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Woman with pink hat post-divorce

10 Mind-Blowingly Good Things About Life Post-Divorce

Divorce is nothing to look forward to. It’s certainly not a line item on your walk-down-the-aisle bucket list. So imagining your life post-divorce isn’t likely to be on your radar until you are in the throes of losing your marriage. It’s also not likely to leave you feeling hopeful about your future.

But divorce, like every other unforeseen roadblock in life, is really more of a fork in the road than a block in the road. It forces you to choose not only which path you will take, but how you will take it.

And, as you go forward with your post-divorce life, that means embracing the odd notion that there really can be good things about divorce.

Sound crazy? Consider this Kingston University survey of 10,000 people at different major life milestones.

Contrary to all the joys of falling in love and planning a wedding, women were actually happier in the first five years post-divorce. They were more content, despite the financial difficulties that often befall divorced women.

While men were also happier after their divorces were final, their new-found joy was nothing compared to that of the women in the study.

Make of that what you will. But that is a strong message of hope for women going through what is perhaps the most vulnerable, frightening, deflating times of their lives. Obviously, these women became privy to some amazing things about life post-divorce. And now you can, too.

Beyond the steps to ensure your divorce recovery lies a treasure trove of mind-blowingly good things you probably never imagined could come with divorce. While this isn’t a cheering section for ending marriages, it is a cheering section for women whose marriages have ended.

Let’s dive into some of those perks by checking out some must-do’s for the newly divorced, independent woman. Here are 10 biggies:

  1. You realize that you are stronger than you ever knew. 

It’s all but impossible to recognize your own herculean strength for its potential when it’s always being used to fight.

Coming home every day to an unhappy—or, worse yet, toxic—marriage is draining. Add the divorce process to that, and you’re likely to think you’re clawing to stay above ground.

But once you’re in the post-divorce phase of your life, that strength starts to re-emerge.

Have you ever had a plant in your garden that you just couldn’t keep alive… until it decided to pop up a couple of years later? It’s kind of like that. And the realization is amazing! Like, put-on-your-Superwoman-cape amazing.

  1. Your free time belongs to you.

(That’s why they call it “free.”)

Nothing in marriage ever totally belongs to you, and that goes for your time, as well. Somehow you are always tied to the common good of your marriage or the family as a whole.

You will be surprised—maybe even thrown off a little—when you realize that your time really is your own.

  1. Bye-bye stress hormones, hello health. 

It’s no secret that stress causes a cascade of health-eroding events in your body. The price of worry, anxiety, and fighting is a flooding of fight-or-flight stress hormones. And those hormones throw your body into an unsustainable state.

Once your life is post-divorce, however, you get to come home to a haven that you have created. You get to sleep in your own bed without the source of your anger snoring next to you.

You will have a new set of pragmatic concerns and adjustments, of course, but you will be wearing your Superwoman cape, remember?

Just think of all you can accomplish when your blood pressure drops, your headaches go away, and you put the kibosh on emotional eating.

  1. You get to become a better parent to your kids. 

Divorce is never easy on kids, even when it’s a healthier alternative to a hostile environment.

Even if you’re co-parenting, you’ll now get to choose how you engage with your children. You’ll get to manifest all those Princess Diana values that will help your kids become stellar adults one day.

And, when your kids are visiting their other parent, you’ll have some breathing room to evaluate your parenting. How are they adjusting? How can you better support, encourage, and inspire them? What kinds of rituals can you all create together—rituals that will forever define your brave new life?

  1. Shared custody equals time for yourself. 

Yes, it can be painful getting used to your kids being away from you for days at a time. Hopefully, you and your Ex can at least agree on healthy co-parenting that will ease that transition for everyone.

If your kids know that their parents are putting the needs of their children first, everyone can win.

And suddenly those times when they are at their other home means you have more time to yourself. Time to reflect on your relationship with your kids. Time to get your home tidied up and feeling like a sanctuary again. Curfew-free time to spend with friends or indulge a favorite hobby.

Unless there’s an emergency, responsibility for the kids falls on your Ex during those times.

  1. Your goals are just that: your goals.

When was the last time you thought about what you wanted to accomplish in life without checking it against your spouse’s wishes? Now you don’t have to fear that your goals are too outlandish or costly or unrealistic. You can vision-board or Pinterest binge to your heart’s content.

  1. It is so much easier to dance in bare feet when you’re not walking on eggshells. 

It probably won’t dawn on you until you’re way into your post-divorce life just how much fear you lived in. Even if you weren’t in a toxic or abusive marriage, it takes an enormous amount of energy to dodge the constant fighting.

If you say ‘this,’ you’ll be fighting all night. If you don’t do ‘that,’ you’ll never hear the end of it. Walking on eggshells is exhausting. And it gets you nowhere fast.

Now that you’re past that, you can take off your shoes and dance anywhere you damn well please! There is a sweetness to being alone after divorce.

  1. You find out who your die-hard friends really are. 

Divorce exposes people for who they really are. And that doesn’t apply just to you and your Ex. It applies to your family and friends, as well.

You will definitely see a shift in your Christmas card line-up post-divorce. You may stop hearing from those “couples-only” friends or those who stuck by your Ex during the divorce.

But you will be pleasantly surprised by the friends who were always in your corner. They will come out of the woodwork and be there for the ugly cries and the movie marathons.

  1. You make wonderful new friendships. 

And then there are the new friends you will make. Friends that reflect your new life back to you in wonderful ways because they have been where you are.

Friends that are also wearing Superwoman capes under their home-based-entrepreneur power pj’s. These may be friends that you meet in a divorce support group for women recreating their lives. Friends that reach out to you for comfort and advice.

And you will marvel that you had lived so long without them in your life.

  1. You become your own best friend. 

Ahh, this is the best gift of post-divorce life! Becoming your own best friend is far more than a sappy Oprah concept. You’ll look back on your wedding invitations that said, “Today I am marrying my best friend,” and you’ll smile.

You’ll smile because you will know now what you didn’t have a clue about then… that you always were and always will be your own best friend.

 

Helpful Resource

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 a discerning, newly divorced and independent woman, you are invited to consider Paloma’s Group, our powerful virtual group coaching class for women consciously rebuilding their lives. Visit here to schedule your quick interview and to hear if Paloma is right for you and you, right for Paloma.

*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.

 

What you should never say to a divorced woman

What You Should Never Say to a Divorced Woman

From Anna, in Moscow — Living through a divorce is one thing, but writing about it is another journey altogether. I find writing stories about divorce take longer than any other topic. I start with having assumptions usually based on my own story, then I research, look around, and prove myself wrong. While I dislike divorce, I value the discovery aspect of it.

This is exactly what happened with this blog post. I started by assuming that what I dislike hearing as a divorced woman is universal. As I did my research, I was surprised to learn how many different conversational topics and phrases can potentially hurt divorced women. Sadly, the people who hurt us most are often the ones who are closest to us.

