Should I divorce? Should I stay for the kids? How will I survive?

Browse Articles on the topic of Contemplating Divorce

Divorce papers by Graham for Unsplash

Divorce Papers: What the Heck Are They?

While no two divorces are exactly alike, one aspect always stays the same: the paperwork. You hear the term “divorce papers” casually thrown around all the time in movies, TV shows, or by gossipy neighbors. But what actually are divorce papers?

It is tricky to know exactly what they are because it is such a broad term. They technically refer to all the papers needed for the divorce process. The actual number of documents included in the complete paperwork varies from couple to couple. However, four primary papers almost always accompany the divorce: the petition, the summons, the answer, and the judgment. 

Paper #1: Starting the Divorce Petition

First things first, someone needs to begin the divorce process. The petition is the first step in the divorce. This means that one spouse needs to officially ask a court to end their marriage. This is the legal step that sometimes follows a separation. So, if you are the person initiating the process, you will fill out a form called a petition (sometimes called a “petition for dissolution of marriage” or the “complaint”). This form varies from state to state and can sometimes be found online or in person at the court.

In some states, the complaint is not a standard form, but an individualized statement. The petition has general information about both spouses and the length of the marriage. This is your first chance to indicate what you want from the judge. In this first form, you might be required to list out any community or separate property and how you would ideally split it. However, just because you indicate this is how you want to split it, it might not be divided as so. If children are involved, the spouse starting the divorce process will need to indicate what they would ideally want in terms of custody and care. When this form is finished, it is turned in or “filed” with the court, and you need to give a copy to your spouse. This divorce paper filing is the first step in the divorce process.


If you’re not ready for divorce papers but are contemplating separation or divorce, 

you might want to start here: “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce”.


Paper #2: Informing the Other Person – The Summons and Service

Now, as lovely as it would be to go through the entire process without your spouse, legally, they need to know that you have filed for a divorce. They learn that you have filed for divorce through the service of the divorce paperwork. 

“Service” is when someone (every state has different laws on who this person can be) gives your spouse the first divorce papers. 

The service aspect of divorce is often a dramatic or awkward plot point in the media, with someone providing the protagonist with the divorce papers at a very inconvenient time. Regardless of how it gets there, your petition must make it to your spouse to give them notice and allow them to participate in the process.

If you’ve been the ONE hit with divorce papers, check out “What to Do When You Get Served with Divorce Papers.”

There are generally two papers being served, the petition and a summons. The summons tells the other person that you have filed a divorce and usually tells them what they need to do next and how long they have to do it. This might include the amount of time they have to respond if there is a preliminary court hearing and general directions for the process. Every state has different rules regarding the summons and court process. 


Do you ever wonder who else in the world could be thinking “divorce”? 

Read “What Percentage of Marriages End in Divorce?” to understand more about the nuances of the question and to realize, you’re not alone.


Paper #3: Responding – The Answer

After your spouse is served with the initial paperwork, it’s time for them to ask the court for what they want. There are two main ways an answer can happen. The first is that your spouse just doesn’t respond to the petition and summons. This means that they have chosen to stay out of the divorce process, and you will skip right to a “default judgment.” A default judgment is when the judge will finalize the process based on the petition.

The other option is for your spouse to participate in the case and fill out and file an answer. The answer is a written response to the petition. It tells the court exactly what they want out of the proceeding. The answer will either agree or disagree with the terms set out in the petition. Some states require an appearance form along with the answer. This tells you and the court that your spouse is taking part in the court case and that they want to go to court (think of it as the counterpart to the summons).

Like the petition, the answer and appearance forms must be filed with the court clerk, either in person, online, or by mail, and served to the other person. You must know what your spouse intends to argue for in the negotiation or court process.

Paper #4: The Final Decision, The Last Step, The Judgment 

After the long process of papers, negotiation, and stress, all you want is for the divorce to be done and over with. However, a divorce is not finalized until the judge gives the final order, called a judgment. 

This final judgment follows some form of discussion (whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce) about what each person will get from the divorce. Judges, lawyers, and most people prefer to keep divorces out of the courtroom, so they will often explore other negotiation options, like mediation and arbitration, before going to court.

Official Decision by the Court

After the couple has come to some form of an agreement, a judge must give the court’s official decision that officially grants the divorce.  This is most often done with lawyers or a mediator submitting the divorce draft agreement to the court for the court to then review and stamp (usually) with approval.

We recommend that every woman, no matter how she divorces, seek a private consultation with a divorce attorney. Learn your rights and what you are entitled to (even if you elect for DIY divorce) before you start splitting things up. (Yes, no matter what your spouse says.) We’re not saying spend a bundle, but you’ll want to know why you don’t want to search for cheap divorce lawyers in the process.

This final judgment or divorce judgment is the final paper in the divorce paper repertoire. However, like all aspects of life and divorce, it is not always so straightforward. After the judgment, there is always the option of modifying the terms of your divorce by a court order. You might want to modify aspects like property division, debt division, or alimony. In order to change a final ruling in a divorce, there generally needs to be some substantial change of circumstances. This can include: a job loss, one spouse has remarried, or one spouse is earning significantly more than they were at the time of the divorce.

Paper #5: Other Common Papers

Every divorce is different, so they will all have different papers that come with them. These can include property division forms, more complicated child custody or visitation forms, or alimony/marital maintenance forms. Every state has a different procedure and might have other forms accompanying a standard divorce. 

Conclusion

Divorces are full of complex paperwork. It is important to keep track of them and stay organized and informed on the different papers needed to complete a divorce in your state. This is key to making the process go as smoothly as possible. 

Notes

Elizabeth Newland is a third-year law student in Chicago who is committed to children and family rights. She aims to work in a family-related non-profit firm after graduation. 


Choose not to go it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

How to separate from your spouse by Pexels.com (1)

How to Separate from Your Spouse While Living Together

Perhaps your marriage is at a tipping point. It’s not working, but you’re not quite sure divorce is your end-game. You know you have choices (kind of). For one, you can keep living as you are and hope a coconut of wisdom will fall on your head. You can go ahead and file for divorce. You can separate and move out (or have your husband move out). Or you can separate from your spouse while living together.

At a time when the difficulty of making decisions is amplified by emotions and potential consequences, you are forced to choose.

Even not choosing is choosing.

Every situation is as unique as the people in it. The presence and number of children, financial status, employment, age, health, family and friends who can help, amicability—they all weigh in.

Regardless of what’s driving your marriage toward potential finality, you and your spouse have to decide about your living arrangements during the decision process.

This may seem on the surface to be a personal decision that belongs only to you and your spouse. But what you do and how you do it can have legal (and financial) consequences.


You may wish to consider “What Percentage of Marriages End in Divorce?”


So, we’re going to talk about an option that is largely misunderstood but often necessary.

If you’re going to separate from your spouse while living together, there need to be rules in place.

And everyone needs to follow them.

Obviously, an in-house separation, also called a “poor man’s separation,” won’t work if everyone doesn’t “play nice.”

The irony?

The very mindsets and behaviors that have taken a backseat in your marriage now have to take the wheel.

Healthy communication, respect, keeping your word, sacrifice — you can’t have a successful marriage without them.

You also can’t successfully separate from your spouse while living together without them, either.

Obviously, this kind of separation works only when spouses have a functional amount of amicability and mutual respect. 


Read “What is an Amicable Divorce? And 5 Ways to Ensure One.”


If there is abuse, active addiction, and/or constant fighting going on between spouses, safety (physical and emotional), it most likely calls for full separation.

The Benefits of Separation

Let’s talk about legality for a moment.

Separation can serve a variety of purposes.

Generally, it’s a “trial” period that gives spouses a “break” from their marriage to determine how to go forward.

