Woman walking on beach thinking about divorce

36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woman looking out window

Your Inner Voice and the 9 Warning Signs of Divorce

It’s funny because it’s true: If it were easy to hear our inner voice, there wouldn’t be so many of us reminding each other how to do it.

And when that voice is telling us that something is rotten in the state of our marriage, or simply that we just don’t fit inside it anymore and we really do need to grasp the nettle, upend our entire life, and end our relationship, we go looking for warning signs of divorce—anything that tells us that it’s truly necessary.

That’s okay. It’s smart and reasonable to investigate the warning signs of divorce when facing that all-encompassing life change. You wouldn’t build a house without a foundation; informing yourself of what the common signs of divorce are lays the stones of your foundation in place. It helps you feel logical and rational during a moment when you might feel anything but.

From the author Carolyn Myss’ advice to “follow your scariest guidance” to Joseph Campbell’s principle of “following your bliss,” it seems as though there are almost as many recommendations to listen to the quiet voice of our spirits as there are people in the world.

That’s because it bears repeating:

That gut instinct is difficult to hear. The voice of our true self, the bigger version of us, the divine, the call, our souls, a higher power, whatever you call it (and it seems that most of us have at least some sense that “it” is there, within and without), is not only quiet and hesitant at first, but we also tend to keep a lid on it because it scares us.

The noise of daily life can be so raucous and distracting—and of course, to a certain extent, we all like our distractions because they help keep us dog paddling in comfortably small circles and our egos too tickled, or tortured, to move. Like a corral, distractions and demands keep us penned up in predictability and apparent safety, surrounded by the familiar voices of our social norms, our families and our peers, muffling the inner voice until we can shrug it off as if we were just imagining it.

We’re not.

Heeding the inner voice

We can try to keep the inner voice quiet, try to cling to the illusion that it’s the illusion, just our imagination running wild. But we’re not imagining it. The voice of the less constrained self, the most authentic, unbound, bursting-out-of-the-corset part of us is there, whispering, urging, beckoning.

The difficulty isn’t so much in hearing it as heeding it.

But, when we do that and do it consistently—often summoning all of our courage and fighting back our worst self-doubting, self-limiting behaviors, beliefs and relationship patterns to do so—is when it gets loud and clear.

We have so much hope tied up in marriage, so much invested in it and long-term partnerships where property, finances, and children are part of the bond. When marriage is good, it is very, very good. But when it is bad…yep, it’s horrid. Now if it started off horrid, right out of the wedding reception gate, it might be easier to shake it off and move on. Let’s do a Horrid Hypothetical just for fun—something Gothically awful. Like, his other wife from a marriage he’s been hiding and lying to you about all along comes rolling up to the curb, right behind your streamer-bedecked ride to the airport as you surge forth, freshly avowed in your white princess dress while your wedding guests blow kisses and shower you with birdseed, and starts throwing red paint all over you for trying to take her man while a Jerry Springer camera crew films the whole thing.

If it went like that, divorce would be an obvious choice. You’d be out of the marriage faster than the dress, and your entire posse of family and friends would rally around you instantly; you’d have no qualms at all. No signs would be needed. But that’s not the way it goes, and we do need to confirm the warning signs of divorce. It’s more like the frog in the frying pan scenario. Toss a frog in a hot pan and it jumps right out, but put it in a cool pan and gradually increase the heat…

Some common warning signs of divorce

It’s usually not obvious. It’s the gradual going wrong that is more typical of marriages that need to end, and it’s the subtle signs, not the Gothically awful, that tell us it’s time to make that happen. Until the inner voice becomes loud and clear and we do as she says with a lot less hesitation, we should identify the signs of heat (and not the fun kind) rising:

  1. Communication breakdowns are pervasive, whether that is chronic defensiveness, criticism, or contempt.
  2. Indifference feels like the rule rather than the exception. You get the feeling that they just don’t care if you’re in the room or not, or vice versa. It takes a crisis to get a mate’s full attention and when it’s over, they drift away again, having checked it off their to-do list.
  3. And while we’re on the to-do list, another sign of impending divorce is when sex becomes an item on that list, more of a task than something that excites and enriches, expresses a fundamental attraction, that draws you out of yourself and your skin with passion and arousal and creates a lovely, sexy bond between the two of you.
  4. The distancing expands to include not just a drop-off in the sexual exchanges but a drop in your desire simply to be in their company. You begin to live more like roommates.
  5. Distancing turns into an outright aversion to being around them.
  6. Your sense of responsibility to that other person begins to feel like an obligation rather than a joy or a gift of time and energy, done with what used to be compassion or at least graciousness.
  7. An addiction or habitual, non-constructive behavior takes precedence over your mate.
  8. You begin to look for—and find—emotional connection with others, which can become emotional affairs.
  9. Sexual affairs—cheating—become justifiable in your mind and perhaps even occur. (This warning sign is not so subtle).

For the most part, though, the signs are subtle, but even more subtle is that inner voice, the song of our authentic self. That voice is quiet, unassuming—at least until we start tuning out the dissonance so we can hear it.

Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, Ph.D. writes about this voice, the archetype it belongs to, in her book “Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.”

“I call her Wild Woman, for those very words, wild and woman, create llamar o tocar a la puerta, the fairy-tale knock at the door of the deep female psyche…When women hear those words, an old, old memory is stirred and brought back to life. The memory is of our absolute, undeniable, and irrevocable kinship with the wild feminine, a relationship which may have become ghostly from neglect, buried by over-domestication, outlawed by the surrounding culture, or no longer understood anymore. We may have forgotten her names, we may not answer her when she calls ours, but in our bones we know her, we yearn toward her, we know she belongs to us and we belong to her.”

Thankfully, the wild, unbound woman inside us all never stops whispering.

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

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

A person considering a marriage annulment or divorce

What is the Difference Between a Marriage Annulment and Divorce?

A marriage annulment may seem like a thing of the past, but the legal process is still very much alive and could be an alternative to divorce.

