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Before you file for divorce

6 Must Do’s Before Filing for Divorce

Regardless of your situation, divorce is life-altering. Even if you expect to manage a calm break-up, the financial and emotional challenges could make divorce one of the toughest things you’ll do in your life. For this reason, many people do not prepare themselves adequately before filing for divorce.

Unfortunately, most people jump into divorce impulsively—or they face divorce unexpectedly—without ever preparing. In those scenarios, the risks of a bad outcome increase because at least one of you reacts from an emotional, uninformed place. This increases the likelihood of discord, conflict, and pain because “fear” is leading the charge.

Responding from a steadier, educated place will reduce pain in the long run. And so, before you decide to file for divorce or respond to a divorce filed against you, make sure to follow the concrete suggestions below to help get your footing. You must acknowledge your fear, but you must also listen to your brain and take these steps.

  1. Begin By Writing Down Your Questions

Taking action is important, in fact critical, but before you lunge in any direction, take time to be with yourself and to write down the biggest questions you have. Put the questions in categories if possible: legal, financial, emotional/life, practical. Then consider your questions and find the right professional who can help with them. Friends can only get you so far. A professional must look at your circumstances to help you understand your choices. A professional will have experience with these issues. Why do it all alone and exhaust yourself trying to reinvent the wheel?

  1. Gather the Necessary Documents to Get Feedback

Legal and financial documents about your marital life are essential in divorce. During the process, your lawyer and financial advisor will need to see various documentation to give you concrete feedback on what your best-case and worst-case scenarios are. Organizing your paperwork early on, including such essential files as investment and retirement account statements, tax returns, and pay stubs of your partner, will help your advisors understand the financial story and help you develop your best strategy for what you will negotiate for and live on.

Read Are You Thinking About Divorce? Important Steps to Be Prepared

  1. Consult the Right Professionals

Look at your list of questions and begin consulting the appropriate expert. Therapists can help you specifically with the emotional journey you are going through and offer guidance on how to take care of yourself during this time. The relatively new type of divorce advisor the “divorce coach” is a generalist who gives you an overview and structure for what to expect. They will help with some of your questions and help you identify clear steps to take in the right direction. Divorce coaches are also trained in supporting you with your emotional challenges as you are facing this transition. Well-resourced and connected, they can provide you with referrals to other seasoned experts, like a lawyer, therapist, or financial advisor who specializes in divorce.

  1. Legal Support

Even if you are thinking about it, or your spouse is telling you, “Let’s do it DIY!” it is critical that you, as an individual woman, get feedback on your legal situation. This means consulting with a lawyer on your own.

You should look for a traditional, licensed divorce attorney for this meeting and aim to learn what your rights are. Additionally, you should also learn what you are entitled to and what might be potential issues to resolve. You must hear what your state law says about your circumstances (and not rely on what your spouse is telling you.) You’ll probably have questions about child support, spousal support, temporary living arrangements, who determines custody, who’s going to stay or move out, or how to conduct yourself during the legal process. Like a divorce coach or financial advisor (below), a lawyer is that person who speaks to you confidentially and advises you specifically. A good one specializes in family or divorce law, and is experienced, compassionate, and makes you feel heard.

See this link for questions to ask a divorce attorney and how to prepare for that meeting.

  1. Consult with a Smart Money Person

Most often this is a financial advisor, but maybe your sister is an accountant and can help you determine which financial choices would be the wisest for you long term? Getting good financial feedback is not the work of a divorce lawyer, although your lawyer will have a legal perspective. A financial advisor will help you get clear on the financial picture and save you potential pitfalls. One of the goals of the divorce procedure is to have an equitable distribution of all your debts and marital assets. For you to get a fair share during your divorce financial settlement, it’s crucial to attain guidance on assessing your finances beforehand and to do projections for the future as an independent woman. Learning what you own and what you owe as a married couple is step 1.

  1. Connect with the ‘Good Ones’ in Your Support Network

Boundaries are important when you are going through a life crisis like divorce. You must be careful in whom you’re confiding in because most people, well-intentioned or not, are simply not trained in the divorce process or its recovery. Consider your inner circle. Who can you truly count on for support? Who reminds you of your best self? Who’s going to help you now and not judge you? Nurture those people, stay connected to them, and block others. Divorce is not a good time to go it alone. Having a safe place to vent, like a divorce support group, allows you to be more pulled together when you are looking at the financial and legal angles of the divorce.

Conclusion

Divorce is a life challenge few of us ever prepare for. It’s tough and, even in the least conflicted scenarios, requires a sensible game plan for you to healthily manage yourself and your expectations. Before filing for divorce, taking time to consult with the right professionals and to create the best plan will serve you greatly in the long term.

If you read the above six suggestions, you may find yourself saying, “Wow, I can’t even pull the money together to meet with an attorney let alone consider those other professionals!” If this is the case, then you owe yourself at least a legal consultation. The truth is you cannot afford to give away things you don’t know about. Contact your city or state bar and look for their lawyer referral lines. These resources often provide for lawyers who will give you a discounted or free consultation.

A legal consultation, ladies, is a minimum you should do before filing for divorce.

 

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

Causes of Divorce

The Most Insidious Causes of Divorce: 107 Women Tell Their Truths

Whether you’re considering divorce or working through its aftereffects, it’s normal to fixate on why. What caused this and where did the problems begin? Who or what is to blame? In an effort to uncover the most common causes of divorce, SAS surveyed 107 women about why they are divorcing their husbands*, and some of their responses may actually surprise you.

Infidelity, as one of the most viscerally painful causes of divorce, gets a lot of press as a catalyst for ruining a marriage. What the SAS survey uncovered as the biggest trigger for divorce, however, was something seemingly less explosive and certainly teachable.

Top Causes of Divorce: You’re Not Listening

The leading cause for divorce was “bad communication,” or just a lack of it. Not feeling heard or understood was what 18 percent of women said led them to dissolve their marriages. Add that to the 12 percent who said “constant fighting” was the biggest cause of divorce and the one percent who simply named “silence,” and that means that faulty communication made up 31 percent of women’s reasons for divorce.

That’s a huge portion of divorces: almost one third of the 107 women we surveyed.

In fact, when this writer asked a small group of five people (three women and two men) who describe themselves as “happily married” what their the secrets were, “good communication” was among the top two most important building blocks to their success.

The first answer that two of the “happily married” women gave was simply “Therapy!”

The same two followed that up by saying that they went to therapy in large part to learn how to communicate better, and that good communication was hugely important in keeping their partnerships functional and strong.

One of the “happily marrieds”, a woman in her early 50s, has been married for 17 years. She owns and runs a successful business with her husband and was previously married. The other, in her early 30s, was also married once before and has been with her current husband for 11 years. Both of them have children from both marriages and work in and outside the home.

“If I say to him, ‘you’re this’ or ‘you did that,’ he shuts down, but if I say ‘It’s hurtful when this happens,’ he’ll listen,” said Makenzi.

Darby said therapy taught her to process first and come back to the conversation later, to pick her battles, and to breathe through her own reactions before speaking.

Dancing in the Sheets and Dating Your Husband

“Someone asked me why we’re so happy together if we fight so often,” said Darby, laughing. “I said ‘Well, the sex is phenomenal.’”

The SAS survey rooted out 7 percent of women naming a “lack of intimacy or connection” and another 7 percent identifying “infidelity” as the leading causes of divorce. They did not disclose whether the extramarital affairs were their own or their husband’s. On that note, though, women of the millennial and baby boomer generations are upending the old stereotype of the hubby coming home with lipstick on his collar. In fact, millennial women are running neck and neck with men for cheating on their respective spouses.

