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Your Inner Voice and the 9 Warning Signs of Divorce

It’s funny because it’s true: If it were easy to hear our inner voice, there wouldn’t be so many of us reminding each other how to do it.

And when that voice is telling us that something is rotten in the state of our marriage, or simply that we just don’t fit inside it anymore and we really do need to grasp the nettle, upend our entire life, and end our relationship, we go looking for warning signs of divorce—anything that tells us that it’s truly necessary.

That’s okay. It’s smart and reasonable to investigate the warning signs of divorce when facing that all-encompassing life change. You wouldn’t build a house without a foundation; informing yourself of what the common signs of divorce are lays the stones of your foundation in place. It helps you feel logical and rational during a moment when you might feel anything but.

From the author Carolyn Myss’ advice to “follow your scariest guidance” to Joseph Campbell’s principle of “following your bliss,” it seems as though there are almost as many recommendations to listen to the quiet voice of our spirits as there are people in the world.

That’s because it bears repeating:

That gut instinct is difficult to hear. The voice of our true self, the bigger version of us, the divine, the call, our souls, a higher power, whatever you call it (and it seems that most of us have at least some sense that “it” is there, within and without), is not only quiet and hesitant at first, but we also tend to keep a lid on it because it scares us.

The noise of daily life can be so raucous and distracting—and of course, to a certain extent, we all like our distractions because they help keep us dog paddling in comfortably small circles and our egos too tickled, or tortured, to move. Like a corral, distractions and demands keep us penned up in predictability and apparent safety, surrounded by the familiar voices of our social norms, our families and our peers, muffling the inner voice until we can shrug it off as if we were just imagining it.

We’re not.

Heeding the inner voice

We can try to keep the inner voice quiet, try to cling to the illusion that it’s the illusion, just our imagination running wild. But we’re not imagining it. The voice of the less constrained self, the most authentic, unbound, bursting-out-of-the-corset part of us is there, whispering, urging, beckoning.

The difficulty isn’t so much in hearing it as heeding it.

But, when we do that and do it consistently—often summoning all of our courage and fighting back our worst self-doubting, self-limiting behaviors, beliefs and relationship patterns to do so—is when it gets loud and clear.

We have so much hope tied up in marriage, so much invested in it and long-term partnerships where property, finances, and children are part of the bond. When marriage is good, it is very, very good. But when it is bad…yep, it’s horrid. Now if it started off horrid, right out of the wedding reception gate, it might be easier to shake it off and move on. Let’s do a Horrid Hypothetical just for fun—something Gothically awful. Like, his other wife from a marriage he’s been hiding and lying to you about all along comes rolling up to the curb, right behind your streamer-bedecked ride to the airport as you surge forth, freshly avowed in your white princess dress while your wedding guests blow kisses and shower you with birdseed, and starts throwing red paint all over you for trying to take her man while a Jerry Springer camera crew films the whole thing.

If it went like that, divorce would be an obvious choice. You’d be out of the marriage faster than the dress, and your entire posse of family and friends would rally around you instantly; you’d have no qualms at all. No signs would be needed. But that’s not the way it goes, and we do need to confirm the warning signs of divorce. It’s more like the frog in the frying pan scenario. Toss a frog in a hot pan and it jumps right out, but put it in a cool pan and gradually increase the heat…

Some common warning signs of divorce

It’s usually not obvious. It’s the gradual going wrong that is more typical of marriages that need to end, and it’s the subtle signs, not the Gothically awful, that tell us it’s time to make that happen. Until the inner voice becomes loud and clear and we do as she says with a lot less hesitation, we should identify the signs of heat (and not the fun kind) rising:

  1. Communication breakdowns are pervasive, whether that is chronic defensiveness, criticism, or contempt.
  2. Indifference feels like the rule rather than the exception. You get the feeling that they just don’t care if you’re in the room or not, or vice versa. It takes a crisis to get a mate’s full attention and when it’s over, they drift away again, having checked it off their to-do list.
  3. And while we’re on the to-do list, another sign of impending divorce is when sex becomes an item on that list, more of a task than something that excites and enriches, expresses a fundamental attraction, that draws you out of yourself and your skin with passion and arousal and creates a lovely, sexy bond between the two of you.
  4. The distancing expands to include not just a drop-off in the sexual exchanges but a drop in your desire simply to be in their company. You begin to live more like roommates.
  5. Distancing turns into an outright aversion to being around them.
  6. Your sense of responsibility to that other person begins to feel like an obligation rather than a joy or a gift of time and energy, done with what used to be compassion or at least graciousness.
  7. An addiction or habitual, non-constructive behavior takes precedence over your mate.
  8. You begin to look for—and find—emotional connection with others, which can become emotional affairs.
  9. Sexual affairs—cheating—become justifiable in your mind and perhaps even occur. (This warning sign is not so subtle).

