What To Do When Your Spouse Dies Before Your Divorce Is Final A Look at How to Move Forward When Death and Not Divorce End a Marriage

What To Do When Your Spouse Dies Before Your Divorce Is Final A Look at How to Move Forward When Death and Not Divorce End a Marriage

I’ve known several widows and widowers. When your spouse dies, there’s a commonly-shared thread linking them together. No matter the gender, each carried a look on their faces. It read, “I lived through losing half of me.”

Until you’re there, gripped by the swampy muck of grief and sorrow, it’s unbelievable. Death of a spouse isn’t just a one-time-and-now-it’s-over thing. It lingers. When your spouse dies, it reminds you of your own mortality.

Others, who lose their spouses while going through the divorce process to suddenly find it no longer necessary,  still have to deal with the finality of it all. All marriages will end, either by death or divorce. There are things you need to know about grief, family, and finances that will help you get through it when your spouse dies before the divorce is final.

Grieving the Wife You Were Divorcing

The death of a spouse is traumatic. Dealing with the death of someone you were once close to is already tough, and your reaction will be even more complicated by the timing and cause of death. Death may end a marriage after a long illness, or abruptly through accident, illness, or suicide.

When Your Spouse Dies After Prolonged Illness

It’s Gonna Hurt

There are bound to be strong emotions when your spouse passes away, even if your pending divorce was “civil”. It is way more difficult to handle the death of someone with whom you have a rocky or difficult relationship.

If you and your wife are no longer on speaking terms, although not yet formally divorced, you will be surprised by your strong feelings about her pending death, even if there is no love remaining in your marriage.

You might have had a hard time deciding if you should go see her, or she may have made it clear she wants nothing to do with you.

When your wife has been sick for a long time, watching her decline will take its toll on family members, even from a distance. When death comes, it is common to feel some relief.

You can be relieved that she isn’t struggling or in pain, but you might also be relieved that it’s finally over. That sense of relief may be followed by guilt. It can be easy to feel guilty about your relief that your wife is gone. However, it is best to acknowledge that twinge of guilt, and just let it go. Your feelings are perfectly normal and understandable.

If you are consumed by guilt, especially if you are second-guessing your role in the final weeks and months of her life, it is important for you to get perspective on the events leading to your wife’s death.  

It is normal to wish and even pray for everything to just be over in the final days, but your thoughts did not “rush” her death. Speak to your wife’s doctor, a counselor, or your pastor about your questions. They will respect your concerns and provide reassurance that you did not cause or hasten her death.

You Hate Her Guts and She’s Dying – What Do you Tell the Kids?

If you are separated from your wife in a contentious split, and there are children involved, your stress and anger will be through the roof.

Take a deep breath and hold back. Your kids need you to protect them, even if it means protecting them from your feelings about their mother.

Grief counseling is always a good idea for kids losing a parent, but in a situation where you hate their mom, you should get professional help on how to guide and support your children through the loss of their mother.  

You can get help through social services, pastoral care, or your local hospice organization. Hospice services for grief and bereavement counseling are generally available to anyone who is facing a pending death or grieving a loss that has already occurred.

Hospice services may be available to you for free, even if your spouse is not a hospice patient, or if she is a patient in a hospice program in another community.

When children are involved, don’t wait until there are behavioral problems.  Be proactive and get the counseling support you’ll need to help them before and after your spouse dies.

When Your Wife Dies Unexpectedly

Whether from an acute illness, accident or suicide, the unexpected death of a spouse will rock your world.  Even if you were separated, you may be involved in making final arrangements for burial or cremation and a funeral. The initial days following an unexpected death may go by in a fog. Let your family and friends help you, especially if you have children.

There is no right or wrong about the way you will feel. Take your time and understand that profound sadness or anger may come in waves. Crying is normal, and the necessary component to bereavement. Even the strongest man sheds tears of grief. There is no timeline, and often you’ll find there’s no rhyme or reason to the things that can trigger a wave of grief.

When a Marriage is Ended by Suicide

The confusion, guilt, and grief that follows the suicide of a spouse can be totally overwhelming. The emotions that you feel in the situation surrounding the suicide may be especially complicated if you and your spouse were separated at the time of her suicide.

The majority of suicides are the result of severe depression or related mental health issues. You may be slammed with all the emotions of any other grieving person, with the added burden of wondering if you or other family members somehow failed to recognize the symptoms or prevent the suicide.

Custody of Your Kids if Your Wife Dies

In a lot of states, the custodial right – meaning who the children will live with – automatically goes to the surviving parent. But that is not every state, and you may have to go to court if you want to have permanent custodial rights over your children, especially if your wife had full custody before she died.

Your settlement or legal custody plans will be important for the court to consider if there are any challenges to you having the primary custody of your kids, but will not make it a slam dunk.

