One in three marriages in the United States end in divorce, and Peter McGraw has become the guy his friends call when they are getting divorced. In this episode, he speaks to Ruth Abraham, a Certified Professional Integrative coach, about the planning, execution, and aftermath of a divorce.
Listen to Episode #116 here
How To Get Divorced
One in three marriages in the United States ends in divorce. I have become the guy people call when they are getting divorced. I host this episode for selfish reasons so that it can help me help my friends do a better job getting divorced. In this episode, I speak to Ruth Abraham, a Certified Professional Integrative Coach working with divorced women and men. She helps them connect with their true values and ditch their inner critic so that they can bounce forward with competence in their post-divorce life. She and I discuss the planning, execution, and aftermath of a divorce. I hope you enjoy the episode. Let’s get started.
Peter, how are you?
I’m good. I’m glad to do this. I am completely out of my wheelhouse here. I have very little experience. I have never been divorced because I have never been married. I have some divorced parents, friends and sister, but I am by no means an expert, but that’s where you come in.
Maybe we will start with how you became an expert. How did you become a divorce coach?
It started with my own divorce. When I was divorced, I was a stay-at-home mother. When I chose to divorce, I had to get a job because I didn’t do anything for ten years. I went and get a job. I was in for nine months and got laid off. After that, I was at that 23-year-old. I was like, “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” I had no idea. I didn’t want to go back to what I was doing before. I took a temporary job. I was listening to a podcast of a master coach that I have been following. She added so much value to my life. I said, “This is what I want to do. This is my calling.” I went to become a life coach.
Through the process, I decided to do what I know, so I focus on divorce, showing people that they can get divorced. It’s not the end of their lives and they can come out a better person because that’s what I did. I went through my divorce and it was the best divorce I ever had. The only divorce I ever had. I want to show people that it does not have to be bitter. It does not have to be the end of the world. You come on greater on the other side.
That’s for our purposes. Let’s suppose the audience knows that they want to get divorced. They have done the work to figure out that this partnership is not working anymore. They want to make this break. What I would like to do is go through three stages with you and get your advice as someone who’s been divorced, as someone who has coached many divorced couples through the planning phase, the execution phase, and then the aftermath, the what’s next type of thing.
The reason I wanted to start with the planning is from my personal experience. I have had people contact me. It’s like when you have a show that extols the virtues of single living that celebrates and de-stigmatizes being single, people will look to you as an expert, even if you are not the expert in all elements of becoming single again. I have had people say to me, “I have decided I’m going to divorce X person.” I say, “What are you thinking about doing?” The response, “I think I’m going to tell him on Saturday.” I’m like, “Have you done anything else?” The answer is, “No, but I have made the decision. This is what’s happening.” I say, “Let’s slow down. You cannot say this. Ask this on Saturday,” and then I do my best here.
Here you are to help me do better in the future. I will make a joke. It’s real, but it’s not a joke. The first thing I tell someone when they are planning to get divorced is to change their passwords. I’m not sure that should be the first thing, but I always say that is the first thing. Let’s start with this. Do you have some overarching philosophy in this planning phase? How should someone think about the steps that they need to take once they have decided, “I am going to divorce.”
When people decide to divorce, it’s never a set of things. Normally, it’s about a couple of years in the making. There’s always something that you put one step forward, “I’m going to do it.” There’s something that happens that takes two steps back. When it comes down to people divorcing, I feel that there’s something that triggers it. There’s something that’s been going on and on and it triggers it, then you pull the band-aid off. As I said, people don’t wake up one day and say, “I’m going to divorce. I think I’m going to ask my husband.” It is a planning stage, but when they do, it’s also sitting with yourself and saying, “Why am I doing this?”
Also thinking about, “Do you have children?” Things like that. I’m not saying that you should stay for the children because I’m not a believer that is supposed to be done, but other people may. Once they decide and once they say, like your friend said, “I think I will tell him on Saturday. No, what else are you going to do?” I always recommend seeing an attorney. See a mediator or an attorney just to see what your rights are. What is it that you are entitled to, especially if it’s a working partner, a stay-at-home partner? You need to know as far as what your rights are and what you are walking into because it’s very easy to ask for a divorce. They get their attorney and all of a sudden, you may be blindsided by many things. That’s a big thing for the planning stage.
