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stop gaslighting yourself

5 Self-Saving Ways to Stop Gaslighting Yourself

Ahh, the gaslighters of the world! They brighten or dampen the flame according to their own agenda and leave their targets rubbing their eyes and wondering… what just happened? It’s subtle at times, egregiously blatant at others. But it’s always a twisted manipulation that makes you second-guess yourself. And, once you’ve become accustomed to doubting yourself, courtesy of others, you start gaslighting yourself.

Gaslighting is an emotionally abusive, insidious tactic used to make another person question their feelings, memory, reality, and sanity.

The name comes from a 1938 play and then a 1940 movie called Gas Light

In a devious plot to have his wife committed to a mental institution, a husband plays with his wife’s mind. Every night he dims the gas lights a little more, then questions his wife’s sanity when she notices the subtle changes.

This kind of manipulation continues—all intended to make his wife think she is going crazy. He brings other people into the manipulation, as well, so his wife becomes surrounded by skeptics and critics.

His endgame?

To steal his wife’s inheritance.


If you are thinking about divorce, and don’t know what steps to take, fearing you may take wrong ones, feel anchored and read our popular “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


Today the term gaslighting is used to describe the creepy, narcissistic, sociopathic, conscienceless, entitled, lying method of making another person self-doubt.

It’s a power-play.

Gaslighter’s Tactics

The gaslighter will use any number of tactics in a passive-aggressive way to plant the seed of insanity in a target. Common phrases a victim will become accustomed to hearing include:

  • “I never said that!”
  • “That’s not what happened at all!”
  • “Your ‘proof’ is fabricated.”
  • “What are you talking about?”
  • “It’s all your fault! This wouldn’t have happened if you had/hadn’t….”
  • “You’re too sensitive!”
  • “No, you’re overreacting.”
  • “You’re obviously tired.”
  • “Have you been drinking?”
  • “Even your friends are starting to ask questions.”
  • “How could you possibly forget that?”

The gaslighter may even go so far as to change the victim’s environment to instill doubt about her memory.

And lying, whether directly or indirectly, is always at the heart of gaslighting…

…even when you are gaslighting yourself.

But why would you do something so awful to yourself? And how can you even do something like that when you “know” the truth?

The key to understanding gaslighting is its insidious pervasiveness. It’s not a one-and-out occurrence that would otherwise lead you to simply “block” someone from ever having contact with you again.


Understand more about the many shades of abuse. Read “Leaving an Abusive Marriage? There are Steps to Take First.”


Gaslighting works drop by drop, one oddity and one questioning head tilt at a time.

What does this have to do with relationships and divorce?

Possibly everything.

Gaslighting and Divorce

We have all witnessed more than a tolerable amount of gaslighting in politics, and most recently in war and divorce, which can be its own kind of war, can have more than its share.

If your husband routinely ignores or even criticizes your feelings, you may have started doing the same to yourself.

“Hmm. Maybe I am too sensitive. Maybe I did overreact and he’s right – I expect too much, complain too much, ‘feel’ too much. Yes, maybe my memory is starting to go.”

“Maybe I need help.”

And voilá! Suddenly you—the one who would never talk to your spouse or a friend that way—are gaslighting yourself.

Suddenly you are questioning your own feelings and responses, suppressing your thoughts, becoming self-critical, or doubting your own reality.

If you have been living in an unhappy or even abusive marriage, you may now be overthinking when to leave your husband

You may not trust yourself to make that kind of decision. After all, you’re the one who’s at fault, right?

Wrong.

And nothing is more important than getting real… about what is real.

Here are five suggestions for how to stop gaslighting yourself.

  • Ask yourself, “What would I say to a friend if I heard her talking to herself this way?”

    Why is it that we give ourselves license to be unkind to ourselves in ways we would never be with anyone else?

    Would you ever speak to a loved one in a way that made her doubt herself, not like herself, not trust her own experiences?

    So why do you think it’s OK to run those negative tapes in your own mind?

    The fact that you’re “speaking” them internally doesn’t make them any less damning. On the contrary, it’s the internalized, subconscious tapes that do the most damage.

  • Dig deep and ask whose opinion this really belongs to.

    If you have unknowingly eased into the practice of gaslighting yourself, take the time to do some personal-history sleuthing.

    Who has instilled in you the notion that you can’t trust your own perceptions, opinions, preferences, experiences, and memories?

    Did it start in childhood and therefore feel “natural” in your married life?

    Did a parent disapprove of who you were and what you did, and steer you away from self-confidence?

    Did your husband berate your feelings, responses, needs, and complaints? Or did he chisel away at your sense of self and gradually subordinate you to his own wants?

    The objective here is to stop owning what doesn’t belong to you!

  • Step away from your thoughts and see them as their own entities.

    Thoughts, after all, are “things.” They are not your identity or the source of your worth.

    They carry great power to influence your feelings and shape your behavior. But they are also under your authority.

    When you recognize a negative thought creeping up or silencing an otherwise natural, healthy expression, pause.

    Acknowledge this thought as a visitor knocking on your door. “There it is again!”

    Do you let it in or shoo it away? (You don’t, after all, have an open-door policy…do you?)

  • Give yourself the grace of a balanced point of view.

    The difference between gaslighting and not gaslighting yourself doesn’t lie in perfection.

    The abusers in your life may have taught you differently (despite their own glaring imperfections) but being human doesn’t forfeit your reality.

    It’s healthy to examine your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

    It’s healthy to recognize when and how you can do better.

    It’s also healthy to be able to laugh at your mistakes and to know and accept your strengths and weaknesses.

  • Speak to yourself with externalizing affirmations.

    In order to stop gaslighting yourself, you have to recognize when the gaslighting is happening – both externally and internally.

    Slow down. Hit pause. Don’t “open the door” to your uninvited thoughts.

    When someone says, “You’re too sensitive,” for example, you have a choice.

    You can automatically fold and tell yourself, “Gosh, y’know, you really are too sensitive. Get a backbone. And next time, don’t say anything.”

    Or you can tell yourself, “I know what I heard. And I know what I felt when I heard it. I’m entitled to my feelings. If this person doesn’t want to discuss how we can better communicate in the future, that’s not my problem.”

    Your feelings are as worthy as anyone else’s.

    Your reality is as worthy as anyone else’s. 

Relationships can (and should be) a safe haven – physically, emotionally, spiritually. They provide, ideally, a reflective context for honest expression, growth, and healing.


Consider reading, “27 Cautionary Signs You are in a Toxic Marriage.”


Unfortunately, abusive tactics like gaslighting undermine that potential. Instead of healing, they destroy. They create a war zone within intimate, isolated spaces.

Knowing the signs of gaslighting from others is the first step toward recognizing when you are gaslighting yourself.

And recognition is the first step in healing.

 

Notes

How to stop gaslighting yourself?

In two words. 

Annie’s Group.

Learn what is possible for your life. 

 

Top reasons for divorce

Top Reasons for Divorce. Are You Living This?

Suspicious of getting trapped in a marriage that might erode, my friend and I used to joke that we could get our peers to leave a perfectly good relationship. In remaining single, we weren’t necessarily afraid of the infamous “Top Five Reasons” for divorce. It was more of a disinclination to trade freedom for emotional comfort, if that comfort came with a loss of agency and intrusion of the state by way of the church.

We were also in our free-range 20s, perhaps a little cocky about what we felt entitled to vs. what we could reasonably predict would be best for us down the road.

Thankfully, we never did convince anyone to leave a happy marriage but we did talk a friend through her separation, fearing the change of divorce, and eventually into a happy departure from a husband she felt devalued her.

Long-Term Perspective

Now, at 50, we’ve won some wisdom, self-knowledge and more importantly, some much-needed humility. With all that and the perspective of age, we wouldn’t recommend being that cavalier about leaving a good partnership with a good man – all joking aside. They’re precious, these unions, even with the inevitable dusting of routine, occasional boredom, little resentments, stress, change, family demands, compromises and the sheer effort that intimate partnerships require of us even when they are excellent.