For the most part, though, the signs are subtle, but even more subtle is that inner voice, the song of our authentic self. That voice is quiet, unassuming—at least until we start tuning out the dissonance so we can hear it.

Clarissa Pinkola-Estes, Ph.D. writes about this voice, the archetype it belongs to, in her book “Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.”

“I call her Wild Woman, for those very words, wild and woman, create llamar o tocar a la puerta, the fairy-tale knock at the door of the deep female psyche…When women hear those words, an old, old memory is stirred and brought back to life. The memory is of our absolute, undeniable, and irrevocable kinship with the wild feminine, a relationship which may have become ghostly from neglect, buried by over-domestication, outlawed by the surrounding culture, or no longer understood anymore. We may have forgotten her names, we may not answer her when she calls ours, but in our bones we know her, we yearn toward her, we know she belongs to us and we belong to her.”

Thankfully, the wild, unbound woman inside us all never stops whispering.

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

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives after divorce—on their own terms. If you are discerning, newly divorced and independent, you are invited to experience SAS for Women firsthand and schedule your free, 15-minute, private consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand what your next, black and white steps are for walking into your BRAVE unknown.

A person considering a marriage annulment or divorce

What is the Difference Between a Marriage Annulment and Divorce?

A marriage annulment may seem like a thing of the past, but the legal process is still very much alive and could be an alternative to divorce.

Annulment of a marriage can take place in both religious and secular societies, although it may be more common in the former. To put it simply, an annulled marriage is a marriage that never happened. It’s void, or voidable, when the marriage took place. Marriages can be considered void for several reasons. But a divorce recognizes that, although the couple is now legally separated, the marriage did take place and was valid at the time.

If you’re thinking about ending your marriage, it’s important to note that laws surrounding a marriage annulment can vary greatly, both from country to country and even within nations. Laws within the US and the UK, for example, differ from each other.

What is an annulment?

Not all places have such a thing as a marriage annulment, and where they do, the laws, processes, and reasons a couple might seek a voided marriage vary greatly. In Wales, for instance, there are restrictions on marriage annulments, and they must normally take place within three years of the date of marriage. In the US, annulments occur for reasons like fraud, bigamy, duress, underage marriage, marriage between close relatives, and mental incapacity (even mental incapacity caused by intoxication, in many states).

Time is also a factor. Normally—although not always—an annulment takes place within the first few years of the marriage. It makes sense that if misrepresentation (see below) is a reason for annulment, that the couple would separate soon after discovering the misrepresentation rather than remaining with a partner. On the other hand, the choice to remain in the marriage could make annulment more difficult, as one partner did consent to remain in the relationship rather than separating. A court may view divorce as a more viable option in this case. But again, it depends on location. In New York state, a marriage could be voidable if there was substantial misrepresentation up to three years after it was discovered.

The history

It may be considered unjust that while a divorce is available to all, annulments are only available to some. The notorious Henry VIII had many marriages annulled, after all. But even in modern times, the examples that come to mind tend to be celebrities (Britney Spears, anyone?) and not so much the everyday people we interact with in our daily lives. But a marriage annulment isn’t available to only the rich and powerful.

Historically, in countries with heavy religious backgrounds or where divorce is not legal, this may be (or may have been) the only option. In some religions, a tribunal must decide whether a marriage was “in some way lacking from the beginning.” The principal is broadly similar—the marriage was not valid at the time; therefore, it is not valid now.

Who may get an annulment as opposed to a divorce?

Although religion does play a part (for example, those with dissolved marriages in the Catholic church can remarry in the church), this is not always the case.

If a partner is dishonest about any of the following: current marital status, having children with a previous partner, intentions of having children (or lack thereof), having a sexually transmitted infection at the time of marriage, criminal history, religion, or any other substantial fact, these could all be treated as grounds for annulment rather than divorce (depending on location). Once again, it comes down to whether the other person would have agreed to the marriage, having known the facts, at the time. Or if a partner was aware of the situation but induced the other partner into thinking that they were happy to proceed with the marriage despite those facts (an example might be a woman who was aware of a man having fathered children with previous partners, only to change her mind later).

