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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.

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.

*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.”

Learn from divorced women

What to Learn from Powerful Divorced Women

We’re seeing a shift in the balance of power right now in our country, as people of all colors finally begin to unite in a growing and vocal collective against systemic racism, following the murder of George Floyd. As it ties into the subject of this piece, it’s important to note something that women and people of color have known for centuries and what we as women and as humans need to remember as we each face whatever struggle we encounter and whatever frightens us into silence, compliance, or complaisance: power is not the most meaningful, the most wrenchingly beautiful, at the peak of the mountain when the hard climb is over and we’re looking out over the territory of pain we’ve conquered. It is most meaningful when we are still down in the mud, pulling our feet free one trembling, breath-tearing step at a time. That power is something we are seeing now and have seen time and time again as we learn from divorced women.

Facing our fears requires the most of us when we are still stuck, still terrified or frozen in the comfort of stillness itself. When we finally gather ourselves, reach toward whatever slippery branch or hand is there, push past the inertia, and embrace the ungodly mess that the most valuable changes require—that’s when power is most pure: before the success.

What we can learn from divorced women

That’s where we are again as a nation, and that’s where some of us are with our marriages and our self-partnering. So, look to the success stories and learn from divorced women who have made it to the height of the mountain, but let’s not forget that the most hard-won and overlooked power occurs in those first faltering steps.

Tabatha

Outspoken, red-headed, and strong-minded, Tabatha is a vibrant example of how much you can shine when you’re not buried by someone else’s lack of personal accountability, hampered by their emotional negligence, or tarnished by their lack of respect for you. A veteran small business owner, she established Tabatha’s Hair Design in December 2003 and is happily back to work now that Washington State has entered Phase 2 of the Covid-19 reopening.

She’s also a survivor and living proof that while much abuse and betrayal comes from external sources, it also comes from within your own home. Pulling yourself up afterward is grueling and takes courage women often don’t know they have until they reach for it, but it can be done.

“I woke up one morning and told my Ex-husband* (he was my boyfriend at the time) that I was buying a salon. Within eight weeks, Tabatha’s was open and running. I married him the following year, October 2004. By February 2005, he decided to quit his job and spent most of our marriage unemployed while my sweat and tears kept Tabatha’s open. Then, in April 2007, I received a phone call from a stylist who worked at a different salon, telling me that my husband’s mistress was there bragging about sleeping with my husband. I was devastated. We had just bought our house in March 2006.

When I confronted him, he denied everything, and I became everything I’d always disliked: I became doubting and insecure, checked his phone, figured out his email password, drove to his work to make sure he was actually there. It came to the point that I didn’t recognize myself.

I stayed with him for a couple more years, trying to forgive, trying not to be insecure. But I was never going to trust him again. Finally, in late August 2009, I put an air mattress and all his belongings in the spare bedroom and, after a couple weeks of that, told him I’d have a restraining order against him if he wasn’t out by Labor Day weekend. Then I packed up my 10-year-old daughter and left.

Since then, I’ve learned that I’m stronger than I ever thought, but I’ve also learned to be gentle with my emotions and feelings. I’m allowed to cry. My voice and my opinion count. I’m worthy of love—from me to myself and love from others. It’s okay to mourn the loss of my marriage, like it was a death. A part of me died the day the judge pronounced me divorced.

As the first of my siblings to divorce, I felt like a failure. What was wrong with me? Why couldn’t I make it work? I should have done more; I should have been the perfect wife. It’s only cheating…well, that’s ‘only’ deception on the deepest level. I’ve learned that I’m no one’s second choice. I’m only as worthy as I treat myself.

Now I teach my younger friends in the hopes that they can learn from divorced women: be a diamond. Pebbles get tossed, kicked aside, but we value diamonds. Be the precious stone you are, and shine.”

Susan

Always ahead of the curve, Susan was one of the first among her friends to get divorced back in the 1980s. Now 72, she is the embodiment of strong female energy: wise and no-nonsense, very dry and very funny.

“I learned early on, the hearse doesn’t come with a luggage rack,” she still says, to give perspective. “You’ve got to pick what matters most—and it’s usually stuff you can’t carry on your back.

How many people do you know who are miserable, married to a lifestyle, the trappings, the house, the shopping they can’t give up? I tell you: a lot of women. They are confused about happiness.”

Liza Caldwell

Liza is SAS for Women’s Cofounder, divorce coach, and an entrepreneur.

“I was a high functioning depressive,” Liza laughs. “And sometimes, not so high-functioning. More like pathetic and alone, unable to give words to what I was feeling, just knowing something was wrong. With ME!

Now, when I look back, I see it was exactly that leveling out, that hitting the ground, that also gave me the perspective that I never wanted my girls to experience such hell.

And somehow, that revelation—that I didn’t want my girls to experience it, but there I was living it in real time, modeling it to my girls, is what woke me up! So, think about that: Who is watching you? Forget society. Who is looking up at you and watching from the ground?”

Holly

A public school teacher who has bloomed since her divorce, Holly now nourishes others even better than before because she learned how to do that for herself.

“You have not a clue—except a part of you does—of how freaking great it can be on the other side of divorce!” says Holly, smiling widely.

