We all anticipate divorce to wreak havoc on our emotions, but I think few people are prepared for its financial toll.
I was one of those people.
Before I divorced, my husband and I lead comfortable lives – we each made a six-figure salary and rarely did I think about how much was in our bank account – as long as I saw a figure with lots of zeros in my account, I was never worried.
When I retained a lawyer and put $5,000 on my credit card, it was still the biggest “purchase” I ever made, but I knew I had the money to pay it off. I was totally naïve to think that one retainer would pay for my divorce (insert laughter from the divorced, peanut gallery).
Within a few months, that retainer dried up. So then I had to pay for another. Then another. And then I had to find a place to live, and was required to put down first and last month’s rent as a deposit (yes, it was steep, but it’s the going rate where I live).
Within one year of separation, I was completely broke – $50,000 of savings was gone. The rest I had to depend on my husband who tied up our finances with the divorce. I wouldn’t receive child support for another year and half – and alimony was never an option.
Divorce and Debt – the perfect marriage, and I was married to both of them.
But while debt after divorce seems like an unforgivable, rite of passage to many – it doesn’t have to be – at least not long term.
First – and this is SO extremely important – stop saying you’re in debt.
Stop telling people how much you’re getting robbed from the divorce.
When someone offers you something fun to do, stop telling them you can’t afford it.
Stop looking at the married people as the “have’s” and divorced people as the “have nots.”
While debt IS real and very much a problem, the more you talk about it with others, the more you are married to it. Unless you are talking with a financial planner about how to solve your debt, your debt is nobody’s business but yours.
Debt should never be a long term partner – so stop telling everyone as if it is. The more you tell everyone you’re poor, the more you will be.
Second – make a plan. And I mean a serious, F-you kind of plan that kicks debt out of your life. And yes, I know this is difficult when you’re emotionally tapped. But the longer you wait to make a plan, the more you’ll be married to debt. And the more debt you’re in, the more tapped you’ll be – so stop the cycle before it gets worse!
Talk with a financial planner. Read books about money management.
Third – Create multiple savings accounts. You could create accounts for kid spending only (so when they ask you for that one toy at Target, you can say ‘no!’), groceries, fun spending, holiday gifts, vacation. By dividing your checking account into smaller savings accounts, you can easily move your savings money over to checking when it’s time to pay bills – but when that account is running low, you know you need to stop spending in that category for the month.
Fourth – Even when you’re in debt, you MUST spend money on you. This is so, so important, and don’t ignore this. Here’s why: when you constantly feel poor and you never spend on you, your resentment only attracts more poverty. You must always feel what it’s like to spend money, joyfully, otherwise you will literally forget.
So, when your “fun spending account” is reasonable, then reward yourself with something fun to do.
When you’re in control of your finances, you’re acting like a rich person – you’re managing your finances. And when you act rich, you become rich. When you maintain control, you actually get more control.
Now go divorce your debt and be happily ever after.
I recently received an email and with her permission, she allowed me to share it with you. Here goes:
I have been separated for 2 years (divorce still pending), and now I am dating. When I first started dating, I was confident and didn’t care what the outcome was with my dates. But I find that if I have more than two dates with someone, I get paranoid as to when they’re going to call me, or if they don’t call at all, I get so upset! I hardly recognize myself anymore. And before I was divorced, men used to hit on me all the time – but now that I’m single, I hardly see it. It’s almost I was more confident when I was unhappily married than I am now. Why is that? I feel like there is no hope for me!
Shannon (name changed for privacy)
Oh, dearest Shannon (and anyone else plagued by the lack of confidence) – I remember those days well. It’s the old adage of a “watched pot never boils” or “when you’re least expecting it, love finds you.”
So here you are, all ready and willing to date, but now you’re mojo is off! But here’s what’s really going on – you’re relating “confidence” to dating, and you’re transferring your power to another.
