Posts

credit: weheartit.com

Midlife Volunteering for Women: Listening for the Wild Things

The air felt hot and dry against my face, but the breeze felt cool and fresh. I listened to the steam of air released and watched what unfolded below.

A long time ago, I flew over Kenya’s Masai Mara — in a hot air balloon. Aloft the wind currents, my new husband and I marveled over the sweeping plain filled with buffalo, wildebeest and impala. And we shuddered with the thrilling descent over a river clustered with hippo. I still see the hippos’ jaws extended as we drifted down. Then landing elsewhere, we smashed into a towering red termite mound. I was amazed to see a pride of lions resting nearby, watching antelope when I stood up; and not far away from them, the outrageous — a luxurious champagne brunch prepared for us. The contrast — the height of civilization, complete with white linen tablecloths, crystal goblets and chinked silver service — and the “Super Natural” of Africa made for the consummate, romantic and fully colonial experience. Aside the birth of my two daughters, the safari honeymoon, filled with hope and possibility, would be the highlight of my marriage.

It has taken me 27 years to return to Africa. This time, I’ve come on my own.

I am in IMFolozi National Reserve in South Africa, serving as a volunteer with Wildlife Act – an organization dedicated to the preservation of endangered species.

What brought me here was an awareness of my own ticking mortality and things I must still do. Last summer I was forced to stay in New York City where I live in order to receive treatment, having been diagnosed with breast cancer. I worked a lot, rarely took time off, and reported daily for my “tanning bed.” I knew I was incredibly lucky to be diagnosed and treated early, to endure only a lumpectomy, and above all, survive. But on some level, too, I understood as well that if I were lying on my deathbed I would not be going quietly. I still had things to savor and getting back to Africa was one of them. Though the honeymoon safari would be forever imprinted in my head, there was something about its privilege and naiveté that rubbed me the wrong way now that I was older, wiser, and divorced.

Credit: Diana Doolittle

SAS Cofounder Liza Caldwell in IMfolozi National Park, South Africa.

Imfolozi is the oldest national park in Africa, and one of the most dazzling or so I am told. I discover this for myself as I scan the horizon holding a transistor and telemetric equipment from the back of an open-air truck. My colleagues and I are tracking African wild dog, cheetah, lion, and vulture (yes!) and it’s 5:00 am. The air is not warm but icy. This may be South Africa, but it feels like Patagonia.

For hours each day, we listen and measure the strength of signals given off from different collars certain animals wear. We hear the beeps and charge off to track, photograph and record a sighting. The routine is simple and not unlike a meditation. But each day brings the unexpected and the show-stopping that I feel singled out to witness.

From the rising of the orange disk sun to the sounds of the Cape Town Turtle Dove or roaring lions in the riverbed, I feel my life anew. Africa has a way of handing you “first-times,” like the climax I experienced yesterday, when the Reserve’s vet handed me the shot to revive a tranquilized wild dog. “Just grab the muscle in his haunch, pinch and wait for the signal. Then stick the needle in.” I certainly had not planned on touching the wild dogs, or smelling them. But I am still vibing and privileged in an altogether new way: to be in a place in my life that has me listening and at last acting on what my inner voice says I must do.

Turns out, that inner voice can find its choir, for I am surrounded by other powerful voices here; a group of women who have come from all over the world. Though each one’s story is unique, they are like me in many ways. They have transitioned through something and understand time is finite. If there is a calling of the wild, one must listen.

In the hope of inspiring you, I asked a few to share what it was that had them leave the familiar and find themselves immersed in nature, here in Africa, too.

Cathy Dawson quit her job and sold her house.

Cathy Dawson, 45 years old, Hudson, New York: 

“I have always been passionate about the wildlife in Africa. It’s been a lifelong dream to go and see all the magnificent creatures, especially the big five. However, there has never been enough time, money or courage to make the trip.

And then, my husband left me. I hit rock bottom for a few days, and then realized in my deepest, darkest moments that this was an opportunity, something I had been denied. I could create a new life for myself on my own terms.

So, not only did I cut ties with my ex-husband, I also quit my job and sold my house. Africa was calling! I had to respond, but I wanted my experience to be different than a safari. So, I decided to take direct action and help threatened species. I made plans to go to Zululand as a midlife volunteer and to join WildlifeAct to honor that part of my soul that has been neglected for so long.”

“I like to think about what Wayne Dyer once said,

‘I don’t want to die with the laughter still inside me'”

~ Penny M. from Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Dr. Diana Doolittle (not her real name), 45 years old, London, U.K:

“In 2015 I went on safari to the Serengeti with my husband and fell in love. In love, with the magnificence, the power and sheer presence of the lions! They inspired me in a way that was totally alien. I went back to London and explored ways that would lead me back.

