The Differences Between Men & Women During The Divorce Process

torsos of man in blue suit and woman in red dress, both with arms crossed, The Differences Between Men & Women During The Divorce Process.

By knowing this about your ex, you’ll be able to make it through your divorce more calmly.

  An interesting thing happened during one of the divorce recovery workshops I lead. One of the male participants brought up the book His Needs Her Needs by Willard F. Harley, Jr. This participant shared the lists of “his needs” and “her needs” with the others in the class. After the briefest of pauses, the room erupted in both indignation and conversation that evening.

As the leader, it was an ideal opportunity to share some divorce advice that everyone can use. And that’s exactly what I’ll share with you now.

Although it’s obvious, it bears repeating. Men and women are wired differently. We see the world differently. We interact with the world differently. And its these differences that can make for amazing relationships, amazingly disastrous divorces and everything in between.

In the simplest terms, men are driven to do and achieve. They want to be acknowledged for their triumphs and supported in ways that allow them to do and achieve more. This often translates to wanting to share their doing and achieving with their significant other.

In the simplest terms, women are driven to need and create safety. They want safety in all ways – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This often translates to craving truthful communication and connection with their significant other.

One of the most common reasons I hear from my clients about why they divorced is marital infidelity. When I dig deeper with my clients into what was going on in their marriage before the marital infidelity, I almost always learn that the differences between men and women were being ignored.

For example, one couple faced a huge challenge. Shortly after giving birth to their second child, she had a stroke and required extensive care as she recovered. Rather than comforting her and understanding that she would feel frightened and unsettled, he hired a live in nurse/nanny to help his wife. He was busy doing what was necessary to fix the situation.

Rather than understanding that he still needed the support of his wife in even simple ways, she focused what extra energy she had solely on her children. To resolve his unmet needs, he reached out to another woman for the support he craved. He filed for divorce. She responded by becoming terrified of her and her children’s uncertain future.

When they entered the divorce process, they were already polarized. They each blamed the other for not taking care of what they considered to be the basics of marriage. By continuing to ignore that they were wired differently, their divorce was difficult, drawn out and depleted their marital estate.

I met her during her divorce. Our work together focused on helping her to feel safe and develop a plan that would allow her to financially support herself and her children after her divorce. Today she is happily pursuing her new career and enjoying the new life she shares with her children.

So, here’s the divorce advice to help you keep your cool — Your soon-to-be ex is wired differently than you are.

For women: Your husband is driven by doing and being. He’s out to achieve a goal. His goal might be to achieve a peaceful, harmonious post-divorce relationship with you. His goal might be to “punish” you for the end of the marriage because he is hurt. His goal might be to protect his children. The quicker you can accept that he’s out to achieve his goal, the quicker you’ll be able to realize his behaviors aren’t about you. They’re about him.

For men: Your wife is driven by safety and connection. She’s going to act in ways that either give her a sense safety or allow her to ask for more safety. She might even demand things that make her feel safer. The quicker you can accept that her ultimate goal is safety for herself AND her children, the quicker you’ll be able to realize her behaviors aren’t about you. They’re about her.

By remembering the differences, you’ll be better able to step out of the emotional volatility of divorce.You’ll be able to make better decisions and set yourself up for a better life after divorce. Now that’s some pretty powerful divorce advice.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:

Considering what’s going on in your divorce, how are you behaving like a typical man or woman? Identifying your natural or habitual behavior can help you learn when you might want to choose to respond differently. Oftentimes responding differently from a habit can make all the difference.

Considering what’s going on in your divorce, how is your soon-to-be ex behaving like a typical man or woman? Once you know what’s motivating their actions, you can use this information to calm situations. You can even use this information to help steer conversations and negotiations toward more productive outcomes.


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.

Want To Know How To Deal With Divorce? Stop Doing These 13 Things

Man holding his head and wondering how to deal with divorce.

Knowing what to stop doing is just as important as knowing what to do to get through your divorce.

Devastating. For everyone whose spouse has decided to divorce them, that’s the best description of the experience.

