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Woman's hand on a window thinking about why divorce hurts

Why Divorce Hurts

I think if you ask a woman why divorce hurts so much, she’d probably ask you in return, “Um, how much time do you have?” But there’s also the chance that she might recoil from you—unless you’re her close friend or a family member and you have a large tub of ice cream nearby—because of how intimate the answer is.

Divorce hits us at the core of who we are, in the most deeply personal ways. Prepared or not, whether we’re the initiator or not, it pulls the rug out from under us, out from under our sense of possibility, our hopes, our dreams for ourselves, our children, and our union, our own potential and the potential of our coupledom.

Divorce yanks away our identity. It drops us off the edge of what we know, and for a while, it feels like we’re going to keep falling, getting more and more lost in loss. It upends reality in all the public and practical ways, too, certainly. But that stuff is more tangible; you can define it or at least see the general shape of it. We can put more of those things on a to-do list.

It’s in the loss of the unseen—the spirit of the relationship—where self-doubt, hopelessness, and a surreal alienation from who we thought we were creep in and blind us for a while.

As if that fog wasn’t difficult enough to navigate, there are also all the little things that were unique to the two of you hiding in it. If the saying “the devil is in the details” has relevance in any life event, it’s in divorce. Those little day-to-day grace moments that were the divine of the relationship—the comfort and bliss of it—become swift, devilishly sharp memories that tunnel so quickly out of the pigeon holes we put them in. They fly at us unexpectedly, just when we think we might be okay, and they burrow in, becoming a lump in our throats.

As you’re doing dishes at the sink, suddenly you feel the weight of his* hands on your hips as he comes up to stand behind you, and your head leans back to rest on a chest that isn’t there. You’re hanging up a coat and from the cold scent of the fabric rushes a memory of him coming in from pruning trees in the backyard, tracking mulch and leaving piles of branches everywhere but delighted to see you. You open your arms for the hug that doesn’t come. You bend down to pet the cat and say something to her with his inflection, and it levels you and leaves you on the floor with her while she licks your tears. All you can do is curl up in a ball as you hear him in your mind, discussing the state of her tummy.

Maybe you wake from a nightmare and all you want is the rumble of his voice under your cheek, telling you it’s just a dream. But all that’s there are clammy sheets, too much quiet, too little air, and an aching solitude you didn’t have in mind when you said you needed “me time.”

And that’s really it. When we’re honest with ourselves, we know why divorce hurts: it comes the loss of a really wonderful dream that you had, not just about your own potential but the potential of your union, the possibility of joy and hope. We have that in common, but the intimacy of it is particular to each of us. If you’re reading this, you are likely still living in your pain and feeling vulnerable, but this is, after all, a shared experience. That’s why we’re all here—so that we know we’re not alone.

“Sometimes, we outlaw our own grief, failing to give value to our feelings; seeing the tears as intruders that must be defended against. But grief is not on a timetable and doesn’t always run on schedule. Sometimes it even leaves the station, only to double back and park again. And stay,” writes Jonathan Trotter, a contributor at The Gottman Institute.

“…So please allow grief, in your own heart and in the hearts of others. Don’t send it underground. If you’re uncomfortable with other peoples’ grief, you might want to look deep, deep down in your own soul and see if there’s some long-outlawed, long-buried grief. If you find some, begin gently to see it, vent it, feel it.”

If I am honest, even though I had released and let go of my Ex, there was for a while a tiny ember of hope glowing that we’d have another chance—that I would have a chance to do things differently. That ember was still there because of regret.

There are a million reasons for regret. There’s the regret of disappearing from the “we” to avoid the “I.” There may be regret for not being anywhere close to our best selves for a good chunk of the relationship; for being too frequently sad, angry, or hopeless during periods of our togetherness and letting him carry all of that too often. Some of us make the mistake of making our partnership the main source of our sense of accomplishment and pride and allowing ourselves to shrink into that and stay stuck there.

Sometimes we let fear stop us from finding our courage and reaching for something meaningful that’s just ours. Without realizing I was doing it, I wrapped more than a little of my identity around my Ex; I’d been chosen by a good man, and I half consciously made that my mantra for when I didn’t feel good about myself. I left him alone in the midst of us a lot; when I released us from our partnership (and then panicked), we remained friends, but even so, he took off like a wild creature finally freed.

It isn’t just that we can lose our identity in marriage (in any long-term relationship) and have to face choking fear and bewilderment when we start to find our way back to ourselves. The sharpest facet of that pain is the realization that no one took it from us; we gave it up. We fail ourselves as much as we fail our partners. It is the regret of that realization that’s another reason why divorce hurts. That and our own conscience. We can try to ignore it, but while ignorance may be bliss, it’s a mindless bliss. It isn’t until we truly understand this that we can forgive ourselves for giving up on ourselves, even temporarily.

You sit with the grief for a while. Sometimes it consumes you. And then you sit with the nothingness for a while, and it’s terrifying. And finally, when you get through the self-recognition, the ownership and the elusive self-forgiveness, you begin to see your sense of vulnerability ebbing away.

You realize that hope, like love, never really dies. They just change form, and it continue to do so. From the ashes of the hope you had for the relationship and all its potential, you have the hope that, now that it’s over, it might be reborn because you have yourself back and are strong enough to do things well this time, and then it changes form again and now you know that your hope for yourself isn’t fragile at all.

So remember, grief, hope, love—they are never really gone. They change form, and so do you. You may not get to do things differently with him, but you do get a chance to do things differently for yourself—be a different woman. However you created that chance, you did, so blot your face, lift your eyes, and go and meet yourself.

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

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

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

Man thinking about why women leave men

Why Women Leave Men

If we’re trying to understand why women leave men they love—often digging up their roots after years of emotional cultivation—maybe we should first ask what we’re seeking from a long-term, committed relationship to begin with.

Both women and men seek marriage and other forms of partnership. The search isn’t exclusive to those of us with two X chromosomes, as if we were anglers trying to coax a wily trout who’d rather not be hooked to bite our line. We are attracted to stability and certainty, and when we find it, the relationship can benefit not only our mental health but our physical health as well. In a recent report, Harvard Health Publishing cited a 2010 survey of 127,000 American adults that found married people, overall, are healthier when compared to the unmarried, divorced, or widowed. “People living with unmarried partners tend to fare better than those living alone,” the report said, “but men living with their wives have the best health of all.”

The long-haul nature of marriage gives both people time to get used to each other’s responses to life’s smaller hiccups and larger catastrophes. Ideally, we already know each other by the time we get married or buy a house together. It’s one of the most important bets we ever place—predicting a future based on someone else. But within the (presumably) lifetime scope that marriage offers, we have time to understand each other and respond symbiotically. In other words, we learn to make choices that benefit both ourselves and our partners.

That healthy emotional ecosystem is what we’re trying to create when we enter into a marriage or long-term partnership. Like any good ecosystem, it takes time, cooperation, and the health of all its life forms. So why do women uproot themselves from relationships they’ve invested so much of themselves in?

Women leave when the emotional ecosystem they’re living in stops supporting their growth or, from a lack of satisfaction or unhealthy communication patterns, when both they and their partner begin to toxify the relationship’s soil. We can outgrow relationships or, more alarmingly, the partner we thought was compatible can turn out to be a kind of invasive species, choking out our nutrients to benefit themselves exclusively.

In asking the question of why women leave men, we hear a lot of different answers. From the women I spoke to in person to the perspectives I found online, the answers ranged from the clear-cut to the complex. But generally, they all funneled down into a few categories.