I stumbled across Wildlife Act. The NGO struck me as an ethical organization. There was no “cub petting.” They monitor the lions from a distance! When I told them at my job I needed to go to Africa, management was very supportive. They agreed to an “unpaid leave.” And my husband was supportive. He was surprised of course, as I normally travel with an extra suitcase – just for my hair products. But he said I must do what I must do.

The culmination of my experience so far has been the drawing blood from a wild dog. By training I am a doctor, but yesterday, I felt my whole life had geared me for this moment. And perhaps I should have become a vet. I understand now why people give up everything and undertake conservation work. It is a privilege to work towards protecting the vulnerable and the innocent.”

Penny M., 63 years old, Vancouver Island, British Columbia:

“The wild dogs called me. I’m 63 and had knee surgery 5 years ago. Both my knees are titanium! — Believe me, you can’t lose me in the airport. You hear me coming through security …. As for coming here I figured it’s not gonna get any easier. Now, is when I have the time and I couldn’t wait around anymore, or for those people who said they ‘might do it with me one day.’ I like to think about what Wayne Dwyer said, ‘I don’t want to die with the laughter still inside me.'”

Marumo Nene, Endangered Species Monitor for WildlifeACT at IMfolozi Reserve, South Africa

Marumo Nene, 33 years old, Wildlife Monitor and Volunteer Manager, KwaZululnatal, South Africa

“Growing up under Apartheid policies, I didn’t know anything about conservation or much about animals. The reserve and other national parks in South Africa were off limits to blacks unless we worked there. Only sometimes, when I was tending my father’s goats, would I even go near this reserve, IMfolozi. When I did, I’d catch glimpses of white men riding horses supervising black men fixing the fence. So when my father suggested I apply for an internship at IMfolozi where he had been working as one of the first blacks on the inside, heading up a project on alien plants, I told him, “No! I am not fixing any fences!!” But he insisted I check it out and so I applied to please him. And I found myself! I love animals and nature. After the internship I gave up what I had been studying — Public Relations — and became a field guide and then I got a job to monitor wild dogs, an endangered species. This is where I want to be — in the middle of it. Nature gives me peace of mind or what we say in Zulu, Kunothula – a quietness. I plan to stay involved here forever.”

Dr. Ivana Cinková, 34 years old, Litomyšl, Czech Republic/ Researcher Completing her Post Doctorate on White Rhino Communication: 

“I’ve wanted to come to Africa since I was around 6 years old. I was little and saw Joy Adamson’s “Born Free,” and then some time after, I read a children’s book about a Czech who moved rhinos from the Sudan to a Czech zoo. I liked his stories and in particular about a female Rhino who would smash the cell she was held in, just so the baby rhinos could get to her. She didn’t smash the rest of the pen, just the barrier to the babies. The workers would repair the wall, but every night she’d smash the barrier again to get to the young rhinos. I loved that. And now that I am here, approaching two years, I love being in the bush with them. Everything is so much simpler here, though it’s primitive and can be a struggle. It makes me appreciate everything I have. In Europe, life is easier, but you take it for granted.”

Midlife Volunteers

Fast friends: volunteers taking a break from work and meeting on the fabled “Rock” at Wildlife ACT camp, IMfolozi National Park in KwaZuluNatal, South Africa.

Kerry N., 56 years old, Tasmania, Australia:

“I’m two years out of an eight year relationship. I discovered my ex was living a double or should I say, triple life, with relationships all over the globe. Not only was he cheating on me, he made me feel like a fool. Like I was the one who was crazy! It was the classic “gas lighting.” But I am older now and wiser, and I’ve managed to survive.

I want my new life to be filled with color, fun and experiences. I want to know and love myself. I started with Africa, coming here as a midlife volunteer because of a near death experience I had more than 30 years ago – before any relationship troubles. It’s something I’ve never been able to shake off.

In that twilight space years ago, between life and death, I was in a tunnel on a dirt road. Along the road, there were brightly dressed African women, wearing reds and orange. The women were singing, chanting and jumping. It wasn’t happy singing. It was something else. Maybe they were telling me it wasn’t time for me to die. The image has stayed with me. I am here because of them.”

