When I got married almost 18 years ago, the thought of divorcing never entered my mind. Those of us who've gone through it jokingly say "it's not like you think the day of your wedding, when I get divorced..." In fact, my ex and I had both come from divorce and made a pact that we would do whatever it took to stay together. I guess you can tell where that story ended. Fifteen and one quarter years after the day of our wedding, my ex moved out.
I would be lying if I said it wasn't a long time coming but I can honestly say I thought the separation would give us both some breathing room, allow all of us (especially our three girls) to have a peaceful home and would be the catalyst for us to realize we loved each other and wanted to work things out.
I started a business about divorce, Divorce Home Solutions, and am writing this blog, so you can probably tell how that went.
They say "necessity is the mother of invention," so I ended up with a business and in role I never saw coming. I have learned in life we can either become victims, survivors or thrivers. A thriver uses their experience to help others who will follow in their path. Helping divorcing couples at one of the most vulnerable and challenging times in their life has become a fulfilling outcome to an unplanned occurrence.
Divorce Home Solutions was born in my first attorney consultation - the free one that almost all attorneys will give. Because we were mediating divorce and things were fairly amicable, I hadn't consulted with one until we came to a disagreement about the length of time I could remain in the home. The attorney basically said if we couldn't agree on what to do with the home, we'd go before a judge who would most likely order us to put it on the market within 60 days. I looked at her like a deer caught in headlights. I had NO IDEA that's how it works.
I owned a company, Silver Linings Transitions specializing in moves for seniors because downsizing for a senior is emotionally and physically overwhelming. It occurred to me as I realized I might also have to move during a stressful time our services would also help divorcing couples likely downsizing and having to move during an extremely stressful time in their lives.
I asked the attorney if she thought Silver Linings Transitions business model might translate to divorcing couples. You can probably guess her answer...I contacted my friend, now business partner, Bryan Devore as soon as I walked out of that meeting and together we started Divorce Home Solutions.
Because our model is new in the industry, we've had many professionals in the divorce arena meet and reach out to us as they've understood the benefit of these services for their clients. Divorcing clients, at one of the most vulnerable and stressful times don't always make sound decisions and we provide a reliable service and respite for them. Our work involves selling homes, dividing belongings, finding new homes and helping people pack and then get them comfortably settled in their new homes.
As professionals in the San Diego divorce arena have learned about our business, we've learned about theirs. We've been exposed to specialties we never knew existed. Professionals like CDFAs (Certified Divorce Financial Analysts), Mortgage Lenders who specialize in divorce and can help structure the MSA, Divorce Coaches who will serve as a filter between you, your ex and and the attorneys to soften the communication and keep things from escalating. We also started a support group for separated and newly divorced people because we both felt it was an unmet need and we wanted others to learn from each other and from us that while the process is definitely bumpy, there really are good things on the other side.
So I may have become an accidental divorce "expert". Having said that, if you need any advice or support, you know here to find me. Besides, Lucy always was my favorite character.
There’s no getting around it; going through divorce means adapting to a new lifestyle. You are no longer a family unit residing in one house. While you face the pain, fear, anger and sadness divorce may bring, you will likely be challenged with living on the same family budget - maintaining, and possibly co-parenting, between two households. To put it mildly, your definition of “home” and your priorities will undergo a huge transition.
As someone who specializes in helping people reshape their living spaces during major lifetime transitions, I have the opportunity to work with people while they reflect on their lives and the mementos that represent it. When you are suddenly limited to a smaller living space, all your “stuff” doesn’t seem so important. Do you really NEED 47 pairs of shoes?
Here are some creative ways to make your new lifestyle work on a (likely MUCH) smaller budget work.
One of the “gifts” of divorce is discovering how resilient and resourceful you are. Think of your new, smaller, lifestyle as a transition. Remember, “Harry Potter” author, JK Rowling, lived in her car after her divorce, obviously just a temporary setback for her. You WILL adjust and do what you need to do to ensure a successful transition to your new life.
Jami Shapiro, Partner
Divorce Home Solutions
"I have always believed that Your issues show up in your tissues…and I'm not just talking about the ones in your Kleenex box. Seriously, I'm talking about the ones in your body. I believe that all mental and physical illness has its origin in unresolved emotional issues...usually grief, from some form of loss." - Paula Shaw
As someone who is gone through cancer, is going through divorce and helps people while they deal with major life stressors, I know first hand the havoc stress can play in our lives. When I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer almost 12 years ago, I was not surprised to learn I had cancer. I was about as stressed as you could be.
One of the gifts of Divorce Home Solutions has been creating a support group to help people the way I would have wanted help when I was first going through the divorce process. We had the pleasure of hearing Paula Shaw, Author of the book "Grief...When Will This Pain Ever End".