The invasive partner

This is the kind of relationship that might have us wishing we would have never trusted the person with our well-being, and the sooner we can pull up and move to new ground, the better. (Although, it’s important to note that people don’t always set out to do harm or suffocate but do so from a lack of self-awareness: their behavior isn’t always malicious.)

These women give answers like, “he started controlling me through finances,” “he was cruel,” or “he told me I’m not smart enough.” Often the attempts to cut or burn are less obvious, too. An insecure spouse can use passive aggressive behaviors (a raised eyebrow, a smirk, a tone, sarcasm, etc.) just as easily as a fist, and these methods are much more difficult to detect. They wound while avoiding responsibility or visibility, which makes them harder to fight and harder to get protection from.

This might be a good time to point out that men are not always the “invasive plant” in this scenario. Women can be as well, and a good example of how we can inadvertently allow a strength to create a weakness is in our well-touted ability to talk (women are said to speak up to 13,000 more words than men every day). It stands to reason that some of us could learn to listen better. (For those of you who have trouble using your voice or standing up for yourself, please ignore this). Women often speak of wanting to be seen and heard, but do we want to hear men on their terms? Self-expression is critical and our ability to speak our minds is something to be proud of and foster in our children, but we do need to take care not to drown our men in words—or to use language as a weapon.

Growing too far afield

Sometimes we start branching out in a new direction in our work, a new project, or in our own self-development. It may also be the most positive reason women leave men, not only because we’ve already got some forward momentum going and something to look forward to, but because it’s no one’s fault. This makes it easier on both people—the person leaving the partnership doesn’t feel as guilty and the person remaining might be less likely to have the “I wasn’t good enough” blues playing in their head.

Growing big or growing up while our partner does not

Women who leave for this reason give answers like, “I got too successful in my career and my husband couldn’t handle it” or simply “I was too happy for him to be around me.” Or, sometimes, “I got tired of working the same number of hours at my job and then coming home and being the only one who was taking care of the household chores.”

If our partner isn’t listening to our requests for help around the house, with the kids—basically, if they don’t want to contribute equally whether it’s financial or not and we keep reaching for our best selves (as well we should)—eventually we will outgrow them.

The emotional ecosystem stops supporting our growth

Simply put, things stagnate, dry up, or through the accumulation of too many disappointments and miscommunications, we toxify the soil. For a while, this is avoidable, especially if both partners are willing to work on communication. But we can and do reach a critical mass, and women—who are twice as likely to file for divorce as men—often decide enough is enough.

These women give answers like “he took me for granted,” “there wasn’t any romance anymore,” or “he cheated.”

I was part of a conversation recently where a group of women were advising one friend on how to decide whether or not to leave her man. They told her to make a list of pros and cons, and if the cons list was longer, she should leave him.

We hear gardeners talk about soil ratios for certain plants—likewise, some of us thrive in different environments. We have our own styles of communication and our own ideas about the life we want to lead. Relationships are about balance. You will have both positive and negative interactions with your partner, and even the latter can be healthy as long as they don’t begin to overshadow the rest of your relationship to the point that you can’t remember the last time you laid eyes on the sun.

So, make your pros and cons list, do some research, listen to your man, go to counseling, or talk to a divorce coach to find out what you’re in for before you act. If relationships are like a garden, then pay attention to how you feel being planted in that soil. Are you wilting? Are you stretching your face towards the sun? It may be time to let go of the past, of what your relationship could or should be, and focus on what’s right in front of you. Divorce is a big decision, but you may find that it’s the right one for you and your family. Life after divorce, women often find, is better than they could have imagined.

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

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

“Divorce can be on your terms, one step at a time.” ~ SAS for Women.

Getting through divorce

Seven Ways to Keep Your Sanity as You Get Through a Divorce

Getting through a divorce with our sanity intact is a real challenge. We have to grapple as much with what’s going on in our minds—with our beliefs about ourselves—as we do with what’s coming at us from the outside. It’s no wonder that divorce is typically ranked as one of the top three most stressful life events, possibly because it so often involves many of the other stressful events in life: loss of income, change of residence, changing jobs, loss of our friends and social network, worry over the health of a loved one…the list goes on.

And that’s what’s outside. Inside, the “I’m not enough” voice, the “I failed” voice, the ones that tell us that we can’t provide, that our children will be harmed, that we won’t experience love or passion again—they’re loud and they are on repeat.

A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in October 2019 cites that young adults of divorced parents experience more depression, loneliness, childhood trauma, attachment avoidance, attachment anxiety, chronic stress, and less paternal care. But while concern for children of divorce is justified and should be addressed, there’s good reason to be concerned for ourselves, as well.

“Divorce can exact a greater, and in many cases longer-lasting emotional and physical toll on the former spouses than virtually any other life stress, including widowhood,” writes New York Times reporter Jane Brody.

The research supports what we instinctively know: we need to get our feet under us. If marriage is a ballet, then divorce is an entire production of unrehearsed spins—no one auditions for this swirl of bewilderment, fear, anger, and hurt.

So, making a list of what you will need to get through your divorce is a great idea, but in the meantime, let’s loan you one.

1. Find one foundational thing

Dancers have a technique called “spotting” they use to keep their balance in the midst of a turn, so that even while spinning over and over again, they keep dizziness at bay and come back to center. Like spotting, your “One Thing” needs to be simple because you’ll need to be able to come back to it quickly and often, especially when your stress levels ratchet up. It’s a practice, a part of your routine, an affirmation, an essential oil, a green drink, a talisman—whatever you need it to be. It’s healthy, and it stays on repeat. It will probably become a long-term ally, even after you’ve gotten through your divorce. But until you do, it’s simple. It helps you find stillness in the middle of the tailspin, and it stays.

2. Get an objective third party to help you

Whether it’s a divorce coach, a therapist, or someone else, it’s a person who is not part of your village of friends and family, and that person is a professional.

A therapist can help sort through the past; a divorce coach can help navigate into the future. Or vice versa. Either way, they are trained and experienced in helping to redirect our thoughts and get us through the chaos of divorce without bias or judgement.

3. Listen to the uncomfortable truths

Relationships, for the most part, are two-way streets, and we need to own our side of the road. (Unless you are extricating yourself from an abusive marriage—in that case, this does not apply. Get yourself out. You can deal with this later, if you’re able and in a safe enough place externally and internally to do it. There is a huge difference between conflict in a balanced partnership, which is more like a verbal sparring match between two equal participants, and abuse, which is one person battering another.)

Your village—the friends you’re able to keep through this change, your community members, your family, your kids—all of them may tell you things you may not want to hear about how you contributed to the marriage’s end. Therapists and divorce coaches will too, although they will most likely say it in a way that’s easier for you to digest, not to mention deal with the fall-out if you get angry or feel remorseful.

Maybe you weren’t present in your marriage. Maybe you drank too much. Maybe you cheated. Whatever it is—and it’s likely more than one thing—if you don’t accept your own contribution and learn from it, you will be missing a huge learning opportunity and you will likely repeat the same mistakes.

As a former co-worker of mine put it, quoting Einstein, “Doing the same thing over and over again the same way and expecting different results is the definition of crazy.” Why would we want to get through a divorce only to be the same person with the same behaviors?

4. Expand your village

Support groups are available everywhere and get as specialized as you want. Ask around, look on-line, and on bulletin boards at the grocery store or at the library. Exercise caution. If you choose a group that’s linked to social media, make sure your Ex and anyone the two of you have in common doesn’t get too much information about what you’re doing. As you likely lost some friends you had in common with your Ex, how you are making new ones is none of their business. And the more resources you have, the better equipped you’ll be to get through it.

