Woman walking on beach thinking about divorce

36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woman on a train

Table for One: My First Trip as a Single Woman

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

I was triggered by the need to plan the summer vacation

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

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

I have been divorced since January 2020

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

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

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

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

Family Vacations are a BIG THING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A new and appealing thought is to have a solo trip

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

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

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

 

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She is training to be a coach for women in transition. You can reach out to her via e-mail [email protected] for a test coach session or a discussion.

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

 

Love after divorce

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

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

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

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

Love after divorce and what others feared for me …

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

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

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

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

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

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

The cons to a LAT Relationship

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

A fresh take on love after divorce

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

A woman thinking about her expectations of the divorce process

Deflating Your Expectations about the Divorce Process

Unpacking what you thought would happen versus what actually happened in your divorce process can do much to further your healing, this I’ve learned firsthand. When I first started writing this blogpost, my original plan was to write “a divorce success story.” After all, our culture wants us to report on our successes. Even if we struggle, we’re ultimately expected to arrive on the other side of that struggle as heroes. I had internalized this cultural message at the start of my divorce. I had pictured a successful and quick divorce with a wonderful, new life waiting for me at the end. I expected that one day I’d be able to write this “success story” and, in doing so, would inspire other women to be like me.

However, as I truly reflected back on what happened in my own divorce, I realized that it wasn’t just one struggle I lived through. My divorce actually unleashed a list of obstacles that always seemed to get longer, while the end goal—a new, wonderful life with the past firmly behind me —was nowhere to be seen. I kept telling myself: I need just one more push to sort out the apartment, where the kids will live, or a child support agreement. And then, when it’s all sorted, I will write my story and inspire others.

I was trying to be my old perfectionist self. I was trying to be a good girl and a successful student, completing my assignments and getting all As. I had already failed in staying married and in keeping my family together — the least I could do to reclaim my worth was to be successful in my divorce!

A mess instead of success

As my divorce was finalized on paper, I failed to feel free or confident. I was filled with anxiety and fear, ridden with guilt and shame. One day I was so crushed while reading text messages from my Ex that I deleted WhatsApp and climbed under the covers. A scared child was what I was. I was in no shape to inspire anyone, certainly not my sister divorcées. I was a mess with no real story to tell. Who was I kidding?

Or so I thought, until I heard an invitation to a masterclass by the award-winning TV presenter of Good Morning America, Robin Roberts. She shared two ideas that I loved, and they picked me up. “Make your mess your message,” said Robin, adding “showing vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.” Suddenly, I was inspired. I could do that! I could show my mess and vulnerability. After all, aren’t those two things we know for sure as divorced women? How to feel vulnerable and embrace the mess?

We divorced after seventeen years of marriage

My Ex and I separated over a year ago after being married for seventeen years. I initiated the breakup as I could no longer stand the mental, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse. We were a great team in our 20s, but by the time we hit our 30s, my personal growth and talents made my then-husband feel threatened. In turn, my husband felt invisible and like his needs were being ignored. The more he strengthened control, the weaker our connection and intimacy was. I had an affair in search of love and care, but it didn’t work for me long-term. After eight years of therapy and trying many methods of restoring peace as a couple, I realized there was nothing more I could do. The benefits of having a full family and loving memories no longer outweighed the stresses.

I decided to sacrifice my kids’ comfort, our household, and joint vacations in exchange for peace of mind, mental stability, confidence, and self-worth.

My post-divorce journey

As I was navigating my divorce, I realized that the process was nothing like I expected it to be! Through pain and many therapy sessions, I came to realize that the mismatch between the expectations and reality gave me grief and created a feeling of loss of control: it created a mess. As I review my top five expectations, I want to inspire other women getting divorced to face the expectations that may be weighing them down, causing pain and messy feelings.

Expectation 1: divorce will never happen to me

It is worth knowing that we are influenced by our close circle, not global statistics. For the rest of the world, 50% of marriages may end in divorce—but not in my social circle. My middle-class social group stuck by their traditional family structures whether they liked it or not. It was fine to live in different bedrooms and even apartments if you could afford it, but it wasn’t okay to get a divorce. This is largely because divorced men in Russia who worked in the military or for the state could lose their employment, destroying their careers and livelihoods.

What I did remember, though, is that my uncle got divorced when I was six, and his daughter, my cousin Catherine, was eight at the time. My mother told me that Catherine’s mother was a vile and stupid woman who wrongfully assumed that she could find someone better and, of course, she didn’t. A woman needs to stand by her man and not go looking for greener grass on the other side, I was told as a child. Catherine and her mom were excluded from our extended family after the divorce. Cousin Catherine and I reconnected only when we were both in our 40s via social media.

What did I make of all this? Subconsciously, I thought that divorce was a no-no for a good woman like me. I learned that initiating a divorce was bad, and a woman and her children would be punished for it.

