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Your 3 Most Important Financial Steps AFTER Divorce

Did you know that female senior citizens are 80 percent more likely to live in poverty than males? I found that sobering statistic and others about women, retirement, and money in a New York Times article. As a divorced (or divorcing) woman, wouldn’t you appreciate a road map so you don’t spend your “golden years” being broke?

My clients freak out at the thought that one day they might have to rely on their children or other family members for money. To avoid that, they want to know what they should be doing, what are the most important financial steps after divorce.

I’ll cut right to the chase: the most important practice is to create a plan for how not to run out of money. This practice involves three critical steps.

Step #1: Secure what’s yours and protect what you have

After your divorce is final, the last thing you feel like doing is more financial tasks, I know. But now that you are independent, there are important steps you must complete. Failure to do so could cost you a lot of money.

Case in point: I was managing a brokerage account for a divorced client who was waiting on her ex-husband to complete paperwork in order to transfer half of his retirement assets to her. Because it wasn’t his priority to meet his ex-wife at the Fidelity office to sign papers, it took over a year for those assets to transfer to her ownership. I calculated that the delay cost her over $12,000. Why? Because her ex-husband had his retirement plan sitting in a conservative portfolio that wasn’t growing much due to the large bond exposure. Had that money been invested in the same manner that I had managed her brokerage account, her individual retirement account (IRA) would have been worth $12,000 more!

Elsewhere, it’s important that you protect what you have by updating the beneficiaries on your accounts. If you were to die, you’d probably prefer your money go directly to your kids or siblings instead of your ex-husband, right?

You don’t necessarily need an attorney to help you with most post-divorce steps. You may want to consult with a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA) or follow a post-divorce checklist like the one I provide my clients and financial students. (More on that soon.)

Step #2: Pay your bills and pay yourself

The mortgage, property tax, utilities, Internet, cell phone …those darn, pesky bills! If we don’t have enough money each month to pay our bills in full, sometimes interest accrues on our credit cards. I teach women how to reverse that situation. Instead of paying income to the credit card companies, consider how you might pay income to yourself! That may sound strange, but each month you should have an expense line in your budget in which you are paying yourself, ideally in the form of contributions to a tax-deferred or tax-exempt retirement account. You want that money to be invested so it builds up over time to replace your child support or alimony (assuming you receive one or both) or your employment income when you are too old to work.

Is a budget really important? The short and long answer is YES. If you don’t know how much you spend, you don’t know how much it costs you to live now or in the future. And thus, you have no idea if you will or will not run out of money later on.

If you have never created a budget, don’t despair. You can search the web for various templates that you could use. I will also tell you about another resource in a moment.

Step #3: Invest your money now to create financial abundance later

Once you start building a nest egg for your future, you need to invest the money so it at least keeps up with inflation. We don’t like to think about it, but it will cost a heck of a lot more money to pay for necessities and luxuries in the future than it does today. That’s because the cost of goods and services rise over time. It’s called inflation.

You need to spend years building a nest egg that is large enough so you can withdraw money each month to pay your bills. Think social security will cover you? Please keep reading.

Many divorced women I encounter are overwhelmed by the choices they have when it comes to investing. There are robo-advisors on the Internet, people trying to sell you insurance as an investment, and financial advisors on every corner. If you don’t have a solid foundation of financial literacy, how are you going to evaluate which financial or investment advisor is right for you?

If all of this sounds complicated to you, it’s okay. It did for many, now high functioning, financially savvy women I know, too. What they did to turn their lives around was to frame this new chapter in their lives as a start over. And then they got educated.

You can do this too in a number of ways. You could buy a book. You could have a smart, patient friend teach you – if you are comfortable with that. You could also hire a professional to help you take responsibility for your financial empowerment. Or you can take my online course, for less cost than it is to visit a lawyer for an hour.

Based on what I know women need in their divorce recovery to become financially literate and to move forward to plan and protect their lives, I teach you the language of investing and the right actions involved.

Through more than 2 dozen educational modules (often done in easy to absorb videos), my course, How Not to Run Out of Money: Recently-Divorced Woman’s Guide to Financial Independence, is designed to show you how to do everything I’ve mentioned above, step by step:

  • Secure What’s Yours and Protect What You Have
  • Pay Your Bills and Pay Yourself
  • How to Invest Your Money Now for Abundance Later

In this course, you will learn how to create a budget (using a template I developed for women and considerate of women’s expenses and needs) and how to use it; you’ll learn if you can rely on social security in the future (I have a module helping you understand social security and what you must know). All this so that by the end of the course, you’ll know if you need to increase your income (and by how much) or cut your expenses. Or, if you are fortunate, you’ll conclude that your divorce settlement is large enough to cover your expenses throughout your lifetime.

Knowledge is power, isn’t it? Let’s put your growing knowledge and past experience to use protecting you and your future

Laurie Itkin is a financial advisor, certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA) and the Amazon bestselling author of “Every Woman Should Know Her Options.” In her comprehensive online course she provides affordable education for divorcing and divorced women. You can write Laurie or learn more about her by visiting TheOptionsLady.com.

Full disclosure: SAS for Women feels so strongly about this course, having tried it out and learned through it, that we officially endorse it and wish you to know that SAS receives a nominal fee if you purchase the class, too. Thank you for supporting the work of other women in your support of self. 

Life after divorce

How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce

People talk a lot about what it’s like to get a divorce, but those conversations don’t often extend to what life after divorce is like. Because, unless you’ve been divorced, you don’t quite get what this next phase is really all about.

During divorce, there’s a certain process: you have items to research, things to get educated about, decisions to make, meetings to attend, paperwork to file, and on and on—all of which are black and white steps you had to take to complete the business transaction of “dissolving” your marriage. And while those steps felt overwhelming, frightening, and generally all over the place (you may be or have been sad, in shock, mad as hell, disappointed, betrayed, in denial, or numb), the process, nevertheless, had a way of keeping you grounded. You had a goal. To get through a “negotiated” document, sign it, and obtain a divorce.

Now, as you look around in your new life after divorce, your sense of time — and what to do with it — is different. Even if you are struggling and fighting for survival, your mind and heart may be ruminating on the past and on “the who” you will become.

Yes, your life after divorce will be your juiciest stage if you are open to it

This is the “finding yourself” stage, and we urge you to have no shame about it.

Discovering and taking care of yourself will include preparing for what’s coming in your life where possible (implementing best practices that give you structure) and also learning to let go. This stage involves taking time to consider deeply your story so far, what brought you to the end of your marriage/relationship, and the good and bad roles you played.

Discovering who you are can get messy in a different way than where you’ve been. You can’t blame your husband for everything anymore. It’s time to pick up your baggage.

Based on our work coaching women, here are six of the hardest things about life after divorce—and more importantly, what you can do about them to make room for the good stuff. Okay, now deep breath…

1. It’s gone. Your life as you knew it

Sounds obvious, but a few of us are Resistors to Reality, women who spend months (years?) in denial about the fundamental impact divorce will have (or has had) on our lives.

A Resistor to Reality might strive to or blindly maintain the lifestyle she had when married—going on similar vacations, eating out at trendy, higher end restaurants, or placing groceries inside her cart without checking the price or quantity (so accustomed is she to buying “for everybody”). She might be paying the mortgage on an oversized and overpriced home because she either feels she is owed it, can’t face the prospect of change, or doesn’t want a move to “affect the kids.” She might be worried about downscaling for fear she’ll lose her friends or her social standing.

But now we all know, no matter how “amicable” the end of our marriages were, divorce has a way of turning our lives upside down. Divorce will take you outside your comfort zone. Divorce is about change.

Ideally, you started to metabolize these changes during the divorce process, and if you haven’t, your life after divorce is going to be harder—not just materially but psychologically and emotionally. The sooner you come to terms with your new reality the sooner you can adjust, redirect, and start shaping the future you want. Working with a divorce coach –during the divorce process, or as you rebuild your life — will help you understand what you can and cannot do as you actualize your best next chapter.

You may not feel it yet, but inside this vast unknown of Life After Divorce — there is a great, big beautiful life waiting for you.

2. Even when you do your best, your children will feel the effects of divorce

You’re a woman, not a robot. During and after divorce, your emotions may remain scattered, frayed, or short-wired. Everyday decisions may seem insurmountable. You try to be strong, to let it all roll off your back, because you want to be the best mother possible. You want your children to see you stand tall instead of falling apart. But you will have bad days, just like we all do. You slip. You might vent about your Ex to your children. Or they’ll overhear (eavesdrop?) you badmouthing him to a friend or family member in a moment of frustration or desperation.

