divorced women

What All Divorced Women Have in Common

Years ago, when I was still shell-shocked from learning of my husband’s infidelity and angry that I had become a divorced woman, I went out to dinner with two friends. Both were divorced women, so we had that in common. But one was talking easily about co-hosting her son’s graduation party with her Ex and his* new wife—the woman he’d left her for.

She barely even rolled her eyes when she said his name!

I couldn’t believe it. “How can you stand to be in the same room with him?” I asked, thinking of my own Ex-husband and the knot of dread and anxiety I felt just seeing his name pop up on my phone.

“It’s been five years,” she said. “After a while, I stopped caring about the past. You’ll get there too.”

She said this casually, with so much assurance, that I felt I had to believe her. But how could I?

I couldn’t imagine a day when I could be civil to my Ex

And I considered this pretty normal. Certainly, my other girlfriends who were newly divorced weren’t planning parties with their Ex-husbands. Like me, their scars were too fresh. They were still reeling from divorce fallout that seemed unending: Sandy was constantly facing her Ex in court, while Roxanne’s Ex refused to see or speak to her for more than a year. Linda was grieving not just the loss of her husband but the loss of her best friend, with whom he had an affair. Katie, in her sixties, had given up her retirement plans and savings for her second husband only to be abandoned and forced to navigate the harsh realities of a grey divorce.

What I knew for sure was that my friends and I, and many women like us, had been thrust into situations we never asked for.

As divorced women, how could we stop caring about the past when the past wouldn’t leave us alone?

I gave this a lot of thought. And I kept hearing my friend’s confident voice saying, “You’ll get there too.”


For more suggestions on how to move forward, check out What to Do After Divorce: Your Top 15 Best Moves


Then a funny thing happened. The more I thought about the past, the more I began seeing it through a different lens. In the same way that I had never imagined getting a divorce, I’d never imagined doing other challenging things, like not getting permission from the judge before moving my children to a safer, less expensive apartment. Or buying my own car without consulting with my Ex. Or enrolling in a course to become an energy medicine practitioner. Or learning to say no (full stop!) when my Ex tried to control my life.

When I focused on all the strong, independent moves I made throughout my divorce, the past didn’t seem so suffocating. In fact, I saw that I actually came through my divorce with the best gift imaginable: I met the best version of myself.

And this has been true for my friends too. We have something wonderful in common.

Divorced women have a secret superpower; it’s the strength to rise again

Not all of us look wildly successful on the outside. All of us still face challenges and struggles, but we share an inner strength that we never knew existed.

Here’s what that strength looks like:

Sandy spent so much time in court that she connected with someone who offered her a job as the office manager of an all-female law firm.

The extended cold shoulder Roxanne got from her Ex gave her the space to meet an amazing new partner.

Linda kept loneliness at bay by focusing on her education and career. She earned a doctorate degree and became a department head at a Big Ten university.

Katie, like me, wrote an award-winning memoir about surviving divorce.

Now, when I meet someone going through a divorce, I want to be the one offering assurances. I want to share what my friends and I have learned. I want to take that baffled, disbelieving woman gently by the shoulders, look her in the eyes, and tell her to have faith.

Divorced women are the strongest women you’ll ever meet

A divorced woman knows that the best version of her has gone ahead and is pulling her forward.

A divorced woman has earned a seat at a table loaded with resilience, clarity, wisdom, and freedom. And yes, it’s the very same table where she may, one day, have dinner with her Ex and her Ex’s new wife.

And it will be no big deal. I promise.

Tammy Letherer is an author and writing coach. Her most recent book, The Buddha at My Table: How I Found Peace in Betrayal and Divorce, is a Gold Medal Winner in the Living Now Book Awards and in the Human Relations Indie Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2018 Best Book Awards and National Indie Excellence Awards. Join her and author Maureen Muldoon for their July 10 online event, Divorce Unscripted: An Off-the-Cuff Conversation on Finding Your Peace and Power and find out how to turn one of life’s most difficult challenges into your greatest blessing.

* At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

parental alienation syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome: What Is It? And How to Cope

Children who have been trained to not like one of their parents are often seen in custody disputes. Such training, programming, or what some might call “brainwashing” can be labeled as parental alienation when its goal is to somehow strengthen the role of the abusing parent. Parental alienation becomes a “syndrome” when the child, having been programmed to denigrate the other parent, now plays a role at keeping the “targeted parent” estranged and alienated.

Parental alienation syndrome may sound clinical and technical, but it refers to an all too common occurrence during and after divorce: one parent who attempts to poison their children against the other parent—and who, through control or emotional abuse, succeeds in having the kids adopt and enforce this view.

Many of us recognize examples of parental alienation—your spouse tries to monopolize your children’s time. He* paints a one-sided portrait of you and your marriage (ignoring all the good parts), while reminding the children of how many times you’ve failed them. He tries to provoke you so that you’ll take him to court, and because he is convinced of his own moral high ground, he will relish in it when you do.

Your perpetrator will make you a victim and then turnaround and call himself one. He will say he’s trying to protect your children and “do what’s best for them”, but he is so focused on hurting you and your relationship with them that he’s lost sight of what is healthy, what is indeed beneficial to the children. His tactics inevitably result with your children becoming the worst kind of collateral damage.

What’s happening to the kids

When a parent is successful at turning the children against their other parent, the children’s respect for the targeted parent quickly erodes. For example, your children may begin to openly insult you, or they may demand to spend more time with your Ex. They may begin to act out, or shut down, and their academic performance may slip. If you and your Ex find yourself in an argument, your children may repeatedly (overtly or covertly) side with him.

Your children might adopt the language of your Ex, as they process the world through “his eyes.” This goes beyond the subtle (and perhaps not so subtle) manipulations of your Ex coming to fruition.

Your children are now choosing their other parent over you, yes, but they too are suffering for it.

With so much at stake, healthy coparenting means avoiding parental alienation at all costs and being conscious of good parenting skills.

However, an insidious dimension to the problem is that perpetrators of parental alienation often display behaviors associated with good parenting: meaning, they show up for school events and pickups. They are deeply involved in their children’s lives such that it looks like they are doing everything right as a parent. And yet their engagement is often tightly wound with control and personality disorders, like narcissism. They use lies and manipulation and power as their weapons. At the end of the day, what they really care about is winning.

So, how do we “fight” against parental alienation and its syndrome?

First, we must learn to recognize it. And part of recognizing it is accepting that we women are often the perpetrators.

Until the 1990s—when women were more often the traditional, stay-at-home parent—it was mothers who had more time with their kids and therefore more time to “emotionally overshare,” or to use their children as a sounding board for marital problems. And it was fathers who were more often the targeted parent. Today, as more and more men are the primary caregivers or at least sharing a greater portion of that responsibility, the traditional roles played out in parental alienation are shifting, too.

This said, the “stay-at-home” factor does not necessarily dictate who the perpetrator is. There are ample examples of the moneyed parent using his or her economic edge to offer “a more privileged lifestyle” to a child—resulting in the child favoring the privileged parent.

What is clear is that parental alienation can be perpetrated by either parent and by either gender, but the result always impacts the children.

If you are feeling the stress of a difficult marriage, or struggling with independence as a single mother, we encourage you to find a healthy place to vent and get support for the challenges facing you. It may be hard, but strive to speak respectfully of your Ex to your kids. In our work supporting women through and past divorce, we’ve seen all too often what happens when a woman ignores this advice: her children grow older, and as they eventually circle back to their estranged parent, she is held responsible for the traumatic breakdown of the past.

The remaining information is directed toward our female readers who feel they may be at risk or are currently suffering from parental alienation syndrome.

Distorted memories and perception

If you’re suffering from parental alienation syndrome, your Ex is likely a master manipulator—he’s so successful at this, in fact, that he can distort your children’s memories and perception.

