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Divorce Shocker: I Feel Sorry for My Ex’s New Wife

Hello, I am Masha. Your Ex’s new wife. I need help. I’m desperate.”

I received this text message recently. It was both out of the blue and somewhat expected. It made me suddenly realize that I feel sorry for my Ex’s new wife.

Over two years ago, my Ex and I divorced, following many attempts to reconcile that failed due to verbal and mental abuse. A year after our divorce, he remarried and moved in with his new wife, her two daughters, and our eldest son. I considered the marriage to be too hasty, but that was none of my business. They didn’t ask me.

Of course, when I learned of the pending wedding from my sons, I wanted to warn this woman. I wanted to urge her to be careful; the man is an abuser and an entitled narcissist. I wanted to send her an article for down the road: “Divorcing a Narcissist? Here’s What You Need to Know.” I felt compelled to share that this man would be unfair with money, that he would never accept responsibility for any of his actions, and that he’d never own any sense of guilt. He certainly never did in our marriage, nor our divorce. (He challenged any “division of assets” and he was unwilling to accept any responsibility for our breakup.)

But I didn’t.

Initial reactions

For all I knew, Masha could be marrying him to escape an even worse situation. Maybe she was embarrassed by her situation, being unmarried with two daughters, or that marriage to my Ex was a blessing to her? Or, maybe my Ex would become a different person with her? I thought this as I remembered how he was with me when we first met at 19. As I considered these scenarios, I noticed I felt a twinge of jealousy. Perhaps this new girlfriend would get what I had long hoped for but failed to get.

I didn’t intend to learn more about Masha. But I couldn’t escape it in our over-transparent world of social media. My friends saw my Ex’s engagement announcement and they felt compelled to report back to me. A sure sign of support and loyalty to me (they thought) was to tell me that my Ex’s new fiancée isn’t as pretty as I am. I didn’t find that at all supportive. I found her good-looking and similar to me in type.


Wondering how long it’s going to take?

Learn what you could be doing and forgive yourself

Read “How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Divorce?”


Later my sons told me that Masha is a kind and caring woman. Despite having a career in finance, she cooks, looks after the house, does laundry, irons my sons’ clothes, and cuts their hair. They also told me that she doesn’t have a dishwasher or any domestic help. That sounded exactly like the type of a woman my Ex would like: kind-hearted, hardworking, giving, and especially, a woman with her own wealth. She was textbook prey to a charming narcissistic abuser. She was similar to me, I was hearing, in more ways than one.

I agreed to text with Masha.

When I did, Masha asked: “Is there a trick to keeping him calm and happy? How did you manage it?”

Masha talked about my Ex’s bouts with anger, his refusal to be clear about money or to chip in his fair share toward household expenses. She said he goes ballistic if she tries to discuss finances, all while insisting that they should have a child together, take out a mortgage, and buy an apartment. Masha said that she feels drained, helpless, and cries a lot. Instead of enjoying some kind of newlywed bliss, Masha was reaching out to me, the Ex-wife. She was desperate, by her own account. She needed help.

I advised her to take care of herself, her girls, and her money and make sure she doesn’t mess up her career with all this stress. Additionally, I advised against a mortgage because it weighs on a woman so much, especially in difficult times. I said nothing about whether or not she should leave because it’s a decision a woman must make on her own.


If you’re in your 40’s, you may wish to consider “The Truth About Starting Over After Divorce at 45.”


It was an intense but not altogether surprising text thread knowing the man we shared. It took me a while to process this communication, this sharing.

Below are some thoughts and feelings I want to share with SAS readers. Since processing my exchange with Masha, I’ve learned it’s not uncommon to be contacted by a new wife of an Ex. It’s not uncommon for them to reach out for help. Maybe this experience would be useful to somebody else.

I feel sorry for my ex’s new wife, the kids, and myself

I felt genuinely sad for Masha. She didn’t do me any harm; she didn’t ruin my marriage. Now, she was a sister-woman, a mother who was suffering. She had hopes that were dashed, and I related to that.

I felt pain and grief for the kids involved: two of my sons and two of Masha’s daughters. I felt upset that they were witnessing the fights. Should there be a divorce, it would bring yet more instability to their lives.

I relived my own conflicts and the divorce again. With these memories came the visitation of my broken dreams. I remembered when I decided to keep my money in a safe place. I remembered how tough my breakup was.


Check out “How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things After Divorce”


Saving and guilt

I feel sorry for my ex’s new wife and felt guilty for not warning her in advance. I could have predicted that my Ex would continue the abuse. Moreover, I wanted to help. I wanted to save her.

But maybe even more than saving her, I wanted to save myself, as if by helping Masha I could go back in time and save my younger self.

I Feel Sorry for My Ex’s New Wife: Feeling Torn

While feeling compassion, I also felt something wrong, something manipulative about her reaching out to me. We have never met. We were not friends. While I feel sorry for my Ex’s new wife, I am not her therapist!

I was torn between wanting to help a suffering woman and believing that I shouldn’t interfere in other people’s relationships.

Responsibility and boundaries

I started assessing my own ability and responsibility. It felt great for my ego to assume that I could help, change or save someone. But the reality is that I can’t. I can offer advice that will either be accepted or not. That’s it.

The trap was that I identified with her. I saw her looking similar to me and finding herself in a situation that I was in. But that is where our similarities ended. I created my family in my late 20s and had known my Ex since we were both 19. We had children together and created a home. Masha married him in her 40s and had a blended family, a rented apartment, and two ex-husbands.

In other words, she is her own person, an adult capable of making her own choices. She is responsible for her life and doing the best for her kids. I am not.

Realizing the limit to my saving ability and responsibility for other adults was enlightening. And humbling.

Proven right

I enjoyed being proven right, I admit. But I didn’t make a song and dance out of it. A younger version of me would have loved the melodrama and would have called all girlfriends to report on Masha’s difficulties. I would have gossiped endlessly. I guess as I recover from my divorce, I build my own strength, my own self-worth, and I don’t need to be validated by anyone.

Silver lining

Every cloud has its silver lining. In my case, as I saw how bad my Ex is as a husband, I also appreciated that he is not that bad as a father. Both our sons have forged their own connections with him after our divorce.


You may not be so lucky with your children. Read our “What to Do When Your Child Refuses to Visit Their Father” for support on doing the right thing.


At the end of the day, hearing from Masha was therapeutic for me. I feel sorry for my Ex’s new wife. I shared with her what I thought she should know briefly. What she does with it is her business. As for me, I felt some letting go, some acceptance. I counted my blessings for getting out of my marriage.

Now I can get on with making new plans and enjoying my better life.

Notes

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is a freelance copywriter and international communications consultant in Moscow, Russia. She prays for peace, especially for the women and children of Ukraine.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while 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.

starting over after divorce at 50

Starting Over After Divorce at 50: Five Stories on Finding Yourself

Our relationships are powerful elements in our lives, which is a major reason why starting over after divorce at 50 (or any age!) can be such a pivotal moment. Realizing your marriage is no longer viable can make you feel that your entire life is over and that there is nothing to look forward to. But never fear—your life is still yours. There are chapters of your life yet to be written and new people you haven’t met yet waiting to adore you, whether platonically or romantically. You might also find yourself just truly enjoying being on your own after the compromise of a sub-par relationship.

But don’t take our word for it.

The women you are about to meet are living proof that you can still find yourself, even when divorcing in your 50s and beyond. Life after a gray divorce can actually help you recover your vital energy and wisdom, ensuring that you are restored to your true intended path. Let these women inspire you to take confident steps in your life and not waste a precious moment.

Lisa’s Story

One day, quite by accident, Lisa (64) found an email to her husband with a lease document for an apartment. They had been married for 32 years, but it seemed he was planning to leave. Soon after, she uncovered the proof of multiple affairs and infidelity. “I think he was a narcissist,” says Lisa, and she attributes the downfall of their marriage being a result of their combined focus on their son and their very busy career months after their divorce.

I asked Lisa, a retired Navy Jag living in Texas, what advice she has for other women facing divorce. “Get help,” Lisa said. “Divorce Care, a Christian organization, helped me heal. And I also saw a therapist.” She also adds that it’s important to “Get yourself a financial education and be firm about what you expect out of the divorce. Keep going—you can handle more than you expect.”

Lisa’s energy and good humor are clear as she admits that she is happier than she has been for many years. To hear her tell it, Lisa has found herself in starting over after divorce at 50+ and feels alive to the possibilities in her new life. Recently, she laughs, confidingly, she has met another man on an online dating site Zoosk—and they are in their six month together.


If you are looking for support as a mother, having been married to a narcissist, you will benefit from reading, “41 Things to Remember If You are Coparenting with a Narcissist.”


CJ’s Story

CJ is an emergency trauma nurse who married at the age of 21 and went on to have two daughters. Her marriage lasted 34 years until her divorce was finalized in 2019. CJ’s husband physically and psychologically abused their daughter, who finally disclosed the truth to her mother. The circumstances were difficult as her Ex was a police officer and she had to counter his angry threats by appealing to the Sheriff’s Office. Their friendship circle included police officers who all stuck by her husband.

