Divorce and separation are tough for everyone. Not only are you going through a major life change and need to consider how you’ll move forward with your life, but you’re also likely worried about the “deal” you’re getting in the settlement. The experience of divorce and separation makes naturally healthy and happy people feel uncertain, anxious, and upset.
Even a “friendly” divorce can be challenging. But the process is especially overwhelming for self-reps –people representing themselves in family court. For people without a lawyer, there is more heightened uncertainty about whether the agreement is fair or is going to meet your needs moving forward.
Here are 3 tips to help you through the process with a healthy perspective.
TIP 1: Don’t fall into the comparison trap
Don’t waste time comparing your separation and divorce settlement with others. Identify your priorities and focus them.
No two divorces are alike. As you’re going through a separation and divorce it’s natural to compare yourself to other people you know who have gone through the process, but everyone’s circumstances are different. Comparing your case to your friend’s or your neighbour’s is a big mistake.
It may seem like someone else got a better deal because they were able to get some big-ticket assets like the house or car. However, it’s not fair to compare.
In some cases, one of the parties may have already have another life ready for them so they decided not to ask for much in a separation agreement, or they were prepared to give away more than would be normal to get on with their life.
In other cases, one or both of the parties will have had different priorities than you. You might not be aware of some of the areas where your divorced friend made a “trade” in order to get a particular asset in their agreement. They may have given up something that you wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice. Looking at one element or even multiple elements of someone else’s result is of little help to you. Chances are you don’t have the full picture.
In still other cases, a person may have gotten a favourable result at the expense of their relationship with their ex. Particularly where you will need to continue parenting with your ex, keeping the relationship respectful and friendly can be a valuable benefit moving forward.
It’s easy to become depressed thinking that someone else got a “better” deal than you. The best thing to do is simple – don’t judge how you’re doing by how you think others did. It will drive you crazy and distract you from the things that truly matter to you. Rather than focus on one or more things someone else was able to get in their separation, focus on your own priorities.
TIP 2: Don’t buy into the wrong fantasies
Take the time and the opportunity to decide for yourself how you want your next chapter to unfold.
Visualizing what your life will look like after separation is a terrific way to help you stay focused on the big picture during the process. The stronger your vision is for post-divorce life, the more confidant you’ll be in the next chapter of life.
Many people feel that one benefit of separation and divorce is that allows them to become who they want to be. Your partner no longer influences your decisions. You don’t need to make sacrifices or compromises for your spouse. You’re free to explore who you want to be moving forward.
Everyone reacts to life after separation differently. And while each of your separated friends will have “good advice” to pass on, what makes sense for them may not make sense for you.
If your newly divorced friend spends their weekends at bars and clubs – that doesn’t mean it’s what you need. If another friend decides to swear off dating – that doesn’t mean you should cut off that possibility.
Don’t try to change into someone unrecognizable just to get away from who you were in the relationship. It may be tempting to change everything in your life, but it’s important to focus on the changes that will lead to a more authentic you – not completely change who you are.
Finding who you are outside your relationship will take time. Allow this new phase of your life to settle in and take shape. Work with it. Try new things and evaluate what feels right for you.
TIP 3: Invest in yourself
Invest time, energy, and some budgeted money to take care of your mental health.
You may feel that in your married life, you were focused on someone else. You may have been trying to keep the marriage together by being the sort of partner the other person wanted. Or maybe you stayed in a broken relationship for the kids. You may have forgotten what it’s like to focus on yourself, but it’s important to invest in your own mental health as you navigate your separation or divorce.
If you want to improve at work, you’ll take courses. If you want to eat healthier, you’ll start researching recipes and cooking more. If you’re injured, you’ll do physical therapy. In all of these cases, there are specific steps you’ll take to support your health and your goals.
A separation can significantly impact your mental health and create negative feelings such as failure, sadness, or anger. As with the examples above, it’s important to take steps to get to a place where you feel happy and healthy. Invest in yourself.
For some, investing in yourself may mean taking a long-postponed vacation. It may mean setting aside time to go to a movie or to read a book. It may mean joining a sports league or theatre group. Maybe it’s taking an interest-based course at a local community college or volunteering with a community group.
You may consider getting help from a psychologist or therapist who specializes in helping people navigating separation and divorce. If you have feelings of depression and anxiety, getting support from a professional is important. As a general rule, a therapist can be helpful for anyone going through a transition in their life.
Another way of investing in yourself is to take the courses available that will increase your employment opportunities. You can take a part-time course, night school, or a free online course through Coursera.
We realize that for most people, life after separation is financially tight. There’s little money to spare. But it’s in your best interest to make room in your budget for something to help you through this major change in your life.
Take the steps to support your emotional wellbeing. Because investing in yourself is the smartest investment you can make.