No matter how old your children are—even if they are adults or not living at home anymore—divorce will impact them. It may affect their outlook and their ability to connect with others, including you and your Ex. Your splitting up will alter holidays and family functions. And although you may feel some closure with your Ex after the divorce document is signed or he’s no longer living in the same house, if you have children, he* will always be in your life.

Divorce may mean communicating with your ex-partner whom you never communicated well with before. You may be dealing with things like support orders and visitations, drop-offs and pick-ups. Your children’s lives will be disrupted, and afterward, each of you will have to figure out how to move forward and create a new life together.

According to the research, you can best support your children (and thus, yourself) through divorce, and life afterward, by being mindful of the ongoing conflict between you and your Ex. Children who suffer the most are those whose parents keep the hostility alive, who don’t aim to try to do things as amicably as possible. It is not, as you might guess, the history of your marriage when you all lived together in the same house, but how you two (you and your spouse) navigate the divorce.

When dealing with your children directly, among the best things you can do is to acknowledge their pain and perspective and not badmouth their father. Listen to them. Understand that while the reasons for your divorce might be obvious to you, they are less so to your children. You can help them feel less confused by being straight and honest and keeping the lines of communication open instead of shutting yourself off from the world. This does not mean treating your kids as an equal (even if they are “old souls” or “smart” or so-called “adults”) but being open about issues surrounding the divorce in an age-appropriate way.

Should you tell your kids you are leaving their dad because he cheated? Because he embezzled money? Because he’s an addict? We urge you not to share the gorier details until you and your children are out of the heat, down the road, when your kids are grown up.

If you wonder how to break the news to your kids, need support parenting as a single woman or coparenting with a challenging Ex, or would even like books that you could read aloud to your children, consider our post on the 35 best books on divorce.

3. Certain friends and family have “disappeared”

Divorce means change and you’re probably feeling this, socially and family-wise. It’s a huge awakening for many of us that friends we thought were so tried and true have disappeared or become mute. It’s as if they fear your divorce might be contagious.

Though we’ve come a long way culturally, lessening the stigma of divorce, meaningful people in our lives might still pick sides—whether they are forced to by your Ex, feel compelled to out of a sense of fierce loyalty, or have a preference to be with the “more fun” or more moneyed-spouse. This hurts. And it not only shocks, but it cuts to the bone, especially if you have little or no friendships outside of those you formed with your Ex during your marriage. You may be feeling bereft as you start off your new life.

When it comes to family, it’s clichéd but true: blood is often thicker than water. You may have had a great relationship with your Ex’s family, for instance. Maybe they’re a big clan and fun and tightknit—and you always had a particular connection with some of them. Getting a divorce, though, can cause them to draw a line and side with their blood relative. The wonderful relationship you had with them is no mas.

In the wake of the space left vacant by others, it’s important for you to touch in with yourself and find new hobbies and interests—this will help you discover new people. Push yourself to get outside so you shift your mindset, to take up an activity you’ve always wanted to but never “had the time” for before, to volunteer or travel. You can even join a support group with other divorced women who understand what you’re going through and who are committed to recreating their lives healthily — with intention — too.

4. An empty house

Coming home after work, making dinner for yourself, eating it alone, and not having someone to share your day with (if you’ve always had that) has a way of making you feel like you have no purpose. This is even the case with divorced women who didn’t have a lot to say to their Ex in the evening hours while married. But somehow watching Jeopardy in silence or a movie you both enjoyed now seems particularly enviable. At least you could hear another person breathing.

If you have children, the silence in your home when they are staying with their dad can be deafening at first. All the sounds children make means lives are being lived, and the emptiness left in their place can leave you feeling lonely and unanchored. Who are you if your children don’t need you?

But know that this is just a phase, new pains that you will overcome. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. You may not be able to change the former, but you can change your mindset and decide that you never have to be the latter.

Use this time to reflect, to read, or to enjoy a quiet activity. Maybe you’ll become vegan (ha! Your Ex was such a carnivore!). Or you’ll adopt a dog from the humane society. Or you’ll use this time in the evening to meditate, do yoga, or go to the gym.

This alone time is important to your divorce recovery. You must come to terms with yourself and rediscover who you are before you can rebuild your life in a meaningful way or even show up whole and healed in your next meaningful relationship.

5. The shock of being “replaced”

Your Ex might start dating right after the divorce. He may even begin to date during your divorce proceedings. In either case, this can feel like a punch to the gut. Did he ever really love you? How could he date so quickly? What does she have that you don’t? Even if you wanted the divorce, it’s not easy to keep the green-eyed monster of jealousy at bay when you see or hear that the man you’d thought you’d spend the rest of your life with is hooking up (or more) with someone else. It can feel like torture.

Take heart, it’s not uncommon for many spouses to appear like they are “moving on” immediately after divorce, and some begin to date and sometimes remarry fairly soon. Those who do are often responding to the feelings of loneliness and/or the conventional understanding of what happiness is (to be married). If this is your Ex, he may not be pausing to reflect and heal from what you and he have been through.

The odds that his next relationship will be any happier than yours with him are very low. Very low indeed. He is simply not doing the work you know you must do in the early phases of your life after divorce.

To help lessen your pain, make sure you avoid contact with your Ex when possible, or places that remind you of him for a healthy period of time. Tell your friends (the good ones you still have) that you do not want to be kept au courante to what he is doing socially. It will hurt you. You are trying to look in another direction, with a goal of caring for yourself and nourishing you.

Develop a new daily routine that cultivates you, strengthen bonds with your family and friends, and makes space for you to metabolize all you’ve been through. Which brings us to our critical number 6 on the list. Keep reading.

6. Learning to let go and adapting to the Unknown

When you were married, you had a certain vision of your future. You probably had dreams of how you would retire, where it might be, who your social circles would be, what you would do, and maybe how often your grandchildren would visit. Divorce has changed all that. In your life after divorce, one of the hardest things is accepting that you must let go … let go all the dreams that involved him and, yes, others.

You must grieve and take stock of all the losses you have lived through. And recognize that you may not be grieving your husband so much as you are grieving a way of being and the fantasy that was your marriage.

Letting go means letting go of the idea that we can control everything

Life after divorce can be a painful time—it can also be a crazy time—but it is not a static time. The journey is not over. It’s just reached a particular place where it’s time for you to process your grief and reconnect with you and who you want to be. This is your work now.

After divorce, your canvas is blank. The slate is wiped clean. And as you stare at it, wondering, you might not have a clue what you want to fill it with. But let us assure you, you have no clue the marvelous things awaiting you. The hardest part is just getting started. Dare to discover. Pick up the paintbrush and begin.

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 and wise next steps as you rebuild your life — practically, financially, romantically, smartly — with  Palomas Group, our virtual, post-divorce group coaching class, for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or a “he.”

Life after divorce

Life After Divorce: Finding My Footing in Year One

I recently handed in my resignation letter for a job I’d had for only three months. It was a good company but the type of work, the hours, and the pay didn’t suit me. My closest friends expressed tentative support. I knew they were wondering: “Are you sure you know what you are doing? It’s the middle of the pandemic; you have obligations and no husband to support you.” I was rebuilding my life after divorce.

I knew what I was doing: I was listening to myself and following my needs. Also, I was trusting my ability to find a job that is worth my effort. I learned from going through a divorce to follow my heart.

Life After Divorce

It’s been a year since I got my final divorce document. I initiated the end of my 17-year-long marriage after I lost hope to repair it. For many years I was unhappy. Things looked fine on the outside: we had two children, a dog, and a beautiful old apartment in the city center. But I lacked the support that I needed, as well as respect and trust. With age, my husband grew more short-tempered, abusive, and jealous of my success and ambitions. I contributed to our growing apart too, fantasizing that some better man would come and save me, or that I would learn some magic trick at a women’s club that would repair my marriage. My divorce decision came as I lost hope of improving things. I also lost hope of being saved.

As I divorced, I continued to fantasize. I imagined an amicable agreement with co-parenting, staying friends, and dividing the assets fairly. Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to that fantasy as well.

Gaining Perspective and Distance

The further from divorce I get, the more analysis I do, and different things look important. Currently, I would outline three things that I didn’t expect that are particularly hard to digest. Firstly, separating from an abuser didn’t end the abuse in my life after divorce, as that continued through our lingering communication. The Ex was open with his attitude: you decided on the divorce, now you face the consequences. He insisted I was solely responsible for the break-up and he wanted to get back at me.

