip attached to somebody else’s, whether that’s for two years, or 30 years or more, and you are severed from them, you will feel broken. And it is a death. Because that person, as their role in your life, is dead, it’s over.
Laura Friedman Williams: And that was really hard for me to wrap my head around. Like he’s here… my husband anymore. I’m grieving for him, but he’s right in front of me. He’s still a dad to my kids, so he’s not dead. Two, my kids aren’t even speaking to him, so is he kind of dead, because he’s useless to me right now, as their dad? There were so many issues. And I hope anybody who’s listening to this, who has friends or parents that are getting divorced just knows, divorce is brutal. No matter how kindly and lovingly you do it, you still have to separate yourself from a person you once really loved, and that’s painful.
Pete Wright: Gets to that simple, not easy. You may be able to find an attorney who can make the divorce process simple, but it will very likely never be easy.
Seth Nelson: I couldn’t agree more. And just to kind of punctuate that, Laura, what you’re saying, I also feel that, not only is it just so painful and difficult, but people just don’t understand it unless they’ve been through it.
Laura Friedman Williams: Yeah.
Seth Nelson: And so that’s part of the reason we do this podcast, is to reach out to people and say, there’s a whole lot of people out there that have been through it, and we know what you’re going through. And we’re just here to help and get you through today. And then maybe you can pass that forward on tomorrow to someone else, because it’s not easy. It’s never easy. And I’m very fortunate, I’m very close with my former spouse. But that didn’t happen overnight. It took some time it. We gave each other space after we got divorced, which I think was healthy for both of us. And ultimately, we were both very focused on our kid who is amazing. I’m a little bias, of course, but we work well together when it comes to him. And that’s always been the most important. And we knew that our relationship, ultimately, was going to impact our child. But it takes time.
Seth Nelson: And we were married for three years, my girlfriend calls it a long weekend. But that’s much different than 27. But it still all happens. And so no matter where you are, how long you’ve been married, how many kids you had or didn’t have… And it’s different when you are married, as opposed to when you date someone for a long time, and then you break up.
Laura Friedman Williams: Well, I think also, part of what you’re giving up, and this is why I think it doesn’t necessarily matter how long you’ve been together, you’re giving up your vision of your future together. So whether it’s three years, or 30 years, or whatever, if you think that is the rest of your life… Like for me getting married was not like, oh, I’ll give this a try, there’s always divorce. This was it for me, you do or die in this marriage. You will make it work. And so having to adjust to the fact that, it was not going to be forever. Having to give up the future. Whether or not you’ve been in a long term relationship for three years, or 30, giving up the future is pretty hard for anybody. You really have to like find your footing again.
Laura Friedman Williams: You have a vision of how your life is going to be. And I liked my vision. My vision was very comfortable and happy. So giving up something that was comfortable, safe, loving, secure, was, why would I give that up? Why would I walk away from that to go into the unknown? So I can have more sex? I mean, it’s not the worst reason, but it’s not necessarily, it wouldn’t have been my driving force, if somebody had offered it to me. Like you can either go be an 18 year old again, live like you’re 18, or keep this marriage. It wouldn’t even have been a question for me. Until my husband cheated on me.
Pete Wright: But this is the thing I think is most interesting, is how easy it is to take this journey of sex and discovery and just make it a journey of sex and discovery. Then all we’ve done is rewritten Porky’s, you know what I mean? It’s sort of empty. And this is, as you get through the book, it’s not really an experience of sexual reinvention. It’s kind of an exploration of how sex unlocks so many other opportunities for change. And-
Laura Friedman Williams: Thank you for seeing that, yes-
Pete Wright: … I think it’s really important. Because as titillating as the sequences themselves can be, as funny as they can be, it is first and foremost really the story of what happens the next day, for you, personally. And I think that is an incredibly generous act on your part, to share that piece. Because otherwise, it’s just, dear penthouse, I never thought I would be writing this letter. And so I hope anybody who’s curious about the book is-
Seth Nelson: That kind of flows off your tongue a little too easily-
Pete Wright: Hang on, I have to close my journal.
Seth Nelson: I’ve been talking to you for a long time, and that one just seemed a little too real.
Pete Wright: Oh, God, outed on the podcast. No, well, I do think it’s an incredibly generous exploration on your part. And I just love the whole idea of trying to figure out, like when you’re turning the pages in your book of just being married, and then get to a page after your divorce, that’s the first page that’s blank. That metaphor is very painful and real, to figure out. Here I am, in the catbird seat, I’m married. But I was sitting there on the couch last night with my wife and we’re at 22 years. And I had spent some hours yesterday afternoon reading the book, and it hadn’t really crossed my mind until we’re sitting there, we were watching Schmigadoon. And our feet, it gets very hot, so we were sitting kind of far apart, but our feet were just touching, our toes were touching, bare feet.
