MadameNoire Featured Video

The incredible sulks

Source: PeopleImages / Getty

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many relationships crumbled and are now headed for divorce. The circumstances of the pandemic are stressful alone, so coupling it with a divorce can cause a heightened level of despair. According to research by Legal Templates, people seeking divorces had increased by 34 percent from March through June compared to 2019.

Author Tammy Letherer can relate to this pain all too well. After 12 years of marriage and three children with her husband, he admitted that he had been unfaithful for a decade and that he had recently met a woman in Las Vegas, Nevada who he wanted to be with. He was leaving her and he wanted the whole thing to be “taken care of” as soon as possible. Letherer’s world was destroyed and she had to rebuild it alone with a broken heart. Letherer was able to weather the storm and shared her experience in her book, The Buddha at My Table: How I Found Peace in Betrayal and Divorce. 

I caught up with Letherer and she was able to share how she dealt with her divorce, how the pandemic affects the divorce process, how to cope with such a painful experience and why January is referred to “Divorce Month.”

MadameNoire: Does the pandemic complicate the divorce process?

Tammy Letherer: Dealing with practical matters during a pandemic can be more complicated because the court systems were closed for so long that cases may have backed up and response times may be slower. But in other ways pandemic life has simplified things. Are you really going to fight over a set of dishes or a couple more parenting nights per month when you’ve been triggered, like all of us, into survival mode? Or are you more likely to feel grateful for the things that truly matter? Let’s face it, you may be too exhausted to fight, and that could be a blessing in disguise.  The pandemic certainly encourages distance, and removing yourself from your toxic situation can make the healing process go faster. You’re also unlikely to rush into a rebound relationship. Bottom line, both the pandemic and a divorce are events that call for rest, reevaluation, and healing. Take advantage of the current limitations and use them to simplify, rather than complicate, the process.

MN: What helped you the most regarding processing and coping through your divorce?

TL: My first reaction when my husband said he was leaving was, “This can’t be happening!” But it was, and the most helpful shift I made was to ask myself, “What if this is all happening for me rather than against me?” It was hard to believe that having my life derailed with no warning might somehow be a positive, but just considering this, even for a split second, lessened the pressure and sense of dread. Allowing in that sliver of curiosity gave me new perspectives that I might not have had. So that was a mental trick I used. Physically, I made self-care my priority and scheduled either acupuncture or massage appointments regularly. 

MN: Why do you think January is a popular month for divorces?

TL: Winter is the season of hibernation and turning within, which can result in getting real with what we want and how we see our future. If you live in the Midwest, like I do, you only have to look out the winter to see a stark, bleak environment and that has a way of clarifying the other parts of life that feel stark and bleak. Then comes the new year and it can feel like a reset. It’s a natural time to think in terms of huge goals or defining decisions. 

Letherer’s 5 ways to cope with a divorce during a pandemic:

Set up your support system.  Find one or two people who you can count on to minimize the drama and stop you when you start reacting instead of responding.

Establish realistic boundaries on all levels: physical, emotional, psychological, financial, and parenting. If you’re still cohabitating, are there parts of the house that are off-limits to each other? Do you need to protect yourself by saving your tears for your therapist or friend? What is the parenting schedule and is it fair?

Determine consequences when lines are crossed. Think of your relationship now in terms of a business partnership. What guidelines can you set upfront that will make sense even when emotions are running high?

See the positives. The whole idea of “coping” has such an oversized feel to it when, in fact, it’s achieved in the smallest ways. What is comforting or pleasing or hopeful to you right now, in this moment? It might be a cup of tea, a walk on a sunny day, a hug from your child. Focus on those things as if your life depends on them!

Embrace your future self. Even when you can’t see the end of the road, take it from those who have been there: you will get through this. And you’ll not only survive, you’ll soon meet the best version of yourself, the one who has been through the fire and has had all the garbage burned away.

Comment Disclaimer: Comments that contain profane or derogatory language, video links or exceed 200 words will require approval by a moderator before appearing in the comment section. XOXO-MN