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Divorce Laws in Illinois

What to Know About Divorce Laws in Illinois

Divorce is difficult. There are legal processes to deal with and emotional issues to overcome. And while, divorce laws differ from state to state, with some states having longer, more difficult processes, if you live in Illinois, getting a divorce is not as challenging as in many other states. For this reason, it’s important to acquaint yourself with the divorce laws in Illinois. 

Although divorcing in Illinois is not difficult, few people know how to go about it. Here is some information that can help.

Eligibility requirements for divorce in Illinois

According to Illinois divorce laws, couples can only divorce if one of the spouses has been a resident of the state for at least 90 days.  

Where a child custody agreement is necessary, the children must have been residents of Illinois for at least six months. 

Couples must also legally separate for at least six months to commence divorce proceedings in Illinois.

Uncontested divorces are quicker to finalize than contested ones because, with the latter, the couples disagree on issues that they must streamline before they can divorce. 

Some grounds for divorce that the state of Illinois recognizes are:

  • Willful desertion
  • Irreconcilable differences
  • Conviction of a crime
  • Domestic violence
  • Venereal disease
  • Drug/alcohol addiction
  • Abandonment for one year or more
  • Attempted murder of one’s spouse
  • Unexplained absences
  • A prior marriage that was never dissolved

The legal divorce process

If you have grounds for divorce in Illinois, here is the simplest way to file for one and begin the legal process.

If you are the plaintiff, the first step is to ensure the Petition for Dissolution of Marriage is delivered to the defendant. Once the defendant receives the petition, he or she has 30 days to respond. 

Some supporting documents, such as a parenting plan (with children involved), can also be filed in addition to the petition. If the judge finds all the paperwork is in order, s/he will grant the spouses a Judgement of Dissolution of Marriage.

You and your spouse can also file for divorce together by filing a joint petition for simplified dissolution. You can file this petition when where there are no complications, and spouses are largely in agreement on how to go about the divorce. Factors that make a simplified dissolution of marriage possible include:

  • A marriage with no children
  • A marriage that has not been in existence for more than 8 years
  • Divorce without expected spousal support
  • Where the couple wants to get a divorce on no-fault grounds
  • A marriage where the couple involved have a written agreement on how to divide debt and any existing property in excess of $100 between themselves.

Divorce coaching and support

The above are just procedural facts. However, we know divorce is highly triggering and emotional responses can lead the charge. So if you are a woman, we urge you to consult and ask the right questions of a divorce attorney before you make any decisions about “how you will divorce” or before you agree to any terms with your spouse —yes, even if you want to do it amicably. You’ve probably never divorced before, and just rushing through the divorce process, agreeing to terms because you “want it to be over” is a very bad strategy.

As divorce coaches, we know the number one mistake women often make is that they do not do due diligence in securing their best outcomes. In other words, they don’t find out what the law entitles them to. Without talking to a divorce lawyer, you do not know what you don’t know and what you are giving up. This could have serious implications for your future. Divorce laws exist for good reasons —these laws are often designed to protect women and children. So find out for sure before proceeding.

Child custody requirements

Children are the most important part of our lives. We often worry about getting a divorce because we are thinking of their well being. In Illinois, a child is anyone under the age of 18. Illinois law defines a child as one who is under 19 years and still in high school.

Fortunately, the divorce laws in Illinois put children’s welfare first to ensure their happiness after the divorce. The court decides who gets custody of children in a divorce by considering the best interest of the child or children involved. 

The custodial parent has responsibility for taking care of the children while the other parent pays child support, which the court calculates according to their income. The couple can also agree on joint custody, in which case they need to enter into a Joint Parenting Agreement. 

In Illinois, child support is calculated as a percentage of one’s income after deductions such as FICA are removed from an individual’s income. The percentage increases according to the number of children involved.

Marital property during divorce

In Illinois, law categorizes property as “separate” during a divorce if earned before the marriage. On the other hand, marital property is what the couple acquired during the marriage.

Marital property belongs to both spouses, and the judge splits it up among the two in the divorce. However, any separate property belongs to the owner and does not get split in the divorce.

Couples should be careful with the separate property as it can turn into marital property. For example, if you receive money from a gift or inheritance and put it in a joint marital account, the court can categorize that as marital property. Therefore, be careful about how you handle your personal assets. If you inherit money, do not commingle it with your marital accounts.

Illinois divorce law and dividing assets

In Illinois, judges are responsible for dividing property in a divorce. The judge ensures a fair distribution of any property or assets among the spouses based on the following factors.

  • Health and age of the couple
  • How much each couple contributed to the marital property
  • Financial resources of each spouse
  • How long the marriage lasted
  • Employability of either party

Unfortunately, since judges look at the spouses’ earning capacity, it means the lower-earning party can get a bigger portion of the marital assets and property.

The good news is any misbehavior during the marriage, such as adultery, will not hamper the chances of a spouse getting what is justly theirs when the property is divided.


For more practical, legal, and emotional things to do to support yourself, read our 36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce


In Illinois, the law considers retirement property acquired by the spouses during their marriage to be marital property too.  You may worry about splitting such, and that is okay. The process is quite complicated, and it is best that you and your ex-spouse contact a financial advisor for help in understanding and making the process easy.

When it comes to inheritance, a surviving spouse cannot claim the ex-spouse’s property after their death, if their divorce is finalized. 

Spousal support and alimony

According to divorce laws in Illinois, when it comes to paying alimony, either of the spouses can get spousal support from the other after a divorce. 

However, the court will decide how much alimony the deserving spouse receives. It will also consider other factors, such as the emotional, physical, and mental condition of both parties. In many cases, the court sets alimony arrangements only for a specific duration as judges expect the deserving spouse to become self-supporting after some time. 

The spousal support can be permanent if the deserving spouse is unable to support themselves indefinitely; for example, if they have a debilitating injury that prevents them from working. Where a divorce is pending, courts can also allow spouses to get temporary alimony agreed upon by both parties.

Can you get a no-fault divorce in Illinois?

A no-fault divorce is where spouses get a divorce without putting fault on each other. They only have to give any reason that the state approves for a divorce to get it. 

For example, in Illinois, a no-fault divorce can be granted if the couple says their union is irretrievably broken. An irretrievably broken marriage is where a couple cannot get along in their marriage, and their relationship cannot be repaired. 

If you want to divorce your spouse, it’s best to maintain a cordial relationship so that you may be eligible for a no-fault divorce. However, sometimes it’s difficult as relations are quite broken by the time you seek a divorce. If you are undergoing a difficult process, seeking a divorce coach or mediator can make things easier.

Are there other options apart from a divorce?

According to divorce laws in Illinois, there are other alternatives to getting a divorce. For example, a couple can get their marriage annulled or legally separate. The process of divorcing in Illinois, although much easier than in many other states, can be challenging. It’s always a good idea to contact a divorce coach to better understand the process and what steps to take first or a divorce lawyer for helping you understand what your rights are and what you are entitled to.  

 

For women seeking structure, guidance, education, and support as they “contemplate” or begin the actual divorce/separation process, we invite you to consider Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual, group coaching program for women only. Annie’s Group provides support, education, and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, so you feel less alone. Read more here

Women must know about divorce in texas

6 Things a Woman Must Know About Divorce in Texas

Every state is unique in how it adjudicates divorce, adding to the headache of getting on with life-after-marriage. And the Lone Star state, as you might expect, has its own unique rule book. There are several things a woman must know about divorce in Texas if she is going to avoid painful surprises. We’re going to look at six of them.

From waiting periods to custody to the division of assets, it’s imperative that a woman goes into her divorce with eyes wide open. And, if that woman is you, the time to educate yourself and prepare is now.

Even if you’re still in the not-sure stage, there is a checklist of things to do if you are contemplating divorce. The fact that “the big D” is stirring around in your mind may be the shoulder-tap you need to work on your marriage.

But, if you are past the point of possible resolution, it’s time to bring your A-game. The more informed and prepared you are, the better you (and your children) will be going forward. So embrace the unembraceable with wisdom, dedicated research, and unflappable self-advocacy.

Let’s look at six important things a woman must know about divorce in Texas.

 

  1. Grounds for divorce. 

There are seven grounds (reasons) for divorce in Texas, but only the first one is considered “no-fault.” The remaining grounds can influence judgment regarding things like division of assets and child guardianship. (Obviously these grounds can apply to either or both spouses. And most couples opt for a no-fault divorce.)

    1. You have irreconcilable differences. “No one’s at fault, but we just can’t live together or get along anymore.”
    2. There is emotional and/or physical abuse (“cruel treatment”) that makes staying in the marriage unsafe and/or unbearable.
    3. Your spouse has cheated on you.
    4. Conviction of a felony. During the marriage, your spouse was convicted of a felony and incarcerated for at least a year without pardon.
    5. Your spouse has been gone for more than a year with the intention of leaving you forever.
    6. Living apart. You and your spouse have lived apart, without cohabitating, for at least three years.
    7. Confinement in a mental hospital. At the time of filing, your spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for at least three years without a prognosis of improvement.

2. Mandatory waiting period vs. reality. 

Texas family courts aren’t in a rush to finalize divorces. Expect to wait a minimum of 60 days from the date of filing for your divorce to be final. However, the average wait is six months to a year, depending on the complexity of the divorce and degree of conflict.

The only exception to the 60-day waiting period is one of two specific criteria involving domestic violence.

3. Legal separation? Not in Texas. 

In Texas, you’re either married, or you’re not. Or so says the law. That means that all assets and debts, whether accumulated while together or separated, are considered communal property at the time of divorce.

This is important to keep in mind if you’re thinking that a separation will give you time to think, experiment with singlehood, or side-step divorce.

You could end up liable for expenses your spouse accrues on a separate credit card, for example. You could also have to divide income and benefits you accumulate while “kind of” living on your own.

4. Alimony? Good luck.

One of the most important things you, as a woman, must know about divorce in Texas is that there is no court-ordered alimony. Texas courts call this “judicially imposed allowance,” and they don’t award it. What the courts refer to as “maintenance” comes with specific criteria.

Three examples that don’t involve the specific conditions of domestic violence include:

    1. You will not have enough property to provide for your minimal needs after the divorce. (Note: not “the lifestyle to which you are accustomed.”)
    2. You have been married 10 or more years and are unable to provide for your minimal needs. (This is particularly relevant to women who forfeited careers to care for children or elders.)
    3. You have a child that requires extensive supervision because of a physical or mental illness.

For women seeking structure, guidance, education, and support as they “contemplate” …. or begin the actual divorce/separation process, we invite you to consider Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual, group coaching program for women only.

Annie’s Group provides support, education and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, so you feel less alone. Read more about Annie’s Group here. 


5. Custody arrangements.

The preferred and usual custodial arrangement in Texas is joint custody. The underlying desire is for children to have an equal relationship with both parents, even if they live primarily with one.

In a coparenting arrangement, both parents make decisions and have responsibility for the children. And the children live with each parent for at least 35% of the year.

While “joint managing conservatorship” is the court’s preference, the best interest of the children trumps all other considerations.

Finally, divorcing parents of minor children are required to complete a parenting class before a divorce is granted. Its intention is to help parents and children through the painful process of divorce. The class is available online.

6. Division of assets (and debts).

Texas is considered a “community property” state, which implies an equal division of both assets and debts.

However, special considerations can be taken into account by the judge. For example, the degree of disparity between income and earning potential can influence an unequal division.

Similarly, the physical capacity of both parties, nature of assets, and fault in the marriage’s breakup may be taken into consideration.

When it comes to the division of debt, it’s important to know that a divorce decree means nothing to creditors.

To assure that you aren’t left paying off mutual debts alone, it may be wise to divide responsibility for debts as part of the divorce.

Finally, it would be in your best interest to have a financial advisor or attorney go over your community assets with you. The timing of the acquisition of retirement benefits, for example, can determine what you are owed in the divorce.

There are a lot of things a woman must know about divorce in Texas before signing off on the next phase of her life.

 

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

 

Stay at home. moms get alimony?

stay-at-home mom

Complications always arise in divorce and money negotiations. If you’re one of the 25% of American mothers staying home to raise a family, the financial implications of a split become more complex. Stay-at-home moms will have to plan their financial futures accordingly.

If you didn’t have an iron-clad prenuptial agreement in place when you married, your divorce might involve a lot of negotiation. Child support, custody, visitation rights, property division, and debt are all going to be on the table.

The questions and answers are different in each case, but one of the key issues is always whether you were a working or stay-at-home mom. That factor can determine how much you know about your household’s finances, the amount of money you have access to, your options for the future, and whether or not you’ll get alimony.

Divorce laws differ in each state, and there’s very little legislation on spousal support. If you’re not careful, lawyers can engage in endless back-and-forth tussles debating the issue, sending legal costs skyrocketing.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you need to take action to look after yourself and your children’s day-to-day needs. When that involves securing alimony, there are some practical steps you can take.

Collate All Your Financial Documents

If you haven’t neatly filed your tax returns, investment account statements, details about loans and mortgages, and any other financial documents, make sure you organize them now.

You should also find out if you’re entitled to collect social security benefits from your Ex, and you may have to familiarize yourself with other family-related expenses too. The idea is to get a clear picture of the financial situation in your mind. That may be daunting if your Ex handled all things money, but it’s the first step in negotiating a fair settlement as a stay-at-home-mom.

Find Out the Value of All Property

Get an up-to-date valuation on your primary residence, plus any other houses, apartments, vehicles, or other assets that you’ve acquired together over the marriage. This can get a little messy later on if your Ex withholds information, and you have to resort to forensic accountants to uncover hidden assets. However, for the time being, try to remain as civil as possible.

Get a Good Handle on Credit

Even if everything goes according to plan, divorces cost money. Going forward, two households need to be maintained instead of one. That’s two sets of rent or mortgages, insurance plans, and utilities—just for starters.

The fact is, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to rely on credit somewhere along the way. Find out your credit score using one of the reputable online checking sites and improve your current rating if possible. Settling old debts or long-term loans will give your score a boost.

If you have a good rating, banks will be more willing to extend your line of credit. This could help to cover your monthly expenses when you’re in a pinch.

Consider Plans to Return to Work

If you’ve never worked or left the workforce many years ago, you’ll probably feel uncertain and anxious about joining or rejoining the proverbial rat race. There’s certainly a lot to consider, including what skills you have, those you need to develop, and what you want out of your career.

From an alimony point of view, your future employment plans could affect whether you ask for temporary or permanent spousal support. The type of support you request may determine how a judge rules in a contested divorce, or what your Ex offers if the divorce remains uncontested. Think about this when you’re considering jobs, and when setting a goal for how much you’d like to earn.

Create Possible Budgets

Armed with all the financial and career information you’ve gathered, create budgets that deal with several possible scenarios.

What would happen if you sold some—or all—of your property and split the proceeds? How much do you spend on groceries, and how much can you expect to spend in a month if your Ex is sharing custody?

You should also work out how much all your monthly expenses (insurance, phone plans, et cetera) add up to. And while it can be challenging to work out how your career would have developed if you’d been in the workplace instead of at home, financial analysts and job experts can make it a lot easier. Their services do cost money, but they could result in securing you more funds down the line.

Retain an Attorney

Divorces are undoubtedly difficult, but you can handle them amicably, and that’s what almost everyone wants. That’s why so many people choose divorce mediation, and why it’s something you should at least consider.

Having said that, you should still retain a divorce attorney. If mediation is successful, you’ll be using your lawyer a lot less. However, you’ll still want the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have a legal expert who is helping you vet offers from your spouse, or whose reviewing things from your perspective and how they will impact you long term.  This is critical to making sure you have protected yourself. One of the biggest mistakes women make throughout the divorce process is that they don’t plan adequately FINANCIALLY for their future.


If you are looking for support, education, and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, you’ll be interested in Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual group coaching program for women thinking about or beginning the process of divorce/separation. Read more here

 


Consider Divorce Mediation

With all the data you’ve collected and your budget scenarios, you’ll be in a great position, potentially, to talk frankly with your Ex. You can discuss the children’s needs, and what you require to continue being the mother your kids know, love, and deserve.

Mediation is a time to negotiate fairly. It’s about people and families rather than lawyers and money.

Be as honest as possible; for example, don’t say you’re not planning on going back to work when you are. As tough as it is, be respectful towards your soon-to-be ex-spouse, regardless of who decided to leave. This creates the best-case scenario for a fair divorce that’s granted quickly, giving both spouses and any children the chance to move forward with their lives.

Caution: If you never had access to the finances in your marriage, your spouse controlled everything regarding money, or your spouse is accustomed to negotiating with lawyers (in work or otherwise), or there was any form of deceit, lying or betrayal in the relationship, you are NOT a good candidate for mediation.  Mediation is about two parties being on an equal playing field and being transparent with each other. If you never had that, don’t expect it to magically appear with the help of a mediator. Use a traditional divorce attorney to advocate on your behalf.

Remember That You’re Worth It!

As a society, we’re still learning how to value stay-at-home moms and caretaking versus breadwinning in a marital or domestic situation.

Often, stay-at-home moms don’t receive long-term alimony. This is because judges are increasingly recognizing that the historical gender disadvantages have lessened. As a result, judges may award short-term alimony, but will require that stay-at-home moms will need to seek employment in the future. However, the time you put into running a household, rearing children, and supporting your spouse’s career is invaluable. As you enter these negotiations, remind yourself—and your Ex—of that fact.

 

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.

 

What to know when divorcing a narcissist

7 Must-Knows When Divorcing a Narcissist

If you’ve been with a narcissist, you know the pain and self-doubt you used to feel, which is one of their tools—to make you feel like you are imagining things. You watch them in action, the charisma or showmanship that still dazzles others, but you recognize it for the con game you’ve now learned it is. You’re looking forward to taking the long view to this experience, when one day you’ll look back and see its opportunities as ones that connected you deeply to your inner and outer growth.

For now, though you’ve got to survive the journey. Before we go into the must-knows when divorcing a narcissist, the particular things and behaviors you can expect, let’s look at the definition of one.

A quick definition of a narcissist

A narcissist is an ego-centric person. As Psychology Today describes the disorder,

“The hallmarks of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) are grandiosity, a lack of empathy for other people, and a need for admiration. People with this condition are frequently described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding. They may also have grandiose fantasies and may be convinced that they deserve special treatment. These characteristics typically begin in early adulthood and must be consistently evident in multiple contexts, such as at work and in relationships.

People with NPD often try to associate with other people they believe are unique or gifted in some way, which can enhance their own self-esteem. They tend to seek excessive admiration and attention have difficulty tolerating criticism or defeat.”

You probably know it well, your partner’s narcissism; how he* overlooks other people’s feelings and may even get a ‘kick’ out of their suffering. Narcissists possess a twisted and unhealthy form of self-love. Self-love is a beautiful, positive thing. Yet, to a narcissist, self-love is expressed in a very destructive and self-deceptive way that impacts their personal, professional, romantic, sexual, and family relationships. And the impact can have horrendous effects on those around them, their victims.

Whether you’re living with or divorcing a narcissist, you’re certainly a victim of narcissistic abuse. There is nothing fair, balanced, or loving, being married to a narcissist. A narcissist is manipulative, only concerned with “Number 1,” and incapable of forming real and sincere emotional and spiritual bonds of connection.

7 must-knows when divorcing a narcissist

 

  1. Your narcissist is magnetic and extremely manipulative.

Firstly, remember that the narcissist chose you because they could sense your gullibility and kindness. To the sane and normal person, choosing a partner one can exploit and feed off of is ludicrous, but, to a narcissist, it’s the norm. Your positive traits of kindness, empathy, integrity and morality are seen as weaknesses, not strengths.

Yet, there was a magnetic quality that drew you two together. This was their charm.

Narcissists are incredibly charming at first. There is truth in the saying “opposites attract;” anyone capable of empathy and genuine compassion and care can arguably be seen as the opposite of someone with strong displays of narcissism. 

Furthermore, you feed them. You feed their ego, their narcissism and their motivations for wanting to inflict pain, suffering or sadness on another. Of course, you aren’t responsible for their behaviors or feelings—it is your natural self that feeds their narcissistic personality. Any positive or lovely quality you possess is fuel to their out-of-control and destructive fire… 

Your narcissist also requires you to keep their illusions in play. Illusion is a word strongly associated with narcissism and something which you unconsciously play into. Delusion is also accurate. A delusion is essentially an idiosyncratic belief, recurring thought, or impression that contradicts reality and is rooted in some sort of mental imbalance or faulty perception. A narcissist needs this not only to thrive, but to survive. Their whole reality is dependent on it. And they achieve this through the fear, intimidation, and hurt they cause to you (and others).

Essentially, your purity of thought, hope, and trust that there is beauty and goodness inside of them perpetuates their ‘thriving,’ thus making your true nature the perfect match to their manipulations and hidden motivations.

So, when it comes to divorcing them you need to be prepared.

You must know when you’re divorcing a narcissist because their personality traits and behaviors will emerge and come out in full force! Your narcissist will either try to appear more charming, or he’ll use manipulation tactics to seduce you back into his web. Gaslighting will almost certainly be prevalent.

  1. Your narcissist will gaslight you.

Oh yes, you will be gaslighted. It is a sad truth, but coming to terms with this is the key to your well-being and sanity. Narcissists are so deceptive and manipulative that they can use your honesty and authenticity. They grow stronger and more powerful in their convictions and illusions because of them.

Your positive characteristics are like sparks to their manipulative qualities, making you an easy target. The more sincere and humble or kind you appear, the more they will try to exploit you. Even your friends and family might believe a narcissistic partner over you—your narcissist is that convincing!

Gaslighting, if you aren’t already aware, is making you appear crazy, wrong, or “evil.” Ultimately, they will twist and distort reality, including real events, to make things appear as if you are the narcissist or the one at fault. It can be a deeply painful experience.

The way to deal with this is to stay centered and aligned to your truth. Trying to expose them as a narcissist will only create more negative energy for yourself; narcissists thrive off emotional manipulation. So, keep things purely practical, i.e., stick to practical facts and events. 

  1. When divorcing a narcissist, don’t expect any empathy or compassion.

Connected to the emotional aspect of divorcing a narcissist is the tragic fact that they lack empathy and compassion. We know this can be very hard to accept. 

“Surely all humans are capable of compassion?” 

“I’ve been married to this person for years, how could s/he have so little respect for me?”

We are sorry to share that the narcissist doesn’t care. They are selfish and self-centered. The expressions “magnetism” and “fueling their fire” have been shared, but they need to be shared again. It can be hard to believe that raw, vulnerable, and sincere qualities like empathy and compassion could ever be catalysts for inflicting pain, or that your lover and partner of so many years can feel joy and happiness from your despair. Unfortunately, emotional manipulation, intimidation, and trauma are traits the narcissist excels in.

Thus, one of the must-knows about divorcing a narcissist is that you won’t be receiving their kindness, courtesy or care, of any kind.

  1. Your narcissist’s delusions and manipulations run deep.

More for your sanity, if anything, you need to be aware of just how deep your narcissistic partner’s delusions and manipulations run. Their entire reality is entwined with yours. Despite the callous, uncaring, and hurtful ways a narcissist conducts themselves, they still depend on you. You provide them with joy. A twisted and distorted joy, but self-satisfaction all the same! And they are also dependent on you socially. You give them a cover. This means you are their energy source.

Their career, livelihood, sense of self, beliefs and inherent narcissism are entwined with the love and care you have for them. When divorcing a narcissist, like any master manipulator, when you withdraw that love and put up healthy boundaries, they will become nastier.

There is great power in silence when divorcing a narcissist, so be mindful of this truth.

Silence provides space for truth and hidden things to come to light. Regardless of what is being said against you, the most effective thing you can do for yourself is to simply be silent. Do not engage. Do not react.

  1. Know your narcissist’s final attempts for power.

Narcissists are the ultimate energy vampires. They drain you of your love, time, resources and integrity. The more self-loving you become, and the more you engage in self-care, the more vindictive and venomous their actions and words will be. The truth is, they have found your wound. They know your weaknesses, emotional and spiritual needs, desires and intentions in love.

Yet, they seek to infect your wound with negativity. Fortunately, you can overcome this with staying centered and putting up strong boundaries. Focus on yourself! This is especially true when divorcing a narcissist. Being connected to your own truth and light enables you to avoid getting dragged into their stories.

Also, aim to deflect their false stories and manipulative ways. Your partner has some unbelievably sadistic and destructive intentions. They also know you well enough to know your emotional triggers. Try taking preventative measures for your protection, just like preventative health care. Be conscious of the fact their personality is defined by arrogance and misplaced confidence. Their motivations are not birthed from purity, truth, real talent or beautiful qualities.

  1. Never try to expose them as a narcissist.

This is the key to your long-term happiness and recovery. Narcissism is ultimately defined by emotional manipulation, and this implies that their self-constructed reality is formed from the mind-games and emotional tactics they use. In other words, if you “attack” or expose anything regarding their true character, from an emotional stance, you have already lost.

Remember: narcissists are master manipulators. They are also excellent storytellers!

It was mentioned briefly earlier, yet you should know just how important this “must-know” is. Going for the emotional route ultimately results in your failure: it feeds their gaslighting tactics.

The way you can stay centered and eventually attain peace of mind, clear karma, and cultivate the inner light you deserve is to focus purely on the practical.

When you’re divorcing a narcissist, respond to them with facts, figures, real events, and speech communicated without emotion. Emotionally detach, as—again—a narcissist’s reality is rooted in emotional manipulation.

Narcissists are not fair or just, and they don’t play fair. A narcissist will never play fair, so, as long as you know this, you can go about things in the best possible way. Assume the worst-case scenarios. Perhaps even put yourself in their shoes.

How would the worst person in the world spin things and try and play it to their advantage? What angles do they have on you? Take a step back and see the big picture, including all the negative, shadowy, and dark parts. You may be a kind, decent, and lovely human being, but the narcissist will pick the tiniest negative and amplify it for their own gain.

  1. Your narcissist will be cruel to you and charming and kind to everyone else!

Narcissus, the son of the river God Cephissus and the nymph Liriope, is a mythical figure you should look to in order to further understand the implications of divorcing a narcissist. Narcissus is significant in Greek mythology as the man who loved his own reflection, literally. Women would fall in love with him, yet he only showed them indifference, disdain, and neglect.

He loved being admired but couldn’t ever reciprocate others’ affections—he couldn’t express sincere and genuine feelings or emotions. This Greek myth ultimately sums up why narcissists are so cruel. They need to appear kind to others to keep their illusions in play, but they also need someone to project upon and target. The cruelty you suffer is, unfortunately, the result of the love and adoration you feel; all of this is brought on and developed from their initial charm. It’s a sad and harsh reality to accept, yet the more you accept it and integrate the lessons from the story of Narcissus, the better you are able to heal and move on from the pain.

Like Narcissus, narcissists only love themselves as reflected in the eyes of others; so, in other words, the love you have for them sustains them. But they need to be loved and admired. They need people to believe them and their stories (emotional manipulation). 

And this brings us to one of the absolute must knows about divorcing a narcissist. You are their target, their victim, and mirror for their games and deceptions. Your family and friends, the people you ultimately rely on for support, are their co-conspirators. Unconsciously!

You will need to develop relentless inner strength, emotional distance, and personal boundaries to heal from this. Self-care is essential.

To conclude…

We’ve shared the must-knows when divorcing a narcissist, but this is perhaps the most important thing to know.  Your narcissist’s karma is not your karma. You are not responsible for your partner’s deceptions, ill-intentions, and pain-causing ways. Self-care and paths to recovery and healing can help to remind you of this simple truth. Caring for yourself will speed up the healing process, allowing you to live an abundant and blissful life, attract positivity in future relationships, and find partners on your wavelength.

 

Grace Gabriella Puskas is an author, wordsmith and Reiki Master teacher. She has trained & studied in a number of holistic, spiritual and complimentary therapies and health fields, and loves to inspire and educate through the written word. You can subscribe to Grace’s free poetry blog or discover her services by visiting her website.

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.

 

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

What not do to during divorce

What Not to Do During Divorce: 7 Must Knows

Divorce, like a marriage, takes mapping and maneuvering. There’s a lot of good common sense advice out there about what to do and what not to do during divorce. But as a writer who is forever curious, I sometimes find the don’ts a more appealing research subject.

Divorce is a regular occurrence in the US, but of course, it wasn’t always this way. Divorce as a research subject can be a slippery thing because it can still feel taboo to some people, but luckily, that attitude feels as if it’s more the exception rather than the rule these days.

It has taken five generations for the conversation of what not to do during a divorce to become common.

So, I asked a variety of divorced individuals what their advice is about “don’t dos” in divorce. The following is my recap of their suggestions and lessons learned.

1. The unanimous consensus was “don’t be unnecessarily nasty about it”

In other words, don’t set out to ruin your Ex’s life or punish them.

“In my divorce things have gone fairly smoothly, but that’s mainly due to the number one rule I feel all divorcees should abide by, which is, no matter what happened in your marriage, a divorce should be amicable,” said Millie*, a Washington state resident.

Washington is one of 18 states that is considered truly no-fault, which means no legal grounds have to be established for a divorce to be granted. You don’t have to have a reason, or blame the other—you can simply divorce. The benefit of this is that your divorce is over faster and with less expense. All 50 states have a no-fault option, but in others, there are established grounds for finding fault. These include: addiction, adultery, bigamy, desertion or abandonment, impotence, imprisonment, marriage between close relatives, marriage obtained by fraud or force, mental or physical abuse and/or cruelty, and mental illness or mental incapacity at the time of the marriage.

2. Don’t rush into a decision without examining your options

Jenny, another person I spoke with, noted that there aren’t just divorce law differences state to state, but county to county, which underscores another “don’t do” in divorce: don’t rush forward with divorce without examining your options, such as where to file. One county might review each case for fairness, but another may just push claims through. If you are guarding against being taken advantage of and don’t trust your Ex to be civil, then don’t accept the filing without looking first at what some other options might be.

Accepting that “you don’t know what you don’t know” leads you to wonder how will you find out fully and clearly what you are entitled to and what your rights are? And how will you handle this emotionally, or as a mother, or the primary breadwinner, or the stay-at-home-mom? Not knowing what you don’t now know is a good reason to consider working with a divorce coach or attorney.

3. Don’t be a pushover

The above suggestions counsel you not to be unnecessarily cruel or naïve, but another thing not to do? Be careful about being too nice. You don’t want guilt, confusion, or a lack of desire to lead your decision making. Women must understand that for them rebuilding their lives after divorce is harder than it is for men.

“I wish I would have consulted a lawyer, so I got what I deserved instead of what he made me feel like I deserved,” said Leticia, a woman in Manhattan.

“I wish,” said Patty, in Texas, “That I had put some money aside, opened my own bank account, and planned ahead instead of making a quick decision.”

Once you do begin looking at your options, don’t leave anything to memory. Document everything—every phone call, every bank deposit. Even simple divorces (usually from shorter marriages involving no joint bank accounts and no children) are complicated, and in the midst of it, you are probably going to be searching for a new place to live, possibly a new school for your children. You might be moving, changing jobs, and experiencing a wide variety of emotions—yours and your loved ones. Documentation may end up saving you from making an expensive or time-consuming mistake.

4. Don’t “use” your children

With regard to children, another “don’t” of divorce is to not use your children as leverage or have conversations with your Ex about the process (or vent to a friend about it) in front of them. You and your Ex made your children together; the marriage may be ending but the effort to raise them to be as healthy and happy as possible should not be.

5. Don’t go it alone

Finding your allies is another common theme among the people I spoke with. Whether you consult a court liaison to help you file, use an online divorce site, hire a divorce attorney or a divorce coach (or both), there are too many life-impacting aspects of divorce to try to just wing it. Assuming you’ll think of everything is setting yourself up for missing something. Conversely, don’t go “War of the Roses” on the thing and bring your lawyer in to haggle over a serving dish. Focus on the essentials.

6. Don’t do nothing now

And speaking of essentials, the chances are good that part of your income will be missing after a divorce, at least for a period of time, so don’t go into the process without first setting up a separate bank account for expenses, whether those funds go toward lawyers’ fees, a deposit on an apartment, paying off a credit card, college courses to advance your own income or a counselor for your children. Along these same lines, don’t forget to check your spouse’s credit score and your own and close joint bank accounts.

7. Don’t jump into your next serious relationship

In the interest of guarding your emotional assets as well as the financial ones, it’s probably best not to jump into a new relationship right after divorce or before it’s finished—especially if you live in a state where there is grounds for establishing fault. The ethical question of cheating is a whole other article, but it needs to be said, as it’s one of the leading causes of divorce in the first place. Pretend that everything you are doing, saying, posting, or tweeting is under a microscope, and once the divorce is finished, recognize that while it’s natural to seek validation and an endorphin boost from a new relationship, your emotional stability is going to take some time to come back to its grounded center.

Although it’s taken many generations for divorce to become an accepted, less isolating option for one’s life, there are now plenty of conversations, resources, and information about the process just about anywhere you care to look. The “divorce don’ts” above are a great launching point, but your divorce recovery is a journey, one that doesn’t end here.

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.

*For the sake of confidentiality, we have not used people’s real names in this article.

Thinking about advice for women

Advice for Women Who Think They Can’t Afford a Divorce

Divorce is expensive. While there is, of course, an emotional toll, there is also a heavy financial toll for which many people are not prepared. Even under the best circumstance, divorce is difficult and costly. And while help is out there, when you’re looking for it, you want advice for women wearing your particular set of shoes.

As coronavirus (COVID-19) rages throughout the world, many women are quarantined with their spouses. Some of those women are starting to think about divorce. Although it’s too early to tell, divorce attorneys world-wide are reporting an increase in requests for consultations. If you are thinking about divorce during this uncertain time of health and economic crisis, you might be met with new challenges, such as pay cuts or even job loss. Courts in most jurisdictions are also closed for non-emergency matters.

During this time, how will you afford to pay for legal fees and interim expenses if your spouse cuts you off and you cannot submit an application to the court or even meet with your attorney?

What are your options for funding a divorce?

In a perfect world, both spouses have money set aside, though in reality people save for weddings, not divorces. While it would be wonderful if both spouses got along and could agree on how assets should be divided, this is, unfortunately, not always the case. It’s important for clients to know about options they have to fund their divorce. Here is some advice for women thinking about how they can afford to divorce.

Divorce funding

Divorce funding is one such option. For many couples, one spouse has easier access to their combined wealth. The moneyed spouse will often cut off access to funds by the non-moneyed spouse entirely, a court will freeze assets, or assets are not liquid. Divorce funding provides a cash advance of the client’s potential settlement for legal fees, expert costs, and living expenses. It “levels the playing field,” enabling litigants to afford their divorce expenses, while maintaining their standard of living. Repayments are not made until a settlement is reached and cases can be funded in as little as two weeks. Divorce funding provides access to this essential capital.

Clients may not have the liquidity to start divorce proceedings and simultaneously afford living expenses, such as mortgage payments, school tuition, and other personal costs during the proceedings. Sometimes the moneyed spouse will use these expenses as leverage, forcing clients to agree to an inequitable settlement.

Should you lack the funds to hire proper divorce assistance, divorce funding could be an option. Divorce funding gives qualified spouses’ lines of credit while they work toward a fair divorce settlement. It’s an increasingly popular product that can help divorcing spouses find hidden assets and ensure a more secure financial future for themselves and their children.

With the liquidity of divorce funding, no one is forced into a settlement less than they deserve. Divorce funding is a valuable tool not just for clients but also for experts. It has become an integral practice management tool for an increasingly large number of divorce lawyers in the United States.

Application to the court

As an alternative to saving, the moneyed spouse could be ordered by the court to pay both sides’ legal fees and expert costs, but even getting to motion practice can be expensive and time consuming. Not to mention, there are no guarantees the client will be awarded fees. Many judges also defer a decision on fees to the end of the case. As of now, the courts are closed, and when they are reopened, the backlog of cases will be significant and your application may not be heard for an extensive period of time.

Credit cards

Putting the cost of a divorce on a credit card is another option, but for many, the credit card limit would not meet the cost of the legal fees. You’d have to make payments during the divorce proceedings, too, which may not be possible for some clients. (And please know that low credit scores may prevent a spouse from being eligible for a credit card after the divorce.)

Home mortgage

Clients sometimes turn to a bank to refinance the marital home and help pay for their divorce. Litigants may pull equity from a house to pay for interim support and legal fees until a divorce is final. Home equity loans can take many months to be approved, and the loss of a home can threaten custody battles. On the other hand, lenders may not approve clients during a divorce, causing a variety of roadblocks. Sometimes couples going through a divorce don’t know where to turn.

Speak with a divorce professional to weigh out which option is best suited for your case. What worked for your friend may not be the choice for you. The financial aspect of divorce likely seems overwhelming. Whatever you choose, remember—do not throw good money after bad. Decide your nonnegotiables as well as those items you are willing to give up. Some of the best advice for women going through this journey is to allow yourself to look at this part of your divorce as a business transaction, so you can commit to your divorce recovery and move on to your next chapter in life.

To learn more about divorce funding and how it can help you, please visit newchaptercapital.com, call (212) 404-7807, or email Nicole at [email protected]

Nicole Noonan, Esq., CEO of New Chapter Capital Inc., specializes in divorce funding. She formerly served as President of Novitas US. She is a nationally recognized divorce expert and pioneer of divorce funding. Crowned the “Fairy Godmother of Divorce” by the New York Post and formerly President of National Divorce Capital, Nicole was also Director at BBL Churchill.

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

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'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.