Sexual expression is a foundational part of connection, trust, joy and loving actively. It is an important indicator of good mental and emotional health for a lot of people. Happier couples identify sexual compatibility and having sex at least once a week as one of their important indicators of happiness.

Child-Free Life

Ironically, while regular and enthusiastic sex is part of a happy marriage, the product that can come of this activity is not. Despite how fulfilling it is to raise children, they are a significant stress factor. It may not be a popular perspective, but remaining sexually active yet child-free is often a mark of a vibrant, less taxed marriage.

Of the five people I interviewed, three named sexual compatibility among their top three priorities. Both Darby and Makenzi said that having regular date nights and staying sexually connected are critical to their own happiness and the health of their marriages.

After all, if a marriage is more of a family business or a merger, then it leaves out a foundational, biologically inscribed part of what it means to be human.

If you’re both not interested in sex, fantastic. But if only one of you is uninterested, perhaps it’s time to let the one who is still sexually percolating have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. Because, otherwise, isn’t it a little selfish and withholding?

Paul, a 49-year-old father of two who has been married for more than 20 years to the same woman, put it most succinctly.

“Sex I don’t have to fight for,” was his off-the-cuff description of what makes a good marriage.

Working Together

If marriage is a bicycle, the wheels do need to roll in the same direction. When one partner spins off on a new life path, as often happens with dynamic, self-actualized human beings, the other partner can’t carry the whole thing forward alone. If both people can’t work in tandem, one of them inevitably breaks off. Understandably, this inability to work together is one of the top causes of divorce.

A good marriage takes into account not only the journey of the couple, but the individual experience of each person.

“You have to have time to yourself and with each other,” said Sherry, who has been happily married to her husband for 53 years. They married when he was 18 and she was a pregnant 16-year-old. They have two daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They’ve also made it through her husband’s personality-changing stroke.

Hallmarks of a True Partnership

She and her husband play Mr. and Mrs. Claus together every Christmas, but Sherry’s individual activity is a lot less fluffy: she’s been doing cardio kickboxing classes for years. And incidentally, working together was her first rule of thumb for a good marriage, but good communication was the second. After all, how would you work together if you’re not talking and listening to each other about what and how well you’re doing it?


Thinking about divorce? But too scared to take a step, because any step could be one you’d regret?

Breathe. Then read “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.

 


Sherry’s comments touched on a few other catalysts for divorce that the SAS survey unearthed. Among them? Growing apart or evolving in different directions. Women also cited “Empty Nesting,” as one of the main causes of divorce because it makes a couple realize their kids kept them together as their only common ground.

Additionally, sometimes a union suffers too many traumas. Sherry and her husband climbed some steep hills right out of the gates, which primed them for challenges. But had they both sustained a life-altering illness, for example, or a career change turned the partnership into a long-distance one, it may have taxed the elasticity of their marriage too much.

“Sometimes when illness happens, you have to re-learn each other, and that can be challenging, but all of us change every five years or so,” she said.

“You have to know who you are so you can grow together, and so—when the kids leave the house and all the dust settles–you’re not staring at each other across the table, thinking, ‘I don’t know you… and I’m not sure I like you.’”

We Don’t Want the Same Things

A lot of factors identified in the SAS survey break down a couple’s ability to function as a team. Eight percent of respondents said a “disconnect in the value system” was their cause of divorce. That term covers a lot of ground. It could be just another way to describe sexual incompatibility.

“I still think monogamy is the answer to most people’s need for physical and emotional connection,” said Sam, a 49-year-old therapist and a divorced father of a teen.

“But it’s still a hard expectation for one person to meet all those needs.”

Needs don’t just refer to sexual ones. Value system changes also incorporate midlife crises in women and men; giving too much weight to the opinions of extended family members; addictions that one or both partners refuse to surrender; not seeing eye to eye on how to raise the children, and money problems. These causes of divorce can run the gamut from shopping or gambling addiction, hiding credit card debt, underemployment, or not telling your spouse about an investment or business venture that fails. Or, perhaps one spouse supports the other during advanced college courses but never sees the financial reward because the newly degreed trades them in for a new model.

Value Imbalance in the Household

Value imbalances are some of the top causes of divorce. One type of this imbalance involves the “second shift,” the housework that women almost always shoulder when they finish their day job.

Housekeeping is essentially a second, part-time, unpaid job and it is often ignored by male spouses. Women often feel like the maid or hired help. Men may prefer having clean clothes in the closet, not tripping over Legos in the living room, or being able to see the bottom of the kitchen sink, but not enough to actually contribute to the labor. They will even feign ignorance of how to perform a household chore (such as “I didn’t know which part of the dishwasher this went in.”) Right.

Couples who communicate about their housekeeping expectations, define their jobs clearly and then do them without their spouse having to ask or remind them are the ones creating marriages defined as “happy.”

Abuse

It’s frightening how many women who SAS surveyed named domestic abuse as the reason for their divorces: 15 percent. Abuse can be physical, emotional, or psychological. Women are more likely to encounter physical abuse, but men are coming forward with stories of psychological abuse by their wives, such as lying, verbal abuse, and manipulation.

Abuse often stems from a loss of control or a need for power. Sometimes abuse stems from physical illnesses that affect the brain, such as MS or stroke, but in other cases, personality disorders and other mental illnesses are a factor.

ADHD and anger management issues can be managed very well, but only if the individual is willing to unlearn behaviors. Abusers must take responsibility for the damage they’re doing to the people around them. Abuse is frequently exacerbated by drinking, drugs and other addictions.

Four percent of SAS surveyed-women identified narcissism as the final straw for divorcing their husbands. Narcissism is defined by an inflated sense of importance, a deep need for excessive attention and admiration, troubled relationships, and a total lack of empathy for others. Narcissistic traits such as gaslighting, lying, redirection, taking no responsibility for self, having no empathy or regard for other people’s feelings are subtle and hard to spot at first. If your gut is telling you something is wrong, don’t discount it. Talk to a professional and get help getting out.

Loveless Marriage

He may even just come right out and say it: I don’t love you anymore. There are few things that will hurt as badly. At the end of the day, there is no way to salvage a marriage where love doesn’t live in both people. Sometimes, he won’t say it but you know anyway. We can tell when we’ve become invisible to our spouse or when we are no longer cherished.

Monogamy and marriage take tenacity, imagination and an ability to see each other as the new beings we become over the years. Comfort is one thing but too much laziness in a marriage will starve it.

As Sherry said, “You have to remember why you first fell in love.”

 

Notes

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.

 

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or rebuilding your life post-divorce, the most important decision you can make is 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 complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you. Join our tribe and stay connected.

*At SAS, we support same sex marriage. We may refer to your Ex as “he” or “husband” for the sake of ease.

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.”

Divorce survival strategies

35 Divorce Survival Strategies & Insights from Divorced Women

Divorce: it’s one of the most isolating, unraveling, confusing experiences you can go through. And the fact that millions of women have survived it or are going through it alongside you doesn’t make you feel less alone. But what if you could tap into the divorce survival strategies of these women? What if you could fortify your journey with the insight of those who have already traveled theirs?

In an effort to “help women help women,” we sent out a survey to 36 women who have survived divorce. We asked each woman to share her most important piece of advice for other women contemplating or going through a divorce.

Some of these divorce survival strategies will hit home for you. Some may even surprise you.

But all will give you experiential wisdom to contemplate as you navigate your path forward.

