Divorce can feel like a never-ending nightmare. The sheer amount of logistics and emotions is enough to cause the most rational person to make poor decisions with profound consequences. And when divorce mixed in with the things in life that are already stressing you out, like retirement or caring for an ailing parent, may make you feel like you just want to hide and not leave the house.
Although feeling overwhelmed and confused during divorce is normal, remember to avoid the common divorce mistakes that can negatively impact your future. Avoiding these boomer divorce mistakes will save you time, money, and your sanity so that you can move on with your life.
5 Common Boomer Divorce Mistakes
Failing to see the Big Picture
Divorce feels awful because as a society, none of us are taught to plan ahead for it. Funny, isn't it? For years, doctors have been telling us to take care of ourselves so we will feel better as we age. Financial advisors have preached about saving, planning, and budgeting for retirement since the day we started working. So why, when we are preparing for divorce, or when we are gritting our teeth during the process, don't we apply those same principles?
Instead of asking ourselves, “What's the game plan? Where do I want to be in a year with this divorce and how can I get there?” and then reverse-engineering, we instead just stumble through the days and months, panicking as events unfold and then reacting to them with elevated blood pressure. It's no wonder why you feel helpless and that your life has spun out of control.
Planning where you want to be with the divorce six months from now and a year from now, and then putting the steps in to get there, has bigger dividends than struggling to make it through the day and merely reacting to events as they unfold. This method can also help plan for contingencies and worst-case scenarios so you don't freak out if things get ugly.
RELATED: DIVORCE AFTER 50 – RULES OF THE ROAD
You wouldn't have dreamed of planning for your retirement at the last minute, and then trying to figure things out day by day as they happen, so why approach your divorce the same way?
Making decisions based on emotion rather than logic
When you strip away the stress and the drama that comes with splitting from your spouse–even if you have been married for decades–divorce is actually just a business transaction: dividing assets and debts and then continuing your life as an individual. That's not said to minimize the long life and family that you and your spouse had built together, but it's absolutely critical to keep those emotions at bay when dealing with the business side of things.
Compartmentalizing the emotions makes sense logically. Your head understands, but the part of you that is heartbroken and angry may spend months fighting over things that have nothing to do with business. It's understandable: we all make decisions based on emotions because we are hurting. And the only way we know how to deal with those emotions is by projecting that pain onto our business decisions.
We fight and emotionally over-react because we think we will “win,” the divorce, and “get back at” our spouse. This tit-for-tat can go on for months and years, which only prolongs the stress and ensures a future of bitterness. You deserve better than that–you have worked for years and deserve the chance to enjoy yourself now, so why be bitter during this next chapter of your life?
Nobody wins in divorce, and you must make your decisions from a clear-headed and rational place. Otherwise, you will find yourself robbed of time, money, and emotional energy–assets that are put to better use in your post-divorce life.
Not Making Your Own Decisions
When you're going through a messy divorce that has a million moving parts to it, it can be easy to say, “You know what?!?! I'm just going to let my lawyer figure it out for me.” Or, “Okay, fine. If agreeing to the demands of my spouse will get him/her off my back and let me move on, whatever.” Or, if you have a particular problem, you may throw a question out on a group forum, and listen to the advice of other contributors, basing our decision solely on strangers.
There is nothing wrong with educating yourself or asking for advice. But remember that ultimately, this is your life and your future. It is your right and your responsibility to take ownership of your divorce decisions. Sure, you can have people advise you–divorce professionals working with you is never a bad thing. But remember, at the end of the day it is you who has to live with the divorce decisions that are made–shouldn't you be the one making them?
Not Educating Yourself
Do you remember that old phrase, “Knowledge is Power?” There's a reason it was so popular—because it's true.
Divorce can feel overwhelming because you're scared of the unknown. At this point in your life, you may have thought that the hard work was behind you and that you had a good handle on things, but then this curveball is thrown at you and you're not sure how to plan for it.
The only way to ease that fear and uncertainty is to educate yourself about the process. Quality divorce resources online are plentiful, many divorce lawyers and divorce coaches offer free consultations, and there are support groups and community classes that will help you understand your rights, provide you checklists, and offer assistance so you do not get run over in the process. The more you read, reach out, and take advantage of the resources out there, the less scared and helpless you will feel. That type of knowledge is pretty powerful, indeed.
Dating when you're not ready
Once you and your spouse split, you are given this amazing opportunity to heal, rediscover yourself, and reclaim your independence–things that only you can do. So why on earth would you invest yourself emotionally right away with someone new, when you haven't had any time to learn how to be on your own? And how much worse will you feel when that “new, promising” relationship doesn't work out?
Sure, we're human, and we want to be touched and loved. And it's understandable to feel an emptiness that you're looking to fill, especially if you had a partner for most of your life. Separation is a lonely place to be, but you know what's even worse? Dependence—depending on another romantic relationship to make you feel loved and validated and taken care of. Now is the time to break that cycle.
Desperately going on the rebound does a great disservice to you because it robs you of the opportunity to heal your heart and clear your head. And it screws the other person over, too. Everybody deserves the chance to have a relationship with a partner that is happy and healthy. When you look to that other person to fill that emptiness and to “save you,” and to “take care of you,” you're robbing them of the chance to have the healthy relationship that they deserve.
You don't need anybody to save you or to heal you or take care of you. You are strong and smart and you've got this. You have decades of life experience that has taught you how to handle all kinds of crises. Lean on your friends, your family, a good therapist, and divorce support groups to listen and encourage when you feel hurt. Find the happiness you've been missing by discovering and enjoying your new-found freedoms.
Eventually, when you're feeling better and you can honestly say to yourself, “You know…I'm okay with being alone and independent” and you really feel it and you're not just lying to yourself, then you can start dating again. But start slowly and manage your expectations. Dating after a divorce when you're healed should be a fun way to get to know new people and get to know yourself better.
The divorce journey is a long a tricky one, no matter the stage of the divorce you are in, or where you are in life. But awareness of the huge divorce mistakes–not looking at the big picture, making decisions based on emotion, not making your own decisions, not educating yourself, and latching on to someone else too soon–and avoiding these mistakes will make the boomer divorce road traveled less bumpy.