There is a moment in the life of anyone getting a divorce when reality hits home: it is really happening… I’m getting divorced.
Whether you’re the one who initiated the breakup or the one on the receiving end, you’ll eventually face this, and it can happen anytime during the process. For some, it’s a jolt of the highest magnitude; for others, it’s something that’s been building for a long time, and may even come as a welcome release. You may be glad your marriage is finally over, but you’ll still feel the impact of that moment. It will be important then to keep your perspective: You will get through it — and if you make the right choices, you will be okay.
If you have already worked through the emotional issues of your breakup, you may be anxious to get it over with, and selling the house is the last piece of that puzzle. But for others, facing the imminent sale of the family home can be a sobering experience. It’s then that they realize what they’re losing, and some remain in denial right up to the last moment. The judge has ordered a sale; the house is in escrow, and they need to move out by next Friday — but they’re still hanging on.
They can’t accept that it’s over and they must begin building a new life; they’re simply not ready yet. All the mundane tasks they must now undertake become fraught with emotion: finding a place to rent, having the utilities turned on in their own name, opening new bank accounts, applying for credit cards as a newly single person. It’s a disorienting process under the best of circumstances. In the wake of a life-changing upheaval such as divorce, it can be crushing.
When a home is being sold, it’s not just a physical structure that’s at stake or even the money it represents. A home is the brick and mortar of a family’s life. It’s where dreams are born — and children, too. It’s where the kids grew up and family gatherings took place. Most couples remember that happy day when they bought their home. It was a mark of achievement that symbolized the family’s future together. They had worked and saved, and that home was the fruit of their efforts. It contained their hopes, their aspirations, their life. And now, suddenly, it’s all gone. In my experience, everyone underestimates the impact that loss will have on them.
Of course, a house can also be a reminder of painful memories: It might be where the guts occurred — or an affair. For most people, the thought of home stirs up a mix of positive and negative emotions. Yet, even in the worst cases, most people aren’t prepared to see it all taken away in an instant. As the process grinds on, they’re often distracted by the flurry of external events, and they repress the deep changes that are occurring inside them. When their emotions finally catch up to reality, the experience can be overwhelming.
I often witness this as the person designated to handle the sale of the property. Sometimes the gravity of it all hits when they make that first phone call or sit down with me in the office. It’s not uncommon for people to call me and say, “I’ve had your number for months, but it’s taken me till now to call you.” I understand their reluctance; it’s a big step to acknowledge that a marriage is ending and then to begin taking action. For others, the moment comes when the sale is done and we’re ready to close escrow. They might have been totally cooperative throughout the process, but when it’s time to sign the final paperwork, they freeze.
After reality hits, it is time to get back on track with courage and start to ponder – do I sell or keep the house?
Excerpt from The House Matters In Divorce: Untangling the Legal, Financial and Emotional Ties Before You Sign on the Dotted Line by Laurel Starks. Unhooked Books.