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. Divorcees are often not 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 must 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. If you are not working with one (or cannot afford one at this time) consider a good divorce support group with a professional facilitator 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.

Divorce papers by Graham for Unsplash

Divorce Papers: What the Heck Are They?

While no two divorces are exactly alike, one aspect always stays the same: the paperwork. You hear the term “divorce papers” casually thrown around all the time in movies, TV shows, or by gossipy neighbors. But what actually are divorce papers?

It is tricky to know exactly what they are because it is such a broad term. They technically refer to all the papers needed for the divorce process. The actual number of documents included in the complete paperwork varies from couple to couple. However, four primary papers almost always accompany the divorce: the petition, the summons, the answer, and the judgment. 

Paper #1: Starting the Divorce Petition

First things first, someone needs to begin the divorce process. The petition is the first step in the divorce. This means that one spouse needs to officially ask a court to end their marriage. This is the legal step that sometimes follows a separation. So, if you are the person initiating the process, you will fill out a form called a petition (sometimes called a “petition for dissolution of marriage” or the “complaint”). This form varies from state to state and can sometimes be found online or in person at the court.

In some states, the complaint is not a standard form, but an individualized statement. The petition has general information about both spouses and the length of the marriage. This is your first chance to indicate what you want from the judge. In this first form, you might be required to list out any community or separate property and how you would ideally split it. However, just because you indicate this is how you want to split it, it might not be divided as so. If children are involved, the spouse starting the divorce process will need to indicate what they would ideally want in terms of custody and care. When this form is finished, it is turned in or “filed” with the court, and you need to give a copy to your spouse. This divorce paper filing is the first step in the divorce process.


If you’re not ready for divorce papers but are contemplating separation or divorce, 

you might want to start here: “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce”.


Paper #2: Informing the Other Person – The Summons and Service

Now, as lovely as it would be to go through the entire process without your spouse, legally, they need to know that you have filed for a divorce. They learn that you have filed for divorce through the service of the divorce paperwork. 

“Service” is when someone (every state has different laws on who this person can be) gives your spouse the first divorce papers. 

The service aspect of divorce is often a dramatic or awkward plot point in the media, with someone providing the protagonist with the divorce papers at a very inconvenient time. Regardless of how it gets there, your petition must make it to your spouse to give them notice and allow them to participate in the process.

If you’ve been the ONE hit with divorce papers, check out “What to Do When You Get Served with Divorce Papers.”

There are generally two papers being served, the petition and a summons. The summons tells the other person that you have filed a divorce and usually tells them what they need to do next and how long they have to do it. This might include the amount of time they have to respond if there is a preliminary court hearing and general directions for the process. Every state has different rules regarding the summons and court process. 


Do you ever wonder who else in the world could be thinking “divorce”? 

Read “What Percentage of Marriages End in Divorce?” to understand more about the nuances of the question and to realize, you’re not alone.


Paper #3: Responding – The Answer

After your spouse is served with the initial paperwork, it’s time for them to ask the court for what they want. There are two main ways an answer can happen. The first is that your spouse just doesn’t respond to the petition and summons. This means that they have chosen to stay out of the divorce process, and you will skip right to a “default judgment.” A default judgment is when the judge will finalize the process based on the petition.

The other option is for your spouse to participate in the case and fill out and file an answer. The answer is a written response to the petition. It tells the court exactly what they want out of the proceeding. The answer will either agree or disagree with the terms set out in the petition. Some states require an appearance form along with the answer. This tells you and the court that your spouse is taking part in the court case and that they want to go to court (think of it as the counterpart to the summons).

Like the petition, the answer and appearance forms must be filed with the court clerk, either in person, online, or by mail, and served to the other person. You must know what your spouse intends to argue for in the negotiation or court process.

Paper #4: The Final Decision, The Last Step, The Judgment 

After the long process of papers, negotiation, and stress, all you want is for the divorce to be done and over with. However, a divorce is not finalized until the judge gives the final order, called a judgment. 

This final judgment follows some form of discussion (whether it is a contested or uncontested divorce) about what each person will get from the divorce. Judges, lawyers, and most people prefer to keep divorces out of the courtroom, so they will often explore other negotiation options, like mediation and arbitration, before going to court.

Official Decision by the Court

After the couple has come to some form of an agreement, a judge must give the court’s official decision that officially grants the divorce.  This is most often done with lawyers or a mediator submitting the divorce draft agreement to the court for the court to then review and stamp (usually) with approval.

We recommend that every woman, no matter how she divorces, seek a private consultation with a divorce attorney. Learn your rights and what you are entitled to (even if you elect for DIY divorce) before you start splitting things up. (Yes, no matter what your spouse says.) We’re not saying spend a bundle, but you’ll want to know why you don’t want to search for cheap divorce lawyers in the process.

This final judgment or divorce judgment is the final paper in the divorce paper repertoire. However, like all aspects of life and divorce, it is not always so straightforward. After the judgment, there is always the option of modifying the terms of your divorce by a court order. You might want to modify aspects like property division, debt division, or alimony. In order to change a final ruling in a divorce, there generally needs to be some substantial change of circumstances. This can include: a job loss, one spouse has remarried, or one spouse is earning significantly more than they were at the time of the divorce.

Paper #5: Other Common Papers

Every divorce is different, so they will all have different papers that come with them. These can include property division forms, more complicated child custody or visitation forms, or alimony/marital maintenance forms. Every state has a different procedure and might have other forms accompanying a standard divorce. 

