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What if my divorce settlement isn’t as good as my best friend’s?

You and your best friend have a tradition: at the beginning of every season, you go shopping together to get that one trendy clothes item everyone wants to have. But you never, ever pay full price. Afterward, you go for coffee and celebrate the good deal you got. It’s a game to see how much you can save.

But this year, it’s slightly different. You’re both newly divorced. You have a little less financial flexibility than you had before, so you’re looking for a screaming good deal. You probably won’t get anything, actually, unless it’s over 50-percent discounted. She, however, takes out her wallet and buys the item (and a few more) at the first store you visit. She’s a little self-conscious about it and mumbles something about having plenty of money now that her divorce is final. Suddenly, you find yourself with a bad case of envy. 

When you two sit down for coffee, you’ll be tempted to ask, “So how much did you get?”

Don’t ask. Divorces are extremely complex, and no two are alike.

Good advice: don’t talk about money

It might have been something your parents told you when they were teaching you how to be polite. You don’t talk about salaries at work. You probably don’t know exactly what your neighbors paid for their cars (unless you do some sleuthing). You might be informed of what nearby houses sell for, which relates to your own home’s value, but you’d never ask about someone else’s mortgage loan, or talk about how much they put down as a deposit, or what their bank accounts are like.

Then why, all of a sudden, are you comparing your divorce terms to someone else’s? It’s human nature, so don’t be too hard on yourself. But remember that it’s only going to make you stressed out, which is no way to go into your new life as a newly-single person. There are so many different variables in any couple’s life together. Your marriages weren’t the same; your divorces will not be identical, either. Your settlement could be affected by: children, assets, homes, salaries, lawyers, judges and much more. Just because she seems to have more cash flow doesn’t mean she got a “better” settlement, either.

What you can talk about

The financials may be wildly different, but many things about the divorce experience can be shared with positive results for both of you.

  • Give each other plenty of emotional support.
  • Discuss changes after the divorce and your ex-spouses, if you like, but also force yourselves to talk about other things and other people.
  • Encourage each other to try new activities.
  • Check in often. You never know when someone’s struggling, even if it isn’t a financial burden.

The emotional fallout is the hardest part, regardless of finances. Keep your friendship strong by letting go of comparisons.

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