Yes, you can do this.
Oh, the rollercoaster of it all. The falling in love, the wedding, the children, the disenchantment, the fighting, the falling out of love…the rebuilding life after divorce.
Remember your first rollercoaster ride? You climbed into your seat, fastened up, and threw your hands into the air and caution to the wind. And then the drop. That gravity vacuum that sucked the wind out of you and left you clinging, screaming, and wondering what you were thinking.
By the time the ride came to a screeching halt, your hair had given up any claim to a good day. And you dizzily walked away, wondering what had just happened.
Ending a marriage can feel a lot like that. You may not even have a firm grasp on how you got here, but suddenly the ride has ended and you’re climbing out.
Rebuilding life after divorce is like walking away from that ride you were so excited to try. Your legs are wobbly, your body almost numb. And your mind is reliving all the drops and loops while trying to process the unusual feelings coursing through your veins.
But somehow you know you will be standing in line for another ride. Just not yet.
Here are 6 tips to help you through that “rebuilding life after divorce” stage and get you confidently back into life.
It’s inevitable that you will feel a big hole where marriage, partnership, family, and all that go with them used to be. You spent a long time building your “normal,” even if it wasn’t perfect, and even if it eventually became unhappy.
This “living death” is going to take you through its stages, so you might as well get on board and embrace it. Learning to expect the unexpected ways that grief shows up will help you not get swept away by your feelings.
- Commit to being a survivor, not a victim.
Grief has its place and needs to be accepted. But there can be a fine line between grieving and feeling sorry for yourself.
Rebuilding life after divorce is a constant testing of your own limits. And that’s a good thing because it means you’re growing.
People who recover from divorce most successfully have made the mental shift from victim to survivor. They don’t let divorce define them. And they know when to allow a little wallowing and when to get with the program.
If you’re a parent, imagine what that attitude will model for your children.
- Stop trying to change what can’t be changed.
This can be tougher than it sounds. Divorce, by its very nature, lends itself to ruminating. He did….She said….If he/she had only….I wonder why….
While moving on in a healthy way requires a fearless self-examination of your role in your marriage and divorce, it also requires boundaries. There are things you can never change. You can’t change the past, but you can lay the groundwork for a new future.
And you certainly can’t change your ex. You’ll want to — the urge to blame and lay responsibility outside ourselves is natural. But you have no control over who your ex was and is, nor what he/she did or does.
And that goes for parenting styles, too. Outside of extremes like abuse or neglect, you’re going to have to focus all that “fixing energy” on yourself.
- Stay connected with friends and family.
Divorce carries so much negativity in its wake — embarrassment, shame, sadness, disappointment, depression. It can be very tempting to isolate from the world and wallow in the despair of it all.
All the more reason to stay connected to those who love and accept you for who you are. You will never forget the friend who held the tissue box while you did your ugly cries. Nor will you forget the relative who used his own divorce experience to support you into the best of your new life.
- Embrace the financial change.
It’s one of the ugly realities of divorce. Resources that once supported one home and lifestyle are now divided between two. But remember, you’re a survivor, not a victim, right?
This is the time for you to rethink your priorities and focus on authentic sources of joy. Your financial mind shift may not be comfortable or easy, but it can move mountains for your confidence and stability.
Make the commitment to overcome your post-divorce financial fears by consulting a financial planner or accountant. Take an online course or read up on basic finances and investing. Educate yourself, establish a workable financial plan, and start setting short-term and long-term goals.
You have the opportunity to create life on your own terms. But you also have the responsibility that goes along with it.
Taking charge of this often frightening aspect of rebuilding life after divorce will do wonders for your self-esteem.
- Learn to love being alone.
You don’t have to become a hermit or commit to life as a single person to love being alone. This lesson is really about building an awesome, loving relationship with yourself.
When you were married, you probably craved alone-time and rarely got it. Well, now you have it.
And, chances are, you’re not going to be single forever. So use this time to rediscover yourself. Indulge your interests. Daydream. Make bucket lists. Create new rituals, both for yourself and for you and your children.
Get reacquainted with your values and the big motivators in your life. Pay attention to that inner voice that used to get drowned out by everyone else’s needs.
Show up for yourself. And cherish the knowledge that you will always be your own best friend.
Rebuilding life after divorce is an ongoing process. But so are you. The important words here are “build” and “life.” Despite the heartbreak and the tearing apart of your world, there is never an end to the opportunity to “build life.”
Before you know it, you will start seeing signs of healing after divorce. Those wobbly legs will feel strong and stable again. And, when you look up at that high-speed twister, the drops and loops won’t seem so frightening. You’ll be ready for the thrill of the ride…hands in the air….
You’ve got this.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’d like additional support rebuilding your 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 rebuilding your life after divorce? You’ll find what you’re looking for in Life After Divorce.
It’s time to make a plan.
The vision of marriage is all about diving into life’s riches together. When you’re dating, you can’t get enough of one another. When you’re walking down the aisle, you see only the good that lies ahead. Nowhere in this fairytale is there a chapter on how to escape a miserable marriage. You don’t need it because…well, you just don’t need it. Your love, after all, is perfect. He’s perfect. She’s perfect. And love conquers all.
OK, hypnosis over. Back to reality. Even the most jaw-dropping carriage can be a glitzy cover for a rotting pumpkin. Bippity-boppity-boo doesn’t guarantee forever.
