Regardless of how carefully you plan, or how affluent you are, your security is going to be challenged in your divorce.
Security comes in many forms: physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and financial. What’s more, your personal experience of prosperity is directly tied to your definition of security.
Developing a deep understanding of your personal definition of prosperity should be at the top of your divorce work. When you feel prosperous, you also feel secure—but security looks different for everyone.
Katie had moved out of the marital home and into a nice three-bedroom apartment. She and her soon-to-be-ex had agreed to a 50/50 split schedule with the kids, and she wasn’t receiving support while mediation was taking place, but she felt she would be fine. Her rent was only half of what her mortgage had been, and her ex had agreed to cover the overhead at the house as long as she paid half the taxes. I watched the first six months unfold with a sort of awe.
On the nights Katie didn’t have the kids, she was out with friends, indulging in fancy dinners and shopping sprees. She purchased a new convertible, saying, “I don’t have the overhead of the house now, and I want to feel my independence on every sunny day I can!” On the weekends, she and the kids had “Sunday Fun-Days,” going to Red Sox games, concerts, fairs, water parks, and anyplace else that caught their interest. She also replaced the annual family camping trip with an all-inclusive Caribbean resort vacation.
While she felt secure at first about her decisions to take life up a notch—“After so many years,” she told me, “I’m finally happy, and the kids seem to love our adventures. Isn’t that the most important thing right now?”—it wasn’t long before her new highs started to take her to new lows. Rather than letting her already-depleted savings dip to an emergency level, she started to use her credit cards. Soon, her biweekly paychecks were no longer enough to meet her basic obligations. She’d run her credit card up to its $15,000 limit and had just applied for another card.
“How did this happen?” she asked me.
The issue wasn’t just that Katie was spending money like a drunken sailor on Saturday night. It was that she was coming from a space of emotional decision-making. She hadn’t sat down pre-divorce—or even post-divorce—to figure out how much money she actually had, and what she could truly afford to spend on little luxuries like clothes, meals out, and outings with the kids (never mind big luxuries, like the vacation).
If she had taken the time to do that, and committed to living within her means and planning for the luxuries she wanted (instead of trying to acquire them all at once), she wouldn’t have ended up broke with a $15,000 credit card bill hanging over her head.
By trying to buy security, Katie actually made herself and her situation more insecure. This is the paradox of emotional decision-making, and the price of failing to understand what drives our financial abundance, but also freedom and adventure. Her mistake wasn’t in trying to create those things for herself, but rather trying to create them in a way that gave her less freedom and financial stability, not more.
I offered to take a look at her finances and help her see what her post-divorce financial life actually needed to look like. “We need to completely redesign your finances,” I told her. “Are you ready for this?”
“I haven’t wanted to look at the money until now,” she confessed. “I was afraid that if I knew what I was in for, I might not have had the courage to leave my marriage.”
This fear of scarcity is at the root at a lot of “avoidance behavior” in divorce. I had indulged in it myself, so I knew exactly where Katie was coming from, and was able to create a safe space of non-judgment for her as she worked through her money issues.
My own security is tied to time and freedom—but I spent the first couple of years after my divorce trying to purchase a feeling of stability. I was working sixty hours a week to get back on track, and since I was now responsible for my kids’ schedules as well as my own (that had been my ex’s job before the split), I had less free time than ever. After a year or more of this craziness, I finally realized that my kids didn’t want a mom who was little more than a walking cash machine or a chauffeur. They wanted a mom who was present, and who prioritized them beyond rides to activities and sports. They were angry, confused, and too damn busy, and so was I. More, I wasn’t giving them what they needed by spending more money on them—and I wasn’t feeling any more “secure,” either.
I craved being a better mom to them. I craved that time on the sidelines at their games, the moments when their eyes met mine over the heads of the crowd. I wanted to be the mom who rode the bus with them on field trips so I could share in the adventure. But my quest for financial stability was getting in the way of all of that. I was creating my prosperity after divorce, but what about theirs?
One morning, as I sat quietly in prayer, this thought came to mind: “Maybe prosperity is me making a decision that money isn’t the only component of prosperity. Maybe prosperity is me putting my kids first, and taking the time I’ve been craving to just be with them.”
All of a sudden, I understood: divorce was about money, but prosperity didn’t have to be. Healing and empowerment wouldn’t come to me or my kids through more money, more work time, or more stuff. Instead, I had to create prosperity every day by feeling and exploring every part of my personal definition of security, not just the financial.
Like magic, once I started prioritizing the other elements that defined security for me—time and freedom—the weight of the financial stuff seemed to lift.
So, it’s important to ask yourself: Is my security tied to money and possessions? Is it tied to love and relationships? Is it tied to time, stability, or freedom?
Understanding this will give you a platform from which you can make sound decisions about your new life and YOUR Prosperity After Divorce path.