You can’t, except to imagine how much time you put into coping with your NOW. Think about how much time you spend talking inside your head about your issues, how you’ll survive, or who is right and who is wrong. And then take stock of how much you do externally, in the real world, to appear ‘normal.’ When you truly think about this, you soon realize how much energy you spend trying to restore balance to your world when in fact, it’s out of whack. Now imagine all that is gone, and you are not experiencing that conflict or tension between what you think, feel, and know—with who you are in the real world. You’re not pretending anymore. Especially not to yourself.”

Stella

Edgy, articulate, and ruthlessly organized, Stella learned the hard way that sometimes you have to leave your tribe—even the one you are conditioned from your earliest upbringing to accept and conform to—in order to save yourself.

“My church pressured me to marry Henry and failed to give me information I should have been given, and he did not provide. He decimated me financially. He bled our accounts before I realized what was going on and then stole checks from me and forged my signature. Only my pastor was willing to stand with me in court. I was talking to this woman (a fellow congregant) afterward, when I was broken, and she wanted me to remember what a great day it was the day Henry and I got married! Just clueless…

The pressure they exerted—which I did cave to—to marry Henry brought me to a sorry, suicidal pass. Some of them never recognized that if they had told me information I deserved to know, instead of pressuring me to marry him, it would have been a different story.

I miss going to church and that community I had before Henry flipped out and returned to using (his 24-year-old daughter died of cancer and as a result—not having developed good coping —he returned to using drugs), but I’m not sure I will ever return to church.”

Addicts are often charming, charismatic, and adept liars. Even educated and experienced people can be convinced by their stories. Stella, who worked in community mental health as a case manager at the time of her marriage, is a great example of this, as well as a great example of a woman who got out anyway, despite the toll it took and the brutal self-honesty it required of her.

“I was not ostracized (by my church), but Henry was given more credence than I was by some members. Not my pastor. He was a newer pastor to our congregation, and he was always wonderful. He supported my decision when I left the church. I got to where I didn’t feel like I belonged and that was about the time I began to work with a Christian therapist who provided perspective. I would encourage Christians to seek Christian therapists.

I really work on not blaming others for my choices or for my ultimate decision to cave to the pressure I felt from the folks at church. I made a number of piss-poor decisions, and I don’t think any of them ever had an intention to harm. They just thought they were being good Christians…we are all affected by our own experiences.”

Lexi

This Gen-Xer has been many things and charmed many men. A Daughter of the American Revolution, a lawyer and an art teacher, she’s potty-mouthed, eclectic, and brazen whenever she can be. Her work has made her an award-winning journalist, Army Basic Camp graduate, river boat waitress, veterinary assistant, and stripper (she says she needed a plane ticket, but really, she just liked it). Even roguish women, though, can make the mistake of becoming atrophied by their comfort zones.

Lexi allowed the comfort trap—paired with a liking for alcohol that was the result of nature, nurture, and it being woven into her relationship with her husband—to have too big a role in her life. When she finally acknowledged that to herself, she also acknowledged that if she was going to come back to herself and rediscover both her gifts and her own wholeness, she was going to have to leave her marriage to do it.

 

“I had to learn how to partner myself, and I did. I have regrets, but I’ve learned from every mistake I made, and I’m finally firing on all pistons in a way I never have before. I’m happy, I’m free, and I’m whole.”

Penny

Also potty-mouthed and outspoken, Penny is a devoted mom of two, grandmother of two, a staunch animal advocate, and a former eighteen-year-old bride who had to face making it on her own in order to leave the comfortable numbness that was her marriage and her cage.

“The guy I’ve been seeing for two years, he tells me he loves me and I’m like, ‘I’m sorry,’” she laughs. Penny laughs a lot, which generally makes the people around her laugh, too.

“I’ve never told him I love him. He knows I’m never going to call him my boyfriend. He’s fun and the sex is quite fabulous, but I don’t want to be tied down ever again.

I have enough in savings from the divorce that I can buy a house if I want to, but I don’t want to. I like the idea of being able to pick up and go. I don’t want to have to answer to anybody. I want to be selfish. Everything will be my own decision, and if I f*&k up, it’s on me. If I want to go out with someone, I can. If I don’t want to cook dinner, I don’t have to. I don’t want to have to consider someone else.

Being divorced gives me a huge sense of relief. Marriage was like being in prison. Now that I’m out, I’m like ‘Woohoo!!’ Why would I want to go back? When I was married, I was suppressed. I was under someone’s thumb. He argued with me about everything, had to be right about everything. Nothing I said was ever right. It was constant, and I just started avoiding him. You get to the point where you don’t engage in a conversation because you know you’re going to lose. I was not being my own authentic self.

There were fun times peppered in, but it was only if I agreed to everything he wanted. And the sex was horrible. I was like, ‘I’m going to die miserable, and I’m going to die without ever having had a proper orgasm.’ And oh, dear God, now? It’s a whole new world! I’m like, this is what I’ve been missing? Most of the men now rock my world and it’s all about me, and when you have that, you don’t mind giving back.

He was just on me like a pecking chicken…he’d ask these rhetorical questions all the time, just to argue his point; it felt like being in a never-ending Jeopardy episode, and I never had the right answer.

My main reason to stay in it was the kids. And I was afraid he’d use them against me, in any way he could, as leverage to get me to do what he wanted or just to have power, like he did with the dogs. So, I focused on them. I was involved in everything and put all my energy into them because he was exhausting.

