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Healing a broken heart

Healing a Broken Heart and Moving On

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So…

We Grieve

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

We Take Responsibility for Our Own Behavior

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

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

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

Forgive — and Let It All Go

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

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

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

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

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

And speaking of self-transformation…

Find Your Joy

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

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

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

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

 

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

Gray divorce

What Does a Gray Divorce Mean for You?

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

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

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

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

The True Costs of “Gray Divorce”

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

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

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

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

Social Costs of Gray Divorce

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

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

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

Society’s Unrealistic Beauty Standards

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


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


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

Financial Security in Gray Divorce

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

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

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

Notes

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

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you, and your future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

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

How to file for divorce during uncertain times

How to File for Divorce During Uncertainty

Divorce is an obstacle course of flaming hoops, even under the simplest and most amicable conditions. But knowing how to file for divorce when you’re still uncertain is its own form of uncertainty.

There’s so much to figure out. Do you stay and work it out when you’re unhappy and unmotivated? Should you start planning for divorce but stay quiet about it? Do you tell your spouse you want a divorce before doing anything?

Or do you take matters into your own hands and start proceedings?

And what about all the chaos and uncertainty created by the coronavirus pandemic?

Sheltering in place can certainly foster much needed family and relationship time. But it can also confirm stirring doubts if a marriage is unhappy or unhealthy.

Even if you know that divorce is the way you have to go, the circumstances of this once-in-a-lifetime pandemic fuel their own doubts.

And where do you even start? Divorce is complicated enough without having limited access to necessary resources and agencies.

There’s something about certainty that provides clarity. It’s as if the path ahead clears itself in anticipation of your next move. You’ve decided. You’re focused. You’re driven.

But permanent, life-changing decisions like divorce are rarely so clear-cut.

You may be overthinking whether to leave your husband. Perhaps you’re terrified of the loss of financial security, social approval, and custody of your children. Maybe you’re stuck remembering the good times, unsure of how to move on.

You may be determined to go through with a divorce, but the current circumstances brought on by COVID raise new questions and concerns.

For example, many courts and legal services were closed in the early months of the pandemic. Even those that have reopened may be playing catch-up for a long time. Then there’s the uncertainty of whether the courts and legal services will remain open as the number of COVID cases begin rising again. You will have to think about how that could affect the timing of your divorce and your access to needed services.

Additionally, you or your spouse may have lost your source of income. Your investments may have taken a big hit, especially if you have had to rely on them for survival. Any changes in employment and finances during this time could make your settlement more difficult to negotiate.

Even the pragmatic issue of physical separation could prove problematic. Most realtors and landlords have resorted to virtual property tours to avoid in-person contact, potentially making a home search more difficult.

How could your kids be affected by a divorce or physical move at this time?

If you have children, you know that schooling has become more complicated, even from school to school. Some have returned to in-person attendance, some are virtual, and some are a blend of the two.

There are countless reasons to feel overwhelmed with uncertainty at a time like this. And that overwhelming feeling can make it difficult to focus on learning how to file for divorce if and when you decide to do so.

The less confusion and fear you have about the process itself, the more clarity and security you will have about your decision.

Just as importantly, that clarity will keep you from making mistakes that could cost you heartache and money now and down the road.

As tempting as it is to be easily triggered and reactive, wisdom would advise you to convert that energy into making a plan.

Educate yourself on the various stages of divorce and what it takes to dot your i’s and cross your t’s. And know the consequences if you overlook something.

It’s important to know upfront that every state has different laws. From residency requirements within your county and state to waiting periods, every state has its own divorce process.

Here is an overview of the divorce process, regardless of what state you’re in. This can serve as an outline for guiding your questions and helping you get educated and prepared.

  1. Prepare a divorce petition. 

One spouse has to file for divorce, which starts with a divorce petition.

Every state provides couples the option of filing a no-fault divorce, which can make an uncontested divorce much simpler (and less expensive).

  1. File the divorce petition.

The petition for termination of marriage must be filed with the correct court within your district.

  1. Ask for temporary orders if necessary. 

Perhaps the required waiting period isn’t possible for you. You may need a court order to secure child custody, child support, and spousal support.

Other temporary orders include status quo orders, temporary property restraining orders, and restraining orders.

Depending on your situation, you should become educated on all of these orders and their possible necessity in your divorce.

  1. Serve your spouse with the appropriate documentation. 

There are laws governing the serving of divorce papers and reporting it to the court. There can also be consequences for not following the required procedures and deadlines.

  1. The recipient files a response. 

The recipient response, whether agreement or contest, must also be filed within a certain amount of time.

  1. Negotiate a settlement. 

Obviously, your divorce will go much more smoothly if you and your spouse can negotiate your own terms. Division of assets, child custody, and support, alimony (if applicable)—the list is long and should be thought out in detail.

Even if you and your spouse are able to be agreeable, you would still be wise to seek professional guidance for this stage.

  1. The hearing. 

Depending on your and your spouse’s ability to work agreeably, you could have either an uncontested hearing or a trial.

  1. The final judgment. 

Just what it sounds like, this final step is the first step to your new life. It’s also the point at which you will want to feel secure that you have done everything right leading up to it.

If all of this sounds daunting, know that your feelings are only natural. You’re considering the end of a marriage and a change in life for your entire family.

But now is the time to channel that consternation into preparedness. You’re seeking clarity so you know your options and can best prepare for and protect your future.

Learning how to file for divorce when there is so much uncertainty will be easier if you surround yourself with experts knowledgeable about the process.

Clarity comes from knowledge. And there are plenty of resources with the knowledge you will need to navigate this life-changing process.

You may not have a clue how to get started, but you can build a trustworthy team to guide you.

A divorce coach, for example, can serve as the hub of your wheel, directing you through both pragmatic and emotional decisions.

A financial expert can help make sense of your marital finances and lay the groundwork for an equitable settlement and a plan for your future.

And a good family law attorney that specializes in divorce will provide sound legal guidance and walk you through the legal process.

Here are some tips for how to file for divorce when you’re feeling uncertain.

  • Grab a journal.

Give it a hope-filled title if that will inspire you to make it your constant companion. The important thing is that you get used to documenting… everything.

You don’t have to be on the verge of the War of the Roses to justify documenting everything that is or could be relevant to a divorce.

This journal is your private, dedicated space for logging questions to ask a divorce attorney, answers, research, resources, events, conversations, and concerns.

When you have this vital information safely written where you can easily access it, you can let go of some anxiety. You will also be prepared for discussions with lawyers and other consultants.

  • Get organized.

Now is the time to start collecting and organizing copies of all information that could affect your settlement and therefore your future.

This is also one of the first vital steps if you’re asking, What should I do to leave my husband? 

In the context of fear and uncertainty, organization is incredibly clarifying and empowering.

Buy an accordion folder and organize all your documents. Make copies of any documents that pertain to both of you.

If you have been in the dark regarding your marital finances, be sure to get access to all relevant information. Investments, accounts, retirement (401(k), IRA), life insurance, social security, past taxes, children’s records (medical, education), mortgage and home expenses, etc.—it all matters.

  • Consider hiring a divorce coach.  

According to the American Bar Association, “Divorce coaching is a flexible, goal-oriented process designed to support, motivate, and guide people going through a divorce to help them make the best possible decisions for their future, based on their particular interests, needs, and concerns.”

The more upheaval and uncertainty you feel as you look to the possibility of divorce, the more essential a divorce coach becomes.

An experienced divorce coach will be able to advise you as to whether a traditional, pro se, mediated, or collaborative divorce is best for you. And she can also help with aspects of the process that an attorney can’t or won’t.

From pre-divorce to post-divorce, a divorce coach can be your link to sanity and hope. Some coaches offer not only private coaching, but educational, divorce support groups, which can lessen the expense of working with a coach and give you a much-needed community so you feel less weird, less alone.

  • Talk to an accountant or financial advisor.

Find someone who can do a thorough analysis of your financial situation and help you prepare for the future.

Women commonly enter into a life of lowered income post-divorce, so they need prudent guidance in forecasting their situation and future needs.

The longer you have been married and the more complex your marital finances, the more important it is to have expertise on your side.

  • Find the right lawyer. 

Whether or not you want to do your divorce on your own, at least consult with a family law attorney. Have your questions and concerns listed in your journal and bring your portfolio of documents.


If you are wondering what else you can do BEFORE you file, read our “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce”


Being organized and prepared will not only help with legal expenses but will help you to hear the answers more effectively.

  • Update your resume and start researching employment. 

Whether you have been actively employed or have been out of the workforce raising kids, this is the time to look ahead.

Update your resume, polish up your relevant skills, and do some research on the job market, even if you currently work.

If you have lost work during the pandemic, you may find that your options are limited. Or you may be forced to change the way you work.

Working from home, for example, may not be as simple as it sounds if you’re starting divorce proceedings.

Entering the job market during the cultural uncertainty of COVID could be challenging. It’s therefore important that you have a firm grasp on your gifts and skills and are prepared to be creative in their use.

You may not have had to worry about things like health insurance and retirement funds in the past. But now you could be on your own without those safety nets.

  • Get your credit in good shape. 

Know where your credit stands. Get a copy of your credit report and review it before sharing concerns with your accountant.

You may have credit issues tied to your spouse. And you may have debts accrued by your spouse but reflecting on you.

It’s imperative that you know where you stand and how to protect your credit going forward. You will need good credit to secure essentials like housing and credit cards in your name.

Now is the time to work on rebuilding credit in your name, even if you simply start with a secured credit card.

  • Don’t jeopardize the outcome.

Simply put, mind your p’s and q’s. Don’t do anything that could give your spouse ammunition to use against you in your divorce.

Don’t start dating. Avoid making large or unnecessary purchases. Don’t start pitting your kids against their father. And don’t unilaterally change your parenting practices.

Knowing how to file for divorce during uncertainty starts with a focus on achieving clarity.

Just because you research the divorce process and prepare yourself for the possibility doesn’t mean you’ve signed off on a divorce.

It simply means you will step confidently and wisely into your future if you do decide to end your marriage.

 

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusion afterward. 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.

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

 

What to do with a cheating spouse

What to Do with Your Cheating Spouse

What do you do with your cheating spouse?

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

What else helps?

Laughter.

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

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

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

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

Managing Your Emotional Reactions to Cheating

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

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

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

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

Own Your Side of the Road

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

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

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

Stay or Go

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


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

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


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

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

Embracing the Hill

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

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and rebuilding their lives afterward. Schedule your FREE 15-minute consultation with SAS. Tell us confidentially what’s going on, and we’ll give you black & white feedback, resources, and suggestions for your next steps.

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

I wanted the divorce. Why am I so sad?

I Wanted the Divorce. Why Am I So Sad?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Slow Process of Rewiring the Brain

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

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

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

Dopamine and the Brain’s Reward Center

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

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

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

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

 

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

Resources

Whether you are navigating the experience or the aftermath of divorce — one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to NOT DO IT ALONE. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of reinvention. If you are a divorced woman still reverberating from your journey, you are invited to consider Paloma’s Group, our powerful, virtual group coaching program for women seeking best practices, community and accountability for starting over. Schedule your quick interview and ask your questions now.

 

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.

 

What you should never say to a divorced woman

What You Should Never Say to a Divorced Woman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Stop Complaining — It Was Your Decision!”

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

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

Being Ignored

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

Sex with Strangers

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

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

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

Focusing on the Self

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

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

“Just Deal With It!”

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

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

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

Other unhelpful comments about divorce:

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

What’s generally wrong with the comments we get?

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

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

Did I like any comments? Yes!

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

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

 

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

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

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

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.

 

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.