Barb Hazelton & Jo Briggs of The Single Process: “Prepare for big financial changes”

Prepare for big financial changes. Can you afford to support two households on the same income? Probably not, so either lifestyle or income has to change! Scale back sooner rather than later. And if you’re relying on alimony, be realistic about how long it’s going to last and the time you’ll need to ramp up […]

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Prepare for big financial changes. Can you afford to support two households on the same income? Probably not, so either lifestyle or income has to change! Scale back sooner rather than later. And if you’re relying on alimony, be realistic about how long it’s going to last and the time you’ll need to ramp up before it does. Time and time again we see women wait too long on building their skill set and getting back into the work force.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Barb Hazelton &Jo Briggs of The Single Process.

Single Process is the girlfriends video guide to divorce.The only resource of its kind, each segment features an expert who provides practical advice aimed at making the process of going from We to a Me less daunting. Barb and Jo leverage their experience and deep knowledge of all phases of the divorce process to bring viewers information and solutions in a relatable, engaging and positive way.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Barb is originally from the Midwest and is the oldest of four children. Barb’s family moved a great deal and she lived in Texas, Illinois, Virginia and NJ, before finally settling down in CT. Barb met and fell in love with her ex-husband in college at Miami of Ohio. Barb’s parents divorced when she was in her 30s and they were a model of how to do it correctly: They have always put each other first then and still, they are good friends to this day, and it is never awkward when they are all together. Barb was married for 20 years, most of which were happy and very busy as she raised 4 children and pursued careers in production, recruiting and real estate. When Barb realized that her marriage had run its course, she was determined to follow the example her parents set. Barb spent the years after her divorce focused on work and her children. She also went on at least 30 first dates (the stories are just priceless) before recently meeting someone who has serious potential.

Jo is from Johannesburg, South Africa. Her parents had a very happy marriage and Jo imagined the same for herself. After completing law school, Jo came to the US to study further and is still here 24 years later! She met her ex-husband through work, and they were married 14 years. It was a difficult marriage throughout, but Jo was reluctant to leave and disrupt the lives of her two children. After the divorce Jo was excited to rebuild her life and continue her search for that seemingly elusive happiness her parents had found together. Two years later, she fell madly in love and remarried only to discover her second husband had started having an affair two months into their marriage. Jo spent the next couple of years trying to figure out if there was a way to make it work (she was so reluctant to get divorced again) and also dealing her ex-husband’s cancer diagnosis and death. Jo is now divorced for a second time and an only parent, but optimistic that there will be a happy next chapter.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Barb and Jo both made so many mistakes during and after their divorces and couldn’t figure out why there wasn’t a more accessible, intuitive and practical step-by-step guide to the process…something or someone that could quickly answer their FAQs, point out the pitfalls and help them feel less alone in their journeys. They were also frustrated by how taboo the topic of divorce remains and were determined to find a forum to talk about the process in an open and honest way. Barb’s background in production and Jo’s proficiency in research helped them get started…but it was really their passion for helping others navigate divorce in a healthier way that propelled them into this career path.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career?

In our case, it’s not really one interesting story, but rather the multitude of small stories we get from viewers on how watching the series has improved their divorce process. We are constantly amazed at how a little information can make a big difference…and most rewardingly it is often the children who benefit from having parents who are better informed.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

We prepped all our experts well ahead of time and for the most part the interviews went as planned. We were on a tight schedule and didn’t have time for re-shoots. One expert, however, veered so completely off topic that the interview was unusable. Jo was new to production and would frequently forget that her microphone was “hot” (on) when she walked off set. Jo and Barb took a “private” moment to discuss the bombed interview…only to discover everyone on the crew and the next guest heard every word! Lesson learned!

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

Barb: “A rising tide raises all ships”. When I was overwhelmed by the process of divorce, my dad gave me some great advice. He said when you are overwhelmed with your situation, pick ONE thing to work on it and it will raise your game across the board. For me, that was my health. I focused on losing weight, getting mentally strong and being present with myself.

Jo: “Live out your imagination, not your history” (Stephen Covey). Divorce is an opportunity to re-invent yourself and pursue your dreams. Too often people get stuck dwelling on their history — the wrongs they have suffered, who was to blame etc. I believe we should take the lessons from the past forward with us but leave the hurt, heartache and disappointments behind. Keep dreaming and imagining a better future and you will make it happen.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We are currently pitching the Single Process concept to television networks as a regular series (Dr. Phil meets divorce) highlighting real life divorce dilemmas and having our experts weigh in on the issues. Divorce has become so common: 43% of first marriages fail on a national level and 67% of second marriages. People are desperate for information delivered in a simple and positive way.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

Barb: I always thought it was a pretty decisive person but going through a divorce made me question so many things. My kids didn’t want it, my ex-husband didn’t want it, our financial picture was bleek. In essence I “kicked the can down the road” by nesting for 3+ years, trying to please everyone and smooth out the process. [** Nesting is when you leaving the kids in the marital home and the parents move in and out of the house based on the parenting schedule]. About a year ago my kids said to me that they wished we had moved forward with the divorce sooner and never done the nesting. They said they could tell that Dad and I were better apart and happier now. That was a shock to me and a real eye-opener. I have so many friends say that they’re going to wait until the kids are out of high school. But what your kids really want is a stable happy home. If it comes down to a toxic marriage or a healthy divorce, I choose divorce.