Conclusion

Divorces are full of complex paperwork. It is important to keep track of them and stay organized and informed on the different papers needed to complete a divorce in your state. This is key to making the process go as smoothly as possible. 

Notes

Elizabeth Newland is a third-year law student in Chicago who is committed to children and family rights. She aims to work in a family-related non-profit firm after graduation. 


Choose not to go it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

starting over after divorce at 50

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

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

But don’t take our word for it.

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

Lisa’s Story

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

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

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


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


CJ’s Story

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

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

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

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

Jill’s Story 

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

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


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


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

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

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

Debby’s Story

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

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

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

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

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


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


Val’s Story

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

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

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

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

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

Starting Over After Divorce at Age 50: Endless Possibilities

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

How to separate from your spouse by Pexels.com (1)

How to Separate from Your Spouse While Living Together

Perhaps your marriage is at a tipping point. It’s not working, but you’re not quite sure divorce is your end-game. You know you have choices (kind of). For one, you can keep living as you are and hope a coconut of wisdom will fall on your head. You can go ahead and file for divorce. You can separate and move out (or have your husband move out). Or you can separate from your spouse while living together.

At a time when the difficulty of making decisions is amplified by emotions and potential consequences, you are forced to choose.

Even not choosing is choosing.

Every situation is as unique as the people in it. The presence and number of children, financial status, employment, age, health, family and friends who can help, amicability—they all weigh in.

Regardless of what’s driving your marriage toward potential finality, you and your spouse have to decide about your living arrangements during the decision process.

This may seem on the surface to be a personal decision that belongs only to you and your spouse. But what you do and how you do it can have legal (and financial) consequences.


You may wish to consider “What Percentage of Marriages End in Divorce?”


So, we’re going to talk about an option that is largely misunderstood but often necessary.

If you’re going to separate from your spouse while living together, there need to be rules in place.

And everyone needs to follow them.

Obviously, an in-house separation, also called a “poor man’s separation,” won’t work if everyone doesn’t “play nice.”

The irony?

The very mindsets and behaviors that have taken a backseat in your marriage now have to take the wheel.

Healthy communication, respect, keeping your word, sacrifice — you can’t have a successful marriage without them.

You also can’t successfully separate from your spouse while living together without them, either.

Obviously, this kind of separation works only when spouses have a functional amount of amicability and mutual respect. 


Read “What is an Amicable Divorce? And 5 Ways to Ensure One.”


If there is abuse, active addiction, and/or constant fighting going on between spouses, safety (physical and emotional), it most likely calls for full separation.

The Benefits of Separation

Let’s talk about legality for a moment.

Separation can serve a variety of purposes.

Generally, it’s a “trial” period that gives spouses a “break” from their marriage to determine how to go forward.

Instead of simply pulling the plug during a high-emotion, high-conflict time, separation gives you an opportunity to cool down and reflect.

Separation can also give you enough distance to get a glimpse of what single life would be like beyond just the “freedom.” If absence makes the heart grow fonder, then, theoretically, two spouses who still love one another will resolve to make things work.

This is, at least in part, why some states have mandatory separation/”cooling off” periods before beginning the divorce process or before the process can be completed. The courts want to know that couples are making the life-altering decision of divorce with forethought, clarity, conviction, and necessary information.

Therefore, if you plan to separate from your spouse while living together, you still need to treat that time as a separation. 

Even if you’re unsure about divorce at this point, you can’t be wishy-washy about your separation–at least if you want it to “count.”

Here are some guidelines for creating an effective in-home separation:

  • Hire a family law attorney to help you draw up the details of a binding, legal separation.

    This may feel like an awkward step when you’re still living together. After all, who’s going to monitor you behind closed doors?

    But, if you are still in a place of uncertainty, you both need to protect all potential outcomes.

    Having an official, legal document in place will give you both a point of accountability.

    It will also start the clock on any mandatory separation (unless your state requires separate domiciles).


Be careful with the lawyer you meet with. Check out “Why You Don’t Want to Search for Cheap Divorce Lawyers.”


  • Be clear about the purpose of this separation.

    Are you going through all this hassle so you can inch your way out of your marriage? Or are you truly using this time to work on yourself and your marriage?

    Are you doing this to save money or for some other reason like children, health, or convenience?

    Will you be attending marriage counseling together? Individual therapy?

    Or will you both be preparing for the divorce process from the convenience of the same home? If so you may consider reading “Women Share How to Survive Living Together During Divorce.”

  • Set a starting and ending date.

    Dates are important for a couple of reasons.

    For you and your spouse, it’s a way of making sure everyone is on the same page. It gives you a timeframe in which to do your “separation work.”

    And it keeps you both on track for reconvening in order to determine the next steps for your marriage (or divorce).

    Legally, dates let the courts know that you have met any requirements for an uninterrupted (i.e. no accidental hanky-panky on a vulnerable night) separation.

  • Separate your sleeping spaces.

    If you’re going to separate from your spouse while living together, sleeping arrangements will be the first pragmatic to tend to.

    You may not have the luxury of unoccupied bedrooms, but there are always creative solutions. Converting a basement, attic room, or office are all options.

    You may even decide to take turns sleeping in the common home and staying with a family member or friend.

    Taking turns in the home can preserve some sense of normalcy and constancy for children. But it will take clear boundaries and scheduling by the parents.

  • Separate your finances.

    Whether you and your spouse come through this separation phase together or are destined for divorce, finances will play a major role.