There seems to be something advantageous to being the person asking in the sense that you get to do some work in advance. As you mentioned, see a mediator and/or an attorney to talk through the rules and the laws in your state of residence. That I think is important because some states treat this process differently, depending on what state. We are talking about people in the United States and the residents they are. They have to look into what the ground rules are.
I did a little bit of googling, which is always dangerous. It’s like, “Make sure you have the grounds in your state of residence. Grounds are legally acceptable reasons for a divorce. There are some places you need to prove a reason for your divorce. The judge can grant you divorce or legal separation if the judge finds that the marriage is irretrievably broken.” This means that the marriage is no longer working. It cannot be fixed. That’s a language from Colorado. I’m sure it’s similar in other places.
There are a lot of states like Arizona. That’s a no-fault state.
I see, but you still need to get the state involved. This is something I wanted to ask about. You are right out of the gate to get legal support. I have this notion that I talked about often in the show about building a team. I say that singles need a team. A group of personal and professional connections to support you in living a remarkable life. I suspect that should also be the case for divorce and a lawyer and/or mediator would be a member of your divorce team, as I would call it. Who else might be part of that divorce team? Who else might you want to consult with, talk to, and seek their support?
There were a couple of other ones. I do have one as a divorced realtor. There are some realtors that are certified in divorce. They work with the couple. They are trained by judges and attorneys. They know the legalities of selling your home. Another is a financial advisor. A financial advisor gets a lot of instances. You may have one spouse that does all the finances. The other spouse may not know anything that’s going on. It’s checking in with the financial advisor, how to open an account, and how to get things transferred. Maybe have some of that knowledge even beforehand.
As I said, you don’t know where your place is at the moment and you want to make sure that you get your ducks in a row. You hate to say that, but there’s no hidden money elsewhere, so you want to make sure that’s not a thing. Another one is a therapist because a therapist is very recovery-focused and sometimes someone needs to see a therapist versus a coach. That would be one. Another would be on my team, someone that does alternative healing, maybe a naturopath, things like that.
When you get divorced, there’s not only emotional pain. There is a lot of physical pain because a lot of chronic stress can lead to ulcers or high blood pressure, many physical ailments that we don’t think of. Having a naturopath and doing alternative healing, whether it be meditation, yoga, Reiki or acupuncture, or what have you. One is a divorce coach and the other is your friends and family. Having that support of those who love you but also being open-minded and not hearing those negative thoughts all the time because that’s what you can do with family and friends.
I would say yes, but I think your list is outstanding if I may editorialize a little bit. It connects to some of the ideas and advice that I give to my future divorced friends and family members. I will step back here. You outlined the legal, the financial, and the emotional/physical in that sense. A big proponent is having a therapist or a coach, depending on what your needs are. I have a suspicion and I always talk about offering a willingness to go to couples therapy so to have a second therapist that the two of you can go to as needed.
All of this stuff does reinforce my joke about changing your passwords because of what a delicate situation this is. You would not want your partner to find out that you are divorcing them because of an errant message or something like that. It has to be quite discreet as you are planning this, especially if you are contemplating it and figuring out, “What is this going to look like? When should I do this and so on?” I would say this, if you are doing a good job communicating in your relationship, the choice to divorce should not be a surprise.
I always say, “You should not drop a bomb on this person. They should not be thinking that everything is fine.” Over breakfast one day, “Pass me the orange juice. By the way, I want to get divorced.” That should not be a moment in time but getting back to this emotional support. The reason I say to pick those friends and family carefully is because not all of them are going to support your decision. Many of them are inculcated in a world that says, “Divorce is not okay. It’s a failure. You got to gut it out. You got to stick it out, especially if there are children involved.”
They don’t recognize the pain that you have to be in to decide to do this. It’s not something that people do arbitrarily. They don’t do it lightly. At least, most, overwhelmingly, don’t do it lightly. Find the people who are going to be supportive of it. It’s why people call me because they know that I’m going to be supportive of their decision. That I want to see them happy. They also know that I’m going to do my best to see that their partner is also taken care of that. This is a, “Only because you are separating a marriage doesn’t mean you should be harming another person.”
