Browse Articles on the topic of Life After Divorce

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 and former journalist living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves wordcraft but has to keep a short leash on her fondness for the profane. Jennifer enjoys her cat’s input on her rough drafts (talk about snark) and the freedom of being her own partner. Connect with Jennifer here.

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 [email protected] 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.

 

Woman on a train

Table for One: My First Trip as a Single Woman

There comes a treacherous time when we stop feeling okay — divorced. Only yesterday, all seemed fine. We thought we were healed for the simplest of reasons: we’ve not been thinking (every minute) about our Ex. But at SAS, our divorce coaching consultancy, we know this stage too well — we call it “Stage 3”. And it’s a confusing, tricky time, colored by all sorts of emotions, but in particular, grief. We don’t necessarily miss our Ex, but little by little, or all of a sudden, we start to learn we are missing familiar patterns, beloved or taken for granted rituals, certain routines, or the “good old times” that bound us together. In this phase, it’s normal to be triggered, to suddenly feel an awful emptiness, a sadness, or a knockdown depression as we come to terms with realizing our life is never going to be like that again. In fact, our new life may seem completely NOT what we wanted.

I was triggered by the need to plan the summer vacation

In the past, like many families, mine got together for a special trip each summer. It was always my (now) Ex-husband, our two sons and me. There were many difficult, turbulent times in our marriage, but somehow, the summer vacation was a sacred time when we put differences aside and we agreed.

My Ex and I planned it all out in advance — together. Typically, we researched options separately, and together, we discussed the finer details of our potential trips. We talked so much about these potential trips, that oftentimes it felt like we took 10 vacations each summer, not one! Each one of them always had something interesting for the adults and something fun built in for the kids. When we finally began the trip, too, we were together in a different way than in our marriage. We calculated our budgets, we hustled around in rented cars, we struggled to ask for directions in a foreign language, we made sense of unknown parking machines, we negotiated toll roads, ATMs, and much more. We overcame these difficulties, these challenges, and savored the rewards, exotic beaches and startling new, wonderful food.

I have been divorced since January 2020

Now, it’s my first summer alone as a single woman, and it’s dawned on me that I don’t know how to begin vacation-planning as a divorcee.

I keep asking myself: can summer be anything else but a shared vacation with my children and their father?

So many aspects of this trip planning I assume I must now do solo — and they are untrodden territory. How do you embark on this first trip as a single woman? How do you plan for it? Whom do you share the anticipation with? What about the actual experience of it? The highs, the lows? How do you deal with foreign ATMs or quick currency exchanges? Whom do you discuss what kind of pizza to order? Who’s going to put the aloe on your back when you get sunburnt? Who will bail you out if the bank card gets blocked, or if you run out of cash? How do you rent a car on your own?

I don’t think I’ve ever booked a single room for vacation. For a business trip — yes. But not for a vacation. Is it even possible to have a single room? How do you choose food from a menu in a restaurant if you are alone? Whom do you share plates with? Is that, too, out the window with the divorce? All those little niceties or ways of being in my old life, must I leave them behind, too?
These questions may sound ridiculous to someone who has traveled alone. But they are not stupid for many women who saw their summer vacations as a rare time that the family floated in another realm, where Papa and Mama was more relaxed away from the hustle of their jobs. There was something heavenly about it — and that man who showed up as my husband, and the woman I could be if only for a couple of weeks a year.

Family Vacations are a BIG THING

The importance of family trips is not to be discounted, I realize! It’s a shared family experience that for many is the best time of the year. These vacations are so important that I’ve heard of people who have divorced – amicably – and who continue to travel together on family trips. Actress Mayim Bialik, famous for her role as Amy Farah Fowler in “The Big Bang Theory”, talks of her “Divorced Family Vacation” and says, “There are things in life that should be experienced as a family because of their importance and significance.”

As I write this, my Ex, for example, is boarding a plane with our younger son and my Ex’s pregnant sister. I can fully understand his desire to replicate a family unit as they embark on their summer vacation.

