General advice for someone going through a divorce?
November 19, 2012 12:51 PM   Subscribe

General advice for someone going through a divorce?

My 10-year marriage is ending by mutual decision. There are no kids, no house, and it's fairly amicable. None of my friends have gone through this before because we married so young. So I'm wondering: what advice to you have for someone going through divorce? Not legal stuff, but more like sage advice that helped you. I'm thinking of things like "don't get involved with someone else" (for how long?). "Don't drink" (that's just something that I've done so as to stay in control of my emotions). I already know about therapy and exercise and those sorts of things.

]Whatcha got?
posted by sugarbomb to Human Relations (19 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
When my friend was starting his divorce, I tried to tell him to take the money he would be getting from the amicable split (house, furniture, etc.) and lock it up for 6 months. it's an emotional time and people tend to spend money when they are emotionally agitated. He didn't and spent everything within a year.

It may not apply to you at all, but it seemed to me that possibly setting aside 6 months of living expenses and putting away anything else you might be walking away with would be a sensible thing to do.

And your designs are great, I bought a necklace as a gift some years ago, keep up the great work!
posted by efalk at 1:07 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Things I wish I had known whilst going through my amicable divorce:

The relationship has to be grieved, and it's not a linear process. One day you'll feel fine, and the next, like crap, and then back to fine. Eventually the fine days will far outnumber the crap days.

How long before dating : I wish I'd waited at least six months after the final papers were processed.

Distance yourself for now from the negative friends - you know, the ones that say helpful things like "Do you think you still have a chance at getting back together? Does he have a new girlfriend? Isn't it rough being all alone in the house?"

Sometimes snags happen in the divorce process. My ex decided he didn't want a dissolution at the last minute, forcing me to go the divorce route. Just breathe, it will all work out in the end.
posted by HopperFan at 1:08 PM on November 19, 2012 [8 favorites]

Start a modest progressive workout program. You now have the time and you will need something to feel good about and to make yourself feel better.

Take a night class for the same reason.
posted by srboisvert at 1:27 PM on November 19, 2012

One woman undergoing a nasty divorce continued to smile and function normally all day, but threw up every night for a year. She recovered. So will you. The advice about giving yourself time is valid.
posted by Cranberry at 1:37 PM on November 19, 2012

I want to second the advice to grieve. No matter how amicable it is, you will need to grieve.

On the flip side, enjoy the things that you couldn't enjoy when you were with your ex. Stretch and find the new boundaries to your world. That sounds a little fluffy, but I don't know how else to say it.
posted by hought20 at 1:40 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

Be prepared that it may take a long time to really get over it. HopperFan is right, the relationship has to be grieved, and it takes time. You already mentioned therapy, but there are people who specialize in grief and divorce, so consider that.

If you encounter a lot of people who want to ask about your divorce/set you up with a friend/be nosy parkers, it is helpful to come up with a pat response. Mine was "I'm not interested in anything right now, for my next relationship, I'm getting a dog." Further mentions of potential romantic partner could then be shot down with "Does he have four legs and a tail?" Which kept things light but effectively shut down the subject.

It may take longer to get over than you are willing to be alone. This can be a tricky thing to manage. Some people are more comfortable with no-strings-attached/FWB sex than others, but if that is an option for you, that might be a better route than getting involved with someone who wants a real relationship before you are ready to do that.

Meditation helped. Also, finding the small bonuses of being by yourself: if you want to eat a pint of berries for dinner, you can! If you want to watch Battlestar Galactica all weekend, you can! That kind of thing. Enjoy the freedom of not having to take someone else into consideration.

It will take time, but eventually you will get to a place that is so much better, unimaginably better, than where you are now.
posted by ambrosia at 1:41 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

That it's OK to revert back to a time before you were with them in some mental aspects. Put on the music they hated, watch the shows they didn't like, eat the stuff they didn't care for. It's OK.

Your financial situation will change, and you may have to pinch new pennies. But, it's OK to spend money to make your life easier in small ways. You're going to be going through enough, don't hold yourself hostage over pennies.

