You can beat divorce – if you’re willing to do the work.
The aftermath of divorce can wreak havoc with your heart and play all kinds of tricks with your mind. As if the shock, grief, and change in everything aren’t enough, you also have to worry about your quality of life after divorce. Where will I live? How will I make it financially? Will I spend the rest of my life alone?
The truth can be of little consolation when your life has come unhinged. And yet, there is consolation in the fact that the truth is just that — the truth. When you feel no stability and no familiarity, you can at least look to that beacon of hope that is steadfast.
And the truth is this: You have more control over your quality of life after divorce than you think you do.
You will have choices to make, however. And you will have to take accountability — for the past, for the future, and especially for the present. You may not be able to undo your divorce, but you can take charge of your quality of life after divorce.
The biggest choice you will have to make is who is going to win — your divorce or you. You alone get to choose whether you go down with your failed marriage or learn powerful lessons from it and rise to a better life.
How do you know if you aren’t taking control over your quality of life after divorce? These are some of the easy-to-do but not-good-for-moving-on behaviors you might catch yourself in.
- Stalking your ex on social media.It’s so difficult not to do this. Even those who don’t like social media can’t escape it. And you and your ex probably have a lot of common friends, not to mention a forever-documented history of your life together.
But if your Facebook check-in involves rushing to your ex’s page to see what he or she is up to, you are allowing your divorce to control you. Is your ex going out without you? Dating again? Smiling without you? Taking that trip you were always going to take together?
If you are going to take charge of your quality of life after divorce, you will have to consciously fight the urge to “go there.” If you have to unfollow or unfriend your ex to remove the temptation to keep tabs, then do so.
How does this help you determine the quality of your own life? First, there is nothing to be gained from constantly immersing yourself in the energy of your ex’s life. You both have to move on.
Second, each time you resist the temptation, you take a positive step forward. It may not feel like it at the time, but it’s one small step for today, one giant leap for your life tomorrow.
- Following your ex or showing up accidentally.
As the saying goes, there are no accidents. You may have some genuinely accidental run-ins. But if you are intentionally detouring through your ex’s neighborhood on your way home or showing up at his/her favorite spots, you’re stalling your own progress.
Ask yourself, “What am I hoping to see? Will I be happy if his car is there? Suspicious if there is another car in the driveway? Will I swell up with jealousy if I see her having coffee with another guy? What do I want my ex to think or feel if we bump into one another? What are my true intentions — that I should be the first one to be happy? That my ex isn’t allowed to be happy without me?”
How does controlling this urge help you take charge of your quality of life after divorce? Again, it is one small urge resistance that pushes you out of the familiar pull of a relationship to which you can’t return.
Your life on earth is finite. Why would you want to spend it on a dead-end street hoping to see that someone you once loved is also miserable? The world is a lot bigger than that. And so are you.
- Trying to skip the grief by finding a replacement.
Surely it feels unfair that something you didn’t bargain for on your wedding day is now putting your life on hold. Maybe you didn’t want the divorce. But now you are expected to grieve it before you can move on with your life?
Grief is inevitable. And yet, it also carries an element of choice. You alone decide whether you will embrace the process and its lessons or stay in denial and reject it. No amount of “getting back out there” into the dating world is going to send grief packing.
When you accept that grief is a natural journey, you have the support of the universe to get you through it. You also have the assurance that on the other end of grief’s dark beginning is acceptance and liberation.
Believe it or not, hope is the companion of grief. And it is the greatest friend you can ask for when taking charge of your quality of life after divorce.
In addition to consciously avoiding behaviors that keep you stuck, there are proactive behaviors that will propel forward your quality of life after divorce.
- Let go of blame, regret, and guilt.
This is a process that takes time. It also takes a lot of introspection, even working-through with a therapist or other support system.
Think of these negative players as pawns on a chess board. They take up space and you have to work around them or get rid of them. When you clear them out, you open up the playing space of your life to make bigger and better things happen.
And when you accept responsibility for your own contributions to your divorce, you grow up a little more. All of a sudden you realize that, just like you, everyone else (including your ex) is on a journey of “growing up.”
There is enough blame to go around. There is also enough love to go around. Choose the latter, and life will unfold beautifully before your eyes.
- Choose forgiveness.
Of yourself. Of your ex. Hand everything and everyone that is a challenge to you over to your Higher Power. Forgive so that you can be forgiven. Forgive so the negativity doesn’t take up any more space on your chess board. Forgive so love can do its work.
- Learn, learn, learn!
Choose to see your challenges as opportunities to see what you might otherwise not have seen. Allow the light to reveal those areas that need correction, and make them.
