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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.”

How to Survive Living Together During Divorce

Women Share How to Survive Living Together During Divorce

Everything about the word “divorce” conjures up images of division, living apart, and not having to see your Ex. But divorce doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not always a file-and-flee process. And that means that living together during divorce is a very real possibility for most people. Do you know how to make it work if that’s what you have to do?

There are many reasons that it may be necessary to continue living under the same roof with the person you’re divorcing.

If you’re the spouse initiating the split, you may not be ready to announce your intentions. You may be researching the process or waiting for certain life events to be over. This might include kids’ schooling or eldercare, a promotion, or new job to take place.

If this is you, it’s especially important that you care for your emotional health as you prepare for change while coping with your status quo.

Divorce can also be expensive and complicated, making a physical separation impractical or even unfeasible.

Perhaps your divorce is already in process and you have to live together until it’s final.

Whatever reasons you have for living together during divorce, the experience doesn’t have to be a living Purgatory.

But there have to be ground rules and clear boundaries.

(And there have to be rules for dealing with a soon-to-be-ex who may not follow the rules.)

That may sound easy enough if you are parting amicably and cooperatively. But remember, this is divorce. Feelings, intentions, and loyalties have changed, and the arrangement, however necessary, is likely to feel awkward.

You do have choices, though. And this period of living together during divorce can actually set the tone and confidence for what is to come.

This is especially true and important if you have children still living at home. Their lives are about to change forever, and their sensitive radars will pick up on everything.

After all, they will be thinking about and predicting things about their not-so-distant futures if they know about the divorce. And they will be worried about the stability of their futures if they don’t know about the divorce but sense discord between their parents.

Here are some survival tips from us at SAS for Women and women clients we’ve supported in this situation of living together during divorce. We all want you to know that it is possible:

  • Take the roommate approach and establish boundaries. You may be living under the same roof, but you are no longer living as a married couple. You are now “roommates” and coparents. Discuss how your home space will be divided so that you each have privacy while sharing common spaces like the kitchen and living room. Move your things to your room and respect that division.

Josie, a woman enrolled in Annie’s Group suggests the following:

“Move into a separate bedroom and claim your personal space. Set interaction boundaries, especially if you’re working remotely. A closed door is a closed door for a reason. Set household tasks in the shared common areas. It hasn’t worked for me, but it might for you. And don’t do his laundry. This was one of the first things I did.”

Establish your psychological boundaries, too:

Says another SAS client, we’ll call Carla,

“I’ve learned to say no to doing things with my husband, like going to concerts, or watching TV, when they aren’t things that I truly want to do. I am compassionate about how this likely feels to him on the receiving end, and work hard to maintain a civil balance. I use the time I would have spent “doing what he wants” exploring what things I actually like to do, like exercise (which has other, side benefits), reading more books (which I pretty much gave up after having children) and making jewelry (something new).

And build your emotional boundaries.

Says Carla,

“My husband tends to be angry often, and wears this on his sleeve, so to speak. For me, this has translated into constantly being in fight or flight emotionally, and in the past, I’ve often engaged in his anger by trying to calm him or placate him. I’ve worked hard to remind myself that his anger is about him, and not me, and I’ve put a boundary around engaging in his anger.”

This mutual respect of space and energy is imperative. You will both be working on your own parts of the divorce process. And you will also need to begin the separation process, both physically and emotionally.

Depending on your state, adhering to these separation guidelines can actually affect your legal “date of separation.” And that can affect the division of communal property.

  • Have a parenting schedule. Discuss and decide which parent will take care of the kids on what days/nights. This includes preparing dinner, bathing, helping with homework, spending time together. Things that may have always had an uncharted flow now need a calendar.Even though you are all still under the same roof, you and your soon-to-be-Ex are coparents now.Honoring this set-up will show respect for one another while helping your children adjust with confidence to a new family dynamic.It will also give each of you time to leave the house for personal errands or alone time.
  • Just the facts, ma’am. Just because it makes sense to set rules and clear boundaries doesn’t mean you are both equally inclined to follow them. If communicating in person, especially about the kids, proves to be contentious, then consider a business approach.

Recently divorced, but reflecting back on her early co-parenting days, Lucy recommends that you use texts and emails to communicate in an unemotional, necessary-info-only way.

“Tomorrow is your day with the kids. Natalie has a doctor’s appointment at 12 and Ben has soccer practice after school. I will leave before dinner and return after the kids are in bed.”

