Posts

Infidelity and Divorce

The Betrayal of Infidelity

It is possible to think rationally in the face of divorce… sometimes. The crumbling of a marriage is painful, of course. However, we can be logical about things like financial disputes, changing priorities, long-distance hardships, or child rearing. Infidelity, though? Not so much.

Hitting Us Where It Hurts the Most

The betrayal of infidelity is one of the top catalysts of divorce. In a recent SAS survey, we asked 100 women dealing with divorce to name the primary reason for their separation. Between 7-10% said adultery was the cause of their divorce, though it’s unclear from the survey who cheated on whom. That means cheating ranked as the number four reason for divorce, with lack of good communication, domestic abuse, and constant arguing ranking ahead of it.

When we discover that our husband* is unfaithful, sensible analysis and calm discernment take headers right out the window. There are other ways to break trust in a relationship, such as choosing an addiction over the relationship or hiding credit card debt. However, even these don’t hit as viscerally as cheating does. No other divorce catalyst is such an emotional hot button as the particular sting of disloyalty.

Most likely, it doesn’t matter how grounded we are or how well developed our self esteem may be. The betrayal of infidelity goes far beyond an emotional slap in the face.

The pain of adultery makes it difficult to hold on to a levelheaded frame of mind in the middle of that onslaught of pain, rage, bewilderment, and devastation. No matter what we read or who we talk to, there seems to be universal agreement that being untrue to the marriage vow of “forsaking all others” hurts the worst. It is also the most challenging bridge-burning from which to rebuild the trust that once existed between two people.

The Mortal Wounding of Infidelity

An affair: the term is a misnomer, really. Something that breaks trust so deeply and wounds on such an intimate, personal level shouldn’t also be a term for a lovely party. And the term “extramarital sex” sounds like a gynecological exam. It’s clinical and somewhat unpleasant, but it doesn’t conjure up the rage and bleeding-out-on-the-floor emotional havoc that the betrayal of infidelity wreaks. Finding out that your husband is two-timing you may sound like a country line dance but in actuality, it’s psychologically leveling for a period of time. Cheating is a spouse taking a hard look at the most vulnerable part of us and saying, in essence, “You’re not enough. You’re not good enough to merit my effort to stay true to you and to my word. You’re not worthy of the vow I said I would keep.”

The betrayal of infidelity shatters the commitment that the two of you made and throws a Molotov cocktail on your self-worth, the softest underbelly of who we are.

Cheating takes that vulnerable part of us, that part that we keep down in the depths that is the truest part of us, tosses it aside and says, “This can be replaced.” In North Carolina’s well-publicized case Clark vs. Clark case, one woman had to sit in the courtroom and listen to her Ex and his new wife testify that he never loved her in the first place.

Monogamous fidelity is one of the cornerstones of traditional unions, so the effect of an extramarital affair destroys an essential part of a married couple’s foundation. It takes a lot of work and support, and most likely, good professional help to rebuild that trust.

We May Not Forget but We Must Forgive

I was on the sidelines of an affair that involved a woman I know well, and so I witnessed the corrosion that a lack of active forgiveness can etch onto a marriage. The betrayal of his infidelity itself was gut-wrenching, but beyond that, it was frightening for her as a Stay-at-Home-Mom to be left with two young children and the prospect of raising them by herself. The two of them decided to remain married and work it out.

If that is our choice, we may not forget, but forgiving and consciously choosing to not punish him for the rest of the marriage is necessary for it to be a healthy one. It’s also necessary to take a hard look at ourselves and asking, “If cheating is a symptom of unhappiness, how did I contribute to the unhappy dynamic? And how do I address that now?”

That doesn’t mean taking all the blame. In fact, if you’re married to a narcissist or an abuser, you must be even more careful to not engage in the constant apology. Generally, though, looking honestly at ourselves does mean that we have to own our own behavior and how it affects the people around us.

The Metamorphosis of Marriage

It may be helpful to keep in mind that we are far from alone in this enormous challenge. Infidelity claims 25-40% of marriages, and the reasons for affairs range from resentment to stress to differences in sexual appetite, et cetera. In the younger generations, the percentage of women cheating on their husbands is now equaling men. Women in their 50s and 60s are also beginning to catch up with their male counterparts in the extramarital sex arena.

COVID-19 has also made it even more difficult for couples to sustain their togetherness. The National Institute of Health evaluated the effects of the pandemic on marriage in September 2020. The NIH found that the pressure cooker of sheltering in place may have made it harder to actually conduct a physical affair, but increased the numbers of people seeking them.

It may also be helpful to note that as “the done thing,” traditional marriage is beginning to take a backseat to new relationship paradigms. There is a growing recognition that the institution of marriage needs an infusion of flexibility and dynamism if it’s going to survive.

Couples are choosing to reevaluate their vows a few years into the union to see if they are still on the same page or if they need to make incremental changes. (Incrementally speaking, think screwdriver approach instead of a hammer).

Non-Traditional Approaches to Fidelity and Marriage

Married people are choosing to live in separate homes, a practice of “living apart together” in LAT relationships that honor the individual and help people in long-term unions maintain a “still-dating” romantic edge. And two weeks ago, the MSN home page featured a story on monogamy being “out of date” with a list of high-profile celebrities who include a little extracurricular activity into their happy marriages on purpose. They all had slightly different ways of handling it, but the message here is that some open relationships can lead to happier and more unified marriages.

The Metamorphosis of Self

It also takes support and, often, professional help if you decide that you don’t want to rebuild and choose instead take divorce by the horns. Leaving a marriage, especially on the heels of infidelity, requires a lot of us. It is just as much work as rebuilding a marriage. We enter a phase of partnering ourselves more effectively, and this means facing some uncomfortable truths about who we were in the marriage. We also must face who we are currently and who we are becoming. If we are going to truly evolve, we have to embrace the galvanizing effects of the pain and then move past it into self-honesty and forgiveness. If we can do this and truly let go, we find a whole new kind of freedom and self-commitment to celebrate.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer 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 compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. 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.