Life is all about lessons. Learn them and move on, or ignore them and stay stuck. One way or another, life is always blessing you with the opportunity to be happy.
- Ask for help.
You are only as alone as you choose to be. Divorce can leave you feeling vulnerable, afraid, lonely, and even unsociable. But it also gives you the opportunity to welcome new people and resources into your life.
Your new financial situation may push you to learn about areas formerly handled by your spouse. And so you stretch, grow, and become more self-sufficient.
Perhaps you need help with your children so you can work, and suddenly you have a “village” that becomes your lifeline. “Ask, and it will be given to you.”
- Practice gratitude.
Be grateful for all you have and all you can do. And as you work on letting go and forgiving, allow gratitude to remind you of all the gifts and lessons you received during your marriage.
Gratitude keeps you grounded in the present, even as it reminds you of the gifts of the past. It keeps you from wanting what you don’t or shouldn’t have. It is the most beautiful, natural way to recognize that your quality of life after divorce is as extraordinary and simple as “thank you.”
Taking charge of your quality of life after divorce isn’t all about financial and materialistic quality. If it were, you could stay clinging and stuck for the rest of your life.
Your quality of life is a reflection of your own way of seeing your life. What is important to you? What truly matters to you?
And, most importantly, do you trust yourself…and do you trust life…to manifest it?
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’d like additional support in creating a good life after divorce, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me.
Looking for more information about how to start over after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.
It’s possible, but is it in the best interest of your kids?
If divorce were only about you and your ex, you could go your silent, separate ways. No more having to compromise, negotiate, or listen to stories that have bored you for years. No more arguing, fuming, or fighting to be heard. No more “talking about it” when you just want to go ahead and do things your own way. But if you have children, co-parenting without talking won’t be so convenient.
Compared to custody and parenting arrangements from only a few decades ago, co-parenting is like a ‘180.’ No single parent is in charge, and focus is on the highest good of the children.
The key component to co-parenting is healthy communication. And, considering you may have divorced because of unhealthy communication, it may sound crazy to expect the two of you rise to the occasion now.
There can be a number of reasons that parents stop talking after a divorce. Jobs, personal schedules, new partners, shame, jealousy, incompatible communication styles, and even outright dislike for one another can cut the communication lines.
There are additional parenting options to co-parenting. Without talking to one another, you and your ex will have extra challenges if you choose to go the co-parenting route. And no matter which model you choose, you will both have to rise to the task of putting your children first.
Why is co-parenting without talking such an oxymoron? Because co-parenting is built around the assumption of healthy communication. In fact, the twelve characteristics of healthy co-parenting all tie back to this essential.
Here are a few key components to healthy co-parenting.
- Open dialogue between parents.
Schedule and rule changes don’t go through the kids. They are handled between the parents first. (Sounds like being married, doesn’t it?)
- No bad-mouthing of the other parent.
That goes for the kids as well as for you. Your kids are still evolving into their identities, and both of their parents contribute to that lasting sense of self. Remind them of what’s good in the other parent, and save your personal issues for your support group.
- Consistency with rules in both households.
This is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of co-parenting compared to parallel parenting.
You are trying to make your kids’ lives consistent, dependable, and at least somewhat predictable. Your goal isn’t to trump your ex’s rules on homework, but to give your kids a sense of a unified homefront, despite two households.
- Amicable interactions at school and in public.
Don’t embarrass your kids. Don’t make them dread having both parents present at their sporting events and birthday parties. Be the adult you are trying to raise your kids to be.
So, if raising kids demands so much communication from parents who have no interest in speaking with one another, is co-parenting without talking possible? And if it is, what can you expect in the way of pros and cons?
The key to healthy co-parenting may be communication. But communication can be packaged in a variety of ways.
If you and your ex are truly committed to co-parenting vs. sole guardianship or parallel parenting, then you have to rise to the occasion. You may not feel warm and fuzzy about chatting on the phone or making nice in person. But you do have to choose how you will communicate – text, email, online schedulers – and commit to doing so in a healthy way.
What are some pros to co-parenting without talking?
- You can focus only on your kids.
As long as you are committed to the happiness and welfare of your kids, you can make co-parenting work with some detachment.
If you are still stewing over marital hurts, you may not be ready to enter into conversation with your ex. But make sure your interactions are respectful, non-sarcastic, and completely focused on what’s best for the kids.
- You don’t risk provoking or being provoked.
It can take years to process a divorce, even with the greatest intention to do so. And during that time, the mere sound of an ex’s voice – his/her, word choice, innuendos – can be a trigger. It doesn’t take much to “go back there” when talking with an ex you still resent or don’t fully trust, let alone like.