  • Be clear about finances. The bills still have to be paid. So be sure that the two of you are scheduling time to plan how the household bills will be paid. Be sure that payments are made on time, as delinquencies will affect both of you. By this point, you should have a financial expert as part of your divorce team. S/he can advise and guide you on matters like mortgage payments and selling or keeping the house.

And “if you have not yet, start your own savings and/or checking account,” counsels Lucy. Moreover, be sure to keep written documentation of everything, as money made and spent during this time will become part of your settlement analysis.

  • Practice and embrace a new normal. Despite the awkwardness of living together during divorce, the arrangement does have its advantages. You have the opportunity to model for your children what you want them to see, feel, and trust in their new lives. If they witness civility and adaptability from their parents who are divorcing, they will be less likely to fear what is coming. You also have some time to “warm up” to changes that will soon be permanent.You have direct access to information that will likely be relevant to your divorce preparation.And you have time (perhaps on your soon-to-be-EX’s day with the kids) to research living arrangements for after the divorce.
  • Take care of yourself. Self-care may seem irrelevant, even impossible, when your life-as-you-know-it is imploding. But, just like being a model of stability for your children, it’s important that you be a model of stability for yourself. Your physical, emotional, professional, and social well-being is essential as you navigate this time of transformation. Join a book club, take a class, get a good workout in several times a week, or just visit with a good friend.

This is also a good time to establish the support you will come to rely on throughout (and after) the divorce process.

Says Patricia:

“Stay occupied with things to do. Carve out a little time each week to journal to maintain a clear head. Keep positive thoughts in your head and love and respect yourself.”

C.C., another SAS client recently separated from her Ex, shares:

“Continue to learn, grow and educate yourself. Articles, websites, and therapy can be critically important to giving you the strength you need to live your best life.”

Says Desiree:

“Find your people, too. Gravitate towards energy that supports you, like Annie’s Group or Paloma’s Group where you’ll learn, connect, vent and stay on track.”

No matter how uncomfortable living together during divorce may be, it doesn’t have to be a negative experience. As C.C. says,

“Always remember your future, your life is within you to live. Take control, hang on tight and you will get to your best YOU someday soon.” 

Agreeing to a dynamic of respect and civility will go a long way toward easing this time of transition and its aftermath.

And sticking to the guidelines of a healthy separation-under-the-same-roof will give you a sense that change is happening… and you have control over it.

Notes

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

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

Finding Your Sexy Again After Divorce

There must be millions of articles, books, essays, studies and memoirs out there about sex. There are thousands of variations on the topic. People have been philosophizing about this subject in one way or another for eons. Some experts even focus specifically on finding your sexy again after divorce.

And not one of them is an expert on you.

By all means, read about it, talk to your friends about it. But your sexuality is as unique to you as your DNA, your fingerprint, your particular blend of pheromones. You may find a community in these sites and pages; that’s wonderful. You may get some ideas, you may find comfort in discovering that you are one of millions who wonder how best to do this, this most visceral celebration of ourselves. Read and educate yourself, but after that? Forget it. The only thing that matters at this point is what you like, and now that you are divorced, you are free again to find that out.

One Opinion on Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

If you’re scrolling through what other people say about getting your sexy back after divorce, then there’s a good chance you’ve already got some inkling as to how you’d like to go about it. There’s an even better chance that you’re a lot closer to uncovering yourself than you think you are.

Even more, you already know on some level that celebrating with sex after a divorce is really a fresh blooming of something you never lost to begin with. It just got buried under the years, the routine, and the compromises. Now that you’ve dug yourself out again, know that your sexual experience of yourself is one of the most valuable things you have. It will outlast every other relationship and is more valuable than any material wealth.

So, whether you’re approaching this subject with enthusiastic, hungry curiosity, or dread, just thinking about it, or tiptoeing into it with your hands over your eyes, you’ve reached the really precious part of being on the other side of divorce. This is the part where you celebrate being free and deciding for you, only you, what you like and what excites you—without apology.

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

A person’s healthy sexual expression is one of the most delicious things in life. When it comes to your own, your opinion is the only one that matters.

The Corset of Comparison:

Resurrecting your sexiness just as you like it is the best part of life after divorce. Don’t waste a minute of it comparing yourself to anyone else or holding yourself up to a yard stick of social commentary.

