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Woman walking on beach thinking about divorce

36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce

If you are thinking about divorce, your thoughts can fluctuate, ranging from the mere, fleeting imaginings of what life might be like if you were single, to the repetitive, torturous thought process of “Should I or shouldn’t I divorce?” While one end of the spectrum is entirely normal for many people, the other end can signal serious problems in and for a marriage.

Based on our background in education and experience working with clients in our divorce practice, we’ve identified the following 36 things that can help you understand where you are on the spectrum of contemplating divorce and what steps you can take to gain greater clarity and stop the recurring thought process.

As you complete each step you will be doing more than merely thinking about divorce. You will begin to better understand which direction your marriage and life might go.

  1. As you first contemplate divorce, you may or may not know if you want to divorce. Accept that this is entirely normal. What you “want” may be entirely different from what you ultimately decide you “must” do. Your job right now is to study and learn what is possible for you and your family.
  2. Educate yourself. It’s likely that you feel you’ve reached an impasse in your marriage and your emotions may be all over the place. You might be incredibly angry and lashing out. Or perhaps you have retreated, feeling despondent, probably depressed. This is to be expected, but you should not be making long-term decisions from this emotional place. Start educating yourself by looking for credible divorce resources. Visit your nearby bookstore or search online. There is a wealth of information available to you for free.
  3. Understand that getting educated about the choices you have for your life does not mean you are necessarily getting divorced. You are learning about your options and what your rights are so you can ultimately make a good decision from an informed place.
  4. Establish a new (secret) email account dedicated to this subject. Take care to use a “private” or “incognito” window so that the computer does not create a history of where you’ve been when you go to log on. And take time to create a new email address. Use this email to sign up for divorce information and newsletters that might advance your thinking and understanding.
  5. Save cash. Should you decide to pursue divorce, you will need access to money. If all your money is in joint accounts with your spouse, check with a lawyer as to when you can open your own account, or start stashing cash in a safe, secret place. Maybe you’ll never need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you started saving now.
  6. If you feel you may be a victim of abuse, take action immediately.  There are many signs and forms of abuse, and sometimes it’s difficult to know if you are a victim. A clear sign is this: If you find yourself constantly watching what you are saying and doing, or walking on eggshells around your spouse–lest you trigger him/her and “cause” a blow up, you are likely in an unhealthy and abusive relationship.  Focus your attention there.  Read more about this and take action to protect yourself and your children. You may feel you can handle it, but things will not improve unless you do something to change the way things are now.
  7. Make a list of your most critical financial questions.  If you divorce, will you have to get a job if you’ve been a stay-at-home-mom? If you have debt, do you understand half the marital debt is yours? Should you use your IRA to help pay for your divorce? Keep a running list of questions as they occur to you.
  8. Be careful in whom you confide – this includes family.  Few people can be truly objective, and fewer still are marriage or divorce experts. Yet, there are plenty of opinions and judgements. Just because your neighbor got burned by his ex, does not mean that’s what’s in store for you if you choose to divorce.
  9. Do your best to conduct your research from a healthy mindset. It’s easy to vilify and blame your spouse for the problems that exist, but deep down, you know no one is totally faultless. As you learn about the issues in your marriage and what is possible for your lives, try to avoid the adversarial, vindictive, blame-gaming, and often, gender-bashing attitudes some books, some social media posts, or some people propagate.
  10. Evaluate your biggest fears. Do you fear you cannot “afford a divorce?” Are you afraid what divorce would do to your kids and thus, staying in a marriage “for the kids”?  Writing down your fears may help you examine their validity.  You may recognize you cannot not afford a divorce because you need your sanity…or that you are really hiding behind the kids so that you don’t have to be a single parent or face being alone.
  11. Think of how your kids are being impacted now and will be impacted long term. If you are a parent, and you and your spouse are fighting, look at yourselves as your kids might view you. You may think they don’t know what’s going on, but on some level they do, and it’s anxiety inducing for them. Your lack of clarity and unresolved difficulties or the warzone you have created is playing out in their lives, too.
  12. Avoid venting on social media. Watch out for where you vent and be wary of social media. If you say something online, it’s there forever and can be used against you. Same for emails. Before posting or hitting SEND, review what you are saying as if you were a courtroom judge. Be very careful.
  13. Recognize that marriage does not come with an owner’s manual. In our culture, most of us are poorly prepared for making a marriage work. Often it is something we learn — or fail to learn — behind the marital door. At this point in your relationship, it’s not worth beating yourself up…that energy is better spent figuring out what to do about your situation today and how you will move forward tomorrow.
  14. Ask yourself, is there is any love left? Do you still love your spouse? Love is sometimes hard to find when you are consumed by anger, resentment, or are stressed out from overworking, parenting, or a million, everyday struggles. If there’s even a hint of love left, however, it’s worth asking the question, “Can we re-ignite it?”
  15. If you decide to stay in the marriage, set your intention and begin work together. Discuss with your spouse how you are going to work on your marriage so you begin to do things differently and not repeat the same old story. It’s unlikely that you will be able to do this without the support of a professional, so we suggest that you seek a trained marriage counselor.
  16. Evaluate what you have done as a couple to repair your relationship. Have you sought good quality help? Not all couples therapy is created equal. If you’re working with a therapist and you’re not making progress, it does not mean you should necessarily divorce. Investigate which types of marital therapy have the best success rates and find a trained practitioner who will teach you how to communicate with each other and help you both understand that growth and change require a deep commitment from both of you.
  17. Consider Discernment Counseling. Particularly helpful to couples where one partner wants to divorce and the other wishes to repair the relationship, discernment counseling helps couples understand if their problems are solvable. An added benefit is that the counseling is designed to be short term and to help you answer the important question, “Should we get a divorce?”
  18. Think about your role in the difficulties of the marriage and do not isolate yourself. If you are convinced that marital therapy is not working or that your spouse is not participating, or that your efforts to try to do things differently are failing, do not isolate yourself. Seek to move beyond wondering if you should divorce. Being alone darkens your sense of possibility and hope. It keeps you in a spin cycle of overthinking.
  19. Begin assembling a list of your most critical legal questions. Do you separate or do you divorce? If you were to divorce, how do you go about it? Do you know the different ways? Is Mediation an option for you? How do you find a good attorney? What are your rights? What do you not know?
  20. Read about the divorce laws in your state. Laws vary and what is possible in one state may not be possible in yours.  Most states have a section on the court website to help you understand the divorce process where you live. Start there.
  21. Consider a Time Out. Often when there’s a physical shift between a couple, it’s easier to think straight and reflect on what is really important. Consider taking a long vacation away from the other, or a house-sitting job. If you wish to live separately make sure you consult with an attorney in your state before doing anything — especially if you have children.
  22. Organize and prioritize your most critical practical questions. If you’ve never paid the bills before, how would you begin?  If you work overtime most days, who would be home for the children after school — if your spouse is no longer there? Keep a running list and add to it as you think of things.
  23. Move beyond the cyclical thought process of thinking about divorce by consulting compassionate, professional support. We recommend your first step be a consultation with a divorce coach. A divorce coach can help you understand the legal and emotional process you may be facing and the issues that are holding you back from making a decision. A good divorce coach will help you evaluate what’s real and not, and help you take steps to face your fears. A divorce coach can also explain the different legal processes that may be available to you. Learning about your choices will allow you to go deeper and be more educated if you choose to then consult with the next level of experts (lawyers, financial advisors, mediators) whose hourly rate is often more expensive.
  24. Ask your divorce coach, therapist, and friends for vetted referrals to other experts, including lawyers. You are seeking perspective and feedback on your situation, and if you think you are ready to hire someone, you are looking for chemistry and someone you can trust.
  25. Schedule consultations with several attorneys and/or a mediator.  We recommend that you interview several. Bring your legal questions from step #19, or for more information, read here for additional questions. Don’t forget your notebook for taking notes and your last 3 years’ tax returns (if possible.)
  26. Consider having your friend or divorce coach accompany you to some or all of these professional meetings. There is a lot to learn and keep track of at the same time you are feeling stressed. Having an ally to help you take notes and bounce ideas off after meetings will lessen your strain on trying to be on top of everything.
  27. Strategize about how you might pay for a divorce. Will you use joint money, a loan, a credit card, your secret stash (#5), or borrow money from a friend or relative or from a saving account or your IRA? Learn the laws about “counsel fees” in your state and ask the attorneys you are interviewing how you might pay their retainer and ongoing fees.
  28. Branch out and talk to more experts who can help you answer your other questions. Often a financial advisor experienced in divorce will think of things a lawyer will not mention. S/he can possibly help you strategize how you might pay for a divorce or what might be in your interest to ask for in the settlement. A child therapist who has counseled other parents through divorce may do much to help you support your child. A real estate broker might advise you on your practical housing questions, such as the pros and cons of renting vs. buying if you divorce, or what your house might be appraised for. When a question comes to mind, think about who is out there and who might have the answer for you.
  29. Understand there will come a tipping point and you will make a decision about divorce. Despite your best efforts to get educated beyond just thinking about divorce, rarely will you know 100 percent if you should or should not follow through. Usually there remains some portion of ambivalence, but know that at some moment in time, you will reach a saturation point of information and either you’ll be ready to make the decision to stay or go — or the decision will be forced upon you.
  30. You are not ready for divorce If you cannot accept changes. If you cannot accept there will be a change to your finances, lifestyle, friendship groups, or traditions, you are not ready for divorce. If you cannot accept uncertainty … that at times there will be fear and unknowns, then you are not ready for divorce. On the other hand, you may have no choice. In which case, you must face your greatest fears. Seek support.
  31. If you decide to move ahead with the divorce, set your intention. Determine how you want to conduct yourself throughout this difficult passage and beyond. Remind yourself you will have no control over your spouse, but you will try your best to control how you act and react. If you have children, ask yourself what is the model you want to show them? Write down the image of yourself as the parent you want to be. Establishing a clear image of who you want to be and what you want to demonstrate for your kids will help you in this next often-difficult stage.
  32. Understand that you want to avoid divorce court if you can help it. Rarely is anyone completely happy with the terms of his/her divorce, but to avoid getting a judge involved, you will have to be flexible, negotiate in good faith, and compromise on tough issues. Being stubborn or vindictive is what drives people to litigation. That means court. (The truth is that less than 10% of cases end up in a full blown trial; but those that do, end up with massive legal bills and a destroyed relationship.)
  33. Start collecting your financial information.  If you choose to begin divorce proceedings, you will be required to disclose your finances early in the process. Most states have a required financial statement form (though different states have different names for it — check your state court website). Begin filling it out or hunting down the information to get a head start.
  34. Learn what your next steps are and what the process will look like. A divorce coach will act as your guide throughout the process, but if you are not working with one (or cannot afford one at this time) consider a good divorce support group that is professionally facilitated and where you will learn from the experiences of other women.  Read this article to learn meaningful criteria for a good divorce support group, and find one on-line or near you. Feeling supported and heard, will lessen your anxiety and stress.
  35. Be kind to yourself. Understand that there will be times you feel crazy, like you’ve returned to your old loop of contemplating divorce and wondering if you are doing the right thing. But because you followed many of these steps, you are not embarking on this path lightly. You have taken every opportunity to be thoughtful about facing this major life-change, divorce, and though you many not desire this outcome, you have done your homework.
  36. Know that there is life after divorce. What stands directly in front of you is moving through the divorce process and ensuring your divorce recovery. It will be challenging. But for you and your family to stand the best shot at a healthy life afterwards, you must continue to step forward mindfully and with intention. There is life after divorce. You probably cannot see it yet. You certainly cannot feel it. But it’s there, bigger and better than you can imagine, waiting for you.

