Exactly 3 years ago yesterday, I made the single most difficult yet best decision of my life: to end my marriage of almost 16 years.
In the decade-plus that I lived with my ex-husband’s alcohol abuse, I kept waiting for him to hit rock bottom. Every time I thought he must finally be there, he would just keep on going and nothing would change. It was confusing. Doesn’t every addict hit rock bottom eventually?
Maybe I was the one who had to hit rock bottom.
I underestimated my control in our situation. My role. Maybe he didn’t have to hit rock bottom at all.
That day he came home and started yelling like a lunatic and flinging accusations…that was it for me.
I had finally hit rock bottom.
I had taken all the abuse I could take.
I won’t get into the details of the real lows of that day because that’s another story and a sad, horrible one at that. Today’s story is one of triumph. Sometimes it takes an overwhelming breakdown to have an undeniable breakthrough.
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.” ~ JK Rowling
I don’t think falling to the depths is actually a bad thing now. Hitting rock bottom meant there was nowhere to go but up.
And that’s what I’ve done, step by (sometimes difficult) step.
In the beginning, when we first moved out, I felt lighter than I have ever felt before. I honestly hadn’t even fully realized the depths I had plunged into and the heaviness I had been buried under, but my mom said she noticed it as I unrolled my new mattress and set it up my new bed (even if it was frameless on the floor in the beginning) and it made her feel both happy for me and sad she hadn’t noticed before.
I didn’t really feel it until the next morning. I remember walking out of my bedroom and into the family room and just feeling…new. Free. Uninhibited. Not scared or worried. There was no sense of doom in the pit of my stomach anymore. I actually smiled. I started singing in the shower.
Thank You, Next!
Is it stupid to bring a pop song into my deep thoughts? Maybe. But Ariana has some wisdom here many of us never realize in the bitterness of divorce.
My favorite part? That we both met someone else, and my someone is named Amy. (Yes, I mean me!)
She taught me love. I have more love for myself than ever before. Not narcissistic love, but the kind of self-love that helps me say “no” to taking on too more than I can handle. (With the exception of my kids…I have a hard time saying no to them because I wish I could give them the world!)
I’ve learned that I cannot do everything and that it’s, OK to be honest with others and myself about that. I miss teaching drama, I miss participating in our community theatre, and I miss being an active part of my wellness coaching group. Heck, I miss having a clean house. But I have learned there is strength and love in saying no and taking care of my own mental and emotional well-being.
She taught me patience (as did he). And boy, did I need more of it after we separated than I ever did while I was married! I thought the struggles were over once we had a signed agreement and moved out. I was wrong. I have been pushed, manipulated, and mentally and emotionally challenged more than ever.
Because of that, though, I’ve learned more about what’s important to focus on and what to ignore.
I’ve learned how to handle pain and move through it.
Even more importantly, I’ve learned how to set healthy and firm boundaries that respect my well-being. And yeah, that is amazing!
She helped me let go of all of the disempowering behavior I had let take over my life. I am no longer a puppet being controlled and put into the same role over and over again. I know where my line in the sand is now. I have deal breakers for future relationships. I no longer allow toxic people into my bubble. That all takes an immense amount of strength and self-control and is learned, not innate.
I have learned how to take control of my own life; I am no longer a victim of circumstance. If I want things to change then I have to take the steps to make that happen. I have complete responsibility for where I am and the ability to make a plan to improve my situation. It’s very empowering (and sometimes scary) to acknowledge and accept this.
I can honestly at this point extend a true thank you to my ex for all I have learned since I met him, both good and bad. It has shaped me into the person I am today and given me the three most important people in my life. Would it have been great to have realized all this about ten years sooner than I did? Hell to the yes! But that’s not how my story was written, and I honestly don’t think I would have grown in the same way if I had. This kind of self-reflection can be difficult, but if you’re honest with yourself, I think you will come to similar conclusions.
If you don’t, then remember: rock bottom did not break me, and it doesn’t have to break you either. Use it as a foundation and stepping stones create the life you deserve.
Not something that excuses the cheating but, something to consider when dealing with a spouse’s cheating. Maybe. We all have biological urges; some we must respond to or damage or health. Urination for example.
The biological urge to have sex with someone other than your spouse won’t damage one’s health if that urge is denied. So, even though biology plays a role in cheating, we don’t have to give into the biological urges.
What Role Does Biology Play in Cheating?
1. Gene coding for a dopamine receptor plays a key role in cheating and sexual promiscuity for men and women. Research shows that individuals with at least one 7-repeat allele (7R+) report a greater categorical rate of promiscuous sex.
Dopamine is called the “happy hormone” and is released after pleasurable activities (Sex). Research shows that 50% of people who have the long allele variant of the dopamine receptor have cheated on their spouse compared to only 22% who have the short allele.
People with the long allele dopamine receptor also have a tendency to be risk takers and to abuse alcohol and drugs. So, the phrase, “once a cheater, always a cheater” may be true for those long allele dopamine receptor folks.