How Can You Say That to Your Daughter or Your Best Friend?

The divorced women I talked to confessed to being hurt by the people closest to them. Decades later, these painful moments still linger. In fact, at least two women I approached declined to discuss anything with me. “My divorce was too messy, you don’t want to know,”  was the reply I got form both of of them.

The most common hurtful comment women received was: “It’s all your fault.”

People often feel the need to place blame in a situation where something doesn’t work out. “It wasn’t just a hint that the divorce is all my fault. Friends and family told it to my face loud and clear!” said one friend, sharing her experience from eight years ago. Now happily remarried at 56, she says that many friends tried to talk her out of divorcing years ago, “like they were doing me a favor,” she said. These messages felt cruel, devaluing. Someone even asked her, “Are you sure you can find anyone else your ag e— with your figure?”

Sending the divorced woman on a guilt trip is another tactic: “Don’t divorce him — he is such a good father!” was one thing told to several women. One’s reply: “I don’t need a good father; I need a good husband, and mine isn’t. This is why I am divorcing.”

“Stop Complaining — It Was Your Decision!”

Many ladies I talked to described hearing this phrase post-divorce. Whenever they complained about any aspect of their divorce process, friends and family took it as a discussion of whether or not the actual divorce was a good idea. “I didn’t question my decision to divorce and didn’t invite anyone to discuss it. I was merely seeking compassion as far as my Ex’s behavior during the divorce,” a friend said.

Indeed, many assume that once you decide to divorce, you rid yourself of the right to see anything wrong with the divorce, the process, or the life that follows the divorce. A woman has every right to stop loving, divorce her man, and be treated with respect throughout a difficult process.

Being Ignored

The other side of the coin is parents and close friends declining any discussions about divorce. “I came to my parents’ house and told them that my husband and I decided to separate. They silently continued to go about their business as if I said nothing. I realized later that they had no experience in discussing emotions or feelings. But it hurt me then nonetheless,” one friend says.

Sex with Strangers

Actress Mayim Bialik — who played Amy Farah Fowler in the sitcom Big Bang Theory and the main character in a 90s teenage series Blossom — runs a YouTube channel on divorce and raising children. She made a video on this very topic (“What you should never say to a divorced woman”) where she candidly shared the worst comments she received as a divorcee. I fully support her choice of the most misplaced comment that divorced women receive about sex and dating: “Go on Tinder and have sex, have sex with a friend with benefits, start dating again — that will put a smile on your face.”

Mayim says: “It may work for some people. But don’t tell me to have sex with strangers, reducing me as a divorced woman to just a body in need of sex” rather than “pursuing an emotional connection with someone which might lead to sex.”

I think that the benefits of regular sex for the sake of it are somewhat overrated. Indeed, some take pleasure from no-strings-attached encounters. Others can go on without sex for a long time and be fine. Some need an emotional connection first and foremost. For some, it may be a very bad idea to start having sex with strangers after a few decades of monogamy, and this can add to the pain of the divorce. So, this area of life, which really involves being conscious of your divorce recovery, is best left for the individual and her therapist, not a group of girlfriends, I think.

Focusing on the Self

Another friend says that, unfortunately, most advice that she hears about divorce is all about starting to date again rather than going into the nuts and bolts of the divorced life. Self-discovery, self-healing, and real separation from the Ex is a better focus after the divorce than dating someone new.

Mayim Bialik says in her video that it hurts her when women badmouth their husbands and say they would rather divorce than spend time with them due to their smelly feet or snoring. Mayim says she likes the idea of having a partner and is sad not to have one. She worries that the older she gets, the less likely she’ll be to find a soul mate. What she appreciates is hearing that she has a lot to offer and that she will one day find a partner for herself.

“Just Deal With It!”

As I started covering the topic of divorce, I began to notice pieces of advice that made me feel uneasy. The comments were positive on the outside, but there was something off about them. Those unpleasant comments urged me to get over my situation quickly, get a therapist, or take other measures to fix the issue. The comments may have been well-intended, but came across as a suggestion to stop creating discomfort for them.

An important lesson to take from divorce is that we have to walk our walk and have respect for our journey, learning, and pace. Says the former first lady of America Michelle Obama in her interview with Oprah Winfrey: “I like my story. I embrace every aspect of who I am. I like the highs, the lows, and the bumps in between.”

Yes, we can create discomfort for people around us by speaking out about what is going wrong in our lives. It requires strength and compassion to be near us when our lives are imperfect. Yet, we don’t owe it to anyone to deal with our issues any more quickly than we have to. It is our journey, our life, and our walk.

Other unhelpful comments about divorce:

  • Now your kids are your priority. This phrase imposes a set of values and guilt on the divorcee.
  • Congratulations. You must feel relieved with a sense of closure. A sense of closure needs time.
  • I didn’t like your husband anyway (his behavior, his political views, etc.). This phrase devalues the good things that happened during the marriage and the disappointment of the divorcee. Most of us married for love and stayed for many years together. We had kids. It’s not relevant what others thought of our partners.
  • But you looked so good together on Facebook or Instagram! Well, we did. I can’t believe how often I hear this comment! It’s like saying you looked good in your wedding photos. Or, you looked so young when you were young. As opposed to what?
  • You should press your ex-husband in court, or any other advice about divorce tactics. Let me act according to my values and walk my walk.

What’s generally wrong with the comments we get?

More often than not, passing comments don’t consider the divorced woman’s feelings. They address the concerns and expectations of the well-wisher or the advisor.

People like to think that if they were to divorce, they would negotiate a better settlement, take better care of the kids, and completely avoid any pain. They would find a new, better partner right away. They would prioritize the kids and coparent wisely. Many believe they will never need to walk this painful walk. Unfortunately, this “pain-free” concept of divorce isn’t reality.

Did I like any comments? Yes!

  • Comments that helped: “All is going in the right direction and time will heal. It will get easier, it always does.” “After a stage of aggression and grief, you will recover and revive.” “Kids will adapt. The kids will be fine; take care of yourself.” “You have made the right decision. You are doing great! Give yourself time.”
  • I loved the advice I read on SAS: “don’t try to do too much.” Maybe starting a new career is more than one can handle during a divorce?
  • Unexpectedly helpful advice: “You can’t afford to be naïve.” That was the advice my therapist gave me when I was about to ignore my responsibility and hand my power away to my Ex-husband.

Now that we have listed the unwelcome and the useful comments, there are two things to do to educate people around us. First, we need to understand which comments are out-of-place and how to explain their inappropriateness to those around us. Second, we need to spread the word — talk, discuss, and share our knowledge about this divorce journey, so we lessen the pain for others, men and women included.

 

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She is training to be a coach for women in transition. You can reach out to her via e-mail [email protected] for a test coach session or a discussion.