    This is the time to open separate accounts, even if you keep a joint account open for common bills like mortgage, rent, and utilities.

    By having an attorney work with you on the terms of your separation, you can establish clear guidelines about who pays for what.

    If you’ve been out of the workforce because you’ve stayed home to care for children, you will need that financial clarity.

    If, in the end, you decide to divorce, financial records from your separation will be an important contribution to your settlement documentation.


Separating or not, you might want to read “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


  • Establish clear boundaries around everything.

    Are we going to eat together as a family? Who is going to cook on what night? Are we going to shop for our own food and take turns buying for the kids?

    Who will be responsible for what chores and what expenses?

    Are we going to talk when we’re in the house together, or only briefly in passing?

    Are we going to have defined times to be in and out of the house?

    How are we going to handle the kids’ functions?

    Who can know about our separation?

  • Establish custodial guidelines for caring for children.

    Telling the kids. Ugh. It’s inevitably one of the most difficult, awkward steps of both divorce and separation.

    And yet, if you’re going to separate from your spouse while living together, you need to handle this step with great care.

    Younger children, despite their natural ability to pick up on everything, may adapt well. As long as their world remains constant in terms of provisions and care, they aren’t likely to need deeper explanations.

    Teens, however, are in their own relationship-development phase and are more likely to internalize your relationship choices.

    Children of any age don’t need to know the details of your marital issues. But they do need to understand changes in the family dynamics.

    Even an assurance of your love for them and an explanation of the “rules and layout” of the separation can suffice.

    Be clear about who will be responsible for what aspects of child care – what days, what events, what needs.

    Will you divide up the week for things like cooking, bedtime story-reading, and homework assistance?

    Honor the schedule you create. Your children’s comfort depends on it.


Consider “How to Coparent When You Absolutely Hate Your Ex.”


  • Don’t start dating during this time. And definitely don’t bring dates or new love interests into the house.

    Some experts will acknowledge dating as an inevitable part of the separation. But think about it with the long term in mind.

    First of all, you are still legally bound to your spouse. Your assets, your children and custody, your freedom to remarry–everything is still bound in marriage.

    Second, you are living in the same house as your spouse, even under terms of separation.

    You may or may not reconcile, but why add the awkwardness? Why complicate a potential divorce process? Why put another person in the middle of your personal situation when you can’t offer the same relationship perks you want?

    And, especially, why confuse your children or add extra hurt to your spouse?

    Separation is supposed to be a time of reflection and decision.

    Even if you know you’re bound for divorce, both of you will still have a lot of work to do on yourselves, for your children, and for your healing.


It’s natural to wonder.

“Will Your Marital Separation Lead to a Divorce?”

Read more to understand where you’re at.


  • Respect the rules.

    In-house separation will ultimately be what you make it.

    If you and your spouse can’t be within a mile of one another without fighting, then you may need to move at least two miles apart.

    Hopefully, you have enough compassion and respect left between you that you can navigate this difficult arrangement successfully.

    If you’re divorcing a nice guy, you may find it difficult to keep the lines from getting fuzzy.

    If that’s the case, you may discover the motivation to work on your marriage instead of using separation as a prelude to divorce.

    Just be sure to respect the rules you have agreed on, for the time period you have established.

    You can always come back together to change them.

Separation, just like the marriage that led to it, is unique to every couple. It’s deeply personal, and its reasons are often more a series of blurred grays than a distinct black-and-white.

Choosing the option to separate from your spouse while living together offers both conveniences and challenges.

Ironically, the success of this separation arrangement relies on what may have been fading in the marriage in the first place: respect and communication.


Join us for Annie’s Group. 

SAS for Women’s powerful, three-month group coaching program for women thinking about… or just beginning the divorce process.  

Our goals are simple but life-changing in Annie’s Group. We want all participants to learn about their rights and their life options so they make decisions from an informed place. Making decisions from an informed, and thus empowered place, fosters healthier outcomes for everybody. 

Discover more about Annie here.

Essential things about Divorce in Illinois

6 Essential Things to Know About an Illinois Divorce

Divorce is confusing. What makes it even more confusing is that every state has different divorce laws. There is little to no standardization in divorce law across the country. To help yourself in the process, it is crucial that you know the specific divorce laws for your state, and an Illinois divorce has its own intricacies. Understanding the relevant laws allows you to focus on yourself and stop unneeded stress in its tracks. 

Let’s look at six essential things a woman must know about an Illinois divorce.

1. Grounds for Illinois Divorce

Grounds for divorce means the reason behind the divorce. In Illinois, one person does not need to be at fault for ending the marriage because it is a “no-fault” divorce state. No-fault means that you do not need to prove that one person’s bad acts caused the divorce. Illinois divorce takes away the legal finger-pointing for ending a marriage because the law does not require one person to take responsibility for the divorce.

Luckily, this means there does not have to be a reason for the divorce aside from wanting it. This also means that a court will generally not consider things like affairs or abandonment when looking at property division and child custody. However, this does not apply in cases of domestic violence. (If you are dealing with any form of abuse, you will want to read “Leaving an Abusive Marriage? There are Steps to Take.”

 A court will grant a divorce if there is an “irreconcilable difference,” meaning there are such significant differences or difficulties in the marriage that it is “irretrievably broken.” You can show irreconcilable differences in one of two ways: by proving that there is no way to repair the marriage, even though you have tried, or through a six-month separation. A court will consider spouses who have been separated for six months either within the same household or living apart as evidence of a breakdown of the marriage.


Check out, “What are Irreconcilable Differences? Do They Apply to You?”