CJ is now 61 and happily living alone. She kept working throughout the marriage breakdown and divorce. CJ relied on her close friends and a cousin who supported her through the trauma. She continues to live in the same small community in the upper Midwest, Wisconsin, where she resides in the house where her daughters grew up.

CJ says, “If we had divorced earlier and he had shared custody of my girls, he would have been alone with them,” she said. Her daughters have no contact with their father now, who retired from the police six years ago and so no longer wields such community influence.

CJ says she would consider another committed relationship if she could still have her own place and keep her autonomy. Like Lisa, however, trust is an issue for CJ after what happened. She too benefited from counseling and advises women to: “Be sure you have someone not directly involved (with the family) who you trust to talk with, someone who has your best interest in mind. A lawyer, therapist, advocate, or divorce coach, and take the time to work through all the decisions with them. They will have a perspective that will be invaluable.” CJ, an incredibly resilient woman, had to be so strong to stand her ground against immense pressure. Not only do her girls have a wonderful role model, CJ has found herself on her own terms. CJ’s story is proof that starting over after divorce at 50 can be transformative in many  ways.

Jill’s Story 

Jill’s story follows a different dynamic, with another set of circumstances and difficulties. Her divorce came when she was 47, after a year in a foreign country, with the pressures of work and increasing awareness that she and her husband were working abroad “together but alone.”

Jill and her husband had met at university and were married for 19 years. They were parents, colleagues, and best friends, but had “fallen out of love” and were “no longer compatible,” missing intimacy and the hobbies and activities they once had in common. Jill did some difficult soul searching and they discussed amicably what the future held for them. She leaned on friends and family and sought therapy.


Maybe you still love him as a friend. Perhaps he is your best friend. You trust him, you respect him… you just don’t want to be his wife anymore. Consider reading “How to Divorce a Nice Guy.”


She describes her “Aha!” moment when the therapist asked her: “Describe for me the place where you and your husband are happy together?” Jill’s mind went blank. She could not come up with an example. When she asked her Ex the same question, his reaction was similar. They both knew their time to part had come. She had six months of feeling the heavy loss of her partner and best friend after they separated amicably but found it gave her the possibility for a new lease of life at age 50. She has embraced this chapter as a time of recovery and discovery. She is now happier and more in control of her life—her role as a parent, her work in Europe, her friendships, and her love life—and feels better than she has in years. She stepped into the online dating world, and Jill now feels her “true bliss” with a new lover—they are several years into their relationship, and she celebrates her second love story. Jill’s story is a great example of how starting over after divorce at 50 can open new possibilities.

Jill is keen to say to women that the “Hollywood” version of divorce as a shameful, frightening, horrible event is unhelpful. Instead, divorce can be like pruning in winter, hard but necessary, leading to new growth for both of you, and a positive step in your life.

Ultimately, Jill listened to her inner voice, got help and stayed friends with her Ex. She is grateful and has perspective: she feels connected with her youthful self again in a new culture with a new partner. ¡Qué regalos!

Debby’s Story

The first person in her family to receive an education, Debby is a clinical social worker, teacher and ordained interfaith minister, living in New York City. She met her ex-husband as a 16-year-old and married at 19. Their marriage lasted 50 years. Debby is now 71 with two children and four grandsons.

She describes the main issues leading up to their divorce as relating to different parenting styles, his lifelong workaholic nature, and his diagnosis as being on the autism spectrum, which meant his emotional range was limited. Debby said they have a friendly relationship, live near each other in Manhattan, and get together with family but the marriage was always more a practical arrangement rather than a romantic union. If they were friends, she says, they would have remained married, but they were more like roommates. Debby feels they were never really suited to each other, and if she has one regret it is that she didn’t divorce earlier.

After their two-year legal separation, the couple converted their document into a no-fault divorce (they used a mediator). Debby is grateful that she is comfortable. She lives alone with her two dogs. Her independence was instilled in her throughout the marriage, as her ex-husband would spend long hours at work or away on business, so much that Debby felt she was a single parent. There was no infidelity nor abuse in Debby’s marriage, but she outgrew the relationship largely due to his real marriage being with his career in finance.

Debbie says “I did a lot of work on myself and I’m a lifelong learner,” and would say to other women contemplating divorce or going through one that it is never too late to start again,”there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Debby never pictured herself as a woman starting over after divorce at age 50+, but knows for sure that she is much happier to be on her own, answering to no one. There are, of course, moments of loneliness. But she reminds herself that she felt lonelier in the marriage without intimacy. She acknowledges that ultimately, her divorce was the “death of a fantasy,” and with this comes some sadness that she and her Ex could not grow old together.


For action steps, solid suggestions, and inspirational encouragement rebuilding your life, check out “100 Must Do’s for the Newly-Divorced, Independent Woman.”


Val’s Story

I’d like to share my personal family experience to further illustrate the point of this article: you can start over later in life. My mother, Val, separated from my Dad when she was 46 after almost 20 years of marriage. He was 66 at the time of divorce. Alcohol played its part as much as the age difference affecting their respective careers. She told me later she cried in the shower every morning for two years while gearing up to make the decision to leave.

She took me (14) and my brother (13) to Sydney, which was about 100kms away from where we were born. She left the government psychologist job she had held for years and stepped into private practice.

Over the years, moving through and beyond her own divorce recovery, Mum built a thriving business, had a Good Housekeeping magazine advice column, and appeared on television as resident psychologist. Mum was a family therapist and marriage therapist. She dealt with many divorces and separations.

As her daughter, I observed how Mum took the bull by the horns after her divorce.  She did meet another man, John, a jazz musician, who moved in to live with us. They traveled together, went to concerts, and generally had an amazing time for five years until he sadly died of cancer. Mum remained single until her death in 2017 at age 83.

Whenever I asked her if she fancied anyone, she said to me, over the years, she’d loved our father and John, and no other man would ever live up to those relationships. On her deathbed, she whispered to me that she loved my father. He had remarried in his late 60s and moved to Sydney to be nearer to us kids. Mum and Dad remained friends over the years until Dad passed at age 78. Mum visited him in his last days.

Starting Over After Divorce at Age 50: Endless Possibilities

If you need to end a marriage, don’t be afraid. You will likely have tried everything. Give it your best shot; that is all that you can do. Your life, God willing, will take a new path (spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically) and your experience will matter down the line. Starting over after divorce at 50 is not only possible, but can be highly transformative.

Here are four important things I want to remind you of:

  • It is never too late to start again.
  • Trust yourself. You can handle anything, as Lisa says.
  • Your work and a good support group can be constants amongst the big changes.
  • Love never completely dies.

Notes

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

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

New names for your Ex

What’s a New Name for Your Ex? A Cathartic Comedy

They say it’s hard to know what to buy for someone who has everything. By the same token, it’s hard to know what to call a spouse whose exit from our daily lives and those of our children seems to shatter everything. Sometimes, though, it’s gleefully easy to call your Ex any number of names.

But few are terms we want kids to repeat. 

Ah, “The Ex”—surely this single term couldn’t do justice. 

And “Was-band” falls rather flat—was he merely a preppy hairband that went out of style?

The “Ex-Man” may once have been our superhero, but he sure isn’t now. The ending of a marriage often throws a live grenade into our homes, dreams for the future, financial reality, emotional equilibrium, and even our sense of self. For a while, when the myriad of emotions we feel after divorce turns to grief and sadness, it can be painful just to say his name. 


If you can only generate curse words about your Ex, another part of you may be wondering, “How Long Does it Take to Get Over a Divorce?”


Sometimes we have to make a heroic effort to drive through that pain and rage, and laughter is one of the best ways to step on the gas. We’re not suggesting that every new name you might want to give the Ex should bubble with laughter or even have the angry stink of brimstone about it. 

Expletives of the Sh**head, D***head, and As*hole variety may let off steam but most of us realize that these don’t land well on younger psyches or in many professional settings. 

Aside from that, even a good cursing can get a little stale. Overuse of ugly words muffles the punch of the best potty-mouthing. Similarly, the same old words for the Ex lack some imagination.


If you need to hit pause here because you are thinking about how you’ll heal, consider reading: “46 Steps to Your Divorce Recovery: A Definition and a Guide.”


So, allow us to offer some suggestions for your Ex’s new name.

“Ex of a Lower Caliber”

Excalibur was the magical sword King Arthur pulled from the stone, proving his right to rule England. (Yeah… the entitlement and phallic compensation issues here are jaw-dropping). We’ll just let the macho ramifications of ye olde tale lie for now. For our purposes, the point of that sword is to cut the Ex down to size so the pieces of a life that divorce leaves us with are a little easier to digest. But do we really need a sword-like tongue to do that? Of course not.

He’s just not that glorious, and we don’t need to give away that much of our power. But there are the Exes who have been abusive, condescending, controlling, who have lied or cheated or hurt our children. Sometimes there are Exes who are just run-of-the-mill selfish jerks. Ex of a Lower Caliber is an elegant new name for that kind of Ex that puts the point right where it belongs and skewers an over-weaning ego.

(Perhaps we’ll just call him Pen-knife.)