It’s not a place you ever thought you’d be. But here you are. Your marriage has failed. You feel like a failure, unlovable and totally depressed.

These feelings are real and you must acknowledge them. But don’t wallow in them. Letting these emotions rule your world will only keep you miserable.

The trouble is that the miserable feelings of divorce are insidious. They show up in sneaky, unexpected ways. And before you know it, you’ve succumbed to undermining thoughts and behaviors.

However, you don’t have to stay stuck in the misery. In fact, by becoming more aware of your automatic behaviors and thoughts you can deal with your divorce in a much better way.

Here are 13 things you must stop doing to make it through and get over the divorce:

  1. Feeling sorry for yourself.  Say it with me, “No more pity parties!” I get that things aren’t exactly going as you had planned, but wallowing in the hardship and unfairness of it all will not help you cope with your divorce. Instead, be thankful for what is still good in your life (yes, there is still good) and begin thinking about your future and how good your life will be a year from now.
  2. Giving away your power. This is a sneaky one because it involves the way we naturally speak. Anytime you say something like “You drive me crazy!” or “You make me so angry.” you’re giving your power away. How? By not taking 100% responsibility for your thoughts, feelings and behaviors. You’ll be amazed at how altering your speech can make such a big difference in your life!
  3. Avoiding change. No matter how you look at it, divorce is all about change. By avoiding change you’re choosing to stay stuck and miserable. The much better option is choosing how you will manage the changes you’re facing. (And eventually you may even embrace the changes because you know how to make your life better and better.)
  4. Focusing on things you can’t control. This one takes some effort to stop doing. No matter how much you are hurt by what your ex is (or isn’t) doing, the more time you spend worrying, complaining or hoping for them to change the more miserable you’re going to feel. You need to put that energy into making your life and situation better because the only person you can control is you.
  5. Worrying about pleasing everyone else. People get hurt in divorce. Unfulfilled dreams and expectations cause anguish. There’s no way you can please everyone with how things turn out. The best you can do is take care of adhering to your values and making the best choices you can. You’re the one that has to live with the consequences of your decisions not anyone else, so do what’s right for you (and your kids).
  6. Being afraid of taking risks. The end of your marriage propels you into unfamiliar territory. The only way you’re going to find your way back to feeling normal and happy again is to take a few risks. You don’t have to take wild and crazy risks, calculated ones are just fine. 
  7. Dwelling on the past. Now this is a biggie because it’s confusing. Grieving what was is a necessary part of healing from divorce. But focusing only on the losses and not allowing yourself to see the beauty of the present and the potential of the future doesn’t work. It’s by having hope in the future that you’ll most quickly find your way through the pain of your divorce.
  8. Repeating your mistakes. If there’s one thing that’s most helpful in dealing with your divorce, it’s learning what you need to and making the necessary changes to not find yourself in the same situation again. So spend some time fixing your picker and learning what makes a relationship work before you get into your next one.
  9. Resenting your ex. Don’t make the mistake of spending your time, talents and energy being resentful of your ex’s ability to move on without you. Take all that effort and put it to use making your life better and your life will be better!
  10. Giving up. You’ll probably have a strong need to hide as you work through your divorce. It’s OK for a bit, but not for a lifestyle. You still have lots of life to live. (Yes, you do – no matter what your age is.)
  11. Fearing “alone time”. Being alone after divorce is gut-wrenching. You may have been alone at times during your marriage, but this is different. Being OK alone with your thoughts is one of the hallmarks of successfully dealing with your divorce.
  12. Feeling your ex owes your something. No matter how much you’re suffering or how much you really want to understand why your ex chose to divorce you. They don’t owe you anything besides what your divorce settlement details. Yes, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s true. The sooner you come to terms with this the faster you’ll be able to move on from the end of your marriage.
  13. Expecting immediate results. Unfortunately, dealing with divorce is a process. There’s no magic wand or fairy godmother who will magically make things all better for you. You will make it past your divorce, so be patient with your progress as you keep working through everything along the way to feeling normal and happy again.