If we can remain honest about addressing our own issues and not project our unhappiness about ourselves onto our mates, and remain hand-in-hand with a someone who loves, supports and understands us, a lot of us would recommend it. Someone who we fell in love with so much it was worth the gamble of believing we could still be happy with them decades later is someone worthy of cherishing even in the midst of day-to-day exhaustion and conflict. If you can breathe life into your own individuality and be yourself in your marriage and your mate can do that as well, keep each other.

In this instant gratification, single-use, image-driven epoch, withstanding years and decades together and reveling in how time marks our lovers’ faces, bodies and souls may be a critical balancing point in returning a measure of wholeness to the planet.

How Culture Affects Marriage

Women are worth being valued both in an older physicality and beyond the physical; men are worth being valued beyond the bread-winning. If you made that promise, said “I do,” and you can be in the marriage organically, authentically and still see a glimmer living flame in each other’s hearts, protect and keep that union and that person with everything you’ve got.

Marriage is not disposable. It’s not a meme. It’s not about the dress or the wedding pictures or what we can post on Facebook. A healthy marriage is a gift that is worth the tending; it can yield years of joy with committed teamwork. It’s the art of creating an emotional ecosystem; it takes time for all the elements to evolve together.

This being a divorce site, there is a lot of attention given to getting out of marriages but it’s always worth reminding ourselves of why staying in them is glorious magic if we can make it.

That said, we all know that not all marriages or partnerships are excellent or even good, fine or functional. Some husbands, wives and relationship dynamics reveal their toxicity after the exchange of rings and promises. Sometimes even when they are good, it’s still necessary to leave. And when it comes to the undeniable top reasons for divorce, it can feel acutely imperative to do so. Take your time. (Consider reading, “#36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”)

When we’ve reached that point, it’s critical to give ourselves the gifts of acceptance, gentleness and patience. It is normal to grieve, not only what was but what was once possible. It’s normal to be afraid, to talk ourselves out of it many times, to be angry, elated, rebellious and frequently, a thousand other emotions a minute. Each of us has our own process through this but that doesn’t mean we’re alone. We not only give each other permission to move through it in our own way, but offer each other a context for what can be a strange yet empowering journey.

The Biggies

Infidelity, money problems, communication break-down, lack of intimacy and addiction: these are the Big 5 top reasons for divorce, which are indicative of issues not always but often beyond repair.

Infidelity:

Perhaps the most visceral and painful of the top reasons for divorce, infidelity is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of what would cause us to say unequivocally, “Absolutely not.” There’s a lot of it, too. Among Baby Boomers in the 57-75 age range, 25 percent of men and 10 percent of women have cheated. Just two generations later, among Millennials aged 25-40, females outnumber their male counterparts for infidelity with 11 percent of women cheating versus 10 percent of males.

And cheating packs a huge emotional punch. Money issues and communication break-downs are probably far more common, but sex with someone other than your wife or husband is a headliner because it hits our mates at such a vulnerable, primal level. Cheating takes all kinds of different forms, from a surprise encounter to long-term affairs (consider reading, “The Cheating Wife Phenomenon.”) but any of it cracks the foundation of trust between two partners and is difficult to forgive. It takes a lot of work and sincere re-commitment to do that, whether we stay with a cheating partner or not. Understandably, many choose not to. Even with that, it is not just possible to come back from it with the union intact, but with the right kind of professional help, the re-commitment in infidelity’s aftermath can make for an even stronger bond.

Lack of Intimacy:

Another face of a marriage’s sexual dynamic and one of the primary causes of infidelity, lack of intimacy is the emotional desert of the Top 5 reasons for divorce.

It’s starvation mode, denied fulfillment, a girdle and chastity belt on sexual expression and joy.  There are so many different reasons for a lack of desire, from unexpressed trauma or hormonal imbalance, to changing attraction, insecurity, simple preference or physiological discomfort. Communication breakdowns between partners may create a lack of emotional intimacy that form the root of the physical intimacy issues.

It’s our right to say no, always, and yet, it is also everyone’s right to their sexuality, provided it is based on informed consent and a lack of harm to others. If denial of a partner is something that can’t be resolved, does it seem fair to expect that our partner live without fulfillment of this primal human experience for the duration of a marriage?

It may be that lack of intimacy and/or cheating provide an opportunity to get creative with the relationship dynamic. Sexual expression is a foundational part of being alive. If two people love each other and want to remain in an otherwise successful and happy marriage, perhaps bringing in outside, professional help to come up with an alternative to divorce is the answer.

Money Problems:

Money issues are both the drudge and the task master of the Big 5 top reasons for divorce. They require all of the communication skills of sex or parenting and yet have few of the glimmering, laughing highlights. They’re draining, complicated and possibly generate more nagging, nitpicking resentment than any other issue. They are as fraught with the power dynamic as sex and communication and are tied most directly to simple survival.

So, if spouses can’t find common ground in their spending priorities, they create a great deal of conflict. And unless both spouses are earning a living and there’s an even spread of financial responsibility and say-so, there is a lot of room for a power deficit for the spouse who doesn’t have the clout of the dollar behind them.

When women are considering a divorce, it’s comforting to know that they shouldn’t expect themselves to understand all of the financial nuances. (Check out “Smart Moves for Women: A Financial Consultation for a Divorce.”) There are a lot of them and it often takes a specialist like a CDFA (Certified Divorce Financial Analyst) to pinpoint all the loopholes and leveraging points. Additionally, divorce coaches and other professionals spend a great deal of time and expertise directing women toward financial self-education and strategy.


If you are looking for clear steps to take and thoughtful advice on the divorce process if you are woman, read our “55 Must Do’s on Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”


Communication Issues:

Woven throughout the other top reasons for divorce is communication. It’s the common thread running through all human relationships and interactions. Without it, nothing else happens and nothing else is fixed.

The Gottman Institute calls criticism, contempt, stonewalling and defensiveness “the four horsemen of the apocalypse” for a marriage. When it comes to communication, there’s actually a whole herd of horses that can step on this subtle, essential and often complicated part of human interaction.

Know that you are in very good company if communication is a challenge for you and your spouse. Most people, most couples, have trouble with it in one way or another. And sometimes it is not possible to communicate effectively with someone, particularly if they refuse to take responsibility for themselves. Each of us impacts everyone else around us and no one is right all the time.

We shouldn’t continually stifle our own authentic selves to satisfy someone else’s needs or make them comfortable, but we do need to take an honest look at ourselves and change if necessary. Get a good therapist; having an objective third party play referee and help us identify patterns and underlying unconscious beliefs that impact how we speak to each other (or don’t) can be invaluable.


Learn more. Read “27 Cautionary Signs You May Be in a Toxic Marriage.”


Addiction:

As the most tragic of the Big 5 top reasons for divorce, addiction eventually poisons our relationship with ourselves and causes us to choose a substance, a thing, an attitude, a simple activity over our own self-worth or our loved ones. It begins with a single choice and turns it into a habit and eventually a compulsion so that despite its initial insignificance, it spreads like kudzu over the structure of marriage. A drink, a hand of cards, an unnecessary purchase, an addiction to the computer (or what you find on it), a religion or even a belief in one’s own rightness over another, it is something that may seem small at first, that begins as an isolated event, but eventually morphs from snowball to avalanche.

Addiction drains motivation, joy, vitality and monetary resources. It’s an agent of lies and mistrust. Like all the other major issues, it often requires outside help. All of us have an attachment or dependence on something, whether or not we realize it. Some addictions are more corrosive than others. It’s always possible to stop it; sometimes will power is enough, but more often than not, like the other big root causes of divorce, it takes outside intervention.

A marriage is worth fighting for but so are we. Sometimes it is not possible to stay with someone in order to love them or to love ourselves.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

Choose not to go it alone.

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes complicated experience of divorce. SAS offers all women six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists and support strategies for you — and your precious future. Join our tribe and stay connected.

War and divorce

8 Elements of Divorce and War

We often say that a bad relationship or divorce can feel like war. It does.