For example, in Georgia, the law provides for children to go to the other parent after death, but in this case it happened differently. The dad was the parent who had custody of the child. In the separation agreement and divorce decree, it was spelled out that both parents wanted the child to go to the aunt if the father died. After he died, the mother tried to get full custody and so did the aunt. The courts ultimately determined that the aunt should have custody, not because of the divorce decree, but because the mother was found to be unfit due to addiction problems.    

Property and Financial Issues When Death Ends the Marriage

Don’t assume that your wife’s property and assets automatically go to you if she dies without a will. There are some states where a pending divorce action causes the state to holds onto the deceased spouse’s property until a decision is made on distribution to her estate or otherwise.

If there is a will, a trust, or probate must be opened, you should consult an attorney. Remember that attorneys are specialized, just like doctors. Start with the attorney representing you in the pending divorce for relevant clauses that may be in your separation agreement. For probate questions, your best bet is to talk to an experienced estate attorney in your area.

Even if your wife had no children, and she didn’t have real estate or valuable belongings, there may still be valuable assets to consider. Did she have life insurance through her employer? Did she have a 401K or other type of retirement or pension plan? Some types of plans may have spousal benefits after death.

Tell Us Your Story

Do you have questions or knowledge about marriages ending in death?  Please share your story in the comments below.

For related Guyvorce articles on death, grieving, wills, and estate issues check out Defining Beneficiaries In Your Post-Divorce Will And Estate Plans and The 5 Stages of Grieving a Relationship after Divorce.

Related Posts

  • 59
    So, I get it. You’re confused. You’re not sure what to do when contemplating divorce.  Sure, life might be less confusing after divorce, but, are you giving up too soon? What of you and your relationship with your kids? Will it change? Will it be better? Or will it get…
  • 59
    Television, tabloids and true crime novels tell tales about the nitty-gritty hard-boiled characters who ferret out secrets: the private investigator. The 1920’s and 30’s were the golden age of tough, fictional P.I.’s; Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade: fedora sporting, trench coat wearing ‘dicks’ who were easily swayed to slap shoe leather…
  • 56
    The Divorce Process, Day Zero Preparing For Doomsday When asked about the best divorce advice for men, I instantly think about the importance of those first few days in the divorce process. Actions, agreements, and assumptions made at the beginning of the divorce process can easily come back and bite…
3 Ways to Conquer Single Dad Chaos

3 Ways to Conquer Single Dad Chaos

Parents have hundreds of things vying for our time and attention. As a single dad, chaos seems to multiply! Between work, friends, hobbies, dating, housework, health, children, relationships, finances, safety, and social media (just to name a few) it is easy to get out of balance!

There must be some middle ground, right? I have learned to conquer single-dad chaos using Structure, Time and Happiness to create balance for me and my kids. This is how I did it, and you can too!

Take Stock of Your Chaos

The best way for me to find balance is to know what I am balancing. Sounds easy right?

A typical day in my life goes something like this:

  • I get ready for work and feed the cats.
  • My day is packed with meetings galore and we all know how exciting those are. Not!
  • My son reminds me to stop by the bank and cash his check. I remind him I need my book cover done by the end of the week.
  • Work ends and my house is a mess: dishes, dirty bathroom, messy bedrooms, and laundry.
  • My oldest son has bought a car that is already acting up – Dad to the rescue!
  • Writing deadlines. Bills to pay.
  • I try to watch a movie with my fiancé. Throughout the evening I receive text messages from my mother wanting to visit. I’m there to give advice about the car to my oldest, then advice about life to my youngest. I have a conversation lasting an hour with my fiancé about eating better and being healthier.
  • More writing fits in there somewhere. Then I’m off to bed around midnight.

Whew! I don’t begrudge any of it- but I sure need balance for days like this! Sometimes I fail miserably. More often than not I find room to get it all done.

If you’re a single dad, you are bound to have chaotic days, too!  So how in the world can any of us balance this mess?

Structure, Structure, Structure

When we try to balance everything, giving it structure can even out the rough spots. Teaching my kids structure helped them (and me) to achieve balance.

Rules and Routines

Structure happens when you have routines and house rules.   Here are a few that I came up with:

  • Homework was done right after school
  • Bedtime was a constant time
  • Chores were shared and done on time
  • Friday was cleaning day
  • Family dinners
  • Family meetings
  • “Unplug weekends”
  • My kids had to call or text when leaving or arriving somewhere

Structure Changes as Your Kids Grow

Our rules and routines changed as my kids grew older. My boys are 19 and 20 now, and that structure still follows them today. Helping them find balance started early.

Tip: Dads, don’t be afraid of “growing pains”! This can take time, but if you stick to your plan, the moaning, groaning and arguments will soon be a memory.

It doesn’t matter if your kids are still young or ready to start their own lives. Using structure will have a positive effect, not only in your life and their life, but the life you now have together with them.