Want to make sure you aren’t marrying one of these long allele variant folks? Take them to a local lab and ask for collected buccal wash sample that is genotyped for the DRD4 VNTR. Or, marry them and trust they won’t give in to that particular biological urge.
2. Levels of the hormone vasopressin also play a role in cheating on a spouse. Vasopressin effects trust, empathy and sexual bonding. The higher the level of vasopressin receptors a man has, the more likely he is to cheat. And, the less likely they are to bond to a spouse emotionally.
3. Money or, how much more you earn than your wife, plays a role in cheating behaviors. Males who earn significantly more than their wives are more likely to cheat. Not good news for stay-at-home moms who earn no money!
But, on the other hand, stay-at-home Dads are more likely to cheat than stay-at-home Moms. According to Dr. Christin Munsch, “In an average year, there was nearly a 5 percent chance that women, who are completely economically dependent on their husbands, will have affair— while there’s about a 15 percent chance entirely dependent men do.”
It would seem women find being financially dependent on a husband easier than men who are dependent financially on a wife. Only when there are similar income levels between spouses does money not play a role in cheating.
Life Factors That Increase The Risk Of Cheating:
Unresolved emotional issues:
Unresolved emotional childhood issues can cause people to repeat negative relationship patterns. If you grew up exposed to parents who had a high conflict marriage due to their own inability to solve marital problems, you will take those patterns into your own relationships.
If you grew up with an obsessively controlling mother or father, you may carry resentment toward men or women into a relationship. Cheating is a subconscious way of “getting even” with a parent. In the end, it’s a spouse that pays the biggest cost, not the parents.
Baggage from past relationships:
People who haven’t let go and dealt with baggage from a previous marriage are more likely to cheat with a previous spouse. Be careful when becoming involved with a man or woman who still harbors negative or positive feelings for an ex.
Most think that “I hate my ex” means he/she is done with the ex. Not true! Hate and love share the same side of a coin. Hate is an emotion, meaning that person still has an emotional connection to their ex. That isn’t a relationship you want to become too involved in.
Bottom line, there are many reasons someone cheats. Be it unresolved family issues or biology we still have free will that allows us to make choices based on our moral beliefs.
Do you express or, suppress your feelings? How one feels about their feelings and what they do with them can have either a positive or negative effect on their marriage.
I had a conversation over the weekend with a friend and this subject came up. We talked about how our exes were convinced we were, “crazy.” Both husbands had been taught, as children, to suppress their feelings whereas she and I had been taught to express our feelings reasonably. I can clearly see how someone who suppresses feelings would view someone who expresses them as looney tunes. I can see it but, I can’t condone it.
Do You Express or Suppress Your Feelings?
It is far healthier to express feelings that to suppress feelings. When you marry someone who was taught, as a child, those bad feelings are a sign of weakness, that anger is scary and expressing feelings is harmful and can lead to them losing control of their feelings, it’s easy to understand them labeling someone who deals with feelings differently as “crazy.”
Below are ways people who have learned to suppress their feelings protect themselves.
They don’t put a lot of thought into their own emotional state. They go through life on autopilot!
They ignore negative feelings and “move on.” In other words, they don’t deal with or attempt to solve the issue that is causing negative feelings.
They view people who express their feelings as “acting out.” People who are trying to get their way and not people who are simply talking about their feelings and trying to solve a problem.
They ignore or pay little attention to people who are sad or angry. Doing so can cause a spouse to feel rejected, dismissed or disliked.
They do whatever they have to do to keep from feeling negative feelings. This can be giving in to a spouse or, completely ignoring their emotional needs to keep from having to deal with an upset or angry spouse.
Suppressing Feelings Affect Marriage?
Suppressing feelings can cause a spouse to feel rejected and their feelings dismissed. Suppressing feelings interferes in a couple working through daily life stresses and even worse, major issues and problems that come up in a marriage.
If you are married to someone who suppresses their feelings and ignores your feelings it only makes sense that you won’t feel like your spouse is an ally that is as invested in the marriage as you are. This leaves the spouse who is open and honest about their feelings, feeling alone and lonely.
I’ll give you an example from my own marriage. There was an aspect of the marriage that caused me tremendous pain. My ex spent years ignoring me when I expressed the pain his actions caused. I eventually told him we needed to seek therapy. We made an appointment, he showed up and lasted about 10 minutes in the therapy session before walking out.
The moment the therapist said, “Can you try to listen to her and see the problem from her perspective” my ex walked out of the session. Marital therapy would have only worked in our situation if the experience had been similar to a fun day at the beach or, a trip to Disney World. Since it wasn’t there was eventually a divorce because my emotions suppressing ex didn’t feel that saving the marriage was worth him facing and working through his fear of negative emotions.
How Do Expressing Feelings Affect Marriage?
Expressing negative feelings, within reason, is good for a marriage. Getting feelings out on the table gives both spouses the opportunity to address the issues and find solutions. It goes without saying that those who feel comfortable expressing their feelings are more likely to succeed in marriage.