Mom isn’t tired and overworked. She isn’t casual, or maybe, even a little bohemian. No, “she’s let herself go,” “she can’t keep a home,” “she’s a mess,” or “she can’t be trusted because she’s lazy, irresponsible” or “she never grew up.” Or maybe your marriage ended because of an affair, and when your children gather the courage to confront your Ex, he plants the idea that you may have been sleeping around too—or that you, not him, are the adulterer. You broke up the family.

Suddenly your children look at you and what “they know” differently. Men who do this tell themselves they are simply keeping it real or they “just want their children to know the truth,” but more often they’re projecting or downright lying—they are trying to lessen your role, connection, and significance.

Strained familial relationships

The sad fact is that if your Ex is truly successful at alienating you from your children, he’s likely successful at separating them from your extended family, too. The pain and disappointment your family feels from being barred access to your kids will be real and will heighten your pain, too. Your Ex might invent or bend truths to make your parents and siblings (your children’s grandparents, aunts, and uncles) look like strangers or worse, enemies. He’ll find reasons and excuses to keep your kids from being with your family because he’s “protecting them,” but really it’s because your family is an extension of you.

Low self-esteem

How we define our sense of self worth is complicated. If your Ex is targeting you, he’s teaching your children to view your traits and interests as negative. But your children, being part of you, likely share some of those traits and interests. Suddenly they might want to hide parts of themselves away. They might feel ashamed because they know they are part of you.

One of the worst parts about being a victim of parental alienation is that your children don’t usually realize what’s happening.

They don’t have the distance or maturity to understand it either. Even though they are feeling and suffering through all of the above, they will, still, often choose your Ex. It’s a toxic relationship in which your children are constantly seeking validation from the very person who is least likely to give it to them—or, more to the point—to the person whose validation is likely to be fleeting.

This is an abusive relationship: for the love your Ex is extending is conditioned on your children’s rejection of you.

Parental alienation syndrome and support

Abuse and parental alienation have become central issues in some divorce cases.

If you’re dealing with an abusive Ex (and, arguably, alienation in any form is abuse) then we suggest finding a lawyer who understands and recognizes an abuser when she sees one. Do not underestimate your Ex. Do not allow your positive, rose-tinted memories of him to sway your ability to do all you can to protect yourself and your children.

And because you’re here, reading this, know that if you are suffering from parental alienation syndrome, there’s a real chance your children are suffering with you, perhaps in silence.

There are research support groups and organizations nearby that will educate and empower you. Learn about parenting tools that can help you maintain healthy boundaries yet communicate essential information between you and your Ex. Relying on the old way you communicated never worked before, and confronting your Ex about his behavior won’t help either.  Let go of the concept of “coparenting” — the otherwise healthy approach to communicating regularly with your Ex. (because it’s in the best interest of your children’s development). And understand that your endeavoring to survive as an estranged parent. Know that trying to talk to your children directly about how alienated your feeling can backfire as well. Your children may be punished by their other parent just for engaging with you. Don’t give your Ex an invitation to stir things up and make your divorce recovery harder. You’ve got to keep going, working on yourself, because one day, chances are your children will circle back to you. When they do you want to be everything you can for them. Strong. Independent. Healthy.

Parental alienation syndrome is real and coping with it may be a long and lonely battle—and indeed, it’s a battle that may not even be possible for you to truly win. Divorce, as with much of life, isn’t that black and white. But don’t give up. Find regular time for self-care with a therapist trained and experienced in parental alienation. Cultivate a support system with other parents who understand how isolating your experience is right now. They can give you perspective and help guide and protect you during those hours you feel your most alone.

If you already find your children slipping away from you, leave room in your life and in your heart for the possibility that they will one day come back because we’ve seen it all, my friend—and it’s not all tragedy. Sometimes we do get our happy endings, but we have to play the long game, to let go of the idea that we are in control of the where and when.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and re-creation. Now you can secure female-centered support and smart next steps coparenting and rebuilding your life with Paloma’s Group, our virtual group coaching program for women post-divorce. To learn if Paloma is right for you, schedule your quick 15-minute chat now. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited. 

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

References: Clawar, S. S. and Rivlin, B. V. (1991), Children Held Hostage: Dealing with Programmed and Brainwashed Children. Chicago, Illinois: American Bar Association.

get over my ex

14 Ways I’m Going to Get Over My Ex!

What makes a post-divorce break up different than a divorce? Listen in as one divorced woman talks about how she’s going to get over her (latest) Ex…

Dear Jack,

I’m going to tell you everything I think about you, felt for you, and feel for you. I am going to EXPLODE!

And cry.

And you’re never going to know.

In fact, I’m going to record myself so I can evaluate this whole thing later—this whole thing being you, me, and what was us. But for now, I need a witness. A listener. And it can’t be you anymore.

I’m going to walk around a piece of paper I’ve placed on a table, and depending on how I feel at different moments, I’m going to attack it—with bitterness, outbursts, and wet fingers from swiping away tears.

I am scribbling things like …

Rejected! LIVID! HOWLING at the moon!

MISSING you.

I am FEELING old.

Why did you let this go on for so long?

Why are you such a coward?

I surprise myself at my depth of raw hurt. It’s clear I unequivocally love you, loved you, yes, love you even now. Because look at me and what I am reduced to.

When my paper is looking more Jackson Pollack than diary entry, I step back and wait — to let it catch more. Because there will be more, I know — waves of rollercoaster shock and grief for what you’ve done. And for me, for being in this place. For feeling this pain. The anguish of what is right now.

And then?

I’m going to put my dark, smeared masterpiece in an envelope.

I am not going to mail you this testament, this letter, because it would be lost on you. I am going to put it on a far shelf in a cellar closet. Not forgotten, mind you, but contained. I’ve learned I need to work you and what this story really means out more, and when I have, when I am ready, I’ll pull out this hidden envelope. In sacrament or something else, I’ll burn it. Or bury it. Or maybe post it to a wall of cork and throw darts at it.

(It’s got to be cork. I won’t want to damage the wall behind the letter, because that would be permanent.)

As a divorced woman who has survived before, I know I will get over you.

But I also know, I will always love you.

Until I can live in peace with that truth, here is what else I am going to do to get over my Ex. To get over you, my latest heartbreak.

1. I am going to moan and cry

I am going to come to terms with letting you go only after much resistance. So, cry I must.

2. I am going surround myself with girlfriends

My girlfriends remind me of who I am and the rings of fire I’ve already been through. I am going to feel their love and savor their bias. And I am going to laugh and let them say whatever they want to say about you — and NEVER defend you.

3. I am going to block you

I know my weakness, my tendency to obsess over you. There will be no more Facebook peeks or Instagram stalking from me. I won’t allow it. I’m blocking your texts and number. I’ve learned I must treat you like a drug and go cold turkey.

4. One night (or more) I’m going to eat WTF I want

Remember how you’re allergic to shellfish and nuts? Well, I am going out with my besties, and we’re ordering lobster tails with peanut saté followed by gallons of pistachio ice cream.

5. I am going to repeat aloud what I know: I am going to get over you

People break up with each other all the time. I’ve been here before, and so have so many others.

6. I’m going to commit to regular exercise

Exercising will help me feel and look better about myself. Feeling healthier is going to help me bounce back sooner.

7. I am going to get drunk and curse you out

I exercised, but now I’m hanging with my friend who could always drink you under the table and she’s reminding me why she didn’t like you either! How do I get over my Ex? I’ve already forgotten him.


Related: Post Divorce: How to Avoid Making the Same Mistakes in Your Next Relationship


8. I’m going to try to rebalance

Recovering from my hangover is going to remind me how fragile and very precious I actually am. I am going to try to regulate my sleep and eat healthily to support my heart and immune system as they metabolize the pain and vodka.

9. I’m reconnecting with a trusted professional

Something I learned through my past divorce—I will feel better if I don’t just talk about the pain I am going through but actually DO something with these feelings. Taking action is really important. Hello, Divorce Coach, remember me? I’m back but in a different, improved way.

