Okay, so someone doesn’t want to be with you anymore – or you don’t want to be with him. There are 6.7 billion other people on this planet for you to get to know. When it comes to finding a loving, compatible relationship, it really isn’t over until… well, it’s never really over.
The idea for this article actually came about after I recognized that people were searching Google for more information on my own divorce(s). For that, I’ve helped assemble divorce tips for men, too.
How can a woman survive divorce? It’s not easy. Take heart in knowing you’re not alone. These days, women have many resources through books, support networks, Internet resources, and webinars. There even might be an app for that soon, but for the time being, the only divorce app for iPhone was created by a lawyer to help people contemplating divorce to consider the hidden costs of divorce.
I’ve co-authored this set of tips with my friend Imei Hsu (RN, MAC, LMHC). The list is far from complete, but it’s based on our collective experience – me as a divorcé, and she as a relationship counselor and divorcée. She’s not MY therapist, of course – but if you’d like help with your own relationship issues, she takes clients from all around the country in a virtual capacity via Seattle Counseling. She’s even available to help you via email, Skype, or FaceTime.
If you have something constructive to add to the following list of suggestions and tips, feel free to post your feedback in the comments section below. This is NOT a place for you to vent about how “evil” men are – or how you were wronged in your divorce, okay?
- Make a commitment to take better care of yourself: mind, body, and soul. You are going to need everything you have to close the relationship. When it comes to the body, it’s “garbage in, garbage out.” Don’t use food to console yourself. Binge eating has been known to happen when a woman feels unhappy; so does temporary anorexia, or what Imei calls “the Separation Diet”. Consider Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: at the bottom level, you should be meeting your needs for food, shelter, rest, and safety.
Most women don’t have problems with maintaining themselves, but you might need to adjust how much time, energy, and expense you place on vanity. Your finances will likely change dramatically. Does it really make sense to spend $80 – $120 on a haircut? $25 on a bottle of hair product? You’re going to wash it down the drain, literally. Consider better investments of your money without depriving yourself of needed services. Do not skimp on health insurance.
- Don’t engage in unnecessary emotional banter with your soon-to-be ex-partner (or anybody connected to him in some capacity for that matter). These fights are almost never worth having on the way out the door of the relationship. Be the bigger person in the room: end the fight, attempt to set up a more productive time to discuss any necessary questions or plans, and leave the room, if necessary or possible.
This isn’t a gender-specific tip. Whoever catches the emotional banter first should be the one to call a time-out. If you are good at this, use it to your advantage, and save both of you more heartache.
Ladies, we’re known for using far more words (approximately ten times more) than men do in a typical conversation. If you know your own propensity to drag out a fight, get a stop watch out, or use a timer. If a discussion goes on longer than twenty minutes, take a break. Anything you force beyond what most men can handle in one sitting is usually not productive. Save your catharsis for a therapist or a good friend.
- Think before you put anything in writing: email, tweet, letter, etc. Whatever you post online could end up there forever. In the heat of the moment, it might seem funny to take revenge and say some tactless words, post funny pictures of your partner, or shame your partner by disclosing sacred stories shared between the two of you.
Women have a tendency to do more sharing face-to-face with a friend or family member. Take care what you share. Like musical notes, once we sound off, it’s really hard to take it back. Do you really want to tell your friend that your man has a penis the size of a tube of lipstick? Or that it is over between you two, when you may actually end up reconciling? Don’t even go there if you find nasty public statements from your partner about you. Be the bigger person: don’t retaliate, but kindly ask him to stop.
- Don’t use your partner as a therapist for your emotions. Nagging him for answers as to why the marriage isn’t working – even if you initiated a separation – will likely press his back to the wall. Instead, ask friends to listen empathetically (without much feedback) if you need to vent. Pets make great listeners!
Do not use your partner as a dumping ground for your guilt, anger, or remorse. If you have apologies to make for your behavior, let your partner know, and let your partner choose a time to hear this from you. Process your guilt and anger with someone else (but exercise discretion). Similarly, cut the man off at the pass if he tries to use you as his therapist, especially if you have been his best friend and confidante. Re-route him to a licensed therapist or a trusted friend.