Is it necessary or a thing of the past?

The result could be the same. If a married couple who divorces has children, divorce proceedings would decide things like custody, visitation rights, etc. as well as dividing the couple’s assets.

In the case of annulment, let’s say for misrepresentation, the courts may look more favorably at the partner who was misrepresented. The misrepresented facts normally must be substantial (as previously mentioned: dishonesty about marital status, children from previous relationships, criminal history, sexually transmitted infections, religion, or fraud). Misrepresentation is often one key difference between annulment and divorce.

The local or national laws in your area are most likely to dictate whether a marriage annulment is possible for you and what rights partners who have annulled marriages might have. While some may argue that annulments are a thing of the past or only relevant in religious societies, others will argue their advantages in the 21st century. Knowing that your marriage was not valid might provide some comfort and make it easier to start over or find a new partner. But since every relationship is different, the decision to have a marriage annulled or to get divorced is one that couples need to make for themselves.

Beatrix Potter is a professional writer at Write My Essay and Do My Homework writing services. Bea writes about relationships. In her spare time, she enjoys traveling, running and reading a wide range of genres.

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

Contemplating divorce and coronavirus

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

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

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

Understand the temperature in your house.

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

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

Must-knows when dealing with divorce and coronavirus

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

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

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

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

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

Thinking about divorce

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

For mothers contemplating or dealing with divorce

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

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

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

Dealing with divorce

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

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

Legal and financial considerations…

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

Coparenting through coronavirus

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

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

Rebuilding after divorce

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

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

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

Above all, stay committed to you

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start a dialogue, first with yourself and then with others

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to…

Figure out your finances

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

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

Embrace the unknown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woman's hand on a window thinking about why divorce hurts

Why Divorce Hurts

I think if you ask a woman why divorce hurts so much, she’d probably ask you in return, “Um, how much time do you have?” But there’s also the chance that she might recoil from you—unless you’re her close friend or a family member and you have a large tub of ice cream nearby—because of how intimate the answer is.

Divorce hits us at the core of who we are, in the most deeply personal ways. Prepared or not, whether we’re the initiator or not, it pulls the rug out from under us, out from under our sense of possibility, our hopes, our dreams for ourselves, our children, and our union, our own potential and the potential of our coupledom.

Divorce yanks away our identity. It drops us off the edge of what we know, and for a while, it feels like we’re going to keep falling, getting more and more lost in loss. It upends reality in all the public and practical ways, too, certainly. But that stuff is more tangible; you can define it or at least see the general shape of it. We can put more of those things on a to-do list.

It’s in the loss of the unseen—the spirit of the relationship—where self-doubt, hopelessness, and a surreal alienation from who we thought we were creep in and blind us for a while.

As if that fog wasn’t difficult enough to navigate, there are also all the little things that were unique to the two of you hiding in it. If the saying “the devil is in the details” has relevance in any life event, it’s in divorce. Those little day-to-day grace moments that were the divine of the relationship—the comfort and bliss of it—become swift, devilishly sharp memories that tunnel so quickly out of the pigeon holes we put them in. They fly at us unexpectedly, just when we think we might be okay, and they burrow in, becoming a lump in our throats.

As you’re doing dishes at the sink, suddenly you feel the weight of his* hands on your hips as he comes up to stand behind you, and your head leans back to rest on a chest that isn’t there. You’re hanging up a coat and from the cold scent of the fabric rushes a memory of him coming in from pruning trees in the backyard, tracking mulch and leaving piles of branches everywhere but delighted to see you. You open your arms for the hug that doesn’t come. You bend down to pet the cat and say something to her with his inflection, and it levels you and leaves you on the floor with her while she licks your tears. All you can do is curl up in a ball as you hear him in your mind, discussing the state of her tummy.

Maybe you wake from a nightmare and all you want is the rumble of his voice under your cheek, telling you it’s just a dream. But all that’s there are clammy sheets, too much quiet, too little air, and an aching solitude you didn’t have in mind when you said you needed “me time.”

And that’s really it. When we’re honest with ourselves, we know why divorce hurts: it comes the loss of a really wonderful dream that you had, not just about your own potential but the potential of your union, the possibility of joy and hope. We have that in common, but the intimacy of it is particular to each of us. If you’re reading this, you are likely still living in your pain and feeling vulnerable, but this is, after all, a shared experience. That’s why we’re all here—so that we know we’re not alone.

