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Preserving Your Mental Health & Wellness During Divorce with Jen Lawrence

Jen Lawrence is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional, who helps her clients through the process of divorce. She specializes in coaching women who have supported their husbands’ successful careers navigate divorce. She helps her clients move from feelings of overwhelm to the business of divorce and provides clarity about […]

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Jen Lawrence
Jen Lawrence

Jen Lawrence is a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional, who helps her clients through the process of divorce. She specializes in coaching women who have supported their husbands’ successful careers navigate divorce. She helps her clients move from feelings of overwhelm to the business of divorce and provides clarity about finances and the divorce process. She’s also a CDC Divorce Transition and Recovery Coach™ and can help clients design a post-divorce life that excites them. She also runs DesignedDivorce.com.

Jen has an MBA in Finance and worked in consulting and investment banking, prior to staying at home to raise her children. After her unexpected divorce, she pivoted to freelancing writing, speaking, and consulting, and has written a number of articles for HuffPost, Today’s Parent, and Toronto Star. She co-authored Engage the Fox, a book about decision making and critical thinking, and can help her coaching clients make sound, long-term decisions at an emotional time.

What is your backstory? How did you become a divorce coach?

I decided to become a divorce coach after my second husband decided to not return from a business trip. He called me from a car taking him to the airport when he announced our marriage was over. After the initial shock, I was surprisingly OK. I’d been divorced when I was younger, so this was not my first rodeo. I was able to rely on my divorce knowledge: hiring a mediator and lawyer, pulling together my financial papers, and figuring out what to do with the house.

My knowledge and the decision-making skills I’d developed in writing my book on critical thinking, Engage the Fox, made the process so much less stressful. I wondered if I could perhaps do this for other people, so they’d not have to suffer the stress of being on this massive learning curve at such an emotionally vulnerable time. I trained as a CDC Certified Divorce Coach® and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® to deepen my skills.

What does a divorce coach do? How is this different from hiring a divorce attorney?

A divorce coach is trained to walk with clients through the process of divorce. We help clients who are contemplating divorce, going through a divorce, or who feel stuck after a divorce. Through focused coaching calls we help them create a vision for their future, gain control over their emotions, clarify their options, and make sound long-term decisions. As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® professional, I also help my clients get really clear about their finances. Contrary to what some people think, divorce coaches, do not coach people to get divorced. 25% of our clients contact us because they don’t know whether they want to get divorced or not and want to know their options.

Right now, a lot of people are focusing on their spouses’ flaws because they’ve been stuck inside with them for far too long with no distraction. Divorce coaching can actually help some of these couples stay together as clients discover that the root of their discontent is actually financial stress or boredom. I can assure you we don’t get affiliate fees from the divorce courts or anything. We are thrilled when clients find a way to become happier within their marriages! For those clients who are on the path to divorce, we are a confidante, sounding board, and thinking, partner. We can help them weigh their options and make good decisions at a time when their thinking is less clear. We can also help them avoid the major divorce mistakes like using the courts to punish their ex, or giving in too soon.

Divorce Coaches are not attorneys and are not substitutes for attorneys. We are not authorized to give any legal advice. What we can do, however, is help clients work more effectively with their attorneys. We help clients prepare for meetings with their lawyers, both organizationally and emotionally. When your attorney is charging $600 plus per hour, you really don’t want to be spending an hour on the clock in tears or trying to locate some vital paperwork.

We also help clients understand the kind of legal process that might suit them best. If the divorce is amicable, mediation or collaborative law is an excellent option. If there is a big power imbalance in the marriage or the divorce is likely to become high conflict, clients may need the full weight of the courts behind them and will want a legal team that can handle that level of conflict. We walk with our clients through all of the possibilities.

What’s your best piece of advice for those going through a divorce?

You need to keep your emotions out of it. It sounds impossible, but it’s honestly the only way to get through it intact. The end of a marriage is very personal and frought with emotion. Divorce, on the other hand, is a business deal. In divorce, you need to figure out how to split the money and parenting time according to a set of legal guidelines, so you need to depersonalize it as much as you can. Many divorcing clients think that the courts are there to serve up emotional justice and that’s a very quick route not only to crazytown but also to bankruptcy. It’s critical to reframe the relationship with one’s ex, particularly if there are children involved. You are now business partners and there is no need to bring the drama of your marriage into this new relationship.

