On the day I said “I do,” I never would have imagined that I would find myself sitting in a small room one day with my attorney and a mediator, helping me negotiate a “settlement” with the man I vowed to love and cherish until “death do us part.” But, life brought me unexpected events, and what I thought I would never have to experience gave me a new perspective on suffering, grief, the journey through forgiveness, and personal growth.
The Beginners Guide to Dealing with Divorce
- Unfortunately, approximately 50% of marriages in the United States will deal with the effects of divorce or separation. What that means is that half of married couples will have to deal with the overwhelming process of hiring attorneys, dividing assets, determining custody of children, and working through a myriad of emotions along the way.
- If you are finding yourself going through a divorce, the first thing to know is that you’re not alone! When I first realized I would be faced with the inevitable, I searched the internet looking for inspiration and motivation for those of us going through the difficult process of divorcing. I found a lot of legal advice, but I couldn’t seem to find much on the day to day emotions and circumstances I was experiencing. When I finally made it through what I now call “the fog,” I determined that I would do what I could to help others walking the same path that I have walked. So, here we are! Fact #1: You WILL make it through it, and you WILL be ok!
What Not to Believe About Divorce
- Do not believe the lie that you are a failure because your marriage didn’t last. No marriage is perfect because we are human, and humans are not perfect. That doesn’t mean that I take divorce lightly…trust me…I never would have chosen this! But, being divorced doesn’t mean my life is a failure. It means a life event occurred that I didn’t want or anticipate, and I am choosing to rise above it and not let it define me!
- Do not believe the lie that you didn’t work hard enough on your marriage. The success of a marriage depends on two people being equally committed to sweating it out when things get tough and working through (or finding the help to work through) issues when they arise. It doesn’t take two people to divorce. It takes one person not willing to commit to staying in it and walking away. Please know that as I write this, I know there will be people in abusive situations reading this. In cases such as this, walking away is completely understandable, and you’re not at fault for protecting yourself and your children.
- Do not believe the lie that you will forever have the letter “D” on your forehead. In the beginning, I felt a lot of shame that I was now checking off the “divorced” box on forms rather than the “married” box. (By the way, why do those boxes even exist on forms?) I saw it as who I was. Now, with some time behind me, I see it as a part of my life. It isn’t my whole life.
- Do not believe the lie that your life can’t be good again. Time, that dreaded word, has a tendency to change a lot of things when it comes to divorce. With some time, you will find that life can be very good again. It will be different, but different doesn’t have to be bad.
- Do not believe the lie that you should start dating again immediately. Ouch! I know…a lot of people jump into another relationship to help dull the pain of divorce. But, this can often times be a mistake! You need to be able to face the reality of what you’re going through. Jumping into a new relationship will only mask the emotions that you need to process and will often times lead you right back into a relationship that is similar or worse than what you just finished.
First Things First…What Do I Need To Know About Dealing with Divorce?
- This should seem self-explanatory, but take some time to find a good divorce attorney. Do your homework. Don’t just ask about how much their retainer is. You need to compare how much their hourly rate is and how many hours it typically takes a divorce like yours to be completed. Should your divorce not settle in mediation, does your attorney have what it takes to represent you well in court? What success rate does your attorney have? Does your attorney have the same philosophy you did in approaching what you want?
- You’re going to feel overwhelmed at times. Remind yourself that you can manage what you’re going through. The whole process can seem like a big mountain to climb if you look at it as a whole. Instead, take it one step at a time. You’ll find that step 1 leads to step 2 which leads to step 3…before you know it, you’ve managed to navigate the entire mountain, and you’re now on the downward slope to the new start ahead of you.
- You’re going to experience a range of emotions as you progress through your divorce. Sometimes, it actually feels like a roller coaster you’re on. Just go with them and understand it’s natural. We all expect the grief and anger. Those seem natural. But, what you may not expect to feel at times is the feeling of relief. Yes…I said it. Relief! As I stated above, every marriage has its struggles. So, when things begin to settle down, don’t be surprised if you find yourself having a sense of relief in not having to deal with whatever issue(s) may have existed in your previous marriage.
- You won’t “get over it” just because the final papers are signed. You will find that once the divorce is final it’s easier to move forward with some certainty. However, expect that it will take you some time to work through what has occurred…and it’s ok!!! Your friends and family may not understand the length of time it takes you to “move on.” Please don’t judge your progress by the progress of others. Every person is different in how he/she proceeds through it. Just keep moving forward.
- At some point, you’ll need to work through forgiveness. I know…some of you are sitting there saying “but you don’t know what he/she did.” I don’t know. But, what I do know is that staying angry or bitter will only hurt you in the end. You have to work to get to the point of forgiving. Yep, I said work. I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m not saying it will happen quickly. I’m not saying you won’t be able to forgive some people in your divorce easier than others. I’m not saying you won’t find yourself having to forgive again after you think you’ve already forgiven. What I’m saying is that there must come a time when you decide that you would rather free yourself by letting it go rather than holding on to the anger and bitterness. (Yep…you should be hearing “Let It Go…Let It Go” in your head by now.) When you get to the point where you can forgive, you will find yourself sitting back and smiling at the blessings you can now see despite the situation you’re were, and are, in.
