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Should I get a divorce or not

Should I Get a Divorce?

If you’ve read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up or recently started watching the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, based on the book, then you know Marie’s method is simple: throw out everything that doesn’t “spark joy” and organize whatever’s left. I’ve been thinking lately that if you’re considering divorce, it’s not a bad idea to apply this same simple logic to your own marriage.

Does your marriage bring you joy? Good. Then maybe staying is the right answer, even if that means putting in the work. And if not, if all your partner does is make you feel miserable or the problems in your relationship can’t be overcome? Well, then maybe it’s time to do something different. To “toss out” your old life and organize whatever’s left. To stop straddling that fence and asking yourself should I get a divorce? And instead, to take the difficult but necessary steps to explore what the process might look like if you were to do it.

You might be thinking, “Okay, but deciding to divorce isn’t as easy as organizing your sock drawer.” That’s valid. And maybe Marie’s method is a little too simplistic for deciding whether or not to end your marriage. But the truth is that life is too short to stay with someone who makes you neither happy in the here and now, nor excited about your future.

You and your partner have grown apart, or you’ve possibly been struck with the epiphany that that you were never right for each other in the first place, that you’ve been trying to “make things work” for a little too long. Sometimes separating the nostalgia you have about your marriage and the reality of it is difficult.

How do you stop asking yourself: should I get a divorce?

Deep down, something doesn’t feel right, but you can ignore and push those feelings aside because you have a well of memories and promises to draw from. The memories remind you what you’ve been through, what you’ve overcome, and the love that you have for your partner. The promises remind you of your commitment to each other and the hopes you had for your future. But to answer that lingering question in the back of your mind, should I get a divorce, you have to look beyond these things and recognize the signs and patterns that exist in your relationship. Here are some things to look out for:

You’re already distancing yourself from your partner

You’d rather spend time with your friends or family. You find yourself working longer hours because you don’t want to go home. Lately, you need more “me time,” more solitude where you can reconnect with yourself. Being away from your partner feels like a sort of relief, like breathing in a big gulp of fresh mountain air, and you feel more comfortable in your skin without them around. These are all signs that you have distanced yourself from your marriage and that it no longer brings you joy or a sense of peace.

All the effort being put into “fixing” your marriage is one-sided

It takes two to tango in any relationship. You cannot fix your marriage on your own. Sometimes all those “little things” add up into one giant problem you can’t ignore. Your partner thinks everything, no matter what, is your fault. Every conversation ends in an argument. It’s hard to respect your partner when he* ignores your feelings or refuses to compromise. It’s even harder when your ability to communicate with each other has hit a road block.

If you have repeatedly told your partner that certain behaviors or issues have become barriers to your happiness and he refuses to make any real effort to change, then it might be time for you to decide you are going to do something different than what you’ve been doing.

You don’t feel like a team

Marriages should be partnerships, but sometimes the emotional attachment we have to another person makes us ignore aspects of their personality that could raise issues later on. Sure, we each have our strengths and weaknesses, but if you feel like your partner’s choices repeatedly put your stability or safety at risk then that’s a red flag you shouldn’t ignore. Does your partner seem to care about your needs? Does he refuse to make compromises? Has he dug a financial hole you can’t climb out of?

You’re staying “for the kids”

Many people stay in relationships because they think it’s better for their children. “Better” usually means more than one thing—getting a divorce would mean paying for two homes instead of one, for example. It means legal expenses and moving costs. But staying married means you can maintain the lifestyle you always have. Getting a divorce would mean you’d have to explain to your children why your marriage doesn’t work anymore. It’s a conversation that can be gut-wrenching for so many reasons but one that might also be the first time in your child’s life when they realize that sometimes people can grow apart and fall out of love. That the plans we have for our lives don’t always play out the way we expected them to.

Studies have indicated that it’s not really getting divorced that effects children later in life so much as the environment they’re raised in—it’s the fighting and the feeling of instability and chaos that’s harmful. If your marriage doesn’t spark joy for you or bring you a sense of calm, then chances are that it doesn’t for your children either. Children learn by observing. Ask yourself: What is your marriage teaching your children about relationships?

There is a lack of intimacy and open communication

There’s a misconception that for men especially sex is simply about release. But while every person is different, many men find that sex increases their emotional attachment to their partner.

Most couples go through dry spells. But if that spell has turned into a sexual drought with no end in sight and your partner refuses to talk about it, then a lack of intimacy can be almost impossible to overcome and a sign that there are larger issues in your marriage affecting your ability to connect with your partner.

When you get right down to it, the only reason you are staying is because of fear

You’re scared to be alone, or possibly that you won’t be able to make it in this world on one income. You’re scared no one will ever love you again, or that your children would be better off being raised by two parents who live under the same roof.

All of these reasons and then some make you stay put in a marriage that makes you unhappy, but they aren’t enough to make your marriage work.

Being afraid doesn’t actually change anything, but confronting those fears will. After divorce, without the weight of your marriage dragging you down, you might find that everything feels a little bit easier and that life feels full of possibilities. You might realize you’re stronger than you know.

Your marriage shouldn’t just be one of practicality or necessity but also something that sparks joy in your life. No relationship is all sunshine and daisies—it’s not always going to be easy and there will be times you have to work at it—but it’s ultimately, you are learning, up to you to decide whether the good parts outweigh the bad.

If deciding to divorce is just too hard for you right now, then tell yourself you are going to get educated on what your choices are — before you fully decide. 

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the often times complicated and confusing experience of divorce. For the right education, emotional support, structured guidance — and the female perspective, now — consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process.

Take a step in supporting yourself now: schedule your quick 15-minute chat to learn if this education is right for you and where you want to go.

 

 

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

Emotional Divorce

What is an “Emotional Divorce” and the Top Reasons for One?

Sometimes the decision to divorce is a practical one, steeped in logic and rational thought; while other times divorce is a messy, complicated, and downright emotional thing. Maybe you know this because you’ve experienced it before or are currently living it. Or maybe your only knowledge of divorce comes from late-night television and bad movies.

Whether you see the signs of divorce plainly or in hindsight, the end of a marriage can be gut-wrenching. Like those bad movies, we only wish we could take away all the bad and boring parts of the divorce process and edit it all back together again to bring you right to the end. Unfortunately, we don’t possess those powers any more than you do. But what we can do is ground you with a bit of perspective and help you feel a little less alone. If you find yourself somewhere on the fence contemplating divorce, it might be helpful to know that you’re not the first person to feel the way you do now. We’ve focused on the 10 most common and practical reasons for divorce in a previous post. For this post, we’re focusing on the emotional divorce.

We know some of you may be thinking that all divorces are emotional—and you’re right about that. But while all (or certainly most) divorces tug at our emotions, not everyone makes the decision to divorce for emotional reasons. Some of the more common reasons for divorce come down to finances, distance, or religion. These are practical and cultural concerns. They are tangible. Sometimes those practical concerns make the end of a marriage feel a little “easier” when you’re around other people, with their many questions, judgement or even, sympathy. With an emotional divorce, however, everything feels more mysterious, amorphous. You might tell your friends and family you’ve become different people, but they look at you and all they see is more of the same. You want to explain how behind closed doors things look different than they do on the outside—the arguments and the resentment. But doing those things feels a lot like opening up rooms inside yourself that you’ve long since closed off to others. We understand. And if this sounds like you, read on.

And for the sake of conversation, we’re defining an emotional divorce as one that can challenge, break, and even extinguish your emotional attachment to your partner.

1. You’ve become different people

It happens over time. Sometimes you grow together, and sometimes you grow apart. One day you were both fans of poetry and, as silly as it sounds, watched all your favorite shows together, but then one day your partner started getting way more into video games or fantasy football and now, rarely spends quality time with you. Both of your interests have changed, and you no longer have much to talk about nor much interest in what each other is doing. It’s hard to feel the same way about someone when they aren’t the same person you’ve married—when they’ve transformed into someone you probably wouldn’t have dated in the first place. It happens. There’s no one thing that causes this, but you may wake up one day and ask yourself, who is this stranger and how could I ever learn to love him?

2. Cheating—yes, this is emotional

Cheating does happen in the physical realm and can be related to a whole host of pragmatic problems (say distance or sexual incompatibility), but this falls into the realm of emotional problems because it can fundamentally change the way you feel about your partner. Even if you are willing to give him another chance and work through it, the emotional damage is done. Trust issues (another practical reason for divorce with strong ties to the emotional) are now a given, and you might never be able to trust your partner again.

