The decision to divorce is a difficult one, and it’s one that people live with for many years, oftentimes before they decide to take action.
Kim Griffith is a previous guest on The Jennifer Hargrave Show. Previously we talked about the amazing work she does as a life and leadership coach, and as the founder of the Wave Institute. Today however, Kim joins us to share her real life divorce story from reaching the decision to break up the marriage, her experiences and coping strategies through the process, to what her life is like now, on the other side.
- Tell us about your immediate family
- How long were you considering divorce?
- What led you in that direction?
- What were some of your fears?
- How did you work through the fear?
- How did having the ‘divorce conversation go?
- What surprised you about the divorce process?
- What role did your values play in your divorce process?
- When you were in the divorce process, you second guessed your decision. Where are you now with that?
- What does your future look like?
- Who was there for you in the divorce?
- Do you do this kind of coaching?
- And is you ex-husband happy?
- What message of hope do you have for somebody who’s in that decision-making phase?
Can You Tell Us About The People In Your Immediate Family?
My ex-husband Clark—who’s now remarried. My daughter, Tori. She’s a senior in high school. And I have two step kids who are grown; they are Clark’s kids.
When did you get divorced?
About four years ago.
How Long Were You Considering A Divorce?
I was seriously considering divorce for about three years before I took action.
What Led You In That Direction?
We didn’t have a lot of chaos and we didn’t argue, which made the decision even more difficult. I had started to achieve some personal growth, and had reached a place where I could be real with myself. I had married a doctor, I had this pretty house and cars, yet I was dying inside. I had to get real about that and realize that I wasn’t in alignment.
We also had a big age difference, so there were some dynamics going on with that which I couldn’t get through.
I worked really hard to try different things. I think we just hit a place where I knew it was time for both of us. I wasn’t being fair to him or giving him what he deserved, and I wasn’t happy. So, I made the decision, but I had a lot that I went through before I took action.
What Were Some Of Your Fears?
One of the things that holds people back from proceeding with a divorce is fear.
Financial fear was huge. I was growing my business, but I was not at a place where I was going to be able to take care of myself. I had to face that fear and stretch myself.
I also had the fear of failure. I didn’t make it with my family, right? I feared failure and having to work through that guilt.
I had to face the fear of being alone, and I was pretty codependent. It was really hard for me to contemplate being alone and, being a little older, wondering: Am I going to be alone forever?
I had to trust that I was going to find my way.
And then the fear of losing my friends. We had couples that we would go out with, and I was afraid of losing connection to them, and with some I did. I had to learn to be okay with that.
A common fear that I often hear from people when they’re considering divorce is how it will change their relationship with their child.
My fear of what it would do to my daughter was significant because I’m also in the business of helping people through transition, so I know what it can do to kids if you don’t handle it well.
I’ll be honest and vulnerable, I was afraid of her hating me because I was the one making the decision. I knew I was going to be leaving, and he was going to keep the house, so I was going to change my lifestyle. I wondered whether Tori would want to come with me or stay with Clark.
How Did You Work Through The Fear And Take Action?
I got support. I had a really great business partner at the time that I counted on to work through some of these fears and process them, and I did a lot of personal growth.
I’m not going to lie…I had to dig deep to have the courage and strength to make the decision I knew I needed to make for both of us, so I sought support
How Did Having the ‘Divorce Conversation’ With Your Husband Go?
He wasn’t prepared, so I had little conversations throughout that made it progressive. Then, when I was ready to make the decision, I just looked at him and said: I have to be honest. I can’t give you what you need. I’m trying, and I’ve tried. I need to move forward and get a divorce. It’s time for us to do that.
It was not easy.
He handled it well, but his reaction was still difficult for me. I had to validate his frustration and his feelings and not get defensive. I just listened and avoided reacting in a negative way, and we were able to come to a calmer place and agree that it was probably best for both of us, even though he didn’t want it at the outset.
At the outset of the process, did you talk about what kind of divorce you wanted to have?
Yes. Once we got through that initial conversation, we did talk about the importance of keeping it cordial.
You decided to do a collaborative divorce, right?
Yes. I knew I wanted to walk through it in the highest way possible and to have the least impact possible on Tori. Honestly, I wanted to keep our relationship somewhat intact. That was really important to me. It’s a value of mine to stay connected as much as possible.
