When you get to the point in your marriage where things have not been working out for awhile, you will be faced with making some sort of decision. As you may have read, my wife and I went through lots of therapy, Dr. Phil books, and endless discussions to make our marriage work.
We each put in a significant amount of effort to make our marriage work. Unfortunately, we were each trying to fit a “circle in a square”…it just was not working. We had become different people. She had become someone else after we married, someone who prioritized money before all else. As you may have read in the cost of divorce, the college sweetheart who prized happiness above a BMW metamorphosed into Ivana Trump.
So, after all this trying, you are left with a decision: Legal Separation or Divorce?
As you look at a legal separation vs divorce, you are really analyzing whether time away will benefit either of you. In the article Marriage: Should You Keep Working At It Or Call It Quits?, I addressed some of the issues that you may want to consider.
I would say that you should choose a legal separation only if you think that the relationship still has a chance. Honestly, often people just do need time apart and this can be achieved through a legal separation. In fact, it can be achieved just through a separation without going through the rigor-moral of a legal separation.
As you read on this page, there are issues that you have to deal with when you choose a legal separation.
During a legal separation, you have a court order that outlines the rights and responsibilities of each spouse while they are living apart.
Thus, if your goal is a “trial separation”, do you really want to involve the court system? If you have a chance to make it work, which presumably you do if you only desire a separation, do you really need to file paperwork with the authorities to “legally separate”.
Legal separations often involve most of the legalities of a full-fledged divorce. During a legal separation, couples may make decisions which involve issues such as child custody, child visitation rights, child support, and spousal support, a prelude to alimony. Basically, a “legal separation” may, in some cases, be as taxing as a divorce. And, after all that, you’re still married!
There are other reasons that you may want to get a legal separation versus a divorce and most of these are financial: insurance, taxation, and social security.
In the case of insurance, a legal separation may allow one of the parties continued coverage whereas a divorce may not. Issues with taxes arise as some may want to continue to receive a “marriage deduction”. And finally, various forms of social security require marriage to be a certain amount of years.
So, how should you decide? Should you get a legal separation, just separate, or get a divorce?
Obviously, I cannot answer that question for you. I can, however, give you my personal story, which is what this blog Healthy Divorce is all about.
I think that you need to ask yourself a fundamental question: Does the marriage have a chance? I ask this, because in my mind, this is the only reason to have any form of separation rather than a divorce. Would the time apart allow you to see the person in a different light? Would the difference allow you to be more objective?
If so, I would recommend a separation, though probably not a legal separation. When you begin a legal separation, you are engaging more people who will charge you money to be apart. If you have a chance to make it work, can’t the two of you come to your own separation agreement and abide by it without involving lawyers? If not, maybe divorce is the right track.
Finally, and most importantly, you need to consider your kids if you have them. My kids are the most important people in my life; they are my loves and you need to factor in how this will affect them.
Presumably, if you are considering legal separation or divorce, you marriage has not been a positive experience for the kids for some time. Any form of separation is liable to draw this out for the kids and may make their presently difficult emotional lives more challenging. Imagine them explaining to their friends why mommy and daddy don’t live together anymore. So, make sure that you factor your kids in more than any other concern.
On my end, even though I went through a divorce, I hold marriage in very high regard. If you have a chance to really make it work, go for a separation and use the time to rediscover the love that you had. But, if its over, and you know it, do not prolong the inevitable because it will make it more difficult for everyone. In these cases, divorce is the best option.
The biggest mistake that I made, and one that is so difficult to avoid, is becoming contentious. With my x-wife, I harbored so many ill-feelings about finances that I wanted to explode. As I have mentioned, my x-wife liked to spend A LOT of money. I wanted her to be able to be financially secure since she was the mother of my children, but I felt she wanted to lead a life of excess on my dime.
I’ll admit. I was bitter. Should she be able to lead a life better than me when I am earning all the money? What happened to the girl I once knew who could be happy without all this excess material stuff? She was gone and in her place was Leona Helmsley.
So, I became contentious when she told the lawyers that she needed all of these things in order to go on with her life. I fought, and fought, and fought and realized that I was losing.