Instead of simply pulling the plug during a high-emotion, high-conflict time, separation gives you an opportunity to cool down and reflect.

Separation can also give you enough distance to get a glimpse of what single life would be like beyond just the “freedom.” If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then, theoretically, two spouses who still love one another will resolve to make things work.

This is, at least in part, why some states have mandatory separation/”cooling off” periods before beginning the divorce process or before the process can be completed. The courts want to know that couples are making the life-altering decision of divorce with forethought, clarity, conviction, and necessary information.

Therefore, if you plan to separate from your spouse while living together, you still need to treat that time as a separation. 

Even if you’re unsure about divorce at this point, you can’t be wishy-washy about your separation–at least if you want it to “count.”

Here are some guidelines for creating an effective in-home separation:

  • Hire a family law attorney to help you draw up the details of a binding, legal separation.

    This may feel like an awkward step when you’re still living together. After all, who’s going to monitor you behind closed doors?

    But, if you are still in a place of uncertainty, you both need to protect all potential outcomes.

    Having an official, legal document in place will give you both a point of accountability.

    It will also start the clock on any mandatory separation (unless your state requires separate domiciles).


Be careful with the lawyer you meet with. Check out “Why You Don’t Want to Search for Cheap Divorce Lawyers.”


  • Be clear about the purpose of this separation.

    Are you going through all this hassle so you can inch your way out of your marriage? Or are you truly using this time to work on yourself and your marriage?

    Are you doing this to save money or for some other reason like children, health, or convenience?

    Will you be attending marriage counseling together? Individual therapy?

    Or will you both be preparing for the divorce process from the convenience of the same home? If so you may consider reading “Women Share How to Survive Living Together During Divorce.”

  • Set a starting and ending date.

    Dates are important for a couple of reasons.

    For you and your spouse, it’s a way of making sure everyone is on the same page. It gives you a timeframe in which to do your “separation work.”

    And it keeps you both on track for reconvening in order to determine the next steps for your marriage (or divorce).

    Legally, dates let the courts know that you have met any requirements for an uninterrupted (i.e. no accidental hanky-panky on a vulnerable night) separation.

  • Separate your sleeping spaces.

    If you’re going to separate from your spouse while living together, sleeping arrangements will be the first pragmatic to tend to.

    You may not have the luxury of unoccupied bedrooms, but there are always creative solutions. Converting a basement, attic room, or office are all options.

    You may even decide to take turns sleeping in the common home and staying with a family member or friend.

    Taking turns in the home can preserve some sense of normalcy and constancy for children. But it will take clear boundaries and scheduling by the parents.

  • Separate your finances.

    Whether you and your spouse come through this separation phase together or are destined for divorce, finances will play a major role.

    This is the time to open separate accounts, even if you keep a joint account open for common bills like mortgage, rent, and utilities.

    By having an attorney work with you on the terms of your separation, you can establish clear guidelines about who pays for what.

    If you’ve been out of the workforce because you’ve stayed home to care for children, you will need that financial clarity.

    If, in the end, you decide to divorce, financial records from your separation will be an important contribution to your settlement documentation.


Separating or not, you might want to read “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


  • Establish clear boundaries around everything.

    Are we going to eat together as a family? Who is going to cook on what night? Are we going to shop for our own food and take turns buying for the kids?

    Who will be responsible for what chores and what expenses?

    Are we going to talk when we’re in the house together, or only briefly in passing?

    Are we going to have defined times to be in and out of the house?

    How are we going to handle the kids’ functions?

    Who can know about our separation?

  • Establish custodial guidelines for caring for children.

    Telling the kids. Ugh. It’s inevitably one of the most difficult, awkward steps of both divorce and separation.

    And yet, if you’re going to separate from your spouse while living together, you need to handle this step with great care.

    Younger children, despite their natural ability to pick up on everything, may adapt well. As long as their world remains constant in terms of provisions and care, they aren’t likely to need deeper explanations.

    Teens, however, are in their own relationship-development phase and are more likely to internalize your relationship choices.

    Children of any age don’t need to know the details of your marital issues. But they do need to understand changes in the family dynamics.

    Even an assurance of your love for them and an explanation of the “rules and layout” of the separation can suffice.

    Be clear about who will be responsible for what aspects of child care – what days, what events, what needs.

    Will you divide up the week for things like cooking, bedtime story-reading, and homework assistance?

    Honor the schedule you create. Your children’s comfort depends on it.


Consider “How to Coparent When You Absolutely Hate Your Ex.”


  • Don’t start dating during this time. And definitely don’t bring dates or new love interests into the house.

    Some experts will acknowledge dating as an inevitable part of the separation. But think about it with the long term in mind.

    First of all, you are still legally bound to your spouse. Your assets, your children and custody, your freedom to remarry–everything is still bound in marriage.

    Second, you are living in the same house as your spouse, even under terms of separation.

    You may or may not reconcile, but why add the awkwardness? Why complicate a potential divorce process? Why put another person in the middle of your personal situation when you can’t offer the same relationship perks you want?

    And, especially, why confuse your children or add extra hurt to your spouse?

    Separation is supposed to be a time of reflection and decision.

    Even if you know you’re bound for divorce, both of you will still have a lot of work to do on yourselves, for your children, and for your healing.


It’s natural to wonder.

“Will Your Marital Separation Lead to a Divorce?”

Read more to understand where you’re at.


  • Respect the rules.

    In-house separation will ultimately be what you make it.

    If you and your spouse can’t be within a mile of one another without fighting, then you may need to move at least two miles apart.

    Hopefully, you have enough compassion and respect left between you that you can navigate this difficult arrangement successfully.

    If you’re divorcing a nice guy, you may find it difficult to keep the lines from getting fuzzy.

    If that’s the case, you may discover the motivation to work on your marriage instead of using separation as a prelude to divorce.

    Just be sure to respect the rules you have agreed on, for the time period you have established.

    You can always come back together to change them.

Separation, just like the marriage that led to it, is unique to every couple. It’s deeply personal, and its reasons are often more a series of blurred grays than a distinct black-and-white.

Choosing the option to separate from your spouse while living together offers both conveniences and challenges.

Ironically, the success of this separation arrangement relies on what may have been fading in the marriage in the first place: respect and communication.


Join us for Annie’s Group. 

SAS for Women’s powerful, three-month group coaching program for women thinking about… or just beginning the divorce process.  

Our goals are simple but life-changing in Annie’s Group. We want all participants to learn about their rights and their life options so they make decisions from an informed place. Making decisions from an informed, and thus empowered place, fosters healthier outcomes for everybody. 

Discover more about Annie here.

same sex marriage and divorce in Australia

Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce in Australia

After more than a decade of formal parliamentary debate and 22 rejected Senate bills, same-sex marriage was legalized in Australia on December 9, 2017. This followed a voluntary postal survey of all Australians where 61.6% of respondents supported the legalization of same-sex marriage. The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 redefines marriage in Australia as:

“The union of two people to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life.”

I remember voting with the majority, and my Mum at 83 was also in favor of gay union as my partner and I had lived together for 15 years at that point and she loved Heather as another daughter. We were thrilled with the result that Australians chose, joining 30 other countries in the world by 2020 that have legalized same-sex marriage. Sydney, my home for 40 years, has been named one of the most gay-friendly cities in Australia—and the world.

A brief overview of same-sex marriage in the world…

There are records of marriage between people of the same gender dating back to the first century, but in the modern era, The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2000. In 1989, Denmark paved the way and established a ‘registered partnership’ status, granting people in same-sex relationships most of the rights given to married heterosexuals.