I know that’s not possible for everyone, but for me it was.
Because even though you were deciding to end the marriage, there was still a friendship.
What Surprises And Challenges Did You Encounter Through The Divorce Process?
The grief. Of the different emotions that came over me that were really unexpected, I felt grief the most. I’d lost the ideal marriage, or at least the kind of marriage I wanted, and grief or fear would come over me, and it would be strong at times.
I’m not going to sugarcoat that. Sometimes it would be like, “Oh my God, what did I do?” Lots of fear and grief. It almost made me think I made the wrong decision, as if I needed to go back.
You second guessed yourself.
I had to ask the hard question: If you went back, how would that be for him and you? But that’s not being honest; we would just continue to live that way.
Anytime we make a change to the status quo, it takes us outside of our comfort zones, and you felt that.
It was a personal stretch for me to learn how to handle finances and how to invest my money. It stretched me in every single way. But when you get honest about it, staying would have been harder than the risk and the unknown and the uncertainty. That’s when you just trust that you’ll find your way through it.
That’s probably one of the hardest muscles to build—learning to rely on yourself.
Yes. I did not have a huge muscle at that point about believing that I could handle being alone.
What Role Did Your Values Play In Your Divorce Process?
My values were the roadmap for handling conflict. I took a deep breath when there was conflict and frustration and worked on not reacting. Even when I did, I was able to own it and work with it.
I had to fully embody all the things I teach at the highest level during this time. I stayed true to my values of connection and finding the “win-win.” That’s something I go with—can I find the win-win in a situation that’s important to me?
I had to be clear about what my “yes” and my “no” were going to be. I had to consider what I could give up, and what I could let go of. I had to see through his eyes and honor him and not just make him wrong because I felt like crap.
The other spectrum of that is placating and just giving in, and I think a great guiding principle is getting clear with yourself about what your “yes/no” is.
And that can be hard because we are an external culture. We do what looks good, or we consider what others think we should do. We need to learn to ask the question: What is important to me? What is my yes and no?
Being able to communicate that took me to a whole new level. That wasn’t what he wanted, but I had to learn how to communicate and stay in the conversation without getting mad or triggered because you don’t get anywhere in that place. Learning to stay true to my values was important, and I got a lot of support during that time.
I appreciate your honesty because I think one of the things about collaborative divorce is people think, “Oh, it’s going to be so easy for everybody who’s in agreement, and maybe it’s easy to kind of walk away and just forget.” But the truth is that the collaborative divorce process was created to resolve conflict.
Conflict is a natural part of divorce, and one of the things we do in the collaborative divorce process is spend time asking the parties: “What are your goals?”
That’s a time for people to get really clear about what their own personal values are and to let those values guide and direct them. You did that.
I appreciated that part of the divorce with Hargrave Law. It made me dig deep to say what’s most important to me. That process of checking in to see what are my values? What do I want? What is important to me? The way that was handled helped me get clear about what I was willing and not willing to do.
Let’s shift now and talk a little bit about life after divorce.
Where Are You Now After Your Divorce?
First of all, my relationship with my ex is great. I think I’m most proud of that because there’s so much I respect about him, and I do care about him. So, for us to maintain that is great.
I feel like a completely different person. I’m so much more in alignment with the way I’m living and my choices. I know more about who I am.
I’ve learned to be alone and feel so much more empowered. I know how to handle finances. I get to make mistakes and learn and grow from them.
And I’ve taken my business to another level. It really stretched me into my passion. I just feel calm and more at peace.
Tell us a little bit about your relationship with your daughter. You said that one of the things that you feared was that she would be angry at you and choose dad over you.
My relationship with my daughter is amazing, and I’m so thankful for that. A lot of it was my ability to listen to her through this process.
I actually had a conversation with her last night. I said, “I just want your feedback. What it was like for you?”
And she said, “I’m so glad you did not put me in the middle.”
She said, “Mom, I’ve had friends that I’ve watched their parents not get along, and the kids are in the middle, and it’s horrible. For y’all not to do that was so impactful. Even though it was hard on me, it made it so much easier.”