But, when is it a bad thing to express negative feelings?
If nothing makes a person happy, they are a chronic complainer who constantly whines they will soon find their spouse withdrawing out of self-preservation.
Finding something wrong with EVERYTHING a spouse does, being hyper-vigilant and defensive is an unattractive trait. That isn’t “expressing feelings” in an attempt to be heard, this is being downright mean. Mean destroys marriages!
Expressing your feelings by using offensive language or in a loud voice is verbal abuse. You may have a negative feeling about an issue in the marriage, you also have a responsibility to voice that feeling in a respectful manner.
Suppressing feelings may cause a spouse to feel detached emotionally, dismissed and unimportant in the marriage. Expressing feelings can cause a spouse to feel flooded or overwhelmed by negativity if their spouse expresses their feelings inappropriately. Yes, suppression is more detrimental to marriage but, obsessive expression of negative feelings can be just as damaging.
The trick is to find a healthy balance, one in which both spouses are heard and all feelings are validated.
Divorce doesn’t directly affect your credit score, because your credit score doesn’t rely on your marital status. However, a divorce can impact your credit score.
Learning how the indirect effects of divorce can bring down your credit score allows you to navigate the waters in advance so you can retain your credit rating and continue to make purchases.
6 ways divorce can impact your credit score.
Your Ex-Spouse Doesn’t Pay Your Joint Bills
If you have any joint credit accounts with your ex-spouse, such as credit cards, car notes or a mortgage, someone has to pay these expenses. If the judge in your divorce case rules that your ex-spouse has to pay certain bills after the divorce, it’s important that you make sure that they do. If your ex-spouse isn’t so worried about his or her credit, then they may not have an incentive to pay unsecured bills or even bills that are secured with assets that belong to you.
Whoever has their name on the account will be responsible for payments of the bills. If they are in both names and don’t get paid, then both parties’ credit scores are at risk of being lowered. The solution is to be on decent speaking terms so you know if the other party is paying their portion of the bills.
If you are not on good terms, the option for you is to pay both parties’ portion of the bills no matter who is responsible for them according to your divorce agreement. You can try to recover the money by reporting your ex-spouse’s nonpayment to the court. You just don’t want it to have a negative effect on your credit score.
Non-Disclosure of Debt
During the divorce process, both parties are required to disclose all of their financial accounts. Some people are not forthcoming about their finances and assets. You can run a credit report for yourself to ensure you are aware of every account that has your name on it. Sometimes a spouse will put your name on an account you are unaware of and then you will also be responsible for payments.
You are Unable to Pay Your Bills
If you went through a messy divorce, you likely have spent a large amount of money on an attorney. If your spouse was the source of primary income in your marriage, you may now have trouble paying the bills by yourself. This can lead to late payments on your part or high credit usage to pay bills with your credit cards. The most important item that makes up your credit score is your payment history and even anything less than perfect on-time payments of even 99 percent may hurt your credit score. If you can’t pay your bills, your credit score will likely decrease.
On the other hand, if you are using your credit cards because of lack of income, then you can be using too much of your credit. Using any balance to limit ratio over 30 percent can decrease your score and limit your financial options for the future.
You can free up more cash to put toward your bills by increasing your income or decreasing your spending. The best scenario is to do both simultaneously. To earn more money, you can seek a higher paying job or work overtime, take a second part-time job or freelance in your spare time. You can cut spending by cutting back on cable fees or subscription costs and limit your personal care and restaurant spending. Do you really need a $5 cup of Starbucks each day? You get to decide which areas you are most willing to give up discretionary spending.
A Vindictive Ex-Spouse
Many marriages end on a sour note and a spouse can be vindictive. If there is a lot of drama and your ex-spouse is angry and has access to your credit accounts, they may decide to use your accounts and rack up phenomenal debt in your name. This is common when you get a credit account in your name only, based on your credit rating and allow your spouse to be an authorized user of the account. If this happens, you may not be able to pay the bills for your credit accounts or credit cards and it can severely hurt your credit score.
The best solution to this predicament is to remove each other from all individual credit cards or credit accounts as soon as possible–even better if you are able to do this before the divorce is finalized.
Decreased Credit Limits
Many creditors and lenders will check on their clients at regular intervals to see if they have a change in their income level. Most credit card agreements have a statement that your credit limits can be decreased at their discretion. If one spouse made a significantly more amount of money and the credit accounts are separated, a creditor can choose to low the credit limit for one or both parties. This can affect your credit score and your ability to get more credit.
Refinancing the Home
In order to get the marital home into one ex-spouse’s name, most lenders will require that your mortgage is refinanced using only the one spouse’s credit. This can put a great strain on the spouse that is awarded the home if they can’t make the payments easily and it can potentially add a lot of debt for them too.
The best idea is to try to be amicable with your ex-spouse. Let’s face it; sometimes a household bill will go unpaid as an oversight during the divorce proceedings. Each party should communicate with each other over the shared financial responsibilities in order to work together and ensure that everyone’s credit remains in good standing.
