Posts

Healing a broken heart

Healing a Broken Heart and Moving On

In a poignant twist of synchronicity, I was tasked last week to write a piece on healing a broken heart – not realizing at the time that it would echo a much larger collective voice – that of American leaders describing the heart of a nation that broke — hopefully open — on January 6.

This follows in the wake of Wednesday’s riots on Capitol Hill, the scaling of the Rotunda, the breaching of the Chamber of Congress and even individual leaders’ offices by American citizens – a violent desecration and display of disrespect and hatred designed to overthrow our democratic process. These actions were inspired by the words of Donald Trump, who will continue to serve as United States President for two more weeks unless he’s impeached.

Or, as Republican Senator Mitt Romney described him, “a selfish man who cannot accept defeat”.

Americans also witnessed an undeniable, stark contrast in the forces called (or not) to manage the armed, and mostly white January 6th rioters, referred to by many congressional leaders and journalists as seditionists, versus the preemptive National Guard presence, the rubber bullets and beatings meted out during the largely non-violent Black Lives Matters protests earlier in the year.

Author Parker Palmer describes that contrast of white privilege vs. Black targeting as “the politics of the broken hearted,” and the term “heart-broken” was repeated over and over again during the news coverage of the riots — almost unanimously by congress and journalists alike — as they described what they were witnessing to a public glued to their screens.

Healing a broken heart begins on an individual level, and in the instance of this piece, it begins after a divorce. But it expands ever outward, into our families, our communities, our cities, states, the nation and the globe.

Many Americans saw something on January 6th that horrified us, cementing a truth about ourselves we wished did not exist. It was a profane and shameful exhibition of something that most of us do not want to be. The hope, though, is that the worm of truth has turned and that we as a nation recognize we must begin partnering ourselves and our neighbors and our communities differently.

The hope is that, finally, we are divorcing from a mindset that denies humanity and inclusion, decency and respect. We are leaving an abusive relationship with ourselves – leaving behind a self-serving, entitled, cruel and exclusionary way of thinking that should have died long ago, or indeed, should never have existed in the first place.

But healing a broken heart occurs in stages and the more we speak to the process of healing, the more familiar that terrain of recovery becomes.

So…

We Grieve

Grief is the beginning. And know that no one does grief quite the same as another, so it’s important to not judge ourselves (or our friends and neighbors) for too much or too little emotion or for taking “too long” to heal. Grief is an emotional stealth bomber, it’s quicksand, a tightrope, a whip, a hydra: cut one head off and another one sprouts. It’s often best to just accept that it will bite you, and hope that, often, you’ll be able to bite back. Eventually, it does die a natural death.

We Take Responsibility for Our Own Behavior

Forget the occasional loss of temper or sharpness that occurs in the course of a healthy marriage; that’s normal. We can offer an apology. But other behaviors we need to do more than apologize for; we need to own them and address them. It’s often difficult to see ourselves and our own behaviors clearly. Complicity is insidious. So is being ruled by our fear of loss or change, our insecurities, to the point that we manipulate or become sneaky, passive aggressive or blatantly aggressive (as in the case of the riots), or abusive – either as a spouse, a national leader responding dismissively or punitively to racial protests, or neighbor against neighbor. Facing that in ourselves, in our families, owning how we negatively impact others, how we communicate, the power plays we engage in, how we handle stress or conflict – all of that can be a sticky pill to swallow. An even bigger one is active abuse, not just the domestic abuse we find in marriages, but the abuse we’ve seen for centuries in this country against huge and dark-skinned swaths of the population.

On an individual level, we must embrace the idea that we co-create everything in our lives, even if it appears to only come at us from the outside. With every choice, conscious or unconscious, we create our reality.

Here in this lifetime, we are born, we are raised. For the sake of this subject, we choose to marry and we choose to divorce. We can choose to believe that events “happen to us,” or we can choose to believe that we created the experience unconsciously in order to find the freedom of becoming fully self-defined, to claim our own territory, to seek adventure, to pursue creative expression in our work, or to become fully independent and answerable only to ourselves (and of course, any children we choose to have). Caroline Myss teaches that every moment, exchange, relationship we have is meant to “empower, not disempower us.” The idea of choice can be difficult because it means we have to stop relying on that nice, bracing, pain-numbing anger at everybody else — anger that feels more powerful than sadness and also lets us off the hook of self-development. It also means we can step out of the investment we tend to have in outside opinions of us. It’s lovely, and it’s liberating.

Forgive — and Let It All Go

For some, visualizing a cleansing out of all of the old “stuff” – the attachments to status or material possessions, to a patriarchal, “daddy knows best” idea of security, anger, shame or feelings of failure, the biting sense of unfairness or betrayal, the breaks and bruises of physical abuse, memories being taken for granted, dismissed, or patronized — whatever it is: let it go. Of course, like everything else, it’s easier said than done; sometimes it feels like you have to catch a negative belief and toss it away every 5 seconds. Get elemental with it. Picture it all washing out with the tide, burning off in a comforting hearth fire, gently blowing the dust of it out of your hair or sinking into the earth to fertilize your new growth. This may be too New Agey for some, so another approach is to treat your Ex (or your beliefs, for that matter) like a habit you’re breaking; those are long-established patterns, but the love and happiness you created with this person is far from your only source of those delicious endorphin bubbles. Like any other habit, these patterns can be broken, but it takes repetition and vigilance. It’s easy to become frustrated with how often we have to do this, how frequently it’s necessary to stop a thought from taking full flight.

In any habit-breaking regimen, cultivating patience and compassion for ourselves is necessary, along with a profound recognition of how corrosive perfectionism is for the spirit.

As Elizabeth Gilbert put it, “perfectionism is just a high-end, haute couture version of fear… just fear in fancy shoes and a mink coat.”

No one goes into a marriage with a “How to Do a Great Divorce Later” manual, which is, of course, why hiring a divorce coach and a therapist are such incredibly smart gifts to ourselves – a therapist to help work through the root causes of why we made the choices we did, and a divorce coach to teach you all the ways to make savvy and sustainable new ones and the steps to fufill them.

