Divorce is all too common in our modern society. That’s the bad news. But it is also the good news.
How’s that again?
Divorce is terrifying, traumatic and expensive. It is one of the most unpleasant experiences anyone can go through, and it’s even worse if you try to do it alone.
Like any other difficult or stressful experience – from childbirth to a tax audit or a heart transplant – it’s extremely helpful and reassuring to talk to someone who has already been through it and come out the other side.
That’s the “good news” part of the high divorce rate in our society: If you find yourself in the awful, lonely, frustrating, maddening, heartbreaking, terrifying situation of facing a divorce, you can take some small comfort from the fact that there are a lot of other people out there who’ve already suffered through it. They can help you.
If you’re in the extremely unlikely position of not knowing anyone who’s divorced, it won’t take you long, if you ask around among your friends and family, to find someone who has.
Connect With Someone Like Yourself
Try and contact someone like yourself – a divorced wife or husband whom you have things in common with and who can give you some perspective on the experiences you are likely to face. Ask for a meeting with them, and be honest about what you want to talk about.
Write down your questions and fears before you go to this meeting. Take some time, by yourself, to write about your situation and your emotions before you meet this other person. That way you’ll get the most value out of the meeting
The Purpose of Talking to Someone
Your goals in meeting this person should be twofold: First, you have a thousand questions you want answered (it’s a good idea to narrow them down to a dozen or so). Second, you need some emotional support.
A good way to structure the meeting, depending on how well you know the person, is to start with a conversation in which you share some of your fears and describe your emotional state. Keep this “opening statement” brief, maybe five minutes or so. Then let the other person tell you a little about his or her experience. After that, you can begin to ask some of your burning questions.
Don’t expect the other person to be able to answer every question about your particular situation. However, as a person who has survived divorce and moved on to rebuild their life – and their finances – they will be able to give you some advice, and hopefully some confidence, that as catastrophic as divorce is, it’s not the end of the world.
People go through it and they come out. Admittedly they are changed, but they do come out the other side. They accept their situation (eventually), the emotional and financial agony fades and things become bearable in time.
Feel free to take notes during your meeting with this person – in your upset emotional condition, you are likely to forget important details. Ask permission to email them in order to carry on the conversation past a single meeting. This way you can pose them questions that come up later about what they went through and the lessons they learned along the way.
It’s important to know that you’re not alone. Talking to this person, and perhaps to several other divorce survivors, will give you a type of support that will really help you during your darkest days.
Establishing relationships with several fellow divorcees will help, and it’s good to have someone you can call during a crisis. There will be days and nights where you find yourself in deep despair, or screaming in furious anger, and you’ll need someone to call who can help talk you back to sanity.
A support group you can reach out to 24/7 is probably the most important thing you need during your divorce. But you will also need more specific advice along the way. For that, look to professional expertise.
The Professional Option
Depending upon how far along your divorce is, and the difficulty you are dealing with at the time (ranging from how to break the news to your children to actually going through the legalities of the divorce procedure), there are professional options that won’t break the bank, such as our extensive “Mend the Marriage” document, as well as professionals you can speak to in person.
“Mend the Marriage” is a good place to start: Full of great strategies for stopping a divorce, it also contains plenty of helpful advice – on managing your anger, for example – that can get you through tough moments in your breakup.
Divorce lawyers, of course, are experts on all the legal technicalities of separation and the dissolution of marriage. But they are expensive.
If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, consider asking a lawyer for a short, one-hour meeting in which you ask all your most serious questions. You should be able to find a decent lawyer who will only charge you a couple hundred dollars for such a meeting. If you plan in advance and know what questions you want to ask, you can get far more than your money’s worth out of a short consultation. A good lawyer can do a lot to put your mind at ease around some of the complex issues you may be worrying about.
If you absolutely can’t afford a lawyer, look for community legal aid programs that generally help those in need. Some programs will give you advice for free, while others may ask you to pay a small amount based on what you can afford. Again, preparing in advance is vital for you to get the most out of your meeting. Plan and write down all your questions and concerns before the consultation.
For more detailed emotional support than your divorced friends and acquaintances can give you, consider a professional therapist or marriage counselor. Whether you see a therapist on your own or with your spouse or ex, you will benefit from their knowledge and experience.
Look for a “marriage and family” type therapists – they will have plenty of experience with all kinds of relationships and will be able to help you cut through some of the chaos to focus on what’s most important.
Again, if money is an issue, ask for a single meeting with a therapist, or just a couple of sessions to begin with. During those sessions, ask your most burning questions and also ask them if they can steer you towards lower cost community resources, like divorce survivor support groups.
Divorce is horrible, make no mistake. But one benefit of it being so common is that there are plenty of resources out there, both informal and professional, to help you get through it.