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A woman looking out at a window thinking about her unwanted divorce

What to Do If You Are Dealing with an Unwanted Divorce

Your husband took you by surprise—but not the good kind. You never saw the end of your marriage coming. For many of us, that’s how it happens. One night you’re looking at Airbnb’s for a trip to Mexico with “Suzy and Ed,” your long-time married friends, your parallel soulmates whom you always travel with now that you’re reaching a certain age. You were picturing the guys playing golf together, while you and Suzy visited local markets. And then that word: divorce. Worse yet, maybe he told you there’s someone else.

You deserve so much—happiness and love and respect. Loyalty too. Deep down, you know this. But being served with divorce papers was never on the list of things you deserved.

If this is you, or close enough (maybe there is no third party to the story, as far as you know), then you are a woman facing an unwanted divorce. Below are ten things you should know.

Take your time as you read them over, and before you take action, give yourself permission to cry and mourn and hold space for your feelings. Start your divorce recovery journey in the place that feels right to you. And above all, be kind to yourself. Dealing with an unwanted divorce may feel impossible, but we promise you’ll get through this.

1. Understand that he’s* known he was going to leave you for a while

He’s been preparing for this divorce much longer than you have—he will be pulled together and clear-headed, ready for what comes next after he’s gotten the news off his chest. And in return, he’ll want you to fall in line, play your part, and sign the papers so he can officially call game over and move forward.

2. And because he’s had time to prepare, you’ll need a script to lean on

Here’s a good place to start: “You’ve been preparing for this for a while, but I’ve just been hit with the news. I need time to process what you are saying and what this means. I need to get educated.”

Prepare for him to react, for eyerolling, and more while you make it clear: “We are not operating by your clock anymore.”

3. Then find safe ground

This means find your people and get educated. Yes, it’s only natural to call your mother, brother, and best friend. But after sharing the shock you’re feeling, recognize you need more than empathy and verbal support. You need expert feedback on your situation. You need the what to do, how to do it, and above all, how to do it healthily feedback.

So that one day, one fine day, you can say you are recovered and healed from the complete devastation you are feeling now.

Our best suggestion is, of course, to meet with a divorce coach. You’ll want to hear how you can most efficiently get educated on what your life choices are right now and how you will take care of yourself. The right coach will help you understand what to do with all the outrage, anger, rejection, and grief you have over your unwanted divorce AND how to handle the aspects of it that are more business transaction than emotions. The business transaction of divorce, the legal and financial angles to the divorce, must be dealt with smartly and separately so you can protect yourself from being hurt again.

4. Be prepared, some people aren’t going to understand why you can’t just move on

This is especially true when it’s clear your husband started everything, or was maybe two-timing you, and you so clearly deserve more. Remember what we said about the clock above? Well, similarly, you are not healing or getting “back out there,” dating or otherwise, based on anyone else’s sense of urgency. This time is about you and how you choose to help yourself cope and heal.


Read “How Long Does it Take to Get Over a Divorce and 4 Signs You are on Your Way”


5. Find your tribe

Find women who understand you, who inspire you, who lift you up. Surround yourself with women who make you laugh and women who remind you of who you really are. If this is a support group, that’s great, but make sure that support group is facilitated by a pro who helps steer the conversation to a new, empowered and take-charge kind of place. A healthy divorce support group for you is one that teaches you things and, when you leave, has you feeling more positive and lighter.

6. No matter how blindsided you are, recognize there was something wrong in your relationship

You knew it on some level. Trying to second, third, or quadruple guess what exactly it was is a waste of energy right now because it was probably a lot of things. When a person gets to the point of leaving you, it was a process, not a single action or moment.

It could have been a slow or fast burn, but trying to fix it now is not going to work. It’s not all his fault or her fault. Your coming to terms with what you did will be the work of the next stage in your divorce recovery. But not now. Right now, you’ve got to get educated on what your rights are and what you’re entitled to. You must be treated fairly in this business negotiation.

7. Here’s what not to do: stalk him

You have to treat your Ex like an addiction. You cannot be with him more than you absolutely have to. Because whenever you are with him, your heart at varying degrees wants to go backward, to “return to the familiar.” You can’t afford to keep going backward, living in the past. You need to learn what steps to take and accept that they will be hard, but you need to learn how to fix your broken heart.

8. Do not compare your divorce to others

With an unwanted divorce, your recovery process is not the same as another woman who chose to leave her husband. She might be feeling excited and empowered, finally free, which bears no resemblance to your great sense of loss, disappointment, betrayal, and rejection. Your experiences are different. Your divorce recovery is probably going to take longer, but it will happen if you do things to support yourself and not go backwards too much.