In healing our broken hearts and letting go, ladies, we might do well to take a page out of the Book of Men — keeping in mind that both genders bear traits of the other. Generally, men are great at compartmentalizing, and I think this is a skill that women would do well to emulate a little more often. Acknowledging that this is leaning on a stereotype – with an eye on the fact that gender concepts are shifting more and more as women become highly successful bread-winners for their families and men become more full-time parents and house spouses — I think this ability comes from that basic biological male imperative of the hunter, vs. the stereotypical female role of the gardener/gatherer. One chases things down, the other watches and encourages things to grow. Which is more likely to be able to leave something behind? Exactly. You compartmentalize by putting your knapsack of stuff under a rock and take off after that gazelle. Or that distant horizon of self-transformation.

And speaking of self-transformation…

Find Your Joy

For some, this may be the challenge of finding happiness and fulfillment in their work, getting past the fear of starting their own business or freelancing, trusting themselves to thrive and maintain independence without the safety net of a regular paycheck and company-sponsored health insurance. For some it may be more of a reaching for something larger than the self and the family unit to be of service to – volunteering, starting a Facebook group to support a small business, joining a church or a dojo.

The more we heed the quiet, persistent inner voice, we recognize that perhaps we are afraid, but we are also awake. And as you get more adept at telling your fears to ‘have a seat and get their crayons out’, you get better at taking a deep breath and seeing that you’ve got this well in hand.

Do what makes you happy. Choose happiness. Accept that healing a broken heart is always a process, that perfection is never the goal, but learning from each moment and returning again and again to the exercise of choosing to love and respect ourselves and be happy no matter what that looks like – that is the goal. Launch it like a precious stone into the water, and leap in after it, watching rings of your own little pond purl outward toward the shore. Make big waves. And hope that they spiral ever outward, to encompass and embrace the world around us.

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 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.

How to divorce your husband and get everything by Weheartit

How to Divorce Your Husband and Get Everything

Emotions are tough to excise from a divorce. After all, being unhappy is how you got here in the first place. So, it’s not inconceivable that you would seek to learn how to divorce your husband and get everything.

Feelings, however, don’t write divorce laws or sway judges. And fuming into your divorce proceedings with a “get everything” attitude could be costly, both financially and emotionally.

It’s a natural byproduct of living in emotional warfare to want to get revenge. The hunger for validation and some kind of compensating vindication is understandable.

And nowhere is that more true than in a marriage with a narcissist.

Getting Your Fair Share When Divorcing a Narcissist

The emotional manipulation is constant. The mental twisting of gaslighting is maddening and exhausting.

And the narcissist’s mastery of playing his manipulation of you against his charming of others is isolating and even dangerous.

One of the must-knows when divorcing a narcissist is that you will not be receiving any thanks or compassion for your years of tortured commitment.

If anything, he will up his game to prey on your emotions and leave you with nothing.

All the more reason to study up on how to divorce your husband and get everything, right?

Well, not exactly.

Going into the mud with a narcissist is never going to end well for you.

He’s not going to see the error of his ways. And a court isn’t going to weigh its decision on your attempt to expose him for what he is.

Your safest and ultimately most advantageous approach is also the one that will not come naturally.

Emotional detachment.

Go ahead and scream. I know you want to. And God knows that man deserves it.

But once you enter into negotiating your divorce, you have got to put on your all-business face and put emotions aside.

“But he has ruined my life!”

“He was emotionally abusive.”

“He’s lying about everything.”

“He doesn’t deserve to get anything!”

Maybe so. But divorce court isn’t marriage counseling.

Knowing how to survive a nasty divorce is less about your relationship and more about the laws governing divorce in your state.

Sounds kind of heartless, doesn’t it?

In some ways it is.

And that’s not to say that the circumstances of your marriage will have no bearing on the final terms of your divorce.

It’s really just to say that the best tip for how to divorce your husband and get everything is to keep things transactional.

That means focusing on the business side of the contract, surrounding yourself with the right experts, and being prepared.

Develop a Level-Headed Plan for Your Divorce

You should even carefully plan out the timing of declaring your desire for a divorce (assuming you are the one initiating it).

Preparation also includes collecting hard copies of all your and your husband’s financial records and assets. Everything.

It means researching the divorce laws for your state and specific area. You need to know what you are entitled to before you can fight for it.

For example, some states have communal property laws. Not only will the assets acquired during your marriage be considered mutual property, but so will your debts.

Also, alimony isn’t a given in every state, even if you have been a stay-at-home mom.

Build Your Divorce Support Team Wisely

Probably the most important part of your preparation is the assembly of your divorce team.

If you’re looking for a way to divorce your husband and get everything, you may be tempted to find the most cut-throat attorney you can.

But be forewarned. This approach could end up costing you the money you want and the peace of mind you need.

Remember that divorce attorneys aren’t working out of a spirit of philanthropy. They’re expensive, and they round up, not down.

Going in with an attitude of “I want it all!” may get you a high-five and “Let’s get the bastard!” There are plenty of attorneys who will happily match your mindset if the money is there to support it.

But organizing a solid team isn’t necessarily about hearing what you want to hear, let alone an echo of your own thoughts.

Building a solid support team is about getting sound advice and guidance in areas where you’re not an expert.

It’s about hiring people intelligent, experienced, and ethical enough to look out for your best interest.

It’s about being courageous enough to trust experts to tell you what you need to hear, not necessarily what you want to hear.

For example, a tax expert should give you not only a current view of your liabilities, but your long-term ones, as well.

Adjust Your Ideas About “Getting Everything”

You may think in the moment that it would be sweet revenge to rip your 10,000-square-foot mansion out from under your ex-to-be.

But what is that asset going to mean for you down the road? Without access to your husband’s full ongoing income, will you be able to maintain it?

Or will you be weighed under by the mortgage, property taxes, and maintenance?

Investments and retirement are other considerations. You may “want it all” today, but you may not want the future liabilities.

That’s why you want to have outstanding financial, tax, and legal representation.

And that means representation that doesn’t delude you into believing that “getting everything” is likely, let alone prudent.

Dealing with Emotions During (and After) Divorce

Now, back to those emotions I told you to disregard in the interest of treating your divorce as a transaction…

It would be unrealistic to expect you to ignore your emotions during your divorce. This is one of the most emotionally traumatizing events you can experience in life.

