Although every couple is very different, the stages of divorce are fairly common. For most there is usually a long and protracted teetering between divorce and staying together. When all hope is lost, when one person if not both decides that they can no longer be happy in the relationship and all methods of reconciliation are lost it’s usually decided upon that divorce is the right way forward. Most of the time, one person wants to stay in the relationship and try to work it out while the other thinks the marriage has no way of being resurrected. Divorce is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life. Luckily, since it is no longer uncommon, there is lots of advice and support services available. Many people today want to pivot away from long, drawn out legal battles and bitter fights and instead have a more peaceful, smooth and consolatory process, much like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s “conscious uncoupling.” The first stage is realization. Even if you are the advocate for the divorce, it can feel unreal, like it’s not really happening. If your spouse has suddenly told you they want a divorce, the shock may take time to wear off. Usually one party at this point is in denial. At this stage it’s important to let go of blame, of fault and of guilt. Those emotions, while valid, won’t get you anywhere. Pointing the finger at your spouse may make you feel better momentarily, but in the end the hurt is still there, just as deep and as poignant as ever. Learn to let go. Look for moments of clarity. Let go of blame. Seek out something instead that will soothe the hurt. Feel the feelings you have but couch them where they belong, don’t run away with them. Instead, put them in the proper context and move on.
The next stage is worrying whether or not you are going to enter into a horrifying divorce. Stories of bitter struggles, litigation that turn into yearlong drag outs, custody battles, destroyed property, hidden assets and on and on can really drive us crazy and make us fearful. But is that really who your ex is? You should know them by now, including what they are capable of. Don’t assume your divorce will be like your parents’ or that your children will feel as you did when your parents divorced. Instead, understand who you both are, be calm and professional and try to have the divorce you two are having in the best possible manner instead of enduring what you think might come your way. Certainly you should prepare, but don’t assume or keep yourself up at night with storylines that may or may not be true. Try to show your former partner that you want this divorce to be mature, go smoothly and you want it to have mutual respect throughout the process. What are your priorities for this divorce? Write down a list of everything you want, everything you think your spouse should want and possible areas of compromise. Remember these priorities and values and stick to them throughout the divorce.
Meet up with your friends and family, but take their dating advice with a grain of salt. Their divorce is not your divorce either. Their divorce is perhaps in many ways different than yours. Instead, make sure the divorce advice you seek makes sense to your situation. Think about it and make sure it fits. Also seek out the advice of professionals; a lawyer, a financial planner and a counselor are just some of the professionals that can help you through this trying time. If you feel stuck, understand it’s a common feeling. You won’t feel stuck forever. Let yourself cry it out if that’s what you need to do. Take breaks from the stress of divorce. Spend time with friends and family, journal, make a dream board, and make plans on what you want to do once this is all over. Some people plan a divorce party, why not plan your own? It doesn’t have to be expensive. Just some friends, some drinks and a cake is quite enough. Why not dream about your divorce party when things get tough? Learn to center yourself. Trust is what you feel is right, don’t second-guess every decision. Stick to your priorities. If your spouse starts acting like a monster, that doesn’t mean you should return in kind. Keep your dignity and your self-respect. Protect yourself and get what you think is fair in the settlement but don’t bring yourself down to their level. Always conduct yourself with dignity and integrity. Each person in the process, from your lawyer to the judge, will notice and it will play out in your favor. Once you are ready understand that you will grieve and perhaps go through the stages of grief. Find ways to console yourself. Seek out the people in your social network. Take time out to unwind. Reconnect with yourself. Think about what new direction you want to go in life and start moving there. For more, pick up a copy of On Your Own Again: The Down-to-Earth Guide to Getting through a Divorce or Separation and Getting on with Your Life by Keith Anderson and Roy Macskimming.