I was a second income, but I didn’t make the money—there was this fear of making my own living—that was terrifying. Then finally, he got fired from his job. He got a job in Kuwait and then another one in Alaska, and it was [in Alaska that] he had an affair. And it was a huge relief because I finally had an excuse to ask him for a divorce.

I found a text. I found a lot of things. He had also gone on match.com and was flirting with a couple girls who he ended up being friendly with, but I sat with that affair information for three weeks. My friend was like ‘I would have chopped something off if I had found those texts!’ I was like, ‘No, don’t you get it? That’s the thing. This is my ticket out. Now I have a reason.’ He was a gas lighter. He would have figured out a way to make it my fault and make me wrong, but this was rock-solid.

I got the date of the divorce and ‘RIP’ tattooed on my back next to our anniversary date. I love that tattoo—you need to take time for yourself and figure out what you want. Go to therapy, and do it for yourself. Live your life being your own authentic self. Figure it out. I wasn’t strong enough back then, but I always knew I was strong and I figured it out.”

Elaine

Elaine is a multi-million-dollar real estate agent and early Baby Boomer who divorced her husband and took on the challenges of earning her real estate license and continuing to raise and provide financial support for four children single-handedly.

“I watched my husband sit and spin his dreams about the invention ideas he had and never do anything to make them a reality for years. It wasn’t until he hit my oldest son that I decided enough was enough.

Something inside me just snapped.

I said to myself, ‘That’s it. I’m not letting him drain this family or tear my children down any more. I can do this better, alone or not.’”

Naomi

With a background that includes a Phi Beta Kappa ranking from Penn State University, a master’s degree from UCLA, and certifications in human resource management and spiritual coaching, Naomi embodies a highly-educated, highly self-aware approach to her life. She also embodies the (perhaps) harder-won wisdom that even the smartest, most educated women sometimes need help and should not be ashamed to ask for it or learn from other divorced women.

“Right after the divorce, the biggest thing I had to learn was that I needed to ask for help. I stayed in a relationship longer than I wanted to because I was afraid to be alone and afraid to not be able to make decisions myself. Once I was past the initial shock of the situation, I started to really, really love the ability to make my own decisions. I got to make choices about things I liked and didn’t like and return to myself without interference. And I also had to lean on other people, ask for help, [and] be willing to be vulnerable and make mistakes. I needed time to heal. It could not be on anyone else’s schedule, and it took longer than some of my friends had patience for. That’s fine. Those weren’t the friends I talked to about it after that, but I didn’t need to cut them out of my life, either.

We need different people for different aspects of our life. Don’t expect people to be your emotional crutch if they don’t have the capacity to do that. Trust yourself to heal and take the time to do it.”

Leaving your marriage behind might be one of the most difficult choices you ever have to make, but if there’s one thing we hope you learn from divorced women it’s that your future is yours. You will get through this.

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

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

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

Divorce and friendships

Divorce and Friendships: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Divorce and friendships can be a tricky thing. Divorce brings out the best and the worst in people, yes, but they don’t make it clear enough that this truth applies to not only you and your partner but the people who make up your world—your colleagues, family members, and friends.

Divorce makes people curious: what do you think happened to them? Divorce makes people panic: you don’t think that could happen to us, too, do you? It makes people withdraw: she just has so much going on right now, and I don’t know what to say to her. And sympathize: you’re sure you’re taking care of yourself, right? And it’s all, for the most part, done with the best of intentions, but those intentions don’t make you feel any less like an ant under a magnifying glass waiting to get burned.

Divorce and friendships

And yet, there’s a part of us that still wants to be under that magnifying glass, burn marks or not, because ultimately, we want to feel seen and heard and understood in a time when we feel anything but. Some friends rally—they break out the wine and get you out of your home and give you a reason to laugh again—and others disappoint. Some friends view you and your Ex as a unit, and now that you’ve gone your separate ways, it’ll be hard for them to reconcile this new reality with their old one. When the latter looks at you, they can only see the old you. And you’ll feel like you can never measure up to a standard you set for yourself. You just aren’t that person anymore.

Then you’ll have friends who feel like the rallying kind but are most definitely not. These friends can be single or partnered, but in any case, they are usually unhappy. They perceive you as having been “brought down to their level” and want someone else to join their pity party, often times leading to conversations that are circular and counterproductive to your divorce recovery. And finally, you’ll have friends who disappear entirely (often the same people who withdraw: see above).

As we said, divorce and friendships can be a tricky thing. There’s the good, the bad, and the ugly, and only some of it is within your control. But some is better than none. And because you’re here, we know that you’re smart and brave enough to survive this—you already understand that getting a divorce means stepping into the unknown, but that, of course, doesn’t mean you can’t prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

What to expect

After divorce, the nature of your relationship with friends might be different depending on a few factors, like whether or not those friends are single or in a relationship themselves and how long you’ve known them, for instance. Most of the time we leave relationships with the friendships we brought into them—it’s those friendships we made together that can be harder to handle. Many people lose their couple friends after divorce, but roughly one in six divorced people have said they became closer to their individual friends.

