Surviving Your Split

How to Avoid This Crazy Divorce Mistake: Part 1

How to Avoid This Crazy Divorce Mistake: Part 1

For better or worse, eight years of living in rush-rush-rush Washington DC has honed my Type-A personality. While the sense of urgency that comes along with getting things completed quickly is sometimes beneficial, an impatient “get it done now!!!” attitude adds unnecessary stress and panic to a divorce situation that is already sad and confusing. My advice to my readers is simple:

Stop thinking you have to do everything, all at once.

Right after my husband moved out, I had it in my head that getting everything done in as little of times as possible would somehow make all the heartbreak and anger go away. Anyone going through divorce can attest that getting through the day can be a living hell. I remember having problems falling asleep at night, staying awake worrying. What if I couldn’t afford the lawyer retainer? What if my husband came back and demanded the furniture? What were people saying behind my back? The worries didn’t disappear when I woke up, dreading the anxiety that would follow me. And so I thought that the quicker I took care of all the tasks—mind you, at the beginning I had no clue what all those tasks even were—the sooner I would heal and feel better. I soon learned it doesn’t quite work like that during a divorce.

To say I went crazy with planning and organizing and crossing things off multiple to-do lists would be an understatement. I remember running on three hours of sleep every night for a few weeks, staying up til 3:00 in the morning trying to arrange my closet and hide anything that reminded me of my marriage, staring at separation agreement templates online with bleary bloodshot eyes, sneaking away on work breaks to call the utility company and get his name removed from the account. Did all these little tasks get finished quickly? Yes. But what did that accomplish? Did it make me feel any better? Was I being kind to myself, allowing myself to just breathe and heal? No and no.

That’s the worst part about separation and divorce: during those initial weeks and months—I refer to these as the nuclear fallout—we actually don’t even know what it is. Do we need to find housing if we’re moving out of the marital home? Yes. Do we need to make sure we are financially secure and protected by any craziness by establishing our own checking account, savings accounts, and credit card accounts, and removing our names from joint accounts? Absolutely. But there are so many tasks that actually don’t require our immediate attention. And those can wait. But when we don’t be patient and kind with ourselves and give ourselves a second to just chill out, we get ridiculously overwhelmed when we are already in pain. It’s adding fuel to a fire in that separation and divorce hell we’re living.

How to Stop the Madness, or at Least Simmer it Down!

So, we know that we that we’re making it harder on ourselves with thinking we have to do everything all at once, but how can break this habit? The solution is simple:

Create a compassionate timeline for yourself.

But why, exactly?

Well, I like to think of divorce as a marathon. Actually, it’s more like those crazy ultratriathalons, where athletes are running, swimming, biking for days. But divorce is crazier because we are forced to juggle the onslaught of grief and panic and fear and other emotions, as well as custody, other legal drama, finances, and myriad other to-dos for months—sometime even years. So, why don’t we plan our own course in the same way an athlete would plan their training?

I remember sitting in a boring Monday morning office meeting where the division chief was droning on about mileposts or whatever cheesy corporate buzz word was in style that week for some big project that wasn’t even due for another 18 months. That’s when it hit me:

Why not use a timeline similar to the ones done with project management and integrate that in my own divorce?

When I returned home that evening, I went through all the “to-dos” I had been losing sleep over, and put them in a calendar, mapping out priorities—things to be accomplished in two weeks, a month, three months, and six months. They changed over time, of course, but much to my surprise it worked! Mapping out all the things I needed to still accomplish with the divorce, and giving myself the time to balance those tasks with the emotional and grieving aspects that I could not put a due date on, somehow worked! With the timeline, I had more time for myself and more time to heal. But the key was to be patient, accept that not everything had to be done right away, and that there were things that could actually wait. I only wish that the idea of creating a timeline had come to me sooner. I could have saved myself that added stress and panic at the beginning of the separation that I try so hard to forget.

So many people make the divorce mistake of taking on too much and build this unrealistic expectations that we can do it all quickly, because we don’t know what else to do. Websites and well-intended advice give divorcees the “must-dos,” of divorce, but finding a unicorn is easier than finding a timeline that is reasonable for your own situation.

So create one yourself.

If this sounds overwhelming, don’t fret! This post is the first in a series that will guide the readers through this process that can help eliminate some of the stress and overwhelm they are no doubt feeling. Stay tuned for more information. In meantime, shoot me an email at martha@survivingyoursplit.com and we can talk about how to best reduce the craziness in your own divorce!

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4 thoughts on “How to Avoid This Crazy Divorce Mistake: Part 1

  1. Kathie

    Grateful to have come upon your site through elephant journal. My husband moved out in the beginning of March. We have 2 girls, 10 and 7….look forward to reading more of your articles.

  2. Larry Bowser

    I was given the link to your site today by a friend I respect. My divorce court is tomorrow, she was adamant to read everything she sent me tonight before trial that I’m not represented in.

    I’m already feeling hope! Your words are strong and true and have much value for me! Literally right now I’m on my phone while my 7 year old twins (I’m 47) sleep next to me while I do exactly what my friend asked me to do.

    I have been through a divorce before, but nothing, I mean nothing has compared to what is happening now. I had just changed my career from the car business to make a better family life and became a Financial Advisor, starting out really good and dream come true. My wife and I were madly in love still after 8 years and just watching her walk was a high for me. We have 5 kids total between us. Beautiful home, beautiful family, career, plans for future and my wife and I even made a commitment to kiss more in 2015.

