My house was sold on Saturday. It sounds exciting but is in fact painful. It’s one of the last steps on the road to settling my divorce.
Regardless of the price my property commanded, selling it was one more loss in a long process of shedding – which is what a marriage breakdown all comes down to.
You shed your identity as a couple and as a wife. You leave behind cherished memories and possessions that hurt too much to think about, so you shed them too.
And when it’s all done, you find yourself stripped back to a strange hybrid self. The single self you were all those years ago, when you were on your own. But she is overlaid with a new, wiser, older version, burnished by loss and forged in fire.
So because I am a bit too sad and emotional to give you awesome happy money tips today, I instead give you some hard-won lessons. Take from them what you will.
You can walk away with (almost) nothing and be happy. I left a 3-bedroom townhouse with a double garage and extra storage. I ended up with 1 room in an apartment, no garage and no storage.
It was already furnished, so I left a house full of furniture, appliances, books and ‘stuff’. Left it there, threw it out, donated it or squeezed it into a few boxes in mum’s garage. I kept my (real) Tupperware though – that shit has a lifetime warranty!
So, I barely own any stuff now. And I am happier than I have been in years. Now, correlation is not necessarily causation – I am happy for other, more fundamental reasons.
But this process of leaving things proved to me that beyond the basics (like containers for your epic food prep sessions), you don’t need heaps of stuff to be happy.
Money means choices. Nobody gets married thinking it will end. I didn’t think it would happen to me. But sometimes it does, and it did.
And if you’re the one who wants to leave, you have to deal with the emotional upheaval just as much as the practical shitstorm. Finding rent and bond for a new place is a big expense.
I was able to do that because I had savings. I had an income. I could choose a nice apartment in a nice area. That meant I could focus all my attention on the essentials, like bursting into tears on the train every morning, for example.
You need to share the responsibility for money. You won’t be surprised to hear that I was in charge of all the finances. This wasn’t good for either of us. I felt burdened and he felt frustrated by my decisions.
I see both men and women fall into this trap. It seems easier to give up control, but it actually drives you apart. Managing money together means you share the wins and handle the challenges together, rather than one person shouldering the blame for your financial outcomes, or guilt-tripping the other one.
Ultimately, nobody is going to look after your interests like you do. No matter how happy your relationship, you’ll never regret giving yourself the knowledge and tools to be in control of your life and your choices.
You can always reinvent yourself – I’m the Arts graduate who fell into PR. I was all about words and books and writing. And here I am, rocking an actual qualification in finance and being called an ‘expert’ (haha thanks Mamamia).
I was the unsporty, uncoordinated one, and here I am about to compete in a powerlifting competition this weekend. (I won’t beat anyone, but will rock the outfit anyway).
You just never know how things will turn out. You are just one decision away from changing your life, or someone deciding to change it for you.
This is both liberating and terrifying. The only thing to do is be ready for anything – to embrace the new opportunities or tackle the crises. And to put away what money and resources you can, in order to do that successfully.
So that’s what I learnt once I picked my life up and put it back together. If I had to sum it up, I’d say, no matter what happens: you’ve got this.