More than half of the countries allowing same-sex marriage are in Western Europe; in all of Asia and Africa, the most populated areas in the world, same-sex marriage is only legal in South Africa and Taiwan. Eleven countries such as Sudan, Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia currently execute LGBTIQ people and are not close to achieving marriage equality. In 2021, 71 countries criminalize homosexuality.

…and in Australia

The first same-sex marriage in Australia took place on December 15, 2017, and since then more than 14,000 couples have tied the knot. This represents approximately 5% of all marriages in Australia. There are more women marrying than men (58.9% to 41.1%) and the average age of a gay man to marry was 39.3 years versus 36.5 for women.

COVID-19 and marriage across the world

The pandemic abruptly slowed the number of all kinds of marriages across the globe in the key COVID months as social distancing restrictions affected group celebrations. Increases in unemployment and financial insecurity have meant the marriage rate is falling since 2020, adding to the downward trend.


Despite cultural differences, diverse locations, or disparate legal systems, our readers come to SAS for Women to honor themselves and their internal worlds. All of them take comfort in feeling less alone as they consider this life-changing decision, including the legal ramifications and the loss of status that divorce sometimes brings.

Learn more and watch our founder’s story in One Woman’s Journey.


As divorces are only granted typically 12 months after separation in Australia, the effect of COVID-19 on divorce rates is yet to be seen. Marriages typically break down over the school holidays and Christmas period when couples are together the most, so lockdowns would have exacerbated this effect. Immense financial pressures, home-schooling, and working from home contribute to the breakdown of marriages from 2020.

Same-sex marriage figures in Australia

Bearing in mind the marriage rate in Australia (and worldwide) has fallen since 2000 by more than 20% and more people are cohabiting as de facto rather than legalizing their union, what are the facts about same-sex marriage in Australia?

The 2016 Census (and latest available data) recorded just under 46,800 same-sex couples living together in Australia, a 39% increase since the 2011 Census. In 2019, there were 5,507 same-sex marriages and in 2020 there were over 2,500 same-sex marriages in Australia, mostly performed by civil celebrants as ministers of religion are generally less supportive of same-sex marriage.

De facto vs married?

For many years, Australian couples who lived in same-sex de facto relationships had similar protections as straight de facto couples under the various state and territory laws. The Australian federal Family Law Act 1975 covered de facto relationship breakdown—whether same-sex or heterosexual.

One major difference and obstacle for parties to a de facto relationship in Australia is that in a divorce/breakup, before commencing property proceedings they must prove the existence of their de facto relationship. Married partners only have to provide their marriage certificate to commence property proceedings.

Same-sex divorce in Australia

In 2019 in Australia there were 104 divorces of same-sex couples. This represented less than 1% of all Australian divorces. 70 divorces were female couples and 34 were male same-sex couples.

There are more marriages and divorces among lesbians since same-sex marriage in Australia was legalized. This is consistent with data showing that women initiate most of the heterosexual divorces in Australia too with 39% initiated by the wife and 28% by the husband, (with 34% a joint agreement). Some studies in the US have shown that lesbian marriages do not last as long as gay male marriages.

Important facts about same-sex divorce in Australia:

  • Divorce in Australia will be granted only to Australian citizens or citizens of descent, and to people who have been living in Australia for the past 12 months with the intention of continual residence.
  • You can only file a divorce application if you have been separated for a minimum of 12 months, which includes separation under the same roof.
  • You can apply for a divorce order, whether you both want it or only one of you does.
  • A divorce application is not the same thing as completing a property settlement or seeking orders for post-separation parenting arrangements.
  • You can apply for property settlement or spousal maintenance at any time before you file for divorce and up to one year following your divorce.
  • Australian law allows for a no-fault divorce. This means the Court does not consider the circumstances of the marital breakdown—it is sufficient that one or both parties state there is no chance of reconciliation.

Thinking about divorce? Your body will feel better if you actually do something, something that you will not regret ….Check out our “36 Things to Do if You Are Thinking About Divorce.”


Children

Many same-sex couples are bearing children, adopting children, and bringing children into their relationship conceived in the context of a heterosexual relationship. About 11% of gay men and 33% of lesbians have kids in Australia, and there are more than 10,000 children living with same-sex parents in the country.

If there are children of the marriage under 18 years of age you will need to provide particulars in your divorce application including housing, financial support, care arrangements, schooling, health, and contact arrangements with each parent.

Warning signs that your relationship is breaking down

If these signs are familiar to you, you can seek help to resolve the conflict:

  • you don’t do things together as much as before
  • you have recurring arguments about the same issues that are never resolved
  • one partner spends increasing time on interests and activities outside the relationship
  • you feel dissatisfied and unhappy
  • you have sex less often, or it isn’t what it used to be
  • there is a loss of warmth and friendliness in the relationship, one or both of you speak of no longer being in love
  • you feel tired and less able to meet responsibilities at work and at home
  • arguments about the children continue
  • one of you has an addiction problem that is affecting the relationship.

Organizations such as Relationships Australia or registered psychologists and counselors can help you, on your own or with your partner, to come to terms with difficulties you are facing in your marriage. As 33% of all marriages conclude in divorce in Australia (50% in the USA) these issues are likely to affect you, your family, or your friends.


If you are thinking about … or beginning the divorce process, you will want to consider Annie’s Group, our powerful group coaching program for women across the world.


If your same-sex marriage is no longer viable

Apart from seeing couples’ counselors or marriage guidance therapists if you are working through a relationship breakdown, if divorce is your ultimate decision, then a divorce coach may be the best advisor to let you know how you might organize and structure your divorce steps.

If you decide to end your same-sex marriage

In contrast to the United States, applying for divorce in Australia can be as simple as preparing your own divorce application or asking a family lawyer to do it for you. A fee of $940 is payable if you are not eligible for a reduced fee of $310.

Divorce in Australia will typically take approximately four months before the court will grant it. This is the time from the point of the first application to the issue and finalization of the divorce order. The most common percentage split in the division of assets in Australia is 60/40.

Lance Tapsell, a marriage celebrant in Australia who has officiated for 10 years and has married a number of same-sex civil unions in that time, is hopeful gay divorce rates will be lower than their straight counterparts He said, “I think that gay couples would probably take their wedding or marriage a lot more seriously because they had to fight so hard to get it.”

Notes

Sarah Newton-John is a copy editor and proofreader by trade and someone who also enjoys writing. She is an Australian living in Spain since 2018 with her partner, two dogs, three chooks, and a cat. You can connect with Sarah here: sarahnewtonjohn@hotmail.com

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

What to do if your husband leaves you

9 Kick-Ass Things To Do If Your Husband Leaves You

Adulting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when painful adult experiences throw you back into an emotional childhood. If your husband leaves you, for example, you may feel the somatic eruption of memories from long ago. Abandonment. Disapproval. Rejection. Being unwanted… and the last to be chosen (if chosen at all).

It’s remarkable, really, how instantly a painful experience can connect the dots separated by a veritable lifetime.

Your psyche, though, never forgets. It stores the most affecting memories in every cell of your body.

Even if your husband leaves you and you have no point of reference for the emotional flood, the abandonment will still be all-consuming.

And with that abandonment and the litany of emotions tied to it comes a wave of destruction to all that is self-defining.

Your self-esteem, your self-worth, your self-confidence, your dreams for the future, your belief that you can survive…even your identity. They all take a beating.

Perhaps the most egregious feeling that comes from abandonment is powerlessness. 

With the swipe of one person’s actions, you become helpless to control a huge part of your own life. And you’re left standing alone with that new reality.

Is there anything you can do to re-empower yourself if your husband leaves you?

You know, don’t you, that we are here to restore the inherent yes in your life?

This is the place where others who have already earned their stripes are going to surround you and lift you up with a resounding “Absolutely!”

