When you decide to divorce, it's almost as if you've entered a club with a super-secret handshake, only no one is quite certain how to do it.
So we asked followers of divorce360.com what they wished they had known before they decided to file for divorce. From the emotional breakup of their marriage to the financial one, here are some of the best tips from people who have been through the real life turmoil of uncoupling.
1. If you are parents, you have a relationship with your ex forever, but it's very different.
First, you and your spouse go from being best friends to enemies almost overnight, said divorce.com member "Banshee1," a 30-something dad who is getting divorced.
Said "Paula1," a single mom who was married for four years to a man who cheated: "He doesn't have to listen anymore. He doesn't have to work out problems."
To make matters worse, "Your ex will not cooperate ... they want to stick it to you for whatever they think you did. They will not be fair at all or logical," wrote Georgia resident "Rebec311."
What's tough is "how the little questions from the kids like, 'Why do we have two houses?' will drive you nuts," wrote "Eve31," a single mother whose spouse has refused to mediate their divorce.
If you're angry with your former spouse for driving those questions, your children can sense it: "Don't even think bad thoughts about their dad when they are within five miles of you," community member "Timless" said.
2. Divorce starts after you've signed the papers.
You can go to Las Vegas and get married in 30 minutes, according to "Eve31," but getting a divorce takes a lot longer. "Purebredinip," a California woman whose husband told her he "wasn't happy", said: "They should make divorcing easier, but getting married difficult."
What no one tells you, said "Eve31," is "what it's really going to cost you to be divorced ... your youth, your sanity, your faith, your trust, your ability to wake in the morning with hope."
You now second-guess all your decisions: "Your ex destroys your trust but also your ability to sometimes trust yourself," she said.
The real pain starts after you sign the divorce decree, "Paula1" said: "Every fight can now lead to court, which costs you money."
3. If you're the custodial parent, every other weekend is a blessing.
Essentially, you are raising your children alone — even if your former spouse has them for a few days a week or every other weekend. If you have young children, it will be a long time before you can take a shower that's longer than three minutes.
"You'll fight it during the divorce proceedings, but will count down the hours for his weekend," "Paula1" wrote.
Work becomes a refuge. "Taking care of kids all weekend without any help is hard and exhausting. Monday mornings now become something you look forward to," "Paula1" wrote.
4. You lose a lot of friends and family in divorce.
"Girl70" said her husband filed for divorce after having an affair. His family sided with him: "I was with him for 22 years. It is like I didn't exist. It's as if I was the one who had the affair. I truly cared for my father-in-law and stepmother-in-law. I miss them the most."
The reaction from friends can also be tough: "Some people will treat you like divorce is catching, like leprosy," said "Tracy74" of Michigan, whose husband fell in love with another woman. "Your married friends will fear you being around their husbands/wives," said community member "kdb," a 50-something mother of three whose husband told her he wasn't "in love" anymore.
Community member "Banshee1," felt a sense of being "completely alone" and "misunderstood by my married friends" who took sides during the breakup. "You will lose a lot of friends/people that you like a lot because of your soon-to-be ex," said "Rebec31." agreed. "The friends you keep will either love you more and be there more or have no clue how to talk to you."
5. The courts do not care.
You will waste money if you treat your divorce attorney as a therapist, "Timless" said. "That's what your girlfriends and personal therapy is for. If you don't have them, get them before you start the process," she said.
The court system is "cold," said "Rebec311," and its participants "don't care about your feelings." "It's treated as a business," she said."
6. Money is always an issue.
"You don't just worry about money. You obsess over it," wrote "Kitty7470," a 40-something mom from Ohio whose husband had an affair after 20 years of marriage.
"If you had a traditional marriage in which both parents were working, etc., get used to living on half. Child support, if paid, does not cover much. It's not as much as you think it will be (which is another ridiculous tragedy by the courts), and your savings is probably wiped out by divorce costs," said "Paula1."
A New York executive, "Banshee1," doesn't feel his financial settlement was fair. "It was tough for me to give up everything and move into an apartment that's about a quarter of the size of my house — taking almost nothing," he wrote. Plus, as the breadwinner in his family, "I will be taking the majority of the debt load, taking on losses due to the sale of our marital residence and providing significant child support payments to my soon-to-be ex."
However, "there is hope for recovery," he said. He's slowly "rebuilding and making a home" for his children. He believes he's better off today. "(My ex) and I had very different views on money, and now that I'm on my own, I can save the way I feel most comfortable."
"Soon2Bfine," a 40-something administrative assistant whose husband cheated on her, said money wasn't her biggest financial problem. When her spouse stopped paying the credit card debt after their divorce, he ruined both their credit ratings. "Having a great job means the money is there to make the payments, but good luck getting a loan for anything," she wrote.
7. Your ex — and you — have personal lives.
Building a new life doesn't include whining about your ex. "Learn to deal with it and not hold on to it," "Timless" advised. That can be difficult if your ex finds a new partner, "Kitty7470" said. "They now have a say in your entire life, because your ex lets them."
"Banshee1" said he's surprised at how bitter people can be. "I've talked to so many people that get upset because they believe their ex is doing better than they are or are suffering less. My feeling is — focus on you and your life. You can spend the rest of your life comparing to your ex-spouse and miss out on opportunities that are right in front of you."
8. You will get a second wind.
When you think it won't get any better, just keep moving forward. "The train wreck that was your life during the divorce suddenly gets a makeover as soon as your divorce is final," "Timless" said. "Somewhere near the end you have one final cry and then get a second wind. This is your saving grace, your reward for the pain and suffering."
Unhappily married to her high school sweetheart for 15 years before she finally asked for a divorce, "Wow65" agreed, saying when the divorce was final she realized "I could do what I wanted with my life and have a great time doing it."
Divorce coach Annie O"Neill added: "You have your whole life ahead of you to do what you want to do. It is a chance to reinvent yourself, a new chapter of your life. You have to put your marriage behind you and decide to move on."