What is your soul aching to do? If you’d like to learn more about overcoming your fears and honoring who you really are, consider joining SAS Cofounder Liza Caldwell in 2019 when she returns to Africa to lead a small group of women to Cape Town, Johannesburg, and the Bush. The Asambe Tour (Zulu for “Let’s go!”) will be dedicated to self discovery and adventure and will include such highlights as Soweto, Robben Island, Table Mountain, and safari. Particularly special will be the unique opportunity to live and be with South African women and leaders as they share historical insights and the local ways to nature treks, cultural fourrees, wine tastings, braais (barbecques), and yoga in the wild. If you’d like to be considered for the group, please read more here.

credit: weheartit.com

Your 3 Most Important Financial Steps AFTER Divorce

Did you know that female senior citizens are 80 percent more likely to live in poverty than males? I found that sobering statistic and others about women, retirement, and money in this March 3, 2017, New York Times article. As a divorced (or divorcing) woman, wouldn’t you appreciate a road map so you don’t spend your “golden years” being broke?

My clients freak out at the thought that one day they might have to rely on their children or other family members for money. To avoid that, they want to know what they should be doing, what are the most important financial steps after divorce.

I’ll cut right to the chase: the most important practice is to create a plan for how not to run out of money. This practice involves three critical steps.

Step #1: Secure what’s yours and protect what you have

After your divorce is final, the last thing you feel like doing is more financial tasks, I know. But now that you are independent, there are important steps you must complete. Failure to do so could cost you a lot of money.

Case in point: I was managing a brokerage account for a divorced client who was waiting on her ex-husband to complete paperwork in order to transfer half of his retirement assets to her. Because it wasn’t his priority to meet his ex-wife at the Fidelity office to sign papers, it took over a year for those assets to transfer to her ownership. I calculated that the delay cost her over $12,000. Why? Because her ex-husband had his retirement plan sitting in a conservative portfolio that wasn’t growing much due to the large bond exposure. Had that money been invested in the same manner that I had managed her brokerage account, her individual retirement account (IRA) would have been worth $12,000 more!

Elsewhere, it’s important that you protect what you have by updating the beneficiaries on your accounts. If you were to die, you’d probably prefer your money go directly to your kids or siblings instead of your ex-husband, right?

You don’t necessarily need an attorney to help you with most post-divorce steps. You may want to consult with a certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA) or follow a post-divorce checklist like the one I provide my clients and financial students. (More on that soon.)

Step #2: Pay your bills and pay yourself

The mortgage, property tax, utilities, Internet, cell phone …those darn, pesky bills! If we don’t have enough money each month to pay our bills in full, sometimes interest accrues on our credit cards. I teach women how to reverse that situation. Instead of paying income to the credit card companies, consider how you might pay income to yourself! That may sound strange, but each month you should have an expense line in your budget in which you are paying yourself, typically in the form of contributions to a tax-deferred retirement plan. You want that money to be invested so it builds up over time to replace your child support or alimony (assuming you receive one or both) or your employment income when you are too old to work.

Tip: Many women don’t know this but spousal support is considered “qualifying income” so even if you don’t work outside the home or you work part-time, you can still make contributions to an individual retirement account (IRA) and in many cases reduce your tax bill.

Is a budget really important? The short and long answer is YES. If you don’t know how much you spend, you don’t know how much it costs you to live now or in the future. And thus, you have no idea if you will or will not run out of money later on.

If you have never created a budget, don’t despair. You can search the web for various templates that you could use. I will also tell you about another resource in a moment.

Step #3: Invest your money now to create financial abundance later

Once you start building a nest egg for your future, you need to invest the money so it at least keeps up with inflation. We don’t like to think about it, but it will cost a heck of a lot more money to pay for necessities and luxuries in the future than it does today. That’s because the cost of goods and services rise over time. It’s called inflation.

You need to spend years building a nest egg that is large enough so you can withdraw money each month to pay your bills. Think social security will cover you? Please keep reading.

Many divorced women I encounter are overwhelmed by the choices they have when it comes to investing. There are robo-advisors on the Internet, people trying to sell you insurance as an investment, and financial advisors on every corner. If you don’t have a solid foundation of financial literacy, how are you going to evaluate which financial or investment advisor is right for you?

If all of this sounds complicated to you, it’s okay. It did for many, now high functioning, financially savvy women I know, too. What they did to turn their lives around was to frame this new chapter in their lives as a start over. And then they got educated.

You can do this too in a number of ways. You could buy a book. You could have a smart, patient friend teach you – if you are comfortable with that. You could also hire a professional to help you take responsibility for your financial empowerment. Or you can take my online course, for less cost than it is to visit a lawyer for an hour.

Based on what I know women need in their divorce recovery to become financially literate and to move forward to plan and protect their lives, I teach you the language of investing and the right actions involved.