I was looking at a man, face red with rage, justifying his aggression with ideas only he could understand. I saw an entitled man, a self-centered, vindictive, and self-righteous man. He was a man of influence and uncontested power. A man who claimed to be threatened and defending himself. 

It wasn’t a Soon-to-Be-Ex-Husband in a fit of verbal abuse. It was Vladimir Putin, the president of my country, on national TV, justifying his order to send troops to Ukraine. He claimed the move was to defend the Russian population and our interests. And his language was concealing the fact of genocide.

As a woman recently divorced from a narcissist, I felt it as I also saw it and I heard it. It was all too familiar. And as soon as I recognized the dynamic, I woke out of my phase of denial and experienced this incredible clarity on the conflict. I understood the aggressor’s tactic: his seemingly logical justification for violence. For war. 

A Note Before We Begin

Dear reader, in this blog post I’d like to share my impressions of current events as a Russian, as a means for bridging the gap between us—you in the West and us, here in Russia. These are my personal thoughts only, with no wish to offend anyone in the world. But as one who was denied her feelings for a certain period of time, and who was told her emotions didn’t matter for the duration of my marriage, I am taking this moment to express myself, because I know I am not alone and it must be done. The powerful community of SAS for Women emboldens me. I’d like to think of us as sisters spanning the globe, across thousands of miles, supporting each other through crisis, tough times, divorce, and now, war.

We are all scared now, and uncertain of our future. We don’t know what to expect or how to deal with the sense of having no control. But I believe a better understanding of our circumstances and whom we’re dealing with can provide light for the end of the tunnel.  

Below are my 8 points connecting aspects of divorce with war and our current political reality.

1. Being Entitled 

Sometimes people feel entitledto other people. They seek the undivided attention of their parents, a friend, or a lover. If a spouse or a friend has a new outside influence, they get jealous. Not because their love is strong, but because they fear losing control and their attention. They can feel hurt and betrayed when the person they feel entitled to gets other friends or lovers. 

For centuries, Russia and Ukraine were one country, governed from Moscow. When the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, many Russians, the current president included, didn’t believe the separation was real. On the personal level, Russians and Ukrainians are intertwined, intermarried. Until the start of the “events”, there were officially 2 million Ukrainians living in Russia and 8 million Russians living in Ukraine. We regarded each other as brothers. On the extreme end of the politics, Russian leaders regarded Ukraine as a natural sphere of interest, an entitlement, a country that must value its ties with Russia first and foremost. When Ukraine preferred to have other allies, Russia got jealous. For many years Ukraine wanted to become part of the European Union and build ties with NATO not least to safeguard itself from a Russian military invasion. With this invasion, Russia was punishing Ukraine for going off with someone else.

2. Power Dynamics

In a conflict, be it a divorce or a “military operation”, it may seem that there are two equal parties, like in civilized tennis match. When I was getting divorced, I could feel keenly how society and the state made many things easier for a man. A man can scare a woman with aggression, and even act on it. In Russia, where we have serious family abuse issues, threats aren’t considered to be a problem by the police.


Leaving an abusive marriage? There are steps to take first


I am seeing the same abusive, bullying tactics by the army today. Russia is a 150-million strong country, while Ukraine has 50 million inhabitants. The quarrel isn’t equal. The weights are different, as is the opportunity to pull in allies. The countries have different importance in the world economy, too. And as usual, the stronger side uses this strength to its advantage, pretending it’s level playing field.

3. People Get Hurt Senselessly

When this all started, an English friend messaged me to ask how I was doing and said: “Mr. Putin must see sense and stop”. My friend implied that Putin should see how many people are getting hurt on both sides of the border. He must see how his own people are being badly affected by the sanctions. He must get the economics of it. He must realize it’s futile and bad to harm everyday humans being, let alone old people and children. He should stop. 

That logic doesn’t work.

It’s the same as when a narcissist is aggressive to his* spouse in front of the kids. He doesn’t care about the kids — just about his own battle. And often the kids are pushed into taking sides or are punished for seeming to take sides and allying with their mother.


Consider reading “41 Things to Remember If You Are Coparenting with a Narcissist.”


The same happens in war. In Russia, people were told that those who tried to flee Russia, would have their property taken away. And those who speak against the war can get up to 15 years in jail.

4. Not Looking for a Win-Win

My divorce lawyer told me a story of a female client he once had, a woman who was willing to back down, to reach a compromise with her Ex, only to see him bit by bit consume everything she was giving up, and wanting more. 

Like war, in a divorce from a narcissist or an abuser, the aggressor doesn’t want to reach a compromise. They announce their target and even pretend to act in someone’s best interests – the kids, or the Russian-speaking population, but their end game is victory. Nothing less. They want to defeat. They want to see a loser. They want to celebrate their victory and feel strong. 

Peaceful negotiations must come from a place of strength, from legal support and allies. 

By the way, bullies get surprised to see strong defense or resistance. They are enraged if their counterpart gets allies. Because in their minds, they have already won. They feel entitled to win due to their strength, weight, and self-righteousness.   

5. Gaslighting and Smear Campaigns

When I initiated divorce, I did it because I could no longer stand verbal abuse in front of other people and in front of my kids. However, my Ex assured our mutual friends that I left him and the kids to enjoy sexual encounters outside our marriage. He believed it himself. He spun the story from me being the victim to actually the villain. 

Watching the news and propaganda from all sides, I find it hard to believe what is true and what isn’t. I know that people can go to great lengths to distort the truth for their own gain, to turn victims into villains. They seem to do this spinning naturally. 

6. Hard to Relate

We know that we can lose friends as we go through divorce. Because we can find it hard to relate to other people and they can’t relate to our problems. 

A woman set on remaining married and a woman planning to divorce will find little to talk about and can sometimes drift apart as friends. We can even find it hard to relate to someone going through a divorce if it’s very different from our own.

Conflicts can polarize people. We feel strongly about an issue and can decide to stop talking to a person due to their views. During the Covid pandemic, friendships suffered due to different views on vaccines. During the current political crisis, we all feel scared and unsure. Yet we find it hard to relate to each other because we experience fear in a different way. In Ukraine, people fear for their lives as they spend time in bomb shelters. In Russia, people fear for the direction their country is going. Will we turn into the next North Korea or Iran? Will our children be able to travel? Will our sons be drafted? Will we ever be able to see our friends and families in other countries? Will the internet work?

Societies in the West fear for their livelihoods as recession looms. They fear the threat of nuclear war. 

We all see scary videos and photos in the press or the Internet. We all remember relatives or history lessons retelling us the atrocities of the world wars.  We are all living through the same events, but we experience them differently. And instead of feeling together, we run the risk as people of drifting apart.  

7. Feeling Powerless and Ashamed.

Going through a divorce, we can face criticism from other people, or from our  internal voice, demanding “how did you let this all happen? How did you end up with such a man or partner? Such an abuser? Why didn’t you build boundaries? Why didn’t’ you protect yourself? How could you allow such a co-dependent relationship to flourish and your own personality to disintegrate?


Consider reading “27 Cautionary Signs You are in a Toxic Marriage.” 


Here in Russia, such questions equally crop up during discussions of the war. How could we have allowed this to happen? Why haven’t we made it clear that we don’t support these policies or current events?

The answer is this: it’s not the lack of our expression that is the problem. It’s the Narcissist who doesn’t want to hear anything and doesn’t care what others want.   

As people of all countries watch this conflict unroll and feel increasingly helpless, people here in Russia also feel ashamed of being associated with the initiators of the war.

To cope with the feeling of anxiety and helplessness, psychologists teach us to concentrate on things we can control in our lives, like our health, our immediate families, or by helping others or by creating things.

8. Can Someone Save Me?

When we live through a conflict – be it in a bad marriage or war – we crave to be saved. It comes from realizing how powerless we are in the face of larger foes. 

When I was experiencing marriage challenges, I sometimes thought that maybe I’d meet a new man who would understand me, and that in fact, he’d save me, he’d whisk me away. Similarly, I often dreamt of moving to a different town or country, even as a way to escape. In the end, it turned out I had to accept it wasn’t about someone else or running away. I could no longer stay in a difficult marriage. I moved out, I created a new home and I rebuilt my life. And while my family and friends supported me on my journey, I saved myself. 