As I was contemplating divorce myself, I was struggling to find a positive example to look toward. Divorce was untrodden territory in my family, as was following your feelings.

Expectation 2: it would be quick

Since I assumed that divorce doesn’t happen to good girls, getting divorced at all was extremely embarrassing. I didn’t want to tell anyone or discuss it. I wanted the divorce to be over with quickly. I was already thinking of getting a new, better husband since I was in the process of setting myself free. I was considering anything that could end my status of being “divorced.”

The shame and the denial of going through a long divorce process meant that I had trouble discussing my issues with lawyers, counselors, and my Ex. I googled. I read the advice in one of the blogposts on SAS for Women: “don’t stop communicating with your Ex if you have children.” What? I wanted so much not to see his texts, to not be reminded that I was living through this most undignified process!

Not only was I embarrassed about going through the divorce process, but I was also surprised that it wasn’t yet over. It took me many years to decide and get ready to separate, to voice and then follow through with my intention to divorce my husband*. I thought I was done when I moved out and got the divorce papers. I had no idea that untangling the seventeen-year-long co-dependent relationship with kids and property was another long process in and of itself.

Maybe, out of the entire list of things I hadn’t expected from my divorce, the slow pace was the hardest to embrace.

Expectation 3: my husband will behave like a gentleman

Why did I expect my Ex to behave like a gentleman and care for my feelings during our divorce? Especially when the reason I divorced him in the first place was because he was verbally and mentally abusive and didn’t care for my feelings? I like people to be respectful. He respected and loved me once, and I remember how good it felt. I expected my husband to behave like a gentleman because in my dreams I am a person who is treated respectfully by a man. I had heard of civilized divorces. Why couldn’t I have one?

I guess I expected my Ex to assume responsibility for OUR divorce and act as if we were equal throughout the process. I expected a fair division of assets, the kids’ time, and financial obligations.

What I got, in reality, was a man who was angry and bitter about my decision to “destroy his life.” He put all the blame and responsibility for the breakup on me, threatening me about the kids’ custody and our finances. He argued that I had to compensate him for the loss of his life.

“I will not behave like a gentleman during the divorce. You decided to break up, so don’t expect anything good from me,” my Ex wrote in one of his texts. “Find yourself another man to behave like a gentleman.” In front of friends and family, I was embarrassed at my Ex’s behavior during the divorce process, as if his manners and attitude were my fault.

I hear women say that they are too scared to get a divorce because they expect their husbands to behave nasty. “I am good to you as long as we are together. But don’t expect me to behave well if we separate,”  one of my friend’s husband said to her.

Expectation 4: my closest circle will support me

Just like I was embarrassed to be going through the divorce process and ashamed of my Ex’s behavior, some of my friends were embarrassed of me being the divorcée in their circle. I was once, in fact, asked to come to a private party but told not mention my divorce.

A reaction I got several times when I asked close people for support was this: you decided to divorce—not me—now deal with it, and don’t ask for sympathy.

Not only did I break the rules of the game, I disrespected many women who stuck with their husbands because I also dared to seek support.

We are talking about a very close circle of friends here, not simply colleagues. I was surprised to realize that some people were ready to support me when I was whining about my hard married life but were no longer there to support me when I was getting divorced.

We all hear that our circle of friends may change as we divorce. But I was unprepared to see my besties disregard my sense of purpose and feelings. Getting divorced was bad enough—grieving the loss of close friendships was doubly painful.

Expectation 5: my kids will be on my side

As I was planning the divorce, I had a picture of my sons — then eleven and fourteen — saying “Mom, we support you in any decision. We understand that you had enough of the fighting and crying and that you want to come home to a calm environment. We love you and will go anywhere with you.”

Instead, my eldest son stayed with his dad in our family apartment as I moved out. He grieved the breakup and blamed me for it. For six weeks, my son and I lived in the same city but in different apartments. That was painful. We saw each other regularly, but communication was poor. He was closed off and distant. I was upset and apologetic, attempting to buy him back with home-made meals and presents.

For the last two months of self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been living together. Our relationship has improved and evolved. I am learning to be comfortable in my new status of a divorced mom of two boys with my own decisions to make and responsibilities to take care of. I’m enjoying all the “cute son” moments on my own and am grateful for the isolation.

Once the quarantine is over, my eldest son will want to live with his dad again. And I will need to find a way to see him while also preparing for an empty nest.

A lot more could be said that came as a surprise during the divorce process and caused pain. But the thing that hurts the most is seeing the life that we imagined and planned crash and burn. Living through this period takes time. And during that time, we have the right to be a mess and be vulnerable. It’s our way of climbing out.

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She is training to be a coach for women in transition. You can reach out to her via e-mail [email protected] for a test coach session or a discussion.

