So, it’s ended. Well and truly over. Finito. You are heading to the big D I V O R C E. You’ve told your Great Aunt that she will not be getting the wedding gift crystal glasses back; they were lost in the final showdown between you and your wedded bliss. What next? Here’s my list of tips.
One of the first things that will happen is that friends, some you haven’t seen for an absolute age will come knocking on the door, Gavi di Gavi in one hand, tissues in the other. They want the gossip. “What happened?” – “You are the last couple everyone thought this would happen to”. In the weeks to follow this will happen almost nightly and you will soon get into the awful habit of hitting the booze to get you through. Just try and be aware of your levels of drinking and realise that actually it’s probably ok for a couple of weeks but turning up at the school gates to collect young Hugo while you are squiffy and looking like “getting divorced parent” isn’t a good look.
Anxiety and stress can cause weight-loss. Many women I know end up with a body to die for during divorce. All that adrenalin and angst can lead to loss of appetite and the pounds just drop-off leaving them looking amazing. “I’m going on the divorce diet” friends quip. So, ensure you are keeping strong and healthy for the fight ahead by at the very least maybe taking a daily multi-vitamin, drinking plenty of water and trying to stay away from alcohol as much as you possibly can. Many people start smoking again, encouraged by their smoking friends, “you are allowed one cigarette, you are getting divorced! It will make you feel better”. Sometimes it feels as though you can do everything bad that you ever did, “because you are getting divorced”.
It starts to define you.
As you are emerging from a cloud of smoke with wine glass in hand, enter stage left, your SINGLE friends. You are fun again. You are a singleton and they absolutely must get you onto Tinder. This all happens after even more alcohol and it is actually fun. They download the app and your Facebook profile, write your dating brief and hey presto! you are ready to dive into a sea of local single (and married) men and women. Swipe left and you don’t like, swipe right and you do. It’s all simple and an absolute hoot.
When they have gone you start to become obsessed with it as it’s an escape from what’s really happening. For at least part of the day you can focus on fantasising about another relationship. You are going to fall in love with someone much better looking than your ex with much more money and everyone is going to be oh so jealous, but you soon realise that around 90% of the people you have a match with simply never enter into any kind of conversation with you. You spend hours in the evenings when the children are in bed, swiping left, swiping right. Having weird conversations with people and receiving shock photos of their nether regions. How drole. From speaking to many “divorcing” people – men and women, this really does seem to be the norm and occasionally, someone does actually find their new love in this way.
From dating apps can emerge other behaviour. I spoke to people who told me that the first few months of the divorce procedure was like being on a non-stop treadmill. It’s surreal, weird and exciting all rolled into one. One person described it to me as “edgy”. As it’s all a new experience, the adrenaline is pumping and you suddenly have a huge sexual appetite. Some of that hunger is a need to get over the ex. You have been faithful for your entire marriage and having sex with someone else just slams the door on your vows once and for all. The ultimate sin maybe? I know many Men and Women who have multiple relationships in the immediate months coming out of their divorce. For many, they simply don’t know what they want and meeting new people is a fun and exciting game which, for a short period of time takes away the pain and anxiety of the divorce. Escapism at its very best.
Communicating with solicitors. They are not your emotional crutch. You are employing them to get the very best outcome for you and therefore you have to try and keep the emotion out of the emails to your legal team. They simply haven’t got time to read about the “bitch he’s now shagging” or the fact that your son was given a burger when you had always kept him on a strictly vegetarian diet. If you have a solicitor who does wade through your diatribes, they will be charging you for the pleasure. By the hour. And it will not be cheap. I know it’s hard, but try and keep to the facts. Digest what’s being asked of you and answer the question. A good trick is to get someone else to read your emails before you send them? This always helps to minimise the waffle that you can’t help but churn out to whoever will listen. If you need to speak to someone and gain focus of your life, then it’s much more cost-effective to let off steam with a coach or counsellor. Their job will be to help you with your emotions. When your lawyer doesn’t react to your lengthy emails this can be very upsetting and can ultimately leave you feeling that they don’t care and are not on your side, adding to your angst. You could feel that everyone is against you in the periods when you are down, so book that coach and deal with your anger and worries with someone who is qualified to do just that.
