Nobody plans on divorcing their spouse, but it happens, despite best intentions. As of 2014, divorce rates were high for America (53%), Spain (60%), and Portugal (60%).
Aside from the difficulty of acknowledging your relationship is ending, there are many more challenges you’ll meet while going through a divorce. These challenges are manageable when you know to expect them, and have the knowledge to take the right action when they arise.
Splitting marital property with sentimental value
Dividing up marital property doesn’t happen evenly. The spouse with less income will usually get a larger share of the property, especially if certain items have a higher value. For example, say you and your spouse collected antiques for ten years. If your income is higher, those antiques might be given to your partner to compensate for their loss of income. It doesn’t matter if those antiques have special meaning to you and not your spouse. Property is generally divided according to monetary value.
When you don’t have sentimental attachment to property, it’s not a big deal who gets what. When you’re emotionally invested in property, it’s painful to watch a judge give it to your partner, especially if you know they’re just going to sell it and you’ll never see it again.
Be prepared to uncover hidden attachments
The Dalai Lama once said, “attachment is the origin, the root of suffering; hence it is the cause of suffering.” You’ll feel profound loss and suffering when anything you’re attached to disappears. If you’ve been married for many years, you’re probably not conscious of all your attachments.
During your divorce, you might discover emotional attachments to property you didn’t realize you were attached to. Be prepared to let anything go. For example, you may have felt nothing special toward the small statue on your coffee table, but when it’s being given to your spouse, you might feel a deep loss.
To prepare for the suffering that results from unexpected loss, do some reading about non-attachment and how it leads to inner peace. Contemplate on the deep truth that everything is transitory, whether it be people, places, things, or circumstances.
Get your partner’s agreement to keep sentimental items
If there’s something you can’t bear to let go of, talk to your partner or mediator to form a compromise. For instance, say you won the couch of your dreams in a raffle and can’t imagine sitting on any other couch. Get a written agreement from your partner that says you can have the couch. You may need to pay them for it, or accept a smaller share of the property to make up for it. Either way, don’t wait until a judge divides your assets to fight for that couch. Your partner may not be as willing to compromise in the heat of the moment.
If your partner isn’t willing to compromise, or you both want the same items, go back to non-attachment. The quality of your life won’t diminish if you can’t hang onto a motorcycle or a kitchen appliance.
A drastic reduction in your standard of living
After a divorce, you’re going to experience a significant reduction in income. As a result, you’ll need to downgrade your lifestyle, starting with the size of your home. Live small until you’re financially stable. Even if you want to live in another house, it’s easiest to rent a small apartment or condo until the dust settles and your income is predictable.
Unless your home was paid off before the divorce, or one of you can afford to buy the other out, you’ll probably end up selling it. Maybe you never bought your home and were just renting. In that case, be prepared to pay penalties for breaking your lease early, unless you’re a victim of domestic violence.
If you’re a domestic violence victim, you might be protected
States in the U.S. and Canada both have laws that protect victims of domestic violence by allowing them to terminate residential tenancy early without penalty. In Alberta, CA, for example, the Residential Tenancies Act allows a domestic violence victim to apply for a certificate to confirm they have a legitimate reason to terminate the lease. In the U.S., Section 8 tenants can circumvent moving requirements if moving is necessary to protect themselves or their children from domestic violence.
Experienced attorneys say domestic violence often escalates during a divorce. For many, moving early is the only option, regardless of the penalties. Even if there’s no law where you live, talk to your landlord about the situation. Let them know you need to move and why. Most reasonable landlords would rather let you break your lease and find another tenant than have a potentially violent situation occur.
The loss of mutual friends
During a divorce, your mutual friends might take sides with your partner and oust you from their life. It doesn’t have to happen that way.
The solution is to talk to your friends about your divorce, but don’t demean your partner. Allow your mutual friends to spend time with both you and your partner separately. You’re both going through an emotionally difficult time, and both of you need your friends.
It also helps if you avoid asking your friends to take sides. If they do, respect their decision. It will hurt for a while, but it’s best not to chase them if they’ve made up their mind. However, don’t contribute to their decision by bad mouthing your ex. Remember, your mutual friends care about both of you.
Accept support through your difficult time
These are just some of the difficulties you may face during a divorce. There will be unexpected twists and turns in your journey, so be sure to lean on your close friends and family members for support. If you don’t have friends you can trust completely, find a therapist or counselor instead. Don’t try to get through it on your own. The greatest difficulty you’ll face is acknowledging your need for support. Perhaps that’s the best place to start.