Over the years I’ve mentored and coached a lot of women. Sometimes these are formal, ongoing relationships, other times it might be a quick cup of coffee, and then there is the “fly by” bits of encouragement doled out in quick tips in support groups. I was thinking about the questions I’ve gotten most frequently over the years and realized they all centered on ways to speak up.
Especially from women experiencing divorce. Some find it difficult to speak up and advocate for themselves and end up feeling defeated emotionally and legally. Whether it is divorce, relationships, career issues or anything else, if you don’t use your voice and share your point of view you’ll not have any role in life other than being a peacekeeper.
5tips to help you find your voice.
1. Raise a Ruckus
Make a statement, express an opinion. If your points are sound, let them fly!
Too often women sit back and stifle their own viewpoints in the name of peacekeeping. Remember, this isn’t about you, this is about getting to the best decision for you. Your viewpoints are essential to challenging groupthink. Play it out. You raise an opposing perspective. The group debates and discusses. At the end, they stick with the original idea. Now everyone, including you, is more comfortable with the decision. Good outcome. Alternatively, the group debates and discusses and decides to change course. Again, good outcome.
2. Say No & Multiply the Impact of Your “Yes”
Stop saying yes to everything! You are not superwoman. Both inside and outside of work, get better at saying no. And when you do say yes, ask yourself, “Can I multiply the impact of this yes and accomplish more than one goal through this single activity?” You might be surprised how easy that actually is. Listen to Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker talk about multipliers and how we can all rethink time. Only you can define how you spend your time. Being able to say, “NO” means spending time on things that are important to you achieving what you want in life.
3. Stop Using Submissive Language
To be most impactful, keep your language strong. Two words in particular often creep into women’s speech, and they aren’t particularly useful. The two words? “Sorry” and “just”. Think about these two sentences:
“I just need this one piece of information.”
“Sorry, but I need to find out where we are on that project.”
Compare that to, “Hey Dave, I need one piece of information to finish up my presentation.”
Or, “Mary, I’m calling to find out where we are on that project.”
Or, “Ex, your offer of child support is nowhere near the money I need to make sure our children are provided for.”
Without modifiers, both sentences are stronger. Which means the speaker will be perceived as stronger.
We’ve all done it. Last week I said “sorry” twice. And there was nothing to apologize for! We lessen ourselves without even realizing it. Amy Schumer has done an entire skit on the word sorry. It would be funnier if it wasn’t so true.
4. Demand Feedback
I met with a talented young woman recently and discovered that none of her male supervisors were giving her candid feedback. And she was giving them a pass on it because she didn’t want to create a kerfluffle.
Let’s be clear. No matter who you are, no matter how uncomfortable it might be for them, leaders are there to help you grow. It is their JOB to give you constructive criticism. If they aren’t, demand it from them. Ask about competencies, and then run down the litany of things they might be unwilling to bring up themselves. Appearance, manner of dress, vocal tone, speaking style, body language, and the list goes on. If they’re uncomfortable, make it clear that you aren’t.
Hopefully, you already know what fills your well, the things that replenish you when you’re drained. For me, it is writing and painting, and lots of family time. They’re what I turn to over and over again when I am in most need of peace and recharging. And I don’t apologize to anyone for needing that. Why? Because I know I’ll be a better version of me, both at work and at home, when I return. In short, if I don’t do #5, numbers 1 through 4 get a lot harder.
So speak up ladies! We need to hear your voice. The world will be better for it.
So, you’ve done everything you need to get your dating profile ready for the world. You’ve touched up and perfected your bio, you’ve taken the perfect selfies, and you might even have a couple of matches already lined up to start chatting with; but then comes the biggest obstacle of them all; what are you supposed to say?
Easily the most difficult part of online dating is figuring out what to say, which can be a lot different to face-to-face conversations because it’s through a screen, and hey, what are you supposed to say?
Today, we’re going to be taking a look into everything you need to know to help kickstart your online dating conversations.
1. Start Strong
It’s a well-known fact that sending a traditional and bland ‘hey’ or ‘hi’ is not the best way to start a conversation online and will probably end up getting your messages ignored. This is because, unlike in real life, you have information you can work with from their profile, so give it a spin.
“Start off with something nice, like ‘hey, how are you?’, or say hello in another language, and then including something from their profile. Don’t be too forward, aggressively flirty, or too complimentary, it just doesn’t seem to work” explains Danny Mac, a relationship blogger at Writemyx and 1Day2Write.
2. Use Profile Information
Not sure on what to say? There’s a whole load of information on the person you’re speaking too in their profile, so read it and show that you’re interested in them. Of course, this will depend on what’s written there, but feel free to ask a question about something, or say how amazing something is that they’ve done or how you’d love to do that thing.
3. Write Complete Messages
Writing single, one-sentence messages with not a lot of detail isn’t going to grab anyone’s attention and it’s certainly not going to get an interesting and engaging reply that you’re going to want to respond to.