- Call your closest friends and family and ask for their support without taking sides or placing judgment on either you or your partner. Ask them to be there for you when either you or your partner moves out, to talk with your children (if there are any), and watch your pets while on travel or vacations. Most people feel helpless as to how they can be a part of your life when you are in transition or crisis. Make a list of some easy tasks or involvement that lets your closest confidants know how much you need them and want them to be a part of your life – on either side of the divorce.
If you will be maintaining a house on your own, make a list of repairs, get your handyman’s number (or ask your friends for a recommendation), and make sure you have a decent set of power tools available. Don’t like tools? Ladies, they even come in sets with pink handles! It’s cool to have tools! There is nothing like fixing it yourself to feel a sense of accomplishment and empowerment.
If you can’t fix it yourself, or you don’t have the money to hire someone, learn about bartering in your area.
- Do your best to get adequate sleep, food, and exercise on a regular basis. Schedule it into your calendar like you would meetings for work or for your kids’ schedules. Food and exercise help elevate your mood, as well as give you energy to stay in the game [Music is also an instant mood elevator, as it is pure emotion. Design some playlists of music that makes you feel upbeat and positive – and play it when you wake up in the morning.]
Don’t have time or money to go to the gym? Lack of “me time” is a common complaint for women. If you can’t go to the gym, let the “gym” come to you. Use that Wii Fit he made you buy him last Christmas, borrow some exercise DVD’s, dance around your house while blasting your favorite upbeat music, and do Yoga while the kids and pets are taking naps. Walk to the nearest grocery store a couple of times a week, if possible, and combine errands with vigorous walking whenever you can. You don’t need to think of exercise as a means of controlling your weight. Exercise should function as a way to help keep you healthy and strengthen your immune system.
- Don’t drink, drug, or party your way through your issues. You need a clear head and steady emotions to handle the many difficult choices and emotions ahead. If you notice you’ve been hitting the bottle often, try other mood-elevating activities, such as exercise, music, rest, and spending time with good friends in an enjoyable activity.
That’s not to say it’s not fun to dull the senses every so often, but if it gets to the point that the ONLY way you can rest is by drinking or drugging yourself there, it’s time to rethink your strategy.
This is not a time for you to test-drive your new found freedom and win yourself a spot on the next “Girls Gone Wild” video. Partying + heavy drinking/drugging + men = trouble for you. Save yourself the heartache of waking up in a scummy hotel by the airport with stranger and a couple of used condoms on the floor.
- If you have difficulty sleeping or eating because of depression or anxiety, seek medical attention from an MD or a therapist. Imei suggests you shouldn’t let this go longer than three weeks; immediately, if you have thoughts of harming yourself or others. If you still can’t sleep well past three weeks, it’s time to help your body get back into a rhythm.
The Web is a great resource to find local health practitioners who treat Adjustment Disorder related to stress and transitions such as a divorce. If you have health insurance from your employer, you’re paying for these benefits, anyway (might as well use them). If your partner removes your health insurance because you are no longer his dependent (such as in legal separation), you will need to either negotiate with him for an extension of health care benefits through a state program, private insurance, or find benefits you can afford.
This kind of problem likely isn’t going to take care of itself. Crying day after day at home or at your desk, for example, may be a sign that you need more help than time alone can heal.
- Notify family and hold age-appropriate conversations with your children as soon as you have both made a decision to end the relationship. Have a plan in place, and be open to feedback and negotiation, on how to best care for your children. You’d hate to discover this kind of information about one of your family members from someone who wasn’t a part of the family, wouldn’t you?
- Seek a therapist or life coach to help process issues related to the ending of a relationship, especially if you feel you are repeating familiar patterns that lead you to feel you are “stuck”. This person should not be connected to you or her in any other capacity. Don’t expect them to pass judgment in your favor, either – that’s potentially the court’s responsibility. A fresh perspective is seldom a poor one.
If there is physical, emotional, or verbal abuse in your dynamic with your partner, it is a priority to protect yourself and your children. If you cannot report abuse yourself, go to a trusted friend or authority figure and share only any facts about abuse in the relationship. It is important that you be very clear about facts. Unfortunately, emotions can cloud judgment, so document carefully and concisely.
In some cases, you may find that you are the one being accused of abuse. It is very important to stick to any available facts, as emotions can often cloud one’s judgment. While physical abuse is rarely reported among men, there are more and more cases emerging where uncontrolled rage drove women to physically lash out at their spouse or children. The law does not care if you are a woman. You can go to jail for physical abuse or destruction of property.
