I Never Thought This Would Happen: How to deal with divorce

At some point or another, most of my clients have said something along the lines of, “I just never thought this would happen to me.” It’s one of those things that I haven’t worked out the perfect response to just yet. Statistically, of course, divorce will happen to a fair number of us, regardless of what our intentions were when we walked down the aisle. I’m not sure exactly what the odds are these days, but I still hear that the statistical divorce rate is hovering around 50%.

I go through divorce every single day with my clients, so I really do understand the heartbreak associated with the whole process. And when you add on to it the other feelings—the fear, hurt, deep resentment, anger, uncertainty, and anxiety—it can really seem unbearable.

I always advise my clients, at the beginning of the process, to imagine where they want to be when its all over. That can mean about a million different things, and I get a different answer from almost every client I ask. Of course, they say a lot of the same things, too. They want to be financially independent; to go back to school; to get a job in a specific industry; to raise happy, healthy, well-adjusted children; and, though few of them say it out loud, to find love again.

I think it’s pretty safe to say that there is very little stigma associated with divorce today. Most people accept that it’s okay to end a marriage where there is abuse, unfaithfulness, or unhappiness. All the sexist “stand by your man” dogma of the 1950s has all but vanished, and women today have more opportunities than ever.

Divorced, married, or single, you need to start making decisions about where you want to end up, and how you’re going to get there. If you’re headed towards divorce, now is as good of a time as any to reassess your life and your goals. Reinvent yourself. Go back to school, interview for a new job, or take on more responsibility at your current job. Take care of yourself. Get a haircut, try new recipes that you know he wouldn’t have liked, or run a 5k. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Meet a friend for lunch, talk to a therapist, or join a divorce support group. There are many women who, like you, are in unchartered territory. There’s really not a sense being alone anymore.

It’s okay to spend a little extra time with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, but don’t let your emotions get in the way of turning your setback into a comeback.

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