Annulment of a marriage can take place in both religious and secular societies, although it may be more common in the former. To put it simply, an annulled marriage is a marriage that never happened. It’s void, or voidable, when the marriage took place. Marriages can be considered void for several reasons. But a divorce recognizes that, although the couple is now legally separated, the marriage did take place and was valid at the time.

If you’re thinking about ending your marriage, it’s important to note that laws surrounding a marriage annulment can vary greatly, both from country to country and even within nations. Laws within the US and the UK, for example, differ from each other.

What is an annulment?

Not all places have such a thing as a marriage annulment, and where they do, the laws, processes, and reasons a couple might seek a voided marriage vary greatly. In Wales, for instance, there are restrictions on marriage annulments, and they must normally take place within three years of the date of marriage. In the US, annulments occur for reasons like fraud, bigamy, duress, underage marriage, marriage between close relatives, and mental incapacity (even mental incapacity caused by intoxication, in many states).

Time is also a factor. Normally—although not always—an annulment takes place within the first few years of the marriage. It makes sense that if misrepresentation (see below) is a reason for annulment, that the couple would separate soon after discovering the misrepresentation rather than remaining with a partner. On the other hand, the choice to remain in the marriage could make annulment more difficult, as one partner did consent to remain in the relationship rather than separating. A court may view divorce as a more viable option in this case. But again, it depends on location. In New York state, a marriage could be voidable if there was substantial misrepresentation up to three years after it was discovered.

The history

It may be considered unjust that while a divorce is available to all, annulments are only available to some. The notorious Henry VIII had many marriages annulled, after all. But even in modern times, the examples that come to mind tend to be celebrities (Britney Spears, anyone?) and not so much the everyday people we interact with in our daily lives. But a marriage annulment isn’t available to only the rich and powerful.

Historically, in countries with heavy religious backgrounds or where divorce is not legal, this may be (or may have been) the only option. In some religions, a tribunal must decide whether a marriage was “in some way lacking from the beginning.” The principal is broadly similar—the marriage was not valid at the time; therefore, it is not valid now.

Who may get an annulment as opposed to a divorce?

Although religion does play a part (for example, those with dissolved marriages in the Catholic church can remarry in the church), this is not always the case.

If a partner is dishonest about any of the following: current marital status, having children with a previous partner, intentions of having children (or lack thereof), having a sexually transmitted infection at the time of marriage, criminal history, religion, or any other substantial fact, these could all be treated as grounds for annulment rather than divorce (depending on location). Once again, it comes down to whether the other person would have agreed to the marriage, having known the facts, at the time. Or if a partner was aware of the situation but induced the other partner into thinking that they were happy to proceed with the marriage despite those facts (an example might be a woman who was aware of a man having fathered children with previous partners, only to change her mind later).

Is it necessary or a thing of the past?

The result could be the same. If a married couple who divorces has children, divorce proceedings would decide things like custody, visitation rights, etc. as well as dividing the couple’s assets.

In the case of annulment, let’s say for misrepresentation, the courts may look more favorably at the partner who was misrepresented. The misrepresented facts normally must be substantial (as previously mentioned: dishonesty about marital status, children from previous relationships, criminal history, sexually transmitted infections, religion, or fraud). Misrepresentation is often one key difference between annulment and divorce.

The local or national laws in your area are most likely to dictate whether a marriage annulment is possible for you and what rights partners who have annulled marriages might have. While some may argue that annulments are a thing of the past or only relevant in religious societies, others will argue their advantages in the 21st century. Knowing that your marriage was not valid might provide some comfort and make it easier to start over or find a new partner. But since every relationship is different, the decision to have a marriage annulled or to get divorced is one that couples need to make for themselves.

Beatrix Potter is a professional writer at Write My Essay and Do My Homework writing services. Bea writes about relationships. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, running and reading a wide range of genres.

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.

Contemplating divorce and coronavirus

Divorce in the Time of Coronavirus: 30 Ways to Be Prepared and Stay Committed to You

There is a lot of uncertainty right now due to the coronavirus. Things seem to be changing by the hour. But here are 30+ ways women considering or affected by divorce can use extended time at home to take care of themselves — and their families. When the coronavirus (COVID-19) is at last behind us, and as humanity heals, adapts and grows, we want women everywhere to remain on track and committed to their healthiest selves.

If you’ve been thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recovering from it, anxiety and fear are nothing new to you. But now with COVID-19, anxiety and fear are a different punch altogether, causing our mechanism for survival to shift gears. For some, the response will trigger a desire to lean away from divorce and all that they’ve been contemplating. Now is no time to do it, some women will tell themselves. The kids are suddenly home and need tending to. Both parents might also be home, in fact, and working overtime to compensate for the drastic disruptions and time out of the workplace. Private time and space are compromised, if they exist at all. We are in survival mode or burying a crisis inside a crisis. For others, this increased time “trapped” inside our homes with a spouse we’re already at odds with may push us to a breaking point, as suggested in China with the recent spike in divorce rates being linked to the coronavirus.

Understand the temperature in your house.

This post is about centering you and to remind you that wherever you are — in your marriage, divorce, or life-after-divorce — your circumstances are real, they are valid, and they will not simply disappear because the coronavirus is here.

In fact, your circumstances may grow more agitated unless you are mindful of taking steps to acknowledge your emotions and your commitment to how you want to be as you go through this health crisis. Below are important must-knows and suggestions for coping depending on where you are in your journey of dealing with the idea, or the fact of divorce and the coronavirus. Included as well are special mentions to mothers.

Must-knows when dealing with divorce and coronavirus

When stress and anxiety are in the air—when our families, health, and jobs are on the line—things will get ramped up.

For women, especially, it’s important to know that during such circumstances, mental health issues surge and domestic violence goes up. Your safety may become a real concern.

If you are a survivor of abuse and currently forced to live with your abuser in this extended time at home, read this page now for safety suggestions.

