life after divorce...

girlwithaspirinOctober 2, 2006

Okay, so my divorce was finalized last week. In so many ways, I'm struggling to navigate my newly single life. But chief among them is my living situation.

I got the house. By next June, I have to make a decision: Buy my ex out and stay, or put it on the market and move. Sure, that's a ways off, but I know it'll sneak up on me. And at the moment, I'm so confused.

Pros for moving: If my pug Lemon weren't in the picture, I would almost surely move. I've always wanted a cool urban loft, something more manageable than the house. The same amount of space, allocated in a way that makes more sense for a single person -- two bedrooms and a bigger, open kitchen/living/dining room for entertaining vs. the three bedrooms and smaller living areas I have now. I'd pick a neighborhood that's closer to coffeeshops, bookstores and cute restaurants. You know, somewhere that feels alive. Plus, I love the idea of decorating a whole new place without the hassle of a yard or all the other stuff that comes with owning a house. Oh, and not having to buy my ex out will keep me financially stable -- a big consideration as a freelance writer.

Cons against moving: My pug is in the picture. And call me lazy, but on a cold winter morning, it's pretty excellent that I can just open the back door and let her do her business. No walking her in sub-zero temperatures. But when it's sunny, this neighborhood couldn't be safer for walking. And hey, I have privacy, decent neighbors and tons of space in a house that's decorated almost exactly the way I want. I couldn't recreate this house even if I wanted to. My taste is expensive, and we saved so carefully for all the high-end details. Plus, I don't have to pay assessments, sit on a condo board or get anything approved by said board. And the reality is, I've always been an old soul in a young (relatively speaking) body. Nightlife was never my thing.

Basically, I'm afraid. I fear I'll move and miss my house, the place I spent three years making my own. I fear I'll stay and be stuck in a lonely rut, in a neighborhood without much to offer a single person. In the meantime, I just keep browsing the MLS, falling in love with a loft a day, knowing I'm nowhere near a decision.

This is such a long way around to my question. Those of you who've been through this, did you move? Did you ever look back?

As a thank you for reading through all this, here are photos of my latest obsession. Seriously, can you believe those windows?!

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Area, area area. You would probably be happier/less lonely in a trendier, vibrant arena. I suggest two things: 1.) do not obsess over having a loft right now ( I know, I know..sigh), but look for a dog-friendly townhouse,condo, etc. in the right neighborhood ( first floor with outside patio), if such is available. Do begin looking to see what is out there.
Do not hang on to present home for material reasons ..i.e high end appliances, great moulding and the like. They will bring you little joy if your life isn't full.
2.) You may not like this idea, but perhaps, if you are really torn about leaving, rent out ( very carefully) your present home and rent another in your chosen area and try it out for a year...or less if your ex will not give you an extention. Uh oh. I guess he'd have to agree to that, and it also must make sense $$-wise. I would just prefer that you not have to burn your bridges. Oh what the heck! Burn 'em, but WAIT for just a bit. Maybe spend as much time as you can in the area you think you'd like to live. Shop there, movies there, etc. make it your own..all but the home! Envision yourself living there. By May you should have a pretty good feel of what "life" would be like there. I have read your posts in the past and my heart has ached for you. You may be an old soul, but being hunkereed down in this house from your past just feels wrong to me. With a dog one always has to compromise, but they are so worth it! Mabye the loft is in your future..just not right now. I will keep good thoughts for you as you begin this new exciting phase of your life. Hugs, LC

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 2:27AM
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Oh, honey! No wonder you need aspirin!

Will post later but my immediate advice is not to do anything for at least 6-8 months after this divorce is finalized. Sometimes wanting a change- ANY change- to show ourselves we still have some power over our tossed-and-turned lives- will lead us to making rash decisions. Unless you have boodles of cash, you need to make a well-thought-out/advised decision as this will impact your financial future and security more than you can imagine.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 7:37AM
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I don't really have any advise for you, but sympathize with the decisions you're having to make. My DM is in a similar situation right now.

Your latest obsession is amazing. Does that happen to be in Baltimore? I remember drooling over a similar property several years ago that reminds me of this one very much.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 9:15AM
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I know this puts aside all emotion and so forth, but it's definitely something to think about. If it were me, I'd refinance and buy my ex out. The reason is that right now, there's no way you're going to get what the house is worth, because of the depressed market. If you hold onto it for say another 6-10 years, that will have changed. The housing market will have not just stabilized by then, but will also have begun to grow, as well, and you'll get far more than if you sell now.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 9:16AM
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First, let me tell you that I'm sorry you're going through all of this. Second, money does not buy happiness, but financial secuirity goes a long way.