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

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

Women must know about divorce in texas

6 Things a Woman Must Know About Divorce in Texas

Every state is unique in how it adjudicates divorce, adding to the headache of getting on with life-after-marriage. And the Lone Star state, as you might expect, has its own unique rule book. There are several things a woman must know about divorce in Texas if she is going to avoid painful surprises. We’re going to look at six of them.

From waiting periods to custody to the division of assets, it’s imperative that a woman goes into her divorce with eyes wide open. And, if that woman is you, the time to educate yourself and prepare is now.

Even if you’re still in the not-sure stage, there is a checklist of things to do if you are contemplating divorce. The fact that “the big D” is stirring around in your mind may be the shoulder-tap you need to work on your marriage.

But, if you are past the point of possible resolution, it’s time to bring your A-game. The more informed and prepared you are, the better you (and your children) will be going forward. So embrace the unembraceable with wisdom, dedicated research, and unflappable self-advocacy.

Let’s look at six important things a woman must know about divorce in Texas.

 

  1. Grounds for divorce. 

There are seven grounds (reasons) for divorce in Texas, but only the first one is considered “no-fault.” The remaining grounds can influence judgment regarding things like division of assets and child guardianship. (Obviously these grounds can apply to either or both spouses. And most couples opt for a no-fault divorce.)

    1. You have irreconcilable differences. “No one’s at fault, but we just can’t live together or get along anymore.”
    2. There is emotional and/or physical abuse (“cruel treatment”) that makes staying in the marriage unsafe and/or unbearable.
    3. Your spouse has cheated on you.
    4. Conviction of a felony. During the marriage, your spouse was convicted of a felony and incarcerated for at least a year without pardon.
    5. Your spouse has been gone for more than a year with the intention of leaving you forever.
    6. Living apart. You and your spouse have lived apart, without cohabitating, for at least three years.
    7. Confinement in a mental hospital. At the time of filing, your spouse has been confined to a mental hospital for at least three years without a prognosis of improvement.

2. Mandatory waiting period vs. reality. 

Texas family courts aren’t in a rush to finalize divorces. Expect to wait a minimum of 60 days from the date of filing for your divorce to be final. However, the average wait is six months to a year, depending on the complexity of the divorce and degree of conflict.

The only exception to the 60-day waiting period is one of two specific criteria involving domestic violence.

3. Legal separation? Not in Texas. 

In Texas, you’re either married, or you’re not. Or so says the law. That means that all assets and debts, whether accumulated while together or separated, are considered communal property at the time of divorce.

This is important to keep in mind if you’re thinking that a separation will give you time to think, experiment with singlehood, or side-step divorce.

You could end up liable for expenses your spouse accrues on a separate credit card, for example. You could also have to divide income and benefits you accumulate while “kind of” living on your own.

4. Alimony? Good luck.

One of the most important things you, as a woman, must know about divorce in Texas is that there is no court-ordered alimony. Texas courts call this “judicially imposed allowance,” and they don’t award it. What the courts refer to as “maintenance” comes with specific criteria.

Three examples that don’t involve the specific conditions of domestic violence include:

    1. You will not have enough property to provide for your minimal needs after the divorce. (Note: not “the lifestyle to which you are accustomed.”)
    2. You have been married 10 or more years and are unable to provide for your minimal needs. (This is particularly relevant to women who forfeited careers to care for children or elders.)
    3. You have a child that requires extensive supervision because of a physical or mental illness.

For women seeking structure, guidance, education, and support as they “contemplate” …. or begin the actual divorce/separation process, we invite you to consider Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual, group coaching program for women only.

Annie’s Group provides support, education and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, so you feel less alone. Read more about Annie’s Group here. 


5. Custody arrangements.

The preferred and usual custodial arrangement in Texas is joint custody. The underlying desire is for children to have an equal relationship with both parents, even if they live primarily with one.

In a coparenting arrangement, both parents make decisions and have responsibility for the children. And the children live with each parent for at least 35% of the year.

While “joint managing conservatorship” is the court’s preference, the best interest of the children trumps all other considerations.

Finally, divorcing parents of minor children are required to complete a parenting class before a divorce is granted. Its intention is to help parents and children through the painful process of divorce. The class is available online.

6. Division of assets (and debts).

Texas is considered a “community property” state, which implies an equal division of both assets and debts.

However, special considerations can be taken into account by the judge. For example, the degree of disparity between income and earning potential can influence an unequal division.

Similarly, the physical capacity of both parties, nature of assets, and fault in the marriage’s breakup may be taken into consideration.

When it comes to the division of debt, it’s important to know that a divorce decree means nothing to creditors.

To assure that you aren’t left paying off mutual debts alone, it may be wise to divide responsibility for debts as part of the divorce.

Finally, it would be in your best interest to have a financial advisor or attorney go over your community assets with you. The timing of the acquisition of retirement benefits, for example, can determine what you are owed in the divorce.

There are a lot of things a woman must know about divorce in Texas before signing off on the next phase of her life.

 

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oft times complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. 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.

 

Stay at home. moms get alimony?

stay-at-home mom

Complications always arise in divorce and money negotiations. If you’re one of the 25% of American mothers staying home to raise a family, the financial implications of a split become more complex. Stay-at-home moms will have to plan their financial futures accordingly.

If you didn’t have an iron-clad prenuptial agreement in place when you married, your divorce might involve a lot of negotiation. Child support, custody, visitation rights, property division, and debt are all going to be on the table.

The questions and answers are different in each case, but one of the key issues is always whether you were a working or stay-at-home mom. That factor can determine how much you know about your household’s finances, the amount of money you have access to, your options for the future, and whether or not you’ll get alimony.

Divorce laws differ in each state, and there’s very little legislation on spousal support. If you’re not careful, lawyers can engage in endless back-and-forth tussles debating the issue, sending legal costs skyrocketing.

If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you need to take action to look after yourself and your children’s day-to-day needs. When that involves securing alimony, there are some practical steps you can take.

Collate All Your Financial Documents

If you haven’t neatly filed your tax returns, investment account statements, details about loans and mortgages, and any other financial documents, make sure you organize them now.

You should also find out if you’re entitled to collect social security benefits from your Ex, and you may have to familiarize yourself with other family-related expenses too. The idea is to get a clear picture of the financial situation in your mind. That may be daunting if your Ex handled all things money, but it’s the first step in negotiating a fair settlement as a stay-at-home-mom.

Find Out the Value of All Property

Get an up-to-date valuation on your primary residence, plus any other houses, apartments, vehicles, or other assets that you’ve acquired together over the marriage. This can get a little messy later on if your Ex withholds information, and you have to resort to forensic accountants to uncover hidden assets. However, for the time being, try to remain as civil as possible.

Get a Good Handle on Credit

Even if everything goes according to plan, divorces cost money. Going forward, two households need to be maintained instead of one. That’s two sets of rent or mortgages, insurance plans, and utilities—just for starters.

