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divorce after 30 years of marriage

Your “Surprising” Divorce After 30 Years of Marriage

There was a time when every year of marriage was faithfully attached to a specific kind of gift: paper, silver, gold, emerald, or diamond. The tradition not only kept a long list of industries dropping rose petals down the aisle to the bank. It also made metaphorical references to the various stages – and challenges – of marriage. Thirty years, for example, has traditionally been the “pearl” anniversary, representing divinity and wisdom. How ironic, then, that so many couples see it as an endpoint and divorce after 30 years of marriage.

If you are in this position – three decades into marriage and raising a family – are you surprised to be here? Did you quietly see it coming? Did you want it? Or did you do everything in your power to hang on?

What we do know is that the rate of divorce as a whole has been declining, especially among Millennials and younger generations. But for those over 50, the rate of divorce is actually on the rise.

So, what’s going on? What’s happening (or not happening) that’s causing couples who have stuck it out for so long to divorce after 30 years of marriage?

Just as importantly, who is initiating these divorces? And what are the dissatisfactions and unmet expectations that finally reach a breaking point?

When you consider the statistics for gender-based post-divorce life, it really is remarkable that women continue to be the initiators of most divorces. Post-divorce life, after all, statistically doesn’t favor women, especially financially. Why, then, are women initiating divorce more often than men? 

The truth is, if both you and your husband or Soon-to-Be-Ex take a fearless look at your marriage, you will most likely come face-to-face with signs that really aren’t so surprising.

It’s easy to slip into believing that, if you have made it this far, you’ll cross the finish line together.

But women aren’t so resigning.

They tend to come to married life educated and informed. 

They often have careers before and during their marriages. 

They know what women are accomplishing in the world. And they know what they are capable of accomplishing.

They dream, create, invent.

And yet, they continue to be the primary homemakers and caretakers in their families, as if the Betty Crocker era never skipped a beat. 

So, should either spouse be surprised that the woman expects more from marriage than just a home and financial security? That she wants emotional connection, communication, balance in caretaking, and equality that actually feels like equality?

She may have done everything in her power to keep her commitment against divorce. 

After 30 years of marriage, however, she has had a lot of time to think, ponder…deflate.

She has also had a lot of time to imagine the life she’s not living.

And, given longer life expectancies, she may see a long prison sentence ahead if things don’t change soon.

Add in the predictable way that aging makes people less tolerant of others’ habits and tempers, and it’s understandable how a spouse can seem like a stranger.

Does any of this sound familiar?

The day-to-day responsibilities of raising children can drop a curtain of distraction on the marital relationship. 

It’s so easy to see the world through their eyes – to immerse yourself in their needs, their activities, their dreams…

…and to forget your own.

But what happens when their dreams demand to be lived, as they should? (Check out “Divorce and One Woman’s Journey” and see if you identify with this divorce tale.)

One by one the children leave to find life and love – just as their parents once did. And you are left to cheer them on from what has become a lonely, forgotten place.

It happens. It doesn’t have to. But it does.

And that 30 years that once seemed a lifetime away has suddenly marked itself on your calendar.

It also presents itself as a moment of reckoning: What do you have to show for your marriage?

Do you share the same values? The same life vision?

Do you still hold one another in respect, affection, awe?

Do you even recognize one another anymore – enough to say, “Oh, there you are! Let’s get back to the business of us?

The realization that your relationship has been on the back burner while taking care of “life” and others doesn’t have to mean the end of your marriage.

But sometimes the chasm is too great to bridge with any memory of intimacy or common vision.

In that case, it’s important to go into divorce with your eyes open. Acknowledge the signs you have been living with for years so you let go of what never was and manifest what can be.

And be prepared for the changes likely to come with getting a divorce after 30 years of marriage.

Divorcing in your 50’s and 60’s comes with its own unique experiences and consequences. Do you know what a gray divorce means for you?

If you stayed in your marriage for financial security, for example, you will likely see a decline in your finances and lifestyle

You may lose access to a growing retirement fund, forcing you to seek financial guidance and closely examine how you spend and save.

