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Trauma | The Naked Divorce
How to Behave After a Divorce

How to Behave After a Divorce

So much of the advice we are given is well meaning but is frankly hollow and trite…

Designed to minimise our emotional pain as if it’s invalid emotion, it’s not. This attempt to repress our emotions will actually increase the overall pain experienced and extend the recovery period, sometimes indefinitely.

Get over it.

Be strong.

Look on the bright side.

There are plenty more fish in the sea.

These classic statements do not help. And then there’s the other end of the scale: the friend that tells you to go out, get wasted, make all the mistakes you want because, hey, you’ve been through a lot. You’re single now. You get a free pass to be as self-destructive as you want, because look at what you’ve just been through. 

Or the friend that loves to come over for a good bitch about your ex. The friend that just ‘drops in’ information about some shitty thing they did, without you asking. The friend that acts like they’re on your side, but clearly revels in the drama – and wants you to go on feeling this angry, miserable and victimized, to squeeze as much entertainment out of the situation as they can.

They sound different, but these approaches all have the same effect. None of them encourage you to focus on how to recover. You aren’t looking for ways to work through the feelings. You’re simply told whether or not they should be allowed to exist in the first place – and then whether it’s better to mask them by pretending they aren’t there, to distract yourself from them as much as possible, or to keep feeding them because you’re within your rights to do so.

The most damaging thing is that all these forms of advice make you feel powerless. 

When you come through an emotional trauma like divorce, you need to give yourself permission to cry and scream and just – feel. But you also need to know that you are the keeper of these emotions. You don’t have to let them control you and your future.

Why do I feel so lost?

The pain of divorce isn’t just sadness that you fell out of love, that someone you trusted betrayed you, or whatever the cause of the breakup was. You aren’t just grieving for your relationship, you’re grieving for an entire life that you had, with all the familiar structures, habits and assumptions that made you feel safe.

You may have lost your home. You may have lost friends. You may have had to dramatically change your daily routine to facilitate extra childcare or overtime to do to make ends meet. At the same time, your default partner for everything from going to the cinema to your plus one at weddings has disappeared. The shock of the change can be bewildering and traumatic.

It’s not enough to try and get by with these old pieces of your life missing: you have to actively make a plan to restructure your life (and your mindset) completely to deal with this new reality.

What happens if I don’t?

You know the old saying that time heals all wounds? Well, It’s nonsense.

Time does not heal all wounds. Without proper care and intervention, physical wounds fester, or scar horribly, leaving permanent damage.

… Emotional wounds are exactly the same.

If you don’t take proactive steps to plan and organize your life post-divorce, you will stay stuck in the same state you were in when the trauma hit. You will continue to feel lost and hurt, and you will make no progress either on repairing the emotional damage or addressing any underlying problems and dysfunctions that fuelled the breakdown of the relationship in the first place.

That means you’re dooming yourself to keep repeating the same destructive mistakes.

Why structure is good

Enough with the doom and gloom: let’s look at the positives.

There are “best practices” for everything in life, and that includes divorce. Having a clear idea of what to do and how to behave in order to protect yourself and your kids from further emotional harm, and to create the conditions for healing, is genuinely empowering. You can take charge of your situation and your feelings, and start to rebuild.

The basics

There are 10 essential ways to make sure you’re on your best behaviour after a divorce:

Handle friends and family with good grace

Your mum’s anxious, tone-deaf advice might be about as much use as a chocolate teapot, but try not to get annoyed or frustrated. Recognise that most people in your life genuinely want to help or support you – they just don’t know how. Be thankful to them for caring enough to try, even if you’re secretly disregarding everything they say… and if you get the feeling that some people are stirring things up deliberately, politely refuse to engage.

Minimise contact with your ex

You might not be able to cut them off completely – especially if you have kids – but you do need to create distance. For as long as they’re hanging around, part of you will try to cling on to the role you played in each other’s lives before your divorce, and you won’t truly start restructuring your life without them.

Perhaps you can be friends later, but not now… and don’t kid yourself that you can’t keep sleeping together and walk away unscathed.