It’s important that you understand what divorce does to a woman. And you’re not going to get the complete picture of that in one place.

The wisdom and preparation of this time simply calls for prudence in choosing who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Use the experts on your team for their chosen expertise. And use your therapist, divorce coach and an  educational divorce support group to hold you up emotionally and provide camaraderie.

Difficult as it may be to hear, planning how to divorce your husband and get everything warrants a shift in perspective.

“Everything” acquired in a state of anger or revenge will not be the “everything” that sustains you and builds a happy future.

You don’t have to forfeit anything.

And you should never forfeit your peace of mind.

 

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 your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion and integrity.

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

 

Divorce mistakes women make

The 9 Biggest Divorce Mistakes Women Make

Simply hear the word “divorce” and chances are you feel a wave of emotion. Even the most amicably, equitably handled dissolutions are imbued with sadness, disappointment, and loss. But there are divorce mistakes women make that can lead to greater loss than marriage alone.

Divorce has a lot of parallels to the death of a loved one.

It marks a permanent end to an important relationship. It drags the predictable stages of grief in its wake.

And, as if adding insult to injury, it demands a resolute pragmatism against a backdrop of painful emotions.

Decisions have to be made—immediate, short-term, and far-reaching decisions. And many of those decisions will be complicated and will tempt your emotional resolve.

Most of the divorce mistakes women make are born out of this conflict. And they can be costly and regretful after there is clarity and it’s too late to make changes.

Here are the 9 biggest divorce mistakes women make. While you’re trying to figure out what to do, take time to also learn what not to do.

 

1.) Leading with your emotions.

Perhaps you and your soon-to-be-ex donned traditional stereotypes when it came to “emotional stuff.” You shed the tears and led with your heart; he was all business and quick to “fix.”

Perhaps there were incendiary topics that consistently led to heated conflicts and one person giving in to avoid more hurt.

Perhaps there are areas that always go for the jugular and cause you to react before thinking.

But now isn’t the time to let your emotions cloud your thinking. It’s not the time to cave in order to avoid conflict.

And it’s also not the time to drag things out to inflict punitive damage.

It’s time to be a wise, informed, level-headed advocate for your (and your children’s) future.

2.) Thinking there is an “ideal” time to divorce.

One of the biggest divorce mistakes women make is convincing themselves there will be an ideal or “better” time to divorce.

At any point in time, there are going to be challenges that make you question your timing.

You may not know how to file for divorce during uncertainty, as with the COVID-19 pandemic.

You may suddenly have a medical emergency with a family member.

If you have children in high school, perhaps you think it’s better to wait until they graduate.

The point is, there is never going to be a perfect, pragmatic time to divorce once you have made the decision that that’s your destiny.

3.) Not understanding the family finances.

This mistake can be the most costly to a woman. And it is only made worse by letting fear and/or emotional fatigue take the reins.

If you have deferred control of the family finances to your husband, it’s imperative that you get informed now.

Get copies of everything relating to your family finances—accounts, investments, debts.

And get a financial adviser to help you understand the picture that will ultimately determine your settlement.


For more steps to take if you are thinking about divorce or beginning the challenging process, read our “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


4.) Not understanding the future value and liability of the settlement.

Even if you have been involved in the finances, you probably don’t understand them with a future projection.

Different kinds of investments, for example, will have different tax liabilities. This area alone warrants having a financial advisor.

Just because something looks like “apples to apples” doesn’t mean it is.

5.) Settling too soon and for too little.

I get it. You’re tired and angry. You’re afraid. You just want to get it over with.

But settling too soon—and ultimately for too little—is one of the biggest divorce mistakes women make.

You may be overwhelmed by the realization that you have been completely in the dark about your finances.

It’s possible you feel guilt over your role in your marriage.

You may think a “decent sum” of money now will make walking away without a fight worthwhile.

But this is the time to suit up and show up for yourself and your future.

Put a little extra protein in your morning shake and get to work learning what you need to learn to advocate for yourself.

6.) Not using an attorney.

You and your ex-to-be may feel comfortable and amicable enough to work out most of the details of your divorce on your own.

No matter what you agree to, however, having your own attorney is just prudent. You need someone to cut through all that makes your divorce so “personal” and provide you with facts and figures.

Your divorce doesn’t have to be The War of the Roses in order for you to have what you’re entitled to.

But this isn’t the time to let your spouse be in charge of your future.

Hiring a good attorney, even if your divorce doesn’t go to trial, is your first step in building a circle of reliable support and resources. (Read more about questions to ask a divorce attorney.)

Your ex isn’t going to be directing your future after your divorce. Don’t give him that power now.

7.) Confusing justice with divorce law.

If you have been wronged in some way—infidelity, abandonment—this may be a tough pill to swallow. It’s only natural that you would want some kind of justice to make up for your suffering.

While no amount of money can make up for what you may have endured, a little legal justice would be gratifying.

Unfortunately, divorce law doesn’t work that way.

Part of your self-education should be learning the specifics of divorce law in your state. Some states are community property states. Some allow alimony and some don’t.

The point is, assuming there is no abuse or physical endangerment, divorce law isn’t punitive.

A good attorney will drive this point home so you can step outside your emotional thinking and into your pragmatic thinking.

8.) Keeping the family home.

It’s understandable that you would instinctively cling to the nest that you largely created on your own.

If you have children, you may not want them to be uprooted from their last vestige of familiarity. And “the house” may feel like your only anchor to not being demoted in your lifestyle.

But think about what it has taken to afford and maintain the house up to this point. Are you still paying a mortgage? What about property tax, utilities, and repairs?

Are you in a position to take on that responsibility by yourself?

While selling your house may seem like the final straw of loss, it can actually be a liberation. Starting over in your own place, downsized to what is essential and affordably comfortable, can reduce your burden going forward.

9.) Overspending

If you’re accustomed to a certain lifestyle, putting the brakes on spending money may feel unnatural and unfairly restrictive.

As you and your ex-to-be negotiate your settlement, non-essential spending will need to stop. Otherwise, you will be trying to pin a decision on a moving target.

Spending habits after your divorce will most likely also need modification.