On that note of personal responsibility and saving yourself, feel inspired. It’s a new day for women getting divorced. Check out our short movie, “One Woman’s Journey.”


It is reported that 200,000 Russians left Russia in the first 10 days once the war began. They couldn’t stay in a country that invades its neighbors. They feared for their own freedom of speech and livelihoods.

As I sat with girlfriends drinking tea and talking aloud about different immigration possibilities, a friend of mine cut to the chase, “Can someone save us?!“ As those of us who consider ourselves westernized Russians talked more, and specifically, how we could be saved from this regime, another friend sighed, “I guess it’s only up to God now.”

Another friend who works in a large organization said that for the first time in her long career she hears top managers mention God during business talks.

A survivor of divorce, I know that one day it will endeven if it takes longer and destroys more value than we ever wanted. We need to take better care of ourselves and our loved ones now. When the new life starts, we can appreciate our bravery and resilience. This is the real strength that matters.

With this strength, we can rebuild bridges. Hopefully, the rift between women and the rest of the population in any given country won’t be too big by then.

Notes

Natasha Repina is a writer living in Russia. She wishes to increase understanding between people of different countries and in no way wishes to offend. For reasons of security, she is unable to leave her personal information, but you are encouraged to connect with her by commenting below.

Choose not to go it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and oftentimes, the complicated experience of divorce. Join our tribe and receive six free months of email coaching, action plans, checklists, and support strategies for you — and your precious future.

 

* At SAS, we support same-sex marriages. For the sake of ease, we may refer to the Ex as “he/him” but we understand that exes come with many gender identities. 

What percentage of marriages end in divorce?

What Percentage of Marriages End in Divorce?

No matter what it is, we tend to find what we’re looking for. A hypochondriac will develop symptoms of an illness they think they have. A dubious spouse will find “proof” of infidelity even if it doesn’t exist. Water molecules bloom or decompose depending on the nature of the thoughts directed at them. And if we are looking for a “growing trend” in what percentage of marriages will end in divorce, we will find one.

The Glass is Half-Full… AND Half-Empty

Anyone who has had a conversation about marriage or divorce in the last 20 years has probably heard the statistic that 50 percent of marriages take a dive into the Big D deep end. It’s really not that cut and dry. There are variations from study to study, depending on the wording of the questions and who’s paying for the study. Which region of people are providing the answers, how many live there, their religion, their socioeconomic status, the freedom of speech and education they have access to, and many other factors will color the results—whether the analyst is a census bureaucrat or a Seventh Day Adventist. Or both, for that matter.

When it comes to the question of whether lasting marriage is the horse to bet on, inconclusive examples abound. We can hopscotch through the Internet with one hand over an eye, singing our high school fight song, and find “evidence” one way or the other.

One recent search results page contained the title “Ireland’s divorce rate remarkably low compared to wider world,” followed by the May 2019 assertion that Ireland has the lowest divorce rate in Europe. Stereotyping Catholicism and its adherents, which make up 78 percent of Irish citizens, one might find this easy to believe. Glancing a few lines down the page, though, a browser finds another link title that scoffs, “Wedded bliss? Don’t think so!” This is followed by the claim that the number of Irish marriages shriveling in divorce jumped by 800 percent in the last 15 years.

Dogma and Divorce on a World Tour

Traditionally, Catholicism does not embrace divorce. And in fact, divorce is illegal in the

Catholic country of the Philippines. The only other place in the world where divorce doesn’t exist is Vatican City – for obvious reasons since Catholic priests can’t marry in the first place.

However, religion alone does not indicate strict devotion to staying married through depravity, poverty, dismemberment, nuclear war, and bringing home the wrong kind of lettuce.

Catholics seem to have cornered the grim devotion market, to be sure, but again, the data isn’t crystal clear. Taking a quick online world tour of a few different countries, we can see divorce rates increasing noticeably in some countries and staying remarkably low in others.

Guatemala and Sri Lanka have the lowest divorce rates in the world, but Guatemala has an almost even split between Catholic citizens and Protestant—the Catholics numbering at 45 percent and the Protestants at 42. In Sri Lanka, where 70.2 percent of the population is Buddhist, only 0.15 percent of marriages fall to the ax of divorce.

Africa

In Kenya, though, where 85 percent of the citizens identify as Christian, the number of marriages dissolving in the chemical bath of divorce has jumped from 40 percent in 2017 to 70 percent in 2020. Kenyan women, not men, are the ones filing, and the reasons they’re giving are the same reasons stated by women all over the globe: domestic violence, neglect, drug and alcohol abuse, and infidelity.

Asia

There is no lack of divorce among Muslims and Buddhists. In China, the top four religions are Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, and Christianity. None of them are stopping the divorce rate from swelling like a gangrenous toe, nor are they making a Chinese marriage easier to obtain. The China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) calculated a 75 percent climb in the country’s divorce rate between 2010 and 2019—from 2.7 to 4.7 million cases.


If you are looking for an anchor, or way to evaluate if you should or should not divorce, Take a breath and read our “36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce”.


And in the Maldives, a string of islands south of India’s tip that form a Muslim republic, so many marriages end in divorce that the country earned a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. With 11 divorces per 1,000 people every year, Maldivian women average three divorces by the time they are 30 years old.

A luscious place to vacation and ironically, one of the honeymoon capitols of the world, the Republic of Maldives embraces a Muslim dogma with a big bark and almost no bite. While it dictates a taboo against pre-marital sex, it has no taboo against very fast marriages that need only last as long as a great vacation.

Even in less destination-luscious countries, divorce rates are rising. In Iran, where 90-95 percent of the people claim Shia Islam as their religion, 2021 saw one in three marriages driving into divorce’s dead end. While the number of Iranian marriages also increased by 4.4 percent between 2019 and 2020, the divorce rates rose by 3.6 percent.

Tying and Breaking the Knot Stateside…

Meanwhile, back at the American ranch, there are quite a few of the Bible Belt states where a lot of marriages dissolve in the chemical bath of divorce. Arkansas, for example, has a high divorce rate at 10.7 divorces per 1,000 people. Other Southern states frying their marriages in the Crisco of divorce include Kentucky, Alabama, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia.

North Dakota, though, has an exceptionally low divorce rate at 2.5 per 1,000 people. And that’s even a decrease from 3.6 per 1,000 in 1990.

Of course, not very many people actually live in North Dakota. There are about as many North Dakotans as there are Seattleites. The entire Badland state had 762,062 residents as of 2019, while the city of Seattle had 724,305.

Other states on the low end of the divorce spectrum include Hawaii (where everyone is too happy to bother), New York (where geological eras move faster than the divorce courts), Illinois, Vermont, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and surprisingly, California.

But again, the “facts” run counter to each other. Notably, Massachusetts and New Jersey are listed on BOTH the list of “states with the highest number of divorces” and the list of “states with the lowest number…”

And if education is a factor in whether people say “I do”—and it is—the fact that Connecticut is one of two states with the lowest number of marriages may have something to do with the fact that the relatively small state has 44 universities and colleges in it.

What’s in a Trend?

As you may see, answering the question of how many marriages end in divorce can get complicated. However, there do seem to be a few factors that we can be sure of. One is that fewer people are getting married in the first place. In 2018, American statisticians calculated the lowest number of marriages in 118 years.

The main factors leading women away from the altar and the dubious promise of “forever” are education and labor force participation, economic independence and greater gender equality. In other words, if we don’t have to marry to survive anymore, as explored in “Divorce and Women: One Woman’s Journey,” we’re not nearly as inclined to do it.

Boomer divorce numbers are high but leveling out. In contrast, Millennials born of their parents’ high divorce rates are being smarter about marriage than their predecessors. They are either not marrying at all or waiting until they are older and more established in their careers and their finances.

Incidentally, Boomers were the last generation of women still operating under a general assumption that marriage was “just what one did.” (Check out “The Truth About Divorce for Women.”)

