Instead of getting married again, I am going to find a woman I don’t like and just give her a house. – Rod Stewart The first step out the door is the hardest. Each step after comes easier and faster, until one day you stop and realise you’re free. How incredible to discover your greatest champion is you. – Hallmark divorce card ‘I want out.’ Three little words. So simple. Sure, there will be technicalities. A fight about custody, a row about money, a squabble over the Battlestar Galactica box set. But then it will all be over. A clean getaway. Every marriage is a journey that goes through stages of love, hope and hot sex. No matter how bad it gets, you both started out believing it was going to work. So you’ve lost your way and you’re sure that this time it’s going to end in divorce. It would be nice to be able to bill this stage as a star attraction, to promise that this next step is a walk in the park. Yup, that would be really great. But that doesn’t really happen, even if you and your partner didn’t decide to merge your DNA. Divorce is a big thing. It’s bigger than you think. But there comes a time in some relationships when the pain of staying together outweighs the pain of tearing the family apart. And instead of lying around weeping, we’re going to leave this town in style.
Quiz … Ready to close the door? Do you truly have no feelings for your partner any more? Have you calculated the cost of running two households? Do you feel that you have given your relationship your very best shot? Are you prepared for a dip in income? Are you ready for all your dirty laundry to become giggle fodder? Do you truly feel that being alone is better than being in this hell? Your score: Mostly no: You are the type of person who starts cooking without having read the ingredients list. You haven’t thought this through and aren’t prepared for the consequences. Mostly yes: Your gun is cocked and ready. Time to fire. The ninety-day cool-off clause You want him to leave, yesterday. But no matter how desperate you feel, take a few months to think things over. The ninety-day cool-off clause is the first phase of the separation, where you give each other the space to clear your heads, cool down and test it out. You get a cooling--off period when you buy a house, so give yourself that luxury with your relationship. Call it a last-ditch effort to clear your head before you make a decision and call in the goons. It’s the make-or-break trial separation. It has some rules: One of you moves out. It doesn’t matter who. This will depend on what suits you and your kids best. Keep conversation limited. So, no talking about anything except logistics. In an ideal world you wouldn’t have any contact whatsoever for the full ninety days, but when there are kids, a house, gardeners, chars and families involved, there has to be a certain level of contact. Decide on your mode of communication. If things are really tense between you, you may want to SMS or e-mail one another instead of talking face to face. Hold the line. If your partner tries to engage you on any emotional issue, cut him off immediately. Tell only the inner circle. Keep it under wraps. Go for counselling. Both of you. This is the last commitment you need to make to your relationship and to yourself. It is your final attempt and both of you need to commit to work on yourselves during these ninety days. This is not couples’ counselling. See it as time to work on yourself. Agree on all the logistical arrangements before you start the clock. This is particularly important for the kids’ schedule. Decide whether you are going to tell the children. Many couples don’t involve their kids at this early stage and wait until decisions are cast in stone. The decision will depend on their age; younger children need not be privy to your relationship status. You can always say something like: ‘Dad’s got a job and has to stay over there for a bit, but he will collect you from school every day and drop you at home and he will be here all day on Sunday.’ – Make a date in ninety days’ time. Don’t see this as the final effort to save your relationship. Rather view this as an adventure, a break from the last few years of daily contact. Use it as a chance to reconnect with yourself and establish just how fun life without your Domesticated Man will be. It may mean setting up additional support systems as you take on the role of Sexy Single Mom. After the ninety days, you may find that you are totally clear that the relation-ship is over, or you may feel you want to give it another shot. But you will be clear. Bad girls’ break-up rules 1. Get new knickers Toss out every single flesh-tone pair of knickers and every bra with the underwire sticking through. Ditch the foundation garments and the warm thermal vests. Then head out to a lingerie store and buy a few desperately sexy matching sets. Throw in a few bustiers, stockings and some silk PJs. Dump the old flannel ones. Think sexy and fake it till you make it. 2. Snog a sexy waiter called Nikolai It is essential to start feeling sexy again during a break-up. Nothing can make this happen faster than flirting shamelessly with some--one who is selling you expensive drinks and has a naughty Czech accent. You feel sexy. Hell, you are sexy. And you are confident enough that you aren’t going to end up snogging him and break your break-up rules. For heaven’s sake, he’s seventeen. 3. Change your bush Get a makeover. Cut your hair and change all your clothes. You are a hip singleton now and you need to get a whole new gorgeous you. Seven things you never want to hear yourself saying ‘I’ll see you in court, asshole’ It sounds totally cool, but this really only works if you are Erin Brockovich and you’re holding a snitch’s signed confession behind your back. Otherwise, leave the drama to the movies. Every letter your nimble-fingered lawyer types is going to cost you blood. Litigation is a last resort. First try talking. Then try talking again. And again. Then mediation. TOP TIP: Choose a family friend whom you both see as balanced, fair and impartial and ask him or her to help you iron out your issues, so that you can come to a fair agreement. Once you have agreed on all the arrangements, the divorce will be less of an issue. ‘You are going to pay for that on YouTube’ Take a tip from one-time actress Tricia Walsh-Smith. In a pathetic attempt at vengeance, she put a weepy home video on YouTube in which she ranted about her miserable divorce. The video was viewed 3.2 million times in the first week. She pulls out her Angel Cards and then calls the ex to ask him why he has Viagra, condoms and porn in his drawers if he has no sex drive. You figure it out, girl! Publicly humiliating your spouse, even if he is David Hasselhoff and he’s slurring on the floor like a drunk, is totally not cool, and you’ll just end up embarrassing yourself. ‘I am going to take you to the cleaners’ This only happens to high-profile hard-asses like Heather Mills. Divorce courts are both reasonable and fair in most assessments, and divorce is seldom a money-making venture for either party. If anyone is going to be ‘cleaned out’, it’s both of you and your now-dwindling bank accounts. ‘You’ll never see your kids again’ Legal rights in the twenty-first century have evolved to disallow this sort of illegal behaviour. Besides which, it’s simply not true, and it’s a threat that will just cause grief and resentment. You don’t own the kids any more than he does. You may succeed in keeping them away from him until they are six, but you can also get arrested for that. Yet, in spite of new legislation, the phenomenon of the mercenary mom is not uncommon, and many women do use the children as a weapon in divorce. Statistics show that about 20 per cent of mothers who have custody will find a reason to relocate and move far away from the father’s home town. This means that he’ll only be able to see his children a couple of times a year. Most often, despite the fact that the mother is the person who moved, the father will have to pay for the kids’ flight tickets. Creepy, covert and so not cool. Your children will grow up and want to have a relationship with their father at some point, and they may resent you if you stifle their relationship with him, so don’t play this game if you can help it.