“Dirty Dish Distributor” (“DDD”, a.k.a. “Triple D”)

Another dirty little secret from my store of personal memories involves my Ex Man’s near-pathological aversion to doing dishes—whether it was washing, rinsing, or putting them into the dishwasher. It didn’t matter who cooked; he just resisted any tidying process. So, one day, I was deep-cleaning the kitchen and I got up on a stepladder so I could scrub the top of the fridge.

Lo and behold, there were three dirty plates up there, absolutely fossilized with old food and sporting some very interesting mold growth. Knowing the top of the fridge was well out of my 5’2” line of sight, Triple D just slid his plates up there so I wouldn’t see them and then ask him to rinse and put them in the dishwasher. Out of sight, out of mind, off the to-do list. It was such five-year-old behavior that I actually got a kick out of it and laughed instead of losing my mind, but the cumulative effect of his slobbiness was difficult to be Zen about all the time.


Appreciate that you are not alone. There are legions of women like you. Consider reading our “Life After Gray Divorce: What Women Must Know.”


“Gametes Guy”

Gamey for short, this is a higher-browed twist on the Baby Daddy term. A little less crude than Sperm Donor and a little more tart than Father of My Children, Gametes Guy (or Gamey) is for those occasions when you feel more like a lemon-tongued shrew than a sugar bowl.

“Cicerone of the Cerebral-Rectal Inversion”

To put it bluntly, this Ex has his head so far up his own ass he could teach seminars on how to walk that way.

“Ever-Right”

It may take a while to realize it, but eventually, it becomes clear that the Ever-Rights of the Ex variety are nearly impossible to work or grow with. Relationships by nature require a give-and-take of responsibility for our myriad behaviors that can be hurtful or unfair to the people in our lives.

Beyond the control freaky power play of never being wrong, the more serious result of this type of Ex is that they often only take responsibility for their behavior if it’s their idea to do so, which also means they are in a chronic state of condescension. Additionally, whatever your observations are of them will only be seen as defensiveness or an egregious wounding. Gaslighters, whether they are conscious of it or not, are often Ever-Right.


If you are coparenting with this type of an Ex, or a version like him, you may well benefit from reading “41 Things to Remember if You are Coparenting with a Narcissist.”


“De-Manifestation”

This one is pretty self-explanatory. If we can manifest anything with what we believe in and visualize, then we can de-Manifest the Ex.

Not the Silver Fox, “The Silverback”

The male silverback gorilla marks his jungle territory one mangled banana tree at a time, swaggering through the foliage, ripping off leaves and branches and flinging them aside as he goes. The male human, of the subspecies Slobbus Gigantica, marks his territory by entering the family dwelling, shedding clothing, coins and shoes as he goes and leaving them wherever they fall—tabletops, counters, the middle of the living room floor, the back of the toilet or the back of the dog. 

The silverback gorilla’s activity probably helps cut a path through the brush for the smaller members of his troop and other jungle-dwelling animals and facilitates biological diversity by allowing sunlight down to the plants and organisms of the forest floor.

The human male Silverback? His behavior is just a bother.

“Massengil Man”

No Marlboro Man, this Ex is the intimate vinegar rinse of Exes, the douche (yes, I said it) who throws off all kinds of balances, not just one’s pH.  

“The Void Droid”

A humorous name for a sad and exhausting relationship dynamic, the Ex who is a Void Droid is someone who you poured cheerleading, positive feedback, patience, communication skills, and encouragement into.

You listened for longer than you had the energy for and listened some more. And none of it healed them, made them happy, or came back to you in a balanced exchange of love. The Void Droid is an emotional drain, a vacuum. 

We can also become a Void Droid ourselves if we begin obsessively counting our love pennies, chronically seeking a return on every gift of our attention. If we seek validation, gratitude, and “in-kind” giving and measure every loving exchange against what we think it “should be,” then we go a long way to taking back the gifts we give.

It doesn’t mean we don’t all deserve to be appreciated, seen, and validated, but if we take a transactional view of every relationship and seek an emotional return from every effort, we, too, become the Void Droid.

“Chappaquick-d**k”

Yes, I’ve gone ahead and gone there. This name for the Ex is only allowed if he was a premature ejaculator, a selfish lover, AND a horrible person (that’s the rule for saying something this personally revealing about an Ex; he has to be an Ex of a Lower Caliber, a Massengil Man of Epic Proportions). After all, it’s pretty malicious.

Chappaquick-d*%k is a horrifyingly mean yet fun name to toss out over several glasses of wine with your girlfriends. And when it comes to an abusive Ex, finding ways to laugh about him diffuses his power and helps to shrink the lingering fear of him down to a manageable size.


If your spouse is very much in your rear-view mirror (or at least, getting there), keep moving and check out “100 Must Do’s for the Newly Independent Woman!”


“The Previous Chapter” (“Chap”, or “Chappy”):

We shall end with The Previous Chapter, a.k.a. Chap or Chappy, because we need a new name for the Ex that is short, kind, or at least neutral, and also illustrative of the fact that though this marriage is over, our own story continues.

And the next chapter is EXCELLENT.

 

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

SAS for Women 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 want to hear from you! 

SAS Invites YOU to coin a new, honorable name for your Ex

We are inviting our readers to suggest healthy, creative name(s) for one’s former spouse, and/or father of one’s children. 

This name must imply that YOU are beyond the name-calling of your last chapter. You are taking the high road and this title/name for your EX has no sting to it. It’s a title that suggests you have healed from your story and that you are now in a place to reframe what you call this former partner.

Send your suggestions to liza@sasforwomen or comment below.

We will award the winning contributor whose name for her Ex we like with a complimentary, 1-hour scholarship, coaching session on the topic/issue of her choice!

 

 

 

stop gaslighting yourself

5 Self-Saving Ways to Stop Gaslighting Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

His endgame?

To steal his wife’s inheritance.


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


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

It’s a power-play.

Gaslighter’s Tactics

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

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

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

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

…even when you are gaslighting yourself.

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

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


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


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

What does this have to do with relationships and divorce?

Possibly everything.

Gaslighting and Divorce

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

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

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

“Maybe I need help.”

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

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

Here are five suggestions for how to stop gaslighting yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Speak to yourself with externalizing affirmations.

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

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

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

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

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

    Your feelings are as worthy as anyone else’s.

    Your reality is as worthy as anyone else’s. 

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


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


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

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

And recognition is the first step in healing.

 

Notes

How to stop gaslighting yourself?

In two words. 

Annie’s Group.

Learn what is possible for your life. 

 

War and divorce

8 Elements of Divorce and War

We often say that a bad relationship or divorce can feel like war. It does.

I was looking at a man, face red with rage, justifying his aggression with ideas only he could understand. I saw an entitled man, a self-centered, vindictive, and self-righteous man. He was a man of influence and uncontested power. A man who claimed to be threatened and defending himself. 

It wasn’t a Soon-to-Be-Ex-Husband in a fit of verbal abuse. It was Vladimir Putin, the president of my country, on national TV, justifying his order to send troops to Ukraine. He claimed the move was to defend the Russian population and our interests. And his language was concealing the fact of genocide.

As a woman recently divorced from a narcissist, I felt it as I also saw it and I heard it. It was all too familiar. And as soon as I recognized the dynamic, I woke out of my phase of denial and experienced this incredible clarity on the conflict. I understood the aggressor’s tactic: his seemingly logical justification for violence. For war. 

A Note Before We Begin

Dear reader, in this blog post I’d like to share my impressions of current events as a Russian, as a means for bridging the gap between us—you in the West and us, here in Russia. These are my personal thoughts only, with no wish to offend anyone in the world. But as one who was denied her feelings for a certain period of time, and who was told her emotions didn’t matter for the duration of my marriage, I am taking this moment to express myself, because I know I am not alone and it must be done. The powerful community of SAS for Women emboldens me. I’d like to think of us as sisters spanning the globe, across thousands of miles, supporting each other through crisis, tough times, divorce, and now, war.

We are all scared now, and uncertain of our future. We don’t know what to expect or how to deal with the sense of having no control. But I believe a better understanding of our circumstances and whom we’re dealing with can provide light for the end of the tunnel.  

Below are my 8 points connecting aspects of divorce with war and our current political reality.

1. Being Entitled 

Sometimes people feel entitledto other people. They seek the undivided attention of their parents, a friend, or a lover. If a spouse or a friend has a new outside influence, they get jealous. Not because their love is strong, but because they fear losing control and their attention. They can feel hurt and betrayed when the person they feel entitled to gets other friends or lovers. 

For centuries, Russia and Ukraine were one country, governed from Moscow. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, many Russians, the current president included, didn’t believe the separation was real. On the personal level, Russians and Ukrainians are intertwined, intermarried. Until the start of the “events”, there were officially 2 million Ukrainians living in Russia and 8 million Russians living in Ukraine. We regarded each other as brothers. On the extreme end of the politics, Russian leaders regarded Ukraine as a natural sphere of interest, an entitlement, a country that must value its ties with Russia first and foremost. When Ukraine preferred to have other allies, Russia got jealous. For many years Ukraine wanted to become part of the European Union and build ties with NATO not least to safeguard itself from a Russian military invasion. With this invasion, Russia was punishing Ukraine for going off with someone else.

