11 Struggles Only The Newly Divorced Understand

The face of a sad woman looks away as she contemplates the struggles that only the newly divorced understand

Being newly divorced can feel like you’re living in the Twilight Zone.

Being newly separated or divorced is a strange place. It’s filled not only with all the physical and logistical changes of living alone, but also with a strange cocktail of emotions that seem to fluctuate wildly. One moment you’re heartbroken. The next you’re terrified. And then you’re elated to be free of the marriage that wasn’t really working. Then you slip into guilt about feeling good. It’s a positively Twilight Zone existence.

At least that’s how it was for me when I first separated from my ex. I felt completely lost, confused and utterly alone. I wasn’t sure if what I was going through was normal or if I had lost my mind as well as my marriage.

The worst part was not knowing if I was still sane. Now I know that I was both still sane and a bit crazy, but that it was normal.

Just in case you’re wondering if what you’re experiencing is normal, I’ll let you in on the 11 struggles only newly divorced women understand.

  1. Wondering if you’re still sane. You have incredibly strange, frustrating and even obsessive  thoughts exploding in your mind almost constantly. They are incessant and they wouldn’t make sense at any other time, but somehow now they do.
  2. Having fleeting thoughts of suicide. This is one of the most unsettling thoughts that will pop into your mind. (If it’s anything more than a fleeting thought – talk with someone about it immediately!) Your mind is on a constant search for a way to make things better and it’s throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. Just let this one fall to the ground.
  3. Experiencing guilt. It doesn’t matter why your marriage ended. There’s something you probably feel guilty about – even if it’s just that you married your ex in the first place. You know that hindsight is 20/20 so there’s no use in second-guessing yourself now. Just learn what you need to learn and move forward.
  4. Having mood swings that make PMS seem tame by comparison. Remember all those strange and unsettling thoughts? Well, it’s a bit of a chicken and egg thing with thoughts and emotions – which comes first? Do thoughts create the emotions or do the emotions create the thoughts.? Either way, as your thoughts careen around from one extreme thought to another, so will your emotions.
  5. Feeling positively giddy about being free to be you again. Except for when it terrifies you because you’re not exactly sure who you are right now. But that’s part of the true joy of divorce – rediscovering you!
  6. Figuring out how to do it all. Gone are the days of shared chores, dual income and shared parenting. No more tag teaming. You’re it. You’re the boss, the housekeeper, and the solo parent. You now manage the finances, are the sole breadwinner, have complete responsibility for the kids (when they’re with you), and maintain and fix the house, the yard, and the car.
  7. Living on less sleep than a parent of a newborn gets. One obvious result of doing it all is exhaustion. I’m not talking just physical exhaustion. You’re weary to your bones mentally and emotionally too. Divorce turns your whole world upside down and inside out. It takes a sh*t-load of work to get your life working much less set it right again.
  8. Experiencing profound loneliness and pain. This is how you become emotionally drained. You grieve a million and one losses – some big and some small – as it sinks in a little more with every breath that your life will NEVER EVER be the same again. You lose not only your spouse and their family, but you lose friends and having your kids around every day. The sense of rejection and shame that come with divorce combine with the loneliness to produce soul-crushing misery.
  9. Creating a new relationship with your ex. If you’re one of the lucky ones, you don’t have kids, or pets, or a business with your ex. You can just walk away as soon as that decree is signed. But it’s usually more complicated than that. You want nothing to do with them (most of the time). But because they are your kids’ other parent you’re going to have to deal with them for the rest of your life. Figuring out what that relationship needs to be now and how it needs to change in the future is one effing monumental headache. (And having fleeting thoughts of how much easier life would be if they just keeled over and died is fairly common.)
  10. Redefining who you are. As a spouse and parent, you made sacrifices and compromises for the sake of your relationship and family. Now that you’re no longer your ex’s spouse, you feel betrayed and used. And of course, now you also feel enraged. Instead of staying stuck with the anger, use that energy to try new things, have new experiences and redefine who you are because you’re no longer their spouse. Now you’re a person who just happens to be a terrific parent too.
  11. Dealing with the confusion of dating. Starting to date again is just plain weird. Sure there have been others you’ve noticed or even fantasized about over the years, but now you can actually be out there. Are you excited? Curious? Terrified? Conflicted? If you’re being completely honest, the answer is YES to all of those questions. You’ll feel like you’re cheating the first time you go out. People you’ve known for years will suddenly start looking at you in an entirely different way. You’ll experiment with online dating. And your heart will be broken – again. But you’ll get the hang of it.