Secondly, my eldest son decided to stay with his Father. I don’t see as much of him as I would like. I am learning to live with that, accepting my half-empty nest. But it still hurts.

Thirdly, I didn’t get the fair division of assets. My Ex is living in our apartment with our son in the process of attempting to sell at a very high price. I can’t afford to buy him out and he can’t buy out my half. Even a court can’t order us to sell, so this “sale” could go on for years. Doubly annoying is that it is not common knowledge among my circle of friends how unprotected our rights are. Most people assume and say that I am just not trying hard enough to sort the apartment issue out. Some even see my Ex’s resistance to sell the flat as charming, assuming that it is his way of getting back together with me.

When Trouble Comes — Open the Gates

When the Coronavirus outbreak happened, I found myself with no home, a broken family, and no job. In Russia, there is a saying: “When trouble comes — open the gates.” It implies that trouble never comes alone but accompanied by other things. Since divorce is a major shift in life, it rarely constitutes the only change.

Blessings in Disguise

The lockdown turned out to be a blessing in disguise that allowed me to cocoon. I came to stay and isolate myself with my parents in their countryside home. My parents didn’t ask questions and didn’t offer advice, and I was grateful. I realize how fortunate I am to have parents who welcomed me to live with them.

I am an extrovert by nature. I am friendly, sociable, and feel the need to discuss everything that happens to me with girlfriends. I also used to travel a lot for work and go out often. In my life after the divorce, I turned into a recluse. Content in my own company, I relived recent events while inwardly digesting my emotions. When summer came, I found comfort in gardening. Clad in gardening gloves and crouching between shrubs, I let my anger out with the productive physical work of cutting or sowing.

In sadder times, I allowed tears to run free without being noticed and interrogated. I didn’t need to spend energy on a job, I didn’t need to look good for an event to attend, and I didn’t need to explain to my girlfriends the status of my negotiations with the Ex. I painted, watched comforting movies, and started to learn German. I was on a power-saving mode that was crucial. I called it cocooning.

Listen to Others with Shared Experiences

I read and listened a lot about divorce. It was good to learn that I was not alone. One lady in the U.S. shared three tips that helped her survive her divorce: good anti-depressants, a great lawyer, and a job. She was a stay-at-home Mom. Getting a job allowed her to change the scenery and stop wallowing in self-pity. Taking her tips as an example, I formulated my own trio. Here’s what helped me survive and heal: therapy, cocooning, and learning to let go.

I had to let go of the idea of a happy married life with my Ex. I had to let go of the image of our full family. I let go of a plan to stay friends with my children’s Dad. I had to let go of my eldest son as my little boy. As a consolation, I am developing rare closeness with my youngest son. I had to say goodbye to some friends and even therapists when their advice was more hurtful than helpful. I am letting go of the idea that the property would be divided easily. I have to let go of my old self, a more naïve dreamy version of me who placed much emphasis on romantic love and dreamt of being saved to live happily ever after.

Healing through Technology

For me, technology offered an unexpected helping hand in letting go. Around the first anniversary of my divorce, I got a notice from Google demanding that I either delete or buy additional space for e-mails and photos. I preferred to delete it. It was an emotional and lengthy exercise. I started with e-mails, reliving projects that I was previously involved in. Soon, I was amazed and proud of how much I had accomplished in life. And I was sad to see how many people are no longer part of my life or part of my profession.

Then I got to the photos. I revisited many precious moments of family trips, and of kids being small. I cried a lot. It was a hard choice what to delete and what to keep. I deleted the photos of my Ex in swimwear. And I deleted photos from his trips where — as I later learned — he went with other ladies. I kept all his photos with the kids — he is their father after all and nothing will change that. It is our family history. Analysis of old photos made me appreciate the closeness between my eldest son and his Dad.

Is this the same person? Asked Google showing me my ex-husband in 2005 and 2019. I looked close. The younger version looked naïve, timid, and had a full head of hair. He evoked memories and emotions. The later version was bald and had a strange crooked smile. I felt like saying “it is not the same person.” As I looked at myself in 2008 and 2020 I also wanted to say I am not the same person in my life after divorce.

Now with the 7 Gigabytes of free space on Google disk ready for new impressions, what are my next steps?

After Divorce: A new job, a new home, a new life partner?

Yes, maybe, not yet.

I want to find a job where I feel needed and financially secure. Sooner rather than later I would like to be social again, wear nice clothes, make-up, go to an old-fashioned theater production, and have a glass of champagne. I have a semi-secret goal to learn to speak publicly. It pulls and scares me. A well-paid job will allow me to rent an apartment and move out of my parents’ home.

I may start going out and dating if life gets back to normal, but I am in no hurry to get a partner. This is a surprise to me since I’ve been chasing the “in-love feeling” since puberty. Whereas the idea of having a stable partner feels appealing, I have no energy for butterflies in the stomach or late-night texts. Probably, I will need to learn new relationship-building skills to have a new partnership. Meanwhile, I am investing my time in building new relationships with my sons. All in good time.

 

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She has two teenage sons and a dog and is building a new happier life. You can reach out to her via e-mail for comment or discussion.

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

Relationship mistakes women make after divorce

3 Major Relationship Mistakes Women Make After Divorce

When it comes to dating in your new, independent life, you’ll want to steer clear of these relationship mistakes divorced women make time and time again.

If you have divorced or gone through the breakup of a long-term relationship, then you know your fears about moving forward. You worry you’ll attract the same kind of guy*, or that you’ll make those same old mistakes or slip into similar patterns that led to the tragic ending of your marriage. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that love is not for you, or it’s just too much of a struggle to figure out how to start dating in this world of fast dating apps and instant connections.

You are not crazy, too old, or particularly deficient, nor are you undeserving—though these feelings are completely normal after a long-term relationship. If you are getting over your marriage ending, there is a serious stage of recovery here. But beware, it’s a stage that women often ignore or railroad through; if you ignore it, you can expect consequences similar to your last marriage. On the other hand, if you choose to do otherwise—that is, you choose to grow and heal:

then invite this stage into your life and with it, its accompanying flood of feelings. These feelings may or may not include … sadness, relief, grief, excitement, regret, fear, guilt, hope, emptiness, empathy, fatigue, self-doubt … or just fill in yours! Inviting in this stage is a choice.

And it’s the strong woman who chooses to invite the stage in, the kind of woman who realizes she’s got work to do on herself before she can show up whole and healed for somebody else.

Taking steps to heal and connect with yourself will also mean unpacking the baggage you were probably carrying to get through the divorce. Now is the time to find that key and unlock Pandora’s U-Haul. Our best advice is to focus on yourself before you look for someone else to fill the void.

But if you’ve been doing that, and you’d also like to have some fun, hey, you are your own boss! As you forge forward, we encourage you, we celebrate you, and we whisper in your ear: don’t set the bar too high. Let go of looking for your “soulmate,” and instead, go on a journey to meet others as you discover you, your most meaningful self.

Whether you’re dating, starting to dip your toes, or you can’t imagine doing it (but at the same time are just a wee bit curious), you should know that chances are you’ll feel the pull of these behaviors we discuss below. And you’ll want to avoid them so they don’t sabotage your prospects for staying true to you and meeting new people, making friends, or finding a lover or a lovely companion.


You might also be interested in … Dating After Divorce in 10 Steps


Here are the 3 major relationship mistakes women make after divorce.

  1. Your Way or the Highway

You did a lot of compromising in your marriage; you bent and flexed in multidimensional ways, so there may be a part of you now that says you will never compromise yourself again.

This rigidity might show up in your online dating profile when you say “no liars!” “no golfers” or “no lawyers.” When you put those things out to the universe you are revealing more about the baggage that burdens you than you are creating healthy filters. The message repels instead of attracts because it sounds like you’ve not offloaded Pandora’s Emotional Baggage U-Haul at all.

What really happens is that men who have it all together will recognize your baggage immediately. And those who are liars or otherwise will never recognize the negative traits you describe in themselves; so, they’re not avoiding you because of your boundaries, they’re avoiding you because you sound harsh. And no fun.

But what if you get beyond that dating app, and you actually find yourself in a relationship after divorce (it can happen), if you are leading with this story, that you’ve been lied to, or you distrust everything a man says, or you fundamentally loathe a part of them (their joy of playing golf or the way they earn a living) you are not showing up whole for this man. More importantly, you are not showing up whole for yourself. You are still living inside your wound.

The wound is not my fault.