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

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

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.

 

Divorce Laws in Illinois

What to Know About Divorce Laws in Illinois

Divorce is difficult. There are legal processes to deal with and emotional issues to overcome. And while, divorce laws differ from state to state, with some states having longer, more difficult processes, if you live in Illinois, getting a divorce is not as challenging as in many other states. For this reason, it’s important to acquaint yourself with the divorce laws in Illinois. 

Although divorcing in Illinois is not difficult, few people know how to go about it. Here is some information that can help.

Eligibility requirements for divorce in Illinois

According to Illinois divorce laws, couples can only divorce if one of the spouses has been a resident of the state for at least 90 days.  

Where a child custody agreement is necessary, the children must have been residents of Illinois for at least six months. 

Couples must also legally separate for at least six months to commence divorce proceedings in Illinois.

Uncontested divorces are quicker to finalize than contested ones because, with the latter, the couples disagree on issues that they must streamline before they can divorce. 

Some grounds for divorce that the state of Illinois recognizes are:

  • Willful desertion
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Conviction of a crime
  • Domestic violence
  • Venereal disease
  • Drug/alcohol addiction
  • Abandonment for one year or more
  • Attempted murder of one’s spouse
  • Unexplained absences
  • A prior marriage that was never dissolved

The legal divorce process

If you have grounds for divorce in Illinois, here is the simplest way to file for one and begin the legal process.

If you are the plaintiff, the first step is to ensure the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is delivered to the defendant. Once the defendant receives the petition, he or she has 30 days to respond. 

Some supporting documents, such as a parenting plan (with children involved), can also be filed in addition to the petition. If the judge finds all the paperwork is in order, s/he will grant the spouses a Judgement of Dissolution of Marriage.

You and your spouse can also file for divorce together by filing a joint petition for simplified dissolution. You can file this petition when where there are no complications, and spouses are largely in agreement on how to go about the divorce. Factors that make a simplified dissolution of marriage possible include:

  • A marriage with no children
  • A marriage that has not been in existence for more than 8 years
  • Divorce without expected spousal support
  • Where the couple wants to get a divorce on no-fault grounds
  • A marriage where the couple involved have a written agreement on how to divide debt and any existing property in excess of $100 between themselves.

Divorce coaching and support

The above are just procedural facts. However, we know divorce is highly triggering and emotional responses can lead the charge. So if you are a woman, we urge you to consult and ask the right questions of a divorce attorney before you make any decisions about “how you will divorce” or before you agree to any terms with your spouse —yes, even if you want to do it amicably. You’ve probably never divorced before, and just rushing through the divorce process, agreeing to terms because you “want it to be over” is a very bad strategy.

As divorce coaches, we know the number one mistake women often make is that they do not do due diligence in securing their best outcomes. In other words, they don’t find out what the law entitles them to. Without talking to a divorce lawyer, you do not know what you don’t know and what you are giving up. This could have serious implications for your future. Divorce laws exist for good reasons —these laws are often designed to protect women and children. So find out for sure before proceeding.