Instead, don’t be afraid to hold back. In the past, I’ve sent messages that have breached the dating app word-limit twice and managed to get an interesting and detailed response back which really helps to drive the conversation forward.
“This is great for so many reasons because not only is there a ton of stuff for you to talk about, it also shows you’re proactive and willing to have a conversation to actually get to know the person, rather than just mindlessly wasting time and chatting” shares Jack Harper, a lifestyle writer and editor for Britstudent and Australia2write.
4. Be Personable and Concise
You’re both on a dating website, so there’s no real reason to hold back and not say what you think. Saying lines like ‘your profile made me smile’, ‘reading your profile, I think we’d get on really well’, or even something like ‘I think we’d make a really great pair’, is a great way to start. After all, you both swiped to match with each other.
Also, make sure you’re writing proper sentences and using proper grammar to talk. Talking in broken sentences with typos and mistakes can put people off.
5. Be Yourself
People are going to want to date you because they like your personality, so you need to make sure you’re showcasing this in your messages! This relates directly to every point we’ve listed above, and you need to make sure you’re not generic, and you’re actually yourself.
Of course, this is much more difficult than if you were talking in person because you’re using written words which can sometimes be hard to show emotion and feeling in what you’re saying, but if you don’t know, then this is never going to happen.
Talk about books or movies you like, talk about your profile pictures, talk about your passions and interests. Talk about your neighborhood whatever you want that represents you.
As you can see, there are lots of things to think about when it comes to writing your first messages on your dating app. Remember, just be yourself and the person you are, because if you’re not, the relationship is never going to work anyway. The right person who clicks will come along in time!
We divorced. It felt like I was jumping off a cliff and taking my children with me. I was bad now. I was to blame. I felt ashamed.
At the same time, my brother was also getting divorced, which meant my mother was going through the breakup of both her children’s marriages. This was very tough on her. My mother had raised us by herself with no help from my father. None! At that time, a single woman raising children on her own was practically unheard of. When my mother finally saw both her children marry lovely people and have beautiful children of their own, she felt relieved that things had turned out well.
But with two divorces pending, it was all coming apart. We were all so sad and angry. The children were in the middle of all this strife. My mother had always been my rock, but now she too was slipping off the cliff, we were all struggling.
I slowly pulled myself together and began thinking of my children’s wellbeing. I once heard a woman, who was talking about her very young children after her divorce, say, “If I’m okay, then my children will be okay. If my needs are met, then I can take care of them.” I think she had it backward. In my view, “If my children are okay, then I’ll be okay. If my children’s needs can be met, then I can take care of myself.” This became my motto.
I had young children at home and they were at the mercy of me and my decisions. I made a lot of mistakes at first. I began my search for better role models and a better way to do this.
We shifted our focus and although divorced, we realized we were going to have to figure out how to be a family and how to develop a new family structure going forward.
My former husband and my mother had a very close relationship. He had become like another son to her, and they really loved each other. He had helped to make our family stronger and more connected
We wanted to keep our family together as much as possible. Most of all our children were looking for stability and reassurance. So we did our best to be together as a family with the children on holidays and at school functions.
We helped each other meet our children’s needs.
We did it for the sake of the children. We did it for the sake of the whole family. I did it for myself too. We weren’t married anymore, but we had children together and so we were still a family and we needed the support of our extended family more than ever.
I remember thinking at some point that when people divorce they leave each other, not the family. But that wasn’t the message I was getting from my divorced friends or in the media. According to them, divorce was supposed to be like a war zone. We didn’t want to live like that, and we didn’t want to subject our children to that either, so we began creating our own set of new rules to live by. It was the silver lining to a very dark cloud.
We had to be pioneers because we weren’t seeing many examples of healthy post-divorce behavior around us.
We really had to create a relationship based on our own sense of what was going to make our family thrive. I personally had to keep turning inward for direction on how to act, what to say, and how to go on from where I was. This self-reflection proved invaluable in the process of being a parent.
One of the first important things we did as parents of two children was to make it abundantly clear that just because one parent left their spouse, they did not leave the family. It is the grown-ups who are no longer able to live together. It is so important to reassure the children that the love they feel for each parent is still reciprocated and the relationship between them and each parent is therefore strong and protected. I learned that it’s so important to remember to help your children feel loved by both parents even if you are not feeling that way yourself.
As part of a blended family myself, I’ve learned it is best to take a conscious approach to life in a tribe. I’ve encountered all kinds of things that keep me growing and inspire me to turn inward in an effort to be more self-reflective. It is not always easy, but over the years, I’ve realized that in our blended family, I’m but one leg of the table. I’m very important, but the other three legs are just as important for the table to be strong enough to hold all of us. I try to let everyone deal with what they are bringing to the table while I keep my focus on what I can bring. I’ve adopted a meditation of sorts.
These thoughts help keep me focused. It works for me.
