How To Start Over When It’s Over

A divorce is not the end but the beginning of You

When I interviewed Andrea for my book When Love and Money Disappear – True Stories of Women who Faced Loss and gained Financial Independence, she was struggling to come to terms with the failure of her marriage to Greg.

After 30 years of marriage and two children, Greg wanted a divorce and what’s more, he would provide financial support for only two years – until their youngest daughter leaves for college. Andrea felt betrayed and helpless. She had left her thriving career many years ago to become a “trailing spouse,” following Greg to his various overseas postings around the world. As an expat wife, she enjoyed all the comforts and trappings of being well provided for – until Greg dropped the bombshell that he had fallen in love with someone else and wanted out of the marriage.

Andrea’s story is not new. Again and again, we hear of our friends, sisters and mothers – women close to us – who have been left in the lurch by the men in their lives. They are shocked and stunned because they have lost their chief financial provider. In Andrea’s case, she had not worked in years and had invested everything she had on their family.

For the one who is left and betrayed, a failed marriage feels like facing a slow death. In her book On Death and Dying, psychologist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross describes the five stages of coping with death, namely denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. As you move through these five stages in your dying marriage, there will be tears and regrets, but you will soon reach acceptance. Although the journey to acceptance is painful, you will soon realise that the end of your marriage is also the beginning of the new You.

It is very important at this point to make friends with the new You and never look back. Take your time to do some self reflection. Mentally move outside your own body and emotions and ask yourself: who is this person who has lain dormant after so many years as a Mrs Mom? What are her skills and talents? What are her options to live independently and provide for herself and her children? What are the baby steps she can take to enter the workforce or start a business? How much money does she need to support her lifestyle? What is her vision for a truly fulfilling life and what are the adjustments that she must make to get there?

Your emotions will intrude and try to pull you back to your old pattern of blame, bitterness and recrimination – stand firm and persevere! Writing and prayer helps. Pour out your pain in your journal by all means, but keep working towards your vision, discussing it with a mentor, close friends and loved ones. The more you talk, dream and write about your vision of a new You, the more real it becomes.

I believe that women are at their best in times of adversity. After all, since the beginning of time when man goes to war or goes hunting, it is the woman who must protect and provide for her family. She always has to be on the alert in case her man is killed and fails to return. She already knows how to plant and gather food and save it for the famine. When the worse happens, she also relies on her family members and the wise men and women in her community for physical, emotional and spiritual support.

Likewise, for modern women. We face different threats today, losing our men – not to wild animals – but other women!

My friend Lisa whom I also interviewed for my book, took decisive action when her marriage to a corporate high flyer ended because of his infidelity. Choosing to have full custody of her children rather than a share of his wealth, Lisa transformed herself into a successful network marketer within a few years. Her vision was audacious – she was going to create her own wealth and overtake her ex in income and earnings. The more she worked on her vision, the more the Law of Attraction seem to work for her. She built a massively successful business and also met and fell in love with her current husband.

Back to Andrea. I bumped into her six months after our interview. I could tell, from her smile and the hope in her eyes, that she had passed the acceptance phase of her failed marriage. She is now fully embracing her independent new Self. The Self whom she thought she had lost when she gave up her career 20 years ago. Now the owner of a small business, Andrea has finally left the cocoon and is ready to fly.