Child custody requirements

Children are the most important part of our lives. We often worry about getting a divorce because we are thinking of their well being. In Illinois, a child is anyone under the age of 18. Illinois law defines a child as one who is under 19 years and still in high school.

Fortunately, the divorce laws in Illinois put children’s welfare first to ensure their happiness after the divorce. The court decides who gets custody of children in a divorce by considering the best interest of the child or children involved. 

The custodial parent has responsibility for taking care of the children while the other parent pays child support, which the court calculates according to their income. The couple can also agree on joint custody, in which case they need to enter into a Joint Parenting Agreement. 

In Illinois, child support is calculated as a percentage of one’s income after deductions such as FICA are removed from an individual’s income. The percentage increases according to the number of children involved.

Marital property during divorce

In Illinois, law categorizes property as “separate” during a divorce if earned before the marriage. On the other hand, marital property is what the couple acquired during the marriage.

Marital property belongs to both spouses, and the judge splits it up among the two in the divorce. However, any separate property belongs to the owner and does not get split in the divorce.

Couples should be careful with the separate property as it can turn into marital property. For example, if you receive money from a gift or inheritance and put it in a joint marital account, the court can categorize that as marital property. Therefore, be careful about how you handle your personal assets. If you inherit money, do not commingle it with your marital accounts.

Illinois divorce law and dividing assets

In Illinois, judges are responsible for dividing property in a divorce. The judge ensures a fair distribution of any property or assets among the spouses based on the following factors.

  • Health and age of the couple
  • How much each couple contributed to the marital property
  • Financial resources of each spouse
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • Employability of either party

Unfortunately, since judges look at the spouses’ earning capacity, it means the lower-earning party can get a bigger portion of the marital assets and property.

The good news is any misbehavior during the marriage, such as adultery, will not hamper the chances of a spouse getting what is justly theirs when the property is divided.


For more practical, legal, and emotional things to do to support yourself, read our 36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce


In Illinois, the law considers retirement property acquired by the spouses during their marriage to be marital property too.  You may worry about splitting such, and that is okay. The process is quite complicated, and it is best that you and your ex-spouse contact a financial advisor for help in understanding and making the process easy.

When it comes to inheritance, a surviving spouse cannot claim the ex-spouse’s property after their death, if their divorce is finalized. 

Spousal support and alimony

According to divorce laws in Illinois, when it comes to paying alimony, either of the spouses can get spousal support from the other after a divorce. 

However, the court will decide how much alimony the deserving spouse receives. It will also consider other factors, such as the emotional, physical, and mental condition of both parties. In many cases, the court sets alimony arrangements only for a specific duration as judges expect the deserving spouse to become self-supporting after some time. 

The spousal support can be permanent if the deserving spouse is unable to support themselves indefinitely; for example, if they have a debilitating injury that prevents them from working. Where a divorce is pending, courts can also allow spouses to get temporary alimony agreed upon by both parties.

Can you get a no-fault divorce in Illinois?

A no-fault divorce is where spouses get a divorce without putting fault on each other. They only have to give any reason that the state approves for a divorce to get it. 

For example, in Illinois, a no-fault divorce can be granted if the couple says their union is irretrievably broken. An irretrievably broken marriage is where a couple cannot get along in their marriage, and their relationship cannot be repaired. 

If you want to divorce your spouse, it’s best to maintain a cordial relationship so that you may be eligible for a no-fault divorce. However, sometimes it’s difficult as relations are quite broken by the time you seek a divorce. If you are undergoing a difficult process, seeking a divorce coach or mediator can make things easier.

Are there other options apart from a divorce?

According to divorce laws in Illinois, there are other alternatives to getting a divorce. For example, a couple can get their marriage annulled or legally separate. The process of divorcing in Illinois, although much easier than in many other states, can be challenging. It’s always a good idea to contact a divorce coach to better understand the process and what steps to take first or a divorce lawyer for helping you understand what your rights are and what you are entitled to.  

 

For women seeking structure, guidance, education, and support as they “contemplate” or begin the actual divorce/separation process, we invite you to consider Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual, group coaching program for women only. Annie’s Group provides support, education, and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, so you feel less alone. Read more here

Woman with pink hat post-divorce

10 Mind-Blowingly Good Things About Life Post-Divorce

Divorce is nothing to look forward to. It’s certainly not a line item on your walk-down-the-aisle bucket list. So imagining your life post-divorce isn’t likely to be on your radar until you are in the throes of losing your marriage. It’s also not likely to leave you feeling hopeful about your future.

But divorce, like every other unforeseen roadblock in life, is really more of a fork in the road than a block in the road. It forces you to choose not only which path you will take, but how you will take it.

And, as you go forward with your post-divorce life, that means embracing the odd notion that there really can be good things about divorce.

Sound crazy? Consider this Kingston University survey of 10,000 people at different major life milestones.

Contrary to all the joys of falling in love and planning a wedding, women were actually happier in the first five years post-divorce. They were more content, despite the financial difficulties that often befall divorced women.

While men were also happier after their divorces were final, their new-found joy was nothing compared to that of the women in the study.

Make of that what you will. But that is a strong message of hope for women going through what is perhaps the most vulnerable, frightening, deflating times of their lives. Obviously, these women became privy to some amazing things about life post-divorce. And now you can, too.

Beyond the steps to ensure your divorce recovery lies a treasure trove of mind-blowingly good things you probably never imagined could come with divorce. While this isn’t a cheering section for ending marriages, it is a cheering section for women whose marriages have ended.

Let’s dive into some of those perks by checking out some must-do’s for the newly divorced, independent woman. Here are 10 biggies:

  1. You realize that you are stronger than you ever knew. 

It’s all but impossible to recognize your own herculean strength for its potential when it’s always being used to fight.

Coming home every day to an unhappy—or, worse yet, toxic—marriage is draining. Add the divorce process to that, and you’re likely to think you’re clawing to stay above ground.

But once you’re in the post-divorce phase of your life, that strength starts to re-emerge.

Have you ever had a plant in your garden that you just couldn’t keep alive… until it decided to pop up a couple of years later? It’s kind of like that. And the realization is amazing! Like, put-on-your-Superwoman-cape amazing.

  1. Your free time belongs to you.

(That’s why they call it “free.”)

Nothing in marriage ever totally belongs to you, and that goes for your time, as well. Somehow you are always tied to the common good of your marriage or the family as a whole.

You will be surprised—maybe even thrown off a little—when you realize that your time really is your own.

  1. Bye-bye stress hormones, hello health. 

It’s no secret that stress causes a cascade of health-eroding events in your body. The price of worry, anxiety, and fighting is a flooding of fight-or-flight stress hormones. And those hormones throw your body into an unsustainable state.

Once your life is post-divorce, however, you get to come home to a haven that you have created. You get to sleep in your own bed without the source of your anger snoring next to you.

You will have a new set of pragmatic concerns and adjustments, of course, but you will be wearing your Superwoman cape, remember?

Just think of all you can accomplish when your blood pressure drops, your headaches go away, and you put the kibosh on emotional eating.

  1. You get to become a better parent to your kids. 

Divorce is never easy on kids, even when it’s a healthier alternative to a hostile environment.

Even if you’re co-parenting, you’ll now get to choose how you engage with your children. You’ll get to manifest all those Princess Diana values that will help your kids become stellar adults one day.

