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Four Things No One Tells You About Divorce (and What You Need to Know Now) Part 2 by Rachel Alexander

Four Things No One Tells You About Divorce (and What You Need to Know Now) Part 2

{5 minutes to read} There are many things no one tells you about divorce. This article - part II of our article in four parts - concerns itself with another major, often overlooked, issue in the divorce process. We hope this helps in adjusting expectations and preparing so you can best manage through this largely unmanageable time.

II. Status quo and Shifting Ground

Often folks must carry on with daily life as if nothing has changed, when everything is, in fact, changing. This can include living under the same roof as your to-be ex-spouse and carrying on with many activities as a [not yet redefined] family. This in-between place is usually the period after you have decided to divorce, however, you are still continuing with the same financial and logistical status quo. Divorcing people still have to get to work, meet deadlines, pick up dry cleaning, parent kids, cook dinner, and service their cars — without having the necessary, new structure in place. Without the benefit of the relief that comes from implementing helpful changes (such as time apart, separate residences), but with the added stress of addressing the conflict and working towards a resolution.

During this period, communication between spouses can further deteriorate, and tension in shared space — when separate space is needed — can range from feeling uneasy to being unsafe. This period is a sort of suspension where moving forward, though occurring ever so slowly, is eclipsed by the daily treading water and staying afloat. Kids have to get to activities and prepare homework; households have to run and function. The emotional terrain is shifting and straining everyone’s nerves. This discomforting period is not given the attention it deserves.

Without a new way forward, managing day-to-day can be draining and discouraging.

What can families do now? Establish one or two simple guidelines to help make this interim period manageable.

  • Let go of the conflict about whether to eat dinner together or not. Just get everyone, including yourself, fed.

  • Plan for each spouse to have separate time and separate space in the house for at least some period each week.

  • Work on a timeline - even if it is for you alone - and map out a time frame including a goal date for living separately and finalizing the divorce.

  • Focus on something that supports your stability and sense of efficacy - for example, add some physical activity into your week, at a regular time if possible. Train for a 5k, with other adults if possible. Having something for yourself will help restore a sense of efficacy; exercising your capacity, strength, and separateness.

  • Take some actions that move things forward, even on a micro level. If you will be separating households, clear out/organize items in the attic that need to be attended to anyway, and make some progress in concrete ways that feel rewarding and manageable. These types of behaviors can help move some things forward (organizing and thinning out areas of the household is a great help before moving) and is appropriate even while other aspects of life are outside your direct control.

  • If you and your spouse agree (and make sure this notion is neither triggering nor explosive) see if you can each take one night a week “off” while the other parent is responsible for the kids and household. Having a chance to resource into other adult company, or get to the gym or a yoga class, particularly while supporting one another in doing so, can be a healing practice, a way to try out cooperation and support, and gift your kids by alleviating some of the stress in the home.

  • Keep things as consistent as possible for the children. Encourage their regular activities outside the home and with their peers (these external support systems should be leaned into now).

  • Keep packing their school lunches. Do not shift more responsibilities onto the kids right now - even if they are long overdue and age-appropriate - it’s important for the children not to conflate the divorce with having to take on more [unwanted] responsibility and receive less caretaking upon which they currently need to depend.

Stay tuned for Part 3.


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