10. I’m going to find a home for your belongings

Granted, you’ve not got a lot of things here (and there’s no 401(k)). But I’ve discovered a special place where your toothbrush is going to live. And it’s not at my house.

11. I may reactivate my online dating profile—and act out!

I say I might—not because I’ve healed—but because I am an independent woman, and I can! It may feel good to hear someone say I have a pretty smile. Or to go out for a drink with someone who thinks I am special; someone who doesn’t see the tire tracks on my back from where I’ve been dumped.

12. I am going to smudge the house

The last time I had to get over my Ex, I hired a professional energy clearer. I’ve since learned I can buy the sage myself from the health food store, and on my own, purify my house of all the (stinking, rotten) heaviness you left. Poof! Gone!

13. I am going to consider what missteps I took in this ill-fated Tango

What was my responsibility in the downfall of our relationship? And what have you taught me? (But only after I’ve exhausted myself being small and blaming you.)

14. I am going to be kind to myself

I know getting over you is going to hurt, and it’s going to require time and steps. I learned that through a much deeper, momentous trip — my divorce recovery. That’s right, sir. You are not my first.

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and re-creation. Now you can learn the Art of Reinvention through Paloma’s Group, our virtual, online post-divorce group coaching class for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

* This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Woman walking on beach thinking about divorce

36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce

If you are thinking about divorce, your thoughts can fluctuate, ranging from the mere, fleeting imaginings of what life might be like if you were single, to the repetitive, torturous thought process of “Should I or shouldn’t I divorce?” While one end of the spectrum is entirely normal for many people, the other end can signal serious problems in and for a marriage.

Based on our background in education and experience working with clients in our divorce practice, we’ve identified the following 36 things that can help you understand where you are on the spectrum of contemplating divorce and what steps you can take to gain greater clarity and stop the recurring thought process.

As you complete each step you will be doing more than merely thinking about divorce. You will begin to better understand which direction your marriage and life might go.

  1. As you first contemplate divorce, you may or may not know if you want to divorce. Accept that this is entirely normal. What you “want” may be entirely different from what you ultimately decide you “must” do. Your job right now is to study and learn what is possible for you and your family.
  2. Educate yourself. It’s likely that you feel you’ve reached an impasse in your marriage and your emotions may be all over the place. You might be incredibly angry and lashing out. Or perhaps you have retreated, feeling despondent, probably depressed. This is to be expected, but you should not be making long-term decisions from this emotional place. Start educating yourself by looking for credible divorce resources. Visit your nearby bookstore or search online. There is a wealth of information available to you for free.
  3. Understand that getting educated about the choices you have for your life does not mean you are necessarily getting divorced. You are learning about your options and what your rights are so you can ultimately make a good decision from an informed place.
  4. Establish a new (secret) email account dedicated to this subject. Take care to use a “private” or “incognito” window so that the computer does not create a history of where you’ve been when you go to log on. And take time to create a new email address. Use this email to sign up for divorce information and newsletters that might advance your thinking and understanding.
  5. Save cash. Should you decide to pursue divorce, you will need access to money. If all your money is in joint accounts with your spouse, check with a lawyer as to when you can open your own account, or start stashing cash in a safe, secret place. Maybe you’ll never need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you started saving now.
  6. If you feel you may be a victim of abuse, take action immediately.  There are many signs and forms of abuse, and sometimes it’s difficult to know if you are a victim. A clear sign is this: If you find yourself constantly watching what you are saying and doing, or walking on eggshells around your spouse–lest you trigger him/her and “cause” a blow up, you are likely in an unhealthy and abusive relationship.  Focus your attention there.  Read more about this and take action to protect yourself and your children. You may feel you can handle it, but things will not improve unless you do something to change the way things are now.
  7. Make a list of your most critical financial questions.  If you divorce, will you have to get a job if you’ve been a stay-at-home-mom? If you have debt, do you understand half the marital debt is yours? Should you use your IRA to help pay for your divorce? Keep a running list of questions as they occur to you.
  8. Be careful in whom you confide – this includes family.  Few people can be truly objective, and fewer still are marriage or divorce experts. Yet, there are plenty of opinions and judgements. Just because your neighbor got burned by his ex, does not mean that’s what’s in store for you if you choose to divorce.
  9. Do your best to conduct your research from a healthy mindset. It’s easy to vilify and blame your spouse for the problems that exist, but deep down, you know no one is totally faultless. As you learn about the issues in your marriage and what is possible for your lives, try to avoid the adversarial, vindictive, blame-gaming, and often, gender-bashing attitudes some books, some social media posts, or some people propagate.
  10. Evaluate your biggest fears. Do you fear you cannot “afford a divorce?” Are you afraid what divorce would do to your kids and thus, staying in a marriage “for the kids”?  Writing down your fears may help you examine their validity.  You may recognize you cannot not afford a divorce because you need your sanity…or that you are really hiding behind the kids so that you don’t have to be a single parent or face being alone.
  11. Think of how your kids are being impacted now and will be impacted long term. If you are a parent, and you and your spouse are fighting, look at yourselves as your kids might view you. You may think they don’t know what’s going on, but on some level they do, and it’s anxiety inducing for them. Your lack of clarity and unresolved difficulties or the warzone you have created is playing out in their lives, too.
  12. Avoid venting on social media. Watch out for where you vent and be wary of social media. If you say something online, it’s there forever and can be used against you. Same for emails. Before posting or hitting SEND, review what you are saying as if you were a courtroom judge. Be very careful.
  13. Recognize that marriage does not come with an owner’s manual. In our culture, most of us are poorly prepared for making a marriage work. Often it is something we learn — or fail to learn — behind the marital door. At this point in your relationship, it’s not worth beating yourself up…that energy is better spent figuring out what to do about your situation today and how you will move forward tomorrow.
  14. Ask yourself, is there is any love left? Do you still love your spouse? Love is sometimes hard to find when you are consumed by anger, resentment, or are stressed out from overworking, parenting, or a million, everyday struggles. If there’s even a hint of love left, however, it’s worth asking the question, “Can we re-ignite it?”
  15. If you decide to stay in the marriage, set your intention and begin work together. Discuss with your spouse how you are going to work on your marriage so you begin to do things differently and not repeat the same old story. It’s unlikely that you will be able to do this without the support of a professional, so we suggest that you seek a trained marriage counselor.
  16. Evaluate what you have done as a couple to repair your relationship. Have you sought good quality help? Not all couples therapy is created equal. If you’re working with a therapist and you’re not making progress, it does not mean you should necessarily divorce. Investigate which types of marital therapy have the best success rates and find a trained practitioner who will teach you how to communicate with each other and help you both understand that growth and change require a deep commitment from both of you.
  17. Consider Discernment Counseling. Particularly helpful to couples where one partner wants to divorce and the other wishes to repair the relationship, discernment counseling helps couples understand if their problems are solvable. An added benefit is that the counseling is designed to be short term and to help you answer the important question, “Should we get a divorce?”
  18. Think about your role in the difficulties of the marriage and do not isolate yourself. If you are convinced that marital therapy is not working or that your spouse is not participating, or that your efforts to try to do things differently are failing, do not isolate yourself. Seek to move beyond wondering if you should divorce. Being alone darkens your sense of possibility and hope. It keeps you in a spin cycle of overthinking.
  19. Begin assembling a list of your most critical legal questions. Do you separate or do you divorce? If you were to divorce, how do you go about it? Do you know the different ways? Is Mediation an option for you? How do you find a good attorney? What are your rights? What do you not know?
  20. Read about the divorce laws in your state. Laws vary and what is possible in one state may not be possible in yours.  Most states have a section on the court website to help you understand the divorce process where you live. Start there.
  21. Consider a Time Out. Often when there’s a physical shift between a couple, it’s easier to think straight and reflect on what is really important. Consider taking a long vacation away from the other, or a house-sitting job. If you wish to live separately make sure you consult with an attorney in your state before doing anything — especially if you have children.
  22. Organize and prioritize your most critical practical questions. If you’ve never paid the bills before, how would you begin?  If you work overtime most days, who would be home for the children after school — if your spouse is no longer there? Keep a running list and add to it as you think of things.
  23. Move beyond the cyclical thought process of thinking about divorce by consulting compassionate, professional support. We recommend your first step be a consultation with a divorce coach. A divorce coach can help you understand the legal and emotional process you may be facing and the issues that are holding you back from making a decision. A good divorce coach will help you evaluate what’s real and not, and help you take steps to face your fears. A divorce coach can also explain the different legal processes that may be available to you. Learning about your choices will allow you to go deeper and be more educated if you choose to then consult with the next level of experts (lawyers, financial advisors, mediators) whose hourly rate is often more expensive.
  24. Ask your divorce coach, therapist, and friends for vetted referrals to other experts, including lawyers. You are seeking perspective and feedback on your situation, and if you think you are ready to hire someone, you are looking for chemistry and someone you can trust.
  25. Schedule consultations with several attorneys and/or a mediator.  We recommend that you interview several. Bring your legal questions from step #19, or for more information, read here for additional questions. Don’t forget your notebook for taking notes and your last 3 years’ tax returns (if possible.)
  26. Consider having your friend or divorce coach accompany you to some or all of these professional meetings. There is a lot to learn and keep track of at the same time you are feeling stressed. Having an ally to help you take notes and bounce ideas off after meetings will lessen your strain on trying to be on top of everything.
  27. Strategize about how you might pay for a divorce. Will you use joint money, a loan, a credit card, your secret stash (#5), or borrow money from a friend or relative or from a saving account or your IRA? Learn the laws about “counsel fees” in your state and ask the attorneys you are interviewing how you might pay their retainer and ongoing fees.
  28. Branch out and talk to more experts who can help you answer your other questions. Often a financial advisor experienced in divorce will think of things a lawyer will not mention. S/he can possibly help you strategize how you might pay for a divorce or what might be in your interest to ask for in the settlement. A child therapist who has counseled other parents through divorce may do much to help you support your child. A real estate broker might advise you on your practical housing questions, such as the pros and cons of renting vs. buying if you divorce, or what your house might be appraised for. When a question comes to mind, think about who is out there and who might have the answer for you.
  29. Understand there will come a tipping point and you will make a decision about divorce. Despite your best efforts to get educated beyond just thinking about divorce, rarely will you know 100 percent if you should or should not follow through. Usually there remains some portion of ambivalence, but know that at some moment in time, you will reach a saturation point of information and either you’ll be ready to make the decision to stay or go — or the decision will be forced upon you.
  30. You are not ready for divorce If you cannot accept changes. If you cannot accept there will be a change to your finances, lifestyle, friendship groups, or traditions, you are not ready for divorce. If you cannot accept uncertainty … that at times there will be fear and unknowns, then you are not ready for divorce. On the other hand, you may have no choice. In which case, you must face your greatest fears. Seek support.
  31. If you decide to move ahead with the divorce, set your intention. Determine how you want to conduct yourself throughout this difficult passage and beyond. Remind yourself you will have no control over your spouse, but you will try your best to control how you act and react. If you have children, ask yourself what is the model you want to show them? Write down the image of yourself as the parent you want to be. Establishing a clear image of who you want to be and what you want to demonstrate for your kids will help you in this next often-difficult stage.
  32. Understand that you want to avoid divorce court if you can help it. Rarely is anyone completely happy with the terms of his/her divorce, but to avoid getting a judge involved, you will have to be flexible, negotiate in good faith, and compromise on tough issues. Being stubborn or vindictive is what drives people to litigation. That means court. (The truth is that less than 10% of cases end up in a full blown trial; but those that do, end up with massive legal bills and a destroyed relationship.)
  33. Start collecting your financial information.  If you choose to begin divorce proceedings, you will be required to disclose your finances early in the process. Most states have a required financial statement form (though different states have different names for it — check your state court website). Begin filling it out or hunting down the information to get a head start.
  34. Learn what your next steps are and what the process will look like. A divorce coach will act as your guide throughout the process, but if you are not working with one (or cannot afford one at this time) consider a good divorce support group that is professionally facilitated and where you will learn from the experiences of other women.  Read this article to learn meaningful criteria for a good divorce support group, and find one on-line or near you. Feeling supported and heard, will lessen your anxiety and stress.
  35. Be kind to yourself. Understand that there will be times you feel crazy, like you’ve returned to your old loop of contemplating divorce and wondering if you are doing the right thing. But because you followed many of these steps, you are not embarking on this path lightly. You have taken every opportunity to be thoughtful about facing this major life-change, divorce, and though you many not desire this outcome, you have done your homework.
  36. Know that there is life after divorce. What stands directly in front of you is moving through the divorce process and ensuring your divorce recovery. It will be challenging. But for you and your family to stand the best shot at a healthy life afterwards, you must continue to step forward mindfully and with intention. There is life after divorce. You probably cannot see it yet. You certainly cannot feel it. But it’s there, bigger and better than you can imagine, waiting for you.