Other people’s opinions are abundant. Sometimes the wise ones can help clarify your own feelings or give you a kind of compass reading on which direction you’d like to take. Often, though, they are about as useful as pantyhose on an octopus. Comparison is useful when buying watermelons and mattresses and in a few other circumstances. When it comes to our own individuality, though, comparison cripples feeling good about ourselves.

Regaining Your Sensuality After Divorce

When it comes to sexuality and our bodies, that goes double. There is nothing more individual, more particular to each of us, than our sexuality. It is rich and singular and precious. Nothing matters except that truth.

Leaving Judgement in the Past:

Few things have been more subject to outside opinions than female sexuality. There is probably not one single aspect of woman that has been more objectified, commodified, co-opted, shamed, exploited, corseted, misrepresented, homogenized, villainized, violently or subtly punished, criticized or boxed up and put on a shelf than our sexuality.

Now that you’re divorced, it’s time to claim your sexual experience for you alone. But how? Is there really anything to look forward to? Oh, just wait. That’s a gigantic yes.

Life After Divorce

Use your mind as much as your body. And don’t judge yourself badly for wanting what you want. As long as you stick to consenting adults and are doing no harm to yourself and others, imagine whatever you like. If it’s the result of negative conditioning, self-judgement has nothing to do with your real feelings about yourself. Judgement and shaming have far more to do with power plays than ethics or morals. Whether they’re on a global level and stem from religious dogma, or from a personal level rooted in individual insecurity, they don’t have a place in your sexual story.

If you’ve come from an abusive marriage, you know all about power plays and what it’s like to be helpless in the face of them. You aren’t helpless now, but erasing those tapes of abuse and humiliation will take time. Recovering sexual expression can take time even when abuse hasn’t been a factor, though, so be patient with yourself.

Quality Control:

In addition to being patient with yourself, pacing yourself is also advisable. If you’ve been bored, under-expressed or long unsatisfied in your marriage, it’s tempting to gorge yourself sexually. Unleashing your starving sexual self on an entire buffet of available partners might be an appealing thought, but doing so comes with pitfalls. Think big picture. Think STDs.

Letting your cat out of the bag, so to speak, is fantastic, but doing so in a high-traffic zone might be hazardous. In other words, you don’t need to say yes to everyone. Get out of scarcity thinking and be sure to vet your partners. Ask for test results, use condoms, meet new people in public places and get to know them at least a little. If they’re resistant to that, listen to your gut and check them off the list. New partners don’t have to be the great new love, but sex really is better if knowing and liking the person enough for connection is part of the experience.

Curiouser and Curiouser:

The brain is just as important as the body in sexual experience. It is the biggest sexual organ there is. So engage intellectually. Fantasize. And speaking of fantasy, know that what you picture now may have changed from what titillated you 20 years ago. Getting divorced may have opened you up to sexual opportunity, but a change or additions in preference doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the divorce. Nor is it born from a negative opinion of men. If you’ve wondered what it may be like to kiss a mouth with no stubble, one that tastes of lipstick, don’t edit or hide from that curiosity. Explore it. It might be just as delicious to entwine yourself with silky limbs and curl up against the softness of another woman’s breast as it is to run your fingers through rough chest-hair.

Sexuality can be fluid, which just means that as we move through life, we change and seek new experiences. Preferring males over females in our sexual partnering is not etched in stone. As we get older, we realize that so many things we thought we’d never do, we’ve done. Why should arousal come only at the hands of one gender?

Body of Work… and Play:

Get physical. For some, it is easier to move into sensuality through sexually neutral activities. Sex doesn’t have to be the goal for something to be sexy.

Water droplets christening your skin as you paddleboard, the shotgun blast of your foot cracking against a punching bag, the deep-breath release of a muscle finally loosening after a sustained stretch… these are sexy things. Sensuality is everywhere. It is in the click of your heels on the sidewalk, the satiny shift of your trouser lining against your thigh, the swish and swing of a dress, the push of your posterior against denim.

And there is just as much freedom in deciding that you don’t actually want to have sex.

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

For women who have invested a lot of their self-worth in male sexual attention, or who felt dominated by a spouse in their marriage bed, this can be especially liberating. Likewise, if sex was the only thing good about your marriage, don’t be afraid that it was only because of your Ex. If you have a foundation in great sexual experience, the end of the marriage does not mean the end of great sex. There is a sequel and it is often even better.