And, when your kids are visiting their other parent, you’ll have some breathing room to evaluate your parenting. How are they adjusting? How can you better support, encourage, and inspire them? What kinds of rituals can you all create together—rituals that will forever define your brave new life?

  1. Shared custody equals time for yourself. 

Yes, it can be painful getting used to your kids being away from you for days at a time. Hopefully, you and your Ex can at least agree on healthy co-parenting that will ease that transition for everyone.

If your kids know that their parents are putting the needs of their children first, everyone can win.

And suddenly those times when they are at their other home means you have more time to yourself. Time to reflect on your relationship with your kids. Time to get your home tidied up and feeling like a sanctuary again. Curfew-free time to spend with friends or indulge a favorite hobby.

Unless there’s an emergency, responsibility for the kids falls on your Ex during those times.

  1. Your goals are just that: your goals.

When was the last time you thought about what you wanted to accomplish in life without checking it against your spouse’s wishes? Now you don’t have to fear that your goals are too outlandish or costly or unrealistic. You can vision-board or Pinterest binge to your heart’s content.

  1. It is so much easier to dance in bare feet when you’re not walking on eggshells. 

It probably won’t dawn on you until you’re way into your post-divorce life just how much fear you lived in. Even if you weren’t in a toxic or abusive marriage, it takes an enormous amount of energy to dodge the constant fighting.

If you say ‘this,’ you’ll be fighting all night. If you don’t do ‘that,’ you’ll never hear the end of it. Walking on eggshells is exhausting. And it gets you nowhere fast.

Now that you’re past that, you can take off your shoes and dance anywhere you damn well please! There is a sweetness to being alone after divorce.

  1. You find out who your die-hard friends really are. 

Divorce exposes people for who they really are. And that doesn’t apply just to you and your Ex. It applies to your family and friends, as well.

You will definitely see a shift in your Christmas card line-up post-divorce. You may stop hearing from those “couples-only” friends or those who stuck by your Ex during the divorce.

But you will be pleasantly surprised by the friends who were always in your corner. They will come out of the woodwork and be there for the ugly cries and the movie marathons.

  1. You make wonderful new friendships. 

And then there are the new friends you will make. Friends that reflect your new life back to you in wonderful ways because they have been where you are.

Friends that are also wearing Superwoman capes under their home-based-entrepreneur power pj’s. These may be friends that you meet in a divorce support group for women recreating their lives. Friends that reach out to you for comfort and advice.

And you will marvel that you had lived so long without them in your life.

  1. You become your own best friend. 

Ahh, this is the best gift of post-divorce life! Becoming your own best friend is far more than a sappy Oprah concept. You’ll look back on your wedding invitations that said, “Today I am marrying my best friend,” and you’ll smile.

You’ll smile because you will know now what you didn’t have a clue about then… that you always were and always will be your own best friend.

 

Helpful Resource

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives after divorce—on their own terms. If you are a discerning, newly divorced and independent woman, you are invited to consider Paloma’s Group, our powerful virtual group coaching class for women consciously rebuilding their lives. Visit here to schedule your quick interview and to hear if Paloma is right for you and you, right for Paloma.

*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.

 

rainbow painted escalator steps

46 Steps to Ensure Your Divorce Recovery

Divorce Recovery

Divorce recovery describes the all encompassing process of emotional and practical restructuring and healing throughout the phases of divorce. It is a constant, cyclical process in which you are broken down and built back up numerous times until finally, you are whole again. Divorce recovery is painful, yes, but it is also an opportunity.

Steps you can take

Based on our background in education and our divorce recovery practice, we’ve identified three phases of divorce (contemplating, navigating, and recovering) and suggest the following concrete steps you can take throughout them to best ensure your full divorce recovery. As you complete each step you will be one step closer to your reconnection with self, independence, and true healing.

No matter what phase you are in, if you are mindful of your divorce recovery, our advice to you is…

