Sadly and irreparably it has happened. Divorce is on the way. Why? How? Why you? Why us? These are questions you will probably be thinking about over and over. You probably don’t want this to happen and have done what you can to avoid. But you’ve decided and so has your soon-to-be ex so it’s now upon you. You’re feeling scared, anxious and down in the dumps. Neither of you know how this is going to turn out. You can only hope for the best but the reality is that neither of you are in a good place.
So now what do you do?
It’s easy for me as a veteran of thousands of divorces in my well-over 30 year career to come out with platitudes, especially when you’re in no mood to listen. However, what I would say to start with is that it’s a well-known fact that life, at times, can be very, very, cruel. There are wonderful times we all experience, but there are tragic times too. No-one escapes. Life in all its glory or life in its deep sadness touches us all in its own way. And when it hits, it does hit hard and then, as if that’s not hard enough to handle, other bad things seem to happen on top and all at once.
So what can you do?
You can remember, and keep telling yourself, that you aren’t alone. All of us human beings go through the good and the bad. It’s a daily lottery and it’s called being human and being alive.
But what can I advise you to do to make life during divorce easier? I’ve had a good think and come up with ten of the most important strategies to help you get through it.
1) The most important of all. Make decisions only to help you and not to harm your ex.
I am sometimes surprised by how many people sit in my office who are clearly deeply angry and bitterly trying to decide which strategy will most hurt their ex. Did you read that carefully? In case you didn’t, I will also add, don’t go there! Not for one moment. Don’t give your ex a second thought when it comes to planning your best possible future. If divorce is the best option for you who cares if your ex is free to remarry as well? They may not want another possible bust-up later down the line and being free to remarry is the last thing they want. And while you’re at it, don’t be tempted to hide, lie, or perjure yourself to make sure your ex gets as little as possible. You probably will get found out, even years later, and then it will all start again together with a huge costs bill. Don’t exaggerate either. Be fair and realistic. If the Judge accepts what you say is fair he will most likely be on your side.
2) Come to terms with where you are now.
It’s happened and now it’s time to accept this is the lowest you will feel and then move on. Time will heal you far more than you think. However, I must stress this point: don’t be in too much of a rush either. Try and pace this sensibly. Don’t be full of guilt, don’t be full of regrets. Decision made, a new life beckons so give it your best shot. Don’t reject counselling. It can be very helpful especially if you feel guilty about the breakdown of your marriage. Accepting where you are is an important part of moving on.
3) Don’t allow yourself to look down or back.
It’s tempting to look back and wallow in self-pity, lose weight, cry, be angry, and just give in to all those negative emotions. Unfortunately it will only harm you, and no one else. So don’t waste your breath. Get a grip, look forward and get rid of all that anger. Exercise and keep exercising until you’ve burned your anger away in calories. You will feel a lot better for it. Never depart from your strategy of moving onwards, upwards and away from where you are now. So remember, however tempting, don’t send an email or text to your ex after a glass or more of wine, don’t email around your ex’s company to get revenge. It will all come back to haunt you. Turn off your phone and iPad in the evening and watch TV. Or go to the gym if you can. Anything but dwelling on the bad feelings.
4) Always be respectful of your ex.
Don’t flaunt a new relationship in their face. Treat your ex with respect and hopefully it will work both ways. You once were a partnership. Think of how you used to bounce off each other when it was successful. Work on those skills at this, the most important time for both of you and of your children. Threats, withholding money or the children, arguments, silences, anger – none of it will work. Kindness and respect might.
5) Get the right lawyer for you.
Someone who will give you confidence and won’t be afraid to tell you straight out if you’re asking too much or giving too little. If the lawyer isn’t strong and pragmatic enough with you, how would that work in practice? Doing everything you want might result in you being left with a huge costs bill and a poor outcome. Make sure you fully understand the cost and the likely outcome. You’ve chosen your lawyer, now you want to be on the same page as your lawyer. If you don’t know, or aren’t sure, don’t guess. You want a good partnership with a lawyer. Remember this too: a lawyer who can’t give you a reasonable range is probably not the one you want on your side.
6) Don’t settle unless you’re absolutely sure.
You might be under pressure to settle but rarely asking for time is unreasonable. There’s no point crying later. Let me add that there’s no point instructing your lawyer two ways – one to dig deep and report back the other to settle as fast as possible. Keep calm take advice and then when advised to settle only do so when you feel ready. On the other hand you’re paying your lawyer to advise you, don’t dismiss it out of hand either. If you have a good relationship it shouldn’t be a problem.
7) Think about your future.
Be bold and be positive. Think about your future but don’t be unrealistic either. Don’t say you’re going to do something if you can’t. And if a house needs to be sold to give you enough money to live then face it. A home is more important than a house. And if it’s in your name, it’s your future security.
8) Treat the situation always as a challenge to be dealt with and conquered. Let time help you move on. Have that as a mantra. Time does heal I think it really does. Pain fades. People fade too. Do your best to put anger to one side in any way you can. When it surfaces make yourself think of something else.
9) Don’t lean on your children.
Understand they have needs and they aren’t there as a support for you. Don’t put on Oscar-winning performances about the horrific other. He or she is their parent too. Keep your kids firmly out of this. And don’t change, even if your ex doesn’t do the same. Children aren’t daft but they do need two parents if at all possible. Don’t deny them the best childhood they could have in the circumstances.
10) Finally: Don’t look for a replacement for your ex until you’re fully ready. You may be having an affair already but, frankly, my advice is that you can and should do this on your own. Heal first.