    January 8th changed my life forever as I was given a restraining order after an argument 3 days before. I had 20 minutes to pack, have never seen the inside of my home since and only have my clothes staying at my sister that I have now worn out that welcome and now have to find somewhere else. I have the twins every other weekend, and Wednesday’s. That took me 5 times taking her back to court to get these conditions, as well as the right to be at a baseball game at the same time as her. Pick up and drop off locations, etc.

    I have not been allowed to communicate one word to her since the day it was served. We have kids, the house, several issues not to mention, our marriage that I treasured. Heartbroken does not even try to say what I feel.

    I have spent every dome I had on criminal, yes criminal defense, and everything that goes along with being in jail for 11 days and trying to survive. My employer separated my employment even after my atty and theirs went back and forth to say I should plead……to assault 4 domestic…..and put this behind and get back to work. The next day I was let go, after I just found a brand new office and made it the way I wanted.

    I am about to have vehicle repo, my house repo, I can’t work because nobody wants a person that has a record. I had barely a speeding ticket, coached baseball and basketball off and on for 20 years. I help people not hurt people. I am overdrawn in my account and can’t buy even gas. I beg friends for a few bucks, and I take back cans and bottles for a few bucks. I’m embarrassed and ashamed and humbled to a place I have never seen.

    I cry everyday and am still in shock on what happened. I get counseling every week and ask when I will have a day come that I won’t cry. I wouldn’t believe anyone that told me the events I have experienced happened to them. Too many crazy things and just not possible to happen I wild think.

    I had a microdiscectomy February 2014. I was scheduled for the surgery 5 days before I would be going to my evaluation/graduation for my Financial Advisor career and get on a plane. I couldn’t walk and I told the surgeon there is only 3 things I care about. My wife, my kids, and getting to complete the final observation for graduation. We did it, with honors. I was the poster story for my company at the following awards ceremony and celebrated for my will to succeed. Surgery didn’t go very well, had a spinal cord stimulator put in my back on December 2014 to help cut the pain. A battery pack, wires and electrode. One month before the argument, I’m still healing in Jan. Now I just had another surgery 3 weeks ago to take out more disc, bone and the entire SCS that was just wrong.

    I could say a lot more, but my sister who kicked me out last week and have been trying to live since is right I’m sure, I talk about it too much and not healthy. This is he first time I wrote down running it all through and I sound like a sorry POS.

    I have lost most friends, since most were hers. Everything of value. Everything down to the cats I loved so much. I don’t know what will happen in 10 hours from now, not good I’m sure, but when do I get to catch a break. How could God really want me to be broke, homeless, hurting physically, financially and emotionally? The only thing I swear to is my twins. I have never felt what they do for me. The unconditional love is pure and makes me breathe. I am their everything. Mom is mom, but I took care of everyone and after I rubbed my wife’s back for 8 years straight at night to put her to sleep, I check kids, house and it’s peace. I can sleep. I would watch the kids sleep like I am doing now.

    I believe in finding hope and a way to survive. Like I said on the start of this. Your words are so great and I will finish reading it all to suck it in and live it. Know that your words and tips will be at work tomorrow for a man in Oregon.

    Is it wrong to want to keep loving my wife because she is sick? Mentally she has has a plate full of issues from childhood that may have made this happen. You don’t leave people when they are sick. I can’t help but want to wrap my arms around her and kiss her because she is scared and does not know what she is doing. That may be hard to do since she has a boyfriend already, someone we know, and my daughter announced just today that mommy likes Gene, and she saw them kiss. She then says they had a sleepover., and then asked me if I was mad. The twin boy pipes in and says, no, dad won’t be mad. This is not my wife. This is not my life.

    Thank you for being the last person I spill to before its official tomorrow and I look for the light. Not sure why I layed it all out but I did and it kind of felt good through the tears.

    Larry……..The hopeless romantic, regular guy who loves to love and trying to figure out where to start surviving the split.

    Tomorrow is the first day of the future.!

    Thank you.

    1. ztlmbodyfelt Post author

      Hello Larry,
      Thank you for sharing your story. It takes a lot of strength to be so open and vulnerable, and it shows a lot of courage. How did the court hearing go?

      I am sorry to hear about all the craziness going on in your life right now–when it rains, it certainly pours; many times, when there is one part of our life that is out of sync, it won’t be too much longer until everything else unravels as well. I’d like to think of that not so much as a cruel joke of fate, but, if your heart is open, it instead being a sign of a change was coming that you never knew you needed. It’s hard to understand the why and how of that right now, when it seems that everything in your life is falling apart. But it’s there, hidden away, but waiting to for you to act.

      With so many things going on, what will be important for you to remember is taking care of your immediate needs first. Are you able to get housing and financial assistance? Unemployment insurance, government assistance? What programs are available in Oregon to help you with that while you are transitioning? Once you have those squared away, are you able to work with employment services to start bringing in an income? There are certain protections and resources available even if you’ve had a record–a good starting point is at http://www.exoffender.org/up/docs/Exohandbook.pdf. You may also want to visit http://www.oregon.gov/dhs/pages/index.aspx, which can help you with those emergency services that you may need.

      Remember, you cannot control how your wife/soon-to-be-ex wife acts, who she loves, what she tells your children. Remember to be there for them, and put your energy into making sure that they are doing okay and that you’re doing okay–it seems that you are stretched pretty thin right now and you need to conserve your emotional energy on being strong for yourself and your children. And remember, we are never given tests that we cannot pass. I wish you peace and the best of luck.

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