If you can, take a complete break for a few weeks right after the split, and then continue to keep contact to a polite minimum.

Keep your kids in the loop – but out of the fights

Your children are savvier than you think. They know you’re breaking up, they know their lives are changing, so don’t lie to them or give them false hope that things could go back to how they were before. Focus on showing them how much you love them and making it clear this is between you and your ex.

At the same time, never, ever drag them into your feuds. Try not to talk about your ex in negative terms in front of them, and don’t give in to any urge to use their feelings (or custody) as a weapon against your ex. If you do, you will sour their relationship with one or both of you, and make the experience even more traumatic for them in the process.

Take a step back from work (and then dive back in)

You need time to catch your breath, and stepping up your workload to distract yourself will only delay the start of your healing process. If you can, take some holiday, or at least postpone / manage certain projects to the ease the burden. When you’ve figured out your new structure you can jump back in and seize your career with both hands, but you need the next few weeks to focus on healing.

Don’t avoid your emotions

Your pain is going anywhere because you ignore it and numbing yourself just postpones the inevitable: at some point, you will have to deal with these emotions and start to focus on getting better. But, while you can’t – and shouldn’t – banish them completely, there are strategies you can use that will help you to listen to these feelings, negotiate with them, and lessen their hold over your behaviour and your state of mind.

Don’t look for someone to rescue you

Rebound relationships are almost always a disaster. The impulse to let someone else jump in and save you from your shitty situation, or make you feel better about your damaged confidence, is understandable, but all you’re doing is dragging your baggage into a new situation and putting tremendous pressure on the other person to make it work. Focus on getting yourself in a good place before bringing someone new into the mix.

Take care of yourself

It sounds minor, but you must look after yourself physically, as well as emotionally, after a trauma. That means trying to eat nourishing food, getting some sleep, avoiding too much caffeine or sugar, and not relying on alcohol, cigarettes or other drugs to get you through. These things wreak havoc on your mood and energy levels and will make you feel even more out of control.

Beware “false healing”

Teaching yourself to bear the pain is not the same as getting better. If you squash all that trauma down deep inside you, you will get sick. You will be miserable. You will lash out. You will repeat the same mistakes. The goal is to find functional, productive ways to deal with your problems and your relationships that make you happier, not to get through the day without crying.

Be honest

When you’re hurting or you’ve been wronged, it’s natural to want to rally people to your side. The trouble is, like that friend that loves the drama and wants you to keep on serving it up, being emotionally rewarded for victimhood can get addictive.

Reach out for whatever help you need, but if part of you is wallowing in this because it gives you a free pass to do, or demand, whatever you want, or you’re secretly enjoying the sense of righteous anger… admit that to yourself. You’ll need that self-awareness when you come to structuring a plan to heal.

Be proactive

Don’t sink into a stupor and wait for it to pass. It won’t. You have to decide to start healing. You have to be willing to take those steps. You have to be prepared to make a plan.

What do I do now?

Now it’s time to regain control of your life. Start with the practical things: how are you going to organise your finances? Your workload? Your social life? Childcare? Build new structures that work for your independent life.

Next, ask yourself: what sets me off? What factors send me into a downward spiral? When do my emotions start spinning out of control? When do I feel powerless or vulnerable?

As you identify the stuff that really scares you, you can start to plan out a daily routine that strips out some of the ways you torture yourself – the self-destructive behaviours, obsessions and thought processes that impact on your ability to heal.

 

Restructuring your life after a divorce is a BIG task. If you feel you’d benefit from expert guidance, click to learn more about the Naked Divorce 21 Day Programme, and how it can help you put all this advice into action to get over your divorce in just 3 weeks.

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Divorce – easier for Men or Women?

Is divorce easier for Men or Women?

We hear a lot about the damage divorce does to women, much less about the damage that divorce does to men.

So do women really feel the damage of a divorce more than their male counterparts?

Historically, women earned less than male partners and took a far greater role in raising children, meaning that a breakup left them poorer, more vulnerable and isolated, and less able to move on.

Men, on the other hand, were thought to have it easy: off they scuttled into a life of freedom and fecklessness, with fewer responsibilities, more cash and plenty of time to pick up a new model between weekends with the kids they’d left behind.

While that might be true for some guys, it’s certainly not the norm.

A bunch of studies in recent years show that, on the whole – provided they don’t already have someone else lined up – men find it harder to recover from divorce than their ex-wives do.

 

Often, this boils down to an inability to talk about emotions.

Women generally have a circle of friends to pour their hearts out to. They seek out the support and reassurance they need to make the pain more bearable.

Crucially, if a woman initiates divorce (or at least saw it coming) she’s probably been confiding about her experiences for a while. She may have reached the conclusion long ago that she’s too miserable in the marriage to continue.

Men, on the other hand, are much less likely to have had those conversations out loud. Dealing with the sudden tidal wave of despair can be more than they can handle.

That’s why women are more likely to report feeling relieved or even liberated after divorce, while men are more likely to report feeling devastated, betrayed, confused or even suicidal.

It’s also why men more often become embittered and fixated on finances and injustices, real or perceived. As Jim Patton of Families Need Fathers puts it:

“It’s easier for men to battle over hard cash than on an emotional level. Men don’t do emotions. It’s too psychobabble for us, so money becomes the catch-all for everything men feel and all the anger they have at how badly they feel they have been treated by their ex-wives, the courts etc.”

In other words, it’s easier for men to wallow in rage and hatred, obsessing over the wrongs they feel they’ve been dealt, than to face the weight of their pain, fear and loss.

 

This isn’t just terrible for your mental and physical health, it also wrecks your chance of future happiness.

Giving in to fury might feel great in the moment, but it hardly lays the groundwork for a loving relationship with your kids, or helps to navigate the practical stresses of divorce.

In fact, preoccupation with shame and anger over a marriage failure, and panic at the thought that their kids will see their weakness, leads some men to essentially abandon their children, causing irreversible damage to the most important relationships in their lives.

To give themselves a chance to recover, men desperately need to stop bottling everything up, allow themselves to grieve, process their feelings and take practical steps towards the healing process.

Without this, you risk carrying all the nastiness and dysfunction into your next relationship, too… and you have to ask yourself: is this trauma something you can face experiencing again?

 

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NakedDivorce Adele Theron blog broken

Valentines Day Downer?

Is Valentine’s getting you down?

Well stop it. It’s just a game, and here’s how to remember how to enjoy it.

Around this time of year being lonely drives some people into total anxiety about finding the one. The thing is, finding a life partner isn’t about being all anxious and desperate. It’s about being chilled, and playing the game flat out with no attachment to the outcome.

But people who hate being lonely and hating the process don’t approach the dating game as a game. Especially around silly days of organized public affection like the 14th – when everyone else seems to be madly in love.

Lonely and anxious

Feeling lonely and anxious starts a downward spiral unless you stop it. For those who hate feeling lonely, each rejection becomes a failure that they are single and they become driven anxiously to eliminate the issue.

The important thing to realize about anxiety is that we feel anxious when we make connections between unrelated events – that’s the real driver to this spreading feeling.

We had a bad date, someone didn’t call back, our boss shouted at work, our daughter is failing school, traffic was bad, the next date cancelled, you reached out to someone on Facebook and they didn’t answer you back and the TV blew up.

Interrelated

They all start to seem interrelated. People suffering from anxiety link these random events together and feel the weight of all of these issues all at once. It’s like when you throw a stone in a pool of water and the ripples go out across the whole pool – anxious people allow the stones of life to disrupt their entire pool of equilibrium.

Stop making shite up

Wake up, and stop linking things up. The root of solving anxiety is being aware that you are needlessly, illogically linking all of these events together, and seeing them as part of a massive, interconnected task that seem impossible to overcome.

The key is not to merge and bring things together and see everything as one big problem.

Things are not connected.

The stone has nothing to do with the pool of equilibrium. Your daughter failing school or your date cancelling is not personal.

It just happened.