What do I choose to do? What can I do? When it’s my turn to travel with our two sons, should I organize friends to join us so we feel like a love-in, hippie family? Should I travel with a group of friends, stay in hostels and pretend we are students? (Maybe not in the time of COVID, but what about the future?) Do I volunteer my services somewhere and see who turns up on my path? Should I try to identify – amid my peers or friends — another divorced woman, and travel with her? Do I go solo, and when there, invite some random adults I meet on the beach to join me for at least a couple of dinners?

I am already feeling lonely, scared, and even embarrassed about my singledom. I am imagining how wrong it will feel to be going into a seaside restaurant and admit that I am one, yes, the only person. (“No, I am not waiting for somebody else. Please seat me fast so nobody sees.”) It will feel awkward asking for a half plate of their famous seafood starter, or asking for a half-bottle of wine. (Maybe, I should order a full bottle and take it back to my room?) Will I need to have a book to read and hide behind? Or do I put on my headphones so I don’t look so lonely and wretched?

The anxiety of not having the same summer vacation I’ve had for the past 17 years of my marriage was getting the best of me, until it stopped. Why? Because I looked honestly at my past. As I did, I began to feel grateful for the good things, those summer vacations, at the same time, I began to recognize it was time to own the bad times and say goodbye to them.

Below is my list of lovely things I am grateful for:

1) I was happy when my Ex-husband and I shared planning, anticipating and living through travel experiences as a couple

2) I loved spending time with the kids during these vacations, and giving them my full attention as opposed to being overwhelmed by my corporate job

3) I appreciated exploring new unknown places for me, like amazing Mediterranean resorts

4) I appreciated the convenience factor that came with sharing expenses and shared problem-solving

Next comes the list of things I will not miss and my takeaway thoughts:

1) In all honesty, I was the one who planned most of the trips, and had to lobby hard to get them. My Ex “graciously” accepted my plans always — but made sure I understood that he was doing me a favor by agreeing to them. Take away: I don’t mind planning, but I want to be appreciated for my efforts and ideas

2) Whereas we always started talking about the vacations months in advance, we never actually had the trips planned or paid for in advance. My Ex always had job-related uncertainties. Takeaway: Maybe he even pretended to have uncertainties to feel more important and influential?

3) We often had to compromise … on the destinations, the budget, and the length of stay in each place. My Ex-husband had his pet hates of some places that I loved and he would never spend more than 3 nights in one spot. Takeaway: I prefer to have more time to fall in love with a place

Doing this exercise with myself was in no means intended to expose my Ex-husband as evil or bad, but rather to show me, and divorcing and divorced ladies, that there are always good and bad things about a marriage. It was the good that kept us together for so long probably. But while I may miss the good things, I am very happy to let go of the bad ones. Seeing the pros and cons of our romanticized vacations, brought me back from daydreaming to reality. This in turn allows me to go forward with my eyes open.

After I listed the good and bad things about the trips with my Ex, I realized more things that I can’t wait to share …

1) Reflecting back I realize a lot of beautiful things have slipped by into history. There are many precious things that are no more — not because of a divorce — but because of life itself. For instance, there will no longer be vacations with my small babies or toddlers, or even young kids, because the kids have grown up — not because we divorced as their parents — but because of the fleetingness of life itself, and change

2) Looking back at the wonderful moments that I love and miss — the atmosphere, the warmth, the laughter, the smell of lavender, and the tickle of chilled sparkling wine —I ask myself, how much of this was my own making? For instance, our trips to France were fabulous. And I was the one who planned them in precise detail and paid for half. I was the one who spoke French and planned the routes and ordered in the restaurants. So maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to organize more lovely trips again?

3) I guess my new goal is to grow to love my own company on a vacation as much as I believe I loved my Ex-husband’s

As I wait here in Moscow for international borders to open up again, I dream of my first trip as a single woman. What will it be like? Will I go on my own — to breathe in the air this time as my own person? Or will I take the kids to nurture our closeness in this new world we find ourselves in?

A new and appealing thought is to have a solo trip

I think I would like to go somewhere familiar and safe. I will stay in one or two separate places, not more, to give myself time for tranquility and to truly enjoy the place. I will not rent a car to save myself the money, the hassle of finding one, or the ink used on the expected parking tickets. Instead, I will travel by train, which I’ve always loved. The train is a Zen way to embrace life and look out the window in a very ladylike, film-noir fashion.

