As Terry and I were wrapping up our conversation about her life after divorce, I asked her if she had any advice for someone who was thinking about or facing divorce now. Here’s what she said:
My first advice for anyone considering leaving their marriage or if you have an inkling things aren’t right and they’re probably going to end, try and get a job, any full-time job with benefits or at least a part-time job, anything that gives you some of your own money. If that’s not possible, then I suggest you make sure you’re taken care of, through an agreement, whether it’s alimony even if it’s just for a short time, or he pays for you to go back to school for a certificate, anything that’s going to help you be able to be self-sufficient later, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it.
I’m in Virginia and it’s one of the 50-50 states. I did get half of my husband’s 401(k). I put into my own 401(k) because that just scared me, that I didn’t have that retirement cushion that I would have had, had we stayed together. That would have been partly my life money. So if you’ve been home taking care of the kids, I would definitely ask for the appropriate share of any retirement accounts. Put some of that into retirement or go back to school with it and get a degree, or if you have to use it to live on for a while, that’s OK too, but definitely ask for it.
If you can make a plan before your marriage breaks down, great. If it’s already breaking down, I suggest you spring into action and think about the kids, what message do you want to send them? Is it one of self-sufficiency? Is it one of making sure they’re taken care of? Or is it one of a victim? And that’s a fear…I didn’t want my children to think of themselves or me as a victim, I didn’t want that message to come across to them, which is another reason I sprang into action and got a job and made sure that I was taking control of myself.
I think it’s hard to remember to take some of the emotion out of the arrangements with the ex and the co-parenting situations. I think if you’re able to be more rational, and emotions are never rational, but if you’re able to push them aside for a second and make decisions based on the situation and what’s right for the kids, then you’ll have more success with that than constantly having an overwhelming urge to wring your ex’s neck every time you see him. It hurts yourself when you do that. It’s hard not to because you have all these emotions wrapped up in your marriage with your husband. You chose him for a reason, and you are disappointed for reasons, but taking some of the emotion out will help too.
My ex was unfaithful with a friend and ended up marrying her so there’s all kinds of emotions involved there. I think I still try, every day, to overcome it. A little bit more every day, I’m a little bit better with the situation. A little bit every day.
The Divorce Coach Says
Terry makes some excellent points. Her first point about finding a job reminds me of Pippi – she knew she wanted/needed to end her marriage but didn’t want to confront her husband in a legal battle, so she spent five years working out a way to leave. Having decided my marriage was over, I wouldn’t have been able to stay in my marriage for five years but the timeline here is not what is important. What is important is getting yourself in a position where you can support yourself. Even if getting a job seems impossible at first, you can start learning or enhancing your skills through volunteer opportunities in your community.
Terry’s other point about the retirement account is part of a bigger issue, that of knowing the full financial picture of yours and your husband’s assets and liabilities.This is something you should be sharing all along. It’s not about not trusting your partner, it’s about taking responsibility for yourself and once you’re facing divorce, this is absolutely essential.