It’s so easy to fall prey to these 13 thoughts and behaviors before you even realize you’ve done it because they’re just how we naturally are. But the key to dealing with divorce is to recognize when you’ve stumbled and get yourself moving forward again as soon as you can.

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. Getting over your divorce is one of the toughest things you’ll ever do and I’m here to help you. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

If you’re looking for more help on how to deal with divorce, read more articles in Dealing With Grief.

Getting Divorced? Don’t Be Nice

Man sitting on a bench and holding his head while struggling getting divorced.

Don’t beat around the bush when asking for divorce.

Sheila had been thinking about it for months and she had talked to her girlfriends about it. They were shocked by her admission — she wasn’t sure she loved her husband Jeff any more.

Her friends were shocked because, even after all these years, Jeff seemed to be hopelessly in love with her. But.she just wasn’t hopelessly in love with him anymore. She’d made her decision; she was going to tell Jeff she wanted a divorce.

This weekend was their twentieth anniversary and they had plans to take a long weekend at a resort without their children. Sheila reasoned that because the resort would be a relaxing setting, they would be alone, and it would provide the time they both needed to talk about divorce.

Their first evening at the resort, they had reservations at a romantic restaurant on the property. After the wine was served, Sheila told Jeff she wanted a divorce. She chose to tell him this first night so they would have plenty of time to talk about the details of the divorce. What she hadn’t planned on was Jeff’s shock and confusion when she told him her news. After a bit of a scene, he left her at the table and returned to their room.

At first she was confused by Jeff’s reaction. He’d always given her everything she’d wanted before. Then she felt the full impact of how horribly she had hurt him. She felt guilty — terribly, terribly guilty.

When she finished signing the check, she went back to their room and made love to Jeff. It was the only way she could think of to make him a little less sad and to make her feel a little less guilty. They fell asleep in each other’s arms.

In the morning, Jeff asked her if she was feeling better about them now. She replied, “No, I still want a divorce.”

Jeff was once again shocked and confused by her answer. How could she want a divorce after how they had made up last night?

And so their weekend (and their subsequent separation) continued; a chaotic mixture of messages: “No, I don’t want you,” turning into “Yes, I want you right now.”

Sheila told her friends she was just trying to be nice to Jeff. She didn’t want to hurt him. The part she didn’t admit to them or to herself was that she didn’t want to feel guilty about hurting him.

I regularly hear people tell me they want to be nice to their soon-to-be ex. They’ll tell their spouse they want a divorce and then act like they’re still married. I’ll ask why they do this and without exception the reason they give is they want to be nice. What this really means is they feel guilty about hurting their spouse and want to make it easier on themselves. What these folks fail to take into account is what their niceness really does to their soon-to-be-ex.

From the dumpee’s standpoint, the niceness is confusing at best and an outright attempt to derail their ability to heal at the worst. Just as the dumpee is starting to get to the point of accepting that their marriage is ending, their spouse comes back into their life offering sex, presents, cash or some combination of them. Then just as the dumpee is starting to have some hope that the marriage can be saved, their spouse dashes those hopes and confirms that they do indeed want a divorce. It’s a horrible yo-yo of emotions and positively draining for the dumpee.

To avoid putting your spouse through this painful yo-yo of emotions, you’ll first want to be very clear about what you want. Do you really want to get divorced? Do you want to ask your spouse to go to therapy with you? Do you want them to say “I love you” by spending quality time with you? Do you want a separation? Lots of people aren’t truly clear about what they want when they tell their spouse they want a divorce.

The kindest thing you can do for your spouse if divorce is what you want is to be crystal clear about your decision or else decide you simply need to talk to your spouse about how you’d like to change your marriage.

Where and when you tell your spouse you want a divorce is critical to being truly respectful and kind. You’ll want to choose a time and place that will give each of you privacy, safety and the time for the discussion to happen. How you tell your spouse is probably the most difficult for people who want to be nice, but the truth is that the most compassionate way is to be as straightforward as possible. Straightforward does not mean abrupt; it means not beating around the bush and making your spouse guess that you want a divorce.