If I can remember that I’m not always in control…
If I can give others grace when I feel trespassed upon…
If I can forgive and allow myself to have healthy boundaries…
If I can forgive and allow other family members to have healthy boundaries…
If I can speak up when I need to speak up…
If I can listen to others when I need to listen…
If I can avoid rushing in and pushing my agenda…
Then the family will find its own balance.
One of the things we chose to do differently from most of the family examples we were seeing was to gather as a family for holidays or special school events as well as birthday celebrations.
As long as our children were young and living at home with us, we chose to include all of us. We didn’t trade off years or make the children choose where to go or whom to invite for a special occasion.
And my motto in those circumstances, if there is any discomfort, which there was, became:
“If anyone is going to be uncomfortable in the room let it be me, not my children or other family members”
It is my divorce and I must take the initiative and bear the changes with mindfulness so that my family and my children can all be together for these times.
When the going gets tough, we help each other. Maybe it was out of necessity at first, but it soon became normal for us as we became a blended family. Instead of waging war, we have created and provided resources for each other and for our children. In this family, I continue to find grace, love, and understanding.
Breaking up a marriage where there are children involved is a heartbreaking and extraordinarily difficult decision for any mom to make. She may have no choice if she is being abused, whether verbally or physically.
Allowing the abuse to continue sets a bad example for her children and has a deep impact on them, even if they are not being subjected to abuse themselves. They will be more likely to grow up thinking that this pattern of behavior is normal, and become either an abuser or a victim of domestic abuse themselves.
As she is most likely the primary caretaker of her children, it is up to her to break the cycle of abuse in her family. Unless her husband is willing to acknowledge and make amends for his actions, go to a therapist, and permanently change his behavior, the only recourse she has is to end the marriage to protect herself and her children. It’s vital for her to not only take financial precautions, but also to practice self-care, and use stress reduction tools and healing techniques to get through this difficult time and begin to heal.
If you find yourself in this situation, take these important 11 steps before leaving your abuser.
1. Safety First. Your family’s personal safety is the only thing that really matters. If either you or your children are being subjected to physical violence, take them and leave the home right now. If you suspect that physical abuse may be imminent, take the children and leave right now.
Use the resources listed in the Emergencies Tab on the Breaking Bonds website, a free resource for abused women, to find a secure place to stay if you don’t have somewhere else to go. You can access the rest of the information on this website from a safe distance.
2. Have Money. Before alerting your abuser that you plan to leave him, set aside hard cash for emergencies and transfer up to half of the balances in the bank accounts to an account in your name alone. Have the bank mail the statements to a post office box instead of to your home. You will need to be able to pay bills until you are able to petition the court for financial assistance.
Abusers will frequently drain the accounts once they discover they are going to lose control over their victims in order to retaliate or to force them to drop the divorce petition or settle for unfavorable terms. Do not drain the joint accounts yourself and leave your husband without any funds, as that would be unethical.
Disclose what you have done with the money in your first meeting with your lawyer. He or she may have different advice as to whether you should move funds to a separate account before filing for divorce. Inform him or her that an abuser will do whatever it takes to be punitive and maintain control, and it is highly likely that he will drain the household accounts as soon as he is aware that his wife plans to divorce him.
Although your attorney can ask the judge in your case to issue a temporary order to freeze your jointly held bank accounts, such measures will take time. You must have funds for the day-to-day living expenses for your family and to pay your attorney and court expenses in the meantime.
3. Go-to Bag. Prepare a go-to bag that contains contain cash, your driver’s license, credit cards, checkbooks, a list of your assets and debts, a set of clothes for you and the children, toys, court papers, your passport, birth certificates, medical records, marriage certificate, social security cards, medicines, insurance information, immunization records, welfare documents, immigration papers, and other legal documents. Keep copies of court papers in your possession to prove to the police that your spouse is violating a court restraining order if you have to summon them.
4. Make Copies. Make copies of bank and other financial statements, deeds, paystubs, recent tax returns, estate documents, and emails, texts, posts, or video that incriminate your abuser or prove his infidelity without alerting him that you plan to file for divorce. Store this evidence somewhere safe outside the home. Abusers frequently remove or destroy records once they become aware of the divorce.
5. Protect your Children. When you leave your husband, take your children with you to avoid losing custody of them. The courts may consider your leaving them behind to be abandonment, a sign that you are an unfit mother willing to leave them in danger. Or that you are lying about the domestic abuse. Even if your husband tries to intimidate you to leave without the children, do not let him force you to leave the house without them under any circumstances. Call the police if you must.
6. Document Abuse. Take pictures of any physical abuse and date them. Start documenting verbal abuse in a journal that you keep outside the home. If your abuser becomes violent, call the police immediately and have them take pictures to document the abuse. Make sure that you have written down the names of the officers who are present. Have your abuser arrested. If you give him a free pass, the abuse is likely to escalate. Protect yourself and your children.
8. Protect Credit. Before you file for divorce, obtain a credit card in your name alone. You may not be able to get credit based on your income alone, so make an application to get the card before you file for divorce so that you can qualify for credit based on your joint income with your spouse. As soon as you file, close any joint credit cards that have a zero balance and put a freeze the jointly held credit cards. You won’t be able to close them out completely if they still have a balance, but you can prevent any additional charges from being added to joint debt by freezing the account.