Women usually come out of a divorce with less of a financial advantage. They struggle, in general, more than men post-divorce, living on restricted budgets and a lower income.

Of all the divorce mistakes women make, the most crippling and unnecessary is believing they have to go through a divorce alone.

Whether you’re contemplating or embarking on a divorce, there is plenty of support to help educate, guide, and encourage you.

One of the most empowering outcomes of going through a divorce is emerging with the realization that you can take care of yourself…

…because you already did.

 

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 your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion and integrity.

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

 

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.

Gray divorce

What Does a Gray Divorce Mean for You?

On the subject of gray divorce, it seems that there’s an elephant in the room.

The divorce rate is slowing for millennials and younger age groups largely because people are waiting longer to marry or not marrying at all. Fewer marriages mean fewer divorces, and the fact that both men and women now have jobs or careers outside the home contributes to this.

But for the 50-plus age group, divorce is “skyrocketing”. In 1990, divorce ended the marriages of one in ten couples age 50 or more. In 2013, that number had increased to one in four, and it doesn’t seem to be slowing.

It used to be that men were far more likely to have a life outside of their marriage. In fact, they had meaningful access to these other facets of personhood, a source of self-esteem, and venue for accomplishment. (By meaningful I’m referring to careers vs. jobs). Now, women also have the advantage of a professional context, a place where they have value beyond being a wife and mother. They, too, have a “work family,” and yes, they too could be on the hook for paying alimony. That is, if they are making more money than their spouse.

The True Costs of “Gray Divorce”

Most of the articles on “gray divorce”—the dissolution of marriages between people in their 50s or older (the Silent Generation, the Baby Boomers, and now Gen Xers)—talk about the negative financial impact that divorce has on this age group. Or that women are still likelier to initiate divorce, even given the negative financial impact.

There’s a lot of that, to be sure. It isn’t just the expense of divorce, which averages at about $11,000 for divorces with a lawyer involved. And it isn’t just the loss of retirement funds and savings accounts at a time when there are far fewer remaining years to regenerate that nest egg. It isn’t just that women more often bear the social, emotional, and financial burden of raising children after a divorce. And it isn’t the fact that the women of the “Betty Crocker Generation” were far more likely to be funneled en masse into stay-at-home mom (STAHM) roles to find their worth in home-making and child-rearing and basing their financial security in their ability to be with the right man.

In her 1993 University of Chicago Law Review article, Cynthia Starnes writes:

“Seriously at risk are the heroines of the Betty Crocker culture, women who have already devoted their most career-productive years to homemaking and who, if forced into the labor market after divorce, suddenly will be viewed as modern dinosaurs” (70).

Social Costs of Gray Divorce

But here’s the catch: financial assets aren’t the only assets that disappear with the end of a long-term marriage. There are physical assets as well. Physical attractiveness is the other currency involved in gray divorce that can cause women a disproportionate amount of depression, grief, and self-image issues.

We have come a long way, baby, it’s true. However, society still ties women’s currency to our physical attractiveness. Not to mention, global attention spans are even more camera-absorbed, image-driven, and youth-obsessed than ever. This is especially the case now that so many of our interactions are occurring over Zoom in order to comply with COVID restrictions.

The research puts it as plainly as a nose on a face. In 2017, the Pew Research Center published a study that focused on what qualities we value in men and women. While honesty, morality, and professional success are what we expect of men, the top qualities for women are physical attractiveness and being nurturing and empathetic. According to the article, large majorities say men face a lot of pressure to support their family financially (76%) and to be successful in their job or career (68%). At the same time, seven-in-ten or more say women face a lot of pressure to be an involved parent (77%) and be physically attractive (71%).

Society’s Unrealistic Beauty Standards

Girls and women feel enormous pressure to be attractive and stay that way regardless of the passage of time. Moreover, our culture of homogenized beauty standards is only just beginning to recognize women of varying sizes, skin colors, and ages as worthy of being called beautiful. It is still far too easy for us and our male counterparts to see the assets of our youth as diminished by gray hair and crows’ feet or to not see them at all.


If you are thinking about or beginning the divorce process, you owe it to yourself to consider Annie’s Group, our virtual group coaching program for women looking for support, structure, and community.


Until we fully embrace the idea that age brings about its own kind of sexiness and beauty, we will be functioning at a deficit.  And that doesn’t begin to touch on the amount of actual money women spend on anti-aging products. An October 2018 article published by InStyle puts that global estimate at $330 billion annually by the year 2021.

Financial Security in Gray Divorce

While no-fault divorces make it cheaper and simpler to divorce, they also leave women without the means to recover afterward. For gray divorcees re-entering the professional arena after working primarily in the home for 30 years, there isn’t enough financial leverage to recover the years spent.

To paraphrase one of my favorite New York Times best-selling authors Jennifer Crusie: we can’t get back the high and tight boobs or the perfect skin, but we can always make more money.

This may be poor comfort for those who are already coming out of the hen house of marriage as silver foxes, but if you are still in the process of divorce evaluation, get yourself squared away in the job market before you jump and keep in mind that—partnered or not—plot twists do come late, and we can always rewrite ourselves.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer and former journalist living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves wordcraft 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.

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

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

How much will my divorce cost me?

How Much Will My Divorce Cost Me, Financially & Emotionally?

Losing your marriage is difficult enough. But add to it, your fears about the financial and emotional price tags, and you may feel paralyzed. You might try to simplify and ask a clear question, How much will my divorce cost me?  — a logical and pragmatic question to ask.  And then you hear that its answer isn’t so straightforward either.

It’s of little help to hear, “It all depends” when you’re searching for absolutes in the middle of chaos. But the cost of divorce really does depend… on a lot of things.

When it comes to the cost of the divorce itself, the biggest determining factor is what you and your ex-to-be can accomplish on your own.

If the two of you can agree on how you want your divorce to look, you can save both time and money on legal fees. 

That may sound like a tall order when “not agreeing on anything” is part of how you got here. But it’s not impossible, especially if you both value what the effort could save you in dollars and sanity.

An uncontested divorce is less complicated, less expensive, and less time-consuming than a contested divorce. Even if you use lawyers for a small part of your case—a process called limited scope representation—the savings can be substantial.