Here are 9 powerful things you can do now if your husband leaves you and you are feeling powerless:

  1. Be TOO proud to beg.

    It doesn’t matter what your husband has done or why he has chosen to leave. In the movie Where the Heart Is, Ashley Judd’s character says to a young mom-to-be (Natalie Portman), “I know [he] left you. But that’s what makes him trash, not you.”

    If your husband leaves you, he does so with forethought and planning. And trust us, you are above begging for that kind of base energy to come back into your life.

    Do. Not. Beg.

  2. Document, document, document.

    This isn’t about revenge – although success and happiness earned through integrity make for the suh-weetest revenge!

    This is about being smart and protecting yourself and your children.

    If you’re going to have to look out for yourself going forward, the time to rehearse is now.

    Save everything. Documents, emails, texts, voice messages (let your voicemail pick up instead of answering your phone), pictures, everything.

    Keep a dedicated journal for documenting dates, times, communication, and financial actions.

    Basically, be a grown-up Girl Scout: Be prepared. You’ll reap the merit badge in the battle to come. Read our “If You are Thinking About Divorce: Important Steps to be Prepared.

  3. Think like a lawyer, but hire a really good one.

    This isn’t the time to DIY your future. There is too much at stake if your husband leaves you.

    Chances are he has been preparing for a while, and that means you have catching up to do.


For both healthy and smart things to do if you are thinking about divorce, or not wanting to be taken advantage of, read our “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


It’s important that you learn to separate your emotions from the pragmatics of this severance.

By researching how to find a divorce attorney and in particular the right one for you, you will learn how to prepare for the most advantageous outcome.

  1. Join a support group, or two… or three.

    This is a time when you need support.You need the professional support of legal and financial experts. And you also need the emotional support of others who have been where you are.

    Be prudent about where and with whom you share this journey.

    Consider hiring a female divorce coach to keep you on-track through this painful and confusing journey.

    And join a group or two (one online and one in person, perhaps) to give you a sense of empathetic community.

    Annie’s Group, for example, is an online divorce support group and program for women who are thinking about or just beginning divorce. What a godsend opportunity to surround yourself with assurance, compassion, and guidance in a confidential place.

  2. Keep the details off social media.

    As I mentioned above, prudence is key at this time. You want support. You need support.

    And you also probably want to drag your husband through burning coals, literally and figuratively.

    But let’s review the previous two points: Think like a lawyer…and seek support in the right places.

    It’s all part of the next point…

  3. Take the high road.

    Remember Michelle Obama’s famous tagline? When they go low, we go high.

    Politics and political preference don’t even matter. It’s an awesome mantra to live by, no matter what the circumstances are.

    Taking the high road has nothing to do with acquiescence or playing weak.

    It has everything to do with staying out of the muddy trenches and connecting your energy only to people and choices of integrity.

    Never, ever, ever doubt that staying on high ground will deliver the best results.

    You may feel the temporary agony of delayed gratification, but stay true to what is right and good.

  4. Protect your kids and prepare for their future.

    If you have difficulty standing up for yourself or fighting for what you deserve, think about your kids (if you have them).How you navigate the aftermath if your husband leaves you is about more than just getting through the divorce process. You need to look far down the road while also checking your rear-view mirror.

    Children are expensive. They need health insurance, food, clothes, tuition, activity fees, college funds, and on and on.

    This is one of the most important reasons to build the strongest professional team you can afford.

  5. Find a new place to live.

    No matter how much you love your home, clinging to it will only keep you attached to someone who has abandoned you.This is the time to recreate yourself and your life.

    Give yourself permission to enjoy the creative process of choosing and nesting in a new place that belongs only to you (and your kids).

    Sure, you may have to downsize for the time being. But that just means less “stuff” to take care of while you do the following…

  6. Take really good care of you.

    If your husband leaves you, he may or may not ever look back.

    While it’s natural to want him to miss you and regret his actions, you are now in the process of clearing out his negative energy.

    Practicing self care is no longer about making his head turn in desire or regret.

    It’s about stepping out of rejection and abandonment with limitless energy, health, and self-confidence.

    Your kids need you, your friends need you, you need you.

    So, whatever that self-care looks like—exercise, good food, sound sleep, continuing education, spirituality/religion, hobbies, social gatherings—do it.

    Consistently.

Abandonment is a vile, passive-aggressive form of rejection. It hurtsdeeply. And the wound doesn’t simply “heal” with time.

While there is no panacea for that kind of betrayal, one truth will ground you so you can step forward into healing:

The only abandonment with the power to destroy you is the abandonment of yourself.

And the only vow that must unequivocally last a lifetime is the “I do” you say to you.

Notes

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or 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 them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you—and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

stop gaslighting yourself

5 Self-Saving Ways to Stop Gaslighting Yourself

Ahh, the gaslighters of the world! They brighten or dampen the flame according to their own agenda and leave their targets rubbing their eyes and wondering… what just happened? It’s subtle at times, egregiously blatant at others. But it’s always a twisted manipulation that makes you second-guess yourself. And, once you’ve become accustomed to doubting yourself, courtesy of others, you start gaslighting yourself.

Gaslighting is an emotionally abusive, insidious tactic used to make another person question their feelings, memory, reality, and sanity.

The name comes from a 1938 play and then a 1940 movie called Gas Light

In a devious plot to have his wife committed to a mental institution, a husband plays with his wife’s mind. Every night he dims the gas lights a little more, then questions his wife’s sanity when she notices the subtle changes.

This kind of manipulation continues—all intended to make his wife think she is going crazy. He brings other people into the manipulation, as well, so his wife becomes surrounded by skeptics and critics.

His endgame?

To steal his wife’s inheritance.


If you are thinking about divorce, and don’t know what steps to take, fearing you may take wrong ones, feel anchored and read our popular “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


Today the term gaslighting is used to describe the creepy, narcissistic, sociopathic, conscienceless, entitled, lying method of making another person self-doubt.

It’s a power-play.

Gaslighter’s Tactics

The gaslighter will use any number of tactics in a passive-aggressive way to plant the seed of insanity in a target. Common phrases a victim will become accustomed to hearing include:

  • “I never said that!”
  • “That’s not what happened at all!”
  • “Your ‘proof’ is fabricated.”
  • “What are you talking about?”
  • “It’s all your fault! This wouldn’t have happened if you had/hadn’t….”
  • “You’re too sensitive!”
  • “No, you’re overreacting.”
  • “You’re obviously tired.”
  • “Have you been drinking?”
  • “Even your friends are starting to ask questions.”
  • “How could you possibly forget that?”

The gaslighter may even go so far as to change the victim’s environment to instill doubt about her memory.

And lying, whether directly or indirectly, is always at the heart of gaslighting…

…even when you are gaslighting yourself.

But why would you do something so awful to yourself? And how can you even do something like that when you “know” the truth?

The key to understanding gaslighting is its insidious pervasiveness. It’s not a one-and-out occurrence that would otherwise lead you to simply “block” someone from ever having contact with you again.


Understand more about the many shades of abuse. Read “Leaving an Abusive Marriage? There are Steps to Take First.”


Gaslighting works drop by drop, one oddity and one questioning head tilt at a time.

What does this have to do with relationships and divorce?

Possibly everything.

Gaslighting and Divorce

We have all witnessed more than a tolerable amount of gaslighting in politics, and most recently in war and divorce, which can be its own kind of war, can have more than its share.

If your husband routinely ignores or even criticizes your feelings, you may have started doing the same to yourself.

“Hmm. Maybe I am too sensitive. Maybe I did overreact and he’s right – I expect too much, complain too much, ‘feel’ too much. Yes, maybe my memory is starting to go.”

“Maybe I need help.”

And voilá! Suddenly you—the one who would never talk to your spouse or a friend that way—are gaslighting yourself.