Hopefully, you will also recognize the desire and willingness of women to help hold each other up through the tough times.

That’s what SAS for Women is all about: support AND solutions for women.

And the contributors to this survey all carry that compassionate, supportive tribal gene.

They’ve been where you are—through every stage of it. And they want to help spare you any unnecessary pain they can. We know that when you’re in crisis you have limited bandwidth and need to hear the most important messages clearly distilled.

These are the things you must take in! Depending on where you are in your journey—thinking about divorce, in the throes of it, coming out of it—see if you can connect with at least one quote from each section.

Important things to remember before, during, and after divorce:

  1. “You deserve to be treated with respect, to be told the truth, and to live without fear in your marriage.
  2. “Do not ever lose your self-respect.”
  3. “Trust yourself.”
  4. “You are valuable and deserve to live the life you choose.”
  5. “You are right, and you deserve to be happy. Listen to your gut and then create a coalition of support.
  6. “Get organized, and take practical steps from the beginning.”
  7. Get affairs in order prior to filing.”
  8. “Find housing and get rid of belongings as best you can ahead of time.”
  9. “Remember while you are going through it, he* is no longer your partner, ally, or trusted friend. Verify everything.

If you are in the thinking stage, you may be sitting on the fence between leaving and saving your marriage.

You are not alone and no, you don’t have a monopoly on feeling crazy. These women have been there, too. So, which one of these divorce survival strategies stands out to you as a must-do if you are serious, too, about breaking the cycle of living in the crazy zone?

  1. “Don’t think about it for years. If there are problems, put in the work to resolve them or get out.
  2. “Get counseling and focus on yourself first.
  3. “Participate in Christian marital counseling before filing.”

(*SAS note: A religious approach to counseling may or may not be what you seek. If not, consider discernment counseling to find out if there is any hope left in your marriage.)

  1. “Make sure you gave your all to save your marriage so you won’t regret the decision you made to divorce.”
  2. “Arm yourself with information. I think I waited so long to say I wanted a divorce because I didn’t think I could financially make the break or raise my child on my own. The pre-divorce class I did helped so much to give me the validation and confidence I needed. Podcasts helped, too!”
  3. “Think about what’s best for you and your life. You deserve that.”
  4. “Just rip the bandage off and leave. Don’t sit with the unhappiness.”

Ahh, the finances….

Women statistically suffer financially more than men during and after divorce.

This area may be uncomfortable for you, especially if you weren’t in charge of the finances or didn’t work outside the home.

But there’s a reason that 20% of the respondents focused their divorce survival strategies on finances.

Please pay close attention to this section. The antsier a piece of advice makes you feel, the more relevant it probably is.

  1. “Be savvy about the finances.”
  2. “Be on top of your financial situation.”
  3. “Sort out your finances carefully and thoroughly. Make lists and tick them off.”
  4. “Make sure you have the financial means to get a divorce.”
  5. “Have enough money to survive for a year.”
  6. “Prepare financially if you can. If you can mitigate daily financial pressure, you can work on recovering after divorce.”
  7. “Never lie about the finances.”

Take care of YOU and get support!

Women have a hard time thinking about themselves first, or at all. More often, we put everyone else (the kids, our spouse, the dog, the work projects, the volunteer commitments) in front of our own needs. And yet if we don’t take care of ourselves, we are of no value to those we love. This is why it’s so important to have support, to remind you that you matter and that you deserve to honor your one precious life. Sometimes we need our friends or support team to remind us of our own value or to give us a smack and, to paraphrase Cher in Moonstruck, say “Snap out of it!” Whether you’re standing on the other side of divorce (or in a marriage you worked to save), you’ll recognize the lifeline that supports you once you have it. You’ll find it makes all the difference in the world.

  1. “Spend as much money as you need to create a support team. It’s worth every penny.”
  2. “Identify your mentor or coach. And don’t talk to everyone about your situation. Not everyone deserves to hear the gritty details.”
  3. “Find a support community. My Pals (short for Palomas) are my lifeline.”

Understand your feelings will ebb and flow.

Grief is a natural part of divorce. But all your other emotions (guilt, anger, sadness, hope, rejection, smallness, etc) will run the gamut, too, and not always in a predictable order.

  1. “Prepare your heart.”
  2. “Prepare for loneliness.”
  3. “Be prepared for the emotional swings.”
  4. “Go with your gut feelings.”
  5. “You will find a way, because you deserve to be happy.”

Look for the big picture, and stay committed to your future.

Be realistic about the challenges of divorce. But, just as importantly, be confident in your ability to overcome them. You have encountered difficult times before. Remember? There’s a survivor in you, and behind her is a champion.

  1. “Divorce is a long, yet worthwhile process.”
  2. “Be strong. Have the big picture in mind, and time will heal you.”
  3. Be happy no matter the outcome. Second-guessing once it’s over will only stress you out.”
  4. “Make the pain of tearing your family apart worth it. Don’t squander your second chance. Don’t be afraid to make your life meaningful, and don’t be afraid to connect with people again.”

In the vibe of saving the best for last, there’s one final point sent by one of the women:

36. Bonus! You will survive!

(And, just in case you need a little energy behind that mantra, Gloria Gaynor has you covered.)

Have a piece of wisdom or a divorce survival strategy to share with the SAS tribe? We invite you to share what’s gotten you through tough times in the comment box below. Why? Because we know firsthand, amazing things happen when women share with and support each other. 

 

Notes

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 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 and stay connected.

*SAS supports same-sex marriage. For the sake of clarity and simplicity, we may refer to your spouse as “he” in this article.

Tips for Amicable Divorce

Top 6 Tips for an Amicable Divorce

In the minds of many people, divorce and court trials are inseparable like smoke and fire. A few decades ago, this was the case. Fortunately, there are other options nowadays, namely an amicable divorce, where married couples don’t have to wage war against each other in court.

After the adoption of the no-fault divorce law in 1970, the divorce rate skyrocketed. A 2019 University of Virginia research report revealed approximately 3 divorces per 1,000 married women in the 1960s. In the 70s, this figure rose to 4.5, and 5.5 in the 80s.

These results suggest that divorce was increasingly viewed as a viable option for women; they were feeling more empowered, making more money, and feeling like they had more choices.  In the latter scenario, these divorces can likely be uncontested or amicable.

What is an amicable divorce?

An amicable divorce is not about being best friends with your (soon-to-be) Ex and liking each other. You wouldn’t consider divorce in the first place if your relationship was a loving one.

In the context of ending your marriage, “amicable” means “civilized.” It’s about resolving disputes in a nurturing and productive environment.

A peaceful divorce is actually not that hard to get to if both sides are willing to make an effort. You’ve probably heard of Conscious Uncoupling, for example, or divorce mediation, or Pro Se (DIY) divorces. To learn if one of these alternative processes is right for you, consider these six key steps to ensure a smooth and amicable process–and don’t forget to ask yourself: are you and your spouse capable of them?

1. Have an open mind for negotiation

Honesty and openness are the foundation of a successful negotiation. If one of the parties starts hiding valuable information, assets, income, etc., it’s not going to work. Agree from the very beginning to be truthful about all the aspects of your divorce. Otherwise, all your efforts will be pointless.

SAS note to women: It’s one thing to say you both will be honest, it’s another to know that you both will be. If your spouse has a record of deceiving, betraying or hiding things from you, go for a more traditional approach to divorce. Hire a lawyer who is a good negotiator on your behalf.