So here’s your challenge – a powerful route to breaking this pattern and getting peace of mind once more;

The 6 steps to release your anxiety:

  1. Write down everything that makes you anxious in circles on a piece of paper.
  2. Draw links between the circles to illustrate how you have linked these events together in your mind.
  3. Now imagine an alien from another planet is sitting next to you. Explain to the alien how these events are interlinked and how all these connected events make your life a disaster.
  4. Now answer these questions:
    1. Does the alien understand what on earth you are talking about?
    2. Does the alien agree that these events are linked?
    3. What is the alien saying to you?
  5. NOW in the drawing break the links between these events by drawing the break.
  6. Now explain to the alien that these events are not linked:
    1. Does the alien understand what on earth you are talking about?
    2. Does the alien agree that these events are not linked?
    3. What is the alien saying to you?
  7. Write down what you observed in this exercise.

 

Go ahead, do it now!

It’s a very effective exercise, and it might even just make you smile this Valentine’s Day…

And the last step, tell us what you think!

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The perfect relationship

The perfect relationship

Brad, Angelina and the Death of the “Perfect” Relationship

Ever been told “Oh my god, you guys are just SO GOOD together?” even as the doubts are starting to set in?

Or had friends roll their eyes when you mention issues that are starting to bother you because hey, your relationship is great – what are you whining about?

Or worse: broken up with your partner after much painful soul-searching, only to have your parents say: “Are you crazy? They were perfect for you!”

Brad&Ang
The perfect couple, or so many thought

Perfect

The problem with being the “perfect couple” is that you’re never allowed to break the illusion. The daily problems and struggles that every marriage experiences are glossed over, ignored, denied.

Sanitised for other people.

This puts insane, unrealistic pressure on your relationship. It makes you feel like every imperfection or tension is a personal failure. It prevents you approaching problems head on and working through them rationally. It speeds up the demise of your marriage when the cracks start to form.

And eventually, it deprives you of the support you desperately need right when you need it most: after your divorce.

Brangelina

Let’s take a look at the Brangelina breakup for a moment. These are two of the most beautiful, successful people in the world.

Two people that, on the face of it, seem to have the most picture perfect marriage.

They’re wealthy. They’re both top of their profession. They’ve worked together on a ton of successful projects, as well as pursuing independent goals. They’ve raised a beautiful family. They travel all over the world and own houses in far flung, exotic locations.

“It doesn’t matter how rich or beautiful you are, presenting a sanitised version of your relationship is exhausting.”

Performing

But you know what else?

They’re two people who spent their entire ten-year relationship in the public eye. Who have had to perform being happy in love for a press mob that picks apart every word and gesture for a decade.

They’ve had to put a flawless face forward even as they’ve negotiated some of the most stressful and emotionally exhausting events a couple can possibly experience together: the serious health problems and multiple, invasive surgeries, the death of parents, the high profile criticism of professional and personal choices, adopting and raising children, running their own businesses and managing their own creative projects.

Who had to cultivate a façade even for those people they see and speak to and confide in every day, in case their words are sold to a newspaper by a “source close to them”.

brad-pitt-angelina-jolie-happierdays
Brad and Angelina in happier times

Exhausting

It doesn’t matter how rich or beautiful you are, presenting a sanitised version of your relationship is exhausting. There’s only so long you can pretend that difficult, hurtful, stressful things aren’t taking their toll on your relationship. And when it falls apart, you absolutely need people who love you to step in, give you a hug, listen to you talk about what you’re going through and really listen.

Now, hopefully no one reading this will ever be in a position where the dirty laundry of their divorce is publicly strung up in the tabloid press, but I’m sure many can relate to the feeling that you’ve been horribly misrepresented by your partner, by your friends and family, by your social circle, or even (if, for example, you’re battling for custody) in a court of law.

If you’ve gone out of your way to present the happiest, shiniest, most perfect version of your marriage until now, it can be particularly hard to counter or handle this. Especially if everyone adores your ex and you’ve never attempted to disabuse them of the notion that this person is just as perfect as you’d always let them believe.