Through more than 2 dozen educational modules (often done in easy to absorb videos), my course, How Not to Run Out of Money: Recently-Divorced Woman’s Guide to Financial Independence, is designed to show you how to do everything I’ve mentioned above, step by step:

  • Secure What’s Yours and Protect What You Have
  • Pay Your Bills and Pay Yourself
  • How to Invest Your Money Now for Abundance later

In this course, you will learn how to create a budget (using a template I developed for women and considerate of women’s expenses and needs) and how to use it; you’ll learn if you can rely on social security in the future (I have a module helping you understand social security and what you must know). All this so that by the end of the course, you’ll know if you need to increase your income (and by how much) or cut your expenses. Or, if you are fortunate, you’ll conclude that your divorce settlement is large enough to cover your expenses throughout your lifetime.

Knowledge is power, isn’t it? Let’s put your growing knowledge and past experience to use protecting you and your future

Laurie Itkin is a financial advisor, certified divorce financial analyst (CDFA) and the Amazon bestselling author of “Every Woman Should Know Her Options.” In her comprehensive online course she provides affordable education for divorcing and divorced women. You can write Laurie or learn more about her by visiting TheOptionsLady.com.

Full disclosure: SAS for Women feels so strongly about this course, having tried it out and learned through it, that we officially endorse it and wish you to know that SAS receives a nominal fee if you purchase the class, too.

Woman in satin slip with no rings

When Do You Sell Your Wedding Ring? And How?

Frustrated … or ecstatically done? Maybe you are strapped and desperate for cash? No matter the scenario, you are in good company if you are wondering, “When …how …. where do I sell my wedding ring?”

There might be an urgency to your question. You are probably yearning to put the past behind you … TO MOVE ON. Or, and let’s tell it as it is, there’s often the practical real–life necessity of “Let me get some value from that *#[email protected]!*& thing!” All these feelings and needs we know well both as divorce coaches and women who have been right where you are. But it is your needs and feelings that must be genuinely considered … if you are really, truly interested in the right answer.

Are you interested in the right answer? When do you sell your wedding ring?

Then hold on before you start fantasizing about the how, where, and how much you will get for it, because it’s worth taking you through the paces that bring you to the question.

Selling your wedding ring: The emotional component

First, ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Are you really ready to part with your wedding ring?
  2. Are you really done with your relationship?

If you answered YES without hesitation, then by all means scroll down to “The Practical Steps of Selling Your Wedding Ring.” If you paused, then keep reading. Your wedding ring is of course, a symbol of your union or what your union was. It represents (and possibly, might still) all your hopes and dreams. Your Happily Ever After.

Have you really done everything to save — which means work — on your marriage?

No doubt you’ve done some things. But to make sure, check out our suggestions in 36 Things to Do if You are Thinking about Divorce just to make sure you’re not embarking out of haste or making this enormous life decision from an explosive or depressed place. It’s not easy to divorce, nor should it be. You’ll want to be sure (well, as much as you can be — refer to step number 29 in 36 Things.)

Already divorced?

You may no longer be married, but still holding on, holding on to that ring, the jingle, the jangle, the pearl necklace, the pin he gave you from your first trip away together. They are all kept safe in that special satin-lined box you keep hidden in your lingerie drawer. You might be feeling guilty, or simply not ready to say goodbye to them. Because on some level it would mean saying goodbye to your dreams. You are in mourning, and Sister, mourning is a complicated thing.

  1. Are you still, or just now starting to come to terms with everything you have lost?
  2. Are you still feeling the pain and trying to understand what’s brought you to being single all over again?

Make no apologies – to yourself or to anyone else! Just understand. This stage of divorce recovery is fraught with people wanting the best for you, wanting you to “get over it,” but not quite understanding you. Indeed, YOU may not be understanding you right now. Allow yourself to be where you are. For if there’s one thing you’ve earned now on the other side of the divorce paperwork, it’s the right to be calling your own shots. If you are not ready to part with your ring, DO NOT. Take a few steps on our divorce recovery stairway and learn what else you can do to heal and begin to live again.

The practical steps of selling your wedding ring

Alright, alright, you say, you don’t want to hear any more about leave-taking or mourning. In fact you skipped those paras because you’ve got bigger fish to fry, like paying off your legal fees, the credit card debt, or taking that longed-for trip to Phuket. You’ve always heard that you could flip your ring … or that “Jewelry is a good investment.” So surely this ring that has kept you lassoed in place this long has got to be worth something? Right?

Where do you sell your wedding ring? How much can you get?