2. Alternatives to Divorce: Difficult but Not Impossible

Divorce is the most common way to end a marriage in Illinois. It is very difficult to qualify for an alternative to divorce. However, the two alternatives to divorce are annulment and separation. An annulment says that a marriage was never valid and must fall into a strict category. The court must find that this marriage is not valid and was never valid, and the state should never have recognized it. There are only four reasons the court can annul a marriage in Illinois.

  • One spouse could not consent to be married. They cannot consent because of a mental disability, there is the undue influence of drugs or alcohol, or they were forced or tricked into marriage.
  • One spouse cannot have sexual intercourse, and the other spouse did not know about it at the time of the marriage.
  • One spouse was under 18 and did not have parental or judicial consent.
  • Or the marriage was illegal. In Illinois, the couple is closely related by blood, or one person is still married to someone else.

Legal Separation

The other alternative is a legal separation. Legal separation does not legally end the marriage, and it is not as simple as just separating from your spouse by living apart. It is a very technical term. A legal separation will allow the court to rule on child custody, support, and maintenance issues. It will not allow the court to rule on property division, and you cannot get remarried if you have a legal separation.

People might opt to get a legal separation in cases in which they might rely on their spouse’s benefits (like health insurance, social security, or pension), you are not fully ready for a divorce but know you legally need to be apart, or your religion prohibits divorce. If you get a legal separation, you can still file for a divorce if you choose to in the future (which you will need if you plan on eventually remarrying). For more on this, read “Choosing a Separation or a Divorce.”

3. Maintenance

Maintenance (also called alimony or spousal support) is rare in most divorce cases. First, the court will decide if this divorce requires alimony. The court will consider both parties’ emotional, physical, and mental conditions when determining if and how much maintenance it should award. As stated by Illinois law and the Bar association, the Illinois guidelines for maintenance are that maintenance awards are generally 30% of the paying spouse’s gross income minus 20% of the receiving spouse’s income. The court can always disregard the guidelines based on fairness factors that it deems important.


Understanding your finances and just how you will split things up is a good thing to speak to a financial person about. Check out, “Smart Moves for a Woman: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce.”

You may also wish to understand “Why You Don’t Want to Search for Cheap Divorce Lawyers,” when you are googling for legal support.


4. Residency and Waiting Period

To get a divorce, you or your spouse must be a resident of Illinois for at least 90 days before filing for a divorce. Only one person must be a resident of the state to file in Illinois.

Unlike many states, Illinois does not have a waiting period required to fill out the documents for a divorce. When you want a divorce, you or your lawyer can file it with the court immediately to start the process. 

5. Property Division: Equitable, Not Equal

Marital property includes every single thing (and debt) that you and your spouse acquired during the marriage. This consists of all physical items, like cars and houses, as well as intangible things like stocks, investments, and bank accounts. There are few exceptions to marital property. These include student loan debt, inheritance, and gifts. 

Illinois follows the equitable approach to property division. The equitable approach means that the court will divide all marital property equitably, which may or may not be an equal 50/50 split. The court can determine what is equitable based on the circumstances surrounding the items, and the marriage. It can consider each person’s financial contributions in getting the property and their personal financial situation.


Learn more about “Divorce Property Division: Community Property States v. Equitable Distribution States” if you are weighing which state to file your divorce in.


6. Child Custody 

Like most states, Illinois courts look at the child’s best interest in determining custody arrangements. The judge will look at all the factors to determine the best placement for the child. Illinois strongly believes that it is best for the child to have consistent and long-term contact with both parents after a divorce. Additionally, unless the child is older, they generally do not have a say about where they want to live; that is for the judge to decide. 

Unlike other states, Illinois law refers to child custody as “parental responsibilities.” Parental responsibilities refer to two different aspects of parenting, legal decision-making and parenting time. Decision-making accounts for who decides the child’s education, health, religion, extracurricular activities, etc. Unless the parents really cannot work together at all, both parents typically hold this power jointly. The other aspect is parenting time, in which the court will determine which parent will primarily physically care for the child.

Conclusion 

Illinois has many specific laws regarding divorce in the state. In order to make your divorce process as simple as possible, you need to fully understand the laws and nuances of your state. If you are wondering what other steps you could be taking to ensure your divorce goes as healthily as possible, we encourage you to consult “The 55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”

Notes

Elizabeth Newland is a third-year law student in Chicago who is committed to children and family rights. She aims to work in a family-related non-profit firm after graduation.

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

New names for your Ex

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

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

But few are terms we want kids to repeat. 

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

“Ex of a Lower Caliber”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


“Gametes Guy”

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

“Cicerone of the Cerebral-Rectal Inversion”

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

“Ever-Right”

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

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


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


“De-Manifestation”

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

Not the Silver Fox, “The Silverback”

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

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

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

“Massengil Man”

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

“The Void Droid”

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

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

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

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

“Chappaquick-d**k”

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

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


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


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

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

And the next chapter is EXCELLENT.

 

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

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

 



We want to hear from you! 

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

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

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

Send your suggestions to liza@sasforwomen or comment below.

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

 

 

 

same sex marriage and divorce in Australia

Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce in Australia

After more than a decade of formal parliamentary debate and 22 rejected Senate bills, same-sex marriage was legalized in Australia on December 9, 2017. This followed a voluntary postal survey of all Australians where 61.6% of respondents supported the legalization of same-sex marriage. The Marriage Amendment (Definition and Religious Freedoms) Act 2017 redefines marriage in Australia as:

“The union of two people to the exclusion of all others voluntarily entered into for life.”

