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Losing your in laws in divorce

Losing Your In-Laws in Divorce

The downsides of divorce can seem endless. Every gain has a counter-loss, often in ways you didn’t anticipate. Losing your in-laws in divorce can be one of those unexpected surprises.

When you’re consumed with the must-do checklist of divorce, it’s natural to be focused on “just getting through it.” There will be collateral damage, to be sure, but you can deal with (and anticipate) only so much at once.

You know you’re about to lose what will always be one of the most important relationships in your life. 

But you may not be ready for the divorce and its loss of other relationships that have been a natural — and assumed — part of your married life. They become part of the grief you didn’t count on.

Mention “in-laws,” and visions of Marie and Deborah snarking it out on Everybody Loves Raymond may fill your brain space.

Then again, you may have had a beautiful, “bonus family” kind of relationship with your husband’s family. And the thought of losing your in-laws in the divorce may be heavier than you had anticipated.

Grief and The Family Dynamic

Readers may remember the late psychologist John Bradshaw. His work on “The Inner Child,” shame, and family-of-origin influences helped define a notable period of self-help and trauma recovery.

He used to do a family-of-origin exercise on the opening day of his Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child workshops.

Then, he would invite several attendees, one at a time, to come join him at the front of the room. He would then instruct each person to “attach” himself/herself to him in specific ways. 

“Lie on the floor and wrap your arms around my ankle. You’re my mother.” “Hold onto my arm. You’re my brother.” “Stand behind me and pull on my shirt. You’re my father.”

After building this clumsy pyramid to the laughter of an unsuspecting audience, he would deliver the indelible punchline: “THIS is what you marry when you get married.”

He was a genius at driving home messages that desperately need to be understood if people are going to heal and make healthy relationship choices.

Fast forward to you, your in-laws, and your divorce.

One of the realities of divorce is that it mobilizes everything. It’s like a game of musical chairs — the music stops, everyone scrambles for a seat, someone is ousted, and it all starts again. Everything is in flux, and much of it is unpredictable.

And so it goes with in-laws.

They’re the family you agree to adopt when you marry. 

They’re the new dynamic you have to learn and navigate.

Lastly, they’re the “other half” of extended family to your children — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins.

And they’re a goldmine of insight into your spouse… and now STBEX.

So what do you do with these in-law relationships now that you and your husband are going your separate ways?

Consider some of the countless ways your in-law relationships can go:

  • You’re glad to be done with them, and the feeling is mutual.
  • You both want to remain friends, and your STBEX is fine with that.
  • You both want to remain friends, but your STBEX isn’t fine with that.
  • You’re close with some of your in-laws but not all, and you want to stay close with them.
  • Some of your in-laws have a “loyalty” gene that stands to ruin any chance of friendship with the family.
  • Your in-laws would choose you over their own relative any day. They know he had a great thing, and they are sad to see you go.

And then there are the dynamics you know you will have to navigate, regardless of everyone’s affections (or lack thereof):

  • You have children, and you know they need to have an ongoing relationship with that side of the family. How do you make that work if the breakup isn’t amicable?
  • You have children, and you know you will be in the same room with your ex and ex-in-laws for years to come — birthdays, sporting events, recitals, graduations, weddings. How will you make it work so your children know they are safe and loved? (Check out “Coparenting Through Children’s Birthdays After Divorce.”)
  • You’re suspecting that your husband is filling your in-laws’ ears with a one-sided story against you. What do you do now?
  • You and/or your STBEX may bring a new love interest into your life. Will that make an ongoing friendship uncomfortable? (Consider reading “Playing Nice When Your Ex Has a New Girlfriend.”

If you fear losing your in-laws in the divorce, you do have choices. But those choices will be influenced by more than just your own desire and vision for working things out.


Keep taking steps toward your healing. Read “46 Steps to Ensure Your Divorce Recovery: A Definition and a Guide.”


Negotiating Future Contact

Ideally, both you and your spouse will handle your divorce amicably and respectfully. 

If you have that kind of relationship, despite your pending divorce, this is the time to talk about in-law relationships. After all, your husband may have the same feelings about your family.

“I love your family, and I would love to remain friends with them. But I want to be respectful of your wishes and comfort. I also want the kids to be able to talk freely about all their relatives, with no fear of animosity from either of us.”

Even if you are on the other end of the spectrum with your feelings, it’s still wise to have these discussions with your STBEX, especially if you have children.

It’s also wise to have these discussions with your in-laws. Call a spade a spade. Tell them you know how uncomfortable this is for them, too.


If you are looking for a community of like-minded women, women who are also committed to healing and making meaning of this newfound place you are all in, consider our powerful Paloma’s Group for women recreating after divorce.


Let them know that you intend to play a positive, supportive role in their ongoing relationship with your children. Even if they want nothing to do with you, you know they play a defining role in your children’s lives.

How much you disclose about your divorce to your in-laws really depends on you and the relationship you have with them. 

It may be tempting to lay out your side of things with your in-laws, especially if you suspect your STBEX hasn’t been truthful with them. 

But you would do well to err on the side of diplomacy. You can always share more later, but you can’t take back words spoken.

For further tips on how not to divorce your spouse’s family, read here.

Losing your in-laws in the divorce can be a great loss or a blessing in disguise.

And sometimes the loss or expulsion you fear is tempered by time, maturity, acceptance…and forgiveness.

