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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


 

 


 

Practicing self care during divorce

8 Ways to Practice Self Care During & After Divorce

We can never know what life has in store for us. As we live through a historical global pandemic, many of us have been forced to reckon with this reality. But regardless of what’s going on in the world right now (or perhaps exactly because of it), what many of us do know is that we want to be happy, and when it comes down to it, we are willing to go through heartbreak to get there. So, when we’ve done all that we can to hold on to our marriage, we often realize that divorce is the only path forward. Even so, it’s normal to feel down, stressed, and like you’re not fully yourself while you’re very much “in it.”

Divorce represents an agonizing but necessary life change that will lift the weight your marriage has left on your shoulders and help you feel free and lighter again. Practicing a little self care during divorce will allow you to take that freedom one step further—you’re about to become a more joyous and stress-free woman.

If you’re currently self-isolating, there are limitations on just how much you can put yourself out there right now, but what you can do is hit pause, slow down, and make plans for your future. Just like anything in life, even divorce, this too shall pass. When it does, you’ll want to be ready to hit the ground running. Start your divorce recovery journey with the following steps, and you’ll soon be on your way.

1. Alter your routines

To feel whole again, you must get back in touch with your inner self. One of the best ways to revive your sense of inner peace is to change your habits. Married life can make you feel like a wind-up toy—each morning you set yourself in motion, following your well-worn patterns and routines until the clock runs out. It likely wasn’t just your relationship that no longer served you when you decided to end your marriage. It was the entire routine, too. Now that you’ve freed yourself of it, you must implement new routines that will make you feel like yourself again. Instead of cooking every day, for instance, try going to a restaurant for lunch. Avoid washing and ironing, visit a bar or club after work, or to put it plainly, just slip out of the familiar and try something new on for a little while.

2. Say farewell gracefully

Easier said than done, right? It can be hard to let go of the problems that overwhelmed you during your marriage, but to feel at peace once again, you must let go of some things. Don’t let anything stay unattended, and try to remember that past you knew what they were doing when they decided to end your marriage. Make sure you’ve gotten everything out in the open with your Ex and that both of you have mutually come to an understanding. Only then will you be able to continue your lives without looking back on the past.

3. Get active

Heading to the gym right after divorce may not sound like the best idea. However, getting physically active can help you move on from divorce more efficiently than anything else. (There are also plenty of exercises you can do from home!) Exercise can productively revive your spirit and relieve you from stress as it stimulates the production of “happy” hormones. Exercise is vital if you have joint and muscle issues as well, so you can work on upgrading your mental and physical health at the same time. If you have joint or muscle pain that may impede you from doing regular exercise, make sure to find good heating pads that will ease your sore muscles and help you stay on the right track.

4. Revive your spirit and soul

Another way to practice self care during divorce is to set your mind at ease and awaken all of your senses. You might be overwhelmed with constant thoughts of how life will look now and how you’ll cope with challenges you may face on your own, so practicing classic mindful exercise is crucial. Meditate, read a book, visit a spa, get a massage, treat yourself to a manicure, or do something else equally relaxing. Yoga has also proven to be extremely helpful as you can work on clearing out the mental clutter that has been piling up inside you and improving your physical health at the same time.

5. Do the things you love

Nothing is more vital than finding your inner peace and learning how to love yourself once again (or maybe even for the first time). People who have been stuck in a bad relationship can never truly discover what it feels like to be free and loved. That is why the best way to practice self care during divorce is to spend time doing the things you love. Go to the movies, visit the theater, read a good book, go clubbing, find a new hobby, or travel somewhere new. Take advantage of all the new-found time you have to yourself to do things that suit your desires and dreams—chase new experiences and anything that makes you hopeful about the future.

6. Change your environment

Divorce means that either you or your Ex need to move out and that alone can be a daunting experience. Practice self care during divorce by changing up some things around the house after they leave. Don’t throw out things that you have mutually used, necessarily, but rather, practice some feng shui by playing around with a different living room or bedroom layout. Change out the curtains and sheets, purchase a new lamp or carpet, move your furniture around, and in this way, move forward.

