Five Common Divorce Struggles and How To Handle Them
Just because your friend’s been through divorce doesn’t mean she knows exactly what it’s like for you. Just because I’ve supported hundreds of women as they divorce doesn’t mean I know exactly what it’s like for you. Five Common Divorce Struggles and How To Handle Them might resonate deeply with you now – for others these struggles may not be your experience.
Everyone is unique and that means every divorce is unique. That’s why it’s so important to become the CEO of your divorce – you are the only person who can take charge. And that’s why it’s so important to find people who will truly listen to you without making assumptions.
But often, the same themes crop up. The same flashpoints, the same anxiety-inducers. The same squeezes on time and energy that leave you feeling as though you’ve been run over by a bus. And, for many women, it’s helpful to hear they’re not alone. Others are feeling this too. Others have been there and they’ve come out the other side.
So in this blog Five Common Divorce Struggles and How To Handle , we take a quick tour round some of the most common divorce struggles, and look at what you can do to tackle them.
When you can’t stand your ex
Know that this is quite normal! The ideal case for divorce is that everything remains amicable, and both parties work collaboratively to ensure there are clear arrangements that suit you both. Sadly, this often doesn’t happen and communication turns poisonous. The number one thing you need to do is separate the person from the issue you need to resolve (your divorce).
Aim to keep the heat out of dealings with your ex, however you feel about them as a person. Your number one priority is getting the divorce sorted, then you’ll have legal and financial separation, and even if you need to deal with each other on an ongoing basis (if you have children, or joint business interests, for example), you’ll have clarity over how to do it.
So keep cool. Vent to your friends, or me, if needed. But as far as divorce goes, don’t take the bait. That doesn’t mean you leave your emotions about your ex dangling – they are an open wound that needs treating. Seek help from a counsellor or trauma specialist if need be.
If your main story about our ex is what a terrible person they are and how everything is their fault, what evidence do you have to the contrary? This may sound tough, but rarely are things black and white. It’s not about taking the blame, it’s about taking your ex of the terrible pedestal you’ve put them on. If you can see where your ex might not be the total monster you’ve made them out to be, it can loosen their emotional hold on you and mean you’re using less headspace going over all the wrongs they’ve perpetrated. Your focus needs to be on you, and your future. See if you can let some of the past go.
When conflict is high and hidden
A divorce where high conflict is covert can feel like psychological warfare. It’s draining physically and emotionally. To everyone else your ex might be Mr/Ms Nice Guy, being perfectly reasonable, while you feel like you’re experiencing death by a thousand cuts – all the microaggressions and powerplays that go unseen.
It’s important to have someone you trust to support you objectively. Many times your anxiety may be justified but your emotional response is unhelpful. And throughout all of this, it’s about focussing on what moves you forward, what’s in the best interests of you and your divorce. Here are some practical tips to keep yourself safe, and your divorce on an even keel:
- If you are able, use a lawyer to distance yourself from as much direct contact as possible. Or get their emails and texts diverted to a trusted friend (without letting your ex know) so there’s a buffer, and support when you do need to tackle them
- Use Parenting Apps such as Our Family Wizard, which log all communication
- Learn Bill Eddy’s BIFF response. BIFF stands for Brief Informative Friendly and Firm. Reply only to contact that warrants a response. If you are triggered and are unsure whether a response is required, ask a trusted friend to sense check your thoughts. You can read more about BIFF here
- Mindfulness, yoga, meditation, and physical exercise can help you move through your emotions and promote your emotional well-being.
When you’re not confident with financial matters
Don’t panic! You are not alone – many women feel overwhelmed at dealing with the financial side of divorce. The key thing is to break it down. Give yourself time and space to learn. You don’t have to do it all at once. of all the Five Common Divorce Struggles, this is a big one for many women.
Get organised – getting your paperwork in order is the number one thing you can do to quell the fear. Get yourself some ring binders. Get a printer, ink and plenty of paper. Get everything in one place.
Make lists of all your financial matters – mortgage, bank accounts (current and savings) investments, pensions, loans credit cards business accounts, etc. Begin to build your disclosure file. Take time to look at the numbers – they tell a story.
Get financial advice/pension advice if necessary. You might balk at spending the money, but often, the professionals will save you money in the long run.
Once you have created your disclosure file, update it regularly. Become familiar with it. Know your numbers!
When your divorce feels like a full-time job
I get it. Divorce is all-consuming – handling all the obligations of the legal process takes enough time, but then there’s all the brain space it takes up emotionally, the need to make practical living arrangements for the future, the fear of what may or may not happen… It’s easy for divorce to become defining.
It is ok to take breaks. Set aside dates in your diary that are ‘divorce-free’: days when you give yourself permission not to think about it at all (and do something else so you don’t let the divorce thoughts creep in!).
Get support. Who can help you wade through paperwork, or look after children so you can make phone calls? Who can provide you with meals? We all often resist asking for help. But think about how you’d feel if a friend who was having a hard time turned to you? Would you feel irritated, or honoured? Often, as long as people have time, they are more than happy to help – people like to be wanted and needed.
Try and keep a sense of perspective. Focus on what is, and what you can do, rather than worry about what might be, and what you can’t control. You are not your divorce. You are so much more than that, and you have so much more ahead of you, however difficult it feels now.
When your children are struggling emotionally
When your children are struggling emotionally it hits you where it hurts. It’s easy to push your own needs even further down the pile as you try and make everything right for them.
But you need to look after yourself first. I know that sounds wrong. And I’m not talking about neglecting your children’s needs. But it’s a case of putting your own oxygen mask on first. Make sure you’ve got support for you, so you can support them.
It’s tempting to want to fix everything. But you can’t. You can’t control how your children respond to divorce. And your children are entitled to the full range of emotions – difficult ones included. Let your children know that it’s okay to be sad, scared, angry and upset. You love them whatever. Offer time and space to listen, or if they don’t want to talk to you, is there a trusted adult (aunt, uncle, godparent?) who could spend time with them?
Let their school know what’s happening. School might have counsellors or other professionals your children can talk to if needed. There may also be private therapists who specialise in working with children and teenagers.
Remember, that however difficult it feels at the moment, you will not save your children’s hurt by staying together. Recent research found that it is more damaging for children to live in a household with ongoing conflict than to have divorced parents. And while divorce is difficult and upsetting, your children are likely to experience a happier, more stable life when the dust settles.
Get Divorce Ready online programme
If you want trusted support as you navigate the stresses of divorce, look no further! Following the success of the Get Divorce Ready Live event, I’m running the Get Divorce Ready Online Group Coaching programme again.
This brings you together with other women facing similar struggles and provides you with step by step guidance to doing divorce like a CEO. No wrong steps or wasted time. No panic as you try to understand what’s needed next and whether you can do it. Just clear, supportive information and space to do your divorce, your way.
We start in April 2020 and run an eight-week online programme over ten weeks (we have a two-week break so you can catch up with your tasks!).
Divorce doesn’t have to be a lonely struggle. Get Divorce Ready with me this spring.
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