Notes

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.

My husband cheated now what

My Husband Cheated, Now What?

My husband cheated. Now what do I do? My whole world has just imploded, and I don’t have a clue where to go from here.”

It’s part of our flawed human nature to believe we can predict how we’d act in situations we’ve never been in. We can be so quick to assert the noblest of convictions, with no consideration for emotions and circumstances.

The end result, sadly, is that we often end up judging people we don’t even know on the presumption that we would do better.

Sadder yet is when we judge ourselves against criteria and standards we established without a glimpse of how they might challenge us.

Case in point? The betrayal of infidelity.

The early days of wine and roses, when the sun rose on infatuation and set on passion, eventually fade. Children, work, boredom, stress, routine, monotony… life.

Some of the fading happens so that real life can happen.

And some of it happens because couples take their relationship for granted.

While cheating is far from inevitable, it does happen.

If you are on the receiving end of betrayal, you may have found out in one of several ways. A confession. An accidental discovery. Or perhaps the accumulation of countless subtle signs of cheating.

But here you are. “My husband cheated. Now what?”

Do you go all Hollywood? Throw him out, empty all the accounts, go revenge shopping, and start a new life in the span of two hours?

Do you pretend you can forgive and forget – “for the children” – and try to carry on?

Do you find a divorce lawyer and end your marriage as soon as possible?

Or do you do what you never thought you would do if this day ever came? Do you try to work through the betrayal and save your marriage? 

These options may seem too calm-and-collected for what you really feel like doing. But let’s take that kind of retribution off the table.


Check out our woman to woman talk in “The Stages of Surviving an Affair.”


It’s bad enough that one of you has done something regretful. Fits of passion can write countless dramatic scripts, and you don’t need to play a leading role.

Even in the worst of circumstances, you have choices. They won’t promise to be easy or pain-free. But every choice will offer you the opportunity to grow… or to return to more lessons.

Here are some actions to take immediately while you explore your options in the wake of your husband’s infidelity:

  • Locate your center and always keep it in view.


    You will inevitably feel “all over the place” with your emotions. Bouncing between rage and sadness can make you lose sight of your center – your beliefs, your values, your strengths. Allow yourself the feelings, but don’t let them run away with you. Keep your center in focus so you know how to get back.

  • Do not, under any circumstances, make consequential, life-changing decisions while in an emotional state.

    Scream, cry, rip the feathers out of a pillow, go out for a Forrest Gump marathon run. But don’t file for divorce, leave with the kids, take financial revenge, or stalk the affair partner while emotions are raging.

  • Do not, under any circumstances, allow yourself to believe that you have to go through this alone.

The fact that you’re not the first to go through this doesn’t make it any less painful.

But it can give you comfort and a soft place to land when you need support from those who understand. (Read our “Surviving Infidelity: Should You Stay or Should You Go?”)

  • Find a therapist who specializes in marriage, family, and infidelity.

    Find a professional who can accompany and guide you through the flood of emotions you’re feeling. The sooner you feel in control of them, the sooner you can explore your options.

  • Find a support group – online, or in person – and participate.

    Just knowing that others have been where you are – and are at various stages of the journey – will be a huge help.

  • Get some physical distance if possible.

    Do you have a close friend or relative you can stay with for a while? If not, or if you have children at home….

  • Establish clear boundaries with your spouse regarding your living arrangements.

    Do you need to separate while still living in the same house? Be clear about sleeping arrangements, time with the kids, and separating your time at home.

  • Keep the details away from your kids… and most definitely off social media.

    Kids inevitably pick up on everything. But they don’t need to know more than “Mommy and Daddy are working on some personal matters, so we will be sleeping in different rooms for a while. We both love you very much, and we will always be here for you.” Be aware of the effects of divorce on children, and know that there are also effects from infidelity and domestic conflict.

So, you’re doing your best to stay grounded, gain clarity, and hold onto your self-everything.

At some point, however, it’s decision time. My husband cheated. Now what? is a question with a handful of clear options: separate, divorce, carry on, or work on your marriage.

Regardless of how the details look, what you choose to do will fall under one of those categories. Here’s how those choices might look:

  • Separation.

    You may not be able to stand the sight of your husband, let alone the thought of ever sleeping with him again. And yet, you may not be sure about divorce or reconciliation at this point. There are multiple ways to achieve physical distance in order to think with a clear head and/or work on things. Some couples separate while living in the same home (financial reasons, children, convenience). Some couples choose to live in separate places.

    If you are contemplating divorce – even if you are unsure – it would be wise to know your state’s laws regarding separation.

    They could influence your and your children’s financial security, the timing of a divorce if you go that route, and even your settlement.

    If you’re not sure whether to separate or divorce, start here.

  • Divorce.

    This may be your first fit-of-rage ultimatum. But divorce should always be your last resort. Obviously you can’t save your marriage by yourself. Keep in mind, however, that ending your marriage because your husband cheated isn’t going to “fix” anything.

    Not only are there life-altering effects of divorce for women. But you will still have to process the inevitable grief and the ways in which both of you (i.e. you included) contributed to the fallout of your marriage.

    (*In no way are you ever to accept responsibility for your husband’s choice to cheat.)

    Is it wiser to do that exploration while still married? Or has there been too much damage, even before the affair, to make that possible?