Let’s break both of those down:
Feeling confident is not the result of something happening – it’s a feeling that should be rooted within YOU, no matter what happens. So when someone doesn’t call you (even after a couple of great dates), your attitude should be – “He must not be ready to date, or perhaps he has commitment issues. And I don’t want someone like that! I just dodged a bullet!” You’re fine with who you are, no matter who calls you, or who doesn’t.
When you transfer your power to another, you’re basically giving that person permission to dictate your life, your mood, and your daily attitude – and unless that person is a narcissist, no one really wants that role.
Here’s an example – Have you ever tried to sell something because you really, really needed the money? You’re so desperate to have that sale, you’re even willing to go less on the face value and thus, your buyer is now totally in control. Here, you give away your power to the buyer, and boy, do they know it.
Conversely, have you ever sold something that you could really care less on whether it sold or not? I bet you got it for MORE money, or you had multiple offers on it. You maintained full control and power, people wanted it even MORE!
Dating is the same way. You don’t have to be desperate for your date to pick up on the fact that you want them – and with so little words, it could be a turn off. Just the slightest showing of lack of confidence and they may move on.
So it’s important that dating is a part of your life, but not your entire life. You’ll be fine if they don’t call, because you’re busy doing other things. Or perhaps your DVR is full of recorded episodes and you’re going to have a date night with yourself.
Confidence means you’re fine whether or not your Saturday night is booked. Don’t allow dating to fill a void in your life – YOU must fill it with other things. Because when that guy cancels on you, you will feel the void even more – you’ll start beating yourself up, thinking horrible things, and wondering if you should have ever gotten that divorce at all.
Dating is a lot like job interviewing – it’s always better to interview for a job when you have a job, right? Because it’s easy to pick and choose the right job versus being desperate for one. Ask yourself why you’re dating. Your answer should be, “Because it’s fun. I get to meet new people. I like to go out and try new things” not, “Because I’m lonely. Everyone has a partner except for me. Unless I’m on a date, I do nothing exciting.”
If your answer is the latter, take a break from dating – try dating you first. If you’re not comfortable with that, then why would anyone else want to date you?
Confidence comes from within, and not from another person. And once you own it, be prepared for multiple offers, and pick and choose the right ones! Have fun with it.
I recently saw a news story about how a man was trapped in his car while it was on fire alongside a highway. His car was turned on its side and two good Samaritans pulled over to help the trapped man. Just two men were able to lift the car up and pull the man from safety. One of the good Samaritans was interviewed on TV, and was asked how he had the strength to lift an entire vehicle off the ground.
He said, “I was so terrified that the man was going to burn to death, I just did it. Oddly enough, the car wasn’t even heavy – I just willed it to happen!”
It is amazing how when a human being focuses on something so intently, he can lift a car with almost zero pain or effort. When we focus on what we want, powerful things can happen.
In this story, the man never worried about the “what if.” He never thought, what if I die, what if I get hurt, what if I can’t do it. He only thought about the positive outcome, and so it happened – he saved a man’s life.
My dear soul, you have the exact power to do the same with your life. Perhaps things haven’t gone your way. And perhaps nothing has been favored to you in a very long time. But what has been hasn’t nothing to do with what WILL be. All you have to do is simply shift your focus.
I’m going to list a sundry of negative things that may be happening in your life – these are based on what I hear, every day, from my clients and those who write me. See if this is you:
My ex won’t pay child support
My ex is constantly badgering me with one issue or another – will he ever go away?
I’m dating nothing but losers. No matter what I do, the date never works out.
My soon to be ex is constantly depressed or angry – I can’t avoid the negativity!
I’m exhausted – I don’t even know who I am anymore. I don’t even look like me!
I have this new business idea, but it’s just not working out – no matter how hard I try, I find some kind of obstacle – maybe I’m not cut out for this stuff.
My ex won’t _____ (fill in the blank of the constant crap your ex doesn’t do).
Yes, those exes of ours really can be pains in the butt! Or yes, life certainly is more of a challenge than you ever thought it could be. But YES – the more you focus on what HAS BEEN, the more negative crap you’re going to experience. The more you tell yourself the same negative story, the more that story continues.
