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The Top 3 Rude Awakenings of Divorce

Splitting up can be challenging, but did you know it would be this challenging?

Key points

  • Divorce can be harder in more ways than you know.
  • Being prepared for the challenges of divorce can make it easier.
  • Create a plan, ask for help from others and take one step at a time.

Rude Awakening #1: The Cost of It All

When Mariah opened her utility bill, she nearly fell over. It was close to $400.

In her entire 28-year marriage, she had never paid the bills, nor had she ever known any of the details of what things cost. When projecting her budget for life as a single mom, she put down $120 per month for utilities. She thought that would be more than enough. But, in addition to the gas and electric bill, there was also garbage and water to pay (another $35 and $50 per month). Already on a tight budget, with having to pay for food and rent on her own, she panicked.

Artem Kovalev/Unsplash
Source: Artem Kovalev/Unsplash

Mariah’s plan to get a part-time job in her friend’s gift shop to supplement her spousal and child support would have to be scrapped and she’d have to seriously rethink ways to increase her income.

Unfortunately, this scene is common. The high cost of living is perhaps the most dramatic rude awakening, especially if one of the spouses never dealt with the money or had to pay the bills.

Almost everyone feels a pinch financially immediately following a divorce. Men and women tend to be impacted differently, but both spouses usually see at least a temporary decline in their standard of living.

And, there’s an obvious trickle down to the kids. They suffer when there’s less cash flow, too.

Not only do they feel the fallout of stressed parents, but they also may have to stop participating in sports, extracurricular events, particular schooling, and more. Helpful Tip #1: When romantic love has gone out of a marriage, our culture mandates that you should immediately get a divorce. This is understandable but, if you think about it, not very practical. I recommend planning for your divorce if you get along well enough.

Acknowledge that the intimacy is gone, but rather than filing right away, take advantage of your current financial stability by putting money aside for attorneys or for rent on a new apartment.

Rude Awakening #2: The Reality of Running a Household

Zak Neilson/Unsplash
Source: Zak Neilson/Unsplash

Anyone who has ever run a corporation knows that they have to learn how to spin a lot of plates in the air at the same time. Multiply that by about 20 and that’s what running a household is like.

When you’re in charge of a family, you are on duty 24/7/365, even when you’re on vacation. You hold the well-being of everyone in the household in your hands—everything from brushing teeth to feeding and clothing, to following their progress at school, arranging and supporting their social lives, coordinating after-school and extra-curricular events, and even tracking how well they slept. Oh, and don’t forget about cooking, laundry, and cleaning. The amount of items you have to track is astonishing.

Katari knew that, when she moved out, Jim would have no idea how to take care of their three kids’ day-to-day lives and sure enough, all hell broke loose within four days. The kids called Katari complaining that Dad wasn’t making their lunches and that there were no clean clothes. The kids enjoyed ordering food out every night but Katari knew that this would stop once Jim started seeing the credit card bills.

She secretly delighted in watching Jim struggle, but it broke her heart that life was so chaotic at Dad’s house—mostly for her children’s sake, but a little bit for him, as well. She knew her oldest daughter was a caretaker and would be at risk for taking on some of the adult responsibilities. Katari didn’t want that to happen so she enlisted the help of a co-parenting therapist, who convinced Jim to hire someone for a few hours a week to cook, clean, and do laundry.

It’s amazing how much money eating out costs, when he stopped treating the kids to expensive meals each night, he was able to pay for the helper and he had money left over.

Helpful Tip #2: In a perfect world, when parents split, their households will be similar enough that kids don't have to do too much acclimating. This doesn't always happen.

If you're the "hands-on" parent, however, and you want to be kind (for your kids' sake), create a list of tasks that must be tracked for a month and share that with your soon-to-be-ex. If you're the "hands-off" parent, assume that running a household is much harder than you know and do all you can to learn how it’s done. Get help from friends, neighbors, and family, too.

Expect to make mistakes but build your resilience to get back up quickly when you fall. When you’re in charge of things, you can’t afford to waste time not knowing what’s what.

It’s okay to ask your older kids a question or two but don’t lean on them, as tempting as that may be. Divorce is a big adjustment for them as well and, ideally, they should stay focused on themselves.

Rude Awakening #3: Dreaded Dating

Dating is an area that people generally feel apprehensive about when their marriage ends (unless they already have an affair partner), but they can’t know how challenging it really is until they are out there on the dating scene.

Dating can feel like trying to find a needle in a haystack.

Many of those going through gray divorces have never done online dating and can’t quite fathom how it works. They may have heard about, e-Harmony, and Tinder, but they become overwhelmed when they see how many more sites there are: Bumble, Our Time, Zoosk, Elite Singles, Silver Singles, Christian Mingle, J-Date, BlackPeopleMeet,, Plenty-of-Fish and dozens more. It’s truly overwhelming. Younger daters, although more accustomed to the online dating scene, may feel overwhelmed as well.

Add to the mix being a single parent and having to go to work (or back to work), and the hill to climb to find new love gets even steeper. Yet, it’s absolutely possible to date and find new love, even with these extra complications.

For those who are raw or grieving, it can take much longer to feel ready to date (especially if you’ve been hurt in your marriage). Don't be hard on yourself. Your heart just needs a bit more time to heal. You may not be able to imagine dating now, but in time, the urge may strike.

Helpful Tip #3: Of course, not everyone will need or want a partner after a divorce, but for those who do, don’t be afraid to meet someone new. Going online is how many people find partners these days and, in some geographic areas, it may be the only option.

Dating is a great equalizer. It makes everyone feel like they are 15-years-old, but it can be fun and empowering also. It's a wonderful way to get to know yourself, your likes and dislikes.

Let friends and neighbors know that you are single, in case they know anyone they can fix you up with. Talk to others who are adept at online dating. Ask them to help you create a profile and vet your prospects. Push through your fears and maintain a positive attitude. Think of it this way: For every frog you kiss, you're getting that much closer to the right person. Keep going.

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