If you experience or are a survivor of abuse or would like to talk to someone to understand what abuse is, we urge you to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

For all of us, expect things to get stressful. Understand what you are doing and teaching your family about social distancing and what to do if you become sick or are suddenly caring for someone who is sick. To keep yourself together, make plans for how you will handle your stress. We believe the following will help you. Keep reading …

Thinking about divorce

  1. When you can, make a plan on how you will learn more about your rights and what you are entitled to, and what an independent life might look like—whether you divorce or not. You may not be able to schedule a legal or divorce coach consultation right away, for lack of privacy, but you can research on the internet whom you might speak to once you are free to make calls and hear feedback. If possible as well, you might prepare for these meetings by getting financial documents together or your questions organized.
  2. Set up a secret email address dedicated to this subject, and keep this subject segregated to that email address only. If you are a woman, join our tribe and receive our free, weekly coaching letter that will keep you, discretely, honoring yourself for the next six months.
  3. For now, the internet remains intact, and we are grateful for that! But be careful about turning to your computer to answer your life questions. In this new phase of social isolation, it will be easy to fall down the Google Rabbit Hole and overanalyze the news and, in particular, options for your life—legally, financially, and every which way. Turning to Google to research your divorce options risks making you more anxious because you will never obtain the direct answers or exact numbers you so critically need to make informed decisions. You require specific feedback on your direct circumstances and issues.
  4. Which is why having direct, private consultations are so important to your future. But you may not be able to pull it off just yet. Be kind to yourself—reading this post alone is helping you manage your expectations of what is and is not possible right now. Take baby steps if you can, but be flexible.
  5. Some women derive great comfort from an ongoing connection with other women during times of stress. Whom are you turning to? In Annie’s Group—for women thinking about divorce, and for women who are beginning the divorce or separation process—the virtual live coaching program is consistently running, providing a safe, structured outlet for participants to get educated on their genuine life choices. Women feel personally supported through the Sister Partnerships and through the private, virtual consultations and coaching they receive. They are also reassured that no one is on camera and if they are unable to attend all classes, that each class is recorded.

For mothers contemplating or dealing with divorce

  1. Staying committed to you means making sure your children are as stabilized as possible during these uncertain times. This is not taking you off track. It’s reminding you of what’s important—the healthiest environment for everybody.
  2. When we’re dealing with divorce, there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to decision-making, which is why it’s important to …

    Stay focused on your goals. You will rarely go wrong if you think about what you want for your children. Really think about it. Realize as well that your children are dependent on you for securing the healthiest environment possible—in times of stress and uncertainty due to external forces, like coronavirus and schools closing, and the ongoing temperature of what they are experiencing in your house, unique to your marriage and family dynamic.

  3. The CDC has good information on preparing you, your children and your house. Share this with your spouse or coparent and talk about plans of actions for your shared house or your house and his*.
  4. Don’t take any unnecessary risks right now. You and your children may not be showing any signs of the virus, but you could still be carriers. Think about your elderly neighbors or your older family members. Stay safe and keep them safe.

Dealing with divorce

  1. If you are still living under the same roof with your spouse, these “uncertain times” are reinforcing more of what you know, and chances are, the reasons you are getting divorced. So, caution. It was always going to be hard living together during these negotiations, but now with seeing each other all the time (if practicing social distancing and working from home), it could be the recipe for toxic overload.
  2. Consider broaching the subject now with your spouse. You might share that you realize this is hard for both of you, living together and trying to figure out how you are going to part, but that you are committed to trying to stay as healthy as possible.And part of staying as healthy as possible is staying home and out of contact with others and not triggering each other.

  3. What boundaries can you put in place to honor each other’s needs or requests during these times? Can you put it in writing so it’s more thoughtful and psychologically binding? Perhaps neither one of you can do it for the other, but if you have children, express your commitment to trying to keep the atmosphere as healthy as possible for them.
  4. And if it’s just you and him, accept that you have no control over his actions but how you act could encourage him. Knowing the risks in advance will help you get centered and anchored for yourself. Find outlets away from him to vent. (See below.)

Legal and financial considerations…

  1. If you are working with a lawyer or mediator or talking with a financial person, email/call them to learn how your legal process may be affected by what is going on. You might use phone or video conferencing to keep your negotiation process moving.
  2. If you become sick in advance of your court date, you could contact your lawyer or spouse to ask for a continuance. If he agrees, you can submit a form requesting that the court change the hearing date. If your spouse is not amenable, contact the court’s clerk and share that you are sick. Ask next steps.
  3. If you or your spouse become ill and you are due to go to court, contact your doctor first and then your lawyer or the court clerk. You should not appear in court if you are sick. Often local courts have their own specific instructions. So, call the court’s family law clerk to learn what you must do. This is to say nothing about the distinct possibility that very soon the courts near you may be closed for a spell anyhow.

Coparenting through coronavirus

  1. Coparenting is often challenging in the best of times, let alone now. But more than ever, communication is key. One of the best ways to deal with the parent of your children is to “stick to the facts” style of communication. Lose the technicolor or salty language and try to present your information in a black and white, neutral way.

  2. Begin by sharing the CDC website for your state, and print out the latest recommendations to discuss with your coparent.
  3. Or you could contact your pediatrician and ask for their suggestions right now and share those with your coparent.
  4. Talk with your coparent, with each of you agreeing to share if someone you know has been exposed to COVID-19 and to keep your child away from that person.
  5. Teach your child good hygiene and proper hand-washing techniques. Teach them not to touch their face and to practice hand washing wherever they are—at school, at their other parent’s house, at your home.
  6. Teach them as well about the importance of protecting others. Again, think about how you would feel if an elderly person near you became ill.
  7. Consult the CDC website for up to date information and with your coparent, try to develop a longer-range family plan that is activated if your community faces a severe outbreak For example, if your child resides between two homes, decide where the child will primarily reside if the health crisis is growing in your community and people must stay indoors.

Rebuilding after divorce

  1. This can be a particularly tough time for a lot of us as we look around and see that we are now truly alone. As the dust keeps settling, it can be sobering to realize where we are in our life journey, starting again or feeling like it’s all ending. But make no mistake, this leveling is also a beginning—the beginning of building ourselves anew, coronavirus notwithstanding. It is the beginning of aligning ourselves with the people we want in our life and, especially, the people we want to be.
  2. More than ever, it’s important to find community—this means other like-minded souls who have reinvented or are actively seeking to grow. Take this opportunity to download Zoom for free so you can connect with old friends and family and video chat live. With Zoom, you can see each other! (Even when dealing with divorce and coronavirus.)
  3. Or download Zoom to join Paloma’s Group, our live, ongoing virtual coaching class for women recreating after divorce. Together, we build a bond of sisterly support and accountability as we take steps to rebuild our most meaningful lives.
  4. Learning who we want to be in this new phase of our lives and rebuilding after divorce and coronavirus is going to require some internal work. Social isolation could be your invitation to connect with your internal self and work on the real things that are still unresolved—the grief for the losses or the loneliness or the anger or the fears. Consider connecting with a divorce coach or therapist for telephone support and guidance. And if you’ve been working on those emotions, brava! Then you’ve been learning that this work leads to discoveries about yourself. This learning feeds more discovery, and so keep forging …

Even more things you could be doing as you spend time inside

  1. Educate yourself or reacquaint yourself with reading a good book. We’ve got suggestions for you here.
  2. If you are looking to go back to work, read this wonderful list of things you could be doing right now from experts who understand how hard it is for women of a certain age to get a job.
  3. Journal. Write down what you are experiencing right now in this moment in time and how different it is from one year ago? What have you learned?
  4. Step outside … your needs and story. Be hypervigilant about not spreading germs, but determine the best way for checking-in and supporting your elderly neighbors and aging family members. (If you are alone, you get it, and boy, will this give you perspective and gratitude.)
  5. Look for specific, regular ways to decompress and recharge so you are of service to yourself and others. Check out these free virtual meditation apps for connecting to positive, inspiring energy.
  6. If you are up for it, consider creating a dating profile on a few apps, but don’t meet people right now—you have the perfect excuse to take it slow. You must practice social-distancing, but you would love to consider meeting in the future. In the interim, let’s talk!
  7. Or take coronavirus as a sign from the universe, you are definitely not supposed to be dating right now!
  8. Be a messenger of hope and light. As you deal with life post divorce and coronavirus, you are a poster child for having already faced tough times and surviving. Remind others who may not be so brave that so far, 80 percent of the coronavirus cases are mild and most infected people are cured. There are 13 times more cured cases than deaths and that proportion is increasing.
  9. Go outside when and if you can. Sunlight is not only the enemy of germs; it is incredibly healing, builds our immune systems, and helps shift our emotions. Emotions are motion. As such, they ebb and flow. Help your emotions, like fear and anxiety, move, and as they move, check-in with them. What are they trying to tell you? When you listen to them, what other emotions do they make room for?

Above all, stay committed to you

Women are hardwired to be caregivers. In challenging times, we know that women are often the ones who take care of sick loved-ones, keep a family running, figure out child-care issues, and everything in between. It is often women taking the leadership roles in their households and communities to understand what is coming and to prepare for it. We also know it’s times like these when women throw themselves under the bus and forget themselves. We are encouraging you to stay committed to you as you lead others through.

Let’s be kind to others and ourselves. Stay connected to your source of strength and positivity. Stay connected to other powerful women!

And talk to us! In the comments below, tell us what you are doing to practice self-care and cope with divorce and coronavirus during these challenging times. We thank you on behalf of so many. Your ideas inspire and support other women who are finding that now more than ever, their hours are especially tough and isolating. We are all in this together.

 

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. We invite you to schedule your free consultation with SAS. You’ll share privately what’s going on and we’ll give you black & white feedback, resources, and next steps for moving forward in the healthiest, smartest way.

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Paintings of unapologetic women

The Apologetic vs. Unapologetic Woman

Look around. There is a tidal swell of social change that’s rising because women are looking at themselves differently. We are putting more value in our own perspective on ourselves, rather than focusing on what others think.

Looking at divorce differently, too—as a means of leveraging possibility and coming through the heat of it with a newly forged sense of self—means we need to look at marriage differently. It’s time to evaluate, for ourselves, marriage as a social norm. We tend to think of “the norm” as happening outside ourselves, but the fact is, we are all the norm, so each perspective and each experience is valid. Each drop of water is part of the swell. But even if you disagree, there are women already living outside “the norm.” We must stop viewing being married as a benchmark for our success.

What’s an unapologetic woman?

An unapologetic woman is not ashamed, and she is a little bit selfish. That doesn’t mean she’s acting like a matador, flying the flag of the egotistical or self-involved, but yes, she is a little selfish when she needs to be and she is okay with that—even if the people around her are not. We are glad when we are able to please others, but we aren’t driven to it in order to feel like “good girls.” We aren’t pleasers to our own chronic detriment. We can say no when we need to and not feel guilty about it. We’re recognizing the pitfalls of defining our own happiness by whether the people in our lives are happy.

We do not need to apologize or justify ourselves for making choices that serve us well. We are not “bitches” for standing up for ourselves, for being bold, for taking risks or making our own happiness a priority, any more than we are “whores” for reveling in our sexual selves.

The unapologetic woman is not about being brassy or loud-mouthed or brazen—the most common misconception. It’s about cultivating zero shame and embodying who we really are. We’ve reached the place where we no longer assess our value or meaning through someone else’s eyes. We look to ourselves instead of others for approval.

Portrait of an unapologetic Frieda Kahlo

Credit: weheartit

In the past, we gained approval and a sense of being valuable by turning down the volume on that inner voice that is just ours, down to a whisper, so it wouldn’t interfere with the clamoring voices calling to us for needs to be met, investments to be protected, support to be given, and conformity or blending in.

Being authentic is one way of being unapologetic

As SAS founder Liza Caldwell points out in this movie, how we keep ourselves “in our place” is to give away our power and identity to external forces—to other people’s approval, to the having of a man, to the entity that is the marriage itself. In her archetypes and sacred contracts material, Carolyn Myss identifies marriage as an archetype unto itself and describes how the archetype of marriage comes right up to the newly-married couple at the wedding banquet, plunks itself down between the bride and groom, and says hi, I’ll be here for the duration of your marriage telling you how you should conduct yourselves.

The problem is that when we are behaving in a way dictated by anyone other than ourselves, we lose all sight of our bigger self, our truest self, and what we want. We are struggling to adhere to a version of ourselves that we didn’t generate.

Portrait of an unapologetic Muslim woman

Credit: weheartit

When it doesn’t come from within, it’s not authentic. It might feel workable for a while, but eventually, it’s like trying to dance or run a marathon in shoes that are too tight. And then, because we’re just trying to move forward, we change from a long stride to a shorter one. We mince along, and we end up feeling inadequate and sorry for not being able to keep up.

Or confused, or grudge-holding—that others seem to be doing it so well! Why them, and not us? What is wrong with us? This voice is a smaller version of ourselves, the one trying to shoehorn who we are into who we thought we were supposed to be. And we apologize. For endeavoring to be our true self, our biggest self, and instead revert to a much smaller version of what we know is living deep within us, the self we are meant to be.

Portrait of an unapologetic Angela Davis

Credit: weheartit

Some people reach for the biggest version of themselves naturally, but for most, it takes life giving us a push.

Divorce is one of the ways we get pushed

Okay maybe divorce is more like getting thrown, and when that happens, we finally give up trying to be something we’re not. We change. We find our natural stride that was waiting to break out all along, and we grow. We become an unapologetic woman.

It is SO okay to have a long stride, to be big, to take up space in the world—no matter if big means our life looks hugely different from how a praise-worthy life was laid out for us before, or if it is our size 18 body. (Big doesn’t necessarily mean busier or more multi-tasky. It just means that you like it more. That you like you more. For you. No one else.)

We do not need permission from anyone outside ourselves. What we need is our own permission.

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

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

Woman wondering will pain of divorce ever go away

Will the Pain of Divorce Ever Go Away?

Sitting down with this question for the first time, my immediate response was a smile that I felt in my solar plexus. Will the pain of divorce ever go away? Of course it will—no hesitation there.

But that doesn’t mean that leaving or being left by a spouse and coming to grips with the aftermath won’t hurt worse than anything else we’ve experienced. (It might.) Women say that about childbirth, too, of course. People say that about kidney stones and car accidents. We all know the pain is not the same, but that’s not the point. The point is that pain doesn’t often last. It’s temporary—not a state of being.

Feel the grief, feel the pain. Don’t dismiss it, belittle yourself for feeling it, or try to stop it.

That said, there are degrees of pain when it comes to divorce. Getting divorced is harder than being widowed (I’d add by natural causes), for instance, because when our partners die, we don’t have to then watch them go on living without us. We don’t have to watch them choose to leave because we’re “just not doing it” for them anymore or watch as they then find someone else who does. It a visceral kind of hurt when someone who loved you and committed to you decides to throw in the towel—to live wondering why we weren’t enough.

There are divorces we see coming and those we initiate. Those are not as god-awful as the ones we don’t.

I think most of us avoid climbing out on the limb of “this is the worst thing ever,” because it leaves a part of the story untold. But I’m going to climb out halfway here, because I think in getting through pain, it can help to have a point of reference for it. And there’s also a group of divorcees who I feel deserve some recognition.

When your marriage is wrapped up with your identity

I have friends who’ve divorced several times, who divorced after the age of 50 with kids who still depended on them, with more debt than they wanted and less income than they had before and a social or spiritual group now closed to them, living in tiny apartments instead of on wooded acres—and they are thrilled with their new lives, with their freedom. Though they are back in happy relationships, they say they will never, ever marry again. Not because they lost interest, but because they don’t ever want to repeat the experience of being boxed in and being told who they can be.

“I think that marriage as an institution has been a little bit slow to catch up with expectations for gender equality. Wives still take their husbands’ surnames and are sometimes pressured to do so. Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare,” writes Douglas LaBier, Ph.D. “On the other hand, I think that non-marital relationships lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage, which makes the non-marital relationships more flexible and therefore more adaptable to modern expectations, including women’s expectations for more gender equality.”

Rejoicing in post-marriage freedom comes much harder for some, though. There are many women in middle life (a group whose divorced numbers are increasing exponentially) who give decade upon decade to home, husband, and family, who made that their vocation, only to have their spouses come home one day and pull the marital rug out from under them—effectively ruining not only their life but their living, their context, and their primary source of validation.

Coming out of an era where women were considered adventurous if they became teachers, nurses, or secretaries, when getting married, being a wife and mother, and tending the home were assumed to be the major role they could play in the world, they are suddenly given the message that not only was this huge part of their lives a waste of time but to then go out and make a living on their own—often with no quantifiable skills outside the home. (These “homegrown” skills do actually translate beautifully to the workplace once women get there, but you can’t really make a resume out of them).

Compounding the injury, these women are turned loose in the world by their spouses as if they are merely stray cats at an age when—due to our ridiculously image-driven, youth-obsessed, homogenized-beauty-standard culture that is only just beginning to recognize women of size, color, and silver hair as worthy of being called beautiful—the assets of their youth are seen as diminished, or not seen at all.

As if this all weren’t enough of a slap in the face—the kind of realities of divorce that truly do make women ask themselves will the pain of divorce ever go away—a second wounding is that no one knows what to say to women in this position. Their totally justifiable rage and depression are seen as inappropriate or uncomfortable, and the people closest to them—whose lives they’ve spent their own facilitating—often just want them to hurry up and be fine again because that’s what they’re used to and because they have no idea what it’s like to be in their shoes.

I think that other than outright abuse, this is the most heartbreaking aspect of divorce and is one of those social realities that makes me wish that superhero alternate professions were a real thing.

Believing that there’s life after divorce

However, the pain can and does go away, and it does not have to take a year for every five you were married. Getting on the other side of the pain may take a couple years—the standard estimate—but chances are excellent that it’s not going to fall neatly into a formula. It could take less. We look for relief, for its estimated time of arrival, for obvious reasons. Essentially, we’re looking for the light at the end of that occasionally excruciating tunnel before we get there because it gives us some hard data to bite down on. It reminds us that it’s temporary. Estimates also give us something to point to when the people around us wonder why we still have the urge to throw the radio across the room when Valentine’s Day ads come on.

But pain doesn’t just drift away like a haze. Not only do we have to let it end, we have to make it. We must decide to push through it to the other side.

How do we do that? Well, again, it’s relative to each person, but talking about it with people who know what you’re experiencing AND what they are talking about is critical. Get a divorce coach to get through it and not get taken to the cleaners if you can help it and a therapist to help deal with the emotional aftermath. Some may do both. Your friends are wonderful, especially if they’ve been through it, but there can be bias there. Sometimes they are still dogpaddling out of their own messes and don’t have room for yours, too. Also, exercise. (DO it.) The endorphins are also critical; breaking a sweat regularly (you do not have to make it your life’s work) is as much or more for your mental health as it is for your physical health.

And recall that like giving birth, there is a tremendous reason for celebration in divorce. There is freedom afterward. There is not having to be concerned with anyone else’s opinion of who we are. There’s celebration in being out from under a thumb, and there is celebration in strength; once you’ve endured something like that, you know your own strength in a way you didn’t before—especially for those who didn’t see it coming, who spent decades investing in a spouse and a marriage and then end up with a life operating in the red for a while.

Will the pain of divorce ever go away? Yes, but perhaps not entirely. We bear scar tissue after all. There are stretch marks from divorce. Be proud of them. Celebrate that not only are you here to tell the story of how you got them, you’ve got many more chapters to write, and you do not have to self-edit to please anyone else. You are the only one who gets to decide who you are now. There is tremendous joy in this.

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

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

Woman thinking about how to prepare for divorce if you are stay at home mom

How to Prepare for Divorce If You Are a Stay-At-Home-Mom

When you have built your life around your relationship and family—even considering leaving that life behind can make you feel like a complete fraud. So how do you prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom? (Or STAHM.) When, sometimes, it seems like the real question you’re asking yourself is less should I get a divorce and more can I get a divorce?

Because it’s true, money does seem to make the world go round. Researchers at Boston University have learned that marriages in which both partners have their own careers and incomes are less likely to end in divorce. The stress of being the sole provider for your household can feel insurmountable. It’s not just about how much money you bring in—it’s about stability and how prepared you might be for the future. If you’re your family’s sole provider, then what happens if you lose your job? What happens if you pass away? If you get hit with an unexpected and large expense? How many more opportunities would you and your family have if you had two incomes to live on?

If you’re struggling to figure out how to prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom, the unknown—what, exactly, comes after divorce—might seem more precarious than it does for other women because suddenly it feels like there is no safety net. Even if the decision to stay at home and take care of your home and family or let your partner handle the family finances was mutual, there’s a resounding sense of shame that comes when you decide it’s a life you no longer want.

But you are allowed to want something different for yourself. You’re allowed to look toward the future and shape the life you want. We’re here to remind you that it’s all possible and you are allowed.

Start a dialogue, first with yourself and then with others

If you’re wondering how to prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom, start by giving yourself permission to have a conversation with yourself (your true self, that voice you’ve been ignoring). Take your time. Thinking about divorce doesn’t mean the same thing as getting a divorce. You might feel isolated and alone during this time, but the reality is that you’re far from it. There are so many women out there in the same place as you—or women who have already made it through their own divorce journey, realizing that there is life on the other side.

Once you open up to others, that feeling will begin to dissipate. In our virtual divorce support group and class, Annie’s Group, we hear the relief women feel once connected to the other women in the group—a deep sense of relief that comes with listening to other women’s situations, sharing our own, and understanding that the path we’re on is well-trodden.

For perspective and holistic feedback on your situation, you might have a conversation with a divorce coach.  A coach will often provide you with a free consultation, because no one understands exactly what they do. They have to explain and demonstrate how they help. A coach can anchor you, give you an idea of the lay of the land and help you understand what decision making looks like. If appropriate they might point you to which questions to ask your lawyer and help you prioritize and sequence the steps you need to take to address — not only your legal situation — but also your emotional, financial, maternal and practical needs. Get organized, one step at a time

When we do nothing, we get stuck in a cycle filled with habit and routine. We feel simultaneously like our lives are happening far too quickly and also like we’re standing still, watching it all pass us by in a blur. We feel overwhelmed and anxious. Take your future into your own hands by getting your ducks in a row, preparing yourself for the legal, financial, and emotional aspects of divorce.

Study the divorce laws in your state. (Don’t do a deep dive, but research enough to understand what your state’s divorce laws say about alimony and child support. Then stop.) Collect your financial records so you save time and money later on. But be sure to keep these documents in a safe place, away from the prying eyes of your husband* (a safety deposit box, a friend or family member—someone you can trust). Monitor your credit score to ensure that your husband has not negatively impacted it unbeknownst to you and that you’ll have more financial leverage when you’re on your own. Open up a post office box so that your soon-to-be Ex doesn’t have access to mail that may be confidential, like correspondence from your attorney or new credit and bank accounts.

Which brings us to…

Figure out your finances

If you have children, finances can be the thing that repeatedly holds you back from moving forward with a divorce. Statistically, both married and single STAHMs are less educated than their working counterparts—for the former, 42% have at most a high school diploma compared to 64% for the latter. Not having a college degree can make finding a job later in life more difficult, particularly a well-paying job with benefits like health care or retirement plans. Married STAHMs are nearly twice as likely to be foreign born as married and working mothers, too. Barriers based on both culture and language become more reasons to stay in an unhappy marriage.

But think about what your children witness everyday they live under your roof—how can you create a healthier and happier life for all of you? Can you really afford to do nothing? For women, one of the first steps we can take when thinking about divorce is becoming more financially independent. If your husband controls your funds, then how can you access the money you’ll need to hire a lawyer or pay for everyday expenses? As soon as possible, start setting aside money for the fees that come along with a divorce and your future living expenses.

Embrace the unknown

There’s such a thing as the sunk cost fallacy—we continue a path that is no longer serving us or our best interests because we’ve already invested so much time, energy, and resources into the journey. If you’re a STAHM, this might be something you struggle with when it comes to thinking about divorce: I’ve invested too much of myself in this relationship. I have to make it work. If I simply do more of X, Y, or Z, then maybe things will finally get better. What will people think? You keep waiting for something to change, only it never does.