9. You are human

You’re made of flesh and blood. And sometimes, the pain you feel will appear unbearable. And because of this sometimes you will fail, you will fall, and you will cry. But you progress every time you get back up and dry your face, all the times you pick your kids up from school, show up for work, or drive by to check in on your mom. That’s you compartmentalizing. Managing that makes you a master. Take stock of what you can do in spite of what you’ve been through!

10. You were part of a team before, but there was something flawed

Now you are no longer a team but a woman at a choice point, staring at a fork in the road. You must decide how you will meet the change that is coming toward you.

You may be going through an unwanted divorce, yes, but you can choose to consider it a foe or meet it as a friend. You can focus on the facts of what has happened to you and how they were not fair, or you can get curious about what’s in front of you. Get in the driver’s seat of your own life—it’s the only way you can see better.

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 to recover from a divorce break up if you feel abandoned.

Divorce: How to Get Over a Breakup When You Feel Abandoned

Often when you are reading about divorce and the woman’s perspective, many stories assume that the woman was unhappy and that she was the one who left the marriage. The research supports this, that women initiate divorce more often than men. And at SAS, we certainly work with women who feel and act on this. But let’s not hide the fact that for many other women, you’re not the one who wanted the divorce. You did not initiate this.

  • You might have been thinking it, but he acted first.
  • Or you knew things weren’t great, but you never thought it would come to this.
  • Or, you’ve been blindsided.

In any of these scenarios, but especially the last two, you don’t feel so empowered.

You feel betrayed, left, rejected, abandoned. This is a traumatic experience. When your husband*, the man you committed your life to, is doing the abandoning, the feelings welling up inside you may seem insurmountable. But they are surmountable. You need to hear this, you can heal.  But it’s not going happen today. It will be a process. Right now, you need perspective, support, and to know that you are not alone. There are women who’ve experienced this trauma, too, and know what you are feeling. These women want you to know your healing process will not look the same as that of women who left their husbands. In this piece, we’ll discuss how to get over such a trauma, a breakup of epic weight. Your marriage.

Let’s begin by saying you may find yourself unsure of how to start, how to move forward in your now (or soon to be) independent life. How can you forget about him? How can you begin again? How can you trust again? Are you worthy of being loved?  Being abandoned or rejected would suggest you are not. This truth seems to cut to the heart of your being.

Dealing with the aftermath, the grief

Some people think of grief as a process connected only to death, but it’s a natural reaction to loss of any kind. Grief is what happens when the familiar is broken, when we reach out for someone only to find their essence gone.  They are absent. When we’ve been abandoned by someone we love, all of our feelings—abandoned, angry, betrayed, struck, shocked, sad—tend to converge and ebb and flow in a wave of emotions we desperately attempt to pick through and make sense of.

You must be with these emotions.  You must let them ebb and flow. They exist for good reason. You need to pick through, process, and give meaning to them. You must mourn.

When your husband said “I want a divorce,” the first wave hit. You might have felt, or continue to feel shock. You might feel numb. You might not be able to sleep through the night, or remember the last time you were hungry. You might think you didn’t hear him right. He was talking about the neighbors, they’re getting a divorce. It can’t be you. Doesn’t make sense, what do you know about the world, if you don’t even know the man you’ve committed your life to? Yesterday, you felt safe. Today, your legs just got kicked out from underneath you.

The thing about grief is that you might also feel none of these things. There is nothing about grief that is universal.

What we do know is that unresolved grief is real, tragic, and avoidable.

Refusing to explore those questions—Who can I trust? Am I worthy? Why do I feel like my right arm was just cut off?—by believing that time will heal all your wounds will not serve you.

When you don’t process your grief, you simply make it a part of your story. This results in your building walls between yourself and the rest of the world in an effort to protect you from ever being hurt again. This stunts you. You prevent yourself from experiencing anything deep and meaningful, even happiness.

Figuring out how to get over a breakup is different for every woman

Even if you understand rationally that you must metabolize your grief—the future can still seem lonely and it can be difficult to find direction and especially, to find yourself after divorce. Especially because, people don’t understand you. They want the best for you. They say things like, “You’re so much better off without HIM! Now get yourself out there, Girl, and have some fun! Meet some good guys who are going to appreciate you.”

And you have no interest.  No interest of any sort because you’re still spinning from the shock and trauma of being left.  The divorce document may be signed, or because of your pain, it’s hard for you to focus (so the divorce is actually being drawn out). But this grief you are feeling is nonlinear. Maybe you still love him.