I can hear you now: “But Lindsey, he/she REALLY is a demon in my life. All they do is try to destroy me, daily!”
And I say to you: “Yes, the more you focus on that, you give that person the actual ability to destroy you, and so it will happen.”
Stop focusing on what HAS been. What do you want? Like the good Samaritan did with the car, what do you WILL to happen for you? If you truly want something that badly, and are 100% clear with your objective, you will lift some powerful things out of your life and welcome new things in it.
Now I hear you say, “Okay, Lindsey, I’ve been wanting my ex to pay child support, but I can’t control his actions – so how can I make this happen?”
Because your ex is your ex, you likely hold significant negative emotions around that person. So just thinking about your ex is already a negative thought, so of course, getting child support is a constant negative experience, even though you think it isn’t.
So how can you think about getting child support differently? Well, let’s say child support is $1,200. Rather than having the thought (every single month), “he owes me,” try thinking about WHY this money is beneficial to you. What positive things come from getting this money?
If it helps pay for groceries, then think of all the beautiful food you will prepare for your children.
If it helps pay for braces, then visualize your child’s beautiful smile when she is finished with her treatment.
If it helps pay your mortgage, then visualize the fun and laughter you will have in your home for months to come.
If the $1,200 is incredibly important to you, think about that money coming to you, effortlessly, and not WHO is giving it to you, or HOW you will get it. Think about what WILL be, once you have that money.
Do you see how pivoting your focus on the positive outcomes of the thing that you want, suddenly removes the negative feeling? When you do this, who knows, you may just get $1,200 elsewhere – perhaps a bonus, or from a new client!
No matter where you are in your divorce journey – whether an important court case is coming up, or you’re looking to meet someone new – focus on the WHY you want the outcome and not the negative experience it may bring to you.
Now let’s go lift some cars together, and WILL it to happen!
So here you are, trying to have a good weekend, and for once, things are starting to feel normal. You managed not to fall apart, and you even had hope that your life is about to get better.
Then you get a text from your ex. You see his name pop up on your phone, and before you even read it, it feels like a punch in the gut. Your heart beats a little faster. You begin to form sweat beads on your forehead. A mental conversation battles in your head. You think, “Should I open it or should I just delete it without reading it?”
Of course, you open it.
The text goes something like this:
I want to take the kids away this weekend but it’s your weekend so I wondered if we could switch. I have fantastic plans of (fill in the blank) and they will be so excited.
You already have plans with the kids, but his plans seem a lot more fun, and the kids would enjoy it. But you feel a pang of guilt that his plans are better than yours. So you consider giving up your weekend.
But then you realize that you would miss your kids, and have every right to have them, regardless of your plans not being as fun.
So you reply back:
That sounds great, but I already have plans with them. Perhaps you can do that with them on your weekend.
Once you hit send, you know you’re in trouble. Now you’re just waiting for the backlash, feeling like a little kid who is about to get scolded from their teacher.
And just like you expect, you get 15 text messages in a row. They may go like this:
Geeze, you really are selfish. I can’t do it another weekend because we just got invited to (fill in the blank) and it’s only happening this weekend. It’s so obvious you’re trying to take special time away from me and the kids. You see, this is why we are divorced, because you NEVER like to have fun, and here I’m trying to do something the kids will like, and now they’ll turn out just like you – boring and selfish.
And boom – just like that, you feel terrible. And because you already think you’re boring, you think there’s truth to the accusation. You’re also saying to yourself, “Whenever I try to stick to my boundaries, I get beat up. This isn’t worth it!”
But here’s what’s really going on, and you’re not seeing it:
1) He has zero regard for your plans with the kids, and doesn’t respect their time with you.
2) Having a last minute request for change of plans may be fair, but healthy people take that into consideration and don’t attack should they not get their way.
3) He knows every single one of your insecurities – after all, you were married for a long time. Think of your insecurities as a Rolodex to him – he doesn’t get his way and he pulls out the list and will attack you on them, one by one.
4) You’ve never fought back before, so he thinks you won’t now. But each time you do creates an “injury” to him – it’s sending him a subconscious message of, “See, you’re not that special or powerful after all.”