- There is a reason why people warn you about the “rebound” relationship. Consider yourself vulnerable, and don’t be too eager to jump into another serious relationship.
Rule of thumb: one month of singleness for every year of marriage. If you have been married for many years, tell yourself to not be in any hurry to find another partner (for any kind of serious relationship – including another marriage). Slow down, take your time, and give an appropriate rest to the relationship you are ending.
Women who divorce in later life tend to fare better than their partners. By that time, you have your own money, and the kids are older or may have already left the nest. Essentially, you are pretty much done taking care of anyone else, let alone yet another man who never learned how to do his own laundry. It is not uncommon for older female divorcees to gather, travel together, party, attend each other’s children’s weddings and baby showers, and leave the men behind. For mature women, an unfettered life may be just the ticket to happiness.
- Set rules for communication with your soon-to-be-ex-partner, including when to end discussions that become heated. Even if you think you’re headed for an amicable split, you should expect the unexpected.
It’s likely that communication issues are what tore the two of you apart – you should expect they’ll worsen while in the process of deciding how to end your partnership.
If need be, call in an arbiter – a neutral party. Family or friends don’t usually count (the exception: cultures that use an older family member to solve domestic disputes).
- Don’t binge on anything: spending money, sex, drinking, drugs, TV, entertainment, sleep. Most of these will simply serve to dissociate you from what you need to attend to. If an activity is overtaking your responsibilities, you’re probably bingeing.
You’ve heard the joke: when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. Before you start hearing cash registers in your head, you should take careful inventory of your expenses related to the divorce: your share of taxes, house and car payments, house repairs, health insurance, utilities, food and incidentals. If you will be receiving maintenance, it may still not be enough to cover your expenses, let alone a reckless trip to the mall. If you have children, you’ll also have additional expenses of keeping up two households.
Imei’s tip to shopaholics: if you tend to use your credit cards without thinking, write the numbers down in a safe place (but without the 3 digit code on the back), set up auto-payments for DOLPing (date of last payment) the largest to the smallest, and put them in water inside of a freezer bag. Place the bag in the freezer and forget about them. If you are tempted to use them, guess what? You will minimally need to let them defrost before you can take them to a store or use them online. Oh yeah, and remove all your payment information from online stores you frequented. If you’re still having problems with spending and not paying off balances, subscribe to a financial blog for women such as “The Daily Worth”, or talk to a financial counselor.
Shopping like there’s no tomorrow is a form of sabotage. When you assume payments of your expenses, you are simply putting more pressure on yourself to cough up money you do not have.
- If you ever thought that meditation and yoga might be useful, this would be a good time to investigate. More than 18.3 million people in the U.S. say they practice yoga on a regular basis. It’s likely being offered in your gym or an area studio; if you can’t afford it, get a recommended DVD or try a free podcast. Yoga clears the way for mediation to occur. You’ll like the way you feel and think after a few sessions of asana (physical component of Yoga).
Set up private sessions if you’re feeling self-conscious about it; dive into a group class and enjoy camaraderie with other fellow Yoga newbies.
- Make a list of the things you enjoy doing, and try to work in one of two of those activities a week, such as crafting with your gal friends or working on a hobby or project. Enjoyable tasks will help to ground you in the understanding that there is life after divorce. It might actually be fun! If you don’t have a hobby, make a list of things you’ve always wanted to try: karate, rock climbing, glass blowing, wine tasting, belly dancing, couch surfing. Look in your local community college catalog, comb online class offerings, and sign up for lessons in whatever your interest is.
- The person you are divorcing is not the same person you married. If you’re shocked at the anger, apathy, ambivalence, or venom you are receiving from your partner, remind yourself that divorce is difficult for both people, no matter the circumstances. If his reaction seems like “more of the same” (i.e. it has been this way with you from the get-go), don’t spend a lot of time emotionally pleading that you can change, or that you you can “fix” things so he’ll feel better. Count yourself fortunate you are ending this relationship, as it isn’t good for either of you to continue hating each other and fighting.
You may never receive answers to your questions about this relationship. The more you keep looking for “why,” the more frustrated you will likely become. There may be a time you can find more answers to your “why” questions, but if and when you receive them, take them with a grain of salt, and do your best to consider it a learning opportunity for your personal growth.
