Surviving Divorce
February 6, 2023 10:01 PM   Subscribe

Were you financially intermingled with your partner, with no friends/family support system and children who actually hate you? How did you survive? How do you adapt to living alone again?

My wife came to me today with a request for a divorce. The reasons aren't really germaine to this question beyond the fact that I am at fault.

I'm 4 and I do not have a familial support system. I only have one friend who lives 1000 miles away. My children do not like me and I doubt they will want much to do with me once the divorce is final.

We have one banking account, and are house poor. I don't want to force her to sell the home. I want her to have that security. I don't know how to do this.

How do I find a way to get an apartment quickly?
How would you save when you still have a large load of bills coming in?
What would you do for a support system?
How do you find the will to go on without a purpose or end-goal?
How do you adjust to living isolated and alone again?

I'm not looking for anyone to give me glib advice, I deserve this divorce and all that comes with it. I'm just trying to find a way to survive and see the light at the end of the tunnel. I do not think that I will date again and will certainly not marry.
posted by Zooming Right Along to Human Relations (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: To add: I do not have any savings in order to move out quickly. I meant to say what would you do to get the money to get out?
posted by Zooming Right Along at 10:52 PM on February 6

I’m afraid I only can comment on the last bit:

How do you adjust to living isolated and alone again?

You’ll have a lot more time on your hands and I would highly recommend using some of it to volunteer for a worthy cause. Not only will you meet people but you will be doing something positive, which you sorely need at this point.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:02 PM on February 6 [10 favorites]

Go find a way to be around people, as much as is the right amount for you. Meetup is _full_ of uncoupled people looking for human contact and some kind of community, and hiking/walking/makerspace/foreign language practice/kayaking/Agile/political dialogue/going to bars/pimping vegetarianism.

Go to (or an equivalent) and start exploring the free (if you audit -- they've nearly hidden this option now) classes on philosophy, comparative religion, psychology, storytelling, or green energy. Some courses can help you directly with meaning, some can bring you closer to people who can be your community eventually, some can build you toward a larger personal goal or contributing to the world.

Go outside, wherever you end up, and make your neighborhood better. Almost all geographic communities I know of are thirsty for someone to just start throwing parties and giving people a _chance_ to meet each other -- it may not be obvious how to get people to show up (or maybe it will be), but be comfortable with trying different approaches and expecting most of them to not work.

Go to therapy, or positive psychology books, or a forgiveness-based religion, or somewhere that you can find some small way to make the world better. If you feel the need to do penance, do that. Do what you need to do to honor all the time and work and love that went into making you, and all the time and work and love you've put into making yourself, and use all the gifts you've received to give to others.
posted by amtho at 11:18 PM on February 6 [7 favorites]

Seems like finances are the biggest issue here, but it’s not clear what your situation is. Do you work? Does your soon-to-be-ex? Would you be able to pay rent on a bachelor suite with your salary or does too much of your salary go to the house?
posted by vanitas at 11:38 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]

1. Lawyer. They aren't just for messy divorces. Find one that will work with you to untangle your finances without being combative.

2. Do a budget. You need to figure out how much you have coming in, how much is needed to service debt and support your ex and family while the lawyer figures out how things should be divided. Once you have done this you'll know your budget for getting a place to live.

3. Housing. Find somewhere that fits your budget. In my post-divorce life I found it was way better to opt for a smaller place more centrally located to things to do/people than a larger place that was more out of the way, prices being equal. This is important for meeting and befriending people.

4. Build your social life. First, start inviting people that you know and like that aren't necessarily friends to do things. Coworkers, friends you have lost touch with, the mechanic you've used for years, etc. In my experience, it is better to cut ties with mutual friends of your partner. You need space to process the divorce and build your life where things aren't going to get.back to your ex. If there are mutual friends that mean a lot to you, give it a little time before you reach out to them.