But the healing is my responsibility

~ Marianne Williamson

It’s good to assert your value, to know your boundaries, but all relationships including friendships require an organic flow. If you want to meet someone truly magical it will show up in the dance of how you each give and take. Let go of your hard-edged parameters, and open yourself a bit to the gray zone of discovering each other’s edges and being flexible. Start fresh.

  1. Talking Endlessly About Your Ex

Nothing is more of a buzzkill than talking on and on about the Old Guy.

The Old Guy is no longer here, have you noticed? Instead, in front of you is someone new, someone who has never heard your story before.

Now that you are starting to take apart your story and look at it from the inside out, how do you want to tell it? Do you even need to tell it? What about being in the moment, present to what is happening around you, what nature is doing, what the light is like, what your little eye spies through Zoom in the background, or what the person you are looking at is wearing? Did you catch a glimpse of a tattoo on his forearm? You never dated a man in your entire life with a tattoo on his forearm. Let your past partner go. Stay open, curious. Start fresh.

Save the venting, the rehashing, the self-justifying, the explaining, the unloading (the most common relationship slips and mistakes women make after divorce) for a safe place where you will not be judged. Instead, consider this an audition for a mysterious new role. By the way, a safe place to unload feelings about your Ex would be with your girlfriends or on your therapist’s office. Only connect with your coach if you want to actually learn from the feelings and take action around them.

  1. Introducing Your New Beau Too Soon and Moving in Together

Ask yourself, are you happy alone even without a man in your life? If the answer is yes, then you are relationship material. You can seriously consider being available to someone else besides yourself.

If you’ve dated only one person after your marriage, and you’re already moved in together, what are you, seventeen? Did you learn nothing from your past story? We say this in jest, mildly. But we know it’s easy to get sucked into the comfort of filling the void. But did you answer the question? Are you filling the loneliness—or the fear of being alone—with another person?

Because that’s what a lot of men do post-divorce. They meet someone right away and get married. Often, they don’t hit pause; they find someone else and they plug and play. We know that sounds callous, but it’s also utterly understandable, because certainly our society encourages coupledom. Conventional society is comfortable with convention. But for you, you who have jumped out of the box, you must know moving in with your beau right after divorce is denying your most precious time to actually discover yourself?

A lot of women realize, once divorced, they’ve never truly been independent as an adult before. And that when it gets down to it, they don’t really know who their adult selves are.

This is A-Okay with us! Because we know this is where the juice is—and “Who Am I?” is appropriate for this part of your recovery. You aren’t supposed to know who you are right now. That’s the rub, you are supposed to explore.

Unfortunately, for those who partner up right after divorce, what we (often) see happening is that women end up feeling stuck—again—or having not finished the discovery and experiential stage of recovery. They feel tension, a lack of authenticity, because they don’t know what they really want. But looking out the window, they are intrigued by that good-looking neighbor down the street.

Moving in together too soon is especially tough if you have children. No one needs to tell you that your children have been through a lot and you don’t want to introduce more instability, unknowns, or potential loss in their life. You don’t want them to bond with someone you are not sure about. And you know why you are not sure about him? Because you are not sure about yourself.

So slow down on shacking up.

Instead, wallow, and yes, savor this stage you are in. You’ve been through divorce. You never thought you’d be in this place—post-divorce, single—in your life, but here you are, and you’ve survived. Be kind to yourself by being mindful of your commitment to yourself, that you deserve time and space to pick yourself up and look around. You are exploring. There are so many things to uncover and meet anew. New people will be just one of your best surprises. Be conscious, be awake, and take your time.

 

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future; all of this sent discreetly to your inbox.  Join our tribe and stay connected.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse, as your “husband” or a “he.”

Healing a broken heart

Healing a Broken Heart and Moving On

In a poignant twist of synchronicity, I was tasked last week to write a piece on healing a broken heart – not realizing at the time that it would echo a much larger collective voice – that of American leaders describing the heart of a nation that broke — hopefully open — on January 6.

This follows in the wake of Wednesday’s riots on Capitol Hill, the scaling of the Rotunda, the breaching of the Chamber of Congress and even individual leaders’ offices by American citizens – a violent desecration and display of disrespect and hatred designed to overthrow our democratic process. These actions were inspired by the words of Donald Trump, who will continue to serve as United States President for two more weeks unless he’s impeached.

Or, as Republican Senator Mitt Romney described him, “a selfish man who cannot accept defeat”.

Americans also witnessed an undeniable, stark contrast in the forces called (or not) to manage the armed, and mostly white January 6th rioters, referred to by many congressional leaders and journalists as seditionists, versus the preemptive National Guard presence, the rubber bullets and beatings meted out during the largely non-violent Black Lives Matters protests earlier in the year.

Author Parker Palmer describes that contrast of white privilege vs. Black targeting as “the politics of the broken hearted,” and the term “heart-broken” was repeated over and over again during the news coverage of the riots — almost unanimously by congress and journalists alike — as they described what they were witnessing to a public glued to their screens.

Healing a broken heart begins on an individual level, and in the instance of this piece, it begins after a divorce. But it expands ever outward, into our families, our communities, our cities, states, the nation and the globe.

Many Americans saw something on January 6th that horrified us, cementing a truth about ourselves we wished did not exist. It was a profane and shameful exhibition of something that most of us do not want to be. The hope, though, is that the worm of truth has turned and that we as a nation recognize we must begin partnering ourselves and our neighbors and our communities differently.

The hope is that, finally, we are divorcing from a mindset that denies humanity and inclusion, decency and respect. We are leaving an abusive relationship with ourselves – leaving behind a self-serving, entitled, cruel and exclusionary way of thinking that should have died long ago, or indeed, should never have existed in the first place.

But healing a broken heart occurs in stages and the more we speak to the process of healing, the more familiar that terrain of recovery becomes.

So…

We Grieve

Grief is the beginning. And know that no one does grief quite the same as another, so it’s important to not judge ourselves (or our friends and neighbors) for too much or too little emotion or for taking “too long” to heal. Grief is an emotional stealth bomber, it’s quicksand, a tightrope, a whip, a hydra: cut one head off and another one sprouts. It’s often best to just accept that it will bite you, and hope that, often, you’ll be able to bite back. Eventually, it does die a natural death.

We Take Responsibility for Our Own Behavior

Forget the occasional loss of temper or sharpness that occurs in the course of a healthy marriage; that’s normal. We can offer an apology. But other behaviors we need to do more than apologize for; we need to own them and address them. It’s often difficult to see ourselves and our own behaviors clearly. Complicity is insidious. So is being ruled by our fear of loss or change, our insecurities, to the point that we manipulate or become sneaky, passive aggressive or blatantly aggressive (as in the case of the riots), or abusive – either as a spouse, a national leader responding dismissively or punitively to racial protests, or neighbor against neighbor. Facing that in ourselves, in our families, owning how we negatively impact others, how we communicate, the power plays we engage in, how we handle stress or conflict – all of that can be a sticky pill to swallow. An even bigger one is active abuse, not just the domestic abuse we find in marriages, but the abuse we’ve seen for centuries in this country against huge and dark-skinned swaths of the population.

On an individual level, we must embrace the idea that we co-create everything in our lives, even if it appears to only come at us from the outside. With every choice, conscious or unconscious, we create our reality.

Here in this lifetime, we are born, we are raised. For the sake of this subject, we choose to marry and we choose to divorce. We can choose to believe that events “happen to us,” or we can choose to believe that we created the experience unconsciously in order to find the freedom of becoming fully self-defined, to claim our own territory, to seek adventure, to pursue creative expression in our work, or to become fully independent and answerable only to ourselves (and of course, any children we choose to have). Caroline Myss teaches that every moment, exchange, relationship we have is meant to “empower, not disempower us.” The idea of choice can be difficult because it means we have to stop relying on that nice, bracing, pain-numbing anger at everybody else — anger that feels more powerful than sadness and also lets us off the hook of self-development. It also means we can step out of the investment we tend to have in outside opinions of us. It’s lovely, and it’s liberating.

Forgive — and Let It All Go

For some, visualizing a cleansing out of all of the old “stuff” – the attachments to status or material possessions, to a patriarchal, “daddy knows best” idea of security, anger, shame or feelings of failure, the biting sense of unfairness or betrayal, the breaks and bruises of physical abuse, memories being taken for granted, dismissed, or patronized — whatever it is: let it go. Of course, like everything else, it’s easier said than done; sometimes it feels like you have to catch a negative belief and toss it away every 5 seconds. Get elemental with it. Picture it all washing out with the tide, burning off in a comforting hearth fire, gently blowing the dust of it out of your hair or sinking into the earth to fertilize your new growth. This may be too New Agey for some, so another approach is to treat your Ex (or your beliefs, for that matter) like a habit you’re breaking; those are long-established patterns, but the love and happiness you created with this person is far from your only source of those delicious endorphin bubbles. Like any other habit, these patterns can be broken, but it takes repetition and vigilance. It’s easy to become frustrated with how often we have to do this, how frequently it’s necessary to stop a thought from taking full flight.