  1. Accept that it’s okay right now to not have all the answers. Your job is to begin to study and learn what is possible for your life.
  2. Understand that you are grieving (or you will be, at some point) and that this is your own, unique divorce recovery path. Grief is the normal and natural reaction to loss of any kind.  While you may not feel you are grieving the loss of the person you divorced (you may actually be happy about that) you will likely grieve the loss of hopes and dreams that you had for your life. It’s a confusing time, because at the heart of grief is a mixture of emotions. You might feel incredibly free and exhilarated one moment, lonely and terrified the next, and hollow or despairing the next. This is the nature of grief, and it’s necessary to acknowledge ALL of those feelings as normal and acceptable.
  3. Forgive yourself if you are scared. It’s to be expected. You didn’t major in “divorce” in college. How can you possibly know what your life after divorce might mean?
  4. Appreciate that divorce recovery takes time. While nobody knows exactly how long (some researchers say 17 months, others insist it’s three to five years) we know that to advance through the divorce recovery process it requires intention. You must do something. (Check! You are reading this list now!) It’s far less about signing the divorce decree than it is about recovering a sense of homeostasis and positivity.
  5. Help your children along their divorce recovery path by getting educated and taking action for you and them. At times your children might surprise you with their maturity and resilience. Other times they’re so angry or withdrawn it worries you. Understand your children’s recovery path is not the same as yours. They are not going to see or feel the same things as you. Read books (for you, and to them). Look for more resources, like your children’s school or a child therapist, to help you understand how your children are coping and recovering from the divorce. Learn the difference between what is appropriate and what requires your immediate attention.
  6. Be careful in whom you confide – this includes family.  Few people can be objective, and fewer still are marriage or divorce experts. Yet, there are plenty of opinions and judgements. Just because your neighbor got burned by his ex, however, does not mean that’s what’s in store for you.
  7. At the same time, don’t isolate yourself. This is not the time to try and figure it out alone. The decisions to make are too big and too important. This is a good time to invest in your divorce recovery by surrounding yourself with people skilled in helping you.
  8. Connect with your friend(s). You need support, understanding, and accountability.  You need someone who will listen and suspend his/her own judgment. You might need practical things too, like someone to watch the kids when you have appointments or you need space to simply clear your head.
  9. Avoid making any radical decisions for at least a year after your divorce.  The self-discovery curve is too steep during your divorce recovery. Chances are you are going to learn things you don’t know about yourself. So give yourself some time before you move to Tahiti. You may end up wishing you’d just moved down the street.
  10. Make a list of your most critical practical questions. Where and how should you live would certainly be one of them. Is it better to keep the house, or sell it and rent? Who is going to care for the house or the car, or the laundry for that matter when your ex is gone? How can you get a job if you need to be home with the kids?
  11. Make a list of your most critical financial questions. Do you know where you stand today? What are your assets? How much debt do you have? What are your near and far term financial goals? How do you get a job if you are facing your fifties?  (You will see some questions live on multiple lists.)
  12. Make a list of your most critical legal questions. Maybe you are finished with the divorce but you must put a new will in place, or now, you’ve just been named Power of Attorney for your aging mother. What does that mean?
  13. Make a list of your emotional concerns. What are your fears? Is it the prospect of being alone? Is it how your divorce will hurt your kids? Do you worry you might burn out your friends, because you sound like a whiny, broken record? Write these down.
  14. Reach out for professional, compassionate support. There are a lot of resources for divorce these days. The thing you should know first and foremost, you should not try to do this alone. A certified divorce coach can help you before, during, and/or after the divorce (and no, talking to one does not mean you are necessarily getting divorced). This professional can help you with many of the questions keeping you up at night (Can you afford a divorce? How do you break the news to the kids? How will you cope when your ex has the kids?) and he/she can definitely help you identify your choices (Is mediation right for you? What financial preparations should you have in place for living independently?).  A good divorce coach can also help you take your next best steps (How do you learn to co- parent effectively? Go back to work? Change jobs? Will you have the capacity to ever love again?)
  15. Seek to get educated on what’s possible for you. Ask friends or professionals you trust for referrals. Look for experts who can help you answer all your questions. Consider working with those pros (lawyers, real estate brokers, financial, or career advisors) who understand divorce recovery and the rebuilding process, and who seem willing and patient to teach you — and not just talk at you.
  16. Make a list of your other, helping professionals. What other professionals do you need to speak to, if not now, eventually? Who will teach you how to do things your mate used to do? For easy reference, pull together a list of professionals you think you’ll need, like a computer tutor, plumber, locksmith, CPA, electrician, gardener, etc. — for when the time comes.
  17. Come to understand that divorce is a whole life challenge, or as we like to say, “Divorce is a business transaction. How you pick up the pieces and rebuild your life is the mind body challenge.”  Evaluate your financial, legal, practical and emotional questions above and notice how divorce has impacted all aspects of your life.
  18. Try tuning into your body. What is your body telling you about your situation? Are your shoulders locked up near your ears? Do you feel like you are suffocating? Are you experiencing panic attacks or getting sick more than usual? How are you sleeping? Try to find ways to take care of yourself and relieve some of the anxiety before it starts to undermine your health.
  19. Again, forgive yourself if you are panicking or just feeling numb. Your body is trying to communicate with you that “something is not right.” Tell your body you will try to listen more going forward.
  20. Starting now, take notes on when you begin to feel certain pains, aches, and headaches. What are the circumstances leading up to these symptoms?
  21. Go to the doctor and get a full physical if you are overdue.  Review with your doctor your list of issues if you have them, and share insights to your stress. Get your annual mammogram if you are a forty or older woman (and we recommend a 3D mammogram, and if your breasts are dense, a sonogram). If you are a man, when was the last time you went to a doctor? You must take care of yourself because who else is going to?
  22. Be careful how you self-medicate to deal with the stress and aches and trying circumstances you are experiencing.  Numbing yourself could prevent you from being levelheaded as you start to learn what is new and possible for your life.
  23. Watch out for where you vent and be wary of social media. If you say something online, it’s there forever and can be used against you. Same for emails. Before posting or hitting SEND, review what you are saying as if you were a judge. Be very careful.
  24. Find a way to process what you are going through. Are you meeting with a divorce coach or therapist regularly? Are you connecting with your friends? Are you journaling?  Who is keeping you tethered as you go through this roller coaster of pain and upheaval? Often we find solutions or at least new perspectives when we are forced to process out loud or on paper. What works best for you?
  25. To help you feel anchored, get organized. Start evaluating what you do and do not need and begin purging. Organize your important papers and documents, for example, and list all passwords and login instructions to accounts. Keep that newly minted list in a safe place.
  26. Don’t let the negative voices control you. When we are feeling low, it’s easy to let those negative voices grow deafening.“You failed.You are toast. No one will ever love you again.” Listening to those voices only keeps you in a dark place. So, tell them to hush.
  27. Create a budget. It’s important to understand how much you take in and spend each month. In addition to the obvious (rent/mortgage, car payment, utilities) don’t forget to factor in things like dry cleaning, haircuts, coffees, and vacation expenditures, etc.
  28. Face your loneliness. Now that you are no longer under the same roof as your ex, you are likely confronted with empty space. There you are left facing yourself. Take heart, that’s exactly where you are supposed to be. This is often the time you start really processing what role you played in the demise of the relationship, a necessary part to your full divorce recovery. And if you are not feeling grief, be prepared for it to hit you sometime.
  29. When the grief hits you, just be with it. Or make a list of all the things (material and not) you have lost. It surely is a lot. Now that you are looking at the list, give it some attention. Maybe you didn’t love your ex so much in the end. This makes you feel conflicted. So you are not grieving her as much as you are grieving the end of the fantasy, the identity you both built, the loss of what you invested in and co-created. That is a tragic loss. And for some people, we need to really ponder and be with that loss for a while.
  30. Look for Meet Up or support groups for like-minded people. Identify groups that are facilitated by a therapist or coach and be cautious of groups that focus on complaining.
  31. Embrace the discovery process. Now is an opportunity to get comfortable in your new skin — but how can you get comfortable if you don’t even know who you are anymore or what you want?  Get excited, it’s exhilarating to discover what you want and who you are in this next chapter.
  32. Live. Explore. Try things on.  Who do you want to be now that you’ve grown up? If you could do anything, what would that look like? Write down your ideas and see how many you can realize. No more pushing them aside, it’s time to try them out.
  33. Write your divorce story. If you still feel at a loss, you can’t get out of bed, start writing. Begin with your earliest memory of divorce and move into telling the story of your own divorce. What did you already know about divorce when it came up with your spouse? Did you have preconceived notions about what divorce should look like? How has your divorce changed the way you think?
  34. Find a way to exercise everyday so your brain chemistry has a chance to relax and rebuild you. Your primary relationship is with your body, your being. Maybe you cannot get to the gym, but can you make sure you walk every day? The Center for Disease Control recommends 7,000 to 8,000 steps per day to see health benefits. Consider a fitness tracker or app on your phone to help you work up to your goal.
  35. Understand your social landscape is going to change. Sometimes it’s tough when you are recovering from divorce to hang out with the same friends you shared as a couple. Some friends will invite you out and you’ll feel like a third wheel. Other friends don’t know what to do, so they don’t invite you at all. You’ll meet new friends as well. Your social world will experience a bit of a shake up and then it will resettle into place. Be open to the changes.
  36. Open your eyes to new adventures and friends. You may find your interests change or you’ll have a desire to do something you never really thought about before. Perhaps you’ll go to Cuba! Or a new friend will introduce you to rock climbing, or you’ll take your bike out of storage and dust it off.This is a time of exploration.
  37. Reconnect with old friends. As you recover from divorce, you may realize that some of your old friends fell off the radar, perhaps because life got too busy or because your spouse never really got along with them. Don’t you wonder what they are up to these days? Now it’s easier than ever with social media to find those old friends. Surprise yourself and them. Rekindle your connections with those you miss.
  38. Do things alone. Part of your grieving is being alone with yourself and rediscovering you. Welcome chances to dine out alone, travel alone, see movies alone… this is part of understanding the difference between what it is to be lonely vs. alone and being okay with that.
  39. Be sexually educated. A 2010 study of sexual health from Indiana University found the lowest rates of condom use were among people ages 45 and older, because older people may think they cannot get pregnant or are not at risk for STD’s. Yet according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the numbers of older people with HIV has nearly doubled. People aged 55 and older accounted for 26% of all Americans living with diagnosed or undiagnosed HIV infection in 2013. Be safe. Wear a rain jacket.
  40. Recognize the dating world has changed. Don’t let online dating scare you. Connect with someone who can help you with this and who can also laugh with you. Maybe your funny, kind girlfriend can take pictures of you and help you draft your online profile? Go ahead if it feels right. Enjoy it.
  41. Do be careful of your kids in terms of introducing a new person too soon. Remember, your kids are recovering from this divorce, too. They don’t need to be introduced to everyone you have dinner with. Instead, wait until a relationship becomes significant and you think this person might be around awhile. Have an age appropriate conversation with your children: first, to tell them about your new friend, and then to introduce him/her.
  42. Or don’t have a romantic relationship at all. Have you skipped from one relationship to the next your whole entire life? Well, stop. Your job isn’t to scramble to find your next partner if you aren’t ready or don’t want one. Work it and enjoy your independence!
  43. Understand and appreciate you are part of a new world. Divorce is changing. The stigma is losing it’s grip, the landscape is shifting, and it’s for you to determine who you will be. There will be times that you feel a little out of control. With the damp wings of a butterfly drying, you will be a little unstable, but you are coming out of a cocoon.
  44. Stretch yourself. The divorce certainly took you out of your comfort zone in a not so pleasant way, so why not seek ways to stretch yourself that are more fun? Go master the Tango by Air BnB’ing it in Buenos Aires! Go skydiving! Or buy the pickup truck you’ve always wanted and head fly-fishing. Just go.
  45. Allow yourself to trust again. This can be a tough part of your divorce recovery, because surely you’ve been disappointed, hurt, or even crushed along the way. But as you take these steps, you will feel better. You will meet good people and realize that you are able to trust again. You may even open your heart to love again.
  46. Remember opening to love means loving yourself first. It comes full circle. In order to fully recover from your divorce, you must give yourself a chance to grieve, to rebuild, to discover, to heal, and to love.