“Sometimes, we outlaw our own grief, failing to give value to our feelings; seeing the tears as intruders that must be defended against. But grief is not on a timetable and doesn’t always run on schedule. Sometimes it even leaves the station, only to double back and park again. And stay,” writes Jonathan Trotter, a contributor at The Gottman Institute.

“…So please allow grief, in your own heart and in the hearts of others. Don’t send it underground. If you’re uncomfortable with other peoples’ grief, you might want to look deep, deep down in your own soul and see if there’s some long-outlawed, long-buried grief. If you find some, begin gently to see it, vent it, feel it.”

If I am honest, even though I had released and let go of my Ex, there was for a while a tiny ember of hope glowing that we’d have another chance—that I would have a chance to do things differently. That ember was still there because of regret.

There are a million reasons for regret. There’s the regret of disappearing from the “we” to avoid the “I.” There may be regret for not being anywhere close to our best selves for a good chunk of the relationship; for being too frequently sad, angry, or hopeless during periods of our togetherness and letting him carry all of that too often. Some of us make the mistake of making our partnership the main source of our sense of accomplishment and pride and allowing ourselves to shrink into that and stay stuck there.

Sometimes we let fear stop us from finding our courage and reaching for something meaningful that’s just ours. Without realizing I was doing it, I wrapped more than a little of my identity around my Ex; I’d been chosen by a good man, and I half consciously made that my mantra for when I didn’t feel good about myself. I left him alone in the midst of us a lot; when I released us from our partnership (and then panicked), we remained friends, but even so, he took off like a wild creature finally freed.

It isn’t just that we can lose our identity in marriage (in any long-term relationship) and have to face choking fear and bewilderment when we start to find our way back to ourselves. The sharpest facet of that pain is the realization that no one took it from us; we gave it up. We fail ourselves as much as we fail our partners. It is the regret of that realization that’s another reason why divorce hurts. That and our own conscience. We can try to ignore it, but while ignorance may be bliss, it’s a mindless bliss. It isn’t until we truly understand this that we can forgive ourselves for giving up on ourselves, even temporarily.

You sit with the grief for a while. Sometimes it consumes you. And then you sit with the nothingness for a while, and it’s terrifying. And finally, when you get through the self-recognition, the ownership and the elusive self-forgiveness, you begin to see your sense of vulnerability ebbing away.

You realize that hope, like love, never really dies. They just change form, and it continue to do so. From the ashes of the hope you had for the relationship and all its potential, you have the hope that, now that it’s over, it might be reborn because you have yourself back and are strong enough to do things well this time, and then it changes form again and now you know that your hope for yourself isn’t fragile at all.

So remember, grief, hope, love—they are never really gone. They change form, and so do you. You may not get to do things differently with him, but you do get a chance to do things differently for yourself—be a different woman. However you created that chance, you did, so blot your face, lift your eyes, and go and meet yourself.

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

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

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

A woman looking out at a window thinking about her unwanted divorce

What to Do If You Are Dealing with an Unwanted Divorce

Your husband took you by surprise—but not the good kind. You never saw the end of your marriage coming. For many of us, that’s how it happens. One night you’re looking at Airbnb’s for a trip to Mexico with “Suzy and Ed,” your long-time married friends, your parallel soulmates whom you always travel with now that you’re reaching a certain age. You were picturing the guys playing golf together, while you and Suzy visited local markets. And then that word: divorce. Worse yet, maybe he told you there’s someone else.

You deserve so much—happiness and love and respect. Loyalty too. Deep down, you know this. But being served with divorce papers was never on the list of things you deserved.

If this is you, or close enough (maybe there is no third party to the story, as far as you know), then you are a woman facing an unwanted divorce. Below are ten things you should know.

Take your time as you read them over, and before you take action, give yourself permission to cry and mourn and hold space for your feelings. Start your divorce recovery journey in the place that feels right to you. And above all, be kind to yourself. Dealing with an unwanted divorce may feel impossible, but we promise you’ll get through this.

1. Understand that he’s* known he was going to leave you for a while

He’s been preparing for this divorce much longer than you have—he will be pulled together and clear-headed, ready for what comes next after he’s gotten the news off his chest. And in return, he’ll want you to fall in line, play your part, and sign the papers so he can officially call game over and move forward.