She spoke to the group about stress, how it manifests in our body and then gave us demonstrations and tools on ways we could combat stress.
1. When faced with stress, ask yourself is the stress and the physical manifestations it may cause in your body worth it?
2. Tap on the bone on the side of the eye for about three minutes. (See photo above)
3. Form strong relationships with positive people.
4. Walk away when you are angry. Get outside and move.
5. When you are sad or depressed, allow yourself to be sad. Think of it like being in a body cast after being hit by and emotional Mack truck. Would I demand "x" of myself if I was in a body cast?
6. Allow yourself to feel the feelings. Don't push them down. Pushing down emotion and not working through it will have the experience manifest somehow in your body.
7. Meditate, do Tai Chi, Pray
8. Try breathing and other exercises including:
You can see demonstrations of several other breathing techniques as well as other demonstrations from her book.
9. When I had cancer, the therapist I worked with specialized in oncology patients. She asked me to Identify my "happy place". I knew I loved to take baths when I was stressed, sad or uncomfortable but I never connected the fact that it was at the place I went to "hide". Now, my tub has an assortment of books, candles and bubble baths as well as a sign and a plant that have truly carved it out as my "happy place".
10. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Have friends you can call, join a support group, find and connect with other people who share your interests and seek out resources for anything that overwhelms you or might be an unmet need.
One of my all time favorite poems is Robert Frost's "The Road Not Taken." I remember telling someone a while back that I'd wished I could have lived a simultaneous life. That of the mother I am and of a single person able to travel and explore new adventures. The separation process has given me an unexpected "gift." Which is how I am choosing to "embrace" my new, unplanned role as a single woman in her 40s.
While I am sad that my marriage failed and that I must share my children with their father, I am grateful for the time I've had alone pushing myself out of my comfort zone exploring new things and challenging myself physically, mentally and spiritually.
I've read two great books that both speak to The "Phoenix Process", Elizabeth Lesser's "Broken Open" and "Crazy Time: Surviving Divorce" by Abigail Trafford. Take my advice, read "Crazy Time" before you start dating. It might spare you a bit of heartbreak. (More about that in another article.) The Phoenix Process is essentially the process of shedding who you once were and reemerging as a better version.
Rules of the Phoenix Process
1. Change is the nature of life, and nothing changes without loss, which is a form of death.
2. When we turn toward what is changing—when we keep our hearts open and allow ourselves to feel a loss all the way through—we move with more grace into a new, energetic and constructive phase of life.
3. We can transform loss into growth, change into insight and suffering into joy if we turn and face that which frightens us most about ourselves and our changing circumstances.
Adapted from Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser.
In the 20 months since I've separated, I have done 400+ yoga classes, studied Kabbalah, done the Landmark Education Curriculum, rock climbed (I hate heights), joined a single parent meet up, started a second business, lost 10 pounds, hiked areas I've never explored, took up paddle boarding, had LOTS of coffee dates, learned about vulnerability and ego, pretty much gave up television and learned to be okay with being "in it."
Even though I've cried more in the past 20 months than I think I've cried in my entire life, I've also had unbelievable moments of connection with people I would never have met. I hardly recognize the person I've become and if I'm being honest, that might be okay.
My parents divorced when I was one so I had no memory of the two of them together. What I did know was that my only set of grandparents had actually divorced and remarried after three years apart. My grandfather was likely going through a midlife crisis and left my grandmother for another woman. Back in the early 1960s, nobody divorced and my grandmother was left as a single mom with two children. She faced the stigma of divorce and also the betrayal of the only man she'd ever loved.
When he came back, she accepted him and when they celebrated their "50th" Anniversary more than 20 years later, she jokingly referred to it as "fifty years with time off for 'bad behavior'".
My grandmother's sense of humor but also the reality that love could be repaired and mistakes could be forgiven always stuck with me. Fast forward almost 25 years and here I am facing my own divorce.
Whenever anyone tells me they are going to divorce, I always ask them if they are sure. I hold firmly to the belief that all romantic love fades away and it's only after the love drugs wear off that we truly learn what it means "to love." They say love is a verb and now more than ever, I understand why.
Statistics indicate that 50% of first marriages, 73% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages will end in divorce. I'm no sociologist or psychologist but I'd say the likelihood is if we couldn't work it out the first time, the chances are, we aren't going to get it right the next time. (UNLESS WE DO THE WORK...stay tuned for the next blog about the Phoenix Process.)
