When you decide to divorce, it’s almost as if you’ve entered a club with a super-secret handshake — only no one is quite certain how to do it. So we asked the Wevorce.com community what they wished they had known before they decided to file for divorce. From the emotional breakup of their marriage to the financial upheaval, here are some is helpful advice from people who have been through the real-life turmoil of uncoupling. Read on for the eight things no one ever tells you about divorce.
1. If you are parents, you have a relationship with your ex forever… but it’s very different.
“First, you and your spouse go from being best friends to enemies almost overnight,” says community member Banshee1, a 30-something dad who is in the process of getting divorced. The difference, according to Paula1, a single mom who was married for four years to a man who cheated, is this: “He doesn’t have to listen anymore. He doesn’t have to work out problems.”
To make matters worse, writes Georgia resident Rebec311, “Your ex will not cooperate… they want to stick it to you for whatever they think you did. They will not be fair at all or logical.”
Eve31, a single mother whose spouse has refused to mediate their divorce, relates a similar experience, one in which a soon-to-be ex is “always lingering in the background waiting for you to slip up so they can pounce on you again through the legal system because now they have a new life — and no longer want to be responsible for their first life.”
She describes the toughest part: “The little questions from the kids like, ‘Why do we have two houses?’ will drive you nuts.” And if you’re angry with your former spouse for driving those questions, parents say your children can sense it. “Don’t even think bad thoughts about their dad when they are within five miles of you,” community member timless says.
The best advice, said Maryland salesman wave, whose wife left him after 30 years is, “Keep your children first, always.”
2. Divorce starts after you’ve signed the papers.
You can go to Las Vegas and get married in 30 minutes, according to Eve31, “but getting a divorce takes a lot longer,” she says. Purebredinip, a California woman whose husband told her he “wasn’t happy,” says: “They should make divorcing easier, but getting married difficult.”
“What no one tells you,” says Eve31, “is what it’s really going to cost you to be divorced… your youth, your sanity, your faith, your trust, your ability to wake in the morning with hope.” You now second-guess all your decisions: “Your ex destroys your trust but also your ability to sometimes trust yourself,” she explains.
“The real pain starts after you sign the divorce decree, ” Paula1 continues. “Every fight can now lead to court, which costs you money. Every disagreement now leads to heated arguments where nobody wins. Every new life stage (dating spouses, remarriages, kids asking more questions, kids suffering with divorce) equals more pain.”
3. If you’re the custodial parent, every other weekend is a blessing.
Essentially, you are raising your children alone — even if your former spouse has them for a few days a week or every other weekend. If you have young children, it will be a long time before you can take a shower that’s longer than three minutes. “You’ll fight it during the divorce proceedings, but will count down the hours for his weekend after,” Paula1 writes.
And what if you’re ex has found a new partner? “You spend all your time raising the kids, through sickness, surgeries and through all the heartache and picking up all the broken pieces that the divorce has caused,” says community member Paris299.
Work can also become a refuge.”Taking care of kids all weekend without any help is hard and exhausting. Monday mornings now become something you look forward to,” Paula1 writes.
4. You lose a lot of friends and family in divorce.
Girl70 said her husband filed for divorce after having an affair. His family sided with him. “I was with him for 22 years. It is like I didn’t exist. It’s as if I was the one who had the affair. I truly cared for my father-in-law and stepmother-in-law. I miss them the most,” she says.
The reaction from friends can also be tough. “Some people will treat you like divorce is catching…like leprosy,” says Tracy74 of Michigan, whose husband fell in love with another woman. “Your married friends will fear you being around their husbands/wives,” agrees community member kdb, a 50-something mother of three whose husband told her he wasn’t in love anymore.
Community member Banshee1 felt a sense of being “completely alone” and “misunderstood by married friends” who took sides during the breakup. “You will lose a lot of friends/people that you like a lot because of your soon-to-be ex,” agrees Rebec311. “The friends you keep will either love you more and be there more or have no clue how to talk to you.”
What’s more, “You think they are all a bunch of whiny children, since you’re doing it all alone now, and they have husbands to help,” says Paula1.
5. The courts do not care.
You will waste money if you treat your divorce attorney as a therapist. Timless explains, “That’s what your girlfriends and personal therapy is [sic] for. If you don’t have them, get them before you start the process.”
