So I am fully aware that this rant is somewhat hypocritical. After all, I frequently dispense divorce advice that may or may not apply to a particular situation.
But I’m aggravated. Annoyed. Tired of receiving, either in the form of an article or sometimes personally-directed, these three pieces of divorce advice that make absolutely, positively, no sense at all in the context of my experience.
And yet, even with my indignation, I have to admit there is some truth to this advice and it has modified my decisions in my second marriage. After all, what good are the hard times if we refuse to learn from them? 🙂
“Before you file for divorce, gather the important paperwork and make your financial preparations.”
By the time the possibility of divorce had even flitted across my brain, my husband had disappeared and with him, all of the files that contained important financial information. Not only that, but he had changed the login information for online account access. Instead of having the option to prepare ahead of time, I was left piecing together a puzzle by following whatever financial breadcrumbs I could find. Do you have any idea how humiliating it was to have to contact the IRS for past returns with the explanation that my husband stole the originals?
Preparing your affairs ahead of time only works if you know (or suspect) that a divorce is heading your way. Now some may believe that you should always be ready for divorce because there is no way to know for certain that it is not around the next bend.
I refuse to live that way.
To be overly prepared for the worst and waiting for it to happen. Not only would it make me miserable in the moment, but it would lower the barrier for the worst to occur.
But that’s not to say I haven’t learned from the financial disaster I was left with. Because even though a dishonest con-man of a husband created the nightmare, my actions made his deceptions that much easier.
I now have my own accounts that my husband does not have access to. In the worst scenario, this means I would have access to my own money immediately and that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for it to be rerouted without my knowledge. I have the Credit Karma app on my phone and I check my status weekly. This protects from identity theft and fraud. From both outside and inside the marriage. I’ve made sure that the bills I’m responsible for are achievable on my salary alone, so that I could survive alone if I had to.
It’s a balance – I don’t have a “Divorce Preparation” folder stuffed and ready to go (even the thought makes me ill), but I also would not be as in the dark about my affairs if it came to pass.
“Mediation is the answer for a smoother, faster and less expensive process.”
I know. I hear it time and time again and, after seeing the inefficient and corrupt nightmare of the family court system, I think even trial by Knock Em, Sock Em robots would be preferable.
And, in fact, the judge ordered mediation in my case a couple months into the process. As part of the mediation, we were each given 30 days to produce some documentation.
I followed through.
He never did.
And that delay, along with the fees associated with the paperwork and communication, ending up costing me an additional $10,000, give or take a few drops. And this was preventable if only the judge had reviewed the evidence that clearly showed that my husband would not play by any rules, even those enforceable by law.
Yet even though mediation was never an option in my case, I still regret this one thing I did. If I had to do it all over again, I would certainly not make that mistake again.
And I also kept this idea in mind when dating after the divorce. Part of the reason that mediation was never an option is that my ex did not posses the courage and character to address a situation head-on. He would rather lie and conceal than discuss and argue. I made sure that my second husband wasn’t afraid to face difficult truths.
“Divorce takes two.”
No. No. No. No.
Marriage takes two.
Divorce only requires one.
Well, I guess technically, I could have refrained from filing for divorce. Of course, then he would still be on my health insurance, he would still be a beneficiary of my life insurance and pension and I would still be legally liable for some of his shenanigans.
Umm…thanks for the offer, but hell, no!
I strongly believe that before a marriage ends in divorce, the marriage should be fought for.
But I also know that sometimes a person isn’t given the choice to fight.
And then, all you can do is cut your losses and walk away so that you can begin again.
I have learned from being blindsided. I now put more effort and attention into my marriage every day. It’s almost like I’m fighting for it even though it’s not in danger. After all, you don’t have to wait until a plant is wilted and browning to water it. Why wait to nurture your marriage?
And I actually have one more grip while I’m at it. This one isn’t really advice. It’s more a sweeping generalization turned platitude that exists in two opposite forms:
“Divorce is always terrible.” or its rival, “Divorce is always wonderful.”
The truth is that divorce can be both terrible and wonderful.
It tears families apart and impacts kids for years down the road. It causes pain like no other and plants seeds of self-doubt that will form forests of negatively if left un-weeded. It funnels money from those who need it to the pockets of lawyers. The loss increases the risk of death for years to come. Yes, divorce sucks.
And divorce can also be the freedom from a terrible or abusive marriage. It often activates great personal growth and optimization. It provides clarity about what is important and allows opportunities to apply those lessons in building a new life. Divorce can teach our children about the importance of self-reliance and self-respect. Yes, divorce can be positive.
As one who has been there and is now in a better place, I am neither pro-divorce or anti-divorce. That decision is personal and can only be made from those within the marriage.
But I do know that divorce is not black and white. What starts out as the worst of times can lead to the best of times. And I also know that I never want to go through that again and so I also value marriage more than ever before.
And I also know that the majority of those dispensing divorce advice merely want the best for others. And I can’t get too irritated about that. 🙂