There can be awkwardness on both sides of a friendship after a breakup. With couple friends, especially, they may feel like they are being asked to take sides or bad mouth your Ex when they’re not around, even when you’ve said nothing to make them feel this way. Divorce also has a way of causing people to look inward at their own marriage, putting strain on cracks that may already exist. Divorce can be contagious in that way.

For you, seeing a couple go on normally—doing simple things like being affectionate or cooking dinner together—can be triggering. Logically, you know the world has kept on spinning even as your own personal universe feels like it’s come to a screeching halt, but logic doesn’t make facing the truth any easier. Seeing other people’s happiness might somehow feel like another loss, until one day it doesn’t and you realize you’ve really moved on.

Maintaining friendships after divorce

If you want to maintain your relationship with a friend your Ex and you share, try reaching out to them rather than withdrawing, and don’t make them take sides. You might set boundaries with your friends when breaking the news of your divorce by saying something like, “I know [insert your Ex’s name here] is a part of your life, too. I want you to know that I won’t badmouth him to you or use our friendship as a weapon against him. Your friendship means a lot to me.”

But sometimes, divorce can shove you even further outside your comfort zone. Once the dust has cleared a bit, you might look up and find that your friendships aren’t as strong as you’d like them to be, especially your individual friendships. Use this time to reconnect and strengthen bonds you may have formed before and during your relationship. People will often surprise you, welcoming you back into their lives and allowing you to create something new.

How to start over

If you’re looking to form new friendships after divorce, you might start with pursuing what makes you happy—do things you’ve always wanted to try or something you already know you’ll enjoy (a hiking club, archery, indoor rock climbing, salsa or tango classes, trivia night, or book club, etc.). Maybe you are looking for like-minded women who are also committed to personal development or rebuilding their lives after divorce? Open yourself up to where and how you might find them. Sometimes you can discover like-minded women in local groups on platforms like Meetup.org or Facebook. Who knows? Maybe you’ll meet someone in a virtual group who’ll become a new friend?

But if you’re not starting over completely—you’d like to reconnect with an old friend, for example—you can usually begin with something simple, like grabbing a glass of wine and video chatting. It’s a good, low-pressure way of catching up and getting to know each other again before making plans to do something that’s a larger commitment. (Especially if you are still social distancing, or you don’t live near one another, or if extra time and money can be a challenge to come by.)

When you break the news of your divorce to friends, you’ll get a range of responses, most of which have less to do with you and the specifics of your relationship and more to do with whatever’s going on in your friend’s own life at that moment.

But whether your friends react with curiosity, sympathy, panic, or something else altogether, know that, just like you, they are likely trying their best. Divorce and friendships can be difficult to navigate, but those relationships are also so important in helping us get through life’s challenges. Try not to isolate yourself during or after your divorce. Find or create—and then sustain—a support system. No matter what happens in life, we’ll always be in need of a good friend.

 

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.

Sweetness of Life After Divorce

The Sweetness of Living Alone After Divorce

This piece is done in part from the first person, very much as we might write in our own journals, for a specific reason. One of the greatest and most unexpected gifts we find “under the tree” when living alone after divorce is our authentic self. A journal is a way to give voice to that woman. We get to rediscover and recreate ourselves from the ground up, and we get to be exactly who we are and live life exactly as we please, at our own pace, with the freedom that only comes from having no one else’s reaction to worry about. There is no tiptoeing around another’s preferences, and no one’s authority weighing in heavier than your own. So often in a marriage or even while merely dating, we give that power and authority away to a partner we want to please, whose good opinion we want—often too much.

Nurturing others—facilitating their happiness and contentment—has great value, but not if it comes at a chronic cost and eventually, a deficit in our own happiness and our sense of who we are. Not if we are, however subtly, discouraged from celebrating or even nurturing ourselves.

Once the dust settles and we find ourselves in our own place, living alone after divorce or at least partially alone when the children are with their other parent, we may have a few weeks of shellshock, of feeling the loneliness in the solitude rather than the power and freedom in it. But it’s there. You can find yourself in solitude. You can settle into the solitude, explore what’s inside it, because being you, solo, is far more fun than you may have thought.

Celebrating ourselves without guilt

Day 1 in my new place:

“I woke at 4:30 to the insistent chirping of my alarm. Normally I’d feel like I had to snatch it and silence it as fast as I could. (I wonder if alarm clocks ever get their feelings hurt or if they’re the like the drill sergeants of the non-breathing world.) C. was good about sleeping through it, but I still felt guilty. Weird to talk about someone I love in the past tense, even though he’s still on the planet. Having an existential moment here…not hard to do at this hour.

I guess we’ll see what I make of this—and of myself, since that’s all I’ve got to worry about now. It’s just me in here, and I’ve got some regrets but no guilt, about the alarm clock or anything else.

And I get to pump disco music while I work out! Or AC/DC or Madonna, whatever. I don’t have to turn it down, I don’t have to be super quiet as I’m putting on my sports bra—that wrestling match sometimes comes with grunting, frankly. It’s a relief to be able to let that out and not worry about sounding like a farm animal or waking him up, like that time I lost my grip on the clasp and my elbow knocked the mirror off the wall. And oh my God, I get to have heat in the house as fast I need it. So much easier to consider working out at five in the morning if you’re not freezing. Thank you, thermostat, now on with a flick of a switch. I loved our wood stove and that living flame but good grief, what a messy, high maintenance pain that thing was. And on that note, so was C. about my music. I get it. He’s a musician and disco is not for everyone, but how do you work out to something that sounds like angry trashcans on Quaaludes?”