First and foremost, you must give yourself time to grieve and to complete your grieving. There are steps to your divorce recovery, which will help you clear your path after heartbreak, but understand everyone’s timeline is different. You might feel ready to go out to social events like you used to as a couple in three months or six months or two years time. You may decide you will never do anything like you used to, and this includes those kind of social events you and your Ex went to. You may or may not ever wish to date again either.

Whatever amount of time you feel is right should be the amount of time you allow yourself to do what you want to do.

Putting yourself first

You begin by putting yourself first. You must recover YOU. When you were in your marriage, your “I” and “me” become “us” and “we.” For so long, Friday nights weren’t for you but about spending time with the family or going out or staying in with your partner. Don’t be afraid to ask yourself “What do I want to do?” and then go do it. It’s really that simple. And that hard.

Think about things you’ve always wanted to do, like go on a retreat, volunteer somewhere, or take a painting class. Can you even remember what used to turn you on? You can, if you give yourself the time to think about what still excites you, what calls you, what opens your eyes?

Sometimes it’s hard to get started, and at first, you might feel selfish about “finding yourself.” But this is your job now. By pursuing your own wants and interests it’s not about abandoning your family, or responsibilities, or habits—it’s about taking stock of one’s life now. What activities, people, behaviors no longer serve you? What new things, goals, and endeavors are calling you to explore and follow through with?

Discover yourself more by getting outside yourself

Finding yourself means looking for yourself and looking at yourself in different ways. Resilience studies show that people are more resilient—they recover from traumatic events more effectively than others—when they have strong support networks of people to help them cope with crisis. So surround yourself with those who love and care for you.

However, you can achieve an even bigger boost of resilience by offering support to others.

This sounds counter-intuitive, like the last thing you’d want to do when you are feeling tapped out and kicked to the curb. But any way you can reach out and help other people is a way of moving outside yourself and your story.  This gives you perspective and cultivates your sense of empathy and connectedness with others. It helps you feel meaningful and purposeful. This does not necessarily mean volunteering for two years with the Peace Corps but aligning yourself with a mission outside your own personal trauma. The mission must have meaning to you and make you want to push through adversity on its behalf. 

The importance of finding support

If you feel like you need help, though, ask for it. Surviving loneliness after divorce can be a constant battle. Certain friends or family members, specific types of divorce groups, and professionals who understand the process like therapists and divorce coaches can help you heal. It’s okay to cry or wallow for a while. Maybe your Ex isn’t worth your tears, but the loss of the marriage, the magnitude of that shared identity, the comfortable life style you enjoyed, is what the pain is about. Maybe you need to mourn the fantasy that was your marriage or the time you invested in it trying to make it work. If you feel like you’re in pain, let yourself be with the pain in a safe place. Just don’t get lost in your pain and suffering and start looking for an easy way out—ask for help navigating your way through it.

Support can be especially important if you are navigating divorce—the legal and financial process—at the same time you are flooded with emotions of denial or rejection. Hitting pause to heal may not be possible for you right now. And that’s okay, because after the document is negotiated, you will be better positioned to focus on yourself. That is really the best time to come to terms with your emotional loss.

During divorce

If the divorce is happening now, you must get your game face on and consider the negotiation (as much as possible) as a business transaction. You cannot afford to be make legal and financial decisions from your wounded heart or from your sense of injustice (you never saw this coming, damnit! He should pay! He’s been living a double life fooling around with this other woman?) Why? Because looking for justice for your broken heart is never going to happen legally. And it will definitely cost you more—more money, more time, and, especially, more pain.

Divorce coaches can help you understand what to do with your heart as you face the black and white logistics of divorce. They understand the emotions and what you must do with them. They may even help you learn to rehabilitate and reframe those feelings we most often associate with shame, anger or weakness.

After divorce

Time can help with the wounds, but time alone will not heal them. You must do something. Take time to understand what you are healing from and to really be with those feelings. After you go through the grieving process, which is part of the healing process, a lot of those initial feelings that came with being dumped—abandonment, betrayal, rejection and feeling like you can never love again—will fade and be replaced with a newfound sense of who you are: independent and resilient.

Let’s not forget you are human. You may be scarred, but those scars will be less fragile and new—your skin will be thicker and tougher—as you move into the next chapter in your life. Those scars will talk of living, loving, recovering, and recreating.

There is no magic formula to help you recover from a breakup as momentous as divorce…But if you take time to understand what the journey of divorce really looks like and what you must do to legally protect yourself, you will give yourself the space and time to lean into your emotions and to learn what this story of loss means for you. You will reclaim you. You will heal.