How do you backtrack?

How do you persuade them, after all this time, that actually things weren’t as wonderful as they seemed, behind the scenes? How do you trust someone to really listen and be supportive when you feel that they’re judging you harshly for “throwing it all away”?

Here’s the thing: you’re not going to be able to change a bunch of people’s minds when they’re dead set on siding with your ex. And do you really need to, anyway? What will you gain by it? Is it going to help you to move on?

Of course, if you’ve spent years putting on a show of being the perfect couple, it will most likely cut you deep that you’ve lost control of your “public image” now. You might panic that people no longer see in in the positive way they’ve always seen you in – or even as the cause of your relationship’s breakdown. At this point, it’s tempting to go on the offensive, painting yourself as the victim and telling everyone who will listen about your ex’s every fault.

Won’t help

But this will not help you heal and move on. In fact, it will do exactly the opposite.

Firstly, you will probably end up fighting a proxy war of he-did-this-she-did-this with your ex via your friendship group. That’s bound to get ugly, souring your relationship with your ex even more and leading to stuff coming out about you that you really didn’t want shared.

Secondly, you’ll find yourself becoming a person that you just don’t like. After all these years of fierce loyalty to your partner, striving to show both of you in your best light, here you are bad mouthing or exaggerating their faults to score points. That has to feel a bit grubby. It has to detract from whatever was actually beautiful about the time you shared together.

BradAngelina_divorce_battle_NakedRecoveryOnline
Will Brad and Angelina go into battle against each other?

Betray

If you go as far as betraying the trust of that person, unnecessarily disclosing intimate secrets or things that will really hurt or embarrass them, that’s even worse. Mutual friends will most likely think less of you for being so vindictive, your ex will (rightly) be appalled and you will have lost the moral high ground forever. From there, you can only keep clinging your ex’s wrongdoings and your victimhood in an attempt to justify yourself, admit guilt and grovel to your ex / your social circle for forgiveness, or continue along a path of petty revenge. None of these is exactly going to make you feel great about yourself.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you should lie, cover up your feelings or sugar coat anything your ex has done that led to this breakup. You’ve done enough of that already, and it probably contributed to your marriage’s demise.

“It’s tempting to go on the offensive, painting yourself as the victim and telling everyone who will listen about your ex’s every fault. But this will not help you to heal and move on. In fact, it will do exactly the opposite.”

Honest

Instead, it’s a case of being honest with a small circle of people you really trust, and being painfully diplomatic with everyone else.

Again, let’s go back to Brangelina. If, like them, you’re splitting up under the media glare, you have to be incredibly careful about what you say and who you tell. After all, they have six kids to protect as well as each other’s feelings, and they certainly don’t want to go feeding the sharks.

Instead, they decline to comment, or release carefully worded statements like this one, from Brad Pitt:

“I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the wellbeing of our kids… I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time.”

“I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the wellbeing of our kids… I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time.” 

Okay, you might not have to worry about hacks quoting you out of context, but you can take a valuable lesson from this. People are people and they will gossip and twist your words. This is even more the case if your relationship always looked perfect from the outside and your breakup came as a shock.

Open and honest

Make sure you sit down the people closest to you and tell them, frankly, that while things weren’t as rosy as you perhaps made them out to be, you are trying hard to keep things civil. Be strong: don’t minimise the things that hurt you or allow them to make you feel these were nothing, but don’t exaggerate them either. Emphasise that you’ve already made your decision and now you need their support, not their judgement.

Ask them to keep what you tell them to yourself. Be open about what you need from them in terms of emotional support. Tell them you’re hurting. Tell them you’re scared.

“If you want to heal, you’ll have to focus on dealing with your own pain and the proactive steps you’re going to take to move on and get your life on track – on your own.”

BradAngelina_PressDivorce
Outside pressure is the last thing you need when going through a divorce

Trash talk…

But apart from the specific concerns and frustrations you need to get off your chest, don’t make it all about trash talking your ex. This will become exhausting very, very fast and will prevent you from moving on.