I remember voting with the majority, and my Mum at 83 was also in favor of gay union as my partner and I had lived together for 15 years at that point and she loved Heather as another daughter. We were thrilled with the result that Australians chose, joining 30 other countries in the world by 2020 that have legalized same-sex marriage. Sydney, my home for 40 years, has been named one of the most gay-friendly cities in Australia—and the world.

A brief overview of same-sex marriage in the world…

There are records of marriage between people of the same gender dating back to the first century, but in the modern era, The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2000. In 1989, Denmark paved the way and established a ‘registered partnership’ status, granting people in same-sex relationships most of the rights given to married heterosexuals.

More than half of the countries allowing same-sex marriage are in Western Europe; in all of Asia and Africa, the most populated areas in the world, same-sex marriage is only legal in South Africa and Taiwan. Eleven countries such as Sudan, Pakistan, Iran, and Saudi Arabia currently execute LGBTIQ people and are not close to achieving marriage equality. In 2021, 71 countries criminalize homosexuality.

…and in Australia

The first same-sex marriage in Australia took place on December 15, 2017, and since then more than 14,000 couples have tied the knot. This represents approximately 5% of all marriages in Australia. There are more women marrying than men (58.9% to 41.1%) and the average age of a gay man to marry was 39.3 years versus 36.5 for women.

COVID-19 and marriage across the world

The pandemic abruptly slowed the number of all kinds of marriages across the globe in the key COVID months as social distancing restrictions affected group celebrations. Increases in unemployment and financial insecurity have meant the marriage rate is falling since 2020, adding to the downward trend.


Despite cultural differences, diverse locations, or disparate legal systems, our readers come to SAS for Women to honor themselves and their internal worlds. All of them take comfort in feeling less alone as they consider this life-changing decision, including the legal ramifications and the loss of status that divorce sometimes brings.

Learn more and watch our founder’s story in One Woman’s Journey.


As divorces are only granted typically 12 months after separation in Australia, the effect of COVID-19 on divorce rates is yet to be seen. Marriages typically break down over the school holidays and Christmas period when couples are together the most, so lockdowns would have exacerbated this effect. Immense financial pressures, home-schooling, and working from home contribute to the breakdown of marriages from 2020.

Same-sex marriage figures in Australia

Bearing in mind the marriage rate in Australia (and worldwide) has fallen since 2000 by more than 20% and more people are cohabiting as de facto rather than legalizing their union, what are the facts about same-sex marriage in Australia?

The 2016 Census (and latest available data) recorded just under 46,800 same-sex couples living together in Australia, a 39% increase since the 2011 Census. In 2019, there were 5,507 same-sex marriages and in 2020 there were over 2,500 same-sex marriages in Australia, mostly performed by civil celebrants as ministers of religion are generally less supportive of same-sex marriage.

De facto vs married?

For many years, Australian couples who lived in same-sex de facto relationships had similar protections as straight de facto couples under the various state and territory laws. The Australian federal Family Law Act 1975 covered de facto relationship breakdown—whether same-sex or heterosexual.

One major difference and obstacle for parties to a de facto relationship in Australia is that in a divorce/breakup, before commencing property proceedings they must prove the existence of their de facto relationship. Married partners only have to provide their marriage certificate to commence property proceedings.

Same-sex divorce in Australia

In 2019 in Australia there were 104 divorces of same-sex couples. This represented less than 1% of all Australian divorces. 70 divorces were female couples and 34 were male same-sex couples.

There are more marriages and divorces among lesbians since same-sex marriage in Australia was legalized. This is consistent with data showing that women initiate most of the heterosexual divorces in Australia too with 39% initiated by the wife and 28% by the husband, (with 34% a joint agreement). Some studies in the US have shown that lesbian marriages do not last as long as gay male marriages.

Important facts about same-sex divorce in Australia:

  • Divorce in Australia will be granted only to Australian citizens or citizens of descent, and to people who have been living in Australia for the past 12 months with the intention of continual residence.
  • You can only file a divorce application if you have been separated for a minimum of 12 months, which includes separation under the same roof.
  • You can apply for a divorce order, whether you both want it or only one of you does.
  • A divorce application is not the same thing as completing a property settlement or seeking orders for post-separation parenting arrangements.
  • You can apply for property settlement or spousal maintenance at any time before you file for divorce and up to one year following your divorce.
  • Australian law allows for a no-fault divorce. This means the Court does not consider the circumstances of the marital breakdown—it is sufficient that one or both parties state there is no chance of reconciliation.

Thinking about divorce? Your body will feel better if you actually do something, something that you will not regret ….Check out our “36 Things to Do if You Are Thinking About Divorce.”


Children

Many same-sex couples are bearing children, adopting children, and bringing children into their relationship conceived in the context of a heterosexual relationship. About 11% of gay men and 33% of lesbians have kids in Australia, and there are more than 10,000 children living with same-sex parents in the country.

If there are children of the marriage under 18 years of age you will need to provide particulars in your divorce application including housing, financial support, care arrangements, schooling, health, and contact arrangements with each parent.

Warning signs that your relationship is breaking down

If these signs are familiar to you, you can seek help to resolve the conflict:

  • you don’t do things together as much as before
  • you have recurring arguments about the same issues that are never resolved
  • one partner spends increasing time on interests and activities outside the relationship
  • you feel dissatisfied and unhappy
  • you have sex less often, or it isn’t what it used to be
  • there is a loss of warmth and friendliness in the relationship, one or both of you speak of no longer being in love
  • you feel tired and less able to meet responsibilities at work and at home
  • arguments about the children continue
  • one of you has an addiction problem that is affecting the relationship.