You need to plan for the long run, with a view to your retirement. How much cash you have in the house, how many years left until you own it, and how much you have saved for retirement are all factors that should form your decision. What sort of money do you need to buy your ex-husband out? Will that require a loan? Getting the house is great provided you have enough money to grow elsewhere, getting a loan to buy out your ex, is not optimal, but I don't know the details.

My advice is that you speak to a financial advisor and get a big picture/long view of your finances. Or find a good book that includes some sort of planning workbook so that you can determine what you'll need down the road. The younger you are, the more options you have. It's great to have a drop-dead gorgeous house, but financial security is paramont (well, of course after happiness). Will pets always be a part of your future? If so, home ownership is such a good thing. However, I agree with the above poster who said that life is far more bustling in a busy urban setting.

Give Lemon a hug for me. I love her name. If you can post her picture, I'd be delighted (those windows are great but a cute dog... and you know what, I'm picturing a real lemon, with legs, paws, a tail and of course a sweet pug face and head).

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 2:48PM
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Excellent advice, everyone. Thanks for all the kind words, too.

My ex did a lot wrong in how he handled the breakup, but the actual divorce was another story. He was really sensitive to me needing time. He gave me 'til June, but I want to start weighing my options now. I don't have oodles of cash, so I have to be smart about this.

Bill, that's a great point about the market. When the time gets closer, I'll talk to a couple agents to see how sales have been in my 'hood. I wish I could afford to rent my house out. Unfortunately, this neighborhood isn't big for renters, so it's unlikely I'd be able to make my mortgage.

leahcate, I'd never hang onto the house because of the neat details, but I have to admit, they do make me happy. They represent so much searching and saving... I'm proud of what this house has become. Knowing that if I move, I won't be able to do it again at the same level is kind of a bummer. But I know I can do it differently, and that's fun in itself.

proudmama, that church loft is in Chicago. Gorgeous, huh? But it's wayyy out of my price range. Heh. Luckily, most properties, lofts included, are dog-friendly. Some even have dog runs. So I shouldn't be as worried as I am.

My pug is my baby, and she's top priority. The divorce really affected her, too... only recently did she stop waiting by the front door for Tim to come home. cupofkindness, here she is at her happiest. :)

Thanks for indulging me!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 3:26PM
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What an adorable dog! Thanks for the pictures, they're wonderful. Such a face. And doesn't Lake Michigan look good too! Wait, is that Chicago?

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 3:57PM
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I'm absolutely in the dark about city living--but lots of hugs and empathy on the divorce. It's an awful thing to go through, regardless of how considerate everyone was.

I have to agree with pecan about giving it some time. You're wise to think about it now, but you very well could be reacting to the almost instinctive urge for flight following trauma, and going for the daydream ideal at the same time. I admit to the loft dream myself, and I'd never make it in the city! But how cool is that church loft...drool...anyway, I think you will gain perspective as time goes on, and it doesn't even have to be much time. Perhaps a change of scene is just the thing. Perhaps it will be nice to have the security of the known and your carefully appointed nest :)

After having said all that, I will add that it was important to me to change my surroundings following my divorce. Not that I had a choice anyway, but had I gotten the house I would have sold it and found something that was just me with no reminders of "us," BUT, it sure would have been nice to have had a year to think and plan.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 4:11PM
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I wish I could afford to rent my house out. Unfortunately, this neighborhood isn't big for renters, so it's unlikely I'd be able to make my mortgage.

THAT'S something I never even thought of!! If you have any major corporations in the area, you just might speak to that realtor about executive leases and rentals. I know there's a whole industry based on corporations being able to move their executives around from office to office, without them having to buy a new house every couple of years. You never know!!