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce.

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women 

Coping with Divorce like a modern woman

Not Your Mother’s Divorce: How to Cope Like a Modern Woman

Coping with divorce was not on my list of goals as a happily married mom of three. But my husband of twelve years had a different list, one he shared with me just weeks before Christmas.

He asked me to join him at the dining room table, where he sat with a piece of paper and two fingers of scotch in front of him and read the words he’d prepared: He’d been unfaithful for more than ten years, and he was leaving me for someone he’d met and known for one day in Las Vegas.

I remember sliding off my chair onto the floor as he walked out, leaving me alone with the kids sleeping in their beds.

When I finally got to my feet, an image of my mother flashed before me and I felt weak with shame. How could I be here, in a situation so similar to what she had faced with my father? How was it possible when I had done everything right? I had chosen my husband so carefully, certain that I could never be fooled by an unfaithful man.

Let the ghosts out

I dreaded telling her, certain that she would make the inevitable comparisons and that my experience would invite more dad-bashing.

But my mother only cried with me. A lot. I felt the depth of her pain through the phone line, and I was soothed because there is nothing in the world like crying to your mother. I believe it waters some dry patch in us that, as adults, we tend to overlook, intent instead on staking up our Proven-Winner lives.

Here I had believed my life was in full bloom. I had vowed to do everything differently from my mother, different from all the divorced women who came before me. My mother didn’t know how to write a check when my parents divorced. She had never handled her own money. I may have been a stay-at-home mom when my husband left, but I had a college degree and I knew how to run a Quickbooks spreadsheet. I was part of a new generation of smart women.

But the helplessness, the sense of doom, that my mother must have felt flared in me, and I understood it in a way I never could before.

In a session with my therapist, I cried, “I don’t want to be like my mother, alone and bitter!”

“That’s one picture,” he said. “But there are others.”

Those words would become a lifeline for me: there are other pictures, other ways of being. I didn’t have to become my mother. Now that I’d been thrust into the same situation, I felt the anger and judgments I’d carried toward her dissolve, replaced by a resolve that I would do all I could to feel powerful again after divorce.

So I created a new list:

Refuse to repeat the past

I found ways to ground myself in the present, even if that meant constantly repeating the obvious to myself: I lived in a different city, had a different education, personality, and support system than my mother. I could move on and choose a new future simply by deciding to.

Break the rules that need to be broken

During my divorce process I was told what to do by a variety of experts, including lawyers, mediators, vocational counselors, judges, and even other divorced friends. When I decided, on my own, to move myself and my kids to a cheaper apartment, my lawyer warned me to get permission from the court first. Instead, I trusted my gut and calmly explained that my move would save everyone money, including my former husband. My lawyer shifted gears so enthusiastically that I almost thought it was his idea!

Put yourself first

I learned that coping includes not only setting boundaries but stretching them too. I trained myself to tell my Ex-husband, “Sorry, that won’t work for me.” That was it. End of sentence. I stopped adding explanations and entertaining objections.