The fact is, there’s a good chance that you’ll need to rely on credit somewhere along the way. Find out your credit score using one of the reputable online checking sites and improve your current rating if possible. Settling old debts or long-term loans will give your score a boost.

If you have a good rating, banks will be more willing to extend your line of credit. This could help to cover your monthly expenses when you’re in a pinch.

Consider Plans to Return to Work

If you’ve never worked or left the workforce many years ago, you’ll probably feel uncertain and anxious about joining or rejoining the proverbial rat race. There’s certainly a lot to consider, including what skills you have, those you need to develop, and what you want out of your career.

From an alimony point of view, your future employment plans could affect whether you ask for temporary or permanent spousal support. The type of support you request may determine how a judge rules in a contested divorce, or what your Ex offers if the divorce remains uncontested. Think about this when you’re considering jobs, and when setting a goal for how much you’d like to earn.

Create Possible Budgets

Armed with all the financial and career information you’ve gathered, create budgets that deal with several possible scenarios.

What would happen if you sold some—or all—of your property and split the proceeds? How much do you spend on groceries, and how much can you expect to spend in a month if your Ex is sharing custody?

You should also work out how much all your monthly expenses (insurance, phone plans, et cetera) add up to. And while it can be challenging to work out how your career would have developed if you’d been in the workplace instead of at home, financial analysts and job experts can make it a lot easier. Their services do cost money, but they could result in securing you more funds down the line.

Retain an Attorney

Divorces are undoubtedly difficult, but you can handle them amicably, and that’s what almost everyone wants. That’s why so many people choose divorce mediation, and why it’s something you should at least consider.

Having said that, you should still retain a divorce attorney. If mediation is successful, you’ll be using your lawyer a lot less. However, you’ll still want the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have a legal expert who is helping you vet offers from your spouse, or whose reviewing things from your perspective and how they will impact you long term.  This is critical to making sure you have protected yourself. One of the biggest mistakes women make throughout the divorce process is that they don’t plan adequately FINANCIALLY for their future.


If you are looking for support, education, and a community of like-minded, resourceful women, you’ll be interested in Annie’s Group, our powerful, virtual group coaching program for women thinking about or beginning the process of divorce/separation. Read more here

 


Consider Divorce Mediation

With all the data you’ve collected and your budget scenarios, you’ll be in a great position, potentially, to talk frankly with your Ex. You can discuss the children’s needs, and what you require to continue being the mother your kids know, love, and deserve.

Mediation is a time to negotiate fairly. It’s about people and families rather than lawyers and money.

Be as honest as possible; for example, don’t say you’re not planning on going back to work when you are. As tough as it is, be respectful towards your soon-to-be ex-spouse, regardless of who decided to leave. This creates the best-case scenario for a fair divorce that’s granted quickly, giving both spouses and any children the chance to move forward with their lives.

Caution: If you never had access to the finances in your marriage, your spouse controlled everything regarding money, or your spouse is accustomed to negotiating with lawyers (in work or otherwise), or there was any form of deceit, lying or betrayal in the relationship, you are NOT a good candidate for mediation.  Mediation is about two parties being on an equal playing field and being transparent with each other. If you never had that, don’t expect it to magically appear with the help of a mediator. Use a traditional divorce attorney to advocate on your behalf.

Remember That You’re Worth It!

As a society, we’re still learning how to value stay-at-home moms and caretaking versus breadwinning in a marital or domestic situation.

Often, stay-at-home moms don’t receive long-term alimony. This is because judges are increasingly recognizing that the historical gender disadvantages have lessened. As a result, judges may award short-term alimony, but will require that stay-at-home moms will need to seek employment in the future. However, the time you put into running a household, rearing children, and supporting your spouse’s career is invaluable. As you enter these negotiations, remind yourself—and your Ex—of that fact.

 

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.

 

Manage divorce pain

How to Manage Pain During Divorce

When we’re in the midst of the visceral and all-encompassing agony of divorce, it’s difficult to cope with each breath, let alone remember that the pain eventually ends. The last thing we think about, but should address, is how to manage pain during divorce. The emotions are so strong and wide-spread that they often manifest as a physical presence. But it is a presence of emptiness.

This void contains the grief of losing love and the optimism that comes with it—that sense of possibilities that were open to us and now are not. There is the bruising nature of rejection, the fear of time wasted or of loneliness (a feeling exacerbated for so many now during the Covid quarantine), a sense of self and our own wholeness that seems to have vanished. The shock and anger over betrayal or having the bottom suddenly drop out from under us, the doubt that we can ever trust our own judgment again. But rest assured: the pain of divorce will not last forever.

To Manage Pain During Divorce, Allow Yourself to Feel.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but managing pain during your divorce means you have to actually allow yourself to experience these feelings—give them room to run and swing wildly. Allowing yourself to feel grief, fear, loneliness, and anger is exhausting and frightening; it feels like you’re in the middle of a stampede with no horse.

Even feeling hope can be painful in the aftermath of divorce, because the loss of your old hopes is fresh, and trusting that new ones can exist takes a while.

But it seems to be the consensus that healing requires you to face the full range of your emotions during divorce. Trying to reign in your emotions or muffle them with a smiling facade only works temporarily. Tamping down these feelings might be best saved for the times when you don’t want them to become a burden on people who are depending on you, like your children.

Trying to keep a permanent lid on emotions, though, is like trying to muffle a trashcan fire with a lid that doesn’t quite fit. It might seem to work, but the damage still spreads if you don’t actually address it. Putting off the experience of an emotion just gives it breathing room with no supervision. When we finally turn around and face it, we realize it’s only gotten bigger.

What actually helps with this pain management technique is to not just let the feelings run over you, but to run with them. It may sound ridiculous, but don’t worry: if you have enough emotional capacity to have a feeling, you are most likely strong enough to move with it.

So, What Are Effective Strategies to Manage Pain During Divorce?

One of the best ways to cope with divorce pain is to write your feelings out in a free-flow journal. Especially if you write without pausing or self-editing, you can scream as loudly as you want to on paper. Pouring all that angst, pain, and emotional murk through the sieve of a journal on a daily basis clears your mind so that you begin to address your own healing with acceptance and develop some rational ideas of what you need to do to rebuild. When you engage with your feelings in this way you become an active participant in them.

Seek Support

Another way to manage divorce pain and confusion is to reach out to a divorce coach, who can be one of the best sources of complete support for what you are going through. A coach can help you with all the logistical, financial, emotional, and practical issues that may overwhelm you. A coach, experienced in what is normal and what is not, is trained to help you embrace your emotions and heal so you can move forward completely and healthily.

