I Wish I’d Known One
My Life Changed After We Agreed to Divorce
“The divorce was my idea,” said Audrey. “I hadn’t been happy for a very long time, and I felt like there was still time to create a new and better life for myself. Phil and I had two sons, but they were teenagers and close to being on their own. I felt strongly that it was possible to maintain a feeling of family for them and to make decisions with their well-being in mind.”
“From the very beginning, Phil and I knew we didn’t want to tear our relationship and our children apart. We agreed to separate with the help of two collaborative practice attorneys,” she explained.
In a very short period of time, Audrey and Phil found that they didn’t require the assistance of two paid professionals. They agreed on nearly everything, so they decided to use one mediator to help them negotiate the end of their marriage, in order to save money and time.
“I had a job and my own income, although I had spent years at home with the children and it didn’t come close to what Phil earned,” Audrey said. “I felt that if I could get my half of the value of our shared home, I would be able to get by without any further assistance from my husband. I was proud of myself, and my new independence.”
Phil had a high enough income that he could easily afford to pay Audrey up front for her share of their home. That allowed her to buy a smaller home in the same school district and with his help, make some renovations that allowed her to live in a comparable manner to his. At first, it looked like things were working out just as planned. Although the final settlement hadn’t been signed, Audrey was satisfied with their arrangement and the boys were adjusting well, spending one week with their father and one week with their mother.
“Then I lost my job,” said Audrey. “And everything changed.”
Weeks of job hunting turned to months, and the comfortable lifestyle she thought she had rapidly became a source of constant anxiety. “I was running out of money, and fast,” she said. “Phil had more than enough of everything, and I was wondering how to buy groceries. The boys stopped asking me for help with any of their expenses, and began to depend entirely on their father. That made me feel terrible.”
Ultimately, Audrey asked Phil to return to negotiations with their mediator. The agreement that she had come close to signing was scrapped, and a new agreement written that took into account her need for financial assistance. “I’m glad I didn’t rush through to signing a settlement,” Audrey said. “I had no idea how things were going to change, and how much help I needed to make the new life I’d dreamed of.”
I Wish I’d Known Two
Look for Help When Starting a New Life
“For a while, I thought I was never going to feel like myself again,” said Daniel. “After Katherine and I agreed to divorce, my emotions were all over the place. I went from hopefulness to despair in a matter of hours. One day I was enjoying my new single life, and the next I was angry and frustrated that I’d been cheated out of my dream.”
Like many divorcing couples, Daniel and Katherine say they never thought they’d divorce. When they married seventeen years earlier, they’d thought it was for good, and that they’d be growing old together. What they didn’t anticipate was growing apart.
“It gradually dawned on us that we were living completely separate lives,” said Daniel. “We never had children, so it was easy for both of us to travel with our jobs. We had our own hobbies, our own friends, and our own goals. After a while, those things didn’t include each other any more.”
The agreement to separate and later, to divorce, seemed a simple matter. It wasn’t finances that created the maelstrom of emotions for the couple, but rather, starting over.
Even though they had been living largely separate lives, living alone felt different. “It was lonely,” Daniel said. “I was also dealing with feelings of failure and disappointment.”
Professional help is available, and eventually, both members of the couple sought individual counseling. They were able to talk through their feelings and think of new ways to begin again. Therapists say that it can take two years to work through the aftermath of a divorce, a period that some divorcing couples refer to as “crazy time,” for the quickly shifting emotions they experience.
“It helped to know that what I was feeling was normal,” said Daniel. “Divorcing wasn’t a bad decision, but there were feelings I just had to get through to feel better. I’m glad I asked for help, not only from my therapist, but from my friends and family, too.”