Divorce is a major life event… that seems to go on for years.  The decisions one makes are filled with both immediate and long-term consequences.  The aftermath that follows can be traumatizing and have a lasting effect on your overall happiness. 

Women and men have different perspectives when it comes to how to handle the daily problems, decisions and demands.  This is true too, for future plans.  While women rule with emotions and often come from a place of reacting vs. being proactive, men are usually more strategic and end-goal focused.  But this too can be only by appearance, when in reality the outcome may be due to the women’s impulsivity and nesting.  How do we navigate this very treacherous territory of divorce and avoid the inability to not just survive, but to end up mostly intact and ready for new relationships and a happy life ever after?

Let’s face it, when a divorce starts, there is one home, two people and potentially children. The house cannot be divided down the middle… unless you want to end up with two piles of debris.  Should the primary parent, and subsequently the children, remain in the home?  Should the other parent have to provide financially for the home he, or she, no longer lives in or should we sell?  We often see this alternative in cases where the primary parent is a stay-at-home parent.  Often times, the “breadwinner” offers this option, out of guilt.  Most of the time, the discussion of the home ultimately surrounds the woman fighting to stay in the home, regardless of whether or not she can financially afford to.  Women have a need to nest and thereby stay in the home they built, lovingly decorated and raised their children.  It is there sanctuary.  The problems with this thinking are many.  Women will fight for the home and everything in it and it becomes the source of “winning”.  In the end, this ends up being an emotional and psychological mistake.  Keeping the home means keeping the memories… all of them… good and bad.  Keeping the possessions within the home also keeps the marriage ghosts lingering.  This keeps a woman tethered to the past and unable to move on.  The man, who wants to sell or keep the home, as well, and then ends up “losing” or succeeding it, actually does better mentally and psychologically.  He is also more cognizant about the financial stress of keeping the home. He can replace all the “stuff” and move into a fresh start.  This allows him to be free of the past quicker and he is able to find peace.  His new place becomes his sanctuary and the woman is high on the hill… in emotional hell, clinging to all her memories and the home she built with him, thus unable to heal and move on.  None of this is meant to imply that a man who gives up the house, merely moves on and his past life or his family never existed, it just seems to allow him the ability to compartmentalize and free up his head space without constant reminders of what could have been or used to be.  Where women tend to want to hold on to the memories and that is fine on the surface, but deep down it prohibits the healing growth to find a new life. 

Another matter to discuss regarding keeping or divorcing the house, is the matter of when one is ready to get rid of the past possessions and move on, whether it be in the house or physically moving to a new place, is the act of discarding all the accumulated “stuff”.  Depending on the timing, this too can create old scabs to fall off. Not to mention, the actual physical labor that goes into carry things curbside.  In the meantime, the one who moved out, does not have to face these wounds.  As a woman who walked into her home and felt the weight of the past on her shoulders, from the marriage 10 years long gone.  I was kept in this state of angst, could have, should have, victim role because of all the stuff in the house.  The couch, the bed, the holiday decorations, etc.  Why didn’t I buy new things, you ask?  I simply could not afford to.  This was a dollars and cents matter that has had a lasting impact on my psychological well-being.  Selling would have been my better choice, possibly ending up with some cash to buy new furnishings.

Pros and Cons in summary:

REASONS TO KEEP THE HOUSE IN YOUR DIVORCE:


§  Chances are, you will have less money when you divorce. If you’re forced to leave the home, you will likely move to smaller, less desirable home.

§  The home is the biggest financial asset for most couples. You walk away from that, you may lose a lot of assets — even if he buys you out.

§  Historically, real estate has been a more stable investment when compared with stocks (recent years being an exception).

§  Because your household income will be lower in the short-term, the tax write offs like mortgage interest and property taxes will be even more valuable post-divorce.  Plus, if you were to sell your home, you can likely pocket most or all of the profits tax-free.

§  The emotional reasons to keep the house include providing a measure of stability for you and your kids during a tumultuous time. This includes staying in the same schools and close to friends and neighbors who provided emotional and practical support.  This can be a catch-22 and the emotional and memory filled home can also cause more strife and the inability to move on.

However, as previously mentioned, there are lots of very good reasons to let your marital home go — whether to your ex, or to sell it on the market. One of the biggest mistakes I have seen in my work, as well as have heard from divorce attorneys, is women’s insistence on keeping the marital home in divorce — to her detriment.

 

REASONS NOT TO KEEP THE HOUSE IN DIVORCE:

§  You can’t afford it. Accepting that your income is now lower after divorce, and therefore you lifestyle must change, is often very difficult — especially for the lesser-earning spouse, who unfortunately is usually the woman. Going into debt, facing losing that very home you so desperately want to hang on to, and the emotional turmoil that financial stress it induces is just bad news. Don’t.

§  Selling helps you move on. Houses are emotional things. That house likely represented a family and life that you wanted very much to succeed — but things turned out differently. Nothing like new real estate (and furnishings!) to start fresh with your new life, and put your old one behind you.

§  A new home is empowering! Whether you are purchasing a new house or renting a place on your own, moms tell me that doing this solo is one of the most empowering things they’ve ever done.

§  It may even help teach your kids financial responsibility. Because your home is likely your biggest financial asset, you should treat it with as little emotion as possible. Compromising your finances, emotional well-being and good sense for the sake of keeping a house you really like is not a good financial example for your kids.

§  Selling may teach them emotional resistance. Sometimes life sucks! It just does. Divorce is usually like that. But showing a measure of grace, moving on, and making wise decisions for your whole family in the face of difficult times is one of the greatest gifts you can give your kids.

So, when it comes time to decide whether or not you “must have” the marital home.  Please weigh all the options, most importantly the long-term psychological consequences and whether or not you want to come out healthy and ready to find a new happy ever after without a semi-truck worth of baggage or a mini-Cooper.  The women should be very cautious, as in all divorce matters, to not make impulsive and emotional decisions… trust me on this one.  The men should make decisions and suggestions with a little more concern for the aftermath and future effects of the full divorce fallout.

Disclaimer: this article does not reflect any gender bias, it is meant for example and discussion topic only and of course, the gender roles may be different in each situation.