* At SAS, we support same-sex marriage. However, for the sake of simplicity, we may refer to the spouse as “he” or “husband.”

Divorce survival strategies

35 Divorce Survival Strategies & Insights from Divorced Women

Divorce: it’s one of the most isolating, unraveling, confusing experiences you can go through. And the fact that millions of women have survived it or are going through it alongside you doesn’t make you feel less alone. But what if you could tap into the divorce survival strategies of these women? What if you could fortify your journey with the insight of those who have already traveled theirs?

In an effort to “help women help women,” we sent out a survey to 36 women who have survived divorce. We asked each woman to share her most important piece of advice for other women contemplating or going through a divorce.

Some of these divorce survival strategies will hit home for you. Some may even surprise you.

But all will give you experiential wisdom to contemplate as you navigate your path forward.

Hopefully, you will also recognize the desire and willingness of women to help hold each other up through the tough times.

That’s what SAS for Women is all about: support AND solutions for women.

And the contributors to this survey all carry that compassionate, supportive tribal gene.

They’ve been where you are—through every stage of it. And they want to help spare you any unnecessary pain they can. We know that when you’re in crisis you have limited bandwidth and need to hear the most important messages clearly distilled.

These are the things you must take in! Depending on where you are in your journey—thinking about divorce, in the throes of it, coming out of it—see if you can connect with at least one quote from each section.

Important things to remember before, during, and after divorce:

  1. “You deserve to be treated with respect, to be told the truth, and to live without fear in your marriage.
  2. “Do not ever lose your self-respect.”
  3. “Trust yourself.”
  4. “You are valuable and deserve to live the life you choose.”
  5. “You are right, and you deserve to be happy. Listen to your gut and then create a coalition of support.
  6. “Get organized, and take practical steps from the beginning.”
  7. Get affairs in order prior to filing.”
  8. “Find housing and get rid of belongings as best you can ahead of time.”
  9. “Remember while you are going through it, he* is no longer your partner, ally, or trusted friend. Verify everything.

If you are in the thinking stage, you may be sitting on the fence between leaving and saving your marriage.

You are not alone and no, you don’t have a monopoly on feeling crazy. These women have been there, too. So, which one of these divorce survival strategies stands out to you as a must-do if you are serious, too, about breaking the cycle of living in the crazy zone?

  1. “Don’t think about it for years. If there are problems, put in the work to resolve them or get out.
  2. “Get counseling and focus on yourself first.
  3. “Participate in Christian marital counseling before filing.”

(*SAS note: A religious approach to counseling may or may not be what you seek. If not, consider discernment counseling to find out if there is any hope left in your marriage.)

  1. “Make sure you gave your all to save your marriage so you won’t regret the decision you made to divorce.”
  2. “Arm yourself with information. I think I waited so long to say I wanted a divorce because I didn’t think I could financially make the break or raise my child on my own. The pre-divorce class I did helped so much to give me the validation and confidence I needed. Podcasts helped, too!”
  3. “Think about what’s best for you and your life. You deserve that.”
  4. “Just rip the bandage off and leave. Don’t sit with the unhappiness.”

Ahh, the finances….

Women statistically suffer financially more than men during and after divorce.

This area may be uncomfortable for you, especially if you weren’t in charge of the finances or didn’t work outside the home.

But there’s a reason that 20% of the respondents focused their divorce survival strategies on finances.

Please pay close attention to this section. The antsier a piece of advice makes you feel, the more relevant it probably is.

  1. “Be savvy about the finances.”
  2. “Be on top of your financial situation.”
  3. “Sort out your finances carefully and thoroughly. Make lists and tick them off.”
  4. “Make sure you have the financial means to get a divorce.”
  5. “Have enough money to survive for a year.”
  6. “Prepare financially if you can. If you can mitigate daily financial pressure, you can work on recovering after divorce.”
  7. “Never lie about the finances.”

Take care of YOU and get support!

Women have a hard time thinking about themselves first, or at all. More often, we put everyone else (the kids, our spouse, the dog, the work projects, the volunteer commitments) in front of our own needs. And yet if we don’t take care of ourselves, we are of no value to those we love. This is why it’s so important to have support, to remind you that you matter and that you deserve to honor your one precious life. Sometimes we need our friends or support team to remind us of our own value or to give us a smack and, to paraphrase Cher in Moonstruck, say “Snap out of it!” Whether you’re standing on the other side of divorce (or in a marriage you worked to save), you’ll recognize the lifeline that supports you once you have it. You’ll find it makes all the difference in the world.

  1. “Spend as much money as you need to create a support team. It’s worth every penny.”
  2. “Identify your mentor or coach. And don’t talk to everyone about your situation. Not everyone deserves to hear the gritty details.”
  3. “Find a support community. My Pals (short for Palomas) are my lifeline.”

Understand your feelings will ebb and flow.

Grief is a natural part of divorce. But all your other emotions (guilt, anger, sadness, hope, rejection, smallness, etc) will run the gamut, too, and not always in a predictable order.

  1. “Prepare your heart.”
  2. “Prepare for loneliness.”
  3. “Be prepared for the emotional swings.”
  4. “Go with your gut feelings.”
  5. “You will find a way, because you deserve to be happy.”

Look for the big picture, and stay committed to your future.

Be realistic about the challenges of divorce. But, just as importantly, be confident in your ability to overcome them. You have encountered difficult times before. Remember? There’s a survivor in you, and behind her is a champion.

  1. “Divorce is a long, yet worthwhile process.”
  2. “Be strong. Have the big picture in mind, and time will heal you.”
  3. Be happy no matter the outcome. Second-guessing once it’s over will only stress you out.”
  4. “Make the pain of tearing your family apart worth it. Don’t squander your second chance. Don’t be afraid to make your life meaningful, and don’t be afraid to connect with people again.”