Finally, you’ll want to be prepared to feel uncomfortable. Chances are your spouse isn’t expecting to hear your news. People receive the news that their spouse wants a divorce in all kinds of ways — from shock to anger. And their reaction, whatever it is, will probably make you feel uncomfortable. Being prepared for this will help prevent you from automatically trying to make your spouse feel better in a way that makes them think your marriage can be saved if you’ve already determined it can’t.

The kindest thing you can do if you know you no longer want to be married is to be as certain of your decision as possible and to communicate that as clearly and compassionately as possible to your spouse. Trying to be nice by easing your spouse’s grief and pain is robbing them of the ability to begin their healing and move on with their life. Being nice just isn’t.

Your Functional Divorce Assignment:
Be clear about what you want. Spend lots of quality time becoming very, very clear about what you want from the marriage. The more clarity you have about what you want to discuss with your spouse the more respectful and kind you are being to them.

Express your want with compassion and boundaries. It’s important that as you express your want to your spouse that you do so with as much compassion and respect for yourself as for your spouse. Discussions about divorce are rarely easy, but you can make yours go more smoothly by:

  • Choosing a time and setting that will give each of you the privacy safety and time the discussion deserves.
  • Setting the tone by being straightforward and compassionate. Avoid beating around the bush.
  • Preparing to feel uncomfortable. Telling your spouse you want a divorce is uncomfortable in and of itself, but your spouse’s reaction can exacerbate the feeling. By expecting to feel uncomfortable, you’ll be better able to continue to be kind to your spouse and not falling into the trap of being nice.

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.

Is Kindness The Key To Coping With Divorce?

Woman holding her head in a field of flowers as she contemplates coping with her divorce.

YES! Being kind will help you heal and find happiness again.

Are you stressed out? Depressed? Does your self-esteem suck? Are you pissed beyond words at your ex? Do you have little to no patience with anyone else? Do you frequently have mood swings that make you wonder just who you are? Or do you simply wonder if you can ever be normal and happy again?

If you’re still reading this, then you’re either having a difficult time dealing with your divorce or you know someone who is. And don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Most people coping with divorce experience a wide range of emotions and thoughts they’ve never had before. It’s easy to get caught up in the chaos of it all.

Divorce is difficult. But there is hope!

Research suggests that kindness may just be the best way to get through your divorce and feel greater happiness.

It doesn’t matter whether you witness compassion, you receive kindness or you act kindly, the health benefits of benevolence are tremendous.

When you witness compassion your find a renewed faith in human nature, you experience an increased connection to others and chances are you’ll be kinder too. (Psychology Today)

When you receive the thoughtfulness from others, you feel connected and cared. These sensations decrease stress. But did you know that along with the kindness you also receive a significant improvement in the functioning of your immune system and a hit of serotonin (a neurochemical which helps alleviate depression)? (Read more at Underground Health Reporter)

And when you’re the kindhearted individual, the benefits are even greater. First, you get the immune system and serotonin boost that the recipient gets. (These help combat the depression, sucky self-esteem and mood swings that go along with divorce.) And, according to Christine Carter, Ph.D., in her Psychology Today article, you also experience fewer aches and pains and extend your life.

This is fascinating research! But, when you’re coping with the end of your marriage the first thing on your mind isn’t looking for volunteer opportunities.

Compassion is critical to you combating the most common discomforts of divorce. So it’s important to amplify the compassion in your life.

Here are 5 ideas to easily and nearly effortlessly bring more kindness into your world:

  1. Be compassionate to you. Yes, it totally counts if you’re kind to yourself! Recognize that working through your divorce will take time and practice patience with yourself. Do something every day to nurture you – rub your feet when you take off your shoes (more simple DIY massage tips), stay hydrated, take a walk outside, or even give yourself a hug.
  2. Be kind to those who are standing by your side. No matter how it might feel, you’ve got others who are there for you. Maybe it’s your kids, pets, friends, family or even your friends’ pets.
  3. Ask for the help you need. Be specific about what you ask for so you’ll more easily inspire kindness in others and have a better chance of receiving exactly what you need.
  4. Be on the lookout for compassion in action. You’ll be surprised at how often you’ll catch someone smiling at a stranger, giving a friend a hug, or even petting their dog.
  5. Choose to cultivate feelings of kindness in yourself. According to researchers at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, you can build your compassion like you would build a muscle. Try using this 30-minute meditation from the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds to build yours.