First, let’s get clear: it’s likely not your wedding ring that is worth selling so much as it is your engagement ring. But here’s the bracing cold fact behind that: the value of your jewelry, and in particular your engagement ring, is likely not worth what you think it is. Yes, we know. We hate being the bearer of bad news … someone probably paid a lot for it. But the price paid for your ring reflected the design, the brand, the artistry, and time involved in creating it. When you go to resell, buyers are only interested in the value of the stones and metals. Not your ring in toto.

Sigh, if you like. You are safe with us. But then be smart and savvy about trying to get as much for those stones and metal as you can!

Follow these steps to sell your ring:

1) Have your ring graded

While we are all for supporting your village tradesman and local economy, if you walk into your local jeweler you are hostage to what s/he says your diamonds and gold are and what they may be worth. The best is to have your ring graded by a GIA or IGI-certified jeweler so you learn and document the real characteristics of the stones and metal before you try to sell. (Note: the proper word is “graded” and not “appraised.” An appraisal is used for insurance purposes only and is not a resell market price.) Learning the true facts about your ring is the first step to understanding its value.

2) Decide what is worth your time

Once you know the size, the cut, the color, and the clarity of your diamond, you are better prepared to figure out what is worth your while. Maybe if the stones are not as valuable as you’d hope, you will do nothing or you’ll repurpose them into something you actually like? Or you will sell them to the jeweler or pawnshop that will give you the most for them? If the latter, shop around for the best offer. If your center stone is 1.0 carat (ct.) or more, it’s in your interest to find a legitimate resource for reselling. Go ahead and search the web or use a well-reputed jeweler you know.  You are now a savvy seller looking for the best deal.

You may be on the OTHER side of the divorce document, but life after divorce still means finding your way and handling all the practical, logistical, and emotional things that keep landing in your lap. Reach out to SAS for a free consultation on how we can support your prioritizing what comes first, what comes next, and what will foster your most beautiful, next chapter.

Woman on the couch ignoring divorce advice for women

Divorce Advice for Women: Get Off the Couch

Despite the never-ending amount of divorce advice out there, the end of a marriage is hard.  Divorce is scary, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to getting through it. Divorce means the start of a new phase of your life—one that you never planned for.

When understanding takes on a new meaning

My parents were divorced, and I was a second-wife and stepmother for 14 years. On top of that, I have been a family law attorney for 21 years. But even so, none of that prepared me for the roller coaster of emotions that came along with my own divorce. I thought I knew what to expect, and I thought I was prepared. Hadn’t I been dishing out divorce advice to clients for years? Surely if there was an expert, I was it. I was so wrong.

When your marriage splits up, you need to redefine your future, your path, and yourself.  In a marriage, you sacrifice so much of yourself, especially toward the end when all your efforts seem to be failing and you do everything you can to desperately try to save your relationship. In the midst of all that, it’s possible to lose sight of who you are—who you truly are, deep inside.

What makes you happy? What are the things you used to do just for yourself—not for your kids, your husband, or your job but just for you? Is it easy to come up with this list? Can you even remember?

My best divorce advice

My best divorce advice for women is to tell you it is time to focus on you now—to get back to your authentic self. Figure out what makes you happy and where you want your life to go. You have unlimited opportunities now. You have choices. Sure, the path you are on now is not the path that you were on before and it is not the one you expected, but you can redefine your future and you can make it better than before.

Yes, the changes to your finances are scary.  Yes, getting back into the dating world can also another kind of terrifying.  But you can do it.  You are strong, you are fabulous, and you need to get out there and show the world if you ever expect to get anywhere or meet anyone new (friends or lovers).

So, as simple as it sounds: Put away the tissues, and get off the couch. You are amazing, and you have a beautiful, bright future ahead, if only you are brave enough to stop listening to and reading divorce advice and go out there and act on it.

Daryl Weinman is a family law attorney, practicing in the Austin, Texas, area for twenty-one years. A child of divorce, a stepmother for fourteen years, a mother of two teenage boys, and divorced now herself for the past four years, Daryl has seen divorce from most every angle and can truly relate to the emotional struggles of her clients and divorced friends. To leverage her insights and smart, savvy takeaways, read her new book, Post Divorce Journey Back to Yourself available at Barnes & Noble or Amazon.com. Or if you are in the Austin area, or a resident of Texas and would like to consult with Daryl for legal divorce advice, visit here for details.

Although SAS periodically features links to and writing by other professionals on the SAS website, SAS for Women™ is not responsible for the accuracy or content of that information. As for what is best for you and your future, SAS always recommends you speak to a professional to discuss the particulars of your situation.

Couple in courtyard thinking about divorce advice

When to Introduce Your New Beau or Belle to Your Kids

Ok, you’re finally divorced. You’ve signed the papers and made peace with your decision. You’re done listening to divorce advice and ready to start living again. At long last, you are free to do what you want, go where you want, and be with whom you want.

