Three years ago, Ronit Wertheim and her husband decided to end their marriage. The relationship was no longer fulfilling, and both Ronit and her husband wanted different things out of life. Divorce was inevitable. Nobody likes to admit defeat, but sometimes a new beginning is exactly what you need to realize your true potential. Inspired by her own experience, Ronit decided that she needed to share her learnings with others and started her own company, Other Beginnings End. Her consulting firm provides support, guidance and personally vetted resources for clients during each phase of their transition.
Kudos to you Ronit for taking such a painful experience and turning it into an opportunity to help other women. What is the mission of your company, Other Beginnings End and how did it all start?
The mission of Other Beginnings End (OBE) is to provide specialized advice and curated resources to help my clients skillfully navigate each phase of their unique process.
I founded my company after my own divorce as it was by far the most traumatic experience of my life to date. I felt isolated and alone and I needed support and desperately wanted to share my experience with someone that could empathize and give me appropriate and skillful relatable advice. I realized there was no personal service that I could find out there that could take the entirety of my process; legal, emotional and familial transition and help me manage it. I decided that I would become that person for others that are going through the divorce process and I set out to start a Divorce Management and Concierge firm as well as becoming a Certified Divorce Coach.
Divorce is a legal process filled with financial, operational, logistical and emotional issues, among others. How do you recommend finding a lawyer best suited to your individual case?
Finding the right divorce attorney is dependent on various factors such as community assets, separate property, years of marriage, number of children and so on. I believe that the intention for the outcome needs to be set before finding the right attorney. In my case I was not in it to destroy my ex-husband, I simply wanted a fair and equitable outcome. When I interviewed my attorney I appreciated her candor. She told me from the get go if I needed and wanted a bulldog attorney, she was not the one. She immediately said she was results oriented and that resonated with me. I was married for 13 years and had no intention of getting myself into a long and drawn out divorce battle.
There are other options such as mediation and collaborative divorce as well. From what I have been able to assess in my work, I would say that couples often discuss the ways in which they want to proceed with the divorce before they actually go ahead and file the paperwork to do so.
What are the things you wish you knew when going into your divorce? What was the biggest surprise?
Practically speaking, I didn’t realize that divorce is really a full time job. The paperwork and deadlines are incredibly time consuming and often time sensitive. Juggling the business of divorce and the personal transition from a traditional family construct, to a single parent family construct is very challenging. When looking back, I would have negotiated my divorce and child custody with a longer runway in mind. I would have benefitted from having had someone that could relate to the experience as a professional in the field. Someone skilled that could have walked me down the path of how I wanted to see my life and my children’s life ten years down the road. It would have been helpful in creating clarity for what steps I needed to take to assure that vision comes to fruition.
You’ve said that going through a divorce is very similar to the stages of grief. Tell us about each of those stages and what one can expect from each.
Divorce is not a linear process – it is a complex transitional process of letting go, and grieving what once was and finding acceptance and enthusiasm for what will be. The stages as I see them are:
- Denial and isolation. In that stage I found myself consumed with fear, shock and anxiety. It is during this stage that the reality was no longer something that I could push aside. Divorce was happening. In phase one I started letting people in and telling friends and other acquaintances such as moms at school that my then husband and I were divorcing.
- Anger, frustration, confusion and palpable stress. I could not accept this. I was angry. Angry at him, angry at myself for allowing this to happen. Angry that I had to sell my house. The stress was difficult to manage. Sleepless nights and days that seemingly didn’t end. I was waiting by the phone to hear from my attorney’s and checking my emails obsessively for updates.
- Bargaining. I like to call it the “what if….” stage. What if he had agreed to go to therapy with me? What if I would have just found a way to make it work? What if I expected too much? There was no shortage of self doubt and double guessing myself at this time.
- Depression. The sadness comes crashing down like a forceful wave. It is hard to get out from under it. In this phase I felt hopeless, like I was living without oxygen. I was drowning in the sadness of what was, and what will never be. I missed my family — I didn’t miss my ex-husband mistreating me. I missed the kind man I first married. I missed sharing moments with our children as a couple. Some days I would drop the kids off at school and go straight back to bed until it was time to pick them up.
