Can divorce be the doorway to your best life?
Andrea Hipps, author of The Best, Worst Time of Your Life; Four Practices to Get You Through the Pain of Your Divorce, is on the podcast this week. Andrea and Anne take a deep dive into the post-traumatic growth that women experience when they use divorce as a catalyst to prioritizing themselves and their value systems – even in the face of the grief and pain that accompanies divorce. Read the full transcript below and listen to the BTR podcast for more.
“But I Never Wanted Divorce”
Many women in the BTR Group Sessions mourn the loss of the life they hoped for and dreamed of – none of us got married or entered a committed relationship planning on experiencing abuse and betrayal. And when abuse and betrayal were uncovered, they invested deeply in anything they were told could “save” the marriage – often to the detriment of their own mental and physical health.
It’s important to understand that divorce doesn’t end a marriage – abuse and betrayal end marriages.
“I wouldn’t choose it. I don’t want it. I would’ve avoided it if I could, but it created results in me that I treasure.”Andrea Hipps, Author
“I Feel Selfish Choosing ‘Me’ Over ‘We'”
The years that we’re investing in marriage are very much a ‘we’; we’re always thinking about the ‘we’ even if that ‘we’ is filled with abuse, we’re still thinking, how can I make this ‘we’ better? And to really go through divorce well is to be able to separate in a way that starts to really only consider ‘me’.Andrea Hipps, Author
Abuse conditions victims to put their own needs and desires at the very bottom of every list. Often, women feel selfish and silly for prioritizing themselves in any capacity. Some may even feel fear for doing so.
Choosing to prioritize yourself is a conscious decision that is both healthy and necessary in order to create and curate a beautiful life for yourself post-divorce. It takes practice and deliberate effort – but you can do it!
“How Can I Do Any of This When I Don’t Even Know Myself Anymore?”
Most women in the BTR Group Sessions have expressed a loss of identity through their years of experiencing betrayal and abuse.
The fear of building a new life without a firm grasp on the reality of your own identity is real and understandable.
You begin to remember and rebuild your identity when you reconnect with your value system.
You can ask yourself questions like:
- What morals, values, and deep truths are most important to me?
- What values have I consistently thought back on, even if I have not been able to live up to them in moments of self-defense or protective action?
- What values do I find most admirable in other people?
Examining and choosing your value system is a powerful way to ground yourself down in who you really are.
BTR Is Here For You
Divorce is one of the most difficult topics that we discuss in the BTR Group Sessions, but it’s absolutely essential that women going through this process have a safe space to process their emotions and thoughts.
Join the BTR Group sessions today and find the community that you need as you begin your journey to healing.
Welcome to BTR, this is Anne. On today’s episode, I’ll be interviewing Andrea Hipps. She’s a licensed social worker and is a certified divorce coach who helps parents all along the divorce continuum, resolve their divorce debris, and create beautiful two-address families for their kids.
Wow, that sounds like a magical, magical land. So I’m excited to talk to you today, Andrea. Andrea’s also the author of the international bestselling book, The Best Worst Time Of Your Life: Four Practices To Get You Through The Pain of Your Divorce, which outlines four practices you need to create wholeness and healing for you and your kids before, during, and after divorce. As a regular contributor to our nation’s divorce recovery conversation, she’s been featured on NBC, ABC Fox and the CW discussing how we can do divorce better for the sake of ourselves and our families. Welcome Andrea.
Thank you. I really appreciate you having me here.
“The Best, Worst Time Of Your Life: Four Practices To Get You Through the Pain Of Divorce”
Andrea had me on her Divorce Differently Summit Series. So I was able to speak at her event and we really connected and I was so grateful to meet her. And I’m grateful for all of the work that she does and the people that she helps throughout the world. Let’s talk about your book. Your book is titled The Best, Worst Time of Your Life: Four Practices to Get You Through the Pain of Divorce. Talk about the title.
Most people I think heading into divorce and who are in divorce would call it the worst time of their life. Just the amount of catastrophe and undoing and falling apart feels just entirely overwhelming. And then as they move through and sometimes a year later or years later, they will look back and in fact, call it the best, worst time of their life, meaning what they went through shaped them in some meaningful way that likely couldn’t have happened without all of that catastrophe.