Talk to the Hand

Sometimes it’s helpful to identify a particular emotion, name it, and talk to it as if it were an actual person. Snark helps. Anything that helps you laugh at the situation and at yourself helps. Pretend the feeling is one of the neighborhood kids who’s trying to sell you really ugly Christmas ornaments. You’re going to be friendly but firm and you’re likely going to be able to say no without many qualms. (And of course, since it’s not a real person, you’re free to be a little… tart):

“Well, good morning, Anxiety. Love the outfit. You seem to be doing just peachy today. I’m not in the mood for peaches, though. I see you, and I understand why you’re selling this wagon-load of crap, but it’s not your turn today.” Or something to that effect.

This acknowledges the feeling but externalizes it in a healthy way. It allows you to get far enough away from it to see it more clearly, and it also acts to separate you as a person from your actual feelings, which may be strong and feel like they’re trampling you at times, but are not actually you.

Laugh at Them

Do anything you can to laugh at your situation. Find the irony in it; snark it up, burn your bra while you dance around and film it (though if you do this, recall that you are not PBS; laughter only works therapeutically when it’s for your own satisfaction, or shared only with your closest, most trusted friends). Blow up balloons and write the things that are pissing you off on them and then get out your safety pin; swing an imaginary lasso around your head and yodel like a cowgirl when the feelings go rogue on you.

Said with brevity and levity, divorce is not exactly a party on two legs, but if you can laugh at it while you’re in it, you will move from survival to thriving a lot faster.

Turn Off the Anger Drip

For a lot of us, anger is easier to bear than pain. It feels more powerful than sadness, and it acts on neurotransmitters like an anesthetic. Anger can also be justified (often), and for women who have been emotionally or physically bullied by their husbands and/or painted into well-behaved corners, it’s especially important to speak that feeling. For others who might be inclined to run rampant with it, though, the thing to remember is that it does act like a drug. Too much anger for too long is corrosive to you and anyone in your vicinity who it might spill on.

Know When to Put the Thoughts Down

When we’re in the midst of a complex situation like divorce, it’s natural and healthy to think about where you are in the process, to consider how you got there, your own role in it, and how you might have done things differently. This kind of reflection is healthy, but it stops being a pain management technique when we begin steeping in thought patterns for too long. Brooding over a situation is called perseverating or ruminating, and it can eventually stain our thought processes the way tea that brews too long can stain a cup.

You need to grieve the possibilities that were a part of your union with the person you were married to. Sadness and all the other emotions that come with divorce should be felt. But new possibilities grow in their place. Like us, they change, and there are always more of them. Life never just boils down to one event or another; we are meant to be dynamic and each of us is bigger than a particular occurrence—even one as daunting as divorce.

 

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.

 

What are the Covid Divorce Statistics?

What are the COVID Divorce Statistics?

Divorce statistics in the US are nothing to make the marriage industry proud. Despite a significant decrease in recent years (most likely because more couples are waiting to marry), divorce still lurks as a postscript to marriage vows. An iffy chance of success, with even worse odds for successive marriages, casts a dim light on the concept of “forever.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, divorce rates hit a historical high in 1979, with 22.6 out of every 1,000 breaking up. Fast forward 38 years to 2017, and that rate had dropped 29% to 16.1 divorces for every 1,000 marriages. That’s a significant drop and a nice boost to the institution of marriage.

The bulk of that success can be attributed to fewer younger couples taking their first trip down the aisle. Apparently they had taken the failed marriages of the younger-marrying Baby Boomer generations before them to heart. Waiting several more years to tie the knot apparently worked.

Unfortunately, those 55 and over who have decided to give connubial bliss another shot haven’t been as successful. As a matter of fact, their divorce rates have skyrocketed.

Against this statistical backdrop heading into 2020, a new player has entered the arena and could very well throw divorce statistics into an upheaval.

I’m talking, of course, about the coronavirus pandemic.

No one saw it coming. And no one could have imagined how life on a global scale would change on a moment’s notice. Suddenly that hypothetical question, “If you were stuck on a remote island with one person, who would you want it to be?” took on new meaning.

How the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 gets written into the history books and statistical data remains to be seen. But hints of what’s to come are already revealing themselves.

Sheltering-in-place has upended the home life of millions of people. Not all the forced adaptations have been negative, but the stresses of the times have definitely taken a negative toll. And marriages are standing right there in the middle of the traffic.

When you consider the top reasons for which couples divorce, it’s not surprising that the COVID pandemic is putting marriages to the test. Three of the biggest reasons — abuse, addiction, and financial problems — have been in a veritable Petri dish since lockdowns started.

Unemployment rates are at an all-time high, and even those willing to work have been forced to wait things out. Families already living paycheck-to-paycheck have been forced to rely on less-than-adequate unemployment benefits. And people have been scrambling to reinvent themselves professionally in anticipation of the long-haul unknown.

Considering that finances fuel a big portion of marital conflict, troubled relationships are now burning at a faster rate. Add to that mix the isolation and secrecy needed for abuse and addiction to thrive, and you have a glimpse of what may influence divorce statistics.

It’s still too early to have a clear picture of divorce rates during this pandemic. And one big reason for that is that courts were included in the shutdowns. Suddenly there was no means to file for or proceed with divorce. Only emergency cases — those involving domestic violence and emergency child custody needs, for example — were being considered.

As businesses and government agencies began reopening, courts had to play catch-up with their pre-pandemic backlog of cases. That meant a further delay for people already in the process of divorce, and definitely a delay for those wanting to file.

For women seeking divorce in the time of coronavirus, their focus has needed to shift to preparation and self-care. Many divorce lawyers and counselors are receiving calls from people intending to divorce as soon as possible. Many expect the uptick in virtual filings to explode after the pandemic has settled. But, until the courts can catch up, those waiting remain stuck.

The financial component of this pandemic can’t be extricated from the analysis of (potential) divorce statistics during this time. Divorce isn’t cheap. And it rarely leaves either party financially better off than when the couple was married.

Lawyers, court fees, financial advisors, and settlement terms are expensive. Pairing job and income loss with the realization that your marriage can’t make it poses a big problem. That scenario is becoming more common, and it’s forcing couples to rethink both their marriages and their approach to ending them.

For couples who can maintain respect and civility, options like mediation and collaborative divorce can save a lot of money. They can also help expedite the divorce process while courts are overwhelmed.

But there are additional financial factors that complicate divorce efforts during this pandemic.

The most complex component of any divorce, aside from custodial arrangements for children, is the division of assets. Divorce proceedings, for good reason, look at more than just “what’s in the account today.” Past, present, and future all come into play.

Any kind of disaster or major crisis influences the values of homes, stocks, and other assets. Stop the world from spinning on its axis, and you’ve got major economic upheaval.

How do you now plan for the sale of your home and the division of profits (or debt)? How do you fairly divide stocks and retirement investments that may have plummeted and haven’t recovered?

How do you determine spousal and/or child support when one or both parties doesn’t have guaranteed employment or income? How are things like life insurance and health insurance affected? How do you separate from your spouse and find a place to rent when there’s no income?

