How to understand, and change, your divorce money story
We all have a money story. And, like it or not, that story will play out in your divorce. In this blog we’ll look at what a money story is, how to identify yours, and how to change it for something more helpful if you need to. Let’s get to grips with how to understand, and change, your divorce money story.
What is a money story?
First of all, let’s look at what a money story actually is. Your money story is what you tell yourself about your relationship with money. And it’s a sneaky thing, because until you stop to examine it, you probably take for granted your beliefs about money. You think they are the solid gold truth.
Try it now. Either sit for a moment with your thoughts, or grab a pen and paper, and answer these questions:
- If I were to ask you how you are with money, what would you say?
- What are the main feelings that spring up when you think about money?
- How were your parents with money when you were growing up?
- How do you feel about taking charge of your finances after divorce?
Hopefully, after doing that, you will have a sense of your emotional relationship with money. So whether you’re someone who answered:
“I’m completely confident with money, I love being on top of everything” or
“I’m completely out of my depth – my money situation is too complicated, even though I know there’s plenty” or
“I’m terrified, there’s never enough to go around” or…
…something completely different, at least now you can see the lens you view money through.
How does your divorce money story affect you?
So you have a money story. Why does it matter? It matters because even though the story exists in your head (and may not actually be true) it will impact how you proceed with your divorce and finances.
If you have a positive story, one in which you can handle your money just fine, that will be the attitude you bring to your divorce discussions. You won’t shy away from conversations or be intimidated by the Form E. You won’t defer to your spouse’s opinions or suggestions without proper consideration.
If you have a negative money story, you will bring that to your divorce instead. You might do everything you can to avoid the discomfort of dealing with financial matters – which only makes things worse. You might leave all the financial arrangements up to your soon-to-be-ex, leaving you open to exploitation.
If you have an attitude that money has always been fine, it’s not something you need to worry too much about, that can bring both positives and negatives to your divorce. On the one hand it’s great that you’re not getting stressed. Being overly anxious is not good for your health, and can impair your judgement. On the other hand, now is the time to give your finances some attention, even if you haven’t before now. Divorce is a serious business and the financial arrangement you end up with will have a significant impact on your future.
Time to take control
Now’s the time to take control of your money story. As we’ve seen, a story is just a set of assumptions, thoughts and feelings that live in your head. But if you’re not aware of its power, it can leak out into how you deal with money in the real world.
If you have a positive story – great. Use it. Remind yourself regularly that you can handle whatever financial issue that arises, both during your divorce and after.
If you have a negative story, now’s the time to rewire it. Whether you’ve had a bad or passive relationship with money in the past, from now on you will need to be responsible for your finances. And while that seems daunting, it doesn’t have to be.
The first thing to do is pause. Often negative stories are bound up with a feeling of anxiety and panic. Rather than react to that anxiety, just pause a moment and remind yourself it’s just a story talking. Then you can choose how to respond.
In practical terms that might look like:
- Insisting on getting independent financial advice rather than going along with your ex-spouse’s financial suggestions
- Seeking family mediation to help reach a financial agreement rather than deferring to what your ex-spouse wants
- Organising paperwork and looking into bank accounts so you can understand your situation – you can break this into manageable steps
- Asking for the specialist legal or financial help you need if necessary
- Working with the Citizens’ Advice Bureau or other agencies to help with debt and budgeting if necessary
- Developing a new habit of tracking your spending, so you understand where your money is going.
If you’ve had a high conflict partner
If you’re in a high conflict divorce it’s likely that your ex-spouse has controlled you and your money in the past. They may have told you that you’re no good with money and you need to leave it all for them to deal with. They may have controlled your access to money, leaving you to manage on very little.
If this is the case for you, I have a surprise for you. Chances are you’re actually great at managing money. If your controlling spouse only allowed you a limited budget and you managed – that’s financial prowess right there. If you’ve not had much experience of managing money, that doesn’t mean you’re no good at it. You have no evidence of that. In fact, it means you have a clean slate to develop healthy habits now.
In a high conflict situation it’s even more important that you seek external expertise rather than agree to your ex-spouse’s financial plans. Make sure you get advice on your financial plans and ensure you complete the Form E so both you and your ex-spouse make full financial disclosure.
Be future focussed
It can be hard to change habits – especially when we have ingrained beliefs that we’re no good at something. So, take small steps and be kind to yourself. Rather than think about the way you’ve always done things, or the stories you’ve told yourself in the past, be future focussed.
What do you want your future life to feel like? How do you want to see yourself? As a self-assured, confident woman who can handle what life throws at her? Then that’s the story you can bring to life.
Small steps can make such a big difference when we want to change our attitudes and behaviours. Keeping tabs on your spending via your phone or a notebook is a simple action. But it immediately gives you control. And it tells your brain that you’re taking charge here. You’re not hiding away from money worries, even if it feels a bit scary at the start.
Be kind to yourself
It’s so much easier to face up to your fears and make changes when you have people supporting you. And that’s what The Absolute Academy is there to do. You get a Q&A with me every single week so you can ask anything you like – about money, or anything else. There are no stupid questions! You also get access to all my training and toolkits so you know you are doing the right things for your divorce in the right order.
And on top of all that you get the other women in The Absolute Academy to share with and cheer you on. We have people right at the start of their divorce journey all the way through to those nearing the end. So whatever you’re going through, the women in there will get it. They’ll understand and they’ll help.
If you’re ready to change your money story, and any other stories about divorce that are holding you back, come and join us today.
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