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Contemplating divorce and coronavirus

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

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

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

Understand the temperature in your house.

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

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

Must-knows when dealing with divorce and coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking about divorce

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

For mothers contemplating or dealing with divorce

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

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

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

Dealing with divorce

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

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

Legal and financial considerations…

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

Coparenting through coronavirus

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

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

Rebuilding after divorce

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

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

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

Above all, stay committed to you

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

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

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

 

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while considering a divorce and navigating the divorce experience and its confusing afterward. We invite you to schedule your free consultation with SAS. You’ll share privately what’s going on and we’ll give you black & white feedback, resources, and next steps for moving forward in the healthiest, smartest way.

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

Paintings of unapologetic women

The Apologetic vs. Unapologetic Woman

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

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

What’s an unapologetic woman?

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

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

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

Portrait of an unapologetic Frieda Kahlo

Credit: weheartit

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

Being authentic is one way of being unapologetic

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

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

Portrait of an unapologetic Muslim woman

Credit: weheartit

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

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

Portrait of an unapologetic Angela Davis

Credit: weheartit

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

Divorce is one of the ways we get pushed

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

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

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

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

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

Woman wondering will pain of divorce ever go away

Will the Pain of Divorce Ever Go Away?

Sitting down with this question for the first time, my immediate response was a smile that I felt in my solar plexus. Will the pain of divorce ever go away? Of course it will—no hesitation there.

But that doesn’t mean that leaving or being left by a spouse and coming to grips with the aftermath won’t hurt worse than anything else we’ve experienced. (It might.) Women say that about childbirth, too, of course. People say that about kidney stones and car accidents. We all know the pain is not the same, but that’s not the point. The point is that pain doesn’t often last. It’s temporary—not a state of being.

Feel the grief, feel the pain. Don’t dismiss it, belittle yourself for feeling it, or try to stop it.

That said, there are degrees of pain when it comes to divorce. Getting divorced is harder than being widowed (I’d add by natural causes), for instance, because when our partners die, we don’t have to then watch them go on living without us. We don’t have to watch them choose to leave because we’re “just not doing it” for them anymore or watch as they then find someone else who does. It a visceral kind of hurt when someone who loved you and committed to you decides to throw in the towel—to live wondering why we weren’t enough.

There are divorces we see coming and those we initiate. Those are not as god-awful as the ones we don’t.

I think most of us avoid climbing out on the limb of “this is the worst thing ever,” because it leaves a part of the story untold. But I’m going to climb out halfway here, because I think in getting through pain, it can help to have a point of reference for it. And there’s also a group of divorcees who I feel deserve some recognition.

When your marriage is wrapped up with your identity

I have friends who’ve divorced several times, who divorced after the age of 50 with kids who still depended on them, with more debt than they wanted and less income than they had before and a social or spiritual group now closed to them, living in tiny apartments instead of on wooded acres—and they are thrilled with their new lives, with their freedom. Though they are back in happy relationships, they say they will never, ever marry again. Not because they lost interest, but because they don’t ever want to repeat the experience of being boxed in and being told who they can be.

“I think that marriage as an institution has been a little bit slow to catch up with expectations for gender equality. Wives still take their husbands’ surnames and are sometimes pressured to do so. Husbands still expect their wives to do the bulk of the housework and the bulk of the childcare,” writes Douglas LaBier, Ph.D. “On the other hand, I think that non-marital relationships lack the historical baggage and expectations of marriage, which makes the non-marital relationships more flexible and therefore more adaptable to modern expectations, including women’s expectations for more gender equality.”

Rejoicing in post-marriage freedom comes much harder for some, though. There are many women in middle life (a group whose divorced numbers are increasing exponentially) who give decade upon decade to home, husband, and family, who made that their vocation, only to have their spouses come home one day and pull the marital rug out from under them—effectively ruining not only their life but their living, their context, and their primary source of validation.

Coming out of an era where women were considered adventurous if they became teachers, nurses, or secretaries, when getting married, being a wife and mother, and tending the home were assumed to be the major role they could play in the world, they are suddenly given the message that not only was this huge part of their lives a waste of time but to then go out and make a living on their own—often with no quantifiable skills outside the home. (These “homegrown” skills do actually translate beautifully to the workplace once women get there, but you can’t really make a resume out of them).

Compounding the injury, these women are turned loose in the world by their spouses as if they are merely stray cats at an age when—due to our ridiculously image-driven, youth-obsessed, homogenized-beauty-standard culture that is only just beginning to recognize women of size, color, and silver hair as worthy of being called beautiful—the assets of their youth are seen as diminished, or not seen at all.

As if this all weren’t enough of a slap in the face—the kind of realities of divorce that truly do make women ask themselves will the pain of divorce ever go away—a second wounding is that no one knows what to say to women in this position. Their totally justifiable rage and depression are seen as inappropriate or uncomfortable, and the people closest to them—whose lives they’ve spent their own facilitating—often just want them to hurry up and be fine again because that’s what they’re used to and because they have no idea what it’s like to be in their shoes.

I think that other than outright abuse, this is the most heartbreaking aspect of divorce and is one of those social realities that makes me wish that superhero alternate professions were a real thing.

Believing that there’s life after divorce

However, the pain can and does go away, and it does not have to take a year for every five you were married. Getting on the other side of the pain may take a couple years—the standard estimate—but chances are excellent that it’s not going to fall neatly into a formula. It could take less. We look for relief, for its estimated time of arrival, for obvious reasons. Essentially, we’re looking for the light at the end of that occasionally excruciating tunnel before we get there because it gives us some hard data to bite down on. It reminds us that it’s temporary. Estimates also give us something to point to when the people around us wonder why we still have the urge to throw the radio across the room when Valentine’s Day ads come on.

But pain doesn’t just drift away like a haze. Not only do we have to let it end, we have to make it. We must decide to push through it to the other side.

How do we do that? Well, again, it’s relative to each person, but talking about it with people who know what you’re experiencing AND what they are talking about is critical. Get a divorce coach to get through it and not get taken to the cleaners if you can help it and a therapist to help deal with the emotional aftermath. Some may do both. Your friends are wonderful, especially if they’ve been through it, but there can be bias there. Sometimes they are still dogpaddling out of their own messes and don’t have room for yours, too. Also, exercise. (DO it.) The endorphins are also critical; breaking a sweat regularly (you do not have to make it your life’s work) is as much or more for your mental health as it is for your physical health.

And recall that like giving birth, there is a tremendous reason for celebration in divorce. There is freedom afterward. There is not having to be concerned with anyone else’s opinion of who we are. There’s celebration in being out from under a thumb, and there is celebration in strength; once you’ve endured something like that, you know your own strength in a way you didn’t before—especially for those who didn’t see it coming, who spent decades investing in a spouse and a marriage and then end up with a life operating in the red for a while.

Will the pain of divorce ever go away? Yes, but perhaps not entirely. We bear scar tissue after all. There are stretch marks from divorce. Be proud of them. Celebrate that not only are you here to tell the story of how you got them, you’ve got many more chapters to write, and you do not have to self-edit to please anyone else. You are the only one who gets to decide who you are now. There is tremendous joy in this.

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start a dialogue, first with yourself and then with others

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to…

Figure out your finances

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

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

Embrace the unknown

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

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

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

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

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

*This piece was written for SAS for Women, an all-women website. At SAS we respect same-sex marriages, however, for the sake of simplicity in this article we refer to your spouse as a male.

How long does it take to get over a divorce

How Long Does It Take to Get Over a Divorce? And 4 Signs You are On Your Way

There’s a saying about getting over someone—that it takes half the time you spent together to truly move on. That means six months of wallowing for a year-long relationship—time that might drag on endlessly, or time that might fly by faster than you can blink. But for longer relationships? Those marriages that have spanned years and possibly decades? The waiting period is a whole other discussion, a conversation we are going to have now.

Because after divorce, you want your life back. But a part of you is still reliving the past, turning your marriage over and over like a skipping stone in your hand. A stone that, at some point, you have to drop. You have to let it go. For the truth of the matter is spending the next decade missing your Ex—and feeling sorry for yourself—is even more depressing than your actual divorce.

So you aim to help yourself, you start researching. You ask friends, you ask family (or maybe they ask you), “How long is it supposed to take to get over a divorce, anyway?” Yet, you get nothing in return, but differing answers leading to more questions.

Now you’re here reading, and we are with you. We know that sometimes arming yourself with knowledge is the best way you can feel in control, especially when it comes to all-things-divorce. So, how long does it take?

What science says

Past studies suggest that it takes a person, on average, eighteen months to move on after divorce, while others simply leave it at “it’s complicated.” And that’s the truth—divorce is complicated, and because of this, science is only so accurate. Some study participants, for instance, might have been separated before getting a divorce, while others had only just broken things off. Other participants may have wanted a divorce, while others still wanted to try to make their marriages work.

What is clear is that even when marriages look the same on paper, their insides are messy, intricate things that can’t be examined like a math equation.

What experience says

What we know, despite what our loved ones tell us or even what science says, is that people often discover they’ve “moved on” almost unconsciously. They wake up one morning, and the sadness they’ve been carrying feels different, less of a weight than a kind of memory. You’re in the middle of a conversation, for instance, or you are out shopping in the grocery store, and you see the latest tabloid announcing another celebrity divorce when you remember your own divorce, what you’re supposed to be grieving, or “missing” or reverberating from. Only you don’t so much. You feel stabilized. It’s not that you’re unaware of the scars you are wearing, but you own them now. And best of all, you no longer care. 

This not caring is freeing! It seems to happen a little sooner when you have distance from your Ex. That means no “let’s be friends.” No late-night, I’m-feeling-sorry-for-myself phone calls. No hookups “for old times sake.” In fact, to help with your healing, you must consider your past relationship like a drug, for a certain time at least. You have to cut off your exposure to the drug and to its many triggers.

You have to re-circuit your brain and teach it to do new things rather than reach for the phone to “let him have it” or to beg. (Drink a glass of water every time you want to call your Ex!) Limit your triggers of being reminded of him*. Unfriend him, or better yet, block your Ex on social media. Delete his number from your phone. If you are coparenting with him, only communicate through Family Wizard. This is about creating a buffer for the new and emerging you to grow. It’s not about adding to your confusion and grief by constantly being near the man you once thought you’d spend the rest of your life with.

But what if you aren’t grieving your “Was-band”? But grieving the loss of who you were in the marriage? Who you used to be? The lifestyle you enjoyed? The summer rituals you shared? What about the friends and family who played a role in that former life of yours?

Life after divorce is a whole new way of living, and it means almost by definition … change. A lot of change. You need time to grapple with the changes and the many losses you have suffered, ignored, or even, created. So really, when we ask how long does it take to recover from divorce? We are talking about the time it takes until “You’ve Got Your Groove Back.”

But what if you are tone—or you can’t dance? Getting your groove back does not explain what you are striving for?

In our 46 Steps to Divorce Recovery, A Definition and A Guide, we define this moment in time, post-divorce, as a process, a journey of its own within divorce where the  “emotional and practical restructuring and healing” is a “constant, cyclical process in which you are broken down and built back up numerous times until finally, you are whole again.”

Another way of saying this is, you will know when you are healed when all the shattered pieces come back together in a way that makes you feel proud of yourself.

What you can do to help yourself move on

The very fundamental desire to heal is your beginning. Now you must take steps. Try to avoid doing things that smack of those old familiar patterns and people you miss. At first, fighting these instincts will be hard, because during your marriage you probably did everything you could to bring all these things together—the people, the routines, the joys, the rituals. You tried to make the most of your marriage. But now your challenge is to create your “new normal,” and to do that, you’ll have to rediscover yourself and who you are now.

Some women find that their divorce recovery takes years, while others find that they’ve prepared for divorce so long that within months or weeks they already feel better than they have in years. To those in the latter camp, we say, yes, you may be feeling better. But don’t lose sight of the work and steps you must still be taking to ensure your healthy independence. Doing the work and practicing self care, will ensure you start seeing the signs that indeed, you have started to truly move on.

Here are some of those signs.

1. The idea of going on a date is thrilling

If, after divorce, you say to yourself whenever someone suggests you should get back out there,“What? Start all over? It’s so much work…” this is a sign that you’re not over your divorce. The idea of dating feels like a chore, a series of boxes to check off a list someone else has generated, rather than the adventure it can really be. So, don’t do it. Focus on yourself and what you need to discover about putting your life back together. Until you do this work, you will only be showing up half-heartedly or, damaged.

But if you feel a twinge of excitement at the thought of meeting someone new, then some part of you might be ready to move on—at least in the romantic department. Check in with yourself. Manage your expectations of self, what you want, what you need, and what you are willing to share.

2. You feel comfortable in your own skin

You’re feeling yourself. Not just feeling sexy—though there’s no shame in that, you feel healthy and fully of energy. You feel a sense of peace and balance. You have planted your feet in the direction you want your life to take. In short, you know who you are, and you like that person.

For some women, this may mean they’ve secured a job (a paycheck!) and routine. For others it may mean understanding at long last their finances, and what their plan is for moving forward. Or maybe the kids are no longer acting out but settling into their new routines at both houses, and this is giving you a chance to ease up in hyper-management of the shifting parts. But that frenzy of survival mode has passed. You are able to look up and consider what else might be possible for you now.

3. You feel positive about you future

Before your divorce and maybe even sometimes, afterwards, it was hard to care much about your future let alone believe there was anything good waiting for you there. But now surprising events or happenings have inspired you. You may be full of hope. Look! There’s so much about your life that’s new and surprising. You never could have predicted or planned for it.

There’s something beautiful about leaning into the unexpected.

Being positive about your future implies that you have taken a hard look at your past and come to a place of acceptance about it, both the good and the bad. It means you no longer carry the past like a weight. You’ve moved past blame. When you are living in the here and now, planning and building your new future, this is another strong indicator that you’ve begun moving on after divorce.

4. Your divorce doesn’t keep you up at night

The end of any relationship generally comes with a certain dose of feeling sorry for yourself. Nights spent crying yourself to sleep and days spent walking around in a daze. But now? You’re tired of being tired. You’re done with being sad. You find yourself making plans for your summer and spending more time with new people and those unbelievably wonderful, stalwart friends. One day you think to yourself, “When was the last time I thought about HIM?” And the fact that you have to think about that puts a smile on your face.

You might never truly “get over” your divorce, but over time, it will become a quieter ache instead of an intense pain. The heartbreak will callus over—you’ll be wiser and more prepared for red flags that may appear again. Experience is a gift that gives you the chance to learn from mistakes and failures. Whether those mistakes and failures are real or simply dancing in your head, time and doing the work you must will give you perspective.

When it comes to getting over a divorce, there’s no rulebook or timeline except the one that feels right for you. If you do nothing about your divorce recovery, you can expect very little to change about the way you are feeling. It will probably become more muddled and less pronounced. But did you grow from it? If you choose to support yourself by finding the help you need to really honor your beautiful life, you’ll discover the time it takes to get over your divorce will be just the right amount of time you need to move forward bravely and with grace.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule you free, 45 minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping or already navigating your life afterward, a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone.

*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.

A woman in a bathtub contemplating what divorce does to a woman

What Divorce Does to a Woman: You and Your Money

The chances are fairly good that if you are a woman with school-age children and you are looking at getting divorced, you are facing a drain on your financial resources with no fast recovery in sight.

While marriage generally has a positive effect on financial health—due in part to tax incentives and thousands of laws that favor married couples—divorce is like trying to maintain a house that’s falling apart, money going out faster than it can come in. While sociological studies show that the net worth of each person in a marriage increases 77 percent over the years, that net worth starts to drop four years before divorce. Divorcees experience an average wealth decline of 77 percent.

And what divorce does to a woman is generally worse, because far more than not, women end up as the primary caregivers for a couple’s children, and children—while fulfilling and precious to women and men alike—are also expensive. Since this is a website for women, it would be easy to dismiss that statement as biased, but of the 13.6 million single parents in the United States, only 16 percent of those are single dads.

Divorce takes women with children’s financial resources and chops them in half and then adds expenses like a reduction sauce to the leftovers. For women without paid work of their own and full-time custody of their children, it is often a low-income existence, with approximately one in five women becoming impoverished as a result of divorce. Add to that the fact that, while they’re still married, women are more likely than men to leave paying jobs outside the home to care for the children, thereby siphoning off their financial independence and their workplace skills. And if they needed to file for disability, their lack of “points” in the workforce can later lead to a denial of such claims, leaving them hamstringed by health issues as well as poverty and the lack of mobility that comes with daily childcare.

“While the downturn and the weak economy of recent years have eliminated many of the jobs women held, a lack of family-friendly policies also appears to have contributed to the lower rate. In a (poll) of nonworking adults aged 25 to 54 in the United States, conducted recently, 61 percent of women said family responsibilities were a reason they weren’t working, compared with 37 percent of men,” write Claire Cain Miller and Liz Alderman of the New York Times. “Of women who identify as homemakers and have not looked for a job in the last year, nearly three-quarters said they would consider going back if a job offered flexible hours or allowed them to work from home.”

Pair that inclination to choose child-rearing over career and cost-crippling daycare (or at least the decision to postpone careers until the children are older) with the changing requirements of the work force, and then, add in the tendency in the U.S. toward employment policies that do not favor families or flexible schedules. According to Miller and Alderman, 1993 was the last time the U.S. Congress passed legislation that was family-forward, providing certain workers with 12 unpaid weeks with their newborn babies. All combined, and you have divorced American mothers with a stunted ability to make money.

“Women who worked before, during, or after their marriages see a 20 percent decline in income when their marriages end, according to Stephen Jenkins, a professor at the London School of Economics. His research found that men, meanwhile, tend to see their incomes rise more than 30 percent post-divorce. Meanwhile, the poverty rate for separated women is 27 percent, nearly triple the figure for separated men,” writes Darlena Cunha for The Atlantic in April 2016.

“The main reason women suffer the brunt of divorce’s financial burdens, according to Jenkins, is that during marriage, they are more likely than men to stop working in order to raise kids. ‘The key differences are not between men and women, but between fathers and mothers.’”

But here’s what’s interesting: the research also indicates that women will ask for that divorce anyway, despite the financial strain of it.

In 2015, one Psychology Today source cites a study of more than 2,000 heterosexual couples, stating that women initiated nearly 70 percent of divorces. Another source claims 80 percent. And if newer research is to be trusted, women may have less money and more limited ways to make it after divorce (which does change and can continue to improve, if slowly), but they are also discovering happiness is the surprise that awaits them.

The Huffington Post published a July 2013 article featuring research from London’s Kingston University—research that spanned 20 years and drew feedback from more than 10,000 United Kingdom residents between the ages of 16 and 60. Researchers asked subjects about their happiness before and after certain life events, including divorce. Women generally reported being more content than usual for several years after their divorces, leading the study authors to theorize that:

Women who leave unhappy marriages may end up feeling more unshackled by the break-up than men.

Another survey of 1,060 divorcees discovered that 53 percent of women said they are “much happier” after divorce—using words like “glad,” “celebration,” and “excitement”—while only 32 percent of the men interviewed made the same claim. Other writers have noted that 35 percent of U.K. women surveyed in 2018 said that they felt “less stressed” following the termination of their marriages, and while only 15 percent of men felt higher self-esteem post-divorce, 30 percent of women felt a boost in that regard.

So, what divorce often does to a woman is leave her struggling financially but coming through a divorce also seems to have the effect of making women feel stronger, more alive, and more authentically themselves.

For myself, neither my Ex of 13 years nor I have children of our own, though he is now a stepparent. (I never wanted to be a mother, so this is a happy circumstance for me, though I understand the profound pull to motherhood and respect it—especially if it’s done with thoughtfulness, self-knowledge, and preparation.) He and I had always kept separate bank accounts, yet shared the mortgage and bills equally, and we ended our partnership well, with our friendship intact and financial benefits on both sides. I’m very, very fortunate in this. We ended our partnership because we wanted to be happy and knew we’d taken that path as far as we could with each other. It’s difficult to speak legitimately to what children need when you don’t have any, but I do think that children benefit from having parents who are whole and authentically happy, not just making do, or, far worse, hiding the bruises or crumbling under the insults.

But whether you have children or not, it’s important to understand how divorce can affect your finances. In a 2017 article in The Guardian, a woman named Tracey McVeigh said that, “If I had any advice for women now thinking of getting married, I’d say never, never, never give up your financial independence. No matter how difficult it may seem, keep one toe in the water: it may make the difference between sinking and swimming.” We want you to swim, always. No matter where you are on your divorce journey, keep your head above water.

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.

Getting through divorce

Seven Ways to Keep Your Sanity as You Get Through a Divorce

Getting through a divorce with our sanity intact is a real challenge. We have to grapple as much with what’s going on in our minds—with our beliefs about ourselves—as we do with what’s coming at us from the outside. It’s no wonder that divorce is typically ranked as one of the top three most stressful life events, possibly because it so often involves many of the other stressful events in life: loss of income, change of residence, changing jobs, loss of our friends and social network, worry over the health of a loved one…the list goes on.

And that’s what’s outside. Inside, the “I’m not enough” voice, the “I failed” voice, the ones that tell us that we can’t provide, that our children will be harmed, that we won’t experience love or passion again—they’re loud and they are on repeat.

A study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in October 2019 cites that young adults of divorced parents experience more depression, loneliness, childhood trauma, attachment avoidance, attachment anxiety, chronic stress, and less paternal care. But while concern for children of divorce is justified and should be addressed, there’s good reason to be concerned for ourselves, as well.

“Divorce can exact a greater, and in many cases longer-lasting emotional and physical toll on the former spouses than virtually any other life stress, including widowhood,” writes New York Times reporter Jane Brody.

The research supports what we instinctively know: we need to get our feet under us. If marriage is a ballet, then divorce is an entire production of unrehearsed spins—no one auditions for this swirl of bewilderment, fear, anger, and hurt.

So, making a list of what you will need to get through your divorce is a great idea, but in the meantime, let’s loan you one.

1. Find one foundational thing

Dancers have a technique called “spotting” they use to keep their balance in the midst of a turn, so that even while spinning over and over again, they keep dizziness at bay and come back to center. Like spotting, your “One Thing” needs to be simple because you’ll need to be able to come back to it quickly and often, especially when your stress levels ratchet up. It’s a practice, a part of your routine, an affirmation, an essential oil, a green drink, a talisman—whatever you need it to be. It’s healthy, and it stays on repeat. It will probably become a long-term ally, even after you’ve gotten through your divorce. But until you do, it’s simple. It helps you find stillness in the middle of the tailspin, and it stays.

2. Get an objective third party to help you

Whether it’s a divorce coach, a therapist, or someone else, it’s a person who is not part of your village of friends and family, and that person is a professional.

A therapist can help sort through the past; a divorce coach can help navigate into the future. Or vice versa. Either way, they are trained and experienced in helping to redirect our thoughts and get us through the chaos of divorce without bias or judgement.

3. Listen to the uncomfortable truths

Relationships, for the most part, are two-way streets, and we need to own our side of the road. (Unless you are extricating yourself from an abusive marriage—in that case, this does not apply. Get yourself out. You can deal with this later, if you’re able and in a safe enough place externally and internally to do it. There is a huge difference between conflict in a balanced partnership, which is more like a verbal sparring match between two equal participants, and abuse, which is one person battering another.)

Your village—the friends you’re able to keep through this change, your community members, your family, your kids—all of them may tell you things you may not want to hear about how you contributed to the marriage’s end. Therapists and divorce coaches will too, although they will most likely say it in a way that’s easier for you to digest, not to mention deal with the fall-out if you get angry or feel remorseful.

Maybe you weren’t present in your marriage. Maybe you drank too much. Maybe you cheated. Whatever it is—and it’s likely more than one thing—if you don’t accept your own contribution and learn from it, you will be missing a huge learning opportunity and you will likely repeat the same mistakes.

As a former co-worker of mine put it, quoting Einstein, “Doing the same thing over and over again the same way and expecting different results is the definition of crazy.” Why would we want to get through a divorce only to be the same person with the same behaviors?

4. Expand your village

Support groups are available everywhere and get as specialized as you want. Ask around, look on-line, and on bulletin boards at the grocery store or at the library. Exercise caution. If you choose a group that’s linked to social media, make sure your Ex and anyone the two of you have in common doesn’t get too much information about what you’re doing. As you likely lost some friends you had in common with your Ex, how you are making new ones is none of their business. And the more resources you have, the better equipped you’ll be to get through it.

5. Exercise

For me, working out consistently was my “One Thing,” and it continues to be, along with a couple other practices. I know, I know, everyone says it. But you need endorphins to combat the grief, anxiety, and stress, and you have a much better chance at feeling mentally strong if you’re increasing your physical endurance. Improving your looks is just a side benefit…although it is delightful to see the expression on your Ex’s face when they see you a few weeks, months, or years later. If this is an ending, you may as well be happy.

6. Find low-cost ways to boost your earning

Providing for yourself and your family looks different now, and if you’ve never done this before, it will be particularly intimidating. This is where a divorce coach can help.

  1. Temp agencies like Kelly Services offer training for their employees and function like an agent. They find temporary positions that often turn permanent; you just have to be available and have a means of transportation. But in the meantime, you can log into their site and learn different computer programs that make you more valuable to employers.
  2. Learn a language. You can probably YouTube your way into being multilingual.
  3. Find out how to do a side business.
  4. In order to put a side business together, you may need free legal or tax advice. Agencies who might be able to direct you to CPA’s or attorneys doing pro bono work include Area Agencies on Aging, community mental health facilities, Safe Place, homeless shelters, and senior centers.
  5. Airbnb just may be the stay-at-home mom goldmine of the future. Renting your place out, even for just one week out of the year in some areas, can add thousands to your annual income.

7. Avoid turning comfort into vice

When asked how she got through her divorce, a friend of mine said, “I drank a lot of coffee, smoked a lot of cigarettes, gained a lot of weight, and had a lot of sex.” We all love our comfort foods, our rebellious little habits, the lover we find on Tinder, the totally unnecessary stilettos with the tassel on the back, or a good Scotch or microbrew. When we’re in the thick of divorce and losing the person we looked to for love, the things that we can now look forward to become more important. But, they can also become more important than they should be. Most of them are expensive and all can be addictive. So, lean on your crutch if you need to, but keep in mind that a crutch is meant to be temporary. The longer you use it, the harder it will be to give it up. As we get through divorce, the idea is to walk (or dance) without it.

Divorce is a messy whirlwind of change, of belly-dropping fears, and it makes demands on your abilities you never planned for. You can do this. You can get through your divorce. You may not have auditioned for it, but even across its slick surfaces and on the precarious tip of a toe, you can do it with grace and you can do it with your sanity intact.

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

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.

Divorce Support Chat Rooms as suggested by a woman with a computer

Get the Support You Deserve But Exercise Caution with Divorce Support Chat Rooms

There are so many reasons women turn to divorce support chat rooms. Divorce feels isolating. It can feel terrifying to open up to others, but when it’s the right person, it can also feel like taking a deep breath after a long time spent underwater.

It’s natural for women to seek out the solace of other women. You may have more friends and family than you can count or you may have come out of your marriage realizing just how many people you’ve left behind—either way, entering a divorce support chat room offers the chance to tap into a community of people who understand exactly what you’re going through.

But as with most things on the internet and in life, there are two sides to every story. Exercising caution in these chat rooms is crucial.

Reaching out to others from behind a screen feels safe

When you talk about your divorce with friends and family, it’s not always easy to be that honest. You might be afraid, rightfully so, that your loved ones will judge you or your Ex, who may still be a big part of your life, especially if you have children. Your friends and family will often have opinions you never asked for and questions you can’t even begin to answer. Did you decide this together? Have you tried everything to save your marriage? What exactly? Aren’t you mad? I know in my marriage I just had to …

Your loved ones are (usually) well-meaning, but their entire perspective is limited by which aspects of your relationship you chose to show the outside world. And as we know, that’s not the full picture of your marriage. But beyond that, you won’t have the answers, or maybe, you’ll have too many answers. And as well, it’s hard for your friends and family, who are not experts to hold back on their own stories, judgement or agendas.

If you are dealing with divorce and feeling frustrated or disappointed by friends and family (especially as you approach the holidays, maybe with dread!), you might prepare a script for yourself — one that blocks their questioning, but kindly: “You know, Karen, thank you for your interest in hearing what’s going on. Let me assure you, I’m working on myself right now and if I think of a way you can be of help I will let you know. How are your cats?” You can redirect the conversation away from your divorce. You don’t owe anyone anything, after all. Or, you can simply go online.

Divorce support chat rooms feel private and safe. By definition a “chat room” is a space on the internet that allows users to communicate with each other, typically limiting the conversation to a particular theme. Search Facebook for divorce support groups for women and countless choices will appear in front of you. Most, if not all, are not public. You have to request to join the group, and once accepted, it feels comforting to see other women posting about their own divorces—their stories might not be the same as yours, but you can see glimpses of yourself in them anyway.

Places like Reddit Divorce are full of people anonymously asking others for divorce advice, too, and because those responding are strangers, it can feel like the conversations are more honest than those you might have with someone who actually knows you in “real life.”

But do you want to simply chat about your pain? And take in the anguish of others? Do your homework to find out which type of online support you really want.  Perhaps what you are looking for is something that allows you to share but also provides traction or structure to move forward and do SOMETHING with your pain so you get to a better place. This action could be doing something with your emotions or taking critical legal, financial, or practical steps. For especially these reasons, it’s important to research what kind of online divorce support group is best for you.

The downside of easy access

Not all divorce support chat rooms and groups are the same. Many are unmoderated. Others are facilitated by professionals from large organizations with a standard set of materials to work from, leaving little room for addressing the specific needs of individuals. And other groups have their own personality, combining educational steps, guidance and support.

One problem with online divorce support chat rooms is that many of the conversations you have aren’t guided. They are full of other people who are struggling and hurting just like you—people who might not be in the right headspace to offer you the kind of advice that will help you move forward with your divorce recovery.

Women first enter these groups to vent, but the venting can quickly turn into endlessly reliving of your trauma and that of others. Instead of feeling better about your situation, you end up spinning and wallowing, comparing your marriage to others and searching for meaning and connections. Does it really matter who’s at fault? Is that a riddle you can even solve?

What if instead of looking for answers that still won’t change your reality, you worked on finding yourself? You need a professional to facilitate your conversations and direct your energy so that you can release it and reach a better place.

You can revisit and tell your story until you turn blue in the face and grow sick of hearing your own voice, but if the person you’re speaking to can’t tell you which direction and steps are right for you specifically — “right” meaning healthy and smart — then you aren’t getting the help you need. And you may only be reinforcing your spin cycle or your painful status quo of knowing and doing what you already know.

Putting an end to conversations that go nowhere

An expert, like a therapist or a divorce coach, is trained to guide you through conversations with specific goals in mind. If you need true and lasting divorce support, be selective about whom you reach out to.

When you’re looking for a divorce support chat room or group, do your research. Be aware that there are people out there who lead programs without proper training. The group you participate in should not simply be an endless series of conversations where each person takes her turn to complain about her life and funnel negative, contagious energy. Are you learning and growing? Chances are great that this group format is not serving you and is a waste of your time. Ask yourself, do you have a lot of energy to spare right now?

Getting support when you need it is good and positive and necessary. When we bottle up our emotions, they weigh us down. The world feels heavier and darker, and we can get lost in our own sadness, unable to see a way out. But if the support you’re getting isn’t the right kind, then conversations move sideways instead of forward. They feel circular, and progress is halted.

Believe us when we say that you have so much life left to live—your best memories are not behind you. They are in front of you! Now is the time to step outside yourself. Indulge in some self-care. Take up kickboxing or find a local hiking group. Find your way back to an old hobby or explore new ones. If you are recreating after divorce, join a productive women’s divorce support group to find other people ready to heal and move forward. If you are in the confusing state of not knowing if you should divorce, or are beginning the process, find the right group that focuses on the legal, financial and emotional needs you have in this stage. It’s healthy and natural to reach out to others, even in a divorce support chat room, but the wrong kind of help can lead you to the wrong place. You need a leader to guide you, as you create a genuine vision of what healing looks like for you and the concrete actions steps you must take to get there.

 

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.