Monday, November 30, 2015

Living Apart, Living Large

This is a post in a series on divorce. The list of divorce topics is here.  Understanding this process can be incredibly difficult, I felt compelle to share some of what I have gone through and learned personally. If you'd like to read the first post, click the link above.

Once the assets have been divided, it is then time to start living a separate life. For me this meant dealing with a series of issues around money, time, and space. This post talks a little bit about the money aspect of the separation/initial divorce period...this IS a finance-focused blog after all! In the next post, Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals, I will discuss more about the other aspects, time and space, but for this post, I am focused solely on the money aspect and the impact that living separately has on someone in this situation.

Personally, I was fortunate while I divorced to have a good job and to be able to afford my own apartment and living expenses. While this may seem good at first, this inevitably had a reverse effect in my experience. I have long followed suze orman and I enjoyed sometimes how she told people that they were buying things they don't need to impress people they don't like etc. Well, I like myself and now that I was no longer in a relationship, I didn't have to check my purchases with anyone else. I could buy whatever pleased me whenever I wanted.

The next step was to move out and pick a place to live. I know of some people who end up purchasing expensive digs after the breakup because they want to show how much better their life is now. Personally, I didn't do that right away. I first started with a room in a shared apartment and became a roommate again. This was cheap but the apartment wasn't clean or as well kept as I would like. Separately, it was a problem for me to feel comfortable so I moved out.

My next diggs were better but definitely more expensive. In addition I had to purchase all of the items for the new place and get used to paying for all of that out of my own paycheck. Not cheap. That included the following:
1. Living Room furniture
2. Desk/Chair
3. Carpets/Lamps
4. Silverware/Dishes/Pots
5. All new food/linens/staples

Nearly everything that I had purchased over the next 6 months were things that I had already during my marriage and had to replace because I didn't take them. I left everything. While this is not horrible because I was able to get what I wanted, it was extremely expensive, costing about 6K before I was finished. While I needed these things, they were primarily to ensure that I didn't feel crummy while I was dating.
Looking back at this period in my life, I certainly understand why I did what I did. And I am sure it is a common reaction to the situation of divorce. The challenge I'd make to anyone going through this process though is to make a budget as follows:

1. Decide what items you need in the next 6 months and how much you expect to spend
2. Take that budget and cut it in half. Repeat this process until you've bought what you need. You will likely find you need far less than you thought.

As for me, I gave most of that stuff away less than a year later when I moved. Do you want to waste that much money?

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals

Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals is the title I chose for this post, one in a series of posts about coping with the aspects of divorce. Originally I wanted to write these posts because this is mostly a blog about my finances but I also realize that largely this is a blog about life.

Reclaiming Life is something that is hard to imagine, but it is an absolutely necessary step if your divorce was tragic and had a profound impact on you. I'd imagine that this is true for most people, but it is worth noting that I am speaking only from my personal experience.

Reclaiming is from the verb to reclaim:
verb: reclaim; 3rd person present: reclaims; past tense: reclaimed; past participle: reclaimed; gerund or present participle: reclaiming
  1. 1.
    retrieve or recover (something previously lost, given, or paid); obtain the return of.

    "he returned three years later to reclaim his title as director of advertising"

    synonyms:get back, recoup, claim back, recover, regain, retrieve

    "traveling expenses can be reclaimed"
    • redeem (someone) from a state of vice; reform.

      "societies for reclaiming beggars and prostitutes"

      synonyms:save, rescue, redeem;

      "Henrietta had reclaimed him from a life of despair"
    • archaic
      tame or civilize (an animal or person).
  2. 2.
    bring (waste land or land formerly under water) under cultivation.

    "little money is available to reclaim and cultivate the desert"

And so, it is not just the first definition, but also the second definition that makes sense here. Life truly has to be recovered after divorce. Indeed I'd argue that without this step, you cannot proceed in any effective way, emotionally, spiritually, financially or physically. It is essential.