Or are you?

It’s not so simple if you have children.

I claim no formula or easy divorce advice

But I suppose this is as good advice as any: First, have the Newbie, or if you prefer, your New Beau or New Belle, pick you up for dates with a brief introduction to the kids. (And no, he* should not bring presents!)

If this new relationship goes on for two or more months and you are speaking to or seeing him on a regular basis, then the next step is to have the “talk” with him. The “talk” centers on how he has to be sensitive to the kids and their love for their dad, and how, in general, he can’t move too fast.

Your New Beau can begin to establish a relationship with the kids (perhaps he might offer to take them to the park, bowling, or bicycling), but activities should be neutral—things that will neither excite them too much nor dismay them. Keep it simple.

Staying over will have to wait. Children understand that sex is a whole other step towards something that might be permanent. If your children are pretty secure and your New Beau has handled this right, you can explain in your way that you are now “going steady” with your new partner and he might be staying over once in a while. If that plays badly, postpone the overnights for a few months.

No matter how many times one tells the children the divorce was not their fault, many kids still think it is. Many also fantasize about their parents reconciling. Never, ever agree that this is a possibility! Do not let them hold out hope, but rather remind them that Daddy has a new life and is probably dating some nice people. Remind them you have a new life, too, and that you and Daddy are much happier now.

It may not be easy

Your kids may weep or get angry. Comfort them, but hold your ground. It is certainly possible that other symptoms will emerge: bed-wetting, depression, sadness, and meltdowns are often typical for children of those recently divorced.

If these symptoms or behaviors continue, I recommend you talk to a professional who specializes in divorce advice and perhaps secure professional help for your children as well. This may include family counseling. Do not let it fester. Unusual symptoms are literally a cry for help. If you cannot afford private counseling, call one of the many agencies, religious or secular, who might help you find a low cost or volunteer professional.

This said, some children may very well welcome a new person, someone who can help them with homework, throw a ball around, or talk movies or hobbies. Here, too, be cautious. Unless you are certain this person is indeed your next partner, you do not want your children to become too attached to him and risk yet another disappointment. It is, for sure, a delicate balance.

If it works out, you’ve dodged a bullet and can look forward to a happy new future. But what if it doesn’t?

What if your New Beau has his own version of the “talk” with you?

The “I can’t commit” talk, or you just sense he is cooling off? Don’t try to convince yourself otherwise if you sense he is distancing himself because he probably is. This is why—like everything in life—timing is so important. You do not want your children newly invested in a relationship that will upend their world again. For if they are, you will have to start all over with your kids; explaining that you are sorry that he was not the right person for the family, but it was something between the two of you, and the demise of your romance did not hinge on them, the children, whom he thought were great.

Never let the kids think it had anything to do with them. And even while you are dealing with your own loss, and perhaps comforting your children, you must show them by word and deed that life goes on. There are movies, games, and adventures that await—all kinds of exciting and marvelous family activities that will distract both you and the kids.

Remember to learn from this relationship, too. Gauge for yourself if you brought him into the family too soon and do not make that particular mistake again. As a divorcée and mother, you must go smartly into your new life. Maybe, just maybe, there really isn’t going to be a time in your life when you should ignore good divorce advice. You are free in many ways, but most importantly, you are free and wiser as a result of your life decisions.

A novelist, therapist, mother to three, and grandmother to five, Sheila Levin is twice divorced. Find her books, Simple Truths and Musical Chairs at Amazon.com.

Although SAS periodically features links to and writing by other professionals on the SAS website, SAS for Women™ is not responsible for the accuracy or content of that information. As for what is best for you and your future, SAS always recommends you speak to a professional to discuss the particulars of your situation.

*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.

Listening to divorce advice can save money

Divorce Advice: Lose Your Emotional Attachment to Money

All good divorce advice should acknowledge that there are many parts to breaking up. It would be easier if the end of a marriage could happen in one clean break, of course—if you could go to a doctor, have them reset the bones of your life, and walk away knowing that in X amount of months you could take off the cast and be healed and whole again. But in reality, there’s breaking up legally, physically, emotionally, and financially, to name just a few vital parts of the process. We can’t exactly control how long it will take to make it through to the other side of divorce or who we will be when we get there.

As financial experts who work with women, we know that women in particular must recognize that all these parts come into play when divorcing, but at the same time, women must strive to separate them. This is especially true when it comes to money.

You must aim to separate your emotions from your decisions. In fact, you must treat the financial part of your divorce as a business transaction.

