When my marriage therapist, my wife and I all realized that divorce was inevitable and therapy was no longer needed she suggested a program called Rebuilders in Boulder, Colorado. A few days later I was telling my neighbor that I was getting divorced and they said a divorced couple from our cul-de-sac recommended a program called Rebuilders. As I started dating again I met an amazing woman that recommended Rebuilders. I had heard enough. I knew that if every person that took this course was recommending it then I should do it. How many times in life do you here from people you respect that something is awesome. I was suffering and there was something worthwhile that could help? I’m in.
I took the 10 week course from Bob Manthy in Boulder in January 2018. The course has been conducted 90 times since it was created over 20 years ago by Norm Gibson (4 courses per year). The course is based on the book “Rebuilding: When Your Relationship Ends” by Bruce Fisher and Robert Alberti and was written over 35 years ago. Since then it has been updated 4 times with new and better quality content. Bruce Fisher was a therapist and worked with lots of people going through divorce. He found 19 steps that people needed to go through to fully recover and be even better than before.
This is a review of the course and an intro into the topics that were discussed. Even though I am sharing the topics please understand that the power of this course can only be obtained by attending the course. What makes this course “amazing” is that you are with other people that are all sharing similar pain. You are moving through the process together. This is what makes it powerful. Sometimes someone in your small group says something in a way that is what you were trying to put into words. In some cases it was powerful to accept someone despite their misdeeds or to be accepted. I can’t stress this enough – if you want to rebuild your self then a group of like-minded people is the most powerful tool you will find.
There is a no dating rule in the program. That is “No dating other people in the class”. This is supposed to be a safe class, where there isn’t any weirdness between people. It is an awesome rule that really opens everyone up for honest, uninhibited communication.
Our class, called RB90 (for the 90th Rebuilders Class), met Sunday nights from 5-8pm. Each week a few people would bring food that would be eaten at our “intermission”. Classes typically have around 30+ people there with about 60-80% being women and 90% being divorced or separated people. A few people per class are dealing with the death of a significant other.
Week 1: Welcome. An introduction to the course, then divide into small groups. At this point in my life I so badly wanted to share my story. I wanted to make sure others in the class knew that I had done nothing wrong in my marriage. I was the victim (more on that later). It felt good to get it out and to be able to share. Others felt the same way.
Week 2: Adaptive patterns. In this week we begin to look at ourselves and how our behavior influences our communication. We don’t notice our own patterns because they are just “us”. Learning to see different ways of communication opens our eyes to what others see in us.
Week 3: Grief. This is a big week for everyone and for me it was both the hardest and the most powerful. In doing my homework that week, my wife died (in my head). I learned to let go of the person that I had been planning to spend the rest of my life with. I sort of understood at the time that I attended her funeral. Everything I was hoping for and the things she had done to me and the kids died that Wednesday night in my house. No one attended the funeral except me. But there were a lot of tears. I still cry writing this but nothing like I did that night.
Week 4: Anger. Before Week 3 I was extremely angry at my ex-wife. I was surprised to find that by dealing with my grief the week before my anger had subsided by probably 75%. For most people this was also a very powerful week. By doing the assigned homework around processing my anger I was done. I was tired from the emotional roller coaster but I actually for the first time felt like I wasn’t frantically trying to hold my life together. I was able to be present with my children and actually be around my ex-wife without feeling the anger rise up the second I saw her.
Week 5: Transition. It was hard for me to fathom but in 4 weeks I actually was ready to start moving forward and creating something new. It began in Week 5 with starting to look forward to working on me, designing the life that I want to have.
Week 6: Masks. This is when we start to look more at how we present ourself to the world. Me? I’m perfect. I’m superman. I do no wrong. My ex-wife complained during our therapy that she felt that she wasn’t good enough around me. I expected her to be perfect because I was perfect. Even though intellectually I know that I’m not, I still tried to present myself that way. Apparently everyone feels judged around me. Wow. I had no idea that by trying to be perfect that others felt insignificant. Interesting insight although I’m still not sure if I should change.
Week 7: Self-Worth. After a divorce we question ourselves. Clearly something is wrong with me. This week is about loving ourselves, exactly as we are. This is harder said than done. I thought I valued myself – remember, I’m perfect? I saw at a deeper level what it is to have self-worth. In fact, I think about the insights I got in this week nearly every day.
Week 8: Love after Love. I started dating a woman before the class started, and still am. She is an amazing person and even though divorced at around the same time as myself she had two years to process the disintegration of her marriage. Nevertheless, this week’s topic helped me put my relationship with her, and the type of relationship I want to have in perspective. Who am I in a relationship? It turns out this is the magic of life – it is always evolving. Learning to process myself and my relationship with my significant other is what makes life interesting, to me at least.
Week 9: Trust and Intimacy. OK, the title doesn’t do it justice. Mostly this week was about sex. Sex carries a lot of baggage and it did for me. For this class we examined our beliefs and baggage with the opposite sex. There was some serious tension in the air that night. Everyone I think was anticipating and fearing the night. Some people in the class hadn’t had sex for years. Everyone learned some good tools and had a better vision of how things should go as we “re-enter” the dating scene.
Week 10: Freedom and Confidence. This was graduation night. It was a lot like my high school graduation. I’m glad to be done but I’m also nervous about my future and yet I felt much more ready to move forward in my life. Everyone was happy and it felt like I had just spent 4 years living with these people. We weren’t just classmates, we were brothers and sisters that had been through a traumatic experience together. That is a bond that doesn’t break. I feel like now I could call up 10 people from the class and ask for help and they would drop what they are doing to help.
Almost every week we had homework. Some of it was to read 1 or 2 chapters from the Rebuilders book, sometimes it was to do something from a work book received, maybe call 4 or 5 people in the class, or journal. The homework was 80% of the meat of the class for me. I got a lot out of being with my classmates but the work I did reflecting on myself and taking action on that was where my transformation occurred.
The class is organized and conducted by Bob Manthy and Ilyse Bloom. However, there are about 10 volunteers, which are participants from previous classes that really make the difference. They are chosen for being outstanding participants. At times in the class, the participants are shy about opening up. The volunteers get up their and reveal their innermost issues. They show us where they were when they took the class and somehow we as participants see that we won’t be judged and that we too can powerfully share. Each volunteer gives in some different way beyond helping in small groups. They might organize communications, bringing food, attending an event with participants, just making sure each person in the class has a friend.
Bob works really hard at making the volunteers feel special (they are!) and making sure that they are prepared to help us as much as possible.
Starting in week 3 the volunteers start organizing events. It might be just going for drinks after the class, or meeting for coffee. After a few weeks the events heat up. Free mediation on Wednesdays, Salsa dancing on Thursday nights, learn to make ready-to-eat meals, visit a pig farm, etc. This is also where a lot of people start to form friendships and outside connections. Many people in the class have lost their friends in the divorce (more on that in a future post). The class is not just a reinvention seminar it is access to amazing people and lifelong friends.
All of the people that referred me to the Rebuilders program were right. It IS amazing. I am lucky to have it so close to me. I read books that were recommended to me before and during the class but nothing is as powerful as being in-person.
If you are in the Boulder, CO area and would like to take the course, I can’t recommend the Boulder program enough.
The following links are available to unverified locations around the country. You can try to see if the program is aviailable. If not, let us know where you are and maybe we can help get one started in your area.
- New Jersey
- New York
- North Carolina
- Puerto Rico
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota