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Support kids through divorce

7 Ways to Lovingly Support Your Kids Through Divorce

Whether you’re contemplating, planning, or coparenting after divorce, if you’re a parent it’s vitally important that your children are your top priority. Before making any decisions regarding divorce issues, put yourself in their shoes in order to best support your kids. Think about the consequences for them. See the outcome through the eyes of your five, ten, or fifteen-year-old. Ask yourself, what will they say about this when they are grown adults? Will they thank me for the way I handled the divorce, or be angry and resentful about my attitude and behavior?

The choices you make will affect your children for years and, yes, decades to come. For their sake, try to take the high road and be the role model they will come to respect and later want to emulate.

Here are some helpful tips for mindfully supporting the children you love before, during, and long after your divorce.

Before Divorce: Avoid Showing Conflict Around the Kids!

  1. Studies show time and again that conflict and tension around children creates the most difficulties for them related to divorce. It’s not the divorce itself! Parents can ease the process for their kids by eliminating battles, disrespectful behavior, and emotional outburst anywhere near the kids. That means no fighting on the phone, in another room, during pick-ups and drop-offs, or when talking with friends within earshot of your child.
  2. When you belittle, put down, or in any way disrespect your child’s other parent, regardless of how justified it may feel, it hurts your children in deep and long-lasting ways.

    Kids innately love and feel connected to both their parents. When you insult their other parent, it creates confusion, guilt, sadness, anger, insecurity, and low self-esteem.

    Instead, support your kids by reminding them that you will always be their parents and will always love them. Reassure them that no one will replace their parents either. “We will both always love you and be there for you, no matter where we live or how things should change.” Then make it your business to do the right thing on their behalf.

  3. Don’t wait for emotional or behavioral problems to appear. It is often wise to talk to a coparenting coach or family therapist in advance about issues worth your attention when assisting your children through divorce. Or schedule a few sessions with your children so they can express their anxiety, fear, anger, etc., and feel heard by an objective, third party. Ask friends, pediatricians, clergy, divorce coaches, or school professionals for referrals to professionals experienced with helping children through divorce.

During Divorce: Separate without Blaming or Shaming Your Kids

  1. It is common for children to blame themselves for the divorce no matter how bad their parents’ relationship has been. The younger the child, the more likely it is for this to occur. Sit down together and talk to your kids, emphasizing that they are in no way at fault. You can say something like:“Sadly, Mom and Dad* don’t agree about certain key issues and that has created conflict. Even when some of the things are about you, it does not mean you are to blame. You are an innocent child we both love. We disagree about some things—but not about our love for you. You are not to blame for our divorce.”
  2. Divorce always results in change within the family. Some of those changes can be challenging. Others will be beneficial and create a more peaceful environment for your children. It is important to address these issues. Remind the kids that the family is changing in some ways, but change is an inevitable part of life and not necessarily bad. Let your children see that everything around us keeps changing. “You grow bigger every year. Seasons change, clothing styles change, your school classes change. Sometimes it takes a while to get used to changes, like when you get a new teacher or try a new sport. In time you may come to like these new changes. Let’s give it a try.”

When is it Parental Estrangement and when is it Parental Alienation?

Read more and learn the difference.


As challenging as it may be, always keep from pointing fingers or blaming their other parent when talking to the kids about the divorce. It bears repeating: they love both parents and shouldn’t be judged nor shamed for this. Remember, it’s your divorce, not theirs!

After Divorce: Coparent with Mindful Love and Attention to Support Your Kids!

  1. Prioritize spending time and attention with your children. With all the stress in your life, it’s easy to overlook your kid’s need for stability and security. The best source for that support is you. It’s easy to take solace with friends or bury yourself in work, but keep in mind that your children need your support more than ever right now. Your love and attention are the most valuable resources you can share with them. Make sure you are generous with both!
  2. Let your kids still be kids. That means never burdening them with adult responsibilities beyond their age level. Your children should not become your messengers. Use texts or online scheduling tools for that! They are not your confidants either. Contact coparenting coaches and counselors for vital support you need. Never share adult content with them, as tempting as it may be, even with your teens. It halts their childhood innocence and throws them into your parental drama. Their brains aren’t developed enough to digest it. And they certainly can’t fix your damaged relationship. So, it’s not only foolish, it’s selfish.

Remember, divorce imposes changes within the family that your children never asked for. With these suggestions in mind, support your kids in ways that deepen your relationship at a time when they need it most. They’ll thank you when they are grown!

Notes

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network and a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach. She’s the author of How Do I Tell the Kids About The Divorce? A Create-a-Storybook Guide To Preparing Your Children – With Love! To get her coaching services, programs, e-courses, and other valuable resources along with her free ebook on co-parenting success strategies, visit her website 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.

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriage. For simplicity, we may refer to the spouse as “he” or “husband.”

When Your Child Refuses to Visit Father

5 Must Do’s When Your Child Refuses to Visit Their Father

One of the more complex issues in coparenting after divorce is balancing your needs with your child’s needs. This is especially challenging when your child refuses to visit a parent based on the agreements made with your coparent, such as visitation time.

Some children do not want to spend time with their father* or other parent and refuse to go. This may be because of inconvenience in their life schedule: preferring to be with friends, participating in a planned event, avoiding the hassles of changing homes, travel, etc.

More troublesome is when the refusal is of a more emotional nature: saying I don’t have fun at daddy’s house, I don’t like daddy, he’s too strict, there’s nothing to do, he doesn’t spend any time with me, etc.

Obviously, the emotional argument demands more attention to unravel what’s going on.

And it requires your most objective perspective focused on listening, acknowledging, and responding as well as looking within.

  1. LISTEN ATTENTIVELY

Ask questions and listen to your child’s response about what they’re feeling—and try to figure out why your child refuses to visit their other parent. Put yourself in your child’s shoes and see the world from their perspective, without judgment. Reflect back to your child what you hear them saying to make sure you’re understanding them correctly. Respond with kindness and compassion, even if you don’t agree.

If you can, come up with alternative solutions or options: a time change, new agreements, more space for their things. Suggest you’ll have a conversation with dad if that’s appropriate—or perhaps they can have that conversation themselves.

  1. ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR FEELINGS

Don’t discount your child’s feelings or wishes. Don’t dismiss them as foolish or unrealistic. Tell them they have the right to anger, fear, frustration or other feelings. They also have the right to express their emotions—but without infringing on other people’s rights.

Children need to know they are not bad or wrong for resisting things they don’t like. However, life is full of obstacles that we have to cope with. Let’s look for solutions. But keep in mind you are the adult who is making decisions. Be sure they are mature, rational, compassionate decisions for everyone involved, including dad.

  1. RESPOND WITH SUGGESTIONS AND QUESTIONS

Can your child come up with a solution that is also fair to dad? Is dad being fair with them? If not, what can we do to make things better?

Should they talk to him so he has an opportunity to respond and address the issues? Should we have a family conference together, if possible?

Other questions: Are their ways to change the circumstances to find a middle-ground or compromise? What can your child do to adapt to the situation more easily? What can dad do to change the visiting experience?

  1. REFLECT ON YOUR OWN INFLUENCE

Are you letting your own feelings about dad impact your child? Kids pick up not only on what is said, but on facial expressions, intonations, and other non-verbal cues. If your child knows you don’t respect dad, or hears you talk about him to others in a derogatory manner, your child will want to refuse to visit in defense and support of you. But is that fair to their father?


When is it parental estrangement, and when is it parental alienation? Read more to understand what’s going on with your coparent and what can happen when your child refuses to visit a parent.


It’s important for you to keep your objections to yourself. Don’t confide negative opinions to your child. Don’t let them feel guilty for loving their other parent. And don’t encourage them to demean their other parent who loves them.

  1. TALK TO YOUR COPARENT

Whenever possible, discuss these issues with dad to create a plan you both can agree on. Encourage more interaction and communication between visits on phone or video to build a low-stress bond.

Consider reaching out to a therapist or divorce coach as an objective party supporting a peaceful resolution. This is especially important before bringing these issues into the court or legal proceedings.

Discuss ways to make the visit transitions as easy and stress-free as possible. In addition, be sure your child can call you when they are away for emotional support. Be positive and reassuring on these conversations. Don’t add guilt to the dynamic at hand by stressing how much you miss them. Let them know you’ll be busy while they’re away so they needn’t worry about you and your feelings.

A child who refuses to visit and doesn’t want to spend time with their father is a child in pain. It’s important to address the underlying factors contributing to this situation as quickly as you can. Get the support you need so you can support your child in the best possible ways while respecting the father-child relationship at the same time.

 

Notes

Rosalind Sedacca, CDC is the founder of the Child-Centered Divorce Network, a Divorce & Co-Parenting Coach and author of numerous books, e-courses and programs on divorcing with children and co-parenting successfully. For instant download of her FREE EBOOK on Doing Co-Parenting Right: Success Strategies For Avoiding Painful Mistakes! go to: childcentereddivorce.com/book

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.

 

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

Life after divorce

Life After Divorce: Finding My Footing in Year One

I recently handed in my resignation letter for a job I’d had for only three months. It was a good company but the type of work, the hours, and the pay didn’t suit me. My closest friends expressed tentative support. I knew they were wondering: “Are you sure you know what you are doing? It’s the middle of the pandemic; you have obligations and no husband to support you.” I was rebuilding my life after divorce.

I knew what I was doing: I was listening to myself and following my needs. Also, I was trusting my ability to find a job that is worth my effort. I learned from going through a divorce to follow my heart.

Life After Divorce

It’s been a year since I got my final divorce document. I initiated the end of my 17-year-long marriage after I lost hope to repair it. For many years I was unhappy. Things looked fine on the outside: we had two children, a dog, and a beautiful old apartment in the city center. But I lacked the support that I needed, as well as respect and trust. With age, my husband grew more short-tempered, abusive, and jealous of my success and ambitions. I contributed to our growing apart too, fantasizing that some better man would come and save me, or that I would learn some magic trick at a women’s club that would repair my marriage. My divorce decision came as I lost hope of improving things. I also lost hope of being saved.

As I divorced, I continued to fantasize. I imagined an amicable agreement with co-parenting, staying friends, and dividing the assets fairly. Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to that fantasy as well.

Gaining Perspective and Distance

The further from divorce I get, the more analysis I do, and different things look important. Currently, I would outline three things that I didn’t expect that are particularly hard to digest. Firstly, separating from an abuser didn’t end the abuse in my life after divorce, as that continued through our lingering communication. The Ex was open with his attitude: you decided on the divorce, now you face the consequences. He insisted I was solely responsible for the break-up and he wanted to get back at me.

Secondly, my eldest son decided to stay with his Father. I don’t see as much of him as I would like. I am learning to live with that, accepting my half-empty nest. But it still hurts.

Thirdly, I didn’t get the fair division of assets. My Ex is living in our apartment with our son in the process of attempting to sell at a very high price. I can’t afford to buy him out and he can’t buy out my half. Even a court can’t order us to sell, so this “sale” could go on for years. Doubly annoying is that it is not common knowledge among my circle of friends how unprotected our rights are. Most people assume and say that I am just not trying hard enough to sort the apartment issue out. Some even see my Ex’s resistance to sell the flat as charming, assuming that it is his way of getting back together with me.

When Trouble Comes — Open the Gates

When the Coronavirus outbreak happened, I found myself with no home, a broken family, and no job. In Russia, there is a saying: “When trouble comes — open the gates.” It implies that trouble never comes alone but accompanied by other things. Since divorce is a major shift in life, it rarely constitutes the only change.

Blessings in Disguise

The lockdown turned out to be a blessing in disguise that allowed me to cocoon. I came to stay and isolate myself with my parents in their countryside home. My parents didn’t ask questions and didn’t offer advice, and I was grateful. I realize how fortunate I am to have parents who welcomed me to live with them.

I am an extrovert by nature. I am friendly, sociable, and feel the need to discuss everything that happens to me with girlfriends. I also used to travel a lot for work and go out often. In my life after the divorce, I turned into a recluse. Content in my own company, I relived recent events while inwardly digesting my emotions. When summer came, I found comfort in gardening. Clad in gardening gloves and crouching between shrubs, I let my anger out with the productive physical work of cutting or sowing.

In sadder times, I allowed tears to run free without being noticed and interrogated. I didn’t need to spend energy on a job, I didn’t need to look good for an event to attend, and I didn’t need to explain to my girlfriends the status of my negotiations with the Ex. I painted, watched comforting movies, and started to learn German. I was on a power-saving mode that was crucial. I called it cocooning.

Listen to Others with Shared Experiences

I read and listened a lot about divorce. It was good to learn that I was not alone. One lady in the U.S. shared three tips that helped her survive her divorce: good anti-depressants, a great lawyer, and a job. She was a stay-at-home Mom. Getting a job allowed her to change the scenery and stop wallowing in self-pity. Taking her tips as an example, I formulated my own trio. Here’s what helped me survive and heal: therapy, cocooning, and learning to let go.

I had to let go of the idea of a happy married life with my Ex. I had to let go of the image of our full family. I let go of a plan to stay friends with my children’s Dad. I had to let go of my eldest son as my little boy. As a consolation, I am developing rare closeness with my youngest son. I had to say goodbye to some friends and even therapists when their advice was more hurtful than helpful. I am letting go of the idea that the property would be divided easily. I have to let go of my old self, a more naïve dreamy version of me who placed much emphasis on romantic love and dreamt of being saved to live happily ever after.

Healing through Technology

For me, technology offered an unexpected helping hand in letting go. Around the first anniversary of my divorce, I got a notice from Google demanding that I either delete or buy additional space for e-mails and photos. I preferred to delete it. It was an emotional and lengthy exercise. I started with e-mails, reliving projects that I was previously involved in. Soon, I was amazed and proud of how much I had accomplished in life. And I was sad to see how many people are no longer part of my life or part of my profession.

Then I got to the photos. I revisited many precious moments of family trips, and of kids being small. I cried a lot. It was a hard choice what to delete and what to keep. I deleted the photos of my Ex in swimwear. And I deleted photos from his trips where — as I later learned — he went with other ladies. I kept all his photos with the kids — he is their father after all and nothing will change that. It is our family history. Analysis of old photos made me appreciate the closeness between my eldest son and his Dad.

Is this the same person? Asked Google showing me my ex-husband in 2005 and 2019. I looked close. The younger version looked naïve, timid, and had a full head of hair. He evoked memories and emotions. The later version was bald and had a strange crooked smile. I felt like saying “it is not the same person.” As I looked at myself in 2008 and 2020 I also wanted to say I am not the same person in my life after divorce.

Now with the 7 Gigabytes of free space on Google disk ready for new impressions, what are my next steps?

After Divorce: A new job, a new home, a new life partner?

Yes, maybe, not yet.

I want to find a job where I feel needed and financially secure. Sooner rather than later I would like to be social again, wear nice clothes, make-up, go to an old-fashioned theater production, and have a glass of champagne. I have a semi-secret goal to learn to speak publicly. It pulls and scares me. A well-paid job will allow me to rent an apartment and move out of my parents’ home.

I may start going out and dating if life gets back to normal, but I am in no hurry to get a partner. This is a surprise to me since I’ve been chasing the “in-love feeling” since puberty. Whereas the idea of having a stable partner feels appealing, I have no energy for butterflies in the stomach or late-night texts. Probably, I will need to learn new relationship-building skills to have a new partnership. Meanwhile, I am investing my time in building new relationships with my sons. All in good time.

 

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She has two teenage sons and a dog and is building a new happier life. You can reach out to her via e-mail for comment or discussion.

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected

Divorce effects on children by Unsplash

Divorce Effects on Children

When considering the consequences of divorce, effects on children are perhaps the most impactful and far-reaching. Children are the innocent victims—the bystanders who get swept into the aftermath of a decision they had no say in. And, while some children rebound on the merits of inherent resilience, others struggle greatly, even into adulthood.

Divorce is never easy. It comes at a high cost across the board—emotionally, financially, socially, physically. Spouses are so focused on what is driving their own discontent and how to assuage or escape it that children often become collateral damage. Everything, it seems, is about whether, when, and how to divorce. Effects on children are too often an afterthought, dealt with (if at all) after the divorce is all said and done.

The big question often explored more in hindsight than at the moment is whether staying together is better at all costs.

How Parental Conflict Harms Children

The unequivocal consensus among psychological experts is that the single most important factor that harms children of divorce is continual parental conflict. Children become damaged when parents fight in front of them, over them, and through them. It literally changes who they are and how they process the world.

The challenge in deciding whether to divorce comes when the homefront is so contentious that constant conflict is a given. In these cases, children do not fare better for having their parents stay together.

For example, a report by Pew Social Trends explains that, while children of divorce are more inclined to one day divorce, conflict is a huge influencer. It turns out that children have a better chance at marital success if their high-conflict parents divorced.

The point is, the immersion in constant conflict does the most damage.

But, even when choosing the better of two bad choices, there is no denying the divorce effects on children. And “high conflict” can follow and damage children even after the divorce.

It should come as no surprise that the first year or two after a divorce are the toughest on children. Imagine that your world is thrown off its axis. Imagine the constancy of even the simplest, most predictable components of your life being tossed into the darkness of chaos, change, and insecurity.

Now imagine having no say in how you navigate that darkness. You don’t know how you got here. You don’t know how to get out. And you don’t know how to recognize, let alone deal with, all you are feeling.

Young Children and the Effects of Divorce

Another “no surprise” is that children of different ages process divorce differently. And the far-reaching effects of divorce, such as high-risk behaviors, are influenced by a child’s age at the time of his/her parents’ divorce.

Young children, for example, may have difficulty processing the idea of having two homes and having to go between them. They may also wonder if their parents will stop loving them, just as their parents have stopped loving one another. They haven’t yet developed the cognitive ability to separate the two concepts.

In an effort to make sense of their world, grade school children may start looking for a place to lay blame. And too often that blame turns inward to themselves. Was this my fault? Are Mommy and Daddy mad at me for something I did?

Teenagers and the Effects of Divorce

Teenagers, on the other hand, have a lot more cognitive development under their belts. But they still have a lot of flux in their emotional development and expression. They are more inclined to feel stressed, angry, and resentful and to place blame on one or both parents.

The successful transition for children of any age really pivots on the behavior and choices of the parents.

Swearing there is a place in Hell for your Ex is akin to sending the same message to your children. They are, don’t forget, a blend of both of you. And, when you hate the other parent in any capacity, your children will subconsciously assume you hate the same in them.

And that unthinkable, albeit unintended, judgment upon a child is life-altering. It destroys their self-esteem and sets them up for mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and extreme emotional sensitivity.

It also lays the groundwork for loyalty conflict and cognitive dissonance. When parents fight in front of or through their kids, they impose an unspoken demand for the children to take sides. They may even divide the children in their loyalties, as if the children were material assets.

Some children are able to detach from the fighting and declare neutrality. But others internalize it. And the mental state of trying to hold two incompatible, contradictory thoughts at once becomes painful and unsustainable.

In an effort to alleviate the discomfort of cognitive dissonance, children will often “choose” one parent over the other. The parental alienation of the other parent has no justification. But the mind simply can’t survive that kind of mental conflict.

Far better to learn how to co-parent. If you absolutely hate your ex, you can still ensure that your children know you love that part of them that came from the other parent. And, by committing to conflict-free parenting post-divorce, you will give them the greatest chance of exercising their resilience.

Signs that Divorce and Conflict are Affecting Your Child

There are so many divorce effects on children, each worthy of and warranting its own spotlight. But here are some additional effects to keep in mind and look for as you navigate your own (potential) divorce:

  • Increased behavioral problems, especially in homes and divorces with high conflict.
  • Decreased interest in social activity. Children of divorce are more likely to feel insecure and alone in their experience and may therefore isolate.
  • Difficulty adapting to change. Even the most amicable, cooperative divorces involve change for everyone. But most involve a lot of uncomfortable change—residential moves, financial hardship, school changes, remarriages, and step-/blended families, etc.
  • Destructive and risky behavior like alcohol/drug use and sexual activity.
  • Decreased academic performance. Constantly changing family dynamics understandably leave children confused and distracted, making it difficult for them to concentrate on studies.
  • Increased health problems. Mental health issues include anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, anger issues, and feelings of overwhelming stress, pressure, and guilt. The internalization of symptoms can lead to somatic disorder, which may present as sleep problems, headaches, stomachaches, and tension. This somatic symptom disorder may become especially evident if parental conflict is high at the “switching hour” when children go from one parent to the other.
  • Decreased faith in marriage and family, and therefore an increased risk of divorce later in life.

The responsibility of parenthood assumes a prioritization of the child over the parent. But, when high conflict, abuse, or addiction occurs in the home, everyone gets lost in the fight for emotional (and sometimes physical) survival.

Tragically, parents often return to emotional childhood themselves. And, if they don’t learn conflict-free parenting post-divorce, they will set up a history that is destined to repeat itself.

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice not to do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe now

 

*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.

 

Loveless marriage

Does Being in a Loveless Marriage Mean You Should Divorce?

Love is a foundational and primal need all humans have, but how each of us feels and expresses love most joyfully, from the gut, with no hesitation, is up to us to define. We’d like to think we enter marriages or other long-term love partnerships knowing that about ourselves. But more realistically, we might not discover that until we are already committed to one. And, as humans are organic, dynamic beings, we are therefore not only subject to change, but are also not growing unless we do.

If we know we are worthy of love, do we commit to ourselves enough to avoid settling for a partnership where love disappears? This question gives birth to the next, one that is the most difficult to answer, which often keeps people frozen inside loveless marriages all their lives.

Does being in a loveless marriage mean I should divorce? (Even in the midst of a pandemic)?

Well, as divorce is difficult, to say the very least, it’s worth trying to recover that love, but that requires that we first evaluate the marriage to see if it is showing signs of rupture that are beyond repair. The consensus is that some issues are more serious signs of a marriage that’s about to hit the rocks. For example, when the predominant number of exchanges between two spouses involve:

  • Criticism (not just occasional complaining but the more character assassinating, i.e. “you do,” “you don’t,” or “you never” statements of criticism).
  • Contempt.
  • Chronic defensiveness or “stonewalling.

Regarding these spousal interactions, generally defining what is meant by “predominant,” the Gottman Institute identifies a ratio of about five to one. If five to every one exchange is positive, loving, supportive, romantic, admiring, respectful, nurturing or symbiotically humorous (as opposed to caustically humorous, with one partner deriding the other), then the relationship is likely in good shape. Now flip that: If five to every one exchange is critical, fault-finding, passive aggressive, dismissive, impatient, indifferent, abusive, etc., then it is time to seriously consider getting professional help. Failing that help, it is time to consider that the marriage is on the brink of failure.

Qualitative Issues in Loveless Marriage

Further signs of total disrepair aren’t as much quantifiable as qualitative, and stem more from how we as individuals are creating or responding to the environment of our marriage rather than on a number of positive vs. negative exchanges with our spouse. Signs of serious qualitative issues in the marriage may include:

  • Prioritizing “Me time” or just avoiding time with your spouse instead of spending time together (i.e. We’d rather spend three hours in the basement with the dirty laundry than one hour with them in the living room, scrolling silently through the channels).
  • Fantasizing about escaping the marriage happens more often than seeking ways to make it better.
  • Experiencing prolonged absence 
  • Creating a primary relationship with something other than our primary partner (i.e. with work or another focus, fixation, or addiction that has taken our spouse’s place as our primary relationship—after all, we can be completely absent mentally and emotionally and still be sitting right there in the room).
  • Lacking sexual expression of the love that works for both partners.
  • Experiencing abuse (physical or emotional).

All of the above are the most commonly cited signs of a failing marriage, where the deficit is too great to fill back in unless each partner agrees to pick up a shovel and start digging.

When “Working on Your Marriage” Fails

And if that hole proves to big, too unstable to fill back in? Do we stay in a marriage that is completely loveless? That is mired in emotional deficit? If it’s just the two of you in the relationship, then no. If you have done honest and consistent work on yourself, worked together to address it, talked to a marriage counselor, rabbi, pastor, or divorce coach about it and applied what you learn to fixing it… and it still isn’t reparable?

If the answer isn’t no, why?

At that point we stop dithering (many of us are blue ribbon ditherers), and act. Whether you are going to stay in the marriage or leave it, braving that conversation with our spouse and asking for what we need has to happen. We have to act; we have to have that conversation. Otherwise, we will stay in a loveless marriage out of fear—literally wasting our lives away, and there is nothing about that that is authentic or joyful. It is a half-life.

Considering Divorce When Children Are Involved

What about the love you have for your kids? Well, then you’ve brought a third love into your marriage, and it supersedes the love you have for yourself and your mate. You have entered a form of love that is more about service to a goal beyond the two of you, which, ideally, is about raising healthy human beings.

If you do not have love for each other any longer but are still committed to the loving of your children together, then ultimately that is not a loveless marriage. You have love for your children.

At that point, while you may still share the goal of parenting, you do not share a love for each other. The love exists—and if you respect each other enough to coparent, that is a form of love, which might be a comforting thought.

But it is not just our children who need love. Each of us does. Commitment to ourselves is foundational; it comes first. If we are meeting our own needs in that regard, then we’re not creating a deficit within the relationship. We are present in partnering ourselves and expressing some aspect of individuality in a way that is meaningful to us.


Annie’s Group :: for those thinking about or beginning the divorce process.  

“There’s a comfort in strangers, that is simply not possible with friends and family who are not themselves divorcing.”  ~ T.Y., New York City


If we love ourselves enough to partner ourselves, then we most likely know when our spouse is not partnering us the way we need. If we choose to remain married to this person despite that, because doing so serves the children best, then we need to consider that the form of the marriage needs to change in order for our needs to be met.

Marriage, Act II: Renegotiation

A renegotiation of terms is completely possible, and along with LAT relationships (Living Apart Together), it’s happening far more often than a traditional marriage. We call this a Parenting Marriage. Do we live apart but remain married? Do we agree to partner in raising the children but allow ourselves and each other the right to see other people and engage in life activity that doesn’t include our spouse?

Certainly.

“Marriage is changing in so many ways, and the rigid paradigm of Ozzie and Harriet is trailing in the rearview mirror at breakneck speed… Now, couples are starting to see that they can renegotiate the terms of their marriage—without shame,” writes Susan Pease Gadoua, LCSW.

Gadoua stresses that both spouses have to accept that the marriage they originally set out to create—built on the romantic love they had for each other—has ended. Additionally, each spouse must commit equally to the love they share for their children and the idea that staying in partnership with each other is the best way to reach the goal of raising healthy kids. They discuss the renegotiation with the children together, and they agree on new terms.

This is the alchemy of changing an institution to fit you; it is a significant challenge, as we have no built-in template to work from, but people are learning that they can bend an institutional concept to fit them, rather than breaking themselves in half in order to fit an outdated set of laws and ideals.

Setting New Terms for the Marriage

Gadoua’s final point regarding the renegotiation of the marriage—a sort of emotional and social repurposing—is that both spouses draft and agree on the new terms.

New terms of the marriage might include an arrangement of one person sleeping in a new room in the house, planning set times with the kids, separating personal finances (i.e. those that don’t impact the family, such as mortgage and insurance payments). This may also include a negotiation of freedom: an agreement that they can spend their free time how they please and even have a relationship, as long as that person isn’t introduced to the kids without agreement ahead of time.

So, if we do actively choose to “stay in the marriage for the kids,” it does not necessarily then follow that the marriage is an emotional desert for us and yet an oasis of nourishment for our children. In fact, that’s impossible. Love can include variations on a theme and so can marriage. But if we’re staying and not going, we do have to get boldly creative about making an oasis somewhere inside that marriage for ourselves.

 

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer 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 compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

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

To illustrate if having an affair means divorce

Does Having an Affair Mean You Will Divorce?

Having an affair—or being on the forsaken side of one—changes you. It changes your marriage, your family, your life. It makes you question everything—your marriage vows, your happiness, your ability to trust, even your own trustworthiness. And it certainly makes you question your future.

Even if you regret your choice to have an affair, you know things will never be the same. (And likewise for your husband if he was the one who had the affair.) You know you can’t pretend it didn’t happen.

There is only a handful of choices once a spouse has had an affair:

  • The straying spouse confesses the affair.
  • The other spouse finds out.
  • The affair is kept a secret, but the straying spouse (and his/her affair partner) always knows and remembers.

And, regarding the destiny of the marriage, there are only two choices:

  • Stay married.
  • Divorce.

How those choices play out is another story. But, without question, the very act of having an affair brings all these possibilities to the fore. And, while you may have been the one to choose the affair, you won’t be the only one to choose its consequences.

While there are several ways to know if divorce is the only option, infidelity in and of itself isn’t one of them. Although cheating is behind 20-40% of divorces, that doesn’t mean that cheating necessarily has to lead to divorce.

Statistics on infidelity and divorce are plentiful and complex. And if the range in numbers seems less than tight, there’s good reason. Infidelity is largely self-reported. It also has a spectrum of definitions, ranging from emotional to one-night-stand to all-in.

Straying from one’s marriage vows has long been a vice quickly attributed to men. “Why did you get divorced? Did he have an affair?” Assumptions abound—often to the point where cheated-on-wives would rather stay in troubled marriages and turn a blind eye.

When Children Are Involved

There is also the issue of children. Regardless of how an affair is revealed, children factor into the consequences. Perhaps that is largely why, when men have affairs, their wives are more likely to stick it out than when the opposite is true.

There is another reason that factors into the picture, however, and that’s why each gender is inclined to stray.

While men are, in general, more capable of separating their emotions from sex, women aren’t. A man may betray his wife by having an affair that is “just sex.” And he will, of course, break her heart and harm his marriage.

But scorned wives, at least statistically, are more likely to want to work on and save their marriages.

Scorned husbands, on the other hand, aren’t so tolerant—at least statistically.

Perhaps that’s because a woman having an affair is usually motivated by a yearning for emotional connection. She feels dissatisfied in her marriage and doesn’t receive an equitable effort to make things work.

So, when she strays, she takes more than her body to the tryst. She takes her heart.

And men don’t like it.

While having an affair doesn’t equate to pulling the “go to jail, go directly to jail” card in Monopoly, it is a red flag. And it’s how you and your husband respond to that red flag that will determine the destiny of your marriage. “Go to court, go directly to court”? Or “go to counseling, go directly to counseling”?

When a marriage has been shaken by infidelity, choices have to be made. None are easy. All are painful. And all have lifetime consequences.

When having an affair does lead to divorce, it’s usually because of one or more of the following reasons:

  • The cheated-on-spouse simply isn’t able to trust again.

The process of rebuilding the cornerstone of marriage is a long, humbling, arduous one. And it requires commitment and compassion from both parties.

Transparency from the cheating spouse, a willingness to forgive from the betrayed spouse. The seemingly disparate objectives have to miraculously work in synchronicity. And there needs to be enough love in the foundation, however ironic that may sound.

  • There are underlying issues that made the marriage vulnerable to an affair.

As mentioned above, women who have affairs are usually hungering for an emotional connection. Sex may become part of the infidelity, but usually there is an underlying, unresolved discontent with their marriages.

Men, on the other hand, are usually more dissatisfied with their wives’ dissatisfaction. This makes it easy for them to disregard the need to work on themselves or their marriages.

But one thing is undeniable: An affair will expose the issues and leave both partners standing at a fork in the road of their union. Do we work on this, or do we go our separate ways? Should I or shouldn’t I divorce?

  • One spouse refuses to get help.

Delving into oneself is always a springboard toward personal growth. But there is only so much one can do alone when it comes to repairing a marriage. And never is that more true than when an affair has sounded the Reveille on a troubled marriage.

Whether you are the one who has had the affair or been cheated on, getting professional help is a great step. But your spouse’s willingness to participateindividually and as a couplewill determine the ability of your marriage to survive.

  • One or both of you is just done.

It happens. Sometimes there is just too much water under the bridge, regardless of who did what. There’s too much anger over the infidelity. There’s too much anger over what led to the infidelity. The infidelity was a way to sabotage and exit the marriage.

There are a lot of reasons that can lead to that sense of unequivocal finality.

You may not hear the whispers or feel the nudges leading up to your “aha moment.” But, when you look back, you see it all so clearly.

Sex became a chore. Communication became bitter and stressful. Envisioning your future went by the wayside—or began to include someone other than your spouse. You lost respect for one another. You flat-out stopped enjoying the company of your spouse. And on and on and on.

You may even wonder how you didn’t see it until now. But that voice is always there, telling you that something isn’t right and urging you to address it.

Having an affair can be a slamming of the door or a cry for help.

There are plenty of couples who will tell you that, despite their recommendation against infidelity, it was precisely an infidelity that saved their marriage. They made the choice to get to work on behalf of the vows they had once made. And they brought their marriage up from the ashes.

Likewise, there are plenty of couples who stay together, but with a wound that never fully heals.

And finally, there are those who decide the infidelity was the final straw. Perhaps they can’t bear the thought of living in its shadow. Perhaps they resolve to leave and learn.

But none are ever the same.

 

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to navigating divorce—on their own terms. If you are considering or dealing with divorce, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown—with compassion and integrity.

*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.

Stay at home. moms get alimony?

stay-at-home mom

Complications always arise in divorce and money negotiations. If you’re one of the 25% of American mothers staying home to raise a family, the financial implications of a split become more complex. Stay-at-home moms will have to plan their financial futures accordingly.

If you didn’t have an iron-clad prenuptial agreement in place when you married, your divorce might involve a lot of negotiation. Child support, custody, visitation rights, property division, and debt are all going to be on the table.

The questions and answers are different in each case, but one of the key issues is always whether you were a working or stay-at-home mom. That factor can determine how much you know about your household’s finances, the amount of money you have access to, your options for the future, and whether or not you’ll get alimony.

Divorce laws differ in each state, and there’s very little legislation on spousal support. If you’re not careful, lawyers can engage in endless back-and-forth tussles debating the issue, sending legal costs skyrocketing.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you need to take action to look after yourself and your children’s day-to-day needs. When that involves securing alimony, there are some practical steps you can take.

Collate All Your Financial Documents

If you haven’t neatly filed your tax returns, investment account statements, details about loans and mortgages, and any other financial documents, make sure you organize them now.

You should also find out if you’re entitled to collect social security benefits from your Ex, and you may have to familiarize yourself with other family-related expenses too. The idea is to get a clear picture of the financial situation in your mind. That may be daunting if your Ex handled all things money, but it’s the first step in negotiating a fair settlement as a stay-at-home-mom.

Find Out the Value of All Property

Get an up-to-date valuation on your primary residence, plus any other houses, apartments, vehicles, or other assets that you’ve acquired together over the marriage. This can get a little messy later on if your Ex withholds information, and you have to resort to forensic accountants to uncover hidden assets. However, for the time being, try to remain as civil as possible.

Get a Good Handle on Credit

Even if everything goes according to plan, divorces cost money. Going forward, two households need to be maintained instead of one. That’s two sets of rent or mortgages, insurance plans, and utilities—just for starters.

The fact is, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to rely on credit somewhere along the way. Find out your credit score using one of the reputable online checking sites and improve your current rating if possible. Settling old debts or long-term loans will give your score a boost.

If you have a good rating, banks will be more willing to extend your line of credit. This could help to cover your monthly expenses when you’re in a pinch.

Consider Plans to Return to Work

If you’ve never worked or left the workforce many years ago, you’ll probably feel uncertain and anxious about joining or rejoining the proverbial rat race. There’s certainly a lot to consider, including what skills you have, those you need to develop, and what you want out of your career.

From an alimony point of view, your future employment plans could affect whether you ask for temporary or permanent spousal support. The type of support you request may determine how a judge rules in a contested divorce, or what your Ex offers if the divorce remains uncontested. Think about this when you’re considering jobs, and when setting a goal for how much you’d like to earn.

Create Possible Budgets

Armed with all the financial and career information you’ve gathered, create budgets that deal with several possible scenarios.

What would happen if you sold some—or all—of your property and split the proceeds? How much do you spend on groceries, and how much can you expect to spend in a month if your Ex is sharing custody?

You should also work out how much all your monthly expenses (insurance, phone plans, et cetera) add up to. And while it can be challenging to work out how your career would have developed if you’d been in the workplace instead of at home, financial analysts and job experts can make it a lot easier. Their services do cost money, but they could result in securing you more funds down the line.

Retain an Attorney

Divorces are undoubtedly difficult, but you can handle them amicably, and that’s what almost everyone wants. That’s why so many people choose divorce mediation, and why it’s something you should at least consider.

Having said that, you should still retain a divorce attorney. If mediation is successful, you’ll be using your lawyer a lot less. However, you’ll still want the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have a legal expert who is helping you vet offers from your spouse, or whose reviewing things from your perspective and how they will impact you long term.  This is critical to making sure you have protected yourself. One of the biggest mistakes women make throughout the divorce process is that they don’t plan adequately FINANCIALLY for their future.


If you are looking for support, education, and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, you’ll be interested in Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual group coaching program for women thinking about or beginning the process of divorce/separation. Read more here

 


Consider Divorce Mediation

With all the data you’ve collected and your budget scenarios, you’ll be in a great position, potentially, to talk frankly with your Ex. You can discuss the children’s needs, and what you require to continue being the mother your kids know, love, and deserve.

Mediation is a time to negotiate fairly. It’s about people and families rather than lawyers and money.

Be as honest as possible; for example, don’t say you’re not planning on going back to work when you are. As tough as it is, be respectful towards your soon-to-be ex-spouse, regardless of who decided to leave. This creates the best-case scenario for a fair divorce that’s granted quickly, giving both spouses and any children the chance to move forward with their lives.

Caution: If you never had access to the finances in your marriage, your spouse controlled everything regarding money, or your spouse is accustomed to negotiating with lawyers (in work or otherwise), or there was any form of deceit, lying or betrayal in the relationship, you are NOT a good candidate for mediation.  Mediation is about two parties being on an equal playing field and being transparent with each other. If you never had that, don’t expect it to magically appear with the help of a mediator. Use a traditional divorce attorney to advocate on your behalf.

Remember That You’re Worth It!

As a society, we’re still learning how to value stay-at-home moms and caretaking versus breadwinning in a marital or domestic situation.

Often, stay-at-home moms don’t receive long-term alimony. This is because judges are increasingly recognizing that the historical gender disadvantages have lessened. As a result, judges may award short-term alimony, but will require that stay-at-home moms will need to seek employment in the future. However, the time you put into running a household, rearing children, and supporting your spouse’s career is invaluable. As you enter these negotiations, remind yourself—and your Ex—of that fact.

 

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

 

What are the Covid Divorce Statistics?

What are the COVID Divorce Statistics?

Divorce statistics in the US are nothing to make the marriage industry proud. Despite a significant decrease in recent years (most likely because more couples are waiting to marry), divorce still lurks as a postscript to marriage vows. An iffy chance of success, with even worse odds for successive marriages, casts a dim light on the concept of “forever.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, divorce rates hit a historical high in 1979, with 22.6 out of every 1,000 breaking up. Fast forward 38 years to 2017, and that rate had dropped 29% to 16.1 divorces for every 1,000 marriages. That’s a significant drop and a nice boost to the institution of marriage.

The bulk of that success can be attributed to fewer younger couples taking their first trip down the aisle. Apparently they had taken the failed marriages of the younger-marrying Baby Boomer generations before them to heart. Waiting several more years to tie the knot apparently worked.

Unfortunately, those 55 and over who have decided to give connubial bliss another shot haven’t been as successful. As a matter of fact, their divorce rates have skyrocketed.

Against this statistical backdrop heading into 2020, a new player has entered the arena and could very well throw divorce statistics into an upheaval.

I’m talking, of course, about the coronavirus pandemic.

No one saw it coming. And no one could have imagined how life on a global scale would change on a moment’s notice. Suddenly that hypothetical question, “If you were stuck on a remote island with one person, who would you want it to be?” took on new meaning.

How the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 gets written into the history books and statistical data remains to be seen. But hints of what’s to come are already revealing themselves.

Sheltering-in-place has upended the home life of millions of people. Not all the forced adaptations have been negative, but the stresses of the times have definitely taken a negative toll. And marriages are standing right there in the middle of the traffic.

When you consider the top reasons for which couples divorce, it’s not surprising that the COVID pandemic is putting marriages to the test. Three of the biggest reasons — abuse, addiction, and financial problems — have been in a veritable Petri dish since lockdowns started.

Unemployment rates are at an all-time high, and even those willing to work have been forced to wait things out. Families already living paycheck-to-paycheck have been forced to rely on less-than-adequate unemployment benefits. And people have been scrambling to reinvent themselves professionally in anticipation of the long-haul unknown.

Considering that finances fuel a big portion of marital conflict, troubled relationships are now burning at a faster rate. Add to that mix the isolation and secrecy needed for abuse and addiction to thrive, and you have a glimpse of what may influence divorce statistics.

It’s still too early to have a clear picture of divorce rates during this pandemic. And one big reason for that is that courts were included in the shutdowns. Suddenly there was no means to file for or proceed with divorce. Only emergency cases — those involving domestic violence and emergency child custody needs, for example — were being considered.

As businesses and government agencies began reopening, courts had to play catch-up with their pre-pandemic backlog of cases. That meant a further delay for people already in the process of divorce, and definitely a delay for those wanting to file.

For women seeking divorce in the time of coronavirus, their focus has needed to shift to preparation and self-care. Many divorce lawyers and counselors are receiving calls from people intending to divorce as soon as possible. Many expect the uptick in virtual filings to explode after the pandemic has settled. But, until the courts can catch up, those waiting remain stuck.

The financial component of this pandemic can’t be extricated from the analysis of (potential) divorce statistics during this time. Divorce isn’t cheap. And it rarely leaves either party financially better off than when the couple was married.

Lawyers, court fees, financial advisors, and settlement terms are expensive. Pairing job and income loss with the realization that your marriage can’t make it poses a big problem. That scenario is becoming more common, and it’s forcing couples to rethink both their marriages and their approach to ending them.

For couples who can maintain respect and civility, options like mediation and collaborative divorce can save a lot of money. They can also help expedite the divorce process while courts are overwhelmed.

But there are additional financial factors that complicate divorce efforts during this pandemic.

The most complex component of any divorce, aside from custodial arrangements for children, is the division of assets. Divorce proceedings, for good reason, look at more than just “what’s in the account today.” Past, present, and future all come into play.

Any kind of disaster or major crisis influences the values of homes, stocks, and other assets. Stop the world from spinning on its axis, and you’ve got major economic upheaval.

How do you now plan for the sale of your home and the division of profits (or debt)? How do you fairly divide stocks and retirement investments that may have plummeted and haven’t recovered?

How do you determine spousal and/or child support when one or both parties doesn’t have guaranteed employment or income? How are things like life insurance and health insurance affected? How do you separate from your spouse and find a place to rent when there’s no income?

One thing is definite in this time of COVID: This pandemic is holding a mirror up to every marriage and household. And it’s exposing every weakness that could once hide behind careers and individual interests.

It may be a while before we have a clear understanding of the influence of COVID-19 on divorce statistics. But, if you are a woman facing the possible end of your marriage, there is hope…and help.

There are things to do if you are thinking about divorce — many that you can begin doing now. And there are divorce support groups to walk with you on this painful journey, even if you don’t have the convenience of physical separation yet.

COVID may have changed life as we know it. And it may be complicating the processes for making necessary life choices. But you still have the power to make those choices…and the support to help you live them.

 

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice not to do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and personal support strategies for themselves and their 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 thinking about her expectations of the divorce process

Deflating Your Expectations about the Divorce Process

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

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

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

A mess instead of success

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

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

We divorced after seventeen years of marriage

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

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

My post-divorce journey

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

Expectation 1: divorce will never happen to me

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

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

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

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

Expectation 2: it would be quick

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

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

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

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

Expectation 3: my husband will behave like a gentleman

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

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

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

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

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

Expectation 4: my closest circle will support me

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

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

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

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

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

Expectation 5: my kids will be on my side

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

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

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

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

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

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She is training to be a coach for women in transition. You can reach out to her via e-mail anna.i.galitsina@gmail.com for a test coach session or a discussion.

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