Naturally, in any divorce, neither of you will get precisely what you desire. Don’t expect your spouse to agree with everything you suggest just because you think it’s reasonable. Sometimes their point of view may differ from yours, and you’ll have to accept that.

During negotiations, the most vital thing is to stay focused on the key points that hold the most significant interest to both of you. How much money would you need to meet your needs after divorce adequately? Could your spouse (or you) afford to pay alimony (spousal support) and child support? You and your partner need to carefully approach all the details together and make a joint decision. That’s the essence of peaceful negotiations, right?

2. Focus on the desirable result.

Can you remember why you got married in the first place? You were in love and full of hope to walk hand in hand through life until death separates you. Unfortunately, not all of us can reach that distant goal.

Nothing has changed since then except that your goals are now different. Have you already determined what you really want from this divorce? If not, it’s high time to start figuring it out. But if you know where you’re heading, don’t let negative emotions lead you astray.

An amicable divorce is all about attitude. Reduce the tension to a minimum, and keep your eyes on your goal.

Take time to ponder over your life post-divorce. Do you see your Ex in it? After an amicable divorce, many couples remain friends and even sometimes spend time with their children as a family unit. You must agree that such a scenario is more pleasant than fighting endlessly over all sorts of things.

Act based on what is paramount to you and ignore everything else. Work through any disputes peacefully and make sure your communication is positive.

3. Treat each other with respect.

An uncontested divorce is only possible with mutual respect and politeness. Both you and your spouse are adults and can behave accordingly. It’s not as challenging as you might expect.

Start with getting into a positive state of mind and remain focused on keeping calm. Also, listen attentively to your spouse and contemplate their suggestions. Don’t let your emotions take over.

Whenever you feel like losing it to anger, take a deep breath and pause before saying or doing anything. Consider the consequences in the long run–will your current action improve the situation in any way? If not, give it up. Neither you nor your spouse will win if you keep insulting each other instead of resolving disputes.

Show civilized behavior. Don’t badmouth your partner in front of your children and relatives. And especially, don’t gossip about them on social media. You’ll only entertain the public and receive even more negative feelings back. Such actions also won’t help you to maintain an amicable divorce.

4. Think about your children’s needs.

Divorce affects everyone in your family, and especially children. They are very sensitive to any changes in mood and attitude between their parents. Remember yourself in childhood and what acute sensations of the surrounding world you had.

Now imagine how terrifying it is for a child to go through a family breakup. You don’t want to aggravate the situation even more by fighting with the other parent, do you? On the contrary, you want to protect your children and make them feel loved by both you and your ex.

Learn to trust yourself to be a good parent. The same goes for your partner. It’s time to loosen your grip and stop controlling everything and everyone around. Every good parent brings up their children with a position of love and a wish to make their lives happy. You will never be able to communicate well with your ex if you do not trust them with raising children.

And since we have touched on the issue of healthy communication, children need to see their parents find common ground and behave in a civilized manner whenever they meet. It can make a huge difference in a child’s emotional health.

5. Get an educational consultation with an attorney: don’t rush to hire one.

You cannot become your own divorce lawyer fast enough, despite what Google makes you believe. If you are thinking about divorce, and especially if you have children, assets, and/or debt, we encourage you to draw up your questions and consult with an attorney to hear what the law says about your circumstances. Do this before you commit to “how” you will divorce, or even, “if” you will divorce.

After you are informed about the law, you can decide if you will pursue DIY divorce, mediation, an online divorce, or a more traditional approach of you hiring an attorney and your spouse doing likewise.

Consulting with an attorney does not mean you are necessarily getting divorced. It also does not mean you are seeking to be adversarial or un-“amicable.” It means you as a woman are getting educated on your rights and what you are entitled to before you act.

It’s good practice to consult with other experts, too. For example, you may want to keep the house but need to learn if it’s really in your best financial interest. Consult with a financial advisor to learn the optimal longterm play for you (and don’t rely on an attorney for this.) You might consult with a parenting expert if you have concerns on what the best custody arrangement will be or how to support your kids through the divorce. Throughout the process, you might recognize that you are feeling overwhelmed and need to get strategic and healthy in your approach to all things “divorce”, in which case your best move is to schedule a free consult with a divorce coach.

The Legal Takeaway

Keep in mind that in divorce, you won’t always get what you want. The ability to find compromises is what makes a divorce amicable. On the bright side, you will be able to control the outcome by at least 50%. If you go to court, you will have to surrender to the will of the judge.

Do you trust absolute strangers to decide your fate, or do you prefer to do it yourself? Get informed, double check information, and choose wisely. It’s you and your children who will have to live with the consequences, not the lawyers and judges.

6. Forgive and forget.

You probably think, “How can I forget all those times when I was wronged during my marriage? And why should I? Now, I want justice.” Well, guess what? Such an attitude will bring you nothing but more suffering.

There are no winners in divorce. And you won’t feel any better if you keep blaming your marriage breakdown on your partner. Be wiser than that. Does a butterfly think about the time it was a caterpillar? No, it spreads its wings and flies. So, instead of focusing on your past and arguing over it, choose to take action to help yourself recover and move forward. 

Learn how to help yourself grieve the losses you experience, choose to live in the present, and plan for the upcoming future.

Is it worth the try?

An amicable divorce is a conscious choice. It can’t be involuntary, and it doesn’t work for everybody. You have to decide for yourself what type of separation you want and stick to it. Just keep in mind that no matter what method you choose, going down the hateful path only brings more negative feelings into your life. There is always a way to go about any situation productively. You can choose less stress and fewer expenses with a more positive experience by opting for an amicable process.

Jamie Kurtz is a divorce attorney and a member of the State Bar of California. She’s a co-founder of a law company helping people with uncontested divorces and a contributing writer for OnlineDivorce.com, a web-based service for divorce papers preparation.

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.

Toxic marraige

27 Cautionary Signs You’re in a Toxic Marriage

Just like the proverbial frog in the pot, it’s nearly impossible to tell when you’re in the midst of marriage conflict that’s gone from warm to boiling, or when that humorous bite that initially makes for playful conversation begins to break the skin instead. There are the occasional stings of a partner who’s had a long day, and then there are the continual sniping, punitive remarks that spill over into damaging abuse, making your marriage toxic.

We’re hearing the term “toxic” a lot these days, referring to everything from environments to people to work places to marriages. Toxic simply means that something is poisonous, or has become so. Each of us can probably identify and add some of our own particular twists on what toxicity looks and feels like, or how it’s showing up in the people around us, or within ourselves. (We all have some toxic traits. No one is without a shadow side). It’s worth spending some time thinking about toxicity, because the more examples of it we identify, the more we can define this concept and see its insidious nuances and impact. When it comes to our relationship, understanding what constitutes a toxic marriage will help us decide if we’re going to leave the marriage or find a way to turn down the heat.

Check out the following 27 markers of a toxic marriage and consider their examples.  As you read, determine how present each one is in your life and what you will do  about it.

1. Excess Defensiveness

Perhaps you’ve tried to be patient: “Your husband is just acting this way because he’s* feeling vulnerable or stressed or working too hard these days,” you might say to yourself in the face of yet another snide comment. When your non-confrontational responses meet with repeated jabs, it’s hard not to get offended. And when you or your spouse hear criticism in even innocuous statements and questions, it becomes impossible to communicate. Moreover, constant defensiveness usually means your spouse has stopped taking responsibility for his behavior. It’s like trying to enter the flow of traffic next to a driver who only speeds up or slows down in order to block your efforts to merge.