7. Get support

Another crucial thing to comprehend when you are going through a divorce is to realize that you are not alone. Fight off the loneliness by surrounding yourself with loved ones. Your family and friends will never leave you behind, and they are the ones who you can count on to give you love, care, and support without expecting anything in return.

There are times, though, when your loved ones just don’t understand what you’re going through, and their well-intentioned words just don’t feel relevant to your life. This is a time to ally yourself with others who are on the same path of growing—with people who know exactly what you’ve been through and who can help you move forward, together. Check out Paloma’s Group, a virtual group coaching class for women seeking to reinvent themselves and create their best lives post-divorce.

8. Reconnect with nature

With time, you will learn that this divorce has, perhaps, been one of the greatest twists in the story of your life—one that helped you live more freely and authentically. But until that happens, you should clear your thoughts and do your best not to think about the past or “what ifs.” Go out in nature, get some fresh air, and find other ways to set your mind at ease. Travel to a new country, discover interesting places, go camping and hiking, or just let your hair down and loosen up a little. (Did you know you can have a dance party any time in your own living room?)

To move on, be open to new opportunities and relationships, and remember that time really does cure everything.

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.

How long does it take to get over a divorce

How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Divorce? And 4 Signs You are On Your Way

There’s a saying about getting over someone—that it takes half the time you spent together to truly move on. That means six months of wallowing for a year-long relationship—time that might drag on endlessly, or time that might fly by faster than you can blink. But for longer relationships? Those marriages that have spanned years and possibly decades? The waiting period is a whole other discussion, a conversation we are going to have now.

Because after divorce, you want your life back. But a part of you is still reliving the past, turning your marriage over and over like a skipping stone in your hand. A stone that, at some point, you have to drop. You have to let it go. For the truth of the matter is spending the next decade missing your Ex—and feeling sorry for yourself—is even more depressing than your actual divorce.

So you aim to help yourself, you start researching. You ask friends, you ask family (or maybe they ask you), “How long is it supposed to take to get over a divorce, anyway?” Yet, you get nothing in return, but differing answers leading to more questions.

Now you’re here reading, and we are with you. We know that sometimes arming yourself with knowledge is the best way you can feel in control, especially when it comes to all-things-divorce. So, how long does it take?

What science says

Past studies suggest that it takes a person, on average, eighteen months to move on after divorce, while others simply leave it at “it’s complicated.” And that’s the truth—divorce is complicated, and because of this, science is only so accurate. Some study participants, for instance, might have been separated before getting a divorce, while others had only just broken things off. Other participants may have wanted a divorce, while others still wanted to try to make their marriages work.

What is clear is that even when marriages look the same on paper, their insides are messy, intricate things that can’t be examined like a math equation.

What experience says

What we know, despite what our loved ones tell us or even what science says, is that people often discover they’ve “moved on” almost unconsciously. They wake up one morning, and the sadness they’ve been carrying feels different, less of a weight than a kind of memory. You’re in the middle of a conversation, for instance, or you are out shopping in the grocery store, and you see the latest tabloid announcing another celebrity divorce when you remember your own divorce, what you’re supposed to be grieving, or “missing” or reverberating from. Only you don’t so much. You feel stabilized. It’s not that you’re unaware of the scars you are wearing, but you own them now. And best of all, you no longer care. 

This not caring is freeing! It seems to happen a little sooner when you have distance from your Ex. That means no “let’s be friends.” No late-night, I’m-feeling-sorry-for-myself phone calls. No hookups “for old times sake.” In fact, to help with your healing, you must consider your past relationship like a drug, for a certain time at least. You have to cut off your exposure to the drug and to its many triggers.

You have to re-circuit your brain and teach it to do new things rather than reach for the phone to “let him have it” or to beg. (Drink a glass of water every time you want to call your Ex!) Limit your triggers of being reminded of him*. Unfriend him, or better yet, block your Ex on social media. Delete his number from your phone. If you are coparenting with him, only communicate through Family Wizard. This is about creating a buffer for the new and emerging you to grow. It’s not about adding to your confusion and grief by constantly being near the man you once thought you’d spend the rest of your life with.

But what if you aren’t grieving your “Was-band”? But grieving the loss of who you were in the marriage? Who you used to be? The lifestyle you enjoyed? The summer rituals you shared? What about the friends and family who played a role in that former life of yours?