Organizations such as Relationships Australia or registered psychologists and counselors can help you, on your own or with your partner, to come to terms with difficulties you are facing in your marriage. As 33% of all marriages conclude in divorce in Australia (50% in the USA) these issues are likely to affect you, your family, or your friends.


If you are thinking about … or beginning the divorce process, you will want to consider Annie’s Group, our powerful group coaching program for women across the world.


If your same-sex marriage is no longer viable

Apart from seeing couples’ counselors or marriage guidance therapists if you are working through a relationship breakdown, if divorce is your ultimate decision, then a divorce coach may be the best advisor to let you know how you might organize and structure your divorce steps.

If you decide to end your same-sex marriage

In contrast to the United States, applying for divorce in Australia can be as simple as preparing your own divorce application or asking a family lawyer to do it for you. A fee of $940 is payable if you are not eligible for a reduced fee of $310.

Divorce in Australia will typically take approximately four months before the court will grant it. This is the time from the point of the first application to the issue and finalization of the divorce order. The most common percentage split in the division of assets in Australia is 60/40.

Lance Tapsell, a marriage celebrant in Australia who has officiated for 10 years and has married a number of same-sex civil unions in that time, is hopeful gay divorce rates will be lower than their straight counterparts He said, “I think that gay couples would probably take their wedding or marriage a lot more seriously because they had to fight so hard to get it.”

Notes

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

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

What to do if your husband leaves you

9 Kick-Ass Things To Do If Your Husband Leaves You

Adulting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when painful adult experiences throw you back into an emotional childhood. If your husband leaves you, for example, you may feel the somatic eruption of memories from long ago. Abandonment. Disapproval. Rejection. Being unwanted… and the last to be chosen (if chosen at all).

It’s remarkable, really, how instantly a painful experience can connect the dots separated by a veritable lifetime.

Your psyche, though, never forgets. It stores the most affecting memories in every cell of your body.

Even if your husband leaves you and you have no point of reference for the emotional flood, the abandonment will still be all-consuming.

And with that abandonment and the litany of emotions tied to it comes a wave of destruction to all that is self-defining.

Your self-esteem, your self-worth, your self-confidence, your dreams for the future, your belief that you can survive…even your identity. They all take a beating.

Perhaps the most egregious feeling that comes from abandonment is powerlessness. 

With the swipe of one person’s actions, you become helpless to control a huge part of your own life. And you’re left standing alone with that new reality.

Is there anything you can do to re-empower yourself if your husband leaves you?

You know, don’t you, that we are here to restore the inherent yes in your life?

This is the place where others who have already earned their stripes are going to surround you and lift you up with a resounding “Absolutely!”

Here are 9 powerful things you can do now if your husband leaves you and you are feeling powerless:

  1. Be TOO proud to beg.

    It doesn’t matter what your husband has done or why he has chosen to leave. In the movie Where the Heart Is, Ashley Judd’s character says to a young mom-to-be (Natalie Portman), “I know [he] left you. But that’s what makes him trash, not you.”

    If your husband leaves you, he does so with forethought and planning. And trust us, you are above begging for that kind of base energy to come back into your life.

    Do. Not. Beg.

  2. Document, document, document.

    This isn’t about revenge – although success and happiness earned through integrity make for the suh-weetest revenge!

    This is about being smart and protecting yourself and your children.

    If you’re going to have to look out for yourself going forward, the time to rehearse is now.

    Save everything. Documents, emails, texts, voice messages (let your voicemail pick up instead of answering your phone), pictures, everything.

    Keep a dedicated journal for documenting dates, times, communication, and financial actions.

    Basically, be a grown-up Girl Scout: Be prepared. You’ll reap the merit badge in the battle to come. Read our “If You are Thinking About Divorce: Important Steps to be Prepared.

  3. Think like a lawyer, but hire a really good one.

    This isn’t the time to DIY your future. There is too much at stake if your husband leaves you.

    Chances are he has been preparing for a while, and that means you have catching up to do.


For both healthy and smart things to do if you are thinking about divorce, or not wanting to be taken advantage of, read our “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


It’s important that you learn to separate your emotions from the pragmatics of this severance.

By researching how to find a divorce attorney and in particular the right one for you, you will learn how to prepare for the most advantageous outcome.

  1. Join a support group, or two… or three.

    This is a time when you need support.You need the professional support of legal and financial experts. And you also need the emotional support of others who have been where you are.

    Be prudent about where and with whom you share this journey.

    Consider hiring a female divorce coach to keep you on-track through this painful and confusing journey.

    And join a group or two (one online and one in person, perhaps) to give you a sense of empathetic community.

    Annie’s Group, for example, is an online divorce support group and program for women who are thinking about or just beginning divorce. What a godsend opportunity to surround yourself with assurance, compassion, and guidance in a confidential place.

  2. Keep the details off social media.

    As I mentioned above, prudence is key at this time. You want support. You need support.

    And you also probably want to drag your husband through burning coals, literally and figuratively.

    But let’s review the previous two points: Think like a lawyer…and seek support in the right places.

    It’s all part of the next point…

  3. Take the high road.

    Remember Michelle Obama’s famous tagline? When they go low, we go high.

    Politics and political preference don’t even matter. It’s an awesome mantra to live by, no matter what the circumstances are.

