It's been over three years since my divorce, and I'd say I'm pretty close to recovered now. I'd also say it's taken me a long time to come to terms with how my life has changed. It wasn't quick and definitely not easy. But for those facing similar challenges, here are some bits of advice to help you achieve a successful divorce.
It won't be easy, and it won't happen without a lot of work on your part … and yes, in many ways it will feel like you're in survival mode for a while. My tips include things I did right and some lessons learned of how I could have done things better. That's because just as life is a journey, so is divorce. Some things will go right and others horribly wrong. What's more important is what you learn and how you allow yourself to grow
Successful Divorce Tip #1: Don't Leave Your Home
I needed a restraining order, and I had it protect me, our house and our dog. He wanted me to leave and I refused. Later I talked to another divorcee who chose to leave. Her ex destroyed or sold everything she valued and left behind. No matter who paid for the house, it's a woman's place. You value things he won't appreciate or understand. It also helped me keep some sanity, at an insane time. It was hard to move out but by the time I did, I was ready.
Successful Divorce Tip #2: Break All Financial Ties
My ex wanted to buy the house from me, but could only afford to if my name stayed on the mortgage. I didn't trust him to keep the payments up, so I refused. In the over three years since we split, he has yet to get a full-time job. Even after the divorce, he could have dragged me down financially. By selling the house, we were both free to move on.
Successful Divorce Tip #3: Fight for Everything.
After 13 years of marriage, I had earned the right to this benefit which is considered a marital asset (get educated with this eBook, Your Pension Rights at Divorce: What Women Need to Know). Even if it wouldn't have been a lot more money every month, it would have come in handy.
Successful Divorce Tips #4: Be Willing to Let Go
What I'm talking about here is stuff, the physical things that can keep you trapped … not my ex. Change is hard, inevitable but you'll eventually find it works better than where you are now. I still miss my kitchen and the way the light came in my north-facing windows. But I honestly don't have any memory of the things I gave away, and don't regret having done this either. I've heard about putting things in boxes, and after six months, you know you're ready to let them go.
Successful Divorce Tip #5: Hold Onto Your Support Community
Let go of things but hold tight to the people you love and respect. You'll find out which friends are true friends when everything shakes out. Those that are left are the ones to value … your Best Friends Forever (BFF). It may be tempting to hide yourself away but it's so much smarter to stay in touch. When you're ready for socializing again, they'll be your mainstay helping the new you step back out.
One next-door-neighbor, Nicki, was invaluable. Hers was the shoulder I sobbed on the evening I realized my marriage was truly over. His nasty crazy sister threw me out of her house when I dropped something off for him, and for the first time in our lives together he didn't stand up for me. There was no going back after that. Nicki, her mom and her kids helped me see that a multi-generation household could work. She was also the one that gave me a unique perspective, helping me understand how bad it had gotten before the split. “You were always walking on eggshells around him,” Nicki explained.
My friends Jim and Marcia were simply there for me whenever I needed them. A part of my life for over twenty years, I knew I could call or stop by when being alone was just too much. They'd feed me real meals and listen. These and others were my sanity-keepers.
As I've gone through my life, I discovered that there are two kinds of friends: situation friends, who you may work with or live near, and you develop a friendship because of those things you have in common. But once the commonalities are gone, so is the friendship. Then there are those true friends who stay in your life even after those underpinnings are gone. One interesting thing about a divorce. You can distinguish between the two kinds of friends pretty quickly.
Successful Divorce Tip #6: Stay on Top of Things
Divorce can be overwhelming and it's easy too easy to avoid the things you don't like doing. I let bills slip through the cracks and tax information got misplaced. I was never good at organization, and everything fell apart between the divorce and the move. I'm still digging myself out and believe me, it isn't fun. You don't want to make this mistake, as it slows down your recovery mentally, emotionally and physically. Keep your paperwork in order even if your life is falling apart.
Remember, A Successful Divorce Takes Time
You want to get past the pain quickly but that's not easy, and some days you won't want to get out of bed. I'm still not where I want to be … but I'm in a good place. You need to give yourself enough time to work through everything. Living with my mother has given me the breathing room to sort things out and decide what's next.
My life plan was upended, so it's time for a new plan. I'm starting to put that plan into action by selling my mom's condo and moving to a house that will work for both of us. Of course buying a house always involves trade-offs in terms of location, floor plan and style. Will it be exactly what I want? Probably not.
Fortunately I've spent enough time around houses – living in them, writing about them and helping others think through their homes and lifestyles, so I know that understanding personal priorities is key. I have a budget and other limitations to consider, starting with my mom's needs and wants. But my new house will be light and airy, and functionally give me more of what's important for the lifestyle I want. I'm looking forward to finding my ideal home, one where I'll be happy to spend the rest of my life … with a few updates of course!
Thank you for following my life story here at HomeTipsforWomen.com. Divorce is pretty common but noone is prepared when it happens to them, so I hope my tips are helpful … and please share your thoughts below.