I want to ask about and follow up on this idea. You mentioned health and I think you are right. It’s stressful, stigmatized, and it’s going to be painful even if you know it’s the right thing to do. There can be a lot of conflicts. It can be a lot of anger, guilt, and so on. These have physical, emotional, and psychological costs. I do want a second idea of health. Whenever things go south or there’s a problem, I always say, “Focus on your health.”
If you drink alcohol, cut back or stop. Don’t stop exercising. Double down on your eating. Make sure you are getting enough rest. The work and social stuff can take a back seat to be able to have a good healthy foundation to be able to cope with this and do it well. I think you already mentioned some things like yoga and so on. That’s there. Is that part of your coaching practice to get people to work through the physical, emotional, and psychological side of this?
I do because this is a whole different life that you are having. Whether you did anything prior to your divorce, it does. It makes a significant effect on your body. I have seen a lot of people that have divorced that have sat in the corner, drank, and ate the feelings. Maybe they are on the other side. I have seen people are overly workout, thinking, “I need to find that next best thing.” It’s a huge part. Not only the mental but physical. I do focus on that.
As part of seeing this lawyer and/or mediator, I assume this is about finding out what the process is going to look like. What are the requirements? What is the timeline? What are the necessary steps, optional steps, and so on? Are there any particular questions that you should make sure you ask these experts about this impending process?
The question I would ask one is maybe, do I get alimony? When is child support in our state? It’s all by formula. It’s on some calculation. Can I stay in the house until we divorce? Those types of questions are, I think that you’d want answers to prior. You also think too. Also, first, decide. Do you want it to go to a mediator? Do you think it would be amicable enough to go to a mediator versus do I need to hire an attorney?
It seems like all things are equal. A mediator is a superior option. I know that in some states, it’s required that you try mediation first. If you don’t come to a resolution, then you have to go through the normal court proceedings. It depends on your state. You have to figure out what that is. I assume you find a divorce attorney and/or mediator through word of mouth or Google searching. I am sure if you hire a divorce coach first. They have people at their disposal.
Normally, word of mouth is always great. That’s how, when I got divorced, I went through a mediator. It was word of mouth. I didn’t even entertain going through an attorney because I was also looking at the cost. I don’t feel that when people look at this, they think of a divorce coach because even now, a lot of people have never even heard of a divorce coach. I don’t think that would come to mind.
That’s why I wanted to have you on here because I believe in expertise in the same way that a good financial planner is worth the money you pay him or her. They save you or help make you money in other ways. I have had my financial planner money, Amy, on here. She’s worth every penny of her hourly rate. I believe that to be the case for other forms of support and coaching and so on.
I also wanted someone who sees the entire field rather than bringing on a mediator, lawyer, or someone like that. Let’s talk about money because it’s impossible to get divorced and not talk about money. As you already said, there’s a formula. There’s a financial planner of some sort that you should talk to.
My belief about this is very strong. It should be a fee-based financial planner. Someone you pay by the hour for their advice. For example, I have read things about you having to look at your full financial picture, but you may also want to begin doing something like establishing your own credit. In case things are not amicable that you have the ability to pay your own bills. You are starting to establish your own financial independence from your partner. Does that advice ring true? Is that something that you talk to your clients about?
I have given a broad overview of seeing with a financial advisor. I don’t recommend, as far as going so far as telling them to get your own credit. A financial advisor they are going to tell you what your rights are as far as the QDRO, plan for QDRO, or if there are any type of assets anywhere else. Basically, real estate versus if it’s all in a brokerage house. That is very tough, especially if you don’t know anything about your finances. That is something that I would do prior to doing a low investigation on that.
How costly is the divorce? From the bare minimum, a very amicable do-it-yourself, all the way to the most contentious long-drawn-out battle. What range are we talking about? These numbers, in my imagination, are scary numbers, but for someone to be prepared. What might they be?
It depends. If it’s very amicable, you both decide that, “Yes, this is not working out.” You could even download files and divorce papers on the internet. That could be easy to get as low as $300. Mediation is the second level because they work with both couples. Usually, it’s a fast process. You are like, “Do you want this and that?” It can be very quick, and then you go to the attorney where there’s no reconciliation. There are arguments left and right about who gets the coffee table. You can talk $50,000 and the high thousands. It depends on when you go into your divorce and what is the best fit.