How can women ensure they get what they are entitled to get during the divorce process?

The biggest mistake I see from women is that they want to be liked during the divorce process, particularly if there was a power imbalance in the marriage and they are used to smoothing the waters. Sure, you can be reasonable and even empathetic, but trying to be liked or seen a “nice” will tend to make you into a pushover. I’ve heard from so many women who walked away from the negotiating table as soon as there was any conflict in the interest of keeping the peace. Later, when they are struggling financially, they regret not being firmer in negotiations and resent that they felt bullied. Part of my role as a divorce coach is to be there in the wings, giving my clients moral support so they can endure some uncomfortable meetings. We can even role-play tough discussions with their ex so they feel prepared.

The second biggest mistake women make is to ignore the financial aspects of divorce or convince themselves that money isn’t important. Money gives you options. Money gives your children options. It’s important to understand your finances so you can make good choices around the division of assets and any settlement amounts.

Divorce can a time of chaos. How can someone maintain their sanity during the process?

The key to maintaining your sanity during divorce to have healthy boundaries in place. Divorce is such an emotional time, as the person who was supposed to have been your biggest supporter in life is suddenly viewed as “the enemy.” If you are still emotionally enmeshed with your ex (as is the case in most high conflict divorces), the process can really mess with your head. If you struggle with maintaining firm boundaries, a therapist can be a wonderful ally. While a therapist helps you work through some of the issues from your past, a divorce coach can still be helping your move forward through the divorce process. It’s a powerful combination.

Divorce is also a time when you want a great support network behind you. This is a great opportunity to sort out your ride or die friends from your frenemies. You need positive people in your life so invest in those people who make you feel good.

What are the daily things women can do for themselves during the divorce process?

The first thing I tend to have clients do is to create a vision board of how their post-divorce life might look. I ask them to use Pinterest or torn-out magazine pages to create a visual representation of their ideal life. Where do they want to travel? What do they want to wear? Where do they want to live? How do they want to spend time with their children? How do they want to spend time on their own? Many women have put their own dreams on the backburner while struggling with their eroding marriage, and divorce is an excellent time to explore what makes them happy. Maybe you want to learn a new language or write poetry or paint. Maybe you want to get involved with social justice initiatives. Maybe you want to do nothing for a little while beside a lake or an ocean.

Once you have a clear vision, you can journal each day about baby steps you are taking to move towards your goal. Maybe you have a stressful planning session with your lawyer coming up, but if can you reframe it as laying the foundation for a wonderful new future, it might make you feel differently about it. Maybe you want to sell some of the things that remind you of your ex and start saving for that beach trip. Small steps can result in big change.

At the end of each day, I urge my clients to write down things for which they are grateful. Focus on small things like there being no line at the grocery store or your bank manager locating that form you need.  If you’ve not had a gratitude practice in the past, divorce is an excellent time to start one. It really will change your life for the better.

What are your best self-care tips?

It’s important to stay healthy during times of stress so I recommend taking a long walk each day or getting in a workout. One of the silver linings of COVID is there are a lot of amazing free fitness videos online. 

Eating healthy is also critical. I’m all for having a big ice cream binge to kick off the divorce process but then rein it in. Food has a huge impact on mood so it’s important to watch your sugar and alcohol intake, especially if you are having a stressful day. 

Be careful what social media you digest. Stay away from any place online that has people bragging about their perfect lives. When you are going through divorce, it’s hard to remember that 90% of what you see on social media is fake, so just avoid it. Pinterest is a fairly safe bet and my go-to when I want to mindlessly scroll. Ditto for dogs on Instagram.

Google “Divorced Celebrities”. If you are getting divorced, you are in good company. Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez, Eva Longoria, Nicole Kidman, Garcelle Beauvais, Arianna Huffington, Anna Wintour, Gwyneth Paltrow, Audrey Hepburn and so many other smart, beautiful, and accomplished women are divorced. If you need to feel better, look around to see what other amazing women have gone through this process and found happiness on the other side. Know that one day you’ll be there too. 

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