High net worth: Are you asset rich but friend poor in your divorce? 


date published

20th September 2020

written by

Emma Heptonstall

Emmaheptonstall.com Image

date published

20th September 2020

High net worth: Are you asset rich but friend poor in your divorce?


It’s easy to assume having wealth makes everything more comfortable. For many, the idea of a high net worth marriage is a dream! If you’re in a high net worth marriage and getting divorced, chances are you know that’s not the case. You might be asset rich, but that’s not a magic wand to make all your problems disappear. 


Wealth brings its own problems when it comes to divorce. Examining and dividing assets gets a whole lot more complicated. And, for many divorcing women in positions of wealth, there’s the problem of trust. Who do you trust? Your old networks, friends, social circles – are they still on your side? If they are, is it about you or your money? 


In Are you asset rich but friend poor in your divorce? we take a look at what happens if you’re wealthy but lonely in your divorce. We see why this might be the case, and what you can do about it. 


Has your social circle disappeared?

They say you find out who your friends are at times of crisis. And in my experience of working with hundreds of women, I know it’s true. 


If you’re a woman in a high net worth marriage you may well have had access. Access to private places, clubs, networks and memberships. For some women, once the news of your separation and impending divorce hits the grapevine, doors close. You are no longer welcome. 


For others, you still have access in name, but there’s a new polite distance. People are pleasant enough, sure. But you’re no longer in on the conversations. You sense there’s plenty being said when you’re not there. 


Perhaps your circle was based around your spouse. All your social arrangements were because of them. You served a purpose as wife, but it was very much your role rather than you that gave you access. 


Whatever the reason, if all your ‘friends’ have suddenly disappeared, it’s can be a blow both emotionally and practically. 


Are people friends with you or your money?

High net worth marriages are often complicated when it comes to social relationships. What if people have stuck around? One of the most common vulnerabilities my private clients share is that they don’t know whether their friends are friends with them, or with their money.


Do you have a pattern of attracting people who want something from you? Perhaps your friends enjoy the experiences you can offer them. The fancy places, the parties, the access to exclusive crowds. It’s all fine while the going is good. 


But what if someone offered them more? A media deal, a consulting role in a different company, a way in to ever more exclusive circles? Would they stick by you then? Or are you simply a means to an end? When the going gets tougher, do they get going (far away)?


I very much hope your friends are friends, and not the parasites I describe here. But when you’re a person of means, it can be hard to walk that tightrope of vulnerability and gullibility. You want to be open enough to develop and nurture true friendships. And you want to be confident that the people you let in are there for the right reasons. 


Wealth is not the same as liberation


You will know this already. Money can unlock so much: places, choice, status, power. With money, it’s true, you can buffer yourself from many of life’s struggles. Yet wealth also makes us vulnerable. Money can trap us, just as poverty can. 


It can leave you feeling powerless to escape. Complicated finances can mean you are answerable to more people, not fewer. And it can be easy for them to take advantage. 


Having a high net worth marriage by itself does not bring you freedom. There’s an extra ingredient. That ingredient? Your own empowerment. 


And where does that empowerment come from? That’s what we look at next. 


Your problems are legitimate

The first thing to do is take yourself seriously. You are your own biggest asset. Take yourself and your mental health seriously. That means acknowledging when you are finding life hard. High net worth marriage doesn’t mean you should feel guilty about finding life hard.


Yes, you may have access to funds that are beyond the resources of many others. And that may mean your life is comfortable in ways that other people’s lives are not. It’s true that money can help us escape various sources of unhappiness. But the old adage is also true. Money can’t buy happiness. You can’t always buy your way out of stress, or anxiety, or depression. 


If you are getting divorced or considering it, you are facing a stressful life event. There’s no getting around that. It’s true of every single person who divorces. And when you’re doing it with high net worth in the mix, it’s likely to be more complicated, and take longer. It may be more combative – there’s more potential for discussions to turn nasty when there’s more at stake.


So give yourself permission to feel low. To acknowledge the strain you are under. You are a person, with feelings and rights. And your problems are legitimate. 


Work on yourself

If you don’t have a reliable circle to trust, you start with the one person you can always turn to. Yourself. Sadly, for many women, that’s far harder than it sounds. Over the years we give away our power, our joy, our strength as we get distracted or cajoled by the demands of others. high net worth marriage comes with sacrifices and you know this. You feel it. 


You need to start focussing on you again. Take a look at the world around you and consider your part in it. What are you doing because it’s something you genuinely want and need to do? What are you doing because it’s expected by others, and you’ve just got used to doing it? 


When you press pause and give yourself time to reassess you take the first step back to you. You take the first step in living life consciously, rather than being buffeted by life. 


And that is the first step to trusting yourself again, above all others. And when you trust yourself, when you have your own back, it matters far less what schemes and dreams anyone else has. 


The amazing thing about working on yourself is that it doesn’t end there. Without even trying you will find that you start attracting the right people for you. People you can start to build trust with. 


Set your boundaries

Once you start to trust yourself first it becomes far easier to set boundaries. Both with yourself and with others. Maybe you have become someone who says yes to everything. Maybe you like to help everyone who asks you. Now’s the time to put you first. You’re going through a major life event – it’s important to take care of you! 


So if you are an automatic ‘yesser’ develop the habit of saying ‘Let me get back to you on that’. Buy yourself some time to think through whether the request is really in your interests. Is it something you are genuinely willing and able to do? Great. If not, it’s time to learn the magic of ‘no’. Or at least ‘not now’. 


Think about what feels both safe and optimal for you, in all areas of your life. It might be your work and social commitments, your business and personal relationships, your daily routine. You may need to reset boundaries in many aspects of your life. And that’s great – it’s a sign you’re taking back your power. 


Build a circle you trust

As you start to develop your own power you will get clearer on who you can trust and who you can’t. And you’ll feel less guilty about booting people who treat you badly. Your inner resilience will mean you no longer depend on the esteem of others to feel good about yourself. 


But you will also find that you will want to bring people in. It’s exhausting trying to wear all the hats, especially if you have a complicated financial, business or personal life. So seek out people who can help you. Be honest about your areas of weakness or ignorance, and find people to plug those gaps. If understanding money isn’t your strong suit, get a wealth adviser to counsel you. Knowledge is power. If your ex is threatening all sorts of nightmare scenarios through the court, seek specialist legal advice. If figuring out what you want and need has you spinning, work with a specialist coach, like me. 


Whenever you’re looking for someone who can help you, ask yourself two questions:

  1. What experience do they have of working with people like me?
  2. Does my gut trust them?


You need to tap into both your heart and head wisdom when recruiting people to your team. You can read more about how to tune into your different sources of wisdom here. It’s important that you enlist specialists who know what they’re doing, with the experience to prove it. You’re no-one’s guinea pig. And it’s just as important you’re working with people who understand you, who you have rapport with. Who you can be honest with, and who will be honest with you. 


I can help

I offer a range of private, confidential 1:1 services to help you navigate divorce. If you are just considering it and haven’t spoken to anyone yet I can help. If you are working through court processes I can help. Struggling with decision-making or knowing what’s best for you? I can help. And it’s not just me – I can recommend a team of trusted wealth managers, asset tracers and lawyers who will put you and not your wealth at the centre of your divorce. 


I bring both my legal background and extensive coaching experience of working with women in your situation. I can be the person on the end of the phone whenever you need it. You do not have to do this alone, however lonely you sometimes feel. 

You can book in an initial call here.


About Emma

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


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