One of the things that when I advise my friends and family members who are doing this, I always do say, “Don’t make this person an enemy. Do whatever you can to make this cooperative rather than adversarial.” Not only because of the dollar amounts but because of the stress and strain. If there are kids involved, you are still linked to this person. You have co-parenting moving forward. Everything is about what’s in your best interest, what’s in the best interest of any children.
Even what’s even in the best interest of this person that you chose to be your partner is to keep things as amicable, fair, and communicative as possible in order to avoid a $50,000 bill, for example. The cost of divorce is already very expensive. You have to create another residence and so on. It’s not like income goes up commensurately with those expenses. You are already facing some financial challenges.
You said very quickly and I think very quickly is relative. Let’s also look at the full range of quick to slow. Let’s ignore the fact that the pandemic may slow some of this stuff down because the courts are backed up and so on. In general, are we talking weeks, months, and years along that same continuum of very amicable agreeing on everything from mediation to adversarial?
As far as quick online, in the state of Arizona, you cannot be divorced under 60 days. It’s like that 60-day grace period that you go through. You may have a change of heart, so they give it that timeline.
Can I interrupt? There’s no 60-day waiting period to get married. Is that amazing? You can show up at the courthouse and, six minutes later, be married. If you want to get divorced, the government says, “You have to wait 60 days to make sure you want to do this.”
When you look at it that way, it is pretty funny.
It’s easy and cheap to get married. You can get married fast and everything’s there. I’m sorry I had the editorialize there. There’s a waiting period of some sort and that’s pretty typical.
I’m not sure about all of the states. I know there is a waiting period in some states. I don’t know which ones, but there’s something similar. Who knows? Some people do change your mind. The next step is mediation. I can only speak to myself during mediation, too, because I went to mediation. We had the easiest divorce. I filed in December and we were divorced by March because there was no fighting about anything.
Easy as 4 or 5 months.
If you go through an attorney, it could be years.
Before we switch to the actual execution of this, we have already talked a little bit about things beyond planning here. It strikes me that everything is pushing you towards making this amicable and not adversarial and yet, people end up in an adversarial situation. Paying tens of thousands of dollars and maybe taking years to get divorced. In your experience, what are the errors that people make? What are the situations that get them into that worst-case scenario?
Ego. I think a lot of it is wanting to win or not wanting to let go of something that has been their safety net for years. It turns into where the pain turns into more anger and bitterness.
This is why I say don’t drop a bomb and it’s usually him. The majority of divorces are initiated by women. I think it’s about 80%. I’m like, “Do not turn him into an enemy because it’s going to make it worse for you. Hence, doing this advanced work.” Let’s turn our attention to the execution of the divorce. The best place to start is how to ask for a divorce and when to ask for a divorce. Let’s assume you have done the pre-work and changed your passwords. What are the best practices in terms of asking when and how?
I don’t think there is a perfect time and place to do it. You have to go with a lot of things. Go with your gut and do it. Don’t do it after a night of a bottle of wine or anything like that. They might not be good but also, be in a good place with yourself. Don’t go to the place banker. As I said, it depends on the individual when and how they want to ask.
One of the things, depending on who I’m talking to, is I will say, “Is your partner going to be surprised by this?” They are more surprised that the person is going to be. You can tell me if you think this is bad advice because I want to learn how to do this better is to say, “I’m not happy. This is not working. I want to do a separation. I want to take a break from each other,” rather than, “I want to get divorced.” What is your feeling about that idea of not laying it all out right away? Instead, taking more of this, “I want to see how this feels for us to be separated, take a break, and see what life will be like.” That has the opportunity to ease this person into this change rather than this sudden shift.
If you want to ask him for a separation, a lot of people, it depends. They may say, “You already want to separate.” They may even jump further and say, “Let’s divorce.” Like you said, sitting down, asking them, and having an open conversation. “Are you happy?” A lot of times, going back to what I was saying before, usually it’s two years that women have been thinking about a divorce or men. I’m sorry. Whoever initiated has been thinking about wanting the divorce. During that two years, I believe that the partner has to have some type of notion that their spouse is not happy.
Usually, you have stopped having sex. If you have not had sex with your partner in a year, it’s not a surprise that things are not going well.