2. And because he’s had time to prepare, you’ll need a script to lean on

Here’s a good place to start: “You’ve been preparing for this for a while, but I’ve just been hit with the news. I need time to process what you are saying and what this means. I need to get educated.”

Prepare for him to react, for eyerolling, and more while you make it clear: “We are not operating by your clock anymore.”

3. Then find safe ground

This means find your people and get educated. Yes, it’s only natural to call your mother, brother, and best friend. But after sharing the shock you’re feeling, recognize you need more than empathy and verbal support. You need expert feedback on your situation. You need the what to do, how to do it, and above all, how to do it healthily feedback.

So that one day, one fine day, you can say you are recovered and healed from the complete devastation you are feeling now.

Our best suggestion is, of course, to meet with a divorce coach. You’ll want to hear how you can most efficiently get educated on what your life choices are right now and how you will take care of yourself. The right coach will help you understand what to do with all the outrage, anger, rejection, and grief you have over your unwanted divorce AND how to handle the aspects of it that are more business transaction than emotions. The business transaction of divorce, the legal and financial angles to the divorce, must be dealt with smartly and separately so you can protect yourself from being hurt again.

4. Be prepared, some people aren’t going to understand why you can’t just move on

This is especially true when it’s clear your husband started everything, or was maybe two-timing you, and you so clearly deserve more. Remember what we said about the clock above? Well, similarly, you are not healing or getting “back out there,” dating or otherwise, based on anyone else’s sense of urgency. This time is about you and how you choose to help yourself cope and heal.


Read “How Long Does it Take to Get Over a Divorce and 4 Signs You are on Your Way”


5. Find your tribe

Find women who understand you, who inspire you, who lift you up. Surround yourself with women who make you laugh and women who remind you of who you really are. If this is a support group, that’s great, but make sure that support group is facilitated by a pro who helps steer the conversation to a new, empowered and take-charge kind of place. A healthy divorce support group for you is one that teaches you things and, when you leave, has you feeling more positive and lighter.

6. No matter how blindsided you are, recognize there was something wrong in your relationship

You knew it on some level. Trying to second, third, or quadruple guess what exactly it was is a waste of energy right now because it was probably a lot of things. When a person gets to the point of leaving you, it was a process, not a single action or moment.

It could have been a slow or fast burn, but trying to fix it now is not going to work. It’s not all his fault or her fault. Your coming to terms with what you did will be the work of the next stage in your divorce recovery. But not now. Right now, you’ve got to get educated on what your rights are and what you’re entitled to. You must be treated fairly in this business negotiation.

7. Here’s what not to do: stalk him

You have to treat your Ex like an addiction. You cannot be with him more than you absolutely have to. Because whenever you are with him, your heart at varying degrees wants to go backward, to “return to the familiar.” You can’t afford to keep going backward, living in the past. You need to learn what steps to take and accept that they will be hard, but you need to learn how to fix your broken heart.

8. Do not compare your divorce to others

With an unwanted divorce, your recovery process is not the same as another woman who chose to leave her husband. She might be feeling excited and empowered, finally free, which bears no resemblance to your great sense of loss, disappointment, betrayal, and rejection. Your experiences are different. Your divorce recovery is probably going to take longer, but it will happen if you do things to support yourself and not go backwards too much.

9. You are human

You’re made of flesh and blood. And sometimes, the pain you feel will appear unbearable. And because of this sometimes you will fail, you will fall, and you will cry. But you progress every time you get back up and dry your face, all the times you pick your kids up from school, show up for work, or drive by to check in on your mom. That’s you compartmentalizing. Managing that makes you a master. Take stock of what you can do in spite of what you’ve been through!

10. You were part of a team before, but there was something flawed

Now you are no longer a team but a woman at a choice point, staring at a fork in the road. You must decide how you will meet the change that is coming toward you.

You may be going through an unwanted divorce, yes, but you can choose to consider it a foe or meet it as a friend. You can focus on the facts of what has happened to you and how they were not fair, or you can get curious about what’s in front of you. Get in the driver’s seat of your own life—it’s the only way you can see better.