In the vibe of saving the best for last, there’s one final point sent by one of the women:

36. Bonus! You will survive!

(And, just in case you need a little energy behind that mantra, Gloria Gaynor has you covered.)

Have a piece of wisdom or a divorce survival strategy to share with the SAS tribe? We invite you to share what’s gotten you through tough times in the comment box below. Why? Because we know firsthand, amazing things happen when women share with and support each other. 

 

Notes

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

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

*SAS supports same-sex marriage. For the sake of clarity and simplicity, we may refer to your spouse as “he” in this article.

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, former print journalist and feature writer 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 compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

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.

Divorce Guilt

The 5 Sides to Divorce Guilt

The process of divorce is harrowing enough. It’s physically, emotionally, and financially draining. It’s life-altering for everyone involved. And it comes with a guaranteed grief cycle in its wake. So the idea of adding divorce guilt to the heap of undesirable feelings seems almost, well, unfair.

Guilt is the usual accompaniment to having done something wrong or bad. It’s the expected emotional reaction for someone with a conscience in the aftermath of going against his or her moral compass.

But guilt is actually multi-faceted and is sometimes warranted, sometimes not. It’s on the spectrum of negative emotions driven by thoughts.

Underlying this whole concept of guilt is a Freudian treasure chest of theories involving thought, behavior, upbringing, and even sexuality. Add religion to the mix, and guilt can become a Beast with a capital B.

So what exactly is divorce guilt?

And why does it exist even for those who have made the painful decision to divorce for the right reasons?

In cognitive theory, there are five types of guilt:

  1. Guilt for something you did.
  2. Guilt for something you didn’t do, but want to.
  3. Guilt for something you think you did.
  4. Guilt that you didn’t do enough to help someone.
  5. Guilt that you’re doing better than someone else.

And divorce guilt can bear shades of any or all of these types.

Take, for example, the first and most obvious: divorce guilt for something you did. 

1. Guilt for What You Did

Infidelity is likely the first trespass that comes to mind. Cheating on your spouse, regardless of how or why and regardless of how the infidelity is discovered, can cause irrevocable damage.

Even with agonizing remorse and repentance on the part of the unfaithful, you can’t undo infidelity.  Often, you cannot transcend it.

Knowing that your marriage has been lost because of a choice you made—regardless of your reasons—can leave you with profound guilt.

We expect people who “misbehave” to bear an appropriate amount of guilt and healthy shame.

But perpetual rumination by the guilty serves no good, even if the harm caused has led to an irreversible consequence like divorce.

There is, of course, always the choice to actively learn from the destructive behavior and work to change your contributing thoughts and behavior patterns going forward.

2. Guilt for Having Thoughts

You may even feel guilty for contemplating or fantasizing about things you’ve never followed through on doing.

What if you have lain awake at night, wondering what life would be like on your own or with someone else?

What if you fantasized about someone from work who makes you feel comfortable, heard, and alive?

Even if you’ve never acted on these notions, is it possible that they have drawn energy away from your marriage? Is it possible that your inner voice has actually been heard and has hurt your spouse or your marriage?

Again, rumination beyond insightful reflection can be counterproductive in the long term.

3. Guilt for What You Did NOT Do

One of the most frequent causes of divorce guilt falls under the category of “believing you didn’t do enough.”

You want to leave or already have, but you feel guilty because your marriage doesn’t have the “drama” to justify divorce.

This is always a difficult guilt to grapple with because it challenges your very sense of relationship, commitment, and doing your best.

You may compare your marriage story to that of others who have far more “obvious” reasons to leave. You’re not being abused or neglected. Your husband isn’t a bad man.

Shouldn’t you be counting your blessings? Aren’t you being ungrateful? Do you even “deserve” to get a divorce and move on with your life?

What about all that unsolicited advice from family and friends who tell you to count your blessings? Are you missing something here—being selfish, “just going through a phase,” not seeing what’s right in front of you?

What if he provides for you and your family? What if your life seemingly checks off all the white-picket-fence boxes?

You may wonder if this is all just part of being married and if it will happen again if you enter another relationship.

Or you may have wanted the divorce but wonder why you feel so sad. Is it because of guilt? Is it because you really want to stay but don’t know what to do to make things better?

What if he left you? What if he was unfaithful at some point? Why on earth would you feel guilty?

And yet, maybe you do. Maybe there is a nagging realization beneath your hurt that says, “There were signs. I had an opportunity to work on things with him. And I had things I could have changed, but I didn’t. I missed the opportunity. And now look….”

4. Survivor’s Guilt

You may also feel guilt because you were the one who pushed for the marriage, and now you want out. Was your husband right all along about wanting to wait? Should you have waited?

And what if you’re the one who moves on more quickly and easily or who has more financial success after the divorce? This is a form of “survivor’s guilt” that can tug at your heart, especially if you genuinely want your ex to be happy.

5. Parental Guilt

There is, of course, one form of divorce guilt that is likely to affect both you and your (soon to be?) Ex: guilt over the children.

They didn’t ask for this. They didn’t cause this (even though children often believe they did and end up suffering their own form of “divorce guilt”).

They’re innocent bystanders—defenseless, voiceless, penniless, and essentially powerless.

Guilt over children can plague you for years to come. And children can help perpetuate it in an effort to manipulate or blame their parents.

So how do you deal with, let alone mitigate, that understandable form of divorce guilt?

How do you stop the nagging questions, “Should I have stayed for the kids? Will they be damaged by the divorce? And will they be okay without both parents around? Will they blame me for all the changes in their lives?”

The choice you both have, of course, is how you navigate your divorce and your lives after it’s over.

You can go at it like The War of the Roses. Or you can approach it like two people whose primary role in life is that of parents.

You can set your children up for success and happiness. You can help them see the hope in their future.

And you do that by being mature in your handling of the divorce, even when things get tedious or confrontational. You lead with your children’s welfare and highest good.

And you draw into your circle of professionals those who will prioritize your children as part of your divorce recovery.

Divorce Recovery

Divorce is a rending experience. But the space created by the brokenness can be seen and used as an opportunity for growth and stronger connections.

Buried at the root of guilt is a lifetime of built-in thoughts: “I’m not worthy. I don’t deserve (fill in the blank). I am responsible for everyone’s happiness. If something goes wrong, it’s my fault. I shouldn’t feel (fill in the blank).”

Because the emotion of guilt is a spur of the thought process, dealing with it effectively involves dealing with your thoughts. The enlightenment of your thoughts will ultimately light the way to your future by releasing the guilt of the past. Working with a divorce coach and therapist can greatly help with these feelings.

 

If you are considering or dealing with divorce, or recreating your life in its afterward, 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.”

Life after divorce

Life After Divorce: Finding My Footing in Year One

I recently handed in my resignation letter for a job I’d had for only three months. It was a good company but the type of work, the hours, and the pay didn’t suit me. My closest friends expressed tentative support. I knew they were wondering: “Are you sure you know what you are doing? It’s the middle of the pandemic; you have obligations and no husband to support you.” I was rebuilding my life after divorce.

I knew what I was doing: I was listening to myself and following my needs. Also, I was trusting my ability to find a job that is worth my effort. I learned from going through a divorce to follow my heart.

Life After Divorce

It’s been a year since I got my final divorce document. I initiated the end of my 17-year-long marriage after I lost hope to repair it. For many years I was unhappy. Things looked fine on the outside: we had two children, a dog, and a beautiful old apartment in the city center. But I lacked the support that I needed, as well as respect and trust. With age, my husband grew more short-tempered, abusive, and jealous of my success and ambitions. I contributed to our growing apart too, fantasizing that some better man would come and save me, or that I would learn some magic trick at a women’s club that would repair my marriage. My divorce decision came as I lost hope of improving things. I also lost hope of being saved.

As I divorced, I continued to fantasize. I imagined an amicable agreement with co-parenting, staying friends, and dividing the assets fairly. Unfortunately, I had to say goodbye to that fantasy as well.

Gaining Perspective and Distance

The further from divorce I get, the more analysis I do, and different things look important. Currently, I would outline three things that I didn’t expect that are particularly hard to digest. Firstly, separating from an abuser didn’t end the abuse in my life after divorce, as that continued through our lingering communication. The Ex was open with his attitude: you decided on the divorce, now you face the consequences. He insisted I was solely responsible for the break-up and he wanted to get back at me.

Secondly, my eldest son decided to stay with his Father. I don’t see as much of him as I would like. I am learning to live with that, accepting my half-empty nest. But it still hurts.

Thirdly, I didn’t get the fair division of assets. My Ex is living in our apartment with our son in the process of attempting to sell at a very high price. I can’t afford to buy him out and he can’t buy out my half. Even a court can’t order us to sell, so this “sale” could go on for years. Doubly annoying is that it is not common knowledge among my circle of friends how unprotected our rights are. Most people assume and say that I am just not trying hard enough to sort the apartment issue out. Some even see my Ex’s resistance to sell the flat as charming, assuming that it is his way of getting back together with me.

When Trouble Comes — Open the Gates

When the Coronavirus outbreak happened, I found myself with no home, a broken family, and no job. In Russia, there is a saying: “When trouble comes — open the gates.” It implies that trouble never comes alone but accompanied by other things. Since divorce is a major shift in life, it rarely constitutes the only change.

Blessings in Disguise

The lockdown turned out to be a blessing in disguise that allowed me to cocoon. I came to stay and isolate myself with my parents in their countryside home. My parents didn’t ask questions and didn’t offer advice, and I was grateful. I realize how fortunate I am to have parents who welcomed me to live with them.

I am an extrovert by nature. I am friendly, sociable, and feel the need to discuss everything that happens to me with girlfriends. I also used to travel a lot for work and go out often. In my life after the divorce, I turned into a recluse. Content in my own company, I relived recent events while inwardly digesting my emotions. When summer came, I found comfort in gardening. Clad in gardening gloves and crouching between shrubs, I let my anger out with the productive physical work of cutting or sowing.

In sadder times, I allowed tears to run free without being noticed and interrogated. I didn’t need to spend energy on a job, I didn’t need to look good for an event to attend, and I didn’t need to explain to my girlfriends the status of my negotiations with the Ex. I painted, watched comforting movies, and started to learn German. I was on a power-saving mode that was crucial. I called it cocooning.

Listen to Others with Shared Experiences

I read and listened a lot about divorce. It was good to learn that I was not alone. One lady in the U.S. shared three tips that helped her survive her divorce: good anti-depressants, a great lawyer, and a job. She was a stay-at-home Mom. Getting a job allowed her to change the scenery and stop wallowing in self-pity. Taking her tips as an example, I formulated my own trio. Here’s what helped me survive and heal: therapy, cocooning, and learning to let go.

I had to let go of the idea of a happy married life with my Ex. I had to let go of the image of our full family. I let go of a plan to stay friends with my children’s Dad. I had to let go of my eldest son as my little boy. As a consolation, I am developing rare closeness with my youngest son. I had to say goodbye to some friends and even therapists when their advice was more hurtful than helpful. I am letting go of the idea that the property would be divided easily. I have to let go of my old self, a more naïve dreamy version of me who placed much emphasis on romantic love and dreamt of being saved to live happily ever after.

Healing through Technology

For me, technology offered an unexpected helping hand in letting go. Around the first anniversary of my divorce, I got a notice from Google demanding that I either delete or buy additional space for e-mails and photos. I preferred to delete it. It was an emotional and lengthy exercise. I started with e-mails, reliving projects that I was previously involved in. Soon, I was amazed and proud of how much I had accomplished in life. And I was sad to see how many people are no longer part of my life or part of my profession.