You are responsible for payment of any joint debt that you or your husband incurs during your marriage, even debt that your husband will ultimately be assigned in the settlement. Credit card companies are only concerned with whether you signed for the card, not the terms of a court order. Document all phone calls you make to the credit card companies and send them follow-up letters requesting that the lender report to the credit agencies that each of these credit card accounts was closed at your request.
Late payments and skipped payments will adversely affect your credit score for years to come, so do your best to make sure that payments are made by the due date for any debts you or your husband have incurred while the divorce is still going on. Your credit score will affect whether you can buy a home in your name alone or if you can refinance your existing home to remove your husband’s name afterward. It also affects the rate of interest that you will be charged on any loans you apply for in the future. Do what you can to protect your credit score.
9. Confide Well. Be careful whom you confide in. Some of your friends, colleagues, and family members may be judgmental or repeat to others what you have said to them in confidence. Even worse, the word may get back to your abuser. Do not confide in your children unless it is absolutely necessary, as they are dealing with enough emotional turmoil and deserve to have their childhood protected.
When discussing the situation with your children, say that you don’t feel safe living with their father or leaving them alone with him. Tell them that he does bad and scary things, not that he is a bad person. It is not necessary or helpful to elaborate. The best plan is to confide mostly in your therapist and your dog. Then give it to God.
10. Self-Care. Take care of yourself so that you can handle the stress of the divorce effectively. You will need physical energy and brainpower to deal with a very manipulative and unscrupulous opponent over a period of many months. Begin making changes now in your daily routine so that you get enough nutrients, exercise, and rest to feel empowered and think clearly. Mindfulness, deep breathing, meditation, prayer, time with friends and family, journaling, time outdoors, uplifting music, comedies, positive affirmations, massage, aromatherapy, and a daily gratitude practice are all wonderful tools to reduce stress and stay strong during this difficult time. Use the tools that work for you regularly to begin to heal. This will also boost your self-esteem and confidence.
11. Choose You. Choose not to be a victim any longer. Stop blaming yourself! He has been brainwashing you into thinking that everything is your fault. He is the one who is mistreating you and making your family life miserable. Take back your power and take appropriate action. Do not argue or engage with your abuser. Use your legitimate fear of him to protect yourself and your children. Use your anger, which is telling you that something is very wrong with your life, to overcome your fear and make the changes that you need in your life.
Emotional Divorce is a psychological mechanism some spouses use when they feel the marriage has become a threat to their well-being. The “walk-away spouse,” in most situations has already emotionally divorced themselves from their marriage and relationship.
When you divorce yourself emotionally from your spouse, you have separated your emotions from the marriage. For some spouses, this happens before the divorce. For others, it doesn’t happen until after the divorce process.
Most divorces are one-sided. Very rarely, will a couple sit down and come to the decision to divorce, together. There is almost always a “walk-away spouse.”
Normally a spouse who has already separated himself /herself emotionally from the marriage wants the divorce. That spouse has gone through an “emotional divorce” and now needs to be unattached legally from their spouse.
Some spouses struggle for years with feelings of emotional distance before they come to the conclusion that divorce is the solution to the marital problems or the way they are feeling emotionally.
These spouses are commonly referred to as a “walk-away spouse.”
A walk-away spouse may become emotionally detached for a variety of reasons. Most commonly detaching emotionally from the marriage and spouse is a mentally assertive way of allowing the spouse to maintain boundaries when they feel they are being hurt or the marriage has become unsafe for them.
Emotionally divorcing a spouse helps a person maintain a sense of psychological integrity if faced with what they feel is an emotionally demanding situation.
Basically, emotional divorce comes before legal divorce for some because they’ve felt the need to withdraw and protect themselves from problems in the marriage.
The spouse who is left to deal with her/his emotions after the legal divorce is commonly referred to as the “left behind spouse.” No matter which role you find yourself playing, you have to come to grips with the end of your marriage and begin to view yourself as a separate individual, no longer a husband/wife.
Either gender can emotionally divorce themselves from the marriage but, it is more common in women.
Characteristics of a “walk-away spouse”
Uncommunicative after spending years trying to communicate frustrations.
Cold and distant. Finally given up, no longer interested in working on the marriage.
Spends large amounts of time away from home to escape an unhappy marriage.
Irritable and impatient. Resents spouse’s attempts to save the marriage.
Wants the divorce process to move along quickly.
Characteristics of a left behind spouse
Shock, he/she had no idea there were problems in the marriage.
Looking for ways to save the marriage.
Becomes clingy, often begging and pleading for another chance.
Exhibits bizarre behavior such as stalking and harassing.
Feelings of anxiety and fear about the future and being single again.
Tries anything to delay the divorce process and cling to their marriage and spouse.
