We’re fresh into a new year. Only the strawberry creams are left in the Quality Street box (and maybe not even them). The decorations are put away again (or will be soon). And you’re left with that thought. The one you keep coming back to. Is this the year we end our marriage? Maybe this has been brewing for sometime. Maybe the stress of the pandemic and Christmas has meant you’ve reached crisis point. Whatever the reason, if you’re thinking about getting a divorce in 2022, start here.
Take some time to think this through
You might be starting 2022 desperate to take action. Perhaps your marriage has become increasingly toxic over the last few years. Even the sound of your partner breathing sends you into a fury. And you can’t stand it any more. You want to leave, and you want to do it NOW!
So what I’m about to say will not please you. But it is what you need to hear.
Don’t do anything yet. Really, don’t. Even if you’ve had it up to your ears. Even if you think you can’t stand to be under the same roof for another minute. (The exception to this is if you’re unsafe – if your spouse is inflicting emotional or physical damage on you or your family your priority is to get to safety. Refuge has specific information for you here.)
There are two main reasons for this. One is that it is always wiser to act from a place of calm decision, rather than desperation. And the other is that divorce may not be the answer you need.
You take yourself with you
As I explain in my book How To Be A Lady Who Leaves, you take yourself with you.
What do I mean by that? I mean whatever you bring to your situation will leave when you do. So if your marriage is riddled with misery, or arguments, or boredom, then you need to think about your own contribution to that state of affairs. Is it your marriage that’s the problem or is it something else? This is a good time to check in with yourself.
Consider your unhappiness right now. What’s contributing to it? A useful exercise is to separate all the contributing factors into ones you can control and ones you can’t. We can’t control what other people do. We may be able to influence them, by sharing our thoughts and feelings. But what they do then is up to them. The only person you can take real responsibility for is yourself.
Leaving is certainly an action you can take. But are there other helpful actions you’ve overlooked? Ones that could save your marriage?
What can you do now?
Right now you might be raising your eyebrows at a divorce coach questioning whether divorce is the right option for you. But, ultimately, what I want for you is a happy and fulfilling life. I don’t push divorce on people! And if it’s not needed, then it’s worth examining other options. I believe in marriage – as long as it’s healthy. For some people, divorce isn’t the best next step. There are other things you can try first.
So, how do you know if divorce is your best next step? Ask yourself these questions:
- Do you know what specifically is putting your marriage under strain?
- Have you spoken to your spouse about how you’re feeling?
- Are you communicating respectfully?
If you have a clear idea of what the problem is, you’ve tried talking it through (perhaps with the support of a relationship counsellor) and you are not deliberately baiting each other, then it might be time to consider divorce.
But what if you haven’t tried resolving the problem between yourselves, or you’ve realised you’ve been treating your spouse badly, which has been fuelling a negative situation?
In that case, consider whether it’s worth trying a new approach to your marriage. Perhaps when you raise the topic with your spouse, or make a conscious effort to stop sniping at each other, you’ll find things change for the better.
Start with you
Even if now is the right time for you to commence your divorce journey, please don’t make the mistake of picking up the phone to a solicitor! Many believe a lawyer is their first port of call when they’re getting divorced. This is simply not the best course of action for most people.
If you are in a complex situation, either due to the manipulation involved in high conflict or the intricacies that come with a high level of wealth, it’s important to get the right legal and financial team around you. And that doesn’t mean going for the first name you find on Google, or someone your friend recommended. Take the time to select your professional support carefully. You need to develop a relationship with them. That means you need to trust them. Do you feel you can develop a rapport? Do you get the sense they will listen to you and care about your specific situation? And do they have the training and experience to deal with the complexities of your case – whether they are to do with high conflict, high wealth, or both?
For most people, you don’t need to think about legal representation yet – you might not need it at all. It’s smart to get your thoughts and your paperwork together before making big changes – even before announcing you’re leaving.
Knowing your numbers is one of my top mantras when it comes to divorce. Don’t take any binding action, or agree to any financial settlements until you know exactly what your assets, liabilities, and living costs are.
The gift of time
But before you even get to that practical step, take some time just for yourself. How are you feeling about divorce right now? You’re probably pretty clear on the push factors that motivate you to leave your marriage.
But what about the pull factors? What are you moving towards? What is it you really want out of life? How would you like to be living one year, two years, three years from now?
Having a clear vision of your ideal future can help ground you when things get tough. That vision is something to hold onto. And, even more importantly, it’s something you can start to step into right now. Yes, even while you’re still married. You can start to become that person you want to be right now.
Letting go of blame
2022 is a big year for divorce law in England and Wales. In April 2022 no-fault law is due to come into effect. This will mean it will be possible to start divorce (or dissolution in the case of civil partnership) proceedings within two years without one party laying blame on the other.
We will explore more about what this means for the divorce process in a future blog. But, for now, consider the role blame is playing in your own marriage and impending divorce. What would happen if you let go of blame?
Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting you just forgive and forget if your spouse has treated you appallingly. There is no reason to be a doormat or smile sweetly and let the bad behaviour continue. But putting your energy into blame is draining. All that time you spend ruminating over what they did wrong and how it’s all their fault isn’t getting you anywhere.
Even now, before the ‘no fault’ process comes into effect, the divorce court is solely there as a legal process. Not as a moral judge. They won’t want to hear the ins and outs of how badly your spouse treated you.
So, think of blame as a divorce quicksand. It will slow you up. It will leave you stuck with the same old thoughts, and focussed on your soon-to-be-ex. When your focus needs to be on you.
Start as you mean to go on
So, are you still thinking about getting a divorce in 2022? Or have you already embarked on your divorce journey and want to ensure you do it right? You can have no firmer foundation than joining The Absolute Academy.
Over in The Absolute Academy, you’ll find a strong, powerful community of women taking charge of their divorce. Supporting each other. Using divorce planning toolkits and my expertise to ensure their divorce is as low-stress and low cost as possible. Yes, you pay a monthly fee to be part of it. But it’s an awful lot more cost effective than talking to your lawyer.
The Absolute Academy is open to new members throughout January. Read more and sign up here.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is the author of the Amazon best-selling book How to be a Lady Who Leaves, the Ultimate Guide to Getting Divorce Ready. A former lawyer, Emma is a family mediator and founder of Get Divorce Ready the online self-study and group programmes. Emma has been featured on BBC Radio, The Telegraph, the iPaper and in Marie Claire Magazine. Emma is also the host of The Six Minute Divorce Podcast. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com