    Bookmark   October 2, 2006 at 7:16PM
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Could you handle roommate/s? Maybe someone with another dog? Some people like the suburbs. Maybe a said you wanted a place that felt more alive..get some people in there and in the morning you'll have your own coffee shop right in the kitchen. I made some great friends when I had roommates and the good thing is they weren't all like me. Now I live in a Co-op apartment, and all my neighbors have become friends. Since you're there now, try it as an experiment. You can always move out when it suits you, but in the meantime, you'll have some life around when you get home and some money to help with expenses. Plus when you're dating, it's just gives you an edge up, a sort of curious independance. If you won't do it for yourself, do it for your dog.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 3:13AM
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I've thought a bit before responding to this. As a single girl and fellow Pug owner, I can relate. I opted for the house in suburbia for my son, and I do understand the ease of letting a dog out back when it's freezing! If it were not for my son, I would not want to be relegated to suburbia at this stage of my single life. There simply aren't many people around to date. Every single one of my friends is married. On the one hand, this is an appealing situation because frankly, I don't want to be dating at this stage of my life. So it has allowed me to live in a safe little cocoon. On the other hand, someday I may regret not taking more risks in this area. Since you don't have to worry about the impact of dating on a child, I would hate to see you end up in a safe little date-less life like me!

If you can find a loft in a fun area of the city with a dog run, I'd say go for it. This, of course, after checking with a financial advisor. But I would not do anything that requires you to stand outdoors in the freezing rain at 7:00 am waiting for Lemon to hurry up and pee! That will grow old very, very fast, despite the cool windows and cute boys. ;-)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 8:07AM
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If my pug Lemon weren't in the picture, I would almost surely move.

If that really is the case, then I'd say put your energy into finding a space that suits all your needs, including amenities for Lemon. There might very well be a perfect spot out there. If you start looking now, you should be able to get a good feel for the availability, cost, etc of such a place.

If it turns out there is nothing out there, well, that might also help sway your decision. I'm not sure if I'm reading this right but if your motivation for moving specifically relates to being around other single people, then staying in your present home will not prevent that, but you'll just have to put forth extra effort to hang around places where you'll meet them.

I agree that it might be more healthy to get away from the current house. Even though you did spend energy & $$$ making it yours, sometimes a new start in life can benefit from a total change.

My experience was that I did sell the house when I got divorced. Difference for me was I had two small kids so no option to totally live the single life. The only regret I have regarding selling that place was that I could have reaped more $$ from it had I held on to it a bit longer and sold it when my head was calm and cool. Aside from that, it was good for me to get away from the whole previous marriage existence.

I subsequently remarried and now live in a great house which I'm in the process of renovating and renewing to make it my perfect forever house. It was tough to leave behind what at that time was also my perfect forever house, but things can be replaced. Time, once it's gone, is gone forever.

I don't think you should rush into any decision. But I think it's a good idea to get in gear evaluating your options. Talk to a realtor who is familiar with your area and find out just what you can get for your house. The real estate market has taken a downturn, no doubt, but in fact, that has not affected all markets. There are some areas which continue to boom.

Then talk to a realtor who can show you lofts & spaces which are in the areas you're interested in. Make sure s/he hears your concerns regarding Lemon.

Once you really understand your options, you should be able to make a good decision. Good luck!

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 12:20PM
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If money considerations are equal, I'd move to the city. Yes, it's a pain to have to get out to walk the dog multiple times a day, but it does get a body out and about. I have no yard, so I have to take the dog out.

I tell you, I'm not single, but walking the dog has given me the opportunity to meet so many people. Many more than I did before getting the dog 4 years ago. DH and I joke that each of us wants the dog if we were ever to split, because of his people-magnet affect.

As far as sentimental value of your current house, I can't relate because I moved so many times in my life that a house is just a house to me, even with my fabulous kitchen remodel. And because of my vagabond background, I believe that change is a good thing.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2006 at 1:15PM
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I think you're doing the right thing by thinking this through; a fresh change in a new and exciting more urban setting could be beneficial to your outlook on life.
You only live once.
Walk the neighborhoods that have buildings you could buy in and get a feel for what you'd be getting into.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 6:30AM
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I divorced after 20 years of marriage. We had lived in our home for 18 of those years. I decided to sell vs. getting in over my head financially. Our 2 children were 16 and 18 at the time. I promised them other then moving out of our home I would do nothing for one year. At the end of that year I accepted a job 2 hours away. Both children elected to stay in the city they grew up in. However within 1 1/2 years both relocated to the town I now lived in.

I have never regretted selling the house. The neighbors and friends we had there were just that, "our" friends. Once the divorce became final sides had been taken, even though our divorce was "friendly".