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

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

Man thinking about why women leave men

Why Women Leave Men

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

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

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

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

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

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

The invasive partner

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

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

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

Growing too far afield

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

Growing big or growing up while our partner does not

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

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

The emotional ecosystem stops supporting our growth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

divorced women share survive holidays

Divorced Women Share 14 Secrets to Surviving the Holidays

The holidays can feel anything but “holy” or “holly-filled” this time of year if you are reverberating from divorce. If you are thinking about divorce, for example, you could be feeling schizophrenic right now, or like a fraud, trying to honor the hallowed rituals at the same time you are feeling fragmented and splintered about your future. If you are dealing with divorce, you are coping with some of the cruel realities of what change genuinely means now for your life (and your children’s). And if you are recovering from divorce, well, let’s face it. It’s a whole new game and you are probably looking at some time alone. All alone.

To help lessen the impact of the season and its expectations, we’ve turned to thoughtful, divorced women who are survivors. We’ve asked them, what suggestions and ideas might they share with you for coping with the holidays? What we’ve learned is that these other women who have come before you — those who have experienced the pain and isolation of living outside the conventional norms — want you to not suffer as deeply. What follows are 14 secrets divorced women want you to know about surviving and indeed, repurposing the holidays.

The reality is, we could all use a little help.

1. Don’t deny reality

“The holidays are a construct! They are celebrated by what seems to be EVERYONE. But don’t beat yourself up if you’re not feeling it because of your divorce or something else. Don’t participate if you’re not into them this year. Give yourself a pass to hang out and do anything you want if you’re alone. Ignore the holidays if you wish. Or go all out if you want. Don’t stop with the tree, hang a holiday light from every inch of your house. Inside and out! The point is, you have a choice and don’t go along with something that’s not comfortable. The holidays will come again. And you may want to lead the Macy’s Day Parade next year.”

June B., Minneapolis, Minnesota

2. Give yourself permission to do it your way—or not at all

“If this is your first (or second or whatever number) solo holiday, my best advice is to be gentle with yourself. Be grateful for what remains and then seek out others. Accept invitations that you historically would have turned down for whatever reason. Try to cultivate a new tradition for yourself and your children that is uniquely your own. Reach out, it gets better…I’m told.”

Susan, Boston, Massachusetts

“If you are in the throes of divorce, instead of trying to figure out how to do the holiday cards like you always have—with you, your spouse, and your children—give yourself permission to skip the holiday cards altogether this year. Or if that’s just not possible (you are too committed to the tradition), create a card that focuses on your children. That’s right—nix you and Mr. X from the photo!”

Molly K., Geneva, New York

3. Make a plan well in advance

“If you don’t have children or they’re not with you this upcoming holiday, make a plan right now on how you will spend that day. Brainstorm ideas. Maybe you are going to connect with long lost friends and have a meal, or go away on a trip or a retreat, or spend the day hiking, or go to a movie marathon. That’s what I did ten years ago, on December 25. That was my first Christmas alone, I mean utterly alone. And somehow sitting in a warm, dark movie theater with strangers — the theater was packed! — and getting caught up in a 4-hour epic drama transported me. It transported me out of my own drama, giving me a sense of warmth and community on a day that could have gone done as one of the worst in my life.”

Liza Caldwell, SAS for Women Cofounder

4. Love yourself this holiday season

“I bought myself a new bed with a good quality mattress and some new bed linens that cater only to my taste. The linens are a very feminine design and are superb to the touch. This new bed gives me good quality sleep and a better mood in the morning as a result. Instead of being upset that I sleep alone, I feel like a queen in a queen-sized bed on my own. This has worked so well that I’ve asked myself what else can I do to love myself. So I’ve changed my diet a little. First, I realized that I get more pleasure cooking for myself than I do eating out. I try to really listen to what I would like to eat and not compromise. I buy ingredients that I didn’t used to buy. They are ones that give me pleasure, like very fresh fish or a mango for breakfast.”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

“At 2:30 am, I admitted it was insomnia and I opened up a free app on my phone called Insight Timer for a guided yoga nidra session. The app offers lots of approaches to stress, insomnia, and more. I don’t know if I was conscious for the whole thing or not but I had an awesome sleep in the time I had left. I plan to listen to it again while awake in the daytime to learn about relaxing while awake and to think about regular breaks from constant focus on how much I have to do in too little time. I would like to reduce the mental energy I spend on problems and share my time with increased experience of what’s good and right.”

Susan W., Bethesda, Maryland


Looking for more suggestions from smart, divorced women? Check out this post on how to cope with divorce like a modern woman.