When my "wusband" and I were in marital therapy, the therapist told us the only hope we had of saving our marriage was to not separate and stay together. Now, I understand why. It is impossible to compare a marriage with any passing of time and especially one with children to a new and exciting relationship. When you are married, you begin to take each other for granted, resentments build and the work involved to keep it together becomes too hard. In our "throw it all out society", it's easier and a lot more fun to trade in the old model for something new and shiny.
If you find yourself contemplating divorce, you really need to take a serious moral inventory of yourself first and foremost and figure out whether or not saving your marriage is something you'd really want. Of course, there are some "deal breakers" that simply are non-negotiable and in that case, mourning the loss, looking at your role and figuring out what attracted you to that person is important work to do. If there are no "deal breakers," it takes two partners open to the idea of working it out. If there is only one willing to do the work, your best bet is to come to a place of acceptance. I've learned that what you resist persists. The best you can do is figure out how to accept what is and build a new life for yourself. Being angry at your partner is like taking poison and expecting them to die. You have to get to a place of forgiveness even though it may be the last thing you'll want to do. The plus side though is that having the decision out of your hands, frees you from guilt and allows you to take a look at your contributions to the decline of the marriage and figure out how to improve. (I highly recommend the book Spiritual Divorce: Divorce as a Catalyst for an Extraordinary Life by Debbie Ford.)
If you are uncertain or you have a partner who might be willing, first and foremost, throw your ego out the door. This is not about your fear of rejection or "looking good." This is about putting it all on the line and living a life you can look back on and feel proud of. There should be no embarrassment in baring your soul and being vulnerable. (Link to Brenne Brown's Ted Talk) Through my work in Landmark Education, I discovered that I regretted far more what I didn't do than what I did. (I actually have a girlfriend who was divorced for seven years and this Valentine's Day, remarried her husband after they'd both completed the work of Landmark.)
It's human nature to want to feel connected and accepted. If you are living in resentment and waiting to feel loved to give love, you're going to be caught in a vicious cycle. Before my own separation, a friend told me to read the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. She felt that if she and her ex-husband had read it, they would have been able to keep their marriage together. If you are in a space where the final nail is not in the coffin, consider giving yourself the emotional distance to work through your anger and honestly look at the part you've played.
If you are contemplating separation, I recommend Second Saturday. There, you'll hear from a therapist, a mediator, an attorney and a financial advisor. Having the information is always helpful when making a big decision.
When children are involved, whether or not you remain married, your ex-spouse is going to be in your life forever so getting to a place of peace is essential. If you do find yourself facing separation, having the support of others really eases the burden. The old saying is true, "misery really does love company." Join us at the Separated and Newly Divorced Meet Up we host in North County San Diego.
My "wusband" and I separated 20 months ago. It was very hard for our entire family. Suddenly, the second person in my life for 17+ years, sharing my room, sleeping in my bed and co-parenting with me was gone. I hadn't thought about what was next but true to what I've heard, the initial separation was met with euphoria. "Whew, we've made a decision. We aren't fighting all the time." This feeling didn't last and eventually, reality set in. Suddenly I was living in "The New Normal (though normal is not quite the word I'd use to describe it)". The life I knew and planned for were gone and the uncertainty of the future was overwhelming.
Divorce brings about more changes that you even anticipate. The obvious ones like the customary child custody schedule and support, but also your role as a person in society completely changes. Friendships change, your ex starts dating and suddenly you are re-entering the world as a single person. In my case I was in my 20s when I was single (I was also childless).
So while your entire life is being completely shaken up, you are also facing a tough decision AND you're having to look at your budget in a way that you haven't had to. Likely, your household budget has been stretched in half as you now have to pay for two electric bills, buy two gallons of milk, pay for two cable bills, etc.
Among these decisions you have to make - does one of us stay in the house and how do we divide what's already in it?
Most people will tell you, without learning too much about the situation, that it's almost always in the best interest to sell the home. The thoughts behind this are that maintaining a home by one person is more expensive and there are costs that need to be considered and most importantly because the house can be a painful reminder of experiences and memories we created as a couple. When I got my real estate license, one of the only selling tools I remember being given
Recently, when meeting with Attorney and Mediator, Shawn Weber, he referred to the home as the "Marital Museum". Our homes are the place we store our belongings, save our collectibles and raised our children. Letting go of the home and sentimental items is hard and sad. It's like the elephant in the room. You know it' s there but you really don't want to talk about it.
Going through divorce personally has given me both insight into what's involved in shedding these belongings and also a true understanding of what it means to "let go".
Making the decisions can be tough especially when there are children involved. You don't want to toss out everything...after all, these mementoes are a history of a union that created your family and children. At the same time, if something is causing pain, you don't want to have to look at it and be further reminded.