It might be a red flag.
You have to give credit.
I don’t think dropping the bomb, so to speak. I’m sure there’s something in the back of their mind that is saying, “This is going to come.” I’m going to hold down. One spouse is holding out.
I appreciate you saying that because I have not always been comfortable with that advice because it does not feel authentic and honest. I have a saying, which is to ask for what you want. If you want a divorce, it’s reasonable to ask for the divorce. My conflict here is how do you go about maintaining an amicable situation? Some of it is, you know your partner as well as anyone and to figure out how he or she is going to respond and trying to create a situation that gets you to that place but does it in a way that’s best while also maintaining some honesty, authenticity, and compassion because this is a special form of rejection.
You are often rejected in relationships, whether by friends or by family, when you are dating but when you have made a vow and when society says, “You must succeed. The only way this relationship is going to be successful is if someone dies while you are still married.” That form of rejection is incredibly difficult. Hence, why do people feel embarrassed about the stigma also then the hurt feelings. There’s a feeling of you are giving up on something you said you would never give up on until death do us part.
I think a lot of the mindset going into it as well. I remember my experience back when I was younger. I started dating. I would see that would date. They were friends and they fell in love. They got married and everything was great, then they got divorced. That friendship, all that happened that prior, was gone. I could not wrap my head around it. I could not understand how people go through a relationship like that. It’s changing that mindset and saying, “They were my friend prior. They were not my husband or lover. They are a person. They are an individual. I loved them for a reason. Why should I be so bitter afterward?”
It’s asking questions of what it is and it’s always something deeper that’s making them that way, but I do agree. You need to have compassion for the other person, especially when you have kids, because they are going to be in your life for the rest of their lives. You can’t change what your partner thinks. You can’t control that. You can control how you show up to the conversation. You bring in the compassion and your mindset. If you do that and you go through the process in a positive way. Energy is contagious. You will see that shift in your ex-spouse that may say, “It’s not doing anybody any favors of acting this way or feeling this way,” but it does not happen overnight too. It’s working on how you want to show up, if that makes sense.
That’s well said. I do think that the more integrity you act with, the more the likelihood that your partner will. I do lament this idea that it is all or nothing. This belief is that because our romantic and intimate relationship did not work out that we can’t remain friends. There’s this feeling of like, “I can’t talk anymore or I don’t like the person.” All of this around what’s seen as a failure rather than as a change to a relationship. Again, you are fighting expectations.
You mentioned kids. Let’s talk about kids because it’s difficult to escape this question and the lion’s share of people who get divorced have kids. I know that certain kids keep people together longer than they would otherwise, or kids are a consideration. It’s like, “I want to do it now before the kids get too old, or let’s suffer through this until the kids are in college or beyond.” Here we sit in this empty nest with each other and the idea of doing another twenty years together is unappealing. Are there any special considerations when there are children in terms of executing a divorce?
You have to ask yourself, “Am I willing to stay in a marriage where I’m unhappy for the children?” That only you can answer. Some people have been maybe brought up that way. You stay for the kids. Your parents were married and maybe divorced afterward. They stayed for you. It’s a preference. I do feel that staying for the children, you are putting your life on hold, so to speak. You are not happy in a marriage. If your children are young, you are thinking, “I have got another sixteen years, what do I do? How do I cope?” You pretty much put your life on hold.
Your identity is in your children and your husband or your wife. How to talk to the kids? I would say have a conversation first with your soon-to-be ex-spouse and how you are going to approach it. Make sure you are both on the same page because when one person initiates it, the other person may feel like the victim. If they put that onto the child, which is never good, then one parent is the bad guy. It’s having that open conversation before you talk to him.
One of the things that happens a lot and I think it’s intuitive to do, but it might not have the right effect. That is, if you say to your kids, “It’s not your fault.” You want the kids to know it’s not their fault. The thing is, I don’t think kids naturally think it’s their fault. The moment you say it’s not your fault, the thing you say to someone when it’s their fault.
I could imagine the kid would be like, “I did not think it was my fault until they started telling me it was not my fault.” It’s probably much better to put it on you, the parents, to express your love and support for your children. It was like, “No matter what happens between mom and dad, we will always love and support you. We want you to be happy. Things are going to change, but we believe that this is going to be for the best of the family.” Nowhere in that do you have to go, “We are not breaking up because of you.” That’s my reaction to this. As also a kid whose parents divorced and whose parents told him and his sister, “It’s not your fault.” Take that for what it’s worth as a reader.