Life after divorce is a whole new way of living, and it means almost by definition … change. A lot of change. You need time to grapple with the changes and the many losses you have suffered, ignored, or even, created. So really, when we ask how long does it take to recover from divorce? We are talking about the time it takes until “You’ve Got Your Groove Back.”

But what if you are tone—or you can’t dance? Getting your groove back does not explain what you are striving for?

In our 46 Steps to Divorce Recovery, A Definition and A Guide, we define this moment in time, post-divorce, as a process, a journey of its own within divorce where the  “emotional and practical restructuring and healing” is a “constant, cyclical process in which you are broken down and built back up numerous times until finally, you are whole again.”

Another way of saying this is, you will know when you are healed when all the shattered pieces come back together in a way that makes you feel proud of yourself.

What you can do to help yourself move on

The very fundamental desire to heal is your beginning. Now you must take steps. Try to avoid doing things that smack of those old familiar patterns and people you miss. At first, fighting these instincts will be hard, because during your marriage you probably did everything you could to bring all these things together—the people, the routines, the joys, the rituals. You tried to make the most of your marriage. But now your challenge is to create your “new normal,” and to do that, you’ll have to rediscover yourself and who you are now.

Some women find that their divorce recovery takes years, while others find that they’ve prepared for divorce so long that within months or weeks they already feel better than they have in years. To those in the latter camp, we say, yes, you may be feeling better. But don’t lose sight of the work and steps you must still be taking to ensure your healthy independence. Doing the work and practicing self care, will ensure you start seeing the signs that indeed, you have started to truly move on.

Here are some of those signs.

1. The idea of going on a date is thrilling

If, after divorce, you say to yourself whenever someone suggests you should get back out there,“What? Start all over? It’s so much work…” this is a sign that you’re not over your divorce. The idea of dating feels like a chore, a series of boxes to check off a list someone else has generated, rather than the adventure it can really be. So, don’t do it. Focus on yourself and what you need to discover about putting your life back together. Until you do this work, you will only be showing up half-heartedly or, damaged.

But if you feel a twinge of excitement at the thought of meeting someone new, then some part of you might be ready to move on—at least in the romantic department. Check in with yourself. Manage your expectations of self, what you want, what you need, and what you are willing to share.

2. You feel comfortable in your own skin

You’re feeling yourself. Not just feeling sexy—though there’s no shame in that, you feel healthy and fully of energy. You feel a sense of peace and balance. You have planted your feet in the direction you want your life to take. In short, you know who you are, and you like that person.

For some women, this may mean they’ve secured a job (a paycheck!) and routine. For others it may mean understanding at long last their finances, and what their plan is for moving forward. Or maybe the kids are no longer acting out but settling into their new routines at both houses, and this is giving you a chance to ease up in hyper-management of the shifting parts. But that frenzy of survival mode has passed. You are able to look up and consider what else might be possible for you now.

3. You feel positive about you future

Before your divorce and maybe even sometimes, afterwards, it was hard to care much about your future let alone believe there was anything good waiting for you there. But now surprising events or happenings have inspired you. You may be full of hope. Look! There’s so much about your life that’s new and surprising. You never could have predicted or planned for it.

There’s something beautiful about leaning into the unexpected.

Being positive about your future implies that you have taken a hard look at your past and come to a place of acceptance about it, both the good and the bad. It means you no longer carry the past like a weight. You’ve moved past blame. When you are living in the here and now, planning and building your new future, this is another strong indicator that you’ve begun moving on after divorce.

4. Your divorce doesn’t keep you up at night

The end of any relationship generally comes with a certain dose of feeling sorry for yourself. Nights spent crying yourself to sleep and days spent walking around in a daze. But now? You’re tired of being tired. You’re done with being sad. You find yourself making plans for your summer and spending more time with new people and those unbelievably wonderful, stalwart friends. One day you think to yourself, “When was the last time I thought about HIM?” And the fact that you have to think about that puts a smile on your face.