3. Lack of intimacy (not just sexual)

Your partner never talks to you anymore about their day, and their preferred form of communication with you is generally restricted to affirmative or negative grunts when you ask if you’d like pizza for dinner. They don’t want to cuddle anymore. They don’t ask how you are or even seem to care. The hopes, dreams, and aspirations you two once shared seem to no longer be subjects of conversation. While this can leak into your sexual relationship, that’s not always the case, which makes this lack of intimacy even more confusing. If you feel like your partner is withdrawn and nothing you’ve done can bring them back to the intimacy you once shared, there’s not much more you can do to salvage your marriage.

4. Resentment

Your partner bought a new car while you’re still struggling to pay off your daughter’s braces. You were promoted at work and are making significantly more than your partner, who seems upset by this. Your partner seems to think that all your skills come so naturally to you and makes underhanded comments. Resentment is a real thing that can ruin relationships, and when one or both partners are keeping a tally in a relationship, resentment tends to build and become hard to get rid of. Being resentful of your partner or having your partner resentful of you (or a mixture of the two) is no way to carry out a marriage nor build a loving partnership.

5. Constant heated arguments

It can be nice to come home to a calm, peaceful, silent house with a caring partner there to support you. But if you and your partner argue over everything at the drop of a hat, that imagined peaceful environment might never come to be. A lot of times arguing like this can be mistaken for passion and, to a point, arguing is a sign that you are committed to working out the differences in your relationship. But long, heated, and constant arguments that never resolve themselves are not a sign of a healthy or happy relationship. Worst of all, constantly being at battle with the person who is supposed to be your pillar and partner through life can leave you emotionally drained and keep you from investing yourself in your relationship. If you are divorcing and worry that the anger is going to follow you, you’ll want to read Axe the Anger after Divorce in 4 Steps.

6. Insincerity and dishonesty (outside of cheating)

Some people are compulsive liars, and sometimes we end up married to someone who thinks it’s okay to tell little white lies all the time. While the level of insincerity and dishonesty can vary by relationship and even by partner, there are some telling signs. If you can’t trust your partner to pay the bills on time and not spend the money elsewhere, or if you know your partner will make promises they’ll never follow up on, then you have a fundamental problem of trust in your relationship—one that affects you emotionally. It’s not only distrust at play here, but the false pretense that leads to false hope that maybe your partner will change this time and the inevitable disappointment that happens 9 out of 10 times when they don’t.

7. Jealousy and insecurity

This can seem reminiscent of trust issues, but jealousy and insecurity are really their own thing. If your partner constantly questions why you are with them or uses self-deprecating humor as a way of questioning your commitment to their relationship (e.g. why’d you marry me? I’m so awful. Haha.), you may see signs of jealousy down the road. This jealousy might not just be about time spent with your friends or coworkers—this can even extend to the attention you give to family members, pets, or your hobbies. The insecure and jealous person wants your time and attention—and anything, not just another person, that takes that attention away can make them upset and jealous. Unless you want your relationship to be all about your partner and spending every moment of every day reassuring them, this might not be a relationship worth keeping and can be downright exacerbating.

8. Losing yourself in your relationship

Your partner loves fish, so you eat it on Fridays. You can’t remember your favorite food. You’re wearing green to support the Packers even if your favorite team is the Patriots. Your partner needs you to move across the country and leave your job, your family, and your friends to pursue his dream and you do it—no questions asked. But now you are realizing that you don’t know who you are anymore and that your life has suddenly become about supporting your partner and not about a partnership.

9. Your relationship isn’t satisfying—in fact, it’s a drain

You’ve had a long eight-hour day, and you’ve just picked the kids up from drama club. You’re already tired, but when you get home, you know that your day isn’t over. Your partner asks about dinner but has made no effort to cook even though they arrived home before you. Your partner complains about laundry not being done or the kitchen not being clean enough but doesn’t lift a finger to help. They want to vent about their day at work and monopolizes the conversation so it’s only about them, leaving you with extra emotional baggage and no outlet for your own frustrations or feelings. This isn’t a relationship anymore—you are a cook, maid, nanny, and therapist who must also work outside of the home to keep your finances afloat. Sometimes being on your own is less draining in these kinds of situations because you’re already doing all the work anyway.

10. You’ve fallen out of love, and it’s not coming back

Maybe it’s one thing on this list or maybe it’s a bit of everything, or maybe it’s none of the above, but you just aren’t feeling in love with your partner anymore. You don’t think you can be a couple. It happens. It’s okay to acknowledge. To feel best about your difficult decision, you might check with a therapist or a coach to see if this may be linked to depression or another life event; or for ideas on exhausting everything before you call it quits. But if the love just isn’t there and isn’t coming back, there’s no partnership to salvage. Love is the foundation of marriage, and if it’s gone and you’re sure you can’t learn to love your partner again, then it’s time to figure out how you will live differently. You must get educated on what your change choices are.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce education, support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Learn what your choices really are. Schedule your 15-minute chat to find out if this education is right for you, where you are in your life, and most importantly, where you want to go.

Woman looking at painting

The 10 Most Common Reasons for Divorce

Divorce is never an easy decision to come to. Sometimes you might feel like you’re being too emotional, or, on the flip side, that you’re being too pragmatic and ignoring your feelings about your partner. In all honesty, there is no right or wrong, no single or compounded, no practical over emotional, no emotional over practical reason for getting a divorce. Each divorce is unique, and each situation leading up to divorce is unique.

If you’re actively considering divorce or beginning to see the signs that a divorce might be in your future, this post may help you find clarity in a storm of emotions and thoughts. Despite the uniqueness of every relationship, there are some common overarching themes people cite when going into a divorce that cause two people to be unable to move forward in a relationship.

Below are the most common reasons for divorce. We define common or practical reasons for divorce as ones that may not (though sometimes can) affect your emotional attachment to your partner but make the viability of the marriage unlikely.

1. Finances

When you married your partner, money didn’t seem like a big deal. You were probably both broke and young. Practicality comes with age—or, does it? If your partner is in massive debt and that debt is making it impossible for you to do practical things like buying a car, getting a loan on a house, or being approved for credit cards, your relationship may not have a future. If you have a partner willing to take steps to change this—to get an extra job or cut back massively on spending in order to move out of this debt—that’s one thing. But if your partner is completely unwilling to take fiscal responsibility or just won’t grow up and pay their bills, it’s time to find someone more responsible with their money.

2. Sexual incompatibility

Yes, this might seem like it would fit under emotional reasons, but sex is a real physical need and two partners with mismatched libidos or mismatched expectations can lead to an extremely unhappy marriage. When one partner’s idea of normal sexual activity is once a month and the other’s is once a week, that leads to emotional problems like resentment, insecurity, and withdrawal from intimacy. Now this isn’t to say that one partner should be more or less demanding, simply that a mismatch makes for a rocky, and sometimes irreconcilable, marriage.

3. Lack of equality

This isn’t to say that people who follow classic gender roles in their marriage (a stay-at-home mother, for example, and a husband who works) is an unequal situation that will lead to divorce; rather, that one partner in the relationship takes on the brunt of the physical, emotional, or financial burdens with little return so the relationship starts to feel one-sided in one (if not all) of these areas. Are you always planning the dates? Are you the only one paying the bills on time with little to no contribution from your partner? Does your partner ask for emotional support but offers you none? Then you are experiencing a lack of equality, and if things don’t change, a one-sided relationship isn’t one that should continue.

4. Long distance

This one is especially hard because it’s not as if your feelings for your partner have changed, just your proximity. Your partner got a new job. You got a new job. They are on the East Coast and you are on the west, with no chance of reuniting for years down the line. Yes, there are vacations. Yes, you can talk on the phone or Skype together a few times a week. But your partner won’t be there to hold you at night and that matters. For a short period of time with an end in sight, long distance is durable, but when it’s open-ended, it might be better to find a partner who’s in your locale.

5. Physical and emotional abuse

The physical and emotional abuser is, overall, clever with how they treat you. They can break you down but keep your attraction and love for them intact by giving just enough warmth and affection when you are down to make sure your feelings for them never change—or get deeper. Let us be clear here: if your partner is gaslighting and emotionally abusing you, if your partner is physically laying their hands on you, this relationship needs to end. Abuse is abuse, period. This isn’t the easiest thing to do, but take whatever steps necessary to get away from your abuser and find safety before filing for divorce.

6. Mixed religions and little compromise

Some conversations should really happen before marriage, and they don’t. Like whether you will your kids as Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or Protestant in a mixed-religion marriage. And even when those conversations did happen, it could be that one or both partners were simply hearing what they wanted and figured that later, the other partner would convert or give way. Religion is one really hard compromise to make if neither partner is willing to, and that makes sense: your religion and their religion is important. If counseling isn’t working, if neither side can agree, then it might be time to find a partner who does know how to compromise.