For women thinking… about or beginning the divorce process, learn what is possible for your life BEFORE you start making radical decisions. Join us for Annie’s Group, a powerful group coaching program for women only.


  • Carry on.

    Is this really a possibility? Think about what would be asked of you to sweep this indiscretion, this betrayal, under the rug. Even if you believed you had no choice because of finances, health, children, etc., how long would you be able to pretend?

    How long would it be before resentment and annihilation of trust and self-esteem permeated every corner of your marriage, family, and life?

  • Get even and cheat on your own.

Is this really an option for you?

Certainly men have no monopoly on infidelity. Check out “The Cheating Wife Phenomenon,” but ask yourself, in the long run, how will cheating serve you?  Won’t it be delaying the fact that certain things in your marriage Must. Be. Faced.?

  • Work on your marriage.

    The thought of working on anything with this traitor may absolutely repulse you. And yet, you may have a bizarrely conflicting inability to throw in the towel on your marriage. But take comfort in the reality that infidelity doesn’t necessarily lead to divorce.

    Couples who are willing to do the work – the grueling, gut-wrenching, painful work – usually survive.

    Why is this relevant?

    Because divorcing in the hopes of getting a clean slate and a new relationship rarely fares well.

    The issues that made your marriage vulnerable to infidelity were the confluence of commissions and omissions… from both of you.

    You will never be responsible for your husband’s choice to cheat. But you did have responsibility within your marriage, for your marriage.

    More and more, couples are thinking before leaping into the finality of divorce. (If only the cheater would have thought before leaping, too.)

    And they’re putting their egos into the back seat and getting sage counsel to help them do what they couldn’t do on their own.

Sometimes infidelity is a hard-won wake-up call.

It’s never the way to go about rectifying hurts and filling voids in a marriage.

But, once that choice has been made, new choices await.

And every choice, agonizing as it is, is a divergence to a life that will never be the same.

Your husband cheated. You will never be able to change that. And he will never be able to undo it.

But the “My husband cheated, now what?is your fork in the road.

Whichever direction you choose, make sure you are grounded in your own power…and in the realization that you don’t have to do it alone.

Notes

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of separation and divorce. Learn what’s possible for you and your precious life. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS and choose not to go it alone.

New names for your Ex

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

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

But few are terms we want kids to repeat. 

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

“Ex of a Lower Caliber”

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


“Gametes Guy”

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

“Cicerone of the Cerebral-Rectal Inversion”

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

“Ever-Right”

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

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


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


“De-Manifestation”

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

Not the Silver Fox, “The Silverback”

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

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

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

“Massengil Man”

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

“The Void Droid”

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

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

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

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

“Chappaquick-d**k”

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

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


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


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

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

And the next chapter is EXCELLENT.

 

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

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

 



We want to hear from you! 

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

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

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

Send your suggestions to liza@sasforwomen or comment below.

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

 

 

 

What to do if your husband leaves you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Be TOO proud to beg.

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

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

    Do. Not. Beg.

  2. Document, document, document.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  2. Keep the details off social media.

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

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

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

    It’s all part of the next point…

  3. Take the high road.

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

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

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

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

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

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

  4. Protect your kids and prepare for their future.

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

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

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

  5. Find a new place to live.

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

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

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

  6. Take really good care of you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Consistently.

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

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

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

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

Notes

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

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

stop gaslighting yourself

5 Self-Saving Ways to Stop Gaslighting Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

His endgame?

To steal his wife’s inheritance.


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


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

It’s a power-play.

Gaslighter’s Tactics

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

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

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

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

…even when you are gaslighting yourself.

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

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


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


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

What does this have to do with relationships and divorce?

Possibly everything.

Gaslighting and Divorce

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

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

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

“Maybe I need help.”

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

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

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

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

Wrong.

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

Here are five suggestions for how to stop gaslighting yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Speak to yourself with externalizing affirmations.

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

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

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

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

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

    Your feelings are as worthy as anyone else’s.

    Your reality is as worthy as anyone else’s. 

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


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


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

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

And recognition is the first step in healing.

 

Notes

How to stop gaslighting yourself?

In two words. 

Annie’s Group.

Learn what is possible for your life. 

 

Surviving an Affair

The Stages of Surviving An Affair

Relationships can be complicated. At the very least, they’re complex because people are complex. And at no time is that more evident than when a married couple is in the throes of surviving an affair. This includes opposing sides of the betrayal, and a possible re-negotiation of commitment to the marriage.

Infidelity used to be largely a man’s game. And wives were often tolerant while suffering in silence, mainly because they had to be. Wives of yesteryear often relied financially on their husbands, keeping them trapped in these types of unhealthy marriages.

But the surge of women entering the workforce from the 1960s on, coupled with the feminist movement, changed things.

Gradually, the dynamics of relationships, marriage, and even infidelity began to shift. Women were now on the same playing field as men, at least physically, and they were exposed to the same “opportunities.”

Statistics on affairs vary, in part because research relies largely on self-disclosure. But they all huddle close enough to drive home an important trend: Infidelity is no longer just a man’s game. (Check out, “The Cheating Wife Phenomenon”.)

One study found that 15% of women and 25% of men had cheated on their spouses. And that number doesn’t include “emotional affairs” that don’t involve physical cheating.

So what are your chances of surviving an affair if you fall into these statistics? 