5. Do stuff. Lots of stuff. Join a gym or casual sport and go regularly. Become a regular somewhere (bar, cafe, etc). Take classes (learn to sculpt or take care of bonsai or cook, whatever). Volunteer. If you're spiritual, join a church/temple/whatever near wherever your new digs is. Invite the people you meet to do things with you.

6. Don't date. You're probably not ready yet. Prioritize making a few good friends and figuring out who you are as a single person. Once you start feeling busy, like there is always something going on, that's when you're ready.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 12:21 AM on February 7 [13 favorites]

Apart from the lawyer and the budgeting, you are going to need to take the emotional side of things slowly. Creating a new social circle & support system is normally a long and uncertain process; so is trying to find a new partner (if you are interested in one). There are going to be lots of times when emotions overwhelm you and the last thing you want to do is talk to another human.

1. Find some low-effort things you can enjoy alone at home. It could be a long running TV show/book series/AAA video game to get invested in, or as simple as a soap with a scent you really like. Life's little pleasures are not going to solve your problems, but they do make your problems more bearable.

2. Find a project to get yourself invested in. Achieving things will build your confidence. It could be creative like building/painting/knitting something. You could also learn a new skill - the sky is the limit here as there are so many free courses online. The only commitment here is to yourself, so if you struggle to motivate yourself to keep working on the project, at least you're not letting anyone else down.

3. Schedule regular, low effort ways of going outside and getting human interaction. This can dovetail with #2 if you join an in-person club or class to learn a new skill. It can be as low effort as going to a cafe to read, rather than sitting at home, which is more accessible at first that joining a club.
posted by wandering zinnia at 2:15 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]

Divorce is A Process. This is not going to be immediately resolved, or even quickly resolved. This is not a film and you are not going to just walk out the door in shame today and hole up in a cheap studio. This is going to take planning with your wife because the income and debts don't magically change just because someone is done. If she wants you out of the house it's in her interests to work with you.

Just because it's your fault, don't martyr yourself. She can have the security of a smaller house and you can have a down payment, for example.

Get in touch with your sponsor or go back into your 12 step programme, even if you are currently using/not sober.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:51 AM on February 7 [7 favorites]

Sounds like your choices are either sell the house, or get a second job. You can generally find apartments on FB Marketplace. Larger apartment complexes advertise on places like houzz,, and zillow. Those may be be pricier, though, depending on your area. If money is really tight, you may want to consider a roommate (you can find house shares on FB Marketplace) until you get back on your feet.

Seconding volunteer work if you can. Don't fall back on alcohol as a coping mechanism, go to the gym instead. Definitely therapy. Not just for dealing with the immediate situation, but to address the larger issues of why you have not developed secure friendships and other broader emotional issues.

Unfortunately, this is an extremely common situation for men post divorce. Our society does not encourage men to form strong social bonds or to be emotionally open. So while this experience is not entirely your fault, it is your responsibility to address it if you want to have a more fulfilling life.

I encourage you also to find a church or other spiritual community. It can go a long way to helping one find purpose and meaning.
posted by ananci at 4:46 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]

I agree with DarlingBri and I think it would remove a lot of pressure to downsize. You don't want to go into this even more "house poor" than you are now. As awful as this feels in this moment, it is sort of a sweet spot when you and your partner are both halfway in the relationship still, and disposed to make amicable deals. So do that now, to both of your advantage. Later you will start disagreeing on details and it will be harder for both of you to budge. You can work on how to restart your life once you get this groundwork done.
posted by BibiRose at 4:49 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]

Other people have covered the "how do I find meaning?" stuff, but the financial stuff depends on the nitty-gritty details - can you work on finding answers to questions like these?
- what types of housing are available to you (studios/shared home situations/trailer homes/SROs/hostels/shelters/house or petsitting/AirBnBs) and how much do they cost per month?
- how much does it cost to move into these types of housing (i.e. security deposits, realtor fees, etc.)?
- what kind of bills are we talking about, and can any of them be reduced/eliminated/consolidated/renegotiated (with or without damage to your credit rating)?
- how much can you save per month?
- are there ways for you to bring in more money (second job, selling expensive hobby items, etc.)?
- how much would you get for the house if it were sold and what would the housing payment be for a smaller place? (For instance I know that right now, because I have an incredibly low-interest mortgage that I got in 2021, my housing payment would hardly change at all if I sold my house and put the equity into a condo.)

