BIG thank you to renowned divorce attorney, mediator and Better Apart: The Radically Positive Way To Divorce author Gabrielle Hartley for inviting Divide & Thrive co-founder Alex Beattie to contribute to her popular Better Apart Blog.
It's so hard to know where to begin when you're thinking about divorce, or if your spouse just blindsided you with the news that they've been considering one.
Alex shared 4 Things To Help You As You Prepare for Divorce to help make it easier for those who are in those early stages. Here's what she wrote:
Everyone gets thrown challenges in life, whether it’s health related, career, or divorce. It’s important to connect with others who have walked the path you’re on so that you can benefit from their wisdom and be reassured that there is so much more life ahead of you to be hopeful about. And when you're going through a separation or divorce, it’s important to create a buddy system not only with the people around you who know and love you, but also with others who have been where you are going.
I really understood this when I went through my own divorce and realized that my best friends — amazing as they are — were all happily married. Desperate to connect with others, I reached out to a few people I knew through work who had gone through a divorce.
Being able to share important knowledge about divorce, and have a first person understanding of what it’s like to go through the process is priceless. Assembling a wonderful support team that included new divorce friends was a game changer that helped me prepare for divorce.
After successfully navigating my own split, I became the one that friends and family would call when someone needed help and support navigating divorce. I am so proud to be a part of the divorce buddy system. So, to that, welcome, new divorce friend! Pretend we’re having a cup of coffee or glass of wine and settle in. I’m going to share some valuable divorce insider information with you.
Here are 4 BIG things you should know if you’re heading into a divorce:
1. Start Preparing For Divorce ASAP
When I realized that my marriage was headed for divorce, I was desperate to find any and all information to help me prepare for what was coming next. I was filled with anxiety, fear and uncertainty. I yearned for any practical information to help me with my next steps, and stories from women who were where I was now and come out the other side thriving. I needed guidance and hope, so I set out to find something that could walk me through what I needed to prepare for divorce.
For better or worse, there was only the odd divorce section on websites about parenting or love. The divorce section was rarely updated, and when it was it usually had a headline like "SO YOU'RE DIVORCING A NARCISSIST". Not what I needed.
After striking out, I set my focus on what I had control over, namely getting myself organized for divorce. I love creating binders to keep me organized in other areas of life so I decided it was time for me to get ready for my impending divorce.
Knowing I needed to get granular about figuring out what it cost to live my life and get my hands on every pertinent document I could, I dove in head first.
As is the case with a lot of couples, one person handled a lot more of the finances than the other. That meant having to collect missing data in order to figure out my full financial picture, so I threw myself into creating a detailed budget breakdown of my cost of living.
As my binder of information grew, my anxiety and fear minimized. The more specifics I gathered, the less uncertain I felt.
On top of that, I received compliments from the divorce attorneys and financial planners I met with who were wowed by the grunt work already being done and that it put me in a position to ask good questions and be my best advocate. Being armed with everything also ended up saving me lots of time and money during the divorce process.
Realizing the steps I had taken could benefit anyone heading for a divorce, I started sharing what I had done with others who were starting their divorce journeys. One of those people was my Divide & Thrive partner, Jenny Pithie. Like me, she had searched high and low for practical information and a planner that walked her through how to prepare for divorce or a separation and came up empty handed.
Armed with the knowledge that we had a blueprint for a divorce planner that addressed the emotional and business sides of divorce – and determined to create a space for people that was informative, welcoming and community building – we launched Divide & Thrive and created a divorce planner to help people easily prepare for divorce.
The Divide & Thrive digital divorce planner has empowered countless people during a challenging time, saved them time and money, and given them peace of mind.
2 Start Meeting With Divorce Attorneys and Mediators
Once you’ve gotten a handle on your documents and financial realities, the next step to prepare for divorce is to consult a legal professional.
Preparing in advance of interviewing potential attorneys and mediators (which are sometimes free, ask first!) will position you to make the most of your time so you can ask questions based on the realities of your specific situation.