7. Addictions

We all change over time, but addictions change partners in ways we don’t expect. And this isn’t just addiction to drugs—people can be addicted to video games, work, and even seemingly innocent activities like keeping pets. If one pet turns into five, your partner begs you to start a rescue, and one day you wake up with twenty dogs who are poorly-kept in a house covered in hair, you’re living with an animal hoarder. If your once loving partner gets a new job and works five, ten, twenty, to thirty hours of overtime a week with no sign of cutting back, your partner has just become addicted to working.

This is a fundamental change to the foundation and function of your relationship, and you’re right to question if this relationship should continue if something completely out of the blue comes along and completely changes your way of life with your partner.

8. Trust issues

Early on in your relationship, your partner’s trust issues made sense—their Ex cheated on them, for example. You put up with the text messages while you were hanging out with your friends to check up on you. You were okay with them tagging along to events they weren’t specifically invited to because they didn’t want you going alone. But you’ve proven yourself. You’ve never lied, and you’ve never cheated. You’ve given your partner no reason to distrust you, yet you are under constant surveillance. This relationship isn’t salvageable if there’s no trust at the marriage’s foundation, and you’ve done all you can to prove that you are trustworthy.

9. Mismatched parenting styles

Your partner prefers you be the disciplinarian but won’t back you up on your discipline. Or, maybe you prefer time-outs with a stern explanation of what your child or children did wrong, and your partner prefers taking away toys or access to the TV. Maybe you want your children to work towards an allowance by doing chores, and your partner’s idea of an allowance is that it’s automatic. These are all fairly benign yet varying styles that can lead to multiple fights in child rearing—but there are more extreme examples out there, like one parent not wanting a gun in the home while the other wants their child to go shooting regularly. When it comes to raising kids, if you aren’t on the same page, it can lead to rocky marriages that shouldn’t continue.

10. Family interference

The in-laws were never a dream—you knew that. But what you didn’t realize was that your partner was never going to grow a backbone and stand up to them. So now your mother-in-law rules over all your holidays, constantly pops over and comments on your housekeeping, and generally belittles you with little or no defense from your spouse. It’s not always the in-laws, sometimes it could be your partner’s sibling who’s going through a rough time, is charged with a crime, is an alcoholic or drug addict and just needs a place to stay, and your partner is fully on board with supporting them while you aren’t sure about bringing them into your home. If your partner lets their family get in the way of your relationship and never stands up for you, your wants, and your needs as a couple, it might be time to end this relationship.

Remember, the reasons for divorce listed above are only the most common and by no means the only reasons women seek a divorce. Sometimes the reasons someone seeks a divorce are less pragmatic and tangible, stemming from deep-rooted insecurities or the stark truth that they’ve grown apart from their partner. Whatever your reasons, they can be difficult to come to terms with on your own, and too many women spend far too long feeling stuck somewhere in between—knowing they need to make a change in their life but not what that change should look like for them. At the very least, we hope this list makes you feel seen. You’re not alone, and you deserve to live life on your own terms.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For a strategic education and emotional support now, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Schedule your 15-minute chat to learn if this education is right for you, where you are in your life, and most importantly, where you want to go.

Woman packed leaving her husband

Overthinking When to Leave Your Husband

You have a bad fight or a bad day with your husband—or more likely, you’ve had a series of them. So many thoughts race through your mind, but there’s one that stands out the most: I want a divorce. Sometimes this thought surprises us so much that we can’t be sure we really had it at all. We push the thought to the back of our mind and bury it deep. We smile and pretend, and everything goes “back to normal.” But because our normal means being unhappy, the cracks appear again. We have another bad day. And when it rains, it pours. All those emotions and moments we buried rise to the surface in the storm.

You are lost and stumbling through the fog that is Considering Divorce Syndrome (CDS). All you seem to have are questions and no answers. I want a divorce, or do I? I want a divorce, but should I? How do I even begin to leave my husband*?

When you find yourself searching for instructions on how to leave your husband, it’s the beginning of a long and confusing journey. We know that you are in pain and emotional turmoil right now—that is why you’ve found your way here. Our job is to help you break the cycle of wondering that’s associated with CDS with points you should be thinking about and considering.

As you’re considering divorce, keep your marriage in context

So, you’re thinking to yourself, “I want to divorce my husband.” Did this thought just come out of nowhere? Or has the idea been a living and breathing” thing” lurking in the back of your mind for some time now?

Did you and your husband have a blowup? Are you still seething? Do you feel depressed? Are you reacting from a highly-charged or frustrated place, typing “Should I leave my husband?” into the search engine?

“Early on in my marriage,” Sally told us she and her husband went to a couples’ therapist. “At the first meeting, the doctor said, ‘Why did you react that way?’ when my husband described a story about me. Without waiting for my response, the doctor asked me more, ‘Were you menstruating?'”

We’ve all experienced a moment like this, haven’t we? We’ve been told that our “issues” or “moods” are related to our highly emotional states, which must be a function of our biology. And because we are women, when we are feeling things outside a man’s comfort zone, we are “crazy” or “PMSing” or both.

For the sake of this post and our sanity, let’s set that experience aside, and ask, How long have you wanted to leave your husband? Or if you don’t really want to leave your husband, why is it that you think you should?

If divorce has been something more than a random thought but a persistent idea that’s been circulating in your head for a long time now, you’ll need to ask yourself even more questions.

How committed are you to divorce, on a scale of 1 to 10?

If you’re a 10, you are fully committed to divorce—you’re OUT the door! If you’re a 1, you’re happily, even blissfully married.

But it’s not just about how you feel right now, at this moment. Today could be a 10 and the rest of the month a 1. You need to check in with yourself over the course of the month and keep a private record (somewhere safe, somewhere secret) to see the ebb and flow of your happiness over the month. If the numbers are 5 or above most days, it’s time to seriously start looking at ways to change your relationship. A divorce coach is a great, safe person to talk to if you’ve started seriously thinking about what else is possible for you.

Wait, there are still other reasons to stay married, right? I don’t need to talk to a divorce coach yet

So, you look at your commitment chart and see mostly 5s, a couple 3s, and even some 10s plastered on the page—but then you think of the kids. Divorce will be hard on them! There’s always a chance your husband can change, right? And who knows, you might even change too. Things can get better. There’s always hope, even the hope of finding hope when confronted with the reality that hope may have fled your marriage long ago.

There’s this voice inside your head that’s saying “If I talk to someone, I might have to act on what I’m feeling. I might have to do something about this truth,” or “No, I can’t talk to anyone yet. There’s still hope I can turn things around.”

“I want to leave my husband” suddenly becomes “we’re just having a rough patch.” Only the rough patch never ends.

The truth is, many women find themselves circling a 5 on that scale. They are halfway out the door, while the other half isn’t sure exactly what they want, except change.

Listen: living in this stage is purgatory

Revisiting the question of  “should I…or shouldn’t I divorce” keeps you unsettled and compartmentalizing ( — on one level functioning, on another level wondering if your world is falling apart). This is one of the insidious and oddly, paralyzing effects of CDS.

Maybe you think you are fun and easy to live with? On some level, you are being cruel to your husband, your kids, and yourself by continuing to live in such a hovering and non-committed place.

You may think you are fooling everyone, but it’s more likely you’re only fooling yourself.

Luckily, we know this syndrome of divorce ambivalence acutely. We were like you, sitting on that pointed, painful fence called “considering divorce” for far too long.

So, allow us to deliver the sometimes brutal truth that will save you time: nothing is going to change unless you do something.

Did you go to marriage counseling and find it didn’t stick, with you and your partner ending up in the same old dysfunctional routine? Do you complain to your friends regularly about your husband’s behaviors but never do anything to try to change things? Do you withdraw from your marriage or the world or act out in various ways but still find yourself at home or in bed next to the same man night after night?

It’s time to break this pattern.

How is your health?

CDS, the constant cycle of considering divorce and not following through, can take a toll on your health. This repetitive and constant stress is going to wear on you, no matter how strong you are.

You are not living your life authentically. Your body might be showing you the signs through symptoms that range from feeling tired all the time no matter how much you sleep, a loss of appetite, a sense of being removed from things you once enjoyed, disconnected to your friends and family, constant flu or cold-like symptoms when doctors say there’s nothing wrong with you, and so on. These are all signs of depression which can be linked to stress.

You and I might look around and see marriages with similar or even more dysfunction and stress than yours—some of your best friends might be living with CDS and seem to function fine between complaints about their spouses—but you are not them, and they are not you. And every marriage, even in its dysfunction, is different.

If you are feeling burnt out, done, and you have decided you can no longer live in the purgatory of waiting for change or trying but not fixing the dysfunction in your marriage, you need to own where your marriage is right now. You need to face the possibility of a future as a divorced woman, and you need someone to talk it out with. Right now.