I don’t know if I’d call it the best, worst. I mean, no offense to the title of your book. I think I’d call it the worst time that helped me grow or something.
“It Created Results In Me That I Treasure”
Yeah. Right. And that’s exactly it. That’s exactly it. It’s the best thing that happened to make me who I am today. I wouldn’t choose it. I don’t want it. I would’ve avoided it if I could, but it created results in me that I treasure.
For me, it’s been seven years and now I feel that way. I’ve learned so much the hard way, the hard way. I’m always learning things the hard way.
I don’t think there’s any other way.
There is no other way. I was recently talking to a friend and I had given her some divorce coaching. She didn’t really listen to it, which was fine. Like she can do what she wants. And then she found herself like, oh, why didn’t I do that? I didn’t think that my situation rose to the level of those extremes that I thought you were talking about, but now I wish I had done that. And I’m thinking all of us did that. Right? We all thought, no, no, no, I can handle it or I can do it this way. And I’ll be fine because my ex is like this or whatever. And we didn’t really understand the situation or we didn’t really understand the consequences. And then we were stuck with them and now we all know better, but we all know better too late. It’s almost like if we could go back in time, we would do it all better. So maybe on our second divorce, we’ll do awesome.
“The Divorce Process Helps Women Understand The Level of Abuse They’re Experiencing”
Yeah. I think on the front end, you really don’t have an understanding of who your spouse is. And as you move through divorce, you uncover truths that you either previously weren’t aware of or that come to light in new ways. And especially when abuse is involved, it can be particularly devastating, especially on your ability to cope through the sort of trail of crazy that the legal process of divorce will throw at you.
Mm-hmm well, and I think everyone listening to this podcast understands that they’re in a relationship with an abusive man that’s who this podcast is for. But I think the divorce process really helps women understand the level of abuse that they’re experiencing, which in my opinion is way more extreme than they ever realized. And that’s why it’s so devastating. And because they’re not aware of how abusive the person is, they’re not really prepared. They don’t practice strategic ways of dealing with an abuser beforehand because they don’t know they need to do it until they’ve tried all the other things. And they’re like, whoa, whoa, whoa, this is really, really bad. And that’s hard. I always wanna find some way of helping victims avoid the process of learning that. But I don’t think there is any other way to learn it other than trial and error. You think no, I’ll be able to deal with this person rationally. And then you realize later I couldn’t, but in order to jump the gun on that, you have to know, wow, I’m not gonna be able to deal with them rationally. Nobody jumps from zero to 20 on the, this person is a really scary, scary person scale, unless they’ve had a lot of experience with that person.
“You Can’t Change the Way You Address Reality Until You’re Looking At It”
Right? And so much of that is encountering the reality of it. I think some of that exists sort of experientially in your day-to-day life with an abuser, the volume gets turned way up when you put threats like finances, kids and control into the story. And so what you’re talking about, trying to avoid the path through, it’s exactly that. You can’t change the way you address reality until you’re looking at it and to look at it is so exquisitely painful. And so then when you get in it, you can start to get creative, but so much of our creativity gets blocked by the trauma itself. And so when you talk about that process of being seven years out, now, it makes a lot of sense that when abuse is part of the storyline, that your recovery is going to stretch far longer than the sort of typical three or four years that a person without abuse in their story would be dealing with,
Especially when you share kids.
The kid part is so hard because you are continually being abused through the divorce process and then after you’re divorced. So then it’s learning how to deal with the abuse post-divorce, which is so, so hard. So in your book, you’re talking about the four practices to get you through the pain of divorce, what practice holds the most meaning for you?
Who Are You Going to Become As a Result of What You’re Going Through?
The practice that I resonate most with as a person who went through her own divorce over a decade ago is the one related to rising above. And when we talk about rising above it, isn’t sort of this, oh, I’m just in an elevated space and I can handle this. And my capacity is so expanded because now I’m sort of facing my abuse and getting the divorce that this abuse led to. And I’m so empowered. It has nothing to do with that – rising above has a lot less to do with your former partner and the role that they played in the divorce. It has a lot to do with who you are going to become as a result of what you’re going through. And specifically, when I think about it, it’s about learning how to understand, state, and know what your values are and be able to live from and express them regardless of what your former partner is gonna do to block those. Does that make sense?