There’s nothing simple or easy about divorce. No one can begin to adequately describe the struggles, frustrations, fears, and exhaustion unless they’ve been through it themselves.

But those of us going through it (or who have been there in the past) get it. We know. And despite how you might feel at this exact moment, you’re not alone and you’re still sane.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

Divorced? Here’s How To Find The REAL Love Of Your Life

Couple making a heart over the setting sun because they've found the love of their life.

Engage both your heart and your head to find your perfect match after divorce.

Are you afraid of getting into another relationship because your marriage ended in divorce? But you’re also afraid of being alone for the rest of your life? But maybe you can find the REAL love of your life if you can just get over the terror of getting stuck with the same kind of person you just divorced!

It’s confusing isn’t it? Believe it or not, what you’re experiencing is pretty typical of what we all go through post-divorce. And there is a solution to the confusion. You can fix your picker and discover true love.

The solution is not very romantic, but it works. You need to treat choosing your next mate like you’re interviewing them for a job.

Yup, you’re going to interview for someone who will hold a very special place in your life and your heart. You’re going to have to look past the initial romance of the flutterings of your heart (and past the great sex). The attraction, connection and sexual tension are just the minimum requirements.

To fix your picker you need to critically evaluate the character of the person. You must refuse to settle. And above all, you are not desperate!

As for any job posting, there are 3 things you need to do to find the perfect person for you. You’ll need to come up with a job description; you’ll need to interview the candidates, and you’ll need to decide upon a trial period for the top candidate.

Yeah, it might sound clinical, but you’re going to have to come up with the requirements your new sweetie must meet. You might already have a good idea of the qualities you need in a mate. You might also learn about other qualities as you start causally dating. And just in case you need a few ideas to get started, here are some for you to consider:

  • Willing to mutually create the relationship – no bulldozers or blamers
  • Will have your back when the going gets tough
  • Demonstrates high character in all areas of their life – work, parenting, friendship, family and, of course, with you
  • Self-reliant
  • Trusting and trust-worthy
  • Self-confident, but not cocky
  • Capable so you don’t have to carry or fix them all the time
  • Will genuinely feel bad if they hurt you or treat you poorly and do what they need to do to make it better

Don’t treat your first list of requirements as perfect. You’re probably going to discover more qualities to add and maybe delete as you date. That’s OK because you’ll learn from your experiences.

Once you know what you’re initially looking for in a mate, you can start the interview process (aka get serious about dating). Serious dating means that you’re always interviewing your dates and you’re quick to move on if the person you’re seeing doesn’t make the grade in the important qualities you’re looking for.

You’re probably wondering how you interview someone you’re dating. It’s not as weird as it might sound because all you have to do is talk, watch and listen.

In addition to the fun flirty questions, ask your dates serious ones like “How did your last relationship end?” If all they do is blame their ex, they’re not right for you because they’ll wind up blaming you for things too. You want to hear them take some responsibility for their breakup and how the might have done things differently.

Don’t be afraid to ask their friends and family strategic questions too. You can think of this as checking out their references. The perspectives of those close to them will give you a more well-rounded picture of who the person you’re dating really is.

Another important interview technique is situational interviewing. In the dating world you can do it by creating situations to see how your dates respond.