And get yourself a ring if you like wearing them. One with no memories attached to it.

Otherwise, date when you're ready to. That might be a year from the end date, that might be before the end date. Everyone processes on their own schedule, and it's fine.
posted by skittlekicks at 1:49 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

"Everyone does the best they can with the resources available to them." Viewing the relationship and its failure from that lens--not just cognitively acknowledging it, but embracing it as a foundational element of my worldview--helped me greatly in not being overcome by bitterness or endless hours trying to figure out who was to blame.

I'd say wait 6-12 months before you get involved with someone new.
posted by drlith at 1:52 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

I read this Salon article around the time I was getting divorce and found it quite helpful stuff to think about.
posted by transient at 1:55 PM on November 19, 2012

Creative projects are very helpful to keep your mind engaged and your mood positive. My involvement with my band helped me tremendously. Even when I was feeling like crap during my divorce, I still had to show up and play. And playing just naturally elevates one. My band served as the extended family I didn't have.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 2:45 PM on November 19, 2012

Not divorced, but I spent several years working on divorce cases in law firms, and I've seen dozens and dozens of people go through this.

My major insight is this:

Divorce brings out the worst in almost everyone. Cut yourself some slack, and to the extent that you can, cut your ex some slack.

Divorce tends to bring out the very worst in folks. Many people experience it as bedrock of their lives being churned up into rubble. (The rubble, of course, will ultimately be processed into something better, stronger, and more stable later on, but on a visceral level, it probably won't always feel like that.) You will likely be tempted to do crazy shit. Your ex will likely be tempted to do crazy shit. Sometimes one or both of you will give in to the temptation. You will, at times, feel less mature than a two-year-old. Sometimes, you will feel like a two-year-old forced to fight in a to-the-death cage match against another two-year-old.

This will pass. You are still both grown-ups, and as the process wears on and you pass more and more milestones, you will find yourself able to sustain mental equilibrium and grown-upness for longer and longer periods of time. Realize this. You're not stuck here forever. You do get your life back.

I also will go ahead and tell you about some of the patterns I've seen in people who are going through the legal process. I know that you don't want legal advice (and good for you for not asking for that on the internet!). These observations aren't really that-- they're more about personal dynamics that play out during the legal process. I'm including them because friends of mine who've gone through this have found them useful to hear about. I hope they will be for you as well. So.

Here's what I see people mess up in that context:

(1) Being too compliant in the very beginning.

It it's even slightly amicable, and if you are a generally nice person, you may find yourself tempted to agree to a profoundly unfair split of assets, just to get things over with. That concilliatory, give-'till-it-hurts mindset often goes away after about six months, leaving feelings of anger and regret in its wake. It's not a crime to get some legal advice before you sign stuff, or at the very least, to wait a little while before you agree to a division of assets.

(2) Being too combative in the middle, the end, and ever after.

Once a person really gets in touch with their anger about the divorce, they often swell up with kung-fu spirit and try to get in there and Win The Marriage, often by attempting to get a disproportionate share of the assets, or by trying to get a judge to say something, on the record, that validates their suffering and chastises the other partner. This sort of thing is damaging to everyone, and serves no one. (I've seen people spend tens of thousands of dollars fighting over who gets what Christmas ornament. And that's not even the stupidest thing. Actually, I don't think I could pick a stupidest thing, because there are so very, very, very many.) If you start feeling like this, just remind yourself that it's not the court system's job to declare a winner. It's the court system's job to split up your stuff in a way that isn't grotesquely unfair, and to send you on your way.

And people who want to Win The Marriage don't limit their efforts to the courts. They also involve their friends, their families, their workplaces, etc. And as in court, it doesn't help anyone. Basically, there's no real way to Win The Marriage-- but there are a thousand great and small ways in which to Lose The Divorce.