We prefer to live the life we know, so afraid of what we might find after divorce because it represents the vast unknown. Our identities are wrapped up inside our relationship, deeply connected to our partner—who are we if we let go?

Life doesn’t stop—the beauty and the pain, they aren’t going anywhere. But sometimes we are moving through life on autopilot, so worried about hitting certain milestones or reaching the goal faster than everyone else that we forget to pause and ask ourselves: what do I actually want? Not the version of me that made vows and plans for my future, but the version of me that exists now.

You can still prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom. You had a plan, yes. Now you have to throw the plan out and start from scratch. Grab a blank sheet of paper, sharpen your pencil, and allow yourself to dream again. Thinking about divorce and exploring your options is the first step toward a life that is truly your own.

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.

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

How long does it take to get over a divorce

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

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

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

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

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

What science says

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

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

What experience says

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What you can do to help yourself move on

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

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

Here are some of those signs.

1. The idea of going on a date is thrilling

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

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

2. You feel comfortable in your own skin

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

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

3. You feel positive about you future

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

There’s something beautiful about leaning into the unexpected.

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

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

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

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

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

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule you free, 45 minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping or already navigating your life afterward, a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone.

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Woman in the snow contempltaing managing conflict in divorce

How to Stay Calm Managing Conflict in Divorce

Divorce is a stressful process. There are battles—custody, among many others—which take negative emotions to new heights. Managing conflict in divorce is tricky. One wrong turn and you’re headed down resentment road. It’s natural to get frustrated even while trying to be calm and cool.

When a marriage ends, you have to make so many adjustments to your life, big and small. Both you and your Ex will find yourselves feeling both confused and angry. With children involved, it becomes vital that you keep conflicts at a minimum. But when they do happen, the way you deal with these conflicts with your Ex is one of the biggest things that can impact your child’s wellbeing and it’s one thing about your divorce that’s fully in your control.

When you and your Ex work together as a team to resolve your problems, it’s reassuring for your children, particularly when you do so with a positive attitude.

Below are some ways you can manage your emotions and avoid conflicts during your divorce.

Get rid of all the negative emotions

Before you and your Ex sit down to discuss the logistics of how and when you’ll end your marriage, you have to let go of negative thoughts and emotions. Let go of all your past grievances and issues, including feelings of sadness, guilt, fear, or anything else that might make it harder to discuss things at hand effectively.

If you are feeling angry, write it down. But don’t get into a shouting match. It won’t get you anywhere. Find ways to release your pent-up emotions. Try going for a run or working out at the gym. This will help you get through tough talks and makes it easier to get your point across.

Be flexible

It’s wise that you take a flexible approach if your Ex wants to change how you coparent your children. This is the only way you’ll be able to cope with the arrangements. Chances are that you might have to make changes to your schedule or ask for a favor if you have a busy day at work. If your new partner wants to spend time with you and your children, those are boundaries you might also want to talk to your Ex about.

Look at the big picture

When you are in the middle of negotiating your divorce settlement, it’s easy to lose perspective and get caught up in a whirlwind of emotions. There is going to be a sense of urgency in everything. You must relax, though, and try to look at the big picture.

The best way to do so is to envision your future. How would you want it to look like 10 to 20 years from now? Would you still want to be stuck in this emotional turmoil and feel resentful toward your Ex? Or would you rather want to be at peace and have moved on with your life? If you’re a parent, think about how you would want your children’s future to look like too. These are the questions you should ask yourself, and then do your best to get through the stress of managing conflict in divorce.

Work on your listening skills

Learning how to listen is something that will help you tremendously in the long run. After a few years, when you look back, you won’t feel resentment because both of you took the time to listen to what the other person has to say. If you constantly interrupt each other and are adamant about having the last word, you can never truly end your conflict.

You need to be patient and listen to what others have to say. Rather than thinking about the perfect come back, listen to your Ex’s words and try to understand what they want. Consider the possibility that you might have failed to listen to him* in the past. By being a good listener, you are going to boost your communication skills and develop an understanding of someone else’s perspective.

Mediate

Although a short-term and structured process, mediation could assist you and your Ex with any financial and coparenting issues you may have. You’d bring someone along—a professional, a close friend, or a family member—who could sit with you both and help you reach an agreement. Later on, your attorneys would review that agreement.

In some states, when the parents are unable to agree on parenting time or custody, mediation becomes a requirement. The agreements are filed with the court and later on translated into court orders. There are different forms of mediation. The most common one being the facilitative mediation. In this method, a neutral third person helps the couple arrive at an agreement by exploring common interests and then generating options. The mediator is not responsible for making the decisions. Rather, they facilitate the couple, leaving the decision up to both partners.

Get coparent counseling

When parents separate or get divorced, issues regarding parenting are bound to arise. A mental health professional or coach who specializes in this area could assist parents in improving their communication skills. They can help you find ways to reduce and eventually eliminate conflicts, including how to handle after-school activities, changing the parenting plan, taking a child to the doctor, or tackling the entry of a stepparent. This helps parents in resolving some of the pain, guilt, or grief of ending a relationship. You are not the first ones dealing with conflict as coparents. Find out best practices and get support for both of you and your children.

Use “I” messages frequently

Normally when your Ex is venting, be it in a normal conversation or an angry argument, your first instinct would be to shout at them. Rather, take a moment to assess and understand. When you are ready to answer, respond with an “I” message to communicate your emotions and needs.

No matter what your conflict is, there are many ways you can use the “I” messages. You can say:

I feel heartbroken when you blame me for everything that went wrong with our marriage.

I feel sad when you tell the children I am not a good mother.

When you communicate how you feel to your Ex and provide them with a solution while using the word “we,” you can play a key role in improving communication and reducing the feelings of resentment.

Talk with facts

One of the common reasons divorced couples argue so much and struggle with managing conflict in divorce is that rather than talking with facts, they allow their anger and emotions to get the better of them. When you allow your emotions to rule your rational thinking, it could go on forever. You and your Ex could end up in a constant loop of anger and resentment.