Jo: Hmmm, I learnt so much, where to start? Possibly the greatest lesson was to trust my intuition. I discovered my second husband’s affair by simply observing an interaction between him and the other woman (we were invited to their house for dinner!!!). For days afterward he told me I was crazy / making things up. A little research into our cell phone bill proved I was right. It was a profound moment for me realizing that my gut instincts were right on. I’m now a lot more atuned to my instincts and have learnt to always to listen to my inner voice.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make going through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

Barb: Choosing the wrong process. There are three ways to go about a divorce and choosing the wrong one can set you back financially and add years of emotional stress. For example, mediation can be very productive and expedient, but if you aren’t in the same place with the same end-goal, it’s almost impossible to get to the finish line.

Choosing the right attorney is also critical. Make sure the two of you communicate really well, that you understand the fee structure and what their strengths and weaknesses. If you hire a “shark” that over-reaches, don’t be surprised when he doesn’t quickly reach an amicable resolution on your behalf.

Jo: Not focusing on what’s in the best interests of the children: I cannot tell you how often I hear “he / she is threatening to fight for sole custody,” “we are still fighting over the parenting plan,” or “he / she is trying to alienate me from my kids”. In the majority of instances, it is absolutely in the best interests of children to have both parents equally involved and for the kids to think highly of both their parents. The idea that you are “winning” by sidelining the other parent is such flawed thinking. We learned so much that made it clear how much damage you inflict on the kids when you engage in these tactics.

Not understanding your finances: And I’m mostly talking to the women out there! I have 2 graduate degrees and plenty of smarts, but I had completely lost track of our finances during the course of our marriage. As I started the divorce proceedings (actually in the months before filing!) I should have rolled up my sleeves and made sure I understood exactly where things stood and what my finances would look like post-divorce. Instead, I asked my soon to be ex-husband to fill out my financial affidavit for me! It created an uneven playing field (of my own doing) during the divorce negotiations and made it more difficult to plan for my future.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

Barb: My ex-husband was the only person I ever dated seriously so the idea of putting myself out there was scary! But I decided to treat it like a job because having a successful relationship was important to me. I signed up with multiple online dating sites, researched how to make an engaging profile that accurately reflected me and the kind of relationship I was looking for and attacked it. A couple years into it I met my current boyfriend John on Bumble. He is amazing. I feel so lucky but if I hadn’t done the work it wouldn’t have happened. Nothing worth winning comes easily. Plus, I’m having the best sex of my life! (Maybe I should be careful saying that my dad’s going to read this!)

Jo: I just started dating again and it is overwhelming but I’m having a great time meeting new people. I think the best strategy is to think about each date as one hour of your life. No commitment, no expectations. For me, that took the pressure off and allowed me to simply enjoy my dates. Barb assures me that it’s just a numbers game…and you gotta be in it to win it. I’ll let you know in a year how I’m doing!

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

Barb: In terms of change, I think you have to be completely open to scaling back your lifestyle. I went from living in a 5000 square-foot home to a one-bedroom apartment where I sleep on the couch. But it has been enlightening and empowering. My girls have learned to live on a shoestring and be more creative with their space and time. You also need to be open to changing who your friends are. Not only are you going from a couple to a single, but sometimes it’s uncomfortable for people to be around you during or after divorce; maybe they’re afraid to look too closely at their own situation or feel threatened by your new-found independence and lifestyle. Use it as an opportunity to make new friends.

Jo: If there are children involved, you may need to change your desire to know everything your children are doing at all times. Your children need to feel it’s okay if they are happy and have fun while with the other parent. They should not be required detail their time away from you…it will often only serve to make them feel guilty if they had a good time. You need to be willing to relinquish control…something so much easier said than done!!

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

Barb: I don’t tend to look at life in terms of negatives and positives, just experiences & choices. There are good and bad outcomes to everything. So, for me divorce was a choice that opened up a new life. So many good things have come of that. I’ve explored a new career, I have a better relationship with my kids because I’m more present, and I have a new boyfriend who gets me and makes me a better person. But even without all of that, I’M a better person. Divorce forced me to take a hard look at myself and decide what kind of person I wanted to be.