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

 

Women must know about divorce in texas

6 Things a Woman Must Know About Divorce in Texas

Every state is unique in how it adjudicates divorce, adding to the headache of getting on with life-after-marriage. And the Lone Star state, as you might expect, has its own unique rule book. There are several things a woman must know about divorce in Texas if she is going to avoid painful surprises. We’re going to look at six of them.

From waiting periods to custody to the division of assets, it’s imperative that a woman goes into her divorce with eyes wide open. And, if that woman is you, the time to educate yourself and prepare is now.

Even if you’re still in the not-sure stage, there is a checklist of things to do if you are contemplating divorce. The fact that “the big D” is stirring around in your mind may be the shoulder-tap you need to work on your marriage.

But, if you are past the point of possible resolution, it’s time to bring your A-game. The more informed and prepared you are, the better you (and your children) will be going forward. So embrace the unembraceable with wisdom, dedicated research, and unflappable self-advocacy.

Let’s look at six important things a woman must know about divorce in Texas.

 

  1. Grounds for divorce. 

There are seven grounds (reasons) for divorce in Texas, but only the first one is considered “no-fault.” The remaining grounds can influence judgment regarding things like division of assets and child guardianship. (Obviously these grounds can apply to either or both spouses. And most couples opt for a no-fault divorce.)

    1. You have irreconcilable differences. “No one’s at fault, but we just can’t live together or get along anymore.”
    2. There is emotional and/or physical abuse (“cruel treatment”) that makes staying in the marriage unsafe and/or unbearable.
    3. Your spouse has cheated on you.
    4. Conviction of a felony. During the marriage, your spouse was convicted of a felony and incarcerated for at least a year without pardon.
    5. Your spouse has been gone for more than a year with the intention of leaving you forever.
    6. Living apart. You and your spouse have lived apart, without cohabitating, for at least three years.
    7. Confinement in a mental hospital. At the time of filing, your spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for at least three years without a prognosis of improvement.

2. Mandatory waiting period vs. reality. 

Texas family courts aren’t in a rush to finalize divorces. Expect to wait a minimum of 60 days from the date of filing for your divorce to be final. However, the average wait is six months to a year, depending on the complexity of the divorce and degree of conflict.

The only exception to the 60-day waiting period is one of two specific criteria involving domestic violence.

3. Legal separation? Not in Texas. 

In Texas, you’re either married, or you’re not. Or so says the law. That means that all assets and debts, whether accumulated while together or separated, are considered communal property at the time of divorce.

This is important to keep in mind if you’re thinking that a separation will give you time to think, experiment with singlehood, or side-step divorce.

You could end up liable for expenses your spouse accrues on a separate credit card, for example. You could also have to divide income and benefits you accumulate while “kind of” living on your own.

4. Alimony? Good luck.

One of the most important things you, as a woman, must know about divorce in Texas is that there is no court-ordered alimony. Texas courts call this “judicially imposed allowance,” and they don’t award it. What the courts refer to as “maintenance” comes with specific criteria.

Three examples that don’t involve the specific conditions of domestic violence include:

    1. You will not have enough property to provide for your minimal needs after the divorce. (Note: not “the lifestyle to which you are accustomed.”)
    2. You have been married 10 or more years and are unable to provide for your minimal needs. (This is particularly relevant to women who forfeited careers to care for children or elders.)
    3. You have a child that requires extensive supervision because of a physical or mental illness.

For women seeking structure, guidance, education, and support as they “contemplate” …. or begin the actual divorce/separation process, we invite you to consider Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual, group coaching program for women only.

Annie’s Group provides support, education and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, so you feel less alone. Read more about Annie’s Group here. 


5. Custody arrangements.

The preferred and usual custodial arrangement in Texas is joint custody. The underlying desire is for children to have an equal relationship with both parents, even if they live primarily with one.

In a coparenting arrangement, both parents make decisions and have responsibility for the children. And the children live with each parent for at least 35% of the year.

While “joint managing conservatorship” is the court’s preference, the best interest of the children trumps all other considerations.

Finally, divorcing parents of minor children are required to complete a parenting class before a divorce is granted. Its intention is to help parents and children through the painful process of divorce. The class is available online.

6. Division of assets (and debts).

Texas is considered a “community property” state, which implies an equal division of both assets and debts.

However, special considerations can be taken into account by the judge. For example, the degree of disparity between income and earning potential can influence an unequal division.

Similarly, the physical capacity of both parties, nature of assets, and fault in the marriage’s breakup may be taken into consideration.

When it comes to the division of debt, it’s important to know that a divorce decree means nothing to creditors.

To assure that you aren’t left paying off mutual debts alone, it may be wise to divide responsibility for debts as part of the divorce.

Finally, it would be in your best interest to have a financial advisor or attorney go over your community assets with you. The timing of the acquisition of retirement benefits, for example, can determine what you are owed in the divorce.

There are a lot of things a woman must know about divorce in Texas before signing off on the next phase of her life.

 

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.

 

Manage divorce pain

How to Manage Pain During Divorce

When we’re in the midst of the visceral and all-encompassing agony of divorce, it’s difficult to cope with each breath, let alone remember that the pain eventually ends. The last thing we think about, but should address, is how to manage pain during divorce. The emotions are so strong and wide-spread that they often manifest as a physical presence. But it is a presence of emptiness.

This void contains the grief of losing love and the optimism that comes with it—that sense of possibilities that were open to us and now are not. There is the bruising nature of rejection, the fear of time wasted or of loneliness (a feeling exacerbated for so many now during the Covid quarantine), a sense of self and our own wholeness that seems to have vanished. The shock and anger over betrayal or having the bottom suddenly drop out from under us, the doubt that we can ever trust our own judgment again. But rest assured: the pain of divorce will not last forever.

To Manage Pain During Divorce, Allow Yourself to Feel.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but managing pain during your divorce means you have to actually allow yourself to experience these feelings—give them room to run and swing wildly. Allowing yourself to feel grief, fear, loneliness, and anger is exhausting and frightening; it feels like you’re in the middle of a stampede with no horse.