When I was seriously dating it was important to me to find someone I could work well with and who was willing to pitch in and help. After a few dates, I would invite the fellow I was dating over and I’d cook a meal for us. If they asked to help and then really did, they passed. If they didn’t, like one guy who just kicked back and told me how nice it was for me to wait on him, then that was the last time we went out.

Interviewing means that you’re aware of all the little things too. Do they think before they speak? What’s your gut telling you about this person? Is there something about them that reminds you too much of your ex? What red flags are trying to get your attention?

You must pay attention to all of these little things because when you’re dating someone is not the time to give them the benefit of the doubt. When people are dating, they’re on their best behavior. If their best isn’t cutting it, they’re not the love of your life. You need to move on.

When you’ve found someone who passes your interview process, you’re ready to move on to the final phase: the trial period. This is then you’re dating someone exclusively and, no, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re the one. It just means that you’re focusing on them and testing out what a committed relationship or even marriage with them might be like.

The important things to remember in the trial period are:

  • You need to regularly evaluate the relationship.
  • You refuse to settle.
  • You are not desperate.

If things don’t work out during the trial period, you can walk away. And when you’re ready you can start the interview process again.

If things do work out, you’ll know that you’ve fixed your picker. By using both your heart and your head you’ve found the love of your life.

Treating your search for the REAL love of your life like a job interview isn’t romantic, but it is effective! How do I know? Because this is how I found my husband after my first marriage ended in divorce.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.


You May Be Mad At Your Ex, But Don’t Be An Exhole

Woman sits frustrated from cyber-stalking her ex. You may be mad at your ex, but don't be an exhole.

They’re not your spouse anymore, so stop cyber-stalking them!

An exhole is an ex who acts like an a**hole. In my role as a divorce coach, I’ve heard all kinds of stories from my clients and family law attorneys. Many times, the stories a client tells me are about their ex behaving like an exhole, but not always. Sometimes I have clients who don’t immediately realize that THEY are the exhole.

Here are some suggestions to keep you from being an exhole so you can move on with your life:

1. Respect your ex’s home as their home. A woman filed for divorce and moved out with the idea that the man she’d been having an affair with would leave his spouse too. He did — for a while. After her divorce was final, he moved back in with his wife. This woman got tired of living alone in an apartment and so she would just show up at her ex’s house when he was gone and let herself in. At first she claimed it was because she missed the cats. Then she started showing up at different times wanting to talk with her ex, or she’d “surprise” him by stopping by to cook a meal or just to grab something that she wanted. Her ex-husband had moved on and her surprise visits were invasive and inappropriate.

If your ex is living in the marital home and you’re not, your former marital home is now theirs. It is no longer your home even if your name is still on the mortgage. Just as you wouldn’t barge into your next-door neighbor’s home because there was something you wanted to talk with your neighbor about, or because you wanted to get the suitcase back that they borrowed last year, or because you wanted to get the pool cue you left there the last time you visited, there’s no reason for you to barge into your ex’s home either.

2. Avoid “accidental” texts/emails/social media posts to your ex that were meant for your new romantic interest. One woman told me about a text she received from her ex. The text called her by the pet name he used to have for her and told her how much he missed her. This woman initially thought that her ex wanted to reconcile. Then, she read the rest of his text. In it, her ex proceeded to share how he was looking forward to the plans they had for staying in a B&B that weekend. It became obvious at that point that he had “accidentally” sent the text to her instead of his girlfriend. The most painful part of the text for this woman was that she had suggested they stay in that B&B two years ago, but he had refused. She did find it funny, though, that he wasn’t creative enough to come up with a new pet name for his girlfriend.

I can’t tell you how many times I hear stories of exes who “accidentally” send a love letter to their ex instead of their new sweetie. These accidental missives are extremely cruel and no matter how angry you are at your ex, there’s no reason for cruelty — ever.