5. Exercise

For me, working out consistently was my “One Thing,” and it continues to be, along with a couple other practices. I know, I know, everyone says it. But you need endorphins to combat the grief, anxiety, and stress, and you have a much better chance at feeling mentally strong if you’re increasing your physical endurance. Improving your looks is just a side benefit…although it is delightful to see the expression on your Ex’s face when they see you a few weeks, months, or years later. If this is an ending, you may as well be happy.

6. Find low-cost ways to boost your earning

Providing for yourself and your family looks different now, and if you’ve never done this before, it will be particularly intimidating. This is where a divorce coach can help.

  1. Temp agencies like Kelly Services offer training for their employees and function like an agent. They find temporary positions that often turn permanent; you just have to be available and have a means of transportation. But in the meantime, you can log into their site and learn different computer programs that make you more valuable to employers.
  2. Learn a language. You can probably YouTube your way into being multilingual.
  3. Find out how to do a side business.
  4. In order to put a side business together, you may need free legal or tax advice. Agencies who might be able to direct you to CPA’s or attorneys doing pro bono work include Area Agencies on Aging, community mental health facilities, Safe Place, homeless shelters, and senior centers.
  5. Airbnb just may be the stay-at-home mom goldmine of the future. Renting your place out, even for just one week out of the year in some areas, can add thousands to your annual income.

7. Avoid turning comfort into vice

When asked how she got through her divorce, a friend of mine said, “I drank a lot of coffee, smoked a lot of cigarettes, gained a lot of weight, and had a lot of sex.” We all love our comfort foods, our rebellious little habits, the lover we find on Tinder, the totally unnecessary stilettos with the tassel on the back, or a good Scotch or microbrew. When we’re in the thick of divorce and losing the person we looked to for love, the things that we can now look forward to become more important. But, they can also become more important than they should be. Most of them are expensive and all can be addictive. So, lean on your crutch if you need to, but keep in mind that a crutch is meant to be temporary. The longer you use it, the harder it will be to give it up. As we get through divorce, the idea is to walk (or dance) without it.

Divorce is a messy whirlwind of change, of belly-dropping fears, and it makes demands on your abilities you never planned for. You can do this. You can get through your divorce. You may not have auditioned for it, but even across its slick surfaces and on the precarious tip of a toe, you can do it with grace and you can do it with your sanity intact.

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

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

“Divorce can be on your terms, one step at a time.” ~ SAS for Women.

Divorce Support Chat Rooms as suggested by a woman with a computer

Get the Support You Deserve But Exercise Caution with Divorce Support Chat Rooms

There are so many reasons women turn to divorce support chat rooms. Divorce feels isolating. It can feel terrifying to open up to others, but when it’s the right person, it can also feel like taking a deep breath after a long time spent underwater.

It’s natural for women to seek out the solace of other women. You may have more friends and family than you can count or you may have come out of your marriage realizing just how many people you’ve left behind—either way, entering a divorce support chat room offers the chance to tap into a community of people who understand exactly what you’re going through.

But as with most things on the internet and in life, there are two sides to every story. Exercising caution in these chat rooms is crucial.

Reaching out to others from behind a screen feels safe

When you talk about your divorce with friends and family, it’s not always easy to be that honest. You might be afraid, rightfully so, that your loved ones will judge you or your Ex, who may still be a big part of your life, especially if you have children. Your friends and family will often have opinions you never asked for and questions you can’t even begin to answer. Did you decide this together? Have you tried everything to save your marriage? What exactly? Aren’t you mad? I know in my marriage I just had to …

Your loved ones are (usually) well-meaning, but their entire perspective is limited by which aspects of your relationship you chose to show the outside world. And as we know, that’s not the full picture of your marriage. But beyond that, you won’t have the answers, or maybe, you’ll have too many answers. And as well, it’s hard for your friends and family, who are not experts to hold back on their own stories, judgement or agendas.

If you are dealing with divorce and feeling frustrated or disappointed by friends and family (especially as you approach the holidays, maybe with dread!), you might prepare a script for yourself — one that blocks their questioning, but kindly: “You know, Karen, thank you for your interest in hearing what’s going on. Let me assure you, I’m working on myself right now and if I think of a way you can be of help I will let you know. How are your cats?” You can redirect the conversation away from your divorce. You don’t owe anyone anything, after all. Or, you can simply go online.

Divorce support chat rooms feel private and safe. By definition a “chat room” is a space on the internet that allows users to communicate with each other, typically limiting the conversation to a particular theme. Search Facebook for divorce support groups for women and countless choices will appear in front of you. Most, if not all, are not public. You have to request to join the group, and once accepted, it feels comforting to see other women posting about their own divorces—their stories might not be the same as yours, but you can see glimpses of yourself in them anyway.

Places like Reddit Divorce are full of people anonymously asking others for divorce advice, too, and because those responding are strangers, it can feel like the conversations are more honest than those you might have with someone who actually knows you in “real life.”

But do you want to simply chat about your pain? And take in the anguish of others? Do your homework to find out which type of online support you really want.  Perhaps what you are looking for is something that allows you to share but also provides traction or structure to move forward and do SOMETHING with your pain so you get to a better place. This action could be doing something with your emotions or taking critical legal, financial, or practical steps. For especially these reasons, it’s important to research what kind of online divorce support group is best for you.

The downside of easy access

Not all divorce support chat rooms and groups are the same. Many are unmoderated. Others are facilitated by professionals from large organizations with a standard set of materials to work from, leaving little room for addressing the specific needs of individuals. And other groups have their own personality, combining educational steps, guidance and support.

One problem with online divorce support chat rooms is that many of the conversations you have aren’t guided. They are full of other people who are struggling and hurting just like you—people who might not be in the right headspace to offer you the kind of advice that will help you move forward with your divorce recovery.

Women first enter these groups to vent, but the venting can quickly turn into endlessly reliving of your trauma and that of others. Instead of feeling better about your situation, you end up spinning and wallowing, comparing your marriage to others and searching for meaning and connections. Does it really matter who’s at fault? Is that a riddle you can even solve?

What if instead of looking for answers that still won’t change your reality, you worked on finding yourself? You need a professional to facilitate your conversations and direct your energy so that you can release it and reach a better place.

You can revisit and tell your story until you turn blue in the face and grow sick of hearing your own voice, but if the person you’re speaking to can’t tell you which direction and steps are right for you specifically — “right” meaning healthy and smart — then you aren’t getting the help you need. And you may only be reinforcing your spin cycle or your painful status quo of knowing and doing what you already know.

Putting an end to conversations that go nowhere

An expert, like a therapist or a divorce coach, is trained to guide you through conversations with specific goals in mind. If you need true and lasting divorce support, be selective about whom you reach out to.

When you’re looking for a divorce support chat room or group, do your research. Be aware that there are people out there who lead programs without proper training. The group you participate in should not simply be an endless series of conversations where each person takes her turn to complain about her life and funnel negative, contagious energy. Are you learning and growing? Chances are great that this group format is not serving you and is a waste of your time. Ask yourself, do you have a lot of energy to spare right now?

Getting support when you need it is good and positive and necessary. When we bottle up our emotions, they weigh us down. The world feels heavier and darker, and we can get lost in our own sadness, unable to see a way out. But if the support you’re getting isn’t the right kind, then conversations move sideways instead of forward. They feel circular, and progress is halted.