- Don’t expect your partner to express remorse, shame, or sadness in the same way that you do. Just because he isn’t crying a river and causing Kleenex shortages in your neighborhood does not mean that he isn’t a thinking, feeling human being. In a similar vein, if you are surprised at your own tears, anger, and even laughter, know that with the end of a relationship, all kinds of emotions can and do emerge at the strangest of times. Imei says go ahead and cry. Scream. If you try to hold back, you just get a headache and more wrinkles. You may also wish to consider visiting a San Francisco water damage restoration expert.
- Read books on divorce that are balanced and fair. There is a way to divorce without becoming bitter or tainted. Make notes of the things you need to do. If you prefer workshops, look on the web for a “Divorce Bootcamp”; many are geared towards recovery, finances, and legal rights. Steer clear of “male bashing” groups. You won’t likely find anything to help you there.
If you’re looking for materials to help you place blame on him and the things he did, or to help you justify your decisions, you’re not doing yourself any favors.
- Because of the way society places responsibility on the woman for domestic tranquility, the woman often feels more shame and responsibility if an affair is involved. Recognize your proclivity to compare yourself to the other woman, and to wail, “What does she have that I don’t have?” A great resource book is, “After the Affair” http://www.amazon.com/After-Affair-Healing-Rebuilding-Unfaithful/dp/0060928174 If you were the one who walked out because of an affair, you will need to spend time dealing with the hurt you have caused because of your dishonesty. This book addresses both the sides of the coin.
- Be respectful of your personal needs for space and “quiet,” and be respectful of your partner’s needs as well. If you are doing a partial separation under the same roof, get reacquainted with your MP3 player and Bose noise-canceling headphones – and be aware that cooking something wonderful at 2am might be disturbing, just as venting to a friend on your phone can be hurtful. Sit down with your partner and calmly discuss household rules to make this awkward period of time a little easier on the both of you.
And yes, believe it or not, this scenario (especially in a down economy) is quite common. It can save money, but shouldn’t be done at the cost of your mutual sanity.
- If you use the Internet to communicate, refrain from using emotional language. Keep it to business and simple questions. If the emails are lengthy, especially yours, remind yourself and your partner of the purpose of the communications, and stick to those reasons. If you feel you are being repeatedly harassed by the content of the emails, scan them briefly and save them for a rainy day with your attorney.
It’s possible that anything you do can be used against you – in or out of context. If you are unsure if you should send a particular email, have a trusted friend read it and make suggestions. Rule of thumb: never send an email when you are angry or exhausted.
- Respect your needs for a safe and private living space, including temporary accommodations. If you’re the one to move out, make a request list of the items you will need to be safe and comfortable. Make sure there are separate beds for each child, and their personal items duplicated if need be for each residence. If you are the one who remains in the house, have your partner store or remove his things in a timely manner. Have a friend take a look at your space and make suggestions on what you need to make your space more comfortable and inviting. A woman’s home is an extension of her very being.
Related to your space, people ask Imei what to do with sentimental items, such as pictures and personalized objects (i.e. charging glasses, etched glass frames, etc). The time of the divorce is not the only season you will grieve this relationship’s end, just like a funeral is not the only time you grieve the loss of a loved one. Suggestion: gather a few boxes and fill them with the sentimental items. Seal them with tape and store them in an attic or a closet that you do not access on a regular basis. One year from the time of your divorce settlement, grab a friend, open the box, and sort through the items. You’ll know if it’s time to either keep them, donate them, recycle, re-gift, or throw them away.
One recycling tip: remove large pictures of your wedding from its frames, discard the pictures, and reuse the frame at a local frame shop with new art. Better yet, learn how to re-frame art yourself and save money.
- Make sure to schedule time with your children and your pets. The energy it takes to care for yourself will often displace what you have to give to others.
Do your best to communicate how much you care, and how you will make sure that they have access to you as much if not more as before the divorce. If your children are 14 or older, they have some stake in custody issues. Listen to their needs, recognize that they may need someone to vent anger and fear with (including anger AT you), and reserve your own hurt for a session with your therapist, good friend, or family member. No matter how angry or hurt you are, never threaten your partner or children with a vow to keep them separated, unless there is domestic violence involved. Your threats will be empty, but the emotional hurt will linger for years to come.