Time Management

I am chained to my planner. It keeps me focused on my work-related tasks at hand and the tasks and appointments ahead. I also make a point to schedule time that I will be spending time with my kids and only them, because those times with my kids are important to me.

And you know what? Sometimes that planner and time schedules are thrown right out of the window. But that’s okay too!

Setting Priorities

I also have a list in my head. It is made up of important parts of my life and how I see them. How important those items are dictates how much time I spend on them. You may have your own list already.

If you don’t, stop! Take a few minutes and think about the areas in your life that require your time. Things we need to do, places we need to be, people we need to spend time with, and our own personal needs.

Work and Family

In my life, time spent at my job is the easiest time block to schedule. Work is a necessary evil to live. My children come first after that. This is not always easy, but I try.

I have a duty to teach my children how to be adults, how to deal with work issues, relationship issues, even financial matters. A father’s work is never done and it takes time.

From there, my list becomes skewed.

Time for the Single Dad

I have been lucky enough to find a woman who loves me, faults and all, and loves the boys like they are her own. I look forward to spending time with this special woman.

My close friends I can count on one hand, but that is by design. My friends understand my priorities.

Finally, I choose to spend time on a hobby that I want to eventually develop into a career.

This is my list. The areas of life that take your attention, and how you prioritize those areas will be up to you. Find what works for you and is most comfortable.

Find the Happy

Quick! Think about your kids. Imagine their face, their laughter, the way they smile. Hold that in your mind. Guess what?

You’re smiling. Yes, you. The one who thinks his stress level is too high to find balance. You smiled when you pictured your kids.

I smiled too.

Defining Your Happy

My fiancé turned me on to the concept of finding your happy a few years ago. Her “happy” is riding her 4-wheeler through the fields. Mine is sitting on the beach, watching the sunset and listening to the waves. Your “happy” is what causes your soul to calm and helps you focus.

Dr. Christopher Peterson wrote an entire book on the benefits of positive psychology! It works!

What is your happy? When are you in the zone? It could be while playing or listening to music, actively engaged in a sport, chopping wood or tinkering with old cars.

Whatever it is, practice going there in your head. Mentally recreate the touch, sounds and smells of your “happy.”  Soon, you will be able to go there to get yourself balanced.

I have used this technique numerous times:

  • During an argument
  • Relieving stress at work
  • When I need to relax after a long day

The possibilities are endless. Using your “happy” to keep your cool is good for you and your kids!

Challenge!

I want to leave you with a challenge. A challenge to conquer the chaos in your life!

How does a single dad start to conquer chaos? Asking yourself some questions will give you an idea of areas to tackle:

What is the most important thing in my life?

What am I already doing to achieve balance in my life that is working?

Is there even a way to do all the things I want to do today?

What can I cut out to make sure everything gets done?

Is there anyone I can lean on for help?

What rules and routines can I use to help myself and my kids?

Have I defined happiness in my life?

Once you start answering these questions, I would bet that conquering the chaos in your life will be easier. I was for me.

Remember to not only look for the balance, but create it.

My children are the reason I am here today. It is a pleasure to be a father. I cannot imagine what this life would be like without my boys.

Our kids deserve balance in their lives. I can give them that … you can too. I show them it is okay to have friends, a hobby, and a social life.

What about you? Leave me a comment below and tell me how you achieved balance in your life today … this week … this month. Tell me what worked and what didn’t in the comments below.

For more great Guyvorce articles on being a single dad, check out Divorce Advice for Dads and The Four Pillars of Co-parenting After Divorce!

Related Posts

  • 67
    Birth Order and Divorce Part 1: The Impact on the Oldest Child We don’t walk down the aisle dressed in our best with our thoughts on divorce. Much less do we start families and create life thinking we’ll one day break our offspring’s hearts. In the aftermath of the end of…
  • 65
    Birth Order and Divorce Part 2: Grief as Experienced by the Middle Child She is the Cheech to my Chong, the Abbott to my Costello, the Timon to my Pumba. Always taking her job as The Official Family Reporter (a fancy way of calling her a tattle-tale) seriously, she remains…
  • 64
    You're now a newly single dad. What was once a two-parent household with a one set of rules is now two households and to say only your lifestyle has changed would be an understatement. Life post-divorce brings a new routine, new systems and new rules.  Adjustments will be made by…
How to Deliver What Women Want One Woman's Honest Explanation of the Complicated Realm of Women's Feelings, Emotions, and What it Takes to Get the Goods

How to Deliver What Women Want One Woman's Honest Explanation of the Complicated Realm of Women's Feelings, Emotions, and What it Takes to Get the Goods

How to Deliver What Women Want to Your Partner

One Woman’s Honest Explanation of the Complicated Realm of Women’s Feelings, Emotions, and What it Takes to Get the Goods

A man who can deliver what women want the most becomes the hero. You need to crack the code when it comes to language, love, and sex to give your woman what she wants the most.