Meaning it has more to do with you because he’s gonna try and stop you from growing. Is that kind of what you’re saying? But you can grow anyway.
I’m saying he’s gonna be who he’s gonna be anyway and what are you going to become as a result.
“One Of The Biggest Parts of Divorce is Carving Out Who You Are Separate & Apart From What This Marriage Was”
Right, right, right. Okay. Yeah. I mean, isn’t that the whole point of learning how to deal with abuse like that, facing it, knowing radical acceptance. He is who he is.
One of the biggest parts of divorce is carving out who you are separate and apart from what this marriage was. And that can be particularly sticky when you have an abuser who is constantly trying to insert themselves in what it looks like for you to have a life. And so when we talk about rising above, it’s really being able to step back from the situation, which in itself is hard and be able to identify what are the values that I’m choosing to live from regardless of the route that he is going to take to undo and undermine and make very difficult my healing.
Mm-hmm mm-hmm yes, absolutely. It’s interesting that you say that because that’s the exact same parallel path. It’s not just related to divorce, but it’s also just related to abuse recovery in general, moving forward with the life that you want to create, regardless of what he’s doing or what he’s choosing to do. And so you are helping women do this through their divorce.
Making the Leap From “We” to “Me”
I’m intersecting with people prior to their divorce to sort of discern whether or not they can pull it off in the midst of their divorce and even five in 10 years after their divorce to sort of resolve their divorce debris. And so when you talk about this idea of carving out who we are, it’s very different approach than the, the years that we invested in marriage, right? The years that we’re investing in marriage are very much a “we”; we’re always thinking about the we even if that we is filled with abuse, we’re still thinking, how can I make this “we” better? And to really go through divorce well is to be able to separate in a way that starts to really only consider “me”. And that can feel like a big jump for people at first, right? This idea of, well, how is that gonna work? If I just, it sounds selfish. It sounds a little myopic in the way you’re thinking about it. But when we pull into what is best for me, we start to get a lot more creative about the activities that we’re gonna undertake to get through this really painful experience of divorce.
Divorce is a Perfect Way (Often the Only Way) To Begin Living Your Best Life
Yeah, absolutely. I think the thing I was trying to say is divorce is the medium in which you’re using to move from the we to the me in this case. And then just in abuse recovery in general, let’s pretend for a minute that you weren’t going to get divorced. You would still move from a we to a me place. And so it mimics that same pattern regardless. And you as a divorce coach are using divorce as the medium to be able to do that. And it’s the perfect one. And other women sometimes choose other routes, but the whole point of abuse recovery and healing is to find your voice, find the kinda life that you want and start making your way toward that life. And divorce is a great way to do that. In some cases, it’s the only way to do that.
Yeah. And Richard Rohr talks about falling upward. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to read that book, but he talks about the second half of life. And the second half of life is not necessarily starting your fifties. It starts when you are met with a situation that your will or your ego cannot fix, right? You get an invitation into the second half of life. And the second half of life is where we are no longer operating in the structures that made sense for everybody else. And I think that’s a unique, it’s a unique part of being a person who is moving through divorce with an abuser.
Richard Rohr’s “Second Half of Life” Concept
You don’t get to do it the way everybody else does. You don’t get to live the way everybody else does. You don’t get the same joys that everybody else does. You get them differently and you get them with a considerable amount of effort on your part to become a me. And so, so this idea of moving into the second half of life is really going. I’m gonna have to grow up and adult in ways that sometimes seem unfair because not everybody else has to do it, and it’s not as hard for them, but it’s still the most necessary part of what it means to be a free, full individual.
Yeah. Sort like finding your independence for the first time, but as a 45 year old.
That’s a big deal. You’ve lived 45 years in this different way. And this is gonna be a totally different way of perceiving the world of interacting with the world.
“It’s a Breaking and a Remaking”
Yeah. And it, you know, it’s a breaking and a remaking. And I think some people resist it because they don’t think it should be happening and it shouldn’t have to happen. But the truth is anybody who’s gone on any kind of meaningful spiritual adventure has this sort of breaking and remaking moment. And like you said before, for some people, it centers around divorce for other people, it’s around an injury for other people it’s around grief or a loss, whatever it is, you get a portal, you get an entry point and you’ll get several, you’ll get several chances in life to take the portal into this space, this very different space where you learn how to become the kind of person who actually can handle far more than you realized, who can get comfortable with other people being completely off the rails and handling yourself in it.
