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divorced women

What All Divorced Women Have in Common

Years ago, when I was still shell-shocked from learning of my husband’s infidelity and angry that I had become a divorced woman, I went out to dinner with two friends. Both were divorced women, so we had that in common. But one was talking easily about co-hosting her son’s graduation party with her Ex and his* new wife—the woman he’d left her for.

She barely even rolled her eyes when she said his name!

I couldn’t believe it. “How can you stand to be in the same room with him?” I asked, thinking of my own Ex-husband and the knot of dread and anxiety I felt just seeing his name pop up on my phone.

“It’s been five years,” she said. “After a while, I stopped caring about the past. You’ll get there too.”

She said this casually, with so much assurance, that I felt I had to believe her. But how could I?

I couldn’t imagine a day when I could be civil to my Ex

And I considered this pretty normal. Certainly, my other girlfriends who were newly divorced weren’t planning parties with their Ex-husbands. Like me, their scars were too fresh. They were still reeling from divorce fallout that seemed unending: Sandy was constantly facing her Ex in court, while Roxanne’s Ex refused to see or speak to her for more than a year. Linda was grieving not just the loss of her husband but the loss of her best friend, with whom he had an affair. Katie, in her sixties, had given up her retirement plans and savings for her second husband only to be abandoned and forced to navigate the harsh realities of a grey divorce.

What I knew for sure was that my friends and I, and many women like us, had been thrust into situations we never asked for.

As divorced women, how could we stop caring about the past when the past wouldn’t leave us alone?

I gave this a lot of thought. And I kept hearing my friend’s confident voice saying, “You’ll get there too.”


For more suggestions on how to move forward, check out What to Do After Divorce: Your Top 15 Best Moves


Then a funny thing happened. The more I thought about the past, the more I began seeing it through a different lens. In the same way that I had never imagined getting a divorce, I’d never imagined doing other challenging things, like not getting permission from the judge before moving my children to a safer, less expensive apartment. Or buying my own car without consulting with my Ex. Or enrolling in a course to become an energy medicine practitioner. Or learning to say no (full stop!) when my Ex tried to control my life.

When I focused on all the strong, independent moves I made throughout my divorce, the past didn’t seem so suffocating. In fact, I saw that I actually came through my divorce with the best gift imaginable: I met the best version of myself.

And this has been true for my friends too. We have something wonderful in common.

Divorced women have a secret superpower; it’s the strength to rise again

Not all of us look wildly successful on the outside. All of us still face challenges and struggles, but we share an inner strength that we never knew existed.

Here’s what that strength looks like:

Sandy spent so much time in court that she connected with someone who offered her a job as the office manager of an all-female law firm.

The extended cold shoulder Roxanne got from her Ex gave her the space to meet an amazing new partner.

Linda kept loneliness at bay by focusing on her education and career. She earned a doctorate degree and became a department head at a Big Ten university.

Katie, like me, wrote an award-winning memoir about surviving divorce.

Now, when I meet someone going through a divorce, I want to be the one offering assurances. I want to share what my friends and I have learned. I want to take that baffled, disbelieving woman gently by the shoulders, look her in the eyes, and tell her to have faith.

Divorced women are the strongest women you’ll ever meet

A divorced woman knows that the best version of her has gone ahead and is pulling her forward.

A divorced woman has earned a seat at a table loaded with resilience, clarity, wisdom, and freedom. And yes, it’s the very same table where she may, one day, have dinner with her Ex and her Ex’s new wife.

And it will be no big deal. I promise.

Tammy Letherer is an author and writing coach. Her most recent book, The Buddha at My Table: How I Found Peace in Betrayal and Divorce, is a Gold Medal Winner in the Living Now Book Awards and in the Human Relations Indie Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2018 Best Book Awards and National Indie Excellence Awards. Join her and author Maureen Muldoon for their July 10 online event, Divorce Unscripted: An Off-the-Cuff Conversation on Finding Your Peace and Power and find out how to turn one of life’s most difficult challenges into your greatest blessing.

* At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

get over my ex

14 Ways I’m Going to Get Over My Ex!

What makes a post-divorce break up different than a divorce? Listen in as one divorced woman talks about how she’s going to get over her (latest) Ex…

Dear Jack,

I’m going to tell you everything I think about you, felt for you, and feel for you. I am going to EXPLODE!

And cry.

And you’re never going to know.

In fact, I’m going to record myself so I can evaluate this whole thing later—this whole thing being you, me, and what was us. But for now, I need a witness. A listener. And it can’t be you anymore.

I’m going to walk around a piece of paper I’ve placed on a table, and depending on how I feel at different moments, I’m going to attack it—with bitterness, outbursts, and wet fingers from swiping away tears.

I am scribbling things like …

Rejected! LIVID! HOWLING at the moon!

MISSING you.

I am FEELING old.

Why did you let this go on for so long?

Why are you such a coward?

I surprise myself at my depth of raw hurt. It’s clear I unequivocally love you, loved you, yes, love you even now. Because look at me and what I am reduced to.

When my paper is looking more Jackson Pollack than diary entry, I step back and wait — to let it catch more. Because there will be more, I know — waves of rollercoaster shock and grief for what you’ve done. And for me, for being in this place. For feeling this pain. The anguish of what is right now.

And then?

I’m going to put my dark, smeared masterpiece in an envelope.

I am not going to mail you this testament, this letter, because it would be lost on you. I am going to put it on a far shelf in a cellar closet. Not forgotten, mind you, but contained. I’ve learned I need to work you and what this story really means out more, and when I have, when I am ready, I’ll pull out this hidden envelope. In sacrament or something else, I’ll burn it. Or bury it. Or maybe post it to a wall of cork and throw darts at it.

(It’s got to be cork. I won’t want to damage the wall behind the letter, because that would be permanent.)

As a divorced woman who has survived before, I know I will get over you.

But I also know, I will always love you.

Until I can live in peace with that truth, here is what else I am going to do to get over my Ex. To get over you, my latest heartbreak.

1. I am going to moan and cry

I am going to come to terms with letting you go only after much resistance. So, cry I must.

2. I am going surround myself with girlfriends

My girlfriends remind me of who I am and the rings of fire I’ve already been through. I am going to feel their love and savor their bias. And I am going to laugh and let them say whatever they want to say about you — and NEVER defend you.

3. I am going to block you

I know my weakness, my tendency to obsess over you. There will be no more Facebook peeks or Instagram stalking from me. I won’t allow it. I’m blocking your texts and number. I’ve learned I must treat you like a drug and go cold turkey.

4. One night (or more) I’m going to eat WTF I want

Remember how you’re allergic to shellfish and nuts? Well, I am going out with my besties, and we’re ordering lobster tails with peanut saté followed by gallons of pistachio ice cream.

5. I am going to repeat aloud what I know: I am going to get over you

People break up with each other all the time. I’ve been here before, and so have so many others.

6. I’m going to commit to regular exercise

Exercising will help me feel and look better about myself. Feeling healthier is going to help me bounce back sooner.

7. I am going to get drunk and curse you out

I exercised, but now I’m hanging with my friend who could always drink you under the table and she’s reminding me why she didn’t like you either! How do I get over my Ex? I’ve already forgotten him.


Related: Post Divorce: How to Avoid Making the Same Mistakes in Your Next Relationship


8. I’m going to try to rebalance

Recovering from my hangover is going to remind me how fragile and very precious I actually am. I am going to try to regulate my sleep and eat healthily to support my heart and immune system as they metabolize the pain and vodka.

9. I’m reconnecting with a trusted professional

Something I learned through my past divorce—I will feel better if I don’t just talk about the pain I am going through but actually DO something with these feelings. Taking action is really important. Hello, Divorce Coach, remember me? I’m back but in a different, improved way.

10. I’m going to find a home for your belongings

Granted, you’ve not got a lot of things here (and there’s no 401(k)). But I’ve discovered a special place where your toothbrush is going to live. And it’s not at my house.

11. I may reactivate my online dating profile—and act out!

I say I might—not because I’ve healed—but because I am an independent woman, and I can! It may feel good to hear someone say I have a pretty smile. Or to go out for a drink with someone who thinks I am special; someone who doesn’t see the tire tracks on my back from where I’ve been dumped.

12. I am going to smudge the house

The last time I had to get over my Ex, I hired a professional energy clearer. I’ve since learned I can buy the sage myself from the health food store, and on my own, purify my house of all the (stinking, rotten) heaviness you left. Poof! Gone!

13. I am going to consider what missteps I took in this ill-fated Tango

What was my responsibility in the downfall of our relationship? And what have you taught me? (But only after I’ve exhausted myself being small and blaming you.)

14. I am going to be kind to myself

I know getting over you is going to hurt, and it’s going to require time and steps. I learned that through a much deeper, momentous trip — my divorce recovery. That’s right, sir. You are not my first.

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and re-creation. Now you can learn the Art of Reinvention through Paloma’s Group, our virtual, online post-divorce group coaching class for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

* 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.

Coping with Divorce like a modern woman

Not Your Mother’s Divorce: How to Cope Like a Modern Woman

Coping with divorce was not on my list of goals as a happily married mom of three. But my husband of twelve years had a different list, one he shared with me just weeks before Christmas.

He asked me to join him at the dining room table, where he sat with a piece of paper and two fingers of scotch in front of him and read the words he’d prepared: He’d been unfaithful for more than ten years, and he was leaving me for someone he’d met and known for one day in Las Vegas.

I remember sliding off my chair onto the floor as he walked out, leaving me alone with the kids sleeping in their beds.

When I finally got to my feet, an image of my mother flashed before me and I felt weak with shame. How could I be here, in a situation so similar to what she had faced with my father? How was it possible when I had done everything right? I had chosen my husband so carefully, certain that I could never be fooled by an unfaithful man.

Let the ghosts out

I dreaded telling her, certain that she would make the inevitable comparisons and that my experience would invite more dad-bashing.

But my mother only cried with me. A lot. I felt the depth of her pain through the phone line, and I was soothed because there is nothing in the world like crying to your mother. I believe it waters some dry patch in us that, as adults, we tend to overlook, intent instead on staking up our Proven-Winner lives.

Here I had believed my life was in full bloom. I had vowed to do everything differently from my mother, different from all the divorced women who came before me. My mother didn’t know how to write a check when my parents divorced. She had never handled her own money. I may have been a stay-at-home mom when my husband left, but I had a college degree and I knew how to run a Quickbooks spreadsheet. I was part of a new generation of smart women.

But the helplessness, the sense of doom, that my mother must have felt flared in me, and I understood it in a way I never could before.

In a session with my therapist, I cried, “I don’t want to be like my mother, alone and bitter!”

“That’s one picture,” he said. “But there are others.”

Those words would become a lifeline for me: there are other pictures, other ways of being. I didn’t have to become my mother. Now that I’d been thrust into the same situation, I felt the anger and judgments I’d carried toward her dissolve, replaced by a resolve that I would do all I could to feel powerful again after divorce.

So I created a new list:

Refuse to repeat the past

I found ways to ground myself in the present, even if that meant constantly repeating the obvious to myself: I lived in a different city, had a different education, personality, and support system than my mother. I could move on and choose a new future simply by deciding to.

Break the rules that need to be broken

During my divorce process I was told what to do by a variety of experts, including lawyers, mediators, vocational counselors, judges, and even other divorced friends. When I decided, on my own, to move myself and my kids to a cheaper apartment, my lawyer warned me to get permission from the court first. Instead, I trusted my gut and calmly explained that my move would save everyone money, including my former husband. My lawyer shifted gears so enthusiastically that I almost thought it was his idea!

Put yourself first

I learned that coping includes not only setting boundaries but stretching them too. I trained myself to tell my Ex-husband, “Sorry, that won’t work for me.” That was it. End of sentence. I stopped adding explanations and entertaining objections.

And then I went dancing. I took every lesson I’d always dreamed of taking, enduring the embarrassment of being up close and personal with strangers or stepping on someone’s toes. Dancing would become one of the unexpected gifts of my divorce. And when I knew enough to hold my own, I invited my mom to a jazz club, where we tore up the dance floor and had a blast.

I saw that we had very different ways of moving, both on the dance floor and through our divorces.

My divorce wasn’t my mother’s divorce. It was mine. And it was perfectly orchestrated for me to become my best self—past, present, and future.

 

Tammy Letherer is an author and writing coach. Her most recent book, The Buddha at My Table: How I Found Peace in Betrayal and Divorce, is a Gold Medal Winner in the Living Now Book Awards and in the Human Relations Indie Book Awards. It was also a finalist in the 2018 Best Book Awards. Tammy writes regularly about creativity, the writing life, inspiration, and spirituality. You can find her blogs on Huffington Post, SheKnows, GrokNation, SheDoesTheCity, and more. Connect with her at TammyLetherer.com.

post divorce

Post Divorce: How to Avoid Making the Same Mistakes in Your Next Relationship

When you get out of a long-term relationship or marriage, the newfound freedom can feel both exhilarating and daunting, especially if you’ve felt trapped or unhappy for a long time.

In your post divorce/new found life, you can now do things you couldn’t do before.

You can stay out late when your Ex has the kids.

You don’t have to answer to him* anymore (at least not like you used to).

You can be your own woman and show up in the world in a way that you felt you haven’t been able to in a very long time.

You’re a free agent! Part of you just wants to do something different, have a good time, and be who you really are.

You’re conscious of what happened with your Ex

In retrospect, you realize maybe you kind of fell into your past relationships. And now years later, you wondered what truly happened—what about those people drew you to them—and if that pain could’ve been avoided.

Maybe you’re already in a budding romance. There’s amazing chemistry. Things are moving quickly. And you haven’t felt this deep a connection with any other man before. You’re wondering where he’s been all your life.

At the same time, there’s a part of you that’s scared. You really want it to last. But you’re afraid of making the same mistakes. You’re worried about overlooking red flags and ending up with a different version of your Ex.

I feel you. This post divorce stage in life can be exciting and confusing at the same time. But it doesn’t have to lead to heartbreak.

If you want to avoid making the same mistakes in your next relationship, there are five things you can do to help set yourself up for relationship success and give yourself the best chance of finding a committed relationship that lasts.

To be clear, this is not to say that your previous relationships were mistakes or that you did anything wrong. Every experience no matter how painful can bring powerful new awareness to our life.

The truth is, we don’t know what we don’t know. You’ve already acknowledged that you want to avoid making the same “mistakes,” that you want to be more conscious on your dating journey, and that’s the first step.

So how do you actually get conscious and avoid making the same “mistakes”?

Get a clear vision of the kind of life and relationship you ultimately want

Your vision is the dream that lives inside you for the kind of life and relationship that you ultimately want. It’s where you want to live, how you want to live, and the kind of work or career that’s deeply fulfilling for you. It’s the kind of relationship that you really want.

Not just the qualities you’re looking for in a partner but rather a clear and conscious picture of the kind of experience that you want in a partnership. It’s about knowing what that partnership looks like and feels like.

Having a clear vision for the kind of life and relationship you want—before you start dating—is important because being conscious of your vision will help you avoid getting deeply involved with someone who doesn’t want the same things you want from life.

For example, if your dream is to have more kids or travel around the world, getting deeply involved with someone who is done having kids or who hates travel is only going to end in deep disappointment for the both of you.

So, if you don’t know what your vision is for the kind of life and relationship that you want, take the time to explore and get clear before you date to find your next serious relationship.

In the meantime, take a break from dating or date for fun, and avoid getting deeply involved until you’re clear on what you want in life and in a partnership.

Be aware of your relationship history and patterns

Being aware of your relationship history and patterns is about knowing, for example, why you seem to be irresistibly attracted to guys who [insert bad habit, problem, or “character flaw” here].

It’s about knowing what part you might have played in the demise of a relationship. It’s about knowing where you have wounds or scars so that when your insecurities get triggered (and they will), you’ll know where the feelings are coming from. And you’ll know whether a relationship issue is simply a story you’re telling yourself or if it’s a real red flag.

The saying is true: those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it. Without conscious awareness of our patterns, we’re not aware of the whys behind our decisions. But when we’re empowered with awareness, we can consciously make different choices that support our relationship goals instead of detracting from them.

Know your relationship requirements

Relationship requirements are your nonnegotiables. Requirements are what you absolutely require in a relationship in order for a relationship to work for you. They’re your dealbreakers.

They’re qualities of a relationship that you feel so strongly about that you would end a relationship if even one of them was missing.

If you’ve thought about or are living your life post divorce, chances are that you have some idea of what you will and won’t tolerate in a relationship.

So looking at your relationship history (all your relationships), in addition to looking at why your marriage ended, will give you valuable clues into what your dealbreakers are post divorce.

We tend to think of relationship requirements as qualities that we want our partner to have.

But the best way to approach this is to think about the experience that you want to have in a partnership.

So, for example, if your Ex cheated on you and you know that that’s a deal breaker for you, then your requirement might be monogamy and being faithful.

Or if you’re thinking you require open and honest communication in a partnership, what’s most important is to know exactly what that looks like and feels like for you in the kind of partnership that you want to have.

In other words: how would you know that you had open and honest communication in your relationship if you saw it?

The incredible value of knowing your relationship requirements is knowing exactly what to look for when you’re dating so that you can more quickly and effectively screen potential partners post divorce.

By knowing your relationship requirements, you’ll know exactly what you’re “testing” for in your relationship as you get more deeply involved, so you avoid wasting your time with guys who aren’t a match and only spend your time with quality men who have long-term potential. The kind of men who vibe with your vision of life post divorce.

Post divorce, get real clear on your needs and wants

Your needs and wants are related to your vision and requirements in that they’re part of what you need in order to have a happy and fulfilling life and relationship.

Your needs are what you need in a relationship in order for the relationship to work for you.

They’re different from requirements in that requirements are dealbreakers, whereas an unmet need wouldn’t necessarily mean you would end the relationship.

We have functional and emotional needs.

Functional needs are what we need in a relationship in order for it to work. For example, if you’re a punctual person but your boyfriend tends to run late, that’s going to create an issue for you.

It might not be a deal breaker, but it raises an issue because your need for punctuality is not being met.

Emotional needs are what we need to feel loved.

For example, for many people, it’s really important to experience affection and appreciation in a relationship. You might be thinking, “Well, of course! Wouldn’t that be a dealbreaker to not have affection and appreciation in a relationship?”

Not necessarily.

The difference between needs and requirements are that requirements are black and white. They’re absolute, they’re dealbreakers. They have the power to end a relationship.

Unmet needs raise an issue, but they’re not dealbreakers.

So if your honey forgot your anniversary once or didn’t give you a kiss when he got home from work, would you end the relationship? Probably not. But it might certainly raise an issue for you.

And then “wants” are the icing on the cake. They’re the qualities of a relationship that you would like to have, but it’s not critical to your happiness or to the functioning of a relationship for you.

It’s so important to know your needs and wants because, like knowing your requirements, it will help you screen potential partners for long-term compatibility. If you’re not clear on what your needs are, how would you know whether your potential partner can even meet them?

Having your needs met is key to your long-term happiness. So dating with your needs in mind will help you make the right choices with men.

Practice conscious dating

The fifth key to avoiding making the same mistakes in your next relationship is to practice conscious dating, which means bringing all these important elements together—your vision, needs, and requirements—and using them as powerful tools to screen for compatibility and (this is a really big one) to balance your heart with your head.

It’s about consciously taking the time to evaluate whether you’re ready for a relationship, focusing on “getting ready” if you’re dating to find a committed partnership, and resolving anything (like legal ties to your Ex) that might interfere with the growth and success of a new romance post divorce.

When you’ve just gotten out of a long-term relationship and start dating for fun, or when you’re head over heels in a new romance, it’s so easy to get caught up in the chemistry and attraction.

Don’t get me wrong, chemistry and attraction are important elements for connection and bringing people together. They have an important purpose in dating and relationships!

But we get into trouble when we make relationship decisions based on chemistry and attraction alone.

Having a clear vision for the kind of relationship you want and being conscious of your requirements, needs and wants (and the differences between them) empowers you to stay objective, avoid getting distracted, and ultimately be deeply true to yourself and your relationship goals.

So whether you’re reveling in your newfound freedom or exploring a new romance, I invite you to go slow in your break up or divorce recovery, date with intention, and keep your eyes wide open.

Take this time for yourself to “get ready” for a relationship. Clarify your dreams and goals for your life and the partnership that you ultimately want to have. It can be an opportunity for amazing clarity and deep self-awareness that will help you find and create a life that you love…with the love of your life.

Melissa Josue is a dating and relationship coach for smart successful women who are frustrated that they keep attracting men who are emotionally unavailable or aren’t ready to commit. She helps them spot red flags before they get hurt, confidently know when to stay or go, and attract a highly compatible partner who’s ready to make them a priority, so they can have a happy, committed relationship. Learn more about how to be a “Conscious Dater” and download free resources here.

*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.

Life after divorce

How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce

People talk a lot about what it’s like to get a divorce, but those conversations don’t often extend to what life after divorce is like. Because, unless you’ve been divorced, you don’t quite get what this next phase is really all about.

During divorce, there’s a certain process: you have items to research, things to get educated about, decisions to make, meetings to attend, paperwork to file, and on and on—all of which are black and white steps you had to take to complete the business transaction of “dissolving” your marriage. And while those steps felt overwhelming, frightening, and generally all over the place (you may be or have been sad, in shock, mad as hell, disappointed, betrayed, in denial, or numb), the process, nevertheless, had a way of keeping you grounded. You had a goal. To get through a “negotiated” document, sign it, and obtain a divorce.

Now, as you look around in your new life after divorce, your sense of time — and what to do with it — is different. Even if you are struggling and fighting for survival, your mind and heart may be ruminating on the past and on “the who” you will become.

Yes, your life after divorce will be your juiciest stage if you are open to it

This is the “finding yourself” stage, and we urge you to have no shame about it.

Discovering and taking care of yourself will include preparing for what’s coming in your life where possible (implementing best practices that give you structure) and also learning to let go. This stage involves taking time to consider deeply your story so far, what brought you to the end of your marriage/relationship, and the good and bad roles you played.

Discovering who you are can get messy in a different way than where you’ve been. You can’t blame your husband for everything anymore. It’s time to pick up your baggage.

Based on our work coaching women, here are six of the hardest things about life after divorce—and more importantly, what you can do about them to make room for the good stuff. Okay, now deep breath…

1. It’s gone. Your life as you knew it

Sounds obvious, but a few of us are Resistors to Reality, women who spend months (years?) in denial about the fundamental impact divorce will have (or has had) on our lives.

A Resistor to Reality might strive to or blindly maintain the lifestyle she had when married—going on similar vacations, eating out at trendy, higher end restaurants, or placing groceries inside her cart without checking the price or quantity (so accustomed is she to buying “for everybody”). She might be paying the mortgage on an oversized and overpriced home because she either feels she is owed it, can’t face the prospect of change, or doesn’t want a move to “affect the kids.” She might be worried about downscaling for fear she’ll lose her friends or her social standing.

But now we all know, no matter how “amicable” the end of our marriages were, divorce has a way of turning our lives upside down. Divorce will take you outside your comfort zone. Divorce is about change.

Ideally, you started to metabolize these changes during the divorce process, and if you haven’t, your life after divorce is going to be harder—not just materially but psychologically and emotionally. The sooner you come to terms with your new reality the sooner you can adjust, redirect, and start shaping the future you want. Working with a divorce coach –during the divorce process, or as you rebuild your life — will help you understand what you can and cannot do as you actualize your best next chapter.

You may not feel it yet, but inside this vast unknown of Life After Divorce — there is a great, big beautiful life waiting for you.

2. Even when you do your best, your children will feel the effects of divorce

You’re a woman, not a robot. During and after divorce, your emotions may remain scattered, frayed, or short-wired. Everyday decisions may seem insurmountable. You try to be strong, to let it all roll off your back, because you want to be the best mother possible. You want your children to see you stand tall instead of falling apart. But you will have bad days, just like we all do. You slip. You might vent about your Ex to your children. Or they’ll overhear (eavesdrop?) you badmouthing him to a friend or family member in a moment of frustration or desperation.

No matter how old your children are—even if they are adults or not living at home anymore—divorce will impact them. It may affect their outlook and their ability to connect with others, including you and your Ex. Your splitting up will alter holidays and family functions. And although you may feel some closure with your Ex after the divorce document is signed or he’s no longer living in the same house, if you have children, he* will always be in your life.

Divorce may mean communicating with your ex-partner whom you never communicated well with before. You may be dealing with things like support orders and visitations, drop-offs and pick-ups. Your children’s lives will be disrupted, and afterward, each of you will have to figure out how to move forward and create a new life together.

According to the research, you can best support your children (and thus, yourself) through divorce, and life afterward, by being mindful of the ongoing conflict between you and your Ex. Children who suffer the most are those whose parents keep the hostility alive, who don’t aim to try to do things as amicably as possible. It is not, as you might guess, the history of your marriage when you all lived together in the same house, but how you two (you and your spouse) navigate the divorce.

When dealing with your children directly, among the best things you can do is to acknowledge their pain and perspective and not badmouth their father. Listen to them. Understand that while the reasons for your divorce might be obvious to you, they are less so to your children. You can help them feel less confused by being straight and honest and keeping the lines of communication open instead of shutting yourself off from the world. This does not mean treating your kids as an equal (even if they are “old souls” or “smart” or so-called “adults”) but being open about issues surrounding the divorce in an age-appropriate way.

Should you tell your kids you are leaving their dad because he cheated? Because he embezzled money? Because he’s an addict? We urge you not to share the gorier details until you and your children are out of the heat, down the road, when your kids are grown up.

If you wonder how to break the news to your kids, need support parenting as a single woman or coparenting with a challenging Ex, or would even like books that you could read aloud to your children, consider our post on the 35 best books on divorce.

3. Certain friends and family have “disappeared”

Divorce means change and you’re probably feeling this, socially and family-wise. It’s a huge awakening for many of us that friends we thought were so tried and true have disappeared or become mute. It’s as if they fear your divorce might be contagious.

Though we’ve come a long way culturally, lessening the stigma of divorce, meaningful people in our lives might still pick sides—whether they are forced to by your Ex, feel compelled to out of a sense of fierce loyalty, or have a preference to be with the “more fun” or more moneyed-spouse. This hurts. And it not only shocks, but it cuts to the bone, especially if you have little or no friendships outside of those you formed with your Ex during your marriage. You may be feeling bereft as you start off your new life.

When it comes to family, it’s clichéd but true: blood is often thicker than water. You may have had a great relationship with your Ex’s family, for instance. Maybe they’re a big clan and fun and tightknit—and you always had a particular connection with some of them. Getting a divorce, though, can cause them to draw a line and side with their blood relative. The wonderful relationship you had with them is no mas.

In the wake of the space left vacant by others, it’s important for you to touch in with yourself and find new hobbies and interests—this will help you discover new people. Push yourself to get outside so you shift your mindset, to take up an activity you’ve always wanted to but never “had the time” for before, to volunteer or travel. You can even join a support group with other divorced women who understand what you’re going through and who are committed to recreating their lives healthily — with intention — too.

4. An empty house

Coming home after work, making dinner for yourself, eating it alone, and not having someone to share your day with (if you’ve always had that) has a way of making you feel like you have no purpose. This is even the case with divorced women who didn’t have a lot to say to their Ex in the evening hours while married. But somehow watching Jeopardy in silence or a movie you both enjoyed now seems particularly enviable. At least you could hear another person breathing.

If you have children, the silence in your home when they are staying with their dad can be deafening at first. All the sounds children make means lives are being lived, and the emptiness left in their place can leave you feeling lonely and unanchored. Who are you if your children don’t need you?

But know that this is just a phase, new pains that you will overcome. There is a big difference between being alone and being lonely. You may not be able to change the former, but you can change your mindset and decide that you never have to be the latter.

Use this time to reflect, to read, or to enjoy a quiet activity. Maybe you’ll become vegan (ha! Your Ex was such a carnivore!). Or you’ll adopt a dog from the humane society. Or you’ll use this time in the evening to meditate, do yoga, or go to the gym.

This alone time is important to your divorce recovery. You must come to terms with yourself and rediscover who you are before you can rebuild your life in a meaningful way or even show up whole and healed in your next meaningful relationship.

5. The shock of being “replaced”

Your Ex might start dating right after the divorce. He may even begin to date during your divorce proceedings. In either case, this can feel like a punch to the gut. Did he ever really love you? How could he date so quickly? What does she have that you don’t? Even if you wanted the divorce, it’s not easy to keep the green-eyed monster of jealousy at bay when you see or hear that the man you’d thought you’d spend the rest of your life with is hooking up (or more) with someone else. It can feel like torture.

Take heart, it’s not uncommon for many spouses to appear like they are “moving on” immediately after divorce, and some begin to date and sometimes remarry fairly soon. Those who do are often responding to the feelings of loneliness and/or the conventional understanding of what happiness is (to be married). If this is your Ex, he may not be pausing to reflect and heal from what you and he have been through.

The odds that his next relationship will be any happier than yours with him are very low. Very low indeed. He is simply not doing the work you know you must do in the early phases of your life after divorce.

To help lessen your pain, make sure you avoid contact with your Ex when possible, or places that remind you of him for a healthy period of time. Tell your friends (the good ones you still have) that you do not want to be kept au courante to what he is doing socially. It will hurt you. You are trying to look in another direction, with a goal of caring for yourself and nourishing you.

Develop a new daily routine that cultivates you, strengthen bonds with your family and friends, and makes space for you to metabolize all you’ve been through. Which brings us to our critical number 6 on the list. Keep reading.

6. Learning to let go and adapting to the Unknown

When you were married, you had a certain vision of your future. You probably had dreams of how you would retire, where it might be, who your social circles would be, what you would do, and maybe how often your grandchildren would visit. Divorce has changed all that. In your life after divorce, one of the hardest things is accepting that you must let go … let go all the dreams that involved him and, yes, others.

You must grieve and take stock of all the losses you have lived through. And recognize that you may not be grieving your husband so much as you are grieving a way of being and the fantasy that was your marriage.

Letting go means letting go of the idea that we can control everything

Life after divorce can be a painful time—it can also be a crazy time—but it is not a static time. The journey is not over. It’s just reached a particular place where it’s time for you to process your grief and reconnect with you and who you want to be. This is your work now.

After divorce, your canvas is blank. The slate is wiped clean. And as you stare at it, wondering, you might not have a clue what you want to fill it with. But let us assure you, you have no clue the marvelous things awaiting you. The hardest part is just getting started. Dare to discover. Pick up the paintbrush and begin.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS to partner them through the challenging experience of divorce and recreation. Now you can learn the Art of Reinvention post-divorce. Secure female-centered support and wise next steps as you rebuild your life — practically, financially, romantically, smartly — with  Palomas Group, our virtual, post-divorce group coaching class, for women only. To promote sisterhood and protect confidentiality, space is limited.

*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.”

how to bring up divorce

How to Bring Up Divorce

Divorce is not—no matter the circumstance—going to be an easy subject to bring up with your soon-to-be Ex. While you might be fed up with your husband* and, without a doubt, want a divorce, you’re afraid that using the dreaded D-word is going to hurt or shock your partner. You want to bring up divorce, but walking down that path seems as terrifying as Snow White running through the woods, all your fears clinging at your skirts. Once you mention divorce, as soon as your partner hears that word, you know you’ll have to stop running and confront those fears one by one.

This post is for you, the woman who’s ready to stop running. Because maybe you’ve tried counseling. You’ve used your words. You’ve turned the other cheek (or not). You’ve looked past his faults and have worked on your own. But you still aren’t happy. “Happy” is a long way off.

It’s time to stop dwelling on exactly how to bring up divorce because there is no one right way, and instead, reach within yourself for the strength you’ll need to have a frank and open conversation with your partner about what is real and the decision you have come to.

We have some general tips on where, when, and how to have this conversation, but remember, divorce isn’t a one-size-fits-all process. You understand your situation and your soon-to-be Ex best. The tips below are merely suggestions—it’s up to you to decide how to best adapt them to your specific situation.

The setting

This is a tricky thing to think about, but it is one of the best places to start: where are you going to bring up divorce? Going out might seem like a good idea—a way to minimize your partner’s ability to have a big, possibly dramatic reaction—but that can often backfire. You can make your husband feel as though you’ve tricked him by bringing him out on a date only to drop the D-bomb on him.

As divorce coaches, we do recommend going out to have this conversation but to a neutral place so you are not reminded of domestic triggers or distracted by routine interruptions. A neutral place is not a restaurant where you can be interrupted by waiters or even friends who might see you. Instead, we like the idea of sitting on a park bench or taking a walk on a quiet path. Breathing fresh air and moving around helps you gain perspective and lowers stress levels.

If you are in counseling or have a couple’s therapist you can speak to, a session would also be a safe and appropriate place to bring up the D-word. Your counselor’s office is both a public and private place where you’ll have someone available to help you along during the conversation.

If you choose to bring up divorce at home, make sure your kids are in bed or—better yet—out of the house with a trusted loved one or at another activity. If there is yelling or crying, you don’t want your children to witness your fight. You might want to have a meal prepared and a space you feel comfortable in before you speak to your partner. Your talk with your spouse might be long and involved, or it might be short and simpler than you think—either way, choosing a space where you feel safe is crucial.

The timing

While you can argue that there really isn’t ever a great time to bring up divorce, there are plenty of very not good times that you should probably avoid, like an anniversary, a major holiday, a child’s birthday, or while your kids are applying to college. (“Thanks, Mom, I didn’t get into Harvard because you — and your springing divorce on Dad!”)

With all of that said, sometimes the conversation needs to happen sooner than later—sometimes ending a relationship feels especially time-sensitive, rightfully so, if your soon-to-be Ex has had an affair or brought an STI into the bedroom. Is there domestic abuse? The timing of the divorce really depends on the urgency and necessity of divorce.

Even the time of day should be taken into consideration. If your partner is leaving for work in 15 minutes, for instance, it’s not the right time to bring up divorce because you won’t have time to thoroughly talk it through and, instead, he’ll be at work all day ruminating on divorce. He’ll come home upset and in a state of mind that isn’t helpful when having a serious conversation like getting a divorce. Similarly, bringing up divorce right before bed can lead to a night of restless sleep in which you and your future Ex spend the night discussing the same issues over and over again rather than actually sleeping.

One of the best times for bringing up divorce might be over dinner on a Friday, or really any day when you and your partner don’t have to get up and go to work the next morning. This way, you can talk, rest, or think without worrying about putting on a good face for others.

The script

When the setting and timing is right, it’s time bring up divorce. Your tone, overall, should be empathetic—you know this isn’t going to be an easy conversation, and you aren’t asking to get a divorce out of anger or malice, so let your tone convey that.

Try to remove any accusatory language from the conversation. Don’t try to assign blame to your Ex, either, even if the divorce was brought on by something that he did or maybe even many things that he’s done. Instead, use “I” language, like “I feel like we’ve tried various way of getting our relationship back, and it’s not working. I don’t want to live like this anymore. It’s time we talk about divorce.” This makes the conversation about moving on and not about assigning guilt or blame for the end of your marriage.

While you want to have an empathetic tone and you want to use “I” language to avoid assigning blame, you also want to stand firm on what you want and follow through with your plan to pursue a divorce. Your husband might be upset and plead with you to give him another chance. He might promise you that he’ll change—but hold firm and let him know the time for change has passed. While you might be sure he can work on himself and improve in the future, it will have to be for himself or his next partner, not you.

More on tone

As divorce coaches, we like to recommend to clients that they also reassure their partner, because the word “divorce” induces all kinds of nightmare scenarios. While we believe you do not have to have all the answers on how you will divorce (what you will ask for, how you will split the 401(k), etc.) to have this difficult conversation, it is wise to endeavor to set a certain tone for the conversation and your interactions going forward.

Reassure your partner you don’t want to end your marriage as their adversary. You might say, “I don’t have all the answers. I don’t know how we’re going to do this exactly. But let me reassure you for the sake of both our lives (and our children’s), I want to do this the healthiest way possible.”

This may bring the temperature down between you and your partner, who may worry you will try to keep the children from him or you will try to be vindictive or cruel, resulting in a divorce that costs a lot—both financially and emotionally.

When you feel that you’ve said what you must say (keep it simple) and that your soon-to-be Ex understands your feelings and what this means for your relationship, it’s time to end the conversation. This can be a really difficult spot to feel out, but once you do, it’s time to set a future meeting date to talk about how you might separate or divorce — traditional approach, mediation, using the “collaborative divorce model” or DIY.

Caution

This conversation—the one in which you bring up divorce—shouldn’t be the lets-get-it-all-done-now conversation. That’s far too much to talk over at first. You and your soon-to-be Ex need time to process what just happened before you take the next steps in getting a divorce.

It’s an important thing to remember that it’s taken a lot of time, pain, and thought to arrive at this place of discussing divorce with your partner. On some level, you’ve been preparing for this day for a long time. But your partner has not.

Chances are things have not been good, but if you are saying divorce first, it’s important to give your partner time to really take in the fact that you are serious. If you’ve said “divorce” before but then caved, remember that he’s been conditioned to believe you don’t really mean it. If you do mean it (and we do not encourage you to use it as a threat unless you really mean to follow through) expect your partner to have an emotional reaction to your truth. He will need time to metabolize what you’ve said and what it really means.

The aftermath

After all is said and done, you have just taken a big step toward making your divorce real. It’s not an easy journey, even if your conversation with your Ex goes well. Even if you and your Ex seem to be on the same page during the start of your divorce, you will likely need ongoing support discovering and staying focused on your most meaningful goals—and not getting caught up in the emotional drama.

At SAS for Women, we like for a woman to be educated on what her rights are and what getting a divorce might look like BEFORE she decides fully decides to divorce or has this momentous conversation with her partner. A good divorce coach can help you not only figure out if you want to end your marriage, but what your choices genuinely are, and how to bring up divorce with your partner. A certified, seasoned divorce coach can help you figure out all the little and big decisions throughout the divorce process, too. You’ll want the right support shepherding you through these challenges to the new place you’re headed to, the place where you actively pursue your happiness and rebuild your independence.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, helping you move forward the healthiest way possible, consider Annies Group, our virtual divorce education, support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Learn what your choices and goals really are. Schedule your 15-minute chat to find out if this education is right for you, where you are in your life, and most importantly, where you want to go.

*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.

Woman packed leaving her husband

Overthinking When to Leave Your Husband

You have a bad fight or a bad day with your husband—or more likely, you’ve had a series of them. So many thoughts race through your mind, but there’s one that stands out the most: I want a divorce. Sometimes this thought surprises us so much that we can’t be sure we really had it at all. We push the thought to the back of our mind and bury it deep. We smile and pretend, and everything goes “back to normal.” But because our normal means being unhappy, the cracks appear again. We have another bad day. And when it rains, it pours. All those emotions and moments we buried rise to the surface in the storm.

You are lost and stumbling through the fog that is Considering Divorce Syndrome (CDS). All you seem to have are questions and no answers. I want a divorce, or do I? I want a divorce, but should I? How do I even begin to leave my husband*?

When you find yourself searching for instructions on how to leave your husband, it’s the beginning of a long and confusing journey. We know that you are in pain and emotional turmoil right now—that is why you’ve found your way here. Our job is to help you break the cycle of wondering that’s associated with CDS with points you should be thinking about and considering.

As you’re considering divorce, keep your marriage in context

So, you’re thinking to yourself, “I want to divorce my husband.” Did this thought just come out of nowhere? Or has the idea been a living and breathing” thing” lurking in the back of your mind for some time now?

Did you and your husband have a blowup? Are you still seething? Do you feel depressed? Are you reacting from a highly-charged or frustrated place, typing “Should I leave my husband?” into the search engine?

“Early on in my marriage,” Sally told us she and her husband went to a couples’ therapist. “At the first meeting, the doctor said, ‘Why did you react that way?’ when my husband described a story about me. Without waiting for my response, the doctor asked me more, ‘Were you menstruating?'”

We’ve all experienced a moment like this, haven’t we? We’ve been told that our “issues” or “moods” are related to our highly emotional states, which must be a function of our biology. And because we are women, when we are feeling things outside a man’s comfort zone, we are “crazy” or “PMSing” or both.

For the sake of this post and our sanity, let’s set that experience aside, and ask, How long have you wanted to leave your husband? Or if you don’t really want to leave your husband, why is it that you think you should?

If divorce has been something more than a random thought but a persistent idea that’s been circulating in your head for a long time now, you’ll need to ask yourself even more questions.

How committed are you to divorce, on a scale of 1 to 10?

If you’re a 10, you are fully committed to divorce—you’re OUT the door! If you’re a 1, you’re happily, even blissfully married.

But it’s not just about how you feel right now, at this moment. Today could be a 10 and the rest of the month a 1. You need to check in with yourself over the course of the month and keep a private record (somewhere safe, somewhere secret) to see the ebb and flow of your happiness over the month. If the numbers are 5 or above most days, it’s time to seriously start looking at ways to change your relationship. A divorce coach is a great, safe person to talk to if you’ve started seriously thinking about what else is possible for you.

Wait, there are still other reasons to stay married, right? I don’t need to talk to a divorce coach yet

So, you look at your commitment chart and see mostly 5s, a couple 3s, and even some 10s plastered on the page—but then you think of the kids. Divorce will be hard on them! There’s always a chance your husband can change, right? And who knows, you might even change too. Things can get better. There’s always hope, even the hope of finding hope when confronted with the reality that hope may have fled your marriage long ago.

There’s this voice inside your head that’s saying “If I talk to someone, I might have to act on what I’m feeling. I might have to do something about this truth,” or “No, I can’t talk to anyone yet. There’s still hope I can turn things around.”

“I want to leave my husband” suddenly becomes “we’re just having a rough patch.” Only the rough patch never ends.

The truth is, many women find themselves circling a 5 on that scale. They are halfway out the door, while the other half isn’t sure exactly what they want, except change.

Listen: living in this stage is purgatory

Revisiting the question of  “should I…or shouldn’t I divorce” keeps you unsettled and compartmentalizing ( — on one level functioning, on another level wondering if your world is falling apart). This is one of the insidious and oddly, paralyzing effects of CDS.

Maybe you think you are fun and easy to live with? On some level, you are being cruel to your husband, your kids, and yourself by continuing to live in such a hovering and non-committed place.

You may think you are fooling everyone, but it’s more likely you’re only fooling yourself.

Luckily, we know this syndrome of divorce ambivalence acutely. We were like you, sitting on that pointed, painful fence called “considering divorce” for far too long.

So, allow us to deliver the sometimes brutal truth that will save you time: nothing is going to change unless you do something.

Did you go to marriage counseling and find it didn’t stick, with you and your partner ending up in the same old dysfunctional routine? Do you complain to your friends regularly about your husband’s behaviors but never do anything to try to change things? Do you withdraw from your marriage or the world or act out in various ways but still find yourself at home or in bed next to the same man night after night?

It’s time to break this pattern.

How is your health?

CDS, the constant cycle of considering divorce and not following through, can take a toll on your health. This repetitive and constant stress is going to wear on you, no matter how strong you are.

You are not living your life authentically. Your body might be showing you the signs through symptoms that range from feeling tired all the time no matter how much you sleep, a loss of appetite, a sense of being removed from things you once enjoyed, disconnected to your friends and family, constant flu or cold-like symptoms when doctors say there’s nothing wrong with you, and so on. These are all signs of depression which can be linked to stress.

You and I might look around and see marriages with similar or even more dysfunction and stress than yours—some of your best friends might be living with CDS and seem to function fine between complaints about their spouses—but you are not them, and they are not you. And every marriage, even in its dysfunction, is different.

If you are feeling burnt out, done, and you have decided you can no longer live in the purgatory of waiting for change or trying but not fixing the dysfunction in your marriage, you need to own where your marriage is right now. You need to face the possibility of a future as a divorced woman, and you need someone to talk it out with. Right now.

If you are in an abusive marriage, read this article right now.

If you are in a relationship where the pressure is “manageable,” you can prioritize the time to figure out if you should or should not divorce and what would be the healthiest way of doing it. If that’s you, then you are the woman we are talking to right now. Our critical suggestion is that you get educated on what your choices are. Get ready. Because the truth is if you’re constantly considering divorce, there’s a reason and you owe it to yourself to stop thinking about it and take action. The right action is talking with someone who can help you figure out what your independence might look like.

 

Whether you are considering a divorce, navigating it, or already rebuilding after the overwhelming experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce. Take advantage of our free consultation we give every brave woman. Schedule your free, 45-minute consultation for support. Whether you work with us further or not, we guarantee you will learn a new resource, a piece of information, or an insight that will give you a next step or help shift your way of thinking what is genuinely possible for your life.

 

 

*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.”

Breast cancer diagnosis

Breast Cancer Diagnosis: What You Need to Know

A note from SAS Cofounder Liza Caldwell

Dear Reader,

It happened. Life was moving beautifully for this 53-year-old, single woman. It was the end of June 2016, and I was preparing for a trip to Peru with my daughters. I was cleaning my hiking boots, having scheduled my shots and taken care of pesky medical exams. I was wondering … wondering if I was really up to the climbing we’d be doing … wondering what I’d gotten us into, really, when I got the follow-up phone call. 

Excuse me? No, that’s not part of the itinerary ….

The words “breast cancer diagnosis” stopped me and then threw me back in time. Stress swept up, blurring my thoughts until I was a little girl again. A dumb little girl again. I was misunderstanding most probably. On the phone, the doctor kept talking, using multi-syllable words while a million things surged in and out my head. Nothing was sticking. Except this little girl was going to die. 

But I haven’t died. Not by a long shot. I did go through a mental, physical and emotional contortion though, a crisis, and it’s one I’d like to see lessened for you should you ever be struggling with similar news. Because this can happen out of the blue. It only happens out of the blue! when suddenly you’ve joined legions of other women who’ve fought and survived breast cancer.

This post is about what you must know if you are given a breast cancer diagnosis. But allow me to emphasize three things up front.

First, a breast cancer diagnosis no longer means a death sentence. We are lucky that today more than 80 percent of those diagnosed with breast cancer (women and men) go on to live the lives they were meant to live. 

Secondly, put this in your muscle memory: a good question to ask a doctor if you’ve just received news of a cancer diagnosis or anything as frightening …

“On a scale of 1 to 10, how life threatening is this tumor (plug in any issue) you’ve just found?”

Because you need anchoring when you’ve been told something as serious as this, and some doctors who see cancer (or serious issues) everyday fail to remember we don’t. We have no clue what the prospect is for life after. And thanks to stress flooding our prefrontal cortex, our ability to think straight or formulate questions go out the window.

Ask that question,”how threatening on a scale of 1-10″ to curb the stress and get some perspective.

Then, thirdly, grab your best friend. And with his or her support seek several medical opinions from breast surgeons. You want a breast surgeon with an excellent record performing the kind of surgery you need specifically. You ALSO want a breast surgeon who is particularly sensitive to the scar your surgery will leave. As the female surgeon I ultimately chose told me — months after my surgery —

“I spend the majority of my time in the operating room paying attention to how I’ve gone in to remove the cancer and especially, what my exit path looks like. It is cosmetic, because what helps a woman heal is not only being told she is cancer-free afterwards but that eventually, there is less and less of a scar to see. She’s not reminded of her trauma every time she looks in the mirror. Recovery has a lot to do with mindset.”

Two years beyond my diagnosis, I’ve finally made it to Peru, and as for the day to day, I look great is what I am told! I don’t think about it anymore but to be grateful because my diagnosis caught the cancer so early. I am also grateful for my exceptionally skilled surgeon. Grateful for my amazing and dear friend, Susan who accompanied me to all the medical exams, and procedures and who made the nurses, doctors and me laugh. And grateful for my daughters who, joining this group of extraordinary women showed me there ain’t no mountain high enough.

If you are ever diagnosed with breast cancer, chances are you will be lucky like me.  

What you need to know about your breast cancer diagnosis

Across the country, hundreds of thousands of women feel the effects of breast cancer, whether they have recently been diagnosed, are actively fighting it, are a survivor, or have a loved one who has been through these stages. Breast cancer is a reality that most women don’t want to think about, but one in eight women in the United States are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.

Fortunately, there are also over 3.3 million breast cancer survivors alive and thriving in the United States today. With the support and knowledge of these brave survivors, the growing research about breast cancer, and your own network of friends and family, you can take the appropriate steps at each stage to ensure that you live the healthiest and fullest life possible.

Before breast cancer: the common causes and risks

Despite the widespread effects of breast cancer, the exact causes of the disease are still unknown. Researchers do know that any type of cancer involves the body’s cells multiplying uncontrollably and excessively. With breast cancer, the rapid cell growth typically starts in the inner lining of the breast’s milk ducts or lobules, which are tiny glands that produce milk for breastfeeding.

While experts haven’t been able to pinpoint what exactly spurs cancer’s rapid cell growth, they have been able to identify likely risk factors, many of which are preventable. If you’re concerned about your own risk of developing breast cancer, you can mitigate that risk by knowing these likely factors:

  • Genetics: Your risk for breast cancer may be higher if a close relative has been diagnosed with breast cancer. The BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes have been linked with developing both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
  • Age: While women of all ages can develop breast cancer, the risk increases with age. A 20-year-old woman’s chance of developing breast cancer within the next decade is 0.6 percent, while a woman who is 70 years old has a 3.84 percent chance.
  • Body weight: Those who are overweight, especially after menopause, may run a higher risk of developing breast cancer. This is possibly due to higher levels of estrogen in the body, which has been linked to the development of breast cancer. It could also be because of high sugar intake.
  • High alcohol consumption: According to some studies, women who consume more than three drinks per day have a risk of developing breast cancer that is 1.5 times higher than those who don’t drink as much alcohol.

While these risk factors have been linked to breast cancer diagnoses, no single factor has been guaranteed to result in breast cancer.

Preventing breast cancer: what steps you can take to avoid a diagnosis

No matter how much you may crave the ability to change your genetics or age, those risk factors are, unfortunately, set in stone. However, you can do your best to manage other risks, like alcohol and food consumption, to lower your chances of developing breast cancer.

Many women associate an increase in stress with an increased risk of breast cancer, as stories of women finding lumps in their breasts after going through a divorce or a losing a loved one are startlingly common. Researchers have investigated this possibility as well. A Scandinavian study found that among women who perceived their lives to be more stressful, there was an increased risk for breast cancer.

It’s important to remember that these scientists have not found a definite cause and effect between the negative emotions and bodily reactions that come with stress and breast cancer diagnoses. While chronic stress has been thought to weaken your immune system, this type of bodily reaction rarely happens in isolation. When stressed, people tend to eat, drink, and smoke more, all of which could factor heavily into an increased risk for cancer.

One of the best ways to minimize your chances of developing breast cancer, especially if you feel you are predisposed because of genetics, age, or stress, is to stick to a strategic breast cancer diet plan. Research has shown that changing what you eat and how you exercise can prevent as much as 30 percent of breast cancer diagnoses. If you’re looking to eat the best foods possible to lower your risk, consider working these nutritional wonders into your daily meals:

  • Fibrous foods: Studies in nutritional science have shown that foods high in fiber can help lower the amounts of estrogen in your body, reducing your risk of breast cancer. These fibrous fighters include nuts, beans, and whole wheat bread.
  • Sources of omega-3: Omega-3s are essential fatty acids that are not produced in your body naturally, so you must put in the work to get them in there. Fatty acids are important because they help with inflammation, which can damage otherwise healthy tissue. Try turning to salmon, walnuts, and oysters for your fatty acid intake.
  • Sulforaphane and carotenoids: These nutritional compounds have both been found to reduce the risk of breast cancer when consumed in increased amounts. Sulforaphane can be found in arugula, cabbage, and broccoli, while carotenoids are found in carrots, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.

A breast cancer diagnosis: what next?

Sometimes, even when you take all the right preventative measures, those cancer cells decide to multiply anyway, and then it’s time for you to fight it. The first step is to see a surgical oncologist, who is a surgeon with a specialty in removing cancer. Your oncologist will be able to give you your breast cancer prognosis. Often, your physician will recommend a surgeon, and they are a great place for you to start. Many women may seek a second opinion as well to understand all their options.

While you want to take the time to consider all your treatment options, you will also want to act fast to remove the cancer as soon as possible. Be sure to have a reliable support network of family and friends during this time. They will be essential in helping you make decisions and necessary shoulders to lean on during this time. There are also vast networks of breast cancer patients and survivors throughout the country. Connecting with patients in the same circumstances as yourself can be extremely helpful throughout the process.

Your breast cancer prognosis may look slightly different than others, but no matter who you are, if you are diagnosed, one of the best things to do is keep your spirits up. With today’s medical options, the average five-year survival rate is 90 percent and the average 10-year rate is 83 percent. Millions of women and men live long and healthy lives after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis and it often begins with choosing the right mindset.

 

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 change and reinvention. Women facing a major life challenge, transition or calling are invited to schedule a FREE consultation with SAS to discuss your next smartest moves. “Life — your life — is calling you.”

 

8 Reasons I am Grateful for My Divorce This Thanksgiving

8 Reasons I Am Grateful for My Divorce This Thanksgiving (and All Days)

We are emerging from the midterms. The country is either celebrating or cursing, and we the people in our country remain polarized. Some of us are fearful of Thanksgiving and the oncoming holidays. Who will we be seated next to? What will come up in conversation? And how strong will our bandwidth for patience be? Will politics undermine our annual gathering as it did for a lot of us last year? Will the knife slice through the turkey and right through to the table, frustrating, infuriating, devastating us again as the political and cultural war divides us not only on a map, but also inside our homes?

I spoke to a client this week, I’ll call “Phoebe.” Phoebe, who is divorced after decades in a stagnant marriage, told me she was worried, because she’d been invited by her son and his new wife for Thanksgiving. She was excited, but especially worried. She and her son had been at a standoff for too long, not talking, and it had been a source of deep anguish for Phoebe, a mother who loves her son. Suddenly, her son (perhaps encouraged by his new wife) was extending an olive branch after two years, and asking his mother to come to their house and to join them and his wife’s family for Thanksgiving.

Phoebe is worried because she’s met her daughter in law’s family briefly not long ago. But what’s more, she’s seen their Facebook postings and, politically speaking, her daughter-in-law and her family are polar opposites of Phoebe. Phoebe is unnerved and alternately outraged. What has her son married into? …What will the father-in-law say? He’s an advocate for the NRA … There’s his postings about immigration issues ….

Just telling me what she’d seen online stoked Phoebe more. Phoebe is Jewish, and the recent, horrific killing of 11 people in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh followed by the menacing shout of “Heil Hitler! Heil Trump!” in a Baltimore theater not long after have heightened Phoebe’s fear about rising anti-Semitism—and all isms, because she is a thinking woman.

She is also an ecumenical minister, so as much as she was starting to go there — that is open up and be raw, allowing her dark feelings to run … in a moment’s time, too, she stopped. And then …

She told herself aloud, that her mantra going into this loaded home and situation would be to just be grateful.

And if she were challenged, if something insidious was said, she would try to redirect the conversation to show that we are more than this hatred.

We each are more than this hatred.

Phoebe and I talked more, sharing how we both believe a leader will emerge who will help us, someone who will help us forge the divide. But until our next Martin Luther King Jr. arrives, we have only ourselves.

It’s on each of us.

In the spirit of the holidays and the challenges we face, here are eight reasons I am grateful for my divorce this Thanksgiving and all days.

1.  I can totally disregard all comments if I choose

I am a divorced, independent woman after all. I didn’t go through all of this only to let others bring me down again.

2.  And as a divorced, independent woman, I am grateful I can choose how I want to spend Thanksgiving and how I want to show up

Well, that’s not entirely true. I’d like to host a Walton’s Thanksgiving, on a long pine table in a room warmed by a fireplace and invite every single person I love. Every single person who’s showed me kindness, who’s showed me I was worthy in this new chapter of my life.

I’d also like to be with both my daughters, but my eldest has just moved to San Francisco and started a new job, so this year the Waltons are not in the cards. My youngest daughter and our friends will go for a hike and then have Thanksgiving dinner at a little French restaurant across the river—but I came up with the plan. I do believe in putting some effort in for the holidays. I do believe in making a plan!

3.  I don’t have to cook all day to make sure it’s the consummate experience for everyone

Not this Thanksgiving, or ever. I am not on the hook for producing dinners or meals regularly in the rest of my life. I did it. I did it well. And now I am moving on. I am grateful for that.

It’s never the table or warmth or setting or food (though, it helps) that ultimately determines the high I get from gathering around the table anyway. It’s the people, and beyond the people, it’s the joy. I endeavor to remember that joy is always there for us, if we remember where it lives in our bodies and connect to it and be still.

4.  I am grateful for having discovered me

I never would have where I was. Thus, every day is Thanksgiving.

5.  I am grateful for losing many poisonous relationships

One sheds many scales and skins going through a breakup and divorce recovery. It’s a painful but liberating process.

6.  I am grateful for all the people who came flooding into my life

As a result of the shedding!

I’ve always been lucky with good people in my life, but since stepping out of my box, I’ve met such exciting, smart, and deep people. Wonderful men and wonderful women who connect with me sometimes because I am unaccompanied, because I am unguarded. (And then, of course, there’s OkCupid.)

Learning how to converse helps. Just as learning how to converse this Thanksgiving may be very helpful for a lot of us. I recommend this piece on smart and sensitive conversations not only for social gathering but also for honing good dating skills.

7.  I can recognize flaws and vices in myself

More importantly, I can keep forgiving myself for them and keep trying. I’ve shown myself before that I CAN change things.  I am grateful for that.

8.  I am grateful that I have learned about the life-giving force of gratitude

Gratitude and the word “grace” come from the same Latin word “gratus.” When we feel gratitude, our hearts and bodies soften, and we’re able to be with the world and ourselves more fully. We feel an interconnectedness and flow. And that too is joy.

At SAS for Women, we are grateful for each and every one of you reading and endeavoring to shift your experiences. We wish you pure, distilled joy this Thanksgiving and the upcoming holidays. Remember, for each day and its tradition, make a plan that may become a new tradition for you and those you love.

 

Whether you are considering a divorce, navigating it, or already rebuilding after the overwhelming experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers all women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future self.

“Divorce can be on your terms.” – SAS for Women