And then I went dancing. I took every lesson I’d always dreamed of taking, enduring the embarrassment of being up close and personal with strangers or stepping on someone’s toes. Dancing would become one of the unexpected gifts of my divorce. And when I knew enough to hold my own, I invited my mom to a jazz club, where we tore up the dance floor and had a blast.

I saw that we had very different ways of moving, both on the dance floor and through our divorces.

My divorce wasn’t my mother’s divorce. It was mine. And it was perfectly orchestrated for me to become my best self—past, present, and future.

 

Tammy Letherer is an author and writing coach. Her most recent book, The Buddha at My Table: How I Found Peace in Betrayal and Divorce, is a Gold Medal Winner in the Living Now Book Awards and in the Human Relations Indie Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2018 Best Book Awards. Tammy writes regularly about creativity, the writing life, inspiration, and spirituality. You can find her blogs on Huffington Post, SheKnows, GrokNation, SheDoesTheCity, and more. Connect with her at TammyLetherer.com.

Best coparenting skills

8 Skills for the Best Coparenting

Figuring out the best coparenting skills while dealing with your Ex isn’t always easy. After divorce, routines are disrupted and then pieced back together. Emotions are strained. Energy levels are low to nonexistent. And while kids bounce back quicker, on some level, they may be sharing some of these feelings too—a breeding ground for the sort of emotions that cause children to act out or hide themselves away.

The good news is that the some of the best coparenting skills are similar if not the same as those parenting skills you were practicing before your divorce. The key is to not let them fall to the wayside after divorce and to brace yourself and your children for the ways in which your lives are about to change. That sort of honesty and vigilance will shield you from some of the worst of your post-divorce recovery.

Below are eight of the best coparenting skills we wish to share. Keep these in mind as you navigate your divorce and post-divorce journey with your children’s other parent.

Putting your children’s interest first, always

This might sounds simple, but it’s effective—you might not always feel like you’re making the right choices, but if you’re making decisions with your children’s best interest in mind, then you’re already doing your job as a parent. When faced with a tough choice, take a deep breath, push petty concerns out of your mind, and place the image of you children center stage. Just focus on doing right by them because the rest of it is outside of your control.

Communicating with your Ex without using your kids as messengers

Children often become middlemen when it comes to divorce, but in today’s world, there’s just no excuse for it. With cellphones, email, websites, and court recommended apps like Family Wizard, there’s no shortage of ways to speak to your Ex without actually having to hear or see him*.

Using your children as messengers places an undue burden on their shoulders—a burden that becomes even heavier when those messages are nuanced and weighted. Your children may forget to pass one along, or they may be scared of how you or your Ex will react. To avoid this, it might help if you use a professional tone when you speak with your Ex. Make sure you listen even when you disagree, and keep your conversations focused on your children.

Being patient

Patience is a virtue any day, but you’ll have to stretch this skill a lot during your divorce recovery. When we aren’t patient, we can snap like rubber bands. Sometimes that looks like an eruption festering inside us: we sulk. Sometimes it bursts out: we shout. But research shows that yelling at your children actually makes their behavior and your relationship with them worse not better. When you shout at your kids, they can feel a sense of rejection which might result in low self-esteem and self-control.


Read: What to Do When Your Child Acts Like Your Ex-husband


Rather than berating yourself for lashing out at your children (even when you told yourself you wouldn’t), try to come up with a strategy to use next time. Part of your plan might be giving yourself some distance from the situation, if possible. Take a short walk. Get some fresh air. You might also do your best to put yourself in your children’s shoes—what’s really upsetting them? Is it the divorce or something else? Could you have played a part in it, even unintentionally? What can you do to make sure your children feel seen in this moment?

Creating a sense of consistency

Yes, you and your Ex live in different houses and spend time with your kids on a different schedule. But when it comes to “the rules” and how to discipline your children, attempt to develop consistency. When’s bedtime? What constitutes a healthy meal? Is snacking okay? How much screen time, if any, is allowed? If necessary, what’s an appropriate punishment for breaking these rules?

When one parent has to bear the burden of being “the fun one” or “the strict one,” it’s never a good thing. Your children need to understand that they can’t take advantage of either of their parents or play them against each other. You are all on the same team even though you live under different roofs.

This is one of those best coparenting skills that you’d likely been practicing before your divorce, but after, the discipline needed to keep it up increases. Which brings us to our next point.

Respecting the differences between you and your Ex

Maybe your Ex loathes watching movies but loves the outdoors, or maybe he’s soft-spoken when it comes to the small stuff but great when it really matters. These aspects of your Ex’s personality may be different from yours—and while that’s okay, your children may go through an adjustment period when they realize that who you and your Ex were as a couple and who you both are as individuals might not look exactly the same.

So if your child comes home complaining that Dad took her hiking. Again. Or that his idea of a home-cooked meal is always some variation of meat and potatoes. Remember that this is not an opportunity for you to buddy-up with your child, chiming in with, “I know, I always hated that about him, too!” For overtly or subliminally badmouthing your Ex will only backfire in the long run. Instead, try using this moment as an opportunity to explain to your child that every person is different and that every experience is valuable. Your daughter might not appreciate hiking now, for instance, but when she’s older, she’ll likely look back on these memories fondly. Differences can be fun too. Together, you and your children can have “your own thing” that’s unique to your relationship.

Making the transition between visitations smooth

When you and your Ex pick the kids up from each other’s homes, are bags packed and ready to go? You can keep certain basics at both homes, like toothbrushes, underwear, or hairbrushes, to cut down on the amount of packing that needs to be done each visit and to make each place truly feel like it’s “theirs” rather than a place they only sometimes occupy.

When they arrive in your home, give them time to adjust to the atmosphere and expectations that exist under your roof. It’s different from your Ex’s house—and kids need time to adapt. At the end of your visits, are the kids really prepared to leave—have they made their goodbyes and had a proper meal? Try to create a sense of calm around these arrivals and departures. When children are rushed out the door abruptly, it feels more like they are being torn away from their parent rather than merely saying goodbye for now.

Speaking positively about your Ex

In fact, we’d take this one step further. If you hear your children talking about your Ex negatively, try to communicate your displeasure (obviously this does not apply to situations involving abuse or neglect, in which you should 100% listen to your children). Put on a frown, and encourage them to put themselves in your Ex’s shoes. Each and every one of you is going through a difficult time—a transition period—and being kind to one another is one way you can help see each other through it. And respect for each parent is important.

Children can quickly get in the habit of using you as a sounding board to complain about their other parent, but it’s a habit you should try to curb as soon as possible. Your kids need to understand that you and their other parent are not enemies.

Being boring, when the time calls for it

Research shows that children need time to do regular things with both of their parents and not just stuff that’s entertaining. That’s true whether you’re married or divorced. For one, boredom can even lead to creativity and self-sufficiency. It also keeps expectations realistic.

When your divorce is still fresh, for instance, it’s easy to get into the habit of wanting all your time with your children to be fun and exciting. You might try to fill up each and every moment so that time passes by faster and there’s little to no time for dwelling on the past (or the fact that one parent is now missing from these activities). This type of non-stop action doesn’t lead to the natural pauses in conversation—ones that might in turn lead to parenting opportunities—or allow your children to develop a normal routine. You start to become less of a parent and more of a friend.

Your relationship with your coparent doesn’t need to be antagonistic (although we understand if you’re past finding ways to get along and more focused on how to simply get by). Together, you can develop a plan that benefits both you and your children. These may be some of the best coparenting skills, but they’re even more tools to add to your coparenting utility belt out there. There’s no way for you to master each of them all at once, but with practice, you can get there.

If you are seeking an education on best practices for coparenting as you support your children through one of the toughest moments in your lives, you will want to know about Gaia’s Group, SAS for Women’s virtual group coaching class for coparenting mothers. We all need a thoughtful, committed plan for helping our children weather and move beyond separation and divorce. Doing it the healthiest way is a choice. 