I think it’s a very natural response for parents to feel that their child needs to know the truth of what the parent is feeling, and we always tell people that they really don’t need to know everything that you’re experiencing. What they really need to know is that both parents love them and that the parents are the decision makers, not the children.
That’s so true. There are two big things that we talked about last night. She mentioned that we didn’t put her in the middle and didn’t bad mouth each other. And she said, “I’m so grateful for that because I love you both, and that would have been horrible.”
Second, even though we didn’t put her in the middle, at certain times we brought her into the process. For example, when I moved, I brought her with me. But I asked her, “What do you think?” She was part of that process.
Also, we were flexible. Even though we had a structure of when she would be with him, she had some flexibility. If she said, “I’m in the middle of studying, can I have two more days? I just need to stay put,” we both allowed that, which she said gave her a sense of control even during uncertainty and transition.
She would have been about 14 at the time, which can really be such a difficult time for kids transitioning through divorce.
She acted out in some ways, and Clark and I worked together to handle those times.
And that’s one of the takeaways. When you’re able to have a constructive, healthy divorce you can still parent together.
Kids need that. Granted, we had already agreed on how we would parent, so that part was good. But sometimes we didn’t agree on certain things, so we would have to have a conversation about that, and I had to learn to let go of controlling everything.
What Does Your Future Look Like?
My ideas about relationships have evolved. As I contemplate moving into a new relationship, which is a point I’m not at yet, I feel more grounded in who I am. I’m not looking for someone to fill the void or to take care of me. It’s a different experience now. It will be more equal. I look forward to experiencing that type of relationship
One of the things you’ve mentioned is your support team.
Who Was There For You In The Divorce?
Meg Hanshaw. She and I have a non-profit together, and I was very into that with her, and she knew the kind of work I did as a coach. She was my rock at the time and completely supported me working through what I was feeling because you have to have somebody—some kind of way to process your feelings. It’s just overwhelming if you don’t.
Do You Do This Kind Of Coaching?
Yes, I work with quite a few people who are going through divorce. My approach is to support them in everything we just talked about. Finding their truth—their “yes and no”. Helping them process these feelings and being able to help them create a vision of what is possible on the other side and not drown in the negative and the emotions. Staying connected to what they’re building and what they’re moving towards.
In my experience, one of the defining characteristics of coping with divorce is the ability to move on to that next chapter, create a vision and not get lost in the hurt and resentment and anger.
It is hard to do when you face a divorce, especially if you didn’t want it. However, if you can tap into that, it absolutely helps you deal with the anger and frustration. It’s fair to process those feelings, but if you attach and get enmeshed with them? You go nowhere.
There’s that dance between allowing the feelings and then connecting to that vision because the truth is, even when you think that it’s the worst thing ever, it usually isn’t. Once you’re through to the other side, you’re like, “Okay, even I can see this was good.” You have more clarity when you’re on the other side. If you choose to focus on what you’re building and use it as a learning and growing time, the other side is amazing.
And you don’t always have to know every single thing. Looking back now, I want to share with people that you don’t have to know it all. You don’t have to have all the answers. I believed I would get the support I needed, and it came.
I always say that divorce is a life-defining moment; it’s a period of change. If you open yourself to it, it can really be a period of transformation.
Absolutely. When I watch people go through hard, chaotic conflict during divorce, I get it. Some people don’t have these values. They don’t have the roadmap and the commitment to handle it that way. But if you can find a way to have this kind of commitment and stay true—even if one person can do that and set good boundaries, you’re moving in a direction where you can learn. It’s good for everyone and it’s life-giving.
Is Your Ex-Husband Happy?
Yeah. He’s moved on, and it’s good. And I’m happy for him.
Do You Have a Message of Hope For Somebody Who’s In That Decision-Making Phase?
Look at your beliefs and patterns. A lot of people don’t do that. Really look at how you’re showing up in the relationship and work with that before you just exit.
Also, once you have certainty that it’s time for you to move on, you don’t have to have it all figured out. That’s my biggest piece of wisdom. Get your basic information and understand the reality of what you’re going to face, but for the rest of it, you don’t have to know everything. You can get support as you move forward one step at a time.
Thank you, Kim Griffith, for your generosity of time and for sharing your experience. I know that it’s going to touch people’s lives.