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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.”

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.


Check out, “14 Ways I am Going to Get OVER My Ex.”


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 to move past the grief of divorce. 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 help you heal and learn all the ways to make savvy and sustainable new choices.

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…


Commit to steps each day. Read our powerful, “46 Steps to Your Divorce Recovery: A Definition and A Guide.”

 


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, 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 

 

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

How to 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.

 

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 

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, 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 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.”