So many great ideas have to come to me from experts after starting this divorce website. Often, I wish they had come before.
One such item that came my way ex-post-facto, which would have saved me a lot of grief, was Dr. Reena Sommer’s How to Avoid the Ten Biggest Divorce Mistakes. I have written about Dr. Sommer before as her book helped my friend Eric through his wife’s affair.
In dealing with finances, there are two facets: the numbers and the emotions. I was having to deal with both. I am good with numbers as they are very logical. Even though it was depressing seeing what I would have to pay, I could at least get my head around the numbers. But, I was having difficulty dealing with it emotionally.
In the Ten Biggest Divorce Mistakes, Dr. Sommer teaches how to deal with a lot of the emotional volatility of divorce. She shares with you when to be friendly with your spouse and (what I liked!) when it might be ok to be contentious.
The reality for me, and for most people, when they are going through a divorce is this: You are not thinking clearly. During my divorce, I realized that as I became contentious, I became less rationale and was not thinking clearly. This is normally a strong suit for me.
The Ten Biggest Divorce Mistakes helps you think clearly when you are in the midst of this emotional chaos.
My x-wife and I argued constantly over money. She seem to have a spending disposition that I did not recognize before we were married…probably because I had no money before we were married.
I had more of a savings mentality that did not allow a peaceful financial coexistence between the two of us. Each month I would see the credit card bills and I would have one reaction: You have got to be kidding me!
In college, my future x-wife and I subsisted on pizza, beer, and lots of time enjoying things that did not cost a dime. After I began making money, she began spending it “for the good of the family.” How do $200 massages and $250 spa days for her benefit the family? “It will make me a happier person, a better wife, and a better mother,” she would respond.
I never saw this coming when we decided to get married. Since I started making decent money, and we decided that she should be a stay at home mom for the kids, she stopped working. And when people stop working, they start spending and it never seems to stop. In essence, we lost one wage earner and acquired a wage spender. Did she become a better mother? I suppose a little bit…as long as she had her massages, mani-peddies, and spa days.
When our relationship began to deteriorate, and we realized that divorce may be on the horizon, I started investigating the financial ramifications of divorce. You know the most devastating thing that I learned? The thing that hurt the most? I would need to continue to pay for these silly, unnecessary things: the spa, the massages, the expensive haircuts, the expensive clothes, etc.
Why? Because she is entitled for a period of time to continue her lifestyle as is.
I began devouring all the books that I could find to learn how to mitigate this vast expense that was becoming my divorce. I started with a book entitled Legally Save Thousands On Your Divorce.
I did not want my wife to become destitute, she is the mother of my kids after all, but I certainly did not think she should be able to continue her exorbitant spending. On top of that, I realized that I would have to pay legal fees that would be in the 5-6 figure neighborhood.
It seems like what Stephen Hawking would have referred to as a black-hole! The most important thing you can do to mitigate costs with both your x-wife, and your lawyers, is to learn.
The book Legally Save Thousands on Your Divorce helped me begin this learning process.
I remember when I was pondering this question as my wife and I were having so many problems. At the time, we were reading Dr. Phil’s Book Relationship Rescue together. As I recently read that Dr. Phil may be getting a divorce, I had a slight chuckle at all the pain he caused me in going through his book!
Dr. Phil’s book is a long book with many exercises that you need to go through with your spouse or your girlfriend. Since things did not work out between myself and my x, I view Relationship Rescue as both a blessing and a curse: It was a blessing because I learned that I was in a relationship that could not work. And it was a curse because I spent so much time to figure out that it would not work.
Sometimes, answers are more simple. I am reminded of a quote I once learned: “For complex problems, the simplest answer is the best.”
As I think of the labor my x and I spent with Relationship Rescue, I wonder if we would not have been better off with Should You Stay or Should You Go? by Susie and Otto Collins.
Of course, who can hear this title without thinking of the Clash: “Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?”
Susie and Otto sent me a copy of their book Should You Stay, Should You Go long after I had started this website, long after I had gone through my divorce, and long after I had spent hours doing Relationship Rescue exercises with my x-wife.