You may have to enter or reenter the job market in order to pay your bills. And that can be a daunting experience if you haven’t worked outside the home or in more than a part-time capacity for years.

All these “notes from a cautionary tale” may make the gray in “gray divorce” seem a little grayer. But there is actually a very bright, hopeful chapter at the end of the tale.

In many ways, this time in your life can be the most freeing, despite the circumstances.

Unlike younger divorcées, you don’t have the pressure to remarry and have children (or more children).

You are probably much more comfortable in your own skin and know yourself better than you did 20-30 years ago. So, you are now able to be a better, more accepting friend to yourself than you were then.

You may still have a sex drive that longs for partnership. But chances are it’s not turbo-charged by the same fury of your younger days, meaning that you can make decisions with wisdom and (relative) calmness. Consider this SAS article, “Finding Your Sexy Again After Divorce.”

You are also likely to find much more contentment and satisfaction in the companionship of friends and social connections. And that’s regardless of whether or not romance and/or remarriage are on the horizon.

Yes, there is a lot to think about and learn about life after gray divorce.

But there is also a lot to look forward to in this next chapter that you get to write and illustrate…hopefully with a giant box of crayons. Let loose and listen to yourself. Color outside the lines.  

NOTES

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

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.

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

divorce laws

Divorce Laws in the United States: Then and Now

While divorce today has become rather common, it was once considered a taboo practice—prohibited by law in much of recorded history. And while there were some exceptions to this ancient rule, divorces were very rare and difficult to obtain—especially for women. Let’s take a look at divorce laws in the United States in particular, and how these laws have changed over time.

Colonial Divorce Law 

One of the first documents of divorce law in North America originates in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay. Here, the colonists established a judicial tribunal to rule on divorce proceedings. As mentioned earlier, divorces during this time period were rare, and for the most part, illegal; however, the judicial tribunal allowed for some exceptions and granted divorces in cases of adultery, desertion, bigamy, and impotence.

In fact, Annie’s Group®, SAS for Women’s signature group coaching program for women thinking about or beginning a divorce, is named after Anne Clarke, a resident of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, who, on January 5, 1643, was granted the first recorded legal divorce in the American colonies by the Quarter Court of Boston. In Anne’s case, she was granted a divorce on the grounds of adultery—committed by her ex-husband, Dennis Clarke. He even admitted to the adultery in a signed affidavit, stating that he abandoned his wife and two children, for another woman (whom he also had two children with). Accordingly, one might say that the betrayal of infidelity is rooted in American history. 

The women of colonial times endured even further hardships in the case of divorce. Before the Married Women’s Property Acts were passed in 1848, married women had virtually no legal rights—to own property, acquire financial assets, or even form binding contracts. Such severe consequences made the practice of divorce utterly unfeasible for women. While the Married Women’s Property Acts went to correct some of these adversities, women remained notoriously disadvantaged in divorce proceedings for quite some time.

The Rise of Divorce

At the end of the 18th century, “divorce mill” states began to surface around the nation. These were states that allowed divorces—including for out-of-state couples. This in turn led to such increases in divorce cases that Congress compiled the first set of divorce statistics in 1887, while elsewhere, there were additional, social reactions. 

In 1903, the Inter-Church Conference on Marriage and Divorce was held due to a concern about the growing number of divorce cases in the U.S. However, the Conference’s efforts were unsuccessful as the sentiment toward divorce began to shift in favor of the practice. The concept of “trial marriages” also emerged in the 1920s, which allowed couples to try their marriage—without the legal implications of actually being married. Ultimately, trial marriages signified another failed attempt in history to reduce the number of divorces in the U.S.

Surprisingly, up until the 1950s, all divorces were tried through the traditional court system. However, as divorce rates in the U.S. began to rise, this began to burden the efficiency of the court system. In response, the Family Court system was created to specifically handle divorces and other family law-related matters.  

The Rise of No-Fault Divorces

However, possibly the most notable change in divorce law occurred in the 1970s—with the enactment of no-fault divorce laws. 