Putting your signature on it

Day 6 in my new place:

“It’s still clean. (I’m so excited about this I feel like I should be whispering). I love this! Everything is exactly where I put it, and the bathroom sink doesn’t suddenly look like a chia pet.

Such a relief to be in a haven I make for myself, that is just mine. I’d spend all day cleaning our house, and twenty-four hours later it was cluttered again. I felt like what I brought to our home environment was inconsequential. He did eventually realize, once I was gone, how much time it took. That was nice. Nicer, though, to have the peace of knowing that here in my little jewel box, it will be as serene and pretty in five days as it is now.”

This is not to say that you won’t have grief and sadness after divorce, that your new home and the solitude of it won’t echo with the voices of your old one—voices you may crave at first. (This may be particularly pronounced now, for those of us living alone after divorce during the Covid-19 quarantine.)

But there’s a process to finding your authentic self again, and part of the joy of living alone after divorce is that you have the freedom and space to engage in that process however you need to.

Day 21 in my new place:

“I woke up having a really weird dream. I wish I could tell him about it, and I miss our cats. But Daisy needed her yard, and they needed each other. Her giant purr was such a comfort, though. I miss that, and I miss how safe I used to feel with him. But he is not my home any more. I am my own home, and if I’m going to fail in whatever I make of myself, I’m doing it on my own time and without an audience. My opinion is the only one that really matters; I can do this and I will. Whatever the doing of it looks like, I am free, and I am enough.”

That “enough” becomes the foundation for our new way of being, but once it’s firmly in place, we eventually begin to peek out of our new haven to see what’s out there…and you find that it just might be time to put your toes in the water again.

Peeking around the next corner

Six months later:

“I met my neighbor. Ummmm, yes. And he has an Aprilia. He said it’s the working man’s Ducati. It does not look like a downgrade in any way, and neither does he. They’re both gorgeous. And that street bike looks faaaast—so different from C.’s cruiser.”

A year later:

“Trey took me out on his Aprilia. I got to be on the back of that thing. I don’t think I’ve come down yet, and that was three hours ago. We were doing 120 miles per hour. 120! I loved it—if you didn’t hold on tight, you’d fly right off the back. Not that I objected. I was stuck to him like a burr. Even with a big guy in front of you, though, there’s just nothing between you and the wind, and we cut through it at full throttle. What an amazing morning.”

Perhaps less exhilarating than a street bike slicing the wind at 120 mph but a far more amazing gift for the soul because of the lasting and unconditional love they give us—a love that we just don’t experience with humans because of its simplicity—is when a four-legged companion arrives on your new doorstep. Finally, the haven becomes a home. The solitude has another voice and personality in it besides yours, and that nurturing you need to lavish on someone, some sentient being, has an outlet again.

Eighteen months later:

“I have a new kitty! She was dropped off on my co-worker’s front porch by one of her neighbors who decided to move to Texas and couldn’t take the cat. Her name was Noodles…not my style. But Lulu sounds like it and suits her much better. She’s a little beauty, so feminine and so sweet. She chirps me awake in the morning and sits with me while I journal, just purring and blinking at me with her shoulder pressed up against my leg. I’m so happy I’m crying. She’s my little fur girl. I’ve never had a long-haired cat before—she’s so fuzzy.”

And then comes the time when the new replaces the old with full sensory impact, not just from the inside out (which is the most critical part and the part that lasts—your authentic self that living alone has given room and air for expansion) but from the outside in as well in the form of someone new.

And because you’ve come through the hardship of divorce and the attendant grief and you are now stronger than you ever thought, you are able to experience this new someone with every nerve ending alight with sensation, knowing yourself, your own value, and your own desires in a way that won’t be denied because there simply isn’t any reason left not to unleash them.

A pursuit of happiness…and being pursued

Two years later, in the living room of my new place, I discovered a whole new level of joy in living alone after divorce and being unmarried (and have never been so thankful to not have a roommate):

“I eye-stalked him for a year before we finally went out with a group to a bar downtown. All I wanted was his hands on my hips and to feel him move—he’s such a superhuman athlete—lethally graceful, like a big cat. And then, a couple weeks later, he came over. I was still sweaty and in my work-out clothes, but I didn’t care. I was so nervous and thrilled and completely unable to concentrate on anything but his voice and the fact of him there with me. He asked if I wasn’t going to unpack my gym bag, and when I turned, he moved behind me like a hunter, took my hip in one hand and my neck in the other and bent me straight forward over the arm of the recliner. He stood there pressed to me, just letting me know he was completely in control—like I had any doubt—and then he pulled me up, fisted his hand in my hair at the nape of my neck, turned me to him, slid his other hand to the small of my back and laid his mouth on mine. Dear God. I’ve never been unexpressed sexually—my friends will probably laugh at the understatement of this. I’ve had amazing sex with amazing men, but this guy? A class unto himself. I have never, ever, experienced any man who was so raw, so primal and masterfully dominant and yet so cherishing, so present and so instinctively, sensually potent as this man.

We may not be together now, but I don’t regret the year and a half I got to experience him and I still purr when I think of him that way.”