I liked the straightforwardness of their ideas and I wish that I had a copy of this book when I was going through the problems with my x-wife-it would have saved me literally hundreds of hours and probably led me to the same solution-I should go!-much quicker.
They also provide many extra resources with Should I Stay, Should I Go including Creating Relationship Magic, 6 Keys to Healing after Leaving a Painful Relationship, Love Lessons, 7 Keys to Creating A Great Relationship, and much more.
It’s well worth the price of admission. So if you are trying to rescue your relationship, you might just want to ask one simple question: Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
Sometimes in life you need to take a break, especially when you have gone through divorce or are in the midst of divorce.
There are always just so many issues to deal with: divorce and finance, divorce and kids, relationships after divorce. It can be a taxing process.
But fortunately, there is life beyond divorce and that is what I talk about on this Healthy Divorce blog.
Since I have been away, I have experienced dating after divorce and continue to deal with some divorce mistakes that I made that have made cost of divorce rather significant.
Fortunately, I have also gotten a new job which has helped to offset the cost of divorce somewhat.
Anyway, as always, I welcome your contributions and thoughts and hope that my insights of Life Strategies Before, During, and After Your Divorce can help you through the process.
It’s good to be back writing about my experiences. Not only is it therapeutic for me, but I actually enjoy it quite a bit!
Confession. I came across your site searching for Divorce. Specifically, I wanted to learn some of the tactics men use in divorce so I would know how to counterattack. After all, I’m from New York, and if I am going to go through a divorce, I need to know how the enemy is thinking.
Well, as I was learning these secrets, my husband approached me with new reconciliation ideas. He wanted to make our marriage work. I did too, but I was preparing myself for the worst.
We had been married for 10 years and had pretty much lost interest in each other. We hadn’t lost love, but we had lost the spark. We tried several marriage books that didn’t work. Our discussions always led to some sort of argument. I always felt like Rob, my husband, made empty promises. He always said, “I love you and I want to make it work,” but his words felt hollow as they were not backed up by action.
Then, one day, he sat me down and said: “Cheryll, I want to make this work but I am not going to change who I am. I am not going to do all of the things you are requesting!”
Hmmm, what was going on here?, I wondered. I hadn’t heard any of this before.
Well, it turns out he had read about a whole new concept on how to save your marriage. It was a book called The Mastery’s Guide to Saving your Marriage and Stopping your Divorce.
I will tell you what this did: It brought Rob back. It brought back the man I originally fell in love with. The Rob from college who fought for what he wanted but stuck to his principles. Instead of the namby-pamby how to save your marriage crap, the fighter in Rob came out.
He told me exactly what he wanted and told me the things that he could do for me…and that a lot of what I had requested he was not going to do-it wasn’t him!
He forced me back into the relationship not by begging but by being assertive. I loved it. He didn’t tell me about this book until after we were solid again. I then read it and I have to say now that our marriage is stronger than ever. From the brink of divorce, we are now solid again, and this time we know how to deal with our issues.
John, I know that your site is about divorce, but I imagine many people (like me) who visit your site would also be interested in saving their marriage.
I totally recommend this book to those who have one ounce of energy left to put into their relationship.
PS: If I didn’t mention it above, the book is by Dr. Katie Zaltman and it’s called The Mastery’s Guide to Saving your Marriage and Stopping your Divorce.
Note from John: Visitors, I have not read this book, but I did visit the web page. There do seem to be great, real techniques that are not full of the fluffy stuff that I tried. If you’re interested, it’s called The Mastery’s Guide to Saving your Marriage and Stopping your Divorce.
We often assume in relationships that the man will be the unfaithful one. But, in Eric’s case, his wife Sarah was the offending party. He came to me a couple of months ago with tears in his eyes. I thought maybe he had had a death in the family. I quickly learned that he was concerned about the death of his marriage. His wife Sarah had cheated on him.
I knew Sarah and would never have suspected that she would be cheating on Eric. She just did not seem like the kind of person who would do that. Eric was literally a broken man as he fell to his knees at my house.
I am not too educated in the unfaithful partner arena. My divorce was not caused by infidelities but other marital woes. However, infidelity, along with financial problems, is one of the leading causes of divorce.