If you are in an abusive marriage, read this article right now.

If you are in a relationship where the pressure is “manageable,” you can prioritize the time to figure out if you should or should not divorce and what would be the healthiest way of doing it. If that’s you, then you are the woman we are talking to right now. Our critical suggestion is that you get educated on what your choices are. Get ready. Because the truth is if you’re constantly considering divorce, there’s a reason and you owe it to yourself to stop thinking about it and take action. The right action is talking with someone who can help you figure out what your independence might look like.

 

Whether you are considering a divorce, navigating it, or already rebuilding after the overwhelming experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce. Take advantage of our free consultation we give every brave woman. Schedule your free, 45-minute consultation for support. Whether you work with us further or not, we guarantee you will learn a new resource, a piece of information, or an insight that will give you a next step or help shift your way of thinking what is genuinely possible for your life.

 

 

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

Divorce in New York

The Reality of Divorce in New York

People know New York for its glitz, glamour, and grit. Everything’s loud, over-caffeinated and fast-paced. For some who experience the loneliness of all this, there can be the feeling of being left out, of never being enough, of someone else always lining up to replace you. But despite all of this, or in response, New Yorkers are equally known for being tough and seemingly invulnerable. Even when it comes to romance. Romance, New York style is often over the top or of the quirky variety, the kind of love that sweeps you off your feet. Think Carrie and Mr. Big. Harry and Sally. Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in Barefoot in the Park. It’s the kind of romance they write love songs about. Until it’s not. But divorce in New York? Well, in most of our minds, breakups are equally cinematic. Flash to messy scenes from the Real Housewives of New York, or nuggets of gossip passed privately through whispers, then splashed across Page Six for anyone to see.

Yet, for all those clichés, in reality, divorce in New York State is far more mundane than any image you carry in your mind. In fact, according to the Center for Disease Control, the divorce rate in New York in 2011 was 2.9 for every 1,000 residents. That’s a lower rate than most states in the country!

Of course, when the divorce is happening to us it doesn’t have to be the literal end of the world to feel like it’s the end of ours. Your divorce might come as a complete shock, or it may seem like a long time coming. Either way, it can all feel surreal, like you’re having an out of body experience. How you wish it were just a movie! Yet, this is your life. You are getting a divorce. And throughout your divorce, the surprises may keep coming, bringing out the worst and the best of you.

You may not be feeling so much like Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City—young and colorful and ready to take on the world—as you are Sarah Jessica Parker in HBO’s Divorce, a little jaded and angry, feeling dull around the edges but looking for reasons to hope.

If that’s you, if you’re done considering divorce or have had divorce forced upon you, then here’s a primer highlighting what to expect when getting a divorce in New York.

Divorce law in New York

In New York, there are two kinds of divorces, a contested divorce and an uncontested divorce.

In an uncontested divorce, the most trouble-free approach, you and your husband agree about the need for a divorce and you believe you will come to terms on how your property gets divided and how your children are cared for. On your own or with the help of lawyers or a mediator, you and your husband come to an agreement on everything and do not need the court to get involved to divide assets or make decisions about spousal or child support or custody.

Typically, an uncontested divorce moves more quickly through the system. It’s less complicated and less expensive. You will likely never set foot inside a courtroom with an uncontested divorce.

In a contested divorce, you and your husband are not in agreement about any or all of these things. (Hello, your marriage?) If there are disagreements, and often there are, you will likely need the help of a legal professional(s) to resolve them. The more intense the disagreements, the more expensive the process can become and the greater risk you run of having to go to court to have a judge decide.

Many couples will begin the process of a contested divorce and then, before trial, reach an agreement. This is a settlement.

Thanks to the Internet, though, it’s become increasingly popular to consider a Pro Se or DIY divorce and thereby eliminate the costs of lawyers. Couples who do this successfully are couples who are almost always in agreement. (Hmmm.) They are doing an uncontested divorce.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you and your husband really in agreement about everything?
  • What are the critical issues?
  • Do you understand the finances?
  • Do you understand spousal support?
  • What about child support?
  • What are your options for custody arrangements?
  • How are you going to handle your debt? Whose debt is whose?

Our experience is that most women do not know these things, nor do their husbands—but the idea of saving money on legal fees (or being bullied into the DIY process) blinds them from finding out what they are each entitled to by law. There’s a phrase, “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and it couldn’t be more aptly used for this scenario.

How can you split things up if you don’t understand what you’re splitting — like the finances (are you aware of their long-term tax implications?) Or what negotiated variable is going to benefit you more in the long run? You need feedback from someone who’s an expert on your situation.

In short, we recommend you NOT consider a DIY or online approach unless you have no children, there is no debt and little or no assets, and the marriage has not been for very long. And if you do pursue a DIY model, we encourage you to consult with an attorney privately at least once (but preferably throughout your completing the paperwork).

Divorce facts in New York

New York also allows you to get either an at-fault divorce (you must prove your husband is responsible for the need to divorce) or a no-fault divorce.

For most people, it’s easier to seek a no-fault divorce. You don’t have to prove anything other than the relationship is irretrievably broken. “To qualify” in New York, the relationship must be broken for at least six months. Also, New York usually requires that you or your spouse have lived in New York State for at least one year before you can file for divorce.

New York is often associated with all things progressive and liberal, but it was actually the last state in the country to allow no-fault divorce. That means that until 2010, getting a divorce in New York almost always meant that one spouse had to prove the other spouse did something wrong and is to blame. What’s more cinematic than a jilted lover or “cold-heartedly” calculating your actions to create a case where you are the wronged party? It’s a recipe for disaster, for heightening emotions and irrational behavior—for people to lash out and for proceedings to get ugly and expensive and to heighten the risk of going to court.

This said, you can still get an at-fault divorce in New York. To do so, a spouse must have the “legal grounds,” which usually involves adultery, cruel or inhuman treatment, or abandonment. Most divorce lawyers in New York will advise you not to go the at-fault route no matter the dramatic details you may throw their way. It is generally considered a poor use of resources to have a trial on grounds now since the system no longer requires it.

With this in mind, you will want to make sure you understand why your lawyer is pushing for an at-fault divorce, such as “cruel and inhuman treatment,” and how it will benefit your situation as opposed to pursuing a no-fault divorce. We had a client, for example, whose husband had serious mental health issues and refused to seek treatment. Her lawyer filed an at-fault divorce for “cruel and inhuman treatment” as a strategy to protect the children and to impact the custody arrangement, so the children were not left alone with him until he was fully recovered, healthy and functioning.

New York is an equitable distribution state

In New York, assets (the things you own) get divided through “equitable distribution,” meaning, in general, everything you owned prior to getting married is your separate property and everything acquired after your marriage gets divided as fairly as possible.

The separation of property—how you will divide it up—is negotiated between you and your husband, or more likely, by your lawyers after they have consulted with each of you, or with the help of a mediator. But it has to be done well and fairly enough that the court will sign off on the agreement.

These are just a few of the facts that come into play when discussing divorce in New York. There is more you’ll want to know before you proceed further. But we don’t want to contribute to sensory overload.

What matters most is that you are not going to do it all at once, but you will want to be in a position to learn and come to understand what your options are before you make decisions about your property, the debt, child support, custody, spousal support, legal fees, insurance, and more. You might need an order of protection if abuse is a concern, which complicates matters even further.

This is why, whether you pursue a DIY approach, or go to mediation, or use a collaborative attorney, we urge you to get educated on what your choices are first.

Read Divorce in New York: 10 Things to Know Before Seeing a Lawyer

Divorce court

You must know that about five percent of all divorce cases go to full-blown trial. Less than five percent. So turn the television off. The standard way people divorce is still the traditional one, of your hiring an attorney to represent your interests and your husband hiring an attorney to represent his. Your lawyer meets with you individually, as does your husband’s, and then the lawyers negotiate the settlement through phone calls or meetings.

Divorce negotiations are different from negotiations in most other legal matters in that clients usually attend the meetings—known as “four-ways”, with their lawyers. If one side fails to negotiate or settle, then the risk of going to court does increase, and both parties must attend every court appearance with their lawyers. This traditional approach is still the best way for the less-moneyed or less-powerful spouse (the one who lacks money or knowledge about the finances) to get a fair share.

Diversify your insight into how you will divorce

On the plus side of living in New York is that the city and the state can often be frontrunners of change. Just by virtue of your living within New York’s boundaries, there are far more resources available to you than people living in other parts of the country. Take advantage of those resources, like law schools that offer free legal aid, or referral services offered by the New York Legal Bar Association.

You don’t have to rely on visiting a lawyer and learning things the expensive way as most people have done in the past. There are now people like us, the divorce coach, who can help you learn about divorce (and yourself) before you commit to anything. A certified and experienced divorce coach can also connect you to vetted lawyers and other experts — like a certified divorce financial analyst (who can help you answer the money questions). How you choose to divorce matters for your children and your own recovery.