One thing is definite in this time of COVID: This pandemic is holding a mirror up to every marriage and household. And it’s exposing every weakness that could once hide behind careers and individual interests.

It may be a while before we have a clear understanding of the influence of COVID-19 on divorce statistics. But, if you are a woman facing the possible end of your marriage, there is hope…and help.

There are things to do if you are thinking about divorce — many that you can begin doing now. And there are divorce support groups to walk with you on this painful journey, even if you don’t have the convenience of physical separation yet.

COVID may have changed life as we know it. And it may be complicating the processes for making necessary life choices. But you still have the power to make those choices…and the support to help you live them.

 

Whether you are navigating the experience of divorce or that confusing place of recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice not to do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional, financial, and often complicated experience of divorce and reinvention. SAS offers women six FREE months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and personal support strategies for themselves and their 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 searching for an online divorce support group

Joining an Online Divorce Support Group? 4 Questions to Consider Before Making Any Decisions

Divorce is one of the most difficult transitions you’ll ever face. So, it’s important for you to build a great support team to help you get through it. And one of the easiest ways to get the support you need as your marriage ends is to join an online divorce support group.

Yet, easy support doesn’t always mean quality support or even the type of help you need. Not all online divorce support groups are the same.

Some support groups are simply unmoderated chat rooms. Others are part of a large organization that provides a standard set of materials for facilitators to use. And then there are groups like the ones you might find on Meet Up that fall anywhere in between.

Due to the immense differences in what defines an online divorce support group, you need to spend time researching what each group has to offer before participating.

Here are four questions you’ll want to consider before joining any online divorce support group.

1. How will the group protect your confidentiality?

One of the main purposes of joining a support group is to give yourself a safe space to share what you’re going through. You’ll need to know there’s zero chance of someone in the group using something you’ve said against you.

Only in a very secure environment will you dare to be honest and vulnerable, which is important to your divorce recovery. By owning and understanding your vulnerability you will begin the process of healing.

Some groups provide confidentiality by asking members to use pseudonyms instead of their real names. They also prevent members from connecting outside of the group’s online environment.

Other groups offer no provision for confidentiality and rely upon each member to police herself. Unfortunately, this makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to do the healing work you need to do because you may not feel safe.

Another way online divorce support groups offer confidentiality is with an agreement you enter upon joining the group. The group facilitator may have a document each member must sign to join, or s/he may make the agreement part of the underlying terms of membership.

Whatever method of confidentiality the group provides, it’s up to you to decide whether those terms make you feel safe in your vulnerability.

2. Who is facilitating the online divorce support group?

If the group you’re interested in has a facilitator or two, you’ll want to know more about them before joining.

The best facilitators are those who have a deep understanding of divorce. They are typically divorce coaches, therapists, or seasoned facilitators who have been through divorce themselves.

Another vital role the facilitator plays is keeping the group on task and focused on the topic. Due to the nature of divorce and the emotional drama involved, it’s natural that some participants have a hard time not talking … on and on. A good facilitator will listen for those who are not speaking and encourage them to share, while also managing those who dominate so the group progresses, feels fair, and stays on point.

You’ll want to contact the facilitator before joining the group to learn more about his/her background and experience. By interacting with the facilitator, you’ll get a good feel for who this person is and whether the group is right for you.

If the facilitator does not provide a means for you to contact or interact with him/her before joining the group, then don’t join. That means the facilitator is not interested in getting to know you as an individual. They are more interested in filling their group up and getting paid.

3. Does the group have a clear structure?

The best online divorce support groups are carefully organized and not just open forums for kvetching.

Ideally, you’ll want a group that has a regular meeting time so you can count on getting support. A regular meeting time makes it easier to plan around your job or find childcare (should you need it). A regular schedule forces you to make time for yourself, this subject, and your growth.

To get the most out of the group, it’s critical to know the topic of each meeting in advance. This will allow you to not only verify that the topics meet your needs but also to prepare for each session.

You should also look for the stated outcome of participating in the group. A meaningful program will have a specific intention for each of the members to achieve. It’s this intention that will give you greater insight into how the facilitator will guide the group.

4. How does the group build a sense of community?

Joining an online divorce support group is about becoming part of a community so you don’t feel so alone and isolated. Ideally, the group is full of individuals who are willing to give and receive support by honestly and respectfully relating their experiences, questions, and insights.

But a community isn’t created just because you attend meetings together.

You and the other group members build a community within each session by openly discussing questions and sharing experiences. Outside of each session, you continue to do so by sharing challenges (if desired) and supporting one another.

Joining a good, vetted (look for testimonials) online divorce support group can be one of the best gifts you give yourself if you are considering, or have decided to, end your marriage. The group can provide you with the safety, camaraderie, resources, convenience, and experience you will likely need to navigate knowledgeably the transition from married to divorced.

Yet, because not all divorce support groups are the same, you’ll need to do some research before joining any. Will the group provide you with a safe place to heal, learn, and build the foundation for the next phase of your life?

Since 2012 smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to help them through the emotional and often times complicated experience of divorce. For support, guidance and next steps if you are contemplating or beginning the process of divorce, consider Annie’s Group, our virtual, LIVE divorce support community & program teaching you what a woman MUST KNOW about divorce.

If you are rebuilding your life after divorce, discover who you are, what makes you tick, and what makes you soar as you connect with the right support​ and direction. Join us for our virtual group coaching class, Paloma’s Group, a comprehensive blueprint for starting fresh and designing the life you deserve. Space is limited.

Should I leave my husband?

What Should I Do to Leave My Husband?

“If I know I can’t stay in this marriage, what should I do to leave my husband?”

Leaving a marriage is complicated, scary, painful. And that’s when both of you are in agreement. Leaving your husband when you’re the only one wanting to end the relationship is even more difficult.

Your reasons for wanting, even needing, to leave will determine your course of action. Obviously there’s a difference between leaving because of abuse and safety issues and leaving because of general dissatisfaction with your marriage.

Safety first for you, your children, and your pets. Always. If your question, What should I do to leave my husband?, regards an abusive relationship, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. And, if you are in immediate danger, call 911.

Your local women’s shelter is a rich resource of information and assistance for women and children living in abusive situations. They can guide you through a plan of action to get you safely out of the home and into protection. And they can walk you through important steps like:

  • Filing a restraining order
  • Safely filing for divorce, despite threats from your husband
  • Preparing and protecting your children
  • Filing for and securing custody of your children
  • Planning an exit strategy
  • Getting an escort to help you retrieve your belongings
  • Making sure you have money
  • Securing legal representation for divorce and/or abuse charges
  • Looking for work and a safe place to live
  • Getting counseling for you and your children

If there are guns in the house, try to remove them. If you cannot safely do so, at least remove the ammunition and anything you can that could be used to cause harm.