Tips for Helping You During and After Your Divorce
- Find a support group or counselor to help you walk through it. There is no shame in asking a professional to help you process the huge change you are going through. Support groups are available in churches and many community programs. I highly recommend Divorce Care. The program covers most of what is commonly experienced during a divorce, and the group structure lets you know that you’re not alone. Divorce Care also has a Divorce Care for Kids program if you have children going through the divorce with you. You can find a Divorce Care group near you at https://www.divorcecare.org.
- Give yourself some grace. You are not going to do everything perfectly. There will be things you say that you regret. There will be things you do that you regret. You’re human, and it’s hard. Forgive yourself and know that you’re doing the best you can to navigate what seems impossible.
- Allow yourself to fully feel the emotions you will experience. If you cut them off or stuff them, they will come up later at an unexpected time. Instead, you have to go through them and try to make sense of why you’re feeling what you are feeling. Again, this is where a support group or counselor can really help.
- Put your kids first. Shelter them from as much conflict as you can between you and your spouse. We never realize what our kids are hearing when we think they are out of earshot. It’s best to keep adult matters between the adults. While your kids will know things are changing, their schedules and day to day expectations should stay as consistent as possible. This means you will have to sacrifice some of the things you want in order to put them first. It may mean you have to give up some of “your time” with them so they can go to the slumber party on “your weekend.”
- Start focusing on your finances by putting together a budget. It may seem stressful at first, but you will find that when you actually write down a budget, you are less stressed about money because you know where it’s going and can anticipate what you need to adjust based on what you have.
- Allow yourself to dream again without feeling guilty. Yes…dream! Then, take up the courage to go after those dreams. Start to pick up new hobbies that you wanted to do before but couldn’t. Use this time to discover new things about yourself and the world around you.
Common Questions About Dealing with Divorce
- Will the pain ever go away?
- The short answer is yes! It won’t happen overnight, and there may be times that a pang comes back every now and then. But, you will find yourself living again, laughing again, and possibly loving again.
- How do I protect my children from hurting?
- Unfortunately, you’re not going to. I wish I could say there was a way to keep them from hurting, too. What you can do, however, is be the stabilizer in their life. Whether you are living with them or not, you can be the adult in your child’s life who is predictable and who thinks responsibly in relation to their needs. You can be there to listen to them. You can be there to support them. If they need a counselor to talk to, it’s ok to get them some help. Most importantly, don’t talk about their other parent poorly. Your child is going to internalize what you say about the other parent. Eventually, he/she will mature enough to be able to see the dynamics between you and your ex-spouse. In the meantime, do your best to put your child’s emotional needs before your own.
- What do I do to fill the “empty” spaces of what is left.
- You just fill it! After talking to a friend about how empty the closet felt without my husband’s clothes in there, she told me to fill it up with my summer clothes. That’s what I did, and it worked! Take those empty spaces and put something there…something for you! You’ll find that the empty spaces won’t seem so lonely any more.
- When can I start dating again?
- The question here really isn’t when “can” you start dating again. It’s more about when “should” you start dating again. There’s no magic number. I’ve heard one year for every five you were married. But, I don’t think it’s realistic to place a formula on it. What I do think is that you have to give yourself time to fully understand what you’ve gone through and fully heal from it. If not, you just bring bigger baggage into a new relationship. I would say you’re ready to date again when you don’t think you have to date to be happy. When you’re content on your own is when you know you’re ready to bring someone else into the picture.
- How do I reconcile my divorce with my faith?
- This is a tough one and, honestly, it’s what drove me to write this blog because there just isn’t a lot of guidance out there for individuals of faith who find themselves going through a divorce. What I’m going to say is that, yes, God hates divorce. After going through a divorce, I know exactly why. It’s painful, and it isn’t the way God intended marriage to be. BUT…as much as God hates divorce, He loves YOU! If you let Him, He will be there for you through this, and you will find a strength through Him that you didn’t think you had.
The Last Thing You Need to Know About Dealing with Divorce
- I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there. I’m here to tell you that as bad as it seems right now, hang in there because there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Time (yep, that dreaded word again) has a tendency to heal if you will let it. I love the lyrics from “The Sun is Rising” by Britt Nicole. I can’t tell you how many times I listened to it when I was in “the fog.” You are stronger than you think, and it won’t be too long before you realize that the sun is rising on a new day for you, too!
“You’re gonna make it
You’re gonna make it
And the night can only last for so long
Whatever you’re facingClick here for the full song
If your heart is breaking
There’s a promise for the ones who just hold on
Lift up your eyes and see
And the sun is rising “
- What questions or advice do you have about Dealing with Divorce? Comment below to let me know what you would like to see discussed in upcoming posts.