How long does a divorce take in New York?

Okay, we know, you are maxing out. You want to hear how long this is going to take. If we are talking only about the legal aspect to the divorce and not your recovery and healing, than the time it takes to finalize a divorce depends on two things: how motivated you and your spouse are to organize your papers and documents and to push your attorneys to negotiate the agreement and how busy the court that receives and officializes your settlement agreement is.

For some people, it can take as little as six weeks, for others, six months or more for an uncontested divorce. With a contested divorce, there is no way of forecasting it, but certainly, a deciding factor would be when the money runs out.

What’s certain is that divorce anywhere is a (long) process, and while that wait can be frustrating, it also means you won’t be able to jump into anything without thinking it through first (and that might just be a blessing in disguise).

Divorce support groups for women in New York

There are over eight million people living in New York City and more than twice that in New York State. You are not the only one “feeling lost in New York,” or like everything’s falling apart even as you try to put it back together. We say this a lot but only because it’s true: You are not alone. If your couple friends have disappeared and disappointed you, you are lucky to live in a city and state where there are many divorced women and men—and the stigma of divorce is not as pronounced as it may be somewhere else.

Your job is to connect with those people who understand what you are going through and get educated on what your choices are and who you want to be as you make these important decisions. You might consider joining an online education-driven support group with other women who share similar experiences and who seek to find their voice and change their circumstances for the better. Women just like you.

Remember, divorce in New York rarely looks the same as it does on TV, where the drama’s amped to increase ratings and to get you coming back. This is a process none of us wants to experience even once, let alone come back to. Your divorce doesn’t have to be so dramatic. You can choose to let go the theatrics because they don’t serve you, your Ex, or your children, and to focus on what you do control: getting educated fully before you commit to any one path or decision, and to move through the process smartly and with the greatest sense of integrity and compassion for everybody — including you. 

For more steps to help you with divorce join us for your free 45-minute consultation.

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For emotional support and structured guidance now, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual divorce support and coaching class for women thinking about divorce or beginning the process. Schedule your 15-minute chat to learn if this education is right for you, where you are in your life, and most importantly, where you want to go.

 

This article was authored for SAS for Women by Melanie Figueroa, a writer and content editor who loves discussing women’s issues and creativity. Melanie helps authors and small businesses improve their writing and solve their editorial needs.

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

Divorce and depression

Divorce and Depression: What to Look for and How to Cope

Divorce and depression are inseparable for almost everyone. The ending of—or even the thought of ending—your marriage is incredibly sad because it’s the death of your dreams of being happy together and basking in the love you thought you had found.

But depression caused by divorce is not the same as what we commonly think of as depression. It even has a different name. It’s called situational depression.

Situational depression is typically short-term and a stress response to a specific event or situation. Relationship problems are some of the most common causes, so it’s easy to understand how divorce and depression go hand in hand.

Another thing to keep in mind is that situational depression differs from other types of depression in that it’s never just biologically or psychologically based. There is a specific event or situation at the root of those feelings.

But knowing the technical difference between divorce-induced situational depression and other types of depression doesn’t really change the realities of either. For most people, the experience of situational depression and other types are indistinguishable from one another.

Take a look at some of the more common symptoms of situational depression:

  • Sadness
  • Hopelessness
  • Inability to enjoy normal activities
  • Crying
  • Consistently feeling stressed out or worried
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Trouble doing daily activities
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Avoiding social interactions
  • Ignoring important matters like paying bills or going to work
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

There’s nothing in this list that is exclusive to situational depression and not to other types of depression.

But there’s one thing that’s very important to remember when you’re dealing with divorce and depression: situational depression is the result of a specific event or stress, and that means you can do something about it.

Before jumping into what you can do though, it’s also important to recognize how depression might be affecting you while you’re on your divorce journey—because it can be so easy to ignore the symptoms or chalk them up to something (or, someone) else.

Thinking about Divorce

Even before you start thinking about divorce as a solution to your marital problems, you could be struggling with situational depression.

You might have trouble connecting with or even wanting to connect with your spouse. You might constantly feel stressed out or worried. And you might be forgetting things that you normally wouldn’t. This is often how situational depression first appears when you’re having relationship troubles.

Coping with Divorce

If you’re coping with divorce, it can be fairly easy to identify your symptoms of depression from the list above. However, the symptom that is the most frightening to experience is thoughts of suicide.

For most people dealing with divorce and depression, thoughts of suicide are way outside of their normal experience. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that something must be very wrong if you’re having thoughts like this.

What I want you to know is that these thoughts are very common. If you can easily recognize them as thoughts that you’d never act on, then there’s nothing more to do. However, if thoughts of suicide become more persistent or you start making plans, then you need to reach out for support immediately or call 911.

There’s absolutely no reason for you to struggle with divorce and depression on your own.

Recreating after Divorce

One of the surprising times people can still struggle with divorce and depression is when they’re recreating after divorce. Even in the midst of creating a life you love, you can still struggle with situational depression.  And if you are someone who never wanted the divorce to begin with, your recovery after divorce can be especially painful.

You might be triggered by hearing a certain song. You might experience waves of sadness and difficulty when the date of your anniversary rolls around. This is all a normal part of the healing journey.

How to Deal with Divorce and Depression

Regardless of where you are on your divorce journey, there are things you can do to ease the pain and struggle of your situational depression.

Here are a few suggestions for you to consider:

Exercise regularly

Exercise doesn’t have to mean hitting the gym or a yoga studio. It can be as simple as going for a walk or dancing to your favorite song. Exercise is about moving your entire body in ways that you normally wouldn’t.

Exercise helps with situational depression because it puts your focus and attention on your body. When you’re focused on keeping your balance, lifting weights, or just putting one foot in front of the other, you’re not dwelling on your pain. When you have a respite from your depression, you will find it easier to deal with the challenges of your life as you process your thoughts about and experience of divorce.

Get more rest, relaxation, and sleep

Believe it or not, it takes a lot of energy to deal with divorce and depression. Yet many people believe that the way to get through it all is by staying active and “putting their life back together.”

If this is you, then allowing yourself time to rest, relax, and sleep will help you pause and replenish your energy. Don’t use the time to dwell on the pain you’re experiencing or as an excuse to not move your body. Rest, relaxation, and sleep are about replenishing your energy, so you can move through the depression and on to making the decisions you need to make and living your life.

Eat healthy snacks and meals

Ever heard of the divorce diet? It’s common for people to lose their appetite when they’re coping with divorce and depression.

Although it’s easy to turn to junk food because it’s convenient and tasty, your best bet for helping yourself heal is to focus on eating healthy snacks and meals. When you make healthy choices, you’re providing your body with the food it needs to function well.

Talk with your doctor about medication

If your symptoms are getting in the way of you taking care of your everyday responsibilities and activities, you should talk with your doctor. She can prescribe medication to help you cope with your divorce journey.

Reach out for help

You don’t have to go through your divorce journey alone. There are plenty of people who are able and willing to help you put the pieces of your life together in a way that makes the most sense for you. Of course, these people include your family and friends. But they also include helping professionals like therapists and divorce coaches.

Consider reading: “How to Get Through a Divorce and Heal: The Surprising X Factor of a Divorce Coach”

Remember, reaching out for help isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of tremendous strength because you know what you need the most and you’re willing to bravely look for help.

Divorce and depression are inseparable for nearly everyone. That’s because relationship problems are often the cause of situational depression.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something you can do about it. You can cope with the depression you feel by accepting it and then acting … doing some fairly simple things and securing the help you need.

 

Since 2012, SAS for Women is entirely dedicated to the unexpected challenges women face while navigating the divorce experience and striving to recover and rebuild. SAS offers women six FREE months of private email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future self.

“Step forth. It’s okay if you fall. Life — your life — is calling you.” SAS Cofounder, Liza Caldwell

 

Woman struggling with leaving an abusive marriage

Leaving an Abusive Marriage? There Are Steps You Need to Take First

Abuse doesn’t always look the way we imagine it. No bruises are required for the abuse to be real, and you don’t need “proof” for your pain to be valid. But when it comes to protecting yourself legally and leaving an abusive marriage, it’s an unfortunate fact that both those things hold weight.

We know what physical abuse looks like because it leaves a mark, but verbal and emotional abuse are harder to detect and often go unreported. Emotional abuse might mean insulting you, making threats against you or your loved ones, controlling you, repeatedly accusing you of being unfaithful, or belittling you. Your spouse might go out of the way to destroy your self-esteem or tell you things like, “No one else but me would put up with you.”