It’s not important that your new relationship lasts, though having to end it may make you sad and wistful (and then again, it may last after all). There are two reasons why it’s not important. One is that you’ve already been through the worst of it and are not only intact but better and stronger than ever. And two? You last, and you are your own greatest joy.

Living alone after divorce means drinking yourself in. Revel in your own authenticity and the authorship you have in this new phase of your life. Copyright it. And don’t miss a minute of who you are becoming.

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 not do to during divorce

What Not to Do During Divorce: 7 Must Knows

Divorce, like a marriage, takes mapping and maneuvering. There’s a lot of good common sense advice out there about what to do and what not to do during divorce. But as a writer who is forever curious, I sometimes find the don’ts a more appealing research subject.

Divorce is a regular occurrence in the US, but of course, it wasn’t always this way. Divorce as a research subject can be a slippery thing because it can still feel taboo to some people, but luckily, that attitude feels as if it’s more the exception rather than the rule these days.

It has taken five generations for the conversation of what not to do during a divorce to become common.

So, I asked a variety of divorced individuals what their advice is about “don’t dos” in divorce. The following is my recap of their suggestions and lessons learned.

1. The unanimous consensus was “don’t be unnecessarily nasty about it”

In other words, don’t set out to ruin your Ex’s life or punish them.

“In my divorce things have gone fairly smoothly, but that’s mainly due to the number one rule I feel all divorcees should abide by, which is, no matter what happened in your marriage, a divorce should be amicable,” said Millie*, a Washington state resident.

Washington is one of 18 states that is considered truly no-fault, which means no legal grounds have to be established for a divorce to be granted. You don’t have to have a reason, or blame the other—you can simply divorce. The benefit of this is that your divorce is over faster and with less expense. All 50 states have a no-fault option, but in others, there are established grounds for finding fault. These include: addiction, adultery, bigamy, desertion or abandonment, impotence, imprisonment, marriage between close relatives, marriage obtained by fraud or force, mental or physical abuse and/or cruelty, and mental illness or mental incapacity at the time of the marriage.

2. Don’t rush into a decision without examining your options

Jenny, another person I spoke with, noted that there aren’t just divorce law differences state to state, but county to county, which underscores another “don’t do” in divorce: don’t rush forward with divorce without examining your options, such as where to file. One county might review each case for fairness, but another may just push claims through. If you are guarding against being taken advantage of and don’t trust your Ex to be civil, then don’t accept the filing without looking first at what some other options might be.

Accepting that “you don’t know what you don’t know” leads you to wonder how will you find out fully and clearly what you are entitled to and what your rights are? And how will you handle this emotionally, or as a mother, or the primary breadwinner, or the stay-at-home-mom? Not knowing what you don’t now know is a good reason to consider working with a divorce coach or attorney.

3. Don’t be a pushover

The above suggestions counsel you not to be unnecessarily cruel or naïve, but another thing not to do? Be careful about being too nice. You don’t want guilt, confusion, or a lack of desire to lead your decision making. Women must understand that for them rebuilding their lives after divorce is harder than it is for men.

“I wish I would have consulted a lawyer, so I got what I deserved instead of what he made me feel like I deserved,” said Leticia, a woman in Manhattan.

“I wish,” said Patty, in Texas, “That I had put some money aside, opened my own bank account, and planned ahead instead of making a quick decision.”

Once you do begin looking at your options, don’t leave anything to memory. Document everything—every phone call, every bank deposit. Even simple divorces (usually from shorter marriages involving no joint bank accounts and no children) are complicated, and in the midst of it, you are probably going to be searching for a new place to live, possibly a new school for your children. You might be moving, changing jobs, and experiencing a wide variety of emotions—yours and your loved ones. Documentation may end up saving you from making an expensive or time-consuming mistake.

4. Don’t “use” your children

With regard to children, another “don’t” of divorce is to not use your children as leverage or have conversations with your Ex about the process (or vent to a friend about it) in front of them. You and your Ex made your children together; the marriage may be ending but the effort to raise them to be as healthy and happy as possible should not be.

5. Don’t go it alone

Finding your allies is another common theme among the people I spoke with. Whether you consult a court liaison to help you file, use an online divorce site, hire a divorce attorney or a divorce coach (or both), there are too many life-impacting aspects of divorce to try to just wing it. Assuming you’ll think of everything is setting yourself up for missing something. Conversely, don’t go “War of the Roses” on the thing and bring your lawyer in to haggle over a serving dish. Focus on the essentials.

6. Don’t do nothing now

And speaking of essentials, the chances are good that part of your income will be missing after a divorce, at least for a period of time, so don’t go into the process without first setting up a separate bank account for expenses, whether those funds go toward lawyers’ fees, a deposit on an apartment, paying off a credit card, college courses to advance your own income or a counselor for your children. Along these same lines, don’t forget to check your spouse’s credit score and your own and close joint bank accounts.

7. Don’t jump into your next serious relationship

In the interest of guarding your emotional assets as well as the financial ones, it’s probably best not to jump into a new relationship right after divorce or before it’s finished—especially if you live in a state where there is grounds for establishing fault. The ethical question of cheating is a whole other article, but it needs to be said, as it’s one of the leading causes of divorce in the first place. Pretend that everything you are doing, saying, posting, or tweeting is under a microscope, and once the divorce is finished, recognize that while it’s natural to seek validation and an endorphin boost from a new relationship, your emotional stability is going to take some time to come back to its grounded center.