Man thinking about why women leave men

Why Women Leave Men

If we’re trying to understand why women leave men they love—often digging up their roots after years of emotional cultivation—maybe we should first ask what we’re seeking from a long-term, committed relationship to begin with.

Both women and men seek marriage and other forms of partnership. The search isn’t exclusive to those of us with two X chromosomes, as if we were anglers trying to coax a wily trout who’d rather not be hooked to bite our line. We are attracted to stability and certainty, and when we find it, the relationship can benefit not only our mental health but our physical health as well. In a recent report, Harvard Health Publishing cited a 2010 survey of 127,000 American adults that found married people, overall, are healthier when compared to the unmarried, divorced, or widowed. “People living with unmarried partners tend to fare better than those living alone,” the report said, “but men living with their wives have the best health of all.”

The long-haul nature of marriage gives both people time to get used to each other’s responses to life’s smaller hiccups and larger catastrophes. Ideally, we already know each other by the time we get married or buy a house together. It’s one of the most important bets we ever place—predicting a future based on someone else. But within the (presumably) lifetime scope that marriage offers, we have time to understand each other and respond symbiotically. In other words, we learn to make choices that benefit both ourselves and our partners.

That healthy emotional ecosystem is what we’re trying to create when we enter into a marriage or long-term partnership. Like any good ecosystem, it takes time, cooperation, and the health of all its life forms. So why do women uproot themselves from relationships they’ve invested so much of themselves in?

Women leave when the emotional ecosystem they’re living in stops supporting their growth or, from a lack of satisfaction or unhealthy communication patterns, when both they and their partner begin to toxify the relationship’s soil. We can outgrow relationships or, more alarmingly, the partner we thought was compatible can turn out to be a kind of invasive species, choking out our nutrients to benefit themselves exclusively.

In asking the question of why women leave men, we hear a lot of different answers. From the women I spoke to in person to the perspectives I found online, the answers ranged from the clear-cut to the complex. But generally, they all funneled down into a few categories.

The invasive partner

This is the kind of relationship that might have us wishing we would have never trusted the person with our well-being, and the sooner we can pull up and move to new ground, the better. (Although, it’s important to note that people don’t always set out to do harm or suffocate but do so from a lack of self-awareness: their behavior isn’t always malicious.)

These women give answers like, “he started controlling me through finances,” “he was cruel,” or “he told me I’m not smart enough.” Often the attempts to cut or burn are less obvious, too. An insecure spouse can use passive aggressive behaviors (a raised eyebrow, a smirk, a tone, sarcasm, etc.) just as easily as a fist, and these methods are much more difficult to detect. They wound while avoiding responsibility or visibility, which makes them harder to fight and harder to get protection from.

This might be a good time to point out that men are not always the “invasive plant” in this scenario. Women can be as well, and a good example of how we can inadvertently allow a strength to create a weakness is in our well-touted ability to talk (women are said to speak up to 13,000 more words than men every day). It stands to reason that some of us could learn to listen better. (For those of you who have trouble using your voice or standing up for yourself, please ignore this). Women often speak of wanting to be seen and heard, but do we want to hear men on their terms? Self-expression is critical and our ability to speak our minds is something to be proud of and foster in our children, but we do need to take care not to drown our men in words—or to use language as a weapon.

Growing too far afield

Sometimes we start branching out in a new direction in our work, a new project, or in our own self-development. It may also be the most positive reason women leave men, not only because we’ve already got some forward momentum going and something to look forward to, but because it’s no one’s fault. This makes it easier on both people—the person leaving the partnership doesn’t feel as guilty and the person remaining might be less likely to have the “I wasn’t good enough” blues playing in their head.

Growing big or growing up while our partner does not

Women who leave for this reason give answers like, “I got too successful in my career and my husband couldn’t handle it” or simply “I was too happy for him to be around me.” Or, sometimes, “I got tired of working the same number of hours at my job and then coming home and being the only one who was taking care of the household chores.”

If our partner isn’t listening to our requests for help around the house, with the kids—basically, if they don’t want to contribute equally whether it’s financial or not and we keep reaching for our best selves (as well we should)—eventually we will outgrow them.

The emotional ecosystem stops supporting our growth

Simply put, things stagnate, dry up, or through the accumulation of too many disappointments and miscommunications, we toxify the soil. For a while, this is avoidable, especially if both partners are willing to work on communication. But we can and do reach a critical mass, and women—who are twice as likely to file for divorce as men—often decide enough is enough.

These women give answers like “he took me for granted,” “there wasn’t any romance anymore,” or “he cheated.”

I was part of a conversation recently where a group of women were advising one friend on how to decide whether or not to leave her man. They told her to make a list of pros and cons, and if the cons list was longer, she should leave him.

We hear gardeners talk about soil ratios for certain plants—likewise, some of us thrive in different environments. We have our own styles of communication and our own ideas about the life we want to lead. Relationships are about balance. You will have both positive and negative interactions with your partner, and even the latter can be healthy as long as they don’t begin to overshadow the rest of your relationship to the point that you can’t remember the last time you laid eyes on the sun.

So, make your pros and cons list, do some research, listen to your man, go to counseling, or talk to a divorce coach to find out what you’re in for before you act. If relationships are like a garden, then pay attention to how you feel being planted in that soil. Are you wilting? Are you stretching your face towards the sun? It may be time to let go of the past, of what your relationship could or should be, and focus on what’s right in front of you. Divorce is a big decision, but you may find that it’s the right one for you and your family. Life after divorce, women often find, is better than they could have imagined.

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.

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“Divorce can be on your terms, one step at a time.” ~ SAS for Women.