Domestic violence does not discriminate. Anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion, or gender can be a victim—or perpetrator—of domestic violence. It can happen to people who are married, living together, or who are dating. It affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels.

Domestic violence includes behaviors that physically harm, arouse fear, prevent a partner from doing what they wish, or force them to behave in ways they do not want. It includes the use of physical and sexual violence, threats and intimidation, emotional abuse, and economic deprivation. Many of these forms of domestic violence/abuse can occur at any time within the same intimate relationship.

Once you’ve finally accepted what abuse looks like in your own marriage and that you’ll no longer put up with it, leaving is easier said than done.

You spouse is, after all, abusive—his* sense of self is tied up with his control over you. Even if you aren’t being physically threatened, it’s not entirely clear what your spouse is capable of.

Hell, it’s not entirely clear what you’re capable of. Are you strong enough to leave him? Are you strong enough to stand on your own two feet? You no longer know anymore.

You do know, though, that he will do everything in his power to make sure you never find out your strength.

If you plan on leaving an abusive marriage, there are some steps you’ll need to take first.

The following is based on my personal experience leaving an abusive marriage. Because it was so difficult, I want other women to know certain things. Among them is the importance of finding out what your rights are and what your choices are, legally.

You must know what’s legally enforceable, so you can be prepared and protect yourself. Sometimes there is no time to consult with an attorney. Instead, you must act, so you call the police. Other times, you simply think about making that call. What will be the impact of calling the police . . . for you, for your spouse, and for the kids? Find out first so that if it comes to that—and it may come to that—you are prepared and can protect yourself and your children.

Believe in yourself

Abusers are master manipulators, so the first thing you must do to protect yourself from your spouse is believe in yourself.

This can be hard, but as a “Millie,” a SAS for Women colleague (now working as a divorce attorney), shared, beginning to believe in yourself might look like reaching out to those who genuinely love you. For Millie, she realizes now how important it was for her to ultimately tell her most trusted friends and family what was really going on in her marriage:

“My first husband was an addict and I kept ‘our’ dirty secret to myself because I was so embarrassed at my poor choice in a husband. I isolated myself by making my Ex’s bad behavior associated with me. Once I finally left and then told everyone, the support was tremendous. I wasn’t judged as I thought I would be.”

No matter how hard your spouse works at planting seeds of doubt in your mind, you must grow vigilant and stubborn in your belief in yourself.

  1. Connect with safe friends, if possible.
  2. Work with a good therapist and be truthful with them.
  3. Find a certified coach experienced in supporting people like you—people who are striving to change their circumstances.
  4. Consult with an attorney to learn what your rights are and what steps you can take to protect yourself.

But ultimately, you’ll need to find the courage to leave within yourself.

Protect your finances

Abusers often use money to control their partner. If you don’t control your own money—if you don’t even have access to it or if that access can easily be taken away—you don’t have the financial security you need to leave your spouse.

If you don’t already have a bank account of your own, get one. Set your PIN to something your spouse will never guess, and if all else fails, get a credit card.

Unfortunately, financial abuse occurs in 99% of all domestic abuse cases, and the effects can negatively impact survivors for years after they escape. Leaving an abusive relationship is only the first step, and many people can feel financially overwhelmed once they are out and on their own.

Ask a lawyer what you can do to put things in place to protect yourself. Talk to a certified divorce financial advisor to hear their suggestions. (Having that discussion doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get divorced, and everything you talk about is confidential.) And consider this article for steps you can take to rebuild your financial identity and credit.

Gather proof

Perhaps you don’t want things to get nasty (or nastier) or you are not sure you want to divorce, but just in case you must leave, there are different types of evidence you can gather to make a case for spousal abuse, such as photographs of injuries or broken property, documentation of emails or text messages, and testimonies from witnesses. Videos are sometimes permissible depending on what state you live in. Research your state’s laws on videotaping without permission of the subject.

When gathering evidence, try to simplify it as much as possible, but make sure to note down the time and date the abuse occurred. One way to do this is to write emails to yourself because the emails have a valid date/time stamp. The documentation is also stored in a cloud and thus safe from an abuser finding notes, photos, etc. and destroying them. The emails can be as simple as “At 8:43 p.m. Tom called me a fat bitch and that I was lucky that he didn’t leave me,” or “Tom came home at 11:35 p.m. and smelled very strongly of alcohol and pot.”

Start documenting now. It is hard to go back and track and trace. Women have a high tolerance for pain and an uncanny ability to forget it afterward. Think about it, we’d never give birth a second time if we could really recall the extent of that first experience! So, while the memory of your pain is alive, you must keep an ongoing record of it—as brutal as that sounds.

Note from SAS for Women: If you are in the planning mode, we encourage you to consult with an attorney to hear what you should be documenting as relates specifically to your situation and what your choices are to change things. What happens if you call the police during an incident? What would be expected of you afterward (going to the courthouse and filing the complaint officially)? What would happen to your spouse? You need to understand the process and what the impact of each step you take will be.

Truth be told, it’s when filing at the courthouse that most women cave . . . somehow everything starts to feel real there. You don’t want to “hurt your spouse,” you start thinking to yourself. You withdraw your complaint. As a result, your problem almost never goes away.

File a report

The fact is, reporting and filing instances of abuse to the police gives you a report, and having this report available could do much to prove your case.

If you’re truly in fear for your safety, this should be your first course of action (besides gathering proof). You can also go to your town’s family court, or if you live in New York City, for example, the New York Family Court, and request an order of protection.

It’s best to note down at least three instances when your spouse endangered or caused you to fear for your life and safety, with one being very recent. This is where your ongoing record keeping plays an important role.

With filing, be as authentic as possible, and never lie—you don’t want to do anything that destroys your case. You’ll fill out a form, wait to see a judge, and based on the evidence and testimonies, the judge will either grant or reject the order of protection. You can also bring along your attorney to fight on your behalf. The order of protection will restrict your spouse from communicating with you directly.

Note from SAS for Women: Filing an order of protection will also mean your spouse will have to leave the family home and live somewhere else.

Know that. Make sure you understand how your spouse will learn about the order of protection. Where will you be when he does? What happens after? Do you need to go home and make sure some friends come over, or do you not go home at all? You need to learn about each step, so you can imagine what your spouse will do at each juncture and plan accordingly. Consulting with an attorney is very important.

Hire an attorney

You want an attorney with a track record in divorce or separation from abusive spouses. This attorney must be available at any time and want to protect you. She will become a line of defense against your spouse. An abusive spouse may become enraged that you have taken back control of your body and mind—that you have reclaimed your integrity—and continue to lash out. But you’re doing the right thing. Hold steady. Your lawyer is good if she makes you feel protected and strengthened.

Chances are a divorce agreement may be in your future, and if it is, in that document you will want to separate yourself from your spouse in every way possible—financially, personally, and physically. Review with your lawyer and try to limit as much as (legally) possible your spouse’s rights to your apartment, car, insurance, registration, and will. Anything and everything you can think of. Review all things thoroughly with your lawyer. Ask your lawyer about the legal consequences if your spouse does not comply.

Stow away what’s important to you

There are legal documents that are important for you to gather before you leave, things like social security cards, birth certificates, insurance policies, copies of deeds, proof of income, bank statements, and more. When abuse is physical, there’s not always a “perfect” time to leave. Your escape might feel more like fleeing. What, if anything, are you prepared to leave behind?

Just in case, have a getaway plan

Find a safe place to stay, and get familiar with your husband’s schedule. When will he be out of the house? You’ve thought of the children’s schedule, no doubt, but have you made plans for the family pet? Abusers often use a pet or children as leverage against a spouse to blackmail them.

If you have kids, talk to a lawyer or the police before taking them anywhere.

Don’t rely on your phone to memorize escape routes or the phone numbers of the people or organizations you’ll need to call for help.

You might even want to establish a “code word” to let your family, friends, and anyone else who you can call for help know that you need them without letting your abuser know.

Local shelters are sometimes able to escort victims of spousal abuse from the home when they move out. Or perhaps, if you must leave the family home, you might have a couple of strong friends who can support you that difficult day.

What to do after leaving an abusive marriage

Leaving is a hard step, but after you leave, it’s important to stay on the alert. Change up your routine. If you have a new address, request that the DMV withhold your ID from the public, though they may make it available to institutions like banks. Request that the Family Court withhold your address from divorce documents.

Try to fight the temptation to isolate yourself because that’s when you’re the most vulnerable. Remember, isolation was how your spouse controlled you. The humiliation and shame you might still feel after leaving—it’s what your spouse is banking on. He wants you to believe that no one else “understands” you quite the way he does. And no one ever will.

But you are not alone.