This is the real deal. The inside scoop is nothing new, but not something most guys ever get let in on. Women want love and affection the way men need admiration and respect.

Do you want to have women admire you? Respect you? Adore you? Then read on!

Use These 4 Tips to Better Understand Her Love Language and What Women Want

Guys, if you’ve had experience with any women at all, you know that women seem to speak a different language. What you might view as a kind gesture, she’ll see as overbearing.

Dr. John Gray wrote an entire book on the subject called Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus.

Here are 4 of Dr. Gray’s favorite code breakers for you:

1. If she asks if you are interested in something specific, it’s a clue that she wants that very thing she mentioned.

For example, if you are out on a date, and your gal asks if you are in the mood for ice cream, that’s a clue that she’s in the mood for ice cream!

2. If she asks your opinion about her hair or clothes she is not truly asking you for a critique of her skirt or her hairstyle. She is asking if you appreciate her the way she is.

The smart guys reading this already know this one!

Pro tip: Don’t diminish or judge her feelings if she’s upset and thinks she looks awful. If she had a bad haircut, it will not make her feel better. You’ll tell her it’s not a big deal, hair grows back. She’s likely to run off on a tangent that ends with you in the dog house until it actually does grow back.

Rather, tell her she is beautiful no matter how she wears her hair.

3. If she’s very upset and criticizing people that you know she cares about, like her mother, do not take sides.

Listen and don’t comment.

If she demands to know if you agree that her mother is horrible, your safest avenue of escape is to look very serious and confirm that you can see this issue is very upsetting to her.

Respond with something like, “I can tell you’re pissed off at what happened/what she did.”

If she pursues it, look her in the eyes and say, “All I care about is how you’re feeling right now.”

Bam! You just won!

You’re a hero!

4. If she’s randomly, or unusually happy, pay attention to what’s going on. If she hugs you all bright-eyed because you bought her a teddy bear (or flowers or tequila) on your way home from work, that’s not code for “Bring me another fleece-stuffed object to make me happy.”

It means that the little things you do just for your gal make her happy. Other things on par with the teddy bear that are things you could do just for her are:

  • Sending her a text during the day that you’re thinking about her
  • Stopping at the florist’s on the way home to grab a bouquet of her favorite roses
  • Taking goofy selfies with her and picking times throughout the day to send them to her via email or phone

Those kinds of things translate to “affection” in her lingo.

4 Ways to Deliver What Women Want in Love

Whoa, there, guy – we are not talking sex quite yet. For most women in a relationship, the love stuff comes before the bedroom stuff, especially if you want totally epic sex.

  • How do I love thee?
  • I mow the lawn
  • Fix your car
  • And send you flowers!

“What more do you want, woman!?”

Guys primarily express love through actions. That’s okay! By all means, continue with your loving actions! Fixing her car and painting the house are valid expressions of love. She’ll appreciate them. But actions aren’t the only love expressions in her love language.

Here are 4 go-to methods for connecting with her:

1. Saying It

She wants to hear it.

Seriously.

Say the words.

Bonus points for terms of endearment. Tell her you love her outside of the bedroom, with words and demonstrations of affection without expecting it to lead to sex.

For example:

  • Holding hands in public
  • A stolen kiss on the cheek or the forehead while she’s doing something else
  • Or a text message during the day

2. Notice Her Often

The rule goes: If she spent some serious time putting on the warpaint (make up) and do-ing up the hair, compliment her. Duh!? Right?

Of course, you should let her know what you’re impressed by how gorgeous she is. But make sure she knows that you think she’s hot without make up and first thing in the morning, too.

Complement her when she’s not dressed up for special occasions, too. Or if she’s laying around in her gray don’t-come-near-me sweat pants, tell her you like them on her. You’ll score major points for that!

3. Loyalty = Love

The easiest way to demonstrate your loyalty to her and your relationship is to act appropriately around other women.

Keep your eyes on the prize guys!

Focus on the woman you’re with, even when you are being waited on by a knockout waitress. Your gal will notice (because she’s in the front seat beside you!) if you drive past a buxom jogger, and your eyes immediately flick to that rearview mirror!

She will respect your self-control!

4. Can You Hear Me Now?

Listening is another code for love in a woman’s lexicon. The trick is to listen without trying to fix anything you see as the obvious problem.

She’s venting when she comes home from work. Ranting and weeping are a part of her process for dealing with issues in her life like a disagreement with her boss. Just listen.

An article published in Psychology Today explores why men are often accused of not listening to their woman. Men are wired to be the fixers and protectors of their herd. And that’s a good thing!

But when a woman is frustrated, upset, or overwhelmed, she really just needs an outlet. Being a source of judgement-free listening tells her she can count on you. Offering unsolicited advice or telling her to just get over it won’t fix it.

Your best bet is to not offer advice unless she asks for it.