Animals are sensitive to your presence and absence, and need more care than just food, water, and exercise. Put your pets on a schedule as well for health care, grooming, activity, and interaction.
What happens if you have more than one pet, and your partner wants to keep one? This can also feel like a custody battle with potential for loss. Consider the pet’s needs. One home or caretaker might be able to care for a particular pet in a way you cannot. In this case, it isn’t about who is right or wrong, but what is best for the animals.
- Let people give to you [unless the giver has ulterior motives- in which case, come up with some pleasant excuse to not accept]. If your sister wants to come over and make a bunch of fresh food to put into your freezer, let her. If your best friend’s husband offers to come help you move furniture, say please and thank you, and send both of them a thank you gift.
Thinking you can make it through this experience alone is naïve – I don’t care how independent you want others to think you are.
- This would NOT be a good time to post pictures of yourself partying down with a bunch of Chipendale look-a-likes. As much as that might be ego-boosting to you, it will not get you what you want out of your divorce. In fact, it could score you less leverage in the long-run, and your girlfriends might start clutching their men a bit tighter when they are around you.
He’s going to think whatever he wants to think – no matter what you do or do NOT do. Don’t give him any more ammunition, okay? Don’t stop living life, but don’t flaunt your indiscretions, either.
If you are the one initiating the divorce, there is still no pain-free reason to trounce on your partner’s ego.
- Though the Klingon’s are right, “Revenge is a dish best served cold” – you don’t really want to take revenge on your partner (even if you feel like you do). The elation that MIGHT come from retaliation to any perceived (or actual) wrong-doings is only short-term – and is not itself a solution.
If you really want to survive this divorce, don’t destroy yourself (or anybody else) in this process. We believe it is entirely possible to come out a better person on the other side of divorce. Hopefully, you’ll both be better people.
- Leave his friends and family out of your fights – and ask him to leave yours out of his. If necessary, use a mediator or a therapist to help the two of you process the ending of the marriage. A mediator can call a “time out” when things get heated, and name when either of you are investigating unhelpful directions.
This will probably be the most difficult suggestion to follow.
- Make plans to say good-bye to your partner’s family of origin. Just because you are divorcing your partner doesn’t mean that family members don’t want to say good-bye. They may not be happy, but saying good-bye is part of doing closure on this chapter of your life.
If and when this happens, don’t share ANYTHING other than pleasantries.
- If you aren’t planning on celibacy during your divorce process, be responsible. Take any tests necessary if you have any question about exposing yourself to an STD during your marriage (or if you’ve moved on with other sexual partners). Don’t be stupid: you don’t need to take anyone’s word for it. Get tested before further activity, and always use protection.
- You can still get pregnant with a “last fuck” (a.k.a. “for good time’s sake” sex). If you decide to have sex with your partner during the divorce, you should also decide what kind of birth control to use, and to be responsible to share that information with him beforehand.
“Last fuck” sex is almost always a bad idea. It tends to confuse the issues and pour more hurt on any open wounds. That doesn’t mean there won’t be moments that you catch a glimpse of your partner, and recall the special moments of intimacy and ecstasy you share. However, you won’t be able to resolve any relational issues with sex. If your partner is resistant to the separation and tries to put the moves on you, you may find yourself in the strange and undiscovered country of saying no to sex. You’re not crazy. Just say “no”.
Think it doesn’t happen? Imei says she has seen it in her 10 years of private practice experience. A “surprise baby” does not hold a man to the relationship, and in many case, doesn’t hold him financially either. Be smart. Think it through.
- Although the process can be a time of learning for both partners, it usually isn’t a great time to do any kind of risky experimentation, such as quitting your job, returning to school, sexual experimentation past your own limits, or huge changes in lifestyle arrangements. Although potentially exciting, they tend to sap energy away from constructive change.
- If you are middle-aged (or older) and your marriage has lasted longer than 15 years, it’s likely time for a relationship “tune up”. Even if you blame your partner for the divorce, that blame isn’t going to educate you about what’s “out there”: hook ups, casual sex, partner swapping, STD’s, etc. If you don’t know the difference between HPV and POS, take the time to find out. It’s a whole new world out there!