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

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

Learn from divorced women

What to Learn from Powerful Divorced Women

We’re seeing a shift in the balance of power right now in our country, as people of all colors finally begin to unite in a growing and vocal collective against systemic racism, following the murder of George Floyd. As it ties into the subject of this piece, it’s important to note something that women and people of color have known for centuries and what we as women and as humans need to remember as we each face whatever struggle we encounter and whatever frightens us into silence, compliance, or complaisance: power is not the most meaningful, the most wrenchingly beautiful, at the peak of the mountain when the hard climb is over and we’re looking out over the territory of pain we’ve conquered. It is most meaningful when we are still down in the mud, pulling our feet free one trembling, breath-tearing step at a time. That power is something we are seeing now and have seen time and time again as we learn from divorced women.

Facing our fears requires the most of us when we are still stuck, still terrified or frozen in the comfort of stillness itself. When we finally gather ourselves, reach toward whatever slippery branch or hand is there, push past the inertia, and embrace the ungodly mess that the most valuable changes require—that’s when power is most pure: before the success.

What we can learn from divorced women

That’s where we are again as a nation, and that’s where some of us are with our marriages and our self-partnering. So, look to the success stories and learn from divorced women who have made it to the height of the mountain, but let’s not forget that the most hard-won and overlooked power occurs in those first faltering steps.

Tabatha

Outspoken, red-headed, and strong-minded, Tabatha is a vibrant example of how much you can shine when you’re not buried by someone else’s lack of personal accountability, hampered by their emotional negligence, or tarnished by their lack of respect for you. A veteran small business owner, she established Tabatha’s Hair Design in December 2003 and is happily back to work now that Washington State has entered Phase 2 of the Covid-19 reopening.

She’s also a survivor and living proof that while much abuse and betrayal comes from external sources, it also comes from within your own home. Pulling yourself up afterward is grueling and takes courage women often don’t know they have until they reach for it, but it can be done.

“I woke up one morning and told my Ex-husband* (he was my boyfriend at the time) that I was buying a salon. Within eight weeks, Tabatha’s was open and running. I married him the following year, October 2004. By February 2005, he decided to quit his job and spent most of our marriage unemployed while my sweat and tears kept Tabatha’s open. Then, in April 2007, I received a phone call from a stylist who worked at a different salon, telling me that my husband’s mistress was there bragging about sleeping with my husband. I was devastated. We had just bought our house in March 2006.

When I confronted him, he denied everything, and I became everything I’d always disliked: I became doubting and insecure, checked his phone, figured out his email password, drove to his work to make sure he was actually there. It came to the point that I didn’t recognize myself.

I stayed with him for a couple more years, trying to forgive, trying not to be insecure. But I was never going to trust him again. Finally, in late August 2009, I put an air mattress and all his belongings in the spare bedroom and, after a couple weeks of that, told him I’d have a restraining order against him if he wasn’t out by Labor Day weekend. Then I packed up my 10-year-old daughter and left.

Since then, I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever thought, but I’ve also learned to be gentle with my emotions and feelings. I’m allowed to cry. My voice and my opinion count. I’m worthy of love—from me to myself and love from others. It’s okay to mourn the loss of my marriage, like it was a death. A part of me died the day the judge pronounced me divorced.

As the first of my siblings to divorce, I felt like a failure. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I make it work? I should have done more; I should have been the perfect wife. It’s only cheating…well, that’s ‘only’ deception on the deepest level. I’ve learned that I’m no one’s second choice. I’m only as worthy as I treat myself.

Now I teach my younger friends in the hopes that they can learn from divorced women: be a diamond. Pebbles get tossed, kicked aside, but we value diamonds. Be the precious stone you are, and shine.”

Susan

Always ahead of the curve, Susan was one of the first among her friends to get divorced back in the 1980s. Now 72, she is the embodiment of strong female energy: wise and no-nonsense, very dry and very funny.

“I learned early on, the hearse doesn’t come with a luggage rack,” she still says, to give perspective. “You’ve got to pick what matters most—and it’s usually stuff you can’t carry on your back.

How many people do you know who are miserable, married to a lifestyle, the trappings, the house, the shopping they can’t give up? I tell you: a lot of women. They are confused about happiness.”

Liza Caldwell

Liza is SAS for Women’s Cofounder, divorce coach, and an entrepreneur.

“I was a high functioning depressive,” Liza laughs. “And sometimes, not so high-functioning. More like pathetic and alone, unable to give words to what I was feeling, just knowing something was wrong. With ME!

Now, when I look back, I see it was exactly that leveling out, that hitting the ground, that also gave me the perspective that I never wanted my girls to experience such hell.

And somehow, that revelation—that I didn’t want my girls to experience it, but there I was living it in real time, modeling it to my girls, is what woke me up! So, think about that: Who is watching you? Forget society. Who is looking up at you and watching from the ground?”

Holly

A public school teacher who has bloomed since her divorce, Holly now nourishes others even better than before because she learned how to do that for herself.