Whether you are the betrayed or the betrayer, can you put the pieces of your marriage back together? And, if so, how?

First of all, the short answer is yes. Infidelity is survivable. Couples prove that every day.

But how they survive it—and how their marriages look on the other side—well, that’s really why you’re here, right?

If you are the betrayed, you will undoubtedly spend a lot of time lamenting “should you stay or should you go?”

Even if you are the cheating spouse, you may anguish over the same question, but for different reasons.

After the initial shock of discovery or disclosure calms, there is the opportunity for clarity. And no good decision is ever made without clarity.

If you have hopes of your marriage surviving an affair, be prepared to go through a series of stages—difficult, painful, excavating, exhausting stages.

  • Discovery or disclosure

    There is always that unforgettable moment. A cheater gets lazy with the lies, a spouse gets suspicious or accidentally stumbles upon evidence, or there’s a confession.

    Whether you’re the one left in shock or the one left in shame, this moment is the beginning of a long road ahead.

  • Emotional overwhelm

    If you’re the betrayed spouse, and even if you’ve been giving a cold shoulder to your suspicions, learning the truth is emotional.

    You will feel to a degree that may seem unforgivable. Shock, devastation, sadness, hurt, anger, loss—they will all flood in and jockey for position.


Consider reading, “How to Survive Divorce. Especially if It’s Not What You Want.”


The important takeaway of this stage, at least for the sake of surviving an affair, is that now is not the time to make any major decisions.

  • Stopping the affair

    One thing absolutely must happen if your marriage is going to survive this infidelity: The affair has to stop. Completely. No “kind-of,” “just friends,” or “sneaking around.” The ultimatum must happen.

    As logical as this may sound, it’s not necessarily a no-brainer for the cheating spouse.

    Depending on the degree of involvement with the affair partner, a “one-night stand” cut-off may not be so simple.

    After all, the affair partner is a person, too, despite the indiscretion. And the cheating spouse may be vested in that relationship beyond just the sex.

    But your marriage can’t proceed with healing unless there is the confidence of no other relationship existing in the background.

  • Grief

    It’s an inevitable passage through any loss, and it doesn’t ask permission. Grief will happen, whether or not you welcome it.

    As difficult as it is to believe, your grief and all that you are experiencing in terms of emotions will be easier to survive if you recognize, acknowledge, and embrace them.

    Why is that important to know upfront?

    Because grief isn’t linear. It gives the stage to whatever needs the spotlight at the moment: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.


Grief may not be what you think it is. Learn more. Read “Divorce Grief and 3 Myths.”   


Some theories include pain and guilt before anger and depression, loneliness, and reflection after.

The relevance of grief to surviving an affair? You are saying goodbye to your marriage as you remembered it and hoped it would be.

  • Discussing the affair and your marriage

    This is the long, drawn-out, painful, exhausting stage of surviving an affair, and it’s best done with professional guidance.

    There will be the obvious need for the cheater to answer slews of questions.

    There will also be the need for the betrayed spouse to balance what is necessary to know and what is really about wanting to know.

    The importance of this stage isn’t limited to discussion of the affair, however. This is the time when you will be dissecting your marriage, too.

    While there is never a good excuse that gives license to cheating, affairs don’t exist in a vacuum.

    If you are going to go forward with and safeguard your marriage, you will both have to be fearless in examining your marriage.

    How and where was it vulnerable? What negatives have you brought to it? What positives have you withheld?

    Both of you are going to have to step up and take responsibility for your marriage – past, present, and future.

    A therapist, husband-wife therapist team, or a coach that specializes in marriage and infidelity can be a lifeline throughout your post-affair process. You really shouldn’t DIY such a critical journey.

  • Acceptance

    After the shock has worn off and you are entrenched in the work of repair, you will move into acceptance.

    This isn’t about accepting infidelity as “OK.”

    It’s simply about accepting the fact that your marriage, like millions of others, has experienced it.

    And the relationship you are working on now will be “new,” as it will reflect the choices, lessons, and pain of this experience.

  • Reconnection.

    When you reach this point in surviving an affair, you may look back and marvel at what your relationship has accomplished.

    This is the stage of truly living again.

    You have already accepted that your marriage will never be the same as it was before the affair.

    But you have done the work and earned the right to say, “That’s a good thing.”

Surviving an affair isn’t simple or formulaic, despite the stages presented to help you through it.

It also isn’t easy. At all.

To the contrary.

And not all couples survive it…or should.

Only you and your spouse truly know if there is something worth fighting for…

…and something worth forgiving.

Notes

Choose not to go it alone.

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

What percentage of marriages end in divorce?

What Percentage of Marriages End in Divorce?

No matter what it is, we tend to find what we’re looking for. A hypochondriac will develop symptoms of an illness they think they have. A dubious spouse will find “proof” of infidelity even if it doesn’t exist. Water molecules bloom or decompose depending on the nature of the thoughts directed at them. And if we are looking for a “growing trend” in what percentage of marriages will end in divorce, we will find one.

The Glass is Half-Full… AND Half-Empty

Anyone who has had a conversation about marriage or divorce in the last 20 years has probably heard the statistic that 50 percent of marriages take a dive into the Big D deep end. It’s really not that cut and dry. There are variations from study to study, depending on the wording of the questions and who’s paying for the study. Which region of people are providing the answers, how many live there, their religion, their socioeconomic status, the freedom of speech and education they have access to, and many other factors will color the results—whether the analyst is a census bureaucrat or a Seventh Day Adventist. Or both, for that matter.