Exerting control over your emotions
The basic instinct of a left behind spouse is to control the situation. They failed to see the warning signs, signs that the marriage was in trouble and don’t know how to respond effectively. As a result, they respond in ways that pushed the walk-away spouse further away emotionally.
They want to do or say something that will draw their spouse back to the marriage emotionally. Due to the fear and emotional pain that comes along with losing someone they love, the left behind spouse often causes conflict during the divorce process that is unnecessary.
It is important to understand that a spouse who has already divorced himself/herself from the marriage is not an evil person. They are not carrying around an agenda of hurt and pain. They are looking for an escape from a situation that is causing them hurt and pain. And, this may cause them to respond to their spouse’s shock and pain in what appears to be a cold and calculating manner.
Their desires and needs can’t be controlled by irrational, bizarre behavior. The best thing a left behind spouse can do is come to terms with the fact that they only have control over their own emotions.
Focusing on controlling their emotions will help them move smoothly through the process of emotionally detaching from their spouse. In turn, they will find it easier to find their way through the legal process of divorce.
Friends and family notice a difference in your behavior and moods. You notice a difference in your moods. You’re not feeling as content. Perhaps you’re even depressed, agitated and moody.
Whatever the foul emotions are about, the cause may be your marriage. We all have down periods or tumultuous times in our marriages, but when these down periods seem to stick and we’re not feeling happy but can’t figure out how to solve the problem, most likely the problem is the marriage.
9 Questions to Help You Decide if Your Marriage is Making You Unhappy
Do You Spend Most Of Your Time Apart?
Do you and your spouse do anything together? If you and your partner never do anything together, it’s a good sign your marriage isn’t making you happy if you don’t want to spend time with your partner or you find yourself wanting to go out with and be around others instead of your spouse.
Would You Rather Be Elsewhere When You Are Together?
If you do things together as a couple, you’re reluctant or don’t enjoy yourself. Either one of you is half-heartedly into game night or rock climbing and you or your partner can sense that one of you is not having a good time so someone’s “good time out” becomes no one’s good time out.
Are You Less Than Happy With The Sex?
If you’re not physical or intimate, your marriage is not making you happy. Sex and intimacy are the two things that set your marriage apart from other relationships in your life. If this part of your marriage is non-existent or minimal, your unhappiness likely stems from the lack of an intimate bond in your marriage.
Or, when you two are physical or intimate, it’s strained and you find yourself unable to tell your spouse that you’re feeling disconnected and that perhaps you would like to “change up” in your sexual routine. Not feeling safe expressing your sexuality in marriage leads to unhappiness in marriage.
Do You Avoid Important Discussions?
Are you avoiding conversations and confrontations with your partner because you’re afraid of a fight? You’re not happy or secure in your marriage. Avoiding conflict means conflicts are never resolved. That doesn’t lead to happiness in a marriage.
Have You Turned To Someone Instead Of Your Spouse?
Are you sharing your innermost feelings with someone else and not your spouse? If you’re starting to turn to someone else for comfort not only are you in danger of having an emotional affair, but you are also not happy in your marriage. You should be sharing these things or most things with your spouse.
Worse, are you spending significant time with someone else and there’s a flirtatious and not just friendly aspect to the relationship? This is an emotional affair, period, and not the way to solve your marital problems and promote healthy marriage.
Are You Detached And Prefer Time Alone?
Have you found yourself requesting more space from your partner? You may not be happy with your marital state if time alone with yourself is more attractive than time with your spouse. We all need time to ourselves but when the thought of spending time with your spouse makes you want to escape your marriage has problems.
Do You Make Comparisons With Others?
Are you constantly comparing your marriage to others? Do you find yourself seeing the green grass in other marriages, and then bringing those views back to yours and wondering why your marriage falls short?
What looks good from the outside may not be pretty on the inside. All marriages have problems. When you start comparing your marriage to that of others your focus isn’t where it should be…on your marriage.
Do You Chronically Complain About Your Spouse?
Are your friends and loved ones getting used to you complaining about your spouse? Do you find yourself stuck in a negative rut when it comes to your spouse, feeling like they can do no right? You’re either unhappy in your marriage or, you’re focusing too much on your spouse’s negative traits and not enough on the positive.
Do You Sleep In Separate Rooms?
Separate rooms equal separate lives. Yes, some couples sleep separately due to comfort or health reasons, but if you two shared a bed and now suddenly you’re on the couch more often than not, you two are not in a happy and stable marriage. Things can get better of course if both of you are willing and able to put forth effort, but separate rooms are the doorway to separate lives forever.
If you answered yes to all of these questions, here are some suggested next steps to finding satisfaction in your marriage:
Individual counseling to determine if you’re struggling with your own personal issues outside of your marriage.
Marriage counseling if your partner is open to it.
Confide in a trusted family member or spiritual advisor you are comfortable with. One who can steer you in a positive direction. Maybe talking will help make next steps clearer.
Marriage isn’t easy, divorce is definitely not easy! Marriages have highs and lows and if the love is there you can make it through the rough patches together