Updated: Sep 8
If you have reached the point where you’re saying, “We are getting a divorce! What do I do?” then this post is a place for you to start.
The first thing to be aware of is that your mind is going to want all the answers right this second! Divorce creates a tremendous amount of uncertainty and shakiness because everything you’ve counted on as stable and reliable is about to shift, or at least might shift. Your trusted and familiar routines might all change, so it’s only natural that you feel the ground shifting under your feet.
Watch your mind
In the face of great uncertainty, your mind is likely to play tricks on you, demanding answers you don’t have yet. In a futile attempt to create certainty, your mind is likely to demand a finished roadmap for the entire process right now.
So at first, it’s all about slowly getting used to the new reality of you and your soon-to-be ex being separate and you living in a new reality; slowly coming to a bit of acceptance of this new reality.
Remember you whole identity can be shifting in this process, from mom to single mom, from husband to single guy, from seeing yourself as a family all the time to being by yourself some of the time. Not to mention the complex and unpredictable emotions you will predictably be going through for a long time. It’s just a lot, so take it slow, if possible, and don’t demand a speed of change you can’t sustain.
Note, in this post, we’re assuming you can still talk to your soon-to-be ex and that you can still collaborate and let the process take time. If that’s not the case, if you can’t stand the sight of each other, then a different kind of intervention and speed may be required.
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It’s going to take a while
Sonika has been through the process of divorce and she always says that if she had tried make it go any faster, she would have had a nervous breakdown. Tell yourself that this is going to take a while, and focus on right-now small steps you can take to ease yourself and your kids (if you have kids) into a new reality.
If possible, don’t try to make all the big, important decisions at first, but instead take small steps. Trust that you will figure out all the big stuff in due time. The “big stuff” includes who lives where, what to do with the house, who has the kids when and where, how to split your retirement accounts, who pays support to whom, and much more. You’ll get there.
What you can’t handle today, you can handle next month. What seems unfathomable today may be more acceptable and okay a few months down the road.
Watch the Youtube video of this post with Sonika & Christian
Some first steps you can take.
These are steps we have seen couples take in the beginning of the separation process, to slowly help themselves get used to a new reality. Begin to talk to friends who have gone through divorce. Use them for emotional support and begin to ask them about their experience; ask what was super useful to them and what they would have done differently. Ask if they have good coaches or therapists they used to help them through the emotional journey of separation.
Take turns being away from the house, and let the other one be home with the kids alone. Do a “mommycation” or “daddycation” where mom or dad takes turns taking the kids away for a weekend, practicing the new situation of being the sole adult with your kids.
If you have a spare room in the house, one of you try sleeping there by yourself, perhaps for several nights. These simple steps help not just you but your kids slowly adjust to a new situation. Moving slowly also allows you to include and process all the confusing feelings that you and/or your kids and ex might be experiencing.
Of course, at some point you will start taking practical steps to get clear about the “big stuff”. One way to start that process can be to find a good mediator that can help you along (Sonika and I are trained mediators and can also help with that).
Who do you want to be?
It helps if you begin to think about who you want to be in this process. Ask yourself, “What kind of person do I want to be? What kind of model do I want to be for my kids?” And let your best vision of who you can be guide you as you adjust.
If at all possible, throughout this process be nice and kind to each other, especially around the kids. When Sonika was going through her divorce process there was a moment when she and her ex were dividing up kitchen and putting it in separate boxes. Their 3-year old daughter who was observing the proceedings said, “You two are sharing very nicely!”
Which was a really good sign that the two adults were dealing with this difficult process in a kind way, as gently as possible, so as not to leave the kids in a crossfire of intense emotion. It was an expression of Sonika and her ex’s desire to be kind, generous and loving adults even as they split.
Even if you can’t stand each other and can’t talk to each other at all, see if you can keep civil around the kids and avoid the route of “I’ll see you in court!” If the court ends up making decisions about children, finances etc. there’s a really good chance at least one of you won’t like the results.
In summary, the most important thing you can do when you first realize that you’re getting a divorce, is giving yourself and your family time to adjust to a new reality, and to let it be okay that you don’t have all the answers right now.
In due time, you will sort out the details and the big stuff.
Make sure you get competent support. Contact us for guidance or use someone you trust in your own area.
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