Believe us when we say that you have so much life left to live—your best memories are not behind you. They are in front of you! Now is the time to step outside yourself. Indulge in some self-care. Take up kickboxing or find a local hiking group. Find your way back to an old hobby or explore new ones. If you are recreating after divorce, join a productive women’s divorce support group to find other people ready to heal and move forward. If you are in the confusing state of not knowing if you should divorce, or are beginning the process, find the right group that focuses on the legal, financial and emotional needs you have in this stage. It’s healthy and natural to reach out to others, even in a divorce support chat room, but the wrong kind of help can lead you to the wrong place. You need a leader to guide you, as you create a genuine vision of what healing looks like for you and the concrete actions steps you must take to get there.

 

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.

“Divorce can be on your terms, one step at a time.” ~ SAS for Women.

divorced women share survive holidays

Divorced Women Share 14 Secrets to Surviving the Holidays

The holidays can feel anything but “holy” or “holly-filled” this time of year if you are reverberating from divorce. If you are thinking about divorce, for example, you could be feeling schizophrenic right now, or like a fraud, trying to honor the hallowed rituals at the same time you are feeling fragmented and splintered about your future. If you are dealing with divorce, you are coping with some of the cruel realities of what change genuinely means now for your life (and your children’s). And if you are recovering from divorce, well, let’s face it. It’s a whole new game and you are probably looking at some time alone. All alone.

To help lessen the impact of the season and its expectations, we’ve turned to thoughtful, divorced women who are survivors. We’ve asked them, what suggestions and ideas might they share with you for coping with the holidays? What we’ve learned is that these other women who have come before you — those who have experienced the pain and isolation of living outside the conventional norms — want you to not suffer as deeply. What follows are 14 secrets divorced women want you to know about surviving and indeed, repurposing the holidays.

The reality is, we could all use a little help.

1. Don’t deny reality

“The holidays are a construct! They are celebrated by what seems to be EVERYONE. But don’t beat yourself up if you’re not feeling it because of your divorce or something else. Don’t participate if you’re not into them this year. Give yourself a pass to hang out and do anything you want if you’re alone. Ignore the holidays if you wish. Or go all out if you want. Don’t stop with the tree, hang a holiday light from every inch of your house. Inside and out! The point is, you have a choice and don’t go along with something that’s not comfortable. The holidays will come again. And you may want to lead the Macy’s Day Parade next year.”

June B., Minneapolis, Minnesota

2. Give yourself permission to do it your way—or not at all

“If this is your first (or second or whatever number) solo holiday, my best advice is to be gentle with yourself. Be grateful for what remains and then seek out others. Accept invitations that you historically would have turned down for whatever reason. Try to cultivate a new tradition for yourself and your children that is uniquely your own. Reach out, it gets better…I’m told.”

Susan, Boston, Massachusetts

“If you are in the throes of divorce, instead of trying to figure out how to do the holiday cards like you always have—with you, your spouse, and your children—give yourself permission to skip the holiday cards altogether this year. Or if that’s just not possible (you are too committed to the tradition), create a card that focuses on your children. That’s right—nix you and Mr. X from the photo!”

Molly K., Geneva, New York

3. Make a plan well in advance

“If you don’t have children or they’re not with you this upcoming holiday, make a plan right now on how you will spend that day. Brainstorm ideas. Maybe you are going to connect with long lost friends and have a meal, or go away on a trip or a retreat, or spend the day hiking, or go to a movie marathon. That’s what I did ten years ago, on December 25. That was my first Christmas alone, I mean utterly alone. And somehow sitting in a warm, dark movie theater with strangers — the theater was packed! — and getting caught up in a 4-hour epic drama transported me. It transported me out of my own drama, giving me a sense of warmth and community on a day that could have gone done as one of the worst in my life.”

Liza Caldwell, SAS for Women Cofounder

4. Love yourself this holiday season

“I bought myself a new bed with a good quality mattress and some new bed linens that cater only to my taste. The linens are a very feminine design and are superb to the touch. This new bed gives me good quality sleep and a better mood in the morning as a result. Instead of being upset that I sleep alone, I feel like a queen in a queen-sized bed on my own. This has worked so well that I’ve asked myself what else can I do to love myself. So I’ve changed my diet a little. First, I realized that I get more pleasure cooking for myself than I do eating out. I try to really listen to what I would like to eat and not compromise. I buy ingredients that I didn’t used to buy. They are ones that give me pleasure, like very fresh fish or a mango for breakfast.”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

“At 2:30 am, I admitted it was insomnia and I opened up a free app on my phone called Insight Timer for a guided yoga nidra session. The app offers lots of approaches to stress, insomnia, and more. I don’t know if I was conscious for the whole thing or not but I had an awesome sleep in the time I had left. I plan to listen to it again while awake in the daytime to learn about relaxing while awake and to think about regular breaks from constant focus on how much I have to do in too little time. I would like to reduce the mental energy I spend on problems and share my time with increased experience of what’s good and right.”

Susan W., Bethesda, Maryland


Looking for more suggestions from smart, divorced women? Check out this post on how to cope with divorce like a modern woman.


5. Let your boundaries be known

“By you and others. If you expect to see family, your Ex, or friends (the ones you are still in contact with), share your preferences. Let them know if there are gatherings you will not be attending this year or topics you’d rather not get involved with. If you worry you’ll see your Ex at a gathering, find out for sure and ask for understanding if you are going to beg out of attending this year. This helps manage your friends’ and family’s expectations and may also help ensure their good time lest they be worried about you.”

Alice, San Diego, California

6. Practice your script

“The holidays are a time when you are bumping into well meaning and not so well meaning acquaintances, friends, and family. Practice your lines so you are not taken unawares when people ask you about your divorce—the elephant in the room. I used to get caught off guard and didn’t know when to shut up, always regretting that I said too much when people asked me how was I doing. Now I know it doesn’t help anyone to talk about my feelings indiscriminately. In fact, few people are deserving of knowing what I’m really feeling, especially this time of year. So I keep it neutral. Why ruin their rum punch?

‘Thank you for asking about me. I am doing okay and doing what I must to take care of myself and work on my healing. How’s your puppy?’”

Bernadette, Athens, Georgia

7. Be careful with the rum punch

“Holiday parties and alcohol could be the perfect opportunity to forget your misery. But not really. As tempting as it is to numb your feeling with the spiked eggnog or oddly available drug, remember your emotions are just under your skin and you are still healing, if not hurting. It won’t take much for your emotions to be triggered and for your wounds or anger or hollowness to come bubbling out. Spare yourself and others any unpleasant outbursts or regrettable performances, and save the over indulging for a getaway with your best friends. Ask a friend to accompany you to a party and to take you home if you start acting a little vulnerable. Protect yourself.”

Janet, Boca Raton, Florida

8. Volunteer

“If you don’t have children or you don’t have your children for the holiday, maybe you’re feeling lonely? A good way to get out there and enjoy the holidays is to volunteer. Do it early because places book up! You may also meet some really great people.”

Alina, New York City, New York

“Perhaps volunteer time at a food shelter or church to pass out holiday meals or anything else they need your services for. I have found it to be very humbling and rewarding, and it helps to put the holidays in true perspective. One time I did this with a girlfriend, and after the event, we came home for a glass of wine—okay, bottles, wink, wink. We had goodies prepared for ourselves and had a lovely time reflecting on how blessed we really are.”