    Taking the high road has nothing to do with acquiescence or playing weak.

    It has everything to do with staying out of the muddy trenches and connecting your energy only to people and choices of integrity.

    Never, ever, ever doubt that staying on high ground will deliver the best results.

    You may feel the temporary agony of delayed gratification, but stay true to what is right and good.

  4. Protect your kids and prepare for their future.

    If you have difficulty standing up for yourself or fighting for what you deserve, think about your kids (if you have them).How you navigate the aftermath if your husband leaves you is about more than just getting through the divorce process. You need to look far down the road while also checking your rear-view mirror.

    Children are expensive. They need health insurance, food, clothes, tuition, activity fees, college funds, and on and on.

    This is one of the most important reasons to build the strongest professional team you can afford.

  5. Find a new place to live.

    No matter how much you love your home, clinging to it will only keep you attached to someone who has abandoned you.This is the time to recreate yourself and your life.

    Give yourself permission to enjoy the creative process of choosing and nesting in a new place that belongs only to you (and your kids).

    Sure, you may have to downsize for the time being. But that just means less “stuff” to take care of while you do the following…

  6. Take really good care of you.

    If your husband leaves you, he may or may not ever look back.

    While it’s natural to want him to miss you and regret his actions, you are now in the process of clearing out his negative energy.

    Practicing self care is no longer about making his head turn in desire or regret.

    It’s about stepping out of rejection and abandonment with limitless energy, health, and self-confidence.

    Your kids need you, your friends need you, you need you.

    So, whatever that self-care looks like—exercise, good food, sound sleep, continuing education, spirituality/religion, hobbies, social gatherings—do it.

    Consistently.

Abandonment is a vile, passive-aggressive form of rejection. It hurtsdeeply. And the wound doesn’t simply “heal” with time.

While there is no panacea for that kind of betrayal, one truth will ground you so you can step forward into healing:

The only abandonment with the power to destroy you is the abandonment of yourself.

And the only vow that must unequivocally last a lifetime is the “I do” you say to you.

Notes

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

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

Irreconcilable differences

What are Irreconcilable Differences? Do They Apply to You?

Legal language concerning divorce is often hard to decipher. So when you stumble upon the term “irreconcilable differences,” it can take some time to get to the bottom of it. What is it? Should you use it in your divorce? What benefits can it bring you?

Read on to find out.

What’s the Meaning of Irreconcilable Differences?

Some of you may recall a 1984 movie of the same name. One of the lead characters, a 9-year-old girl, asked the court for divorce from her parents on the grounds of “irreconcilable differences.” Her main argument was that she’s tired of being neglected, forgotten, and taken for granted.

Our reality isn’t too far from this comedy-drama film. We use this phrase to denote that the spouses cannot find any reasons to continue living together.

Let’s look at the definition of irreconcilable differences provided by California Family Law, § 2311.

“Irreconcilable differences are those grounds which are determined by the court to be substantial reasons for not continuing the marriage and which make it appear that the marriage should be dissolved.”

Several states, such as New York and Massachusetts, also use “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage” to refer to the same notion.

What are Examples of Irreconcilable Differences?

Among the most cited examples of irretrievable breakdown of marriage are the following:

  1. Disputes about having children.

Every person has certain expectations when they get married. But unfortunately, not all couples discuss the future of their relationships, especially children. And when the honeymoon period ends, it turns out that one person wants to have two or three kids, while the other doesn’t want any. Even if everything else is perfect, these child-related differences can strain a marriage.

  1. Change of views and lifestyle.

A real-life example of lifestyle changes is when one spouse becomes unemployed and has no intention or ambition to find a new job. Even if money is not an issue, it’s very annoying to the other spouse (especially if it’s a woman) to see their partner lying on the couch all day long. (Check out, “Breadwinning Moms Face an Uphill Battle When Married and Divorcing”.) As for men, many of them leave their beloved wives when they stop feeling attracted to their wives physically. It’s an unfortunate reality.

  1. Disputes about how to raise children.

If parenting styles were the same for everyone, there wouldn’t be many conflicts between the parents. But instead, each parent draws on their unique childhood experience and wants to implement it when raising their kids. If the spouses can’t compromise on how to combine two parenting styles, their relationship can worsen with each new collision.

  1. One spouse mistreats the other.

One of the spouses is contemptuous of the values and desires of the other. They show their displeasure with the other spouse’s behavior, status, and earning capability. Over time, this attitude begins to cause strong rejection in the oppressed person and becomes the reason for divorce. Note that we’re not talking about physical or emotional abuse in this example. There are specific grounds for divorce provided in family law when a person suffers cruel treatment.

  1. Issues with in-laws.

It’s not uncommon for a husband’s or wife’s relatives to interfere with the couple’s life. It is especially noticeable in families forced to live together with their in-laws. If the partner whose extended family gets in the way of a happy marriage lets it slide, the other spouse will want a divorce sooner or later.

  1. Sexual incompatibility.

Another example of irreconcilable differences in marriage is incompatible sexual drives. Couples can split because of a lack of sex or its unsatisfactory quality. Such issues occur in almost 15% of marriages. But since the spouses don’t want to publicly announce the real reasons for divorce, they use irreconcilable differences.

  1. Different religious or political views.

Many conflicts can also arise from different political views. For example, according to the IFS studies, marriages between a Republican and a Democratic Party supporter make up only 9% of all U.S. marriages. And if we talk about religion, the problems of an interfaith marriage most often include conflicts about the child’s faith and difficulty communicating with the in-laws, already mentioned above.