All states have a fee for filing divorce papers. If you write and file your own, your fee could be as little as $70 and as high as $500. Some states will even waive the fee for filers with low income.

If you choose to go the DIY route, the person who files will have to serve the other spouse with divorce papers. If a private process server is used, that could add another $50.

One catch to an uncontested divorce is that it’s non-appealable. Given that the two of you came to your agreement on your own, this shouldn’t be a problem. 

So far, not so bad.

The more complex answer to “How much will my divorce cost me?” depends on the experts and the amount of time involved. And this is where a contested divorce can become quite costly.

If you and your ex-to-be can’t agree on one or more areas of your divorce arrangement, your divorce will be contested. 

And, if you can’t settle out of court, your divorce will have to go to trial. Your divorce terms will then be at the mercy of a judge. 

That means that, after all the money spent on legal fees, you still may not get what you want. The judge will decide what gets prioritized and how.

The average divorce takes 4 to 11 months. If a divorce has to go to trial, however, it could take over a year.

This is where forethought and unemotional planning can save you a lot of money and mental anguish. 

Time is money, and attorneys and courts round up, not down. 

The national average cost of divorce is about $15,000 per person. That includes legal fees, court costs, and the cost of hiring outside experts. (Even if you do a collaborative divorce, for example, you will have to build a team of experts. You will have your attorney, of course. But you will also have specialists like a financial advisor, a child custody expert, and maybe a therapist.)

How much will my divorce cost me when it’s all said and done? Well, that will depend, in part, on the following factors:

  • Is the divorce contested or uncontested? 

Even an uncontested divorce will cost, on average, $1,000 and up to $5,000 in attorney’s fees.

  • Does your attorney charge a retainer fee or by the hour? 

A retainer fee will include most of your legal and filing fees. It will also cover the cost of meeting and communicating with your lawyer and your lawyer showing up at court on your behalf. 

If your attorney charges by the hour, you’re looking at an average hourly rate of $150-250 in some areas of the country, and more in other regions. That rate can skyrocket depending on where you live and the complexity of your divorce. So make sure you ask the attorney you interview about their retainer and hourly fee. (Visit here for more smart questions to ask a lawyer during an initial interview.)

It’s important to remember that the legal profession rounds up when it charges by the hour. That 5-minute quickie phone call will be billed as at least 15 minutes. And 35 minutes of document review could be a full billable hour. 

So, regardless of whether your divorce is contested or uncontested, lawyers don’t give sympathy-vote coupons. 

Being organized and concise and having a well-thought-out and reviewed plan is essential to not throwing money away.

  • Where do you live? 

You will pay a lot more to get a divorce in California, for example, than you will in most other states. (But that’s true for everything in California. Why should divorce be any different?)

Be sure to educate yourself about the average costs of divorce by state.

  • Do you have children?

Custody can be complicated. If you and your spouse are contentious over this subject, the court may require an evaluation from a custody evaluator. That could add another $1,000-2,500, assuming you don’t hire a private evaluator.

Child support will also have to be decided on, and that will depend on incomes and visitation or custody arrangements.

  • Will there be alimony? 

Every state has its own guidelines regarding alimony. Texas, for example, has strict criteria for alimony eligibility. 

When you start asking, “How much will my divorce cost me?” you’re most likely thinking in terms of money and pragmatics. 

You may be searching for ways to pay for a divorce, and that could affect your decision to file if the divorce is your initiative.

You may be getting a grim picture of what divorce does to a woman in terms of finances and lifestyle. And that could make you fearful of stepping out on your own.

But there is another cost to divorce that often gets overlooked or pushed to the background during the tediousness of the divorce itself—and that’s the emotional cost.


For more on the economics and emotions that may come with your journey, read our What Does a Gray Divorce Mean for You?”


Both men and women will go through the grief process as it relates to the loss of their marriage. But there are some emotional aspects that tend to be unique to women.

First of all, women file for divorce more often than men. If you count among that group, you have had a head start on your husband. And that difference has an impact.

Even if you have been miserable for years, nursing the idea of divorce over time gives you an emotional advantage.

By the time you inform your ex-to-be of your intentions, your brain has already made adjustments. It has silently grappled with past and pending losses, and you have maybe started to envision the future.

This doesn’t mean the consequences of your divorce will be easy. It simply means that there is a difference in emotional adjustment between the person who “knew” and the person who didn’t.

Working Through “Surprise” Divorce

If, on the other hand, you were on the “surprise” end of the divorce and don’t want it, your experience will be very different. 

The shock can open the floodgates to a wave of emotions—devastation, anger, fear, panic. You may even cling to your marriage or make promises and concessions that don’t honor yourself. 

While men are quicker to remarry after divorce, women are more likely to build and rely on a strong support network. They are also more likely to suffer financially and for a longer period of time.

Women also often struggle with their identity post-divorce. 

If they are mothers, they are now single mothers, and they’re likely living on limited income. 

They may have to start working outside the home and leaving their children in daycare. Feelings of guilt and sadness are only natural.

And now that their identity as wives has been annihilated, they have to reevaluate who they are in the context of love and relationships. 

On a positive note, the beauty that often emerges from this cocoon is a clear, confident, unshakeable love of self.

Women have a remarkable ability to reinvent themselves, even in the face of limited resources. And their willingness to reach out for help and support helps them create a sphere of influence with far-reaching benefits.

Perhaps, when the question “How much will my divorce cost me?” becomes paralyzing, you can benefit from a shift in perspective.

Ask yourself what your marriage is costing you and what your loss of life-force will be if you remain stuck.

The examination may lead you to a realization that there is still work left to do on your marriage.

It may also lead you to the realization that your work there is finished.

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 your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion and integrity.

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

What to do with a cheating spouse

What to Do with Your Cheating Spouse

What do you do with your cheating spouse?

Well… nothing illegal, ladies. Roll your eyes, sure, but let’s start with that bottom-line simplicity, even if we think it’s an “oh-I’d-never” scenario because rage is a lovely antidote to the pain. The sadness, the betrayal. Like a good alcohol buzz, rage can become addictive and erode good judgment. And while (hopefully) most of us would not choose to, say, put those kickboxing lessons to good use, nor apply that “gesso and stucco” section of our Art 101 course to his new car or her front door, there are moments that follow the discovery of a cheating spouse when it’s helpful to have a little reminder to not make your rage-fueled fantasy a reality.

