Most people don’t plan on getting divorced, never mind how to get ready for divorce.

Some may decide to get a prenuptial agreement, but again, we rarely believe it’ll be necessary. Divorce is one of those subjects that’s talked about in hushed tones and low whispers, if it’s even talked about at all. 

How on earth then are we expected to know what to do when divorce comes roaring ‘round the corner? 

We don’t. Or at least I didn’t. To say I was naive about the subject is an understatement. Getting ready for divorce was the furthest thing from my mind.

Add to this the complexities of some partners’ egregious behavior brought on by mental illness, particularly Personality Disorders like Narcissism or Borderline Personality. In these instances, all bets are off for an amicable or reasonable uncoupling. It’s a horse of a different color altogether. you’re planning to initiate a divorce you have some time to think about things before announcing your intentions. Like putting a plan together, getting access to paperwork you may not have available later on, removal of things that were yours before the marriage and therefore not joint properties. You can quietly interview potential lawyers, divorce coaches and if you don’t already have a therapist you may want to find one. The emotional upset and sense of loss one feels from even the ‘best’ divorce (let’s be honest, no divorce is good) is challenging. Divorce takes a village, the more people on your team, the better.

If the desire to divorce is unceremoniously dropped in your lap, chances are you’re surprised if not stunned. Don’t panic. Take a deep breath, practice mindfulness to ground yourself and proceed with care and smarts. Since you haven’t had the opportunity to do all of the above, now is the time to harness your energy and become your own self-advocate. I caution you however, take your time choosing the people to have in your corner. It matters. A lot. You don’t need any more stressors in your life. You want to feel they have your best interests at heart, you can count on them to answer any and all questions despite how silly they may seem. There is NO wrong question to ask.

For me, the single most important thing I wish I’d done in getting ready for divorce was get my own credit card and bank account. Especially if you’re the primary care-giver and have left a career to do so, you don’t want to be at the mercy of your spouse if they hold the purse strings. Not only is it frightening, but it puts you in a position of weakness, dependent upon the beneficence of your mate, which you can assume has been tossed by the wayside at this point. Not always, but let’s take it as a given.

The things above are more the mechanics of getting divorced.

There’s another piece, equally if not more important I believe. And that’s the emotional component of divorce. Whether or not you had a plan to get divorced, the sense of self that’s at stake.  

woman and children in nature

Be kind to yourself. Extra self-care is necessary at this time.

This too, I wish I’d known. It’s essential in making the process less traumatizing and it gives you the faculties you need to make the best decisions for yourself. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat well, exercise along with anything else that makes you feel good. Avoid self-medicating with alcohol and drugs. This will only make things worse and they’re difficult enough as it is.

It’s very easy to slip into a depression or become anxiety ridden. Only you have control over your thoughts and their subsequent consequences. If you focus only on doom and gloom and make unhealthy demands of yourself–‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ are never a good thing, you’re guaranteed to make for a far more debilitating experience. Of course you’re feeling any number of intense emotions–anger, depression, anxiety, shame, embarrassment, guilt. These are brought on by your demands. I promise unless you temper these extremely rigid feelings to healthier negative emotions like sadness, disappointment, regret, annoyance, which are far more flexible, the more you’ll suffer. Divorce is painful. But it doesn’t have to be excruciating.

I know you may not be able to envision a happier life right now, but you too will be happy again. It may seem daunting but you will get through this. Just as I did. 

And here’s the best news of all…

YOU have the opportunity to create the life you want moving forward. Out of the darkness comes the light. Use it to find your next path forward

woman in doorway

Susan Pava is a psychotherapist in private practice out of an office in White Plains, NY and online. She completed her master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy at Iona College and is systemically trained. Additionally she received extensive training in Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, Dialectical Behavior Therapy and Cognitive Behavior Therapy.

Susan has also worked with clients struggling with substance abuse in an outpatient setting where co-occurring mental illness is often the norm. Along with individuals, she has also worked with both their families and spouses in this arena as well. She finds DBT skill’s training has been very effective here, vastly improving the quality of life for many

Susan has worked with clients dealing with mood disorders, couples’ issues, family stressors, and more, employing an eclectic approach to therapy as determined by the client’s needs and comfort. Her goal is to provide a warm, compassionate environment in which she and the client may develop a connection that feels safe to do the necessary work in reaching the client’s goals.




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DISCLAIMER: The commentary, advice, and opinions from Gabrielle Hartley are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice or mental health services. You should contact an attorney and/or mental health professional in your state to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. 


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