Suddenly you are questioning your own feelings and responses, suppressing your thoughts, becoming self-critical, or doubting your own reality.

If you have been living in an unhappy or even abusive marriage, you may now be overthinking when to leave your husband

You may not trust yourself to make that kind of decision. After all, you’re the one who’s at fault, right?

Wrong.

And nothing is more important than getting real… about what is real.

Here are five suggestions for how to stop gaslighting yourself.

  • Ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend if I heard her talking to herself this way?”

    Why is it that we give ourselves license to be unkind to ourselves in ways we would never be with anyone else?

    Would you ever speak to a loved one in a way that made her doubt herself, not like herself, not trust her own experiences?

    So why do you think it’s OK to run those negative tapes in your own mind?

    The fact that you’re “speaking” them internally doesn’t make them any less damning. On the contrary, it’s the internalized, subconscious tapes that do the most damage.

  • Dig deep and ask whose opinion this really belongs to.

    If you have unknowingly eased into the practice of gaslighting yourself, take the time to do some personal-history sleuthing.

    Who has instilled in you the notion that you can’t trust your own perceptions, opinions, preferences, experiences, and memories?

    Did it start in childhood and therefore feel “natural” in your married life?

    Did a parent disapprove of who you were and what you did, and steer you away from self-confidence?

    Did your husband berate your feelings, responses, needs, and complaints? Or did he chisel away at your sense of self and gradually subordinate you to his own wants?

    The objective here is to stop owning what doesn’t belong to you!

  • Step away from your thoughts and see them as their own entities.

    Thoughts, after all, are “things.” They are not your identity or the source of your worth.

    They carry great power to influence your feelings and shape your behavior. But they are also under your authority.

    When you recognize a negative thought creeping up or silencing an otherwise natural, healthy expression, pause.

    Acknowledge this thought as a visitor knocking on your door. “There it is again!”

    Do you let it in or shoo it away? (You don’t, after all, have an open-door policy…do you?)

  • Give yourself the grace of a balanced point of view.

    The difference between gaslighting and not gaslighting yourself doesn’t lie in perfection.

    The abusers in your life may have taught you differently (despite their own glaring imperfections) but being human doesn’t forfeit your reality.

    It’s healthy to examine your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

    It’s healthy to recognize when and how you can do better.

    It’s also healthy to be able to laugh at your mistakes and to know and accept your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Speak to yourself with externalizing affirmations.

    In order to stop gaslighting yourself, you have to recognize when the gaslighting is happening – both externally and internally.

    Slow down. Hit pause. Don’t “open the door” to your uninvited thoughts.

    When someone says, “You’re too sensitive,” for example, you have a choice.

    You can automatically fold and tell yourself, “Gosh, y’know, you really are too sensitive. Get a backbone. And next time, don’t say anything.”

    Or you can tell yourself, “I know what I heard. And I know what I felt when I heard it. I’m entitled to my feelings. If this person doesn’t want to discuss how we can better communicate in the future, that’s not my problem.”

    Your feelings are as worthy as anyone else’s.

    Your reality is as worthy as anyone else’s. 

Relationships can (and should be) a safe haven – physically, emotionally, spiritually. They provide, ideally, a reflective context for honest expression, growth, and healing.


Consider reading, “27 Cautionary Signs You are in a Toxic Marriage.”


Unfortunately, abusive tactics like gaslighting undermine that potential. Instead of healing, they destroy. They create a war zone within intimate, isolated spaces.

Knowing the signs of gaslighting from others is the first step toward recognizing when you are gaslighting yourself.

And recognition is the first step in healing.

 

Notes

How to stop gaslighting yourself?

In two words. 

Annie’s Group.

Learn what is possible for your life. 

 

Surviving an Affair

The Stages of Surviving An Affair

Relationships can be complicated. At the very least, they’re complex because people are complex. And at no time is that more evident than when a married couple is in the throes of surviving an affair. This includes opposing sides of the betrayal, and a possible re-negotiation of commitment to the marriage.

Infidelity used to be largely a man’s game. And wives were often tolerant while suffering in silence, mainly because they had to be. Wives of yesteryear often relied financially on their husbands, keeping them trapped in these types of unhealthy marriages.

But the surge of women entering the workforce from the 1960s on, coupled with the feminist movement, changed things.

Gradually, the dynamics of relationships, marriage, and even infidelity began to shift. Women were now on the same playing field as men, at least physically, and they were exposed to the same “opportunities.”

Statistics on affairs vary, in part because research relies largely on self-disclosure. But they all huddle close enough to drive home an important trend: Infidelity is no longer just a man’s game. (Check out, “The Cheating Wife Phenomenon”.)

One study found that 15% of women and 25% of men had cheated on their spouses. And that number doesn’t include “emotional affairs” that don’t involve physical cheating.

So what are your chances of surviving an affair if you fall into these statistics? 

Whether you are the betrayed or the betrayer, can you put the pieces of your marriage back together? And, if so, how?

First of all, the short answer is yes. Infidelity is survivable. Couples prove that every day.

But how they survive it—and how their marriages look on the other side—well, that’s really why you’re here, right?

If you are the betrayed, you will undoubtedly spend a lot of time lamenting “should you stay or should you go?”

Even if you are the cheating spouse, you may anguish over the same question, but for different reasons.

After the initial shock of discovery or disclosure calms, there is the opportunity for clarity. And no good decision is ever made without clarity.

If you have hopes of your marriage surviving an affair, be prepared to go through a series of stages—difficult, painful, excavating, exhausting stages.

  • Discovery or disclosure

    There is always that unforgettable moment. A cheater gets lazy with the lies, a spouse gets suspicious or accidentally stumbles upon evidence, or there’s a confession.

    Whether you’re the one left in shock or the one left in shame, this moment is the beginning of a long road ahead.

  • Emotional overwhelm

    If you’re the betrayed spouse, and even if you’ve been giving a cold shoulder to your suspicions, learning the truth is emotional.

    You will feel to a degree that may seem unforgivable. Shock, devastation, sadness, hurt, anger, loss—they will all flood in and jockey for position.


Consider reading, “How to Survive Divorce. Especially if It’s Not What You Want.”


The important takeaway of this stage, at least for the sake of surviving an affair, is that now is not the time to make any major decisions.

  • Stopping the affair

    One thing absolutely must happen if your marriage is going to survive this infidelity: The affair has to stop. Completely. No “kind-of,” “just friends,” or “sneaking around.” The ultimatum must happen.

    As logical as this may sound, it’s not necessarily a no-brainer for the cheating spouse.

    Depending on the degree of involvement with the affair partner, a “one-night stand” cut-off may not be so simple.

    After all, the affair partner is a person, too, despite the indiscretion. And the cheating spouse may be vested in that relationship beyond just the sex.

    But your marriage can’t proceed with healing unless there is the confidence of no other relationship existing in the background.

  • Grief

    It’s an inevitable passage through any loss, and it doesn’t ask permission. Grief will happen, whether or not you welcome it.

    As difficult as it is to believe, your grief and all that you are experiencing in terms of emotions will be easier to survive if you recognize, acknowledge, and embrace them.

    Why is that important to know upfront?

    Because grief isn’t linear. It gives the stage to whatever needs the spotlight at the moment: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.


Grief may not be what you think it is. Learn more. Read “Divorce Grief and 3 Myths.”   


Some theories include pain and guilt before anger and depression, loneliness, and reflection after.

The relevance of grief to surviving an affair? You are saying goodbye to your marriage as you remembered it and hoped it would be.

  • Discussing the affair and your marriage

    This is the long, drawn-out, painful, exhausting stage of surviving an affair, and it’s best done with professional guidance.

    There will be the obvious need for the cheater to answer slews of questions.