It really is a miracle, at least with my own personal story. When I look back and think about the times where I just, I knew I could not handle it. I knew I couldn’t, you know, in my gut, in my soul, it was just like, this is too much. This is too hard. I shouldn’t have to do this. Why am I being forced to do it? And now looking back and thinking I did handle it. Like even in those moments where I just knew I couldn’t now I’m like I was, I was. And same thing with all of our listeners, you are doing it. I might not feel like it. You might feel terrible. You’re taking one small step at a time. And when you look back, you’ll realize, wait, I survived. Like I did handle that. And even if it feels like you’re not currently doing that. And, uh, I, there are so many times where I wasn’t doing it well. Right. I was doing it very, very badly.
“Handling it Looks Like Allowing the Complete Destruction of What Was”
Yeah. But you know, we have an imagination though, that handling, it looks like I got my nails and my hair done and I’m in a great outfit and I got a good attitude about it. That’s not what handling it looks like. Right? None of us have made it through the darkest moments of our lives looking like we were handling it, what handling it looks like is allowing the complete destruction of what was, and that’s really hard for people. We resist that because it shouldn’t be that way. We don’t want it to have to be that way. So therefore it shouldn’t have to be that way, but handling, it has a lot more to do with surrendering to the fact that it’s gonna happen anyway. And how do I start aligning myself with the fact that for better or worse, I actually will make it through and who do I wanna be as I do it?
Mm-hmm I like it. When you said this shouldn’t be happening. I don’t want it to happen. The same friend I was talking to, she said, this doesn’t happen in real life, like movies, right. They resolve in the end. And it feels like with people that you can, you know, have a conversation and everything can go okay. Or at least you can make some reasonable agreement. It feels almost like you’re disembodied, or you’re watching yourself from far away and thinking, wait, wait, wait, this cannot be happening. And then realizing that it is happening is that radical acceptance piece, like it is happening. That it, I think it’s just so hard for us to wrap our heads around. I’m guessing that’s probably why a lot of women don’t prepare or don’t get a lot of information that they need beforehand. And then they’re struggling throughout their divorce.
“Resistance is Always Just Exposing to Us What We Value”
Mm-hmm and you know, that resistance of it shouldn’t be this way. Resistance is always just exposing to us what we value. And it’s a soft way of approaching yourself in that, right? Because we can sit and we can throw this tantrum, which we all do. I’ve done it, you’ve done it of it. Shouldn’t be this way. I don’t want it to be this way. But when we look at, why do we resist it being this way, it usually exposes some value for us. And when we can pull that back into sort of what we were talking about at the beginning, this idea of a value based living, I’m gonna live from that value. Even if it doesn’t seem to be apparent in my life right now. So for example, if I resist that my whole life is falling apart and that I am in a relationship with an abuser right now, and that I have to get a divorce I resist at having well, what is my resistance telling me that I value well, up until now, I really valued family.
I really valued safety. I really valued connectedness. And it seems like those things are now going away and the invitation of divorce, or at least, you know, divorce with purpose is to go, how do I carry those values forward with me, regardless of the fact that my former partner can’t make those happen with me, how can I still value a sense of connectedness and a sense of family and make that happen for me and for my children, even when it’s not gonna happen in the context of what I believe is typical for everybody else.
Living Your Values In A New Way
You saying that reminds me of something that I thought was really important, and that was putting Christmas lights up. So even just a little simple thing, or it’s not simple, I couldn’t figure out how to put them up. But I thought like to me, having Christmas lights on the outside of my house for my kids means I care about my family. I care about Christmas. I’m going to continue to uphold traditions that I had before, but how in the world do I get these things on my house? Right? This was kind of overwhelming. And so I hired someone in the neighborhood like a kid in the neighborhood and I paid him 20 bucks and he put my Christmas lights up. And when they were up, I just felt like, okay, I’m still living this value that I thought I had to depend on someone else for.