When it comes to the question of whether lasting marriage is the horse to bet on, inconclusive examples abound. We can hopscotch through the Internet with one hand over an eye, singing our high school fight song, and find “evidence” one way or the other.

One recent search results page contained the title “Ireland’s divorce rate remarkably low compared to wider world,” followed by the May 2019 assertion that Ireland has the lowest divorce rate in Europe. Stereotyping Catholicism and its adherents, which make up 78 percent of Irish citizens, one might find this easy to believe. Glancing a few lines down the page, though, a browser finds another link title that scoffs, “Wedded bliss? Don’t think so!” This is followed by the claim that the number of Irish marriages shriveling in divorce jumped by 800 percent in the last 15 years.

Dogma and Divorce on a World Tour

Traditionally, Catholicism does not embrace divorce. And in fact, divorce is illegal in the

Catholic country of the Philippines. The only other place in the world where divorce doesn’t exist is Vatican City – for obvious reasons since Catholic priests can’t marry in the first place.

However, religion alone does not indicate strict devotion to staying married through depravity, poverty, dismemberment, nuclear war, and bringing home the wrong kind of lettuce.

Catholics seem to have cornered the grim devotion market, to be sure, but again, the data isn’t crystal clear. Taking a quick online world tour of a few different countries, we can see divorce rates increasing noticeably in some countries and staying remarkably low in others.

Guatemala and Sri Lanka have the lowest divorce rates in the world, but Guatemala has an almost even split between Catholic citizens and Protestant—the Catholics numbering at 45 percent and the Protestants at 42. In Sri Lanka, where 70.2 percent of the population is Buddhist, only 0.15 percent of marriages fall to the ax of divorce.

Africa

In Kenya, though, where 85 percent of the citizens identify as Christian, the number of marriages dissolving in the chemical bath of divorce has jumped from 40 percent in 2017 to 70 percent in 2020. Kenyan women, not men, are the ones filing, and the reasons they’re giving are the same reasons stated by women all over the globe: domestic violence, neglect, drug and alcohol abuse, and infidelity.

Asia

There is no lack of divorce among Muslims and Buddhists. In China, the top four religions are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Christianity. None of them are stopping the divorce rate from swelling like a gangrenous toe, nor are they making a Chinese marriage easier to obtain. The China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) calculated a 75 percent climb in the country’s divorce rate between 2010 and 2019—from 2.7 to 4.7 million cases.


If you are looking for an anchor, or way to evaluate if you should or should not divorce, Take a breath and read our “36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce”.


And in the Maldives, a string of islands south of India’s tip that form a Muslim republic, so many marriages end in divorce that the country earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. With 11 divorces per 1,000 people every year, Maldivian women average three divorces by the time they are 30 years old.

A luscious place to vacation and ironically, one of the honeymoon capitols of the world, the Republic of Maldives embraces a Muslim dogma with a big bark and almost no bite. While it dictates a taboo against pre-marital sex, it has no taboo against very fast marriages that need only last as long as a great vacation.

Even in less destination-luscious countries, divorce rates are rising. In Iran, where 90-95 percent of the people claim Shia Islam as their religion, 2021 saw one in three marriages driving into divorce’s dead end. While the number of Iranian marriages also increased by 4.4 percent between 2019 and 2020, the divorce rates rose by 3.6 percent.

Tying and Breaking the Knot Stateside…

Meanwhile, back at the American ranch, there are quite a few of the Bible Belt states where a lot of marriages dissolve in the chemical bath of divorce. Arkansas, for example, has a high divorce rate at 10.7 divorces per 1,000 people. Other Southern states frying their marriages in the Crisco of divorce include Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia.

North Dakota, though, has an exceptionally low divorce rate at 2.5 per 1,000 people. And that’s even a decrease from 3.6 per 1,000 in 1990.

Of course, not very many people actually live in North Dakota. There are about as many North Dakotans as there are Seattleites. The entire Badland state had 762,062 residents as of 2019, while the city of Seattle had 724,305.

Other states on the low end of the divorce spectrum include Hawaii (where everyone is too happy to bother), New York (where geological eras move faster than the divorce courts), Illinois, Vermont, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and surprisingly, California.

But again, the “facts” run counter to each other. Notably, Massachusetts and New Jersey are listed on BOTH the list of “states with the highest number of divorces” and the list of “states with the lowest number…”

And if education is a factor in whether people say “I do”—and it is—the fact that Connecticut is one of two states with the lowest number of marriages may have something to do with the fact that the relatively small state has 44 universities and colleges in it.

What’s in a Trend?

As you may see, answering the question of how many marriages end in divorce can get complicated. However, there do seem to be a few factors that we can be sure of. One is that fewer people are getting married in the first place. In 2018, American statisticians calculated the lowest number of marriages in 118 years.

The main factors leading women away from the altar and the dubious promise of “forever” are education and labor force participation, economic independence and greater gender equality. In other words, if we don’t have to marry to survive anymore, as explored in “Divorce and Women: One Woman’s Journey,” we’re not nearly as inclined to do it.