In any habit-breaking regimen, cultivating patience and compassion for ourselves is necessary, along with a profound recognition of how corrosive perfectionism is for the spirit.

As Elizabeth Gilbert put it, “perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear… just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat.”

No one goes into a marriage with a “How to Do a Great Divorce Later” manual, which is, of course, why hiring a divorce coach and a therapist are such incredibly smart gifts to ourselves – a therapist to help work through the root causes of why we made the choices we did, and a divorce coach to teach you all the ways to make savvy and sustainable new ones and the steps to fufill them.

In healing our broken hearts and letting go, ladies, we might do well to take a page out of the Book of Men — keeping in mind that both genders bear traits of the other. Generally, men are great at compartmentalizing, and I think this is a skill that women would do well to emulate a little more often. Acknowledging that this is leaning on a stereotype – with an eye on the fact that gender concepts are shifting more and more as women become highly successful bread-winners for their families and men become more full-time parents and house spouses — I think this ability comes from that basic biological male imperative of the hunter, vs. the stereotypical female role of the gardener/gatherer. One chases things down, the other watches and encourages things to grow. Which is more likely to be able to leave something behind? Exactly. You compartmentalize by putting your knapsack of stuff under a rock and take off after that gazelle. Or that distant horizon of self-transformation.

And speaking of self-transformation…

Find Your Joy

For some, this may be the challenge of finding happiness and fulfillment in their work, getting past the fear of starting their own business or freelancing, trusting themselves to thrive and maintain independence without the safety net of a regular paycheck and company-sponsored health insurance. For some it may be more of a reaching for something larger than the self and the family unit to be of service to – volunteering, starting a Facebook group to support a small business, joining a church or a dojo.

The more we heed the quiet, persistent inner voice, we recognize that perhaps we are afraid, but we are also awake. And as you get more adept at telling your fears to ‘have a seat and get their crayons out’, you get better at taking a deep breath and seeing that you’ve got this well in hand.

Do what makes you happy. Choose happiness. Accept that healing a broken heart is always a process, that perfection is never the goal, but learning from each moment and returning again and again to the exercise of choosing to love and respect ourselves and be happy no matter what that looks like – that is the goal. Launch it like a precious stone into the water, and leap in after it, watching rings of your own little pond purl outward toward the shore. Make big waves. And hope that they spiral ever outward, to encompass and embrace the world around us.

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. 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.

I wanted the divorce. Why am I so sad?

I Wanted the Divorce. Why Am I So Sad?

They say it takes 21 days to build a habit—a mere three weeks. Now imagine how hard that habit is to break if you’ve had it for three decades’ worth of marriage. Grief and withdrawal become intertwined, which is why you may catch yourself wondering “If I wanted the divorce, why am I so sad?”

Breaking a long-standing habit is simple but it isn’t easy, nor is building new ones. Sometimes it might feel as though you’re jackhammering old concrete into dust-flown chunks with one hand, and pouring new with the other: straightforward in concept, but Herculean in execution.

If you’re still in the bargaining-with-yourself, pre-divorce phase of your marriage, then you may still be clinging to the echo of old endorphins and all the hopes, plans, love, and joy that you brought with you to the altar.

At this stage of the process, it may be difficult to see your husband as a habit you’re about to break.

But if it’s been years since the gavel came down on the divorce decree and you’re still finding yourself grieving, you have reached a culminating point. After prolonged grief, you might be ready to give yourself a good shake and get some clarity on why this sadness still has you in its grasp—even if you were the one to ask for the divorce in the first place.

Take the idealism out of the picture for a moment and consider the science of emotion and the physiological result of years of relational repetition. As with typing, driving home from work, smoking, walking, making coffee—any activity (healthy or not) that you engage in every day, any part of your life that is chronic rather than occasional—neurological pathways form in the brain. It is not necessarily the ending of you and him that is making you sad, but chemical residue left from years of playing “him” on repeat.

These pathways are like grooves in a record player. It took time and continual practice to put them there, and it will take conviction and continual practice to burn new ones in their place.

These are patterns of behavior. They’re familiar and quite often comfortable. If you’ve experienced joy and pleasure in your marriage, then the receptors in your brain will produce even stronger impulses to go looking for that stimulus, that chemical brain cocktail to regenerate the familiar feelings.

“The brain develops pathways based on learned patterns,” says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, Indiana University. “So, if you laid down a powerful pattern that this person was your life partner, your brain can retain traces of that circuitry, even after you’ve bonded with someone new.”

The Slow Process of Rewiring the Brain

In the language of addiction, it’s called chasing the high. Without being aware of it, we’re looking for that which triggers the feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain—in other words, the dopamine rush. (Dope, an older nickname for marijuana, is short for dopamine).  And until we recreate new patterns of behavior and new pleasure connections—burn new tracks on the CD of the brain (and therefore the heart)—we can get lost in the sadness of missing of him and think that it’s about him or that the decision to leave the marriage was a mistake. In other words, even though you wanted the divorce, you may still be sad. This is entirely normal based on what we know about brain science and withdrawal. Practicing self-care during this time is an important way to help manage your grief.

It most likely wasn’t, and it isn’t about him, or certainly doesn’t have to be. If we can remember the physiology of attraction, attachment, and repetitive patterns, it helps zero in on the realization that we can make new patterns. The brain, like the body, is less elastic when we are older, but it can be stretched with consistent work. It is NOT impossible. How long it takes to get over your divorce will simply vary.

And once the brain begins to play the new tracks consistently, the memory of the old “song” gradually smooths away. In order to assist that smoothing process and find a way to detach from grief and sadness, let’s look at the science behind romantic attachment—“that loving feeling.”

Dopamine and the Brain’s Reward Center

Fisher conducted a study in 2005 that incorporated 2,500 MRI scans of college student brains. Researchers showed students pictures of classmates and acquaintances, and then pictures of Their Special Someone. Viewing pictures of their attraction factor people activated the dopamine-rich zones in the study subjects’ brains. Two of the brain regions that showed activity in the brain scans were the caudate nucleus—linked to reward anticipation, as well as the integration of sensory input and socialization (i.e. playing well with others)—and the ventral tegmental area, which is associated with pleasure and the motivation to pursue it.

There are also older regions of the brain that are also associated with sex, pleasure, and romantic love. These older regions tend to hold onto their stimuli, staying “lit” longer.

Consider the 21/90 rule, which states that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to make it a permanent lifestyle change. Consider the possibility that in three months you are capable of recreating your brain. Building a practice or healthy habit or a new relationship just bears repeating. And if there’s a great deal of pleasure involved in that practice, the stronger and more indelible the mark it makes on your system.

So, next time you catch yourself thinking “I wanted a divorce, so why am I sad?” remember that your brain’s circuitry is rebuilding. In the meantime, you can train your brain to choose happiness.

 

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves word craft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

Resources

Whether you are navigating the experience or the aftermath of divorce — 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 reinvention. If you are a divorced woman still reverberating from your journey, you are invited to consider Paloma’s Group, our powerful, virtual group coaching program for women seeking best practices, community and accountability for starting over. Schedule your quick interview and ask your questions now.

 

Woman with pink hat post-divorce

10 Mind-Blowingly Good Things About Life Post-Divorce

Divorce is nothing to look forward to. It’s certainly not a line item on your walk-down-the-aisle bucket list. So imagining your life post-divorce isn’t likely to be on your radar until you are in the throes of losing your marriage. It’s also not likely to leave you feeling hopeful about your future.

But divorce, like every other unforeseen roadblock in life, is really more of a fork in the road than a block in the road. It forces you to choose not only which path you will take, but how you will take it.

And, as you go forward with your post-divorce life, that means embracing the odd notion that there really can be good things about divorce.

Sound crazy? Consider this Kingston University survey of 10,000 people at different major life milestones.

Contrary to all the joys of falling in love and planning a wedding, women were actually happier in the first five years post-divorce. They were more content, despite the financial difficulties that often befall divorced women.

While men were also happier after their divorces were final, their new-found joy was nothing compared to that of the women in the study.

