It’s hard. It sucks. But it’s not impossible.
Divorce is complicated (and it sucks) because you’re faced with seemingly non-stop social, emotional, legal, financial, and the everyday challenges of your new life. Everything changes and not always for the better – at least at first. Of course, all these changes trigger grief which you may think you understand because you’ve grieved before. But overcoming divorce grief is completely different from getting over any other type of grief.
It’s different because you’re constantly reminded of the losses – and there are a lot of things you lose when you divorce. You lose your status as a spouse. You lose time with your kids. You lose the financial means you had together. You lose friends. You lose your dreams for the future.
You lose so very many things that you’ll subtly and obviously be reminded of…
- when you look at your beautiful child and see the resemblance to your ex.
- when you hear someone talking about their spouse and the fun they had over the weekend.
- when you’re struggling to figure out how to make ends meet.
- when you’re home all alone over the weekend and your kids are with their other parent.
- when you see a commercial for the vacation destination you and your ex had planned to visit next summer.
And each of these reminders can trigger more grief.
Yet these triggers just get the journey started. When you’re trying to overcome divorce grief it’s the emotional turmoil that makes things so difficult. You’ll experience disappointment, stress, a sense of failure, anger, fear, sadness, and a whole host of other emotions. Sometimes you’ll feel them one after another, sometimes just one at a time and at other times you’ll experience several all at once.
The emotions are horribly uncomfortable and feeling them is probably one of the last things anyone wants to do. And so we make it harder on ourselves by trying to intellectualize or think them away. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. The only way to overcome divorce grief is to work through the emotions.
And that in itself is a challenge. When you’re faced with the prospect of overcoming divorce grief you feel miserable. When anyone feels bad, it’s really hard (and at times impossible) to get motivated to want to feel the pain so you can work through it.
On top of that grief is exhausting and not just because most of us find it difficult to sleep well when we’re grieving. Grief weakens our bodies which makes doing anything harder.
So when you’re overcoming divorce grief, you’ll find that your ability to get things done is reduced. You’ll notice that your job performance suffers. Your ability to concentrate declines. Your willingness to care for yourself decreases and so does your desire to work through the myriad issues your divorce created.
And for many, this is when they decide to self-medicate instead of doing the work of getting through their divorce grief. They may choose to drink a little more, smoke a bit more pot or indulge in other recreational drugs, eat more comfort foods, and/or have more sex by hooking up. They may also attempt to escape their pain by getting into another relationship.
Although it’s tempting and can feel good in the moment, self-medicating only masks grief. It doesn’t heal it or make it go away. The grief remains. It festers and seeps deeper into your soul the longer it’s ignored. And that means it will be even more difficult to deal with.
Overcoming divorce grief isn’t easy. It will be one of the most freakin’ difficult things you’ve ever done or will ever do.
Yet, actually doing your work to deal with your grief will also give you a huge gift. Overcoming divorce grief gives you the gift of knowing yourself better through a series of lessons. Some of the lessons it brings are obvious. Some are incredibly difficult. But each of the ones you learn along the way will help you to recognize how strong, capable and lovable you are – despite getting divorced.
That may seem hard to believe as you’re beginning your journey of overcoming divorce grief. Yet, if you ask anyone who has successfully made the journey themselves, they’ll tell you that they are stronger, more capable and totally lovable now. They may even tell you that the life they built for themselves after divorce is much, much better than when they were married to their ex.
So, yes, divorce sucks. Overcoming divorce grief blows. But if you remember the only way to get your life back is to work through every challenge, trigger, and disappointment the end of your marriage throws your way, you’ll be able to do the hard work and move on toward a better life.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach, who works with people just like you who are searching for support overcoming divorce grief. For free weekly advice, register for my newsletter. If you’d like to explore working with me, you can schedule a private 30-minute consultation with me.
Looking for more help coping with the heartbreak of divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Dealing With Grief.
With focus, determination, and courage, you can create an amazing life for yourself.
Divorce is difficult, painful, heartbreaking and so many other unpleasant things. It changes your lifestyle, your parenting, and even your sense of self. It can bring you lower than you’ve ever been before. Yet, if you’re determined and choose to be brave, rebuilding a life after divorce can be one of the best things you’ll ever do.
When you were married you changed.
Over time, all married couples do. They change in big ways and small ways. Some changes are great for the marriage and great for the spouse making them. Others are great for the marriage but hard on the individual.
Chances are you made big changes and small ones during your marriage. Some of those changes were probably good for you and some … not so much.