Regardless, be physical in a way that is less laden with negative judgements. Dance, stretch, lift, roll your hips, engage your muscles, put all of your attention in your body and let yourself move. Run your hands over your own hips, breasts, thighs. You are luscious. You are edible, bountiful, bodacious.

Party of One:

And while the brain is the biggest sexual organ, the clitoris is the smallest. But it won’t be overlooked, because it is the only organ in the human body designed solely for pleasure. It is a pleasure powerhouse. And it’s all ours, so appreciate it. You do not need a partner to have mind-blowing sex. If you have not yet touched yourself and brought yourself to orgasm, that is your homework assignment. It’s the best after-school project you will ever have. Any woman who has pleasured herself knows that the orgasms she gives herself are the most powerful, rollicking, undulating solo rides. They are not to be missed simply because there is no one else involved.

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

The Body Politic:

And finally, for the love of God(dess), big bodies are just as sexy, just as beautiful as small ones. Sexiness is not “one size fits all.” We are inundated by images now; it is beyond ridiculous. This image-driven culture requires a sharp and critical eye on what body politic we are electing, with every choice, every “like” on social media, every purchase, every change in the channel. Keep in mind that we are each other’s guardians and advocates and choose accordingly.

Sexuality is a rich dessert; in what world do we decide that young and Slim Fasted women are the only ones who get treated like sex goddesses? An anemic one. A boring one. A plastic one.

So, as you move beyond the maze of divorce and into the uncharted beyond, know that pleasure is your prerogative no matter your size, your scars, your solo act, or the false stories you’ve been told.

It is also your prerogative to ignore everything I’ve said. Defining yourself, celebrating your sexuality post-divorce or not, is no one’s business but yours.

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 

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. If you are recreating after divorce or separation, you are invited to experience SAS firsthand. Schedule your free 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion, integrity and excitement.

Post Divorce

Is Happiness Even Possible Post-Divorce?

When a marriage is languishing in misery or the futility of irreconcilable differences, “happiness” may seem more conceptual than attainable. Sometimes not being unhappy makes the leap into the unknown worth the risk. But, at some point, either during or after the process, one question will become unavoidable: Is happiness even possible post-divorce?

The idea of post-divorce life actually being beautiful, let alone full of Under the Tuscan Sun movie-worthy transformation, may seem maddeningly out of reach. 

Sure, wouldn’t we all love to stumble across a decaying Italian villa and have the vision and lira to resurrect it?

Shaking down olives in late autumn, plucking basil from your window planter, spending all day preparing a Mediterranean feast for local friends… It all sounds so dreamy. 

And watching a divorcee go from non-functional to Florentine in under two hours—well, let’s face it, that makes anything seem possible.

Netflix, however, isn’t reality. And chances are you’re not going to become an ex-pat with your divorce settlement.

But you might. And that’s the point.

The Power of Post-Divorce Possibility

The question “Is happiness possible post-divorce?” isn’t a trick question or a test of your pragmatism.

Even if you hear it like a broken record, echoing from the dungeon of your shattered dreams, the answer is always yes!

But how? And when? How long does it take to get over a divorce, let alone to be happy?

While there is no foolproof formula for answering those questions, there are definitely factors that influence them. 

And one of the biggest factors is time. How long you were married and how old you are at the time of your divorce will affect your recovery.

If you’ve already raised your children, have your AARP card, and are a stone’s throw away from retirement, you’re probably in a gray divorce.

Divorcing after 50 or after a lengthy marriage means more baggage. It’s not necessarily bad baggage, but baggage nonetheless. 

Children, communication styles, habits, rituals, families, infidelity, vacations, jobs, memories, complicated assets and finances. It all gets mushed together into an identity that you now have to unravel. 

What do you keep? What do you throw away? What do you lug into counseling to understand? What do you use as a springboard to manifesting latent dreams and possibilities?

The longer you were married, the more likely it is that a big part of your identity became enmeshed in the care of others. 

Children, elderly relatives, your spouse—it can become almost impossible to tell where they end and you begin. After all, part of loving others is caring for them, sacrificing for them, compromising with them.

Redefining Your Happiness

You may not even know how to be happy if you’re not taking care of someone else. In that case, asking “Is happiness possible post-divorce?” is even more relevant…and possibly frightening.

Suddenly your dinner prep isn’t for a small army. It may not even require setting the table.

The only laundry you have to do is your own. 

And the only person who will be passing judgment on your housekeeping skills is you.