Also: do you actually need to move out right now? Can you sleep on the couch for a couple months while you and your soon-to-be ex figure out the financial stuff? Can you just spend as much time out of the house as possible (e.g. volunteering or at a second job)? Maybe take weekend housesitting or petsitting gigs?
posted by mskyle at 5:59 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]

What are the numbers? Debts and income?
Can you start a separate bank account and put a portion of your personal expenses there and the rest in the household expenses account?
posted by jello at 6:35 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]

So as someone with an unfortunate focus on divorce, especially if you have minor children, selling the house may not even be an option until the children are grown: while I am not your lawyer and you should definitely get one, judges often tend to dislike disrupting the lives of the children, who are the innocent parties in any divorce. I would not count on any financial benefit from that house in your planning.

In terms of getting an apartment quickly: you may want to consider that you don't *need* to get an *apartment* quickly, you just need a place to *live* quickly. Your ex will likely allow you to leave things at the house while you are searching; have you considered looking for a rooming type situation, or a single room residence such as the YMCA?

I would certainly open a separate bank account; nothing increases divorce tensions like sharing a bank account with someone you're furious at.
In terms of bills: renegotiate all of them. Every single one, call them and tell them you are taking an income hit, and ask if there's a way to have payment plans or to lower your bill. Your phone bill: do you have a lot of extras on there? Do you have a lot of subscription services? Every tiny thing removed is more you can save.

In terms of a support system: do you have an affinity group that might have community meetings? Ethnicity if you are a BIPOC, religious, alumni, any sort of group that has a commonality.

In terms of purpose - you just need to find a new one. Is there something you've always wanted to do? Jobwise, hobbywise, etc? Get sunk into that. In the short term, I also recommend highly addicting video games. Crusader Kings 2, or something similar where you can sink a TON of hours into for a one time purchase.
posted by corb at 6:41 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]

You understand that your behavior has caused your life to come apart in a really harmful way. Therapy. Find a therapist who understands making amends, because I think you will benefit from taking action to resolve some of the harm to others and yourself. If you are an alcoholic, AA, or similar.

Meet with your wife's lawyer or possibly your wife, and make a thorough list of assets and liabilities, short term bills and anything longer term, car & school loans. Get organized; the more you do yourselves, the lower the lawyer bills. Plan way ahead, for college and other expenses. Does your wife have a good education, good job? You both need to declare savings, pensions, etc. If you are the higher earner, stay married at least 10 years to give her the eventual option to collect higher Soc. Sec. on your account.

Make copies of tax returns and any other documents for both of you. My ex- took tax returns and declined to make copies; the IRS' copies are expensive. When there's a divorce decree, get copies.

Get a 2nd job. Sling coffee at Starbucks or whatever. Do something that will get you around other people. It will use your surplus time and you'll earn money.

You've posted about mental health, specifically bipolar. Join a support group. It's possible that your mental health is a player, and that you are not as awful as you believe right now. You can also choose to change your behavior; this takes work, but you have time. You can be a person your kids will want to know. You can be a person who believes in themself, who likes and respects themself. Really.

How do I find a way to get an apartment quickly? Look for roommate ads on Craigslist, in coffee shops, etc. or even a cheap residential motel.
How would you save when you still have a large load of bills coming in? Right now, focus on paying down any credit card debt or other bills. Leaving the marriage with both of you free from all but mortgage and maybe car debt would be a huge help.
What would you do for a support system? Mostly therapy, maybe a divorce or other meetup group. Some men's groups end up being pretty woman-hating, so be wary, you don't need that.
How do you find the will to go on without a purpose or end-goal? Not going on would harm your kids. Again, therapy. things will change, you can't predict how, but you will have opportunities to be happy and have meaning.
How do you adjust to living isolated and alone again? That's why roommates are good. They aren't family or even friends, but they're people to be around. That's why working around people is good, and meetups, and support groups.

