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What to know when divorcing a narcissist

7 Must Knows When Divorcing a Narcissist

If you’ve have been with a narcissist, you know the pain, the self-doubt you used to feel  — until you started getting educated about narcissists — and you learned that’s 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 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, work, 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 to. Delusion is also accurate. A delusion is essentially an idiosyncratic belief, recurring thought or impression, which contradicts reality, 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 are 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, 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 their 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 bounce off 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, 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 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, but 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 & 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 unempathetic, 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’ 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, on your “self!” 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. 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, even… put yourself in their shoes and see all perspectives.

How would the worst person in the world word things and try and play it? What angles do they have on you? Take a step back and see the big picture, including all the negative, shadow 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 someone you should look to, to further understand the implications of divorcing a narcissist. Narcissus is significant in Greek mythology, he was a man who loved his own reflection, literally. Women would fall in love with him, yet he only showed indifference and 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, however 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 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 and personal boundaries to heal from this, therefore. 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 you will speed up the healing process, allowing you to live an abundant and blissful life and attract positivity in future relationships and 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.

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.

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

Thinking about mental health in a relationship

Reasons to Always Check Your Mental Health in a Relationship

People say you can forget yourself in someone else—given that, it’s no wonder people also forget about their mental health in a relationship. It can be hard to squeeze in self-care on a good day. When things in your love life feel precarious, everything, including yourself, seems to fall to the wayside.

Relationships can come with many challenges, but like most of us, you and your partner likely aim to solve whatever problems come your way together. But sometimes, events may lead to that mutual understanding and trust dissolving right before your very eyes. The “band” has broken up. You’re no longer a team. A divorce or separation seems inevitable. If you find yourself in this position, don’t forget about the importance of checking your mental health.

While there are plenty more, here are four reasons why you should always check your mental health in a relationship:

1. Mental and physical health may form a link

Certain thought patterns may let the body feel specific feelings. If you’re watching a scary movie, your hair might stand on end, or if you’re falling in love, it might feel like there are butterflies fluttering in your stomach.

Now, many relationships come with challenges. For instance, you or your partner might be working day and night to meet deadlines. This scenario may leave the other person in the relationship feeling alone. It might even lead to a lot of overthinking.

Negative thoughts may result in physical manifestations of those views. The anxiety and worry might make your stomach churn as you think about your partner and your relationship. The extra stress might make you lose your appetite.

If faced with challenges in your relationship, consider taking deep breaths. This action may seem simple, but it might help you think more clearly. Don’t let pride get in the way of a healthy, loving relationship. There might be times when you have to be the better person as you take a step back. Focus on your thoughts and breathing patterns.

And if you or your partner are having difficulties that are already affecting your mental health, consider seeking professional advice.

2. Mental health may affect social interactions

Social events like working in an office, interacting with family members, and ordering coffee at the local café may seem like everyday tasks. However, these interactions require a person to have sound mental wellbeing.

Challenges in relationships might create negative thoughts that affect these social interactions. If you fight with your partner before heading into the office, it might change your work ethic. Routine tasks like documenting reports might feel like more of a challenge than usual. Arguments may replay in your mind. Seemingly routine tasks like ordering coffee or talking with a relative might become more tiresome than the norm.

Despite whatever is going on in your relationship, it’s essential to redefine your focus for the day. Head to a quiet room as you try to listen to your thoughts. Play happy music to help you relax. Try not to let the last fight with your partner hinder you from completing important tasks. And again, if you think it’s becoming a larger problem, consider seeking professional counseling services.

3. Current mental illnesses may worsen when provoked

Couples may already have certain mental illnesses before their relationship starts. These ailments may include mood, personality, and anxiety disorders—and because of that, they might affect your mental health in a relationship.

Having bipolar disorder means you have alternating instances of ecstasy and depression. These feelings may come and go without warning. Your happiness, sadness, and anger may become extreme. The adverse events happening in your life might make you burst out in anger at your partner, even if your partner isn’t the primary cause of those emotions.

Consider finding a happy place inside your head when stressful events seem to come from all sides. Talk to your partner about your mental condition. Your partner may be able to help you find solutions to cope with your mental illness. Keep in mind that one of the essential aspects of a long-term relationship is proper communication. Handling stress might seem complicated, but always remember that your partner is there to help you in times of need.

4. Physical health might worsen when mental wellbeing drops

You might be living with a chronic illness that may make everyday tasks more challenging to deal with. A few examples of these chronic ailments include cancer, diabetes, and heart-related concerns.

Physical health concerns might worsen when you don’t care for your mental health. Depression, for instance, may lead to unhealthy appetites, which can then lead to other health issues like anorexia or high blood pressure.

Don’t forget to think about yourself even when you’re in a relationship. Self-care is even more important during trying times in your relationship, like when you’re filing for divorce. While working together is still a critical aspect of a long-term relationship, consider thinking about yourself when needed, especially if your partner isn’t around to be there with you. Search for things that can help you relax. You might want to carry a stress ball around with you, for example, or eat your favorite, healthy comfort food.

Try not to let your emotions get the best of you when battling negative thoughts. Outbursts may cause mental and physical health problems. Check for the signs of mental health issues before they worsen. Above all, opt for professional counseling services if you find it too difficult to cope with what’s happening around you.

This article was written by Rebecca Hawkings who loves life and loves to help people change their lives for the better. She’s volunteered in the past to help those who are less fortunate and currently works full time while studying to become a psychologist. 

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 divorce recovery. Experience SAS firsthand. Schedule your FREE, 15-minute consultation to hear perspective, next steps and the best resources that will honor your life and who you are meant to be.

A woman walking through nature thinking about the signs of divorce

The Signs of Divorce and How to Spot Them

Divorce can sometimes feel like it comes out of the blue—one day you are “happily married,” and the next, your spouse is asking you to sign on the dotted line. The world you’ve built together seems like it’s falling apart. Other times, there are clear signs of divorce, ones that you may have noticed and ones that you may be ignoring.

One of the biggest signs of divorce might just be that you’re here, reading this post. Deciding whether or not to divorce your husband* may be something that’s been weighing on your mind for quite some time. We get it. Before divorce, it feels like a giant leap to take, and it’s only after that you realize what you were always capable of—that you’re stronger than you realize.

Right now you might be in need of a friend who can make sense of all the competing emotions and choices at war inside you. We’re happy to be that person for you. The following six signs of divorce are good indicators that your marriage and your relationship with your husband are not in the healthiest place. If these feel familiar, it might be time to take a step back and reevaluate your marriage and to learn what else is possible.

1. The fighting has stopped

Yes, on the surface, the end of arguing might seem like a good thing—no fighting means you and your husband are on the same page, right? Not exactly. Whether you’re fighting over big things like how to manage finances or small things like which brand of toothpaste to buy, if the arguments have stopped without actually being resolved, it can be a sign that one of you has simply given up.

Having disagreements, expressing opposing or conflicting opinions, and then working them out means that you and your husband are invested in creating a lasting future together. Once your investment in your marriage stops, the possibility of divorce becomes more and more likely.

2. You’re arguing way more than usual

Yes, there is such a thing as fighting too little and fighting too much. Conflicts happen, but as adults, we must learn how to work through disagreements in a healthy way. If small arguments have suddenly become huge battles within your household, arguments that end with no resolution and tension that lingers in the air like a bad taste in your mouth, something has fundamentally changed between you and your husband—and not in a good way.

Once a relationship becomes so antagonistic that arguments simply never end, divorce is one way to find peace once again and escape from an unhealthy or potentially abusive situation.

3. Your finances are in a bad place

Marriage is hard, and money problems make marriage even more difficult. If one or both of you are having issues at work and your income isn’t what it used to be, that extra pressure can compound the problems in your marriage. You and your husband might not be on the brink of bankruptcy, but maybe you two have fundamentally different ideas on how a person budgets and spends money. You, for instance, might want savings safely tucked away in case of an emergency while he might prefer to spend any extra money he has on the latest gadget.

For whatever reason, you two are in a bad place financially, and you aren’t seeing eye to eye. We might not like it, but money is key to our survival and one of the biggest sources of stress in a marriage. This is one of those situations that isn’t likely to change without some serious communication and work on both of your parts, and if both of you aren’t willing to budge? It might be time to talk about divorce.

4. You don’t feel connected to your husband anymore

Fridays used to be date nights, but now things have changed. You can’t really remember the last time you two had a good talk, or the last time you’ve gone out and truly enjoyed each other’s company. At the dinner table, it sometimes feels like you’re sitting across from a roommate or, worse, a stranger who just happens to share the same space.

If it’s been a while since you and your husband have invested time in each other, then you’re not maintaining an emotionally intimate connection, and you can lose that spark you once had. This is called emotional disengagement, where one or both parties in a marriage have stopped investing in maintaining emotional intimacy. Once you and your husband no longer feel like a couple, divorce starts to make more and more sense. It feels like an inevitability and the only way to find someone else you do have an emotional connection with.

5. There’s a lack of physical intimacy in your marriage

Yes, sex matters. Especially in marriage. Emotional intimacy is important, and one reflection of strong emotional intimacy within a marriage manifests itself as a strong physical connection between two partners. If you can’t remember the last time you and your husband were intimate, and there’s a clear change in how often you sleep together, you might have something to worry about.

Sometimes the source of the change is obvious—it’s medical, for instance, or there are young children at home, problems at work, or another source of stress. But combined with other factors in your relationship, a lack of physical intimacy becomes a worrisome sign that divorce may be on the horizon.

6. Your or your husband’s focus is outside the relationship

You two are no longer working on building something together, but instead, you find yourself more invested in things outside of your marriage, such as a club, the gym, or a large project at work. Maybe your husband has been spending a lot of late nights at the office, or he spends most weekends working on his golf swing with friends. You find yourself spending more and more time alone. Marriage can get boring, just like anything, and sometimes instead of looking inward and finding interests to share, grow, or explore with a partner, we turn to people in our lives who we’re already engaged with (or who we’d like to be).

When you and your husband have stopped making time for each other, it’s a sign that something’s wrong in your marriage that neither of you are willing to look at head on and address. Without working together to form a solid marriage, you two are actively growing emotionally apart and that can lead you down the road to divorce.

If you recognize one or more of these signs of divorce in your own marriage, it might be time to think about the future—your future, specifically. Do you see your husband in that future? Do these challenges in your marriage feel like things the two of you can overcome together?

If you want to salvage your marriage and you think that it’s not too late, talking to your husband about going to counseling is one option. And if so, we recommend this kind of marital support. You can also reach out to a divorce coach to fully understand all of the options in front of you, no matter which path you take (even if you decide not to get a divorce).

The truth is that even if you want to salvage your marriage, once you start seeing the signs of divorce, things might already be too far along for you and your husband to work together to solve the problems in your marriage. Knowing your options is the best way to protect yourself, your children, and your husband in case divorce is inevitable. Together, you can work on what you must navigate near term, and what your post-divorce future will look like so you can start down the path to your divorce recovery. It might be even better than you expect.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to support them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers women 6 FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future.

“When a woman comes through divorce with the proper guidance and her questions answered, her life stands before her like something she could never imagine while she was is in the dark.” ~ SAS for Women

This article was authored for the all-women website SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. 

 

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

A woman thinking about asking for financial help with a divorce

How a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst Can Help with a Divorce

Dividing a house, retirement accounts, alimony, child support—all the financial issues that come up in a divorce can leave your head spinning. The process of going through a divorce is incredibly stressful, regardless, but if you’re not comfortable talking about money, facing the topic of splitting up your finances can be downright miserable. You may be wondering how to plan for your financial life after the divorce, how to divide your assets, who gets the primary residence, and how to negotiate spousal support. Having a financial professional on your team to help with a divorce can reduce your stress while allowing you to achieve the best possible financial outcome.

Getting financial help with a divorce is critical as studies have shown that women experience disproportionate losses in income as a result of divorce, increasing their risk of poverty.

When facing a divorce, a person’s first instinct is often to get an attorney involved. While there’s no substitute for sound legal advice, many of the decisions made in a divorce are financial in nature. Having support from someone well-versed in divorce financial planning and analysis (such as a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) can save you a lot of frustration—it can also save you money on legal fees.

What is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst?

A Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA) has extensive training in the financial issues of divorce. The credential is awarded by the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts and requires extensive work experience and education. These professionals are trained to help you navigate any and all money issues that come up before, during, and after divorce. A CDFA can serve as a financial advocate for just you or as a neutral person who works with both you and your Ex. However, it’s important to remember a CDFA is a financial professional who can’t replace sound legal advice.

What does a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst do?

A CDFA is responsible for looking at your finances, considering the best way to divide assets, and helping you determine the short- and long-term implications of your divorce settlement. By doing so, a CDFA can help alleviate the fear of the unknown. She’ll prepare a financial plan for you based on various scenarios. Having that plan in place will offer you a great sense of confidence (or a reality check, if needed) as you face your financial future.

While every situation is different, the responsibilities of your CDFA may include some or all of the following.

Division of assets

The division of assets during a divorce is more than just a simple split down the middle. Many times, there’s no easy way to split an asset that both you and your Ex want. Your home, furniture, vehicles, among others, come with memories and security that neither of you may want to let go of.

In addition to those physical assets you have, there are financial assets that need to be divided, such as bank accounts, retirement accounts, and life insurance policies. Pensions are commonly the largest asset dealt with in a divorce. Any and all of the pension earned during the marriage is considered marital property and is considered divisible as part of the divorce settlement either by dividing the pension itself or offsetting the value with other assets.

A CDFA will sort out all the details and help you and your Ex determine the best ways to maximize your assets while minimizing the tax impact of your division.

Marital property

If you live in an equitable division state (41 of 50 states are), a couples’ marital assets (those accumulated during the marriage) will need to be divided equitably or fairly. In community property states, marital property is split 50/50. A CDFA can support you and your attorney by determining which items are marital assets and which ones are separate.


If you are wondering about your home and who gets it, you’ll want to read Should You Keep the House During the Divorce?


For example, any money contributed to a 401(k) during the marriage is considered marital property. However, if the account was started before the marriage, a portion of the account may be regarded as separate. The actual definition of what is considered separate property varies somewhat from state to state. Money and things you had before your marriage, gifts you’ve received over the years, and more can complicate an already stressful situation if you don’t have someone to help with a divorce and provide clear guidance on these issues.

Alimony (aka Spousal Support/Spousal Maintenance)

If your Ex provided the primary income, suddenly concerns of how to pay for the house, cover your bills, or whether you’ll have to get another job are at the forefront of your mind. While some states do provide a calculator to determine alimony that will be awarded to the lower income spouse, many do not. In fact, in many states, the issue of alimony is pretty gray.

Some of the factors that contribute to spousal support (depending on the state) include:

  • Your income
  • Health (emotional, physical, and mental)
  • Retirement benefits
  • Length of marriage
  • Childcare status
  • Education
  • Assets and liabilities

When you have a CDFA on your team to help with a divorce, she can do the calculations and give you confidence with projections for how much spousal support is needed compared to how much is available to be paid.

Tax implications of the divorce settlement

Any change in income or accumulation of significant assets can have tax implications as well. In the case of divorce, that’s definitely true. Going from two incomes to one, eliminating an income, or taking on the primary residence all have tax implications. A CDFA will walk you through those challenges so that there’s no guesswork when it comes to that first tax season on your own.

Additional tasks

Additionally, your CDFA will help with a divorce by providing analysis of the settlement, identifying if any information has not been disclosed, and pointing out areas of financial risk in the agreement. A CDFA can also guide you to make decisions that will help your credit score and not hurt it. By hiring a CDFA, you know that your entire financial situation has been evaluated, and you’ll walk away with a clear picture of what your financial future holds.

How is a CDFA paid?

In terms of cost, the fees for CDFA vary widely. Some offer services on an hourly basis, while others offer flat-fee packages. Hourly rates generally range from $150 to $500 per hour depending on the CDFA’s level of experience and the region of the country they work in. Flat fees are typically based on the financial complexity of the case and the extent of the work involved.

To find a CDFA near you, visit the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts (IDFA) website. At the top of the screen, you’ll see a link to “Find a CDFA.” You can then search either by name or by zip code. Many CDFAs also offer virtual services if there is not one in your area.

Your Certified Divorce Analyst can make financial decisions easier

While CDFA professionals can help with a divorce at any point in the process, choosing to work with a CDFA before deciding how you will proceed makes good financial sense. Not only will it save you both time and money throughout the divorce process, but your CDFA will help you and your soon-to-be Ex work out a divorce settlement that is amicable and fair for both of you. Additionally, she will make the process easier to deal with so that you can focus on the things that matter most to you, whether that’s your kids, your family, or your well-being.

 

Leah Hadley is an experienced mediator, Accredited Financial Counselor, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and a Master Analyst in Financial Forensics. After going through her own divorce after ten years of marriage, her goal is to ease the stress of divorce by making the process as painless as possible for couples and individuals alike. When she’s not working, Leah loves spending time with her family, taking her kids on road trips, and volunteering with various organizations like the PTA, NAWBO and Girl Scouts. You can find out more about Leah and her services by visiting her website, Great Lakes Divorce Financial Services.