Divorce can feel like a never-ending nightmare and while you want to avoid making these huge divorce mistakes, the sheer amount of logistics, to-do’s, and confusion thrown upon you is enough to make your head explode. This sense of overwhelm, paired with the stress, heartbreak, and anger are a toxic combination that can leave even the most logical person vulnerable and open to making poor decisions. Although feeling overcome and confused during divorce is normal, your future well-being is at stake. Avoiding these huge divorce mistakes will save you time, money, and your sanity so that you can move on to the next chapter of your life better, not broken or bitter.
Not Looking At The Big Picture
One of the reasons why divorce feels awful is because we’re not taught how to plan ahead in divorce. It’s funny, isn’t it? Guidance counselors and academic advisers in school harped on planning and envisioning our future, while financial advisors preach about planning for retirement. But why, during divorce, don’t we apply those same principles?
Instead of asking ourselves, “What’s the game plan? Where do I want to be in a year with this divorce and how can I get there?” and then reverse-engineering, we instead just stumble through the days and months, allowing events to unfold and then reacting to them. It’s no wonder you feel helpless and that your life has spun out of control.
Planning where you want to be with the divorce six months from now and a year from now, and then putting the steps in to get there, has bigger dividends than struggling to make it through the day and merely reacting to events as they unfold. This method can also help plan for contingencies and worst-case scenarios so you don’t freak out if things get ugly.
Making Decisions Based On Emotion
When you strip away the grief, heartache, anxiety, and overwhelm, divorce is a business transaction: dividing assets and debts and then continuing your life as an individual. That’s not said to minimize the relationship you and your spouse had together, but it’s absolutely critical to shelve those thoughts and memories when dealing with the business transactions of divorce.
This to-do makes sense logically. Your head understands, but the part of you that is heart-broken and angry may spend months fighting over things that have nothing to do with business. It’s understandable: we all make decisions based on emotions because we are hurting. And the only way we know how to deal with those emotions is by projecting that pain onto our business decisions. We fight and emotionally over-react because we think we will “win,” the divorce, and “get back at” our spouse. This tit-for-tat can go on for months and years, which only prolongs the stress and ensures a future of bitterness.
Nobody wins in divorce, and you must make your decisions from a clear-headed and rational place. Otherwise, you will find yourself robbed of time, money, and emotional energy—assets that are put to better use in your post-divorce life.
Letting Others Decide For You
When you’re going through a messy divorce that has a million moving parts to it, it can be easy to say, “You know what?!?! I’m just going to let my lawyer figure it out for me.” Or, “Okay, fine. If agreeing to the demands of my spouse will get him/her off my back and let me move on, whatever.” Or, if we have a particular problem, we may throw a question out on a group forum, and listen to the advice of other contributors, basing our decision solely on strangers.
There is nothing wrong with educating yourself or asking for advice. But remember that ultimately, this is your life and your future. It is your right and your responsibility to own your divorce decisions. Sure, you can have people advise you—divorce professionals working for you is never a bad thing. But remember, at the end of the day it is you who has to live with the divorce decisions that are made—shouldn’t you be the one making them?
Not Educating Yourself
Do you remember those cheesy public service announcements on TV with the shooting star that said “The More You Know?” Or the posters in elementary school, that were like, “Knowledge is Power.” Well, our teachers and librarians loved those posters because their messages were true.
Divorce can feel overwhelming because you’re scared of the unknown. And the only way to ease that fear is to educate yourself about the process. Quality divorce resources online are plentiful, many divorce lawyers and divorce coaches offer free consultations, and there are support groups and community classes that will help you understand your rights, provide you checklists, and offer assistance so you do not get run over in the process. The more you read, reach out, and take advantage of the resources out there, the less scared and helpless you will feel. That type of knowledge is pretty powerful, indeed.
Latching Onto Someone Too Soon
Please, for the love of all things holy, do not do this to yourself. Once you and your spouse split, you are given this amazing opportunity to heal, rediscover yourself, and reclaim your independence—things that only you can do. So why on earth would you invest yourself emotionally right away with someone new, when you haven’t had any time to learn how to be on your own? And how much worse will you feel when that “new, promising” relationship doesn’t work out?
Sure, we’re human, and we want to be touched and loved. And it may have been months or years since we have felt wanted or passionate. Separation is a lonely place to be, but you know what’s even worse? Dependence—depending on another romantic relationship to make you feel loved and validated. Now is the time to break that cycle.
Desperately going on the rebound does a great disservice to you because it robs you of the opportunity to heal your heart and clear your head. And it screws the other person over, too. Everybody deserves the chance to have a relationship with a partner that is happy and healthy. When you look to that other person to fill that emptiness and to “save you,” you’re robbing them of the chance to have the healthy relationship that they deserve.
You don’t need anybody to save you or to heal you. You are strong and smart and you’ve got this. Lean on your friends, your family, a good therapist, and divorce support groups to listen and encourage when you feel hurt. Find the happiness you’ve been missing by discovering and enjoying your new-found freedoms.
Eventually, when you’re feeling better and you can honestly say to yourself, “You know…I’m okay with being alone and independent” and you really feel it and you’re not just lying to yourself, then you can start dating again. But start slowly and manage your expectations. Dating after divorce when you’re healed should be a fun way to get to know new people and get to know yourself better.
The divorce journey is a long a tricky one, no matter the stage you’re in. But awareness of the huge divorce mistakes—not looking at the big picture, making decisions based on emotion, letting others decide for your, not educating yourself, and latching on to someone else too soon—and avoiding these mistakes will make the road travelled less bumpy.
Martha Bodyfelt’s website, Surviving Your Split, helps readers navigate divorce with less stress and drama so they can move on with their lives. For your free Divorce Warrior Survival Kit, stop by //survivingyoursplit.com or say hello at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/survivingyoursplit/.