“You have not a clue—except a part of you does—of how freaking great it can be on the other side of divorce!” says Holly, smiling widely.

You can’t, except to imagine how much time you put into coping with your NOW. Think about how much time you spend talking inside your head about your issues, how you’ll survive, or who is right and who is wrong. And then take stock of how much you do externally, in the real world, to appear ‘normal.’ When you truly think about this, you soon realize how much energy you spend trying to restore balance to your world when in fact, it’s out of whack. Now imagine all that is gone, and you are not experiencing that conflict or tension between what you think, feel, and know—with who you are in the real world. You’re not pretending anymore. Especially not to yourself.”

Stella

Edgy, articulate, and ruthlessly organized, Stella learned the hard way that sometimes you have to leave your tribe—even the one you are conditioned from your earliest upbringing to accept and conform to—in order to save yourself.

“My church pressured me to marry Henry and failed to give me information I should have been given, and he did not provide. He decimated me financially. He bled our accounts before I realized what was going on and then stole checks from me and forged my signature. Only my pastor was willing to stand with me in court. I was talking to this woman (a fellow congregant) afterward, when I was broken, and she wanted me to remember what a great day it was the day Henry and I got married! Just clueless…

The pressure they exerted—which I did cave to—to marry Henry brought me to a sorry, suicidal pass. Some of them never recognized that if they had told me information I deserved to know, instead of pressuring me to marry him, it would have been a different story.

I miss going to church and that community I had before Henry flipped out and returned to using (his 24-year-old daughter died of cancer and as a result—not having developed good coping —he returned to using drugs), but I’m not sure I will ever return to church.”

Addicts are often charming, charismatic, and adept liars. Even educated and experienced people can be convinced by their stories. Stella, who worked in community mental health as a case manager at the time of her marriage, is a great example of this, as well as a great example of a woman who got out anyway, despite the toll it took and the brutal self-honesty it required of her.

“I was not ostracized (by my church), but Henry was given more credence than I was by some members. Not my pastor. He was a newer pastor to our congregation, and he was always wonderful. He supported my decision when I left the church. I got to where I didn’t feel like I belonged and that was about the time I began to work with a Christian therapist who provided perspective. I would encourage Christians to seek Christian therapists.

I really work on not blaming others for my choices or for my ultimate decision to cave to the pressure I felt from the folks at church. I made a number of piss-poor decisions, and I don’t think any of them ever had an intention to harm. They just thought they were being good Christians…we are all affected by our own experiences.”

Lexi

This Gen-Xer has been many things and charmed many men. A Daughter of the American Revolution, a lawyer and an art teacher, she’s potty-mouthed, eclectic, and brazen whenever she can be. Her work has made her an award-winning journalist, Army Basic Camp graduate, river boat waitress, veterinary assistant, and stripper (she says she needed a plane ticket, but really, she just liked it). Even roguish women, though, can make the mistake of becoming atrophied by their comfort zones.

Lexi allowed the comfort trap—paired with a liking for alcohol that was the result of nature, nurture, and it being woven into her relationship with her husband—to have too big a role in her life. When she finally acknowledged that to herself, she also acknowledged that if she was going to come back to herself and rediscover both her gifts and her own wholeness, she was going to have to leave her marriage to do it.

 

“I had to learn how to partner myself, and I did. I have regrets, but I’ve learned from every mistake I made, and I’m finally firing on all pistons in a way I never have before. I’m happy, I’m free, and I’m whole.”

Penny

Also potty-mouthed and outspoken, Penny is a devoted mom of two, grandmother of two, a staunch animal advocate, and a former eighteen-year-old bride who had to face making it on her own in order to leave the comfortable numbness that was her marriage and her cage.

“The guy I’ve been seeing for two years, he tells me he loves me and I’m like, ‘I’m sorry,’” she laughs. Penny laughs a lot, which generally makes the people around her laugh, too.

“I’ve never told him I love him. He knows I’m never going to call him my boyfriend. He’s fun and the sex is quite fabulous, but I don’t want to be tied down ever again.

I have enough in savings from the divorce that I can buy a house if I want to, but I don’t want to. I like the idea of being able to pick up and go. I don’t want to have to answer to anybody. I want to be selfish. Everything will be my own decision, and if I f*&k up, it’s on me. If I want to go out with someone, I can. If I don’t want to cook dinner, I don’t have to. I don’t want to have to consider someone else.

Being divorced gives me a huge sense of relief. Marriage was like being in prison. Now that I’m out, I’m like ‘Woohoo!!’ Why would I want to go back? When I was married, I was suppressed. I was under someone’s thumb. He argued with me about everything, had to be right about everything. Nothing I said was ever right. It was constant, and I just started avoiding him. You get to the point where you don’t engage in a conversation because you know you’re going to lose. I was not being my own authentic self.