What else helps?

Laughter.

The ludicrous nature of the rage fantasy does help us laugh at ourselves and the situation, and laughter is an even better antidote to pain than rage. Where rage depletes us, laughter is sustainable; it increases immunity, beauty, endorphins, lung capacity, and hope.

Laughter leads us right into embodying the adage that “happiness is the best revenge.”

So have a great time with the fantasy; hell, write a book. At least read one that will make you laugh at the situation. Fiction can be a nice escape because it allows us to experience emotions while being removed from them. We can live vicariously through the characters, where people can do things they wouldn’t do in real life. One of my favorite authors (Jennifer Crusie—I love that woman) does a great scene in her book Bet Me where a pissed off stay-at-home mom punctuates every screeching syllable of …“thirty-seven goddamn years!” with a pointy-toed kick of her Manolo Blahniks as she accuses her husband of being a cheating spouse. Then there’s the scene from one of the Harry Potter books where one character encounters his spell-bound cat and goes hunting for the culprit, demanding at the top of his lungs, “I want to see some punishment!”

Can we relate? Make the cat in the story a metaphor for your pride: would we like to “see some punishment” for cheating, which smashes a promise to remain faithful and destroys our sense of self and our faith in our character judgment? (How could we have picked someone who would do this? I gave him everything! How did I believe this guy)? Yes, most of us can relate to that. And most of us won’t get it in a no-fault state, which most are.

Managing Your Emotional Reactions to Cheating

There are a lot of opinions weighing in on this subject, as cheating is one of the top three reasons for divorce. I personally know of only one exception to the rage reaction, and she had been wishing for a divorce for years before discovering her husband had cheated on her. For her, at that point, it was a giddy relief: she finally had an iron-clad reason to demand a divorce—a reason he couldn’t gaslight her out of. Most of us, however, experience rage as the primary emotional response to a cheating spouse.

Regardless, try to laugh and find your other joys in life as soon as you can, and refrain from the illegal. Avoid assault (including verbal and on social media). Avoid destruction of property. Indulge the fantasy for a bit, but leave that mental vacation on the island and re-enter reality as soon as possible.

“Ultimately, women need to know it’s good to fantasize about getting even; but the court and the law care not a whit that you’ve been cheated on,” says SAS for Women co-founder and divorce coach Liza Caldwell. “So seek your justice another way, or learn to accept he’ll get his in a bigger court.”

In recognizing that there is a higher, karma-centered court, we take a step back from allowing our spouse to blame us for the cheating, rather than owning their own choice. Whether the cheating spouse has done so once or many times with multiple partners may also make a difference in whether we choose to divorce or stay and make it work. On the other hand, we co-create our marriages, so another facet of healing from infidelity involves taking responsibility for our part.

Own Your Side of the Road

Did you make everything in the marriage about you? Did you tell him to stop singing while he washed the dishes because the noise stressed you out? Create a dictatorship out of the cute kitchen accessory that says “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”? Do your own form of cheating by attaching to an addictive behavior like drinking too much, spending hours and too much money shopping online, working too much, getting too wrapped up in your children’s lives instead of making a life with your spouse? Owning our side of the road in a marriage can be galling when dealing with a cheating spouse, but it’s even more necessary at that point. If done well, often with professional help and your spouse’s ownership of their own side, divorce may not have to be the outcome.

That being said, it’s also essential not to take the blame for the infidelity. The cheating spouse has to own their choice to cheat, not redirect all responsibility onto you. Their decision to do that is their fault, not yours, and a spouse who refuses to see themselves or their choice to cheat as wrong or recognize its hurtfulness probably should be left.

There is a choice to stay or go. Depending on the scenario and each party’s willingness to own their part, it is possible to come back from infidelity with a stronger marriage and a greater understanding of each other and ourselves.

Stay or Go

Whatever you decide to do, though, decide fully. Choose happiness fully, and if you stay, choose to forgive completely. Either way, wash your hands of it entirely and let it go. To spend the next 30 years punishing your spouse with barbed comments and the occasional replay, playing the guilt card, living in suspicion—all of this is toxic. (All of us give in sometimes to bringing up something from the past that hurt us, but to invest energy in sustaining that hurt is another matter).


Annie’s Group :: for those thinking about or beginning the divorce process.  

“There’s a comfort in strangers, that is simply not possible with friends and family who are not themselves divorcing.”  ~ T.Y., New York City


Either choice—staying or going—requires work. If you divorce and go, go fully, with joy in who you are, especially now that you’re stronger, savvier, and have more self-knowledge.

Inside every regret and each mistake is the seed of positive change and new growth. We might practice saying to ourselves, “I was {this or that} in our relationship, and I regret it, but I see it and own it, ask forgiveness for it, forgive myself, and embrace the lesson, which is to become the regret’s opposite.” For example, if you regret not being fully present in the relationship, become fully present to yourself, without distraction. If you enter a new romantic relationship, you’ll know much better how to be present for that person as well as yourself, and be better equipped to do both.

Embracing the Hill

Staying or going, forgiving fully, laughter, choosing happiness, taking ownership of your side of the road, identifying where it’s not your fault, and sometimes developing the skill to deflect manipulative blaming and redirection—each choice requires work. One of the leaders at a local community mental health agency is a long-distance runner with rheumatoid arthritis; in that person’s office is a plaque with the motto “Embrace the Hill.” Whatever the choice, it will involve work and working through the pain. It passes, but you have to choose to let it pass. No dwelling, wallowing, brooding, stewing, or perseverating. Embrace the hill and know that most challenges that come after a cheating spouse will feel like rolling downhill; it will seem easy.

 

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 rebuilding their lives afterward. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Tell us confidentially what’s going on, and we’ll give you black & white feedback, resources, and suggestions for your next steps.

*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.

I wanted the divorce. Why am I so sad?

I Wanted the Divorce. Why Am I So Sad?