Boomer divorce numbers are high but leveling out. In contrast, Millennials born of their parents’ high divorce rates are being smarter about marriage than their predecessors. They are either not marrying at all or waiting until they are older and more established in their careers and their finances.

Incidentally, Boomers were the last generation of women still operating under a general assumption that marriage was “just what one did.” (Check out “The Truth About Divorce for Women.”)

More people are living together first.

While marriage numbers for straight couples are generally down and straight couple divorce rates are generally up—with notable exceptions and counter-trends worldwide—same-sex couples are finally allowed to marry. Many are doing so. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2000. Thirty countries have followed that example since then.

The data may be pointing in a general direction. Then again, it may not. All any of this really tells us is that an awful lot of people are asking an awful lot of questions about the real value of marriage. It’s essential to remember that trends are made of individual choices—billions of them. It may be interesting to know what the Joneses are up to (or not), but it would be a superficial life that depended on definition by everyone else.

Hopefully, as we search, what we will find is that we value ourselves enough to claim our own happiness—no matter what that looks like.

 

Notes

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

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

Life After Divorce: Grief

Life After Divorce: The Grief You Didn’t Count On

There comes a stage in our life after divorce that we’re often not prepared for. It arrives after the legal issues are settled, most of the fighting is over, and we accept the fact of the divorce and its outcomes, they are what they are. At such a moment, we might be thinking we should be finding bliss now, but instead we feel sadness (again). Memories and dreams come back to haunt us at the same time “negative” emotions circle up. This may be a natural part of our life-after-divorce grief and healing.

Of course, holidays like Valentine’s Day don’t help.

It’s time to welcome your post-divorce grief.

Divorce is one of the top reasons for grief in virtually any conversation about loss. Divorce can cause us as much distress as the death of a loved one or a treasured pet. But with divorce, we very often lose multiple things at the same time: a partner, a friend, and a home. If we look at the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale that lists events that cause us to feel grief, we can appreciate that divorce gives us several stressors, not one. You are not crazy or weak if you feel sad or overwhelmed because these are indeed tough times.

Post-divorce grief can be aggravated by wrong expectations – namely, the idea that it should pass within 6 to 12 months after a divorce document is signed. That’s the general timeframe we expect close friends to be sensitive to us. After 12 months, it seems, we should be “getting on with it.” 

Another incorrect expectation is that the person who initiated the divorce should be happy and relieved rather than bereaved. That was my experience.

And there’s a term for this phenomenon, this experience of grieving the separation with a spouse who was abusive, or who was highly unpleasant for at least some of the time married. Such sadness is called “disenfranchised grief”, a term coined by Kenneth J. Doka. Disenfranchised grief is not openly acknowledged, socially validated, or publicly mourned. The danger of it is that “the lack of support you get during your grieving process can prolong emotional pain.”

Welcome your more difficult feelings

The inability to be open about our life-after-divorce grief can lead to shame, confusion, and feelings of guilt for letting yourself down. It can develop into depression with the sufferer not recognizing that they need to ask for help.


You are not alone. 

Check out our “How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce.”


However, there is good news. Once we look grief in the eye and process it, we can make room for a new life with new routines, rituals, and — if we want to and are ready for it — new partners.

To help ourselves through the tough times and process the loss, we should remind ourselves that however bad the end of the marriage was, there were always good things to grieve about.

Letting go of past love

Usually, when we are living through it, we see divorce as a sequence of legal, financial, and children-related processes and negotiations conducted in a lengthy and sterilized manner. It’s easy and even pleasant to demonize your Ex. For some of us, anger is necessary to give us the courage and energy to separate and break the system. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to get stuck in anger and hatred; they serve as a backdrop for our own self-righteousness. However, staying angry and blaming him* is not the path to closure, but a waste of our time and energy keeping us more often in a spin cycle of repeating and repeating the narrative we tell ourselves.

In the grander scheme of things, divorce is the loss of love. It’s broken promises. It’s the loss of companionship, the meals, the walks, the trips, the lifestyle. Overall, it’s the loss of sharing and an end to a valuable human connection. Without the support of the former structure, we can be left lonely and confused.

Admitting that love existed and died is harder than being angry. While the earlier stages of marital rift can make us think of a reconciliation, after divorce we definitely know that we can’t do more. We feel sad and helpless. 

For some people who like order and control, being helpless is the hardest feeling to endure.

However hard it may be, accepting the inevitable and our helplessness can take us to a new level. An English theologian Thomas Fuller said, “the night is darkest just before the dawn.” He added, “But keep your eyes open; if you avert your eyes from the dark, you’ll be blind to the rays of a new day.”

It’s only a dream

It often appears in relationship advice columns that what we are mourning is not the relationship itself, but the dream of a happier life. However, that doesn’t make sadness any easier. As Dr. Ann Gold Buscho writes in Psychology Today “the loss of the hopes and dreams you had on your wedding day is like a death. Allow yourself to feel that grief and trust that it will pass”.

The importance of hopes and dreams is that they cultivate our future. They give us the strength to carry on through hard times. Many of us dream of growing older with our man, seeing the kids off to college, downsizing, maybe moving to a different town, getting a bed-and-breakfast, or opening a café by the ocean. I did. Now that the person is no longer your partner, it may feel like there is no more future, nothing to work for. Even if a new man arrives, I will never have another chance to marry someone I met at 20. I will never have a chance to grow old with the father of my children, who loves my kids as much as I do.