Pete Wright: And I got choked up at the thought of, like, what would it be like if I had to go through this process? That feeling of emptiness is, just doing this show is incredibly motivating to keep working on my marriage.
Laura Friedman Williams: That’s very touching, I’m a little choked up too, now.
Pete Wright: Well, you’re welcome, and-
Seth Nelson: A divorce podcast about saving your relationship and Pete does the hard work at home.
Laura Friedman Williams: And how great marriage is.
Pete Wright: And how awesome marriage could be.
Seth Nelson: Wow.
Pete Wright: But my last question, as we get to wrapping up, Laura, I really do… not that it’s about me. Let’s talk about how you think about me, no.
Laura Friedman Williams: You seem fine-
Pete Wright: The real question is how you use that experience in your emotional sort of journey with new men. Not your sexual relationship, but we’ll say number six, who’s hanging around. This experience of being able to explore and not be too guarded. Do you have guidance for other people who are in the same quandary? How do you open up and not be too inclined to protect yourself?
Laura Friedman Williams: We’ve been together for two and a half years now, so where I am today, is very different where I was. When I read back, parts of the book, in our early days, there was a lot of self protection that was happening. Because I was always afraid of getting rejected. I didn’t even always know what I wanted. But I didn’t like him being the one to decide. So for example, I write about an experience when I invited him over for dinner with me and my youngest daughter. And just said, just come over as a friend, and we’ll just hang out together. It was a Friday night, and I was going to be home with nothing to do. And I thought, that could be fun. And he was like, oh my God, no. The last thing I want to go is to your house and make slime with a bunch of six year olds.
Laura Friedman Williams: And I was like, okay, I got to go. I was just heartbroken. I thought, wow, I thought I knew this guy. And he seemed to really like me. And yet the idea of being in my house and my family, he’s disgusted by even the notion. And I thought, this might be it for us. We talked about it and I understood that it wasn’t about me or my kids. It was about where he was in his own life, with his kids. We had a lot of bumps like that. I talk about another time where I slept over the first time at his apartment. And in the morning, he woke up early, got dressed, kissed me goodbye and told me to lock the door behind me, because he was going to the farmers market and to yoga. And he left and I got out of bed. And I made the bed and I got dressed and I went home and I thought well, that was fun while it lasted. That was like four months in. And I just… there’s no way I’m going to be rejected by another man again.
Laura Friedman Williams: This is not for me then, I’m not going to be with somebody who can’t understand my value. Now, it’s so different. Now I think we really respect that we both need our own… we have our own friends, we have our own children, we have our own families. Sometimes that means we can do things together, and sometimes we can’t. He respects that I like to be with my kids without him.
Seth Nelson: Well, really, Laura, what you’re really talking about there was just communication.
Laura Friedman Williams: Yes, that’s very true.
Seth Nelson: And 95% of what you said, that you get hurt by, with this guy, once you talked to him about it, it had nothing to do with you. It had to do with him. It’s just how you perceived his stuff. That’s what we talk about all the time on this show, is that, as hard as it is, most of the stuff that these other people are doing is not about you. You put someone else in your situation, they’re going to do the same thing to that person. You put the next one in, they’re going to do the same thing to that person, and the next one. So as hurtful and as personal as it feels, it’s usually their shit that they’re dealing with. And it’s just, there was a trigger that came up. Like, hey, come over, make slime. And it’s like, whoa. Okay, making slime’s not that bad with six year olds. If it’s not your deal, it’s not your deal. Okay, but why did it have such a strong negative response? What is going on there? That’s the real issue, that’s the real communication-
Laura Friedman Williams: I think you actually make a very good point. Because I think one of the reasons why number six has stuck around so long, is because he is willing to look at what he does and say, I reacted this way, because of this. This is what I can give right now. This is what I can work on. This is what I can’t give. And so we’re able to communicate that way. So he responds accordingly. It’s not like, I just don’t want to come over and that’s the end of it. I also think, I just want to say, it’s very important to me to say this, that part of all of this is that I feel it’s very important for women or men to stay true to themselves and what’s important to them.
Laura Friedman Williams: I will not give up the things that I’ve discovered about myself that are important to me, to maintain a relationship. I want to be in a relationship where somebody respects me and loves me so much, that they can accept the parts of me that I need to maintain for myself. So if that means I say to you, I’m never going to want to get married, I don’t want to live with you. I want to maintain the right to be non-monogamous. You have the right to walk away and find somebody else, because those things don’t work for you. Or you can stop and think well, I love you, too. I respect you, too. And let’s see how long we can play this out. And so that’s what number six has been able to do. And that’s why he’s still in the game.