There were fun times peppered in, but it was only if I agreed to everything he wanted. And the sex was horrible. I was like, ‘I’m going to die miserable, and I’m going to die without ever having had a proper orgasm.’ And oh, dear God, now? It’s a whole new world! I’m like, this is what I’ve been missing? Most of the men now rock my world and it’s all about me, and when you have that, you don’t mind giving back.

He was just on me like a pecking chicken…he’d ask these rhetorical questions all the time, just to argue his point; it felt like being in a never-ending Jeopardy episode, and I never had the right answer.

My main reason to stay in it was the kids. And I was afraid he’d use them against me, in any way he could, as leverage to get me to do what he wanted or just to have power, like he did with the dogs. So, I focused on them. I was involved in everything and put all my energy into them because he was exhausting.

I was a second income, but I didn’t make the money—there was this fear of making my own living—that was terrifying. Then finally, he got fired from his job. He got a job in Kuwait and then another one in Alaska, and it was [in Alaska that] he had an affair. And it was a huge relief because I finally had an excuse to ask him for a divorce.

I found a text. I found a lot of things. He had also gone on match.com and was flirting with a couple girls who he ended up being friendly with, but I sat with that affair information for three weeks. My friend was like ‘I would have chopped something off if I had found those texts!’ I was like, ‘No, don’t you get it? That’s the thing. This is my ticket out. Now I have a reason.’ He was a gas lighter. He would have figured out a way to make it my fault and make me wrong, but this was rock-solid.

I got the date of the divorce and ‘RIP’ tattooed on my back next to our anniversary date. I love that tattoo—you need to take time for yourself and figure out what you want. Go to therapy, and do it for yourself. Live your life being your own authentic self. Figure it out. I wasn’t strong enough back then, but I always knew I was strong and I figured it out.”

Elaine

Elaine is a multi-million-dollar real estate agent and early Baby Boomer who divorced her husband and took on the challenges of earning her real estate license and continuing to raise and provide financial support for four children single-handedly.

“I watched my husband sit and spin his dreams about the invention ideas he had and never do anything to make them a reality for years. It wasn’t until he hit my oldest son that I decided enough was enough.

Something inside me just snapped.

I said to myself, ‘That’s it. I’m not letting him drain this family or tear my children down any more. I can do this better, alone or not.’”

Naomi

With a background that includes a Phi Beta Kappa ranking from Penn State University, a master’s degree from UCLA, and certifications in human resource management and spiritual coaching, Naomi embodies a highly-educated, highly self-aware approach to her life. She also embodies the (perhaps) harder-won wisdom that even the smartest, most educated women sometimes need help and should not be ashamed to ask for it or learn from other divorced women.

“Right after the divorce, the biggest thing I had to learn was that I needed to ask for help. I stayed in a relationship longer than I wanted to because I was afraid to be alone and afraid to not be able to make decisions myself. Once I was past the initial shock of the situation, I started to really, really love the ability to make my own decisions. I got to make choices about things I liked and didn’t like and return to myself without interference. And I also had to lean on other people, ask for help, [and] be willing to be vulnerable and make mistakes. I needed time to heal. It could not be on anyone else’s schedule, and it took longer than some of my friends had patience for. That’s fine. Those weren’t the friends I talked to about it after that, but I didn’t need to cut them out of my life, either.

We need different people for different aspects of our life. Don’t expect people to be your emotional crutch if they don’t have the capacity to do that. Trust yourself to heal and take the time to do it.”

Leaving your marriage behind might be one of the most difficult choices you ever have to make, but if there’s one thing we hope you learn from divorced women it’s that your future is yours. You will get through this.

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

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives after divorce—on their own terms. If you are discerning, newly divorced and independent, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your free, 15-minute, private consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand what your next, black and white steps are for walking into your BRAVE unknown.

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

Divorce and friendships

Divorce and Friendships: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Divorce and friendships can be a tricky thing. Divorce brings out the best and the worst in people, yes, but they don’t make it clear enough that this truth applies to not only you and your partner but the people who make up your world—your colleagues, family members, and friends.

Divorce makes people curious: what do you think happened to them? Divorce makes people panic: you don’t think that could happen to us, too, do you? It makes people withdraw: she just has so much going on right now, and I don’t know what to say to her. And sympathize: you’re sure you’re taking care of yourself, right? And it’s all, for the most part, done with the best of intentions, but those intentions don’t make you feel any less like an ant under a magnifying glass waiting to get burned.

Divorce and friendships

And yet, there’s a part of us that still wants to be under that magnifying glass, burn marks or not, because ultimately, we want to feel seen and heard and understood in a time when we feel anything but. Some friends rally—they break out the wine and get you out of your home and give you a reason to laugh again—and others disappoint. Some friends view you and your Ex as a unit, and now that you’ve gone your separate ways, it’ll be hard for them to reconcile this new reality with their old one. When the latter looks at you, they can only see the old you. And you’ll feel like you can never measure up to a standard you set for yourself. You just aren’t that person anymore.