What’s the problem? those eager for freedom may ask.

The problem isn’t as much a problem as it is a challenge for those whose self-care has always taken a back seat to caring for others. 

All that outward focus, compounded over decades, may appear altruistic and mother-of-the-year responsible. But it can also become a shield that blocks you from the most important responsibility in your life: yourself.

So now you’re “stuck” with the one person you forgot about while you were making everyone else happy. And somewhere along the line, you lost the discernment that happiness within yourself is not selfish, but essential.

Getting through the divorce process is largely an exercise in discipline, resourcefulness, and compartmentalization. And, for all the calories burned, the exercise isn’t a fun one.

The reality of life in the wake of divorce is that it’s still a lot of discipline (especially financial) and resourcefulness. And grief and a medley of emotions can make a mess of even the most well-intended, organized calendar.

Learning to Slow Down and Focus Inward

The compartmentalization that allowed you to stay on course during the divorce process now has the freedom to open up. 

Yes, it’s still wise to put boundaries around your “divorce stuff.” But now is the time to start thinking expansively.

To be a bit cliche, it’s time to start coloring outside the lines, both literally and figuratively. 

(Seriously—pick up a cheap coloring book and some crayons and color a page. How do you instinctively color? Inside the lines? All over the page? With realistic color choices? Slowly? Quickly? Do you edit yourself? Do you add your own elements?

Put the picture into an envelope, write the date on the outside, and put it in a safe place. Make a mental note of how you felt as you colored. 

Repeat this simple exercise periodically, making the same mental notes.

After a year has passed, open your envelopes, pull out your pictures, and line them up. Do you see any differences as you journeyed through that first year? Do you remember differences in how you felt as you did something so simple and childlike?)

The point of doing such a rudimentary, seemingly nonsensical exercise is to help you connect to your own self-awareness. It’s a physical expression of what is so often locked inside and inaccessible for women after they are no longer sworn to the prioritization of others.

Visualize Happiness

The question now shifts from Is happiness possible post-divorce? to What would happiness look and feel like post-divorce?

Even as you reflect and grieve, it’s also time to meditate on who you are. Who is this magnificent person is with whom you are now spending so much time?

Who was she before she became a wife, mother, caregiver? What were her moonshot fantasies and superpower gifts? What did she always dream of doing if time, money, work, and family weren’t limiting factors?

Believe it or not, vision boards are still in vogue, even if they’re glued together on Pinterest. There is great power in seeing and writing what your mind repeatedly creates. 

Even if you are having to recreate yourself professionally and financially, opportunities abound for you to take classes in areas that interest you.

Even if all you do is watch how-to YouTube videos and TED Talks on subjects that stir your soul, you will be getting a free education. 

Keep a dedicated, unlined journal for taking notes and drawing pictures and diagrams. Allow it to be a testament of your journey to the life you only dreamed was possible.

Think of other women you hold in high esteem. If you can’t think of women you know personally, start with celebrities or influencers. 

Follow their social media pages and blogs. Interact in their comment streams. Make connections with other people who are inspired by the same women. 

And, again, take notes. You may not realize their worth today. But you most definitely will down the road when you marvel at how far you have come since your divorce.

Explore and Reconnect with the World

Begin to travel by yourself. Sound terrifying? Then start small and close. 

Take in farmers’ markets and art fairs. Rescue a senior dog so you have someone who is happy to go with you (and ecstatic to try samples).

Make one day a week your personal exploration day. Visit an art museum or specialty boutique, then take yourself to lunch. You’ll be amazed at how special that one day becomes to you. 

Commit to trying one new group or social event a month. There are Meetup groups, for example, for every interest under the sun (and then some). 

One of the best ways to help yourself and actually feel happy as you’re trying to “become” happy is to help others. 

Not only does stepping outside yourself to benefit another person do double-duty on the happiness front, but it builds your social network.

Build Your Social Connections

Divorce is one of the most isolating, lonely experiences you can go through in life. One reason women ask Is happiness possible post-divorce? is that they don’t know who “their people” are anymore. Whom can they trust? Who will like and love them for who and where they are? 

And the idea of braving a social scene that mostly centers around dating may be wrong-place, wrong-time.

So it makes perfect sense to involve yourself with others who have no agenda other than to bring goodness to people, animals, the community, and/or the environment.

In doing so, you will, without realizing it, build a new sacred circle of trusted friends who share your values…and possibly your place in life.