Recommended Reading: Keeping My Word To My Husband Nearly Destroyed My Life
And it’s those changes that were hard on you that you can now examine as you’re contemplating rebuilding a life after divorce.
Now that you’re divorced, you have the freedom to adjust how you’re living. You don’t have to continue living as you did in your marriage. You don’t have to continue making the large and small compromises that felt as if you were giving away parts of yourself for the sake of your marriage.
Granted, this isn’t easy. The freedom may not feel great. It may actually feel scary and lonely because the relationship you built your life on is gone. But, remember, so are the uncomfortable constraints.
And without those constraints, now it’s your opinion that matters most. You’re the one you need to please. You’re the one you need to take care of.
This can feel like you have a lot of new responsibilities. And, truthfully, you probably do. But it’s because of these responsibilities and the freedom that accompanies divorce that you can create a new life for yourself.
Rebuilding a life after divorce is about pleasing and support you. It gives you the opportunity to rediscover the bits and pieces of yourself that you gave up or ignored for the sake of your marriage. It also gives you the space to discover new interests as you regain your sense of personal identity.
It’s when you begin looking at the positive possibilities ahead of you that you’ll be on the path toward turning the devastation of your divorce around.
When you start planning for your future, you’ll begin understanding how your divorce might be allowing you to finally start being you again – strong, confident, and happy. Even if you felt that way during your marriage, the new you, the post-divorce you can be even stronger, more confident and happier because you can now be true to yourself without compromise. – if you’re determined and courageous enough.
Becoming a better version of yourself after divorce takes determination and courage. You’ll be the one making the decisions about how you live and the experiences you want to have. Yet each and every decision you make has the potential to bring you closer and closer to living your best life. And having the power to be your best self is pretty amazing.
Is rebuilding a life after divorce easy? No. It will be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. But, when you make the effort and take the time to create a life you love, you’ll know that every tear you cried and every bead of sweat along the way was totally and completely worth it.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people with rebuilding a life after divorce that they love. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you want to learn more about working with me, you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.
Looking for more information about post-divorce life? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.
There are no guarantees.
Most assume there are only two choices when faced with an unhappy marriage: stay and be miserable or divorce and be happy. But you have more choices than just staying or going. Staying doesn’t have to equal misery. Leaving an unhappy marriage doesn’t always lead to happiness.
Marriages are very complicated and unique to each couple. What is the worst possible situation imaginable to one couple is merely a bump in the road to another.
Recommended Reading: What Does An Unhappy Marriage Look Like?
Each spouse in a marriage is unique too. You and your spouse each had different experiences before you ever met that molded each of you. Some of this shaping was helpful and some you may still be working through because it trips you up at times.
Then there are the experiences that you’ve had together. Some have probably been good. While others haven’t. You and your spouse may even disagree on which experiences have been good and which weren’t.
However you’ve made it to the point where you’re searching for information about leaving an unhappy marriage, you need to understand what doing so does and doesn’t mean.
Divorce is one of the most distressing life events you can ever experience. It hurts in ways you might not be able to imagine if you’ve never been through it. And if you have previous experience leaving an unhappy marriage, each divorce hurts in a different way because no two marriages are the same.
Divorce allows you the opportunity to live alone or with someone new. If you have kids, chances are it will give them 2 homes – one with you and one with their other parent. And if you have kids, it means that you’ll likely have a relationship with their other parent for the rest of your life.
Divorce might give you the freedom to do the things you stopped doing when you got married. However, you have to choose to do them and for some this is a difficult choice to make.
Unfortunately, leaving an unhappy marriage isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be happy or even happier. That’s because it may not be just your marriage that is making you unhappy.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between unhappiness about your life or a portion of it with being unhappy in your marriage. It can be so much easier to see your marriage as the problem instead of looking for other possible sources of unhappiness.
Other possible sources of unhappiness can include work, other relationships with family or friends, parenting, an empty nest, a challenge with physical or psychological health, lack of a sense of purpose, what’s happening in the world, comparing your life to someone else’s, and so many more.
On the other hand, it really could be your marriage that’s making you miserable. Maybe you and your spouse have become fundamentally incompatible. Maybe something unforgivable has happened. Maybe you’ve forgotten how to communicate in a kind way or at all.
Even if it is your marriage that’s at the root of your unhappiness. Leaving now may not be the right answer. Maybe marriage therapy will help make things better. Maybe you know things will never get better and you need to begin working toward an exit plan.
