Divorce is rarely easy. It marks the end of something you thought would last forever – through thick and thin. And when your dreams are destroyed, moving forward from the destruction can be really, really hard. What you need to know first is you’re not alone. Struggling with life after divorce is pretty common.
If fact, at least 50% of everyone who divorces struggles with moving on with their lives. I know this because there’s usually one spouse who decides divorce is the answer while the other wants to work on the marriage. And, as you know, it only takes one to make the decision to divorce.
However, not everyone who decides divorce is the answer to the problems in their marriage finds it easy to move on with their life. Many of the deciders struggle with life after divorce too.
So, if you’re struggling with your life after divorce, you also need to know that you can get through it. You can create a new life for yourself that feels good. And, yes, you can be genuinely happy again.
Here are 7 steps for you to take that can make your life after divorce better:
Cut yourself some slack.When I got divorced, I wanted to be able to move on with my life ASAP. I felt frustrated that I was struggling with my life after divorce. As a result, I wasn’t patient with myself. I kept pushing and tried to force myself to feel better.
As you’ve probably guessed, that was a recipe for prolonged misery.
What I learned (and what I teach my clients now) is that you can’t force your emotions to just change. But what you can do is make different choices about how you perceive and work through them.
For instance, if you feel a wave of anxiety because you’re struggling with something, you can take a deep breath (or several) and choose to look at what’s the fear behind the anxiety. And once you understand the fear you can figure out what action you can take to address the concern.
It may seem counterintuitive, but by taking appropriate action, you are actually cutting yourself some slack. Instead of beating yourself up for feeling a certain way, you’re first understanding your emotions and then being proactive about dealing with them.
Allow yourself the time you need to grieve.Grief is a normal part of divorce. You’ve lost a way of life.
It’s important that you allow yourself the time you need to grieve. And the time you need will be COMPLETELY different from the time your former spouse needs.
One of the most common mistakes I see people make when it comes to grief is they compare themselves to their former spouse. They believe that if their ex is feeling better, then they should too. Then there are others who believe that if their ex is feeling bad, then they should too.
I was one of those people who struggled with my ex feeling bad – at first. And then I struggled with him feeling better.
Everyone heals at their own rate. And, frankly, it can take some time.
(However, there is such a thing as getting stuck in your grief. This is called complicated grief. If you’re concerned that you’re dealing with complicated grief, you’ll want to reach out to a therapist for diagnosis and support.)
Nurture yourself.One of the things that can often fall by the wayside when you’re struggling with life after divorce is simply taking care of and being kind to yourself. It can seem as if there’s just too much going on as you figure out how to create a new life for yourself. Yet it’s critical that you nurture yourself, so you can have the energy – physically and emotionally – to do all you want and need to do.
Nurturing looks different for everyone. You may like massages or long walks or binge-watching a TV series or napping or exercising or spending time with friends or reading or ….
It’s not so important what it is that you find rejuvenating. What’s important is that you regularly take the time to care for yourself.
Begin to dream a little.Many people get so caught up struggling with life after divorce that they forget to think about the future and how wonderful it can be. Yet, if you allow yourself to anticipate something good that you’re looking forward to – big or little – you’ll find that the positive flow of emotions can actually help pull you through the tough stuff and toward the good stuff.
What’s a dream you’re looking forward to becoming a reality?
Become curious.When you’re focused on the struggle of life after divorce, it can be really hard to recognize anything good about it. Yet there is good – even if the only good you can see right at this moment is that you woke up this morning.
And I’ll bet there’s more that’s good about your life right now. One of the best ways to find it is by shifting your perspective. And curiosity is one of the best ways to shift perspective and focus.
When I was going through my divorce, I felt incredibly alone, unloved, and unlovable. And I kept focusing on that. And the more I focused on that the more alone, unloved, and unlovable I felt.
However, I had family and friends who continued to volunteer to help me. When I started asking myself why they were doing this, I was able to shift my perspective and recognize they were doing this because they loved me.
The change in my experience was pretty dramatic. I stopped feeling sorry for myself because I now had “proof” that I was indeed loved and lovable and could choose not to be alone.
Develop new friendships.Another way many people struggle with life after divorce is feeling they don’t fit in with their friends any longer. This often happens if most of your friends are married.
The experience of being single is different than being married. And you may find it uncomfortable only having married friends because you feel like a third wheel.
That was definitely my experience. I loved all of my married friends and yet there were some things about my life that they just couldn’t relate to – like dating or not having another adult in the house.
And so, I decided to take a divorce recovery workshop. In it I met lots of people – women and men – who were having the same types of struggles I was. In fact, a couple of the women in that class became very dear friends. (And, yes, I did go out on first dates with 2 of the men.)
Ask for help.Finally, when you’re struggling with life after divorce, it can be challenging to remember that you don’t have to do everything on your own. When you were married it was probably fairly simple to ask your spouse for help. However, when you divorce you know you don’t have access to their support as you once did. You can feel all alone as a result.
Yet there are plenty of people who can help. Chances are your family and friends will be happy to help if you simply ask. You can also hire people to do the chores that you just don’t have the time or the skills or desire to do.
And if the struggles you’re facing feel like too much to handle, you can work with a helping professional, like a divorce coach, to support you in getting back on track.
Initially, life after divorce is a struggle for most people. However, by following the 7 steps above, you can find your way to living a life you love again.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you’re tired of struggling with life after divorce and would like some support, you can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice or you can schedule a 30-minute private consultation with me and together we can begin putting together a plan for the next best steps you can take to start feeling better.