Finally, remember the importance of staying connected to women who support each other through the various stages of divorce and its recovery.

Happiness, after all, is found in relationships. And the most transformative relationships are those that encourage and strengthen the most important relationship of all: the one with yourself.

Notes

 
Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner 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.
Moving Out Of The House After Divorce

21 Steps to Moving Out of the House After Divorce

The process of divorce can be tedious and overwhelming. Not to mention, it’s also emotionally draining. Everything requires planning, timing, documenting, and money. And moving out of the house after a divorce is no exception.

You would think that deciding who moves out of the marital home during a divorce would be left to the soon-to-be-exes. After all, they’re the ones who have decided they can’t be married anymore. Shouldn’t they know if it’s better for one person to leave during the divorce process?

Unfortunately, the who/when/where of moving out of the house after divorce (and especially during the divorce process) isn’t that simple.

There are ramifications to everything during this time. What you do and don’t do can have legal, financial, and even custodial consequences.

With that in mind, keep this mantra at the forefront of your brain: When in doubt, ask.

That’s why having your team of experts—legal, financial, emotional and practical—is so important before you dive into the detailed essentials of your divorce.

Finding Legal Support

If you haven’t yet hired a divorce attorney, now is the time to secure one—or least schedule a legal consultation dedicated to you and your specific needs and rights as a woman. Visit our helpful guide to hiring a divorce lawyer for suggestions on finding the right attorney for you.

Not sure what to ask a divorce attorney during a consult? We’ve got you covered on that, too.

All that’s to say, don’t be packing your clothes—or throwing out your husbands’ clothes—before talking with your attorney.

If you read your own Miranda Rights before making any big decisions, you will be much more inclined to consult before leaping.

Think, “Everything I say/do/spend can and will be used against me in divorce court. Consult first.”

Because the marital home is your primary asset, any movement to sell or separate will complicate everything regarding division of assets.

It could also become a factor in determining a custodial arrangement for children, as well as child support now and in the future.

*Important note: If you and/or your children and pets are in any kind of danger from your spouse, your safety comes first. Please contact your attorney, divorce coach, and domestic violence hotline to devise a plan for getting you to safety while working on your divorce.

Let’s look at 21 steps for moving out of the house after divorce.

The last two steps pertain to you especially if you are dealing with an unwanted divorce.

Before you move…

    1. Talk to your attorney about what to do with joint property or property you assume is yours. Should you move out or request he move?
    2. Begin to plan for the move (his or yours) by reviewing all these steps, and then following the steps most relevant to where you are on your timeline. Don’t let the planning scare you away. “Remind yourself who you are,” says a recently separated SAS client, “and know your own work ethic and ability to provide for yourself is there and in your control.”
    3. Budget. If you are good with numbers and will be moving out, figure out how much money you will have to spend on housing so you know what you can and cannot afford. If you have no idea, ask a friend to help you crunch the numbers so you understand your options. Or consult with a good financial advisor who can help you plan.
    4. Make lists of your belongings, joint accounts, individual accounts, etc.
    5. Start thinking about what you want to surround yourself with in your new life. As another SAS client enrolled in Annie’s Group told us:

“As I started to plan for my move, I walked around our marital home considering how I wanted to live going forward. I decided to bring things that gave me a sense of peace and joy. I evaluated these things deeply, then I used this opportunity to start to purge and downsize before moving out. Next, I began getting rid of things that were weighing me down: clothes that I was no longer wearing or I had ‘overworn’, paperwork that didn’t need saving, mementos that were just too heavy for my future, and the many items I had received and collected over the years.”

Before talking to your spouse about divorce …

    1. If possible, start cleaning and purging before announcing your desire to divorce. You will get more done not dealing with the stress of his reaction, trust us. And the more non-essentials you can clear from your plate, the better. As suggested above, get rid of clothes you don’t wear or need and tchotchkes collecting dust. Most importantly, tidy up your files and make copies of essential documents. Think of this process as getting both prepared and lighter for your next chapter.
    2. Make 5 categories to guide your organizing and purging. These five categories include: Trash; Donate; Take (your must-haves for immediate survival); Give to Him; and Storage (the nice-to-have items, sparingly selected, for down-the-road). Next, with the things you will be keeping, giving to him, or needing to discuss, inventory and stash in labeled boxes — if your circumstances allow you to. (If not, you will do it later.) Consider color-coding with stickers on the boxes to quickly recognize “his” and “hers.” For example, you can use blue and green stickers for boxes and for later, going through the house and marking who gets what. And here we go with the “document, document, document.” Yes, you need to document everything, preferably in a dedicated journal. Identify what is in every box (“kitchen drawers near refrigerator”) and to whom it belongs. (You’ll thank us later!) Putting a number on each box to correspond with its number in your ledger will make cross-referencing a breeze.