Although it’s taken many generations for divorce to become an accepted, less isolating option for one’s life, there are now plenty of conversations, resources, and information about the process just about anywhere you care to look. The “divorce don’ts” above are a great launching point, but your divorce recovery is a journey, one that doesn’t end here.

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.

*For the sake of confidentiality, we have not used people’s real names in this article.

Thinking about how to collect social security benefits from ex

Can I Collect Social Security Benefits from My Ex Spouse?

An important decision in planning for retirement is when to start receiving your Social Security payments. Should you start collecting at full retirement age? (Typically 67.) Or should you defer benefits to receive a larger amount? Can you collect social security benefits from your Ex?

If you’re divorced, then yes, your decision-making will be impacted by your Ex. You may be eligible to receive a higher Social Security retirement benefit based on your Ex’s earnings records.

To collect social security benefits from your Ex, there are some preliminary conditions that must be met

1. You and your Ex must have been married for 10 years or longer. There is no limit on how long ago the marriage must have ended. For example, if your marriage ended 25 years ago but you were married for 10 years, you can make still a claim based on your Ex’s earnings.

2. Both you and your Ex must be at least 62 years old.

3. You must not be remarried.

4. You and your Ex must be divorced for at least two years, or your Ex must already be claiming Social Security retirement benefits.

If you qualify as an Ex based on the rules above, you would be entitled to half of your Ex’s Social Security benefits, provided that you make the claim no earlier than your Full Retirement Age (FRA). For most people, that means being 67 years old.

Please note that your Social Security benefit will be based on your Ex’s earnings record only if it results in a higher benefit than you would receive based on your own earnings history.

For example, let’s assume you are at Full Retirement Age and you are entitled to $700 per month from Social Security. Your Ex is eligible to receive $2,000 per month at his FRA. If you meet all of the eligibility requirements to receive divorce benefits, you would be eligible to receive $1,000 per month from Social Security instead of the original $700.

What if your Ex remarried?

Your Ex’s new marriage will have no impact on what you can claim, and it will not impact how much he* will receive from Social Security. It also has no impact on how much your Ex’s current spouse may receive. Your claim toward benefits is not deducted from those that your Ex receives either.

If your Ex should die before you, you can receive 100 percent of the retirement benefits he was receiving when he died, assuming you are at FRA or older. If you are 60 or older but not yet FRA, you would get 71.5 to 99 percent of his benefits. If you are between 50 and 59 and disabled, you would get 71.5 percent of his benefits.

Every dollar counts in retirement, so if you are entitled to receive extra money each month make sure you’re taking advantage of it—even if that means you have to collect social security benefits from your Ex.

Word to the wise: Do not rely on anyone else to inform you of your eligibility to collect social security benefits from your Ex. As you can tell, the eligibility requirement can be somewhat complex, and there is no guarantee that the Social Security Administration will be aware of your marital history when you submit your claim. You can contact a representative at your local Social Security office for an estimate. Call Social Security at 800-772-1213 to make an appointment. But for a clear understanding and to hear what else you might be doing to build for your future retirement, you should consult with an experienced advisor about all of your options.

 

The article is for informational purposes only and it is not to be considered tax or legal advice. AXA Advisors (its affiliates) and associates do not provide tax, accounting or legal advice or services. You should seek advice based on your particular circumstances from an independent tax or legal advisor.

Chris Kelly is a financial advisor with over 25 years of experience in the financial services industry. He specializes in what he calls “Financial Transitions” – helping families design and implement a financial plan to help deal with the loss of the primary income earner due to divorce, death, or disability. He is well-versed in a broad range of financial subjects including investments, cash flow planning, and estate planning.

Contact Chris at [email protected] or 732-292-3357 to begin a conversation on how to make your post-divorce financial journey a smooth one.

 

*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.”

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.

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

What Divorce Does to a Woman: You and Your Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rebuilding after divorce

How to Get Clear on Your Career After Divorce

Now that you’re moving past your divorce and thinking about going back to work or changing your career, do you feel stuck, uncertain of how to begin, or fearful that you don’t have what it takes? You’re not alone. Life after divorce—and where to begin—can induce a whole new host (or return!) of emotions that may feel paralyzing and insurmountable. Add to that the current coronavirus pandemic we find ourselves living with and its accompanying pressures, and your stress levels might be going through the roof! But whether or not you worked outside the home during your marriage, starting over professionally doesn’t have to be dominated by fear and negativity. Even now. There is a process that can help you figure out your next steps to launching or rebuilding a career, even in the midst of so much uncertainty.

How to stop spinning your wheels

If you’re thinking about returning to the workforce, pivoting careers, securing more flexible work, or starting a new venture, there’s an important first step you can take to jumpstart your reinvention—gaining clarity about who you are now.

Women don’t spend enough time at the beginning of a career transition focusing on what they value and the mindsets, skills, and talents they have that are transferable to new opportunities. And that is the key to discovering a role that is meaningful to you.