They say it takes 21 days to build a habit—a mere three weeks. Now imagine how hard that habit is to break if you’ve had it for three decades’ worth of marriage. Grief and withdrawal become intertwined, which is why you may catch yourself wondering “If I wanted the divorce, why am I so sad?”

Breaking a long-standing habit is simple but it isn’t easy, nor is building new ones. Sometimes it might feel as though you’re jackhammering old concrete into dust-flown chunks with one hand, and pouring new with the other: straightforward in concept, but Herculean in execution.

If you’re still in the bargaining-with-yourself, pre-divorce phase of your marriage, then you may still be clinging to the echo of old endorphins and all the hopes, plans, love, and joy that you brought with you to the altar.

At this stage of the process, it may be difficult to see your husband as a habit you’re about to break.

But if it’s been years since the gavel came down on the divorce decree and you’re still finding yourself grieving, you have reached a culminating point. After prolonged grief, you might be ready to give yourself a good shake and get some clarity on why this sadness still has you in its grasp—even if you were the one to ask for the divorce in the first place.

Take the idealism out of the picture for a moment and consider the science of emotion and the physiological result of years of relational repetition. As with typing, driving home from work, smoking, walking, making coffee—any activity (healthy or not) that you engage in every day, any part of your life that is chronic rather than occasional—neurological pathways form in the brain. It is not necessarily the ending of you and him that is making you sad, but chemical residue left from years of playing “him” on repeat.

These pathways are like grooves in a record player. It took time and continual practice to put them there, and it will take conviction and continual practice to burn new ones in their place.

These are patterns of behavior. They’re familiar and quite often comfortable. If you’ve experienced joy and pleasure in your marriage, then the receptors in your brain will produce even stronger impulses to go looking for that stimulus, that chemical brain cocktail to regenerate the familiar feelings.

“The brain develops pathways based on learned patterns,” says Helen Fisher, a biological anthropologist and senior research fellow at the Kinsey Institute, Indiana University. “So, if you laid down a powerful pattern that this person was your life partner, your brain can retain traces of that circuitry, even after you’ve bonded with someone new.”

The Slow Process of Rewiring the Brain

In the language of addiction, it’s called chasing the high. Without being aware of it, we’re looking for that which triggers the feel-good neurotransmitters in the brain—in other words, the dopamine rush. (Dope, an older nickname for marijuana, is short for dopamine).  And until we recreate new patterns of behavior and new pleasure connections—burn new tracks on the CD of the brain (and therefore the heart)—we can get lost in the sadness of missing of him and think that it’s about him or that the decision to leave the marriage was a mistake. In other words, even though you wanted the divorce, you may still be sad. This is entirely normal based on what we know about brain science and withdrawal. Practicing self-care during this time is an important way to help manage your grief.

It most likely wasn’t, and it isn’t about him, or certainly doesn’t have to be. If we can remember the physiology of attraction, attachment, and repetitive patterns, it helps zero in on the realization that we can make new patterns. The brain, like the body, is less elastic when we are older, but it can be stretched with consistent work. It is NOT impossible. How long it takes to get over your divorce will simply vary.

And once the brain begins to play the new tracks consistently, the memory of the old “song” gradually smooths away. In order to assist that smoothing process and find a way to detach from grief and sadness, let’s look at the science behind romantic attachment—“that loving feeling.”

Dopamine and the Brain’s Reward Center

Fisher conducted a study in 2005 that incorporated 2,500 MRI scans of college student brains. Researchers showed students pictures of classmates and acquaintances, and then pictures of Their Special Someone. Viewing pictures of their attraction factor people activated the dopamine-rich zones in the study subjects’ brains. Two of the brain regions that showed activity in the brain scans were the caudate nucleus—linked to reward anticipation, as well as the integration of sensory input and socialization (i.e. playing well with others)—and the ventral tegmental area, which is associated with pleasure and the motivation to pursue it.

There are also older regions of the brain that are also associated with sex, pleasure, and romantic love. These older regions tend to hold onto their stimuli, staying “lit” longer.

Consider the 21/90 rule, which states that it takes 21 days to make a habit and 90 days to make it a permanent lifestyle change. Consider the possibility that in three months you are capable of recreating your brain. Building a practice or healthy habit or a new relationship just bears repeating. And if there’s a great deal of pleasure involved in that practice, the stronger and more indelible the mark it makes on your system.

So, next time you catch yourself thinking “I wanted a divorce, so why am I sad?” remember that your brain’s circuitry is rebuilding. In the meantime, you can train your brain to choose happiness.

 

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer and former journalist living on the West Coast. Nicknamed Verbose at a young age, she loves wordcraft 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.

Resources

Whether you are navigating the experience or the aftermath of divorce — 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 reinvention. If you are a divorced woman still reverberating from your journey, you are invited to consider Paloma’s Group, our powerful, virtual group coaching program for women seeking best practices, community and accountability for starting over. Schedule your quick interview and ask your questions now.

 

What you should never say to a divorced woman

What You Should Never Say to a Divorced Woman

From Anna, in Moscow — Living through a divorce is one thing, but writing about it is another journey altogether. I find writing stories about divorce take longer than any other topic. I start with having assumptions usually based on my own story, then I research, look around, and prove myself wrong. While I dislike divorce, I value the discovery aspect of it.

This is exactly what happened with this blog post. I started by assuming that what I dislike hearing as a divorced woman is universal. As I did my research, I was surprised to learn how many different conversational topics and phrases can potentially hurt divorced women. Sadly, the people who hurt us most are often the ones who are closest to us.

How Can You Say That to Your Daughter or Your Best Friend?

The divorced women I talked to confessed to being hurt by the people closest to them. Decades later, these painful moments still linger. In fact, at least two women I approached declined to discuss anything with me. “My divorce was too messy, you don’t want to know,”  was the reply I got form both of of them.

The most common hurtful comment women received was: “It’s all your fault.”

People often feel the need to place blame in a situation where something doesn’t work out. “It wasn’t just a hint that the divorce is all my fault. Friends and family told it to my face loud and clear!” said one friend, sharing her experience from eight years ago. Now happily remarried at 56, she says that many friends tried to talk her out of divorcing years ago, “like they were doing me a favor,” she said. These messages felt cruel, devaluing. Someone even asked her, “Are you sure you can find anyone else your ag e— with your figure?”