But if you’re willing to gamble it by offering your thoughts on the matter, ask her first. Try, “Do you want to know what I think?” Or, “Would you be okay if I told you what I would do if it were me?”

2 Ways to Deliver What Women Want In the Bedroom

Did you scroll on past the first 2/3rds of this piece just to get here? No worries. I’m actually okay with that as long as you go back and read through what you’ve skipped.

You’ll need that to pass the quiz at the very end.

What quiz, you ask?

Made you look!

I’m kidding, of course!

But seriously, this part alone isn’t enough to help you. Take a few minutes to read over what she really wants from you. Taking that in will prepare you for all that is to come.

If you’ve been applying my insider tips for giving her what she wants in language and love, you are well on your way around the bases and are locked on home plate!

A quick roll in the hay can be a lot of fun. But if your goal is epic sex with your woman, start with her heart and her head. Your gal needs to feel desired and valued to abandon her inhibitions in your bed.

1. The Scenic Route

Foreplay begins before the clothes come off, and may begin with meaningful glances over dinner. The next time you are stuck watching a chick flick, pay attention to the kissy scenes. Even before the first strap is slipped from a shoulder, there have been long, lingering kisses that begin to trail down her neck, and his hands are caressing her face, back and arms.

A woman wants, more than anything else you could buy or give her, you to want her from head to toe. Let her know you want to relish all of her and enjoy the journey, so don’t always go straight to the final destination!

2. Priority One

A woman wants to know that her satisfaction is your first priority. Taking your time to take in your woman will undoubtedly have a pleasant and satisfying effect on you. Delaying your own physical gratification has its rewards. Nothing is hotter than seeing and hearing a woman responding to your specific intentions.

After giving your all, you may both collapse into a sexy, satiated heap. But there’s more!

A man who knows how to deliver what women want will take the opportunity for a few caresses and words in her love language. She will adore you for it!

You Got This!

Whew! Women want a lot, right? At this point, men might seem like the easier-to-read gender with straightforward intentions and basic needs.

But if you’re trying like hell to reignite the spark in your marriage, or if you’re just starting out in a new relationship and don’t want to screw it up before it has a real shot, avoid your past mistakes. Give it a fair shot.

You can be as easy-to-understand and as straight a shooter as you want to be. But that’s only half of the equation.

Do you want to be right? Or do you want to be happy? If the latter is what you want, print this article out and refer back to it often. Women respond more favorably to a partner who is willing to understand her needs, wants and desires.

A woman who feels loved, appreciated, and spiritually nourished will give it back to you ten-fold. It might take some practice to master all her cues and speak her love language fluently.

You now have the inside scoop on the basics of what the woman in your life truly wants from you. How have these tips helped you? What do you think women want? Leave your comments and questions below.

Want more insights from the rest of the Guyvorce team into dating and relationships? Check out That Explains It for answers to the top questions men have about women and The Art of Dance to learn how dance lessons might help you in your next relationship!

Related Posts

  • 54
    Declining Divorce Rates Seven Reasons Fewer Americans Seem to Be Calling It Quits In the last 20 years, divorce rates have dropped dramatically. According to The New York Times: Couples Married In Divorce Rate 1970 35% 1980 35% 1990 70% 2000 15% Don't be deceived by the table deceiving. Drastically…
  • 54
    Do you find yourself wondering what happened to the passion in your marriage? Do you feel like you and your wife have turned into roommates? If you answered a resounding, “Yes!” to any of those questions, you’re living in a sex-starved marriage and heading down a dangerous path that could…
  • 50
    My step-father loved to joke that I had a little neon sign on my forehead that flashed: “Assholes Apply Here”. I’ve hit a few bumps on the road to True Love - or they hit me. It is humiliating to admit that a woman who prides herself on her intellect…
How to Tell Your Kids about Divorce Three Things to Consider Ahead of Time

How to Tell Your Kids about Divorce Three Things to Consider Ahead of Time

How to Tell Your Kids about Divorce

Three Things to Consider Ahead of Time

You are about to break it to your child that you and their mother are getting divorced. This is one of the most important conversations you will ever have with your child. Do not take it lightly.

You have made a decision that will undoubtedly turn their little lives upside down. Anticipate that it may have to occur over multiple conversations over multiple days, weeks, or months. Expect emotions to be high.

Your child’s reaction will depend on several things. Age, maturity, and level of awareness will be the biggest contributors. Children (even very young toddlers) are surprisingly cognizant of their surroundings. They likely already know that the relationship between mom and dad has either changed or is not a loving one, even if they show no signs of it. They pick up on subtle signals such as tone of voice and body language. I swear my nine-month-old infant knows and reacts when my husband and I argue.

But children are also surprisingly resilient. They adjust quicker than adults. They will get through this, and it will be ok. There is no right or wrong way to have the conversation, but knowing how to tell your kids about divorce is more about preparation than anything else. That is all up to you and your spouse.