5. Let your boundaries be known

“By you and others. If you expect to see family, your Ex, or friends (the ones you are still in contact with), share your preferences. Let them know if there are gatherings you will not be attending this year or topics you’d rather not get involved with. If you worry you’ll see your Ex at a gathering, find out for sure and ask for understanding if you are going to beg out of attending this year. This helps manage your friends’ and family’s expectations and may also help ensure their good time lest they be worried about you.”

Alice, San Diego, California

6. Practice your script

“The holidays are a time when you are bumping into well meaning and not so well meaning acquaintances, friends, and family. Practice your lines so you are not taken unawares when people ask you about your divorce—the elephant in the room. I used to get caught off guard and didn’t know when to shut up, always regretting that I said too much when people asked me how was I doing. Now I know it doesn’t help anyone to talk about my feelings indiscriminately. In fact, few people are deserving of knowing what I’m really feeling, especially this time of year. So I keep it neutral. Why ruin their rum punch?

‘Thank you for asking about me. I am doing okay and doing what I must to take care of myself and work on my healing. How’s your puppy?’”

Bernadette, Athens, Georgia

7. Be careful with the rum punch

“Holiday parties and alcohol could be the perfect opportunity to forget your misery. But not really. As tempting as it is to numb your feeling with the spiked eggnog or oddly available drug, remember your emotions are just under your skin and you are still healing, if not hurting. It won’t take much for your emotions to be triggered and for your wounds or anger or hollowness to come bubbling out. Spare yourself and others any unpleasant outbursts or regrettable performances, and save the over indulging for a getaway with your best friends. Ask a friend to accompany you to a party and to take you home if you start acting a little vulnerable. Protect yourself.”

Janet, Boca Raton, Florida

8. Volunteer

“If you don’t have children or you don’t have your children for the holiday, maybe you’re feeling lonely? A good way to get out there and enjoy the holidays is to volunteer. Do it early because places book up! You may also meet some really great people.”

Alina, New York City, New York

“Perhaps volunteer time at a food shelter or church to pass out holiday meals or anything else they need your services for. I have found it to be very humbling and rewarding, and it helps to put the holidays in true perspective. One time I did this with a girlfriend, and after the event, we came home for a glass of wine—okay, bottles, wink, wink. We had goodies prepared for ourselves and had a lovely time reflecting on how blessed we really are.”

Lori, California

9. Focus on your children

“If you have children, you can’t simply write off the holidays. That would be tough on them. But be mindful that you may not have the capacity or resources to do everything you’ve done in the past. Nor should you try to compensate for the divorce by spoiling them with presents. Instead, give your children genuine time with you! Pick the most important rituals you want to focus on—cookie making or holiday decorating or caroling or visiting family and friends. Don’t try to do everything. By striving to stay present with your children, you may find you’ll experience the magic through their eyes, and you will savor some of the joy that is there for you too.”

Pam, Galveston, Texas

10. Get rid of old traditions

“I always hated how we had to get dressed up in fancy party dress every year to attend my in-laws New Year’s dinner. My children were too young to really participate and behave well. And there was always so much pressure and so many eyes on me it seemed, as their mother, to make sure the kids kept it together. Well, guess what? That’s on my Ex now. This year, for Thanksgiving, I am inviting my family, friends, and children to join me in wearing their ugliest Thanksgiving Sweaters, and we’re going to watch football. I am going to show my kids there are many ways of being together. The important thing is being together.”

Kendall, Cleveland, Ohio

11. Create new rituals

“I make an event of watching films that I always liked for the holidays and any day for that matter. These films are ones I couldn’t indulge in before as my husband didn’t like them. In my case, these are French comedies or Woody Allen films. And these are just for me!”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

“The holidays can become redundant, boring, and stiff. I think they are supposed to serve as a comfort, a ritual for celebrating, but I know the holidays can draw attention to what is missing or who is missing. To me that’s one of the biggest reasons for trying to do things differently. To be really conscious of what we love most about the holidays. I try to involve those aspects into plans. For me, as a single person, it’s all about who I will be with. I call those people up a month before a certain holiday, and I say, ‘What are we going to do to remind ourselves we are alive?” I’d rather eat Stouffer’s frozen lasagna from a microwave then spend a holiday faking it anymore.”

Maria, Portland, Oregon

“… For me, as a single person, it’s all about who I will be with. I call those people up a month before a certain holiday, and I say, ‘What are we going to do to remind ourselves we are alive?” I’d rather eat Stouffer’s frozen lasagna from a microwave then spend a holiday faking it anymore.”