Whether you are leaving for safety, sanity, or both, it is imperative that you have a plan. Think through what you are doing and why. Cross your t’s and dot your i’s because “leaving” isn’t as simple as walking out the door and not looking back.

You have a footprint — legal, financial, and custodial. You are, in essence, “building your case” for leaving — and possibly for custody — so details matter. You can’t, for example, just pack up the kids and take them with you, let alone across state lines.

Courts are sworn to the law, no matter how much a story tugs at their heartstrings. So be smart, wise, and prepared. And build your village of knowledgeable, credentialed support early.

One of the best gifts you can give yourself is the accompanying guidance of a therapist and a support group. This is especially true if you are overthinking when to leave your husband but know in your heart you need to leave.

For a lot of women, “What should I do to leave my husband?” is primarily a question of financial preparation and sustenance. They know they will need financial help in order to just survive, but they don’t know where to get it. And they will often stay in an unhappy and/or unhealthy situation just to have some semblance of financial security.

As a Stay-at-Home-Mom, you may have forfeited a career to raise children, so your skill sets are outdated and your earning potential is low.

Your husband — thanks in large part to you holding down the homefront — may have enjoyed a rising career. He may never want for income, thanks to his income. He may control the money, both the day-to-day flow and the retirement savings.

That puts you in a very vulnerable position when thinking about how to leave your husband. Suddenly you have to summon your own empowerment, but he seems to have all the power.

According to a study conducted by CDFA Laurie Itkin and Worthy, despite the fact that 55% of married women managed the bill-paying, over 20% left investment decisions to the husband. And almost half, while going through divorce, admitted to unexpected “surprises” that set them back.

So how can you leave and still know that you will be OK after the divorce is over? Here are 7 important steps to help you prepare to leave your husband:

 

1.     Financial preparation.

Become educated about bill paying, investing and stay involved in the family finances. Single and divorced women have to manage all aspects of their finances, so married women should be just as involved.

Knowing your net worth, both as a couple and as individuals, is essential when it comes time to divide assets. Make a list of all assets — “yours, mine, ours.” Too often women leave financial assets in their husbands’ court, only to suffer later when their settlement is depleted.

If things are already too late in the game for that, seek out legal and financial representation early. And don’t underestimate your worth, needs, or contributions made, without pay, so your husband could build his career.

2.     The date.

Have a date in mind and make sure you have affordable housing lined up. Can you stay with a friend or family member for a while? Do you have enough income or savings to rent for the first year while you adjust?

3.     Get Support and feedback for guidance and direction.

Connect with those who understand the journey — strategically and healthily. Find a therapist who has experience supporting women through this crisis, or join Annie’s Group — our virtual group coaching program for women, or on your own, take advantage of our Master Class: How to Know If Divorce is Right for You and What You Must Know to Do It and receive a private coaching session and a consult with a financial person, dedicated to your specific story and needs. If you are planning on moving out, and especially if you have children, check with a lawyer that your move won’t adversely impact your claim to things or how you are viewed by the law.

4.     PINS, passwords, and important documents.

Be sure to change all PINS and passwords to your accounts and have all your important documents (including copies of mutual documents) in one place.

5.     The kids.

Most importantly, have a plan for your children. Assuming you are not in a crisis situation, you and your husband should have conversations about disclosure and co-parenting.

This is a good time to seek the guidance of a family therapist to help both of you through this painful time.

A therapist who specializes in children of divorce can help prepare you to provide your children with an emotionally safe transition. And your child’s school counselor can be one of the best resources and advocates for your child during this time.

6.     The pets.

Make a plan for your pets, as well, especially if you are in a stressful situation and have reason to worry about their safety. They feel and respond to negative energy, and the upheaval of their routine can be very upsetting.

Perhaps a friend can keep your pet in a safe, calm environment until you are settled. But this arrangement should be well thought-out, too, as pets are often pawns for retribution. And you don’t want to put a friend in harm’s way if there is any concern about your husband’s actions.


If you are looking for more, read our popular 36 Things to Do If You are Thinking about Divorce

 


7.     Documentation.

Finally, document everything, even when it seems trivial or unnecessary. Document dates, times, locations, texts, calls, resources, conversations, arguments, financial actions, threats, everything.

You will always be grateful you have the information in writing and not loosely sworn to memory. And a court will take you far more seriously if you have your case well laid out and documented.

“Putting asunder” what was once a forecast of eternal bliss is traumatic, even when necessary. Even having to ask, “What should I do to leave my husband?” is a sad statement about the status of your life. No matter what decisions you make, change is coming with them. And fear, grief, loss, and worry will be in its wake.

You may not be able to walk out the front door with a confident smile and no worries. But having a plan and being prepared can at least help you leave with the assurance that you are going to be OK.

 

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.

 

A woman thinking about her expectations of the divorce process

Deflating Your Expectations about the Divorce Process

Unpacking what you thought would happen versus what actually happened in your divorce process can do much to further your healing, this I’ve learned firsthand. When I first started writing this blogpost, my original plan was to write “a divorce success story.” After all, our culture wants us to report on our successes. Even if we struggle, we’re ultimately expected to arrive on the other side of that struggle as heroes. I had internalized this cultural message at the start of my divorce. I had pictured a successful and quick divorce with a wonderful, new life waiting for me at the end. I expected that one day I’d be able to write this “success story” and, in doing so, would inspire other women to be like me.

However, as I truly reflected back on what happened in my own divorce, I realized that it wasn’t just one struggle I lived through. My divorce actually unleashed a list of obstacles that always seemed to get longer, while the end goal—a new, wonderful life with the past firmly behind me —was nowhere to be seen. I kept telling myself: I need just one more push to sort out the apartment, where the kids will live, or a child support agreement. And then, when it’s all sorted, I will write my story and inspire others.

I was trying to be my old perfectionist self. I was trying to be a good girl and a successful student, completing my assignments and getting all As. I had already failed in staying married and in keeping my family together — the least I could do to reclaim my worth was to be successful in my divorce!

A mess instead of success

As my divorce was finalized on paper, I failed to feel free or confident. I was filled with anxiety and fear, ridden with guilt and shame. One day I was so crushed while reading text messages from my Ex that I deleted WhatsApp and climbed under the covers. A scared child was what I was. I was in no shape to inspire anyone, certainly not my sister divorcées. I was a mess with no real story to tell. Who was I kidding?

Or so I thought, until I heard an invitation to a masterclass by the award-winning TV presenter of Good Morning America, Robin Roberts. She shared two ideas that I loved, and they picked me up. “Make your mess your message,” said Robin, adding “showing vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness.” Suddenly, I was inspired. I could do that! I could show my mess and vulnerability. After all, aren’t those two things we know for sure as divorced women? How to feel vulnerable and embrace the mess?