Then I got to the photos. I revisited many precious moments of family trips, and of kids being small. I cried a lot. It was a hard choice what to delete and what to keep. I deleted the photos of my Ex in swimwear. And I deleted photos from his trips where — as I later learned — he went with other ladies. I kept all his photos with the kids — he is their father after all and nothing will change that. It is our family history. Analysis of old photos made me appreciate the closeness between my eldest son and his Dad.

Is this the same person? Asked Google showing me my ex-husband in 2005 and 2019. I looked close. The younger version looked naïve, timid, and had a full head of hair. He evoked memories and emotions. The later version was bald and had a strange crooked smile. I felt like saying “it is not the same person.” As I looked at myself in 2008 and 2020 I also wanted to say I am not the same person in my life after divorce.

Now with the 7 Gigabytes of free space on Google disk ready for new impressions, what are my next steps?

After Divorce: A new job, a new home, a new life partner?

Yes, maybe, not yet.

I want to find a job where I feel needed and financially secure. Sooner rather than later I would like to be social again, wear nice clothes, make-up, go to an old-fashioned theater production, and have a glass of champagne. I have a semi-secret goal to learn to speak publicly. It pulls and scares me. A well-paid job will allow me to rent an apartment and move out of my parents’ home.

I may start going out and dating if life gets back to normal, but I am in no hurry to get a partner. This is a surprise to me since I’ve been chasing the “in-love feeling” since puberty. Whereas the idea of having a stable partner feels appealing, I have no energy for butterflies in the stomach or late-night texts. Probably, I will need to learn new relationship-building skills to have a new partnership. Meanwhile, I am investing my time in building new relationships with my sons. All in good time.

 

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She has two teenage sons and a dog and is building a new happier life. You can reach out to her via e-mail for comment or discussion.

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

Relationship mistakes women make after divorce

3 Major Relationship Mistakes Women Make After Divorce

When it comes to dating in your new, independent life, you’ll want to steer clear of these relationship mistakes divorced women make time and time again.

If you have divorced or gone through the breakup of a long-term relationship, then you know your fears about moving forward. You worry you’ll attract the same kind of guy*, or that you’ll make those same old mistakes or slip into similar patterns that led to the tragic ending of your marriage. Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that love is not for you, or it’s just too much of a struggle to figure out how to start dating in this world of fast dating apps and instant connections.

You are not crazy, too old, or particularly deficient, nor are you undeserving—though these feelings are completely normal after a long-term relationship. If you are getting over your marriage ending, there is a serious stage of recovery here. But beware, it’s a stage that women often ignore or railroad through; if you ignore it, you can expect consequences similar to your last marriage. On the other hand, if you choose to do otherwise—that is, you choose to grow and heal:

then invite this stage into your life and with it, its accompanying flood of feelings. These feelings may or may not include … sadness, relief, grief, excitement, regret, fear, guilt, hope, emptiness, empathy, fatigue, self-doubt … or just fill in yours! Inviting in this stage is a choice.

And it’s the strong woman who chooses to invite the stage in, the kind of woman who realizes she’s got work to do on herself before she can show up whole and healed for somebody else.

Taking steps to heal and connect with yourself will also mean unpacking the baggage you were probably carrying to get through the divorce. Now is the time to find that key and unlock Pandora’s U-Haul. Our best advice is to focus on yourself before you look for someone else to fill the void.

But if you’ve been doing that, and you’d also like to have some fun, hey, you are your own boss! As you forge forward, we encourage you, we celebrate you, and we whisper in your ear: don’t set the bar too high. Let go of looking for your “soulmate,” and instead, go on a journey to meet others as you discover you, your most meaningful self.

Whether you’re dating, starting to dip your toes, or you can’t imagine doing it (but at the same time are just a wee bit curious), you should know that chances are you’ll feel the pull of these behaviors we discuss below. And you’ll want to avoid them so they don’t sabotage your prospects for staying true to you and meeting new people, making friends, or finding a lover or a lovely companion.


You might also be interested in … Dating After Divorce in 10 Steps


Here are the 3 major relationship mistakes women make after divorce.

  1. Your Way or the Highway

You did a lot of compromising in your marriage; you bent and flexed in multidimensional ways, so there may be a part of you now that says you will never compromise yourself again.

This rigidity might show up in your online dating profile when you say “no liars!” “no golfers” or “no lawyers.” When you put those things out to the universe you are revealing more about the baggage that burdens you than you are creating healthy filters. The message repels instead of attracts because it sounds like you’ve not offloaded Pandora’s Emotional Baggage U-Haul at all.

What really happens is that men who have it all together will recognize your baggage immediately. And those who are liars or otherwise will never recognize the negative traits you describe in themselves; so, they’re not avoiding you because of your boundaries, they’re avoiding you because you sound harsh. And no fun.

But what if you get beyond that dating app, and you actually find yourself in a relationship after divorce (it can happen), if you are leading with this story, that you’ve been lied to, or you distrust everything a man says, or you fundamentally loathe a part of them (their joy of playing golf or the way they earn a living) you are not showing up whole for this man. More importantly, you are not showing up whole for yourself. You are still living inside your wound.

The wound is not my fault.

But the healing is my responsibility

~ Marianne Williamson

It’s good to assert your value, to know your boundaries, but all relationships including friendships require an organic flow. If you want to meet someone truly magical it will show up in the dance of how you each give and take. Let go of your hard-edged parameters, and open yourself a bit to the gray zone of discovering each other’s edges and being flexible. Start fresh.

  1. Talking Endlessly About Your Ex

Nothing is more of a buzzkill than talking on and on about the Old Guy.

The Old Guy is no longer here, have you noticed? Instead, in front of you is someone new, someone who has never heard your story before.