How to Tell Your Kids about Divorce: Three Things to Consider Before You Do

1. Time it Right

There is not ever going to be a good time to tell your kids about your divorce so do not sit around waiting for one. Procrastination will not help you. However, there are some pretty bad times to spill the news. Consider the following:

  • Be certain. Do not tell your children about a divorce until you are completely certain it is going to happen.

Why put her through that if you aren’t sure or if you are still trying to work things out? That is a lot of emotional turmoil for potentially no reason.

  • Be the ones to tell your child. Tell him together. Do not wait until he hears it from someone else or figures it out on his own.

I’m lucky in that my folks haven’t divorced although they probably should have (subject for a future post), but I know several people whose parents did.

One of those people was nine years old. He found out while his family was on vacation by hearing his parents’ conversation through a wall while he was trying to fall asleep.

Not the best way (or place) to find out.

  • Be there for the aftermath. Do not tell them right before they head off to school, right before you go to work, or right before bed.

Children will need time to process the news. Depending on the individual child, he may be upset, frightened, anxious, or angry.

Parents need to be there to support him, answer his questions, and comfort him.

2. Have Answers Prepared

Children ask questions to help them understand. This will be no exception.

They may have questions right away, or they may have questions after they have adequate time to process. There is no way to predict what they will ask, but you should be prepared.

You need to have a perfect answer. It probably does not exist. What you need is honesty. Give simple answers.

Refrain from lying or sugarcoating. Don’t go into detail, but stick with a short set of answers.

Your little humans are wicked smart. And they already know more than you think they do.  So don’t insult them by not telling them the truth.

Depending on the age, you might expect some form of these questions.

  • What is divorce? Chances are (if your child is school age) she knows another child whose parents went through divorce. She probably has some sort of idea what it entails, but she may not understand the reality or certainty of it.

Explain that mom and dad will not live together anymore, but you are both still her parents and love her very much.

  • Why are you getting a divorce? Your child does not need a detailed answer here.

He does not need to know what events or people (or whatever the case may be) led to your decision to get a divorce. You should be honest but leave out any blame or hard feelings.

Keep it civil. Let your child know it was a decision made by both parents.

There is no need to tell him that the two of you have fallen out of love with each other. Your child may start putting together dots in his head and think this means you could fall out of love with him too.

Nothing changes the fact that you both created your babe and therefore will always owe each other (and your child) respect and love.

  • Where will I sleep? This question may come in many forms.

Where will I go to school? Who will take me to soccer practice?

If your child is school aged, she will likely be most interested in how the divorce will affect her.

Make sure you have at least high level details worked out so that you have some answers to these questions. Let her know who she will live with, and that she will still be an active member of both parent’s lives.

3. Be Prepared for the Reaction

Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best. Each kiddo thinks differently, will process information differently, and react differently.

The news will forever alter your little munchkin’s life, and their reaction could vary from excitement to sadness to extreme anger. You should be prepared for any reaction.

The most important thing for you to do is keep your cool. Do not get upset or irritated at anything your child does or says in reaction to the news.

  • She may not want to talk about it at all. That’s ok. Let her stew on it for a while. Do not try to push it on her. Try bringing back up again later.
  • He may not believe you. This might be the case if your child has seen you and your spouse fight a lot and then make up. Let him know it is real and is going to happen.
  • She may be angry. Your child may get mad…very mad. She may place the blame on one parent or both. Let her be mad. She will calm down.
  • He may be relieved. If your child is a bit older and has seen you fight consistently with your spouse, he may be relieved that you are finally parting ways.

Or if he is younger, he may be excited that he is getting two rooms with double the toys. Excitement is okay too. Don’t try to push feelings of sadness on him.

In Closing

Knowing how to tell your kids about divorce is only the beginning. Once you tell them, you have to prepare yourself for their reaction. Be there for them through the aftermath and offer brief (albeit honest) answers to their questions. Remember that they know more than you think they do, so don’t bother with lies.

You’re not looking forward to breaking your child’s heart. No parent ever is. Still, it’s a conversation you must have. You can’t prepare for every scenario, but you have to be there. They’ll adjust. It will be okay in the end. You just have to love them through it.

How’d you tell your kids about your divorce? Any regrets? What would you change about the experience? Did your relationship change afterward? Let us know in the gray comments section!

Knowing how to tell your kids about divorce is a huge step in the process of ending a marriage. And your story could help a parent struggling with this issue.