I thought I needed a husband in order to put Christmas lights up. Hopefully a husband is way more useful than just putting Christmas lights up. But anyway, overcoming that, and then overcoming the next thing, maybe it’s mowing the lawn or overcoming the next thing. Maybe it’s a family reunion. I don’t know what that next thing is, but just one thing at a time. And then now seven years later, Christmas lights are not that important to me, but at the time that just, that was a symbol of something. And so that’s one thing I want women to think of too, is you might be putting a lot of value on something like Christmas lights thinking I have to do this thing. This thing really matters, but it’s too hard or it’s too expensive. And like, I like what you said, taking a step back and maybe realizing what is the metaphor here.
“How Can I Preserve That Value?”
And even if I can’t afford to pay someone in my neighborhood to put the Christmas lights up, is there something else I can do to feel like I’m supporting my family? And I have these family values through Christmas, right? Which of course obviously would be spending more time with my kids or doing something actually meaningful rather than the Christmas lights. But, um, I think always taking that step back and realizing what your base motivation is, is always a good step for how to take the next step forward, because there are going to be things that we cannot do. We’re not super people. And so through divorce, there’s gonna be, well, maybe things we’re not able to do that we wanna do that we think are like the epitome of what our values are, but being able to be creative, we can sort of roll with the punches and continue to keep our values. Even if it doesn’t look the way that we thought it should look originally.
Right. And, and that’s the, the sort of the knee-jerk response, which is to look at the activity. Well, we can’t do the things we used to do because of this, you know, explosion in our life and what your encouragement seems to be is, and mine as well. How do we step back and go, okay, there’s a value behind this activity. How do I tweak the activity to match what my life looks like now? So that I can preserve that value, even though I may have lost the exact tradition or the exact way of doing it, I will still communicate the value to my people, which is really very essence based. We wanna get at the essence of, okay, well, the holidays look really different. The essence of the holidays for me, meant time as a family. Okay, well, what does that mean when I have 50% time or when I have, when I have time that I, where I just feel kind of wrecked, then I’m gonna start getting creative about what does it mean to have time with family, as opposed to needing, to shove it into the old way of how it always used to look, because when we keep trying to shove ourselves back into what was, we’re not meeting reality, my go to definition of healing is aligning yourself with reality.
So when we can align ourselves with reality and start looking at what does life really look like now, and how do I keep these values alive and be open to a different expression of them. That’s where joy can start to enter.
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And a lot of the things that I thought were super important, the metaphors, I guess, the Christmas lights or whatever, when it really got down to it, they were actually quite hollow; spending time with my kids in a different way was way more important. And that is a post-traumatic growth that I’ve learned. Finally, after I gave up worrying about the Christmas lights. We’re gonna pause the conversation here and Andrea is going to join me again next week. So stay tuned. If this podcast is helpful to you, please support it. And until next week stay safe out there.
This is a very important article. Thank you. It’s a nightmare to discover that your husband has been lying and secretly cheating for much of a very long (over 45 years) marriage.
And when d-day comes very late in life it is devastating at a profoundly deep level. What is the value of my life, what have I lived for? These are big questions that naturally arise as one enters old age. You have neither the years left or the physical and emotional resilience to recreate yourself after this severe trauma of betrayal.
At this point, family and connection may have been the central themes for most of your long adult life and the damage is extreme. Each woman may well suffer deeply from the discovery of abuse and infidelity. But the challenges going forward are different depending on your age and the length of the marriage. As I’m now discovering, divorce in old age, in one’s seventies, after a very long marriage is extremely complicated, wrenching and difficult.
Oh wow. I really appreciate the article. Then I saw L.T.’s comment attached below. So, recent, so many years and just discovering what has happened to her. Here I am, in so much pain after so many years as well, discovering horrifying truths, sharing the same pains, feeling very much alone, and seeing how many years she has “lost” to this mortifying truth.
I really wish there was a way I could connect with her and share our stories together. She is in her 70’s, feeling like her entire life was a complete sham, as do I and I really feel the need to be there “with her”, “for her”, so she is not so alone. I feel she REALLY needs someone to connect with, share with, she has lost soooo many years to this jerk and really needs a friend. Any way to connect?
Many women connect in our BTR Group Sessions, we don’t give out personal information here or in the group – and she may not be there. But many other women are there to connect with.
I was part of your community for years. Your BTR group sessions and coaches truly saved my sanity. Working through the immense challenges of being older in this stage of life while getting a divorce is truly daunting. I’m still doing individual sessions with your coaches when I need it.