2. Power Dynamics

In a conflict, be it a divorce or a “military operation”, it may seem that there are two equal parties, like in civilized tennis match. When I was getting divorced, I could feel keenly how society and the state made many things easier for a man. A man can scare a woman with aggression, and even act on it. In Russia, where we have serious family abuse issues, threats aren’t considered to be a problem by the police.


Leaving an abusive marriage? There are steps to take first


I am seeing the same abusive, bullying tactics by the army today. Russia is a 150-million strong country, while Ukraine has 50 million inhabitants. The quarrel isn’t equal. The weights are different, as is the opportunity to pull in allies. The countries have different importance in the world economy, too. And as usual, the stronger side uses this strength to its advantage, pretending it’s level playing field.

3. People Get Hurt Senselessly

When this all started, an English friend messaged me to ask how I was doing and said: “Mr. Putin must see sense and stop”. My friend implied that Putin should see how many people are getting hurt on both sides of the border. He must see how his own people are being badly affected by the sanctions. He must get the economics of it. He must realize it’s futile and bad to harm everyday humans being, let alone old people and children. He should stop. 

That logic doesn’t work.

It’s the same as when a narcissist is aggressive to his* spouse in front of the kids. He doesn’t care about the kids — just about his own battle. And often the kids are pushed into taking sides or are punished for seeming to take sides and allying with their mother.


Consider reading “41 Things to Remember If You Are Coparenting with a Narcissist.”


The same happens in war. In Russia, people were told that those who tried to flee Russia, would have their property taken away. And those who speak against the war can get up to 15 years in jail.

4. Not Looking for a Win-Win

My divorce lawyer told me a story of a female client he once had, a woman who was willing to back down, to reach a compromise with her Ex, only to see him bit by bit consume everything she was giving up, and wanting more. 

Like war, in a divorce from a narcissist or an abuser, the aggressor doesn’t want to reach a compromise. They announce their target and even pretend to act in someone’s best interests – the kids, or the Russian-speaking population, but their end game is victory. Nothing less. They want to defeat. They want to see a loser. They want to celebrate their victory and feel strong. 

Peaceful negotiations must come from a place of strength, from legal support and allies. 

By the way, bullies get surprised to see strong defense or resistance. They are enraged if their counterpart gets allies. Because in their minds, they have already won. They feel entitled to win due to their strength, weight, and self-righteousness.   

5. Gaslighting and Smear Campaigns

When I initiated divorce, I did it because I could no longer stand verbal abuse in front of other people and in front of my kids. However, my Ex assured our mutual friends that I left him and the kids to enjoy sexual encounters outside our marriage. He believed it himself. He spun the story from me being the victim to actually the villain. 

Watching the news and propaganda from all sides, I find it hard to believe what is true and what isn’t. I know that people can go to great lengths to distort the truth for their own gain, to turn victims into villains. They seem to do this spinning naturally. 

6. Hard to Relate

We know that we can lose friends as we go through divorce. Because we can find it hard to relate to other people and they can’t relate to our problems. 

A woman set on remaining married and a woman planning to divorce will find little to talk about and can sometimes drift apart as friends. We can even find it hard to relate to someone going through a divorce if it’s very different from our own.

Conflicts can polarize people. We feel strongly about an issue and can decide to stop talking to a person due to their views. During the Covid pandemic, friendships suffered due to different views on vaccines. During the current political crisis, we all feel scared and unsure. Yet we find it hard to relate to each other because we experience fear in a different way. In Ukraine, people fear for their lives as they spend time in bomb shelters. In Russia, people fear for the direction their country is going. Will we turn into the next North Korea or Iran? Will our children be able to travel? Will our sons be drafted? Will we ever be able to see our friends and families in other countries? Will the internet work?

Societies in the West fear for their livelihoods as recession looms. They fear the threat of nuclear war. 

We all see scary videos and photos in the press or the Internet. We all remember relatives or history lessons retelling us the atrocities of the world wars.  We are all living through the same events, but we experience them differently. And instead of feeling together, we run the risk as people of drifting apart.  

7. Feeling Powerless and Ashamed.

Going through a divorce, we can face criticism from other people, or from our  internal voice, demanding “how did you let this all happen? How did you end up with such a man or partner? Such an abuser? Why didn’t you build boundaries? Why didn’t’ you protect yourself? How could you allow such a co-dependent relationship to flourish and your own personality to disintegrate?


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


Here in Russia, such questions equally crop up during discussions of the war. How could we have allowed this to happen? Why haven’t we made it clear that we don’t support these policies or current events?

The answer is this: it’s not the lack of our expression that is the problem. It’s the Narcissist who doesn’t want to hear anything and doesn’t care what others want.   

As people of all countries watch this conflict unroll and feel increasingly helpless, people here in Russia also feel ashamed of being associated with the initiators of the war.

To cope with the feeling of anxiety and helplessness, psychologists teach us to concentrate on things we can control in our lives, like our health, our immediate families, or by helping others or by creating things.

8. Can Someone Save Me?

When we live through a conflict – be it in a bad marriage or war – we crave to be saved. It comes from realizing how powerless we are in the face of larger foes. 

When I was experiencing marriage challenges, I sometimes thought that maybe I’d meet a new man who would understand me, and that in fact, he’d save me, he’d whisk me away. Similarly, I often dreamt of moving to a different town or country, even as a way to escape. In the end, it turned out I had to accept it wasn’t about someone else or running away. I could no longer stay in a difficult marriage. I moved out, I created a new home and I rebuilt my life. And while my family and friends supported me on my journey, I saved myself. 


On that note of personal responsibility and saving yourself, feel inspired. It’s a new day for women getting divorced. Check out our short movie, “One Woman’s Journey.”


It is reported that 200,000 Russians left Russia in the first 10 days once the war began. They couldn’t stay in a country that invades its neighbors. They feared for their own freedom of speech and livelihoods.

As I sat with girlfriends drinking tea and talking aloud about different immigration possibilities, a friend of mine cut to the chase, “Can someone save us?!“ As those of us who consider ourselves westernized Russians talked more, and specifically, how we could be saved from this regime, another friend sighed, “I guess it’s only up to God now.”

Another friend who works in a large organization said that for the first time in her long career she hears top managers mention God during business talks.

A survivor of divorce, I know that one day it will endeven if it takes longer and destroys more value than we ever wanted. We need to take better care of ourselves and our loved ones now. When the new life starts, we can appreciate our bravery and resilience. This is the real strength that matters.

With this strength, we can rebuild bridges. Hopefully, the rift between women and the rest of the population in any given country won’t be too big by then.

Notes

Natasha Repina is a writer living in Russia. She wishes to increase understanding between people of different countries and in no way wishes to offend. For reasons of security, she is unable to leave her personal information, but you are encouraged to connect with her by commenting below.

Choose not to go it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes, the complicated experience of divorce. Join our tribe and receive six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you — and your precious future.

 

* At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of ease, we may refer to the Ex as “he/him” but we understand that exes come with many gender identities. 

Divorce at Work

Your Divorce at Work: To Share or Not to Share?

If you are going through a divorce, you’re almost certainly experiencing strong emotions that might be overwhelming at times. So while your personal life is absolutely none of your employer’s business, if your boss or coworkers will notice that you’re a bit out of sorts, anxious, distracted, sad, or depressed, it may be best to share the news of your divorce at work. It’s certainly personal—and it’s not about oversharing with TMI—yet there’s a professional way to approach the situation that may be in your best career interests.

Why It’s Important to Let Your Boss Know

The main reason to notify your employer about your divorce is to let them know how it might affect you personally and thus affect your work. Given the emotional roller coaster ride that is the typical divorce process, you may need some flexibility and understanding from your employer due to your need to occasionally take divorce-related calls, meet with your lawyer during the day, and attend mediation sessions. These items alone may require you to (infrequently) miss work, arrive late, or leave work early. 

Another reason that you may choose to notify your company about your divorce is that your state may abide by certain laws. (All US states have their own individual divorce laws, so it’s important to learn the laws in your state when you ask questions of a divorce attorney.) 

Under the New York City and the New York State “Human Right Laws” that govern workplace rights, an employer may not discriminate against an employee based on whether they are married, single, divorced, or in any other particular type of personal “familial” relationship, so if you suffer a negative change in your employment status on the heels of notifying your company about your divorce, that change may be considered illegal and discriminatory.

So notifying your employer about your divorce has a secondary protective effect on job status.

The Fine Print

Keep in mind that divorce itself is not a “protected activity” under any employment law, but “marital status” IS protected, at least in New York and a handful of other states, and if you’re experiencing separation and/or divorce-based severe emotional distress, you have the right to seek flexibility from your employer, legally known as a “reasonable accommodation” of your job responsibilities due to the temporary emotional, mental, and life situational disability or “impairment” that you’re enduring because of this major life-change. 