Acknowledging the life-after-divorce grief is one step towards laying to rest the old dreams to make way for new ideas and hopes.

Goodbye, my friend

Divorce is highly likely to affect our circle of friends. Frankly, I was even looking forward to saying goodbye to a judgmental toxic woman or two. In reality, after divorce, we can pursue those who are more in sync with us. They may be especially funny, intellectual, or spiritual. Childhood friends may reappear or disappear. The loss of the familiar is worth acknowledging and grieving about. But it’s helpful to remember that with each loss comes a new space and opening for new people, experiences, and things.

Find a helping hand

Therapists suggest asking for help and accepting help during grieving. I’ve found it helpful to ask for support, whether it’s accepting invitations to dinners or watching a film together just to feel someone’s presence. But let’s remind ourselves of whom we are turning to for moral support and words. In my experience, it was exactly my poor understanding of my grief that drove me to hide from some friends. And elsewhere, I discovered that even some friends who had been through divorce themselves (and had the best of intentions) hurt me as they wanted me to get over my sadness or dark emotions quickly.


With all you’ve been through, do you wonder if happiness is even possible after divorce? 


Some cultures and social groups are better at managing negative feelings than others. If you are part of a culture where you are supposed to keep a stiff upper lip and get on with it, I encourage you to look outside your usual social circle for support.

Grief is personal and lonely

In our precious life after divorce, let’s do our best to steer clear of labels and boxes we put ourselves in. Let’s accept that grief is personal in the way we experience it, how it impacts us and how long it takes. It’s normal that it should make us feel very lonely —  like we are the only people in the world experiencing such pain. That is why joining groups of women in similar situations is so important. 

My personal divorce journey included learning to deal with loneliness, becoming my own companion, and learning not to fear being without a partner. I am very glad I took that journey. It gives me a feeling of strength and of heaving a choice whether to be on my own or with someone I chose.

Is it possible to grieve together with your Ex?

You can try it! I planned and offered to my former husband an invitation to gather and give ritual to the good things in our marriage, say our thank yous, and grieve together the breakup, but he wasn’t interested. This may be because we are in different places emotionally. I also discovered that my suggestion to grieve together could appear to be a reconciliation proposal.

Things will never be the same again

As we move forward with our life after divorce, one thing that will never be the same is us. We need to say goodbye to our old selves, mourning the choices we made, the sacrifices we undertook for the benefit of the marriage and our family.

As we say goodbye to the younger, more naïve version of self, we acknowledge how much we have been through, how much we had to lose, and how important these losses were. That self-care and respect may be something we have forgotten in the process of divorce. Now we are rediscovering it as we process life-after-divorce grief. And the good thing  is that this self-respect skill can now stay with us forever.

By letting go of the old structures and dreams we create space for new traditions, new rituals, and new versions of ourselves on the way to the future.

Notes

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is Russia-based communication and storytelling expert. She is rebuilding life after divorce and misses international travels. You can reach her at anna.i.galitsina@gmail.com

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

Facing the fear of Divorce Change Weheartit Size 2

Fearing the Change of Divorce

Think back to when you were a small girl and how, when you were little, the prospect of change was exciting. Perhaps you were scared but excited about losing that first tooth. But it meant growing up and that the tooth fairy was coming to reward you for being brave. Do you recall when you were invited to do grownup things? Like stay later at the table with adult guests, or accompany a teenager on an outing and how thrilled you felt? Larger than yourself, and suddenly bigger, more important than your peers. Change signified good when we were younger, and perhaps even faced with the shock of menstruation, a part of us welcomed it (maybe) with a particular horror fascination. It symbolized certain doors opening, and a private world of unexplainable mysteries and womanly secrets now to be yours. Most likely, though, fearing the change of divorce was not included in those early imaginings.

When we were little, we understood change as natural. We still do. However, with age, we have come to fear it. Older now, “wiser”, we resist change, we ignore it, and we pay to not see it. And in no place is change more fear-inducing than in our post-divorce, apocalyptic future, somewhere out there, in an unknown galaxy of life after separation.

This “resistance” begs a few questions. How do we look at the change that divorce inevitably brings in a healthy way? 

How do we make friends with it? 

And how do we prepare for it when we can’t know what’s out there?

Change and Its Thorny Opportunity

Sometimes it takes hitting rock bottom or losing our marriage, or losing ourselves in a marriage for us to see that something’s got to change because there are no alternatives. There simply is no other choice. That’s the gift for some of us, the catalyst: we have no choice. So, for those who are change-averse, sometimes it takes hitting the wall for change to be accepted. Others say they have no problem with change and embrace it with every opportunity. 

And yet there are degrees to change.

Genuine change is not about getting Botox or our hair colored. It takes work to learn what is changing, what needs to change, and what we want from the change. Put simply, it’s uncomfortable. Fearing the change of divorce is natural, but can also be seen as a huge opportunity for growth and yes, even improvement on the way we are currently living.

Change on the Inside

To understand change, we need to appreciate how our bodies are hardwired and what genuine hard work it is to change. We resist doing something different because it is physically difficult. The brain has hard-wired networks and paths. Any kind of change to our homeostasis or what our networks know as “normal” causes stress for the body. The body has to work extra hard to override old patterns and create a new response.