Find professional support

But this is easier said than done. A lot of women have anxiety about money precisely because they have an emotional relationship with it. So our first piece of divorce advice is to find support (a coach or therapist who specializes in divorce) to help you learn about your emotions and how they impact your decisions.

A professional can help you learn how to understand, harness, and compartmentalize these emotions. Again, this is particularly important when it comes to money.

Ensure you understand your financial outlook

Our second piece of divorce advice is to work with a financial expert who will take the time to educate you on what your real financial choices are so that five years from now you are in the best financial place you can possibly be in.

The key to managing your money throughout your divorce negotiations and, more importantly, the long-term is to keep your emotions in check as best as possible and focus on looking at your financial FUTURE. A forward-looking focus gives women the greatest chance at getting the best possible divorce settlement. And her best financial settlement will usually avoid spending a lot of money on attorneys and going through a lengthy court process.

You must aim to separate your emotions from your decisions. In fact, you must treat the financial part of your divorce as a business transaction.

The benefits of keeping your emotions in check

One of our clients felt a lot of anger at her husband* when he decided to move out. This ratcheted up further when he did not always live up to his custody obligations, leaving her in a lurch and disappointing their eight-year-old twins. Although their relationship was strained, the couple agreed to try the collaborative divorce process. When giving out divorce advice, I often tell clients this is an excellent and cost effective way to for them to divorce, but it also requires good communication.

Our client worked hard at keeping her emotions in check and the yelling to a minimum. Whenever she needed to speak to her husband about issues, she held her tongue and remained civil. When they hit a tough negotiating bump, trying to work out the amount of child support she would receive and who would pay for the twins’ educational expenses, her relationship with her husband was stable enough so that she called him directly and had a productive conversation.

Our client often shared with us (and her therapist) how difficult and painful each and every interaction with her husband was and how hard it was to keep her emotions in check. Due in large part to her self-control, the negotiations moved along quickly and her financial settlement was equitable. He ended up agreeing to pay a bit more monthly alimony and child support than the guidelines indicated. He also gave her a little more of the joint cash than she expected.

Now six months post-divorce, she has a smile a mile wide. We often use this example he anger and injustice that dominated her thoughts during the process seem like a distant memory, and she relishes the feeling of financial security that comes with winding up with enough money to live a reasonable lifestyle.

The pitfalls of being unable to let go of the past

Contrast this experience with that of another client. She and her husband had a second home in Connecticut where the family spent their summers, and it held special memories for her. When the couple separated, her husband made the Connecticut home his main base, and soon after, his girlfriend moved in. He wanted to buy our client out of her half of the house as part of the settlement. He offered her 10 percent over the market value to move the process along. Angry at him for living there with another woman in seeming bliss, she demanded that the house be sold. She admitted to us that the house had become tainted in her eyes, and she would never want to step foot in it again. But she was determined that he should not get to live there.

We showed her that financially it made no difference whether she received half the value of the house from him as part of the settlement or half the value of the house when it was sold. Unable to let go of her demand despite recognizing the financial reality, she spent the next nine months and tens of thousands of dollars only to have a judge ultimately rule that he could keep the house and pay her half.

The outcome of financial negotiations will dictate what lifestyle a woman will be able to live for years after her divorce. The importance of obtaining the best reasonable financial settlement cannot be emphasized enough. To achieve a good financial outcome requires a cool head and following the divorce advice of professionals who have been in your shoes.

Writers, Ellie Lipschitz and Dorian Brown are Certified Divorce Financial Analysts (CDFA’s).  Their specialty is working with women on the business side of their divorce. As CDFA’s, they educate and assist their clients to understand the financial aspects of their divorce so they can confidently negotiate an optimal settlement. 

*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.

children and divorce

Will the Kids Be All Right? Long-Term Effects of Divorce on Children

Talk to any splitting parent, and it’s the kids.

No matter where you are in the process — deliberating, looking for divorce help, separated, or even, “I’ve signed the divorce papers, but I still feel like I’m going crazy,” — if you are like I was, you worry: what about the kids?  How will my personal story play out?  How will my kids fare as “children of divorce?”

When I was debating my own divorce, I was fixated on my girls. Their well-being was the single most-deciding factor as to whether I would or not pursue the unspeakable. I had to find out.

In a detached “social scientist” kind of way, I asked various friends and acquaintances who were children of divorce. Did they feel okay? Did they think of themselves as reasonably adjusted? How screwed up were they as a result of their parents’ split? What I heard and discovered were answers that were decidedly mixed.