Sharing Your Divorce at Work: A Realistic Approach

While you should never use your divorce as a reason to excuse poor performance (mostly because as mentioned above, marital divorce is not a “protected status” under any federal or state employment law, such as, for example, pregnancy or disability), if you’re experiencing major depression, anxiety, or other emotional and/or physical symptoms due to the highly stressful divorce situation, then you are likely entitled to flexibility through a temporary reasonable accommodation of your job responsibilities as a direct result of your temporary emotional and/or physical symptoms related to this major life change.

So without getting into the gory details of your marital discord with your spouse, you may want to keep your employer in the loop if only so that they can exhibit flexibility and compassion (the ordinary lay words for “reasonable accommodation” under the law), and thus support you while you continue to perform the essential functions of your job through the most difficult period of your separation and divorce.

Do you think that you may need more time to complete certain work tasks? Or perhaps you just need a little understanding during this difficult time? 

Try to be as honest as possible, so that your employer knows what to expect from you during this process. Again, this does not mean you need to get confessional, or divulge otherwise irrelevant and intimate details about your split—you do not—but you want to avoid the situation where your boss feels that you’re not quite your usual upbeat, energetic self, but they don’t know why.

Managing Stress While Maintaining Your Duties

Perhaps they start treating you as if your performance is lagging for no good reason, and the next thing you know you’re being written up, or poorly evaluated, or worst case, terminated for being gloomy, low energy, and not giving 100% to the job.

It goes without saying that getting fired while you’re going through a separation or divorce is just another serious major life blow that you should avoid at almost any cost during a divorce. This is another reason why a little information and notification can go a long way to getting your boss and coworkers aligned on your side and optimally supportive of you.


If you are looking for a road map to help you through divorce, you’ll want to read “The 55 Must-Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


While your divorce is clearly a tough time in your life (even if you’re the one who initiated it and for good reason) it will still undoubtedly take a toll on you. The world keeps spinning on its axis, and you still have a job that needs to get done.

Your employer is counting on you, so please do not take advantage of their understanding by using your divorce as an excuse for why you are failing to adequately perform at work.

Additionally, divorce tends to involve much paperwork, and you may need to visit your company’s human resources or benefits department (or the next best thing at your workplace) to update certain documents. This may include your health insurance and tax information to reflect your new status as a single person, which is another reason to notify your boss of this major life change.

Give Yourself a Break

You may also want to take a few days off when you’re first confronted with the reality of your divorce, whether it was you (consider reading “I Wanted the Divorce, Why Am I So Sad?) or your spouse who instigated the separation. The emotional trauma can be difficult to handle, at least initially, so perhaps use some of your accrued vacation days to refocus, ground yourself, and self-care. Divorce is a grieving process, and if you don’t have any vacation days to use, then perhaps you can take a few days off as sick days, or take a brief, short-term disability leave.

That temporary leave may be protected under disability discrimination laws, as companies are always reluctant to punish or fire employees who are on protected short-term disability leaves. Termination based on that alone may be illegal disability discrimination. If you’re choosing that route, please consult with your primary care physician or a mental health practitioner so that your emotional distress (and request for leave) will be medically confirmed by one of your treating health professionals.


Read “How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Divorce, and 4 Signs You are On Your Way.


In my experience, clients going through a divorce must come to terms with all the divorce happenings, as it often initially feels like a runaway train with no engineer at the switch, so you need support to navigate through the initial days and weeks and reflect on the never-ending questions you’ll be pondering, without the daily and hourly interference from work calls or emails. (Outside of work, consider finding support in the form of therapy, coaching, or divorce support groups.) 

Making Your Job Happen During Divorce

If you can’t take time off from work, either because of your choice or because your job is not permitting it, consider asking to work remotely as a temporary reasonable accommodation of your divorce-based stressors. That work-approved flexibility may be just the ticket to help you balance yourself.  

Once the initial divorce dust has settled, then you can return to the office and try your best to focus on your work, or at least distract yourself from the divorce through your work. As one client shared during this period in relation to her work and the divorce: “My Ex can take away our relationship, he can take all of our shared possessions, even when it’s totally unfair, but the one thing he can’t take from me is my career.” 

And this is why it’s so vitally important to protect your job during a difficult divorce. Your career may be the only thing left that you feel you still have full control over during a time of massive upheaval in your personal life. (Check out this related piece, if you are thinking about quitting your job, and why you want to be careful about that, too.)

Keep It Simple

To recap, notifying your employer of the divorce doesn’t mean that you should make a federal case out of it, so to speak. It may be best to schedule a quick meeting just to notify your boss that you’re going through a divorce and that you may need some time off for meetings, telephone calls, or court dates. Then proactively suggest how you will make up any work you may miss on those days, as while you want your employer’s cooperation and understanding, remember that your company isn’t a social services agency (at least not for you, its employee). But do keep in mind that you can and should ask your company if they know of any resources you might be able to utilize, such as its Employee Assistance Program, that may offer free confidential counseling or legal support to their employees going through just such acute, temporary crises.

If you work in New York, where our employee rights firm is based, given NY’s liberal interpretation of what constitutes “disability” under the law, then your divorce-based emotional distress is a protected “impairment” entitled to flexibility and reasonable accommodation, so take advantage of that fact if you require time to decompress and cope with such high-level stress. The additional protection that will be accorded to you if you go down that road is that your employer is not permitted to retaliate against you and subject you to backlash as a result of your protected request for some reasonable time off, or your request to work remotely, etc., due to the divorce-related mental, emotional or physical fallout from your divorce process.

Understanding Anti-Discrimination Laws at Work

Finally, in roughly half the states in the United States, “marital” or “familial” status is protected under those state’s anti-discrimination laws, so if you suffer an adverse employment action such as a demotion, failure to promote, or termination on the heels of your notification of divorce, you may have a claim for discrimination on that basis alone. It goes without saying (but I’ll say it again anyway for emphasis), it’s far better to protect your job and career while you’re going through a divorce, than it will be to lose your job while you’re going through a divorce, even if you do have a viable discrimination case to pursue thereafter.

But it’s good to know that you do have some legal protections from workplace hostility and discriminatory treatment during a painful marital divorce if your employer treats you differently because of the divorce, or because of your emotional disability resulting from the divorce, but remember this one important fact:

You can be fired while you’re going through a painful divorce, and you can be fired while suffering from major depression during a divorce. You just cannot be fired because of your marital status change (at least not in the states where marital status is protected) and you cannot be legally fired because you are temporarily distraught and impaired by divorce-based depression, anxiety, etc., especially if your depression and anxiety are medically documented.

Notes:

If you feel you’ve been treated unfairly in your place of employment because of your divorce or other workplace discriminatory practices, I invite you to schedule a free consultation to learn your rights and what can be done about your situation. Contact my firm Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser, LLP, or call 212.766.9100 and schedule a meeting. We’ve been advancing women’s rights since 1999.

 

Life After Divorce: Grief

Life After Divorce: The Grief You Didn’t Count On

There comes a stage in our life after divorce that we’re often not prepared for. It arrives after the legal issues are settled, most of the fighting is over, and we accept the fact of the divorce and its outcomes, they are what they are. At such a moment, we might be thinking we should be finding bliss now, but instead we feel sadness (again). Memories and dreams come back to haunt us at the same time “negative” emotions circle up. This may be a natural part of our life-after-divorce grief and healing.

Of course, holidays like Valentine’s Day don’t help.

It’s time to welcome your post-divorce grief.

Divorce is one of the top reasons for grief in virtually any conversation about loss. Divorce can cause us as much distress as the death of a loved one or a treasured pet. But with divorce, we very often lose multiple things at the same time: a partner, a friend, and a home. If we look at the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale that lists events that cause us to feel grief, we can appreciate that divorce gives us several stressors, not one. You are not crazy or weak if you feel sad or overwhelmed because these are indeed tough times.

Post-divorce grief can be aggravated by wrong expectations – namely, the idea that it should pass within 6 to 12 months after a divorce document is signed. That’s the general timeframe we expect close friends to be sensitive to us. After 12 months, it seems, we should be “getting on with it.” 

Another incorrect expectation is that the person who initiated the divorce should be happy and relieved rather than bereaved. That was my experience.

And there’s a term for this phenomenon, this experience of grieving the separation with a spouse who was abusive, or who was highly unpleasant for at least some of the time married. Such sadness is called “disenfranchised grief”, a term coined by Kenneth J. Doka. Disenfranchised grief is not openly acknowledged, socially validated, or publicly mourned. The danger of it is that “the lack of support you get during your grieving process can prolong emotional pain.”

Welcome your more difficult feelings

The inability to be open about our life-after-divorce grief can lead to shame, confusion, and feelings of guilt for letting yourself down. It can develop into depression with the sufferer not recognizing that they need to ask for help.


You are not alone. 

Check out our “How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce.”


However, there is good news. Once we look grief in the eye and process it, we can make room for a new life with new routines, rituals, and — if we want to and are ready for it — new partners.

To help ourselves through the tough times and process the loss, we should remind ourselves that however bad the end of the marriage was, there were always good things to grieve about.