Before this, a spouse had to be at fault in order for a divorce to be granted. By this, I mean that the filing spouse needed a legitimate reason—and evidence of it—to effectively end the marriage (and, being unhappy didn’t count for one). Luckily though, that all began to change when California signed the first no-fault divorce bill in 1969, and finally, spouses no longer needed to show cause to file for divorce. One by one, each state followed California’s lead and no-fault divorces became the new legal standard in America.  

Divorce Laws Today

All these historic changes in divorce law, often reflecting the growing rights of women in the U.S., have led us to the divorce system we know today. 

Divorce laws vary from state to state in the United States, but all states have adopted some form of no-fault divorce legislation—with the stigma surrounding divorce ceasing to exist—at least legally. While there are no longer any legal restraints to filing for divorce in the United States, this is not to say that the process has gotten substantially easier. The decision alone remains a difficult one—especially in cases with children involved, while the cost of getting a divorce (and rebuilding afterward) has also increased. For more on this, consider reading “How Much Will My Divorce Cost Me – Emotionally and Legally?” and/or watch “Should You or Shouldn’t You Divorce?”

Clearly, divorce laws in the U.S. have come a long way since the colonial era, but only time will tell how divorce laws will evolve in the years to come. We hope to see advancements with the rights of women and not more setbacks; and with more advancement of women’s rights, more advancements with divorce laws that will address the current flaws in our divorce system—while continuing to support a fair and equal process for both parties.

Notes

Jayne Cleary is a second-year law student in New York committed to helping educate and improve the lives of families in her community. 

Since 2012, SAS for Women has been 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.

How to Find a Good Divorce Lawyer

How to Find a Good Divorce Lawyer

Getting a divorce can be a lonely, overwhelming process. Navigating it alone can make it even more frightening. If you, like a lot of women, experienced a power challenge in your marriage (perhaps your spouse handled all the finances, or was a bully, or hid things, or lied), these are still more reasons why you might choose to hire a divorce lawyer to help you navigate the legal process. A good divorce attorney, advocating just for you, can make you feel less alone and even change the outcome of your divorce.

This article will provide you with suggestions and advice on how to find a good divorce lawyer to fit your story and your unique needs.

1. Identify Your Needs

Your ultimate goal is to get divorced. However, while you begin your search for a divorce attorney, you must know precisely what you want out of your divorce. Different family law attorneys might specialize in various family law subject areas. Is child custody the most crucial issue to you? Do you and your spouse own a house together? Or is it a new marriage with little to no property to divide? Perhaps you are looking to pursue a legal separation or a postnup? These are all areas that an attorney might specialize in, and knowing what is most important to you will allow you to hire the right attorney for your situation and choose the right type of divorce model.

For your information, in general, there are four types of divorces: DIY (or Do-It-Yourself, for Uncontested Divorces), the Traditional Model (for Uncontested or Contested divorces), Mediation (for Uncontested Divorces), and the Collaborative Model (for Uncontested Divorces).

To understand more we encourage you to read “The 4 Types of Divorce and How to Know Which One’s Right for You.”

And make sure you understand the difference between a Contested and Uncontested Divorce.

Divorce Complexity

Another factor to consider is the complexity of your divorce. The nature of the relationship between you and your spouse can lead to what kind of attorney you might want.

Like subject areas, different lawyers can specialize in various types of representation. You might consider a lawyer who does mediation if the power is equally shared between you and your spouses (i.e. both of you understand your finances, and there is no abuse or hiding of information or deception in your relationship.) If you have children and want to focus on coparenting, you might want a lawyer focused on an amicable divorce, or a collaborative divorce. If you know your divorce will be highly contentious and likely go to trial, you might select a lawyer who is both a good negotiator (so you settle out of court) but who also has lots of courtroom experience in case you need to go there.

Knowing what you need in your situation and what type of personality your spouse is, will ensure you go into your lawyer search in a more defined way.

SAS Tip: We suggest that all women, no matter their circumstances, consult with a Traditional Divorce attorney first. Hearing what your rights are, what you are entitled to as an individual woman/wife/mother, and discussing the biggest issues in your story will help you decide which type of divorce would be right for you. This will better advance your understanding of your particular needs before you elect for mediation or a collaborative divorce (a particular type of divorce model). 