You might never truly “get over” your divorce, but over time, it will become a quieter ache instead of an intense pain. The heartbreak will callus over—you’ll be wiser and more prepared for red flags that may appear again. Experience is a gift that gives you the chance to learn from mistakes and failures. Whether those mistakes and failures are real or simply dancing in your head, time and doing the work you must will give you perspective.

When it comes to getting over a divorce, there’s no rulebook or timeline except the one that feels right for you. If you do nothing about your divorce recovery, you can expect very little to change about the way you are feeling. It will probably become more muddled and less pronounced. But did you grow from it? If you choose to support yourself by finding the help you need to really honor your beautiful life, you’ll discover the time it takes to get over your divorce will be just the right amount of time you need to move forward bravely and with grace.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule you FREE, 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping with divorce or already navigating your life afterward, a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone.

*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.

The answers to your question why my ex remarried

Why Is My Ex Remarried Already?

If you’re a recently divorced woman, then here are the things you’re likely focusing on: self-improvement, just getting through this painful chapter so you can move forward, reconnecting with old friends and finding new ones, and well, dating, eventually. Unanswered questions and half-formed plans may be swirling throughout your mind, but something you weren’t expecting to be asking yourself quite so soon is this: my Ex remarried already—what does that say about our marriage? What does that say about me?

Those are valid and emotionally-fraught questions, and the stakes feel even higher when your marriage was a particularly long one, a fixture of most of your adult life. The idea that your Ex could move on so quickly is painful. How could it not be? But in the end, it has almost nothing to do with you, except, maybe, that your former husband may be trying to refill whatever role you played in his life.

As an older person, being single can be uncomfortable, especially when you don’t have a strong support system, like children or other family members. Men don’t do as well as women when it comes to sitting with this discomfort. According to the Pew Research Center, only 30 percent of eligible men said they didn’t want to marry again, compared to 54 percent of divorced and widowed women. We also know that this gap between genders widens the older a person is.

Women, however, often thrive in discomfort. We hit pause after divorce, taking time to work on and prioritize ourselves rather than trying to find a new partner. We reflect on our past chapters so that we do better in future ones. Women tend to be okay living outside of a socially-sanctioned box—a relationship—so that they can instead explore what other options are out there.

Exploring the data behind remarriage

The research also shows that women tend to be happier on their own after a long-term marriage. Even in modern marriages, women are often relegated to the role of caregiver, to their children and then to their husband—perhaps even at the same time. It’s exhausting, both physically and mentally, and after divorce, a woman’s newfound freedom can be exhilarating. Suddenly, you are given the chance to explore who you are as an individual. Suddenly, you have all the time in the world.

Science helps us make sense of the differences in these responses to divorce. As women age, their estrogen levels drop and their testosterone levels rise. We become more active, ambitious, and direct. Men, on the other hand, experience the opposite: their testosterone levels drop, and their estrogen levels rise. They become less active, retreating further into their home life and leading to a desire to settle down in their retirement days. And men, by and large, find the idea of having someone to take care of them during their “golden years” to be comforting instead of confining. On top of all of this, humans live longer than we have in the past—the thought of spending all that time alone is more than some people can handle.

Separating the data from our emotions

Yet while the science and the research may help us make sense of our reality, it certainly can’t change it nor can it make swallowing this bitter pill any easier. At first, your thoughts may have been merely: I need to get through my divorce. Now, your thoughts are fixated on a new shock: My Ex remarried. The latter can feel like pouring salt on your wounds, even if you wanted the divorce. And it’s even more galling if your Ex’s new wife looks like a younger version of yourself.

But even if your Ex remarried a younger woman (or any woman at all), we must accept that our situation isn’t her fault—unless, of course, she contributed to the downfall of your marriage. It doesn’t do to dwell on this new relationship too much, to try to pull it apart and compare it to yours, looking for signs that the walls will soon crumble or that the foundation is faulty.

The New Woman doesn’t have the history you share with your Ex. She may only know him as the new and improved version of himself. Or, on the flip side, it may be that he hasn’t worked on himself at all—when we don’t lay that groundwork, we bring the same poison we brought to past relationships into new ones. In that case, it might be easier and healthier to replace your anger or insecurities with a little empathy. The New Woman simply has no idea what she’s getting herself into.

