Picture this scenario: It’s a typical weeknight at home. You just finished cleaning up from dinner and the kids are upstairs doing their homework. You sit down on the couch next to your spouse of 15 years, ready to relax for the evening. Out of nowhere, they turn to you and say, “I’m filing for divorce.”
Wait, what? You think everything is generally okay. Sure, there are the usual marital spats–whose turn it is to take out the trash, why the credit card bill is sky-high this month–but divorce? This is completely out of the blue, and you’re left picking your jaw up off the floor at this sudden divorce news.
If you’re going through something like this, first and foremost, we totally feel for you. The rug’s been pulled out from under you, and it’s completely disorienting. After you get your bearings, it’s time to figure out what to do next.
Sudden Divorce Syndrome
In situations like these, it’s not uncommon for the blindsided by divorce spouse to later hear the term “Sudden Divorce Syndrome”, sometimes referred to as “Walkaway Wife Syndrome”. This term is often used to describe scenarios where one partner abruptly decides that the marriage must end, leaving the other partner shocked and confused. In many of these cases, the spouse initiating the divorce has been contemplating it for a while but has not communicated their feelings or intentions.
The syndrome can be a complex mix of emotional, psychological, and sometimes even physical factors. If your spouse seems to have switched overnight, remember that you’re not crazy for feeling bewildered. Understanding Sudden Divorce Syndrome can sometimes offer a small sliver of clarity in the thick fog of confusion. But keep in mind, it doesn’t excuse the pain or betrayal you’re experiencing.
Getting Your Legal Ducks in a Row
The impulse to hash it all out immediately is natural but pause for a moment. Consult with a divorce attorney or mediator before making any significant financial decisions or agreements with your spouse.
Before meeting with your attorney or mediator, gather up essential documents. We’re talking about tax returns, bank statements, mortgage papers, retirement accounts–the works. Having this information on hand will help your attorney or mediator give you tailored advice and ensure you’re not at a disadvantage.
Navigating the Mix of Emotions
As you move forward, try to take your spouse’s words with a grain of salt. If they blindsided you by divorce, who’s to say they’re not holding back more information? It’s okay to question what’s going on and to be wary of taking everything they say at face value.
Your feelings are bound to be a mixture of shock, betrayal, and a dozen other emotions. Reach out to friends and family members whom you can trust not to stoke the flames but rather help you think clearly and offer emotional support.
If you don’t feel like you have any friends or family members that fit that description, consider joining a divorce support group, like the ones we offer here at Split.fyi. Support groups can offer invaluable advice and the kind of understanding that only comes from shared experience.
Working through your feelings over this sudden divorce with a therapist or divorce coach can also be helpful. They can help you make sense of your emotional turmoil and provide actionable steps for how to handle daily life in the midst of this crisis.
Believing in Yourself Through the Process
We know it’s tough. You probably can’t picture a life without your spouse, especially when you have kids involved. But you’re more resilient than you think, and you’re tougher than this tough situation. It’s okay to feel lost now; it’s okay to grieve. But it’s also important to remember that you have the strength to get through this and come out stronger on the other side.
While there’s no magic formula to make this all go away, there is the knowledge and assurance that you’re not alone and that life–though it doesn’t seem like it now–will go on. Your next chapter might even be your best one yet.