Make of that what you will. But that is a strong message of hope for women going through what is perhaps the most vulnerable, frightening, deflating times of their lives. Obviously, these women became privy to some amazing things about life post-divorce. And now you can, too.

Beyond the steps to ensure your divorce recovery lies a treasure trove of mind-blowingly good things you probably never imagined could come with divorce. While this isn’t a cheering section for ending marriages, it is a cheering section for women whose marriages have ended.

Let’s dive into some of those perks by checking out some must-do’s for the newly divorced, independent woman. Here are 10 biggies:

  1. You realize that you are stronger than you ever knew. 

It’s all but impossible to recognize your own herculean strength for its potential when it’s always being used to fight.

Coming home every day to an unhappy—or, worse yet, toxic—marriage is draining. Add the divorce process to that, and you’re likely to think you’re clawing to stay above ground.

But once you’re in the post-divorce phase of your life, that strength starts to re-emerge.

Have you ever had a plant in your garden that you just couldn’t keep alive… until it decided to pop up a couple of years later? It’s kind of like that. And the realization is amazing! Like, put-on-your-Superwoman-cape amazing.

  1. Your free time belongs to you.

(That’s why they call it “free.”)

Nothing in marriage ever totally belongs to you, and that goes for your time, as well. Somehow you are always tied to the common good of your marriage or the family as a whole.

You will be surprised—maybe even thrown off a little—when you realize that your time really is your own.

  1. Bye-bye stress hormones, hello health. 

It’s no secret that stress causes a cascade of health-eroding events in your body. The price of worry, anxiety, and fighting is a flooding of fight-or-flight stress hormones. And those hormones throw your body into an unsustainable state.

Once your life is post-divorce, however, you get to come home to a haven that you have created. You get to sleep in your own bed without the source of your anger snoring next to you.

You will have a new set of pragmatic concerns and adjustments, of course, but you will be wearing your Superwoman cape, remember?

Just think of all you can accomplish when your blood pressure drops, your headaches go away, and you put the kibosh on emotional eating.

  1. You get to become a better parent to your kids. 

Divorce is never easy on kids, even when it’s a healthier alternative to a hostile environment.

Even if you’re co-parenting, you’ll now get to choose how you engage with your children. You’ll get to manifest all those Princess Diana values that will help your kids become stellar adults one day.

And, when your kids are visiting their other parent, you’ll have some breathing room to evaluate your parenting. How are they adjusting? How can you better support, encourage, and inspire them? What kinds of rituals can you all create together—rituals that will forever define your brave new life?

  1. Shared custody equals time for yourself. 

Yes, it can be painful getting used to your kids being away from you for days at a time. Hopefully, you and your Ex can at least agree on healthy co-parenting that will ease that transition for everyone.

If your kids know that their parents are putting the needs of their children first, everyone can win.

And suddenly those times when they are at their other home means you have more time to yourself. Time to reflect on your relationship with your kids. Time to get your home tidied up and feeling like a sanctuary again. Curfew-free time to spend with friends or indulge a favorite hobby.

Unless there’s an emergency, responsibility for the kids falls on your Ex during those times.

  1. Your goals are just that: your goals.

When was the last time you thought about what you wanted to accomplish in life without checking it against your spouse’s wishes? Now you don’t have to fear that your goals are too outlandish or costly or unrealistic. You can vision-board or Pinterest binge to your heart’s content.

  1. It is so much easier to dance in bare feet when you’re not walking on eggshells. 

It probably won’t dawn on you until you’re way into your post-divorce life just how much fear you lived in. Even if you weren’t in a toxic or abusive marriage, it takes an enormous amount of energy to dodge the constant fighting.

If you say ‘this,’ you’ll be fighting all night. If you don’t do ‘that,’ you’ll never hear the end of it. Walking on eggshells is exhausting. And it gets you nowhere fast.

Now that you’re past that, you can take off your shoes and dance anywhere you damn well please! There is a sweetness to being alone after divorce.

  1. You find out who your die-hard friends really are. 

Divorce exposes people for who they really are. And that doesn’t apply just to you and your Ex. It applies to your family and friends, as well.

You will definitely see a shift in your Christmas card line-up post-divorce. You may stop hearing from those “couples-only” friends or those who stuck by your Ex during the divorce.

But you will be pleasantly surprised by the friends who were always in your corner. They will come out of the woodwork and be there for the ugly cries and the movie marathons.

  1. You make wonderful new friendships. 

And then there are the new friends you will make. Friends that reflect your new life back to you in wonderful ways because they have been where you are.

Friends that are also wearing Superwoman capes under their home-based-entrepreneur power pj’s. These may be friends that you meet in a divorce support group for women recreating their lives. Friends that reach out to you for comfort and advice.

And you will marvel that you had lived so long without them in your life.

  1. You become your own best friend. 

Ahh, this is the best gift of post-divorce life! Becoming your own best friend is far more than a sappy Oprah concept. You’ll look back on your wedding invitations that said, “Today I am marrying my best friend,” and you’ll smile.

You’ll smile because you will know now what you didn’t have a clue about then… that you always were and always will be your own best friend.

 

Helpful Resource

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives after divorce—on their own terms. If you are a discerning, newly divorced and independent woman, you are invited to consider Paloma’s Group, our powerful virtual group coaching class for women consciously rebuilding their lives. Visit here to schedule your quick interview and to hear if Paloma is right for you and you, right for Paloma.

*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 you should never say to a divorced woman

What You Should Never Say to a Divorced Woman

From Anna, in Moscow — Living through a divorce is one thing, but writing about it is another journey altogether. I find writing stories about divorce take longer than any other topic. I start with having assumptions usually based on my own story, then I research, look around, and prove myself wrong. While I dislike divorce, I value the discovery aspect of it.

This is exactly what happened with this blog post. I started by assuming that what I dislike hearing as a divorced woman is universal. As I did my research, I was surprised to learn how many different conversational topics and phrases can potentially hurt divorced women. Sadly, the people who hurt us most are often the ones who are closest to us.

How Can You Say That to Your Daughter or Your Best Friend?

The divorced women I talked to confessed to being hurt by the people closest to them. Decades later, these painful moments still linger. In fact, at least two women I approached declined to discuss anything with me. “My divorce was too messy, you don’t want to know,”  was the reply I got form both of of them.

The most common hurtful comment women received was: “It’s all your fault.”

People often feel the need to place blame in a situation where something doesn’t work out. “It wasn’t just a hint that the divorce is all my fault. Friends and family told it to my face loud and clear!” said one friend, sharing her experience from eight years ago. Now happily remarried at 56, she says that many friends tried to talk her out of divorcing years ago, “like they were doing me a favor,” she said. These messages felt cruel, devaluing. Someone even asked her, “Are you sure you can find anyone else your ag e— with your figure?”

Sending the divorced woman on a guilt trip is another tactic: “Don’t divorce him — he is such a good father!” was one thing told to several women. One’s reply: “I don’t need a good father; I need a good husband, and mine isn’t. This is why I am divorcing.”

“Stop Complaining — It Was Your Decision!”

Many ladies I talked to described hearing this phrase post-divorce. Whenever they complained about any aspect of their divorce process, friends and family took it as a discussion of whether or not the actual divorce was a good idea. “I didn’t question my decision to divorce and didn’t invite anyone to discuss it. I was merely seeking compassion as far as my Ex’s behavior during the divorce,” a friend said.

Indeed, many assume that once you decide to divorce, you rid yourself of the right to see anything wrong with the divorce, the process, or the life that follows the divorce. A woman has every right to stop loving, divorce her man, and be treated with respect throughout a difficult process.

Being Ignored

The other side of the coin is parents and close friends declining any discussions about divorce. “I came to my parents’ house and told them that my husband and I decided to separate. They silently continued to go about their business as if I said nothing. I realized later that they had no experience in discussing emotions or feelings. But it hurt me then nonetheless,” one friend says.

Sex with Strangers

Actress Mayim Bialik — who played Amy Farah Fowler in the sitcom Big Bang Theory and the main character in a 90s teenage series Blossom — runs a YouTube channel on divorce and raising children. She made a video on this very topic (“What you should never say to a divorced woman”) where she candidly shared the worst comments she received as a divorcee. I fully support her choice of the most misplaced comment that divorced women receive about sex and dating: “Go on Tinder and have sex, have sex with a friend with benefits, start dating again — that will put a smile on your face.”

Mayim says: “It may work for some people. But don’t tell me to have sex with strangers, reducing me as a divorced woman to just a body in need of sex” rather than “pursuing an emotional connection with someone which might lead to sex.”