Now back to that question: My Ex remarried—what does that say about our marriage? What does that say about me? By now we hope you realize the answer: nothing. Your Ex’s choices are not a reflection of you or your self-worth. Instead, use this experience as the catalyst for a new question: Whom will I dance with next?

Shift your focus from your Ex and look at your own future. If your life were really a dance, then this time is about getting experimental. Let your body go loose and let your mind wander, the kind of interpretive dance that lets you express and explore your body and spirit. Then, when you’re ready for a little intimacy, let go of your fears. You might be ready to Tango again sooner than you know it.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unique challenge’s women face when considering, navigating and recovering from the divorce experience. You are invited to meet SAS through a complimentary consultation. You deserve knowing the smartest, healthiest next steps for yourself and for your family.

Being nice when the Ex has a new girlfriend

Playing Nice with Your Ex’s New Girlfriend

When I was little, I used to take the goldfish bowl on our coffee table and wind that sucker down the length of the hall like a bowler on a bender. Off it would fly, water everywhere, mother rabid with exasperation, me laughing (and then crying from the butt swat), and the poor goldfish gasping on the olive shag carpet until my mother finally gave it to someone whose life lacked a two-year-old.

That’s a bit what divorce is like. There you are, swimming laps around your life. Maybe you’re bored and a little tired, but you’ve got your pink castle, plastic plants, and most of all, the guppy who shares your bowl. He may hang out in the tiki house too often and he makes an unholy mess of your carefully arranged blue gravel, but his presence reminds you that you are a cute and loveable fish. You know who you are partly because he is there. And suddenly (even though you know in your heart that it wasn’t really sudden), everything you know is gone and you can’t breathe from the shock and terror of it.

When this cataclysmic upending of your world happens, one of a million horrible-wonderful thoughts you have (in a span of minutes) is that it CANNOT get worse. Well, hello. It can. The universe may not always wear pigtails, but it can add insult to injury any old time it feels like it. For in swoops a seagull, freshly preened and glossy. Yes, this bird has absolutely no place in the living room or anywhere near your pink castle. But there it is.

Where did this bird come from? Back in your bowl, breathing again but still stupefied, you watch helplessly as she lands on the coffee table, and then takes a beady look at your guppy guy like he’s king salmon. Then swoosh, she scoops him up out of the bowl you’ve shared for as long as you can remember and off she flies. With him! And not only is he not afraid or even looking back at you, he jumps right into her snappy yellow bill and appears to enjoy it, immensely.

Your Ex has a new girlfriend, and the seagull is her. Two months after you’ve left the home you bought together 10 years earlier, where you harvested apples and got engaged and made up rich inner lives for your cats, he’s got a freaking girlfriend. She flew in and helped herself to your (Ex) husband and made herself right at home where she didn’t belong—with the person in your life who was closest to you, who listened to your dreams in the middle of the night, and who told you that you are beautiful, that he’d love you forever.

I know the whole goldfish bowl metaphor is oversimplified, and depending on what stage of divorce you’re in, it may even seem glib. But here’s the thing…

It’s temporary

I would not have been able to be glib about giving up my partner—about the dissolution of what I thought was my whole life’s context—two months or even a year later. I can now. You need to know that the ragged terror, the horrible grief, the jealousy, the rage—they really do end. The paralysis, the apathy, the sense that we disappear when our marriage does—all of that is temporary.

Meanwhile, nutso is the new normal for a while. You’re bouncing from bowl to shag carpet, or to just shagging, and back again, and that is not only normal, it’s ok. But when your Ex has a new girlfriend, jealousy can make the shag rug feel like broken glass, though. A friend of mine who’d been married since she was 18 and was, after 37 years, happily divorcing, told me, “You are going to have a different, really intense emotion every five seconds. You’ll go from great to bawling and screaming, and then you’ll be great again. It’s ok. It’ll pass.” But even though this friend was happy to be divorcing, she still hated her husband’s new girlfriend. She knew it wasn’t rational, but she couldn’t help it. I’m guessing this is also normal, but who wants to stay in this phase forever? We want to let our Ex go. For me, that meant letting it out.