Related Posts

  • 67
    How to Keep It Together When Divorce Blindsides You Off to War, Only to Return to a Dreaded Divorce Proceeding The day my life changed started out like any other. Being married and in the military, the trip I faced felt like countless trips before. The same routine played out…
  • 62
    It’s so tempting, isn’t it? You just got kicked out of your house, the one you worked to maintain for so long, the one you put your blood, sweat and tears into in order that your family could have a nice place to live. Or you just got walked out…
  • 62
    No doubt you’ve heard countless advice about how to avoid divorce and save your struggling marriage. Your parents, the in-laws, friends, church members, everybody has an opinion—and most of the well-meaning nuggets of unsolicited wisdom contradict one another. You are left more confused than ever on how to find a…
How Getting Married in Las Vegas Began the End of My Relationship The Signs I Ignored, What I Should've Done, and Stuff You Must Consider Before Getting Hitched in Sin City

How Getting Married in Las Vegas Began the End of My Relationship The Signs I Ignored, What I Should've Done, and Stuff You Must Consider Before Getting Hitched in Sin City

How Getting Married in Las Vegas Began the End of my Relationship

The Signs I Ignored, What I Should’ve Done, and Stuff You Must Consider Before Getting Hitched in Sin City

These things are certain: The sky is blue. Grass is green. And getting married in Las Vegas is a less than good idea.

Duh!?

Despite this hard-learned lesson in common sense, 120,000 folks flock there every year to jump in head first into (what they hope will be) wedded bliss.

Rarely is it that. More often than not, the union doesn’t last long after the couple leaves what happened in Vegas back behind them in Vegas.

My Las Vegas Wedding Story

It rained on that day in July. Of all the times we could’ve gone to the desert to get married, we inadvertently picked the Mojave Desert’s monsoon season! Still, we enjoyed our time there. That was us. We were that kind of couple.

We’d just celebrated our 10th year together, and thought we were sure about what we were getting into – one sure hopes so after a solid decade of living in sin. I thought we knew each other well enough. Then again, how much do you ever really know a person?

It was a cold, rainy day in July in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hell had literally frozen over (well, at least Sin City had).

And despite all of the universe’s efforts to change my mind and head home, I walked through the doors of The Little White Wedding Chapel wearing a huge white poof of a wedding dress and blue Manolos I’d ordered specifically for that day. My groom wore a black pinstriped zoot suit.

Three Factors to Consider Ahead of Your Big Day

1. Use the 60/20 Method for Detecting Weak Areas in Your Relationship

You want my advice? Stop whatever you’re doing right now! Think of all the reasons you not to marry your partner. You have 60 seconds to do so. Go!

Oh, good! You’re back!

In 60 seconds, did you come up with 20 good reasons (and I don’t mean anything like you wish she was shorter, had red hair, etc.) not to get married?

Good reasons include but are not limited to:

  • One of you has massive unpaid debts
  • One of you is a tightwad and the other spends it like there’s a money tree on steroids growing in the backyard
  • You haven’t yet laid out a financial plan for the marriage
  • There are children involved, and you aren’t sure how they’ll feel about becoming a blended family
  • You haven’t worked out permanent living arrangements
  • Whether only once or a hundred times, you’ve been unfaithful
  • You suspect she might have been unfaithful
  • You’re waiting until after the wedding to introduce her to your friends/family
  • You’re marrying in secret

If you came up with 20 reasons (consider 18 reasons to be a lot) in 60 seconds, sit her down. Give her the rundown, and wait for her to do the same.

If she does, you’ll have to work on repairing the relationship before getting married in Las Vegas or anywhere else for that matter.

If she doesn’t, ask her about your concerns. If she doesn’t offer up answers or if a fight ensues, give it time. Talk it out later. But whatever you do, don’t say your I Dos until you get all of it out and you both feel good about the aftermath.

You might not ever get there, but trust me, ending a relationship before walking down the aisle is much easier than dealing with the mind fuckery of divorce.

2. Pay Attention to Ominous Signs and Omens

I’m not someone who believes in superstition. Once upon a time, I was following my dreams of becoming a cardiothoracic surgeon. In short, I love science. I trust what I see, what I can prove.

While I’m not someone who avoids walking under ladders or kicking gently nudging a black cat out of my way with my Chuck Taylors to get where I gotta go, I would swear to you that when I think back on it, I distinctly remember signs, omens maybe, telling me the whole thing was a bad idea.

Although subtle, they were clear enough for me to notice in the moment. Instead of thinking about what these strange (perhaps coincidental) occurrences meant, I explained them away as regular happenings in causality. Here are a few:

  • I found my first gray hair ever the morning of my wedding day. Crazy, eh?
  • He and I forgot our wedding rings when we left the house. We realized it several hours into the trip. We thought about doing it without them but instead headed back home to pick them up before heading out again.
  • It poured down rain and hail the entire time we were there. Mind you, it’s literally…a desert, the Mojave Desert!
  • My shoes didn’t fit well and every step I took hurt like hell. If that’s not an obvious Hello! Maybe you should think this one through, ol’girl!! I don’t know what is!

Challenges happen. Ish happens. It’s inevitable. And weddings are the perfect breeding ground for ish to happen. If your Las Vegas wedding is met with a challenge or two, don’t take it to heart.