There's a tv series I just watched - Loudermilk, about an addict and recovery group. It was fun and funny and hopeful. We don't know you and we don't have a way to assess your version of yourself. Right now, focus on problem-solving, but take a little time to give yourself a break. If a spiritual or religious framework helps, consider that. I recommend Friends Meeting (Quakers) because self-assessment and Right Living are part of their practice, but the community of any church may be of value. Some Unitarian-Universalist congregations do not require belief in God. Good luck to all of you.
posted by theora55 at 7:03 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]

I think you should go to therapy! Your statements like “my children do not like me” are really harsh and many mistakes can actually be repaired if you actually try. I would look into therapy to take proper accountability for whatever part you played in the divorce / conflict and to actually make a meaningful apology and attempt to repair. You probably can’t get back to a perfect relationship but that doesn’t mean things have to be “irrevocably broken”.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:00 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]

For your children, we don't know their ages here which might affect your approach. But I would not give up on these relationships. Respect their boundaries, but maintain space for them in your life (maybe you can do so physically, but emotionally and in relation to your activities).
posted by lookoutbelow at 8:57 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]

Yeah, if you're feeling really at sea, you're going to need a third-party to assess your finances, and then you're going to need to follow their instructions. Martyrdom is not required or helpful.

You haven't given a lot of details, but it seems likely that the house will have to be sold. You have equity in the house and you're entitled to it.

Regarding the kids, seconding lookoutbelow and nouvelle-personne, custody is to be settled among the parties, the TWO lawyers, and the court. "They don't like me" is not helpful or very relevant at this juncture. Some sort of part-time or half-time custody arrangement is likely to be arranged. Going forward, you'll have a chance to build a whole new relationship with the kids.
posted by JimN2TAW at 9:34 AM on February 7 [3 favorites]

On the children front: I’m the child of a shitty, near-endless divorce that began when I was about 6. Please do not give up on your relationship with your kids. Talk to a therapist and plan how you can move forward.

I as the kid have rebuilt a relationship with my parents in adulthood, after decades of detachment. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to talk to them about how much their behavior hurt me as a kid, but I still love them and want to understand them/be understood by them. I can’t tell you what it would have meant if they had sought to build relationship with *me*, if I had known that they recognized their dysfunction and were trying to build stronger relationships. A therapist can help. Look on Psychology Today for folks who offer sliding scale fees. Talk to a social worker or librarian about community services or support groups.

On your equity in the house, I know that my mother bought my dad’s share of our house. If you are both cash-strapped at the moment, I wonder if you couldn’t talk to your lawyers about some arrangement to “pay” your share of the house over time in lieu of child-support payments. I am making this up completely - I have no idea if this is a reasonable proposal legally or for your family’s circumstances - but if you don’t want your kids to have to move and there is an ostensible asset you *do* have to offer that wouldn’t cost you out of pocket or paycheck to give, could it not be put it to use rather than uprooting your kids’ lives to get cash in hand?

We are not the worst things we have ever done. Change is possible. I hope you find the support you need.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 1:01 PM on February 7 [3 favorites]

We are not the worst things we have ever done, wise words. Living alone is OK you learn your rationalizations and faults, and eventually become good company.
posted by Oyéah at 7:09 PM on February 7

When my wife suddenly left, I only had a few weeks to find a new place to live and create a new life for myself.

It was hard. Really, really hard. But I went apartment searching, found one I could (barely) afford, stopped paying bills and used that money to move my stuff, and then I started over.

Don't do what I did at that point: drink/drug yourself to sleep every night to avoid dealing with your emotions. It was stupid and not worth it. At all. It just prolonged the pain.
posted by tacodave at 4:04 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]

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