2. Dismissiveness, Contempt, Condescension and Chronic Impatience

We can all get cranky, be less than tolerant, or even lose our tempers, especially under prolonged duress. But there is a demeaning quality to these communication styles, an implied attitude of superiority that suggests that the other person is beneath notice, not only not to be taken seriously but really seen as less important, less intelligent, and unworthy. Contempt diminishes—whether it is eye-rolling, smirking, sarcasm, or a blank stare followed by curt dismissiveness. Whatever the strategy is, the means of communicating these attitudes are myriad, and they are designed (consciously or not) to make the person on the receiving end feel stupid, worthless, or to undermine their confidence in their position.

Defensiveness and contempt are two of the four communication styles that the Gottman Institute identifies as the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” for a marriage. However, of the four, contempt is identified as the attitude most likely to lead to a divorce or split. The other two of the four horsemen are criticism and stonewalling.

3. Criticism

Criticism goes beyond just voicing a concern or complaint, which tends to happen on a case-by-case basis. It is more apt to be ongoing, and is directed at the other person’s character rather than at their behavior. It is often an assertion of an agenda and is generated in part by the same need for control that is at the root of contempt. Constant criticism is a practice of routinely finding something wrong with or in need of improvement in the other person. You might say that defensiveness and stonewalling are the toxic responses to contempt and criticism.

4. Projection

Projection is the result of anticipating criticism before it happens, or hearing it when it doesn’t exist. Defensive redirection is a version of the idea that the “best defense is a good offense”, but it occurs when there’s not actually a reason for it. Projection is one of the responses to childhood psychological trauma, where unpredictability and chronic undermining of confidence or other dysfunctional patterns create a running inner dialogue that is turned outward, like a song on repeat. A spouse may ask a perfectly benign, kindly intended question about how “a projector” is liking work these days, and hearing an echo of that inner critic, “the projector” might put some edge in her voice, or snap, or ask why they want to know or stonewall with a monosyllabic pout, thus putting an end to the conversation and alienating her spouse.

Projection is turning that negative inner voice outward. Instead of recognizing that the voice is our own, we unconsciously “hear it” coming from others. By making the “attack” come from someone else, we avoid the understanding that the person we actually need to confront is the one in the mirror.

5. Addiction

Addictions include dependencies on food, shopping, alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, exercise, gambling, sex, anger or even a belief system. It can be an attachment to status or social media. Addiction is a common reason for divorce and it really doesn’t matter what the addiction is. When an attachment to something overrides your ability to be constructively present to yourself and your partner, to the point that you or your spouse chronically and compulsively choose whatever that thing is over the marriage, it is a form of infidelity—an emotional affair.

An addict will face losing you and choose that thing over you anyway. They will usually find a way to justify it until they reach a point where they can’t cope with the consequences any more. At this point, they have to address their addiction and give it up, or keep doing it while giving up other parts of their life, from jobs and friends to spouses and children. Losing a spouse who you love is a consequence, but sadly, looking down the barrel of that loss is often not enough to keep the addict from engaging in the behavior. It’s never too late to give up an addiction, but it is sometimes too late to repair a relationship with a partner who came in second place to that addiction one too many times.

6. The Need to be Right

This tends to go beyond a partner who is just being a Know-it-All. There is a profound and constant need to be right, to be the “good guy” in the dynamic that seems to come from a deep-seated need to be in a position of authority, stemming from a need for control. It isn’t necessarily something the person is conscious of and can originate from trauma hangover, fear of loss, and/or a deep-seated, foundational insecurity, etc.

We might think of it as “White Hat” or “Podium Syndrome”, and it seems to incorporate everything from chronically talking over the other person in a conversation to condescension or maintaining an attitude that they know you better than you do. Inexorably analytical, the need to be right is defensiveness with a Ph.D. It is a polite war of attrition. It is scrutiny that’s done its homework.

7. The Power Differential

We live on a dualistic little planet: male-female, good-bad, dark-light, Republican-Democrat, God-Devil, happy-sad, yin-yang, dominant-passive, and on and on. We embrace shades in between; far more mainstream now are third and fourth gender assignments, the value of a multiple-party political system, the concept of many paths to “God” or however we define divinity, or don’t, and on we go. But we humans love our compare-and-contrast. In that vein, there may be a leader in a relationship, one partner who may be more alpha, or who has more influence in the ways we assign practical power. But unless that comes with an equal balance of power in the other partner somewhere else in the relationship, the scales are tipped to one side.

This hallmark of a toxic marriage leaves one person to stand and beat their chest, and the other to hobble along or be carried. If the more powerful partner seems to be actively engaged in maintaining a position of authority and keeping the power differential tipped toward them, this is where the marriage becomes toxic. Conversely, if the less dominant partner is engaging in learned helplessness or playing the victim–thereby wiggling out of carrying their share of the relationship’s workload, that is also toxic.


What action steps can you take (without risk of regret) if you are contemplating divorce? We’re so glad you asked. Consider our 36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking about Divorce.


8. Cross-Examination vs. Conversation

There are questions of interest and mutual understanding, and a give and take in an exchange of ideas, plans, thoughts, observations. Cross-examination on the part of a spouse, however, is not a sign of interest. Rather, it’s the mark of someone who not only has something to prove, but also who believes themselves to be in a position of authority. There’s room for rhetorical questions in the context of a philosophical debate or sharing of perspectives, but a constant barrage of “point-proving” questions—whether they are rhetorical or cross examining—has nothing to do with wanting to understand someone better. It’s an extension of the power differential, and another sign of a toxic marriage.

A cross-examination takes the fun out of relationship banter and backs a spouse into a corner. This disempowers and confuses. It creates self-doubt and only gratifies the ego of the questioner.

9. Insecurity

It doesn’t matter what form insecurity takes, and we all have a sense when we’re being insecure. Insecurity is the Wendy Whiner Within, it is the chronic need for reassurance. We all have insecurities; we all need occasional reassurance. Occasional. The trick in being healthy about our insecurities is to talk ourselves away from them rather than constantly asking our partner do it, or ask them to curtail any activity that “makes us feel” that way. (Keeping in mind that we are making ourselves feel that way more often than not). Sometimes we need a boost, yes, but the operative word there is sometimes. We are responsible for our own insecurities; our partner is not. And in fact, there is no way to make up for foundational insecurities.

For example, a husband’s insecurity shows up as a fear of his wife cheating. As a result, he insists that she is cheating, thinks about cheating, wants to cheat, used to cheat, and therefore will again… you get the picture. Sometimes, the more she tries to reassure him, the worse the insecurity becomes, because he then starts to wonder why she’s trying so hard to convince him and twists that into further “evidence.”

Trying to fill the hole of insecurity is like trying to dig quicksand out of a pit. If it’s a chronic issue, you just have to step out of the role of filling it and say, “I’m sorry you’re contending with this, but it is yours.”

10. Jealousy

Jealousy is a symptom of insecurity and can include jealousy of someone outside the relationship or inside it. Most of us can relate to the concept of jealousy, and if we’re not personally familiar with the scenarios that draw it forth, we can imagine them. Perhaps you may have a good male friend and confidante whom your husband doesn’t like you spending time with. Perhaps your husband has an attractive female boss or student he spends time with, both at work and in networking after hours, and you don’t like it. Or perhaps you are under-realized professionally and your husband lands a promotion or makes a creative move that ends up being wildly successful while you continue working in a job you barely tolerate.