To understand how to sequence things, what comes first, what comes second, and how to protect what is fair to you, check out our important “55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


Irreconcilable Differences & No-Fault Divorce

The last state to adopt no-fault grounds was New York. It happened in 2010. These days, irreconcilable differences are widely used as no-fault grounds for divorce in all fifty states. The main reason for this is the desire for privacy and faster divorce proceedings.

Filing for Divorce Based on Irreconcilable Differences

Starting a divorce on no-fault grounds is undoubtedly easier than blaming each other for a marriage breakdown.

The conditions to file for a no-fault divorce include:

  1. The petitioner (the person who files divorce papers with the court) must state “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for marriage dissolution in the petition. Some states, such as New Jersey, require these differences to occur and continue for six months before filing for divorce. If neither party objects to the no-fault grounds, the court will proceed with the case.
  2. The couple must meet the state’s residency requirements so that the court can have jurisdiction over the case. It almost always refers to a specific period that one spouse must live within the state’s borders before starting legal action. For example, in California and Texas, the waiting period is six months, and in Georgia and Missouri, it is 30 days.
  3. Spouses with irreconcilable differences must agree on divorce terms and draft a settlement agreement. It should include provisions concerning child custody and support, property division, and alimony. The spouses should also file a Parenting Plan, specifying the child’s time with each parent, financial aid, and other child-related issues.

Do You Need a Lawyer?

In theory, family law allows anyone to commence a legal action without a lawyer. The same goes for legal representation in court. It’s not necessary to hire an attorney to present your case to a judge. You can do it independently, especially if your divorce is uncontested. (Read “What’s the Difference Between an Uncontested and Contested Divorce?”)

Those people who proceed without an attorney are called pro se litigants. Most of them are couples filing for a no-fault divorce since it’s less complicated than a fault divorce. Plus, conflictual cases are usually highly intricate and require at least legal advice, not to mention full-scope lawyer involvement.

Essentially, if a couple believes they can avoid conflict in court and trust each other (e.g., no one is hiding any assets), they can go pro se.

If there’s the slightest doubt about the other person’s sincerity, the spouses should seek legal counseling.

Here’s a checklist to understand whether you should hire a lawyer or not. You can do without one if at least half of the following is true:

  • neither of you blames each other for the marriage breakdown
  • you agree with your spouse about divorce terms
  • you don’t have substantial property or debt
  • your marriage was short
  • you want to end your marriage peacefully
  • you trust your spouse.

Divorce Papers for Couples with Irreconcilable Differences

As a rule, documentation for couples with irreconcilable differences is less complicated than in fault-based cases. The forms include a petition (complaint) for divorce, a settlement agreement, a parenting plan, and other papers. Couples with children usually have slightly more paperwork than couples without kids.

A settlement agreement is probably the most influential document to reconcile differences in divorce. But it also requires a great deal of consideration since the terms will be hard to change once the divorce is granted. For example, a person who wants to modify child custody or support will have to file a motion with the court and attend additional hearings.

The Benefits of Choosing Irreconcilable Differences

Why is filing for a no-fault divorce using irreconcilable differences so popular? For some spouses, it is the best choice because of the following:

  • lower legal expenses
  • you can file without a lawyer
  • no need to prove the other person’s misconduct
  • more privacy since the law doesn’t require explaining what exactly caused the breakup
  • less complicated divorce documentation
  • more control over the outcome
  • faster divorce process
  • more chances to maintain civilized relationships after divorce

Should You Go with Irreconcilable Differences in Your Divorce?

Taking all the benefits into account, you can consider a no-fault option if:

  • you had a relatively peaceful marriage and now want to part ways because you can’t find a reason to stay or feel stuck
  • neither you nor the other party did anything wrong that caused the marriage breakdown
  • you’re sure that all the divorce terms you and your spouse agreed to are in your best interests.

How do you know if the divorce terms you and your spouse are thinking about are in your best interest? It’s always wise to have a private, educational consultation with a divorce attorney to hear what your rights are and what you are entitled to BEFORE you start splitting things up. Read “Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney at a Consultation.”


Conclusion

Choosing irreconcilable differences as the reason for divorce is wise for many couples. It saves nerves, time, money, and energy. But make sure you’re not missing any essential aspects, which can lead to unexpected circumstances. You’ll want to make sure your divorce is genuinely no-fault.

Notes

Jamie Kurtz is a divorce lawyer and a member of the LA County Bar Association and the State Bar of California. She’s a co-founder of a law firm dealing with uncontested divorces and a contributing writer for OnlineDivorce.com, an online divorce papers preparation service.

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

stop gaslighting yourself

5 Self-Saving Ways to Stop Gaslighting Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

His endgame?

To steal his wife’s inheritance.


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


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

It’s a power-play.

Gaslighter’s Tactics

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

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

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

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

…even when you are gaslighting yourself.

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

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


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


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

What does this have to do with relationships and divorce?

Possibly everything.

Gaslighting and Divorce

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

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

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

“Maybe I need help.”

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

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

Here are five suggestions for how to stop gaslighting yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Speak to yourself with externalizing affirmations.

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

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

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

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

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

    Your feelings are as worthy as anyone else’s.

    Your reality is as worthy as anyone else’s. 

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


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


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

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

And recognition is the first step in healing.

 

Notes

How to stop gaslighting yourself?

In two words. 

Annie’s Group.

Learn what is possible for your life.