There is nothing easy about making or processing the decision to separate, however in making or processing the decision, you have a choice about what you do next, what steps you take, how you react, how you respond.
Over the many years that I have been helping women navigate their separation and untangle all that comes with this challenging time, there is a certain group of women I have observed do well after separation.
They are the ones who, despite the challenges they are facing, commit to making a choice between their happiness, or being right.
The smartest women I know choose happiness.
They use their separation as the opportunity for growth and personal development – they use the period after separation to take stock of their life – evaluating mistakes and successes and invest time and energy to discovering who they are, and what they want for their future.
They choose their battles. They choose a dignified approach. They choose respect – respect for themselves, the process, and their family.
This choice has been their key to rebuilding their life.
It is a process takes time, patience and dedication with many highs and lows.
However, in the end, these women are able to put their separation behind them and face their future as grounded, capable, stable and self-assured women who find the happiness they felt they had lost.
There are five main approaches and mindsets I have noticed smart women adopt, and which makes the difference in their recovery process.
- Set a time limit on your self-pity.
Smart women mindfully, and fully, take the steps necessary to shift their mindset from victim to survivor.
In the first year after separation, it is normal to grieve the end of your relationship, vent to your family and friends about every detail.
Some days are harder than others. However, at some point, smart women commit to making a deliberate shift in their mind from seeing themselves as a victim of separation.
This doesn’t mean negative feelings will magically disappear overnight. Loss of any kind is hard. Various emotions associated with grieving (denial; anger; bargaining; depression; acceptance) will roll on in when you least expect it.
It can be useful, at least in the early stages, to ask for help from your GP – whether by way of regular consultations, or a referral to a grief counsellor or psychologist.
Friends are also a great source of support if they are future focussed and upbeat – it’s far more beneficial to spend your time with those who are a source of strength and optimism.
Be kind to yourself. You will have bad days – and it’s okay to say to yourself “today isn’t a great day – but tomorrow, I’ll be back on track”.
2. Accept the economic reality of separation.
The smartest women come to terms with the reduced lifestyle they have after divorce – it’s to be expected that the income level that existed during the relationship will change after separation.
Combined income is divided. Assets are divided, debt follows the asset.
The unfortunate reality for many women is that we don’t get paid the same as men for comparable work, and your responsibilities towards caring for your children will have some impact on your career.
Don’t look at these as hurdles to happiness – you can choose to look at these realities in one of two ways:
- Accept the reduction in lifestyle and find joy in other things, such as spending time with your children, the opportunity to obtain flexible conditions in your employment to help you adapt to your changed circumstances; or
- When you feel the time is right for you (and your children), make some decisions that will improve your qualifications and/or earning capacity; pursue a new career; study some more to learn something that you have always been interested in.
Think of the opportunities either of these choices creates for you.
3. Take the time to understand their financial position and develop a 10-year Financial Plan
Smart women take charge of their finances during and after separation.
They hire a financial planner or an accountant to review and organize their finances and map out spending and goals for the next decade.
Although daunting at first, your separation may be the first time you have had to manage finances, create and understand your budget and plan for the future.
Although, at first, it can feel overwhelming – this step is immensely empowering.
There are a couple of things you can do to make this process less overwhelming.
First, empower yourself about financial planning – this is the most simple, easy to follow introduction to finances I have found: https://www.barefootinvestor.com/
Second, find an accountant or financial planner you feel comfortable with, who explains things to you in language you understand and helps you review and understand your income, spending and overall finances.
To get an introduction to budgeting, and an insight into your income and expenses, this link is useful: https://moneysmart.gov.au/budgeting/how-to-do-a-budget
Understanding your own financial circumstances is incredibly empowering – and will help you identify, and plan for, your future financial goals.
4. You cannot change your ex.
Smart women recognize they can’t change their ex.
They pick their battles, they let go of issues that don’t really matter or can’t be changed (for example, preferences about parenting styles, rather that with safety concerns or inconsiderate behaviour).
Smart women know there are certain situations to “let go” of, rather than try to change or control.
Smart women become introspective and curious. They try to identify and understand how a particular situation, or type of behaviour, triggers a response in themselves and rather than trying to change that behaviour, they bring self-awareness and compassion to the situation.
Smart women accept, with poise and wisdom, the general challenges associated with an ongoing shared parenting arrangement – knowing this is just the reality of divorce.
Smart women understand that shared parenting arrangements can be frustrating. Although from time to time it will feel like your ex’s behaviour is unfair and inconsiderate, the healthier approach will be to avoid getting upset over it, rather than trying to change it.
5. Future focussed. Self-compassion. Self-awareness.
Smart women focus their efforts post-separation to examining their life, goals, mistakes and then identifying the lessons learned.
Smart women spend time redefining their priorities and discover what’s meaningful to them – sometimes for the first time in a very long time, particularly if their identity has been tied to their husband and children.
Smart women recognise that being a wife, is only one part of who they are – they recognise they are many more things than a wife – and it is through separation, that smart women rediscover themselves as the individual human they are.
Megan Sweetlove is a divorce lawyer and the owner of Sweetlove Family Law. Megan has worked with families who are experiencing separation and divorce for over 10 years.
Using a kind, compassionate and caring approach, Megan will work with you to develop a strategy that will enable you to have a successful separation and to work out the best way to move forward, taking into account your economic and emotional needs.
If you or someone you know needs assistance during divorce you can organise a complimentary 20 minute phone appointment with Megan here.
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