Best of luck with all of this. It sucks in ways that nothing else can. Stay strong.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 3:06 PM on November 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

And people who want to Win The Marriage don't limit their efforts to the courts. They also involve their friends, their families, their workplaces, etc. And as in court, it doesn't help anyone.

This is true, I found alot of previously solid friendships gave way during my divorce, I know this is common, the whole shared fabric of your intertwined lives begins to disintegrate, but this was exasperated in some cases due to my ex openly discussing every little detail with anyone who would listen at the time. You find your constantly re-evaluating friendships and generally not for the better. I'd suggest giving each other enough respect to maintain some privacy about the breakup to maintain neutrality with the wider world, if you need to discuss things with others (which you will) then pick just one or two confidants each that you trust initially, having everyone know your business while you're deeply hurting is just so awful.
posted by Under the Sea at 3:46 PM on November 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm coming out on the other side of an amicable divorce myself, and so I can offer at least these things:

1. Be patient with yourself and with your partner, and remember that they are still your partner, at least as far as navigating the waters of this process. You're in this together, even as you're separating.

2. Some days you'll feel fine, some days you'll feel happy, and some days you'll feel miserable. Totally normal, because you're grieving. Even if you want out of the relationship really, really bad; even if there's 0% probability that you'll go back and give it another try. You're still grieving, and so is your partner, who is going through the same things.

3. Don't just wait for things to happen. Move things along. Have discussions, set boundaries, be clear about what you expect and forthright about admitting that your boundaries and expectations have changed (when they have.) If you just wait for your partner to make the next move, and they're waiting for you do to the same thing, nothing will happen...and if you let them make all the moves, you won't feel like you're taking control of your life.

4. Don't assume; ask. Don't hint; state.

5. You're not ready to start with a new partner until you're comfortable telling your previous partner, friends and family that you're thinking about dating again...and once you feel this way, be up-front and tell your previous partner that "I'm not thinking about any one in particular, but I feel ready to go on a few dates." At least you'll be giving them a chance to get used to the idea, and perhaps you'll also be helping them, if they're feeling the same way but are scared to bring it up.

At the end of the day, you're transitioning out of something significant, something you thought was never going to end, so that deserves as much care, attention and motivation as you can muster. Good luck.
posted by davejay at 3:56 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Oh, and I got advice early on in the process that navigating a friendly divorce can be much more difficult than navigating a hostile one. I didn't buy into it at first, but looking back I can say that having things on friendly terms makes both parties reluctant to say things that really need to be said, and to do things that really need to be done. It will take willpower and determination, because your forward momentum won't be fueled by hatred or anger, and you'll have to push hard to tell the truth because you won't want to hurt the other person, and dancing around issues will just make things worse.
posted by davejay at 3:59 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

The most important thing I did during my amicable split was to keep my integrity.

I highly recommend you keep an eye on yours, particularly in situations where you aren't sure how to respond. Whether you recognize it or not you'll be in a state of high stress for a while (months at a minimum) and it will be easy to make bad decisions.

Also as a result of the stress you have a significantly higher chance of being in an automobile accident over the next twelve months. Be careful out there.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:54 PM on November 19, 2012

Start taking yoga classes. Bring a towel so that you can cover your face and sob silently during Savasana.
posted by Jandoe at 11:23 PM on November 19, 2012

Be patient with the process, and decent to both your ex and yourself.

If your marriage was bad for a while, you may have gotten a head start on the grieving. Date whenever you feel like you're ready. And if you feel the urge to talk to your date about your ex, you're not ready.
posted by zippy at 1:10 AM on November 20, 2012

Don't measure what you're ready for by what your ex does. My ex started dating someone almost immediately and I felt a pressure that I wasn't expecting to also be dating. I'm more aware of things since we have a child together, so your communication with your ex may differ from mine, but having that vague sense of competition surprised me.
posted by Twicketface at 7:34 AM on November 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thank you all so much. These were all helpful answers, and I shared this with my soon-to-be-ex.
posted by sugarbomb at 10:15 AM on January 7, 2013

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