In our professional work, we help women in midlife who have come to a crossroads and want to stop “spinning their wheels.” Many of those women are returning to the workforce after a break to care for children or other family members. Others are working and want to pivot careers or turn their “passion project” into a new venture. At the same time, women are often dealing with personal transitions—divorce or other life challenges such as a health crisis or a move.

What we’ve seen is when women gain a better understanding of what they have to offer, their career direction becomes much clearer. If this pandemic has shown us nothing else, it’s the realization that life is incredibly fragile, and we need to rely on ourselves and our inner resources. Self-discovery becomes the most powerful tool you have to boost your next steps.

Silver linings: growth mindset

The beautiful reality is that transition poses an opportunity for growth. For those who have dealt with divorce, studies show that this life challenge, in particular, can actually boost your career if you allow yourself to gain three perspectives: space and time to yourself, a different threshold for risk, and the ability to break old patterns.

If you adopt a growth mindset and believe that you can learn and develop at any age and stage, the road ahead feels optimistic rather than troubled. A growth mindset is important for career success because it pushes you beyond your comfort zone to learn new things. Rather than saying “I’m not good at ___” and ruling it out, a growth mindset encourages you to think about learning as a process and say “I’m not good at it yet.” This shift will change your outlook for what is possible for you professionally.

Self-discovery: put YOU back in focus

Who do you want to be when you grow up? We ask children this question but don’t take time to ponder it as adults. Careers often unwind based on the expectations that others have of us—what our parents, partners, or friends think we should do—rather than what we want for ourselves.

Many women’s career expectations were defined in marriage through the lens of family and children. When the marriage ends, they have to completely redefine what work means for them. That takes time and exploration.

After divorce, women want more from their work lives—more meaning, more fulfillment, and more challenge. An important first step to distill a career vision is to think about the components that will drive you in your next chapter. Dedicate a journal to your professional journey to develop an understanding of your career vision. Take time to respond to these six questions below. Better yet, ask another woman to go through the exercise with you and have a conversation in an interview format by taking turns.

  • Draft a list of the values that shape you now and narrow down the shortlist to five that speak to you.
  • Think about your past interests—what activities do you love? Which ones come naturally to you?
  • What current interests or activities do you lose yourself in—whether for work or in other parts of your life?
  • What “superpower” do people in your life look to you for help or advice?
  • What are the elements in your life that need to come together in order to fulfill this dream? Think about work-life integration.
  • What does success look like for you now?

Say goodbye to version 1.0 of you. Hello to future you!

After you take an assessment of what motivates you, explore the various roles you’ve held. It’s easy to carry around an outdated and limiting view of yourself from a previous position or how your partner saw you in your marriage. Start thinking about how you have exercised your “superpowers” in the past and what you want to bring into the future.

Career reinvention is not a linear process, and it’s helpful to come up with multiple versions of your future.

Here’s an easy way to elevate what’s working for you (or worked in the past) and say goodbye to what no longer serves you as you think about possible 2.0 versions of you:

  • Make a list of every job you’ve had (paid and unpaid). In one column, write down “things to keep” and on the other side “thing to let go of.” On the “things to keep side,” think about the things you loved about each role and what skills you gained from the experience (both “hard” and “soft” skills).
  • On the other side, write down all the things that you don’t want to carry forward into new opportunities. These could be skills that you don’t want to amplify going forward or attitudes and behaviors, such as the way previous bosses or colleagues treated you.
  • Now look at the list and write down five possible versions of who you’d like to become that elevates the best of the “keep” side and downplays the “let go of” side. These don’t have to be specific titles or roles, it could be an area of interest, an organization you’re interested in exploring, or a hobby that you want to turn into a professional opportunity.

Keeping these lists in mind will allow you to be more intentional about your choices. Rather than fixating on one idea of what your next chapter will look like, they’ll encourage you to be open to exploring and experimenting. You can do this through low-risk opportunities, such as project-based or volunteer work.

Gain confidence with connections

In a study with divorced women, Francis Financial found that during the divorce process, women tend to focus more on their loved ones and less on themselves. This may include children, parents, and even friends having difficulty coming to terms with a divorce. As a result, women come out on the other side with their own priorities on the back burner and lower self-esteem. Does this statistic sound like you—38 percent of women did not have enough support going through their divorce. Many women emerge lacking confidence, especially when it comes to money matters. This is when doubt creeps in about starting over in a professional role. Am I good enough? Who would pay me for my skills? Am I too old to reinvent?   

You can do this!

Gaining clarity in your career means believing in the skills and talents you already possess! If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will. If you’re having trouble recognizing your value, be part of a group of like-minded women who will be the mirror for your talents and skills. An important aspect of boosting your confidence is understanding what you bring to the table—you need other women in order to play this critical role for each other. Studies demonstrate that when women underestimate how others view their contributions, they unintentionally hold themselves back. For example, if a woman underestimates her value, she may be more cautious about applying for a job or promotion, asking for a raise, or starting her own venture. Women need to see their skills and talents mirrored back at them through the eyes of others to be successful in their careers. Who’s in your inner circle now?

 

Judy Schoenberg and Linda Lautenberg are the Co-Founders of Evolve, where they bring women in midlife together to kickstart their next chapter. Start your career journey with Evolve and find a group of like-minded women invested in your success. Evolve is a “come as you are” community ready to support you. We’re better together! Become an Evolve member here: Evolve Membership