Let it out

Let it out, girl, but do it in private. Publicly, fake it ’til you make it, as the saying goes. “You are becoming the version of yourself you want to be,” as a dear friend of mine puts it. Until then, cry in the shower. Scream in the car, in an empty lot. Punch the crap out of your mattress when the kids are at school. Write in your journal about getting her in a headlock and shaving off patches of her hair. Work out hard (I highly recommend cardio kickboxing). It’s a simple matter of pride: keep it civil on social media (or stay off of it), keep it to yourself at work as much as you can, and DON’T do what a friend of mine did, which was to go to the house they still co-owned to pick up some clothes and detour into the bedroom long enough to sprinkle toilet water on their red-clad pillows.

Yep. She did that. She wasn’t proud of it; that was NOT the version of herself she wanted to be. It was a tantrum. It was juvenile, more than a little disgusting, and definitely not playing nice with her Ex’s girlfriend. But eventually she started caring a lot more about who she was becoming than who her Ex was with now. She acted in ways she was proud of, like when one of their dear cats was diagnosed with cancer not long after they ended things, and her Ex wanted his girlfriend there with them for the euthanasia. She said yes, not only because she wanted to be that version of herself, but because she genuinely could be.

Laugh

The pillowcase baptism may not have been the way to go (no pun intended), but it illustrated her to herself. And it sure made for a great story later. Her sheepish telling of that story made her friends laugh their asses off, which made her able to laugh at herself.

You really do need to laugh about any part of this thing as soon and as often as you can. Laughter, like working out, boosts endorphin levels without chemical assistance and forces fresh oxygen into your blood stream. It’s literally a breath of fresh air. It clears away grief, makes recognizing the new world you’re in easier, and it bubbles away fear like hydrogen peroxide on blood. From there, the moments when you can feel your new self emerging grow longer. You become more real to yourself in this context instead of the old one. Yes, your Ex has a new girlfriend, but now you start wondering what the pond might be like too. And as you let it out, let it go, and laugh, you reach the next phase of recognition.

It isn’t her fault

It isn’t. Even if your Ex has a new girlfriend who he was involved with while you were still married, he was the one who committed to you, not her. While we’re still feeling grief and rage, we want to blame something or someone outside ourselves, and it’s a lot easier to blame the interloper than the person who was Our Person. The Seagull instead of The Guppy.

The relationship you’ve left, the one that cracked under the strain of something whether it was a fear of change, denial about being unhappy, or a role that didn’t fit one or both of you well—it belonged to you and your Ex. You shared that fishbowl. It may not seem like it, but no two-year-old in pigtails actually upended it. You outgrew it. It cracked open because on some level you and your curiosity were getting too big for it. Whether you realized it or not.

There’s no comparison

If you truly didn’t realize it, divorce is a rude awakening, to say the very least. Adding in a new partner in your Ex’s life sharpens the pain and turns up the volume on that voice inside your head that tells you “something about me wasn’t enough.” It’s almost impossible not to, but comparing yourself to her is fruitless and damaging, so try not to do it. Stop doing it as soon as you can. You are not a lightbulb. There is no replacement for you.

“Jealousy, that sickening combination of possessiveness, suspicion, rage, and humiliation, can overtake your mind and threaten your very core as you contemplate your rival,” writes author, relationship expert and scientist, Helen Fisher.

When your Ex has a new girlfriend, stop contemplating her in any way that isn’t strictly practical and strategic to moving on. The only valid comparison involves looking back on your old self, not at her. In a future a lot less distant than you think, you will look back at life in the bowl with your guppy and the gull won’t even matter. Because you will have jumped from the bowl into the pond and started swimming.

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), her new guy 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 afterward. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

“Divorce can be on your terms.” ~ SAS for Women.

Changing name after divorce

Changing Your Name After Divorce

Changing your name after divorce can feel freeing—or it can feel like pouring salt on an open wound. And it’s possible, certainly, that it might even feel like both. Where you stand depends on the circumstances of your divorce and your particular mindset.

In either case, it’s the attachment to our spouse and the way that a name change seems to cut right through it in a way that’s more tangible (and sometimes more visible to the outside world) than simply saying “I’m done” that makes it feel so weighted with importance.