Then you’ll have friends who feel like the rallying kind but are most definitely not. These friends can be single or partnered, but in any case, they are usually unhappy. They perceive you as having been “brought down to their level” and want someone else to join their pity party, often times leading to conversations that are circular and counterproductive to your divorce recovery. And finally, you’ll have friends who disappear entirely (often the same people who withdraw: see above).

As we said, divorce and friendships can be a tricky thing. There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly, and only some of it is within your control. But some is better than none. And because you’re here, we know that you’re smart and brave enough to survive this—you already understand that getting a divorce means stepping into the unknown, but that, of course, doesn’t mean you can’t prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

What to expect

After divorce, the nature of your relationship with friends might be different depending on a few factors, like whether or not those friends are single or in a relationship themselves and how long you’ve known them, for instance. Most of the time we leave relationships with the friendships we brought into them—it’s those friendships we made together that can be harder to handle. Many people lose their couple friends after divorce, but roughly one in six divorced people have said they became closer to their individual friends.

There can be awkwardness on both sides of a friendship after a breakup. With couple friends, especially, they may feel like they are being asked to take sides or bad mouth your Ex when they’re not around, even when you’ve said nothing to make them feel this way. Divorce also has a way of causing people to look inward at their own marriage, putting strain on cracks that may already exist. Divorce can be contagious in that way.

For you, seeing a couple go on normally—doing simple things like being affectionate or cooking dinner together—can be triggering. Logically, you know the world has kept on spinning even as your own personal universe feels like it’s come to a screeching halt, but logic doesn’t make facing the truth any easier. Seeing other people’s happiness might somehow feel like another loss, until one day it doesn’t and you realize you’ve really moved on.

Maintaining friendships after divorce

If you want to maintain your relationship with a friend your Ex and you share, try reaching out to them rather than withdrawing, and don’t make them take sides. You might set boundaries with your friends when breaking the news of your divorce by saying something like, “I know [insert your Ex’s name here] is a part of your life, too. I want you to know that I won’t badmouth him to you or use our friendship as a weapon against him. Your friendship means a lot to me.”

But sometimes, divorce can shove you even further outside your comfort zone. Once the dust has cleared a bit, you might look up and find that your friendships aren’t as strong as you’d like them to be, especially your individual friendships. Use this time to reconnect and strengthen bonds you may have formed before and during your relationship. People will often surprise you, welcoming you back into their lives and allowing you to create something new.

How to start over

If you’re looking to form new friendships after divorce, you might start with pursuing what makes you happy—do things you’ve always wanted to try or something you already know you’ll enjoy (a hiking club, archery, indoor rock climbing, salsa or tango classes, trivia night, or book club, etc.). Maybe you are looking for like-minded women who are also committed to personal development or rebuilding their lives after divorce? Open yourself up to where and how you might find them. Sometimes you can discover like-minded women in local groups on platforms like Meetup.org or Facebook. Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet someone in a virtual group who’ll become a new friend?

But if you’re not starting over completely—you’d like to reconnect with an old friend, for example—you can usually begin with something simple, like grabbing a glass of wine and video chatting. It’s a good, low-pressure way of catching up and getting to know each other again before making plans to do something that’s a larger commitment. (Especially if you are still social distancing, or you don’t live near one another, or if extra time and money can be a challenge to come by.)

When you break the news of your divorce to friends, you’ll get a range of responses, most of which have less to do with you and the specifics of your relationship and more to do with whatever’s going on in your friend’s own life at that moment.

But whether your friends react with curiosity, sympathy, panic, or something else altogether, know that, just like you, they are likely trying their best. Divorce and friendships can be difficult to navigate, but those relationships are also so important in helping us get through life’s challenges. Try not to isolate yourself during or after your divorce. Find or create—and then sustain—a support system. No matter what happens in life, we’ll always be in need of a good friend.

 

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

Sweetness of Life After Divorce

The Sweetness of Living Alone After Divorce

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

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

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

Celebrating ourselves without guilt

Day 1 in my new place:

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

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

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

Putting your signature on it

Day 6 in my new place:

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

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

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

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

Day 21 in my new place:

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

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

Peeking around the next corner

Six months later:

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

A year later:

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

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

Eighteen months later:

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

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

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

A pursuit of happiness…and being pursued

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What not do to during divorce

What Not to Do During Divorce: 7 Must Knows

Divorce, like a marriage, takes mapping and maneuvering. There’s a lot of good common sense advice out there about what to do and what not to do during divorce. But as a writer who is forever curious, I sometimes find the don’ts a more appealing research subject.

Divorce is a regular occurrence in the US, but of course, it wasn’t always this way. Divorce as a research subject can be a slippery thing because it can still feel taboo to some people, but luckily, that attitude feels as if it’s more the exception rather than the rule these days.

It has taken five generations for the conversation of what not to do during a divorce to become common.

