Divorce is like an off-road path, it’s so bumpy that your initial plan might get derailed even if you approach it thoroughly and thoughtfully. However, the more you know about your options, the more equipped you are to stand for what you want, and think is right.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that the single most common comment I hear in the first call I have with a potential client is “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where to start.”
My most frequent response is, here is where you don’t start: with the action we’ve been conditioned to think is the first step- hiring an attorney. This is the stuff of TV shows and social hearsay. As is the dramatic play of “you’ve been served.”
Legal representation is important because divorce is a legal process. If there is a lot at stake, you want to make sure you have the proper representation for yourself and your rights. That being said, I think going straight to hiring an attorney is jumping the gun in the vast majority of cases. Depending on your circumstances, hiring an attorney may be exactly the right thing and best choice for you. It’s still not the first step.
The first step is to think beyond the end of your marriage and have clarity about what you want your life, and if you are a parent, your children’s lives, to look like post-divorce.
Don’t do divorce like everyone else.
First, I started my own divorce process with the mantra of going through it with grace and dignity. Second, I’d go to my then church, walk the labyrinth they had set up for Lent, and repeat to myself, “grace and dignity.” Grace and dignity. Dignity and grace.
Had I written goals down then, it would have been those two words and those two words alone. As things progressed and we got deeper into the process, it got angrier, uglier, more expensive, and more out of control.
My mantra got lost, and so did I.
I left grace and dignity behind in favor of pouring another glass of Chardonnay and wishing the whole thing would go away. I am not proud of that. While I had spent years perfecting the art of making things look good to other people, I couldn’t do it anymore. Yet I didn’t know how else to be. I was absolutely collapsing on the inside.
I’d spent many years making it look like it was all fine, beyond fine, extraordinary.
We had it all. Brilliant children, two houses, a country club, and cute dogs, but it was not a happy place. And as my house of cards collapsed, people would say things like, “this can’t be happening to you; you have everything.” I crumbled. And I tried to keep up with expectations of doing all the family things I had before, building a career at age 50, getting through the divorce, making some of the most challenging decisions I’d ever faced, and figuring out where I’d packed away my backbone and joy.
I didn’t know what I needed until I reached a small but significant turning point.
This incident started to shake me out of my destructive path and make small but significant decisions that started me on the way to healing the damage inflicted on myself and others. It all started when one kind woman invited me to a party, saying “you’ll meet many people who can support you because they are just like you”.
Just like me.
I felt like an alien in my own body, I was curious about what these other divorcé life forms were like.
There were about 20 women at that party and to my surprise, I found myself surrounded by people who had decided to gather to relive the wrongs done to them through their divorce together. And even though almost all were divorced, some for years, they were still in that marriage. Not a person in the room said she was better after her divorce.
This was definitely not my beacon of hope or how I wanted to end up. I didn’t find what I was looking for that night, but something found me instead, and that has served me much better. I started to shape my new self and life with purpose. Instead of referring to myself as broken, I envision what I could be and take steps to shape that.
I started to see the void that I could fill by helping women walk through a divorce with eyes on the future. It took me years to course-correct my path. This was when I recognized I had choices to make that were bigger than who the kids spent Christmas with and whether I could live on my income and the support I would receive.
The decisions I made, which had been so colored by the drama and process, started to be focused on becoming whole.
My divorce victim mentality didn’t serve me or anyone I loved.
So, I started doing the work. And I found help.
Working with a brilliant friend and Holistic Nutrition Coach, Nancy Zitlin, I started to put my body and spirit back together as she supported me through that roller coaster year. I found a business coach, Robyn Crane, who helped me realize that it wasn’t the career I loathed. I didn’t need to “break up” with my job; I learned to seek out a space that would back my vision of helping people balance the financial decisions of divorce with the emotional decisions that accompany it. To build my practice serving instead of selling.
Take control of your first step in divorce.
Often, the first step in divorce is to get ahead of the process and do some work figuring out what you want your life to look like after. There will be an after. One of the biggest mistakes made in divorce and perpetuated by the court system? Treating the day your divorce is final as though it’s a finish line. Oh, my dear, it’s not the end, it is just the beginning.
What does this have to do with the divorce process? Everything. Going through a divorce isn’t linear, and it can imitate cycles of grief in other losses like death. As you move through the process, your vision may change and become more apparent. Like me, you may experience things that shift your perspective and cause you to course correct.
In any case, it is not uncommon for goals to change as we move further along in our journey. What is important is that we are authentic with ourselves and make sure that our goals still reflect who we are and what we want for our lives. Keep visioning and keep striving towards your best life! You can do this!
In brief, this is your one life. You have a lot more hanging in the balance than anyone else involved in it. Anyone. Even your spouse and children. They are vital, but you cannot control their feelings and opinions; you can’t live their lives for them. You can’t read their minds. Your children will grow up and lead their own lives. Part of your responsibility in parenting them is to model a life lived well even when dealing with hard, life-changing events. Even when those events are unpleasant.
Let’s figure out your next best step together.
My first step was to study the financial aspect of divorce. The year after my divorce was complete, I became a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (CDFA).
If you (or your spouse) have already decided you want a divorce and you need to figure out the next best step, I’ll be your coach and advisor through the beginning stages of the divorce process, so you’re equipped to build a plan and can make better decisions without the expectation of behaving like an emotionless robot.
Email me at Info@BridgingDivorceSolutions.com or call me at 844-306-0166..