There is a caveat to all this. If you’re not feeling kind, don’t force it! Forcing kindness will only serve to make you resentful and further diminish your self-esteem which is exactly what you don’t need.

But as you feel inspired, be kind! After all, even if you’re only being compassionate to yourself, you’re increasing the kindness in your world which is what’s important to helping you cope with 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. And if you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.

3 Ways To Make It Through The Holidays When Your Marriage Is Over!

Father, mother, & son opening Christmas presents on couch, 3 ways to make it through the holidays when your marriage is over.

It’s time to suck it up, for the kids!

It’s the holidays and you think your marriage is over. (Unfortunate timing, right?)

This is supposed to be a time when families come together. When they feel especially loving and close. Except that’s not what you’re feeling. Being close to your spouse is definitely not what you want. You’re done. You’ve tried and tried, but it hasn’t worked. You’re through and it’s over.

But you can’t just drop the bomb that you want a divorce – not now at least. You’d “ruin” the holidays for everyone if you did. You want your kids to experience the magic of the season – not the fear and uncertainty of their parents getting divorced.

So you’ve chosen to tough it out just a little longer – just until the holidays are over, then you can have the conversation that you’re simultaneously dreading and yearning for.

Toughing it out will be tough! This is not an easy decision or an easy path to take. You’re asking a lot of yourself and you’ll probably find yourself in lots of uncomfortable situations as the season progresses. But you’re also giving your children a wonderful gift – one last holiday season with their family intact.

So the real question for you is how do you make this year great for your kids and not destroy yourself in the process? Here are three tips to help you do just that:

  1. Focus on your kids. They’re a big part of why you made the decision to tough it out a little longer. Experience the season through their eyes. Keep them in the front of your mind. By doing this, you’ll be able to quickly self-correct and make sure you’re giving it your all to make their holidays magical and memorable. And you know that when they’re happy, you’re happy too.
  2. Be present and avoid ruminating about the past, worrying about the future or suffering with guilt over what you know is coming. Taking each moment as it comes with a focus on your kids’ experience will help keep you right here instead of taking side trips in your mind to the miserable mess your marriage has become or what is ahead of you, your spouse and your kids when you choose to fix the situation. You might just be surprised at how much fun you can still have when you are in the present.
  3. Know this is the last time you have to celebrate with your spouse and in-laws. For some this is the last time you will be with this side of your children’s family and you’ll want to soak up all of the beauty of the family time. For most though, it’s the very last time you will need to suffer through the discomfort of not quite being part of the family. Knowing it’s the last time can make getting through it easier because you can disconnect from the situation. So when your father-in-law tells that story-that-makes-you-cringe for the millionth time, you will know there won’t be a million and first time you’ll hear it.

This isn’t an easy task you’ve set for yourself. In fact, getting through the holidays will probably be more exhausting this year than usual. That’s because not being true to yourself is always exhausting. But, since you’re willing to give your children this gift, you will have the willpower and make it through. (And as you focus on the tips, you’ll find that you can even enjoy yourself too.)

However, part of you will want to continue to pull away from your spouse despite your best intentions. When the need to pull away becomes too great, it’s OK to excuse yourself and spend some time alone. Allow your frustration or guilt or sadness to wash over you and then refocus on why you’re doing this. Then, when you’re ready to be truly present again, join back in the celebrations.

The holidays will eventually come to an end. And when they do, you can tell your spouse what you know is true – that your marriage is over (at least as it is currently).