You may do a fairly good job of showing enthusiasm on his behalf and pride in his accomplishment, which would be a healthier way of responding to your jealousy. On the other hand, perhaps you undermine his joy by pouting or drawing the conversation back to you by saying something like, “Well, I’m glad one of us is making it,” with a tremulous half-smile. That is a mark of toxic jealousy in a marriage. Also, it’s an act of putting a negative spin on your partner’s positive accomplishment and making the situation about you when it is not about you at all.

11. Manipulation

Manipulation is another off-shoot of insecurity or fear. Sometimes an abused wife may have to use subterfuge or manipulation to extract herself from the situation, which we might think of as justifiable manipulation. But other times, manipulation is dishonesty in a pink bow. For example, a wife might say, “Well, I just want you to think I’m pretty” when her husband asks why she spent $300 from their monthly budget on a pair of jeans. She wanted the jeans but made a desire to please him the reason for the purchase–and put a little dollop of guilt on it just for good measure.

Sometimes a manipulation is relatively benign and in fact managing people or personnel has an element of manipulation to it. The definition of manipulation is bending or shaping something to achieve a desired effect, which doesn’t have to have malignant intention. In a toxic marriage, however, manipulation often has malicious intent, such as controlling your partner physically or mentally, or prioritizing your own needs over theirs.

12. Testing

A form of manipulation, this is where one person—unconsciously or not—creates a highly charged scenario almost guaranteed to push a partner’s buttons. When the reaction occurs, the other person steps back and remarks on how uncalled for it was, even though they intentionally created the scenario. This is closely related to gaslighting, and is a form of emotional manipulation aimed at making a partner mistrust their own feelings so that they must rely on their partner’s version of reality.

13. Lying

If you have to lie to your spouse just to navigate the relationship, that’s a fairly good indication that, at the very least, there’s an imbalance. As with manipulation, a woman who is trying to extract herself from an abusive marriage may have to lie in order to achieve that. However, if you are lying to avoid day-to-day truths you don’t want your partner to know, such as flirting with an ex-boyfriend on Facebook or applying for a new credit card because you know you just maxed another one out, this is feature of a toxic marriage. Whether it has immediate negative consequences or a build-up of disrespect for yourself and your partner over time, this level of toxicity can become very destructive.

14. Walking on Eggshells

You avoid talking about something, meaningful or otherwise, simply because you fear your partner’s reaction. Perhaps you went to lunch with that male friend of yours who your husband is jealous of and you decide on your way home not to tell him, but he sees the restaurant receipt in your purse, and now you’re holding your breath in anticipation of a tantrum or an accusation that you’re attracted to your friend, or worse, cheating.

Or perhaps your husband doesn’t tell you about getting passed over at work for a promotion because he knows you will spend the next two hours taking it personally, and then the next few years nagging him about why he didn’t get it. Those are eggshells.

Either way, this withholding of information is a sign that your marriage may have become toxic, perhaps with other factors playing into this dynamic.

15. Anger

It’s one thing to get angry at something your partner does that hurts you or is unfair. This may include getting mad over the disregarding of a boundary you’ve established in your relationship, or something that has a detrimental impact on your children or your household. We all get angry from time to time. But if anger is your go-to emotion, if that’s your regular modus operandi, then you will have a corrosive effect on everyone around you. It’s also an element that can quickly contribute to creating a toxic marriage.

16. Passive Aggression

People employ passive aggression when they want to look like they’re taking the high road but are really taking the low road and hiding it under a layer of soft-spoken words. These words often point indirectly to the source of resentment without someone actually saying what’s on his or her mind. These can be couched as jokes or light commentary but are actually designed to be punitive. Because passive aggression can easily be denied, it’s often used as a covert way to do damage without taking blame for it—a hallmark of a toxic marriage.

17. Resentment

Resentment is often at the root of passive-aggression and usually has its root in anger over an issue that’s not been addressed. It could also be part of an underlying jealousy in the relationship or perceived imbalances in power. Either way, resentment (like contempt) is a highly damaging element of toxic marriage and needs to be resolved for the relationship to survive.

18. Gaslighting

Gaslighting is a toxic behavior that’s complex enough to need its own article. This is an insidious and subtle form of emotional and psychological manipulation aimed at causing an individual to mistrust their own self-worth or emotions. A gaslighter invalidates their partner’s feelings and perceptions and instead forces them to rely on the gaslighter’s version of reality. This form of psychological control is a highly damaging sign of a toxic marriage.

Named for Patrick Hamilton’s 1938 play “Gas Light,” in which the husband’s character kept dimming the lights in the house and telling his wife it was her imagination until she went insane, gaslighting is the province of someone who has a deep-seated need for control. Sometimes it’s purposeful manipulation and sometimes it’s the unconscious defense mechanism of one who needs to be right and has a difficulty taking responsibility for their own damaging behavior.

Gaslighters need to be right and may have a difficult time accepting they are capable of hurtful behaviors. Their strength is knowing their partner’s insecurities and areas of self-doubt; they can be very clever at leveraging those to undermine their partner’s perception, judgement, and self-confidence.

Common gaslighting phrases can be things like, “It’s just your imagination,” “I never said that,” “That was never my intention,” etc.

Whether it is purposeful or not, gaslighters employ subtle wordplay to resist having to acknowledge that they, like everyone else, have issues that need to be addressed. Sometimes, we are being too sensitive and sometimes a joke is just a joke, and that is where it gets tricky with a gaslighter. This is why this particular form of toxicity is difficult to combat.


For more information on how to access your marriage and your own sense of worth, read our popular  “Overthinking When to Leave Your Husband”.


19. Never Taking Responsibility for One’s Own Behavior

This sign of a toxic marriage shows up in many ways, by gaslighting, redirecting, playing the victim, making excuses, or playing the martyr. Those who do not take responsibility for their own behavior project an attitude of “being exempt.” It’s difficult to maintain a healthy relationship when one half of that relationship can never take responsibility for their actions.

20. Sabotage

Sabotage in a toxic marriage can have many forms. You drink too much to spend time with your partner, and then are too hungover the next day to help around the house. You promise to go to an event with them and then work out so hard that you injure yourself and can’t go. Maybe you promise to contribute to a household expense, project, or gift and instead spend the money on something frivolous for yourself then claim you forgot. You procrastinate to the point that you lose opportunities and income, thereby negatively impacting your family and everybody’s hopes for moving ahead.

You commit to an event but create so much drama around it that you end up not being able to participate after all. Your partner has an important interview coming up, but because you fear he might actually get the job and thereby rise and become successful and leave you in the dust, you purposely pick a fight with him the night before so he’s too disturbed to study or even sleep. Clearly, this toxic behavior is not healthy and can cause a lot of damage in a marriage.

21. Exclusion

Do you get the impression that your spouse’s co-workers don’t realize you exist? Does he take vacations and trips home to see his family without you, spending money on unnecessary collectibles instead of offering to buy you a plane ticket? Does he leave you out of his Facebook page? This is a bit of what exclusion looks like, and is an indication that there may not be full commitment, that he’s hiding the relationship from others or just himself. It is not so much a sign of disrespect, but more one of disregard or lack of cherishing.

22. Ignoring Your Own Self-Care

Perhaps all of your time and attention gets pulled into managing and meeting your spouse’s needs, to the point that you continually push aside the healthy practices you’d normally engage in—working out, preparing healthy lunches ahead of time, going to your women’s group, meditating, or journaling.

We all cycle through phases with our self-care, but when it’s chronically shunted aside, or you are clearly trying to keep up the practice but your partner evinces a cavalier or even insulting attitude about it, this is not only a sign of disrespect on their part but also a self-centered lack of love or caring.