It’s only when you’ve asked yourself the hard questions about what’s causing your unhappiness that you’ll be able to make the best choice regarding your marriage. It’s with the answers you discover that you’ll be able to know if leaving an unhappy marriage or making an unhappy marriage work will ultimately bring you happiness.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach helping people just like you who are looking for advice and support with leaving an unhappy marriage. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.
Looking for more ideas for what to do about your unhappy marriage? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Unhappy Marriage.
It is really hard, but you can make it easier.
For most parents who divorce, co-parenting sucks. Somehow, you’re supposed to go from not being able to make a marriage work to being able to communicate and work together to raise your children. But even that gets more difficult when you’re faced with co-parenting a teenager together.
Before diving into the difficulties of co-parenting a teenager, you need to understand why it’s typically so tough to raise teenagers.
Why parenting a teenager is so hard
Adolescence brings with it amazing physical and hormonal changes which result in sexual and other physical maturation. And all these developments mean that teens have behavioral changes and mood swings.
Teens are gradually able to think more abstractly, make plans and set long-term goals. They may become more interested in philosophy, politics and social issues. They’ll likely also begin comparing themselves to their peers.
They want greater control of their own lives and independence from their parents. So their friendships and romantic/sexual relationships become very important to them.
Developing a sense of personal identity is one of the major tasks that teens undertake. And many try out lots of different ways of being – including ways that fly in the face of what their parents hoped for them – before settling in.
Parenting a teen is typically a tumultuous experience. It’s often fraught with fear, hurt, and pride – sometimes all within the span of an hour. There are no two ways about it – parenting a teen is tough.
Why co-parenting a teenager after divorce is harder
When you’re divorced and trying to parent your teen, it can be so much more difficult than parenting in an intact family. The surprising thing is that the difficulties don’t arise because of your teen. They arise because of you and your ex.
The six ways you can make nurturing your teen more difficult than necessary include:
- Damming up the information flow Co-parenting sucks, and because it can feel like the finish line is in sight when your child is a teen, you start to feel like you can ease things up a bit. You may even begin believing s/he is more responsible and mature than s/he was before – because sometimes they are.
This belief leads many co-parents to stop sharing as much information with each other about their teen. They each assume their teen will naturally share the information and/or exhibit the same behaviors with both of them.
By not continuing to regularly communicate with each other about things going on with your teen, you and your ex could be keeping each other in the dark about events and/or behaviors that your teen needs support and guidance with.
- Stop talking with each other
Instead of continuing the often unpleasant or even painful communication with your co-parent, you and/or your ex may choose to start passing messages to each other through your teen. Unfortunately, this can lead to messages not being delivered or delivered late or incorrectly. It also gives your teen a lot of power.
- Coordinating less
When your teen learns to drive, you can experience a sense of freedom. No longer are you worried about coordinating with your ex about getting your child from place to place – including from your place to your ex’s. But this lack of coordination gives your teen freedom that they could take advantage of.
- Maintaining parenting schedule
A lack of flexibility in the parenting schedule can cause undue conflict and stress for you, your ex and your teen. Your child is trying to juggle spending time with friends, school, activities and, maybe even a job on top of spending time with both you and his/her other parent. Learning to let go and be a bit more flexible is one of the toughest parts of parenting a teen.
- Making assumptions
Making assumptions is almost always a bad idea. But when you make assumptions when you’re co-parenting it can be even more problematic. The biggest mistake parents make when co-parenting a teenager is they assume their child’s other parent knows their teen’s friends instead of knowing them yourself.
Friends are a high priority for teens. You’ll want to know who your child is spending his/her time with so you can support the relationships that seem beneficial. You’ll also want to encourage your teen and her/his friends to spend time at your home, so you can stay informed about your teen’s world.
- Providing inconsistent guidance
Despite how independent your teen is trying to be, s/he still needs consistent guidance, expectations, and home life. When things are reliable and steady for your teen, s/he is more likely to experiment with building her/his identity in safe ways. On the other hand, when things are unstable at one of your teen’s homes, s/he will have more opportunities to experiment in risky and unsafe behaviors.
If you and your ex ease up on co-parenting when your child becomes a teen, you could be setting yourselves and your child up for a much more difficult few years.
Teens can take advantage of poor co-parenting. They can learn to criticize, lie and use other unhealthy methods to get their needs and wants met from one parent or the other as they pursue their independence.
However, when both parents work together, co-parenting a teenager after divorce doesn’t have to be dramatically harder than parenting a teen in an intact family.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people navigate parenting post-divorce including co-parenting a teenager. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re ready to take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach, you can schedule a private first session.