When I went through my own search for a mediator, I quickly found out that picking the right mediator or divorce attorney is like Goldilocks trying to find the right bed.
- The first mediator my ex and I sat down with was an older man with a blunt “tell-it-like-it-is” style. He went through his qualifications with us like a grizzled coach, and then mapped out a game plan on a wipe board that looked like a football play. (Too hard.)
- The next mediator we met with had a Mother Earth vibe. Her process was to guide couples through divvying up assets but paying close attention to each other’s feelings about the divorce process. (Too soft.)
- The last was a plain spoken woman who laid out a clear timeline, set reasonable expectations and encouraged each of us to make sure we remembered that even though we were getting a divorce,we shared two kids and shouldn’t let the process sour us on each other since we will be parent partners for the rest of our lives. (Just right.)
Whether you’re meeting with a lawyer or mediators the goal is the same, find someone who reflects your values and presents themselves in a way that makes you feel comfortable being in the trenches with them. Not unlike dating, you’re trying to get a feel of who is going to be a good fit for you.
3. It’s Time To Start Looking Forward
Every journey must start with one step. Even a tiny step propels you forward. (No, that is not from a fortune cookie!)
On the occasion of having to imagine what your life will be after your marriage bubble has popped, imagining what your future can be is something that gives you permission to get excited and hopeful.
Folks, I’ve discovered a sure fire way to feel good and set the tone for the next chapter of your life. And it’s to write down what you want your post-divorce life to be.
Okay, okay, I know I didn’t invent the idea of writing something down in order for it to manifest but I’m telling you, it works. It doesn’t matter what shape it comes in, it can be a letter to your future self or a list of matter-of-fact bullet points or a messy grocery list.
Here are some examples of things for your wish list:
- I want to move to a place that has an outdoor space
- I want to have enough money each month to be able to put away X amount into savings
- I want to take a beach vacation every year
- I want a unicorn
The truth is it can be anything, as long as you get it down on paper. Yup, WRITE IT DOWN. There is something about the old fashioned exercise of putting pen to paper that is cathartic.
Look, I’m not promising magic, I’m just saying that putting something out into the universe will make you feel good. You deserve to feel good (and maybe there is a little magic out there too)!
4 How To Start Spreading The News
My first try sharing the news of my separation and pending big “D” with people over lunch at a trendy sushi restaurant was a disaster. “How are you?” went straight to “WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU’RE SEPARATING? YOU TWO ARE SO HAPPY!”, and I quickly realized that the entire lunch was now going to be about me taking care of them while they processed my news.
I was determined to find a better way to break the news to family and friends.
First, I thought maybe I should issue a press release. Yup, I did. In this day and age why not? “X and I are going through the process of separating. While we continue to be friends and are committed to being the best co- parents, we ask that you respect our privacy during this difficult time.”
Maybe that would have been a bit much, but I knew I needed something to break the ice. The thing is friends and family also need a moment to prepare for divorce news; it’s a shock. Putting people on the spot is a no-win situation for both parties.
A phone call, text, email, DM’s are all great ways to give someone the heads up about your bombshell. Advance warning allows the person to digest the information and actually be present next time they see you.While I was convinced that my press release was a damn fine idea, I woke up to the fact that I had to let go of trying to control the narrative. You can’t control what anyone thinks about you or your divorce. The truth is that people are going to process the news in their own way. Here are a few examples of responses you might get to your news:
- OH MY GOD! Will I catch it? This is a zombie apocalypse and you are patient zero. If this person talks to you about your situation it might cause them to divorce.
- I’m SO SORRY. Oh my God you POOR THING! You are a lost, helpless lamb and powerless.
- Can’t you make it work? AKA You are not allowed to do this!
- He’s/She’s so great! Why? What about your kids? They will throw every reason in the book at you, except the facts that actually lead to your tough choice.
- I’m really sorry to hear that. I’m here for you.
Thankfully more often, the last response is what you’ll get.
Wishing you all the best on your divorce journey. I want you to Divide & Thrive.