How to divorce amicably – five lessons from a woman who’s done it!

Has your marriage come to an end? Read five tips to help you divorce amicably – from a woman who has been there, and written a book on it!

2021 looks likely to be a bumper year for divorce cases. The pandemic, enforced lockdown in a shared space, financial difficulties and a lack of social stimulation that might ordinarily distract people from a bad marriage, will all fuel the number of divorce applications.

If you are facing divorce, how can you do it well? Local mum of two Lissa Collier (a pseudonym) recently published a book called Big Girl Pants, which shares her personal diaries throughout her divorce journey and her advice on how to have an amicable split. In this article she shares her five key lessons with us.

Trethowans
Trethowans

Five lessons I learned about divorcing amicably

Two years ago my husband, who I’d been with for 19 years, said he wanted to get divorced. My world was suddenly turned on its head. 

As someone who had opted to become self-employed 15 years earlier so that I could be there for the kids, I was suddenly faced with the need to find a new job that could provide a consistent monthly income, move house, be there for my teenage sons and of course, deal with my own emotional fall out of a marriage ending. 

It was physically, mentally and emotionally exhausting. Frankly I didn’t really know where to start. All I knew was that I wanted to do it well. My parents had divorced when I was a child, and even though they’d had a reasonably amicable divorce, I still felt the impact of it for a long time afterwards. I wanted to protect my sons by having as good a divorce as possible. 

But how do you do that? 

Divorce can be incredibly hurtful. It takes a lot of effort to do it amicably, particularly when plot twists come along midway through that threaten to derail the process – anything from discovering adultery to money issues.

I started with one simple rule, which over the duration of the divorce journey expanded into five lessons, which I share with you to help you stay on track during this challenging time.

1) Keep your eye on the prize

What do you want your life to look like once this is over? Do you want to still have money left instead of having spent it all on expensive lawyers? If you have kids, would you like to be able to go to their wedding one day without any awkwardness about both parents being there? Would you like to feel good about yourself as a person by doing the right thing?

It is understandable that when someone has hurt you, you want to retaliate and hurt him or her back. But all that does is create a tit for tat situation where everyone loses.

For me it was simple: I wanted my kids to come out of this as well-balanced, functional humans who could see that even if something challenging comes along, the way you manage it matters. That was my prize. I remained focused on that every time I could have let pride, anger or hurt take over. 

It can be very challenging to stay focused on this if your ex doesn’t do the same. But all you can do is focus on what you can control – your behaviour, your attitude and your being the bigger person.  

Incidentally, not using lawyers is a good first step. Try a divorce service like Amicable or family mediators to reduce conflict.

2) Life’s not fair. Suck it up

There’s a lot about life that isn’t fair. In divorce, it will often feel that it’s not fair, whether that’s about who gets what, how much time you get with the kids, or where the burden of work falls. By all means have a moan to your friends but basically, you have to come to terms with the fact that this won’t be entirely fair. 

I found practicing gratitude really helped. I focused on the little things every day that I still had and that I was grateful for. It helped me overcome the sense of unfairness. 

3) Let that sh*t go

When you’re going through the trauma of divorce, it is tempting to let it consume you, to hang onto the hurt, the anger, the sadness. But holding onto it only hurts you, not the other person.  

It may take you a while to reach the point where you can let it go, but once you’ve allowed yourself to feel those emotions, you need to set them down and move forward. Hanging onto them will not result in an amicable split.

Incidentally, that same rule applies for physical objects or ideas you may have about how you want things to be. You have to let those go too and be open to new possibilities that are now available to you

4) Look after you

It is very easy to neglect yourself when you’re going through this process, either by eating or drinking too much, or perhaps not eating or sleeping. You may be so busy trying to sort out life, make ends meet, or look after your kids, that you simply don’t tend to yourself.

But you cannot pour from an empty cup. You have to prioritise yourself so that you have the stamina to get through it. My top recommendations are practicing mindfulness (try apps like Calm or Headspace) and walking.

I have walked miles and miles as I’ve worked through my emotions. It has given me the mental therapy I’ve needed to cope so that I could keep my eye on the prize and stay amicable.

5) Keep going

At times it may feel all too much. But Winston Churchill once said, ‘When you’re going through hell, keep going.’ Even when it feels too difficult, too scary, too lonely, too much – simply keep going. Things will get better. 

My first Christmas without my sons could, for example, have been a melancholy experience where I sat on my own. Instead I chose to travel to Jordan, spent Christmas day exploring Petra and Boxing Day riding a camel in Wadi Rum. It was a brilliant adventure and showed me that my new life could be anything I made of it. 

If you are facing 2021 with trepidation knowing that divorce is on the cards, follow these lessons and you will come out the other side with a brand new life filled with possibilities. You will be happy again.  Trust me. I am.

Big Girl Pants is available in paperback and Kindle version on Amazon.

Photo by Edgar Hernández