I remember when I was first divorced, and the happy holidays rolled around. Watching the social media scroll of Norman Rockwell families hurt. Bad.
Then, a therapist friend gave me a reality check. “Amy,” she said, “do you know how many of these people that look blissfully happy in their Facebook photos are in my office saying how unhappy they are in their marriages?”
I was shocked – especially since she practices in my cute, couply, family centric Connecticut town.
I’m a Divorce Coach now and see firsthand, on a daily basis, that what she said is true. We’re told the holidays are merry and bright but for some they are miserable and bitter. That’s because this season is a time – much like the pandemic was – when people are in close quarters and underlying tensions flare. January is always a popular time for divorce filings for many reasons: people don’t want to rock the boat or affect their children’s experience during the holidays. There are also tax benefits to staying married until the end of the year.
Deep down, you may already know you want a divorce in the new year. But there are key things you need to know about what to do, and what not to do, before 2024. By the way, I don't consider myself to be pro-divorce. I am pro-peace, pro-healthy relationship, pro-love – the real kind. So if you’re in an unhealthy or abusive marriage, I want to help you escape.
Since I primarily help women take their power back before, during and after divorce, my tips are geared for you ladies out there:
1. Evaluate Your Decision
Use this downtime to really think about why you want out. I always ask my clients to list the pros and cons about their relationship. When they tell me “I am losing myself” it is usually a big red flag. So, of course, is any kind of abuse – verbal, psychological, sexual or physical.
2. Is There Any Love Left?
If you can still feel a tiny spark underneath the hurt, resentment and possibly anger you may feel toward your partner, explore that. A new kind of marriage therapy called “discernment counseling” helps couples decide where they’re at and if there’s something worth saving. I know that I, and some of my clients, had to exhaust all chances of working it out before throwing in the towel. It was the only way we could sleep at night.
3. Do Not Tell Your Spouse
I know, sometimes you want to just get it off your chest and be honest with your spouse. But blurting out “I want a divorce” will not only wreck the holidays – but could hurt your case in the long run. I have seen many women regret this because it gives their husband time to hide money and file for divorce first.
4. Create a Secret Email Account
While you’re exploring your options, it’s important to have privacy. Be sure to create an email account that no one else knows about and use a password you don’t use elsewhere. Utilize this account for all correspondence with divorce professionals.
5. Hire a Divorce Coach
I became a coach because I didn’t have one. And, looking back, a guide could have helped me keep emotional situations in perspective, zero in on priorities and offer valuable insight into the divorce process. Attorneys often advise clients to hire a coach so clients can be more focused on important legal and financial decisions. Divorce Coaches actually help you save money!
6. Research Divorce Options & Attorneys
Mediation and collaborative divorce are great ways to split without a court battle – and can be more cost effective too. However, high-conflict personalities will often refuse these options and go straight to litigation. Being realistic about what kind of spouse you’re dealing with is crucial.
7. Look for Support Groups
The divorce process is a whole new one and often people feel alone. Finding a support group in your area or online can make a world of difference. Feel free to join my Strong Savvy Women support group on Facebook. I also have monthly virtual meetings with speakers like attorneys, therapists, family court experts and other divorced women. Women at every stage of the process share their lessons and wisdom - it’s wonderful.
8. Stash Cash
Most women are surprised to learn how much an attorney’s retainer fee can be. They can range anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000 depending on your area. If you need to hire one, where will you get this money? You may have to start saving secretly.
9. Don’t Do Anything Rash
Now is not the time to make a big decision or move assets around. You really don’t want your partner to know you want a divorce until the time is right to tell them. I work with clients on determining what kind of divorce process would be best for them – plus how, and in what setting, to tell their spouse.
10. Focus on your children and things that make you happy
Do your best to compartmentalize and put any stress you’re feeling about wanting a divorce aside for the holidays. Tell yourself that nothing is going to happen in December anyway. If you have children, focus on them. Co-parent with your spouse in a healthy way, which you hopefully will be able to continue even after a divorce.
Yes, I do think divorce can be a gift. Believe me, many of us who were 100 percent committed to marriage and never thought we’d get divorced, have realized it was the best decision we have ever made. Why? It’s the ultimate gift of self-love. It’s saying “This isn’t healthy for me anymore, I’m not going to change this person and I deserve happiness.”
Happiness – and peace.