Divorce: it’s one of the most isolating, unraveling, confusing experiences you can go through. And the fact that millions of women have survived it or are going through it alongside you doesn’t make you feel less alone. But what if you could tap into the divorce survival strategies of these women? What if you could fortify your journey with the insight of those who have already traveled theirs?
In an effort to “help women help women,” we sent out a survey to 36 women who have survived divorce. We asked each woman to share her most important piece of advice for other women contemplating or going through a divorce.
Some of these divorce survival strategies will hit home for you. Some may even surprise you.
But all will give you experiential wisdom to contemplate as you navigate your path forward.
Hopefully, you will also recognize the desire and willingness of women to help hold each other up through the tough times.
That’s what SAS for Women is all about: support AND solutions for women.
And the contributors to this survey all carry that compassionate, supportive tribal gene.
They’ve been where you are—through every stage of it. And they want to help spare you any unnecessary pain they can. We know that when you’re in crisis you have limited bandwidth and need to hear the most important messages clearly distilled.
These are the things you must take in! Depending on where you are in your journey—thinking about divorce, in the throes of it, coming out of it—see if you can connect with at least one quote from each section.
Important things to remember before, during, and after divorce:
- “You deserve to be treated with respect, to be told the truth, and to live without fear in your marriage.
- “Do not ever lose your self-respect.”
- “Trust yourself.”
- “You are valuable and deserve to live the life you choose.”
- “You are right, and you deserve to be happy. Listen to your gut and then create a coalition of support.”
- “Get organized, and take practical steps from the beginning.”
- “Get affairs in order prior to filing.”
- “Find housing and get rid of belongings as best you can ahead of time.”
- “Remember while you are going through it, he* is no longer your partner, ally, or trusted friend. Verify everything.”
If you are in the thinking stage, you may be sitting on the fence between leaving and saving your marriage.
You are not alone and no, you don’t have a monopoly on feeling crazy. These women have been there, too. So, which one of these divorce survival strategies stands out to you as a must-do if you are serious, too, about breaking the cycle of living in the crazy zone?
- “Don’t think about it for years. If there are problems, put in the work to resolve them or get out.“
- “Get counseling and focus on yourself first.“
- “Participate in Christian marital counseling before filing.”
(*SAS note: A religious approach to counseling may or may not be what you seek. If not, consider discernment counseling to find out if there is any hope left in your marriage.)
- “Make sure you gave your all to save your marriage so you won’t regret the decision you made to divorce.”
- “Arm yourself with information. I think I waited so long to say I wanted a divorce because I didn’t think I could financially make the break or raise my child on my own. The pre-divorce class I did helped so much to give me the validation and confidence I needed. Podcasts helped, too!”
- “Think about what’s best for you and your life. You deserve that.”
- “Just rip the bandage off and leave. Don’t sit with the unhappiness.”
Ahh, the finances….
Women statistically suffer financially more than men during and after divorce.
This area may be uncomfortable for you, especially if you weren’t in charge of the finances or didn’t work outside the home.
But there’s a reason that 20% of the respondents focused their divorce survival strategies on finances.
Please pay close attention to this section. The antsier a piece of advice makes you feel, the more relevant it probably is.
- “Be savvy about the finances.”
- “Be on top of your financial situation.”
- “Sort out your finances carefully and thoroughly. Make lists and tick them off.”
- “Make sure you have the financial means to get a divorce.”
- “Have enough money to survive for a year.”
- “Prepare financially if you can. If you can mitigate daily financial pressure, you can work on recovering after divorce.”
- “Never lie about the finances.”
Take care of YOU and get support!
Women have a hard time thinking about themselves first, or at all. More often, we put everyone else (the kids, our spouse, the dog, the work projects, the volunteer commitments) in front of our own needs. And yet if we don’t take care of ourselves, we are of no value to those we love. This is why it’s so important to have support, to remind you that you matter and that you deserve to honor your one precious life. Sometimes we need our friends or support team to remind us of our own value or to give us a smack and, to paraphrase Cher in Moonstruck, say “Snap out of it!” Whether you’re standing on the other side of divorce (or in a marriage you worked to save), you’ll recognize the lifeline that supports you once you have it. You’ll find it makes all the difference in the world.
- “Spend as much money as you need to create a support team. It’s worth every penny.”
- “Identify your mentor or coach. And don’t talk to everyone about your situation. Not everyone deserves to hear the gritty details.”
- “Find a support community. My Pals (short for Palomas) are my lifeline.”
Understand your feelings will ebb and flow.
Grief is a natural part of divorce. But all your other emotions (guilt, anger, sadness, hope, rejection, smallness, etc) will run the gamut, too, and not always in a predictable order.
- “Prepare your heart.”
- “Prepare for loneliness.”
- “Be prepared for the emotional swings.”
- “Go with your gut feelings.”
- “You will find a way, because you deserve to be happy.”
Look for the big picture, and stay committed to your future.
Be realistic about the challenges of divorce. But, just as importantly, be confident in your ability to overcome them. You have encountered difficult times before. Remember? There’s a survivor in you, and behind her is a champion.
- “Divorce is a long, yet worthwhile process.”
- “Be strong. Have the big picture in mind, and time will heal you.”
- “Be happy no matter the outcome. Second-guessing once it’s over will only stress you out.”
- “Make the pain of tearing your family apart worth it. Don’t squander your second chance. Don’t be afraid to make your life meaningful, and don’t be afraid to connect with people again.”
In the vibe of saving the best for last, there’s one final point sent by one of the women:
36. Bonus! You will survive!
(And, just in case you need a little energy behind that mantra, Gloria Gaynor has you covered.)
Have a piece of wisdom or a divorce survival strategy to share with the SAS tribe? We invite you to share what’s gotten you through tough times in the comment box below. Why? Because we know firsthand, amazing things happen when women share with and support each other.
Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention.
SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.
*SAS supports same-sex marriage. For the sake of clarity and simplicity, we may refer to your spouse as “he” in this article.