Your mantra for this step? Let it go. Cue the music and sing out loud if doing so inspires you to toss.

Give it to your ex, donate it, or toss it. But lighten your load. Would you rather write your next chapter on a blank page or between the lines of one already filled?

Get your things in order, literally…

    1. Take things to the thrift store, recycling, or trash. Ask for a receipt at the thrift store if you itemize for tax purposes.
    2. Protect special items. Things like photo albums and special mementos can be the source of some tug-of-war in divorce. Take good care of these items. Put them in a safe, protected place. And, wherever possible, consider copying and/or scanning and saving your favorites. If you have children, remember that your civility to their father is your civility to them. And protecting items directly related to their family heritage is a gift to them, no matter which homes the items remain in.
    3. Work at your own pace keeping positive thoughts in your head when possible.

After you have “the talk”…

    1. Pick your timing, but talk to your Soon-to-Be-Ex about any items he might have an emotional attachment to and or any large items (a piano? A camper? Paintings? A special collection of CD’s or records?) that will need to find a home. Will the large items go to one of you, or will you sell the baby grand and split the proceeds? Make the necessary arrangements.
    2. Understand that there are no hard rules or laws about ownership of household items collected during a marriage, but some common ways to decide ownership is if one spouse received a gift personally, like a birthday present from a relative or an engagement ring, that spouse gets to keep it. Gifts made to the couple are typically divided equally. Keep in mind that jewelry your spouse gave you (except your engagement ring) is a marital asset as surprising as that sounds. When in doubt check with your lawyer (see step 1).As for things you already owned before coming into the marriage, those are usually viewed as “yours.”
    3. Make a plan for children and pets. What will the custody arrangement look like? What will the children and pets need for living space? If you have bonded pets, think compassionately about their happiness and welfare before splitting them up like material assets.
    4. Line up supportive friends for assistance with helping you organize or move out of the house post-divorce (if necessary) or taking things for storage.

Maintaining fairness and civility…

    1. Split items equitably. Those blue and green stickers you bought? Now is the time to go through the house together and take turns claiming your major possessions by affixing your colored stickers. If an item becomes a point of contention, either put it on hold… or take a big breath and let it go.
    2. If you get “stuck,” and can’t just let it go, agree to donate the item to Goodwill or to give it to one of your children. Do not seek justice in court. If you do, you will be greatly frustrated, because the court will likely say, sell it and split the proceeds.
    3. Keep the kids out of it. They don’t need to witness this, nor participate in the split-up of things, nor help you move. If they are younger, they need to see constancy, even if it’s only in the form of their bedrooms, toys, and daily routines. So, make plans for what items belonging to the kids will be moved, what will stay, and what may need to be duplicated.

Managing the logistics and your heart …

    1. Hire professional movers. You will be relying on family and friends enough during this journey. Moving out of the house after divorce is something best left to objective, non-emotionally involved movers.
    2. Make sure your utilities and internet are turned on in advance of moving to your new place. Yes, we are speaking from experience… Candlelight is divine for bubble baths, but not so much for finding the wooden spoon you need to stir your soup.
    3. If you’re dealing with an unwanted divorce and are alone, ask close friends and family to help. Keep your children out of this process. Make arrangements for them to spend the night with friends. Or take care of the move while they’re in school and doing after-school activities. Professional movers may be ideal, but you may not have that financial option.
    4. Try to move to a new place if possible. Yes, it’s a lot of work to move. But you will soon realize how emotionally interconnected everything is. This is a time to think “fresh, new, renew(ed).” You don’t need to spend the next chapter of your life steeped in a home you built with someone no longer there.

Understand that moving out of the house after a divorce is not only logistically and physically challenging, but an enormous emotional step in an already difficult process. There is a lot to think about, and yet, you don’t want to get trapped and weighed down by memories and “things.”

This is a time for prudence, wise counsel, strategic coaching… and letting go.

 

Notes

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce, or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and often 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.