Even feeling hope can be painful in the aftermath of divorce, because the loss of your old hopes is fresh, and trusting that new ones can exist takes a while.

But it seems to be the consensus that healing requires you to face the full range of your emotions during divorce. Trying to reign in your emotions or muffle them with a smiling facade only works temporarily. Tamping down these feelings might be best saved for the times when you don’t want them to become a burden on people who are depending on you, like your children.

Trying to keep a permanent lid on emotions, though, is like trying to muffle a trashcan fire with a lid that doesn’t quite fit. It might seem to work, but the damage still spreads if you don’t actually address it. Putting off the experience of an emotion just gives it breathing room with no supervision. When we finally turn around and face it, we realize it’s only gotten bigger.

What actually helps with this pain management technique is to not just let the feelings run over you, but to run with them. It may sound ridiculous, but don’t worry: if you have enough emotional capacity to have a feeling, you are most likely strong enough to move with it.

So, What Are Effective Strategies to Manage Pain During Divorce?

One of the best ways to cope with divorce pain is to write your feelings out in a free-flow journal. Especially if you write without pausing or self-editing, you can scream as loudly as you want to on paper. Pouring all that angst, pain, and emotional murk through the sieve of a journal on a daily basis clears your mind so that you begin to address your own healing with acceptance and develop some rational ideas of what you need to do to rebuild. When you engage with your feelings in this way you become an active participant in them.

Seek Support

Another way to manage divorce pain and confusion is to reach out to a divorce coach, who can be one of the best sources of complete support for what you are going through. A coach can help you with all the logistical, financial, emotional, and practical issues that may overwhelm you. A coach, experienced in what is normal and what is not, is trained to help you embrace your emotions and heal so you can move forward completely and healthily.

Talk to the Hand

Sometimes it’s helpful to identify a particular emotion, name it, and talk to it as if it were an actual person. Snark helps. Anything that helps you laugh at the situation and at yourself helps. Pretend the feeling is one of the neighborhood kids who’s trying to sell you really ugly Christmas ornaments. You’re going to be friendly but firm and you’re likely going to be able to say no without many qualms. (And of course, since it’s not a real person, you’re free to be a little… tart):

“Well, good morning, Anxiety. Love the outfit. You seem to be doing just peachy today. I’m not in the mood for peaches, though. I see you, and I understand why you’re selling this wagon-load of crap, but it’s not your turn today.” Or something to that effect.

This acknowledges the feeling but externalizes it in a healthy way. It allows you to get far enough away from it to see it more clearly, and it also acts to separate you as a person from your actual feelings, which may be strong and feel like they’re trampling you at times, but are not actually you.

Laugh at Them

Do anything you can to laugh at your situation. Find the irony in it; snark it up, burn your bra while you dance around and film it (though if you do this, recall that you are not PBS; laughter only works therapeutically when it’s for your own satisfaction, or shared only with your closest, most trusted friends). Blow up balloons and write the things that are pissing you off on them and then get out your safety pin; swing an imaginary lasso around your head and yodel like a cowgirl when the feelings go rogue on you.

Said with brevity and levity, divorce is not exactly a party on two legs, but if you can laugh at it while you’re in it, you will move from survival to thriving a lot faster.

Turn Off the Anger Drip

For a lot of us, anger is easier to bear than pain. It feels more powerful than sadness, and it acts on neurotransmitters like an anesthetic. Anger can also be justified (often), and for women who have been emotionally or physically bullied by their husbands and/or painted into well-behaved corners, it’s especially important to speak that feeling. For others who might be inclined to run rampant with it, though, the thing to remember is that it does act like a drug. Too much anger for too long is corrosive to you and anyone in your vicinity who it might spill on.

Know When to Put the Thoughts Down

When we’re in the midst of a complex situation like divorce, it’s natural and healthy to think about where you are in the process, to consider how you got there, your own role in it, and how you might have done things differently. This kind of reflection is healthy, but it stops being a pain management technique when we begin steeping in thought patterns for too long. Brooding over a situation is called perseverating or ruminating, and it can eventually stain our thought processes the way tea that brews too long can stain a cup.

You need to grieve the possibilities that were a part of your union with the person you were married to. Sadness and all the other emotions that come with divorce should be felt. But new possibilities grow in their place. Like us, they change, and there are always more of them. Life never just boils down to one event or another; we are meant to be dynamic and each of us is bigger than a particular occurrence—even one as daunting as divorce.

 

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

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

 

What are the Covid Divorce Statistics?

What are the COVID Divorce Statistics?

Divorce statistics in the US are nothing to make the marriage industry proud. Despite a significant decrease in recent years (most likely because more couples are waiting to marry), divorce still lurks as a postscript to marriage vows. An iffy chance of success, with even worse odds for successive marriages, casts a dim light on the concept of “forever.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, divorce rates hit a historical high in 1979, with 22.6 out of every 1,000 breaking up. Fast forward 38 years to 2017, and that rate had dropped 29% to 16.1 divorces for every 1,000 marriages. That’s a significant drop and a nice boost to the institution of marriage.

The bulk of that success can be attributed to fewer younger couples taking their first trip down the aisle. Apparently they had taken the failed marriages of the younger-marrying Baby Boomer generations before them to heart. Waiting several more years to tie the knot apparently worked.

Unfortunately, those 55 and over who have decided to give connubial bliss another shot haven’t been as successful. As a matter of fact, their divorce rates have skyrocketed.

Against this statistical backdrop heading into 2020, a new player has entered the arena and could very well throw divorce statistics into an upheaval.

I’m talking, of course, about the coronavirus pandemic.

No one saw it coming. And no one could have imagined how life on a global scale would change on a moment’s notice. Suddenly that hypothetical question, “If you were stuck on a remote island with one person, who would you want it to be?” took on new meaning.

How the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 gets written into the history books and statistical data remains to be seen. But hints of what’s to come are already revealing themselves.

Sheltering-in-place has upended the home life of millions of people. Not all the forced adaptations have been negative, but the stresses of the times have definitely taken a negative toll. And marriages are standing right there in the middle of the traffic.

When you consider the top reasons for which couples divorce, it’s not surprising that the COVID pandemic is putting marriages to the test. Three of the biggest reasons — abuse, addiction, and financial problems — have been in a veritable Petri dish since lockdowns started.

Unemployment rates are at an all-time high, and even those willing to work have been forced to wait things out. Families already living paycheck-to-paycheck have been forced to rely on less-than-adequate unemployment benefits. And people have been scrambling to reinvent themselves professionally in anticipation of the long-haul unknown.

Considering that finances fuel a big portion of marital conflict, troubled relationships are now burning at a faster rate. Add to that mix the isolation and secrecy needed for abuse and addiction to thrive, and you have a glimpse of what may influence divorce statistics.

It’s still too early to have a clear picture of divorce rates during this pandemic. And one big reason for that is that courts were included in the shutdowns. Suddenly there was no means to file for or proceed with divorce. Only emergency cases — those involving domestic violence and emergency child custody needs, for example — were being considered.

As businesses and government agencies began reopening, courts had to play catch-up with their pre-pandemic backlog of cases. That meant a further delay for people already in the process of divorce, and definitely a delay for those wanting to file.

For women seeking divorce in the time of coronavirus, their focus has needed to shift to preparation and self-care. Many divorce lawyers and counselors are receiving calls from people intending to divorce as soon as possible. Many expect the uptick in virtual filings to explode after the pandemic has settled. But, until the courts can catch up, those waiting remain stuck.