If I go alone, I can spend as much time shopping and window shopping as I like. I can go into any restaurant I like, dress up, or on the contrary, eat a takeaway sandwich while sitting on a pier. I can order a tuna pizza which I’ve always liked but which my Ex always hated. Heck, I can even take my watercolors on the trip and paint. I can have long, lazy breakfasts and take a bus to the village market. I can talk to people at the next table and appreciate the flirtations of the waiters.

In the evening, I can throw on a long floaty dress and comfortable flat sandals. With the most possible grace and self-respect, I can hold my head high. I imagine myself walking into a restaurant and asking for a table — for one. I will nibble half a dozen oysters as I consider the small but intriguing wine selection. And when asked, I will say without hesitation, “Yes, you can take away the other place setting. No one will be joining me tonight.”

 

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 [email protected] for a test coach session or a discussion.

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.

 

Love after divorce

Love After Divorce: How about a “LAT” Relationship?

It was love after divorce. But when my BF and I bought a house together — but chose not to get married — we found ourselves under a lot of pressure from a variety of people to reconsider, to bind the financial risk with marriage, thereby rendering the choice that much more difficult to wriggle out of. But we remained unmarried in large part because we each had a strong sense that saying “forever” was unrealistic. We are organic individuals, we change. That’s the only way we grow, and there is no guarantee you’ll grow in the same direction, you and your spouse. Choosing marriage – as we all know — doesn’t guarantee that. But we did know that we loved and respected each other, and we wanted to make a life together in a setting beyond our respective apartments. We wanted more scope, we wanted to find it together — but we also knew we had big antlers. With too much territory overlap, there would be clashes.

Recognizing that, we chose a home that gave us each plenty of space for each of us to have our own zone. He, with his drums, was at one end of the rambler; I, with my journals and books, was at the other. Not realizing it at the time, we had done our own version of “living apart together” (LAT).

It was our version of the adage that the best thing for a marriage is a duplex.

Love after divorce and what others feared for me …

My parents were concerned. My mother in particular, I think, wanted me to have what she perceived to be the security of marriage, both financially and in terms of fidelity; and while it was a far less important motivation, I suspect that she – an exuberant and gifted party-thrower — also wanted The Wedding. (I think a fair number of the “fairer” sex want the wedding more than they actually want the marriage, especially with social media’s multiple venues for splashing ourselves about socially). The mortgage broker – who moonlighted as a wedding officiant – pointed out in a cheerily coaxing voice that even the software wanted us to be married, as she found herself having to leapfrog back and forth between computer screens in order to complete the application process. Friends expressed skepticism, dismay; my boss brought me wedding magazines.

This pressure comes in part from the perception that “real” commitment only comes with rings and documents filed at the courthouse, as well as a shared roof, and that marriage is somehow more secure than remaining unmarried. This perception is rooted in many centuries of tradition, but anyone who has come through a divorce would probably say it’s an illusion of epic proportions.

Now that I am in my own space again, I have the perspective that lasting love does not need a shared roof and that romance can actually fare better if it doesn’t share a mailbox. Commitment isn’t a two-car garage; it’s a choice to be in the world together, but the LAT trend embodies a growing recognition that this can be done from two different addresses.

Women in particular no longer need to marry in order to survive; we are generally better educated that we used to be, and most of us make our own living, at the very least. And more than a few women make a far better living than their male counterparts. If we marry, we can do it simply for love. Additionally, religion doesn’t overshadow marriage – or underpin it – quite the way it used to, though a shared spirituality may still play an important part in whom you choose to be with. Therefore, many of us – whether we’re Baby Boomer and Generation X divorcees or millennials just entering our first long-term partnerships – are recognizing the advantages of living apart from our partner or spouse. If divorced couples can coparent from separate addresses and in many cases get along better than they did while sharing one, why join under one roof to begin with?

Does your love after divorce lend itself to a LAT relationship?