Recovering in this sense to me simply means that you are back to living. Living involves making choices, taking risks, having a good time, and being present in the current experiences and emotions of your existence. In short, being active rather than passive. Recovery in this sense isn't easy and there are a number of things available to you.
1. Friends, Family, existing support systems can help you recover your life. Not everyone is fortunate enough to have those things however, so for them, I'd focus on other options below.
2. Church/Synagogue/Temple etc where you can meet with fellow believers of your faith and perhaps deepen your connection with a higher power. For me, Church was where I feel I recovered the most. It slowed me down. It got me thinking about others besides myself which helped me really notice where I was. And most of all it gave me some structure and ability to get comfortable with who I am again.
3. Therapist and/or Support groups. These like anything can be complex and expensive or simple and cheap. Don't short change yourself on professional help, but at the same time be smart about your choices.

After recovery, you can begin the second aspect which is to bring your life to cultivation which is what the idea of goals really means. What do you want to accomplish with your life. I find that these are difficult in a way that I wouldn't have expected. It can be so consuming and difficult to recover from a trauma, that you forget to make plans for the future.

My advice about this second aspect of cultivation of goals, restating goals is:
  1. Start with restating them and writing it down.
  2. Do not worry about when/how these will get met or if at all. Just practice writing and having goals.
  3. Don't wait too long to start.
  4. Once you are comfortable with the idea of having goals, get serious and pick one or two small goals to set and work toward. This is a great way to start this habit.
In the end, the best way to restart your life is to have something to live for and to live towards. If you can manage it, start small with your goals and then build them up until they are bigger and take time and real, concrete steps to complete. Accomplishing a mix of small and larger goals is a great way to feel good about yourself and get some distance from the pain of divorce.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Making the Decision and Having the talk

When it comes to making the decision to divorce, unless there is some overarching circumstance, I view it as a mistake to do it rashly. In order to make the decision, dealing with the feelings and emotions involved first made the most sense. Often when things get changed in our lives it is because we have become fed up with the current state in some way or shape. In this case, there is a feeling that the time for Divorce has come.

Deal with your Feelings and Emotions first, noticing that there may be some distinction here. For me my emotions are concrete: Happy, Sad, Complacent, and perhaps fearful. Feelings are a bit more nebulous. I might feel trapped. I might feel subservient. I might feel powerful. None of these are truly emotions, but they are intangible, and somewhat subjective. For me, once I felt unhappy in the situation, I tried on various occasions to deal with why I had these unhappy feelings.

The feelings, more than the emotions were the primary driver of the change. More than anything, you should try to be clear about the feelings you have that are a direct result of something being wrong in the marriage. Use your gut to help you figure out if those feelings are temporary or if they are lasting. Then write it down and wait for some period of time before acting further.

Once you have your feelings in place, you can try to understand what the cause is. Perhaps you feel less important because your spouse is spending more time/energy on something else. Perhaps you feel less loved because of how you are treated/talked to. Perhaps you feel less connected since you don't spend so much time together raising the kids. Whatever the feelings are, they have reasons. Figure them out and write them down. It is good for you to have it be concrete. This will aid you when you have the talk.

Writing down reasons you want to get divorced makes the process real. Don't leave that lying around, but make sure to carry it and review it. Perhaps a day, perhaps a week. Take some time and sit with the idea that you might not be with this person anymore. Do not act rashly, but then reach out to one or two trusted friends and discuss how you've felt over lunch or over coffee. Nothing heavy. You do not want to over burden your friends so they don't feel blindsided. Some friends will feel dual loyalty. You should consider that early on.

After discussing with your friends, discuss with your family. Undoubtedly, they will be impacted by the process and if you've gone far enough that you are still certain, it is time to get them in the loop. Some people would caution against this, but for me, I think it is essential. You will need these family members to help you when you are dealing with your emotions and pain.

Once all of this is done, you are ready to have the talk. If you expect it to be particularly emotional, I recommend engaging a spiritual mentor (a priest or a rabbi if you are religious or perhaps a social worker or therapist). If you feel confident you can proceed alone, consider aspects of your safety and then ensure you have an immediate exit plan should things get ugly. Write down all of the details of the conversation once it is complete as this may be important.

Finally, consider the tenor of the conversation so far in the marriage and consider whether you want to proceed with getting a lawyer or a mediator before the conversation. None of what I describe here is legal advice, but only advice I can give based on my own personal experience.

Evening out the inequalities, Separating the assets
Moving out One Year Later
Living Apart, Living Large
Reclaiming Life, Restarting Goals
Dating with Data, Digging for Gold
Comparative Compromise, Coping with Change