For example, you are trying to come up with a time to complete a task or do something together, and when you ask for a different start time in order to work around your women’s group and they make a cutting remark about it. That is a clear sign of a toxic marriage. Or, you might be a Stay-at-Home-Mom, whose entire day is subject to the schedules of your children. You know you have a certain time to get the kids to school and then hurry home to complete household chores. You also know that the only time you can possibly go for a jog (your mental, physical, and emotional outlet) is during a particular window of time each day.

But your husband calls you when you’ve just laced up your sneakers, wanting to remind you to process the health insurance bills today. You are quick to say you’ll get to those bills but right now, you need to go for your run. Your husband stops you cold with, “How selfish of you, prioritizing yourself again.” You hang up the phone. Do you go for your run or do you angrily go find the health insurance folder?

23. Physical Illness

Stress can cause physical symptoms, whether that stress stems from emotional, circumstantial or self-created situations. For example, physical illness may occur in the form of a migraine or low back pain when one person is doing the bulk of the work in the relationship and is the only one putting forth the effort to move it forward. Perhaps everything in the household revolves around an illness-prone spouse whose “flair-ups” somehow occur whenever something that threatens her sense of control or need for constant attention happens. The other spouse then has to take up the slack, and in the face of the added work and pressure, overdoes it and ends up with a slipped disc, pneumonia, or adrenal fatigue.

Physical illness is often the cumulative result of chronic stress and living inside a toxic marriage. (Tip: Schedule a doctor’s appointment.)

24. Draining

Self-created, physical illness is one way that married people can drain each other. We often create our own illness with our lifestyle choices. For example, a drain on the marriage might be a husband or wife who continually engages in self-sabotaging behaviors, like over-consumption of alcohol or unhealthy foods. You know this will make you feel lousy and lead to things like sleep deprivation or excessive weight gain, thus negatively impacting your relationship and yourself, but you do it anyway. That is a drain. Likewise, corrosive emotions like anger that are a constant presence are also draining. A chronically negative, bitter, or pessimistic attitude is draining.

Talking over your spouse, to the point that you drown out what they are saying so that you don’t have to face an uncomfortable truth about yourself, is draining. Other drains might be having to provide constant reassurance to an anxious spouse; catering to one person’s chronic and bottomless need for admiration, affirmation, attention or rescuing; constantly interrupting; brow-beating; playing the martyr; playing the victim…

25. Lack of Empathy

All of us can be selfish, and the ability to see and feel the truth of something from someone else’s perspective is sometimes hard-won, especially if it means we have to take an uncomfortable look at ourselves. There are people, though, who either can’t or won’t take any interest in what someone else might be experiencing. They see those around them as only existing to serve them.

Not only do they not care about the feelings of the people in their lives but they often see those people as characters in their play, so to speak. You might know them as narcissists, a well-known buzz word these days.

26. Exploitation

The same individuals who lack empathy or feel entitled to the spotlight may even co-opt a spouse or a child’s accomplishments as their own—seeing the people around them in supporting roles only. If the people in their lives stop performing well—thus reflecting on them poorly—or balk at serving their agendas or their needs, they withdrawal love, withhold approval, or issue some other consequence. Narcissists often form relationships on the basis of how the dynamic will serve them. They also do not possess the ability to see their own narcissism.

27. Lack of Listening

If one person in a relationship is doing most of the talking, particularly if they are “always right,” it’s probably going to be difficult for them to hear from the people in their lives that their behavior is hurtful. We all have behavior that is toxic or hurtful at times, so the ability to hear others when they ask us to address our own behavior is foundational to healthy relationships. Toxic behavior involves telling other people how they can improve but showing inability to take direction.

Despite all the ways that people and relationships can be toxic, though, they can heal, provided both people commit to doing the work. Whether it’s couple’s counseling or self-help, both parties must be willing (and able) to do the work required to negotiate healthy boundaries and communicate in a way that makes everyone feel valued.

Notes:

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 has focused on the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

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

Suing the other woman

Suing the Other Woman

A recent lawsuit in North Carolina has called attention to the presence of “the other woman” as a cause of divorce.

There are only six states left where a woman (or man) can file this kind of lawsuit—the other five being Mississippi, South Dakota, Hawaii, New Mexico and Utah. The legal suit, termed “alienation of affection” and its precedent dates back to the 1800s when women were still considered property. Initially, only men could make such a claim. That right shifted later to married women as well, but most states have repealed the dated laws in part because they were vehicles for revenge, greed, and blackmail. There is also the slipperiness of trying to litigate what makes a good marriage. Even the most practiced lawyer might find that tying the ideals of partnership, commitment, respect, and trust to the pragmatic iron of money is a bit like trying to put the mercury back into the thermometer.

In the case of N.C. residents Elizabeth Clark vs. Adam Clark (U.S. Army Major, Special Forces) and Dr. Kimberly Barrett (U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel and an ob-gyn at Womack Army Medical Center), the questions of infidelity and revenge include both the plaintiff and defendant. Both Clarks cheated on each other during their marriage, but later renewed their vows and went to marriage counseling. Regarding the issue of revenge, the former Mrs. Clark sought and won punitive damages against Barret for alienation of affection.

Details of The Clark v. Clark Case

The motivation for seeking these damages may have had more to do with child support than revenge, as Major Clark allegedly refused to pay most of it on behalf of the two children the couple had together. In retaliation, Clark posted nude pictures of his now-ex-wife on dating web sites, along with the claim that she had sexually transmitted diseases. Aside from being against the military code of conduct and behavior unbecoming of an officer, these were pictures that Clark had sent to her husband while they were married. He had been the only recipient—the only one, that is, before he made them public and publicly humiliating.

Revenge and punishment make up one aspect of the Clark v. Clark case.

Another is the question of property—begging the question addressed in some articles of whether it is possible to steal a spouse as a thief might steal a car or necklace. Marriage does involve property, but holding to the idea that such lawsuits are not valid from a humanist/feminist perspective because they sustain the antiquated, demeaning idea that the spouses themselves are property is one-dimensional. A more accurate interpretation is that this is far less about property than it is about a spouse violating a contract—that promise to love and cherish that are typically part of the marriage vows.

The Other Woman

It is not the “Other Woman” who made that vow; it is the spouse who is responsible for his (or her) end of that stick.

So why should a spurned wife go after the other woman for punitive damages—an action characterized as simply revenge, just a way to lash out at her for being his new choice?

The spouse breaks the vow; why should the other woman be on the hook for a promise he made? Because, in making the decision to get involved with and pursue a lasting relationship with a married man, the other woman is an agent of that contract violation.


If you are dealing with infidelity, consider reading What to Do With Your Cheating Spouse


She may not have made any promises to the wife of her lover, and she may not have signed a non-compete clause, and he may have cheated with someone else if he hadn’t with her.

But the fact remains: she helped him cheat.

There are grey areas, of course, and love does make things messy with some frequency. Occasionally, the spouse who is being betrayed is venal or toxic or has some other aspect of character that their mate finds unsustainable and unlivable. People are also organic; they change and grow, and the partners who once fit now don’t, and both of you may now fit and feel better with someone else. The other woman may have been one agent of a marriage’s demise, but there are almost certainly others, and it is not often appropriate or healthy to blame her. One could make intellectual and spiritual arguments about the role of the “other” in a marriage.

Professional Implications

Cheating may not be illegal in most cases or most states, but it is a question of ethics–particularly for a woman who took the Hippocratic Oath to “abstain from that which is deleterious or mischievous.” (Technically that does only pertain to patients, though). We may not marry the guy or the gal, but when we mess around with a married person, we help them cheat. Grey areas or not, who took the vow or not, that fact does remain.