Lori, California

9. Focus on your children

“If you have children, you can’t simply write off the holidays. That would be tough on them. But be mindful that you may not have the capacity or resources to do everything you’ve done in the past. Nor should you try to compensate for the divorce by spoiling them with presents. Instead, give your children genuine time with you! Pick the most important rituals you want to focus on—cookie making or holiday decorating or caroling or visiting family and friends. Don’t try to do everything. By striving to stay present with your children, you may find you’ll experience the magic through their eyes, and you will savor some of the joy that is there for you too.”

Pam, Galveston, Texas

10. Get rid of old traditions

“I always hated how we had to get dressed up in fancy party dress every year to attend my in-laws New Year’s dinner. My children were too young to really participate and behave well. And there was always so much pressure and so many eyes on me it seemed, as their mother, to make sure the kids kept it together. Well, guess what? That’s on my Ex now. This year, for Thanksgiving, I am inviting my family, friends, and children to join me in wearing their ugliest Thanksgiving Sweaters, and we’re going to watch football. I am going to show my kids there are many ways of being together. The important thing is being together.”

Kendall, Cleveland, Ohio

11. Create new rituals

“I make an event of watching films that I always liked for the holidays and any day for that matter. These films are ones I couldn’t indulge in before as my husband didn’t like them. In my case, these are French comedies or Woody Allen films. And these are just for me!”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

“The holidays can become redundant, boring, and stiff. I think they are supposed to serve as a comfort, a ritual for celebrating, but I know the holidays can draw attention to what is missing or who is missing. To me that’s one of the biggest reasons for trying to do things differently. To be really conscious of what we love most about the holidays. I try to involve those aspects into plans. For me, as a single person, it’s all about who I will be with. I call those people up a month before a certain holiday, and I say, ‘What are we going to do to remind ourselves we are alive?” I’d rather eat Stouffer’s frozen lasagna from a microwave then spend a holiday faking it anymore.”

Maria, Portland, Oregon

“… For me, as a single person, it’s all about who I will be with. I call those people up a month before a certain holiday, and I say, ‘What are we going to do to remind ourselves we are alive?” I’d rather eat Stouffer’s frozen lasagna from a microwave then spend a holiday faking it anymore.”

Maria, Portland, Oregon

“Organize a ‘SisStar-Giving’ amongst other ladies who may be recently divorced or may not have children, friends, or family locally. To remove the stress of over-planning and being overwhelmed with meal preparation, you can provide one main dish (you can’t go wrong with wings) and ask each guest to bring the dish that people always ask them to make. To guide the menu, you can suggest some categories like appetizers or desserts. There’s bound to be a ‘mixologist’ in the crew. That one may opt to bring wine or other beverages. You could theme it as Jeans & Tee regarding dress code to make it as casual as possible, and look up party games to play. Crank up a mobile device with some good tunes, and you have a night to remember. Keep it simple by not going over the top, but one must have a ‘Thankful Circle’ in which everyone shares at least one thing SHE IS absolutely thankful for.”

Queen V, South Carolina

12. Be present and open

“I always hear advice for divorced women with kids. Sometimes it’s a little lonely and scary for someone who is in their mid/late 30s with no children. We may have expected to have children by this point in our lives and we don’t. To women like me, I say, ‘Give yourself permission to smile and enjoy the people who love you in your life. You are worth it.’”

Alina, New York City, New York

“I was getting concerned about my birthday on Dec 30th. This will be my first birthday after being separated. I was wavering between ‘doing something unusual’ or ‘sulking and doing nothing.’ By accident or by will of the Universe, ladies from work suggested we all go to the ballet on Dec 30th and have a dinner afterwards. I feel so happy and am so much looking forward to my birthday now.”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

13. Have a Plan B and a Plan C

“One of my biggest coping mechanisms, now that I am my own team, is to always have a plan, but if that plan doesn’t work, to be able to resort to a Plan B or a Plan C. Life is always shifting. I know I can dream about my ideal scenario and do everything to make it happen, but if something goes wrong, it’s a great comfort to have a Plan B and C so I am not left out in the cold.

For example, a friend of mine who can be a little whifty said I could bring my kids over to her house on Christmas afternoon, that her brother was coming over to give the kids a pony ride. I thought this sounded amazing and so different from what my kids have done in the past, but I worry. I’m not in control of the event so it might fizzle out and not happen. I’m not going to mention it to my kids until the day of and make it a surprise if it comes about, and if not, I’ve already looked online and found that there will be caroling in the town square at 5pm. We’ll go there. And if not, then we’ll go ice skating (Plan C) at the civic center which I’ve already confirmed is open on Christmas Day.”

Mary Beth, Addison, Wisconsin

“Plan ahead for the time when your children will not be with you. Having a fun plan for myself, such as time with friends, helped me feel loved during the holidays in a new way and helped with the intense feelings of missing my children.”

Laura, Middlebury, Vermont

14. As with everything, we promise it will get easier

“Getting divorced has been MAJOR! It’s meant losing friends who I thought were my besties. Losing possessions. Losing a way of being—not just losing my Ex. There are so many new and good things that have happened as a result of this ‘loss vacuum,’ but I’ve also learned something about me. I’ve been adapting. I’ve been learning and adapting and that makes this major change easier bit by bit.”

Jenny, Kansas City, Missouri

“The first time you do something new, like experience a holiday as a single person, it can summon up all the grief you’ve ever felt about the changes you’ve lived through. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. Be kind to yourself, too, though and remember, it will get easier. Your past is there, yes, but so is your future, a future for you to shape. Consciously. And that includes holidays you can and will experience the way you choose. You are not on autopilot anymore. And there’s something about that that is THRILLING!”

Mel, Garden City, New York

Thank you to all the divorced women in our community who cared enough about other women to share their ideas and secrets for surviving and repurposing the holidays.

If you needed this, know that every single one of the women above have experienced the gamut of feelings you’re going through, even if the geographic location or specifics of each of their stories are uniquely her own. And know as well that these women offering counsel are still here, they are still surviving and, yes, sometimes, more than they ever thought possible, they are thriving. We hope you find comfort in this, too. For this holiday season, and all days in your new chapter, find your old and new people who understand you. But above all, follow your own path as you continue onward in your divorce recovery. And as always, always, be kind to yourself. With all you’ve been through, you deserve it.

 

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

“Divorce can be on your terms.” ~ SAS for Women.

Being nice when the Ex has a new girlfriend

Playing Nice with Your Ex’s New Girlfriend

When I was little, I used to take the goldfish bowl on our coffee table and wind that sucker down the length of the hall like a bowler on a bender. Off it would fly, water everywhere, mother rabid with exasperation, me laughing (and then crying from the butt swat), and the poor goldfish gasping on the olive shag carpet until my mother finally gave it to someone whose life lacked a two-year-old.

That’s a bit what divorce is like. There you are, swimming laps around your life. Maybe you’re bored and a little tired, but you’ve got your pink castle, plastic plants, and most of all, the guppy who shares your bowl. He may hang out in the tiki house too often and he makes an unholy mess of your carefully arranged blue gravel, but his presence reminds you that you are a cute and loveable fish. You know who you are partly because he is there. And suddenly (even though you know in your heart that it wasn’t really sudden), everything you know is gone and you can’t breathe from the shock and terror of it.

When this cataclysmic upending of your world happens, one of a million horrible-wonderful thoughts you have (in a span of minutes) is that it CANNOT get worse. Well, hello. It can. The universe may not always wear pigtails, but it can add insult to injury any old time it feels like it. For in swoops a seagull, freshly preened and glossy. Yes, this bird has absolutely no place in the living room or anywhere near your pink castle. But there it is.