2. Gather Referrals

One way to research potential lawyers is by seeking out referrals. There are two popular types of referrals: social and professional.

Social referrals come from friends and family members who might have gone through the divorce process. Having someone you know and respect vouch for a particular lawyer can be comforting. Plus, they might have some insight on how to find a good divorce lawyer. However, with social referrals, be mindful of your situation versus the referring friend’s situation. This is your divorce, and you may have different goals from a friend or family member who just went through the process. Additionally, you should be mindful of a friend or acquaintance who might not be in the headspace to share her thoughts on her attorney objectively but instead uses your query as an avenue to rehash her grievances.

The other way a referral might work is through a professional referral. This is when a professional you trust refers you to a family law attorney they might know and respect. Professionals often work together closely and appreciate other professionals, so a trusted doctor, accountant, or therapist might be able to assist you in finding a good divorce lawyer.

SAS TIP: Always ask your referral source if they know the name and number of at least three potential divorce lawyers because one lawyer might be retired, not taking new clients, out of your price range, etc.; if so, you still have other options.

Other professionals might also refer you to professional lawyer organizations. Organizations like the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, the American Bar Association, your state’s and city’s bar association, and local legal aid centers can refer you to individual attorneys. This may give you a starting point for the search process.

If you are just getting your ducks in a row as you contemplate divorce, learn what other healthy steps you could be taking and read 36 Things to Do If You Are Thinking About Divorce.

3. Do Your Research

Divorce laws vary from state to state. When looking for a divorce lawyer, you’ll want to talk to one in your state of residence. What’s more, search for one in your general vicinity so it’s easier to connect with them ongoing if you need. You can do this by searching by city, county, and state. A regional search will allow you to view qualified attorneys in the area before deciding on a few to contact. Searching for attorneys, or vetting the names you’ve been given online also allows for the possibility of reading reviews and testimonies by previous clients.

SAS Tip: If you are really interested in a lawyer, you might consider asking the attorney for peer or client referrals if you cannot easily find reviews. You want to ensure that your lawyer is known for professionalism and experience in the field – and hearing from those who’ve had firsthand experience with them can give you vital insight. 

4. Set Up Interviews

After you have set your goals, researched potential attorneys, and talked to the safe and appropriate people in your life, it is time to set up a meeting with potential attorneys. Make sure you prepare for each meeting. Read our “Questions to Ask a Divorce Attorney at a Consultation” to know what to bring into that meeting, what questions to ask, and how to make the most of your time, getting critical information and the education you need, and deserve.

SAS TIP: Some attorneys offer free consultations before hiring them. So, make sure to check out their websites to see if free consultations exist and for how long the consultation is. If it’s only 30 minutes, you’ll need more time. And by the way, free consultations are not always the norm, so consider consultation costs when considering legal expenses.

As a result of the pandemic, many lawyers these days will conduct your consultation via Zoom if you wish. While that is possible, and very convenient, we find it’s better to meet with one face to face, so you can read their responses and body language better and get a view of their office and its professional atmosphere.

Shop Around

Don’t just jump to hire the first lawyer you meet either. You should aim to talk with at least three lawyers – if you have the resources. This way you have a higher chance of hearing different perspectives on your situation and finding the one that is right for you. Meeting multiple people will help you steer clear of lawyers who attempt to sweet talk you to get you in the door of their practice by claiming they handle divorces when in reality, that is not their practice. (Some lawyers practice several different types of law.

Go for one that is strictly matrimonial or a family law attorney who handles divorce.) Interviewing lawyers in advance can ensure they know how to navigate the family law sphere and that they will not over-complicate the divorce process. Having confidence and trust that your attorney knows the law is crucial to a successful divorce process.

We hear a lot of talk and fear about lawyers’ costs, which is natural, too. But a word to the wise, make sure you understand why it’s not in your interest to look for cheap divorce lawyers.

