Every day, she would show up to work with a smile on her face, in her professional attire and playing the role of the divorce attorney. Although Renee Bauer was helping individuals daily with their own separation, she was masking the broken version of herself, hiding two divorces under her belt. The stigma that comes with divorce was too much for her to deal with. “I didn’t talk about my own divorces, and for years, I kind of operated on that. I did my job, and I came home, and I had shame, and I was embarrassed. I thought, hey, maybe love just isn’t meant for me.”
With a martini in hand, listening to other women openly discuss divorce without a problem, Renee started thinking that she was not the only one divorced twice, and that if she opened up about her own experiences, it could help others. In order to heal, Bauer understood the assignment; it was time to talk about it.
IN THE THICK OF IT
There are so many pieces to divorce, “the stigma, the shame, the embarrassment, the guilt,” and even more specific situations, like being divorced twice. But there are also coping mechanisms that can start to bring the lost individuals back together, “talking about things and normalizing things, whether it’s divorce or other circumstances in our lives, things our kids are going through, things that we just, as human beings, may feel averse to talking about. But when you do, all of a sudden, all of these people come out of the woodwork and they’re like, oh my god, I am also dealing with that.”
Even as an expert in the divorce process, Renee wasn’t sure how to handle her own personal circumstances around her clients. I mean, her job is to help others, not talk about herself. But the truth is, you’re never going to be the only one going through a difficult situation and opening up can actually help empower others. She realized there are so many other successful women also trying to find their way. And T.H. relates. She says the only way out is going straight through, “the longer you ignore your gut, the worse it’s going to get. You’re going to be stuck in that spiral until you start letting it go.”
SHAKE OFF THE GUILT
After her second divorce, it wasn’t that easy for Renee to push aside the feelings of guilt. She started shaming herself, “it was a super short marriage, like a blip on my radar, and it was like, didn’t you just get married? It just happened? I was married and divorced in a year and a half, so it was that fast. And so you start to say, okay, well what’s wrong with me?”
Internalizing it all made it feel like it was a “me” problem. Bauer’s self confidence and self worth fell through the floor, and her last marriage was not the most positive experience. She tried to keep a poker face, and she did. But when you go through something like this, fighting off the blame seems impossible, “You look in the mirror and say well, what the heck? What’s happening here? What bad choices have I made? And why can’t I get this right?”
Renee was living two different lives, and even her rational self could not shut out the negative voices in her head. She also struggled with how to reconcile the perfect professional persona that she had sculpted. With her life seemingly in order, she felt like she had no room to fall apart.
A lesson she learned was that the more days you take “healing” off of your to-do list, you’re just digging yourself a deeper hole. It’s easy to “help everybody be great and go home” but what happens when you’re facing yourself in the mirror?
When you’re a high-achieving individual, you’re “on” all the time. You have to keep it together at all times, especially if you’re holding a million and one responsibilities in one hand. But we all have a breaking point, and we all have to recognize that trying desperately to keep up a fake front is never going to work in the long run. Putting that person aside will allow you to normalize imperfection. You can still be that hard working, independent and charismatic boss-lady that you once were — you just have to put her on hold for a second.
Looking back on it now, Renee wished she had worked through her divorce at a much slower pace. In her situation, she was ready to take the next step but her ex was not on the same page. He wasn’t ready for the big life adjustment, “sometimes you have to meet your soon-to-be-ex at the place that they are, so then you can both move through it together. You can’t rush it through if someone’s not quite ready to start having those negotiation conversations.”
It might be easier to lean towards a lawyer who has also been through it. Jessica jokes that when she was pregnant and had to go to a male obstetrician in her doctor’s practice, she thought, “how does he know how this feels or what the hell is going on in my body?” Being a divorce attorney who has been divorced gives Renee a little more insight. And having that background also allows her to offer a perspective her clients might not hear from other lawyers who haven’t been through it themselves.
Many individuals walk into the divorce process with a set idea of wants and needs, but no matter how small or insignificant something may be, if they don’t get everything they want, all they can focus on is “losing”. Renee wanted to change this perspective and make it a less overwhelming experience.
The truth is, regardless of how much research you do, no one is really ready for divorce. How would you understand the process if you haven’t even walked through it yet? So Renee realized it was time to think about it a different way, “Let’s think about how you’re treating this divorce and how you’re thinking about it. Let’s talk about expectations and when unreasonable expectations can be really expensive.” So she set out to create an online course that can walk people through many aspects of divorce, in order to prepare themselves a little better.
Welcome to D. Course – twelve videos that break down what you need to know about divorce. To be clear, it’s not a replacement for a lawyer, but it’ll definitely make you feel more comfortable about the process. Whether you are at the beginning of it all or “feel stagnant and don’t know what the next step is,” Renee says you can watch videos at your own pace and even pick certain topics that spark your attention more than others, like how to reframe your idea of a settlement.
Focusing on your mindset is the first step in being in control of your emotions. T.H. says if you can’t put aside the literals of divorce, the journey will continue, “Even if it’s over on a piece of paper, you’re still stuck there. It’s like you’re never growing up if you don’t change your mindset, if you don’t look at things differently. I think that this is really critical.”
You have the power to change how you feel about yourself and what you are going through so why not start with information to educate yourself? Renee believes that learning will lead to the development of so many things, “Once you start to realize what is involved, and how to get organized, and how to start thinking about this, you have the power to start creating the future that you want. Because the longer you stay in the process, the more stuck you’re going to be. It’s going to be harder to heal. It’s going to be harder to forgive and to move on.