Maria, Portland, Oregon

“Organize a ‘SisStar-Giving’ amongst other ladies who may be recently divorced or may not have children, friends, or family locally. To remove the stress of over-planning and being overwhelmed with meal preparation, you can provide one main dish (you can’t go wrong with wings) and ask each guest to bring the dish that people always ask them to make. To guide the menu, you can suggest some categories like appetizers or desserts. There’s bound to be a ‘mixologist’ in the crew. That one may opt to bring wine or other beverages. You could theme it as Jeans & Tee regarding dress code to make it as casual as possible, and look up party games to play. Crank up a mobile device with some good tunes, and you have a night to remember. Keep it simple by not going over the top, but one must have a ‘Thankful Circle’ in which everyone shares at least one thing SHE IS absolutely thankful for.”

Queen V, South Carolina

12. Be present and open

“I always hear advice for divorced women with kids. Sometimes it’s a little lonely and scary for someone who is in their mid/late 30s with no children. We may have expected to have children by this point in our lives and we don’t. To women like me, I say, ‘Give yourself permission to smile and enjoy the people who love you in your life. You are worth it.’”

Alina, New York City, New York

“I was getting concerned about my birthday on Dec 30th. This will be my first birthday after being separated. I was wavering between ‘doing something unusual’ or ‘sulking and doing nothing.’ By accident or by will of the Universe, ladies from work suggested we all go to the ballet on Dec 30th and have a dinner afterwards. I feel so happy and am so much looking forward to my birthday now.”

Eva, Moscow, Russia

13. Have a Plan B and a Plan C

“One of my biggest coping mechanisms, now that I am my own team, is to always have a plan, but if that plan doesn’t work, to be able to resort to a Plan B or a Plan C. Life is always shifting. I know I can dream about my ideal scenario and do everything to make it happen, but if something goes wrong, it’s a great comfort to have a Plan B and C so I am not left out in the cold.

For example, a friend of mine who can be a little whifty said I could bring my kids over to her house on Christmas afternoon, that her brother was coming over to give the kids a pony ride. I thought this sounded amazing and so different from what my kids have done in the past, but I worry. I’m not in control of the event so it might fizzle out and not happen. I’m not going to mention it to my kids until the day of and make it a surprise if it comes about, and if not, I’ve already looked online and found that there will be caroling in the town square at 5pm. We’ll go there. And if not, then we’ll go ice skating (Plan C) at the civic center which I’ve already confirmed is open on Christmas Day.”

Mary Beth, Addison, Wisconsin

“Plan ahead for the time when your children will not be with you. Having a fun plan for myself, such as time with friends, helped me feel loved during the holidays in a new way and helped with the intense feelings of missing my children.”

Laura, Middlebury, Vermont

14. As with everything, we promise it will get easier

“Getting divorced has been MAJOR! It’s meant losing friends who I thought were my besties. Losing possessions. Losing a way of being—not just losing my Ex. There are so many new and good things that have happened as a result of this ‘loss vacuum,’ but I’ve also learned something about me. I’ve been adapting. I’ve been learning and adapting and that makes this major change easier bit by bit.”

Jenny, Kansas City, Missouri

“The first time you do something new, like experience a holiday as a single person, it can summon up all the grief you’ve ever felt about the changes you’ve lived through. It’s okay to feel sorry for yourself. Be kind to yourself, too, though and remember, it will get easier. Your past is there, yes, but so is your future, a future for you to shape. Consciously. And that includes holidays you can and will experience the way you choose. You are not on autopilot anymore. And there’s something about that that is THRILLING!”

Mel, Garden City, New York

Thank you to all the divorced women in our community who cared enough about other women to share their ideas and secrets for surviving and repurposing the holidays.

If you needed this, know that every single one of the women above have experienced the gamut of feelings you’re going through, even if the geographic location or specifics of each of their stories are uniquely her own. And know as well that these women offering counsel are still here, they are still surviving and, yes, sometimes, more than they ever thought possible, they are thriving. We hope you find comfort in this, too. For this holiday season, and all days in your new chapter, find your old and new people who understand you. But above all, follow your own path as you continue onward in your divorce recovery. And as always, always, be kind to yourself. With all you’ve been through, you deserve it.

 

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

“Divorce can be on your terms.” ~ SAS for Women.