In the US, nearly half of all women and men have experienced psychological aggression (emotional abuse) by an intimate partner in their lifetime. But because the abuse happens behind closed doors, it’s so easy to think of yourself as the outlier. If you don’t have a friend, family member, therapist, coach, lawyer, or someone else in your life you can talk to, you can and must look for professional help. You can also try calling The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-SAFE (7233) to discuss your situation and be connected with resources that exist for a very good reason.

You do have strength. We believe in you.

Isabel Sadurni is a motion picture producer with over 15 years’ experience in filmmaking. She collaborates on feature films and series with independent and commercial filmmakers who share the belief that a story told well can change the world. Her work includes award-winning feature-length documentaries and short narratives that have played in top-tier festivals and on HBO, PBS, and The Discovery Channel. Her focus is in working on films that are vehicles for change for people, for communities, and for the planet. 

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of Divorce. “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women 

 

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

Woman walking on beach thinking about divorce

36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce

If you are thinking about divorce, your thoughts can fluctuate, ranging from the mere, fleeting imaginings of what life might be like if you were single, to the repetitive, torturous thought process of “Should I or shouldn’t I divorce?” While one end of the spectrum is entirely normal for many people, the other end can signal serious problems in and for a marriage.

Based on our background in education and experience working with clients in our divorce practice, we’ve identified the following 36 things that can help you understand where you are on the spectrum of contemplating divorce and what steps you can take to gain greater clarity and stop the recurring thought process.

As you complete each step you will be doing more than merely thinking about divorce. You will begin to better understand which direction your marriage and life might go.

    1. As you first contemplate divorce, you may or may not know if you want to divorce. Accept that this is entirely normal. What you “want” may be entirely different from what you ultimately decide you “must” do. Your job right now is to study and learn what is possible for you and your family.
    2. Educate yourself. It’s likely that you feel you’ve reached an impasse in your marriage and your emotions may be all over the place. You might be incredibly angry and lashing out. Or perhaps you have retreated, feeling despondent, probably depressed. This is to be expected, but you should not be making long-term decisions from this emotional place. Start educating yourself by looking for credible divorce resources. Visit your nearby bookstore or search online. There is a wealth of information available to you for free.
    3. Understand that getting educated about the choices you have for your life does not mean you are necessarily getting divorced. You are learning about your options and what your rights are so you can ultimately make a good decision from an informed place.
    4. Establish a new (secret) email account dedicated to this subject. Take care to use a “private” or “incognito” window so that the computer does not create a history of where you’ve been when you go to log on. And take time to create a new email address. Use this email to sign up for divorce information and newsletters that might advance your thinking and understanding.
    5. Save cash. Should you decide to pursue divorce, you will need access to money. If all your money is in joint accounts with your spouse, check with a lawyer as to when you can open your own account, or start stashing cash in a safe, secret place. Maybe you’ll never need it, but if you do, you’ll be glad you started saving now.
    6. If you feel you may be a victim of abuse, take action immediately.  There are many signs and forms of abuse, and sometimes it’s difficult to know if you are a victim. A clear sign is this: If you find yourself constantly watching what you are saying and doing, or walking on eggshells around your spouse–lest you trigger him/her and “cause” a blow up, you are likely in an unhealthy and abusive relationship.  Focus your attention there.  Read more about this and take action to protect yourself and your children. You may feel you can handle it, but things will not improve unless you do something to change the way things are now.
    7. Make a list of your most critical financial questions.  If you divorce, will you have to get a job if you’ve been a stay-at-home-mom? If you have debt, do you understand half the marital debt is yours? Should you use your IRA to help pay for your divorce? Keep a running list of questions as they occur to you.
    8. Be careful in whom you confide – this includes family.  Few people can be truly objective, and fewer still are marriage or divorce experts. Yet, there are plenty of opinions and judgements. Just because your neighbor got burned by his ex, does not mean that’s what’s in store for you if you choose to divorce.
    9. Do your best to conduct your research from a healthy mindset. It’s easy to vilify and blame your spouse for the problems that exist, but deep down, you know no one is totally faultless. As you learn about the issues in your marriage and what is possible for your lives, try to avoid the adversarial, vindictive, blame-gaming, and often, gender-bashing attitudes some books, some social media posts, or some people propagate.
    10. Evaluate your biggest fears. Do you fear you cannot “afford a divorce?” Are you afraid what divorce would do to your kids and thus, staying in a marriage “for the kids”?  Writing down your fears may help you examine their validity.  You may recognize you cannot not afford a divorce because you need your sanity…or that you are really hiding behind the kids so that you don’t have to be a single parent or face being alone.
    11. Think of how your kids are being impacted now and will be impacted long term. If you are a parent, and you and your spouse are fighting, look at yourselves as your kids might view you. You may think they don’t know what’s going on, but on some level they do, and it’s anxiety inducing for them. Your lack of clarity and unresolved difficulties or the warzone you have created is playing out in their lives, too.
    12. Avoid venting on social media. Watch out for where you vent and be wary of social media. If you say something online, it’s there forever and can be used against you. Same for emails. Before posting or hitting SEND, review what you are saying as if you were a courtroom judge. Be very careful.
    13. Recognize that marriage does not come with an owner’s manual. In our culture, most of us are poorly prepared for making a marriage work. Often it is something we learn — or fail to learn — behind the marital door. At this point in your relationship, it’s not worth beating yourself up…that energy is better spent figuring out what to do about your situation today and how you will move forward tomorrow.
    14. Ask yourself, is there is any love left? Do you still love your spouse? Love is sometimes hard to find when you are consumed by anger, resentment, or are stressed out from overworking, parenting, or a million, everyday struggles. If there’s even a hint of love left, however, it’s worth asking the question, “Can we re-ignite it?”
    15. If you decide to stay in the marriage, set your intention and begin work together. Discuss with your spouse how you are going to work on your marriage so you begin to do things differently and not repeat the same old story. It’s unlikely that you will be able to do this without the support of a professional, so we suggest that you seek a trained marriage counselor.
    16. Evaluate what you have done as a couple to repair your relationship. Have you sought good quality help? Not all couples therapy is created equal. If you’re working with a therapist and you’re not making progress, it does not mean you should necessarily divorce. Investigate which types of marital therapy have the best success rates and find a trained practitioner who will teach you how to communicate with each other and help you both understand that growth and change require a deep commitment from both of you.
    17. Consider Discernment Counseling. Particularly helpful to couples where one partner wants to divorce and the other wishes to repair the relationship, discernment counseling helps couples understand if their problems are solvable. An added benefit is that the counseling is designed to be short term and to help you answer the important question, “Should we get a divorce?”
    18. Think about your role in the difficulties of the marriage and do not isolate yourself. If you are convinced that marital therapy is not working or that your spouse is not participating, or that your efforts to try to do things differently are failing, do not isolate yourself. Seek to move beyond wondering if you should divorce. Being alone darkens your sense of possibility and hope. It keeps you in a spin cycle of overthinking.
    19. Begin assembling a list of your most critical legal questions. Do you separate or do you divorce? If you were to divorce, how do you go about it? Do you know the different ways? Is Mediation an option for you? How do you find a good attorney? What are your rights? What do you not know?
    20. Read about the divorce laws in your state. Laws vary and what is possible in one state may not be possible in yours.  Most states have a section on the court website to help you understand the divorce process where you live. Start there.
    21. Consider a Time Out. Often when there’s a physical shift between a couple, it’s easier to think straight and reflect on what is really important. Consider taking a long vacation away from the other, or a house-sitting job. If you wish to live separately make sure you consult with an attorney in your state before doing anything — especially if you have children.
    22. Organize and prioritize your most critical practical questions. If you’ve never paid the bills before, how would you begin?  If you work overtime most days, who would be home for the children after school — if your spouse is no longer there? Keep a running list and add to it as you think of things.
    23. Move beyond the cyclical thought process of thinking about divorce by consulting compassionate, professional support. We recommend your first step be a consultation with a divorce coach. A divorce coach can help you understand the legal and emotional process you may be facing and the issues that are holding you back from making a decision. A good divorce coach will help you evaluate what’s real and not, and help you take steps to face your fears. A divorce coach can also explain the different legal processes that may be available to you. Learning about your choices will allow you to go deeper and be more educated if you choose to then consult with the next level of experts (lawyers, financial advisors, mediators) whose hourly rate is often more expensive.
    24. Ask your divorce coach, therapist, and friends for vetted referrals to other experts, including lawyers. You are seeking perspective and feedback on your situation, and if you think you are ready to hire someone, you are looking for chemistry and someone you can trust.
    25. Schedule consultations with several attorneys and/or a mediator.  We recommend that you interview several. Bring your legal questions from step #19, or for more information, read here for additional questions. Don’t forget your notebook for taking notes and your last 3 years’ tax returns (if possible.)
    26. Consider having your friend or divorce coach accompany you to some or all of these professional meetings. There is a lot to learn and keep track of at the same time you are feeling stressed. Having an ally to help you take notes and bounce ideas off after meetings will lessen your strain on trying to be on top of everything.
    27. Strategize about how you might pay for a divorce. Will you use joint money, a loan, a credit card, your secret stash (#5), or borrow money from a friend or relative or from a saving account or your IRA? Learn the laws about “counsel fees” in your state and ask the attorneys you are interviewing how you might pay their retainer and ongoing fees.
    28. Branch out and talk to more experts who can help you answer your other questions. Often a financial advisor experienced in divorce will think of things a lawyer will not mention. S/he can possibly help you strategize how you might pay for a divorce or what might be in your interest to ask for in the settlement. A child therapist who has counseled other parents through divorce may do much to help you support your child. A real estate broker might advise you on your practical housing questions, such as the pros and cons of renting vs. buying if you divorce, or what your house might be appraised for. When a question comes to mind, think about who is out there and who might have the answer for you.
    29. Understand there will come a tipping point and you will make a decision about divorce. Despite your best efforts to get educated beyond just thinking about divorce, rarely will you know 100 percent if you should or should not follow through. Usually there remains some portion of ambivalence, but know that at some moment in time, you will reach a saturation point of information and either you’ll be ready to make the decision to stay or go — or the decision will be forced upon you.
    30. You are not ready for divorce If you cannot accept changes. If you cannot accept there will be a change to your finances, lifestyle, friendship groups, or traditions, you are not ready for divorce. If you cannot accept uncertainty … that at times there will be fear and unknowns, then you are not ready for divorce. On the other hand, you may have no choice. In which case, you must face your greatest fears. Seek support.
    31. If you decide to move ahead with the divorce, set your intention. Determine how you want to conduct yourself throughout this difficult passage and beyond. Remind yourself you will have no control over your spouse, but you will try your best to control how you act and react. If you have children, ask yourself what is the model you want to show them? Write down the image of yourself as the parent you want to be. Establishing a clear image of who you want to be and what you want to demonstrate for your kids will help you in this next often-difficult stage.
    32. Understand that you want to avoid divorce court if you can help it. Rarely is anyone completely happy with the terms of his/her divorce, but to avoid getting a judge involved, you will have to be flexible, negotiate in good faith, and compromise on tough issues. Being stubborn or vindictive is what drives people to litigation. That means court. (The truth is that less than 10% of cases end up in a full blown trial; but those that do, end up with massive legal bills and a destroyed relationship.)
    33. Start collecting your financial information.  If you choose to begin divorce proceedings, you will be required to disclose your finances early in the process. Most states have a required financial statement form (though different states have different names for it — check your state court website). Begin filling it out or hunting down the information to get a head start.
    34. Learn what your next steps are and what the process will look like. A divorce coach will act as your guide throughout the process, but if you are not working with one (or cannot afford one at this time) consider a good divorce support group that is professionally facilitated and where you will learn from the experiences of other women.  Read this article to learn meaningful criteria for a good divorce support group, and find one on-line or near you. Feeling supported and heard, will lessen your anxiety and stress.
    35. Be kind to yourself. Understand that there will be times you feel crazy, like you’ve returned to your old loop of contemplating divorce and wondering if you are doing the right thing. But because you followed many of these steps, you are not embarking on this path lightly. You have taken every opportunity to be thoughtful about facing this major life-change, divorce, and though you many not desire this outcome, you have done your homework.
    36. Know that there is life after divorce. What stands directly in front of you is moving through the divorce process and ensuring your divorce recovery. It will be challenging. But for you and your family to stand the best shot at a healthy life afterwards, you must continue to step forward mindfully and with intention. There is life after divorce. You probably cannot see it yet. You certainly cannot feel it. But it’s there, bigger and better than you can imagine, waiting for you.

