Life after divorce: limit your exposure

Family Law|January 8th 2010

Divorce is not an event that can be recovered from in minutes, weeks or months. I was thinking about this as I travelled 200 miles back to the north of England after my appearance on GMTV earlier this week.

The near blizzard conditions made it a lengthy and eventful journey. Fortunately my trusty driver, Garry Houseman of CSC Executive (who I can’t recommend highly enough), got me home safely. We listened to the car radio and heard the horror stories of hundreds of people stuck in their cars overnight or even abandoning them. One woman had decided to move house and spent the night in the car with her belongings and her pets, rather than delay the removal by just one day.

A travel expert came on the radio, lamenting the society that we have become. We expect to be able to travel where, when and how we want, whenever we want. If the snow stops us, we simply can’t cope. We undertake crazy journeys in order to live our lives exactly as we are used to doing.

That, by the way, includes me! I didn’t think twice about the journey back home because I wanted to get back to work.

It made me think about the e-mails that had been sent to GMTV for me to read. Viewers of the programme were invited to write in with their problems on the theme of Life After Divorce, so that we could advise some of them live on air.

Some of the correspondents were bogged down and had written to GMTV as a last resort, out of desperation. Loneliness and hopelessness were common themes. One lady wrote that because she is very lonely, she now wonders if she made the right decision when she divorced. Another wrote bitterly of the havoc that her former husband and his new wife have wrought upon the children’s lives. She is determined to make sure they never see the children; the courts, however, do not agree with her. Other correspondents were stuck in the past, unable to come to terms with fresh starts and new beginnings.

Unfortunately, when I read the e-mails I realised immediately that a number of the issues raised could not very well be addressed in a five minute sofa slot.

So I will try now.

Reading those e mails, one simple fact stood out: that although legal issues may be resolved between the parties or the courts, divorce is not an event that can be recovered from emotionally in minutes, weeks or months. For many people, it will take years to come to terms with such profound changes to their lifestyle. Any trauma, be it bereavement, an accident or a violent attack, will affect the person who sustains it. No-one should expect to recover quickly.

Yet we do recover, eventually. Just as the travel expert on the radio pointed out, we expect to be able to do exactly what we want without events that are beyond our control affecting day-to-day life. This attitude is understandable, but it is as ill-suited to divorce as it is to turbulent weather.

My advice is as follows. If you are going through a divorce or recovering from it, you are travelling through a blizzard. Don’t try and battle your way through at the height of the snowstorm – your wheels risk leaving the road. Instead, stay indoors and keep warm. Don’t pile pressure upon yourself to do anything.

Wait for the storm to abate. In the meantime, begin to adapt to your circumstances. Make slow but necessary adjustments. Keep being positive but take it easy, step by step, day by day. Don’t expect anything. Don’t expect your loneliness to melt away overnight. Be friends with those who offer you friendship in the storm. And take it easy. Know that you won’t be “snowed in” forever, and begin to live your life in a new way.

When snow falls, a thaw will follow. One of these days, your road will be clear – and you will be ready to move on.

If you had a divorce question that was not covered on the Lorraine Kelly programme, you are welcome to leave it here.

The founder of Stowe Family Law, Marilyn Stowe is one of Britain’s best known divorce lawyers. She retired from Stowe Family Law in 2017.

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  1. srabonicu says:

    Nice post.

  2. Marilyn Stowe says:

    Thank you.
    I dont know where you are but when I woke up this morning, it was already daylight and I could even see some sunlight!
    Winter is on its way out…!

  3. chatting out loud says:

    I appreciate your insights regarding overcoming divorce. It is true that no one is certain as to how long one can heal over his/her divorce, what is important is you have a strong support system and that you have an idea – vivid or vague – of what you want next for your life.

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