It’s like, “Maybe I will make my bed, then I will start cleaning my room.” As you said, it is not your fault, but when you were speaking about it, you were always using the word we. We is a unified decision, letting the child know that it’s something that mommy and daddy both agreed on.
I have a SOLO community, which you can sign up for at PeterMcGraw.org/solo. There’s also a Facebook group by Bella DePaulo, which is a community of single people. I put the question to them, what do you wish you knew before your divorce? There were a couple of comments about name changes that I thought were interesting. This is not something I considered. I have never been divorced. My own opinion is that it’s up to you if you want to take your spouse’s name, especially if you have children. I could see how you would make a case for it. If you get divorced, you have a choice. Do you keep that spouse’s name or do you return to your previous name?
Two responses stood out. One person said, “Honestly, how much work would it be to change my name back because I did not include it in the divorce?” Someone else wrote, “I included my name changed in the divorce and it was still way too much hassle.” I think this is a consideration for people. It’s probably unanticipated but one that if you have changed your name and decide to change it back, you will have to address and be prepared evidently, depending on where you live, for some extra work.
Changing your name is hard for a woman, for one. When you get married, you have to do a lot to change your name. When you get divorced, it depends. If you have kids, it’s easier to keep the married name. If you are maybe in a career that people know you by your married name, keep it then. Some people that had a bad divorce want to get rid of that name. As you said, the paperwork. Do you want to go through that? Be indifferent about it.
The takeaway from these comments was, “Be prepared that if you do decide to go back, it’s not going to be easy per se.” Let’s talk about talking to other people about it. This is not something that will remain a secret. The word gets out. When you coach people, what advice do you have for when do you tell other people? How do you tell other people? I assume that it should be something that you and your partner agree on in terms of the timing of this unifying message. I’m an optimist, so I’m assuming that this is not adversarial in the case of more cooperative divorces. What advice do you have about when to tell and how to tell and whom to tell?
When to tell is after you have had the conversation with your children that you are getting divorced, and with your spouse of when you tell. As far as who you tell, family, they will know. They know quickly. I think family is one and close friends. The support, the friends that you know that are going to be there through the process. Nowadays, it’s so hard because people post everything on social media when they get married, get a new dog, or get divorced and that’s the thing. You don’t want to put it on social media because we have friends if your spouse sees it. You don’t want the questions to arise that you are not prepared to answer or not willing to answer.
I see it many times where there’s always one being at the other. When you tell someone, it’s not to say, “My husband is such a jerk. We are divorcing and ABCD of everything that he did.” Instead of saying that, even if you have to finagle the truth, say, “We decided. We chose to.” Instead of making a one at the other because a lot of times, you have mutual friends and you want them to stay friends with them, or at least be there to support them if they need to.
One of the elements of telling people is to be prepared for the full range of their responses and how their biases are going to be revealed. I have received some coaching myself. When people tell me they are getting divorced, I would often say congratulations. Sometimes that is welcome because so many people are like, “I’m so sorry,” and so on. A previous guest, Amy Gahran has given me a much better repertoire when it comes to this. That is to say, “How do you feel about it?” If the person says, “I’m happy. I think it’s the right decision,” then I can say, “Congratulations.” If they say, “I’m suffering. I’m having a hard time.” I can say, “I’m sorry to hear that. How can I support you?”
To recognize that mom might be completely in your corner and say, “Whatever you need,” or she might say, “I think you are making a huge mistake. Don’t do this.” To recognize that it is amazing how strangers even will have an opinion about how you should be treating your relationship. They don’t have any skin in the game. They don’t have to deal with the aftermath of this, but they have strong opinions about whether you should divorce or not and whatnot.
In the disclosure process, be aware of how some people may be supportive and how some may not be supportive. Maybe judgmental. May not even accept this, push back on your decision, and have the right response that says to them, “I understand how you feel that way. I’m sure that if you were in this situation, that’s how you would respond, but this is my relationship. I believe that this is the right choice for me and my partner.” To recognize that you might not be a good person to lean on as part of your team moving forward because they will reveal that their perspective about the relationship outweighs their perspective about your happiness.