Whether you’re in love after divorce and considering a LAT relationship (or considering one as you emerge from widowhood, or as your first major partnership), the advantages can be as simple as not having to clean up after someone, or not having to share a bed if you have wildly variant sleep cycles. Maybe you can listen to your own music (of which he is not a fan) as loudly as you like when you work out at 5 a.m. Maybe he finds relief in the fact that his gaming isn’t keeping you awake. Less simplistically, though, is that living apart together means that your marriage/partnership might have a better shot at feeling like it did when you first met – even 10 years later. When you see each other, it’s a treat, something you anticipate, that makes your eyes sparkle. Being at each other’s homes gives you the luxury of two locations, which means there’s different parks to walk through, different stores and restaurants to frequent. It feels a little like a vacation when you go to his place, and vice versa.

The cons to a LAT Relationship

The disadvantages, though, aren’t necessarily that your personal address doesn’t come with a fenced backyard and a carport, or that you don’t argue about where the laundry goes or whether each other’s art actually qualifies. There are moments you experience more richly with that person that you may miss out on when you live apart; these moments are as bonding as the dates you have more of when you don’t. When you see something on television that makes you laugh out loud, he’s not there to hear you, to delight in the sound of you snorting. When he finds something profound in a book he’s reading, he can’t lean in to you and read it aloud. There will be dreams you wake up from alone that you wish each other were there for, sun and moonrises you’ll not breathe in together. For couples living apart together in the midst of the Covid-19 quarantine, this is probably a lack you are feeling acutely.

A fresh take on love after divorce

Looking back on the choice my ex and I made not to not marry, I’d say it was one of the smartest ones I’ve ever made, on my own or with someone else. And it may sound paradoxical, but I’d also say that partnering with that particular man was one of the smartest choices I’ve ever made. I realize I’m very lucky that he turned out to have been a great risk, so to speak, both emotionally and financially; he’s a good man and didn’t change those stripes or behave badly when we decided to sell the house, though we had put nothing in writing, made no contracts.

With effort, we end up with invaluable self-knowledge after a divorce or significant break-up. We add layers of fresh wisdom and perspective, independence that has rounded out into new levels of resilience, and often, a more actively constructive relationship with ourselves and our process.  As we consider new relationships, commitments and love, we have far more than the choice of who to accept a date with, who to love and who to marry, if that’s what we choose. We also have the choice to remain in our own haven, happily partnering ourselves and free to do as we please – just with the added delight of pursuing the journey parallel to someone else.

 

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer and former journalist 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 her cat’s input on her rough drafts (talk about snark) and the freedom of being her own partner. Connect with Jennifer here.

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.

 

 

Sweetness of Life After Divorce

The Sweetness of Living Alone After Divorce

This piece is done in part from the first person, very much as we might write in our own journals, for a specific reason. One of the greatest and most unexpected gifts we find “under the tree” when living alone after divorce is our authentic self. A journal is a way to give voice to that woman. We get to rediscover and recreate ourselves from the ground up, and we get to be exactly who we are and live life exactly as we please, at our own pace, with the freedom that only comes from having no one else’s reaction to worry about. There is no tiptoeing around another’s preferences, and no one’s authority weighing in heavier than your own. So often in a marriage or even while merely dating, we give that power and authority away to a partner we want to please, whose good opinion we want—often too much.

Nurturing others—facilitating their happiness and contentment—has great value, but not if it comes at a chronic cost and eventually, a deficit in our own happiness and our sense of who we are. Not if we are, however subtly, discouraged from celebrating or even nurturing ourselves.

Once the dust settles and we find ourselves in our own place, living alone after divorce or at least partially alone when the children are with their other parent, we may have a few weeks of shellshock, of feeling the loneliness in the solitude rather than the power and freedom in it. But it’s there. You can find yourself in solitude. You can settle into the solitude, explore what’s inside it, because being you, solo, is far more fun than you may have thought.

Celebrating ourselves without guilt

Day 1 in my new place:

“I woke at 4:30 to the insistent chirping of my alarm. Normally I’d feel like I had to snatch it and silence it as fast as I could. (I wonder if alarm clocks ever get their feelings hurt or if they’re the like the drill sergeants of the non-breathing world.) C. was good about sleeping through it, but I still felt guilty. Weird to talk about someone I love in the past tense, even though he’s still on the planet. Having an existential moment here…not hard to do at this hour.