If you choose co-parenting without talking, you can keep matters businesslike and child-focused. No emotion. No squabbling. No escalations.
- You have greater distance and emotional detachment from your ex.
Talking connects people. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be so integral to creating intimacy.
Even negative talking is a connector in that it attaches you to the energy of what is said and how it is said. Verbal abuse wouldn’t be so damaging if that weren’t the case.
By not having to talk with your ex by phone or in person, you can detach from that verbal energy. And hopefully, with time and self-examination, you can both heal from the negative emotions connected to your relationship.
- You have a plan to live by…in writing.
If you aren’t going to talk, you’re going to have to write. And that means documentation. Texts, emails, written notes, online schedulers, shared correspondence with teachers and doctors – you have information in black-and-white.
“I will be picking Lucy up from school at 2:00 to go to Dr. Caldwell’s.” “Today’s soccer practice has been cancelled due to rain.” “I will be overseas on business Tuesday. Will you send notes from the PTA meeting?” It’s all about the kids.
Obviously there are also cons to co-parenting without talking. After all, the ideal arrangement involves open communication between both parents.
Even with the above positives, there are going to be some negatives. Here are a few.
- You risk not presenting a unified front.
The benefit of a text is that it tends to be to-the-point and lacking in emotion (excluding multiple exclamation points and orange-faced emojis).
The drawback of a text is that it tends to be to-the-point and lacking in emotion. It also lacks details that are more easily expressed in verbal communication.
A key element of co-parenting is consistency between households. And that means that, even without being married, parents have to present a unified front.
This is especially important as kids enter their teens and become more independent. They will inevitably test and push boundaries. And both parents will have to stand together as one in establishing rules and doling out discipline. Again, focus on the kids.
- You risk using your kids as a channel for communication.
You are still responsible for communicating with your ex first on all matters regarding rules and schedules for your kids.
Talking takes less time than sending emails or logging into an online account. And it can be tempting to tell your kid, “Tell your dad we need to rearrange our weeks because of the upcoming trip to Grandma’s.”
This becomes a slippery slope into using your children as a go-between in your relationship with your ex.
- It’s more difficult to maintain consistency between homes.
If you were still married, you would most likely verbalize the little things that make a big difference. Now that you need to uphold rules and make consistent changes across two households, not talking can pose a big challenge.
- It’s more difficult to resolve issues involving your kids’ behavior.
Your pre-pubescent 12-year-old isn’t a toddler anymore. And, while his behavior as a pre-teen may make you wonder, he needs different parenting now than he did then. And that includes (especially) direction and discipline regarding behavior and choices.
If you were still married, do you think you would be able to accomplish this effectively by leaving Post-It notes for your spouse? Co-parenting without talking doesn’t make it any easier.
- Your kids don’t get to watch their parents model healthy conflict resolution and civil behavior.
Ideally, co-parented children get to observe their divorced parents resolving differences in a healthy, effective way. They get to experience a sense of family in public without being embarrassed, ashamed, or afraid.
They grow up knowing that their parents love, support, and prioritize them. And they learn how to become healthy, communicative adults themselves in the process of growing up.
When you are co-parenting without talking, your children lose this experiential learning. They see little to no communication between their parents, and therefore have to learn those essential relationship and parenting skills elsewhere.
Parenting is the most demanding, important job in the world. And those demands and importance don’t dwindle after a divorce.
While co-parenting may be the ideal arrangement for children, the parents have to be prepared and committed to what is required of it. Co-parenting without talking, while not ideal, is definitely possible. But it does require mutual commitment, diligence, and respect.
For parents who can’t get past their mutual animosity and can’t make co-parenting work, alternatives like parallel parenting may be worth considering.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I help people figure out how they can best co-parent post-divorce. 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.
Looking for more information about how to handle co-parenting? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Co-Parenting.
Three steps to help you put the past behind you.
There are no words to adequately describe the shock and pain of betrayal. It shakes the foundation of not only your relationship, but of your reality – all of it. And you resent it. You resent the action that your spouse or partner took to destroy everything you thought your life was. Yet you also know that you can’t continue living this way and you start wondering how to get over resentment after an affair.
Luckily getting over it is possible. And it all starts with understanding what resentment is.
What is resentment?
According to dictionary.com, resentment is the feeling of displeasure or indignation at some act, remark, person, etc., regarded as causing injury or insult. And, of course, this is technically correct. However, it pales when you consider resentment that is due to infidelity.
When you feel resentment because your spouse has cheated on you, describing it as simply displeasure or indignation seems trite. Resentment after an affair is crushing. It lays you bare and exposes insecurities and fears you never imagined were possible.