The financial component of this pandemic can’t be extricated from the analysis of (potential) divorce statistics during this time. Divorce isn’t cheap. And it rarely leaves either party financially better off than when the couple was married.

Lawyers, court fees, financial advisors, and settlement terms are expensive. Pairing job and income loss with the realization that your marriage can’t make it poses a big problem. That scenario is becoming more common, and it’s forcing couples to rethink both their marriages and their approach to ending them.

For couples who can maintain respect and civility, options like mediation and collaborative divorce can save a lot of money. They can also help expedite the divorce process while courts are overwhelmed.

But there are additional financial factors that complicate divorce efforts during this pandemic.

The most complex component of any divorce, aside from custodial arrangements for children, is the division of assets. Divorce proceedings, for good reason, look at more than just “what’s in the account today.” Past, present, and future all come into play.

Any kind of disaster or major crisis influences the values of homes, stocks, and other assets. Stop the world from spinning on its axis, and you’ve got major economic upheaval.

How do you now plan for the sale of your home and the division of profits (or debt)? How do you fairly divide stocks and retirement investments that may have plummeted and haven’t recovered?

How do you determine spousal and/or child support when one or both parties doesn’t have guaranteed employment or income? How are things like life insurance and health insurance affected? How do you separate from your spouse and find a place to rent when there’s no income?

One thing is definite in this time of COVID: This pandemic is holding a mirror up to every marriage and household. And it’s exposing every weakness that could once hide behind careers and individual interests.

It may be a while before we have a clear understanding of the influence of COVID-19 on divorce statistics. But, if you are a woman facing the possible end of your marriage, there is hope…and help.

There are things to do if you are thinking about divorce — many that you can begin doing now. And there are divorce support groups to walk with you on this painful journey, even if you don’t have the convenience of physical separation yet.

COVID may have changed life as we know it. And it may be complicating the processes for making necessary life choices. But you still have the power to make those choices…and the support to help you live them.

 

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 not to do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and personal support strategies for themselves and their future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

 

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

 

Emotional stagesof separation

The Emotional Stages of Separation

Nothing nips at the Achille’s heel of normalcy quite like impending separation or divorce. A move to a new home is just that – an enormously chaotic and stressful task, but in the end, a relocation. A job change is fraught with nervy uncertainty, learning curves and new personalities — and it’s directly linked to survival, as so many are experiencing during the Covid-19 crisis — but as long as a job change doesn’t end in job loss, it involves the professional aspect of life, not all of them. You may not love your new coworkers and colleagues, but if your personal love life is intact, it’s much easier to push through professional stressors. A separation or divorce, though, usually encompasses all these aspects and more; it’s frequently a sandstorm of fear, pain, stress and emotional severings, unfamiliar decisions, diminished financial security – the list goes on. 

It can be nearly impossible to see our way to the next step in such a maelstrom, let alone out of it. It’s helpful to know that this is a common experience; it is normal for life to be completely abnormal for a while, for extremes to take over, for us to be unrecognizable to ourselves for periods of time. 

It is even more helpful to have a guide through the chaos, to know that there are emotional stages of separation common to all of us. Identifying these and trusting that they’re real can act like a lead rope in a blizzard, something to hang onto as we make our blinded and blind-sided way from the old doorway that is closing behind us, to the new one just opening.  

Emotional Stages of Separation: Fear and Denial 

We hear about fight or flight as a reaction to fear, but freezing is another, and with that response comes denial – a state of mind that so many of us are distressingly good at. Being afraid of any part of separation and divorce is understandable; it’s a rare person who can stare unflinchingly at that hydra of change and loss, betrayal, abandonment and all the other painful states of being that come with it. So, we freeze up and hide from it under a blanket of denial. We can stay under that blanket for a long time, often years, before we finally face that we need to leave a marriage.

Negotiating (a.k.a. Bargaining) 

While these emotional stages of separation don’t necessarily happen in this order (and many of us cycle through repeat performances in more than one stage), bargaining or negotiating the inevitable choice usually follows denial. When we finally pull off the blanket of denial and look at the truth, we often try to bargain for a version of it that is more livable in the short-term, and less daunting. We make trades: “If he (does this) or (doesn’t do) that for the next three months, I’ll throw away the divorce attorney’s phone number,” or “If we can get through R’s recital and K’s graduation without fighting about it, then I’ll have a sign that we can make it work.” 

This is the bargaining stage of separation, and it’s kind of like the lighter version of denial: you’re about to cross the Rubicon but you’re digging your heels in and looking for a way around it. 

Bargaining is normal, but eventually you recognize that you’re playing a delaying game with yourself. 

Anger

The anger stage of separation is where, between fight or flight, the fight response makes a grand entrance, and it is a diva in spurs.  

This is where we finally recognize that it’s over and we have to make this choice and we resent it; we are angry that it didn’t work, that we have to surrender that dream, that our spouse did something so intolerable that we can’t live with it anymore. This is the stage where we sometimes let the crazy out a little, where the “hell hath no fury” rips, where we place blame anywhere besides ourselves. We throw things, over-serve ourselves during cocktail hour and beyond, and have to apologize to people for taking their heads off for innocent remarks.

Generally accepted advice during this emotional stage of separation is to let yourself feel it, provided you’re not being self-destructive or actively taking it out on the people around you, particularly your children, who are going through their own emotional response to the upheaval in their lives. Feel it and let it be vented, but with someone safe. 

For women who have come out of abusive marriages or have been repressed, silenced or psychologically controlled in any way by their spouses, allowing your anger to have a voice is especially important.  

But, it’s also important to remember that anger can be destructive, particularly when paired with habits that can become addictive or corrosive (i.e. alcohol, cigarettes, other drugs, shopping sprees, etc.). So, allow it, but best to find a healthy outlet for it (journaling, working out, or talking with a coach or therapist, etc.) and not let it too far off the chain.

 Grief

This is the darkest part of any loss or change, and like the anger stage of separation, we’re encouraged to give it room and let ourselves feel it. Grieving the loss of a marriage, the ending of a dream, the alteration of a love to something much cooler, distant or reduced to ashes is healthy, even though it feels like we won’t survive it. Grief is awful; there’s a million ways to describe it, but boiled down to basics, it’s the stage you don’t think you’re going to survive. It is the stage that should lead you to a therapist or divorce coach (who may recommend a therapist), even if you feel like you can survive it. A professional can help you reroute your thinking and refocus, and can help you determine if your grief is morphing into a longer-term depression. In other words, allow yourself to feel it, but don’t allow yourself to wallow or stay in it too long without some support. Friends are wonderful but they are not professionals. 

Acceptance 

Altogether the very best stage of separation — even more so than the moving-on stage because of the contrast between it and the rending angst, acceptance is when your shoulders drop, your whole body sighs in relief, the sun comes out again. By now, we’ve gained some insight and perspective, as well, and while we might still miss some things, regret some things or have anger, we’ve embraced the new reality and are beginning to find the many gifts in it.

 Celebration and Moving On 

This is the stage where random pieces of furniture combine in geometrically fascinating ways with a hot new guy who may even make your ex-husband look like a bit of a candy-ass — which frankly, may not quite make it all worth it (for all of us), but it certainly makes us feel pretty fabulous about writing chapter two.

 

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

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