For my 50th birthday, I got a divorce (and no, it wasn’t what I asked for!)

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In March of 2015, I was sitting at the kitchen table, getting just a bit more work done before playing tennis. It was the last thing I did that resembled self-care and exercise since going back to work the previous year when my husband lost his job. My husband came home from Starbucks and told me our marriage was over.

The next day he shared that he chose that day so he wouldn’t have to either throw me or attend a party for my 50th birthday. I wasn’t expecting a big present, but this one caught me off guard.

Fast forward several years, and I can look at this differently. Often when we’re in the middle of a crisis, it’s all we can do to survive. Crying seems as natural as breathing. Getting up in the morning seems like climbing Mount Everest.

Divorce is often like this – especially for the person not asking for the divorce or separation. Frequently, there’s a time gap between the person who asked for the divorce and the spouse receiving the news. Some experts say it’s around two years from when the spouse who wants the divorce starts seriously thinking about it until they share that information with their partner.

I help individuals and couples who are facing this life-changing experience do so with education and compassion, and support. I walk through my days assisting people going through divorce to figure out their options and make their own informed choices. I help them reconstruct their financial lives afterward.

I didn’t know right before turning 50 that my divorce, as hard as it was, also provided the unintended consequence of snapping me out of a life of routine and leading me to a life of purpose.

Divorce redirected me (after several years and a bunch of small but significant moves) to a career I love. One that I believe very profoundly makes a difference.

Divorce allowed me to start seeing life again through my lens and filters. Something that someone like me who has trouble with boundaries and the simple word “no” still needs to concentrate on to make a priority.

If you’ve read things I’ve written before, you’ve heard my disclaimers I did not do divorce well. I was bewildered and confused. Leaning on wine and work, I lost weight, didn’t sleep, and wasn’t present. My decisions, colored by an almost vehement desire to be done with my marriage and move on independently, were often not in my best interest. Although I had the right to permanent support (also maintenance or alimony, it has different names in different states), all I wanted was to get my kids through high school. We lived in a place I could never have afforded what I was earning. (A subject for another time, I was complicit in undervaluing my contribution to a 26-year marriage.)

After that initial birthday “present” of my husband’s divorce declaration, I felt I had no control over the process. Our divorce was driven by more meetings that cost more money rather than goals, common sense, and grounding.

We were doing divorce all the wrong ways – with great expense and animosity. We had professionals who seemed to encourage meetings that cost more to hold than the discussion topic would cost in a lifetime. We had escalating bills and no end in sight.

And it felt wrong.

It was not the divorce itself; it was happening right, wrong, or indifferent.

The process, how much it cost, and the pariah-like treatment by those who had been my friends felt wrong.

The lip service to “goals” accompanied by professional bills that could have sent a kid to college – that felt wrong.

The expectation that there would be a winner and a loser instead of a respectful parting – felt wrong.

And somewhere in all that wrong was my real present.

It took several years to unwrap.

I found a passion for what I do that I didn’t have as a financial advisor. I feel good and whole every day, supporting people in making decisions for their newly shaped families based on what they want their life afterward to look like.

I’m slowly rediscovering the things I love that had fallen by the wayside in the shit show of divorce, divorce recovery, and struggling to make ends meet. For me, that looks like gardening or reupholstering kitchen chairs in funky MCM fabric. It looks like meditating or taking a walk. It is consciously not working on the weekend.

What unexpected gift have you received that showed its value later, perhaps much later? Are there pieces you left behind you’d like to put back in your life?

Take Control of Your Future

When you consider divorce, or if you know someone who is contemplating divorce, one of the biggest realities for those in the divorce process is the financial settlement and financial analysis post-divorce. Get the assistance of Brenda Bridges, a Mediator, Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA®), RICP® Retirement Income Certified Professional, and Certified Divorce Coach.

Brenda provides step-by-step guidance on matters related to divorce. With a wide range of experience and expertise related to divorce issues, Brenda will simplify the process and provide much-needed clarity in areas such as long-term tax consequences, asset, and debt analysis, dividing pension plans, continued health care coverage, stock option elections, protecting support with life insurance, and much more.

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Divorce coaching and educational services provided through Bridging Divorce Solutions, LLC. Bridging Divorce Solutions, LLC is not affiliated with Cambridge. Examples are hypothetical and for illustrative purposes only.