When I considered writing about divorce, I thought the piece would have to strike the right tone and tenor. I struggled with what that is. Does it even exist in this context? The fact is—divorce is ugly. Regardless of how a couple gets to this precipice, they were once happy and had plans of growing old together. Perhaps the warning signs were there but were not caught in time. Perhaps they drifted apart as each began envisioning different life goals. Maybe one or both of them struggled with midlife crises, communication, finances, or empty nest syndrome. A multitude of circumstances can lead to the same result—the dissolution of a marriage. The path to divorce follows a familiar GPS regardless of wealth, social status, or zip code. In the majority of cases, one party did something that was deemed unforgivable by the other. It created friction which bred unhappiness (if not contempt) and led to one or both parties wanting to end the marriage.
When contemplating a separation, make no mistake: divorce is an emotionally charged event capable of disabling the participants. It is financially and psychologically destructive and should be viewed as a “nuclear option” to be explored after all other manners of resolution have been exhausted. Before beginning divorce proceedings, have an open and honest dialogue with your spouse in an attempt to truly understand one another and the respective issues within the marriage. Pursue individual therapy, spiritual guidance, if applicable, and attend couples counseling in an effort to determine why the marriage is in trouble and whether it can be fixed.
If you have already decided to end your marriage, do your homework and build a supportive team. Consider the options available to you such as mediation or collaboration before committing to the courthouse. The truth is, for some couples, divorce may be the only reasonable solution, but its damage can be mitigated by the right approach. Contact an attorney and a financial advisor (CPA, CFP, CDFA). Consider a mental health professional for yourselves and your children if you have them.
Every party to a divorce suffers in some capacity; spouses naturally, but children most importantly. Friends and family struggle with how to act as relationships become strained and the right thing to do never seems clear. Friends are lost and gained. Social lives are turned upside down. Give it time to play out. What remains is what was meant to be. You will both survive and thrive, but divorce is a process. Be fair, be amicable, and be truthful to one another. Focus on healing and learning. Address the children first. Work out financial settlements that are equitable, not necessarily equal, so both parties are left solvent and able to move on. You will both get through it and be happier in the end. Life is too precious and fleeting to do otherwise.