I think that the benefits of regular sex for the sake of it are somewhat overrated. Indeed, some take pleasure from no-strings-attached encounters. Others can go on without sex for a long time and be fine. Some need an emotional connection first and foremost. For some, it may be a very bad idea to start having sex with strangers after a few decades of monogamy, and this can add to the pain of the divorce. So, this area of life, which really involves being conscious of your divorce recovery, is best left for the individual and her therapist, not a group of girlfriends, I think.

Focusing on the Self

Another friend says that, unfortunately, most advice that she hears about divorce is all about starting to date again rather than going into the nuts and bolts of the divorced life. Self-discovery, self-healing, and real separation from the Ex is a better focus after the divorce than dating someone new.

Mayim Bialik says in her video that it hurts her when women badmouth their husbands and say they would rather divorce than spend time with them due to their smelly feet or snoring. Mayim says she likes the idea of having a partner and is sad not to have one. She worries that the older she gets, the less likely she’ll be to find a soul mate. What she appreciates is hearing that she has a lot to offer and that she will one day find a partner for herself.

“Just Deal With It!”

As I started covering the topic of divorce, I began to notice pieces of advice that made me feel uneasy. The comments were positive on the outside, but there was something off about them. Those unpleasant comments urged me to get over my situation quickly, get a therapist, or take other measures to fix the issue. The comments may have been well-intended, but came across as a suggestion to stop creating discomfort for them.

An important lesson to take from divorce is that we have to walk our walk and have respect for our journey, learning, and pace. Says the former first lady of America Michelle Obama in her interview with Oprah Winfrey: “I like my story. I embrace every aspect of who I am. I like the highs, the lows, and the bumps in between.”

Yes, we can create discomfort for people around us by speaking out about what is going wrong in our lives. It requires strength and compassion to be near us when our lives are imperfect. Yet, we don’t owe it to anyone to deal with our issues any more quickly than we have to. It is our journey, our life, and our walk.

Other unhelpful comments about divorce:

  • Now your kids are your priority. This phrase imposes a set of values and guilt on the divorcee.
  • Congratulations. You must feel relieved with a sense of closure. A sense of closure needs time.
  • I didn’t like your husband anyway (his behavior, his political views, etc.). This phrase devalues the good things that happened during the marriage and the disappointment of the divorcee. Most of us married for love and stayed for many years together. We had kids. It’s not relevant what others thought of our partners.
  • But you looked so good together on Facebook or Instagram! Well, we did. I can’t believe how often I hear this comment! It’s like saying you looked good in your wedding photos. Or, you looked so young when you were young. As opposed to what?
  • You should press your ex-husband in court, or any other advice about divorce tactics. Let me act according to my values and walk my walk.

What’s generally wrong with the comments we get?

More often than not, passing comments don’t consider the divorced woman’s feelings. They address the concerns and expectations of the well-wisher or the advisor.

People like to think that if they were to divorce, they would negotiate a better settlement, take better care of the kids, and completely avoid any pain. They would find a new, better partner right away. They would prioritize the kids and coparent wisely. Many believe they will never need to walk this painful walk. Unfortunately, this “pain-free” concept of divorce isn’t reality.

Did I like any comments? Yes!

  • Comments that helped: “All is going in the right direction and time will heal. It will get easier, it always does.” “After a stage of aggression and grief, you will recover and revive.” “Kids will adapt. The kids will be fine; take care of yourself.” “You have made the right decision. You are doing great! Give yourself time.”
  • I loved the advice I read on SAS: “don’t try to do too much.” Maybe starting a new career is more than one can handle during a divorce?
  • Unexpectedly helpful advice: “You can’t afford to be naïve.” That was the advice my therapist gave me when I was about to ignore my responsibility and hand my power away to my Ex-husband.

Now that we have listed the unwelcome and the useful comments, there are two things to do to educate people around us. First, we need to understand which comments are out-of-place and how to explain their inappropriateness to those around us. Second, we need to spread the word — talk, discuss, and share our knowledge about this divorce journey, so we lessen the pain for others, men and women included.

 

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She is training to be a coach for women in transition. You can reach out to her via e-mail anna.i.galitsina@gmail.com for a test coach session or a discussion.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is dedicated entirely to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce, navigating the divorce experience, and managing the confusion 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.

*We support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity in this article, however, we refer to your spouse as your “husband” or “he.”

rainbow painted escalator steps

46 Steps to Ensure Your Divorce Recovery

Divorce Recovery

Divorce recovery describes the all encompassing process of emotional and practical restructuring and healing throughout the phases of divorce. It is a constant, cyclical process in which you are broken down and built back up numerous times until finally, you are whole again. Divorce recovery is painful, yes, but it is also an opportunity.

Steps you can take

Based on our background in education and our divorce recovery practice, we’ve identified three phases of divorce (contemplating, navigating, and recovering) and suggest the following concrete steps you can take throughout them to best ensure your full divorce recovery. As you complete each step you will be one step closer to your reconnection with self, independence, and true healing.

No matter what phase you are in, if you are mindful of your divorce recovery, our advice to you is…