But there’s the mental leaps and bounds we must go through while ending a marriage, and then there’s the legal realities, like figuring out custody or changing your name after divorce. We know that it’s all just paper and words and so much ado about nothing, maybe, but it’s still our lives. Paper and words can mean everything.

Even if you’re not a sentimental person—even if you and your spouse got creative and chose to combine and hyphenate your last names—you chose your married name in the same way that you chose your spouse. Going back to your birth name may feel, in a way, like breaking a promise to yourself. It could feel like failing, an emotion divorce brings out in us over and over again, even when we know we’re the only ones keeping score.

So why do some women choose to keep their Ex’s last name while others go back to their birth names? And how does one go about changing her name anyway? Read on below to learn more.

How to go about changing your name after divorce

Divorce laws vary depending on where you live, but most states allow a spouse to change their name during a divorce by requesting the judge enter a formal order to change your last name back to your birth name. If your divorce is already final, you may be able to request an amended divorce decree. The more common way is to wait until the legal process is over. Once you have your divorce decree, you can use a notarized copy of this document to change your name everywhere else. For legal changes, you’ll often need to submit a notarized version of the document to …the social security office, the DMV, your bank and credit card companies, and the entities holding your retirement accounts, etc.)

There are, however, some states that don’t require any paperwork at all, allowing you to go back to your birth name right away as long as you are using it consistently, and others that treat changing your name after divorce the same as any other name change petition, so be sure to speak to your lawyer about which option is best for and which laws apply to you.

Whatever you do, get educated and do your research. There are plenty of women who still use their Ex’s last name not by choice but because their lawyer simply never informed them of their options. Getting an amendment to your divorce decree or changing your name via petition in the future could come with additional financial costs.

How women feel

Women keep their Ex’s last name for many reasons, some that are emotional, others that are practical, and some that fall in-between. It’s easier, for one. (There’s far less paperwork to fill out if you just sit back and do nothing, especially if your divorce is already final.) If you use your name professionally, then it’s less confusing and more consistent. If you have children, it might make transitioning to life after divorce a little smoother for them. You may not be living with their father anymore, but you’re still a family with a shared name.

Let’s just add, that even if you change your last name, in regard to your children, you are still a family but your family has shifted in look — like so many modern families.

Some women genuinely like their married name better than their old one, so they keep it. Maybe it’s just easier to pronounce than their birth name or they didn’t have the best relationship with their father. And for other women, it comes down to a sense of who they want to be.  Going back to a maiden name may feel like returning home, to one’s most authentic self.

If you change your name, people who may have only guessed or heard rumors about your personal life before will now know without a doubt that you are divorced. For you, that might be a good thing. You might be ready for your newly-single life, for a sense of independence you’ve been craving. Or, it might feel like yet another chink in your armor.

How experts feel

But there’s something to be said for taking back what’s yours, no matter the circumstances. Some experts say that going back to your birth name can be a way of “restoring your prior identity.” The exception, of course, would be if you’re one of those women mentioned above who uses her name professionally. Otherwise, using your birth name could be one way to start feeling whole again as you continue on your divorce recovery journey.

So many of us lose ourselves to relationships, wrapping our identity up with another’s so closely that we can’t remember what we actually want or need or even like by the end of it all. Because changing your name after divorce is yet another thing that affects our identities, it can feel even more final than the actual end of our marriage.

And keeping your Ex’s name? Well, there’s nothing wrong with that either, but it can give the impression to both your children and potential romantic partners that there’s a deeper connection between you and your Ex than there actually is. For your children, this connection is likely comforting, but for a potential love interest, it may be threatening or, at the very least, uncomfortable.

What really matters

Marriage felt like the tying together of your identity to your husband’s, and now you’re slowly undoing all that work. It’s terrifying and exciting, but so are most of the best things in life.

At the end of the day, it’s really about how you feel. It is, after all, your name, and you have to live with it. Do you have children? Do they have strong feelings about you changing your name after divorce? For that matter, how does your Ex feel about it? How does your married name feel on your tongue? What’s your relationship with it? Was it a name you chose? Was it forced on you by your spouse or your family’s expectations?

There are so many factors to consider when changing your name after divorce, but don’t forget that what you want and need should be front and center in your mind.

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

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe now.