By Laura Lifshitz
One of the biggest themes I see in the divorce groups I frequent as well as moderate is the grey zone of separation. So there you are. You’re separated. Maybe you’ve been separated for a few months or maybe, a few years. You figure that as long as you’re separated, it’s done and finalizing the whole deal…doesn’t really matter.
That’s what you have told yourself, at least. I’ve watched, counseled, listened and read person after person struggle with cutting the cord for good. Almost everyone (including my former self!) has had excuse after excuse to delay the process.
When usually, the reality is that you’re harboring some bad or negative attitudes that are holding you back from making it official. It could even be fear of what’s to come. The hope of reconciliation. The dread of dealing with the legalities.
From separation to the final court date, it took about two years for my ex and I to make our divorce official. And that, my friends, was too long. Too long for both of us, I am sure, but now at least it’s been done for a few years now.
So I’ve been there, sitting in that “separated” seat, filled with many of the same thoughts that many of you had. For me, it was mostly the feeling that it didn’t matter if it was official, it was already official to us and we were living separately. Then, the dread. The dread of just getting everything agreed upon and signed. The other part of me was also preoccupied with getting used to parenting and being alone for everything. Having no one there.
For each person, the story is a little bit different, but the end result is the same: you’re in a purgatory of sorts. This may not be all your fault. You may be selling your marital home. Your ex might be stalling to sign the papers.
But for what it’s worth, (a lot, actually) you could be holding onto negative attitudes that are holding you back from making this divorce final. And that is no bueno, my friends.
1. Believing You Can’t Make It on Your Own
You may have decided that there is no way you can make it on your own, so you’re delaying the process. However, the end is inevitable. Sitting and waiting and stalling on your own life because of fear will only breed more negativity and doubt. If you really feel that afraid, maybe it’s time to talk to a therapist.
If you really feel that unsure of yourself, ask yourself why. Ask yourself what is the worst possible case scenario? Once you realize what that is, perhaps you won’t feel as afraid. Join a support group. Do some reading. There are a lot of divorced parents out there. You won’t be the first or last. All of us survived and yes, some better than others, but that’s the same as married parents.
Harboring this attitude will only paralyze your joy and life.
Your divorce should solely exist because of the issues in your marriage and your need to end them.
2. Believing You Will Ruin Your Kids’ Lives
This is the hardest attitude to combat. I had this fear, greatly. Many of us had it. I’m willing to bet almost every last divorced parent has thought this for at least one minute.
Today? I don’t feel that way. In fact, I know my kid’s life is better because I chose to do this. Is it always optimal? No, it’s not, but it’s beyond better than the alternative.
Staying in limbo is anxiety producing for children. Kids need stability and predictability. Separation is usually neither stable nor predictable. Divorce is sad, but it’s final and hopefully, stable.
You will mess up as a parent no matter what—separated, married or divorced, so stop believing that you will crush and ruin them. What type of negative attitude is that to have? How does that teach your kids to preserve, be positive or make their own happiness? It doesn’t.
3. Believing You Can’t Divorce Until You Meet Someone
It doesn’t work that way. You can’t find a backup plan to guarantee happiness. This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t or won’t meet someone, but looking for someone to soften the blow of your divorce … will only place the “blows” onto that person.
I’ve heard people say they will be motivated to finalize the divorce once they meet someone with potential, but that’s dangerous. That’s putting too much pressure on yourself and the other person.
Your divorce should solely exist because of the issues in your marriage and your need to end them. Looking for an emotional crash pad is a dangerous and bad situation. If you are lucky enough to meet someone amazing, let that relationship build and invest in it! But don’t just look for any old person to ease your wounds.
Again—if you find someone great, take that chance! But don’t look for a rebound. There is a difference. One situation is healthy and the other is not.
4. Believing That Being Separated Is Good Enough
But it’s not!
Granted, some people delay divorce due to finances, but truly separation is not good enough of a “break” to move on with your life. It’s a great start and kudos to you for getting there! But it’s key to not let the separation dwell for too long, for everyone’s sake.
Will a new partner be okay with you being separated forever? For a little while, sure, that is normal. A person who cares will be willing to hang around while you tie up loose ends. After all, divorce takes a while. But for years? Nope.
And in reality, every person is different. Some people won’t date someone who is separated at all, and others are fine with it. Each situation is unique.
What about any financial mishaps or issues that may happen while you’re still legally married? Are you protected from this person’s potential bad financial choices?
Do you have anything in writing to protect your kids? Or no?
Separation is a big grey zone. Being in the grey is much harder than it sounds.
5. Believing You Need the Crutch of Your Ex to Help You Through
Leaning on each other as co-parents is a great thing. Leaning too much on your ex though, is codependent and crippling for both parties involved. At some point, you both need to be independent of each other because if it was a healthy situation, you wouldn’t be divorcing.
And if you two get along, that is wonderful and will help your kids in the long run.
There is a difference, however, between getting along and leaning excessively on the other. Usually, this only happens out of fear.
Operate from the place of friendship and respect, while still giving each other room. You can get the divorce in writing and still be decent to each other. But in the long run, neither of you should be hobbling forever, leaning on each other constantly.
You both need to learn to stand tall and unite when necessary. The sooner you do this, the happier and more confident you will both be. In the end, your kids will benefit from this too.
6. Believing You Will Financially Fail
Oh, I’ve stumbled a billion times and struggled with the bulk of custody and expenses, but I am still standing. You may need to take extra work, cut expenses, change your lifestyle and also, learn how to maintain a budget, but you can do it. All change can be a bit painful, but in the end, you’ll be grateful you did. You are stronger than you think.
Divorce isn’t easy, but living in purgatory isn’t either. Face your fears this New Year. Make a clean break and move on to make your life the best it can be.
About the Author
Laura Lifshitz is a pint-sized, battery-operated writer, comedienne, single mother and chocolate fanatic. A former MTV personality and Columbia University graduate, you can find her work in many places, like the New York Times, DivorceForce, Mom.Me, Women’s Health, Worthy, Working Mother and numerous other sites. Follow her on Facebook and her own website, frommtvtomommy.com.