Deciding what to do about the marital home is often one of the most difficult questions facing divorcing couples. It’s that explosive combination of money and emotions. On the financial side, it’s often the single most valuable asset a couple has and as such can have a long lasting impact on the future financial well-being of both spouses. On the emotional side, for many people the house is as much a part of the family memories as the people and that means it far from just an inanimate object.
For my present guest, Stacey it became clear during their negotiations that it wasn’t a question of who would keep the house: the house had to go. Here’s Stacey:
I think the most difficult part is losing the family home.
We were under a lot of financial stress and our home had a second mortgage on it, so there was no choice but to lose the home and that was really hard.
I met with a lot of financial specialists. I suspected that there was no choice of keeping the house, but I thought it would be good to look at the numbers and see what I could do. They felt at the time that what could happen to the house with maintenance could take me down and that I was better off renting.
Now because rents have gone crazy, I look at it and I’m like, “My rent is as much as my house payment was” and I’m trying to buy a house again; a condo where not as much can happen.
But at the time there weren’t choices. The debt really had to be paid off and neither of us could buy the other person out.
With the ramifications of us falling apart, my son took a year off school. I can’t imagine it didn’t affect him to be living with us. It took me about a year after we decided that we were divorcing to figure out where to go.
I looked at so many properties and I found the only rental property in this area that had security doors. That took me awhile.
I was afraid to be in the marital house on my own. I don’t think I would be now, but I was.
I feel safer now, but when I first left, I really wanted to be in a fortress, because I did have a lot of safety issues about being alone and having to face those with divorce was really difficult. I knew I was up for it, but I don’t think anyone prepared me. I felt like I was under water.
I’ve always had this fear of being physically harmed. It’s lessened. I’ve done a lot of spiritual work – the 12-step program, and while I don’t necessarily believe in God, I can see how all these things connect. It’s not very different from the best psychological therapy, but its way cheaper and it gives you community.
I have like sort of a due diligence and I knew if I did that part and I did whatever voodoo I do over my locks, that I could be OK. I still don’t sleep great, but I sleep and I don’t feel afraid. I’m not waking up afraid.
Stacey was smart to consult with financial advisors about keeping the house. Deciding whether to keep the marital home and if not, whether to rent or own is so emotional that it helps to have people look at it objectively and rationally.
I found it scary being in the house on my own at first – I don’t think that’s uncommon. I wasn’t scared about intruders but I did have this heavy sense hanging over me that I was the only adult responsible for two children and what if something happened? Fortunately, my fear did not evolve into anxiety or panic and gradually as the days turned into weeks and the weeks turned into months we encountered many of the little things that malfunction in a home and we survived, even conquered them. And with each incident my self-confidence grew and my fear subsided.
Jolene was another of my interviewees who spoke about being scared to live alone after divorce – she’d never been on her own before. She slept with a light on to make it feel safer. Living alone wasn’t so much of a problem for another of my guests, Heather-Marie but she wanted to feel safe camping alone – her solution was to get a dog.
If the thought of living is filling you with dread, what specifically frightens you? What would make you feel more secure? Another way of looking at this is to ask yourself the likelihood of this scary event happening and then to think through what you would do if it did actually happen. Develop your plan B.
What scares you about living alone? Are you staying in your marital home or moving? How do feel about it?
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