Starting a new life can/will be what you make of it. For me it was exciting and even though I said I would "never" remarry, I met and married a wonderful man and we now have a great home that is even MORE me than the other one could ever have been.

Financial security is hard to come by in this day and age.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 8:18PM
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I moved, and it is the best thing I could have done. I also had a house that I lovingly upgraded...including a major remodel in 2002. It was a great house, inside and out. But I seriously sat down, ran the numbers, and knew the best thing was to move.

I could have kept it, but would have had to make a certain minimum amount of money. Fine, I could make that, but it would have eliminated some other future choices, ie, doing something I loved that paid less. And in order to keep it, I would have had to refi, which costs money. In order to buy my husband out, I would have had to take the max loan, so I could get cash back, PLUS take out a second to get the total buyout amount needed.

So instead, he kept it and bought *me* out. I had a nice chunk to put down on my own house, plus some spare. The other thing that happened during this time is that I had an epiphany of sorts...yes, I had a fabulous home, one that I thought I would finish in, but I wasn't happy. All the 'things' I had were just that, things.

Then I graduated to deciding that getting a nice place that wasn't too extravagant was the ticket. I wouldn't be locked into a high salary. If I did have one, I could pay the new house off quickly. So I ended up buying a small but well laid out house, in a good neighborhood. I happen to have a good job, but could take a 30% pay cut and still be fine. As it is now:

I make my mortgage payment with one week's pay.
I have been able to fix a few things without batting an eye about spending the money.
I have a really nice amount of disposable income, so I can eat at nice restaurants, shop, and still put some into savings.
Even with my indulgences, I can actually pay this house off in 8 years!

I can't tell you how wonderful the financial flexibility is. I use the word flexibility instead of stability, because there is such an important difference. Living below your means gives you *flexibility*. You can lose or quit your job and be ok. You can persue a different career and be ok. You can splurge on something special and not feel guilty. You can buy your struggling sister something frivolous.

A bit of a ramble, but bottom line, I don't think you should keep the house. It's only a thing, and in your situation, like mine, could be an unnecessary burden. You can make a wonderful new space that fits your needs, and you and sweet Lemon will adapt.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 10:21PM
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I'm married with no pets, but. . .have you considered walking urban neighborhoods WITH Lemon? You and he could determine how dog-friendly the place is, and dogs are great conversation openers.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2006 at 10:51PM
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I've been reading this post with interest, and have been tempted many times to chime in -- but thought I'd wait until my thoughts settled a bit first. So here goes:

- This is a time while your entire identity is changing -- your whole self-image. I'm not sure how you thought of yourself before, but "the new you" will be at least somewhat different, possibly very different from "the old you." And the new you should live in a place that fits the new you, not the old one.

- Staying in your current house seems like a "same life, but minus the husband" type of choice, sort of "less than before" -- even if it's actually a good change. Staying put seems like "hanging on" instead of grabbing something else, of being "divorced" rather than being "single" again.

- Moving has the whole attitude of moving forward, of changing your life in the direction you want to go. What direction? Only you get to decide. You get to redefine your whole life -- a precious opportunity.

Weed's point about financial flexibility is also a fabulous one. While money can't buy happiness, it *can* make all sorts of annoying problems go away. While I don't advocate "throwing money at" every problem, it at least makes almost every problem solveable, so you then have the choice for how you want to solve it. Flexibility is exactly what it is.

So I'm in the 'move on' camp --

    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 10:29AM
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You guys are so great, you know that? I can't tell you how much your words have helped me. Thank you so much for sharing all your stories -- every single one of you has given me some insight into the soup of emotions inside my head.

Staying in your current house seems like a "same life, but minus the husband" type of choice, sort of "less than before"

sweeby, that's exactly it. I'm not sure that I'll ever get past the "less than before" feeling.

There's a giant bedroom -- his former office -- that's all echo-y and empty. I haven't made it into anything because I don't need the space. And off that room, there's a deck that I had built for his 40th birthday... a month before he moved out. I haven't been out there once, except to water the flowers. I don't usually attach emotions to things, but this home has been different. It was my first house. The first place I've ever bought, and we bought it together.

I think if I'd never posted this question, I would've spent the next eight months getting used to the idea of staying here. But you've made me confront what I know to be true. If I don't move, I won't move forward. So now I have some time to get over my fear of change, to start narrowing down my long list of potential neighborhoods, and to run the numbers so that I don't get myself in a financial pickle.