You break up – you hit facebook. You go to Ibiza or your local pub – you take out your camera phone. “Oh what a fab time I’m having now I am SINGLE and getting divorced!”. I see it all the time. The super new body is now in the skimpy clothes looking fabulous “and daaaaahhhling i’m having the wildest time!”. Not only does seeing you with your arm around Pedro, simply piss-off
your ex and make them more determined to give you nothing, but they will probably be taking screenshots of every social media post ready for the Final Hearing Trial. If you are unlucky enough to be dragged that far into proceedings and are not an A List Celebrity, you are dealing with a toxic-ex and this personality will be so spiteful, they are probably scrapbooking your antics ready to present to your children in the future with the words “and this is why I left Mummy”. So try and skip the selfies and mute yourself on Instagram and the like. It’s really tempting to play games using social media, but in years to come will it all be a huge regret? Remember, the Cluster B Personality Disorder Ex is a game player, so don’t play into his evil hands.
Don’t slag your ex off to the school teachers or Head. If he’s paying the fees and even though you think he's an absolute arse, the money is coming from his direction, so he’ll be the “good guy”. (However, this doesn't mean that the staff aren’t calling him a wanker in the staff-room) Where there are no fees involved, the ex will be all charm at the school and you just want to puke at the lies he/she tells. Bite your tongue and download your disgust on a tinder date.
When it comes to the children and arrangements for contact you have to think very carefully and try and be as detached as you can, looking at the situation as if you are on the outside and that’s not easy. Is it really that bad if you have a shared care agreement? The ex is giving you no money and says you have to work… so in that case they will have to pull their weight too? They simply can’t have their cake and eat it. Just remember they ARE your ex’s children too and so they should also step up to the mark and take some responsibility. Why should you put your life on hold while he or she swans around #childfreecarefree while you work, make packed-lunches, organise homework and playdates? Your evenings purely filled with washing and ironing and tidying up after your little darlings while he goes out dating and has regained a social life with his friends.
He pays you hardly any maintenance as he think he’s being clever hiding his earnings being self-employed or he’s given up his career because he’s “stressed” and now working as a kitchen porter earning next to nothing. He definitely doesn’t give you enough money for a babysitter and quite frankly he’s got you over a barrel. Another thing, let the children see who your ex really is for themselves. Do you really want them telling you when they are 18 “You didn’t let us see our Dad!”
Here’s some of that hindsight which we say is a wonderful thing. Let the children see their Mother or Father for who she or he really is and they will make up their own minds and build up resilience to a toxic parent. No Court Order for Child Arrangements will force a teenager to be with someone they don’t want to be with. They will have to start making their voice heard. Every time they visit the other parent and return to you whingeing about their lies and broken promises, you need to simply reply “you’ll have to discuss that with your Father. I’m afraid that’s nothing to do with me”. On the bitchy side, just think about the impact your little brood has on his sex life. Does the Tall Blonde Girlfriend really want to be covered in sticky handprints from your 4 year old mucky monster? Karma. I love it.
If you do end up being dragged through the courts, you are probably divorcing a completely bonkers narcissist who simply won’t give up. A narcissist loves the drama and theatre of the court and he or she will be surrounded by their counsel and psychologists at every opportunity. They will charm Cafcass and that’s why you give in (see the point above – let him think he has won – but he actually hasn’t. You’ve won your life back). At some point you have to put a price on your life. For example – say you are in your 40’s and able to work and all you are going to get from the court procedure is £200k – is it really worth the fight and angst or could that energy be put into studying and getting a new career. You could earn that amount in the years that he insists on taking you to court. You are not going to get a deal with a nutter. You have dented his ego and remember he told you at the beginning of all this “you will be in the gutter”. LOL. No you will not! You need to weigh everything up and try and hover over your situation as much as you can. When you can imagine that you are looking at the situation from an outsiders perspective you will find that it really helps.
Try and go as much no contact as you can, it helps with healing. When the kids are with your ex, they are with your ex. You have to live with that. If you find that you do need to pass judgeement, simply imply that your ex is a joke and laugh it off. Laughter is a great tonic. “Oh never mind – your Mum was always bonkers, that can’t be helped”. And swiftly move on. Make your ex a looney in your mind rather than being bitter and twisted as that will just eat away at you.
You will have to face the fact that not all your friends will stay your friend. Some will sit on the fence and not react ever – that can be more annoying than the friend who is outspoken. You will stop being asked to couples events you used to attend and friends will dwindle away. Just make new friends. Connect with others who are in the same situation as you. Start a facebook group for divorcees or those divorcing.
Good luck - you're going to need it!
© Alison March 2018 www.alisonmarch.co.uk