Getting a Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Do First.
So, your marriage is over and you are getting a divorce. It’s been a long, sad slog but you know now that it’s done.
The question is — what is next? You haven’t been through this before and you have no idea what the next steps should be.
Divorce can be hellish — everything that was familiar in your life is changing and can be devastating. Keeping your spirits up for the kids, trying to focus on work and wondering what the hell you are going to cook for dinner just feels like more than you can bear some days.
I get it. I have been there.
But, I am also here to tell you that you can, and will, get through your divorce intact and, perhaps, even better than ever.
Here are the steps to take to make getting a divorce easier…
#1 — Make your space a safe haven.
When I was getting a divorce, I met a woman who had been through one the previous year. Because I had never been through a divorce before, I had no idea how to cope. Lucky for me, she was able to help because she had been just been through it.
I had moved out of our family home and had found a rental. I had left my things at our house so that it could look good when we tried to sell it. My new friend told me, in no uncertain terms, that I had to get my things and bring them to my new house.
For women, when we are going through a hard time, our surroundings are very important. It’s something almost primal — our nesting instinct. Women want their space to be a comforting, happy place.
So, what did I do? I had my things moved to my rental and I filled our family home with furniture from a professional house staging company. And did it make a difference? Oh yes it did. Being surrounded by my furniture, by my pictures, sleeping in my bed with my bed linens, seeing the little things that I had accumulated over the years on the shelves all gave me such a sense of comfort. My life was so confusing because of all the change but coming home to my things provided me more comfort than I can even explain.
#2 — Gather a strong support system.
For many women, getting a divorce is very embarrassing. It feels like failure on so many levels. And because it is so, we often try to go with alone. We think we can tough it out and get through it and that we will be just fine.
But, really, we all need support when we go through this very difficult period. We have never been divorced before and we have no idea what we are doing and it’s very important that we align ourselves with people who are informed and supportive.
What kind of people?
Someone who has been through it before. My friend who had been through a divorce was a invaluable source of information and support. She could look back on her divorce and talk to me about her successes and her failures so, as I went through my divorce process, I knew what to look out for. Without her, I am not sure I could have made it through it all as well as I did.
A therapist. I found myself therapist who I talked to every week. I really felt that I was the biggest loser on the planet because my husband decided he didn’t want to be with me anymore. She was incredibly helpful, pointing out that divorces don’t happen because one person didn’t do something right but that there are two people in a marriage and both share some responsibility for where things went wrong.
A massage therapist. Someone else who really helped me when I was going through my divorce was my massage therapist. My husband left me right after my youngest child went off to school so I was left completely alone. For the first time in 18 years, I wasn’t being touched regularly. So, I indulged and got a massage once a week for three months. Having somebody touch me for 60 minutes a week significantly helped me get through those very turbulent times.
A lawyer. Right away, I got myself a lawyer. Not a pit bull lawyer, as many people suggested I should get, but a lawyer who I knew to be strong but reasonable. I didn’t want my divorce to be about two lawyers trying to prove who was the better lawyer. She was able to walk me through the reality of getting a divorce and how much it would cost. Information for me is very powerful. It makes me feel like I have some control of my outcome. Talking to her gave me the clarity I needed to be able to move forward.
#3 — Create a map of what you want your future to look like.
After talking to my lawyer, I realized that, for the rest of my life, I was going to have to take care of myself. I was scared out of my mind.
I had been mostly a stay-at-home mom for 20 years and, all of a sudden, I was going to be responsible for taking care of myself financially, for doing my own taxes, for finding healthcare and for figuring out how to fix something that was broken at the house. I was very overwhelmed and didn’t know how I was going to handle it.
So, I made myself map of my scary future and figured out what the best route was to take.
First, I thought about where I wanted to live, what I wanted my life to look like, what I wanted to do now that I was on my own. I realized that, while being alone was scary, it was also give me a certain amount of freedom. For the first time in 20 years, I could live the way I wanted to live. Realizing that really helped me stay more positive about the divorce process and how things were going to turn out in the end. I felt almost hopeful once I had a picture of what the future might look like.
Next, I made plan. I came up with a list of things that I was going to need to consider for my future and I came up with a list of people who could support me when I needed support. I found myself a financial planner. I found myself a CPA to do my taxes. I found myself a handyman who could help me with those things around the house that I couldn’t take care of myself.
Lastly, I did the math. I figured out what my expenses were so I knew what kind of money I was going to need going forward to survive. Armed with that knowledge, I was able to secure the kind of alimony that I would need to get myself back on my feet.
Making a plan, having an idea of what my future looked like and how I was going manage, really supported me through getting a divorce.
#4 — Make self care a priority.
Fortunately for me, when I was going through my divorce, I didn’t drink. While I hadn’t been much of a drinker for the past 20 years, I have to admit that the inclination to drink a bottle of wine on a lonely night at home was often very attractive. I think had I indulged in those bottles of wine I might have struggled more with figuring out what I needed to move forward.
What I did instead of drinking wine was yoga. I did yoga every single day. When my brain started running out of control, I would use yoga to bring it back. When I started feeling like I was not going to survive, I used yoga to make my body feel stronger.
I also made a big effort to spend a lot of time in the sunshine because the warmth of the sun made me feel healthy and strong and the Vitamin D from the sun helped alleviate my depression.
And, of course, I ate well, as well as I could at least, and made a big effort to get enough sleep.
I know, in retrospect, that taking care of myself and keeping my mind and my body strong really helped me get through this divorce intact and helped alleviate my pain when the divorce process because contentious.
#5 — Keep moving forward!
I know that going through a divorce can be incredibly difficult. Even people who are divorcing amicably struggle to get through it all without some hurt feelings and drama. And divorce can take a long time so you might be tempted to give up. To put aside your own needs to end the dreadful process and get on with your life.
Don’t do it! More than anything, it’s important that you take the time to get your divorce done right. I know many women who have walked away from a difficult divorce and struggled for the rest of their life, financially and/or emotionally. They don’t get enough money to make a new start or they find themselves burdened with regret and anger for longer than they should.
So, don’t give up. Make a plan and stay the course. It’s worth it.
Knowing the steps ahead of you when you are getting a divorce is an important part of successfully getting through it all.
I know that the divorce ahead of you might seem to be a daunting thing. You don’t know how it’s going to all turn out and that can be scary. And you are wondering how you could possibly by happy again.
I know you might not believe it right now, because from where you sit things look pretty shitty, but I can promise you that the view from the other side is a rosy one.
Since I’ve been divorced, I have moved to New York City from New England, I have started my own business, I have dated a bunch of wonderful men, I have a ton of new friends, I have a great relationship with my kids and a really huge sense of my own self-worth. The first few years after my divorce were definitely a struggle but, in the years since, I’ve learned more about myself than I learned in the previous 46 and I now know who I am, I know what I want and I’m not afraid to get it.
So, when you are getting a divorce, make sure that you are surrounded by the things that make you happy, reach out to get support from whoever you need to get support from, make a plan for the future, take care of yourself and don’t ever give up.
You can do this. I promise.