5. Listen to Red Flags

Attorneys work in the field of business. Sometimes some attorneys only want to make a sale and do not have your interests at heart. Other times you’ll be interviewed by a founding partner of the law firm who does the “intake” but you’ll end up working with another lawyer in the firm. Make sure you ask about that. As well, be careful of lawyers who are willing to tell you anything you want to hear to close the deal. A good attorney can realistically walk you through the divorce process and your best and worst-case scenarios. You’ll want to work with an attorney who is respectful, understanding, a good negotiator, and professional in their work. If they are dismissing your questions, talking down to you, or about other divorce attorneys or clients, there is a high chance they will do the same to you later on.

If you are beginning a divorce, you’ll want to check out this complete collection of “55 Must Do’s On Your Modern Divorce Checklist.”

Additionally, think about your attorney’s ability to communicate. Are they constantly on their phone or email during their consultation in a way that makes you feel devalued? Are they unresponsive to your texts, calls, or emails? They may have too many clients, or not enough administrative help to service their clients well. Or worse, they may not value you or your time and won’t be able to give your case the attention it deserves. You also want to read their disposition in your initial meeting. You don’t want someone condescending or lacking compassion to walk you through one of the most challenging times of your life.

SAS TIP: When women ask us how to find a good divorce lawyer, we say everything we are saying here, and as well, we say trust your gut. If it is telling you there is something off with a lawyer you have just met, it’s likely true.

6. Make Your Choice

Finally, after all your diligent research and vetting, it’s time to choose your lawyer. This decision represents who you are and who will support and fight for you in the divorce. This attorney is a professional and an expert in their field. They make you feel like “they’ve got your back.” Knowing that your lawyer is by your side, fighting for your best interest is important. The right lawyer will walk you through the process and prioritize you and your wellbeing. Choosing the right divorce attorney is an important decision. It is likely a choice that will dictate much of your future life. However, with diligent research, goal setting, vetting, and listening to your gut, you will find someone who is better equipped at supporting you than simply grabbing someone off the internet.

NOTES

Elizabeth Newland is a third-year law student in Chicago who is committed to children and family rights. She aims to work in a family-related non-profit firm after graduation. 

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. (more below)

*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.”

What to do if your husband leaves you

9 Kick-Ass Things To Do If Your Husband Leaves You

Adulting isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, especially when painful adult experiences throw you back into an emotional childhood. If your husband leaves you, for example, you may feel the somatic eruption of memories from long ago. Abandonment. Disapproval. Rejection. Being unwanted… and the last to be chosen (if chosen at all).

It’s remarkable, really, how instantly a painful experience can connect the dots separated by a veritable lifetime.

Your psyche, though, never forgets. It stores the most affecting memories in every cell of your body.

Even if your husband leaves you and you have no point of reference for the emotional flood, the abandonment will still be all-consuming.

And with that abandonment and the litany of emotions tied to it comes a wave of destruction to all that is self-defining.

Your self-esteem, your self-worth, your self-confidence, your dreams for the future, your belief that you can survive…even your identity. They all take a beating.

Perhaps the most egregious feeling that comes from abandonment is powerlessness. 

With the swipe of one person’s actions, you become helpless to control a huge part of your own life. And you’re left standing alone with that new reality.

Is there anything you can do to re-empower yourself if your husband leaves you?

You know, don’t you, that we are here to restore the inherent yes in your life?

This is the place where others who have already earned their stripes are going to surround you and lift you up with a resounding “Absolutely!”

Here are 9 powerful things you can do now if your husband leaves you and you are feeling powerless:

  1. Be TOO proud to beg.

    It doesn’t matter what your husband has done or why he has chosen to leave. In the movie Where the Heart Is, Ashley Judd’s character says to a young mom-to-be (Natalie Portman), “I know [he] left you. But that’s what makes him trash, not you.”

    If your husband leaves you, he does so with forethought and planning. And trust us, you are above begging for that kind of base energy to come back into your life.

    Do. Not. Beg.

  2. Document, document, document.

    This isn’t about revenge – although success and happiness earned through integrity make for the suh-weetest revenge!

    This is about being smart and protecting yourself and your children.

    If you’re going to have to look out for yourself going forward, the time to rehearse is now.

    Save everything. Documents, emails, texts, voice messages (let your voicemail pick up instead of answering your phone), pictures, everything.

    Keep a dedicated journal for documenting dates, times, communication, and financial actions.