Where did this bird come from? Back in your bowl, breathing again but still stupefied, you watch helplessly as she lands on the coffee table, and then takes a beady look at your guppy guy like he’s king salmon. Then swoosh, she scoops him up out of the bowl you’ve shared for as long as you can remember and off she flies. With him! And not only is he not afraid or even looking back at you, he jumps right into her snappy yellow bill and appears to enjoy it, immensely.

Your Ex has a new girlfriend, and the seagull is her. Two months after you’ve left the home you bought together 10 years earlier, where you harvested apples and got engaged and made up rich inner lives for your cats, he’s got a freaking girlfriend. She flew in and helped herself to your (Ex) husband and made herself right at home where she didn’t belong—with the person in your life who was closest to you, who listened to your dreams in the middle of the night, and who told you that you are beautiful, that he’d love you forever.

I know the whole goldfish bowl metaphor is oversimplified, and depending on what stage of divorce you’re in, it may even seem glib. But here’s the thing…

It’s temporary

I would not have been able to be glib about giving up my partner—about the dissolution of what I thought was my whole life’s context—two months or even a year later. I can now. You need to know that the ragged terror, the horrible grief, the jealousy, the rage—they really do end. The paralysis, the apathy, the sense that we disappear when our marriage does—all of that is temporary.

Meanwhile, nutso is the new normal for a while. You’re bouncing from bowl to shag carpet, or to just shagging, and back again, and that is not only normal, it’s ok. But when your Ex has a new girlfriend, jealousy can make the shag rug feel like broken glass, though. A friend of mine who’d been married since she was 18 and was, after 37 years, happily divorcing, told me, “You are going to have a different, really intense emotion every five seconds. You’ll go from great to bawling and screaming, and then you’ll be great again. It’s ok. It’ll pass.” But even though this friend was happy to be divorcing, she still hated her husband’s new girlfriend. She knew it wasn’t rational, but she couldn’t help it. I’m guessing this is also normal, but who wants to stay in this phase forever? We want to let our Ex go. For me, that meant letting it out.

Let it out

Let it out, girl, but do it in private. Publicly, fake it ’til you make it, as the saying goes. “You are becoming the version of yourself you want to be,” as a dear friend of mine puts it. Until then, cry in the shower. Scream in the car, in an empty lot. Punch the crap out of your mattress when the kids are at school. Write in your journal about getting her in a headlock and shaving off patches of her hair. Work out hard (I highly recommend cardio kickboxing). It’s a simple matter of pride: keep it civil on social media (or stay off of it), keep it to yourself at work as much as you can, and DON’T do what a friend of mine did, which was to go to the house they still co-owned to pick up some clothes and detour into the bedroom long enough to sprinkle toilet water on their red-clad pillows.

Yep. She did that. She wasn’t proud of it; that was NOT the version of herself she wanted to be. It was a tantrum. It was juvenile, more than a little disgusting, and definitely not playing nice with her Ex’s girlfriend. But eventually she started caring a lot more about who she was becoming than who her Ex was with now. She acted in ways she was proud of, like when one of their dear cats was diagnosed with cancer not long after they ended things, and her Ex wanted his girlfriend there with them for the euthanasia. She said yes, not only because she wanted to be that version of herself, but because she genuinely could be.

Laugh

The pillowcase baptism may not have been the way to go (no pun intended), but it illustrated her to herself. And it sure made for a great story later. Her sheepish telling of that story made her friends laugh their asses off, which made her able to laugh at herself.

You really do need to laugh about any part of this thing as soon and as often as you can. Laughter, like working out, boosts endorphin levels without chemical assistance and forces fresh oxygen into your blood stream. It’s literally a breath of fresh air. It clears away grief, makes recognizing the new world you’re in easier, and it bubbles away fear like hydrogen peroxide on blood. From there, the moments when you can feel your new self emerging grow longer. You become more real to yourself in this context instead of the old one. Yes, your Ex has a new girlfriend, but now you start wondering what the pond might be like too. And as you let it out, let it go, and laugh, you reach the next phase of recognition.

It isn’t her fault

It isn’t. Even if your Ex has a new girlfriend who he was involved with while you were still married, he was the one who committed to you, not her. While we’re still feeling grief and rage, we want to blame something or someone outside ourselves, and it’s a lot easier to blame the interloper than the person who was Our Person. The Seagull instead of The Guppy.

The relationship you’ve left, the one that cracked under the strain of something whether it was a fear of change, denial about being unhappy, or a role that didn’t fit one or both of you well—it belonged to you and your Ex. You shared that fishbowl. It may not seem like it, but no two-year-old in pigtails actually upended it. You outgrew it. It cracked open because on some level you and your curiosity were getting too big for it. Whether you realized it or not.

There’s no comparison

If you truly didn’t realize it, divorce is a rude awakening, to say the very least. Adding in a new partner in your Ex’s life sharpens the pain and turns up the volume on that voice inside your head that tells you “something about me wasn’t enough.” It’s almost impossible not to, but comparing yourself to her is fruitless and damaging, so try not to do it. Stop doing it as soon as you can. You are not a lightbulb. There is no replacement for you.

“Jealousy, that sickening combination of possessiveness, suspicion, rage, and humiliation, can overtake your mind and threaten your very core as you contemplate your rival,” writes author, relationship expert and scientist, Helen Fisher.

When your Ex has a new girlfriend, stop contemplating her in any way that isn’t strictly practical and strategic to moving on. The only valid comparison involves looking back on your old self, not at her. In a future a lot less distant than you think, you will look back at life in the bowl with your guppy and the gull won’t even matter. Because you will have jumped from the bowl into the pond and started swimming.

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

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

“Divorce can be on your terms.” ~ SAS for Women.

Changing name after divorce

Changing Your Name After Divorce

Changing your name after divorce can feel freeing—or it can feel like pouring salt on an open wound. And it’s possible, certainly, that it might even feel like both. Where you stand depends on the circumstances of your divorce and your particular mindset.

In either case, it’s the attachment to our spouse and the way that a name change seems to cut right through it in a way that’s more tangible (and sometimes more visible to the outside world) than simply saying “I’m done” that makes it feel so weighted with importance.

But there’s the mental leaps and bounds we must go through while ending a marriage, and then there’s the legal realities, like figuring out custody or changing your name after divorce. We know that it’s all just paper and words and so much ado about nothing, maybe, but it’s still our lives. Paper and words can mean everything.

Even if you’re not a sentimental person—even if you and your spouse got creative and chose to combine and hyphenate your last names—you chose your married name in the same way that you chose your spouse. Going back to your birth name may feel, in a way, like breaking a promise to yourself. It could feel like failing, an emotion divorce brings out in us over and over again, even when we know we’re the only ones keeping score.

So why do some women choose to keep their Ex’s last name while others go back to their birth names? And how does one go about changing her name anyway? Read on below to learn more.

How to go about changing your name after divorce

Divorce laws vary depending on where you live, but most states allow a spouse to change their name during a divorce by requesting the judge enter a formal order to change your last name back to your birth name. If your divorce is already final, you may be able to request an amended divorce decree. The more common way is to wait until the legal process is over. Once you have your divorce decree, you can use a notarized copy of this document to change your name everywhere else. For legal changes, you’ll often need to submit a notarized version of the document to …the social security office, the DMV, your bank and credit card companies, and the entities holding your retirement accounts, etc.)