The first reality check is acknowledging (and preparing for) the fact that marriage isn’t all about holding hands and skipping through fields of gold. It’s work. Hard work. But hopefully the kind of work that is entered into with a vision toward personal and relational growth.
That’s why emotional maturity and a commitment to developing good communication skills is imperative. Without them, you will be more likely to see boredom, fighting, and periods of loneliness as signs that you made a mistake.
There are several shades of red in the red-flag category. Your marriage may simply be going through the normal stages of love. It may be unhappy due to neglect. It may be unhealthy because of poor communication skills and their effects. And it may also be downright toxic.
If you’re at a point where you’re trying to figure out how to escape a miserable marriage, hit the pause button. Obviously that flag you’re waving is bright red. But the first thing you need to do is decide if your marriage is just unhealthy or completely toxic.
Neither is a pleasant place to be, obviously. But, just as with your physical health that may seem to be deteriorating, “unhealthy” can often be turned around.
Sometimes we’re unhealthy because we don’t know how to be healthy. And sometimes we’re unhealthy because of a hidden, mysterious, or idiopathic cause. But rarely does someone who has become unhealthy not go to the doctor to seek help.
Simple analogy. Big meaning.
Going from unhealthy to healthy isn’t necessarily a quick fix. But it’s a lot easier to stay the course of fixing things when you know it will work — if you will do your work.
If you’re wondering how to escape a miserable marriage because it has become toxic, however, you may have a less hopeful prognosis. “Diseases” like abuse, addiction, chronic infidelity, narcissism, and control can have fatal consequences to a marriage.
When your physical and/or emotional safety is at stake, you may have no choice but to leave. And, if you have children, you have to rise above your own fears to create a path forward for you and them.
The most important message for someone asking how to escape a miserable marriage is: Have a plan. If you’re in an unhappy marriage but are afraid to leave, having a plan will be like taking yourself by the hand and walking to safety.
Here are the major points to remember as you structure a plan for leaving a miserable marriage.
- Tell someone.
Especially if you are in an abusive situation, having a support system is imperative. You’re going to need a village to embrace you and help you through what can be a very painful process. And you’re going to need the sound advice of experts and benevolent people who have been where you are.
Confide in at least a few people whom you know you can trust and who will honor your confidentiality. And make sure your “villagers” have phone numbers and vital information for you. This extra step is particularly important in situations involving abuse, addiction, or extreme control.
- Build a safety net.
You’re going to need money to get you through. And, if you’re not already working, you may have no income flowing in that you can personally control. Put aside everything you can so you have money available.
This is a good time to consult with a financial expert, as different states have different laws about property in a divorce.
Building a safety net isn’t as simple as taking money out of your account(s) and hiding it in a suitcase. Common property states maintain that everything acquired during the marriage belongs equally to both spouses. So reach out for guidance to make a financial plan that protects you now without hurting you later.
- Look for work.
Even if all you do find is a part-time, low-wage job, start the flow of income. If you haven’t been working and have been relying on your spouse’s income while raising kids, or going to school, establishing independence is paramount.
- Look for a place to live.
Divorce is complicated, even in the best circumstances. But, when you’re dealing with how to escape a miserable marriage, it can get really messy.
You may not be in a situation where you can just go rent or buy a place, especially if assets are tied up. And, if you have children, you have to consider more than just yourself.
This is why that village is so essential. Is there someone in your life who would open their home to you for a while? If securing a place of your own isn’t as simple as apartment shopping and signing a lease, get creative.
Churches, support groups, domestic violence organizations, your social media friends, a realtor friend – these are all good places to start. You never know who knows someone who knows someone….
- Find a good family law attorney.
If your marriage is really miserable, it has probably been accumulating its toxicity for a long time. And that can make leaving a contentious process. Add children, assets and/or debts to the equation, and it becomes a road you don’t want to travel alone.
Someone who is an expert in family law can help guide you through all the important steps of leaving – finances, children, timing.
- Stop communication with your partner.
If you have children together, you will obviously have to communicate. But keep your communication to matters involving the kids.
And, as an extra precaution, document all your communication, no matter how innocuous it may seem. When did you talk/text/email/meet? What was said or done?
Keeping a journal dedicated to your divorce could prove to be very helpful if your partner tries to make things hard on you.
If you have no choice but to be in the same house, strive to create separation as much as possible. You don’t want to be drawn into arguments, crazy-making, or efforts to change your mind. (That’s why you’re in this position in the first place, right?)
- Seek professional help.
This is really an extension of building your village. It is so important that you don’t attempt to go through this process alone. While you’re multitasking with all the unfamiliar, painful, moving parts of divorce, your emotions will be taking a silent beating.
Whether you seek out a therapist, a life/divorce coach, a support group, a pro-bono legal advisor, or all of the above, you need them. You need their empathy, their knowledge, their resources, their clarity, and their strength.
This is one of the most important gifts you can give yourself as you navigate one of the most difficult decisions you will ever make.
If you’ve tried everything you can to make things work, but you’re losing your spirit and sense of self, you probably already know the answer.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a life and divorce coach who helps people, just like you, who question how to escape a miserable marriage. You can download your FREE copy of “Contemplating Divorce? Here’s What You Need To Know”. And if you’re interested in working with me personally, you can book an introductory 30-minute private coaching session with me.