The fact is we’re not just lazy, or cowards when we’re looking at change: we are conditioned NOT to make it happen.

And society certainly reinforces this, or so it seems at first blush. If we look at myths and fairy tales around the world, they tell us, don’t leave home, don’t wander out of the village, don’t amble into the woods. Don’t change. For there, lurking is the Great Unknown, the wolf, the ogres, the dragons, they’ll get you. No, stay local and do what you’re supposed to do, what’s expected of you. If you don’t change, you’ll stay safe and out of harm’s way.  

But those myths are never about the common folk, the villagers or townspeople who continued doing they always did. The great myths are about that one unusual, individual who chooses to not heed the “stay-safe” words. The hero. The hero is called by the beyond and the hero pursues. S/he leaves the familiar stay safe world and goes off to face the unknown. And it’s that journey, that epic quest of twists and challenges, struggles and fights, that transforms the hero into a changed person, a leader for all. 

The lesson in those myths is not to stay with the same and what you know. If you want to lead a passionate life, it requires you to face change and its harrowing obstacles. It will not be easy, but in the failing, stumbling, and caterwauling on the ground, you will learn anew. As well, the lesson reveals that failure is a profound opportunity for learning.

Rather than focusing on fearing the change that divorce brings, ask yourself: What have you learned from your marriage? 

Preparing for Change When We Can’t Know Our Future

Perhaps you are feeling your fear about divorce, or battling dragons right now in the midst of the legal process. Maybe you’re facing your battle-weary self in the mirror after divorce. Wherever you are in the process, begin by taking stock of the pain you know so well. And then ask yourself, what do you want to do with this pain? Stay with it? Or, use its energy for something that will end it?

Scary, we know. But remind yourself, you’ve been afraid before. Fear has always been with you, ever since you were a child. It’s how you respond to it and what you do with the fear that matters most. 

Ask, what are your genuine choices today? Map them out. Will doing nothing and staying in your status quo end the pain? Or is it another path, where you will have to do uncomfortable things, like explore your options, learn about them and their long-term playouts, that offers a better chance of ending your pain?

Make Friends with Change by Making Friends with Others Facing It

Feel yourself fearing the change of divorce, and then begin. Take small steps. Find the right mentors and communities who can bolster your commitment to facing the fear of divorce in your life. These people hold the knowledge that will help ease your journey and liberate you.

In myths, the hero is always visited or inspired by otherworldly creatures, whether it was Pinocchio’s Blue Fairy or the god and goddesses in the Odyssey. Open up to finding your source of inspiration, your specific light that pulls you forward. This power may come from your spiritual practice or your therapist who’s helped other women leave difficult marriages. It might come from private meditation or the words of a divorced coach. Perhaps your guidance comes from another divorced woman who, further along her journey and healed, is turning to help you be guided from the demons, mishaps, and pitfalls along the way. 

Lean On Group Support!

Don’t overlook the power of the group. Maybe it’s a community of like-minded women, each seeking to learn if she should or should not divorce. Or maybe it’s a group of inspired divorce survivors who have similar values to you: they too are learning what they want from change as they support each other rebuilding their lives. The contagion of the group is powerful. Think of the successful, recovery model of peer-to-peer support in Alcoholics Anonymous, or the triumph of Suffragettes in the early 20th century. Being with others will inspire you, and you, with all your flaws and strengths, will inspire them. Together, there is group momentum. Together, there is greater success in numbers.

Accepting Change Involves Action and Calculated Risks

Though you are allied and supported, you must accept that there is no one else who can change your life. It will come down to the action you must take, and here, your body needs you to do something. You will meet with a lawyer to hear your legal choices, you will evaluate them. You will worry about the money, but you will find out the best business transaction for yourself. If you have kids, you will remind the children, once it starts, this is not about them, and that their daddy* and you love them very much. You will keep taking steps to prepare and integrate change, and to foster your best post-divorce life. You will remind yourself, you will continue to face fearing the change of divorce throughout your journey.


“I never heard of anyone regretting being brave.”  ~ SAS for Women Co-founder, Liza Caldwell

 


In spite of your ongoing fear, all of your steps will be in alignment with your best post-divorce life. Yes. If that is hard for you to imagine, then spend time visualizing what you want in your sweetest life. In the safety of the visualization, go big! Think about your ideal landing ground after divorce. Visualize peace and safety, think about the people whom you’ll have more time for, consider how your body will feel not being constantly triggered by your spouse. Allow change to be an inspiration for you. Don’t hold back. Nurture that vision and infuse it with healthiness and compassion, but also steel-edged resolve for honoring who you must be, who you truly are. Hold that vision front and center and ensure your steps, small or large, are directed toward that vision.

You will fumble. You will fall. Likely, you will find yourself on your knees, and on occasion, your children will be watching. Forgive yourself. You are human, not a god. But your body is an incredible thing. It’s seemingly hardwired to keep you small, and yet, you are learning it can also catapult you into new, exciting places and situations, where you can and will learn anew. You can adapt, and in this adaption, discover unpredictably beautiful things. There are risks with your moves, but there are often greater risks in doing nothing. You’ve accepted “something’s got to change” and you are giving it your all. This is the one precious life you were meant to live. 

Notes

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

 

*At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of simplicity, however, we may refer to your spouse as “he” or “husband.”