I guess we’ll see what I make of this—and of myself, since that’s all I’ve got to worry about now. It’s just me in here, and I’ve got some regrets but no guilt, about the alarm clock or anything else.

And I get to pump disco music while I work out! Or AC/DC or Madonna, whatever. I don’t have to turn it down, I don’t have to be super quiet as I’m putting on my sports bra—that wrestling match sometimes comes with grunting, frankly. It’s a relief to be able to let that out and not worry about sounding like a farm animal or waking him up, like that time I lost my grip on the clasp and my elbow knocked the mirror off the wall. And oh my God, I get to have heat in the house as fast I need it. So much easier to consider working out at five in the morning if you’re not freezing. Thank you, thermostat, now on with a flick of a switch. I loved our wood stove and that living flame but good grief, what a messy, high maintenance pain that thing was. And on that note, so was C. about my music. I get it. He’s a musician and disco is not for everyone, but how do you work out to something that sounds like angry trashcans on Quaaludes?”

Putting your signature on it

Day 6 in my new place:

“It’s still clean. (I’m so excited about this I feel like I should be whispering). I love this! Everything is exactly where I put it, and the bathroom sink doesn’t suddenly look like a chia pet.

Such a relief to be in a haven I make for myself, that is just mine. I’d spend all day cleaning our house, and twenty-four hours later it was cluttered again. I felt like what I brought to our home environment was inconsequential. He did eventually realize, once I was gone, how much time it took. That was nice. Nicer, though, to have the peace of knowing that here in my little jewel box, it will be as serene and pretty in five days as it is now.”

This is not to say that you won’t have grief and sadness after divorce, that your new home and the solitude of it won’t echo with the voices of your old one—voices you may crave at first. (This may be particularly pronounced now, for those of us living alone after divorce during the Covid-19 quarantine.)

But there’s a process to finding your authentic self again, and part of the joy of living alone after divorce is that you have the freedom and space to engage in that process however you need to.

Day 21 in my new place:

“I woke up having a really weird dream. I wish I could tell him about it, and I miss our cats. But Daisy needed her yard, and they needed each other. Her giant purr was such a comfort, though. I miss that, and I miss how safe I used to feel with him. But he is not my home any more. I am my own home, and if I’m going to fail in whatever I make of myself, I’m doing it on my own time and without an audience. My opinion is the only one that really matters; I can do this and I will. Whatever the doing of it looks like, I am free, and I am enough.”

That “enough” becomes the foundation for our new way of being, but once it’s firmly in place, we eventually begin to peek out of our new haven to see what’s out there…and you find that it just might be time to put your toes in the water again.

Peeking around the next corner

Six months later:

“I met my neighbor. Ummmm, yes. And he has an Aprilia. He said it’s the working man’s Ducati. It does not look like a downgrade in any way, and neither does he. They’re both gorgeous. And that street bike looks faaaast—so different from C.’s cruiser.”

A year later:

“Trey took me out on his Aprilia. I got to be on the back of that thing. I don’t think I’ve come down yet, and that was three hours ago. We were doing 120 miles per hour. 120! I loved it—if you didn’t hold on tight, you’d fly right off the back. Not that I objected. I was stuck to him like a burr. Even with a big guy in front of you, though, there’s just nothing between you and the wind, and we cut through it at full throttle. What an amazing morning.”

Perhaps less exhilarating than a street bike slicing the wind at 120 mph but a far more amazing gift for the soul because of the lasting and unconditional love they give us—a love that we just don’t experience with humans because of its simplicity—is when a four-legged companion arrives on your new doorstep. Finally, the haven becomes a home. The solitude has another voice and personality in it besides yours, and that nurturing you need to lavish on someone, some sentient being, has an outlet again.

Eighteen months later:

“I have a new kitty! She was dropped off on my co-worker’s front porch by one of her neighbors who decided to move to Texas and couldn’t take the cat. Her name was Noodles…not my style. But Lulu sounds like it and suits her much better. She’s a little beauty, so feminine and so sweet. She chirps me awake in the morning and sits with me while I journal, just purring and blinking at me with her shoulder pressed up against my leg. I’m so happy I’m crying. She’s my little fur girl. I’ve never had a long-haired cat before—she’s so fuzzy.”