Jo: A huge upside is that my children are happier. Living in an unhappy home is miserable for everyone involved. I have also taken it as an opportunity to re-evaluate my priorities and find new meaning and direction in my life. I feel I’m living a more purposeful life that I have designed, rather than constantly reacting to the status quo. I can no longer use my marriage as an excuse for unhappiness…it forces me to be accountable and make sure I’m taking the steps necessary to change anything that isn’t working for me!

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

The five things we would tell her friends:

  1. Prepare for big financial changes. Can you afford to support two households on the same income? Probably not, so either lifestyle or income has to change! Scale back sooner rather than later. And if you’re relying on alimony, be realistic about how long it’s going to last and the time you’ll need to ramp up before it does. Time and time again we see women wait too long on building their skill set and getting back into the work force.
  2. Ask for help, you cannot do this alone! Don’t let the perceived stigma of divorce stop you from seeking the help you need. Whether it’s watching every episode of the Single Process, finding a great therapist, engaging a financial consultant, reaching out to others who’ve gone through divorce…put a team in place to support you through the process. And don’t limit that team to what you might consider the “essentials” — one of our viewers found her best ally in the form of a personal trainer. It helped her lose weight, reduce stress, and feel much more confident and positive.
  3. Figure out the right divorce process. Litigation, collaboration and mediation are the three options, and you need to explore which best suits your situation. A friend jumped into mediation because she thought it would be the least expensive. But she and her spouse were NOT on the same page, so the process dragged on for years as he delayed one meeting after another, and they ended up spending more time and money than if they’d gone with collaboration or litigation.
  4. Don’t be afraid. Change is a wonderful thing. This will be hard, but it is also opening up a world of new opportunities. You get to design an incredible new life for yourself! One of our viewers shared that this simple piece of advice encouraged her to pursue a lifelong passion for photography. She used her no-kid-weekends (which she initially found terribly sad and lonely) to develop her skills and she recently had her first photograph published in a well-known travel magazine!
  5. Take the highroad at all times. Don’t disparage your spouse / ex-spouse publicly or privately…it simply serves no purpose. It may feel good in the moment, but you will feel so much better in the long term if you take the high road and act with integrity. This goes double when you’re talking with your kids. Your children are equal parts both of you, and they hear criticism of a parent as criticism of part of who they are. Recently, a friend told us how she’d painted her children’s father out of the family portrait after the divorce. It came out in the children’s therapy session that they felt she was erasing part of them.

The stress of a divorce can take a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?

We are fully in favor of working with a therapist throughout the divorce process. Too often people rely on their lawyers for emotional support….lawyers for legal, therapists for emotional! Worrying about your children’s well-being can also be very stressful. We think it’s a great idea to establish a relationship between your children and a therapist. They may resist going but having ready access to someone they can talk to if they choose is important. Many therapists are covered by insurance and there are great tele-health therapy options which makes help so readily available.

The benefits of exercise, sleep and good nutrition are undeniable in helping with stress. Taking care of yourself in these areas is key. Our segment with Kristina Hess on sleep and nutrition delves into this.

Spend time alone, spend time without noise or distraction. At first this may make you feel more anxious but if you power through the initial discomfort, we think you’ll find a greater sense of calm, peace and relaxation. It will give you an opportunity to recharge and rest and make the inevitable stresses more manageable.

Our series also includes a segment on the impact of stress on your health, featuring Dr. Sharon Karp. Often you hear of someone going through an emotional time ending up physically ill. There’s a direct correlation between stress and physical disease. It’s something to be aware of, and you want to pay more attention to any health concerns during stressful times.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

Barb: There are a couple of authors I really love: Dr. Wayne Dyer and his book Real Magic in particular which talks about manifestation and creating the life you want. It’s been transformative for me and the things I’ve wanted have come true over the years. Post-divorce, I highly recommend The Rules of Dating which talks about the differences in men and women and how each approaches courtship.

Jo: I’m also a huge fan of all Wayne Dyer’s books, especially when trying to re-imagine your life. Another really insightful and fun book that may help you re-define your future is The 7 Questions to Find your Purpose by Richard Jacobs. Lastly, if you’re dealing with infidelity, the books of world-renowned expert Tammy Nelson (who is an expert in our series) are really helpful.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We would want to inspire a movement to bring awareness to the harm inflicted on children during an acrimonious divorce. Parents love their children and if they fully understood the negative consequences of their behavior we believe they would stop the fighting and find more amicable solutions. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could swing the way people approach divorce from conflict driven to peaceful resolution?

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Melinda Gates — she has the ability to make changes and influence so many through her philanthropy. So far she seems to be the model for “divorce done right” and we’d love to have her spread a message that you’re better off in a healthy divorce than an unhappy marriage. And she is absolutely taking the high road. Bravo!!

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