It’s been about a year and a half since my divorce after 24 years of marriage: Four kids, four businesses, five moves and at least twenty pets over a quarter century. When we decided to separate, I was full of sadness, hope, failure, loneliness and excitement. I immediately began the famous Divorce Diet (inability to swallow food, irritated bowels, chronic insomnia) and I was told I looked fabulous.
That first year was spent feeling buffeted about by the universe, and aside from looking out for the kids, and going through the legal and financial arrangements of the divorce, getting a house and furnishing it AND cutting all my hair off, I was in a spin. I must have looked half-insane much of the time, but I was paying attention to what was happening around me. What I learned is that there are a lot of misconceptions about divorce and I’m sharing them with you now, as your Girlfriend, because you’ll need all the tribal and anecdotal information you can get from those of us who have already walked a mile in divorce moccasins. Here are my Top Ten…
1. When My Mate Is Cheating On Me, The First Thing I Must Do Is Expose Him/Her
While that may be emotionally fulfilling in the short term, the first thing you should do is make sure your wandering spouse is not spending community funds on an affair! You don’t want to see your money burned on B&Bs in Napa and fancy restaurants, do you?? Get a lawyer to discuss freezing the accounts!
2. I Don’t Want a Killer Divorce Attorney Representing Me
Why not? A meek lawyer doesn’t make you look less greedy or grasping to an opposing spouse, nor does he/she inspire a conciliatory mood for the sweet and generous dividing of assets. Weak representatives just make YOU look weak. Where money is concerned, assume your mate will fight hard, as should you. No one ever looked back on a financial split and said, “Gosh, I wish I’d asked for less.”
3. Everyone Will Take My Side Because I Wasn’t the One Who Had the Affair/Became a Drug Addict/Discovered I Was Gay
Almost every state is “No-Fault” and that really means that bad behavior on either spouse’s part is not a consideration. You don’t win because you played by the rules. In fact, there are no rules. Get smart because you won’t get even.
4. The Kids Will Never Survive A Divorce
While divorce is devastating to the entire family, it’s not so much the actual split that damages the kids, but rather how it’s handled by the couple.
5. The Kids Will Accept the Divorce If They Understand Why We’re Getting It
The last thing you should ever do is consult or inform your kids (young or old) about the circumstances leading to the demise of your marriage. Sharing details may make you think you’ll look reasonable or justified in separating, but it will really only devastate the kids and falsely empower them to make grown-up decisions for an infantile parent. It’s never fair to blaspheme the other mate because you ask the children to question their own security and belief in the family they have experienced up to this point.
6. My Mate Just Asked For Full Custody of the Kids even though He/She has never been their primary caregiver Because He/She Really Wants to Spend Time With them!
This is rarely a gesture that is inspired by a Higher Income-Earning Spouse yearning to have more quality time with the kids or to quit working and be a stay at home parent, but rather a money ploy. In other words, if the parent with the higher income has full custody, it really means that parent hopes to avoid paying YOU child support.
7. If I Get a Divorce After All This Time, I’ll Be Alone The Rest of My Life:
All statistics say the opposite. Even if you don’t remarry, it’s your choice whether you will fill your life with other meaningful relationships and find love again. It usually takes a year or so to grieve and regroup, and you’re entitled to every minute of it, but after that you can and will learn to move on to your next chapter.
8. Most Divorces Result From The Man Straying
Actually, women are almost as inclined as men to cheat throughout a marriage. (The figures would probably be equal if the childcare responsibilities were shared 50/50, fatigue being a big wet blanket on libido.) According to AARP, after a couple reaches their forties and fifties, two-thirds of divorces are initiated by women. Think about it; the kids are raised and the only thing standing between a middle-aged wife and liberation may be the guy beside her who has dangerously high cholesterol and thinks foreplay is showering within the last 24 hours. By then, the bigger determination is whether a woman has financial independence from her spouse.
9. People Don’t Really Divorce Because They ‘Have Grown Apart’
Yes, they do. Studies show that people who no longer have a mutual and shared purpose, such as raising children, building a career, a satisfying sex life or shared goal for the future drift from each other. Long after the multi-orgasmic years had passed, Marie and Pierre Curie stayed married through their mutual interest in Physics. Same thing with the philosophy giants Will and Ariel Durant. But if a couple’s only mutual purpose is to co-sign for a second mortgage or to carry the new flatscreen together into the living room, there might not be enough passion or emotional glue for the long haul.
10. Just Considering Divorce is A Sure Sign of a Doomed Marriage
The way I see it, if you haven’t considered suicide in developing your 5-Year Plan, you haven’t considered all your options. Likewise with divorce; if you haven’t even considered it, you haven’t given yourself the full spectrum of choices for your happiness or fulfillment. Don’t be superstitious or guilty about your thoughts—your Girlfriends will never out you!