The Typical Three

Chapter 3 emphasizes that everyone usually suffers in a war – so is it necessary? Will it get you what you want?

Ms. Phillips highlights three types of warfare that individuals engage in when going through a divorce:

  • Psychological warfare – An unsuccessful way to settle disputes where one person (or both) attempts to make the other question their sanity. It is a powerful and sinister attempt to keep the upper hand and of course, control over the other person.
  • Emotional warfare – The most common of all divorce wars, which are often fought to gain an advantage in court especially with children. Geared at attacking the other person’s feelings, this type of war has severe repercussions.
  • Legal warfare – These cases are often settled on the courtroom steps or shortly before a trial is due to begin. This type of war is very costly and more likely to experience many delays in hearings and settlements.

The art of control comes in the ability to find equitable solutions and to make peace.

Chapter 3 Sample Excerpt:

“And you can tell her attorney that I will be picking my son up at the house, not at daycare!” screamed an irate, joint-custody dad, forcing me to hold the receiver as far away from my ear as my arm could reach.

“I hear that, but”

“and that’s not all. You can also tell her attorney to tell her that the last time we had a conversation, I did not overlook the fact that she asked me three times to repeat the name of our son’s baseball coach.”

“What are you saying, Herb?” I inquired, though I already knew where he was going with this comment.

“What am I saying?” he repeated. “What I’m saying is that Lindsay is losing it. I told you that. I tried nicely,” he continued, with the calm flatness as that of a blasé airline pilot informing the passengers of an updated arrival time, “to ask her to get help. You know her mother had an early onset of Alzheimer’s, and she’s always worried about that. And, well,” he went on, unable to hide the condescension in his voice, “I, too, have wondered if maybe it would be best for our son if she underwent a thorough mental exam.”


“Ms. Phillips”


“Please help Carter, please.” Carter was their eight-year-old. “Help Carter?”

“Yes. You can tell her attorney to tell her that Carter has expressed fear about his mother’s forgetfulness.”

I believed Herb was talking about the “cupcake incident.” A few weeks earlier Lindsay had totally spaced when she forgot to drop off the desserts to Carter’s second grade teacher for the Thanksgiving fest.

“You mean the cupcake thing?”

“I mean the cupcake thing.”

“Well, don’t forget, Herb, it was the day after you had Sarah drop Carter off for the first time”


“You remember: the day Sarah introduced herself as your fiancé.”


“So some people are traumatized to learn that their ex is dating so soon, let alone engaged.”

I tried to make the next statement diplomatically. I said it rather quietly, “Herb…”


“You’ve only been separated for seven months. Let me tell you something. Sarah making that announcement and flashing that ringwell, that’s quite a shock.” I tried to say it with a little laugh, hoping he might respond with some compassion.

“Well, whatever,” he said coldly. “Look, I don’t care how much it costs the reason I called was to tell you to tell her attorney that I won’t do a four-way conference. I want to litigate. I want you to take my case to trial. I want custody of my son.”

“It’s probably going to get expensive, and your chance of prevailing is not all that great.” I made one last attempt at a peace summit.

“I don’t care. Money is no object. I have to go now,” he said almost in the same breath, “Just about to close that deal on the hotel chain.”

I said goodbye on top of a dial tone.