Now that you are starting to take apart your story and look at it from the inside out, how do you want to tell it? Do you even need to tell it? What about being in the moment, present to what is happening around you, what nature is doing, what the light is like, what your little eye spies through Zoom in the background, or what the person you are looking at is wearing? Did you catch a glimpse of a tattoo on his forearm? You never dated a man in your entire life with a tattoo on his forearm. Let your past partner go. Stay open, curious. Start fresh.

Save the venting, the rehashing, the self-justifying, the explaining, the unloading (the most common relationship slips and mistakes women make after divorce) for a safe place where you will not be judged. Instead, consider this an audition for a mysterious new role. By the way, a safe place to unload feelings about your Ex would be with your girlfriends or on your therapist’s office. Only connect with your coach if you want to actually learn from the feelings and take action around them.

  1. Introducing Your New Beau Too Soon and Moving in Together

Ask yourself, are you happy alone even without a man in your life? If the answer is yes, then you are relationship material. You can seriously consider being available to someone else besides yourself.

If you’ve dated only one person after your marriage, and you’re already moved in together, what are you, seventeen? Did you learn nothing from your past story? We say this in jest, mildly. But we know it’s easy to get sucked into the comfort of filling the void. But did you answer the question? Are you filling the loneliness—or the fear of being alone—with another person?

Because that’s what a lot of men do post-divorce. They meet someone right away and get married. Often, they don’t hit pause; they find someone else and they plug and play. We know that sounds callous, but it’s also utterly understandable, because certainly our society encourages coupledom. Conventional society is comfortable with convention. But for you, you who have jumped out of the box, you must know moving in with your beau right after divorce is denying your most precious time to actually discover yourself?

A lot of women realize, once divorced, they’ve never truly been independent as an adult before. And that when it gets down to it, they don’t really know who their adult selves are.

This is A-Okay with us! Because we know this is where the juice is—and “Who Am I?” is appropriate for this part of your recovery. You aren’t supposed to know who you are right now. That’s the rub, you are supposed to explore.

Unfortunately, for those who partner up right after divorce, what we (often) see happening is that women end up feeling stuck—again—or having not finished the discovery and experiential stage of recovery. They feel tension, a lack of authenticity, because they don’t know what they really want. But looking out the window, they are intrigued by that good-looking neighbor down the street.

Moving in together too soon is especially tough if you have children. No one needs to tell you that your children have been through a lot and you don’t want to introduce more instability, unknowns, or potential loss in their life. You don’t want them to bond with someone you are not sure about. And you know why you are not sure about him? Because you are not sure about yourself.

So slow down on shacking up.

Instead, wallow, and yes, savor this stage you are in. You’ve been through divorce. You never thought you’d be in this place—post-divorce, single—in your life, but here you are, and you’ve survived. Be kind to yourself by being mindful of your commitment to yourself, that you deserve time and space to pick yourself up and look around. You are exploring. There are so many things to uncover and meet anew. New people will be just one of your best surprises. Be conscious, be awake, and take your time.

 

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; all of this sent discreetly to your inbox.  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 a “he.”

Divorce effects on children by Unsplash

Divorce Effects on Children

When considering the consequences of divorce, effects on children are perhaps the most impactful and far-reaching. Children are the innocent victims—the bystanders who get swept into the aftermath of a decision they had no say in. And, while some children rebound on the merits of inherent resilience, others struggle greatly, even into adulthood.

Divorce is never easy. It comes at a high cost across the board—emotionally, financially, socially, physically. Spouses are so focused on what is driving their own discontent and how to assuage or escape it that children often become collateral damage. Everything, it seems, is about whether, when, and how to divorce. Effects on children are too often an afterthought, dealt with (if at all) after the divorce is all said and done.

The big question often explored more in hindsight than at the moment is whether staying together is better at all costs.

How Parental Conflict Harms Children

The unequivocal consensus among psychological experts is that the single most important factor that harms children of divorce is continual parental conflict. Children become damaged when parents fight in front of them, over them, and through them. It literally changes who they are and how they process the world.

The challenge in deciding whether to divorce comes when the homefront is so contentious that constant conflict is a given. In these cases, children do not fare better for having their parents stay together.

For example, a report by Pew Social Trends explains that, while children of divorce are more inclined to one day divorce, conflict is a huge influencer. It turns out that children have a better chance at marital success if their high-conflict parents divorced.

The point is, the immersion in constant conflict does the most damage.

But, even when choosing the better of two bad choices, there is no denying the divorce effects on children. And “high conflict” can follow and damage children even after the divorce.

It should come as no surprise that the first year or two after a divorce are the toughest on children. Imagine that your world is thrown off its axis. Imagine the constancy of even the simplest, most predictable components of your life being tossed into the darkness of chaos, change, and insecurity.

Now imagine having no say in how you navigate that darkness. You don’t know how you got here. You don’t know how to get out. And you don’t know how to recognize, let alone deal with, all you are feeling.

Young Children and the Effects of Divorce

Another “no surprise” is that children of different ages process divorce differently. And the far-reaching effects of divorce, such as high-risk behaviors, are influenced by a child’s age at the time of his/her parents’ divorce.

Young children, for example, may have difficulty processing the idea of having two homes and having to go between them. They may also wonder if their parents will stop loving them, just as their parents have stopped loving one another. They haven’t yet developed the cognitive ability to separate the two concepts.

In an effort to make sense of their world, grade school children may start looking for a place to lay blame. And too often that blame turns inward to themselves. Was this my fault? Are Mommy and Daddy mad at me for something I did?

Teenagers and the Effects of Divorce

Teenagers, on the other hand, have a lot more cognitive development under their belts. But they still have a lot of flux in their emotional development and expression. They are more inclined to feel stressed, angry, and resentful and to place blame on one or both parents.

The successful transition for children of any age really pivots on the behavior and choices of the parents.