We divorced after seventeen years of marriage

My Ex and I separated over a year ago after being married for seventeen years. I initiated the breakup as I could no longer stand the mental, verbal, and sometimes physical abuse. We were a great team in our 20s, but by the time we hit our 30s, my personal growth and talents made my then-husband feel threatened. In turn, my husband felt invisible and like his needs were being ignored. The more he strengthened control, the weaker our connection and intimacy was. I had an affair in search of love and care, but it didn’t work for me long-term. After eight years of therapy and trying many methods of restoring peace as a couple, I realized there was nothing more I could do. The benefits of having a full family and loving memories no longer outweighed the stresses.

I decided to sacrifice my kids’ comfort, our household, and joint vacations in exchange for peace of mind, mental stability, confidence, and self-worth.

My post-divorce journey

As I was navigating my divorce, I realized that the process was nothing like I expected it to be! Through pain and many therapy sessions, I came to realize that the mismatch between the expectations and reality gave me grief and created a feeling of loss of control: it created a mess. As I review my top five expectations, I want to inspire other women getting divorced to face the expectations that may be weighing them down, causing pain and messy feelings.

Expectation 1: divorce will never happen to me

It is worth knowing that we are influenced by our close circle, not global statistics. For the rest of the world, 50% of marriages may end in divorce—but not in my social circle. My middle-class social group stuck by their traditional family structures whether they liked it or not. It was fine to live in different bedrooms and even apartments if you could afford it, but it wasn’t okay to get a divorce. This is largely because divorced men in Russia who worked in the military or for the state could lose their employment, destroying their careers and livelihoods.

What I did remember, though, is that my uncle got divorced when I was six, and his daughter, my cousin Catherine, was eight at the time. My mother told me that Catherine’s mother was a vile and stupid woman who wrongfully assumed that she could find someone better and, of course, she didn’t. A woman needs to stand by her man and not go looking for greener grass on the other side, I was told as a child. Catherine and her mom were excluded from our extended family after the divorce. Cousin Catherine and I reconnected only when we were both in our 40s via social media.

What did I make of all this? Subconsciously, I thought that divorce was a no-no for a good woman like me. I learned that initiating a divorce was bad, and a woman and her children would be punished for it.

As I was contemplating divorce myself, I was struggling to find a positive example to look toward. Divorce was untrodden territory in my family, as was following your feelings.

Expectation 2: it would be quick

Since I assumed that divorce doesn’t happen to good girls, getting divorced at all was extremely embarrassing. I didn’t want to tell anyone or discuss it. I wanted the divorce to be over with quickly. I was already thinking of getting a new, better husband since I was in the process of setting myself free. I was considering anything that could end my status of being “divorced.”

The shame and the denial of going through a long divorce process meant that I had trouble discussing my issues with lawyers, counselors, and my Ex. I googled. I read the advice in one of the blogposts on SAS for Women: “don’t stop communicating with your Ex if you have children.” What? I wanted so much not to see his texts, to not be reminded that I was living through this most undignified process!

Not only was I embarrassed about going through the divorce process, but I was also surprised that it wasn’t yet over. It took me many years to decide and get ready to separate, to voice and then follow through with my intention to divorce my husband*. I thought I was done when I moved out and got the divorce papers. I had no idea that untangling the seventeen-year-long co-dependent relationship with kids and property was another long process in and of itself.

Maybe, out of the entire list of things I hadn’t expected from my divorce, the slow pace was the hardest to embrace.

Expectation 3: my husband will behave like a gentleman

Why did I expect my Ex to behave like a gentleman and care for my feelings during our divorce? Especially when the reason I divorced him in the first place was because he was verbally and mentally abusive and didn’t care for my feelings? I like people to be respectful. He respected and loved me once, and I remember how good it felt. I expected my husband to behave like a gentleman because in my dreams I am a person who is treated respectfully by a man. I had heard of civilized divorces. Why couldn’t I have one?

I guess I expected my Ex to assume responsibility for OUR divorce and act as if we were equal throughout the process. I expected a fair division of assets, the kids’ time, and financial obligations.

What I got, in reality, was a man who was angry and bitter about my decision to “destroy his life.” He put all the blame and responsibility for the breakup on me, threatening me about the kids’ custody and our finances. He argued that I had to compensate him for the loss of his life.

“I will not behave like a gentleman during the divorce. You decided to break up, so don’t expect anything good from me,” my Ex wrote in one of his texts. “Find yourself another man to behave like a gentleman.” In front of friends and family, I was embarrassed at my Ex’s behavior during the divorce process, as if his manners and attitude were my fault.

I hear women say that they are too scared to get a divorce because they expect their husbands to behave nasty. “I am good to you as long as we are together. But don’t expect me to behave well if we separate,”  one of my friend’s husband said to her.

Expectation 4: my closest circle will support me

Just like I was embarrassed to be going through the divorce process and ashamed of my Ex’s behavior, some of my friends were embarrassed of me being the divorcée in their circle. I was once, in fact, asked to come to a private party but told not mention my divorce.

A reaction I got several times when I asked close people for support was this: you decided to divorce—not me—now deal with it, and don’t ask for sympathy.

Not only did I break the rules of the game, I disrespected many women who stuck with their husbands because I also dared to seek support.

We are talking about a very close circle of friends here, not simply colleagues. I was surprised to realize that some people were ready to support me when I was whining about my hard married life but were no longer there to support me when I was getting divorced.

We all hear that our circle of friends may change as we divorce. But I was unprepared to see my besties disregard my sense of purpose and feelings. Getting divorced was bad enough—grieving the loss of close friendships was doubly painful.

Expectation 5: my kids will be on my side

As I was planning the divorce, I had a picture of my sons — then eleven and fourteen — saying “Mom, we support you in any decision. We understand that you had enough of the fighting and crying and that you want to come home to a calm environment. We love you and will go anywhere with you.”

Instead, my eldest son stayed with his dad in our family apartment as I moved out. He grieved the breakup and blamed me for it. For six weeks, my son and I lived in the same city but in different apartments. That was painful. We saw each other regularly, but communication was poor. He was closed off and distant. I was upset and apologetic, attempting to buy him back with home-made meals and presents.

For the last two months of self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been living together. Our relationship has improved and evolved. I am learning to be comfortable in my new status of a divorced mom of two boys with my own decisions to make and responsibilities to take care of. I’m enjoying all the “cute son” moments on my own and am grateful for the isolation.

Once the quarantine is over, my eldest son will want to live with his dad again. And I will need to find a way to see him while also preparing for an empty nest.

A lot more could be said that came as a surprise during the divorce process and caused pain. But the thing that hurts the most is seeing the life that we imagined and planned crash and burn. Living through this period takes time. And during that time, we have the right to be a mess and be vulnerable. It’s our way of climbing out.

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is an international expert in communications and storytelling based in Moscow, Russia. She is training to be a coach for women in transition. You can reach out to her via e-mail [email protected] for a test coach session or a discussion.

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