Speaking to my tribe of farm advisers I mentioned that I was walking alongside four friends navigating the process of divorce, and a colleague in my audience said, “Elaine, make that five friends… ugh!” My best friend from Grade 8 offers these observations about her divorce journey, with her permission of course!
- Both partners need to be fully informed about finances. “Know your money honey,” is another way of saying this. It helps to have pre-existing relationships with your lenders, accountant, financial planner, investment broker, and the fairy godmother. OK, I threw that last one in just to lighten this up! Some divorcees do not have a hot clue about their net worth, cash flow, or where the important documents are to be found. If you are thinking of separating, get your financial house in order and find out where the financial data lies. You should be financially smart at any stage of life.
- Get a second opinion and have independent legal counsel. You are making some of the most important financial decisions of your life. Some folks don’t want to “lawyer up,” but independent advice is prudent, even if you chose to do the mediation route, or alternative dispute resolution. Great lawyers can help navigate the way to a fair settlement. My friend’s lawyer was not willing to “just settle,” and she knew the way to make reasonable requests of the other spouse.
- Ask accountant friends for good referrals to other accounting professionals. This is an issue when you want a fair valuation of the business. The chemistry with all of our advisers needs to be one of trust and respect. A good adviser asks pertinent questions and creates solutions with you in a timely fashion.
- Trust you intuition when you are judging competency of your financial planner or other advisers, and use a network of competent people. Ask for references. Listen to your gut. Don’t be afraid to change the people on your team.
- Hire a divorce coach (in Victoria these folks exist — who knew?) and use a counsellor or psychologist to help you do the ongoing emotional work of letting go of your marriage relationship. This is a new stage of your life and it helps to have a road map with a listening, understanding ear.
- Can you treat the separation from your spouse and former business partner as a business deal, yet park the business issues from the emotional heavy lifting of the divorce process? Keeping financial needs separate from the emotional drama is tough. I have witnessed the frustration of getting affidavits in place, seeking truth from so-called “friends” and trying to keep employment while the divorce’s drama and emotional energy suck is dragging the former spouses down.
- Preserve your self-respect and “take the high road.” Divorce ends a marriage but it doesn’t end parenting. Co-parenting is the reality that you will be sharing time, energy, and sometimes space with your ex as you parent your children, even adult children. “Elaine, we are trying to keep things amicable because our children are very young, and they need us both to show up as good parents,” says the father of preschool kids.
- Be firm and have healthy boundaries. My friend changed the locks to her home which surprised her ex. It would be a surprise at our house too, seeing how we never lock our doors! Ha. Some requests that you will get from your former spouse may not be reasonable, so you have to stick to the boundaries that work for you to have security and comfort.
- “It’s not how you think it is going to be.” Life is full of bumps along the road, and going through the divorce process is a form of loss and grieving that is different for different people. My friend says: “You cannot prejudge the outcome. You need to be open to the process, to the unfolding.”
- Waves of sadness will strike unexpectedly. I call these “grief spasms.” I get them when I smell Noxema, my mom’s favourite moisturizer in the deep blue jar. Other losses may be triggered when you have sadness thinking of the “loss of the dream of the family and of the future.”
- Respect yourself and recognize your gifts. Being divorced does not define who you are. It is something that is part of your story, but it doesn’t have to be a label that keeps you from thriving in your new status. The phrase, “They are either looking for a nurse or a purse,” may mean that you will steer clear of future long-term marriage relationships. I would suspect that doing deep emotional work to get really healthy emotionally will set you up successfully for further loving relationships.
- Treasure good friendships. You will need a strong emotional support group to lean on and give you some resilience while you navigate the “pain of not knowing” until the divorce settlement is finalized. Some folks have suggested that working through a divorce is harder than the death of a spouse since death is final, has closure, but divorce when co-parenting is never “done.”
Fear of divorce is very real on family farms that are experiencing poor communication, workaholism, unrealistic role expectations, no respect and unresolved conflict. I truly believe that love and respect are great medicine for a marriage in disrepair, but it takes heaps of work to repair and build a love relationship.
Please take time to reflect on what you need in your own self-care, your marriage, and other family relationships. Reach out for counselling help like the young father who confided that seven years of marriage and young children had driven him to seek help, which was healing to his marriage. He did not have a great model of marriage in his own family farm setting, and he knew he had to take action to create a healthier story for his cherished children and wife.
Now is the time to take stock of the state of your union. Read some great marriage books from authors John Gottman, Emmerson Eggerich, Mike Mason, and Mort Fertel.
Tell me some fun stories of how you are intentionally having more fun with your mate this winter. I believe a good marriage is worth fighting for.
I need to call my friend now.