And then comes the time when the new replaces the old with full sensory impact, not just from the inside out (which is the most critical part and the part that lasts—your authentic self that living alone has given room and air for expansion) but from the outside in as well in the form of someone new.

And because you’ve come through the hardship of divorce and the attendant grief and you are now stronger than you ever thought, you are able to experience this new someone with every nerve ending alight with sensation, knowing yourself, your own value, and your own desires in a way that won’t be denied because there simply isn’t any reason left not to unleash them.

A pursuit of happiness…and being pursued

Two years later, in the living room of my new place, I discovered a whole new level of joy in living alone after divorce and being unmarried (and have never been so thankful to not have a roommate):

“I eye-stalked him for a year before we finally went out with a group to a bar downtown. All I wanted was his hands on my hips and to feel him move—he’s such a superhuman athlete—lethally graceful, like a big cat. And then, a couple weeks later, he came over. I was still sweaty and in my work-out clothes, but I didn’t care. I was so nervous and thrilled and completely unable to concentrate on anything but his voice and the fact of him there with me. He asked if I wasn’t going to unpack my gym bag, and when I turned, he moved behind me like a hunter, took my hip in one hand and my neck in the other and bent me straight forward over the arm of the recliner. He stood there pressed to me, just letting me know he was completely in control—like I had any doubt—and then he pulled me up, fisted his hand in my hair at the nape of my neck, turned me to him, slid his other hand to the small of my back and laid his mouth on mine. Dear God. I’ve never been unexpressed sexually—my friends will probably laugh at the understatement of this. I’ve had amazing sex with amazing men, but this guy? A class unto himself. I have never, ever, experienced any man who was so raw, so primal and masterfully dominant and yet so cherishing, so present and so instinctively, sensually potent as this man.

We may not be together now, but I don’t regret the year and a half I got to experience him and I still purr when I think of him that way.”

It’s not important that your new relationship lasts, though having to end it may make you sad and wistful (and then again, it may last after all). There are two reasons why it’s not important. One is that you’ve already been through the worst of it and are not only intact but better and stronger than ever. And two? You last, and you are your own greatest joy.

Living alone after divorce means drinking yourself in. Revel in your own authenticity and the authorship you have in this new phase of your life. Copyright it. And don’t miss a minute of who you are becoming.

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer and former journalist 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 her cat’s input on her rough drafts (talk about snark) and the freedom of being her own partner. Connect with Jennifer here.

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.

Thinking about how to collect social security benefits from ex

Can I Collect Social Security Benefits from My Ex Spouse?

An important decision in planning for retirement is when to start receiving your Social Security payments. Should you start collecting at full retirement age? (Typically 67.) Or should you defer benefits to receive a larger amount? Can you collect social security benefits from your Ex?

If you’re divorced, then yes, your decision-making will be impacted by your Ex. You may be eligible to receive a higher Social Security retirement benefit based on your Ex’s earnings records.

To collect social security benefits from your Ex, there are some preliminary conditions that must be met

1. You and your Ex must have been married for 10 years or longer. There is no limit on how long ago the marriage must have ended. For example, if your marriage ended 25 years ago but you were married for 10 years, you can make still a claim based on your Ex’s earnings.

2. Both you and your Ex must be at least 62 years old.

3. You must not be remarried.

4. You and your Ex must be divorced for at least two years, or your Ex must already be claiming Social Security retirement benefits.

If you qualify as an Ex based on the rules above, you would be entitled to half of your Ex’s Social Security benefits, provided that you make the claim no earlier than your Full Retirement Age (FRA). For most people, that means being 67 years old.

Please note that your Social Security benefit will be based on your Ex’s earnings record only if it results in a higher benefit than you would receive based on your own earnings history.

For example, let’s assume you are at Full Retirement Age and you are entitled to $700 per month from Social Security. Your Ex is eligible to receive $2,000 per month at his FRA. If you meet all of the eligibility requirements to receive divorce benefits, you would be eligible to receive $1,000 per month from Social Security instead of the original $700.