    There will also be the need for the betrayed spouse to balance what is necessary to know and what is really about wanting to know.

    The importance of this stage isn’t limited to discussion of the affair, however. This is the time when you will be dissecting your marriage, too.

    While there is never a good excuse that gives license to cheating, affairs don’t exist in a vacuum.

    If you are going to go forward with and safeguard your marriage, you will both have to be fearless in examining your marriage.

    How and where was it vulnerable? What negatives have you brought to it? What positives have you withheld?

    Both of you are going to have to step up and take responsibility for your marriage – past, present, and future.

    A therapist, husband-wife therapist team, or a coach that specializes in marriage and infidelity can be a lifeline throughout your post-affair process. You really shouldn’t DIY such a critical journey.

  • Acceptance

    After the shock has worn off and you are entrenched in the work of repair, you will move into acceptance.

    This isn’t about accepting infidelity as “OK.”

    It’s simply about accepting the fact that your marriage, like millions of others, has experienced it.

    And the relationship you are working on now will be “new,” as it will reflect the choices, lessons, and pain of this experience.

  • Reconnection.

    When you reach this point in surviving an affair, you may look back and marvel at what your relationship has accomplished.

    This is the stage of truly living again.

    You have already accepted that your marriage will never be the same as it was before the affair.

    But you have done the work and earned the right to say, “That’s a good thing.”

Surviving an affair isn’t simple or formulaic, despite the stages presented to help you through it.

It also isn’t easy. At all.

To the contrary.

And not all couples survive it…or should.

Only you and your spouse truly know if there is something worth fighting for…

…and something worth forgiving.

Notes

Choose not to go it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you—and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Top reasons for divorce

Top Reasons for Divorce. Are You Living This?

Suspicious of getting trapped in a marriage that might erode, my friend and I used to joke that we could get our peers to leave a perfectly good relationship. In remaining single, we weren’t necessarily afraid of the infamous “Top Five Reasons” for divorce. It was more of a disinclination to trade freedom for emotional comfort, if that comfort came with a loss of agency and intrusion of the state by way of the church.

We were also in our free-range 20s, perhaps a little cocky about what we felt entitled to vs. what we could reasonably predict would be best for us down the road.

Thankfully, we never did convince anyone to leave a happy marriage but we did talk a friend through her separation, fearing the change of divorce, and eventually into a happy departure from a husband she felt devalued her.

Long-Term Perspective

Now, at 50, we’ve won some wisdom, self-knowledge and more importantly, some much-needed humility. With all that and the perspective of age, we wouldn’t recommend being that cavalier about leaving a good partnership with a good man – all joking aside. They’re precious, these unions, even with the inevitable dusting of routine, occasional boredom, little resentments, stress, change, family demands, compromises and the sheer effort that intimate partnerships require of us even when they are excellent.

If we can remain honest about addressing our own issues and not project our unhappiness about ourselves onto our mates, and remain hand-in-hand with a someone who loves, supports and understands us, a lot of us would recommend it. Someone who we fell in love with so much it was worth the gamble of believing we could still be happy with them decades later is someone worthy of cherishing even in the midst of day-to-day exhaustion and conflict. If you can breathe life into your own individuality and be yourself in your marriage and your mate can do that as well, keep each other.

In this instant gratification, single-use, image-driven epoch, withstanding years and decades together and reveling in how time marks our lovers’ faces, bodies and souls may be a critical balancing point in returning a measure of wholeness to the planet.

How Culture Affects Marriage

Women are worth being valued both in an older physicality and beyond the physical; men are worth being valued beyond the bread-winning. If you made that promise, said “I do,” and you can be in the marriage organically, authentically and still see a glimmer living flame in each other’s hearts, protect and keep that union and that person with everything you’ve got.

Marriage is not disposable. It’s not a meme. It’s not about the dress or the wedding pictures or what we can post on Facebook. A healthy marriage is a gift that is worth the tending; it can yield years of joy with committed teamwork. It’s the art of creating an emotional ecosystem; it takes time for all the elements to evolve together.

This being a divorce site, there is a lot of attention given to getting out of marriages but it’s always worth reminding ourselves of why staying in them is glorious magic if we can make it.

That said, we all know that not all marriages or partnerships are excellent or even good, fine or functional. Some husbands, wives and relationship dynamics reveal their toxicity after the exchange of rings and promises. Sometimes even when they are good, it’s still necessary to leave. And when it comes to the undeniable top reasons for divorce, it can feel acutely imperative to do so. Take your time. (Consider reading, “#36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”)

When we’ve reached that point, it’s critical to give ourselves the gifts of acceptance, gentleness and patience. It is normal to grieve, not only what was but what was once possible. It’s normal to be afraid, to talk ourselves out of it many times, to be angry, elated, rebellious and frequently, a thousand other emotions a minute. Each of us has our own process through this but that doesn’t mean we’re alone. We not only give each other permission to move through it in our own way, but offer each other a context for what can be a strange yet empowering journey.

The Biggies

Infidelity, money problems, communication break-down, lack of intimacy and addiction: these are the Big 5 top reasons for divorce, which are indicative of issues not always but often beyond repair.

Infidelity:

Perhaps the most visceral and painful of the top reasons for divorce, infidelity is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of what would cause us to say unequivocally, “Absolutely not.” There’s a lot of it, too. Among Baby Boomers in the 57-75 age range, 25 percent of men and 10 percent of women have cheated. Just two generations later, among Millennials aged 25-40, females outnumber their male counterparts for infidelity with 11 percent of women cheating versus 10 percent of males.

And cheating packs a huge emotional punch. Money issues and communication break-downs are probably far more common, but sex with someone other than your wife or husband is a headliner because it hits our mates at such a vulnerable, primal level. Cheating takes all kinds of different forms, from a surprise encounter to long-term affairs (consider reading, “The Cheating Wife Phenomenon.”) but any of it cracks the foundation of trust between two partners and is difficult to forgive. It takes a lot of work and sincere re-commitment to do that, whether we stay with a cheating partner or not. Understandably, many choose not to. Even with that, it is not just possible to come back from it with the union intact, but with the right kind of professional help, the re-commitment in infidelity’s aftermath can make for an even stronger bond.

Lack of Intimacy:

Another face of a marriage’s sexual dynamic and one of the primary causes of infidelity, lack of intimacy is the emotional desert of the Top 5 reasons for divorce.

It’s starvation mode, denied fulfillment, a girdle and chastity belt on sexual expression and joy.  There are so many different reasons for a lack of desire, from unexpressed trauma or hormonal imbalance, to changing attraction, insecurity, simple preference or physiological discomfort. Communication breakdowns between partners may create a lack of emotional intimacy that form the root of the physical intimacy issues.

It’s our right to say no, always, and yet, it is also everyone’s right to their sexuality, provided it is based on informed consent and a lack of harm to others. If denial of a partner is something that can’t be resolved, does it seem fair to expect that our partner live without fulfillment of this primal human experience for the duration of a marriage?

It may be that lack of intimacy and/or cheating provide an opportunity to get creative with the relationship dynamic. Sexual expression is a foundational part of being alive. If two people love each other and want to remain in an otherwise successful and happy marriage, perhaps bringing in outside, professional help to come up with an alternative to divorce is the answer.

Money Problems:

Money issues are both the drudge and the task master of the Big 5 top reasons for divorce. They require all of the communication skills of sex or parenting and yet have few of the glimmering, laughing highlights. They’re draining, complicated and possibly generate more nagging, nitpicking resentment than any other issue. They are as fraught with the power dynamic as sex and communication and are tied most directly to simple survival.

So, if spouses can’t find common ground in their spending priorities, they create a great deal of conflict. And unless both spouses are earning a living and there’s an even spread of financial responsibility and say-so, there is a lot of room for a power deficit for the spouse who doesn’t have the clout of the dollar behind them.