There are, however, some states that don’t require any paperwork at all, allowing you to go back to your birth name right away as long as you are using it consistently, and others that treat changing your name after divorce the same as any other name change petition, so be sure to speak to your lawyer about which option is best for and which laws apply to you.

Whatever you do, get educated and do your research. There are plenty of women who still use their Ex’s last name not by choice but because their lawyer simply never informed them of their options. Getting an amendment to your divorce decree or changing your name via petition in the future could come with additional financial costs.

How women feel

Women keep their Ex’s last name for many reasons, some that are emotional, others that are practical, and some that fall in-between. It’s easier, for one. (There’s far less paperwork to fill out if you just sit back and do nothing, especially if your divorce is already final.) If you use your name professionally, then it’s less confusing and more consistent. If you have children, it might make transitioning to life after divorce a little smoother for them. You may not be living with their father anymore, but you’re still a family with a shared name.

Let’s just add, that even if you change your last name, in regard to your children, you are still a family but your family has shifted in look — like so many modern families.

Some women genuinely like their married name better than their old one, so they keep it. Maybe it’s just easier to pronounce than their birth name or they didn’t have the best relationship with their father. And for other women, it comes down to a sense of who they want to be.  Going back to a maiden name may feel like returning home, to one’s most authentic self.

If you change your name, people who may have only guessed or heard rumors about your personal life before will now know without a doubt that you are divorced. For you, that might be a good thing. You might be ready for your newly-single life, for a sense of independence you’ve been craving. Or, it might feel like yet another chink in your armor.

How experts feel

But there’s something to be said for taking back what’s yours, no matter the circumstances. Some experts say that going back to your birth name can be a way of “restoring your prior identity.” The exception, of course, would be if you’re one of those women mentioned above who uses her name professionally. Otherwise, using your birth name could be one way to start feeling whole again as you continue on your divorce recovery journey.

So many of us lose ourselves to relationships, wrapping our identity up with another’s so closely that we can’t remember what we actually want or need or even like by the end of it all. Because changing your name after divorce is yet another thing that affects our identities, it can feel even more final than the actual end of our marriage.

And keeping your Ex’s name? Well, there’s nothing wrong with that either, but it can give the impression to both your children and potential romantic partners that there’s a deeper connection between you and your Ex than there actually is. For your children, this connection is likely comforting, but for a potential love interest, it may be threatening or, at the very least, uncomfortable.

What really matters

Marriage felt like the tying together of your identity to your husband’s, and now you’re slowly undoing all that work. It’s terrifying and exciting, but so are most of the best things in life.

At the end of the day, it’s really about how you feel. It is, after all, your name, and you have to live with it. Do you have children? Do they have strong feelings about you changing your name after divorce? For that matter, how does your Ex feel about it? How does your married name feel on your tongue? What’s your relationship with it? Was it a name you chose? Was it forced on you by your spouse or your family’s expectations?

There are so many factors to consider when changing your name after divorce, but don’t forget that what you want and need should be front and center in your mind.

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

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe now.

Divorce help for women

Divorce Help for Thoughtful Women

There’s no one way to be married, and the same is true for divorce. Smart women find the best way through it is by viewing the divorce process as a whole, and then narrowing in and breaking down each piece into manageable sizes that can be more easily accomplished. Take things slowly, and make sure the direction you’re headed in is the one you really want to go in. Like any journey, you have to first take a look at the lay of the land and develop a holistic understanding of what this new place you’re venturing into looks like.

We are all about divorce help for women. Here are a few pointers to get you started, whether you’re thinking of divorce or just beginning the process.

Get educated

Being informed makes us feel more powerful. It’s also eye-opening because as much as humans love to play the “blame game,” we know too well that in a marriage fault is very rarely easy to assign. Do your research. Read books on divorce. Talk to professionals. Become an expert on your own options because that way, no matter how things turn out, you will feel confident that you’re making the right choices for yourself and your family.

Develop a safety net

You need to find new ways of creating stability in your life—there is so much that’s outside of our control, but saving money, connecting with new and old friends, and creating spaces for ourselves that feel safe and empowering are things that are very much within our control. You just have to be brave and disciplined enough to go out and do them. So start a “war chest,” where you save money for both yourself, your children, and your future. Nourish yourself. Find a women’s hiking group. Find a new job. Do things that make you feel whole again.

Be careful who you trust with the whole truth

People often enter into conversations with their own set of preconceived notions. If you have people in your life who you trust and know to be open-minded or objective, then by all means, allow them to be a shoulder to lean on. Otherwise, you may want to keep the details of your divorce to yourself. People judge. They give out opinions where they’re unwanted. Right now, you have to protect yourself as much as possible—even from people who mean well. Surround yourself with positive people.

Get organized

Get an email address you use specifically for divorce matters (you might even use a private or incognito window if you’re on a shared computer). Keep a notebook, and divide it into three sections: emotional, legal, and financial. You could also add other sections like family or other if you’d like. Write down your fears in the emotional section. Then take a look at the list and ask yourself which are actually legal or financial questions and move accordingly. Maybe they’re something else entirely. Now look back at all your legal and financial questions. Who can help you find your answers? A lawyer? An accountant? A certified divorce financial analyst? A divorce coach? There are countless professionals out there offering divorce help for women.

Keep a folder where you store important documents. What do you own? What do you owe? Keep a calendar of appointments and important deadlines. If your divorce isn’t amicable, you might even need to document your husband’s transgressions.

Get a legal consultation

Google can only take you so far, and the information you find generally only covers the basics of divorce laws in your state. We all think we can avoid going to see a lawyer, or that the cost isn’t worth it. But the fact is that you can’t afford to remain ignorant about your own circumstances—you’re only hurting yourself.

Find a new normal

You have to find a new normal. Even if you and your husband end up deciding there is still enough love left to work on reigniting the spark, you have to live your life like that saying “you can’t go home again.” You can’t go back because that life was no longer serving you. You need new routines and positive habits. At some point, you have to stop searching for divorce help for women. You have to feed your body and your soul. Exercise, and go to classes. Get a medical exam. Go do all the things you keep saying you want to do but have never quite gotten to. Step outside yourself and your comfort zone in order to find a new way forward.

Understand the journey you’re on

Manage your expectations. This divorce recovery will not only be about overcoming the legal and financial aspects of divorce but the emotional as well. What kind of support will you need to cope with the stresses of divorce? Be sure to look into therapy, reach out to a divorced friend, and look into the benefits of working with a divorce coach (even if you don’t end up getting divorced, they can be tremendously helpful). And if you’re not quite ready for divorce, then be sure not to threaten your husband with it until you know exactly what it means and what it looks like for you. Whatever you do, don’t rely on your attorney alone; they’re not there to cover the entire scope of divorce and the emotions that come with it.

There will be a tipping point

There’s rarely a moment in any of our lives where we can say with 100% certainty that we are making the right decision. We plan, we research, we talk things out. We trust in our intuition and our smarts. But at the end of the day, we don’t possess the crystal ball we so desperately want. The same is true for divorce. Even when you reach your own personal tipping point—that thing or the distance that pushes you over the edge from simply consider a divorce to actually getting one—you will still feel a little uncertain. But know that there is life after divorce, and what it looks like is different for everyone.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself and take things one day at a time. There is divorce help for women out there. But the past will only drag you down if you let it. Focus on what’s right in front of you, the aspects of your life that are within your control now, and create a plan. And if you can, be kind to your spouse too.