What if your Ex remarried?

Your Ex’s new marriage will have no impact on what you can claim, and it will not impact how much he* will receive from Social Security. It also has no impact on how much your Ex’s current spouse may receive. Your claim toward benefits is not deducted from those that your Ex receives either.

If your Ex should die before you, you can receive 100 percent of the retirement benefits he was receiving when he died, assuming you are at FRA or older. If you are 60 or older but not yet FRA, you would get 71.5 to 99 percent of his benefits. If you are between 50 and 59 and disabled, you would get 71.5 percent of his benefits.

Every dollar counts in retirement, so if you are entitled to receive extra money each month make sure you’re taking advantage of it—even if that means you have to collect social security benefits from your Ex.

Word to the wise: Do not rely on anyone else to inform you of your eligibility to collect social security benefits from your Ex. As you can tell, the eligibility requirement can be somewhat complex, and there is no guarantee that the Social Security Administration will be aware of your marital history when you submit your claim. You can contact a representative at your local Social Security office for an estimate. Call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to make an appointment. But for a clear understanding and to hear what else you might be doing to build for your future retirement, you should consult with an experienced advisor about all of your options.

 

The article is for informational purposes only and it is not to be considered tax or legal advice. AXA Advisors (its affiliates) and associates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice or services. You should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent tax or legal advisor.

Chris Kelly is a financial advisor with over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry. He specializes in what he calls “Financial Transitions” – helping families design and implement a financial plan to help deal with the loss of the primary income earner due to divorce, death, or disability. He is well-versed in a broad range of financial subjects including investments, cash flow planning, and estate planning.

Contact Chris at [email protected] or 732-292-3357 to begin a conversation on how to make your post-divorce financial journey a smooth one.

 

*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.”

Rebuilding after divorce

How to Get Clear on Your Career After Divorce

Now that you’re moving past your divorce and thinking about going back to work or changing your career, do you feel stuck, uncertain of how to begin, or fearful that you don’t have what it takes? You’re not alone. Life after divorce—and where to begin—can induce a whole new host (or return!) of emotions that may feel paralyzing and insurmountable. Add to that the current coronavirus pandemic we find ourselves living with and its accompanying pressures, and your stress levels might be going through the roof! But whether or not you worked outside the home during your marriage, starting over professionally doesn’t have to be dominated by fear and negativity. Even now. There is a process that can help you figure out your next steps to launching or rebuilding a career, even in the midst of so much uncertainty.

How to stop spinning your wheels

If you’re thinking about returning to the workforce, pivoting careers, securing more flexible work, or starting a new venture, there’s an important first step you can take to jumpstart your reinvention—gaining clarity about who you are now.

Women don’t spend enough time at the beginning of a career transition focusing on what they value and the mindsets, skills, and talents they have that are transferable to new opportunities. And that is the key to discovering a role that is meaningful to you.

In our professional work, we help women in midlife who have come to a crossroads and want to stop “spinning their wheels.” Many of those women are returning to the workforce after a break to care for children or other family members. Others are working and want to pivot careers or turn their “passion project” into a new venture. At the same time, women are often dealing with personal transitions—divorce or other life challenges such as a health crisis or a move.

What we’ve seen is when women gain a better understanding of what they have to offer, their career direction becomes much clearer. If this pandemic has shown us nothing else, it’s the realization that life is incredibly fragile, and we need to rely on ourselves and our inner resources. Self-discovery becomes the most powerful tool you have to boost your next steps.

Silver linings: growth mindset

The beautiful reality is that transition poses an opportunity for growth. For those who have dealt with divorce, studies show that this life challenge, in particular, can actually boost your career if you allow yourself to gain three perspectives: space and time to yourself, a different threshold for risk, and the ability to break old patterns.

If you adopt a growth mindset and believe that you can learn and develop at any age and stage, the road ahead feels optimistic rather than troubled. A growth mindset is important for career success because it pushes you beyond your comfort zone to learn new things. Rather than saying “I’m not good at ___” and ruling it out, a growth mindset encourages you to think about learning as a process and say “I’m not good at it yet.” This shift will change your outlook for what is possible for you professionally.