Swearing there is a place in Hell for your Ex is akin to sending the same message to your children. They are, don’t forget, a blend of both of you. And, when you hate the other parent in any capacity, your children will subconsciously assume you hate the same in them.

And that unthinkable, albeit unintended, judgment upon a child is life-altering. It destroys their self-esteem and sets them up for mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and extreme emotional sensitivity.

It also lays the groundwork for loyalty conflict and cognitive dissonance. When parents fight in front of or through their kids, they impose an unspoken demand for the children to take sides. They may even divide the children in their loyalties, as if the children were material assets.

Some children are able to detach from the fighting and declare neutrality. But others internalize it. And the mental state of trying to hold two incompatible, contradictory thoughts at once becomes painful and unsustainable.

In an effort to alleviate the discomfort of cognitive dissonance, children will often “choose” one parent over the other. The parental alienation of the other parent has no justification. But the mind simply can’t survive that kind of mental conflict.

Far better to learn how to co-parent. If you absolutely hate your ex, you can still ensure that your children know you love that part of them that came from the other parent. And, by committing to conflict-free parenting post-divorce, you will give them the greatest chance of exercising their resilience.

Signs that Divorce and Conflict are Affecting Your Child

There are so many divorce effects on children, each worthy of and warranting its own spotlight. But here are some additional effects to keep in mind and look for as you navigate your own (potential) divorce:

  • Increased behavioral problems, especially in homes and divorces with high conflict.
  • Decreased interest in social activity. Children of divorce are more likely to feel insecure and alone in their experience and may therefore isolate.
  • Difficulty adapting to change. Even the most amicable, cooperative divorces involve change for everyone. But most involve a lot of uncomfortable change—residential moves, financial hardship, school changes, remarriages, and step-/blended families, etc.
  • Destructive and risky behavior like alcohol/drug use and sexual activity.
  • Decreased academic performance. Constantly changing family dynamics understandably leave children confused and distracted, making it difficult for them to concentrate on studies.
  • Increased health problems. Mental health issues include anxiety disorder, depressive disorder, anger issues, and feelings of overwhelming stress, pressure, and guilt. The internalization of symptoms can lead to somatic disorder, which may present as sleep problems, headaches, stomachaches, and tension. This somatic symptom disorder may become especially evident if parental conflict is high at the “switching hour” when children go from one parent to the other.
  • Decreased faith in marriage and family, and therefore an increased risk of divorce later in life.

The responsibility of parenthood assumes a prioritization of the child over the parent. But, when high conflict, abuse, or addiction occurs in the home, everyone gets lost in the fight for emotional (and sometimes physical) survival.

Tragically, parents often return to emotional childhood themselves. And, if they don’t learn conflict-free parenting post-divorce, they will set up a history that is destined to repeat itself.

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

 

*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, former print journalist and feature writer 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 compelling content and the liberty to write about interesting contributors and innovative ideas. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

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.

 

Woman on a train

Table for One: My First Trip as a Single Woman

There comes a treacherous time when we stop feeling okay — divorced. Only yesterday, all seemed fine. We thought we were healed for the simplest of reasons: we’ve not been thinking (every minute) about our Ex. But at SAS, our divorce coaching consultancy, we know this stage too well — we call it “Stage 3”. And it’s a confusing, tricky time, colored by all sorts of emotions, but in particular, grief. We don’t necessarily miss our Ex, but little by little, or all of a sudden, we start to learn we are missing familiar patterns, beloved or taken for granted rituals, certain routines, or the “good old times” that bound us together. In this phase, it’s normal to be triggered, to suddenly feel an awful emptiness, a sadness, or a knockdown depression as we come to terms with realizing our life is never going to be like that again. In fact, our new life may seem completely NOT what we wanted.

I was triggered by the need to plan the summer vacation

In the past, like many families, mine got together for a special trip each summer. It was always my (now) Ex-husband, our two sons and me. There were many difficult, turbulent times in our marriage, but somehow, the summer vacation was a sacred time when we put differences aside and we agreed.

My Ex and I planned it all out in advance — together. Typically, we researched options separately, and together, we discussed the finer details of our potential trips. We talked so much about these potential trips, that oftentimes it felt like we took 10 vacations each summer, not one! Each one of them always had something interesting for the adults and something fun built in for the kids. When we finally began the trip, too, we were together in a different way than in our marriage. We calculated our budgets, we hustled around in rented cars, we struggled to ask for directions in a foreign language, we made sense of unknown parking machines, we negotiated toll roads, ATMs, and much more. We overcame these difficulties, these challenges, and savored the rewards, exotic beaches and startling new, wonderful food.

I have been divorced since January 2020

Now, it’s my first summer alone as a single woman, and it’s dawned on me that I don’t know how to begin vacation-planning as a divorcee.

I keep asking myself: can summer be anything else but a shared vacation with my children and their father?

So many aspects of this trip planning I assume I must now do solo — and they are untrodden territory. How do you embark on this first trip as a single woman? How do you plan for it? Whom do you share the anticipation with? What about the actual experience of it? The highs, the lows? How do you deal with foreign ATMs or quick currency exchanges? Whom do you discuss what kind of pizza to order? Who’s going to put the aloe on your back when you get sunburnt? Who will bail you out if the bank card gets blocked, or if you run out of cash? How do you rent a car on your own?

I don’t think I’ve ever booked a single room for vacation. For a business trip — yes. But not for a vacation. Is it even possible to have a single room? How do you choose food from a menu in a restaurant if you are alone? Whom do you share plates with? Is that, too, out the window with the divorce? All those little niceties or ways of being in my old life, must I leave them behind, too?
These questions may sound ridiculous to someone who has traveled alone. But they are not stupid for many women who saw their summer vacations as a rare time that the family floated in another realm, where Papa and Mama was more relaxed away from the hustle of their jobs. There was something heavenly about it — and that man who showed up as my husband, and the woman I could be if only for a couple of weeks a year.

