Feel the fear and divorce anyway
Feel the fear and divorce anyway. Yes really. Moving forward in your divorce when fear overwhelms you is hard. It is, however, essential that you manage your fear and keep going. Otherwise you risk staying stuck – trapped in that powerlessness of fear and legally tied to a marriage you no longer want.
In Feel the fear and divorce anyway, we look at how to work with and through your fear and regain a sense of co
Fear is normal
Remember that fear is normal. Going into uncertainty, particularly if you don’t feel in control, is scary. You don’t know what you don’t know. You probably have no clear picture of the future: where you’ll live, your finances, arrangements with children. I’m yet to meet a woman who wasn’t worried or scared about her divorce. You are not ‘weak’ ‘pathetic’ or ‘silly’. You are human, having a normal, healthy, human response to an emotionally stressful situation. So, you really can Feel the fear and divorce anyway
Be curious about your fear
Be curious about your fear. I’m serious. Fear isn’t just an inconvenience. It’s there to keep us safe, and is worth investigating. Fear usually chooses the status quo – better the devil you know and all that. When change comes knocking, either of our choosing or not, fear tells us to ignore the door. But what does that feel like for you?
Fear can be full-blown anxiety and panic. It can be sweaty palms or a racing heart. It can be withdrawal and refusal to engage. You know your own fear pattern. Use that knowledge now. Think about other times you felt the fear and ‘did it anyway’.
What needed to happen? What motivated and supported you to do the thing you didn’t want to do? Importantly, what was the outcome?
Make friends with your fear
Making friends with your fear means it’s easier to tame. Your fear really is on your side, it’s just that it might not always have the best answers for getting you through necessary but difficult situations.
Thank your fear for doing what it can to keep you where you are now, and, if you know that you need to act, let your fear know that you’ve heard it and you respect it, but it’s not in charge. Paraphrasing author Elizabeth Gilbert, you can let your fear along for the ride, but it’s not in the driving seat. You really can Feel the fear and divorce anyway.
Listen to your fear
If you don’t listen to your fear, it will get louder. It will get so loud that it will become overwhelming. So the minute you notice those tell-tale signs, engage with them. Stay in charge. If you notice that your fears are irrational, acknowledge the irrationality of them. Is there any evidence to back up your fears or are they unhelpful stories and extreme worst-case scenarios? Exploring these questions honestly will help you plan accordingly, and feel more in control.
If your fears mask doubts about your decision to divorce, be open with yourself. Acknowledge your questions and explore them. Remember, you don’t have to divorce. You can change your mind at any stage until the decree absolute. It can help to talk to someone outside your social circle – like a therapist or divorce coach. I promise you that no good divorce coach will encourage you to get divorced – they will simply provide a safe space for you to be heard and explore your feelings.
If you’re scared about the financial disclosure process because you feel you’ll be manipulated or hoodwinked – speak out. Share this with your mediator, your solicitor your divorce coach or a trusted friend. Ignoring this kind of fear can be costly, emotionally and financially.
Don’t confuse fear with other emotions
“I’m too scared” often means “I don’t want to” or “I’m feeling sad about this”. And that’s ok. Naming your emotions honestly will help you deal with them appropriately. So explore what you’re feeling, by speaking it out loud or writing it down if it helps. Working with anger is different to working with fear, or sadness, or shame. It’s only when we sit with them awhile we see them for what we are, and can work with them appropriately.
Grief is a huge emotion in divorce – even when it’s your idea. You are mourning the loss of your marriage, and the loss of the future you’d once thought you’d have together. Call it as it is. Grief is a normal emotion too. Embrace it, feel it, acknowledge it. Grief is a rollercoaster. Take action on the days you feel you can. When it all gets too much, you can and should rest.
Remember, your ex is scared too
Fear is a normal human emotion and it kicks in during new, unknown, stressful experiences. This means that if you are feeling fear, it’s likely your ex is too – whatever they tell you to the contrary. If your ex appears angry, silent or is hiding money, chances are they are fearful too.
Recognising their fear is important for two reasons:
- It helps you to see that they have the same vulnerabilities as you, they’re no stronger or more powerful emotionally
- It means you can communicate more effectively. You don’t have to share that you know they’re feeling scared, but if you respond to the fear, rather than the presenting anger (or whatever difficult behaviours are coming your way) you are far more likely to get a successful outcome. It can take the heat out of stressful power games and keep you focussed on what’s important to you – your divorce.
Take small steps
Unless your ex is hiding or dissipating assets, or you are physically or emotionally unsafe, you have time. There is no rush – divorce will still be legal later this year, or next year. So take small steps.
Learn to sit with your thoughts and practice mindfulness. This isn’t a one-off task you can tick off a list, it’s an on-going practice. Use an online programme or app such as Headspace each day to calm yourself. This might not seem related to your divorce but I promise it is. It will significantly reduce that feeling of overwhelm which makes it easier for you to take wise action in all areas of your life.
Educate yourself. Learn about the divorce process. Consider your own unique circumstances. Think about what you want and need. Think about the life you want to have post divorce. My Amazon bestseller, ‘How To Be A Lady Who Leaves’ tells you all you need to know to get ready.
Consider your finances. What money do you have to invest in your divorce? I say ‘invest’ because the money you spend on your divorce can either be the best money you ever spend (helping you build a new, independent future), or the utilisation of precious resources in the wrong place at the wrong time (see below re when to use a solicitor, for example).
Use a solicitor at the right time for you
Not everyone needs a solicitor from the get-go. Not everyone can afford a solicitor at all. It doesn’t mean that you have to stay married nor does it mean that you’ll get screwed over if you have to do-it-yourself.
Decide what you can or want to do for yourself. Sure, a solicitor will petition on your behalf, yet you may decide to do this yourself either to save money or just because you can. You and your ex may be able to amicably disclose all assets and propose settlement without a solicitor. In which case you may only need a lawyer for final advice on your proposals and drafting the consent order – great!
Mediation can be a very helpful, and more cost effective option than the courts for sorting out financial or child arrangements if doing it between the two of you is problematic.
If you’re in a high conflict situation, however, you will need to see a solicitor to ensure that your interests are fully protected. And it’s worth making sure you choose a solicitor who is experienced in high conflict cases.
Use a divorce coach to save your mental health and your money
A divorce coach will help you sift through your worries and questions, and focus on what you value. She will support you to complete the tasks in hand in the right order and to remind you of the life you want for yourself after your divorce is over. All of this will save you emotional energy, time and money.
Divorce is challenging and there’s no shame in needing a guiding hand or a gentle nudge, in fact, it’s a brave and wise thing to invest in.
There are no ostriches on my watch – divorce is too expensive to waste time and money being unproductive. But don’t get me wrong, purposeful delay is good delay – it’s about being the CEO of your divorce.
Equally, a good divorce coach will encourage you to ‘hold your horses’ when you’re about to make rash decisions to get everything ‘over with’. Believe me, I’ve worked with hundreds of women, and it won’t be ‘over with’ – you’ll just be left miserable, feeling like a mug and poor.
And if you’re truly out of energy, hope and at your lowest ebb, I’ll be there with you, and help you take those tiny steps to get your divorce back on track.
If you’d like a chat about how I can support you through fear and beyond – I’m happy to help. Just contact me to book a free 30-minute consultation.
Emma Heptonstall, the Divorce Alchemist is 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. To find out more visit www.emmaheptonstall.com