Self-discovery: put YOU back in focus

Who do you want to be when you grow up? We ask children this question but don’t take time to ponder it as adults. Careers often unwind based on the expectations that others have of us—what our parents, partners, or friends think we should do—rather than what we want for ourselves.

Many women’s career expectations were defined in marriage through the lens of family and children. When the marriage ends, they have to completely redefine what work means for them. That takes time and exploration.

After divorce, women want more from their work lives—more meaning, more fulfillment, and more challenge. An important first step to distill a career vision is to think about the components that will drive you in your next chapter. Dedicate a journal to your professional journey to develop an understanding of your career vision. Take time to respond to these six questions below. Better yet, ask another woman to go through the exercise with you and have a conversation in an interview format by taking turns.

  • Draft a list of the values that shape you now and narrow down the shortlist to five that speak to you.
  • Think about your past interests—what activities do you love? Which ones come naturally to you?
  • What current interests or activities do you lose yourself in—whether for work or in other parts of your life?
  • What “superpower” do people in your life look to you for help or advice?
  • What are the elements in your life that need to come together in order to fulfill this dream? Think about work-life integration.
  • What does success look like for you now?

Say goodbye to version 1.0 of you. Hello to future you!

After you take an assessment of what motivates you, explore the various roles you’ve held. It’s easy to carry around an outdated and limiting view of yourself from a previous position or how your partner saw you in your marriage. Start thinking about how you have exercised your “superpowers” in the past and what you want to bring into the future.

Career reinvention is not a linear process, and it’s helpful to come up with multiple versions of your future.

Here’s an easy way to elevate what’s working for you (or worked in the past) and say goodbye to what no longer serves you as you think about possible 2.0 versions of you:

  • Make a list of every job you’ve had (paid and unpaid). In one column, write down “things to keep” and on the other side “thing to let go of.” On the “things to keep side,” think about the things you loved about each role and what skills you gained from the experience (both “hard” and “soft” skills).
  • On the other side, write down all the things that you don’t want to carry forward into new opportunities. These could be skills that you don’t want to amplify going forward or attitudes and behaviors, such as the way previous bosses or colleagues treated you.
  • Now look at the list and write down five possible versions of who you’d like to become that elevates the best of the “keep” side and downplays the “let go of” side. These don’t have to be specific titles or roles, it could be an area of interest, an organization you’re interested in exploring, or a hobby that you want to turn into a professional opportunity.

Keeping these lists in mind will allow you to be more intentional about your choices. Rather than fixating on one idea of what your next chapter will look like, they’ll encourage you to be open to exploring and experimenting. You can do this through low-risk opportunities, such as project-based or volunteer work.

Gain confidence with connections

In a study with divorced women, Francis Financial found that during the divorce process, women tend to focus more on their loved ones and less on themselves. This may include children, parents, and even friends having difficulty coming to terms with a divorce. As a result, women come out on the other side with their own priorities on the back burner and lower self-esteem. Does this statistic sound like you—38 percent of women did not have enough support going through their divorce. Many women emerge lacking confidence, especially when it comes to money matters. This is when doubt creeps in about starting over in a professional role. Am I good enough? Who would pay me for my skills? Am I too old to reinvent?   

You can do this!

Gaining clarity in your career means believing in the skills and talents you already possess! If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. If you’re having trouble recognizing your value, be part of a group of like-minded women who will be the mirror for your talents and skills. An important aspect of boosting your confidence is understanding what you bring to the table—you need other women in order to play this critical role for each other. Studies demonstrate that when women underestimate how others view their contributions, they unintentionally hold themselves back. For example, if a woman underestimates her value, she may be more cautious about applying for a job or promotion, asking for a raise, or starting her own venture. Women need to see their skills and talents mirrored back at them through the eyes of others to be successful in their careers. Who’s in your inner circle now?

 

Judy Schoenberg and Linda Lautenberg are the Co-Founders of Evolve, where they bring women in midlife together to kickstart their next chapter. Start your career journey with Evolve and find a group of like-minded women invested in your success. Evolve is a “come as you are” community ready to support you. We’re better together! Become an Evolve member here: Evolve Membership