The same goes for people who will inevitably pry or try to goad you into saying things about your ex you wish you hadn’t. Be gracious about this. Say that you don’t want to speak ill of them or go into detail about what went wrong, but ultimately it didn’t work out and you wish them well. Then change the subject and don’t get drawn in: you will feel better about it, and you will come out looking like the better person.

You have to let them go

Ultimately, the important thing is that you don’t fixate on your ex. After all, you’ve broken up now. They should absolutely not be the central focus of your life. You have to let them go.

If you want to heal, you’ll have to focus on dealing with your own pain and the proactive steps you’re going to move on and get your life on track – on your own. You need to work on treating the wound, not keeping it visibly open to win the support of your friends.

If you’re lucky enough to avoid a divorce as public as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s, embrace the privacy that this gives you to heal. Don’t turn it into a min media circus of your own creation. At the end of the day, it’s you that will get hurt.

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Time heals. Really?

Do people keep telling you to give yourself time to heal? That you just need to put some distance between yourself and your trauma? Simply wait for long enough and you’ll feel much better, get over it, and move on.

Well… tell them to get stuffed.

Time is not a healer

Time doesn’t do anything, in fact. It’s passive. It just passes by. Everyone’s seen the elderly person that’s still bitter and angry about something that happened decades ago – clearly time didn’t heal for them. I’m sure you know yourself that old rejections and cruelties and breakups still smart years on, whereas the fights you strive to make peace over straight away are barely remembered a week later.

That’s because healing is an active decision, not a passive one.

Be proactive about tackling the problem head-on

If you want to get over an injury, you have to be proactive about tackling the problem head-on. You clean it, dress it, fix it and make sure it heals properly, so that it doesn’t keep giving you trouble for the rest of your life. We know this about physical ailments. Why pretend it’s any different for psychological ones?

Do you have emotional scare tissue?

If you don’t come to terms with your trauma, it just sits there, like a festering wound. Eventually scar tissue might grow over the top, covering over the cut, but it’s still the same old untreated wound.

Worse, this emotional scar tissue is incredibly damaging, because it acts as a kind of “false healing” that prevents you from ever getting to the root of the problem. If you keep telling yourself that you’re fine when you aren’t, if you keep waiting in hope that the anger or pain or dysfunction you’re experiencing will simply diminish over time, you not only deny yourself the healing you so desperately need – you will also keep repeating the same self-destructive behaviours and mistakes that caused the trauma in the first place.

The chances of divorce increases each time they get married

Did you know that the chances of divorce increases each time they get married? As in, you were to marry a second, third or fourth time, there’s less hope of it working out every time you do? You might think that someone whose first two marriages had gone tits-up, who had lived through the awful trauma of divorce twice already, would learn from their mistakes, get better at choosing the right partner and become more adept at navigating the issues that damage or weaken a relationship. But statistically speaking, they don’t.

Why? Because they trample from relationship to relationship with the same baggage, the same hang-ups, the same issues in tow. The more you repeat an action or way of responding to something, the deeper it becomes ingrained as a habit. The more instinctive that behaviour feels to you. Ironically, it makes you feel safer to repeat a behaviour or a decision you’ve made in the past, purely because you recognise it – and even though it hurts you.

Feels safer to repeat a behaviour or a decision you’ve made in the past – even though it hurts you

False healing doesn’t address these problems. Waiting around until the ache isn’t as sharp as it used to be won’t stop you doing the things that caused the ache in the first place. It doesn’t help you to walk into your new life or your next relationship with the skills, self-awareness and confidence to do things better. It might give you a brief feeling of reassurance that your past misery is behind you, but it doesn’t place happiness firmly on the horizon.

Brighter future

If you want your future to be brighter than your traumatic past, false healing just won’t cut it. Don’t wait for “time” to fix things. Take control. Decide it’s your time to heal, right now. And commit yourself to doing the proactive, practical things you have to do to make it true.

 

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Later life divorce…

Later life divorce…

Congratulations!