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce.

SAS offers women 6, FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you, your family, and your future.  “A successful divorce requires smart steps, taken one at a time.” – SAS for Women 

 

 

How to know when it's time to divorce

How to Know When It’s Time to Divorce

If day in and day out you find yourself unhappy with your marriage, it’s natural to have doubts. To ask yourself, “When is enough enough?” or wonder “When is it time to divorce?”

Being unhappily married is extremely uncomfortable and even hazardous to your health. You might feel off balance because you’re not fully invested in your marriage, but you haven’t yet given up either. You’re living in a painful limbo.

At times, part of you is (almost) ready to call it quits. But then another part of you takes over, and that part of you has more questions than answers. Questions like . . .

Will I be able to make it on my own?

Will getting divorced screw up my kids?

Where will I live?

Do I even deserve to be happy?

Besides my marriage, my life is great—can’t I just deal with it?

Could this be as good as it gets?

Maybe we’re just going through a rough patch?

So, how do you know when it’s time to divorce?

The truth is that everyone who has chosen to get divorced has had to make that decision on her own. That’s because there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to deciding whether your marriage is worth saving.

Granted, there are some pretty black and white reasons to divorce:

  • Polygamy
  • Ongoing deception
  • Abuse (verbal, physical, or emotional) of you or your children
  • Substance abuse that remains untreated despite requests to do so

But most people find themselves in situations that are shades of gray, unsure whether divorce is right for them and their family.

And yet, so many couples do decide to divorce. According to a report published by AARP asking people to identify the three most important reasons they divorced, the most common motives were:

  • Verbal, physical, or emotional abuse
  • Different values and lifestyles
  • Infidelity
  • Falling out of love
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

What’s especially interesting about the results of this survey is that most people listed more than one reason for divorcing—in fact, they gave at least three reasons. The fact that divorce almost never comes down to one thing is part of what makes knowing when it’s time to divorce so difficult.

But if you are facing one or more of these common issues, that doesn’t necessarily mean that now is when it’s time to divorce. There are couples who face the same issues, work through them, and remain married—even happily married.

Then just how are you supposed to know if it’s time to divorce?

If you find yourself living in that gray zone, you owe it to your marriage (and to yourself) to exhaust all other avenues—to do your absolute best to resolve the issues in your marriage—before you decide whether it’s time to get a divorce. Only then will you be able to leave limbo, either by recommitting yourself to your marriage or by deciding that the best path forward is divorce.

What does it look like to exhaust all other avenues before deciding to divorce?

You’ll talk with professionals (a divorce coach, therapist, or couples counselor) who can help you gain the necessary clarity to decide whether to save your marriage. You’ll make your best effort to implement their suggestions not only for improving your marriage but for improving yourself.

Consider watching SAS for Women’s free webinar on this confusing subject . . . “Should I or Shouldn’t I . . . Divorce?

You’ll read books and articles about how to make a marriage work and then implement the ideas that make sense to you. And for those that don’t make sense, you’ll research to understand if you are best served by discarding them.

You’ll talk with people who have made their marriages work for the long haul. You’ll respectfully and fearlessly ask the questions you need answered. There’s a good chance that you’ll learn something about how to improve your marriage and maybe even something to help you with your own personal growth.

You’ll talk with people who are divorced and understand the challenges they and their children have faced and overcome. Then, you’ll understand the reality of divorce. That reality may give you the determination to try harder to save your marriage. It may give you the knowledge that you’ll be OK regardless of whatever decision you ultimately make. (Tip: Make sure you speak to divorced people who are healed—people who have done the work to fully recover from their divorce. They’ll give you the best perspective and not transfer their wounds to you.)

What you’ll notice when you learn and start implementing the ideas you glean from exhausting all those other avenues besides divorce is that you’ll be presented with countless opportunities for self-examination. As you learn more and try different things, you’ll naturally see yourself and your marriage differently.

That still doesn’t mean that you’ll suddenly have a lightbulb moment, that the world will send you a sign telling you divorce is right for you and that now is the time.

The truth is that you’ll gain clarity but not 100% crystal clear clarity about the fate of your marriage by taking the time to understand all the options and possibilities for your life both in and out of your relationship.

However, deciding when it’s time to divorce is rarely about being 100% certain you’re making the “right” decision. Instead, it’s more about understanding your options—all your options—so that when and if a tipping point comes, you’ll not only recognize it but be prepared for it.

So, if you’re asking yourself “When is it time to divorce?” you owe it to yourself and your family to explore those options. Roll up your sleeves, exhaust every possibility of repairing the issues in your marriage, and gain the clarity you need to feel comfortable—if not confident—making the decision to divorce.

Whether you are considering a divorce or already navigating the confusing experience, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do divorce alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce.

To learn next steps or resources right for you as you seek clarity on if you should divorce or not, schedule your free 45-minute consultation with SAS today.

“A healthy divorce requires smart steps — taken one at a time.” – SAS