    Basically, be a grown-up Girl Scout: Be prepared. You’ll reap the merit badge in the battle to come. Read our “If You are Thinking About Divorce: Important Steps to be Prepared.

  3. Think like a lawyer, but hire a really good one.

    This isn’t the time to DIY your future. There is too much at stake if your husband leaves you.

    Chances are he has been preparing for a while, and that means you have catching up to do.


For both healthy and smart things to do if you are thinking about divorce, or not wanting to be taken advantage of, read our “36 Things to Do If You are Thinking About Divorce.”


It’s important that you learn to separate your emotions from the pragmatics of this severance.

By researching how to find a divorce attorney and in particular the right one for you, you will learn how to prepare for the most advantageous outcome.

  1. Join a support group, or two… or three.

    This is a time when you need support.You need the professional support of legal and financial experts. And you also need the emotional support of others who have been where you are.

    Be prudent about where and with whom you share this journey.

    Consider hiring a female divorce coach to keep you on-track through this painful and confusing journey.

    And join a group or two (one online and one in person, perhaps) to give you a sense of empathetic community.

    Annie’s Group, for example, is an online divorce support group and program for women who are thinking about or just beginning divorce. What a godsend opportunity to surround yourself with assurance, compassion, and guidance in a confidential place.

  2. Keep the details off social media.

    As I mentioned above, prudence is key at this time. You want support. You need support.

    And you also probably want to drag your husband through burning coals, literally and figuratively.

    But let’s review the previous two points: Think like a lawyer…and seek support in the right places.

    It’s all part of the next point…

  3. Take the high road.

    Remember Michelle Obama’s famous tagline? When they go low, we go high.

    Politics and political preference don’t even matter. It’s an awesome mantra to live by, no matter what the circumstances are.

    Taking the high road has nothing to do with acquiescence or playing weak.

    It has everything to do with staying out of the muddy trenches and connecting your energy only to people and choices of integrity.

    Never, ever, ever doubt that staying on high ground will deliver the best results.

    You may feel the temporary agony of delayed gratification, but stay true to what is right and good.

  4. Protect your kids and prepare for their future.

    If you have difficulty standing up for yourself or fighting for what you deserve, think about your kids (if you have them).How you navigate the aftermath if your husband leaves you is about more than just getting through the divorce process. You need to look far down the road while also checking your rear-view mirror.

    Children are expensive. They need health insurance, food, clothes, tuition, activity fees, college funds, and on and on.

    This is one of the most important reasons to build the strongest professional team you can afford.

  5. Find a new place to live.

    No matter how much you love your home, clinging to it will only keep you attached to someone who has abandoned you.This is the time to recreate yourself and your life.

    Give yourself permission to enjoy the creative process of choosing and nesting in a new place that belongs only to you (and your kids).

    Sure, you may have to downsize for the time being. But that just means less “stuff” to take care of while you do the following…

  6. Take really good care of you.

    If your husband leaves you, he may or may not ever look back.

    While it’s natural to want him to miss you and regret his actions, you are now in the process of clearing out his negative energy.

    Practicing self care is no longer about making his head turn in desire or regret.

    It’s about stepping out of rejection and abandonment with limitless energy, health, and self-confidence.

    Your kids need you, your friends need you, you need you.

    So, whatever that self-care looks like—exercise, good food, sound sleep, continuing education, spirituality/religion, hobbies, social gatherings—do it.

    Consistently.

Abandonment is a vile, passive-aggressive form of rejection. It hurtsdeeply. And the wound doesn’t simply “heal” with time.

While there is no panacea for that kind of betrayal, one truth will ground you so you can step forward into healing:

The only abandonment with the power to destroy you is the abandonment of yourself.

And the only vow that must unequivocally last a lifetime is the “I do” you say to you.

Notes

Whether you are thinking about divorce, dealing with it, or recreating the life you deserve, one thing we see making a significant difference for women is the conscious choice to not do it alone. Since 2012, smart women around the world have chosen SAS for Women to partner them through the emotional, financial, and oftentimes complicated experience of breaking up and reinventing. 

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.

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.