- Look outside of your own frame of reference for clues as to what “fair and equitable” means. By knowing how these terms translate into dollars, cents, objects, and your partner’s well-being, you will neither be “taken for a ride” nor be unfair to your partner or children. Every state / country is equipped with different laws. It is your responsibility to know your rights. Don’t expect your partner to inform you of your rights; he’ll be likely looking out for himself the way you ought to be looking out for yourself.
- Things are just things. Items can usually be replaced. If you find yourself getting angry about what possessions you are about to lose or give away, remind yourself: “these are just things”. You get to keep your soul. No one can take that away from you.
- Take a break from talking about the ills of the relationship and the divorce process every once and awhile. Watch a movie, play games with the kids, walk your dog. When most of your thoughts are negative, so will your life experience be. Thoughts become things: if you fill your mind with the positive, so will your next experiences be filled with positivity.
- If your self-esteem has taken a blow (i.e. you’re the one being dumped), do your best to figure out what went wrong, and put yourself on a self-improvement plan. This isn’t for him, it’s for you! Get back in touch with what makes you appreciate your true self. If you simply blow your partner off as the one who needs to change, you will lose your learning opportunity to better yourself. You don’t have to take every nit-picky comment to heart. You’ll know if he hit close to home on elements you could change for yourself.
The Universe does give second chances, but if you didn’t learn your lesson, it tends to say “Meh” and bestows gifts on someone else. Or worse: dooms you to the same fate. We call it Karma.
- Watch a lot of comedy. Laughter really is the best medicine. Expand your repertoire. See the lightness of humor in everything, including your own self-righteousness. If you can’t find a reason to laugh, you’re taking yourself too seriously. The situation sucks, but if you let it get the best of you – that’s precisely what it’ll take from you.
- Be prepared to lose friends, or have friends abandon your partner for no apparent reason. In Burt Bacharach’s “Darkest Place”, Elvis Costello croons: “Meanwhile, all our friends must choose who they will favor, who they will lose.” Most people are unable to be friends to both partners; a few might be able to demonstrate the kind of maturity it takes to “hold” while the two of you are at odds with each other. You might also receive some unkind remarks, even if you haven’t done anything overtly wrong.
People have their own projections and fears about divorce, and they may treat you like your divorce is contagious. Others will take potshots at you (or him) in efforts to feel more superior. Don’t give their remarks too much power over you.
At the end of the day, you’re in the divorce with him – and nobody else. Do your best to ignore unwarranted, unprofessional, and uneducated judgments.
- If you don’t actually know this, it is customary to return the ring to the partner who purchased it. If he purchased your ring, you should return it to him, although he has the option to allow you to keep it. If it was an heirloom from your family, you should ask to keep the ring in the family. If you purchased his ring, he should return it to you. It would be a kind gesture to return it to him as a peace offering.
When it comes time to figure out what to do with the ring(s), consider consigning them and offering the money received in a gift towards the children, the house, or some other tangible form of care. There are better options than taking the ring to a pawn shop. For more ideas, check out http://articles.sfgate.com/2008-02-10/living/17139680_1_engagement-ring-ring-cycle-marriage
If you purchased the ring for him and he does not return it… well, that’s rather telling, isn’t it? Remember the previous rule: things are just things.
- If this is the first time you have experienced either a marital dissolution or a long-term relationship termination, you should consider various options, timelines, and fiscally-responsible ways to divide your assets according to your state’s or country’s laws. Beyond legalities, however, there are also other considerations: when to remove your partner from a family calling plan for mobile devices, how to receive adequate health care coverage and for how long, etc. Note that some businesses do not allow you to turn over an account to your former spouse, so who ever is named on it may retain the account value. It has not been unheard of for partners to request the value of accumulated frequent flyer mileage.
- You have the choice to retain your last name or revert to your maiden name throughout the divorce process. Your children’s teachers and adult mentors should be notified if there is a change of names for you and/or your children. You will need a notary public to authenticate name changes and copies of the divorce papers; these papers will be necessary to prove you had a legal name change in order to open bank accounts, start a business, and obtain/maintain various licenses. You will also need to make sure that all your identification, especially your passport, match the name on your driver’s license after it has been updated. Passports are amended in the back of the passport until it is time for it to be renewed.
- You should have an agreeable plan as to when to divide and close any joint accounts at your bank. If you haven’t done so already, open a separate account in the same bank under your own name. If you have taken care of all the household expenses and bill payment schedules, you should discuss how this will be handled through account transfers or deposits.