But if every. Step. You. Take. Leaves you thinking your feet will soon divorce you for abusing them at the end of a long series of ish going wrong, think about it. Seriously think about what these signs mean.

Worst case, talk to your bride. Put the wedding off and make the most of the VooDoo Zipline at the Rio, ride the Stratosphere roller coaster until your feet forgive you, and avoid the time share dweebs like the plague!

3. THE Question You Have to Ask Her the Night Before

Ideally, you want to ask her this anytime before the day of. Don’t wait any longer than the night before your wedding day.

Here’s the question:

“Is there anything you want to tell me right now before we do this?”

Make it clear that this is the one freebie you’re willing to give away. After that, whatever you find out, whatever comes up is fair game and grounds for ending the marriage if it’s bad enough.

Giving each other a freebie doesn’t mean you’re going to forgive and forget without any hurt feelings or without spewing forth any expletives. It just means, that no matter how bad it is, no matter how much it hurts, you’re ready and willing to work it out having cleared the air.

Be prepared. You could just as easily spend the night fighting like never before. So be it. Get it out. Work it out if you can.

If what gets said damages your relationship beyond what you’re willing to repair, end it.

Having this conversation is the single most important thing you can do for your relationship, for your marriage, for yourself. You can only fix what you acknowledge.

Why Getting Married in Las Vegas Gets Such a Bad Rap

1. Vegas marriages rarely last.

Just ask the 100s of divorced famous people who’ve tried! Examples include:

  • Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton
  • Britney Spears and What’s-his-face
  • Cindy Crawford and Richard Gere

That’s not to say that your marriage can’t prove ‘em wrong. Some famous couples who legalized their unions in Sin City have stood the test of time.

  • Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos (eloped to Las Vegas in 1996)
  • Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman (married in 1958 until his death in 2008)
  • Dorothea Hurley and Jon Bon Jovi (married in 1989 and together as of this publishing)

Getting married is nothing. Anyone can get married. If you want to stay married, you’ll have to work at it!

2. Vegas weddings are more likely to be impulse decisions than honest, well-thought-out life choices.

It’s the rebellious thing to do – the ultimate statement to assert one’s independence.

I equate it to buying the first compound bow you’ve lusted after for months only to realize the morning after that you live on the 10th floor in Manhattan and hunting pigeons from your window is frowned upon.

3. The romance element is almost completely gone from the experience.

Getting into the “wedding spirit” of it all is challenging in a Las Vegas chapel. On my wedding day, there were four couples in the lobby waiting for their numbers to get called when we arrived. It was then I realized the place was more like a feedlot than a chapel.

I’ve been to a few weddings. Even the small, more private affairs (a bride, groom, priest, parents, siblings, and a few friends) are full of energy. It gets you in the right mood and adds to the occasion.

In Vegas, strangers marry you, strangers take your picture, and strangers watch you do it. When they’re done with you, those same strangers shuffle in the next number and repeat the process on a loop.

There isn’t an easy black and white way to compare that to a real wedding.

Final Thoughts

If I had it to do over again, knowing it would all come undone only five months later, would I still have done it?

No.

It’s hard to write that. Even as I sit here typing I’m fighting off the urge to erase that word and a positive spin on the situation. And I can’t. For now, at least, “No,” is the best I can do.

Getting married in Las Vegas isn’t the reason it didn’t work out in my marriage. In fact, it was broken long before we ever set out on the highway. I think we both wanted it back then. We wanted it to be real.

Instead of having the uncomfortable conversations no one wants to have (the kind that either end or strengthen relationships), we pretended. We pretended we didn’t see the signs urging us to drive home. We pretended our relationship was real, tangible, and unbreakable. Our problem wasn’t getting married in Las Vegas. We were our biggest problem.

Time has moved us forward. Today, we’re very different from who we were that day in July. While it could just be that we’ve grown up a bit in the last five years, I tend to believe we’ve finally become acquainted with one another and are the better for it.

Did you get hitched in Las Vegas? We want to hear from you! Tell us about it in the gray comments section below!

Related Posts

  • 43
    Once the divorce is over and two lives have been neatly divided, it’s difficult to comprehend saying “I do” ever again.  Just because it didn’t work out the first, or even second time, there’s still hope for happily ever after.  Take a listen to two gentlemen who are living proof…
  • 34
    Humans are social animals. There’s no getting around the science that our support system—the network we count on for encouragement, inspiration, love and guidance—is vital to our physical and psychological health. Science indicates romantic relationships play an especially powerful role in our wellness, increasing our life span, lowering rates of…
  • 32
    Sitting alone on the edge of the bed, in the spare room my friend had graciously allowed me to stay in, I was shell shocked. I had just taken my sons back to their mom’s house. My house. At least it used to be mine. I was still paying the…

Pin It on Pinterest