More people are living together first.

While marriage numbers for straight couples are generally down and straight couple divorce rates are generally up—with notable exceptions and counter-trends worldwide—same-sex couples are finally allowed to marry. Many are doing so. The Netherlands was the first country to legalize same-sex marriage in 2000. Thirty countries have followed that example since then.

The data may be pointing in a general direction. Then again, it may not. All any of this really tells us is that an awful lot of people are asking an awful lot of questions about the real value of marriage. It’s essential to remember that trends are made of individual choices—billions of them. It may be interesting to know what the Joneses are up to (or not), but it would be a superficial life that depended on definition by everyone else.

Hopefully, as we search, what we will find is that we value ourselves enough to claim our own happiness—no matter what that looks like.

 

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

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.

Life After Divorce: Grief

Life After Divorce: The Grief You Didn’t Count On

There comes a stage in our life after divorce that we’re often not prepared for. It arrives after the legal issues are settled, most of the fighting is over, and we accept the fact of the divorce and its outcomes, they are what they are. At such a moment, we might be thinking we should be finding bliss now, but instead we feel sadness (again). Memories and dreams come back to haunt us at the same time “negative” emotions circle up. This may be a natural part of our life-after-divorce grief and healing.

Of course, holidays like Valentine’s Day don’t help.

It’s time to welcome your post-divorce grief.

Divorce is one of the top reasons for grief in virtually any conversation about loss. Divorce can cause us as much distress as the death of a loved one or a treasured pet. But with divorce, we very often lose multiple things at the same time: a partner, a friend, and a home. If we look at the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale that lists events that cause us to feel grief, we can appreciate that divorce gives us several stressors, not one. You are not crazy or weak if you feel sad or overwhelmed because these are indeed tough times.

Post-divorce grief can be aggravated by wrong expectations – namely, the idea that it should pass within 6 to 12 months after a divorce document is signed. That’s the general timeframe we expect close friends to be sensitive to us. After 12 months, it seems, we should be “getting on with it.” 

Another incorrect expectation is that the person who initiated the divorce should be happy and relieved rather than bereaved. That was my experience.

And there’s a term for this phenomenon, this experience of grieving the separation with a spouse who was abusive, or who was highly unpleasant for at least some of the time married. Such sadness is called “disenfranchised grief”, a term coined by Kenneth J. Doka. Disenfranchised grief is not openly acknowledged, socially validated, or publicly mourned. The danger of it is that “the lack of support you get during your grieving process can prolong emotional pain.”

Welcome your more difficult feelings

The inability to be open about our life-after-divorce grief can lead to shame, confusion, and feelings of guilt for letting yourself down. It can develop into depression with the sufferer not recognizing that they need to ask for help.


You are not alone. 

Check out our “How to Overcome the 6 Hardest Things About Life After Divorce.”


However, there is good news. Once we look grief in the eye and process it, we can make room for a new life with new routines, rituals, and — if we want to and are ready for it — new partners.

To help ourselves through the tough times and process the loss, we should remind ourselves that however bad the end of the marriage was, there were always good things to grieve about.

Letting go of past love

Usually, when we are living through it, we see divorce as a sequence of legal, financial, and children-related processes and negotiations conducted in a lengthy and sterilized manner. It’s easy and even pleasant to demonize your Ex. For some of us, anger is necessary to give us the courage and energy to separate and break the system. Unfortunately, it’s also easy to get stuck in anger and hatred; they serve as a backdrop for our own self-righteousness. However, staying angry and blaming him* is not the path to closure, but a waste of our time and energy keeping us more often in a spin cycle of repeating and repeating the narrative we tell ourselves.

In the grander scheme of things, divorce is the loss of love. It’s broken promises. It’s the loss of companionship, the meals, the walks, the trips, the lifestyle. Overall, it’s the loss of sharing and an end to a valuable human connection. Without the support of the former structure, we can be left lonely and confused.

Admitting that love existed and died is harder than being angry. While the earlier stages of marital rift can make us think of a reconciliation, after divorce we definitely know that we can’t do more. We feel sad and helpless. 

For some people who like order and control, being helpless is the hardest feeling to endure.

However hard it may be, accepting the inevitable and our helplessness can take us to a new level. An English theologian Thomas Fuller said, “the night is darkest just before the dawn.” He added, “But keep your eyes open; if you avert your eyes from the dark, you’ll be blind to the rays of a new day.”

It’s only a dream

It often appears in relationship advice columns that what we are mourning is not the relationship itself, but the dream of a happier life. However, that doesn’t make sadness any easier. As Dr. Ann Gold Buscho writes in Psychology Today “the loss of the hopes and dreams you had on your wedding day is like a death. Allow yourself to feel that grief and trust that it will pass”.

The importance of hopes and dreams is that they cultivate our future. They give us the strength to carry on through hard times. Many of us dream of growing older with our man, seeing the kids off to college, downsizing, maybe moving to a different town, getting a bed-and-breakfast, or opening a café by the ocean. I did. Now that the person is no longer your partner, it may feel like there is no more future, nothing to work for. Even if a new man arrives, I will never have another chance to marry someone I met at 20. I will never have a chance to grow old with the father of my children, who loves my kids as much as I do.

Acknowledging the life-after-divorce grief is one step towards laying to rest the old dreams to make way for new ideas and hopes.

Goodbye, my friend

Divorce is highly likely to affect our circle of friends. Frankly, I was even looking forward to saying goodbye to a judgmental toxic woman or two. In reality, after divorce, we can pursue those who are more in sync with us. They may be especially funny, intellectual, or spiritual. Childhood friends may reappear or disappear. The loss of the familiar is worth acknowledging and grieving about. But it’s helpful to remember that with each loss comes a new space and opening for new people, experiences, and things.

Find a helping hand

Therapists suggest asking for help and accepting help during grieving. I’ve found it helpful to ask for support, whether it’s accepting invitations to dinners or watching a film together just to feel someone’s presence. But let’s remind ourselves of whom we are turning to for moral support and words. In my experience, it was exactly my poor understanding of my grief that drove me to hide from some friends. And elsewhere, I discovered that even some friends who had been through divorce themselves (and had the best of intentions) hurt me as they wanted me to get over my sadness or dark emotions quickly.


With all you’ve been through, do you wonder if happiness is even possible after divorce? 


Some cultures and social groups are better at managing negative feelings than others. If you are part of a culture where you are supposed to keep a stiff upper lip and get on with it, I encourage you to look outside your usual social circle for support.

Grief is personal and lonely

In our precious life after divorce, let’s do our best to steer clear of labels and boxes we put ourselves in. Let’s accept that grief is personal in the way we experience it, how it impacts us and how long it takes. It’s normal that it should make us feel very lonely —  like we are the only people in the world experiencing such pain. That is why joining groups of women in similar situations is so important. 

My personal divorce journey included learning to deal with loneliness, becoming my own companion, and learning not to fear being without a partner. I am very glad I took that journey. It gives me a feeling of strength and of heaving a choice whether to be on my own or with someone I chose.

Is it possible to grieve together with your Ex?

You can try it! I planned and offered to my former husband an invitation to gather and give ritual to the good things in our marriage, say our thank yous, and grieve together the breakup, but he wasn’t interested. This may be because we are in different places emotionally. I also discovered that my suggestion to grieve together could appear to be a reconciliation proposal.

Things will never be the same again

As we move forward with our life after divorce, one thing that will never be the same is us. We need to say goodbye to our old selves, mourning the choices we made, the sacrifices we undertook for the benefit of the marriage and our family.

As we say goodbye to the younger, more naïve version of self, we acknowledge how much we have been through, how much we had to lose, and how important these losses were. That self-care and respect may be something we have forgotten in the process of divorce. Now we are rediscovering it as we process life-after-divorce grief. And the good thing  is that this self-respect skill can now stay with us forever.

By letting go of the old structures and dreams we create space for new traditions, new rituals, and new versions of ourselves on the way to the future.