For example, while one female twenty-something friend was matter-of-fact, telling me the divorce in her family “was not even an issue,” another man in his forties still sounded tired. “There was so much fighting,” he sighed, “I wish they had done it earlier.” Others were more emotional. An old friend I went to college with seemed personally injured (all over again) when I conceded the question was really about me. I was considering divorce and I needed to know how she felt today. She was and is “scarred,” she replied growing cool. It may have happened more than thirty years later but she was still not willing to “forgive her parents.”

Then I looked to the professional community, I asked doctors, shrinks, and counselors, “What is best for the children?” But here, too, I learned no clear-cut answers. The uniform professional response was that when it comes to divorce they had seen both good and damaging results; but everyone I spoke to, in one way or another, encouraged me to reflect on the issue of conflict in the household.

How much conflict is too much?

I wondered. And by what standard of measurement?  We all know that in any relationship no two people always agree, but at what point does the number of disagreements cross the line? My husband and I were not good conflict-resolvers, so, as we grappled with divorce, how could we expect to resolve conflict over our conflict? It sounded like a vicious circle to me. I reflected and Googled more.

If only I could find the data on the long-term effects of divorce on children, I reasoned, I’d have clinical evidence. This information could guide my decision-making then and going forth. But what my forays in the dark turned up, was that just like the story of any marriage, there are always dissenting opinions and mitigating factors that prevent absolute clarity. There are few longitudinal studies that conclude anything decisive about kids and divorce.

The work of two of the better-known researchers, Judith Wallerstein and E. Mavis Hetherington seems at odds.  In The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: The 25 Year Landmark Study (2001), Wallerstein reports long-term negative effects on children of divorce. In For Better or For Worse: Divorce Reconsidered (2003), Hetherington reports that not all kids fare so badly, and that divorce can actually help children living in high-conflict homes.

Seemingly oppositional, these studies also remain controversial for their methodologies.  They compare “children of divorced parents” as a group to kids whose parents “did not divorce.” The first group is never compared to those kids whose “parents almost divorced,” or to those whose parents “kept it together but fought every day,” or to those whose parents never fought.  It’s a flawed comparison.  It reveals only that being part of a happy family is better than being part of an unhappy one.

What is especially strange and surprising is that as much as divorce is a reality in American society, social science has not yet figured out a way to measure the nuances of our reality.

To some extent, Wallerstein and Hetherington do agree on one thing; as do all the studies and serious commentaries ranging from scholarly work to the more legit blogs to parenting magazines: divorce is bad. Divorce is a stressor that poses short and long term risks.

Learning from experience

What I have learned from my own divorce and subsequent divorce recovery work with clients is that the long-term effects on your children will usually depend on your divorce itself. A peaceful divorce ( — if that is not an oxymoron) or at least a more amicable divorce will have less negative impact on your kids.

Understand that conflict in the home does not always mean out of control fights or domestic abuse. Too few of us realize that all of our words and actions during and after a divorce affect our children. In fact, the actions and words shared between fighting parents are the leading cause of unhappiness in divorced children. For this parents must hold ourselves responsible. Individually or together, we splitting parents often send negative messages to our kids.

You’ve heard that “children are like dry sponges”? So are they also incredibly receptive to their parent’s feelings and the emotions one parent is feeling toward the other. Of course, no one intends to send the wrong message to his or her kids. But there is something about the crisis, our own drained, sleep-deprived or adrenalin-fueled state going through divorce that often has us letting loose or withdrawing, just when our kids need us the most.

Look to yourself first

If you are concerned about your children and divorce, then you must consider your own words and actions.  How will your behavior impact their recovery? Don’t look to others for how the divorce played out on their kids. Do focus on your goal: to minimize your children’s exposure to conflict and negativity.

Suggestion 1: Every day as you face and interact with your children, help them understand that the divorce is not their fault. Be open and available to them when they need to talk. As one client told me recently, her daughter is more anxious than she is usually, now that the separation is starting.  But to my client’s credit, she recognizes it’s not just words her daughter needs: “It’s the extra hug.”

Suggestion 2: Be there for your kids and also try to put in place a way for your children to receive additional support.  A therapist or counselor, as an objective sounding board, can do a lot to help your child understand what is happening and alleviate his/her sense of guilt for the circumstances.  Look for developmentally-appropriate books, videos and resources, too, that will help your child understand what s/he is going through.

Suggestion 3: Above all, show your children that you are a still a family no matter how you define your marital status. Your kids need good parents now more than ever, and this is your chance to do your best regardless of how things have been in the past.

SAS for Women is an invaluable resource for women contemplating a divorce or in the actual throes of divorce. SAS women are educated and prepared, while making smart and thoughtful decisions for everyone they love. You are invited to talk with SAS and learn what is possible for you through a FREE consultation. Schedule your confidential conversation here