When we reach a point in our relationship where divorce is suddenly on the table, the decision feels as though it was already made for us. Asking for what we need to be happy isn’t always easy. Nor is it obvious what we are legally entitled to. Get educated on what your rights are and what is legally yours, and as well, learn about the healthiest ways for evaluating your choices and moving through the process. Around the corner, there is a beautiful life you cannot yet imagine and it’s waiting for you.

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

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future.

“A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.”

~ SAS for Women 

Finding ourselves after divorce

What Does Finding Ourselves After Divorce Mean & Is It Actually Possible?

The concept of “finding ourselves” crops up time and time again in life. When you’re a teenager getting to know yourself, when you’re exploring your tumultuous twenties (and possibly completely reevaluating that teenage version of yourself you invented), and later on in life, when you experience a life-changing event like divorce.

We are often told as divorcees that the end of our marriage is a good opportunity to really “find ourselves” and connect with our inner selves. But what is the intention behind this saying? Is it just a useless platitude meant to reassure us that there is a larger meaning to life, or is it a zen-like state of self-awareness that is actually achievable?

In this post, we’ll be taking a closer look at the idea of finding ourselves after divorce, asking ourselves what that really means, and discovering whether or not it’s even possible.

Being comfortable spending time with yourself

When you’re married, you spend a lot of your time as one half of a whole. That’s the thing about married life; whether you have been together for decades or just a few years, whether you have children together or not, your lives become intertwined. It can be hard to remember where one of you begins and the other ends. You start to ask yourself questions like, do I even like hiking or bowling or any of the other activities I once did as a couple, or do I just think I do because my husband does? Why do I keep putting off x, y, or z? Do I actually like the person I’ve become? When you are forced to see yourself through your own eyes instead of someone else’s, your entire perspective can shift.

As a divorced person, you go from being constantly with someone else—if not physically then at least consciously having to take that person and their thoughts and goals into consideration—to being on your own again. And this transition can be extremely difficult. After all, the person you once shared everything with is no longer there by your side. Add in all those questions cycling through your mind, and it can feel a bit like an identity crisis.

In this situation, it can be tempting to either hide away from society completely (thus becoming intensely lonely) or bury your problems by surrounding yourself with the hustle and bustle of everyday life—like white noise that drowns out any pain or loneliness you may be feeling. Some people throw themselves into crazy behaviors as a means of experiencing their new, wild freedom.

Instead of doing this, seek comfort from yourself and find it within. It’s so important to be comfortable spending time with yourself, whether it’s for the long term or if you end up in a new relationship. Regardless, you need to be happy living your own independent life with your wellbeing at the center of everything you do.

Go to the movies on your own; go out for dinner and relish in your table for one. Have fun and enjoy your own company. Run yourself a relaxing bath, pour yourself a glass of wine, and settle in with a good book. Start to view your time on your own as a luxury; don’t let it pass you by. There are hundreds of things you can do as a newly-divorced, independent woman. When we talk about finding ourselves after divorce, this is how we get there.

Being happy with every aspect of you—including your body

Finding yourself means being comfortable and confident in your own skin, feeling free and happy enough to do whatever you want to do.

Becoming content with every aspect of yourself—including your body—is a tricky thing to achieve if you’re going through or have gone through a divorce. If the reason for the breakdown of your marriage is infidelity on your Ex’s part, then it’s all too easy to feel like your body isn’t good enough. It’s not skinny enough or curvy enough or young enough.


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


Or maybe it’s that you went into your marriage during a different time of your life. Back then, you were younger and your body looked different. Maybe it was before you had children. It’s no secret that childbirth changes our bodies, and many women struggle to deal with their postpartum body and find themselves beautiful again.

Embracing your mom figure and seeing the beauty in your body again can be tough, especially if you’re going through a divorce as well. Perhaps you’ve put on weight, or your mom tummy won’t go. Or maybe you’re self-conscious about your stretch marks.

Whatever your body hang-ups, underwear brand Knix is helping to challenge these self-hating thoughts and celebrate mom bodies with their inspiring Life After Birth Project. Partnering with online initiate The Empowered Birth Project and doula collective Carriage House Birth, Knix has launched a powerful visual project celebrating the strength and beauty of postpartum bodies.

As this project shows, finding happiness with your body isn’t about looking to the past and aiming to get back to the previous version of you: it’s about redefining yourself. Celebrate where you are now and what your body has achieved, whether that is growing and nursing healthy children, staying active and healthy, or carrying you through life’s challenges. You are fabulous and so is your body.

Making sense of your past

Making sense of our past is an important stepping stone to finding ourselves after divorce. It helps you to understand yourself, your behavior, and your actions more, which is what really helps us to define ourselves.

It’s not always easy to make sense of your past—especially if you’ve been sharing that past with your Ex and you are no longer together. Looking back at our history can be hurtful and challenging.

For many of us, we got into a relationship with our Ex (or Exes) at a completely different stage in our lives—and sometimes, very very young. Maybe too young, even. Perhaps this “forever” relationship papered over some cracks in your life that you haven’t thought about in a long, long time, such as your upbringing. Whatever happened in your past, now is a good time to make sense of it all. By doing so, you will start to understand yourself wholly and do the work that is deeply necessary for your divorce recovery.

This could be your own solo exploration of your past—perhaps writing a journal to become more self-aware or doing exercises involving looking back on your memories and previous life without anger or bitterness. You may even find fondness and gratitude, but if this is too hard, then at least try to find neutrality. The rest will come with time.

If you are struggling to make sense of your experiences and feelings from before, you might want to speak to someone. A kind and trustworthy friend or family member may help, but sometimes the most help we get comes from people removed from a situation—that perhaps don’t know you or your past that well—like a therapist. They will help you explore and make sense of your past safely, helping you find peace.

Recognizing your own power

Ultimately, finding yourself comes down to feeling fulfilled because you found the courage and the power within yourself to create the person you always knew you could be.

Think about what you want and who you really want to be, and recognize your own power to make this happen. You are in control of your life and your fate.

Sometimes, this means getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things. After all, if you’re going through the same old routine every day—going to the same job, eating the same food, and coming home to the same evening staying in and watching television—you’re never going to grow and challenge yourself.

Give yourself time and permission to try new things: take up a new hobby—something you’ve always wanted to do, like painting or dancing. Push yourself to meet new people. You’d be amazed at the new friends that come into your life when you’re going through a big change like a divorce. Of course, life is all about balance. By all means, be a thrill-seeker and experiment, but remember to be reliable for the sake of your family.

Putting yourself into new (and sometimes challenging) situations gives you a chance to grow, explore yourself, and most of all, have fun.

Life doesn’t stop just because you are divorced. Your new life begins—and it’s full of possibilities and excitement. Remember, you have the power, and recognizing this brings you a step closer to find yourself and finding fulfillment.

Finding ourselves after divorce means feeling content and fulfilled by the person we are and the life we lead. And the great news is that it is definitely possible.

In fact, it’s actually one of the positive side effects of going through something as huge and life-changing as a divorce. This is your chance to really connect with your inner self, recognize your power, and make changes to your life that will give you true happiness and confidence. Maybe finding ourselves after divorce isn’t so much about dusting off an old version of yourself or even inventing a new persona so much as having the courage to redefine your reality.

About the author: Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer, editor and influencer coordinator that regularly pens lifestyle advice for a range of inspirational brands and thought leaders around the world. Follow her work via Twitter @MentionMeio.

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

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you and your future. Join our tribe now.