When women are considering a divorce, it’s comforting to know that they shouldn’t expect themselves to understand all of the financial nuances. (Check out “Smart Moves for Women: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce.”) There are a lot of them and it often takes a specialist like a CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) to pinpoint all the loopholes and leveraging points. Additionally, divorce coaches and other professionals spend a great deal of time and expertise directing women toward financial self-education and strategy.


If you are looking for clear steps to take and thoughtful advice on the divorce process if you are woman, read our “55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


Communication Issues:

Woven throughout the other top reasons for divorce is communication. It’s the common thread running through all human relationships and interactions. Without it, nothing else happens and nothing else is fixed.

The Gottman Institute calls criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” for a marriage. When it comes to communication, there’s actually a whole herd of horses that can step on this subtle, essential and often complicated part of human interaction.

Know that you are in very good company if communication is a challenge for you and your spouse. Most people, most couples, have trouble with it in one way or another. And sometimes it is not possible to communicate effectively with someone, particularly if they refuse to take responsibility for themselves. Each of us impacts everyone else around us and no one is right all the time.

We shouldn’t continually stifle our own authentic selves to satisfy someone else’s needs or make them comfortable, but we do need to take an honest look at ourselves and change if necessary. Get a good therapist; having an objective third party play referee and help us identify patterns and underlying unconscious beliefs that impact how we speak to each other (or don’t) can be invaluable.


Learn more. Read “27 Cautionary Signs You May Be in a Toxic Marriage.”


Addiction:

As the most tragic of the Big 5 top reasons for divorce, addiction eventually poisons our relationship with ourselves and causes us to choose a substance, a thing, an attitude, a simple activity over our own self-worth or our loved ones. It begins with a single choice and turns it into a habit and eventually a compulsion so that despite its initial insignificance, it spreads like kudzu over the structure of marriage. A drink, a hand of cards, an unnecessary purchase, an addiction to the computer (or what you find on it), a religion or even a belief in one’s own rightness over another, it is something that may seem small at first, that begins as an isolated event, but eventually morphs from snowball to avalanche.

Addiction drains motivation, joy, vitality and monetary resources. It’s an agent of lies and mistrust. Like all the other major issues, it often requires outside help. All of us have an attachment or dependence on something, whether or not we realize it. Some addictions are more corrosive than others. It’s always possible to stop it; sometimes will power is enough, but more often than not, like the other big root causes of divorce, it takes outside intervention.

A marriage is worth fighting for but so are we. Sometimes it is not possible to stay with someone in order to love them or to love ourselves.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

Choose not to go it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you — and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

Why Is Divorce So Hard to Get Started?

Why Is Divorce So Hard to Get Started?

It’s so easy to get the relationship started. Infatuation and love just course along on instinct, never missing a beat. Even when there are stumbles, as there always are, you somehow know how to fill the potholes and move forward. But what happens when those “stumbles” turn into roadblocks, dead ends, and impenetrable traffic jams? Why is divorce so hard to get started when your marriage is stuck or even sliding backward?

Let’s make one thing clear upfront: divorce is a harrowing experience, even if you can’t get out the door fast enough. Simply navigating the process can be like having a second full-time job. 

Add in careers, children, separation, emotions…well, you get the picture. It can all make you reconsider what you’re already sure of.

It can make you overthink when to leave your husband or even ignore signs you may be in a toxic marriage.

So what is it that makes your feet feel like lead when it comes to divorce? Why is divorce so hard to get started, even when you know you “need” to do it?

Let’s crawl inside the thought process and just let the reasons, realistic and practical or not, flow….

  • You and your husband haven’t taken steps to repair your marriage.

Perhaps one of you is more emotionally tuned in and willing to seek professional help, while the other doesn’t see the need.

Relationship expert John Gottman has found that couples wait an average of six years before getting help. Six years can be a prison sentence when you’re unhappy and don’t know how to turn things around.

If you and your spouse haven’t made the concerted effort to work on your issues, you may be haunted by the possibility that you are simply “giving up.”

  • Your entire identity is tied up in who you are as a wife (and mother).

    Perhaps you spent your younger years dreaming of marriage, children, and a white picket fence.

    Visions of perfect children, work-life balance, weekly date nights, and a walk-in closet bursting at the jams with a “together woman’s” wardrobe.

    And sex. How could we forget the “we’ll never get tired of it” sex life? Who would agree to walk down the aisle if the dream of intimacy were replaced by the reality of exhaustion, stress, and age-related changes?

    And what if you have devoted your life to “managing your home,” Ubering kids everywhere, and supporting your husband’s career aspirations?

    Whatever has defined your life during your married life now stands to come unraveled. And, if you have “lost yourself” in the course of your marriage, you may feel consumed by a “What will I do with my life?” trepidation. 


Watch the short video on Divorce and Women: One Woman’s Journey and consider if you identify with SAS Cofounder Liza Caldwell’s story of what kept her in an unhealthy marriage–and more, what she did to help herself change the course of her life.


  • You have religious convictions against divorce.

“What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” That’s a tough commandment to simply cast aside, especially if your religious beliefs are central to your life.

Some faiths have strict rules about divorce and remarriage. And, if you are still at an age where you want to be in a marriage, you may fear that you will spend your life alone.

  • Your marriage isn’t all bad, and your spouse is a decent guy.

    If your marriage is marred by abuse, addiction, criminal behavior, or serial infidelity, divorce may not be such a difficult decision.

    But what if your husband is decent? How do you divorce a nice guy? He, like you, has his flaws and shortcomings; but he has good values and is a good father.

    You may be struggling with unhappiness and lack of marital satisfaction, but you still care for and respect one another. You feel stuck and don’t know what to do or how to do it. Divorce guilt and its myriad permutations are keeping you stuck.

  • You fear feeling (and looking) like a failure.

    Why is divorce so hard to get started when a marriage is failing?

    Sometimes the answer lies in your fear of personal failure. After all, you have spent all those years investing your time and energy into the “success” of your marriage.

    Now, if you end your marriage, you might feel as if you have failed as a wife and mother. And “failure” is a heavy burden to carry into a new life.

  • What will people think?

    Ugh. Your family. His family. Your friends. Neighbors. Your kids. Your kids’ friends and their parents. The world!

    What are people going to think? What are they going to say, ask, assume? Will they judge you? Will you lose your relationships?

  • Why is divorce so hard to get started? Because it’s literally so hard to get started!

    If you’re going to go through with a divorce, you need to be certain. (Are you really there yet?) you need to be committed to a time- and detail-sensitive process.

    You need to research, collect information, secure legal and financial help, and possibly even formally separate. (If you crave structure and are ready for it, we’ve got you covered with our ultimate “55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.” )

    And you are always at the mercy of your individual state’s laws.

    If starting the divorce process sounds like a frightening prospect, familiarize yourself with these things to do if you’re thinking about divorce.

  • How will your children react and adjust?

    If you are a parent, this may be the biggest concern of all.

    You know a divorce will turn your children’s world upside down and inside out.

    You know you have to tell them before things get too far along and they start wondering what’s happening.

    Lastly, you know life is never going to be the same in terms of being a family.

    And their lives as children are never going to be the same.

    They will rarely be with both their parents at the same time again. You will never see them every day and every night again.

They may suffer emotionally, behaviorally, academically, relationally, even physically.

What if you have a spouse who insists he will fight for full custody?

What if you are married to a personality disorder, and you worry about how you will go on to deal with coparenting with a narcissist, for example?

And that if you have been the one taking care of the kids while he builds his career, and you now have to coparent? (Read “How to Prepare for Divorce if You are a Stay-at-Home-Mom”.)

