So You Want a Divorce. A Welcome Message to the Newly Separated.

Blogging has taken a backseat to being a single dad. Now full time since my kids’ mom passed away last summer. However, recently, I have been interacting with a number of folks who are newly separated and hurting. The pain I have been hearing has brought me out of my blogging slumber to offer some support to the newly separated.

If you made the choice to divorce, then I’m sorry that your circumstances led you to reach that decision. It is a painful choice filled with fear, worry and loneliness. Also…congratulations! You have made the choice to reclaim yourself. There is hope in that decision.

If the choice to divorce was made for you, then I’m sorry that your circumstances have led your partner to make a decision that you might not have made yourself. If you have read my story elsewhere on this blog, then you know that this was my painful experience as well. Also…congratulations! From this point on you own your identity, your recovery, your path forward. There is hope in that agency. 

The official end of your relationship is the first step in a longer journey that will take time to move through. If you have never read about the 5 stages of grief before, then do know that your initial feelings will be of shock or denial. You are in survival mode. The unknown of what comes next is petrifying and will affect you in many ways. Here are some of thoughts that might be running through your mind:

  • Will I ever feel normal again?
  • Will my kids be alright?
  • Where will I live? How will I afford it?
  • Will anyone ever love me again?
  • Could I have done something differently?
  • Why is the person I loved treating me so cruelly? Do I deserve it?
  • I can’t get out of bed, how will I get everything I need done?

These are all normal thoughts. You are normal. You will be alright…eventually. It is a process.

If you choose to share what you are going through with others, then you will most likely get all sorts of advice and expressions of feelings that may or may not be helpful. I generally try to hold off on advice unless asked for it directly. Since you are here reading I am assuming you are seeking some guidance, so I offer this initial advice for the beginning of your path.

Find your people

When we are in pain we often worry what others will think. When it comes to divorce (or the infidelity of a spouse as it was in my case) most people really don’t want to hear about it. It is too painful of a subject and unless someone has gone through it they generally don’t fully understand the range of emotions that are involved. These folks will expect you to “get over it” quickly. These are the people that you need to weed out of your support system.

Yet, you need a support system. Who can you depend on to listen? In my case it was my sister. She listened. She commiserated. She advised. She cared. If there is no one close to you, then find a network on social media. I don’t know what folks did before social media, but it has been a welcome community for me. We are out here. We understand.

By any means necessary

In the initial stages of divorce self-care is critical. Take care of yourself by any means necessary. There will be days when just getting out of bed is an act of superhero proportions. Especially if you have kids to take care of, you really don’t have a choice.

Often we put ourselves down for turning to therapy or medication for support, but if it is prescribed and useful then do it. I say this with all the warnings of being careful not to overdo it. I was prescribed ativan for the first time in my life. It helped me make it through my ex’s attacks and the stress of court hearings.

If you exercise, then make the time to continue doing it. If you can afford it, then pamper yourself with massage or other self-care options. You are worth it. If you have kids, then find someone to care for them, even for short amounts of time, so you can have the time that you need to yourself. Finally, be aware of any changes to your eating or sleep habits. Fight to get them back to normal. You know what your body is like when it is healthy. Be aware if there is a change and get help necessary. For me it was losing almost 10 pounds in the first month. I have had a consistent body weight for over 20 years, so that loss was a warning sign that I was not healthy and needed to do something different.

Divorce Mindset

The decision to divorce is the first step of a long process to create a new normal with your soon-to-be-ex. In an ideal world you and your ex will sit down, negotiate the details of your split, and then walk into court together to file your papers. In the typical world there will be conflict. How you decide to approach this conflict will also determine how easily it is for you to recover from it.

I wrote a deeper treatment of this point on a guest blog two years ago, “5 Tips For Not Letting Emotions Ruin Your Divorce“, but here are some things to consider as you prepare yourself for the divorce process.

  • There is no “win” in divorce. No one wins. Ever. You are splitting a joint life into two separate lives. If your stance is that you need to beat your ex in court, you will ultimately fail. Every time. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
  • Is your position based in what the kids need? Often (definitely in the case of my ex) the focus is on what the parent needs, and the kids are left to suffer. Kids need both parents to be in good emotional and financial shape after divorce. In most cases that means that both parents will need to give something up to create healthy environments for the kids post-split.
  • Be truthful. Always. You will never have to worry about explaining away an embarrassing behavior or statement to your kids, others, or to a judge if you make the decision to approach your divorce from a position of truth.
  • Especially if you have kids you will continue having a relationship with your ex after the divorce. You can’t control your ex’s behavior, but you can control your approach to that soon-to-be normal in your relationship.

Divorce is not for the faint of hearted

You have taken the first step. You have begun a process of rediscovery. You will feel normal (whatever that means) again. I promise. Until then…welcome to the club that no one ever prepares you for. The other members are here to support you in your journey.

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