In the case of Dr. Kimberly Barrett, not only has she made a high-powered, highly educated career out of facilitating the birth of other women’s families, she sat there in the courtroom and watched her lover denounce the love he told his wife he had for her all along. He said out loud on legal record that he lied to her, and Barrett watched with complicity, so that she could avoid responsibility for her participation in the corrosion of another woman’s marriage.

Apparently, the court agreed that she was culpable. On charges of alienation-of-affection, libel and revenge porn, Clark (a Fayetteville bartender) won $3.2 million from her ex-husband and his (new) wife.

Facing Facts

All grey areas, intellectual and spiritual perspectives and angles aside for the moment, it does make you want to ask, “How dare you?” to both parties, as Annette Benning’s character in the new movie Hope Gap says to that other woman, after her husband of 29 years tells her he is leaving her for his new love.

Not only did Clark cheat on his wife (as have hundreds of thousands of other spouses, male and female, across the globe), he stood up and testified in court that he never loved her, despite telling her throughout their marriage that he did. Barrett and Clark used the defense that Clark never loved his wife; ergo, Barrett wasn’t guilty of despoiling the sanctity of anything. The court disagreed.

To a sharper point than alienation of affection laws, then, perhaps one should give more focus to making illegal and subject to punitive damages the practice of marrying someone and maintaining that marriage under false emotional pretenses.

Notes:

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, 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.

*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.”

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.

Divorce Guilt

The 5 Sides to Divorce Guilt

The process of divorce is harrowing enough. It’s physically, emotionally, and financially draining. It’s life-altering for everyone involved. And it comes with a guaranteed grief cycle in its wake. So the idea of adding divorce guilt to the heap of undesirable feelings seems almost, well, unfair.

Guilt is the usual accompaniment to having done something wrong or bad. It’s the expected emotional reaction for someone with a conscience in the aftermath of going against his or her moral compass.

But guilt is actually multi-faceted and is sometimes warranted, sometimes not. It’s on the spectrum of negative emotions driven by thoughts.

Underlying this whole concept of guilt is a Freudian treasure chest of theories involving thought, behavior, upbringing, and even sexuality. Add religion to the mix, and guilt can become a Beast with a capital B.

So what exactly is divorce guilt?

And why does it exist even for those who have made the painful decision to divorce for the right reasons?

In cognitive theory, there are five types of guilt:

  1. Guilt for something you did.
  2. Guilt for something you didn’t do, but want to.
  3. Guilt for something you think you did.
  4. Guilt that you didn’t do enough to help someone.
  5. Guilt that you’re doing better than someone else.

And divorce guilt can bear shades of any or all of these types.

Take, for example, the first and most obvious: divorce guilt for something you did. 

1. Guilt for What You Did

Infidelity is likely the first trespass that comes to mind. Cheating on your spouse, regardless of how or why and regardless of how the infidelity is discovered, can cause irrevocable damage.

Even with agonizing remorse and repentance on the part of the unfaithful, you can’t undo infidelity.  Often, you cannot transcend it.

Knowing that your marriage has been lost because of a choice you made—regardless of your reasons—can leave you with profound guilt.

We expect people who “misbehave” to bear an appropriate amount of guilt and healthy shame.

But perpetual rumination by the guilty serves no good, even if the harm caused has led to an irreversible consequence like divorce.

There is, of course, always the choice to actively learn from the destructive behavior and work to change your contributing thoughts and behavior patterns going forward.

2. Guilt for Having Thoughts

You may even feel guilty for contemplating or fantasizing about things you’ve never followed through on doing.

What if you have lain awake at night, wondering what life would be like on your own or with someone else?

What if you fantasized about someone from work who makes you feel comfortable, heard, and alive?

Even if you’ve never acted on these notions, is it possible that they have drawn energy away from your marriage? Is it possible that your inner voice has actually been heard and has hurt your spouse or your marriage?

Again, rumination beyond insightful reflection can be counterproductive in the long term.

3. Guilt for What You Did NOT Do

One of the most frequent causes of divorce guilt falls under the category of “believing you didn’t do enough.”

You want to leave or already have, but you feel guilty because your marriage doesn’t have the “drama” to justify divorce.

This is always a difficult guilt to grapple with because it challenges your very sense of relationship, commitment, and doing your best.

You may compare your marriage story to that of others who have far more “obvious” reasons to leave. You’re not being abused or neglected. Your husband isn’t a bad man.

Shouldn’t you be counting your blessings? Aren’t you being ungrateful? Do you even “deserve” to get a divorce and move on with your life?

What about all that unsolicited advice from family and friends who tell you to count your blessings? Are you missing something here—being selfish, “just going through a phase,” not seeing what’s right in front of you?

What if he provides for you and your family? What if your life seemingly checks off all the white-picket-fence boxes?

You may wonder if this is all just part of being married and if it will happen again if you enter another relationship.

Or you may have wanted the divorce but wonder why you feel so sad. Is it because of guilt? Is it because you really want to stay but don’t know what to do to make things better?

What if he left you? What if he was unfaithful at some point? Why on earth would you feel guilty?

And yet, maybe you do. Maybe there is a nagging realization beneath your hurt that says, “There were signs. I had an opportunity to work on things with him. And I had things I could have changed, but I didn’t. I missed the opportunity. And now look….”

4. Survivor’s Guilt

You may also feel guilt because you were the one who pushed for the marriage, and now you want out. Was your husband right all along about wanting to wait? Should you have waited?

And what if you’re the one who moves on more quickly and easily or who has more financial success after the divorce? This is a form of “survivor’s guilt” that can tug at your heart, especially if you genuinely want your ex to be happy.

5. Parental Guilt

There is, of course, one form of divorce guilt that is likely to affect both you and your (soon to be?) Ex: guilt over the children.

They didn’t ask for this. They didn’t cause this (even though children often believe they did and end up suffering their own form of “divorce guilt”).

They’re innocent bystanders—defenseless, voiceless, penniless, and essentially powerless.

Guilt over children can plague you for years to come. And children can help perpetuate it in an effort to manipulate or blame their parents.

So how do you deal with, let alone mitigate, that understandable form of divorce guilt?

How do you stop the nagging questions, “Should I have stayed for the kids? Will they be damaged by the divorce? And will they be okay without both parents around? Will they blame me for all the changes in their lives?”

The choice you both have, of course, is how you navigate your divorce and your lives after it’s over.

You can go at it like The War of the Roses. Or you can approach it like two people whose primary role in life is that of parents.

You can set your children up for success and happiness. You can help them see the hope in their future.

And you do that by being mature in your handling of the divorce, even when things get tedious or confrontational. You lead with your children’s welfare and highest good.

And you draw into your circle of professionals those who will prioritize your children as part of your divorce recovery.

Divorce Recovery

Divorce is a rending experience. But the space created by the brokenness can be seen and used as an opportunity for growth and stronger connections.

Buried at the root of guilt is a lifetime of built-in thoughts: “I’m not worthy. I don’t deserve (fill in the blank). I am responsible for everyone’s happiness. If something goes wrong, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t feel (fill in the blank).”

Because the emotion of guilt is a spur of the thought process, dealing with it effectively involves dealing with your thoughts. The enlightenment of your thoughts will ultimately light the way to your future by releasing the guilt of the past. Working with a divorce coach and therapist can greatly help with these feelings.

 

If you are considering or dealing with divorce, or recreating your life in its afterward, 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.

*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.”