Letting go of past love

Usually, when we are living through it, we see divorce as a sequence of legal, financial, and children-related processes and negotiations conducted in a lengthy and sterilized manner. It’s easy and even pleasant to demonize your Ex. For some of us, anger is necessary to give us the courage and energy to separate and break the system. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to get stuck in anger and hatred; they serve as a backdrop for our own self-righteousness. However, staying angry and blaming him* is not the path to closure, but a waste of our time and energy keeping us more often in a spin cycle of repeating and repeating the narrative we tell ourselves.

In the grander scheme of things, divorce is the loss of love. It’s broken promises. It’s the loss of companionship, the meals, the walks, the trips, the lifestyle. Overall, it’s the loss of sharing and an end to a valuable human connection. Without the support of the former structure, we can be left lonely and confused.

Admitting that love existed and died is harder than being angry. While the earlier stages of marital rift can make us think of a reconciliation, after divorce we definitely know that we can’t do more. We feel sad and helpless. 

For some people who like order and control, being helpless is the hardest feeling to endure.

However hard it may be, accepting the inevitable and our helplessness can take us to a new level. An English theologian Thomas Fuller said, “the night is darkest just before the dawn.” He added, “But keep your eyes open; if you avert your eyes from the dark, you’ll be blind to the rays of a new day.”

It’s only a dream

It often appears in relationship advice columns that what we are mourning is not the relationship itself, but the dream of a happier life. However, that doesn’t make sadness any easier. As Dr. Ann Gold Buscho writes in Psychology Today “the loss of the hopes and dreams you had on your wedding day is like a death. Allow yourself to feel that grief and trust that it will pass”.

The importance of hopes and dreams is that they cultivate our future. They give us the strength to carry on through hard times. Many of us dream of growing older with our man, seeing the kids off to college, downsizing, maybe moving to a different town, getting a bed-and-breakfast, or opening a café by the ocean. I did. Now that the person is no longer your partner, it may feel like there is no more future, nothing to work for. Even if a new man arrives, I will never have another chance to marry someone I met at 20. I will never have a chance to grow old with the father of my children, who loves my kids as much as I do.

Acknowledging the life-after-divorce grief is one step towards laying to rest the old dreams to make way for new ideas and hopes.

Goodbye, my friend

Divorce is highly likely to affect our circle of friends. Frankly, I was even looking forward to saying goodbye to a judgmental toxic woman or two. In reality, after divorce, we can pursue those who are more in sync with us. They may be especially funny, intellectual, or spiritual. Childhood friends may reappear or disappear. The loss of the familiar is worth acknowledging and grieving about. But it’s helpful to remember that with each loss comes a new space and opening for new people, experiences, and things.

Find a helping hand

Therapists suggest asking for help and accepting help during grieving. I’ve found it helpful to ask for support, whether it’s accepting invitations to dinners or watching a film together just to feel someone’s presence. But let’s remind ourselves of whom we are turning to for moral support and words. In my experience, it was exactly my poor understanding of my grief that drove me to hide from some friends. And elsewhere, I discovered that even some friends who had been through divorce themselves (and had the best of intentions) hurt me as they wanted me to get over my sadness or dark emotions quickly.


With all you’ve been through, do you wonder if happiness is even possible after divorce? 


Some cultures and social groups are better at managing negative feelings than others. If you are part of a culture where you are supposed to keep a stiff upper lip and get on with it, I encourage you to look outside your usual social circle for support.

Grief is personal and lonely

In our precious life after divorce, let’s do our best to steer clear of labels and boxes we put ourselves in. Let’s accept that grief is personal in the way we experience it, how it impacts us and how long it takes. It’s normal that it should make us feel very lonely —  like we are the only people in the world experiencing such pain. That is why joining groups of women in similar situations is so important. 

My personal divorce journey included learning to deal with loneliness, becoming my own companion, and learning not to fear being without a partner. I am very glad I took that journey. It gives me a feeling of strength and of heaving a choice whether to be on my own or with someone I chose.

Is it possible to grieve together with your Ex?

You can try it! I planned and offered to my former husband an invitation to gather and give ritual to the good things in our marriage, say our thank yous, and grieve together the breakup, but he wasn’t interested. This may be because we are in different places emotionally. I also discovered that my suggestion to grieve together could appear to be a reconciliation proposal.

Things will never be the same again

As we move forward with our life after divorce, one thing that will never be the same is us. We need to say goodbye to our old selves, mourning the choices we made, the sacrifices we undertook for the benefit of the marriage and our family.

As we say goodbye to the younger, more naïve version of self, we acknowledge how much we have been through, how much we had to lose, and how important these losses were. That self-care and respect may be something we have forgotten in the process of divorce. Now we are rediscovering it as we process life-after-divorce grief. And the good thing  is that this self-respect skill can now stay with us forever.

By letting go of the old structures and dreams we create space for new traditions, new rituals, and new versions of ourselves on the way to the future.

Notes

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is Russia-based communication and storytelling expert. She is rebuilding life after divorce and misses international travels. You can reach her at anna.i.galitsina@gmail.com

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

Coparenting with a Narcissist by Weheartit.

41 Things to Remember When Coparenting with a Narcissist

Divorcing with children is one of the hardest things you may ever do. But doing so with an ex-spouse who is also a narcissist, well, this presents its own ring of hell. For it’s likely that your Ex’s narcissism is a large part of why you’re divorcing at all, so the thought of having to continue to “work with your Ex” long-term to parent can feel daunting, intimidating, depressing, infuriating—as if you’ve not escaped him at all. Luckily, coparenting with a narcissist can be possible—you can do this. It simply requires a shift in your mindset and a change in your communication.

In fact, learning how to deal with a narcissist at arm’s length as your coparent is a critical piece to your recovery from having married one—and certainly critical to your children who are impacted by the actions of both of you. 

Before we jump into sharing suggested practices, rules, and tips for coparenting with a narcissist, we want to address the obvious elephant on the page. You deserve credit here for what you are setting out to do, modeling the healthiest thing you can to your kids. Because the healthiest thing for you would be to have no contact with this person at all. If you had your choice you’d be done with him*. But he’s your children’s other parent. Here you are.

Let’s show your kids something different than what he is showing them. 

First, though, we’ll get clear on what a narcissist is.

What is a Narcissist?

You may have heard the term thrown around, but it’s important to clarify the details and discuss some common misconceptions about what a narcissist is. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder is defined by the American Psychological Association as a disturbance characterized by a lack of empathy towards others, a sense of grandiosity or exaggerated self-importance, entitlement, and a fantastical sense of one’s power. 

Narcissists also experience difficulty with any forms of indifference, defeat, or criticism, and often refuse to accept these common experiences as valid. They may go into a rage when their “power” is challenged, or they may attempt to discredit the individual sharing the information they feel challenged by. 

They may depend on the admiration of others to validate their feelings that they are more important than others. 

This can get tricky when children are involved, as children are an easy audience for validating a narcissist’s self-absorbed need for admiration. Coparenting with a narcissist can therefore provide some unique challenges.

Note that some narcissists may commandeer this phrasing to call others narcissists as a deflection mechanism. They are adept at manipulating whatever tools they have at their disposal to serve their own self-image fantasy.

After divorce, how do you move forward while coparenting with a narcissist?

It may not happen overnight, but once you become familiar with the frame of mind most helpful in working with a narcissist, knowing how to respond will become second nature. 

Recognizing how narcissism works will also help you detach emotionally from whatever attempts a narcissist makes to manipulate you, the court systems, your family and friends, or your children. 

To get started, keep reading now for our 41 tips for coparenting with a narcissist. And know that going forward, we will refer to your narcissistic Ex-Spouse as your N. Ex. or your children’s other parent or father.

Where Your Children Are Involved

  1. Always keep your children top of mind and model healthy behavior to them. 

If you cannot take in the full gamut of this list, at the minimum, remember this first rule and you won’t go wrong.

In reality, you may have escaped your former spouse, to some degree, but your kids have little choice in who their father is. If you think of your children first before responding to your N. Ex, you will be teaching your kids behavior and skills that will nurture them and their understanding of how to deal with a narcissist who happens to be a parent. (See #6)

  1. Understand the difference between coparenting and parallel parenting and be honest with yourself.

Parallel parenting may afford some distance and reduced contact between you and your N. Ex., because, unfortunately, you will likely never attain the standards of a healthy coparenting relationship with the father of your children. Coparenting with a narcissist is typically not compatible with standard coparenting routines. Appreciating this will help you manage your expectations about the future by staying realistic and accepting the things you cannot change.  

For this article, we will use the word “parenting” when guiding you, but—between us—you are probably not coparenting but parallel parenting. 

  1. Avoid talking about your Ex negatively or passive-aggressively (even if you hate him) as your children will internalize that you also feel this way about a part of them.

    You are striving to help your kids cope with their other parent. If they express their frustrations with him, it’s important to listen and validate while also letting them know you’re available to help with whatever it is they feel they need.

  2. Find professionals and put in place a support system for your children.

    This is so they have a neutral place to go and vent; so they don’t feel like they are burdening you or their father. They may feel isolated from the outside world. Giving them space to normalize their feelings outside of their immediate family can be incredibly healing.

Tip: Check with your kids’ schools or their doctors for referrals to professionals who work with children your kids’ age.