So, I asked a variety of divorced individuals what their advice is about “don’t dos” in divorce. The following is my recap of their suggestions and lessons learned.

1. The unanimous consensus was “don’t be unnecessarily nasty about it”

In other words, don’t set out to ruin your Ex’s life or punish them.

“In my divorce things have gone fairly smoothly, but that’s mainly due to the number one rule I feel all divorcees should abide by, which is, no matter what happened in your marriage, a divorce should be amicable,” said Millie*, a Washington state resident.

Washington is one of 18 states that is considered truly no-fault, which means no legal grounds have to be established for a divorce to be granted. You don’t have to have a reason, or blame the other—you can simply divorce. The benefit of this is that your divorce is over faster and with less expense. All 50 states have a no-fault option, but in others, there are established grounds for finding fault. These include: addiction, adultery, bigamy, desertion or abandonment, impotence, imprisonment, marriage between close relatives, marriage obtained by fraud or force, mental or physical abuse and/or cruelty, and mental illness or mental incapacity at the time of the marriage.

2. Don’t rush into a decision without examining your options

Jenny, another person I spoke with, noted that there aren’t just divorce law differences state to state, but county to county, which underscores another “don’t do” in divorce: don’t rush forward with divorce without examining your options, such as where to file. One county might review each case for fairness, but another may just push claims through. If you are guarding against being taken advantage of and don’t trust your Ex to be civil, then don’t accept the filing without looking first at what some other options might be.

Accepting that “you don’t know what you don’t know” leads you to wonder how will you find out fully and clearly what you are entitled to and what your rights are? And how will you handle this emotionally, or as a mother, or the primary breadwinner, or the stay-at-home-mom? Not knowing what you don’t now know is a good reason to consider working with a divorce coach or attorney.

3. Don’t be a pushover

The above suggestions counsel you not to be unnecessarily cruel or naïve, but another thing not to do? Be careful about being too nice. You don’t want guilt, confusion, or a lack of desire to lead your decision making. Women must understand that for them rebuilding their lives after divorce is harder than it is for men.

“I wish I would have consulted a lawyer, so I got what I deserved instead of what he made me feel like I deserved,” said Leticia, a woman in Manhattan.

“I wish,” said Patty, in Texas, “That I had put some money aside, opened my own bank account, and planned ahead instead of making a quick decision.”

Once you do begin looking at your options, don’t leave anything to memory. Document everything—every phone call, every bank deposit. Even simple divorces (usually from shorter marriages involving no joint bank accounts and no children) are complicated, and in the midst of it, you are probably going to be searching for a new place to live, possibly a new school for your children. You might be moving, changing jobs, and experiencing a wide variety of emotions—yours and your loved ones. Documentation may end up saving you from making an expensive or time-consuming mistake.

4. Don’t “use” your children

With regard to children, another “don’t” of divorce is to not use your children as leverage or have conversations with your Ex about the process (or vent to a friend about it) in front of them. You and your Ex made your children together; the marriage may be ending but the effort to raise them to be as healthy and happy as possible should not be.

5. Don’t go it alone

Finding your allies is another common theme among the people I spoke with. Whether you consult a court liaison to help you file, use an online divorce site, hire a divorce attorney or a divorce coach (or both), there are too many life-impacting aspects of divorce to try to just wing it. Assuming you’ll think of everything is setting yourself up for missing something. Conversely, don’t go “War of the Roses” on the thing and bring your lawyer in to haggle over a serving dish. Focus on the essentials.

6. Don’t do nothing now

And speaking of essentials, the chances are good that part of your income will be missing after a divorce, at least for a period of time, so don’t go into the process without first setting up a separate bank account for expenses, whether those funds go toward lawyers’ fees, a deposit on an apartment, paying off a credit card, college courses to advance your own income or a counselor for your children. Along these same lines, don’t forget to check your spouse’s credit score and your own and close joint bank accounts.

7. Don’t jump into your next serious relationship

In the interest of guarding your emotional assets as well as the financial ones, it’s probably best not to jump into a new relationship right after divorce or before it’s finished—especially if you live in a state where there is grounds for establishing fault. The ethical question of cheating is a whole other article, but it needs to be said, as it’s one of the leading causes of divorce in the first place. Pretend that everything you are doing, saying, posting, or tweeting is under a microscope, and once the divorce is finished, recognize that while it’s natural to seek validation and an endorphin boost from a new relationship, your emotional stability is going to take some time to come back to its grounded center.

Although it’s taken many generations for divorce to become an accepted, less isolating option for one’s life, there are now plenty of conversations, resources, and information about the process just about anywhere you care to look. The “divorce don’ts” above are a great launching point, but your divorce recovery is a journey, one that doesn’t end here.

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

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives after divorce—on their own terms. If you are discerning, newly divorced and independent, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your free, 15-minute, private consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand what your next, black and white steps are for walking into your BRAVE unknown.

