The early days in an empty house, devoid of the buzz of family life, were tough. Like many men, I rarely allowed my feelings to feature heavily in my life. When they did surface, I never let them stick around for long.
I was a creature of logic. In my mind, any situation could be overcome by thinking logically and taking action.
On the first weekend I found myself alone, I was living in Grange-Over-Sands, a little village sandwiched between the sea and the mountains of the Lake District in Northern England. I was miles away from friends, book shops or any other resource that could assist with my logical analysis of the situation.
Being left alone with my thoughts felt miserable, so I did what any sensible person would do. I dug out my Ordnance Survey map, plotted a route and set off on a gruelling four-hour run with music blasting in my headphones to drown out any thoughts. The goal was to exhaust myself so that I was too tired to think, and it worked.
I was too drained to go running again the next day, so logic kicked back in. I knew that almost half of all marriages end in divorce, so I assumed that there would be loads of useful advice on the internet.
After a quick search, I learned that 60% of second marriages and over 70% of third marriages end in divorce as well. I discovered that Mel Gibson paid $425 million in his divorce settlement, and I made a mental note to avoid this. Then, I felt a flicker of achievement. Britney Spears held the record for the shortest marriage of 56 hours. I’d managed to beat this by several years.
But, my optimism was short-lived. The majority of the advice available online was terrible. I found many forums on divorce, but their content consisted primarily of angry and emotional rants. It is hard to think of any other scenario that creates so much hostility between men and women. In both male and female forums, I could feel the venom leap from the screen.
This was the last thing I needed. What I wanted was clear guidance to help me navigate this unstable time in my life.
I wrote this book because I had no one to turn to for advice when I went through my divorce. Despite the high rate of divorce, I could only think of one friend who had been through it, and he lived in Spain. The only real source of knowledge comes from experience, so friends who hadn't been through it struggled to help despite their best efforts.
My number one priority during this separation was to make sure that my two wonderful children were okay and that I saw them regularly.
My second priority concerned money. In my career, I’d spent a lot of time and money on lawyers. I’d seen first-hand how conflicts made their cash register sing. I didn’t want to get into lengthy legal arguments with my wife and blow all of our money.
These two main objectives, to make sure that my children were okay and to not waste money on solicitors, helped me focus on finding the best way forward.
This book is a no-nonsense guide to making the best out of your separation or divorce. It is written primarily for men, because there is a lack of useful resources for them. Most books on divorce are written by women for women, but men usually have different needs and concerns.
Rather than tackle only the obvious challenges like legal divorce, access to children and finances, I want to make sure that we cover mental and physical wellbeing as well. This is a tough time, and, as with any highly charged situation, you need to be in top form. Yet, due to the very nature of this situation, you are unlikely to be playing at your best, and you will certainly have bad days. In these circumstances, it is easy to make some huge mistakes and end up feeling worse.
I want to show you how to make the very best of this situation. I will show you how to come through it stronger, happier and healthier. It might seem impossible to you right now, but I know from experience that if you follow the processes in this book, you will feel better. You owe it to yourself to be in the best possible position to deal with the challenges ahead.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should make it clear that I am not on the side of men or women. In fact, where children are involved, I’m picking up the mantle for them. Children benefit from having two parents to guide them, support them and love them. Being separated from a parent is extremely difficult for a child. I ask you to think about how you would feel if you never saw your child again. Hold on to that feeling for a moment. This is how your child will feel at least some of the time following separation. And do you know who can either intensify or ease that feeling? The parents.
My aim is to provide a guide that is sensible and fair to all parties. I want to minimise conflict. I want each parent to feel happier and stronger and to be closer to their children following separation. Children do what they see us do, rather than what we tell them to do. We owe it to them to be the best version of ourselves and to be role models irrespective of the situation we find ourselves in.
I hope you find this book helpful and that you put its ideas to good use. Please let me know your comments, feedback and success stories at firstname.lastname@example.org. With your permission, I will use them in later editions of the book to benefit other readers.
Five percent of the profits from this book will go to charities that help disadvantaged children have the best start in life.
James Brien April 2019.
Separation is the end of a relationship between two people. Regardless of who initiated it, who wants it and who doesn't, or whether it was a mutual decision, it hurts. However, the way you handle yourself post-split will be the key to your recovery.
The flood of emotions and feelings that you will experience is unlike anything else. These feelings will rush in and out and vary in intensity. You may feel despair, anger, sadness, a sense of being lost or a lack of motivation. You may feel a physical ache in your stomach that will not subside. You may feel extremely sensitive, and everything may remind you of your ex-partner or your children. All of these feelings are natural, but this doesn't provide much solace.