5) And because he is threatened by anyone who challenges his false sense of self, he will throw you the “book of insults.” (Look at how Donald Trump has behaved this past week after the debate – the more he loses, the more he insults, Tweets at 3 am, and punishes anyone who threatens his false sense of self).
If your ex is famous for doing this weekly, you must create a list for yourself as to WHY he is behaving this way, just like I did above. Don’t let their disorder become YOUR disorder. Don’t engage in his attacks and rationalize with him why he is wrong and you’re not boring. Do not respond at all.
You are not a child, therefore you should never be scolded or patronized. Remember who you really are, not for who they claim you to be. Rewrite your story – get back to the place your Creator designed for you, and not your aggressor.
I live about 30 miles from Washington, DC and even though I’ve lived near there for 20 years, I still hate driving in that town. No matter what I do, I still get lost – even with a GPS!
A few years ago I was driving to an appointment in DC, and my GPS kept sending me in circles – I was doing the same thing over and over, and I got extremely frustrated. I was calling my GPS lady horrible names, and my estimated time of arrival was already showing me being late (and I hate being late!) I got so focused on being late, that my anxiety made my navigation worse. I didn’t want to pull over for sake of losing more time, so I got even more lost. Then I ended up in a very bad neighborhood, and then I became scared.
Whether you’re driving or just trying to navigate through life, getting lost sucks. The more you try to find out where you’re going, the worse it gets – and it can put you in a very seedy place if you don’t take the time to pull over and assess.
Every time you are in transition, you feel as if you’re lost, without a compass or a GPS. And even though people may tell you where to go (like a GPS does), they don’t always point you in the right direction.
So you get frustrated, and you keep driving in circles, repeating the same path, and hoping for a different outcome.
This is when you need to trust your gut, pull over, and reassess your steps. You can get so focused on where you need to be, that your anxiety about not being there will only make things worse (like when I was driving in DC). Don’t worry about being late. Don’t get caught up in the additional time it takes you to reassess.
Pulling over means making a plan. For instance, let’s say you’re dating all the wrong people, and no matter what you do, you keep meeting the same losers. You’re lost, yet you keep circling around hoping for a different outcome. Hope isn’t a plan. Hoping means you’re not in control.
In this case, you would pull over and take a step back, and look at your end goal – who is your ideal partner? The more you get frustrated by who you’re not meeting will only keep you lost, and dating the wrong people!
Like any plan, it comes with an outline:
1) What is your objective or end goal
2) What is your strategy to get it
3) What are the tactics
4) How will you implement
Using the dating example your plan might be this:
1) My goal is to be in a committed relationship, with someone amazing
2) My strategy will be to date online, and be open to any introductions
3) My tactics are to research how to make a good online dating profile; write a list of deal breakers and boundaries for my dates; date at least 1x per week.
4) I will implement by trusting my gut, being open to the right person, but discard the ones who aren’t
People often struggle with making a plan because they stumble on Step 1 – having clarity on your end goal. It’s hard to use a GPS without an exact address, right? But we make excuses for why we shouldn’t have what we want, so we therefore don’t get it, even though we think we want it! Making excuses is like muddying your GPS signal – without a clear signal, you will get lost.
So if you’re lost, try working on just Step 1 – don’t do the other steps until you are crystal clear on what you want. Write it down and sit with it for a week. Ask yourself, “Is this truly attainable right now? Am I afraid to have it because of what other people will think?” Once you have clarity, then work on the other steps (and don’t forget to have fun with this – lighten up your mood!).
It’s funny – about a month ago, while driving in DC, I found myself in the exact location where I was once lost. But this time, I knew exactly where I was. I had circled around that same neighborhood so many times, I knew how to navigate my way out.
That’s the cool thing about being lost – it only happens once. While you’re feeling so aimless, you’re actually learning new skills and tools that will equip you the next time you’re thinking you’re lost. But you won’t be, because you’ve been there, done that.
To your own GPS and finding your destination…