To resolve emotional conflicts, start talking with facts. Even if you are talking about something as serious and potentially heated as your children’s visitation rights, stick to the facts so you can have a civilized and rational discussion.

Resolving conflicts is a two-person job. Once both you and your Ex realize that you must work together, talk, and listen, only then can you be successful at being civil with each other and coparenting effectively.

 

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.

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

A woman in a bathtub contemplating what divorce does to a woman

What Divorce Does to a Woman: You and Your Money

The chances are fairly good that if you are a woman with school-age children and you are looking at getting divorced, you are facing a drain on your financial resources with no fast recovery in sight.

While marriage generally has a positive effect on financial health—due in part to tax incentives and thousands of laws that favor married couples—divorce is like trying to maintain a house that’s falling apart, money going out faster than it can come in. While sociological studies show that the net worth of each person in a marriage increases 77 percent over the years, that net worth starts to drop four years before divorce. Divorcees experience an average wealth decline of 77 percent.

And what divorce does to a woman is generally worse, because far more than not, women end up as the primary caregivers for a couple’s children, and children—while fulfilling and precious to women and men alike—are also expensive. Since this is a website for women, it would be easy to dismiss that statement as biased, but of the 13.6 million single parents in the United States, only 16 percent of those are single dads.

Divorce takes women with children’s financial resources and chops them in half and then adds expenses like a reduction sauce to the leftovers. For women without paid work of their own and full-time custody of their children, it is often a low-income existence, with approximately one in five women becoming impoverished as a result of divorce. Add to that the fact that, while they’re still married, women are more likely than men to leave paying jobs outside the home to care for the children, thereby siphoning off their financial independence and their workplace skills. And if they needed to file for disability, their lack of “points” in the workforce can later lead to a denial of such claims, leaving them hamstringed by health issues as well as poverty and the lack of mobility that comes with daily childcare.

“While the downturn and the weak economy of recent years have eliminated many of the jobs women held, a lack of family-friendly policies also appears to have contributed to the lower rate. In a (poll) of nonworking adults aged 25 to 54 in the United States, conducted recently, 61 percent of women said family responsibilities were a reason they weren’t working, compared with 37 percent of men,” write Claire Cain Miller and Liz Alderman of the New York Times. “Of women who identify as homemakers and have not looked for a job in the last year, nearly three-quarters said they would consider going back if a job offered flexible hours or allowed them to work from home.”

Pair that inclination to choose child-rearing over career and cost-crippling daycare (or at least the decision to postpone careers until the children are older) with the changing requirements of the work force, and then, add in the tendency in the U.S. toward employment policies that do not favor families or flexible schedules. According to Miller and Alderman, 1993 was the last time the U.S. Congress passed legislation that was family-forward, providing certain workers with 12 unpaid weeks with their newborn babies. All combined, and you have divorced American mothers with a stunted ability to make money.

“Women who worked before, during, or after their marriages see a 20 percent decline in income when their marriages end, according to Stephen Jenkins, a professor at the London School of Economics. His research found that men, meanwhile, tend to see their incomes rise more than 30 percent post-divorce. Meanwhile, the poverty rate for separated women is 27 percent, nearly triple the figure for separated men,” writes Darlena Cunha for The Atlantic in April 2016.

“The main reason women suffer the brunt of divorce’s financial burdens, according to Jenkins, is that during marriage, they are more likely than men to stop working in order to raise kids. ‘The key differences are not between men and women, but between fathers and mothers.’”

But here’s what’s interesting: the research also indicates that women will ask for that divorce anyway, despite the financial strain of it.

In 2015, one Psychology Today source cites a study of more than 2,000 heterosexual couples, stating that women initiated nearly 70 percent of divorces. Another source claims 80 percent. And if newer research is to be trusted, women may have less money and more limited ways to make it after divorce (which does change and can continue to improve, if slowly), but they are also discovering happiness is the surprise that awaits them.

The Huffington Post published a July 2013 article featuring research from London’s Kingston University—research that spanned 20 years and drew feedback from more than 10,000 United Kingdom residents between the ages of 16 and 60. Researchers asked subjects about their happiness before and after certain life events, including divorce. Women generally reported being more content than usual for several years after their divorces, leading the study authors to theorize that:

Women who leave unhappy marriages may end up feeling more unshackled by the break-up than men.

Another survey of 1,060 divorcees discovered that 53 percent of women said they are “much happier” after divorce—using words like “glad,” “celebration,” and “excitement”—while only 32 percent of the men interviewed made the same claim. Other writers have noted that 35 percent of U.K. women surveyed in 2018 said that they felt “less stressed” following the termination of their marriages, and while only 15 percent of men felt higher self-esteem post-divorce, 30 percent of women felt a boost in that regard.

So, what divorce often does to a woman is leave her struggling financially but coming through a divorce also seems to have the effect of making women feel stronger, more alive, and more authentically themselves.

For myself, neither my Ex of 13 years nor I have children of our own, though he is now a stepparent. (I never wanted to be a mother, so this is a happy circumstance for me, though I understand the profound pull to motherhood and respect it—especially if it’s done with thoughtfulness, self-knowledge, and preparation.) He and I had always kept separate bank accounts, yet shared the mortgage and bills equally, and we ended our partnership well, with our friendship intact and financial benefits on both sides. I’m very, very fortunate in this. We ended our partnership because we wanted to be happy and knew we’d taken that path as far as we could with each other. It’s difficult to speak legitimately to what children need when you don’t have any, but I do think that children benefit from having parents who are whole and authentically happy, not just making do, or, far worse, hiding the bruises or crumbling under the insults.

But whether you have children or not, it’s important to understand how divorce can affect your finances. In a 2017 article in The Guardian, a woman named Tracey McVeigh said that, “If I had any advice for women now thinking of getting married, I’d say never, never, never give up your financial independence. No matter how difficult it may seem, keep one toe in the water: it may make the difference between sinking and swimming.” We want you to swim, always. No matter where you are on your divorce journey, keep your head above water.

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

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