But there is good news. All of these feelings will subside over time and eventually go away. The key word here is time, but you can also be proactive to facilitate the healing process. If you start on a dark path of self-destruction, however, it will only take more time to heal, and you will hurt for longer than necessary.
It is understandable to want to numb the pain and perhaps drink in excess. However, this will only make matters worse. Alcohol is a depressant; it will bring your mood down. Everything will feel worse, especially when that hangover kicks in. This is when you really start beating on yourself: Is it just me? Will I ever find anyone again? Am I destined to a life of misery? Avoid this place as much as possible, and steer clear of alcohol and other drugs.
Do not isolate yourself either. This is the time that you need to be around people who love and care about you, people who will build you up and support you. Being alone, overthinking and reminiscing achieve nothing.
If nothing else, get out of the house and go for a walk or, even better, a run or a jog. Exercise causes your body to release endorphins, the feel-good chemicals that raise your mood and put you in a more resourceful state of mind.
Avoid sleeping around. I know it feels good and takes your mind off of your situation, especially in the heat of the moment. But the next day, you are likely to feel even more empty. Even worse, you might end up rebounding and getting into a new relationship prematurely.
While our goal is to get over the heartbreak and move on, I'm a firm believer in doing this ourselves. We must deal with our emotions and not distract ourselves by finding a new relationship. Look at your separation as an opportunity to learn about yourself.
None of us are perfect human beings, so it is likely that you contributed to your separation in some way. This book will help you identify and deal with your mistakes in order to avoid making those same mistakes twice. Entering a new relationship before completing this process will likely lead to the same outcome.
Pain is not something that we should continually run from or shut out. Nor is it something that we should embrace and hold on to. Pain usually teaches us something, so recognise your pain, learn from it and let it go.
The pain that you are feeling will dwindle and ultimately go away, but this process does take time. My hope for you is that you start working on yourself. This is the time for you to develop yourself and build up your confidence. It is time to take care of yourself.
You have nobody else to please but yourself. Consider giving yourself a total image overhaul. Buy a different wardrobe, get a new haircut and start working out. Take up some new hobbies. Do things that you want to do. Become more aware of who you are, what is important to you and what you stand for.
When you start working on yourself like this, you will find that as your confidence rises, your pain will subside. With higher confidence, everything gets better. You will be in a great place emotionally, and you will attract beautiful experiences and people into your life.
There is no hiding from the fact that separation hurts. But if you set yourself up for failure by pressing the self-destruct button, the pain will increase and last much longer than necessary. By taking care of yourself, developing your confidence and enhancing your self-worth, you will bounce back more quickly. I promise. This is how a real man handles divorce and separation.
Planning the Divorce
It might sound cold and calculating, but when children are involved, it is better to prepare your separation in advance, rather than letting it play out in the heat of the moment. A blazing row before leaving the house can be very traumatic, especially for children. Separation is always stressful, but you can reduce this stress with a plan.
Once you have reached the decision to separate, you need to agree on significant decisions about living arrangements, access to children and financial arrangements.
Children want to know where the parent who is moving out is going to live. This home needs to be as appropriate for children as the finances allow, and it needs to be ready for their visit. Agreeing on how much time your child will spend with each of you could be a challenge.
Financial details will need immediate attention as well. Joint bank accounts should be closed and responsibility for bills agreed upon. Temporary support payments should be put in place, and temporary decisions need to be made on shared assets, such as who gets the car and which furniture will be split.
I remember giving up most of our furniture except for a pink occasion chair. I had to sit in that chair for three months while waiting for my sofa to arrive. I was thankful, though, that I only had to sleep on a blow-up bed for two weeks until my bed was delivered. The key to coping with separation is to put the needs of the children first, be flexible and keep a sense of humour.
Personal issues need to be addressed. First, you need to decide who to tell about the separation and what you will say to them. After your child, you need to tell your parents, friends, neighbours, teachers and colleagues. The timing is up to you. Women tend to share quickly, but I took my time. I didn't tell some people for months. So long, in fact, that it became difficult to raise the subject after so much time had passed.
Separation is a stressful time. Several matters will need immediate attention while many others will not. Take your time. Postpone and delay as much as possible. Even if you think you are feeling okay, there is a chance that you are not 100%. You might look back on some of the hasty decisions you made during this time and wish you had handled them differently.
What follows in this book are tools and techniques not only to help you in the short term, but also to support you in your future life. I hope that you will look back on this moment in your life and recognise it as a turning point, a pivotal time when you learned how to lead a happier life and develop and nurture better relationships.