Family Vacations are a BIG THING

The importance of family trips is not to be discounted, I realize! It’s a shared family experience that for many is the best time of the year. These vacations are so important that I’ve heard of people who have divorced – amicably – and who continue to travel together on family trips. Actress Mayim Bialik, famous for her role as Amy Farah Fowler in “The Big Bang Theory”, talks of her “Divorced Family Vacation” and says, “There are things in life that should be experienced as a family because of their importance and significance.”

As I write this, my Ex, for example, is boarding a plane with our younger son and my Ex’s pregnant sister. I can fully understand his desire to replicate a family unit as they embark on their summer vacation.

What do I choose to do? What can I do? When it’s my turn to travel with our two sons, should I organize friends to join us so we feel like a love-in, hippie family? Should I travel with a group of friends, stay in hostels and pretend we are students? (Maybe not in the time of COVID, but what about the future?) Do I volunteer my services somewhere and see who turns up on my path? Should I try to identify – amid my peers or friends — another divorced woman, and travel with her? Do I go solo, and when there, invite some random adults I meet on the beach to join me for at least a couple of dinners?

I am already feeling lonely, scared, and even embarrassed about my singledom. I am imagining how wrong it will feel to be going into a seaside restaurant and admit that I am one, yes, the only person. (“No, I am not waiting for somebody else. Please seat me fast so nobody sees.”) It will feel awkward asking for a half plate of their famous seafood starter, or asking for a half-bottle of wine. (Maybe, I should order a full bottle and take it back to my room?) Will I need to have a book to read and hide behind? Or do I put on my headphones so I don’t look so lonely and wretched?

The anxiety of not having the same summer vacation I’ve had for the past 17 years of my marriage was getting the best of me, until it stopped. Why? Because I looked honestly at my past. As I did, I began to feel grateful for the good things, those summer vacations, at the same time, I began to recognize it was time to own the bad times and say goodbye to them.

Below is my list of lovely things I am grateful for:

1) I was happy when my Ex-husband and I shared planning, anticipating and living through travel experiences as a couple

2) I loved spending time with the kids during these vacations, and giving them my full attention as opposed to being overwhelmed by my corporate job

3) I appreciated exploring new unknown places for me, like amazing Mediterranean resorts

4) I appreciated the convenience factor that came with sharing expenses and shared problem-solving

Next comes the list of things I will not miss and my takeaway thoughts:

1) In all honesty, I was the one who planned most of the trips, and had to lobby hard to get them. My Ex “graciously” accepted my plans always — but made sure I understood that he was doing me a favor by agreeing to them. Take away: I don’t mind planning, but I want to be appreciated for my efforts and ideas

2) Whereas we always started talking about the vacations months in advance, we never actually had the trips planned or paid for in advance. My Ex always had job-related uncertainties. Takeaway: Maybe he even pretended to have uncertainties to feel more important and influential?

3) We often had to compromise … on the destinations, the budget, and the length of stay in each place. My Ex-husband had his pet hates of some places that I loved and he would never spend more than 3 nights in one spot. Takeaway: I prefer to have more time to fall in love with a place

Doing this exercise with myself was in no means intended to expose my Ex-husband as evil or bad, but rather to show me, and divorcing and divorced ladies, that there are always good and bad things about a marriage. It was the good that kept us together for so long probably. But while I may miss the good things, I am very happy to let go of the bad ones. Seeing the pros and cons of our romanticized vacations, brought me back from daydreaming to reality. This in turn allows me to go forward with my eyes open.

After I listed the good and bad things about the trips with my Ex, I realized more things that I can’t wait to share …

1) Reflecting back I realize a lot of beautiful things have slipped by into history. There are many precious things that are no more — not because of a divorce — but because of life itself. For instance, there will no longer be vacations with my small babies or toddlers, or even young kids, because the kids have grown up — not because we divorced as their parents — but because of the fleetingness of life itself, and change

2) Looking back at the wonderful moments that I love and miss — the atmosphere, the warmth, the laughter, the smell of lavender, and the tickle of chilled sparkling wine —I ask myself, how much of this was my own making? For instance, our trips to France were fabulous. And I was the one who planned them in precise detail and paid for half. I was the one who spoke French and planned the routes and ordered in the restaurants. So maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to organize more lovely trips again?

3) I guess my new goal is to grow to love my own company on a vacation as much as I believe I loved my Ex-husband’s

As I wait here in Moscow for international borders to open up again, I dream of my first trip as a single woman. What will it be like? Will I go on my own — to breathe in the air this time as my own person? Or will I take the kids to nurture our closeness in this new world we find ourselves in?

A new and appealing thought is to have a solo trip

I think I would like to go somewhere familiar and safe. I will stay in one or two separate places, not more, to give myself time for tranquility and to truly enjoy the place. I will not rent a car to save myself the money, the hassle of finding one, or the ink used on the expected parking tickets. Instead, I will travel by train, which I’ve always loved. The train is a Zen way to embrace life and look out the window in a very ladylike, film-noir fashion.

If I go alone, I can spend as much time shopping and window shopping as I like. I can go into any restaurant I like, dress up, or on the contrary, eat a takeaway sandwich while sitting on a pier. I can order a tuna pizza which I’ve always liked but which my Ex always hated. Heck, I can even take my watercolors on the trip and paint. I can have long, lazy breakfasts and take a bus to the village market. I can talk to people at the next table and appreciate the flirtations of the waiters.

In the evening, I can throw on a long floaty dress and comfortable flat sandals. With the most possible grace and self-respect, I can hold my head high. I imagine myself walking into a restaurant and asking for a table — for one. I will nibble half a dozen oysters as I consider the small but intriguing wine selection. And when asked, I will say without hesitation, “Yes, you can take away the other place setting. No one will be joining me tonight.”

 

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 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.