3. Accept that your post-divorce lifestyle will be different from your married lifestyle. There are people who plan for their divorce sometimes years before they actually start the proceedings. I’ve heard many different stories about people who start siphoning a bit of money here and there from joint accounts or 401Ks and start socking it away in a secret place to make sure their ex doesn’t get it. But cash isn’t the only way that exholes plan for their divorce.

I know of one woman who planned for her divorce by getting a personal trainer six months before she filed and a boob job less than a month before she filed for divorce. Luckily her soon-to-be-ex had a bit of a sense of humor about the whole thing, and asked his attorney if he could negotiate visitation for the enhancements he got to pay for but never got to see.

4. Respect your ex’s private property. There was one fellow who was a clotheshorse. He enjoyed wearing designer suits and had a closet full of shoes. When he moved out of his house to move in with his girlfriend, he wasn’t initially able to take all of his clothing or shoes with him. His ex was so angry about having to see his stuff in what used to be their closet that she decided to have some fun with his possessions. She took a pair of scissors and cut almost all of the way through the shoelaces on every pair of shoes he had left in the closet. She cut through just enough so that when he went to tie his shoes the laces would break.

Moving is never easy and if your ex is moving out of the marital home, they might not be able to remove all of their personal belongings immediately. If they don’t get everything out, the best way to help them and yourself is to be clear about your expectations, let them know when would be convenient for you to allow them into your home, and agree to a date on which all of their possessions will be removed. An exhole would begin throwing their ex’s things out, or destroying/damaging their ex’s property.

5. Accept that your ex needs to be able to eat too. Usually early in the divorce process, an exhole will clean out the joint accounts and cancel their soon-to-be ex’s credit cards. The truth is that both you and your ex need to eat, buy gas and have a place to live.

6. Your kids deserve your love and attention regardless of how you feel about your ex. One fellow loved to be a Disney Dad. Every time he had them, he’d take the kids out to do amazingly fun kid things that his ex just couldn’t do because she didn’t have the disposable income that he did. The problem was that when he got angry with the kid’s mom, he would decide he didn’t want to see her or where she lived and would cancel his time with his kids so she’d have to cancel her plans. Unfortunately, whenever he suddenly cancelled his plans, his kids would wonder if he still loved them.
It’s always so sad to hear stories about kids being used as weapons to get back at an ex. An exhole will change plans with the kids last-minute to mess with their ex’s plans. An exhole will also change plans about what they will and won’t pay for the kids because they decide that their ex should have to pay for it instead.

7. Neither you nor your ex is perfect. I heard of one woman who moved with her husband to a new state and left her extended family behind just a year before he filed for divorce. When he told her he wanted a divorce to be with his girlfriend who lived in their home state, she was furious. She felt that he had moved her and the kids to the new state just to get them out of his way. She was so mad that she started calling everyone they knew back home to let them know what he had done — she even called his family.

Exholes make sure that everyone knows that their ex is a villain, that they are the bad guy, that they deserve to be ridiculed and punished. They’ll do this by how they speak about their ex and, if that’s not enough, they’ll also post to social media about their ex’s shortcomings.

8. Avoid playing Big Brother. There was a fellow who was very good at computer networking. He needed to be because it was his job. He understood how to “remote in” to another computer. He was so good at his work that when his wife, who was not computer savvy, moved out he would regularly check out what she was doing on the computer and look at her browser history to keep tabs on her.

Another way you might be an exhole is if you’re using your knowledge of your ex’s passwords to log into their accounts to see what they’ve been up to.

9. Take financial responsibility for yourself. There was one woman who was the breadwinner for the family. She worked long hours as a consultant. Her husband stayed at home and took care of their three sons. When she filed for divorce, she was suddenly “unable” to find any work. It seemed like things had dried up for her. Of course, as soon as the divorce was final, she suddenly found another job.

I’ve heard all kinds of stories about people quitting jobs and living off of savings during their separation in a futile attempt to reduce the amount of support they need to pay their ex either in the form of alimony/spousal support and/or child support. All this does is create more drama, trauma and legal expense. Adults take responsibility for themselves and their decisions — including financial responsibility.