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Bad divorce advice

8 Terrible (But Common) Pieces of Divorce Advice You Should Definitely Ignore

It’s a rare skill to listen to someone without offering up your two cents, and divorce advice is no different. Each and everyone one of us does this. For women, especially, it’s only natural to want to help our loved ones. So we dole out our well-meaning advice. We try to fix whatever’s broken. But we don’t know what we don’t know, and when it comes to someone else’s marriage, there’s just so damn much we don’t know. Will never know.

If you find yourself on the receiving end of this “well-intentioned” divorce advice, just know that you’re not alone in this. Most of it comes from a good place, though much of it is terrible. Here are some of the more common pieces of divorce advice we’ve come across and why they often miss the mark.

Wait until the children are out of the house, for their sake

One of the most common pieces of divorce advice is simply to not get divorced at all. At least, not until the children are old enough to live on their own. This, the advice giver says, is what’s best for your children. But the research shows that’s not the case. Getting divorced and removing your children from an environment filled with tension and uncertainty can be better for you children in the long run.

In this case, the advice giver skirts around everything left unsaid: teach your children that it’s more important to be miserable than happy, to do what’s easy rather than what feels right, to pretend that everything is okay rather than bare your mistakes to the world, to make fear-based decisions instead of taking risks and being brave.

Get it together already

Harsh. But it’s tough love, right? The problem with telling someone to get it together is that it implies there’s a time limit on how long each of us has to wallow in our emotions. To just be. To process the end of a relationship. But sometimes all we feel up to on a given day is planting ourselves in front of the TV and watching When Harry Met Sally on repeat. Yes, Netflix, we are still here.

We get it, no one likes to see someone they love in pain, so when someone tells you to shut off your feelings, to “X or get off the pot” just to make them more comfortable around you simply explain to them that that is exactly what they are doing. You are sad, and that’s okay. If they don’t like what they see, they can leave you to it. Your divorce recovery journey is your journey, and no one but you gets to dictate what that journey looks like.

You just need to try harder

Divorce advice about you needing to “put in the work” almost always includes phrases like “to get that spark back.” Most of these people mean well, but being that they are on the outside of your marriage looking in, they can’t possibly know just how much effort you’ve already put into reconnecting with your partner and “fixing” whatever’s wrong in your marriage.

Working on your marriage is a complicated thing. It might be that all of this burden is being placed on your shoulders—or maybe it’s the opposite. On the advice of your loved ones, you’re constantly having talks with your husband* about trying more, making more time, changing his behavior, and now, he feels as though he’s walking on eggshells. That everything he does is wrong. This isn’t good either.

You and your partner should not feel pressured to perform a role that no longer fits, to be what someone expects of you rather than be yourself. Sometimes we try so hard to make our marriages work that we fail to see that we’ve become two mismatched puzzle pieces being forced together.

And then there’s the flip side.

It’s time to find someone better

It’s hard not to cringe when someone tells you this. Are they implying that you chose the wrong partner? That your Ex isn’t a good person? The truth is there are often a myriad of, and not just one, reasons that cause a marriage to come to an end. There is no winning or losing side. And in the months or even years leading up to your divorce, it’s quite possible that you painted a pretty one-sided picture of your Ex. It’s possible that your loved ones don’t have the full story.

After divorce, we each have our own lessons to learn. Could we communicate better? Be more patient and understanding? Are we being honest with ourselves about what we want out of life? Maybe your Ex was exactly who you needed in your life at a given moment, and now, for whatever reason, things have changed.

And if you have children who overhear talk of finding someone better, it’s possible that they’ll develop a negative view of themselves. After all, half of their identity has been formed by their father. If he’s not “good enough,” then maybe you feel the same way about them, too.

Next time, you’ll get it right

Here’s another cringeworthy piece of divorce advice. Marriage, children, the house—for so many, these are the markers of someone who has “made it.” Someone who’s successful and has it all. But now, your marriage is over. If you were once a winner, then logic says you’re now a loser. They (meaning all the people who are still winning, all the “happily-married” couples whose lives you are envious of) have gotten it and are still getting it right.

By now, surely you can see the problem with this kind of thinking. The logic is flawed. For one, there might not be a next time, and you might be perfectly okay with that. But more than that, marriage, and life by extension, is not a game. And you are not a failure for deciding to stop playing one way.

You need a rebound

You need to move on! You need to get “out there” and have some fun. You need to get under someone to get over someone. No matter how they phrase their words, anyone who gives you this advice is telling you the same thing: jump into bed with someone else—it’s the only way to let go of your feelings for your Ex.


Read: How to Avoid Rebound Relationships After Divorce


And hey, if this has helped you, then more power to you, but each of us is cut from a different cloth. There’s a time and place for casual sex, and while you’re recovering from divorce may not be one of them. Instead of helping you feel more alive and in control, it can make you feel even more alone and empty. At the end of the day, there’s that word “casual” attached to the sex. Casual as in no attachments, no feelings, and no promises. When you’re at your most vulnerable, sometimes you need to surround yourself by people who offer more stability than that.

You better dive back into that dating pool—you’re not getting any younger

It seems that for women our biological clocks never quite stop ticking. Our days are numbered in large, bold font with a neon arrow pointing to our expiration date for all to see. After divorce, we feel pressured to quickly find another of those plentiful fish in the sea. To snap one up and lock it down before the wrinkles settle in for good and we grow tired of covering up the grey.

And all this pressure? It puts you at risk of settling for someone who’s not really right for you and ignoring someone who might surprise you. It makes the whole dating experience more of a frantic frenzy than a journey that teaches you just as much about yourself as it does about any man. Give yourself the time you deserve to properly recover from your divorce before you start dating again. You can find happiness at any age, and anyone who tells you otherwise should be ignored. They’re projecting their own fears, but you know better than that.

Squeeze every penny out of that [insert insult here]

During and after your divorce, you’ll likely be experiencing many emotions, with one in particular often rising to the surface: anger. And your loved ones, who are also feeling angry on your behalf, might be stoking those fires rather than helping you put them out. But deciding to go after your Ex “for all that the’s worth” almost never makes those feelings go away. Instead, it prolongs your divorce proceedings. It creates resentment on both sides. It makes successfully coparenting nearly impossible.

In the moment, being angry might feel good, but in the long run, you’re giving both you and your Ex less resources to live your lives and raise your children with.

If you’ve gone through or are currently in the midst of divorce, we’d love to hear from you. What’s the worst piece of divorce advice you received? What “words of wisdom” do you wish you had ignored?

Whether you are considering a divorce, already navigating it, or are recovering from its upheaval, 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 oft times complicated experience of divorce and divorce recovery. Experience SAS firsthand. Schedule your free, 45-minute consultation to hear perspective, next steps and the best resources that will honor your life and who you are meant to be.

This article was authored for the all-women website SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs.

*At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

post divorce

Post Divorce: How to Avoid Making the Same Mistakes in Your Next Relationship

When you get out of a long-term relationship or marriage, the newfound freedom can feel both exhilarating and daunting, especially if you’ve felt trapped or unhappy for a long time.

In your post divorce/new found life, you can now do things you couldn’t do before.

You can stay out late when your Ex has the kids.

You don’t have to answer to him* anymore (at least not like you used to).

You can be your own woman and show up in the world in a way that you felt you haven’t been able to in a very long time.

You’re a free agent! Part of you just wants to do something different, have a good time, and be who you really are.

You’re conscious of what happened with your Ex

In retrospect, you realize maybe you kind of fell into your past relationships. And now years later, you wondered what truly happened—what about those people drew you to them—and if that pain could’ve been avoided.

Maybe you’re already in a budding romance. There’s amazing chemistry. Things are moving quickly. And you haven’t felt this deep a connection with any other man before. You’re wondering where he’s been all your life.

At the same time, there’s a part of you that’s scared. You really want it to last. But you’re afraid of making the same mistakes. You’re worried about overlooking red flags and ending up with a different version of your Ex.