Whether you are navigating the experience and aftermath of divorce, or in that confusing but fertile place of recreating the life you want to lead, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of “After Divorce.” “A successful divorce requires smart steps through and beyond the divorce document.” Learn what we mean and how it will benefit you in a FREE 15–minute consultation.

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

Woman talking about her divorce recovery

How to Recover from Divorce Emotionally

You’ve heard it before, divorce can be as stressful as losing someone to death. Except death is final. The person is gone. So for those who never wanted the divorce, who continue to struggle, trying to recover from divorce emotionally, that lack of closure — still knowing your ex is around — can be more painful than death. He’s not gone — entirely.

Losing your marriage no matter how long you’ve been married, or the circumstances of who left whom, is going to require experiencing and working through your grief. And grief may not be what you think it means.

We like to define grief as the sudden loss of a familiar pattern or way of living. For example, while you might not be missing the yelling, the passive/aggressive behaviors of your ex or yourself, or the lying, cheating or second guessing of yourself;  you’re probably not entirely prepared for the changes facing you across the board, now that you are waking up wondering who your are. How did you lose yourself? As you begin to understand divorce recovery, and that this next chapter in front of you is complicated, you’ll need to remind yourself to be patient. Your healing is not going to happen overnight.

But there are things you can do to begin the repairing of your heart and body and soul.

Get the support and help you need

The first weeks and months after a divorce can feel soul-wretchedly lonely, but there are others who can help you feel less alone. While friends and family may be available to lean on if you need anything, it is sometimes better to work with a licensed counselor or therapist who can guide you through your grieving. It’s important to have a safe place where you can honestly open up and discuss your feelings in the wake of the divorce.

Accept your emotions, experience them and talk about them

You might be feeling angry or besotted with sadness. You might be numb. You are probably experiencing a spectrum of emotions after your divorce, and there is no right or wrong way to feel. This is an extremely challenging moment time and it’s important that you accept your feelings for what they are. Cry when you need to cry (in that safe place described above). Vent about your anger when you feel frustrated or upset. This allows you to experience the emotions and to process what they mean to you.  It’s not about sweeping them under the rug or putting them in a box. It’s about honoring them and giving them space. A support group, a good friend who has been through divorce, or a coach can help you with perspective and what’s more, doing something to move beyond the trauma.

Try to maintain your daily routine

Nearly every aspect of your life is uprooted when you get divorced, and it’s easy to feel like each day is chaotic and stressful. To maintain some sense of normalcy, it’s necessary to stick to a consistent routine. Continue to have your favorite coffee in the morning. Take the same route to work, and make your favorite spaghetti dinner on Tuesdays like you always do. This can both alleviate stress and bring comfort during an emotionally trying time in your life.

Delve into a new interest or hobby

Divorce can take its toll on your identity. While you grieve the loss of your status as a married person and as a spouse to someone that you once loved, you should also see an opportunity to grow, change and learn new things. For many, a new hobby can be therapeutic. It takes your mind off of the pain of your divorce, and also allows you to find something for yourself that you enjoy. Photography, crafting, writing, hiking or yoga are a few options that you might want to consider.

Keep a journal

Writing about your feelings and your daily activities can provide you with a private outlet for your feelings. This is one of the safest spaces to disclose your thoughts and your experiences in the aftermath of your divorce. Pick a time of day where you have a few extra minutes to jot down your thoughts — many people find that before bedtime is a wonderful time of day to journal. Incorporate journaling into your new routine, and keep up with your new habit in the months and years to come.

Prioritize self-care

After a divorce, it can be easy to focus your efforts on caring for your children or throwing yourself into your work. It’s also easy to forget that you need to take care of yourself. However, this is one of the most important times in your life to prioritize self-care. Treat yourself to that pedicure, even if it doesn’t feel like you have the time. Take a warm bubble bath at the end of the night and read a light-hearted novel. Visit your favorite local restaurant and enjoy the most delicious item on the menu. Do things that make you feel good and happy, as this will help minimize your stress.

Allow yourself to focus on the future 

Your future needs your attention, And there is a future. You may not feel it or see it, but it’s right in front of you. You just cannot see it if you are only looking in the rearview mirror.

If you are struggling to recover from divorce, and dealing with the wounds at the same time you are trying to rebuild your life, you may be especially interested in a 6-week group we are forming to support women navigating this new chapter of their lives. If you’d like to learn more, schedule a quick 15-minute chat with SAS Cofounder, Liza Caldwell.  To advance, to live well, you must do something.