10. Avoid threatening behavior. One of the worst exhole stories I’ve heard was from a woman who finally decided to file for divorce after being physically abused for 30 years. The abuse was so bad that it was a common occurrence for her to have broken bones and to be hospitalized.

Unfortunately, when she decided to file for divorce, her exhole threatened her life. Luckily, she was able to get some protection, but part of that protection included severing all ties with everyone who lived in the area she used to live. I don’t know how her story ended, but I think about her often and pray that her courage to get out of a horrible situation was repaid by being able to live a happier and safer life.

Threatening behavior isn’t always so dramatic. Sometimes it’s verbal or emotional abuse. Sometimes, it’s just not doing what your ex is counting on you to do, like pay your child support on time.

11. Do your divorce recovery work. This is the key to not being an exhole. Divorce is an incredibly stressful and painful experience. It takes work to get through it and to be a whole, happy person independent of your ex. Without doing the work, it’s extremely easy to become an exhole because it’s so easy to blame your ex for the divorce and the trashing of what you thought your life would be.

Don’t risk being an exhole. Do what you need to do to recover and heal from your divorce.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly adviceAnd, if you’re ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

17 Healthy Signs You’re Handling Your Divorce Like A Boss!

Man wearing blue suit and yellow tie sitting in a luxurious office.

A childhood claim is the key to divorce recovery. Seriously!

“You’re not the boss of me!” is a familiar refrain from the playground. Remember shouting it at one of your friends when they got a little too bossy?

Well, believe it or not, “You’re not the boss of me!” is a fantastic thing to say to yourself whenever your divorce, your ex, your friends and family, or even your attorney seem too bossy or overwhelming.

This childhood claim of personal power is just the thing to break the tension and stress. It is your cue to stop being reactive and start being more purposeful. In other words, you really do get to be the boss of you!

How do you know if you’re being a good boss? Look for these signs that you’re doing a fantastic job:

  1. You talk about it, but not incessantly. Talking about what’s going on helps you to come to grips with your divorce and to think of new ways to deal with all of the changes and demands. But you also know that if all you’re doing is talking, you’re probably stuck and could use the help of a coach or counselor to get moving forward again.
  2. You let yourself feel a full range of emotions, but don’t let them take over your life. You accept that you’re going to be emotional as your life changes dramatically and you grieve what was. Yet, you avoid the temptation to numb the uncomfortable feelings away with TV, alcohol, drugs, food or even another relationship because you can’t get through your divorce by ignoring it.
  3. You take appropriate, purposeful action to feel empowered and move forward with your life. Even the baby steps you take are moving you through your divorce.
  4. You keep perspective and recognize that even your ex could have valid points for you to consider. Although it’s tempting to think that it’s gotta be your way or the highway when you’re the boss, you recognize that the best bosses listen to all input to have a full picture of any situation before taking action.
  5. You support your kids’ relationship with their other parent. No matter how much you may despise your ex, you know they will always be your kids’ parent. You choose to be respectful and supportive of your kids’ relationship because you know it’s one of the most helpful things you can do to help your kids through the divorce.
  6. You make time for yourself to have fun and relax every day. Even if it’s only 5 minutes, you take time out for you. Your “me time” gives you the energy you need to make it through your day.
  7. You look for the positive things and experiences in every day. You know that despite the difficulty of divorce your life is still filled with good and you notice the good daily!
  8. You surround yourself with supportive people – not enablers. The people in your life listen compassionately when you talk and tell you the truth with kindness when you need to do something differently. No “yes people” for you!
  9. You remind yourself your marriage failed and that doesn’t make you a failure. You don’t confuse your marriage with who you are as an individual. You know you’re still lovable and desirable.
  10. You avoid the blame game like the plague. You know that it takes two people for a marriage to work and two people for a marriage to fail. You accept your part in the end of your marriage (even if it was just agreeing to marry your ex), learn from it and move forward with your life.
  11. You are patient with yourself as fully recover from your divorce. You give yourself the time and space you need to adjust to and create your new life as a sensational single.
  12. You listen to your attorney’s guidance thoughtfully and still make your own decisions. You avoid blind trust and embrace your right and responsibility to make the best long-term decisions for yourself and your family.
  13. You are financially literate. You’ve taken responsibility for making the most of your post-divorce financial status and manage your money (and maybe your debt) successfully.
  14. You look for peaceful solutions. You know that fighting with your ex over any facet of the divorce is just not worth it in terms of money spent or thwarted healing for your entire family.
  15. You keep a to-do list. Divorce can be overwhelming. There are all kinds of tasks and responsibilities that you’re not used to handling. Your to-do list helps you make sure it all gets done.
  16. You don’t look to your ex for emotional support. Despite years of habit, you know your ex isn’t your confidante any longer. You have other people (friends, family, a coach or counselor) you lean on for your emotional support.
  17. You stick to or create a routine. Your routine gives you a sense of safety and security. It is your calm in the storm of the changes that come with your divorce.

