Divorce is such a negative word. But good things come in unusual ways, as Cody discovered after her husband of eight years suddenly left her with a family and stack of bills…
As lovely as the wedding day is, the divorce figures aren’t so pretty. According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics, over 118,000 couples marry annually, but sadly over 47,000 are granted a divorce in the same year.
Preparing for a divorce is not usually top of mind when your relationship is in a happy place – you would never think that your spouse would just up and leave. But that’s exactly what happened to Cody Jarrett, ex-wife of well-known Australian actor John Jarratt. Jarrett was married to the actor for eight years when he suddenly left her to return to his first wife, leaving Cody with two young boys, two dogs, two cats, a mortgage and a pile of bills. “I spent the first few months completely floundering and overwhelmed”, Cody says. “I had never been in this situation before and I had no idea where to start or begin. I had no one to guide me and felt alone. I knew I needed guidance, but found nowhere or no-one to turn to.”
Three years on and Cody has taken her loss and lessons to launch an online resource and six-week program called Starting Over. Starting Over gives women a framework and structure to navigate through the emotional, financial, legal and logistical implications of separation, vowing to hold their hand through each step. The workbook-based support program is supported by a website and online community and focuses on one key theme per week – Financial, Emotional, Legal, House & Home, Health & Wellbeing and Business & Career. The themes are deliberate, Cody says. They address the main areas women seem to gain paralysis by analysis. Starting Over takes away the overwhelm and provides a light in a dark tunnel, step-by-step, week-by-week.
Here, Cody shares a sneak peak of the break-up stumbling blocks and quick tips to get you back on track…
The paralysis: For most people in a relationship finances are inextricably linked, to the point where untangling them all seems impossible because they can’t see to the end of the paper trail, let alone find the beginning. So how do you make a start? There’s also the very real issue of how to survive day to day because most women end up financially worse after a separation.
Quick tip: If your split has been adversarial, don’t play nice and wait and hope he’ll do the right thing. Protect yourself and your kids by putting away some money into your own account [open one if you don’t have one!] and closing down any joint accounts.
The paralysis: If you take a physical battering in life, it’s not just necessary, but accepted, that you’ll take time out to heal. But your heart, even if it’s broken, is not out in open view, and you’ve just got to get on with the everyday tasks of living. People are less sympathetic about emotional trauma than physical trauma, so you feel as though you have to hide the emotional bruises and put them on hold just to keep going.
Quick tip: Get your feelings out in whatever way feels right; talk to friends, cry your eyes out, or make a voodoo doll! Holding it in now will lead to a bigger explosion later on.
The paralysis: Imagine if someone just started tossing you letters in a foreign language that you didn’t speak, and asked you to decipher them. Even with Google translate, it would be daunting! The law is like that; it has a power and a language of it’s own that many women find intimidating and difficult to understand. Especially when they come to realise it’s less about justice and more about semantics and technicalities, they literally feel incapable of dealing with it.
Quick tip: Go through a divorce consultant instead of a lawyer who will not just look at the bigger picture, but break it down for you in more digestible chunks [and charge you less too].
HOUSE & HOME
The paralysis: If there are too many things occupying a space around you, it’s difficult to move. Kind of like trying to push your way through a crowd at New Year’s Eve. After a separation, your home feels like that too; it’s not just that all the other person’s belongings might be there, but the air still feels thick with their presence, and memories and reminders, and that makes it hard to do anything except just stand still.
Quick tip: Reclaim your home by removing all his things and add at least one new personal item in each room to signify it’s your space now.
HEALTH AND WELLBEING
The paralysis: We only care for our bodies when we care – full stop. But straight after a separation, you feel like all the caring has gone; someone caring for you, you caring for them, and sadly, caring for yourself. Self-esteem takes a huge battering. So does your health. It’s a big enough task to get through the day, let alone focus on vitamins and vitality.
Quick tip: Find an exercise buddy you can cry with, walk with and chat with to get you out of your head and your house. Match every margarita with mineral water, and every ice-cream with I scream to keep your emotional wellbeing intact!
BUSINESS AND CAREER
The paralysis: For a lot of women, their role shifts to having to be full-time Mum and full-time worker just to survive. Or they might have to face the prospect of working again after a long time out of the workforce. Both options are scary. We’ve been told we can have it all, but did that include having it all alone?
Quick tip: Think laterally. Don’t just make a list of the jobs you’ve done; make a list of the skills you have, to open up more options. For example, if you worked in retail, think about selling on-line; if you were are an accountant, think about bookkeeping for small businesses, or if you did voice-over work, but there’s none around, think about phone sex – good pay and you can do it in your PJ’s!
Have you recently separated or divorced? What was helpful to get you through?