I feel you. This post divorce stage in life can be exciting and confusing at the same time. But it doesn’t have to lead to heartbreak.

If you want to avoid making the same mistakes in your next relationship, there are five things you can do to help set yourself up for relationship success and give yourself the best chance of finding a committed relationship that lasts.

To be clear, this is not to say that your previous relationships were mistakes or that you did anything wrong. Every experience no matter how painful can bring powerful new awareness to our life.

The truth is, we don’t know what we don’t know. You’ve already acknowledged that you want to avoid making the same “mistakes,” that you want to be more conscious on your dating journey, and that’s the first step.

So how do you actually get conscious and avoid making the same “mistakes”?

Get a clear vision of the kind of life and relationship you ultimately want

Your vision is the dream that lives inside you for the kind of life and relationship that you ultimately want. It’s where you want to live, how you want to live, and the kind of work or career that’s deeply fulfilling for you. It’s the kind of relationship that you really want.

Not just the qualities you’re looking for in a partner but rather a clear and conscious picture of the kind of experience that you want in a partnership. It’s about knowing what that partnership looks like and feels like.

Having a clear vision for the kind of life and relationship you want—before you start dating—is important because being conscious of your vision will help you avoid getting deeply involved with someone who doesn’t want the same things you want from life.

For example, if your dream is to have more kids or travel around the world, getting deeply involved with someone who is done having kids or who hates travel is only going to end in deep disappointment for the both of you.

So, if you don’t know what your vision is for the kind of life and relationship that you want, take the time to explore and get clear before you date to find your next serious relationship.

In the meantime, take a break from dating or date for fun, and avoid getting deeply involved until you’re clear on what you want in life and in a partnership.

Be aware of your relationship history and patterns

Being aware of your relationship history and patterns is about knowing, for example, why you seem to be irresistibly attracted to guys who [insert bad habit, problem, or “character flaw” here].

It’s about knowing what part you might have played in the demise of a relationship. It’s about knowing where you have wounds or scars so that when your insecurities get triggered (and they will), you’ll know where the feelings are coming from. And you’ll know whether a relationship issue is simply a story you’re telling yourself or if it’s a real red flag.

The saying is true: those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. Without conscious awareness of our patterns, we’re not aware of the whys behind our decisions. But when we’re empowered with awareness, we can consciously make different choices that support our relationship goals instead of detracting from them.

Know your relationship requirements

Relationship requirements are your nonnegotiables. Requirements are what you absolutely require in a relationship in order for a relationship to work for you. They’re your dealbreakers.

They’re qualities of a relationship that you feel so strongly about that you would end a relationship if even one of them was missing.

If you’ve thought about or are living your life post divorce, chances are that you have some idea of what you will and won’t tolerate in a relationship.

So looking at your relationship history (all your relationships), in addition to looking at why your marriage ended, will give you valuable clues into what your dealbreakers are post divorce.

We tend to think of relationship requirements as qualities that we want our partner to have.

But the best way to approach this is to think about the experience that you want to have in a partnership.

So, for example, if your Ex cheated on you and you know that that’s a deal breaker for you, then your requirement might be monogamy and being faithful.

Or if you’re thinking you require open and honest communication in a partnership, what’s most important is to know exactly what that looks like and feels like for you in the kind of partnership that you want to have.

In other words: how would you know that you had open and honest communication in your relationship if you saw it?

The incredible value of knowing your relationship requirements is knowing exactly what to look for when you’re dating so that you can more quickly and effectively screen potential partners post divorce.

By knowing your relationship requirements, you’ll know exactly what you’re “testing” for in your relationship as you get more deeply involved, so you avoid wasting your time with guys who aren’t a match and only spend your time with quality men who have long-term potential. The kind of men who vibe with your vision of life post divorce.

Post divorce, get real clear on your needs and wants

Your needs and wants are related to your vision and requirements in that they’re part of what you need in order to have a happy and fulfilling life and relationship.

Your needs are what you need in a relationship in order for the relationship to work for you.

They’re different from requirements in that requirements are dealbreakers, whereas an unmet need wouldn’t necessarily mean you would end the relationship.

We have functional and emotional needs.

Functional needs are what we need in a relationship in order for it to work. For example, if you’re a punctual person but your boyfriend tends to run late, that’s going to create an issue for you.

It might not be a deal breaker, but it raises an issue because your need for punctuality is not being met.

Emotional needs are what we need to feel loved.

For example, for many people, it’s really important to experience affection and appreciation in a relationship. You might be thinking, “Well, of course! Wouldn’t that be a dealbreaker to not have affection and appreciation in a relationship?”

Not necessarily.

The difference between needs and requirements are that requirements are black and white. They’re absolute, they’re dealbreakers. They have the power to end a relationship.

Unmet needs raise an issue, but they’re not dealbreakers.

So if your honey forgot your anniversary once or didn’t give you a kiss when he got home from work, would you end the relationship? Probably not. But it might certainly raise an issue for you.

And then “wants” are the icing on the cake. They’re the qualities of a relationship that you would like to have, but it’s not critical to your happiness or to the functioning of a relationship for you.

It’s so important to know your needs and wants because, like knowing your requirements, it will help you screen potential partners for long-term compatibility. If you’re not clear on what your needs are, how would you know whether your potential partner can even meet them?

Having your needs met is key to your long-term happiness. So dating with your needs in mind will help you make the right choices with men.

Practice conscious dating

The fifth key to avoiding making the same mistakes in your next relationship is to practice conscious dating, which means bringing all these important elements together—your vision, needs, and requirements—and using them as powerful tools to screen for compatibility and (this is a really big one) to balance your heart with your head.

It’s about consciously taking the time to evaluate whether you’re ready for a relationship, focusing on “getting ready” if you’re dating to find a committed partnership, and resolving anything (like legal ties to your Ex) that might interfere with the growth and success of a new romance post divorce.

When you’ve just gotten out of a long-term relationship and start dating for fun, or when you’re head over heels in a new romance, it’s so easy to get caught up in the chemistry and attraction.

Don’t get me wrong, chemistry and attraction are important elements for connection and bringing people together. They have an important purpose in dating and relationships!

But we get into trouble when we make relationship decisions based on chemistry and attraction alone.

Having a clear vision for the kind of relationship you want and being conscious of your requirements, needs and wants (and the differences between them) empowers you to stay objective, avoid getting distracted, and ultimately be deeply true to yourself and your relationship goals.

So whether you’re reveling in your newfound freedom or exploring a new romance, I invite you to go slow in your break up or divorce recovery, date with intention, and keep your eyes wide open.

Take this time for yourself to “get ready” for a relationship. Clarify your dreams and goals for your life and the partnership that you ultimately want to have. It can be an opportunity for amazing clarity and deep self-awareness that will help you find and create a life that you love…with the love of your life.

Melissa Josue is a dating and relationship coach for smart successful women who are frustrated that they keep attracting men who are emotionally unavailable or aren’t ready to commit. She helps them spot red flags before they get hurt, confidently know when to stay or go, and attract a highly compatible partner who’s ready to make them a priority, so they can have a happy, committed relationship. Learn more about how to be a “Conscious Dater” and download free resources here.

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

what to do after divorce

What to Do After Divorce: Your Top 16 Best Moves

There is no “after divorce” checklist because what helps one person move forward with her life doesn’t always work for the next. We enter and leave our marriages with our own unique sets of personal baggage. Even so, we find thinking carefully about what to do after divorce can help you feel more in control of your future. If you have children, what kind of parent do you want to be? What kind of relationship do you want to have with your Ex? How will your lifestyle change, and how can you rediscover who you are as a newly-single woman? Are you even ready to move on?

But more than simply thinking about what to do after divorce, you must take action. It’s the best way to start the next chapter of your life, to feel less like a victim of your choices (or your Ex’s) and more like an independent, strong woman whose life can be anything she wants it to be.

From the practical to the unexpected, here are 16 things to do after divorce. You may find that some of these ideas overlap.