  1. Accept that it’s okay right now to not have all the answers. Your job is to begin to study and learn what is possible for your life.
  2. Understand that you are grieving (or you will be, at some point) and that this is your own, unique divorce recovery path. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind.  While you may not feel you are grieving the loss of the person you divorced (you may actually be happy about that) you will likely grieve the loss of hopes and dreams that you had for your life. It’s a confusing time, because at the heart of grief is a mixture of emotions. You might feel incredibly free and exhilarated one moment, lonely and terrified the next, and hollow or despairing the next. This is the nature of grief, and it’s necessary to acknowledge ALL of those feelings as normal and acceptable.
  3. Forgive yourself if you are scared. It’s to be expected. You didn’t major in “divorce” in college. How can you possibly know what your life after divorce might mean?
  4. Appreciate that divorce recovery takes time. While nobody knows exactly how long (some researchers say 17 months, others insist it’s three to five years) we know that to advance through the divorce recovery process it requires intention. You must do something. (Check! You are reading this list now!) It’s far less about signing the divorce decree than it is about recovering a sense of homeostasis and positivity.
  5. Help your children along their divorce recovery path by getting educated and taking action for you and them. At times your children might surprise you with their maturity and resilience. Other times they’re so angry or withdrawn it worries you. Understand your children’s recovery path is not the same as yours. They are not going to see or feel the same things as you. Read books (for you, and to them). Look for more resources, like your children’s school or a child therapist, to help you understand how your children are coping and recovering from the divorce. Learn the difference between what is appropriate and what requires your immediate attention.
  6. Be careful in whom you confide – this includes family.  Few people can be 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, however, does not mean that’s what’s in store for you.
  7. At the same time, don’t isolate yourself. This is not the time to try and figure it out alone. The decisions to make are too big and too important. This is a good time to invest in your divorce recovery by surrounding yourself with people skilled in helping you.
  8. Connect with your friend(s). You need support, understanding, and accountability.  You need someone who will listen and suspend his/her own judgment. You might need practical things too, like someone to watch the kids when you have appointments or you need space to simply clear your head.
  9. Avoid making any radical decisions for at least a year after your divorce.  The self-discovery curve is too steep during your divorce recovery. Chances are you are going to learn things you don’t know about yourself. So give yourself some time before you move to Tahiti. You may end up wishing you’d just moved down the street.
  10. Make a list of your most critical practical questions. Where and how should you live would certainly be one of them. Is it better to keep the house, or sell it and rent? Who is going to care for the house or the car, or the laundry for that matter when your ex is gone? How can you get a job if you need to be home with the kids?
  11. Make a list of your most critical financial questions. Do you know where you stand today? What are your assets? How much debt do you have? What are your near and far term financial goals? How do you get a job if you are facing your fifties?  (You will see some questions live on multiple lists.)
  12. Make a list of your most critical legal questions. Maybe you are finished with the divorce but you must put a new will in place, or now, you’ve just been named Power of Attorney for your aging mother. What does that mean?
  13. Make a list of your emotional concerns. What are your fears? Is it the prospect of being alone? Is it how your divorce will hurt your kids? Do you worry you might burn out your friends, because you sound like a whiny, broken record? Write these down.
  14. Reach out for professional, compassionate support. There are a lot of resources for divorce these days. The thing you should know first and foremost, you should not try to do this alone. A certified divorce coach can help you before, during, and/or after the divorce (and no, talking to one does not mean you are necessarily getting divorced). This professional can help you with many of the questions keeping you up at night (Can you afford a divorce? How do you break the news to the kids? How will you cope when your ex has the kids?) and he/she can definitely help you identify your choices (Is mediation right for you? What financial preparations should you have in place for living independently?).  A good divorce coach can also help you take your next best steps (How do you learn to co- parent effectively? Go back to work? Change jobs? Will you have the capacity to ever love again?)
  15. Seek to get educated on what’s possible for you. Ask friends or professionals you trust for referrals. Look for experts who can help you answer all your questions. Consider working with those pros (lawyers, real estate brokers, financial, or career advisors) who understand divorce recovery and the rebuilding process, and who seem willing and patient to teach you — and not just talk at you.
  16. Make a list of your other, helping professionals. What other professionals do you need to speak to, if not now, eventually? Who will teach you how to do things your mate used to do? For easy reference, pull together a list of professionals you think you’ll need, like a computer tutor, plumber, locksmith, CPA, electrician, gardener, etc. — for when the time comes.
  17. Come to understand that divorce is a whole life challenge, or as we like to say, “Divorce is a business transaction. How you pick up the pieces and rebuild your life is the mind body challenge.”  Evaluate your financial, legal, practical and emotional questions above and notice how divorce has impacted all aspects of your life.
  18. Try tuning into your body. What is your body telling you about your situation? Are your shoulders locked up near your ears? Do you feel like you are suffocating? Are you experiencing panic attacks or getting sick more than usual? How are you sleeping? Try to find ways to take care of yourself and relieve some of the anxiety before it starts to undermine your health.
  19. Again, forgive yourself if you are panicking or just feeling numb. Your body is trying to communicate with you that “something is not right.” Tell your body you will try to listen more going forward.
  20. Starting now, take notes on when you begin to feel certain pains, aches, and headaches. What are the circumstances leading up to these symptoms?
  21. Go to the doctor and get a full physical if you are overdue.  Review with your doctor your list of issues if you have them, and share insights to your stress. Get your annual mammogram if you are a forty or older woman (and we recommend a 3D mammogram, and if your breasts are dense, a sonogram). If you are a man, when was the last time you went to a doctor? You must take care of yourself because who else is going to?
  22. Be careful how you self-medicate to deal with the stress and aches and trying circumstances you are experiencing.  Numbing yourself could prevent you from being levelheaded as you start to learn what is new and possible for your life.
  23. 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 judge. Be very careful.
  24. Find a way to process what you are going through. Are you meeting with a divorce coach or therapist regularly? Are you connecting with your friends? Are you journaling?  Who is keeping you tethered as you go through this roller coaster of pain and upheaval? Often we find solutions or at least new perspectives when we are forced to process out loud or on paper. What works best for you?
  25. To help you feel anchored, get organized. Start evaluating what you do and do not need and begin purging. Organize your important papers and documents, for example, and list all passwords and login instructions to accounts. Keep that newly minted list in a safe place.
  26. Don’t let the negative voices control you. When we are feeling low, it’s easy to let those negative voices grow deafening.“You failed.You are toast. No one will ever love you again.” Listening to those voices only keeps you in a dark place. So, tell them to hush.
  27. Create a budget. It’s important to understand how much you take in and spend each month. In addition to the obvious (rent/mortgage, car payment, utilities) don’t forget to factor in things like dry cleaning, haircuts, coffees, and vacation expenditures, etc.
  28. Face your loneliness. Now that you are no longer under the same roof as your ex, you are likely confronted with empty space. There you are left facing yourself. Take heart, that’s exactly where you are supposed to be. This is often the time you start really processing what role you played in the demise of the relationship, a necessary part to your full divorce recovery. And if you are not feeling grief, be prepared for it to hit you sometime.
  29. When the grief hits you, just be with it. Or make a list of all the things (material and not) you have lost. It surely is a lot. Now that you are looking at the list, give it some attention. Maybe you didn’t love your ex so much in the end. This makes you feel conflicted. So you are not grieving her as much as you are grieving the end of the fantasy, the identity you both built, the loss of what you invested in and co-created. That is a tragic loss. And for some people, we need to really ponder and be with that loss for a while.
  30. Look for Meet Up or support groups for like-minded people. Identify groups that are facilitated by a therapist or coach and be cautious of groups that focus on complaining.
  31. Embrace the discovery process. Now is an opportunity to get comfortable in your new skin — but how can you get comfortable if you don’t even know who you are anymore or what you want?  Get excited, it’s exhilarating to discover what you want and who you are in this next chapter.
  32. Live. Explore. Try things on.  Who do you want to be now that you’ve grown up? If you could do anything, what would that look like? Write down your ideas and see how many you can realize. No more pushing them aside, it’s time to try them out.
  33. Write your divorce story. If you still feel at a loss, you can’t get out of bed, start writing. Begin with your earliest memory of divorce and move into telling the story of your own divorce. What did you already know about divorce when it came up with your spouse? Did you have preconceived notions about what divorce should look like? How has your divorce changed the way you think?
  34. Find a way to exercise everyday so your brain chemistry has a chance to relax and rebuild you. Your primary relationship is with your body, your being. Maybe you cannot get to the gym, but can you make sure you walk every day? The Center for Disease Control recommends 7,000 to 8,000 steps per day to see health benefits. Consider a fitness tracker or app on your phone to help you work up to your goal.
  35. Understand your social landscape is going to change. Sometimes it’s tough when you are recovering from divorce to hang out with the same friends you shared as a couple. Some friends will invite you out and you’ll feel like a third wheel. Other friends don’t know what to do, so they don’t invite you at all. You’ll meet new friends as well. Your social world will experience a bit of a shake up and then it will resettle into place. Be open to the changes.
  36. Open your eyes to new adventures and friends. You may find your interests change or you’ll have a desire to do something you never really thought about before. Perhaps you’ll go to Cuba! Or a new friend will introduce you to rock climbing, or you’ll take your bike out of storage and dust it off.This is a time of exploration.
  37. Reconnect with old friends. As you recover from divorce, you may realize that some of your old friends fell off the radar, perhaps because life got too busy or because your spouse never really got along with them. Don’t you wonder what they are up to these days? Now it’s easier than ever with social media to find those old friends. Surprise yourself and them. Rekindle your connections with those you miss.
  38. Do things alone. Part of your grieving is being alone with yourself and rediscovering you. Welcome chances to dine out alone, travel alone, see movies alone… this is part of understanding the difference between what it is to be lonely vs. alone and being okay with that.
  39. Be sexually educated. A 2010 study of sexual health from Indiana University found the lowest rates of condom use were among people ages 45 and older, because older people may think they cannot get pregnant or are not at risk for STD’s. Yet according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the numbers of older people with HIV has nearly doubled. People aged 55 and older accounted for 26% of all Americans living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV infection in 2013. Be safe. Wear a rain jacket.
  40. Recognize the dating world has changed. Don’t let online dating scare you. Connect with someone who can help you with this and who can also laugh with you. Maybe your funny, kind girlfriend can take pictures of you and help you draft your online profile? Go ahead if it feels right. Enjoy it.
  41. Do be careful of your kids in terms of introducing a new person too soon. Remember, your kids are recovering from this divorce, too. They don’t need to be introduced to everyone you have dinner with. Instead, wait until a relationship becomes significant and you think this person might be around awhile. Have an age appropriate conversation with your children: first, to tell them about your new friend, and then to introduce him/her.
  42. Or don’t have a romantic relationship at all. Have you skipped from one relationship to the next your whole entire life? Well, stop. Your job isn’t to scramble to find your next partner if you aren’t ready or don’t want one. Work it and enjoy your independence!
  43. Understand and appreciate you are part of a new world. Divorce is changing. The stigma is losing it’s grip, the landscape is shifting, and it’s for you to determine who you will be. There will be times that you feel a little out of control. With the damp wings of a butterfly drying, you will be a little unstable, but you are coming out of a cocoon.
  44. Stretch yourself. The divorce certainly took you out of your comfort zone in a not so pleasant way, so why not seek ways to stretch yourself that are more fun? Go master the Tango by Air BnB’ing it in Buenos Aires! Go skydiving! Or buy the pickup truck you’ve always wanted and head fly-fishing. Just go.
  45. Allow yourself to trust again. This can be a tough part of your divorce recovery, because surely you’ve been disappointed, hurt, or even crushed along the way. But as you take these steps, you will feel better. You will meet good people and realize that you are able to trust again. You may even open your heart to love again.
  46. Remember opening to love means loving yourself first. It comes full circle. In order to fully recover from your divorce, you must give yourself a chance to grieve, to rebuild, to discover, to heal, and to love.

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