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Thinking about dealing with coronavirus as a single mom

Dealing with Divorce & Coronavirus as a Single Mom

Dealing with a divorce is very hard, but dealing with a divorce and coronavirus as a single mom, all at the same time? A virus that has infected more than 1 million people already, in fact. Well, that’s a whole other level of difficult. Not only do you have to learn how to live with your children on your own, but you also have to, you know, take care of them.

While it will surely not be a piece of cake, it’s very much doable—you just need to believe in yourself and do your best to not let these external events affect you or your attitude toward the little ones in your life. So how can you cope when dealing with divorce and coronavirus as a single mom? Well, here are a few things that might help.

Keeping a positive attitude

To say that going through a divorce and a pandemic is difficult is, quite frankly, a huge understatement. But that’s how we find ourselves most days, lately: uttering sentences and watching news stories that feel surreal and unprecedented. For most of us, both of these events really are those things. Surreal. Unprecedented. They throw your entire world off course and force you to live in the unknown—not only you but also your kids. If your children are still small, they probably don’t understand what’s going on yet, which is why they need your support and a positive attitude more than ever. You need to convince them that everything will be alright, but most importantly, you need to convince yourself. Because everything really will be. Do not let yourself believe that a divorce is the end of the world—it only means that your marriage was not meant to be.

Remember to look for positives in every negative situation. After all, it’s what you’d tell your children, right? When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

Spending time with your kids

It’s a cliché, but it’s true. In therapy, they sometimes tell you to speak to yourself as if you were a child—to treat yourself with that sort of grace and kindness. Right now it’s okay to immerse yourself in these clichés, to wear them like a coat you can shed when the days are a little less gloomy. Every cloud has a silver lining. This too shall pass. There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Whatever floats your boat. In this case, the light might be that since the pandemic forced the authorities to close schools and kindergartens, you have the perfect opportunity to spend more time with your little ones.

The pandemic will end one day, but the bond you establish with your children in these hard times will last a lifetime if you tend to it. It might be extremely helpful in the future as, according to experts from Parent Center Network, “a parent who is closer to their child will notice immediately when their kid is going through problems that the modern child faces such as depression, bullying or even when they are sick, and the symptoms are not so obvious.”

So instead of spending hours on overthinking why your marriage did not work out—something that’s now outside of your control—spend time with your kids. Play games, watch a movie, or read them a story. Whatever will make you and them happy. When it comes to dealing with divorce and coronavirus as a single mom, getting closer to your children might be some of the best advice out there.

Finding a new passion

Many women who get divorced experience a lower self-esteem, especially when their Ex was in the habit of making all the money-related decisions. But you cannot let a divorce put you down. It’s not just that your kids need you—it’s simply that the world throws enough hardships our way that we don’t need to add to our own woes by burdening ourselves with shame. Instead of crying over spilled milk, try to get to know the “new you.” As you introduce yourself to this new you, invite your kids along.

Take up a new hobby, such as painting or cooking. Get creative with things that you have at home. Since the pandemic has forced everyone to stay at home, you may find yourself with more time to devote to new interests you’ve always wanted to explore. That adventurous spirit and curiosity is something what will benefit your children later on.

Forgiving yourself for mistakes

Learning how to parent on your own (or learning to coparent, ideally) can be challenging, which is why you should not set unrealistic expectations for yourself and try to do everything perfectly. After all, when you are learning how to do something, you make mistakes—that’s a part of the process. Don’t be too hard on yourself.

If you have problems with your Ex, doubts, or need reassurance, remember that you always have your family and close friends to lean on. Most often these are the people we can count on to be there whenever we need them, waiting with open arms when we are ready to ask for help.

Taking care not only of your mental but physical health, too

The things above will help you with taking good care of your mental health in these tough times. But don’t forget that your physical health is just as important, especially when each and every one of us is exercising caution and doing our best not to overload our medical system.

This might actually be the best time to teach your kids good habits, such as washing their hands for at least 20 to 30 seconds or covering their mouth when they cough or sneeze.

But once the kids fall asleep, you’ll have time for yourself. Take a long bath, put on a face mask, paint your nails, or workout—there is no better way of lifting your mood and relaxing than a little bit of self-care.

A divorce isn’t pleasant, especially if you have kids, because you owe them the kind of explanations that you aren’t required to give anyone else. But dealing with divorce and coronavirus as a single mom means knowing that every day the world will ask too much of you. The weight you’re carrying right now feels impossible to lift on your own, and that’s okay. Some days will keep on feeling that way, while others will be so full of laughter and life and love that you’ll forget to be sad—you’ll forget to forget. Live knowing that ahead of you there is a life that’s better than you could have expected and that this moment in history is merely another thing that you’ll survive.

Your children are relying on you. You are their source of reassurance, and your behavior and actions throughout this pandemic will help guide their own. It’s extremely important to spend time with your kids in the best of times but especially in times of crisis. Use this time to strengthen these bonds.

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 discerning, newly divorced and independent, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your free, 15-minute, private consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand what your next, black and white steps are for walking into your BRAVE unknown.

Will marriage become obsolete

Will Marriage Become Obsolete?

With the steady downturn in the number of new marriages and the 40 to 50 percent chance that existing ones will end in divorce, it would be comforting to think that marriage has become obsolete, or that, at the very least, successfully navigating the end of a legally-binding partnership would somehow be written into our DNA, like a migration pattern or an aversion to cilantro. With the coronavirus (COVID-19) impacting our sense of normalcy—putting both marriages and divorces alike on pause, in some cases—many of us find ourselves thinking about the role marriage and companionship play in our lives.

Divorce hasn’t yet been written in our DNA, of course. But if genetics change with our choices over time—and they do—it appears we are getting closer to a DNA-level instinct for divorce or marriage-avoidance. This is an exaggeration, yes, but we’re certainly getting closer to a pervasive social norm that does not include marriage as an assumed preference.

A generational shift

As of 2015, only about half of the adults in the United States claim to live with a spouse. Those adults include five of the six generations currently alive in America today—from the G.I. or Great Generation all the way down to Generation Z—and these generations’ collective attitudes about marriage have shifted dramatically over time. My 102-year-old grandmother’s generation, “The Greats” (born 1901 to 1926), hung in there until the bitter end. If you made a vow, you kept it, despite abuse, dislike, infidelity, and whatever other problem that may have snaked its way into your marriage. For the most part, so did the “Silent Generation,” people born between 1927 and 1945.

The Baby Boomers, though, who account for 77 million people in the US, began to shake things up. This generation (born 1946 to 1965) embraced the civil rights movement, feminism, women joining the work force as a rule rather than as an exception, and television.

The Baby Boomers brought us divorce because a person wasn’t happy—albeit still struggled with its taboo of humiliation that somehow we are not measuring up if we can’t make our marriage work, but still, divorce nonetheless. My generation, Gen Xers, born 1965 through 1980, was the first generation for whom having divorced parents was a common thing.

The result of this shift

Perhaps as a response, my peers have a lower divorce rate than Boomers (the numbers of Baby Boomers ending their marriages doubled in the last 20 years and is on its way to tripling). Gen Xers also waited a lot longer to take vows. When you grow up as a witness to all the ways in which marriage both supports and fails people, it seems only natural that your first inclination would be to approach things differently.

Millennials, for instance, are showing a trend of partnering and having children but avoiding the altar altogether. Only 26 percent of Millennials are actually getting married, down from Gen X’s 36 percent, the Boomers’ 48 percent, and the Silent Generation’s 65 percent.

Will marriage become obsolete?

That’s quite a drop. The youngest of Generation Z, born after 2001, have yet to make their choices about long-term life partnering, but as a population, this generation is larger than the Boomers, so its impact on social norms and potentially our genetic code for mating will be worth measuring.

We are now finding that even in the midst of a global pandemic, people are leaving marriages that no longer serve them. Living together under a quarantine order is, some people are finding, bringing problems in a marriage that once seemed small and easy to ignore to the surface. Divorce rates in China spiked as soon as restrictions lifted.

Even so, marriage has not become obsolete quite yet. But one day marriage may become the exception rather than the rule. One day that rising inclination to say “let’s revisit this conversation every two or three years and see where we are with this thing” (or some version of it) may be the new social norm—but until a union that used to be “forever” is honored as fluid, a dance of choice between two organic, dynamic beings, all we can do is support those who have found that their partnership no longer serves them.

No one wants to go through a divorce, but sometimes it’s the only real option you have. Perhaps by the time Generation Zs are having their second children, what was once considered the only choice—marriage, til death do us part—will have undergone such scrutiny that the idea of it is, as they say, as repellant as cilantro to a certain genetic selection of taste buds.

 

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

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

Woman looking out window

Your Inner Voice and the 9 Warning Signs of Divorce

It’s funny because it’s true: If it were easy to hear our inner voice, there wouldn’t be so many of us reminding each other how to do it.

And when that voice is telling us that something is rotten in the state of our marriage, or simply that we just don’t fit inside it anymore and we really do need to grasp the nettle, upend our entire life, and end our relationship, we go looking for warning signs of divorce—anything that tells us that it’s truly necessary.

That’s okay. It’s smart and reasonable to investigate the warning signs of divorce when facing that all-encompassing life change. You wouldn’t build a house without a foundation; informing yourself of what the common signs of divorce are lays the stones of your foundation in place. It helps you feel logical and rational during a moment when you might feel anything but.

From the author Carolyn Myss’ advice to “follow your scariest guidance” to Joseph Campbell’s principle of “following your bliss,” it seems as though there are almost as many recommendations to listen to the quiet voice of our spirits as there are people in the world.

That’s because it bears repeating:

That gut instinct is difficult to hear. The voice of our true self, the bigger version of us, the divine, the call, our souls, a higher power, whatever you call it (and it seems that most of us have at least some sense that “it” is there, within and without), is not only quiet and hesitant at first, but we also tend to keep a lid on it because it scares us.

The noise of daily life can be so raucous and distracting—and of course, to a certain extent, we all like our distractions because they help keep us dog paddling in comfortably small circles and our egos too tickled, or tortured, to move. Like a corral, distractions and demands keep us penned up in predictability and apparent safety, surrounded by the familiar voices of our social norms, our families and our peers, muffling the inner voice until we can shrug it off as if we were just imagining it.

We’re not.

Heeding the inner voice

We can try to keep the inner voice quiet, try to cling to the illusion that it’s the illusion, just our imagination running wild. But we’re not imagining it. The voice of the less constrained self, the most authentic, unbound, bursting-out-of-the-corset part of us is there, whispering, urging, beckoning.

The difficulty isn’t so much in hearing it as heeding it.

But, when we do that and do it consistently—often summoning all of our courage and fighting back our worst self-doubting, self-limiting behaviors, beliefs and relationship patterns to do so—is when it gets loud and clear.

We have so much hope tied up in marriage, so much invested in it and long-term partnerships where property, finances, and children are part of the bond. When marriage is good, it is very, very good. But when it is bad…yep, it’s horrid. Now if it started off horrid, right out of the wedding reception gate, it might be easier to shake it off and move on. Let’s do a Horrid Hypothetical just for fun—something Gothically awful. Like, his other wife from a marriage he’s been hiding and lying to you about all along comes rolling up to the curb, right behind your streamer-bedecked ride to the airport as you surge forth, freshly avowed in your white princess dress while your wedding guests blow kisses and shower you with birdseed, and starts throwing red paint all over you for trying to take her man while a Jerry Springer camera crew films the whole thing.

If it went like that, divorce would be an obvious choice. You’d be out of the marriage faster than the dress, and your entire posse of family and friends would rally around you instantly; you’d have no qualms at all. No signs would be needed. But that’s not the way it goes, and we do need to confirm the warning signs of divorce. It’s more like the frog in the frying pan scenario. Toss a frog in a hot pan and it jumps right out, but put it in a cool pan and gradually increase the heat…

Some common warning signs of divorce

It’s usually not obvious. It’s the gradual going wrong that is more typical of marriages that need to end, and it’s the subtle signs, not the Gothically awful, that tell us it’s time to make that happen. Until the inner voice becomes loud and clear and we do as she says with a lot less hesitation, we should identify the signs of heat (and not the fun kind) rising:

  1. Communication breakdowns are pervasive, whether that is chronic defensiveness, criticism, or contempt.
  2. Indifference feels like the rule rather than the exception. You get the feeling that they just don’t care if you’re in the room or not, or vice versa. It takes a crisis to get a mate’s full attention and when it’s over, they drift away again, having checked it off their to-do list.
  3. And while we’re on the to-do list, another sign of impending divorce is when sex becomes an item on that list, more of a task than something that excites and enriches, expresses a fundamental attraction, that draws you out of yourself and your skin with passion and arousal and creates a lovely, sexy bond between the two of you.
  4. The distancing expands to include not just a drop-off in the sexual exchanges but a drop in your desire simply to be in their company. You begin to live more like roommates.
  5. Distancing turns into an outright aversion to being around them.
  6. Your sense of responsibility to that other person begins to feel like an obligation rather than a joy or a gift of time and energy, done with what used to be compassion or at least graciousness.
  7. An addiction or habitual, non-constructive behavior takes precedence over your mate.
  8. You begin to look for—and find—emotional connection with others, which can become emotional affairs.
  9. Sexual affairs—cheating—become justifiable in your mind and perhaps even occur. (This warning sign is not so subtle).

For the most part, though, the signs are subtle, but even more subtle is that inner voice, the song of our authentic self. That voice is quiet, unassuming—at least until we start tuning out the dissonance so we can hear it.

Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, Ph.D. writes about this voice, the archetype it belongs to, in her book “Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.”

“I call her Wild Woman, for those very words, wild and woman, create llamar o tocar a la puerta, the fairy-tale knock at the door of the deep female psyche…When women hear those words, an old, old memory is stirred and brought back to life. The memory is of our absolute, undeniable, and irrevocable kinship with the wild feminine, a relationship which may have become ghostly from neglect, buried by over-domestication, outlawed by the surrounding culture, or no longer understood anymore. We may have forgotten her names, we may not answer her when she calls ours, but in our bones we know her, we yearn toward her, we know she belongs to us and we belong to her.”

Thankfully, the wild, unbound woman inside us all never stops whispering.

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

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 discerning, newly divorced and independent, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your free, 15-minute, private consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand what your next, black and white steps are for walking into your BRAVE unknown.

Contemplating divorce and coronavirus

Divorce in the Time of Coronavirus: 30 Ways to Be Prepared and Stay Committed to You

There is a lot of uncertainty right now due to the coronavirus. Things seem to be changing by the hour. But here are 30+ ways women considering or affected by divorce can use extended time at home to take care of themselves — and their families. When the coronavirus (COVID-19) is at last behind us, and as humanity heals, adapts and grows, we want women everywhere to remain on track and committed to their healthiest selves.

If you’ve been thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recovering from it, anxiety and fear are nothing new to you. But now with COVID-19, anxiety and fear are a different punch altogether, causing our mechanism for survival to shift gears. For some, the response will trigger a desire to lean away from divorce and all that they’ve been contemplating. Now is no time to do it, some women will tell themselves. The kids are suddenly home and need tending to. Both parents might also be home, in fact, and working overtime to compensate for the drastic disruptions and time out of the workplace. Private time and space are compromised, if they exist at all. We are in survival mode or burying a crisis inside a crisis. For others, this increased time “trapped” inside our homes with a spouse we’re already at odds with may push us to a breaking point, as suggested in China with the recent spike in divorce rates being linked to the coronavirus.

Understand the temperature in your house.

This post is about centering you and to remind you that wherever you are — in your marriage, divorce, or life-after-divorce — your circumstances are real, they are valid, and they will not simply disappear because the coronavirus is here.

In fact, your circumstances may grow more agitated unless you are mindful of taking steps to acknowledge your emotions and your commitment to how you want to be as you go through this health crisis. Below are important must-knows and suggestions for coping depending on where you are in your journey of dealing with the idea, or the fact of divorce and the coronavirus. Included as well are special mentions to mothers.

Must-knows when dealing with divorce and coronavirus

When stress and anxiety are in the air—when our families, health, and jobs are on the line—things will get ramped up.

For women, especially, it’s important to know that during such circumstances, mental health issues surge and domestic violence goes up. Your safety may become a real concern.

If you are a survivor of abuse and currently forced to live with your abuser in this extended time at home, read this page now for safety suggestions.

If you experience or are a survivor of abuse or would like to talk to someone to understand what abuse is, we urge you to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

For all of us, expect things to get stressful. Understand what you are doing and teaching your family about social distancing and what to do if you become sick or are suddenly caring for someone who is sick. To keep yourself together, make plans for how you will handle your stress. We believe the following will help you. Keep reading …

Thinking about divorce

  1. When you can, make a plan on how you will learn more about your rights and what you are entitled to, and what an independent life might look like—whether you divorce or not. You may not be able to schedule a legal or divorce coach consultation right away, for lack of privacy, but you can research on the internet whom you might speak to once you are free to make calls and hear feedback. If possible as well, you might prepare for these meetings by getting financial documents together or your questions organized.
  2. Set up a secret email address dedicated to this subject, and keep this subject segregated to that email address only. If you are a woman, join our tribe and receive our free, weekly coaching letter that will keep you, discretely, honoring yourself for the next six months.
  3. For now, the internet remains intact, and we are grateful for that! But be careful about turning to your computer to answer your life questions. In this new phase of social isolation, it will be easy to fall down the Google Rabbit Hole and overanalyze the news and, in particular, options for your life—legally, financially, and every which way. Turning to Google to research your divorce options risks making you more anxious because you will never obtain the direct answers or exact numbers you so critically need to make informed decisions. You require specific feedback on your direct circumstances and issues.
  4. Which is why having direct, private consultations are so important to your future. But you may not be able to pull it off just yet. Be kind to yourself—reading this post alone is helping you manage your expectations of what is and is not possible right now. Take baby steps if you can, but be flexible.
  5. Some women derive great comfort from an ongoing connection with other women during times of stress. Whom are you turning to? In Annie’s Group—for women thinking about divorce, and for women who are beginning the divorce or separation process—the virtual live coaching program is consistently running, providing a safe, structured outlet for participants to get educated on their genuine life choices. Women feel personally supported through the Sister Partnerships and through the private, virtual consultations and coaching they receive. They are also reassured that no one is on camera and if they are unable to attend all classes, that each class is recorded.

For mothers contemplating or dealing with divorce

  1. Staying committed to you means making sure your children are as stabilized as possible during these uncertain times. This is not taking you off track. It’s reminding you of what’s important—the healthiest environment for everybody.
  2. When we’re dealing with divorce, there’s a lot of gray area when it comes to decision-making, which is why it’s important to …

    Stay focused on your goals. You will rarely go wrong if you think about what you want for your children. Really think about it. Realize as well that your children are dependent on you for securing the healthiest environment possible—in times of stress and uncertainty due to external forces, like coronavirus and schools closing, and the ongoing temperature of what they are experiencing in your house, unique to your marriage and family dynamic.

  3. The CDC has good information on preparing you, your children and your house. Share this with your spouse or coparent and talk about plans of actions for your shared house or your house and his*.
  4. Don’t take any unnecessary risks right now. You and your children may not be showing any signs of the virus, but you could still be carriers. Think about your elderly neighbors or your older family members. Stay safe and keep them safe.

Dealing with divorce

  1. If you are still living under the same roof with your spouse, these “uncertain times” are reinforcing more of what you know, and chances are, the reasons you are getting divorced. So, caution. It was always going to be hard living together during these negotiations, but now with seeing each other all the time (if practicing social distancing and working from home), it could be the recipe for toxic overload.
  2. Consider broaching the subject now with your spouse. You might share that you realize this is hard for both of you, living together and trying to figure out how you are going to part, but that you are committed to trying to stay as healthy as possible.And part of staying as healthy as possible is staying home and out of contact with others and not triggering each other.

  3. What boundaries can you put in place to honor each other’s needs or requests during these times? Can you put it in writing so it’s more thoughtful and psychologically binding? Perhaps neither one of you can do it for the other, but if you have children, express your commitment to trying to keep the atmosphere as healthy as possible for them.
  4. And if it’s just you and him, accept that you have no control over his actions but how you act could encourage him. Knowing the risks in advance will help you get centered and anchored for yourself. Find outlets away from him to vent. (See below.)

Legal and financial considerations…

  1. If you are working with a lawyer or mediator or talking with a financial person, email/call them to learn how your legal process may be affected by what is going on. You might use phone or video conferencing to keep your negotiation process moving.
  2. If you become sick in advance of your court date, you could contact your lawyer or spouse to ask for a continuance. If he agrees, you can submit a form requesting that the court change the hearing date. If your spouse is not amenable, contact the court’s clerk and share that you are sick. Ask next steps.
  3. If you or your spouse become ill and you are due to go to court, contact your doctor first and then your lawyer or the court clerk. You should not appear in court if you are sick. Often local courts have their own specific instructions. So, call the court’s family law clerk to learn what you must do. This is to say nothing about the distinct possibility that very soon the courts near you may be closed for a spell anyhow.

Coparenting through coronavirus

  1. Coparenting is often challenging in the best of times, let alone now. But more than ever, communication is key. One of the best ways to deal with the parent of your children is to “stick to the facts” style of communication. Lose the technicolor or salty language and try to present your information in a black and white, neutral way.

  2. Begin by sharing the CDC website for your state, and print out the latest recommendations to discuss with your coparent.
  3. Or you could contact your pediatrician and ask for their suggestions right now and share those with your coparent.
  4. Talk with your coparent, with each of you agreeing to share if someone you know has been exposed to COVID-19 and to keep your child away from that person.
  5. Teach your child good hygiene and proper hand-washing techniques. Teach them not to touch their face and to practice hand washing wherever they are—at school, at their other parent’s house, at your home.
  6. Teach them as well about the importance of protecting others. Again, think about how you would feel if an elderly person near you became ill.
  7. Consult the CDC website for up to date information and with your coparent, try to develop a longer-range family plan that is activated if your community faces a severe outbreak For example, if your child resides between two homes, decide where the child will primarily reside if the health crisis is growing in your community and people must stay indoors.

Rebuilding after divorce

  1. This can be a particularly tough time for a lot of us as we look around and see that we are now truly alone. As the dust keeps settling, it can be sobering to realize where we are in our life journey, starting again or feeling like it’s all ending. But make no mistake, this leveling is also a beginning—the beginning of building ourselves anew, coronavirus notwithstanding. It is the beginning of aligning ourselves with the people we want in our life and, especially, the people we want to be.
  2. More than ever, it’s important to find community—this means other like-minded souls who have reinvented or are actively seeking to grow. Take this opportunity to download Zoom for free so you can connect with old friends and family and video chat live. With Zoom, you can see each other! (Even when dealing with divorce and coronavirus.)
  3. Or download Zoom to join Paloma’s Group, our live, ongoing virtual coaching class for women recreating after divorce. Together, we build a bond of sisterly support and accountability as we take steps to rebuild our most meaningful lives.
  4. Learning who we want to be in this new phase of our lives and rebuilding after divorce and coronavirus is going to require some internal work. Social isolation could be your invitation to connect with your internal self and work on the real things that are still unresolved—the grief for the losses or the loneliness or the anger or the fears. Consider connecting with a divorce coach or therapist for telephone support and guidance. And if you’ve been working on those emotions, brava! Then you’ve been learning that this work leads to discoveries about yourself. This learning feeds more discovery, and so keep forging …

Even more things you could be doing as you spend time inside

  1. Educate yourself or reacquaint yourself with reading a good book. We’ve got suggestions for you here.
  2. If you are looking to go back to work, read this wonderful list of things you could be doing right now from experts who understand how hard it is for women of a certain age to get a job.
  3. Journal. Write down what you are experiencing right now in this moment in time and how different it is from one year ago? What have you learned?
  4. Step outside … your needs and story. Be hypervigilant about not spreading germs, but determine the best way for checking-in and supporting your elderly neighbors and aging family members. (If you are alone, you get it, and boy, will this give you perspective and gratitude.)
  5. Look for specific, regular ways to decompress and recharge so you are of service to yourself and others. Check out these free virtual meditation apps for connecting to positive, inspiring energy.
  6. If you are up for it, consider creating a dating profile on a few apps, but don’t meet people right now—you have the perfect excuse to take it slow. You must practice social-distancing, but you would love to consider meeting in the future. In the interim, let’s talk!
  7. Or take coronavirus as a sign from the universe, you are definitely not supposed to be dating right now!
  8. Be a messenger of hope and light. As you deal with life post divorce and coronavirus, you are a poster child for having already faced tough times and surviving. Remind others who may not be so brave that so far, 80 percent of the coronavirus cases are mild and most infected people are cured. There are 13 times more cured cases than deaths and that proportion is increasing.
  9. Go outside when and if you can. Sunlight is not only the enemy of germs; it is incredibly healing, builds our immune systems, and helps shift our emotions. Emotions are motion. As such, they ebb and flow. Help your emotions, like fear and anxiety, move, and as they move, check-in with them. What are they trying to tell you? When you listen to them, what other emotions do they make room for?

Above all, stay committed to you

Women are hardwired to be caregivers. In challenging times, we know that women are often the ones who take care of sick loved-ones, keep a family running, figure out child-care issues, and everything in between. It is often women taking the leadership roles in their households and communities to understand what is coming and to prepare for it. We also know it’s times like these when women throw themselves under the bus and forget themselves. We are encouraging you to stay committed to you as you lead others through.

Let’s be kind to others and ourselves. Stay connected to your source of strength and positivity. Stay connected to other powerful women!

And talk to us! In the comments below, tell us what you are doing to practice self-care and cope with divorce and coronavirus during these challenging times. We thank you on behalf of so many. Your ideas inspire and support other women who are finding that now more than ever, their hours are especially tough and isolating. We are all in this together.

 

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. We invite you to schedule your free consultation with SAS. You’ll share privately what’s going on and we’ll give you black & white feedback, resources, and next steps for moving forward in the healthiest, smartest way.

*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.

Paintings of unapologetic women

The Apologetic vs. Unapologetic Woman

Look around. There is a tidal swell of social change that’s rising because women are looking at themselves differently. We are putting more value in our own perspective on ourselves, rather than focusing on what others think.

Looking at divorce differently, too—as a means of leveraging possibility and coming through the heat of it with a newly forged sense of self—means we need to look at marriage differently. It’s time to evaluate, for ourselves, marriage as a social norm. We tend to think of “the norm” as happening outside ourselves, but the fact is, we are all the norm, so each perspective and each experience is valid. Each drop of water is part of the swell. But even if you disagree, there are women already living outside “the norm.” We must stop viewing being married as a benchmark for our success.

What’s an unapologetic woman?

An unapologetic woman is not ashamed, and she is a little bit selfish. That doesn’t mean she’s acting like a matador, flying the flag of the egotistical or self-involved, but yes, she is a little selfish when she needs to be and she is okay with that—even if the people around her are not. We are glad when we are able to please others, but we aren’t driven to it in order to feel like “good girls.” We aren’t pleasers to our own chronic detriment. We can say no when we need to and not feel guilty about it. We’re recognizing the pitfalls of defining our own happiness by whether the people in our lives are happy.

We do not need to apologize or justify ourselves for making choices that serve us well. We are not “bitches” for standing up for ourselves, for being bold, for taking risks or making our own happiness a priority, any more than we are “whores” for reveling in our sexual selves.

The unapologetic woman is not about being brassy or loud-mouthed or brazen—the most common misconception. It’s about cultivating zero shame and embodying who we really are. We’ve reached the place where we no longer assess our value or meaning through someone else’s eyes. We look to ourselves instead of others for approval.

Portrait of an unapologetic Frieda Kahlo

Credit: weheartit

In the past, we gained approval and a sense of being valuable by turning down the volume on that inner voice that is just ours, down to a whisper, so it wouldn’t interfere with the clamoring voices calling to us for needs to be met, investments to be protected, support to be given, and conformity or blending in.

Being authentic is one way of being unapologetic

As SAS founder Liza Caldwell points out in this movie, how we keep ourselves “in our place” is to give away our power and identity to external forces—to other people’s approval, to the having of a man, to the entity that is the marriage itself. In her archetypes and sacred contracts material, Carolyn Myss identifies marriage as an archetype unto itself and describes how the archetype of marriage comes right up to the newly-married couple at the wedding banquet, plunks itself down between the bride and groom, and says hi, I’ll be here for the duration of your marriage telling you how you should conduct yourselves.

The problem is that when we are behaving in a way dictated by anyone other than ourselves, we lose all sight of our bigger self, our truest self, and what we want. We are struggling to adhere to a version of ourselves that we didn’t generate.

Portrait of an unapologetic Muslim woman

Credit: weheartit

When it doesn’t come from within, it’s not authentic. It might feel workable for a while, but eventually, it’s like trying to dance or run a marathon in shoes that are too tight. And then, because we’re just trying to move forward, we change from a long stride to a shorter one. We mince along, and we end up feeling inadequate and sorry for not being able to keep up.

Or confused, or grudge-holding—that others seem to be doing it so well! Why them, and not us? What is wrong with us? This voice is a smaller version of ourselves, the one trying to shoehorn who we are into who we thought we were supposed to be. And we apologize. For endeavoring to be our true self, our biggest self, and instead revert to a much smaller version of what we know is living deep within us, the self we are meant to be.

Portrait of an unapologetic Angela Davis

Credit: weheartit

Some people reach for the biggest version of themselves naturally, but for most, it takes life giving us a push.

Divorce is one of the ways we get pushed

Okay maybe divorce is more like getting thrown, and when that happens, we finally give up trying to be something we’re not. We change. We find our natural stride that was waiting to break out all along, and we grow. We become an unapologetic woman.

It is SO okay to have a long stride, to be big, to take up space in the world—no matter if big means our life looks hugely different from how a praise-worthy life was laid out for us before, or if it is our size 18 body. (Big doesn’t necessarily mean busier or more multi-tasky. It just means that you like it more. That you like you more. For you. No one else.)

We do not need permission from anyone outside ourselves. What we need is our own permission.

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

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

Woman thinking about how to prepare for divorce if you are stay at home mom

How to Prepare for Divorce If You Are a Stay-At-Home-Mom

When you have built your life around your relationship and family—even considering leaving that life behind can make you feel like a complete fraud. So how do you prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom? (Or STAHM.) When, sometimes, it seems like the real question you’re asking yourself is less should I get a divorce and more can I get a divorce?

Because it’s true, money does seem to make the world go round. Researchers at Boston University have learned that marriages in which both partners have their own careers and incomes are less likely to end in divorce. The stress of being the sole provider for your household can feel insurmountable. It’s not just about how much money you bring in—it’s about stability and how prepared you might be for the future. If you’re your family’s sole provider, then what happens if you lose your job? What happens if you pass away? If you get hit with an unexpected and large expense? How many more opportunities would you and your family have if you had two incomes to live on?

If you’re struggling to figure out how to prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom, the unknown—what, exactly, comes after divorce—might seem more precarious than it does for other women because suddenly it feels like there is no safety net. Even if the decision to stay at home and take care of your home and family or let your partner handle the family finances was mutual, there’s a resounding sense of shame that comes when you decide it’s a life you no longer want.

But you are allowed to want something different for yourself. You’re allowed to look toward the future and shape the life you want. We’re here to remind you that it’s all possible and you are allowed.

Start a dialogue, first with yourself and then with others

If you’re wondering how to prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom, start by giving yourself permission to have a conversation with yourself (your true self, that voice you’ve been ignoring). Take your time. Thinking about divorce doesn’t mean the same thing as getting a divorce. You might feel isolated and alone during this time, but the reality is that you’re far from it. There are so many women out there in the same place as you—or women who have already made it through their own divorce journey, realizing that there is life on the other side.

Once you open up to others, that feeling will begin to dissipate. In our virtual divorce support group and class, Annie’s Group, we hear the relief women feel once connected to the other women in the group—a deep sense of relief that comes with listening to other women’s situations, sharing our own, and understanding that the path we’re on is well-trodden.

For perspective and holistic feedback on your situation, you might have a conversation with a divorce coach.  A coach will often provide you with a free consultation, because no one understands exactly what they do. They have to explain and demonstrate how they help. A coach can anchor you, give you an idea of the lay of the land and help you understand what decision making looks like. If appropriate they might point you to which questions to ask your lawyer and help you prioritize and sequence the steps you need to take to address — not only your legal situation — but also your emotional, financial, maternal and practical needs. Get organized, one step at a time

When we do nothing, we get stuck in a cycle filled with habit and routine. We feel simultaneously like our lives are happening far too quickly and also like we’re standing still, watching it all pass us by in a blur. We feel overwhelmed and anxious. Take your future into your own hands by getting your ducks in a row, preparing yourself for the legal, financial, and emotional aspects of divorce.

Study the divorce laws in your state. (Don’t do a deep dive, but research enough to understand what your state’s divorce laws say about alimony and child support. Then stop.) Collect your financial records so you save time and money later on. But be sure to keep these documents in a safe place, away from the prying eyes of your husband* (a safety deposit box, a friend or family member—someone you can trust). Monitor your credit score to ensure that your husband has not negatively impacted it unbeknownst to you and that you’ll have more financial leverage when you’re on your own. Open up a post office box so that your soon-to-be Ex doesn’t have access to mail that may be confidential, like correspondence from your attorney or new credit and bank accounts.

Which brings us to…

Figure out your finances

If you have children, finances can be the thing that repeatedly holds you back from moving forward with a divorce. Statistically, both married and single STAHMs are less educated than their working counterparts—for the former, 42% have at most a high school diploma compared to 64% for the latter. Not having a college degree can make finding a job later in life more difficult, particularly a well-paying job with benefits like health care or retirement plans. Married STAHMs are nearly twice as likely to be foreign born as married and working mothers, too. Barriers based on both culture and language become more reasons to stay in an unhappy marriage.

But think about what your children witness everyday they live under your roof—how can you create a healthier and happier life for all of you? Can you really afford to do nothing? For women, one of the first steps we can take when thinking about divorce is becoming more financially independent. If your husband controls your funds, then how can you access the money you’ll need to hire a lawyer or pay for everyday expenses? As soon as possible, start setting aside money for the fees that come along with a divorce and your future living expenses.

Embrace the unknown

There’s such a thing as the sunk cost fallacy—we continue a path that is no longer serving us or our best interests because we’ve already invested so much time, energy, and resources into the journey. If you’re a STAHM, this might be something you struggle with when it comes to thinking about divorce: I’ve invested too much of myself in this relationship. I have to make it work. If I simply do more of X, Y, or Z, then maybe things will finally get better. What will people think? You keep waiting for something to change, only it never does.

We prefer to live the life we know, so afraid of what we might find after divorce because it represents the vast unknown. Our identities are wrapped up inside our relationship, deeply connected to our partner—who are we if we let go?

Life doesn’t stop—the beauty and the pain, they aren’t going anywhere. But sometimes we are moving through life on autopilot, so worried about hitting certain milestones or reaching the goal faster than everyone else that we forget to pause and ask ourselves: what do I actually want? Not the version of me that made vows and plans for my future, but the version of me that exists now.

You can still prepare for divorce if you are a stay at home mom. You had a plan, yes. Now you have to throw the plan out and start from scratch. Grab a blank sheet of paper, sharpen your pencil, and allow yourself to dream again. Thinking about divorce and exploring your options is the first step toward a life that is truly your own.

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.

*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.

Two women contemplating the state of women's health around the world

Women’s Health Around the World & Why It Matters

We are no longer living when women aren’t allowed to vote. If our marriages are no longer serving us, we can get a divorce. If we want fulfilling careers, we can go out into the world, work hard, and create them. Starting a family? It’s our choice, not an obligation. We can now celebrate our strengths and achievements as women instead of hiding them away, preferring to be meek and docile and “feminine” to make men feel more comfortable and capable. No longer confined by the old-fashioned, we can be more than simply daughters, wives, and mothers. We can be providers, too.

Some women do, of course, provide for their families, but for others, this reality is still nothing but a concept. While the 21st-century woman has a lot more freedom than women of the past, the societal norms that once held us captive did not vanish completely. They only took on a different shape, one that continues to suffocate and oppress us.

Our culture makes it difficult to fully escape a gender binary. For the most part, we are either male or female, and people expect us to perform our assigned gender role. Many of us still face prejudice based on gender, trampling the equality that good men and women around the world have fought so hard for.

They say women can do anything men can do, but in truth, we tend to always pull the short straw. This is most evident when it comes to the state of women’s health around the world.

Maternal health

Women face many challenges today—unequal pay, racism, sexual harassment, and poor healthcare, to name a few. Healthcare, especially, is one aspect of our lives that is particularly lacking—because when it comes to women, our health does not seem to be much of a priority throughout the world.

Many women suffer from a myriad of health conditions that go unnoticed. This isn’t just because having quality health care can be a challenge but because of a lack of time—even women with full-time jobs often find themselves taking care of their family in ways that surpass the efforts of their husbands. There are also health issues that exclusively effect women, such as pregnancy, menopause, breast cancer, and cervical cancer.

Here are some examples of health concerns that women commonly have:

  • Cancer: breast and cervical cancer are the two most common cancers that effect women. Early detection is crucial to keeping yourself healthy and alive.
  • Sexual and reproductive health problems: this accounts for one-third of issues women aged 15 to 34 face.
  • Maternal health: women today are experiencing a great improvement in their care during pregnancy and childbirth compared to previous generations, but around the world, many women still die of routine complications.
  • Violence against women: women, whether in a heterosexual or same-sex marriage, are likelier to be subject to various forms of violence at the hands of their partner.
  • Sexually transmitted disease: unsafe sex has led to a considerable number of women contracting sexually transmitted diseases, such as HIV and HPV infection.
  • Mental health: women have a higher tendency to suffer from mental health issues, like depression and anxiety, than men.

Aging is also a factor related to women’s health. Older women often have less access to quality health care, pensions, and social services—a truth we know so well.

Violence against women

Many women face physical, sexual, and mental abuse—from broken bones to mental issues, violence against women is recognized as a global epidemic. This violence and abuse is just one reason that many women struggle to leave their husbands. If you’re currently in the midst of a particularly nasty divorce, prepare yourself and find support.

Among the health impacts of domestic violence include depression, sexually transmitted infections, alcohol addiction, low birth weight of babies, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, as well as injury and death. This violence is so alarmingly common that we urgently need to find the underlying causes and ways to prevent more women from becoming victims.

Women and suicide

In countries around the world, there is a higher chance of women suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts than men. Interestingly enough, while men may suffer from depression less overall, on average, more men commit suicide. But the numbers are still worrisome. The female suicide rate varies from country to country. Lesotho, a South African country, has the highest female suicide rates at 32.6 percent, with a population of 100,000.

Suicide is a complex, sensitive issue with a multitude of causes. It’s scary to think that one day someone you love may fall into a depression so deep and vast that they seriously entertain thoughts of suicide. Fortunately, mental health awareness is growing. More people are learning to understand that mental health issues are nothing to be ashamed of. The more we as a society normalize these conversations, the more we can have honest conversations about what possible factors contribute to it.

Whether it is women’s suicide, violence, or mental health issues, communication is a key element that can make a significant change. Open communication and increased awareness is the first step to bringing these issues into the spotlight and addressing them.

Infographic explaining the state of women's health around the world

Women constitute more than half of the world’s population. The state of women’s health around the world is an indicator of how developed a country is. For example, approximately 529,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes each year, and 99 percent of those maternal deaths happen in developing nations. What we see when we look at the data is that improved women’s health means an improved community: higher levels of education, less people living in poverty, better access to healthcare.

The world may be working against us, but women are strong. Look for ways to find some peace and quiet in your life. Practice self-care. We are pillars of both society and our families. While no one can dispute our contributions and achievements, we are often victims of our society’s lack of support and misogyny. We may be far from our dream of equality, but we cannot lose hope. Women’s health couldn’t be more important—it has a ripple effect on everything around us.

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.

Woman's hand on a window thinking about why divorce hurts

Why Divorce Hurts

I think if you ask a woman why divorce hurts so much, she’d probably ask you in return, “Um, how much time do you have?” But there’s also the chance that she might recoil from you—unless you’re her close friend or a family member and you have a large tub of ice cream nearby—because of how intimate the answer is.

Divorce hits us at the core of who we are, in the most deeply personal ways. Prepared or not, whether we’re the initiator or not, it pulls the rug out from under us, out from under our sense of possibility, our hopes, our dreams for ourselves, our children, and our union, our own potential and the potential of our coupledom.

Divorce yanks away our identity. It drops us off the edge of what we know, and for a while, it feels like we’re going to keep falling, getting more and more lost in loss. It upends reality in all the public and practical ways, too, certainly. But that stuff is more tangible; you can define it or at least see the general shape of it. We can put more of those things on a to-do list.

It’s in the loss of the unseen—the spirit of the relationship—where self-doubt, hopelessness, and a surreal alienation from who we thought we were creep in and blind us for a while.

As if that fog wasn’t difficult enough to navigate, there are also all the little things that were unique to the two of you hiding in it. If the saying “the devil is in the details” has relevance in any life event, it’s in divorce. Those little day-to-day grace moments that were the divine of the relationship—the comfort and bliss of it—become swift, devilishly sharp memories that tunnel so quickly out of the pigeon holes we put them in. They fly at us unexpectedly, just when we think we might be okay, and they burrow in, becoming a lump in our throats.

As you’re doing dishes at the sink, suddenly you feel the weight of his* hands on your hips as he comes up to stand behind you, and your head leans back to rest on a chest that isn’t there. You’re hanging up a coat and from the cold scent of the fabric rushes a memory of him coming in from pruning trees in the backyard, tracking mulch and leaving piles of branches everywhere but delighted to see you. You open your arms for the hug that doesn’t come. You bend down to pet the cat and say something to her with his inflection, and it levels you and leaves you on the floor with her while she licks your tears. All you can do is curl up in a ball as you hear him in your mind, discussing the state of her tummy.

Maybe you wake from a nightmare and all you want is the rumble of his voice under your cheek, telling you it’s just a dream. But all that’s there are clammy sheets, too much quiet, too little air, and an aching solitude you didn’t have in mind when you said you needed “me time.”

And that’s really it. When we’re honest with ourselves, we know why divorce hurts: it comes the loss of a really wonderful dream that you had, not just about your own potential but the potential of your union, the possibility of joy and hope. We have that in common, but the intimacy of it is particular to each of us. If you’re reading this, you are likely still living in your pain and feeling vulnerable, but this is, after all, a shared experience. That’s why we’re all here—so that we know we’re not alone.

“Sometimes, we outlaw our own grief, failing to give value to our feelings; seeing the tears as intruders that must be defended against. But grief is not on a timetable and doesn’t always run on schedule. Sometimes it even leaves the station, only to double back and park again. And stay,” writes Jonathan Trotter, a contributor at The Gottman Institute.

“…So please allow grief, in your own heart and in the hearts of others. Don’t send it underground. If you’re uncomfortable with other peoples’ grief, you might want to look deep, deep down in your own soul and see if there’s some long-outlawed, long-buried grief. If you find some, begin gently to see it, vent it, feel it.”

If I am honest, even though I had released and let go of my Ex, there was for a while a tiny ember of hope glowing that we’d have another chance—that I would have a chance to do things differently. That ember was still there because of regret.

There are a million reasons for regret. There’s the regret of disappearing from the “we” to avoid the “I.” There may be regret for not being anywhere close to our best selves for a good chunk of the relationship; for being too frequently sad, angry, or hopeless during periods of our togetherness and letting him carry all of that too often. Some of us make the mistake of making our partnership the main source of our sense of accomplishment and pride and allowing ourselves to shrink into that and stay stuck there.

Sometimes we let fear stop us from finding our courage and reaching for something meaningful that’s just ours. Without realizing I was doing it, I wrapped more than a little of my identity around my Ex; I’d been chosen by a good man, and I half consciously made that my mantra for when I didn’t feel good about myself. I left him alone in the midst of us a lot; when I released us from our partnership (and then panicked), we remained friends, but even so, he took off like a wild creature finally freed.

It isn’t just that we can lose our identity in marriage (in any long-term relationship) and have to face choking fear and bewilderment when we start to find our way back to ourselves. The sharpest facet of that pain is the realization that no one took it from us; we gave it up. We fail ourselves as much as we fail our partners. It is the regret of that realization that’s another reason why divorce hurts. That and our own conscience. We can try to ignore it, but while ignorance may be bliss, it’s a mindless bliss. It isn’t until we truly understand this that we can forgive ourselves for giving up on ourselves, even temporarily.

You sit with the grief for a while. Sometimes it consumes you. And then you sit with the nothingness for a while, and it’s terrifying. And finally, when you get through the self-recognition, the ownership and the elusive self-forgiveness, you begin to see your sense of vulnerability ebbing away.

You realize that hope, like love, never really dies. They just change form, and it continue to do so. From the ashes of the hope you had for the relationship and all its potential, you have the hope that, now that it’s over, it might be reborn because you have yourself back and are strong enough to do things well this time, and then it changes form again and now you know that your hope for yourself isn’t fragile at all.

So remember, grief, hope, love—they are never really gone. They change form, and so do you. You may not get to do things differently with him, but you do get a chance to do things differently for yourself—be a different woman. However you created that chance, you did, so blot your face, lift your eyes, and go and meet yourself.

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

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

*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.

Being nice when the Ex has a new girlfriend

Playing Nice with Your Ex’s New Girlfriend

When I was little, I used to take the goldfish bowl on our coffee table and wind that sucker down the length of the hall like a bowler on a bender. Off it would fly, water everywhere, mother rabid with exasperation, me laughing (and then crying from the butt swat), and the poor goldfish gasping on the olive shag carpet until my mother finally gave it to someone whose life lacked a two-year-old.

That’s a bit what divorce is like. There you are, swimming laps around your life. Maybe you’re bored and a little tired, but you’ve got your pink castle, plastic plants, and most of all, the guppy who shares your bowl. He may hang out in the tiki house too often and he makes an unholy mess of your carefully arranged blue gravel, but his presence reminds you that you are a cute and loveable fish. You know who you are partly because he is there. And suddenly (even though you know in your heart that it wasn’t really sudden), everything you know is gone and you can’t breathe from the shock and terror of it.

When this cataclysmic upending of your world happens, one of a million horrible-wonderful thoughts you have (in a span of minutes) is that it CANNOT get worse. Well, hello. It can. The universe may not always wear pigtails, but it can add insult to injury any old time it feels like it. For in swoops a seagull, freshly preened and glossy. Yes, this bird has absolutely no place in the living room or anywhere near your pink castle. But there it is.

Where did this bird come from? Back in your bowl, breathing again but still stupefied, you watch helplessly as she lands on the coffee table, and then takes a beady look at your guppy guy like he’s king salmon. Then swoosh, she scoops him up out of the bowl you’ve shared for as long as you can remember and off she flies. With him! And not only is he not afraid or even looking back at you, he jumps right into her snappy yellow bill and appears to enjoy it, immensely.

Your Ex has a new girlfriend, and the seagull is her. Two months after you’ve left the home you bought together 10 years earlier, where you harvested apples and got engaged and made up rich inner lives for your cats, he’s got a freaking girlfriend. She flew in and helped herself to your (Ex) husband and made herself right at home where she didn’t belong—with the person in your life who was closest to you, who listened to your dreams in the middle of the night, and who told you that you are beautiful, that he’d love you forever.

I know the whole goldfish bowl metaphor is oversimplified, and depending on what stage of divorce you’re in, it may even seem glib. But here’s the thing…

It’s temporary

I would not have been able to be glib about giving up my partner—about the dissolution of what I thought was my whole life’s context—two months or even a year later. I can now. You need to know that the ragged terror, the horrible grief, the jealousy, the rage—they really do end. The paralysis, the apathy, the sense that we disappear when our marriage does—all of that is temporary.

Meanwhile, nutso is the new normal for a while. You’re bouncing from bowl to shag carpet, or to just shagging, and back again, and that is not only normal, it’s ok. But when your Ex has a new girlfriend, jealousy can make the shag rug feel like broken glass, though. A friend of mine who’d been married since she was 18 and was, after 37 years, happily divorcing, told me, “You are going to have a different, really intense emotion every five seconds. You’ll go from great to bawling and screaming, and then you’ll be great again. It’s ok. It’ll pass.” But even though this friend was happy to be divorcing, she still hated her husband’s new girlfriend. She knew it wasn’t rational, but she couldn’t help it. I’m guessing this is also normal, but who wants to stay in this phase forever? We want to let our Ex go. For me, that meant letting it out.

Let it out

Let it out, girl, but do it in private. Publicly, fake it ’til you make it, as the saying goes. “You are becoming the version of yourself you want to be,” as a dear friend of mine puts it. Until then, cry in the shower. Scream in the car, in an empty lot. Punch the crap out of your mattress when the kids are at school. Write in your journal about getting her in a headlock and shaving off patches of her hair. Work out hard (I highly recommend cardio kickboxing). It’s a simple matter of pride: keep it civil on social media (or stay off of it), keep it to yourself at work as much as you can, and DON’T do what a friend of mine did, which was to go to the house they still co-owned to pick up some clothes and detour into the bedroom long enough to sprinkle toilet water on their red-clad pillows.

Yep. She did that. She wasn’t proud of it; that was NOT the version of herself she wanted to be. It was a tantrum. It was juvenile, more than a little disgusting, and definitely not playing nice with her Ex’s girlfriend. But eventually she started caring a lot more about who she was becoming than who her Ex was with now. She acted in ways she was proud of, like when one of their dear cats was diagnosed with cancer not long after they ended things, and her Ex wanted his girlfriend there with them for the euthanasia. She said yes, not only because she wanted to be that version of herself, but because she genuinely could be.

Laugh

The pillowcase baptism may not have been the way to go (no pun intended), but it illustrated her to herself. And it sure made for a great story later. Her sheepish telling of that story made her friends laugh their asses off, which made her able to laugh at herself.

You really do need to laugh about any part of this thing as soon and as often as you can. Laughter, like working out, boosts endorphin levels without chemical assistance and forces fresh oxygen into your blood stream. It’s literally a breath of fresh air. It clears away grief, makes recognizing the new world you’re in easier, and it bubbles away fear like hydrogen peroxide on blood. From there, the moments when you can feel your new self emerging grow longer. You become more real to yourself in this context instead of the old one. Yes, your Ex has a new girlfriend, but now you start wondering what the pond might be like too. And as you let it out, let it go, and laugh, you reach the next phase of recognition.

It isn’t her fault

It isn’t. Even if your Ex has a new girlfriend who he was involved with while you were still married, he was the one who committed to you, not her. While we’re still feeling grief and rage, we want to blame something or someone outside ourselves, and it’s a lot easier to blame the interloper than the person who was Our Person. The Seagull instead of The Guppy.

The relationship you’ve left, the one that cracked under the strain of something whether it was a fear of change, denial about being unhappy, or a role that didn’t fit one or both of you well—it belonged to you and your Ex. You shared that fishbowl. It may not seem like it, but no two-year-old in pigtails actually upended it. You outgrew it. It cracked open because on some level you and your curiosity were getting too big for it. Whether you realized it or not.

There’s no comparison

If you truly didn’t realize it, divorce is a rude awakening, to say the very least. Adding in a new partner in your Ex’s life sharpens the pain and turns up the volume on that voice inside your head that tells you “something about me wasn’t enough.” It’s almost impossible not to, but comparing yourself to her is fruitless and damaging, so try not to do it. Stop doing it as soon as you can. You are not a lightbulb. There is no replacement for you.

“Jealousy, that sickening combination of possessiveness, suspicion, rage, and humiliation, can overtake your mind and threaten your very core as you contemplate your rival,” writes author, relationship expert and scientist, Helen Fisher.

When your Ex has a new girlfriend, stop contemplating her in any way that isn’t strictly practical and strategic to moving on. The only valid comparison involves looking back on your old self, not at her. In a future a lot less distant than you think, you will look back at life in the bowl with your guppy and the gull won’t even matter. Because you will have jumped from the bowl into the pond and started swimming.

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

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