Notes

Anna Ivanova-Galitsina is Russia-based communication and storytelling expert. She is rebuilding life after divorce and misses international travels. You can reach her at anna.i.galitsina@gmail.com

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.

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

Finding Your Sexy Again After Divorce

There must be millions of articles, books, essays, studies and memoirs out there about sex. There are thousands of variations on the topic. People have been philosophizing about this subject in one way or another for eons. Some experts even focus specifically on finding your sexy again after divorce.

And not one of them is an expert on you.

By all means, read about it, talk to your friends about it. But your sexuality is as unique to you as your DNA, your fingerprint, your particular blend of pheromones. You may find a community in these sites and pages; that’s wonderful. You may get some ideas, you may find comfort in discovering that you are one of millions who wonder how best to do this, this most visceral celebration of ourselves. Read and educate yourself, but after that? Forget it. The only thing that matters at this point is what you like, and now that you are divorced, you are free again to find that out.

One Opinion on Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

If you’re scrolling through what other people say about getting your sexy back after divorce, then there’s a good chance you’ve already got some inkling as to how you’d like to go about it. There’s an even better chance that you’re a lot closer to uncovering yourself than you think you are.

Even more, you already know on some level that celebrating with sex after a divorce is really a fresh blooming of something you never lost to begin with. It just got buried under the years, the routine, and the compromises. Now that you’ve dug yourself out again, know that your sexual experience of yourself is one of the most valuable things you have. It will outlast every other relationship and is more valuable than any material wealth.

So, whether you’re approaching this subject with enthusiastic, hungry curiosity, or dread, just thinking about it, or tiptoeing into it with your hands over your eyes, you’ve reached the really precious part of being on the other side of divorce. This is the part where you celebrate being free and deciding for you, only you, what you like and what excites you—without apology.

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

A person’s healthy sexual expression is one of the most delicious things in life. When it comes to your own, your opinion is the only one that matters.

The Corset of Comparison:

Resurrecting your sexiness just as you like it is the best part of life after divorce. Don’t waste a minute of it comparing yourself to anyone else or holding yourself up to a yard stick of social commentary.

Other people’s opinions are abundant. Sometimes the wise ones can help clarify your own feelings or give you a kind of compass reading on which direction you’d like to take. Often, though, they are about as useful as pantyhose on an octopus. Comparison is useful when buying watermelons and mattresses and in a few other circumstances. When it comes to our own individuality, though, comparison cripples feeling good about ourselves.

Regaining Your Sensuality After Divorce

When it comes to sexuality and our bodies, that goes double. There is nothing more individual, more particular to each of us, than our sexuality. It is rich and singular and precious. Nothing matters except that truth.

Leaving Judgement in the Past:

Few things have been more subject to outside opinions than female sexuality. There is probably not one single aspect of woman that has been more objectified, commodified, co-opted, shamed, exploited, corseted, misrepresented, homogenized, villainized, violently or subtly punished, criticized or boxed up and put on a shelf than our sexuality.

Now that you’re divorced, it’s time to claim your sexual experience for you alone. But how? Is there really anything to look forward to? Oh, just wait. That’s a gigantic yes.

Life After Divorce

Use your mind as much as your body. And don’t judge yourself badly for wanting what you want. As long as you stick to consenting adults and are doing no harm to yourself and others, imagine whatever you like. If it’s the result of negative conditioning, self-judgement has nothing to do with your real feelings about yourself. Judgement and shaming have far more to do with power plays than ethics or morals. Whether they’re on a global level and stem from religious dogma, or from a personal level rooted in individual insecurity, they don’t have a place in your sexual story.

If you’ve come from an abusive marriage, you know all about power plays and what it’s like to be helpless in the face of them. You aren’t helpless now, but erasing those tapes of abuse and humiliation will take time. Recovering sexual expression can take time even when abuse hasn’t been a factor, though, so be patient with yourself.

Quality Control:

In addition to being patient with yourself, pacing yourself is also advisable. If you’ve been bored, under-expressed or long unsatisfied in your marriage, it’s tempting to gorge yourself sexually. Unleashing your starving sexual self on an entire buffet of available partners might be an appealing thought, but doing so comes with pitfalls. Think big picture. Think STDs.

Letting your cat out of the bag, so to speak, is fantastic, but doing so in a high-traffic zone might be hazardous. In other words, you don’t need to say yes to everyone. Get out of scarcity thinking and be sure to vet your partners. Ask for test results, use condoms, meet new people in public places and get to know them at least a little. If they’re resistant to that, listen to your gut and check them off the list. New partners don’t have to be the great new love, but sex really is better if knowing and liking the person enough for connection is part of the experience.

Curiouser and Curiouser:

The brain is just as important as the body in sexual experience. It is the biggest sexual organ there is. So engage intellectually. Fantasize. And speaking of fantasy, know that what you picture now may have changed from what titillated you 20 years ago. Getting divorced may have opened you up to sexual opportunity, but a change or additions in preference doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the divorce. Nor is it born from a negative opinion of men. If you’ve wondered what it may be like to kiss a mouth with no stubble, one that tastes of lipstick, don’t edit or hide from that curiosity. Explore it. It might be just as delicious to entwine yourself with silky limbs and curl up against the softness of another woman’s breast as it is to run your fingers through rough chest-hair.

Sexuality can be fluid, which just means that as we move through life, we change and seek new experiences. Preferring males over females in our sexual partnering is not etched in stone. As we get older, we realize that so many things we thought we’d never do, we’ve done. Why should arousal come only at the hands of one gender?

Body of Work… and Play:

Get physical. For some, it is easier to move into sensuality through sexually neutral activities. Sex doesn’t have to be the goal for something to be sexy.

Water droplets christening your skin as you paddleboard, the shotgun blast of your foot cracking against a punching bag, the deep-breath release of a muscle finally loosening after a sustained stretch… these are sexy things. Sensuality is everywhere. It is in the click of your heels on the sidewalk, the satiny shift of your trouser lining against your thigh, the swish and swing of a dress, the push of your posterior against denim.

And there is just as much freedom in deciding that you don’t actually want to have sex.

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

For women who have invested a lot of their self-worth in male sexual attention, or who felt dominated by a spouse in their marriage bed, this can be especially liberating. Likewise, if sex was the only thing good about your marriage, don’t be afraid that it was only because of your Ex. If you have a foundation in great sexual experience, the end of the marriage does not mean the end of great sex. There is a sequel and it is often even better.

Regardless, be physical in a way that is less laden with negative judgements. Dance, stretch, lift, roll your hips, engage your muscles, put all of your attention in your body and let yourself move. Run your hands over your own hips, breasts, thighs. You are luscious. You are edible, bountiful, bodacious.

Party of One:

And while the brain is the biggest sexual organ, the clitoris is the smallest. But it won’t be overlooked, because it is the only organ in the human body designed solely for pleasure. It is a pleasure powerhouse. And it’s all ours, so appreciate it. You do not need a partner to have mind-blowing sex. If you have not yet touched yourself and brought yourself to orgasm, that is your homework assignment. It’s the best after-school project you will ever have. Any woman who has pleasured herself knows that the orgasms she gives herself are the most powerful, rollicking, undulating solo rides. They are not to be missed simply because there is no one else involved.

Finding Your Sexy After Divorce

The Body Politic:

And finally, for the love of God(dess), big bodies are just as sexy, just as beautiful as small ones. Sexiness is not “one size fits all.” We are inundated by images now; it is beyond ridiculous. This image-driven culture requires a sharp and critical eye on what body politic we are electing, with every choice, every “like” on social media, every purchase, every change in the channel. Keep in mind that we are each other’s guardians and advocates and choose accordingly.

Sexuality is a rich dessert; in what world do we decide that young and Slim Fasted women are the only ones who get treated like sex goddesses? An anemic one. A boring one. A plastic one.

So, as you move beyond the maze of divorce and into the uncharted beyond, know that pleasure is your prerogative no matter your size, your scars, your solo act, or the false stories you’ve been told.

It is also your prerogative to ignore everything I’ve said. Defining yourself, celebrating your sexuality post-divorce or not, is no one’s business but yours.