Like you said when talking to family or friends. I always tell people and it took me a long time to realize that my thoughts are not facts. Your thoughts are not facts. They are only thoughts. I think we grew up because society and everyone told us, “You should think this way. You should do this way, so we always thought.” People are saying, “You are making a big mistake.” Accepting. That’s being a good mindset of accepting that, “Thank you,” and not taking it any further because they don’t know the backstory.
Let’s talk about the aftermath. Let’s say you have asked, worked it out, told the world, waited the 4 months to 4 years, and the divorce is finalized or, it’s done, so to speak. Do you have some overarching philosophy in terms of coaching your clients to be prepared for solo life on the other side? You already alluded to one thing. Some people are already working on, “How do I replace this?” My guess is that’s maybe not the best place to start for the average person but do you have some overarching perspective to share?
When it is over, a lot of people all of a sudden are like, “What do I do? I’m in a different life. How do I go on from here? How do I create my new life?” That’s why with coaching, it’s like you tap into a lot of things because you want to see, “What are your goals now for your next life? Do you want to run marathons? Do you want to get remarried? What are the goals?” Working on things to get to those goals because, like you said, some people are ready to rush into a new relationship.
What’s going to happen is they are so caught up in doing that, that they don’t work about what was going on inside that they end up making the same mistake. They ended up dating the same type of man or woman. It’s working on what’s inside. With my coaching practice, I work on some categories or pillars that we focus on to get deep into who you are so you can reconnect with your authentic self.
What are some of those pillars?
One is we do work with the inner critic. Everyone has those limiting beliefs of, “I can’t do it. I’m not good enough. What if?” Those are usually the inner critic. They could be from your head or the voice from your spouse’s head. It’s the voice of your spouse, parent, society, and anything like that. It’s working through that and getting rid of that inner critic, working through the limiting beliefs and doing that. Another one is I teach compassionate communication. It’s not speaking to other people compassionately but speaking to yourself compassionately because a lot of people don’t. It’s very easy to thank the people for something, but do you thank yourself. It’s harder to get through that.
This reminds me of a quote by Sharon Salzberg and I will butcher it, but I will do my best. It says, “You can search the entire world for someone more deserving of love than yourself and you won’t find that person anywhere.” I think that’s a nice reminder that you have to love yourself. You don’t criticize and you don’t talk down to other people you love. You should not do it to yourself.
That’s an important perspective for people to gain, especially during a time when they may want to criticize themselves. They feel like they have failed. They feel like they could have done this better or they have regrets. In order to be able to move on, be able to have compassion for yourself and forgive yourself, and love yourself is important.
I want to teach people how to be resilient too. I don’t want to necessarily bounce back. I want to teach people how to bounce forward. You have a new life now. Let’s bounce forward to that new life.
One of the things that I talk about is the opportunities that singlehood provides someone. When you are not dedicating all of this time and energy to this partnership. This partnership is supposed to be everything. It opens up possibilities to spend that time and energy doing other things to do remarkable things, as I like to say.
Spending a little bit of time journaling, talking to people, and reflecting to say, “What do I want this next stage in my life to be? How can I make it the best life for me rather than what the best life that society says should be?” It’s important. I’m a big fan of a reinvention. This is a perfect opportunity for reinvention, a chance for a fresh start. I like the idea of a new look, a new haircut, a new wardrobe, and a new exercise plan to kickstart a little bit of that feeling good about yourself and restoring that confidence.
When you look good, feel good, and are dressed well, you will feel more confident, then people will treat you like a more confident person. I’m not suggesting this so you can find another person. If you want a date, you want to be appealing, but you do it for yourself. It’s a nice way to usher in this new stage in life. What about dating? What advice do you give people? I can imagine you might not have had sex in a couple of years and you might be excited to have a new partner. What advice do you give in terms of navigating this? You might have been out of the dating game for a long time. What are these strange apps? There is a lot that has changed in the world, but what’s the perspective that you share?
I suggest not to date right away. I suggest working on yourself.
Date yourself, let’s say.