You will be able to move forward with your life – just after you celebrate this last holiday season with your kids and their entire family. Even as you’re toughing it out so you don’t “ruin” everyone else’s holidays, use the tips and find little joys you can celebrate so you don’t “ruin” your holidays either.

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.

The 5 Things Women Want From Their Man

Older woman looks up lovingly at her husband. These are the 5 things women want from their man

You might be surprised at how familiar these 5 things are.

Most men see women as being completely different from them and therefore almost impossible to understand – much less please.

It’s this great divide in understanding that keeps many men from having the relationship they really want with their woman (and their woman really wants with them) – a great one!

In an effort to help relationships everywhere, I’m going to let you in on the biggest secret we women seem to have. I’m going to tell you exactly what we want from a man. (Well, at least what most of us want.)

  1. A man she can be proud of and respectsYou being comfortable and confident in your own skin and in any situation is important to her. She will be showing you off to her family and friends and you definitely want that to go well. (Note: confident and cocky are two very different things.)

    You must have ambition. Not necessarily ambition to rule the world, but ambition to do something important because that shows commitment, discipline, a strong work ethic, and an ability to dream.

    She will always be proud of a man who is well-groomed. That doesn’t mean you’ve got to look like you just walked out of GQ, but it does mean you take care of your hygiene, wear clean clothes and take care of your health. (I wish this went without saying…)

    Being a strong man who is also compassionate and kind always commands respect. Strong isn’t necessarily measured by muscles, it’s also measured by character, intelligence and integrity.

    Finally, she will respect a man who is loved and respected by his family and friends. If his friends and family don’t admire him, why should she?

  2. A man who respects her
    You can show her respect by doing polite things like saying “thank you” and apologizing immediately on your own when you’re wrong.

    She will also know you respect her by your honesty (but not brutal honesty – remember the kindness and compassion stuff from above), your loyalty and treating her as your equal.

    Finally, she’ll know you respect her when you allow her to be her – even when it’s not all pretty or nice – without trying to fix her (unless, of course, she asks you to). Sometimes this means giving her time and space to take care of herself. And sometimes this means she will need you to forgive her immediately.

  3. A man she feels connected to
    For most women this connection is emotional and needs to be explicitly stated. So it’s important that you be emotionally available and vulnerable with her by sharing your fears and concerns. (Don’t worry, you’ll still be her Superman even if you have a concern or two every once in a while.)

    You can also foster the connection by being fully present with her when you’re having a conversation. So, put down the phone, step away from the keyboard, listen to what she has to say and engage with her.

    Another way to build connection with her is to purposely grow together by working toward common goals or dreams. She’ll love it when you support her, challenge and motivate her to go for what she wants out of her life too.

    Finally, she’ll feel close to you when she feels consistency and security in the relationship and when she knows you’ve got her back because you’ve got compatible values.

  4. A man she could fall in love with again and again
    So how to do this? Well, never stop dating her, so you keep the romance alive. Make it your goal to get her to smile and feel loved at least once a day.

    Spark her sensuality and sexuality. Go at her pace (at least sometimes) and not immediately for the home run each time you get to bat.

    Let her know she’s the perfect woman for you. Praise her beauty – what shows on the outside as well as what’s on the inside.

    Be interesting and engaging. Make her curious about you, what you’re thinking and what you’re doing. And keep things new and exciting – ruts are not your friend here.

  5. A man who is a man and not a man-child
    This probably goes without saying, but she wants to be your woman and not your mommy. So by all means take full responsibility for your emotions without blaming her. And hold up your end of making your lives work – take the initiative and do what needs to be done without being asked or expecting praise.

You know, when you really look at this list, it is pretty much what most men want from the woman in their life too.

Maybe the divide in understanding each other isn’t quite as great as we think at first if we remember that we’re all humans who basically want the same thing from a partner: someone you’re proud of, someone who respects you, someone you feel connected to, someone you could fall in love with again and again and someone who is an adult (but can still have fun).

I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach. I work with clients helping them get out of their post-divorce funks so they can go on to find love again, just like I did. And, 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 Wingman.