And so we come to the last phase of our series on the questions you’ll want answered as you work through your divorce.
By now you’ve been through the Separation and worked through the (perhaps painful) adjustment of forging your own life.
The Settlement should now also be finalised and you should now have a reasonable idea of what your financial future is going to look like.
Moving into this third phase can, of course, be confronting, disturbing and potentially exciting.
To hopefully help you – in some small way – navigate this new terrain, here are ten questions that you should focus on answering:
1. ARE MY KIDS OK?
I have to confess that this has been the hardest point to address across the series. The combination of thinking about my son and my experience of my parent’s divorce has made the research particularly confronting.
Which is good, and why this is such an important question you’ll want answered.
By this stage, you’ve most likely had what I can only imagine is one of the most difficult conversations of your life and the kids know about your divorce.
You’ve probably worked out your custody arrangements and started the first steps of the slow shoe shuffle that is co-parenting.
But it’s still a good time to check in and see if the kids are ok.
Reassuringly, the simple facts are that, for most kids, they will be ok. After time they’ll adjust and find comfort in their new routines.
But it’s also clear that there are some ‘right’ things to do – and some ‘wrong’ things to do – when talking with kids about your divorce.
– Give them a clear, simple and honest explanation of what’s happening.
– Explain the mechanics of what’s happening – who’s moving out, when they’ll see each parent, and so on.
– Make it clear to them that this decision has nothing to do with them and was certainly not their fault.
– Use the kids as a go-between to relay messages to your ex.
– Criticise or complain about your ex in front of them.
– Use them as bargaining chips or pawns in negotiations with your ex.
There are some really helpful resources out there to help you work through this as well. Some that I found particularly valuable:
This will be an ongoing conversation, so I encourage you to reach out for help if you need it.
2. AM I OK?
The next consideration – or if you don’t have kids, the first one – is whether or not you’re ok.
You’ve been through one of life’s trauma’s and I believe it’s vital that you check in – periodically – to make sure you’re ok.
Are you looking after your health? Are you prioritising yourself? Are you eating well / exercising / sleeping?
And it’s important to keep an eye on your emotional and mental health.
(Family Relationships Australia has a good page summarising some actions you can take to wrest back control of your health too)
If nothing else, divorces can be emotionally draining. Even the most amicable relationship breakdown will carry with it a heavy emotional burden.
Reach out for help. Lean on your support network to talk through some of what’s going on and what you’re feeling.
(And if you’re part of that support network, check out this summary of article – “Five Things You Shouldn’t Say To a Friend Going Through Divorce”)
Similar to the questions around your safety I posed in the first two articles in this series, regularly asking yourself if you’re ok is incredibly important.
If you’re not ok, then it’ll allow you to explore that and hopefully give yourself permission to work through what’s troubling you.
Or if it’s bigger than that, it means that you’ll know when you can start looking for additional help.
(Beyond Blue has a good summary of the impact divorce can have on your mental health, while Family Relationships Australia offers a counselling facilitation service).
It’s a long journey, a divorce, and it can be bumpy and demanding. So it’s important to look after yourself.
3. CAN I DO THIS?
The short answer is “Yes, you can”.
But my saying that doesn’t really mean anything, does it?
There are plenty of places out there where you can find motivational ideas and platitudes but if you’ve read this blog for a while, you’ll know this isn’t one of them.
As much as I love the idea of my words filling someone with the self-belief to have them kicking down doors with a grin on their face, that’s not how I’m wired.
So let me instead explain some of the reasons I think you can handle the single life:
– You’ve been through the divorce and survived;
– Every person is significantly stronger than they think they are;
– This new part of your life might be difficult, but difficult doesn’t mean impossible;
– We live in a time where there is more support, information and examples to help guide you through the hills and valleys of life than you could ever need;
– The sun will rise tomorrow and each day the pain and grief will heal over. It’ll take a long time, but it happens;
– There are some pretty notable positives to come from living the single life – freedom to forge your own path and make your own decisions, the strengthening power of responsibility and control over your own time.
Now, I’m not silly enough to think these mean that the experience will be an easy one – difficult may not mean impossible, but it sure as hell doesn’t mean ‘easy’ either.
But, put on the spot and asked if I think you can do it, I’m going to say “yes, yes you can.”
And I bet that you’re strong enough to kick in doors, with a grin on your face too.
4. WHO AM I NOW?
Is there a bigger question on this list? I doubt it.
And this is well and truly outside the scope of my expertise.
I do know, however, that going from a life largely defined by your connection with another person, to one where that connection has been severed, is a severe case of emotional whiplash.
Re-discovering yourself is a large part of the divorce recovery programmes that I’ve seen.
So if you’re stuck trying to work out your identity in your brave new world, I recommend finding someone that can help. Perhaps a therapist or a counsellor, or a divorce coach.
5. WHAT LIFE DO I WANT – NOW AND IN THE FUTURE?
For better or worse, your life is now yours to direct, manage and take responsibility for.
This is, naturally, scary – especially if you’ve not examined your life and where you want it to take you. As I mentioned above, it can be confronting putting yourself first.
However…we get one run at this life, so why shouldn’t you live the one you want?
I mean, of course, we’re limited by our reality. But as most creative people will tell you, constraints can lead to magic.
Which is why I encourage you to take some time (and it will take some time, this isn’t a quick-chat-over-coffee discussion) to work out:
– What do you enjoy doing?
– What brings meaning and fulfilment to your life?
– What do you value?
– What legacy and impact do you want to have on the world and on the people closest to you?
Answering these questions (cheekily snuck into one of our 10 questions) will help you set the course of your life, and act as the waypoints to help you navigate to the life you want to live.
Now, you may not ever actually achieve this dream life. And that’s ok – it’s in the process of discovering these answers that you’ll burnish your day-to-day world.
Put crudely using the blunt instrument of mathematics – it’s better to get halfway to your ideal destination, than arrive where you don’t want to be.
So good luck and put yourself first for a little while!
I’ll wrap up part one of these questions here – be sure to check back in next week for the final 5 questions