It’s also overwhelming. It can consume you every time you see the person who betrayed you, the one who was supposed to love and care for you above all others and yet didn’t. It can make you feel trapped. On the one hand you can’t imagine ever getting past the pain and on the other you can’t imagine going on without him/her.
(Believe it or not, your spouse/partner can also feel resentment too. But that’s a topic for another article.)
Feeling resentment is normal
Being betrayed feels extremely unfair and undeserved. It’s this feeling of the affair being a selfish act that leads to resentment. Why should s/he be able to get away with destroying your relationship, marriage, and/or life – not to mention what it’s done to your children?
According to Dr. Steven Stosny, resentment is a defensive way of devaluing and mentally retaliating against those whom you perceive to be treating you unfairly.
It’s natural to want to get even for the hurt your betrayer has caused. And resentment is a less outwardly aggressive way of trying to get even. It’s also a way to keep yourself stuck in the hurt – so you don’t forget it and take a chance of being hurt like this again and so s/he doesn’t get a chance to forget it either.
To truly heal after an affair, you need to release the resentment.
How to get over resentment after an affair
For most, releasing resentment takes effort and focus. It’s not something that typically happens like flipping a switch, but the more you focus on the following three steps the more completely you’ll be able to let it go.
- Recognize it for what it is Resentment is a tie to the past. It keeps you stuck and prevents you from fully moving forward with your life.
So every day you feel resentful because of the affair s/he had, you’re stealing the joy you could be experiencing that day from yourself.
- Choose how you want to live your life going forward
If resentment is anchoring you to the past, the best way to help you live more in the present is to choose how you want to be living now and in the future. As the old saying goes, you can’t drive a car by looking in the rearview mirror. You’ve got to look forward and know where you want to take your life.
- Do what you must to move forward
Sometimes it’s easy to know what you need to do to move toward the life you want and sometimes it’s not. The real secret here is to just keep doing what you believe you need to do to get closer to the life you want to live now.
That might mean rebuilding your marriage. It might mean ending your marriage. When you know what you want in your life and continually choose to release the ties to the past that are keeping you stuck, you’ll be able to do what you must to move forward.
Feeling resentment after your spouse/partner has cheated is natural. His/her actions were selfish and unfair to you and your life together. You have a right to be upset
However, getting stuck in resentment means that you’re continuing to use the hurt they inflicted to hurt yourself. Instead of being caught up in the cycle of pain, you can use the three steps outlined above to begin the process of getting over resentment after an affair your spouse had and start truly living your life again.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. I work with individuals struggling with how to get over resentment after an affair. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. If you’re interested in taking the first step toward working with me, you can schedule an introductory private coaching session.
Looking for more information about dealing with marital infidelity? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Surviving Infidelity.
You’re not destined to be stuck in the misery grief. You can move through it and be happy again.
Say the word ‘grief,’ and chances are those listening will wonder who died. We expect the dark, flooding overwhelm of emotions after a loved one dies. And we tend to be compassionate and patient with a process born out of loss that no one could control. But when you or someone else is dealing with grief after a divorce, the expectations are often less compassionate, patient…and understood.
There are several types of grief, and only bereavement is a specific response to death. That means that loss in a myriad of forms can start the clock on the grieving process. It’s a natural process, despite how foreign, complicated, and oppressive its emotional grasp can feel.
Since grief is such a natural process, and everyone experiences it at different times, in different forms, it’s worth talking about how to get through it.
Dealing with grief after a divorce is no different. Nearly 50% of marriages (and 41% of first marriages) in the United States will end in divorce or separation. Divorce grief is therefore a high-odds reality.
Depending on your source of information, grief will be outlined in five or seven stages. They are not absolutes, nor do they map out a linear journey. They are a framework for responding to loss, no matter the nature of that loss.
(Subsequent publications of longer lists add pain and fear after denial, and guilt after bargaining.)
When dealing with grief after a divorce, a lot of the things you might think matter actually don’t. Who initiated the divorce doesn’t matter. Why the divorce happened doesn’t matter. Sure, you will have specific feelings in response to these topics. But they won’t change the fact that there is going to be a grieving process.
So, it makes sense that the first step in dealing with grief after a divorce is accepting that there is going to be grief. You may even (think you) hate your ex and want nothing to do with him/her. And yet, you will still find yourself trying to claw your way out of all those painful feelings like anger and depression.
You have, after all, lost more than just ‘a marriage.’ You have lost your right to access and believe in all the little pieces that made it up. You have lost your long-held dream and vision for the future as a couple or family. You have lost your routine, your unregulated time with your children, and perhaps your home, financial security, and self-confidence.