Notes

Jennifer Bent is a freelance writer, former print journalist and feature writer living on the West Coast. Connect with Jennifer at verbosej@hotmail.com 

SAS women are those amazing ladies you meet who are entirely committed to rebuilding their lives on their own, healthiest terms. If you are recreating after divorce or separation, you are invited to experience SAS firsthand. Schedule your free 15-minute consultation. Whether you work further with us or not, we’ll help you understand your next, black-and-white steps for walking into your brave unknown — with compassion, integrity and excitement.

The Truth About Divorce for Women

The Truth About Divorce for Women

It’s unique for every couple and every individual going through it. You know that— with your head, if not with your heart. But the truth about divorce for women (and men) is painted with both broad and fine brushes. And seeing the big picture is as important as seeing the details.

Being lost in the microcosm of an unhappy marriage can be all-consuming. Little things are “everything,” and the thought of going through a divorce can seem as insurmountable as the thought of staying married.

You have friends and acquaintances—and perhaps family members—who have gone through a divorce. You see it played out on screen and in the tabloids of daily life.

And no doubt you have witnessed the full temperature spectrum of divorce, from amicable to contemptuous.

Even under the best circumstances, divorce isn’t for the faint of heart.

Nor is it for the unprepared.

Because SAS for Women is just that—for women—we will be discussing the truth about divorce for women specifically. The good. The difficult. The possible.

What Statistics Say About Women and Divorce

It’s important to revisit what you may find to be a surprising statistic: Women initiate divorce almost 70% of the time compared to men.

Add a college degree and that statistic skyrockets to 90%.

Why do women take the initiative to divorce their husbands more than the other way around? And why are the scales almost equally balanced when it comes to break-ups of non-marital relationships?

Obviously, there is something remarkable about the institution of marriage when it comes to uncovering the truth about divorce—for women, specifically.

In general, women are more vested in the expectations of marriage. Once-traditional roles are no longer applicable, especially as most women are pulling their weight both inside and outside the home.

They invest more. And they want more. The connection, the communication, the fidelity, all of it.

And education only makes them more astutely aware of what they can do and have in life and relationships.

It also makes them unwilling to tolerate less.

Education, after all, is as much about learning how to think and access resources as it is about stockpiling knowledge: a big advantage in today’s marriages.

Education is also a big advantage for women going through a divorce.

The Impacts of Divorce

When it comes to the truth about divorce for women, knowing how to create solutions and where to find help can be lifesaving.

And nowhere is that more true than in the areas of finances and single-parenting.

Unfortunately, one of the biggest shocks of divorce is what it does to women financially. All the upfront preparation often can’t prepare women for the long-term financial struggle they statistically face.

Countless factors influence this possibility, of course.

Women are far more inclined than men to sacrifice professionally in order to prepare for or raise children.

By the time they divorce, they have often lost critical years in the workforce. And they can’t make up for lost time on the earning-front—both in income and benefits.

This is why it’s essential that women have expert financial guidance and heed the most important financial steps after divorce. They have to think ahead to the unknown future in order to make wise decisions in the present.

Difficult as it is to face, the truth about divorce for women means they need to be savvy, both upfront and for the long haul. What may sound like a great settlement at divorce time may not be enough to secure even a comfortable lifestyle down the road without a struggle.

Single-parenthood can be another difficult reality check for women, especially if they’re already dealing with diminished financial status.

On top of doing everything alone, there is also the emotional component of not being part of their children’s daily lives.

And then there is the likelihood that their exes will find someone new to love and marry. And that means a new maternal influence in their children’s lives.

But the reality of divorce isn’t all bad. There is plenty of good on the other side of divorce.

Hidden Benefits of Divorce

If you’ve been trapped in a marriage that has suppressed your dreams and gifts, divorce can open the door to self-rediscovery. It can expand your consciousness of who you are and what you want in life.

Divorce can also offer exhilarating freedom. Not because marriage in and of itself is imprisoning, but because one or both partners can lose perspective of marriage’s liberating, elevating potential.

Perhaps the most positive truth about divorce for women is the sense of empowerment and independence it engenders.

Yes, you can come out of divorce struggling with your sense of self-worth, especially if your spouse was unfaithful, abusive, or neglectful.

But there is power—and potential—in knowing how long to stay and when to go. And being a steadfast advocate for your own dignity, even when it has suffered a blow, is a statement of promise for your future.

As you start to rely upon your own strength, ideas, and resources, in the context of your deepest values, your power magnifies. You realize there is more you can accomplish and dream about.

And in that reaching, stretching, and holding your own, you build resilience. You become an example, not only to your aspiring self but to your children and those who bear witness to your journey.

Divorce, even in the best circumstances, isn’t a do-over with a blank slate. What presents itself as new, free, and self-directed is still seasoned by marriage loss.

What you needn’t lose, however, are its lessons. And, out of its lessons, your resolve to rise, just as a tree adds to its rings while rising toward the sun.

The truth about divorce, for women on their way and women already there, is ultimately seeded in one unbreakable vow: to live into their highest selves for their highest good.

Notes

Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner with them through the emotional and often complicated experience of divorce. We invite you to learn what’s possible for you. Schedule your free 15-minute consultation with SAS. Whether you are coping with a divorce or are already navigating your life afterward, choose to acknowledge your vulnerability and learn from others. Choose not to go it alone.

Why Women Initiate Divorce More Than Men

7 Reasons Why Women Initiate Divorce More Than Men

The wedding-day fantasy seems to be infused into almost every girl’s DNA. Fairy tales nurture it, movies exaggerate it, and shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Four Weddings flat-out exploit it. So it may come as a surprise that women initiate divorce more than men.

Perhaps you’re thinking it’s the hype of the wedding and not the marriage that makes women initiate divorce 69% of the time compared to men. They have a lifetime of dreaming and planning, then boom, babies, bills, and boredom.

But interestingly, the initiative is pretty equally split in non-marital relationships. This suggests that there is “something” about marriage that contributes to the statistical imbalance.

So what is it about tying the knot that pushes women to make a decision that often doesn’t fare in their favor? Women, after all, statistically struggle more than men with finances and lifestyle maintenance after divorce.

And, if they have spent years out of the workforce in order to raise children, they leave their marriages at a disadvantage.

Moreover, they rarely recover fully.

The reasons for which women initiate divorce are not formulaic or limited to those discussed here. But they do tend to fall under some broad categories of dissatisfaction.

Here are 7 reasons why women initiate divorce more often than men. See if any of them hit home for you.

 

  1. Women have high and complex expectations about marriage, and those get dashed.

    Today’s bride-to-be isn’t registering for aprons and cookbooks. She expects an egalitarian relationship with shared responsibilities and benefits not predicated on colonial gender roles. Chances are that she is employed or on a focused career path. So, she is making a contribution to the family that was once the sole responsibility of the husband.

    Women today expect more. They want emotional intimacy, communication, personal growth, and shared responsibility.

    When marriage starts to feel more like wash-rinse-repeat than the promised pursuit of dreams, disenchantment can creep in and take over. Once this tension sets in, women are more likely to feel its effects. Thus, women initiate divorce more often when this contradiction arises.

  2. Equality isn’t all that “equal.”

    Change may be the only thing constant in life. But that doesn’t mean it happens cleanly or logically. In the span of a handful of decades, the role of women in society has changed exponentially. Women are equally in the workforce, earning degrees, and taking on roles of tremendous power and influence. Women are notorious for braving the front lines of initiative and necessary change. Society and entities content with the status quo, however, aren’t always so quick to follow suit.

    Technology, media, education, and a shrinking world continue to expose the always-present powers and potential of women. And yet, acceptance of those traits doesn’t seem to have caught up with married and family life.

    Despite working outside the home just like their husbands, married women still do the majority of childcare and housework. So, while blazing new trails in the world at large, they are finding themselves stuck in traditional expectations at home.

    And many women are finding that this dynamic is holding them back in life. They are capable of and yearning to do so much more. But something has to give.