*For the sake of confidentiality, we have not used people’s real names in this article.

Thinking about how to collect social security benefits from ex

Can I Collect Social Security Benefits from My Ex Spouse?

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

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

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

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

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

3. You must not be remarried.

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

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

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

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

What if your Ex remarried?

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Woman searching for an online divorce support group

Joining an Online Divorce Support Group? 4 Questions to Consider Before Making Any Decisions

Divorce is one of the most difficult transitions you’ll ever face. So, it’s important for you to build a great support team to help you get through it. And one of the easiest ways to get the support you need as your marriage ends is to join an online divorce support group.

Yet, easy support doesn’t always mean quality support or even the type of help you need. Not all online divorce support groups are the same.

Some support groups are simply unmoderated chat rooms. Others are part of a large organization that provides a standard set of materials for facilitators to use. And then there are groups like the ones you might find on Meet Up that fall anywhere in between.

Due to the immense differences in what defines an online divorce support group, you need to spend time researching what each group has to offer before participating.

Here are four questions you’ll want to consider before joining any online divorce support group.

1. How will the group protect your confidentiality?

One of the main purposes of joining a support group is to give yourself a safe space to share what you’re going through. You’ll need to know there’s zero chance of someone in the group using something you’ve said against you.

Only in a very secure environment will you dare to be honest and vulnerable, which is important to your divorce recovery. By owning and understanding your vulnerability you will begin the process of healing.

Some groups provide confidentiality by asking members to use pseudonyms instead of their real names. They also prevent members from connecting outside of the group’s online environment.

Other groups offer no provision for confidentiality and rely upon each member to police herself. Unfortunately, this makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to do the healing work you need to do because you may not feel safe.

Another way online divorce support groups offer confidentiality is with an agreement you enter upon joining the group. The group facilitator may have a document each member must sign to join, or s/he may make the agreement part of the underlying terms of membership.

Whatever method of confidentiality the group provides, it’s up to you to decide whether those terms make you feel safe in your vulnerability.

2. Who is facilitating the online divorce support group?

If the group you’re interested in has a facilitator or two, you’ll want to know more about them before joining.

The best facilitators are those who have a deep understanding of divorce. They are typically divorce coaches, therapists, or seasoned facilitators who have been through divorce themselves.

Another vital role the facilitator plays is keeping the group on task and focused on the topic. Due to the nature of divorce and the emotional drama involved, it’s natural that some participants have a hard time not talking … on and on. A good facilitator will listen for those who are not speaking and encourage them to share, while also managing those who dominate so the group progresses, feels fair, and stays on point.

You’ll want to contact the facilitator before joining the group to learn more about his/her background and experience. By interacting with the facilitator, you’ll get a good feel for who this person is and whether the group is right for you.

If the facilitator does not provide a means for you to contact or interact with him/her before joining the group, then don’t join. That means the facilitator is not interested in getting to know you as an individual. They are more interested in filling their group up and getting paid.

3. Does the group have a clear structure?

The best online divorce support groups are carefully organized and not just open forums for kvetching.

Ideally, you’ll want a group that has a regular meeting time so you can count on getting support. A regular meeting time makes it easier to plan around your job or find childcare (should you need it). A regular schedule forces you to make time for yourself, this subject, and your growth.

To get the most out of the group, it’s critical to know the topic of each meeting in advance. This will allow you to not only verify that the topics meet your needs but also to prepare for each session.

You should also look for the stated outcome of participating in the group. A meaningful program will have a specific intention for each of the members to achieve. It’s this intention that will give you greater insight into how the facilitator will guide the group.

4. How does the group build a sense of community?

Joining an online divorce support group is about becoming part of a community so you don’t feel so alone and isolated. Ideally, the group is full of individuals who are willing to give and receive support by honestly and respectfully relating their experiences, questions, and insights.

But a community isn’t created just because you attend meetings together.

You and the other group members build a community within each session by openly discussing questions and sharing experiences. Outside of each session, you continue to do so by sharing challenges (if desired) and supporting one another.

Joining a good, vetted (look for testimonials) online divorce support group can be one of the best gifts you give yourself if you are considering, or have decided to, end your marriage. The group can provide you with the safety, camaraderie, resources, convenience, and experience you will likely need to navigate knowledgeably the transition from married to divorced.

Yet, because not all divorce support groups are the same, you’ll need to do some research before joining any. Will the group provide you with a safe place to heal, learn, and build the foundation for the next phase of your life?

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For support, guidance and next steps if you are contemplating or beginning the process of divorce, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual, LIVE divorce support community & program teaching you what a woman MUST KNOW about divorce.

If you are rebuilding your life after divorce, discover who you are, what makes you tick, and what makes you soar as you connect with the right support​ and direction. Join us for our virtual group coaching class, Paloma’s Group, a comprehensive blueprint for starting fresh and designing the life you deserve. Space is limited.