Strategies for dealing with grief after a divorce rely on one constant from you: that you allow yourself to feel. You will be tempted to avoid, distract from, and even deny your feelings as they come out of nowhere, screaming for attention. You will be tempted to simply move on, find someone new, forget your ex exists.
But your feelings are your reminder that you are alive, that you lost something important, and that you are capable of loving again.
Here are 12 strategies for dealing with grief after a divorce:
- Accept that your marriage is over. This acceptance isn’t comparable to the final stage of grief that allows you to move forward with your life without lamenting the past. This is simply an acceptance of a new reality and a willingness to step up and embrace the process ahead.
Usually it is just a cognitive acceptance until your heart gets around to fully accepting the divorce, too. “My marriage is over. I’m still shocked, confused, and numb. I don’t have a clue what’s going to happen or what my life is going to look like. But I’m now divorced, and I have to face the painful process of grieving and healing.”
- Consider professional, expert help.
There is no better time to reach out to a therapist, divorce or life coach than when your own life feels completely unfamiliar. The road ahead is going to be long and twisted, and having the objective help of an expert can keep you on course.
- Create a support system.
In addition to having a trusted professional on your divorce journey, surround yourself with supportive friends and family. It’s not uncommon for friendships to divide when a marriage divides. But that loss will only serve to make your true friends and allies stand out. Keep them close, and allow them to help rebuild your self-confidence and self-worth.
- Don’t intellectualize your divorce.
We all know what it’s like to escape into our heads where we can analyze a grain of sand to death. Intellectualizing is a convenient way to avoid feeling.
When dealing with grief after a divorce, it’s essential that you embrace your feelings as they present themselves. Trust yourself to handle the discomfort. And remember that you have the back-up of your support system.
- Let the grieving begin.
Knowing ahead of time what the grieving process entails can help you get to the starting line. Trust that your feelings are natural. And trust that you are moving through something, not dancing around something that will never end.
- Look for the lessons in your feelings.
Even the most negative, painful feelings come bearing gifts. They all carry messages intended to help you heal and become the best version of yourself.
Trusting your feelings is just another way of trusting yourself. And now is when you need to trust yourself more than ever.
- Let go of negative emotions.
This doesn’t mean “don’t feel them.” It means “don’t let the ugly emotions stick around indefinitely.” Feel them as they arise. Ask them what they have come to teach you. Meditate on and journal about the answer. Then release the emotions.
This will be a repeated process of baby steps, so wash, rinse, repeat. (Emphasis on the rinse.)
- Rise above blame.
Every relationship involves two people working out their own stuff in the company of a partner. And everything that happens in that relationship is the result of what both people bring to the issue or event.
You are moving into a phase of your life where you won’t be able to turn and blame your spouse because s/he won’t be there. You can only work on yourself. So start now. Brave the inner examination that will reveal your own responsibility within your marriage — the good and the bad.
This will push you ahead faster than just about any other strategy for dealing with grief after a divorce.
Forgive your ex. Forgive yourself. One disappointment, betrayal, and hurt at a time.
As you work on taking responsibility for your own contributions to your divorce, forgiveness will become easier.
- Take great care of yourself.
Grief isn’t simply emotional. It has physical effects, too. This is a time when it’s especially important to get enough sleep, eat nutritionally, exercise, and find sources of positivity.
Be kind to yourself. How would you nurture a friend whose world had been ripped out from under him/her? Embrace yourself with the same TLC.
- Don’t fill the void with another relationship.
Grief is a very personal journey, even when you have others to help you through it. And dealing with grief after a divorce can be especially difficult when you want nothing more than to be in a committed relationship.
But the fluctuating emotional context of grief is no foundation for a new relationship. Work through your stuff. Get comfortable being on your own so you can distinguish between wanting and needing a relationship.
Besides, you owe it to any potential partner to be your best self and to have a lot to offer.
- Envision a new future.
Remember that future you lost sight of when you were going through your divorce? It’s time to envision a new one.
But now the slate is clean. You can fill it however you want. And you can do it a little at a time and change it as you go. What matters is that you start seeing happy possibilities for your life.
Dealing with grief after a divorce can seem like an unfair burden on top of an already crumbled world. But you have the choice to accompany your grief with gratitude. Be grateful for all that has been and for all the lessons your feelings have to teach you.
Most importantly, trust yourself to get through the grief, even when it circles back around (which it will). When you realize, little by little, that you are the person you can trust to get through anything, you will get through everything.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach, who works with people just like you who are searching for support dealing with grief after a divorce. For free weekly advice, register for my newsletter. To explore working with me, schedule an introductory 30-minute consultation.