If you have concerns about unauthorized access to your private bank accounts, change the account numbers, create new passwords for online access, and notify all automatic deposits and withdrawals (i.e. auto deposit from your employer). This includes thinking ahead about the upcoming tax year and whether it makes sense to file taxes jointly or separately.
This should be one of the first things you try to figure out together. If one person makes the wrong move, it could damage the other party in the short-run – but the wronging-initiator will likely be hurt in the long-run.
- Fact: you CANNOT be expected to trust your partner during and after a divorce. Trust issues will abound. Don’t even try to resolve emotional issues between the two of you after your are separated. Work on your issues of trust apart from him, and be aware of your natural propensity to project your trust issues not only on your partner but also on others, including colleagues, friends, children, and lovers.
- In all likelihood, the amount of emotional, physical, and spiritual energy it takes to end a marriage will leave you feeling like you are operating at about 60-70% of your normal capacity. You may notice memory lapses, tasks taking more time to complete, difficulty sleeping (or oversleeping), and daydreaming. Use these signs to identify moments when you need to hack yourself, slow down, or do some contemplating on how to work through whatever blocks you are encountering.
- Be responsible. Take inventory of any damage you have caused to the relationship. When you’re ready, do your best to make restitution. A few well-timed words can go a long way, along with practical actions. For example, if you broke his Wii, replace it; if you called his hew girlfriend a slut, send flowers and an apology. Do this even if you aren’t getting this in return from your partner. This is not about him: this is about you doing what it takes to move on and to close the relationship. This may include practicing forgiveness. Imei suggests the movie, “Blue” starring Juliette Binoche, for examples of forgiveness.
- As corny as it sounds, practice the attitude of gratitude. Be glad that you are still breathing in and out, even if you believe your partner wishes that you would choke on a chicken bone, die, and hand over your life insurance benefits before the divorce papers are signed. When you connect with why you are still breathing in and out, you have a reason to wake up every morning, get out of bed, go to work, and take care of the children.
- One of the feelings you’ll find it most difficult to overcome is your habit of care taking. You’re dissolving your marriage, whether or not you played a part in that decision. You are primarily responsible for yourself now – not him. This can be very complicated if you have been responsible for caring for a physically or mentally ill partner or his aging parents. You may need to have someone else step in for you, or you may choose to continue some aspects of care-taking that do not directly involve him.
Learning to feel good about being responsible for and to yourself is a challenge for many women. You are not alone. Get with another single woman you admire, and ask her about the things she does for herself. You may be surprised to hear her tell you that she buys herself flowers, enjoys wearing a business suit to work, or knows how to use a circular saw and drill bits.
- Make a new budget for yourself. Didn’t have one to begin with? If you were waiting for an invitation, this is it. When you don’t have a handle on your finances, you could find yourself (and your credit rating) in gigantic trouble. While many women choose to close their eyes to debt, it won’t be long before panic attacks and heart palpitations keep you up at night with worry if you don’t take the time to see what’s there.
You could be wasting money if you don’t know where it’s coming from and where it’s going. Get a handle on it NOW, even if you weren’t responsible for these matters in the past. Your future stability (and your children’s) is at stake as much as his is. A great resource book is David Bach’s “Smart Women Finish Rich”. Put that on your Kindle, and snuggle up with it for a week.
- Document everything. If you hadn’t saved much information to this point, you’ve certainly got your work cut out for you – but it’s not too late. You have the right to obtain copies of what documentation he might have in his possession. In a legal capacity, this is known as “Disclosure.” This might include bank statements, bills, receipts, etc.
And don’t wait another moment to start recalling and recording names, dates, times, locations, etc. The more you have (and the more you can remember), the better. Facts are far more relevant than opinions in all divorces. You never know when this information might come in handy.
Even if you don’t need documentation, keeping it won’t hurt – if only for future reference.
- If he’s not acting to bring closure to the situation, take the lead to make this divorce final. Use your experience with good-byes and initiate process of saying good-bye and letting go. Imei helped a parting couple visit a few of their favorite places around the city, say good-bye, and cry together as they let go of their broken dreams.
Stay focused, keep your wits about you, and remember that this time in your life will pass. Make the most of it.
You have your whole life ahead of you, woman – start living it.