Sending the divorced woman on a guilt trip is another tactic: “Don’t divorce him — he is such a good father!” was one thing told to several women. One’s reply: “I don’t need a good father; I need a good husband, and mine isn’t. This is why I am divorcing.”

“Stop Complaining — It Was Your Decision!”

Many ladies I talked to described hearing this phrase post-divorce. Whenever they complained about any aspect of their divorce process, friends and family took it as a discussion of whether or not the actual divorce was a good idea. “I didn’t question my decision to divorce and didn’t invite anyone to discuss it. I was merely seeking compassion as far as my Ex’s behavior during the divorce,” a friend said.

Indeed, many assume that once you decide to divorce, you rid yourself of the right to see anything wrong with the divorce, the process, or the life that follows the divorce. A woman has every right to stop loving, divorce her man, and be treated with respect throughout a difficult process.

Being Ignored

The other side of the coin is parents and close friends declining any discussions about divorce. “I came to my parents’ house and told them that my husband and I decided to separate. They silently continued to go about their business as if I said nothing. I realized later that they had no experience in discussing emotions or feelings. But it hurt me then nonetheless,” one friend says.

Sex with Strangers

Actress Mayim Bialik — who played Amy Farah Fowler in the sitcom Big Bang Theory and the main character in a 90s teenage series Blossom — runs a YouTube channel on divorce and raising children. She made a video on this very topic (“What you should never say to a divorced woman”) where she candidly shared the worst comments she received as a divorcee. I fully support her choice of the most misplaced comment that divorced women receive about sex and dating: “Go on Tinder and have sex, have sex with a friend with benefits, start dating again — that will put a smile on your face.”

Mayim says: “It may work for some people. But don’t tell me to have sex with strangers, reducing me as a divorced woman to just a body in need of sex” rather than “pursuing an emotional connection with someone which might lead to sex.”

I think that the benefits of regular sex for the sake of it are somewhat overrated. Indeed, some take pleasure from no-strings-attached encounters. Others can go on without sex for a long time and be fine. Some need an emotional connection first and foremost. For some, it may be a very bad idea to start having sex with strangers after a few decades of monogamy, and this can add to the pain of the divorce. So, this area of life, which really involves being conscious of your divorce recovery, is best left for the individual and her therapist, not a group of girlfriends, I think.

Focusing on the Self

Another friend says that, unfortunately, most advice that she hears about divorce is all about starting to date again rather than going into the nuts and bolts of the divorced life. Self-discovery, self-healing, and real separation from the Ex is a better focus after the divorce than dating someone new.

Mayim Bialik says in her video that it hurts her when women badmouth their husbands and say they would rather divorce than spend time with them due to their smelly feet or snoring. Mayim says she likes the idea of having a partner and is sad not to have one. She worries that the older she gets, the less likely she’ll be to find a soul mate. What she appreciates is hearing that she has a lot to offer and that she will one day find a partner for herself.

“Just Deal With It!”

As I started covering the topic of divorce, I began to notice pieces of advice that made me feel uneasy. The comments were positive on the outside, but there was something off about them. Those unpleasant comments urged me to get over my situation quickly, get a therapist, or take other measures to fix the issue. The comments may have been well-intended, but came across as a suggestion to stop creating discomfort for them.

An important lesson to take from divorce is that we have to walk our walk and have respect for our journey, learning, and pace. Says the former first lady of America Michelle Obama in her interview with Oprah Winfrey: “I like my story. I embrace every aspect of who I am. I like the highs, the lows, and the bumps in between.”

Yes, we can create discomfort for people around us by speaking out about what is going wrong in our lives. It requires strength and compassion to be near us when our lives are imperfect. Yet, we don’t owe it to anyone to deal with our issues any more quickly than we have to. It is our journey, our life, and our walk.

Other unhelpful comments about divorce:

  • Now your kids are your priority. This phrase imposes a set of values and guilt on the divorcee.
  • Congratulations. You must feel relieved with a sense of closure. A sense of closure needs time.
  • I didn’t like your husband anyway (his behavior, his political views, etc.). This phrase devalues the good things that happened during the marriage and the disappointment of the divorcee. Most of us married for love and stayed for many years together. We had kids. It’s not relevant what others thought of our partners.
  • But you looked so good together on Facebook or Instagram! Well, we did. I can’t believe how often I hear this comment! It’s like saying you looked good in your wedding photos. Or, you looked so young when you were young. As opposed to what?
  • You should press your ex-husband in court, or any other advice about divorce tactics. Let me act according to my values and walk my walk.

What’s generally wrong with the comments we get?

More often than not, passing comments don’t consider the divorced woman’s feelings. They address the concerns and expectations of the well-wisher or the advisor.

People like to think that if they were to divorce, they would negotiate a better settlement, take better care of the kids, and completely avoid any pain. They would find a new, better partner right away. They would prioritize the kids and coparent wisely. Many believe they will never need to walk this painful walk. Unfortunately, this “pain-free” concept of divorce isn’t reality.

Did I like any comments? Yes!

  • Comments that helped: “All is going in the right direction and time will heal. It will get easier, it always does.” “After a stage of aggression and grief, you will recover and revive.” “Kids will adapt. The kids will be fine; take care of yourself.” “You have made the right decision. You are doing great! Give yourself time.”
  • I loved the advice I read on SAS: “don’t try to do too much.” Maybe starting a new career is more than one can handle during a divorce?
  • Unexpectedly helpful advice: “You can’t afford to be naïve.” That was the advice my therapist gave me when I was about to ignore my responsibility and hand my power away to my Ex-husband.

Now that we have listed the unwelcome and the useful comments, there are two things to do to educate people around us. First, we need to understand which comments are out-of-place and how to explain their inappropriateness to those around us. Second, we need to spread the word — talk, discuss, and share our knowledge about this divorce journey, so we lessen the pain for others, men and women included.

 

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She is training to be a coach for women in transition. You can reach out to her via e-mail anna.i.galitsina@gmail.com for a test coach session or a discussion.

Since 2012, SAS for Women is dedicated entirely to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce, navigating the divorce experience, and managing the confusion 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.

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