The court system is “cold,” says Rebec311, “and its participants don’t care about your feelings. It’s treated as a business.”
“Are your kids sick and is your ex clueless about how to take care of them? The courts don’t care. He still gets them,” says Paula1. “Is your ex-spouse not paying child support because he’s unemployed again? The courts don’t care. Visitation and support are not tied. Is your ex-spouse living with a drug addict with nose rings? The courts don’t care. As long as he is a good parent and doesn’t abuse them, he still gets them and can have anyone around that he wants.”
Maryland salesman wave, whose wife left him after almost 30 years of marriage, was surprised that the courts didn’t take into account who was at fault in the breakup. “She turns 49, her mother dies, she got her inheritance, and two months later, she wants out. I have no drug or alcohol problems, no money problems, no abuse, no womanizing, but I lose half, plus I pay her child support…and she keeps the inheritance…The courts don’t care about right or wrong.”
6. Money is always an issue.
“You don’t just worry about money. You obsess over it,” writes Kitty7470, a 40-something mom from Ohio whose husband had an affair after 20 years of marriage.
“If you had a traditional marriage in which both parents were working, etc., get used to living on half. Child support, if paid, does not cover much. It’s not as much as you think it will be (which is another ridiculous tragedy by the courts), and your savings is probably wiped out by divorce costs,” explains Paula1.
Banshee1 doesn’t feel his financial settlement was fair. “It was tough for me to give up everything and move into an apartment that’s about a quarter of the size of my house — taking almost nothing,” he writes. Plus, as the breadwinner in his family, I will be taking the majority of the debt load, taking on losses due to the sale of our marital residence and providing significant child support payments to my soon-to-be ex.”
However, he says, “There is hope for recovery.” He’s slowly rebuilding and making a home for his children. And he believes he’s better off today. “(My ex) and I had very different views on money, and now that I’m on my own, I can save the way I feel most comfortable.”
For Soon2Bfine, a 40-something administrative assistant whose husband cheated on her, money wasn’t her biggest financial problem. When her spouse stopped paying the credit card debt after their divorce, he ruined both their credit ratings. “Having a great job means the money is there to make the payments, but good luck getting a loan for anything,” she wrote.
7. Your ex — and you — have personal lives.
Building a new life doesn’t include whining about your ex. “Learn to deal with it and not hold on to it,” Kitty7470 says. And when your ex finds a new partner? “They now have a say in your entire life, because your ex lets them.”
Banshee1 says he’s surprised at how bitter people can be. “I’ve talked to so many people that get upset because they believe their ex is doing better than they are or are suffering less. My feeling is — focus on you and your life. You can spend the rest of your life comparing to your ex-spouse and miss out on opportunities that are right in front of you.”
And some further advice: “Your ex has a life and so do you. Don’t share,” says timless. “I’ve learned to keep things focused on my daughter and vague pleasantries. Any unnecessary details come back to bite me in the butt.”
8. You will get a second wind.
When you think it won’t get any better, just keep moving forward. “The train wreck that was your life during the divorce suddenly gets a makeover as soon as your divorce is final,” timless says. “Somewhere near the end you have one final cry and then get a second wind. This is your saving grace, your reward for the pain and suffering.”
Unhappily married to her high school sweetheart for 15 years before she finally asked for a divorce, Wow65 agrees, saying when the divorce was final she realized: “I could do what I wanted with my life and have a great time doing it.”
“Now is the time to focus on you,” Banshee1 advises. “Look at divorce as a chance to rebuild, to start fresh. Yes, there will be hurt, loneliness, frustration — but that’s life, isn’t it? For me, I’m taking the experiences that I’ve had has a husband and turning them into a guideline for how I want to live my life as a man. I will always and forever be a father to my children — and my focus is 150 percent on them. But, to be the best father that I can be I must learn to take care of myself, too. I’m learning to pursue my dreams, and through that inspire my children (and possibly others) along the way. My legacy to my children will be strength and perseverance even when the chips are down.”
Divorce coach Annie O’Neill added: “You have your whole life ahead of you to do what you want to do. It is a chance to reinvent yourself, a new chapter of your life. You have to put your marriage behind you and decide to move on.”