Everyone has the best intentions when they get married.
Couples share their dreams for building a life together through love and partnership. But life doesn’t always work that way. There are so many reasons why couples get divorced – infidelity, incompatibility, addiction, abuse, loss of love – and when they do, there is a lot more to deal with than just the divorce itself.
Everyone knows that divorce can be expensive. But unless you’ve experienced it, it is difficult to understand the true cost of divorce — not just on your pocketbook — but on your identity, your children and your way of life. A divorce is all-encompassing and will change your life forever. And what are you really buying? That’s up to you. Based on how you choose to deal with it, divorce can be a crushing or a transformative experience.
Your Identity Is Gone
Divorce is the loss of the most important relationship in your life. It is the loss of your identity as part of a married couple. And it is the loss of the dream you had around what your life would be like. When you decide to separate and get divorced, everything you thought you knew and relied on is gone. Suddenly, you are cast at sea with no sense of direction. You are angry, hurt, confused, and fearful. You need to grieve for what has been lost, but eventually you have to acknowledge that it was broken, so you can move on … so, you can find a new path. You have a choice. The real you, your authentic self, is still there. Find that person again. Explore who you are now and who you want to be. Fill the empty space that is left behind with new clarity and purpose around who you are and what you want for yourself, your family and your life.
The Relationship You Had With Your Children Is Gone
Divorce conjures up our worst fears of broken homes and damaged children. There is a huge stress and anxiety that comes with separation and divorce – for you and your children. Children thrive on structure and routine. So, with separation and divorce, the familiar family structure has changed. One parent is no longer living at home and divorce means a whole new routine, depending on the parenting plan. Additionally, divorce might mean a move to a different town or city, in which case the children might need to adapt to a whole new school. Children’s worst fear is that their parents will disappear. And our worst fears as parents, is that our actions are causing irreparable damage to our children. All of the transitions associated with separation and divorce will change your relationship with your children forever. You have a choice. If you and your ex choose to put your children first throughout the divorce, you can actually make your relationship with them better. Regardless of the divorce, you are still a family and always will be. Reinforce that idea with your children as frequently as possible and treat every moment with them as a gift. While a co-parenting plan takes some getting used to, it forces you to prioritize the time you do have with your children to make it the best you can. Quality wins over quantity every time … and kids know it. The greatest gift you can give your children is to be present with them. Let go of your guilt when it comes to the divorce and your children. Be confident that they will be getting the best of you as a happier parent. Believe that divorce does not have to destroy your family, unless you let it. Children are resilient and they know when you are being honest and sincere. There will definitely be bumps in the road, but show your children that you aren’t going anywhere and that you will always love them regardless of the circumstances. The bonds you create with them now will be stronger than ever before.
Your Way of Life Is Gone
With separation and divorce, the life you once knew is gone. You are no longer a couple. You no longer have a dual income. You no longer have a clear financial future. Not only is your bank account on life support, but you are probably in a heap of legal debt. As I mentioned previously, divorce is expensive. It costs as much in legal fees to get divorced as it does to get married – in the range of $20,000 – $30,000, with variability based on your individual circumstances. Depending upon your situation, you might get alimony and/or child support … or you might have to pay it out. The child support calculator (at least in my state) is based on discrepancy in income. With a higher percentage of women out-earning their spouses these days, you might need to pay your ex child support, even with 50/50 shared custody. Your assets are divided, so you have less. Your retirement accounts are equalized, so you have less. It is unlikely you have the money to buy your ex out of the house, so you will have to sell it – and with divided equity, you have less to buy a new house (never mind something comparable). You are starting over, sometimes with less than you were married with. It is frustrating and demoralizing being back to square one after so much hard work.
So, let’s shift your perspective. You have a choice. You are starting over – with less baggage (literally and figuratively), less financial pressure (from having to pay for the old house and car) and less compromise in every part of your life. You decide your next steps. You decide where you want to live. Quality time with your children brings them closer to you than ever before. And acknowledgement of your authentic self gives you clarity and purpose. You’ve made money before the divorce and you will make it again after – but your priorities have changed and regardless of your finances, you recognize that your relationships – with your children and yourself – are far more important.
So, what you really buying with your divorce?