Seth Nelson: Well, really what you’re doing there, Laura, in my view, is you’re setting boundaries for yourself.
Laura Friedman Williams: Yes.
Seth Nelson: And you’re identifying them and you’re communicating them. Now, he has the absolute right, like you said, to say, well, I want to get married. And if you don’t, then I’m out. And you understand that’s just a choice. And all that is, to me, is mature people saying, here are my boundaries. Here’s what I’m comfortable doing. And really what you’re doing is making a request. And that’s all we can ever do in these relationships, is you have a request. I would like to stay with you, as long as we don’t get married. I am having this request that we don’t get married. And if he goes, I’m not going to accept that, because I want to get married. Well, then it doesn’t work. But having those clear boundary discussions and being able to articulate them and understand that, that might be okay, well, then I’m out. And we all do that in all of our relationships.
Seth Nelson: There’s things that, I’m sure, that Pete is not allowed to do at the house, because there is a boundary. And if he crosses that boundary, there’s going to be something bad that’s going to happen.
Pete Wright: I want to say for the record, writing letters to pornographic magazines is one of those things that I don’t do.
Seth Nelson: Only because it’s a boundary set by your wife, let’s be clear now.
Pete Wright: I’m a very creative writer and I don’t write anything to pornographic magazines.
Seth Nelson: Do they still accept-
Laura Friedman Williams: Okay, fair enough-
Seth Nelson: … those letters? Do they still accept those letters?
Pete Wright: I don’t know, it’s all by text. It’s all TikTok.
Seth Nelson: Yeah, see, I was just seeing if you were bite, if you knew the answer, that’s what that was. I didn’t really care.
Pete Wright: Leading the witness, objection. Look, I think that all of this that you’re talking about, these are gifts that 18, 20, 22 year old Pete would never have been able to accomplish. Having those kinds of conversations is a gift of maturity, is a gift of middle age experience. And that’s something to hang your hat on. That’s really cool. And these are all great stories, in Available: A Memoir of Sex and Dating After a Marriage Ends, which you can find everywhere finer books are sold, and audible, and it narrated by you. That’s an accomplishment, well done.
Laura Friedman Williams: Yeah. I mean, I can’t listen to it. Because when I do, I just cringe. I think I’ve gotten to the second hour, and I’m like, God, I feel so bad for anyone who has to listen to this voice-
Pete Wright: That’s 11 hours and 28 minutes, no-
Laura Friedman Williams: … but people tell me they love it, so-
Pete Wright: … you sound great. You sound terrific.
Laura Friedman Williams: Thank you, thank you-
Pete Wright: That is it. Anything else you want to talk about? You want to plug? Where do you want people to go to find you? Just go buy the book and then that’s it, or is there more?
Laura Friedman Williams: You can pre order it, because it’s not going to be available in the United States on Amazon until September 14th, so it can be pre ordered there. It was released in England first. But the audio and ebook are available right this minute. And I’m on Instagram on @laurafriedmanwilliams, that’s Friedman with an I, E. I’m on Twitter. I’m on Medium, I do a lot of writing on Medium. LinkedIn, Facebook-
Pete Wright: We’ll put all the links in-
Laura Friedman Williams: … you name it, I’m all over. And I actually love to hear from people. I love to hear people’s stories. And I love it when readers feel something and want to connect with me. So if people want to reach out to me, I will respond.
Pete Wright: Outstanding. Laura Friedman Williams, thank you so, so much for joining us, for sharing your story. And to everybody, for downloading and listening to the show, we appreciate your time, your attention, we appreciate you doing the work. On behalf of Laura Friedman Williams and Seth Nelson, America’s favorite family law attorney, I’m Pete Wright. We’ll catch you next week right here on How to Split a Toaster, a divorce podcast about saving your relationships.
Speaker 4: Seth Nelson is an attorney with Nelson Koster Family Law and Mediation, with offices in Tampa, Florida. While we may be discussing family law topics, How to Split a Toaster is not intended to, nor is it providing legal advice. Every situation is different. If you have specific questions regarding your situation, please seek your own legal counsel with an attorney licensed to practice law in your jurisdiction. Pete Wright is not an attorney or employee of Nelson Koster. Seth Nelson is licensed to practice law in Florida.
Seth Nelson is a Tampa based family lawyer known for devising creative solutions to difficult problems. In How to Split a Toaster, Nelson and co-host Pete Wright take on the challenge of divorce with a central objective — saving your most important relationships with your family, your former spouse, and yourself.