You need to date yourself and love yourself, but I also think that one is to sit down, reflect and write down what you want. Not what society wants and what your friends think that you should want because you are the expert in your life. No one else is. Write down what you want. Not what you don’t want because you don’t want to put out to the universe what you don’t want. See and be true to yourself because there are many divorced men and women thinking, “I will never find love again.” That’s a big question.
They want to jump into something godless, if it’s right or wrong. If you know what you want, it’s easy to weed out people, especially the dating apps. I have seen people like, “What is his age now?” I did the same thing. My friends are like, “Swipe right, now, swipe left.” I thought, “This is exhausting.” It’s not organic. It’s like a numbers game. I would not recommend dating right away. I would recommend sitting with yourself. You have been in a marriage. You have been with someone else. Be alone and be comfortable being alone.
I think a natural idea is, “I’m supposed to do this.” I will share some statistics, 50% of American single adults are not interested in dating or relationships at the moment. It’s normal not to be interested in doing this thing. Many people who divorce decide, “I have done that with my life. I have raised a family. I have had a partner and I want to do other things.” Other people say, “I would like to have some companionship, but it does not need to look like the relationship escalator.” I like your thing about what is it that I want to have? What is the range of possibilities? No reason to rush it. If you are going to remain solo, there’s plenty of time to create this new life.
If you are going to pursue some relationship or deeper partnership, there is plenty of time to do that. To be honest, the more work you do and the better your reinvention, the more appealing partners you will be anyway. People can smell desperation. I think that your decision-making can be clouded in this way. What about the people who come after you? This came up in my questions to the two communities that I referred. The idea of like, “Ruth’s on the market now.” Whether that be other people in your life, other friends, ex-husbands, or ex-wives, these sometimes are small communities and so on. That strikes me as potentially awkward and also something that should be navigated with some delicacy.
That’s something I have not before, as far as coming out after you. I’m thinking, that’s like, “Were they stalking you for a long time?” “I don’t know.” That’s new to me.
I’m happy to hear that. We have talked about kids. There’s a whole life post-divorce with children. I’m going to make a plug for a set of episodes that have already come out on solo parenting, where I do a deep dive with two solo parents about the challenges and opportunities that come from being a solo parent. Is there anything in particular with regard to your coaching moving into this world of co-parenting that you think is important to share with someone who’s considering getting divorced?
When it comes to co-parenting, work together and do what’s right for the child. Regardless of the feelings that you have for each other, sometimes you need to put that aside and focus. Ask yourself, “What would I want?” If you are never sure, ask yourself what you would want in that situation and deliver it that way.
That’s echoed in the episode that I talked about. It is hard for people to do because so much of this feels like it’s about winning. You are only winning as co-parents if you have happy kids.
It’s the ego that gets in the way. It’s taking that ego, putting it aside, and doing what’s right instead of trying to win.
This is where some of that team matters. Before you make a decision, it might be worthwhile talking to your financial planner, mediator, divorce attorney, friends, and family who are there to support you in order to get feedback about what is the best path forward that’s there. I always talk about you being solo, but you are not alone. Singles have big, diverse, interconnected communities supporting them. At least the ones who are thriving do. Don’t be afraid to lean on these people in the same way that they are not afraid to lean on you when they need it.
This has been very wonderful. It has not brought back too many bad memories of my own parent’s divorce. I’m happy my parents divorced. I wish they had you as a coach. It would have gone a lot better, let me tell you that. Is there any parting advice you have for anyone considering doing this or who is in the active planning process and about to become a regular reader of Solo?
I would say when you do decide to divorce, do your homework. Look out for yourself. Also, know that wherever your path takes you after your divorce, make sure that you are in a good place. That you have worked on yourself and that’s going to make you walk into your life to your highest potential.
I will leave it at that. Thank you, Ruth. It’s been a pleasure.
Thank you, Peter. I enjoyed it.
- Ruth Abraham
- Bella DePaulo
- Amy Gahran – Past episode – Defining Solo
About Ruth Abraham
Ruth Abraham is a Certified Professional Integrative Coach helping divorcees create and tell the story they want to become. After her own divorce, Ruth chose to follow her calling of becoming a divorce coach and lead an authentic life. Working with divorced women and men, Ruth helps them connect with their true values, ditch their inner critic so they can bounce forward with confidence into their post-divorce life!