Your children’s welfare no doubt tops the list of concerns when it comes to initiating a divorce.

It should likewise be one of the strongest motivations for making sure you have done all you can to work on your marriage before calling it quits.

Final Thoughts

There are countless answers to the question Why is divorce so hard to get started? Some are obvious in their pragmatism – money, process, religious beliefs, and rules – and some are buried in emotional nuance.

In the long run, what matters most as you explore the possibility of divorce is your honesty in answering the questions about your hesitation.

Divorce is nothing to rush into, especially if your marriage is salvageable but crying out for a deep cleaning and some TLC.

Likewise, if you have reached the point of conviction that your marriage cannot or should not be saved, fear should not keep you stuck.

You really are the one with the answers. But support is always available to help you find them.

Notes

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

What percentage of marriages end in divorce?

What Percentage of Marriages End in Divorce?

No matter what it is, we tend to find what we’re looking for. A hypochondriac will develop symptoms of an illness they think they have. A dubious spouse will find “proof” of infidelity even if it doesn’t exist. Water molecules bloom or decompose depending on the nature of the thoughts directed at them. And if we are looking for a “growing trend” in what percentage of marriages will end in divorce, we will find one.

The Glass is Half-Full… AND Half-Empty

Anyone who has had a conversation about marriage or divorce in the last 20 years has probably heard the statistic that 50 percent of marriages take a dive into the Big D deep end. It’s really not that cut and dry. There are variations from study to study, depending on the wording of the questions and who’s paying for the study. Which region of people are providing the answers, how many live there, their religion, their socioeconomic status, the freedom of speech and education they have access to, and many other factors will color the results—whether the analyst is a census bureaucrat or a Seventh Day Adventist. Or both, for that matter.

When it comes to the question of whether lasting marriage is the horse to bet on, inconclusive examples abound. We can hopscotch through the Internet with one hand over an eye, singing our high school fight song, and find “evidence” one way or the other.

One recent search results page contained the title “Ireland’s divorce rate remarkably low compared to wider world,” followed by the May 2019 assertion that Ireland has the lowest divorce rate in Europe. Stereotyping Catholicism and its adherents, which make up 78 percent of Irish citizens, one might find this easy to believe. Glancing a few lines down the page, though, a browser finds another link title that scoffs, “Wedded bliss? Don’t think so!” This is followed by the claim that the number of Irish marriages shriveling in divorce jumped by 800 percent in the last 15 years.

Dogma and Divorce on a World Tour

Traditionally, Catholicism does not embrace divorce. And in fact, divorce is illegal in the

Catholic country of the Philippines. The only other place in the world where divorce doesn’t exist is Vatican City – for obvious reasons since Catholic priests can’t marry in the first place.

However, religion alone does not indicate strict devotion to staying married through depravity, poverty, dismemberment, nuclear war, and bringing home the wrong kind of lettuce.

Catholics seem to have cornered the grim devotion market, to be sure, but again, the data isn’t crystal clear. Taking a quick online world tour of a few different countries, we can see divorce rates increasing noticeably in some countries and staying remarkably low in others.

Guatemala and Sri Lanka have the lowest divorce rates in the world, but Guatemala has an almost even split between Catholic citizens and Protestant—the Catholics numbering at 45 percent and the Protestants at 42. In Sri Lanka, where 70.2 percent of the population is Buddhist, only 0.15 percent of marriages fall to the ax of divorce.

Africa

In Kenya, though, where 85 percent of the citizens identify as Christian, the number of marriages dissolving in the chemical bath of divorce has jumped from 40 percent in 2017 to 70 percent in 2020. Kenyan women, not men, are the ones filing, and the reasons they’re giving are the same reasons stated by women all over the globe: domestic violence, neglect, drug and alcohol abuse, and infidelity.

Asia

There is no lack of divorce among Muslims and Buddhists. In China, the top four religions are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Christianity. None of them are stopping the divorce rate from swelling like a gangrenous toe, nor are they making a Chinese marriage easier to obtain. The China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) calculated a 75 percent climb in the country’s divorce rate between 2010 and 2019—from 2.7 to 4.7 million cases.


If you are looking for an anchor, or way to evaluate if you should or should not divorce, Take a breath and read our “36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce”.


And in the Maldives, a string of islands south of India’s tip that form a Muslim republic, so many marriages end in divorce that the country earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. With 11 divorces per 1,000 people every year, Maldivian women average three divorces by the time they are 30 years old.

A luscious place to vacation and ironically, one of the honeymoon capitols of the world, the Republic of Maldives embraces a Muslim dogma with a big bark and almost no bite. While it dictates a taboo against pre-marital sex, it has no taboo against very fast marriages that need only last as long as a great vacation.

Even in less destination-luscious countries, divorce rates are rising. In Iran, where 90-95 percent of the people claim Shia Islam as their religion, 2021 saw one in three marriages driving into divorce’s dead end. While the number of Iranian marriages also increased by 4.4 percent between 2019 and 2020, the divorce rates rose by 3.6 percent.

Tying and Breaking the Knot Stateside…

Meanwhile, back at the American ranch, there are quite a few of the Bible Belt states where a lot of marriages dissolve in the chemical bath of divorce. Arkansas, for example, has a high divorce rate at 10.7 divorces per 1,000 people. Other Southern states frying their marriages in the Crisco of divorce include Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia.

North Dakota, though, has an exceptionally low divorce rate at 2.5 per 1,000 people. And that’s even a decrease from 3.6 per 1,000 in 1990.

Of course, not very many people actually live in North Dakota. There are about as many North Dakotans as there are Seattleites. The entire Badland state had 762,062 residents as of 2019, while the city of Seattle had 724,305.

Other states on the low end of the divorce spectrum include Hawaii (where everyone is too happy to bother), New York (where geological eras move faster than the divorce courts), Illinois, Vermont, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and surprisingly, California.

But again, the “facts” run counter to each other. Notably, Massachusetts and New Jersey are listed on BOTH the list of “states with the highest number of divorces” and the list of “states with the lowest number…”

And if education is a factor in whether people say “I do”—and it is—the fact that Connecticut is one of two states with the lowest number of marriages may have something to do with the fact that the relatively small state has 44 universities and colleges in it.

What’s in a Trend?

As you may see, answering the question of how many marriages end in divorce can get complicated. However, there do seem to be a few factors that we can be sure of. One is that fewer people are getting married in the first place. In 2018, American statisticians calculated the lowest number of marriages in 118 years.

The main factors leading women away from the altar and the dubious promise of “forever” are education and labor force participation, economic independence and greater gender equality. In other words, if we don’t have to marry to survive anymore, as explored in “Divorce and Women: One Woman’s Journey,” we’re not nearly as inclined to do it.

Boomer divorce numbers are high but leveling out. In contrast, Millennials born of their parents’ high divorce rates are being smarter about marriage than their predecessors. They are either not marrying at all or waiting until they are older and more established in their careers and their finances.

Incidentally, Boomers were the last generation of women still operating under a general assumption that marriage was “just what one did.” (Check out “The Truth About Divorce for Women.”)

More people are living together first.

While marriage numbers for straight couples are generally down and straight couple divorce rates are generally up—with notable exceptions and counter-trends worldwide—same-sex couples are finally allowed to marry. Many are doing so. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2000. Thirty countries have followed that example since then.

The data may be pointing in a general direction. Then again, it may not. All any of this really tells us is that an awful lot of people are asking an awful lot of questions about the real value of marriage. It’s essential to remember that trends are made of individual choices—billions of them. It may be interesting to know what the Joneses are up to (or not), but it would be a superficial life that depended on definition by everyone else.

Hopefully, as we search, what we will find is that we value ourselves enough to claim our own happiness—no matter what that looks like.

 

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.