People sometimes interpret the role of a Divorce Financial Consultant to be synonymous with broadly advocating for divorce. This is not the case. Those of us who work in the divorce arena are predominantly not pro-divorce, but instead recognize we have a unique ability to help people who are struggling through what is often one of the most challenging situations of their adult life.
The unanswered questions may seem endless.
The entanglement that happens within a marriage can be complex – particularly when many years have been involved. The decision to end a marriage often weighs heavy as a litany of unanswered questions run rampant through our minds:
Is it possible to save the marriage?
Can I continue to live like this?
How will it impact our children?
Will our friends feel they need to choose a side?
Am I going to be perceived as the bad guy?
Do we have enough money to go around?
How will we manage the family business?
Who would keep the family pets?
Will I spend the rest of my life alone?
These unanswered questions may feel overwhelming, and many people struggle with this decision for a long time.
I was one of those people. For at least half of my 20-year marriage I was on the fence. Ten years in a limbo that was all consuming and full of fears! I have no doubt that I drove my friends and family crazy with the ups and downs as I struggled to come to terms with the direction of my future. Even once I had decided that a divorce was inevitable, I stayed for another full year trying to figure out how to make it happen without hurting my spouse. After all, you don’t spend 20-years married to someone and then just suddenly stop caring about them. Of course, not hurting him wasn’t possible and I ultimately had to choose my own sanity over protecting him.
So, what advice can I offer those who are in that limbo place right now?
First of all, give yourself the time you need. Life is short, but this is often a no-going-back kind of decision. “You are going to keep doing it until you are done doing it” is a phrase that I’ve often offered friends and family in these situations. You will know when your decision is made, and you will know when you are ready to act on it.
Second, if you have that litany of questions rolling around in your head and keeping you up at night like I did, seek the help of a therapist. Your friends and family are likely to thank you later for sparing them from at least some of the constant reiteration of pros and cons. And for those of you who cringe at the thought, I recommend you try it at least once. Therapy provides a safe place for you to express yourself without judgement, bounce ideas and fears off of an objective third party, and really work your way through the decision-making process with guidance. It can be very empowering at a time when you need to feel empowered.
Third, recognize that fear of the unknown is normal and unavoidable, but not permanent. While some questions can be researched, such as marriage counseling, the finances and the process options, there will still be some unknowns left to face. For example, there is no crystal ball to indicate how your spouse might react – or your family for that matter. You may anticipate that the people around you who care about you as a couple might demonstrate some reaction to their fears of loss as well, but it is nearly impossible to predict exactly how that will play out in reality.
And finally, a friend offered the following exercise that I found very helpful when I was struggling on the fence. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine that you’ve just arrived at your home. As you come through the doorway your spouse is waiting for you with their bags packed. Your spouse tells you that it is time for you to separate and begin work on a divorce. How does this make you feel? For me, in that moment, I felt overwhelming relief and I suddenly knew it was time to move forward.