- Acceptance. Acceptance of a new reality, and a renewed energy and desire to start to build a new life. For me acceptance came in waves. The initial and early stage of acceptance was the realization that this divorce was really going to happen. The later phase of the acceptance stage came with the desire to step out, work, explore and date.
Divorce is both simultaneously freeing and lonely. What advice do you have for people to seek support?
Divorce is a very isolating experience. I suggest asking for help when you need it and don’t try to be a superwoman. Reach out for support and push out of your comfort zone. For example, when invited to go out with friends, go. Make plans for yourself and try to expand your social circle, even if it means going places alone. Choosing to stay in for the night because it is uncomfortable to go to a party alone is not a good enough reason to stay home.
How do you deal with co-parenting? Is there anything you’ve learned that you think would benefit others?
Two years out of my divorce my ex husband and I are amicably co-parenting our children. We speak a few times a week and update each other as to how the kids are doing at our respective homes, as well as what we need to focus on in the coming months. When we were in the initial phases of the process I could not imagine us arriving here.
When guiding my clients through co-parenting I think it is best to not leave co-parenting to chance. Clearly, having an amicable co-parenting relationship is ideal but there needs to be a plan in place if that is not the case, which includes:
- Day-to-Day Decisions
- Extracurricular Activities
- Information Sharing
- School Calendar
- Academic Break
- Holiday Schedule
- Transportation and exchange
- Child Care
Initially my ex and I did not communicate directly, instead we used a third party child custody mediator that defined and outlined the categories above. I believe that creating a framework is important and boundaries are key. Having those parameters in place to reference helps in creating less tension and ambiguity among parents and children. Limiting uncertainty in divorce is key to helping kids and parents transition.
What was your biggest fear when starting the process?
My greatest fear was the fear of the unknown. I was afraid of being alone, and of what shared custody was going to feel like. It is very hard to identify what the biggest fear was because it is all scary and undefined. The financial implications of divorce were extremely unsettling for me. I am a college educated competent woman but I had not worked a traditional job in fifteen years. I had absolutely no idea what that meant or how I would be able to support myself and my children. My ex-husband managed our finances exclusively.
I just put one foot in front of the other every day and decided that fear of the unknown was not going to control my future. The common thread I see among my clients that are in the contemplation phase of divorce is the fear of the unknown. It is paralysing.
If there is one thing you want every women contemplating divorce to do, what would it be?
Practically speaking make sure you have your ducks in a row. Open a separate bank account and credit card, take an inventory of the family assets, work on your resume, consult with an attorney and conserve your energy. Try to educate yourself as to the family statutes in the state that you live in and the implications those will have in your particular case. I would highly emphasize, if financially plausible, to find a good therapist for yourself and your children.
How do you recommend communicating the news of your divorce to family and friends?
Divorce changes the relationship dynamics with the extended family and the social groups surrounding the couple. Sometimes people pick sides, and sometimes they don’t.
When communicating divorce to family I suggest speaking with a family therapist. If both parties are open and able to do so, telling children during a family therapy session is ideal. Extended and immediate family such as parents, aunts, uncles and friends are often clued into the issues before the final decision is made. That makes it so that the actual declaration of the divorce is not shocking – it often seems like the next reasonable step.
What can you do to rebuild the relationship with your ex so you can co-parent successfully?
I believe that there are two key components to building a relationship with your ex, particularly after a high conflict divorce; time and forgiveness. With time, most reasonable people can arrive at forgiveness and fences can be mended. Couples that share children, for better or worse, are eternally connected. It is best to find a way to heal and move forward.
Practically, I highly emphasize following an outlined parenting plan when divorce is contentious. Being respectful to the process allows the other parent to feel that trust can be rebuilt in a different capacity. Once some trust can be reinstated, a co-parenting relationship that is amicable can begin to grow. Again, your ex is a person that you will have to deal with for a long time. In order for the kids to heal, it is in their best interest to have a consistent schedule. Lastly, it really doesn’t help when parents speak unkindly about one another to their children or to others when the children are in close proximity. Triangulating children is detrimental to the process and to their ability to move forward.