How are you doing? Are you being a great boss?

Even if you feel like a kid when you say “You’re not the boss of me!”, reminding yourself that you are the boss of you and your divorce is the most mature way to take care of you and your kids.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.

Divorced? 3 Tips For Taking The Horrible Out Of Your Holidays

Friends sitting around the dinner table discussing the tips for taking the horrible out of the holidays.

Your holidays may not be perfect this year, but you can still enjoy them!

Anticipating your first holidays after your divorce (or separation) is horrible. Everywhere you look there are reminders that this is a time for families to be together.

But that’s not true for you. You won’t ever have your family together again – at least not like it was. You won’t always be able to spend the holidays with your kids because now you’ll be taking turns with your ex.

And yet the holidays can still be magical for you. It will just take a bit of effort and a shift or two in perspective.

Look, I didn’t believe my first holidays post-divorce would be anything but horrible either. I was wrong though. I wound up having a great holiday season and here are the three things I did to take the horrible out of my holidays.

  1. Accept the invitations (at least some of them) from your friends and extended family. I thought I would be alone and forgotten for the holidays because I felt completely forgettable. On the other hand, I didn’t want to have a bunch of pity invitations either. But my friends and family reached out to me and showered me with loving invitations to join them for their celebrations.You might be surprised by how much your friends and family will reach out to you during the holidays. You’ll probably even have fun if you’re brave enough to say “Yes” to their invitations.
  2. Be thankful. Yeah, this one was hard for me at first. I was so miserable that I wasn’t sure there was much of anything to be thankful for.But there was a whole lot to be thankful for: being alive and the love and friendship surrounding me were at the top of my list.Now, when I look back I’m actually thankful for my divorce. Without it I don’t know if I could have developed the courage or the strong sense of self I have today.

    Being thankful might be especially tough for you soon after your divorce especially if you’re not with their children. But be thankful for what is even though it’s different. Your gratitude will help you to make it through the holidays instead of being stuck in the misery of missing what was.

  3. Be gentle with yourself. The first year or so after my divorce I was extremely impatient with myself. I kept thinking I should have healed more quickly from my divorce and didn’t want to give myself any more time to grieve.I discovered I couldn’t rush through my healing by accepting every single invitation that came my way – no matter how much I thought I should be able to. I still needed time to process all of the changes instead of keeping myself too busy to feel what I needed to feel.So, if the holiday season starts to move a little fast for you (or if you find yourself pushing yourself into a frazzle), it’s OK to slow things down and nurture yourself. Just keep in mind that nurturing is way different from throwing yourself a pity party. And when you’re done taking care of yourself, join back in the festivities.

Following these 3 tips won’t make your holidays perfect. They also won’t fill the hole in your heart that not being with your kids creates. But these tips will help you to have a happier holiday season than you might at first believe is possible.

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce coach and advisor helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.