You made it all the way through to retirement together. You survived all those early fights, the nappy duties, the teenager tantrums, the little jealousies and resentments, the financial strains, the never-ending couple conflicts, and now…

Now you’ve decided enough is enough. You don’t want to grow old together, after all. You’re getting divorced.

Average age of divorce

In fact, the average age for divorce has been rising steadily since the mid-80s. Three decades ago, people tended to wed younger and hit that crisis point in their marriage by their mid to late 30s.

Traumatic as divorce is at any age, that’s well and truly young enough to bounce back. After all, you’re less than half way through your working life. You might have split everything you own straight down the middle, but you have years and years to pay off a mortgage on your own, to build a new home and a new life. To meet someone else and lay down a history with them.

After all, life begins at 40, as a million fridge magnets will attest.

But shift that divorce to your late 50s, 60s, or even later, and the situation can feel very, very different.

Big changes are coming

No matter whether you are male or female, whether you are the primary caregiver for your kids, whether you paid the bulk of the mortgage – going through a divorce means that you are highly likely to lose your home, your current standard of living, or both.

Unless one of you has the funds to buy out the other outright, it is highly likely that you will need to sell your house and split the money. Minus, of course, the formidable legal and admin costs that come with this process.

If you were lucky enough to be living in house that’s worth a fortune, or you’re willing to move away and start again somewhere a lot cheaper, you might still be able to buy a home of similar proportions by yourself. Far more likely, you’ll downsize dramatically.

After all, these days, it’s hard enough for two relatively young people working full time on a decent wage to get onto the property ladder. Trying to get a mortgage when you’re nearing retirement is seriously tough, regardless of your financial situation.

This particular sacrifice can come as an unexpected blow to many people who decide to divorce late in life.

Yes, you may have come to the painful decision that you do not want to spent your golden retirement years with the person you’ve lived with all this time. Yes, you might be terrified of loneliness after so many years of sharing your home with someone. Yes, you might have prepared yourself for the emotional punch of breaking the news to your children and/or grandchildren, who may have assumed, always, that you would be married for life.

But you might not have seriously considered the practicalities of separation. When you’ve spent years and years feathering your nest in exactly in the way you love, it’s easy to be caught out by the pain of walking away from a home that has become an expression of who you are.

Don’t forget the kids (even if they are parents too)

You may be caught out, too, by how traumatic your kids find the loss of the house. Even if they grew up and left home years ago, this house probably still represents their childhood to them. It’s an enduring thing in their lives, a trove of memories, and they may be far more sentimental about this than you could have expected.

I’m not saying this because you ought to feel guilty about your divorce. Far from it.

I’m simply saying this because many people who divorce late have become so comfortable and complacent in their lifestyles that they simply aren’t mentally prepared for how strong they need to be.

They assume, deep down, that getting divorced means continuing their lives in the same way, minus their spouse.

To put it bluntly, they often assume that the only thing that will change is that they no longer have to put up with this person.

That they will be able to do away with a relationship that they find hurtful, or a hindrance, or that no longer gives them what they need emotionally – but that all other elements of their lives will magically remain intact.

Divorce changes everything

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Divorce changes everything.

You don’t only decide to divorce your husband or wife. You decide, in the same breath, that you are willing to be financially and emotionally independent. That you will start again. That you will, in all likelihood, give up your home. That emotions will run high and you will fight with your family. That you will have to divide up your friends.

That, ultimately, you will shelve a lifetime’s worth of shared memories and plans and accept that, now, you are responsible for your own happiness – there’s no one else’s failures to pin it on.

Survive

This is scary. It’s terrifying. You can only survive it if you are willing to let go of everything you assumed would be a constant before.

Clinging to your past existence, resenting your partner for taking this away from you, turning the breakup into a bitter war over the scraps, forcing your children to take sides, chastising yourself for throwing away the “good” life you enjoyed before – these are the emotions that will drag out your suffering and make it impossible to heal.

Divorce doesn’t mean cutting a person out of your life. It means embarking on an entirely new, different life. It’s essential to go into this with your eyes open, and to focus on healing and rebuilding. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to weather the loss, and create a new home of your own.

 

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