1. Find a therapist or a support group

Find someone impartial to talk to, someone who will force you to ask yourself the questions you need to move on and better understand what “went wrong” in your marriage. There are several ways to go about this. You can get one-on-one help by finding a therapist, or you can join a local or virtual online divorce recovery support group. If you have children and are coparenting, finding an objective third-party to speak with—and potentially learn from, is even more important. It’s so easy to lean on your children and overshare, but doing so is never a good idea.

2. Find your support system

A therapist or support group might be a part of your support system, but it’s just one spoke on the wheel. Friends, family members, close colleagues—find your people. These are the people who you turn to on good and bad days, the ones who see “the real you” in a way a therapist or coach might never be able to. Your support system should be filled with the people you trust. People who might actually be able to get you out of the house or who can look at you and say “that sucks” when that’s really all you need to hear. Above all, these are the people who make you laugh. They remind you of who you are!

3. Develop a financial plan

Putting together a financial plan may not be the sexiest thing you can do after divorce, but it’s plain smart. Finances affect divorced women in different ways. A few find themselves with more money than they know what to do with, while most find themselves challenged or even strained to make ends meet. Some women were heavily involved with finances during their marriage, while others feel like they are learning an entirely new language, suddenly forced to grapple with decisions they once left to their husband. Some women were stay-at-home moms while others held down jobs.

If you don’t understand a thing about your finances, or you are kinda shaky about them, figure out how you are going to take steps to learn. We love this financial class designed for women because the lessons are digestible videos you can take in easily. It also helps that the financial advisor teaching the class is a woman and understands our (emotional) relationship with money and what we spend money on!

No matter how your financial reality compares to other divorced women you know, you need to put together a plan and a budget, either on your own or with a financial advisor, to ensure you are taken care of.

4. Visit a social security office

Find out what your social security benefits will be in black and white figures so you can plan on what you’ll need for your later years. If your spouse earned more money than you, and as long as you do not remarry (up to age 60), you are entitled to up to 50 percent of his* benefits (regardless of his marrying again or not). Your entitlement to the benefits does not take anything away from him and his benefits, nor anyone else who may have married him after you.

Google the nearest social security office to your location and schedule an appointment, or go to the office (take a number and wait to meet with a social security rep), and get an estimate of the benefits you will receive starting at 62 as well as the optimal date for you to claim the benefits (70 or 67 years?).

You will need to take your ID and your hard-won divorce decree to show you are officially divorced. You will also need to provide your social security number and your spouses. (Look on the divorce decree!)

5. Put yourself first

Yes, we know this is a little vague, but everyone’s concept of putting themselves first differs. And if you have kids, then of course, you’ll come second until they turn 18 (and let’s be real—maybe even after). One of the perks of not having a spouse is that all of your needs and wants are suddenly the only priority. You don’t have to compromise or carefully balance your time to ensure your spouse feels supported. You now have time for self-care, and we want you to indulge yourself.

Do whatever makes you feel content—garden, take up yoga or pilates, go on a retreat or get a massage or a facial, develop a workout routine, set a weekly bubble bath date with yourself, go on a long walk. Practice (yes, “practice”) self-care. Be kind to yourself, and think of this period of your life as one of rediscovery.

6. Step outside of your comfort zone

Speaking of rediscovery, what about reinvention? Were there activities and interests you stopped making time for during your marriage? Or things you always wanted to do but never got around to? Volunteer in a program that turns you on! Or, maybe there’s a trip you always wanted to take, but you knew your Ex would never be up for it? Find your bliss. Take up rock climbing, start painting, pull a Mrs. Maisel and start a career in stand-up comedy. Create a new bucket list for a future without your husband.

7. Take a vacation

This is about more than stepping outside of your comfort zone. Take a vacation, and travel somewhere you have never been to before. Experience a different culture, a different setting, and maybe you’ll find yourself with a different perspective. Take a friend, maybe even travel with another divorced woman, and allow yourself to be spontaneous.

8. Read books

Books are great for so many things—they make you more empathetic, they teach you things, and they help you grow. You can read digitally, in-print, or listen to audiobooks so that reading becomes a routine habit, part of your daily commute or something you do while exercising. Try reading books by authors like Brene Brown or Ekhart Tolle, who can help you expand your mindset. But you can also turn to fiction like the writings of Elizabeth Gilbert, letting yourself escape into someone else’s world for a bit. Getting out of your own head is exactly what you need right now. Here are specific titles we suggest.

9. Take yourself out to dinner

Go to dinner alone and just let yourself experience the sounds, tastes, and sights. If the idea of being on your own terrifies you but you’re still feeling brave, then bring a book (see above) with you on your dinner date. That way you can still enjoy a night out while giving yourself a portable escape hatch for any potential awkward feelings on your part.

10. Dance—you guessed it—like no one else is watching

Clichéd? Maybe. But dancing is good for your soul. You can go out with friends, or simply turn on some music at home and start shaking your hips and getting lost in the beats. Dancing isn’t just about exercise. Sure, that rush of endorphins feels amazing, but it’s about reconnecting with your body. It’s about letting yourself get silly and letting your limbs loosen. It’s about reminding yourself that you’re still in control—you can flip on a switch and let music pour into your life, or you can shut yourself off.

11. Ask your kids what they want to do for the day

And then, as long as it’s within your ability, go do it. Throw out your schedules and plans. Allow yourself to be surprised by where the day might take you. Not only is this is a fun way to bond with your children, it’s a fun way to shake up your routine and make memories. Coparenting can be rough, especially at first as you and your Ex navigate your new lives, so it’s important to take pleasure in the moments you share with your kids.

12. Stop sleeping on “your side” of the bed

First, if possible, buy a new mattress, sheets and pillows. Then, spread out across your bed. Get a running start, and dive under the covers. Sleep sideways or diagonally. Use those two, or five or more plush pillows you’ve treated yourself to, and surround yourself with them on all sides. Your bed is truly yours now. You don’t have to sleep on one side anymore. Or be any one way anymore. You don’t have to stress out about waking someone up or “trespassing” on “his” territory. So get comfortable.

13. Have a girls sleepover

Remember those? Break out the popcorn, wine, and girly movies. Honestly, your friends will enjoy this as much as you—sometimes we all need an excuse to let ourselves act like our carefree selves and enjoy each other’s company. Take this time to catch up on each other’s lives and to strengthen your friendships.

14. Dress up for no reason

Throw on your favorite lipstick and those jeans that hug your curves in all the right places. You know the ones. Whether you’re staying in for the night or going out on the town, sometimes it’s nice to dress up for no real reason other than that it makes you feel good. Other times, a bit of dress up can help you achieve a new and improved look, and that kind of change might be nice at a time like this.

15. Try out new recipes

When you’re in a relationship, planning meals can be a chore even if you’re not the one cooking them. It can be hard to find common ground if your partner is a picky eater. So when you’re thinking about what to do after divorce, consider pulling out that list of foods you knew your Ex would never try and crossing them off one by one. It’s nice to treat yourself and develop some new skills at the same time.

16. Start a DIY project

This could really be anything—rehabbing a piece of furniture or planting a garden, for instance. Working with your hands allows you to fully immerse yourself in an activity and shut off your brain. Pinterest is a great place to find your next DIY project. Start small, with something you can easily achieve in a single day. You’ll feel accomplished and remind yourself what you’re capable of.

Remember, there are so many ways to help yourself move on after divorce. If your divorce recovery journey doesn’t look the same as other divorced women, don’t concern yourself. This isn’t a one-size-fits-all type of scenario. It’s okay if the ideas on this list don’t resonate with you. Don’t hesitate to do what feels right for you. And if there’s something that especially helped you, we’re sure our readers would love to know! Comment below, and share your favorite tips for what to do after divorce.

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and recreation. Now you can learn the Art of Reinvention post-divorce. Secure female-centered support, information, and smart next steps coparenting and rebuilding your life with Paloma’s Group, our virtual, post-divorce group coaching class, for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

* This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.