    Unfortunately, divorce in transformational times is another barrier that women are having to overcome. Equality, it seems, is ahead of its time.

  3. Women are still the emotional caregivers.

    Some things, like a woman’s proclivity for emotional expression and intuition, are a reflection of natural traits. But neither gender has a corner on the market of any natural leaning, especially when choice and effort can enrich it. And yet, when it comes to being sensitive, and responsive to the emotional needs of a family, the expectation still usually falls to the wife or mother. Men may have an inclination to be less emotive and communicative, but they can and often do exploit the stereotype. The weight left on the woman’s shoulders, then, becomes extremely heavy and draining over time. This weight may cause women to initiate divorce long before their spouses.

    It also contributes to women being held back by marriage, as there is often so little energy left for themselves.

  4. Women are more inclined to reach out for support.

    Perhaps it’s because they have so much on their plate (and always have) that women have a knack for building community. Compared to men, they are far more likely to reach out for support. While the voices of wisdom and support may advise a woman to live her best life, men are more likely to stay stuck. Conservatism and emotional closure contribute to their choice to stay in a marriage, regardless of its dysfunction.

  5. Women are getting more educated.

    In the based-on-a-true-story movie Dangerous Beauty, the Venetian courtesan Veronica Franco proves to be more than just beautiful. She learns that courtesans are the only women given access to libraries and education, and she devours the opportunity. In one simple statement to the wives of Venice, she makes the power of that distinction clear: “A woman’s greatest and most hard-won asset is an education.” Five-hundred years later, there is still truth in her words. Women are now leading the graduation rates for both undergraduate and graduate degrees. And college-educated women initiate divorce 90% of the time, compared to 69% for women overall. Yet another testament to the role education and exposure to “what’s out there” have on women stepping into their full potential.

  6. Women have more opportunities today.

    It’s almost surreal to look back on the roles of women in history. Misguided theories, restrictive laws, and male-dominated societies have all conspired to build walls that women are still breaking down. And yet, for all the opportunities and glimpses of equality that women in America have, women in many nations are still living in a dark history. We have only to look at the patriarchal systems of the Middle East to know that one woman’s journey may be world’s away from another woman’s journey.

  7. Women often have nothing more to lose.

    Sometimes being the underdog has its advantages. If a woman is being repressed, mistreated, abused, or neglected in a marriage, she may see no risk in leaving. The greater risk may come from staying. This “nothing left to lose” mindset can be energizing and may literally propel a woman upward.

When you consider all that women have had to overcome throughout history, it’s natural to marvel at their strength and tenacity.

The fact that, in our modern era, women initiate divorce more than men comes with and because of conflicting messages.

On the one hand, women are taking the blinders off and shielding themselves with their own power instead of fear.

On the other hand, sometimes the rest of the world isn’t ready for what can be… and should be.

Notes

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

Life After Gray Haired Divorce

Life After Gray Divorce: What Women Must Know

The wisdom of aging tells us just that—that there is wisdom in aging. You come to know and like yourself, pursue your passions without apology, and cherish your “me” time without insecurity. You have filtered through all the charades of youthful and professional pursuits—“been there done that”—and you know what matters. But life after gray divorce—that late-in-life, upheaving reversal of expectations—can change all that.

It’s a humbling reality check that today’s younger generations seem to have a better grip on marriage than their predecessors.

They’re marrying later (or not at all), and they’re staying married at a higher rate than their parents’ generations.

Toss in second and third marriages and the divorce rates for those over 50 skyrockets.

The term “gray divorce” was first used to coin divorces between couples married over 40 years. 

It would make sense to assume that those people were at least in their 60’s. If they weren’t already showing their gray, they likely were needing some assistance in covering it.

But the term has come to apply more broadly to couples divorcing late in life, i.e., after 50, vs. earlier or in the prime of life.

If you are a woman going through a gray divorce, you may have a couple of standout concerns:

  • What will life after a gray divorce be like, especially if you have been married for most of your life?
  • What does a gray divorce mean for you in terms of how to proceed and what to expect in terms of settlement?

The Baby Boomer generation is still the age group most affected by gray divorce.

Several reasons for gray divorce come up time and time again, and they reflect as much on women’s divorce recovery as on their divorce motivation.

Keep in mind that women of this generation lived through the civil rights movement, Woodstock, and the legalization of birth control. These women spoke their minds, were politically active, and believed they could “have it all.”

They left their mothers’ hand-me-down aprons in the drawer and headed off to college in record numbers. They entered the workforce in swells, and not just to scribble shorthand dictation for male decision-makers.

And they laid the groundwork for the liberated, independent woman with the same rights and opportunities as her male counterpart.

Like the inspiring women in this portraiture and interview series, they helped create the empowered, influential woman we associate with the 21st century.

And that spirit of being unchained by conventional expectations shows up in both the reasons behind and life after gray divorce.

Some of the most common reasons for divorcing late in life include:

  • Empty-nest syndrome: The kids are gone, taking that natural focal point and buffer for parents with them.
  • Increased life expectancy: Sixty-five may signal a bunch of age-related markers like retirement and Medicare. But it may just as easily signal the threshold to another 30 years of life. And who wants to waste that kind of valuable time being unhappy and/or unsatisfied?
  • The marital drift: Whether inspired by an empty nest or a stark difference in activity, health, sex drive, or interests, couples often “drift apart.”

The challenge of getting divorced late in life, and especially after a long-term marriage, is that everything is more complex. Like it or not, your lives have been interwoven, and those vines don’t pull apart easily.

Financial Recovery in Gray Divorce

Financial and material assets, such as retirement funds, inheritances, life insurance, and social security, can be very complex.

You can’t ignore the time factor in creating a settlement. Life after a gray divorce isn’t going to be the same as life after a divorce in your younger years.

Consider, for example, the woman who tailored her career choices around raising children while her husband charted a steady, upward course in his. She will never be able to recapture the earning potential from all her years outside the workforce.

For the gray divorced woman, the plummet in financial security and lifestyle can be shocking, even if it comes as no surprise. Having to suddenly make do with far less, for example, takes its toll. This is tough enough for younger divorcees, but especially so for those who don’t have the time, energy, or job skills to make up for major losses.

This is why it is so important to collect a team of experts to help you through the divorce process. And an experienced financial expert should be near the top of the list.

It’s not enough to think about today. You have to consider how the past has predicted your future income and financial security. 

And you have to see the “equitable” division of assets in the context of your state’s laws and a bigger picture you may not have considered.

The Power of Connection After Divorce

When it comes to adjusting to life after a gray divorce, women prove to be remarkably resilient. 

To their advantage is the fact that they are more inclined to maintain social connections. They may have been the social planners in the family, and reaching out for friendship and support comes naturally.

Their inclination toward connection can be a lifeline during the adjustments of post-divorce life. 

The consequences of isolation, to which divorced men are especially prone, reach beyond “social” outcomes and affect activity levels, health, depression, and vulnerability to addictions.

The importance of forging new friendships and being open to new connections and activities, therefore, cannot be stressed enough. A 2015 study by the University of North Carolina looked at post-divorce satisfaction levels of men and women who divorced after age 50.

The study showed that while divorcees among this age range could experience negative side effects from prolonged stress and pressure, the presence of a new partner or love interest yielded positive outcomes. Even strong relationships with one’s children and especially the forging of new friendships had significantly beneficial effects.

So what’s the takeaway regarding life after a gray divorce?

  • Expect unique challenges. 
  • Prepare yourself ahead of time, even if you and your spouse plan to part ways amicably. Surround yourself with experts knowledgeable in this unique category of divorce, and get support at the start of your process.
  • Work on yourself. What is essential to your happiness? What can you learn to live without in order to have what truly matters?
  • Stay connected. Make new friends. And keep yourself open to new love or different forms of companionship.

Finally, know that life after a gray divorce has the potential to be an awakening to your best self. Your mindset, resilience, and perseverance will ultimately write this next chapter of your life.

Notes

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. Join us and other strong women for special invites to events, happenings, webinars, relevant articles & best of all, six free months of coaching delivered discreetly to your inbox.