  1. Try to do everything to keep your kids out of conflict. 

    Your N. Ex may look for manipulative moments to use your children as pawns for leverage, or as a way to “recruit” them to serve him or his needs or his ideas of what they should be doing. Your N. Ex will not know how important it is to leave the kids out of conflict, tense moments, stressed scenes, because his ego and needs reign supreme. But if your kids are around try to stay calm and neutral in front of them and him. This is a key skill in coparenting with a narcissist.

  2. It is not your job to educate your children about narcissists per se.

    Instead, you can educate them subtly by modeling healthy responses to your N. Ex. Let them come to their own conclusions about your and his personality types. Throwing your N. Ex under the bus and labeling the summation of his existence as one word, “narcissist” only makes you look troubled too.

  3. Don’t feel sorry for your kids.

It’s no picnic having a narcissistic parent, but there could be worse problems. Showing your children that they should be pitied is teaching them they are disempowered. Au contraire: as a result of having a narcissistic parent, they will learn coping mechanisms for surviving and growing and hopefully, avoiding a spouse like this down the road. 

  1. Be prepared. 

    Your children may even act like their father. Observe your children — who have learned how to survive in this family, just like you did. Even if they are adult, their behaviors may reinforce the old, toxic norms they grew up with. Be patient and don’t expect your children to always understand you or the new normal. Therapy can help them (and you) get a more grounded sense of healthy behaviors. Coparenting with a narcissist can be exhausting, and you’ll need the steady reset of therapy to maintain your own mental health.

  2. What’s more, expect your kids to act out.

    It’s likely that your kids feel safer with you, which is why they may act out with you more so than their other parent. They’ve probably learned that their other parent’s approval is conditional, and they want to be loved by him (if even unconsciously). They may be more guarded with him because they don’t want the backlash of not pleasing him. Allow them the freedom to express their full range of emotions with you and without judgment, and make sure they know their feelings are valid. 

  3. Do not allow your children to replicate their father’s behavior.

    While it’s important to validate your child’s acting out (this is a stressful time for them), you must make sure that you don’t sacrifice the boundaries of healthy engagement. Like their dad, your children may need retraining. Don’t give in to toxic behavior toward you. Calmly discussing the new rules of engagement without being reactive may be an important turning point in your relationship with them. 

Tip: At your house, there are New Rules.

  1. Model to your children what it looks like to trust your instincts.

     This is a powerful lesson for any child. You don’t have to make it about their dad, but show them every day how important it is to listen to their inner wisdom and to not ignore red flags in life. Confidently show them what it looks like to know what you do and do not want.

  2. Try to fill the void that your N. Ex leaves and nurture the unseen.

    Observe how you think your N. Ex treats your kids and close the gap. By definition, narcissists put themselves first, so be the parent who puts your kids first and shows them your unconditional love. They need you more than ever.

  3. Pay close attention to your child’s interests and cultivate their passions.

    Your N. Ex is likely not doing that but pushing activities or commitments that he finds important (to him).  Be the parent who sees your child’s individual, special talents and nurtures their unique interests. See them.

  4. Be grateful and stay prepared for things to take a turn.

In the back of your head always remember, your N. Ex could complicate matters. Be grateful for the times when there is peace in your house and your kids can experience a kinder, stabler atmosphere. Seeing this difference between the homes will help your children realize they do have the power to create boundaries and to cultivate the life they deserve.

  1. Be savvy about the research on kids and divorce.

    Studies show that children whose parents broke up and coparented as civilly as possible were children who tended to weather the divorce best long term. Conversely, those kids whose parents split amidst high conflict and whose parents continued to generate conflict were kids who suffered the worst and had the hardest time resuming normalcy in their lives. Appreciate this and understand it’s going to take extra work on your part to demonstrate what healthy is because your N. Ex probably doesn’t have it in him.

  2. Never give up on your children.

    Your spouse may dominate, inconvenience, or manipulate them, but as their healthier parent, you can never give up on your kids. Show them you are always there for whatever (and whenever) they need you.  

How to Interact with Your Narcissistic Ex 

  1. Do not openly criticize (or negotiate with) your N. Ex in front of your children.

    Do you want him to do this to you? (We know, he probably already does!) But modeling healthy behavior is important for everyone involved and sets a precedent for future interactions. Also, if you’re thinking about a narcissist’s need to be adored unconditionally, having an audience of his “followers” (kids) may trigger his uglier behaviors. In other words, you’ll need to be much more tactful to get your message heard.

  1. Calmly state your new rules to your N. Ex.

    It is not like the old days when you were married. There are hard-line boundaries now. You are blocking him. You are not listening to him. You are not doing his bidding. You won’t argue in front of the kids. If he wants to let you know something (unless it is an emergency) there are clear protocols and boundaries for connecting to the mother of his children. The following are a few ideas you may want to consider.

  1. Follow a parenting plan that is as comprehensive as possible.

    Hammering things out in advance, and having rules to point to will help enforce boundaries with your N. Ex and make coparenting with a narcissist easier. You want to avoid making things up as you go along at all costs.

  2. Commit to a parenting app that will enable your communication but also, critically, act as a buffer between you two.

    The app will allow you to share school calendars, doctor’s appointments, and important meetings, without having to remind your N. Ex or having to connect with him to remind him. It will also document your having shared this information and when and if he reads it. It’s an excellent accountability tool to use when coparenting with a narcissist.We like Family Wizard because it’s among the oldest apps supporting parents and the one most often suggested by family courts.

  1. Set up regular call times for your kids with each parent when they are at the other parent’s house.

    This is important so it’s a rule and everybody can plan on it. (However, be prepared to hold the space for your kids if dad fails to take their call because he’s got something more “important” going on.)

  2. Take a cool 24 hours before you respond to any of his communications (preferably through your parenting app).

This will give you time to consider how you want to respond in the interest of your kids. Of course, you cannot do this with everything. There will be times of urgency, and you will have to respond. But in general, putting a time barrier between your communications will serve the dual purpose of allowing you to emotionally cool off and will also send the message that you are a busy person and he is not your first priority. This sets a real precedent for responsiveness that will be easier to maintain long term.

  1. Stay black & white. Do not emotionally engage with your N. Ex.

    Limit your emotional vulnerability to him. Be careful of your heart and its pain, and your possible sense of anger or unfairness. Showing “how you feel” or exposing your vulnerability makes it possible for him to use it against you in the future. Remember: narcissists are not above using manipulation to get their needs met. Seeking “to reason with him” or “to explain your feelings” never worked before. Cut it, move on. And think about your kids. They need you to get the facts out to their dad. Keep it black and white.

  1. Keep reminding yourself that the leopard doesn’t change his spots.

    Just because you’ve been working on yourself and have had some epiphanies about your former marriage does not mean your N. Ex is doing any of that kind of work. Don’t expect him to change. You might want to remain skeptical of any claims he may make—how he has changed! or that he seems to be doing “even better now!” Remember, manipulation and showboating are in your N. Ex’s nature.

  2. Do not bother sharing your truth that you find him to be a narcissist.

    It’s not going to advance your relations, serve your kids or magically transform him into a philanthropist! Calling him a narcissist (even a suggestion that he needs help, therapy, counseling, etc.) will only backfire. As with your emotional vulnerabilities, you’ll need to resist the urge to show your cards with this revelation. A narcissist will never see themselves as one.

  3. Practice your own rules and firm boundaries for dealing with him.

    For example, when communicating, remind yourself of the BIFF ruleKeep your communication:

      • Brief.
      • Informative
      • Friendly 
      • Firm
  1. Be prepared for face-to-face meetings and public interactions.

    Don’t wing it, prepare. If you don’t, you are likely to resort to the behavior you used to do (and how well did that serve you in the past?) Instead, visualize scenarios, practicing whom you want to be when you see your N. Ex and how you want to respond using BIFF. (See tip #24). You are retraining your body’s response system.

Tip: It helps if you visualize that your kids are watching you.

  1. Stop apologizing.

    You can never apologize enough to a narcissist, and in their book, you will always be wrong. Stop trying to find a resolution by taking the hit or expecting his apology. He will never apologize genuinely for his wrongdoing, and your apologies won’t stop him from constantly blaming you. 

  2. Save your power.

    This means not going head-to-head with your N. Ex. This will always trigger the worst of his narcissism.  It will never work without greatly exhausting you and getting you emotionally fired up or feeling depleted. You can only outwit the narcissist by not engaging directly with him on an issue. BIFF, baby (See #24). You may also want to educate yourself on the “gray rocking” tactic of showing no emotion to a narcissist as a form of self-protection.

  3. Do the Right Thing: don’t let his behavior affect yours.

It’s safe to say that your N. Ex will often not do the right thing when it comes to parenting, because narcissists think of themselves first and foremost, and they believe they can do no wrong—the opposite of a good parent. But if you endeavor to do the right thing for your kids, your children will see the difference one day. They may not understand you right now, but they will look back and remember how you showed character in difficult times.

Even if your kids aren’t around, do the right thing to remind yourself of the type of person you are, no matter who’s watching. 

