Ending a marriage or a long-term relationship is hard.
Add children, shared business or property to the mix, and it can be dead-set debilitating. I've survived two divorces and learned a whole lot.
So much so, I now help other women going through divorce to find a way to not only survive the hard parts, but also to see the opportunity for a fresh start and rebirth that divorce can bring – so they can turn their divorce into the best thing that ever happened to them.
Early on, just surviving is enough.
One of the hardest things is that you don't know what you don't know, and there's no one-size-fits-all handbook to getting you through those dark days.
After helping hundreds of women flourish after their divorces, though, I've identified five unwritten rules that everyone needs to know.
Here they are:
1. Never, ever, ever take legal advice from your ex
If you ex tells you that you won't need lawyers to work out your property settlement because it's all pretty straightforward, that's a sure sign you need a lawyer. If your ex tells you it's a sign you don't trust them if you engage a lawyer, you most definitely need a lawyer.
In fact, let's just save a whole lot of time and reading and say that, however this divorce is going down, it's imperative you know where you stand from a legal perspective. You need to talk to a lawyer – the earlier the better. That doesn't mean you have to go to court, and it doesn't mean it has to get nasty – it just means you need to be informed so you can make decisions with your eyes open.
2. Don't keep your divorce a secret
It doesn't matter how ready your ex is to tell the world about your split – I promise, you are going to need support. That's just being human – break-ups are hard. Tell your friends, tell your doctor (and get a mental health plan while you're there), tell your kids' school, tell your kids' friends' parents, tell your family.
Shout it from the rooftops. This s--- is happening, and pretending it's not and keeping secrets only introduces feelings of shame, making it harder and more stressful on everyone.
3. Don't take it personally when you lose friends
It's okay that your ex-sister-in-law unfriends you on Facebook. And it's okay if some school parents don't invite you to their barbecues anymore. It's got nothing to do with your value as a person – it's just that, in the case of your sister-in-law, family loyalty always comes first (as well it should), and in the case of school parents, they're feeling awkward and don't know what to do, so are following the path of least resistance.
You know who your real friends are – lean on them, and put your energy where it matters: into yourself, your kids and your inner circle. And you might also be surprise to see new friends emerging – friends on your peripheries who know what you're going through and with whom you can now relate on a whole new level. This is a time of great change and growth – embrace it if you can and keep your eyes on the horizon.
4. It takes two to make an agreement
Remember all those years of compromise and trying to see the best in each other and keeping the peace? Yeah, they're over now – and that's not necessarily a bad thing. When it comes to your kids and your property settlement, you don't have to agree to anything you don't like.
Sure, it's always important to compromise and find a solution, especially where kids are concerned, but if anything makes you uncomfortable or unhappy, you are well within your rights to just say no.
5. Never say or do anything you wouldn't want read out in court
Because it very well could be. When it comes to your ex, take the high road and stick to the facts. Don't hate post on social media, don't send abusive emails, and don't call them to tell them what a douche they are – even if they are.
Process your emotions with your friends, family, and psychologist. You'll be glad you did later.
Carolyn Tate is a coach at Champagne Divorce Club where, along with a panel of industry experts, she helps women turn their divorce into the best thing that ever happened to them.