As of today, I am officially divorced.
I’ve learned a lot throughout this process. I’ve learned by sharing my journey with others, by asking awkward and overly personal questions, but mostly by fumbling through blindly.
Divorce isn’t really polite dinner conversation. We talk about weddings and babies. We talk about weather, gas prices and mortgage rates. We don’t talk about divorce. And if we do, it’s usually to retell a horror story. We gossip about the couple we know who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers. We talk about custody battles and no-contact orders.
Occasionally, we talk about the “happy” divorces, where everyone remains friends and blended families take vacations and selfies together. I’ll be honest, those stories confuse me the most.
But we don’t often hear about ordinary divorces.
Just your average divorce
Yes, I’ve learned a lot about ending a marriage in the past three years, and I’ve happily shared what I’ve learned with friends and acquaintances who have dropped into my inbox asking for advice. I am a firm believer that the more we talk about the hard things, and the more we remove the stigma around the hard things, the more we can help one another through the hard things.
Should divorce be so difficult?
Just recently someone commented to me that divorce is too easy these days. Nobody sticks it out anymore, she said, everyone just throws in the towel at the first sign of trouble.
Of course I disagreed. For starters, divorce rates have been steadily dropping in Canada since 1991. But more to the point, why should getting a divorce be hard? Why should we make it so expensive and complicated that only the most affluent and educated can afford to walk away? Simplifying the divorce process isn’t going to cause happy couples to throw in the towel, but it might just provide a light at the end of the tunnel for those who are struggling.
Advice for those first scary days
No matter what anyone says, divorce isn’t ‘easy.’ Emotionally, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Now that I’ve done it here’s my best advice for those in the thick of it, or for those who are just about to walk down that lonely path:
- Reach out to friends. If you feel safe to do so, tell your colleagues what’s happening. Accept help when it’s offered and ask for it when it’s not (this was almost impossible for me).
- Look after yourself. Eat. Drink (water). Go for a walk, and above all sleep. If you need to take medication to get to sleep, take it. That’s what it was made for, and there’s no shame in it.
- Talk to your kids early. Be honest, but don’t overshare, and don’t give them false hope.
- Get your banking sorted out.
- Get a lawyer, or better yet (if things are amicable, which they were in my case) find a lawyer/mediator and draft a joint separation agreement. It means halving the cost. Sure, maybe you don’t care if your ex has to pay a fortune for a divorce, but wouldn’t you rather their money be spent on your kids rather than on lawyers?
- Take your time. Everything gets easier with time. It’s easier to be pragmatic when you’re not sobbing. It’s easier to discuss splitting pensions and divvying up debt after you’ve remembered how to sleep again.
- It might be tempting, but try not to use the divorce process to get back at someone for hurting you; life will sort itself out
- Before you make any decisions, ask yourself, “is this best for the kids?” And if you answer that honestly, you’ll probably come out at the right place.
- When you’re ready, and again, if it’s amicable and uncontested, consider filing for a joint divorce using BC’s Online Divorce Assistant. This process was fast and inexpensive. With a printer, a scanner, some patience and a single trip to the court registry, we completed our divorce for under $500.
I made it sound easy, didn’t I? It’s not. My ex-husband and I are both university educated, we’re both skilled project managers, and we encountered no language or other accessibility barriers. By unspoken accord we actively attempted to make our divorce as simple as possible, and yet it was still the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
What I’ve also learned about divorce is that there will always be judgment associated with it. So if you do decide to talk about your situation, be prepared. People make a lot of assumptions when they hear about a couple separating or divorcing. Over the past three years I’ve heard just about everything, and I’m still talking because I remember being lost and hopeless and so profoundly grateful to those who reached out and talked me through the worst of it.