  1. Model to your N. Ex the way you want to be treated.

Let’s face it, selfless behavior does not come naturally to your children’s father. He needs to learn how things should be done. Instead of telling him or yelling at him, or begging him, show him how by being that person. While there’s little guarantee that he’ll catch the drift, it may at least be easier for him to play along with the healthy routines you set than to disrupt them. If he does attempt to get a reaction from you, showing him that he has no more power over your emotions may ultimately cause him to become disinterested in trying. 

  1. Let go.

You have no control over him or how he does things inside or outside his house. Be selective with what you learn about and what gets you upset. Choose your battles wisely. And don’t let your children think you are quizzing them about how things are done in dad’s house. 

Part of showing that your N. Ex no longer has emotional power over you is to ultimately make that true. Whether it’s the right women’s divorce group, meditation, a new activity, hobby, or therapy (or all of the above), you’ll need to find your way to avert your eyes and take back your life. In doing so, you are accepting the only control you have is over yourself and how you show up for your kids.

  1. This means letting go of the fantasy (no matter how dim it is) that your N. Ex is there for you in any way.

Sometimes with distance, one forgets certain things about our N. Ex. The distance can cause us to soften, or to even romanticize who he is. ‘Oh, he’s not that bad.” (We, women, have an incredible ability to forget pain, otherwise, we would never give birth a second time.) 

Do not delude yourself into thinking he will be there for you if you need him. Never expect anything from him, and you will never be disappointed again. Coparenting with a narcissist can be lonely, but as long as you know you’re doing it alone from the start, you won’t set yourself up for disappointment.

  1. Be prepared to repeat and remind your N. Ex of your boundaries.

    Your N. Ex probably benefited from your lack of boundaries before, so he may continue to try to exploit you even post-divorce. Be prepared to repeat and stand by your boundaries. This is also a way for you to remind yourself by putting it into your muscle memory: you are breaking with your past and forging a new chapter as a single mom. 

Repairing Your Relationship with Yourself 

  1. Keep a log.

    Document your ongoing experiences with your N. Ex. Date it and keep it simple with each account being one or two lines. Make sure you indicate how his behavior impacted your children (first) and you (second) at the time. A simple log will be helpful if you ever need to go to court or prove what’s been or not been happening. And the court system will be more interested in how the children were impacted in any of these interactions.

Keeping a detailed log can be helpful to validate your feelings and experiences with factual details, too. You may have been at the receiving end of your N. Ex’s gaslighting behavior, which eroded your trust in yourself and your memories. Rereading your log and seeing what’s black and white can help you metabolize what you’ve been and are going through.

  1. Stay committed to your divorce recovery.

    You’ve been damaged, but you’ve shown yourself that you can do incredible things, like survive divorcing and coparenting with a narcissist. Keep taking steps forward not backward. Also, a strong mama who keeps evolving is the best mama for her kids

  2. Keep track of all bills and receipts paid.

    Your N. Ex loves to argue, blame or distort the facts. So, expect more down the road and be prepared to respond with black and white facts and figures. Knowing that you’re retaining this tangible proof can help you feel safe and build confidence in your ability to troubleshoot any issues that arise.

  3. Understand the difference between parental estrangement and parental alienation.

Narcissists often consciously or unwittingly perpetrate harmful attachments onto their children. When coparenting with a narcissist, strive to see this behavior developing and do everything to stop it in its tracks.

  1. Forgive yourself.

Realize that if you’ve been in a long-term marriage, partnered with a narcissist, you’ve been trained to think a certain way: always putting your former narcissist first. Forgive yourself, because that’s how you survived. 

  1. Break old patterns and continue your transformation.

You are learning how to break with your former behaviors and discover who you are. For those women who are older, and rebuilding after gray divorce, these patterns are especially difficult to break and can be reinforced by the way your older children treat you. You don’t have to do it alone: get support.      

  1. Find your tribe.

Appreciate that you N. Ex may think he’s special and the only one of his kind. But a lot of women have divorced partners just like him, and once you realize this, you realize too how genuinely good it feels to be with other women who understand what you have been through. Coparenting with a narcissist is unfortunately a common situation.

Consider joining a group of women who are committed to reinventing after divorce, women who are seeking to do right by their kids and live another story. 

 

* At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of ease, we may refer to the Ex as “he/him” but we understand that exes come with many gender identities. 

Notes

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

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. 

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

6 Ways to Be Debt Free After Divorce

6 Ways to Be Debt-Free After Divorce

Going through a divorce can feel incredibly draining: emotionally, psychologically, and—of course—financially. While emotional healing can be a long, winding road, one objective way to start fresh is to work towards eliminating your financial debts as soon as possible. Clearing your debts can serve as a powerful method of beginning a new chapter of your life, signaling to your subconscious and the world that you are capable of making positive, impactful changes in your own life. In order to tackle your debt, you must have a proper plan and thorough knowledge about the best ways to get rid of your divorce debt. To help, we are sharing the top 6 ways to be debt-free after divorce.

Reducing Your Debt

As per the Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC), the divorce rate is around 2.7 per 1,000 people in 45 reporting states, including the DC. The majority of the couples going through a divorce can find it challenging to deal with the debt situation. Nevertheless, you can use these methods to reduce your debt and soon eliminate it.

1. Consolidate your Debt 

The first thing you need to do is consolidate your debt to bring down your interest payments. For example, women often put the fees involving their divorce process on their credit cards because they don’t have direct access to funds. As a result, they end up paying high interest on those cards. Therefore, the first thing that you need to do is clear all those high-interest loans.

Read more about smart hacks for debt consolidation,

2. Negotiate with Creditors 

The next thing you need to do is negotiate to bring down your debt or interest rate. If you have a good payment history and a good reputation among the creditors, they will be more than willing to facilitate you in your hard times.

You can always negotiate with your lenders to bring down the interest rates if you have a good credit score and history. As a result, you can save the money you pay in interest and bring down your debt.

Let’s say you owe back tax taxes to the IRS. Contact the IRS and ask to be put on a payment plan which will reduce the interest you would normally pay had you not asked to be put on a payment plan.

3. Divide your Loan

Once you end your marriage, (even before it’s officially recognized by the divorce document) it is imperative to take responsibility for the monies or loans you are liable for.

If your spouse or Soon-to-be-Ex spouse does not make the payments on time, you will be held responsible. You will share the blame for it even if you share no responsibility in your divorce contract. This can significantly impact your credit score and history.

As an independent woman, you need to develop your credit history for the future. Therefore, if you have any joint loans with your Ex, you should refinance them. This alone is a good reason to consult with a financial person once you know you will divorce.

Paying Off Your Debt

Now that you are able to bring down your debt, it is time to pay it off. To avoid hassles, the right strategy is vital. If you throw all your savings into clearing out the loans, it could result in other financial problems. So instead, here are a few ways you can plan to fully eliminate your loans.

4. Increase your Sources of Income 

When it comes to debt elimination, increasing your income is imperative. You can use the extra money in hand to chip away at your debt and get rid of the financial burden. Although it won’t be easy, it is best to eliminate your debt.

You can look for part-time opportunities that you can take up after your job. These part-time opportunities are often called side-hustles. Maybe you have a particular talent or passion that could complement your full-time job—like tutoring others in a foreign language, or designing flower arrangements for parties, or creating website designs? You could also ask your current employer to increase your salary or look for a job with a higher salary.

In a nutshell, your strategy needs to be about increasing your income. And the good news is that divorce is often a catalyst for getting creative and practical with your life. It can inspire your ambition to find more challenging things to do and to be compensated for it.

Related: Divorce Recovery: 10 Things to Do If You are Suddenly in Charge of Your Finances

5. Look for Ways to Get More Cash 

Apart from getting another job, you can also look for ways to increase the cash in hand. For instance, you can always throw a garage sale and sell items that you do not need. What about your luxury items that may be sitting on your shelf… or parked in that same garage? Anything from watches and jewelry (wedding rings?) to handbags or vehicles. There’s often a market for your unused items and a consignment or specialty platform like eBay or Poshmark that specializes in selling these things. Investigate your options and purge your possessions wherever possible.

6. Cash in your Life Insurance 

Another way to pay off your debt is by cashing your life insurance. It can help you get the number of funds you need to clear off your debt. The best part is, even if you have beneficiaries, you can take a small amount out of the policy and leave the rest of the proceeds for the people you care about.

Before you cash out your life insurance policy, however, make sure you investigate the fees you may pay for doing so. There will be charges.

The Most Important Takeaway…

Going through a divorce and dealing with your debt situation can be difficult, and even terrifying. The massive transition from your old life to your new one will likely take some time to get used to. But the goal of getting rid of all your debt needs to be on the top of your list.

Freeing yourself from debt means no longer having to pay a huge interest fee each month. With that monkey off your back, you will feel not only financially relieved but emotionally liberated.

To summarize, remember: you should plan to consolidate your debt to get a lower interest rate and then increase your income to pay off the debt quickly.

Notes

To learn how your debt might be consolidated and what steps you can take to move forward feeling more financially free, you are invited to schedule a free consultation with Lyle Solomon, the author of this article and a principal attorney for the Oak View Law Group in California. Lyle graduated from the University of the Pacific’s McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento and is a specialist helping people rid themselves of debt.

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.