Since I run this website, authors often send me their books free of charge. One such author, Dr. Reena Sommer, Ph.D., had once sent me a copy of her “The Anatomy of An Affair“. I hadn’t read it because I had not been confronted by infidelity. However, now my friend Eric was experiencing this pain of an infidelity, a pain that is equal to, if not greater than, divorce.
To think of your spouse in the arms of another is devastating. I once had a girlfriend who cheated on me and I simply could not get it out of my mind. And to have a wife do that? I could not even fathom the grief of my good friend Eric.
As Eric spent the night on my couch, and with constant, unanswered apologetic calls from Sarah ringing my phone, I sat down with Dr. Sommer’s book and began reading the Anatomy of an Affair. As I read her book, I remembered the feelings that I had long ago when my girlfriend cheated on me: the shame, the embarrassment, the fact that I could never trust her again, the feeling that our relationship may not be able to continue.
This book interested me not only as a recipe for Eric to get back on his feet but for me. The book teaches you how to avoid the pitfalls of infidelity in your current relationships: How to see the signs of upcoming infidelity, how to prevent it from happening, and how to improve your current relationship.
In the morning, I could tell that Eric hadn’t slept-he’d been crying all night. I offered him the book as a good place to start. He returned to Sarah later that day to begin the long process of reconciliation.
Now, two months later, Eric and Sarah are still together. Will it last? Eric says that he is not sure. He says he returns often to The Anatomy of an Affair on particularly difficult days when he can think of nothing else but his wife in someone else’s arms.
Each day, he says, he learns to forgive just a little bit more and he hopes for the best with Sarah.
Whether we like to admit it or not, divorce, while it is happening, is a battle. And, like in every battle, you need to be armed with as much information as possible.
I realized that a lot of women going through divorce were reading Divorce Secrets Revealed: What Every Women Should Know.
I am a man. Why would I want to read this? Well, in every good battle, it helps to know what the other side is up to. On a hunch, I bought the book thinking that my wife may be reading it. (After our divorce, when we were able to share a bottle of wine and have a reasonable conversation, she relayed to me that Divorce Secrets was her divorce bible, her go-to guide during our divorce process.)
As men have their favorite books (mine was Men’s Divorce Tactics), women quite fairly have theirs too. This book teaches women everything they need to know to get as much from you as they can. In fact, the book decrees: “Make HIM pay for your escape.”
If you don’t think your future x-wife is reading it, you’re probably wrong! It’s a great book for women as it teaches them how to get as much from you as they can.
And it’s a great book for men to have to know what the enemy is up.
Remember, after your divorce, your goal is to get on with your life and maintain a sustainable relationship with your x-wife, especially if you have kids together.
However, during the divorce process, it is a battle and you need to know what the enemy is up to.
She is certainly reading Divorce Secrets Revealed: What Every Women Should Know.
You should too.
When my wife and I realized that things were not working out between us, we had what I thought were amicable discussions. Then, on that day, when we decided that divorce was the only solution, she changed immediately. Friendliness faded as she was out to get seemingly everything.
As an independent businessman, my wife was trying to base alimony on my best year ever, claiming that every year thereafter should be better than the one before. Any businessman knows that the economy cycles and you cannot beat your best year every year.
She was also claiming that I worked too much to have shared custody of the children. What a Catch-22! She’s claiming that I should exceed my best year every year and that I have to work less if I want to have equal custody of the kids.
My lawyer told me that this was normal. I didn’t feel normal and I didn’t feel that my lawyer really knew how I felt. That is when I came across John Williams Men’s Divorce Strategies. He subtitled his book “Learn How To Win Your Divorce Without Losing Your Shorts or Your Kids!”
These were the two very things that were causing the greatest pain. My wife was trying to take everything…including the kids. If she had her way (I felt at the time), she would have me out on the street begging for change while she lived beachside with our kids and a new man in her life!
I felt like nobody was on my side or understood my situation until I came across this book. I learned invaluable techniques that guided me through the process not only logistically but emotionally-there was someone out there who understood!
Anyway, it’s a great book. If you’re interested in John’s book, you can get it here. In all of my research, this is the #1 product that I would recommend to all men going through a divorce.