Thank you!

    Bookmark   October 5, 2006 at 11:17AM
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I've never been married so I can't comment on the divorce angle---but I do think that the burbs are a lonely spot for singles. (Actually I don't know if I would go for the burbs, even if I was married, so my view may be biased...)

But in such a great city like many fun urban neighborhoods to pick from.....oh, I would say move for sure!

I'm a condo dweller myself, with my own little doggie who I adore, so I can appreciate your considations of your pooch. Granted, if you don't have a private patio you may have to do the unpleasant early morning potty walks (and I have lived through a few Chicago winters to know how unpleasant that can be!)...but on the bright side, Lemon will be your easy introduction to your new neighborhood....after a month you'll know all the dog people in your neighborhood (and even the non-dog people, with such a cute doggie!). Just be thankful you have a little doggie, and don't have to plan around a German Shepherd!

And I have to agree--having a little less space to work with can be a good thing, especially if you have the expensive tastes.

And aside from all that -- I'm all for fresh starts.

Good luck with your decision--whatever you decide!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2006 at 3:18PM
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I have to agree - if I were newly single, I'd move out of the suburbs and into the city. I think you'll be lonely otherwise. And you won't be alone walking your puggie out in cold temps. :)

You could also employ a pet sitter (shameless plug!) to help with the walking. I'm married, and a pet sitter, and trust me, there are lots of cute singles out walking their dogs at all times of day and night.

Since it will be financially better for you, and you want to start anew, take that cute puggie and do just that - start anew for both of you. You have time, so take your time and try to get top dollar for your house!

You can also use a doggie litter box (petsmart has them) since your dog is small, on days you really don't want to be out walking.

I'd move, no second thought! That loft is AMAZING btw!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2006 at 4:16PM
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I feel your pain. I was divorced after 20 years of marriage. Ex DH and I sold the dream house (it was an acreage) and I bought the house that I am currently living in. Ocassionally, I look back and wish I'd kept the dream house but back then, the house payments seemed huge, I didn't know if I'd make partner at my firm and it would have been hard for me to maintain the yard. So I moved on. After some remodeling, the current house is now my dream house and I had a great time selecting things for the house without having to solicit anyone else's approval. It was a heady feeling! You have a big decision ahead of you and I wish you the very best, whatever you decide. P.S. Lemon is a real cutie.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2006 at 8:05PM
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I would like to pass on some advice someone told my mom when my dad died suddenly. She wanted to immediately sell the house but they said, wait a year and get pass all the emotional stuff so can think with a clear and calm mind. That was almost 20 years ago and she is still in the same house. For her it was the best decision because she became very close to neighbors who now look in on her everyday. You got to go with what you feel is right but you need to be calm and not emotional when you make that decision. You just got pass a major bump in your life and you need to let the dust settle. Whatever you decide I wish you the best!

And one more thing, I remember those nasty Chicago winters and the winds on the 'L' platforms. I am glad I moved to CA 29 years ago!

And Lemon is such a sweet thing!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2006 at 1:55PM
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I'm divorced and live in downtown Chicago. If and when you move down, send me an E-mail and we can go for a walk and have lunch.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2006 at 5:54PM
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I rented a room from a woman in a similar situation. She fixed up her house from top to bottom. It was really nice.

Then she realized that her husband wasn't "into" the marriage and he divorced her. She rented two rooms out, hung out in the city with her friends, went on vacations. She met a great guy at work, said adios to us two roomies. They married, had two kids and live in that pretty house of hers. That house ended up being a great asset for her.

If you love your house, stick with it for awhile. As painful as the situation is now, it's an asset you could bring into the dating scene when the time is right.

If you don't love the house and it becomes an encumbrance.....hanging on is different.


    Bookmark   December 3, 2006 at 10:01AM
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GWA, I can really hear your pain in your words. I'm sorry that your life has been topsey-turvey lately. I promise you, it will get better, much better. Don't do anything too soon. Take a while to get use to the new situation and your solutions will come easier. I was in the same situation and everything I had in the house and furnishings reminded me of HIM, but I waited it out until I could think clearly, walking my dog each and every night. Guess what? I met the single guy two blocks over and we've been married now for almost 19 years. Who knew that my anquish could turn into so much love? Good luck, sweetie.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2006 at 9:22PM
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