Hindsight, we all know, is 20/20. Sometimes it comes with regret – “If only I could do it over.” And sometimes there’s the realization that you had no other healthy choice. Sometimes you have the time and resources to prepare. And other times you have to take a leap of faith. Divorce, like other major life changes, is no different. Knowledge is power, and acquiring it means asking the right questions. How hard is life after divorce? What do I need to know before calling it quits? This is just a starting point for choosing your path at that unanticipated fork in the road.
In the long run, how easy/difficult, hopeful/defeating, encouraging/frightening, relieving/stressful a situation is depends more on you than it does on the situation.
But that doesn’t mean the situation can’t or won’t stack the deck against you. And, if and when it does, it will force you to choose – not only your next move, but your attitude toward its outcome, as well.
Getting used to life after divorce, no matter how easy or difficult, is a journey. The divorce process itself may be a loaded list of time-sensitive must-do’s. But, once your divorce is final, all those calendarized imperatives will take a back seat to changes that have their own timelines. (Or no timelines at all.)
How hard is life after divorce? Well, let’s take a look at some of the unavoidable changes that will inevitably challenge your sense of normalcy and test your perseverance.
Life as you know it no longer exists.You are no longer a husband or wife. You no longer share a home, life, or dream-for-the-future with a spouse.
You no longer sleep next to another heartbeat or have a sexual partner.
If you have children, holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations will now be more complicated and potentially divided and lonely.
You will no longer be making joint decisions, except when it comes to your children (assuming you will be co-parenting).
If you are a woman, you may have that awkward decision of whether or not to change your last name. And do you now have to check the “Ms.” box on forms? (Men really do have it much easier in the name department.)
You are going to lose more connections than just your spouse.It’s just the way life goes when there is major change. Some friends stay true, some choose sides, and some move on.
Even some relationships with family members can become awkward.
You will be struck by the different reasons that people come (and stay) together. Some friends connect only as couples. Others form their alliances by gender or common interests or experiences. Some connect with other adults only because their children are friends or schoolmates.
And some friends may transfer lingering emotions from their own divorces (or current marriages) onto you.
Your finances and lifestyle will likely take a hit.When you ask How hard is life after divorce?, chances are you have money at the forefront of your mind. How much money am I going to get in this divorce? How long will I be able to survive on it? Will I have to work until I die just to survive?
The reality is that both you and your spouse will face financial and material losses. You will be splitting your assets, paying for two domiciles, and, if you have children, providing “two lives” for them.
You will also have the cost of divorce to consider. And, if your divorce is going to be complicated or contested, it could get quite costly. (And that means less for you in your settlement.)
Finally, if you are a woman, you may have a harsh reality to face. Women, in general, suffer up to twice the financial hardship that men do after divorce.
If you have sacrificed your career to have and raise children, you will have lost years in the workforce.
You may not have the skills necessary to start a career with the earning potential you need to maintain even a fairly recognizable lifestyle. And you may never be able to earn at the rate your husband now does.
Grief is going to be along for the ride. It just is.You may have an attitude of “good riddance” toward your future ex. But you are still going to be flooded with emotions surrounding the loss of your marriage.
Even if you know in your heart that your marriage was unsalvageable, you will still grieve the loss of what you once believed would last forever.
And that can be a shock when you are trying your best to be strong and move forward with your life.
Your kids are going to go through a major adjustment and may demonstrate behavioral changes.It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to realize that children whose parents are divorcing are going to suffer. Even if the divorce will put an end to a toxic home environment, children will experience it as an implosion of all they have known.
Your relationship with your children is going to change, too. Depending on your final custody arrangement, you may see them only half-time after the divorce.
As resilient as kids are, they also thrive on consistency, dependability, and safety. They will now have to navigate two homes and potentially other changes like new schools and new rules.
It stands to reason that your own journey through grief will be accompanied by theirs.
When your focus is (understandably) How hard is life after divorce?, you can easily overlook all the potential good in your new life.
You may not believe you have control over the outcomes of divorce. But you have more control – at least more influence – than you would imagine.
Life as you know it may no longer exist. But divorces don’t happen unless “life as you know it” isn’t serving you.
You may have to say good-bye to many things you loved. But you will now have the opportunity to create life on your terms.
People may exit your life – suddenly or over time. But that choice is about them. It’s about where they are in their lives, just as your divorce is about where you are in yours.
When you learn to thank people for their roles in your life and then bless them on their way – even if only in your heart – your life opens to receiving. You will be amazed by the friends who come into your life – at just the right time, in just the right way.
Your finances and lifestyle may seem like hardships in your post-divorce life. But you always have the option to embrace a perspective of both appreciation and opportunity.
What feels like a step backward may actually be an opportunity to “step back” – to focus on what matters most in your life. It may also be an opportunity to take chances toward your personal dreams that you may have otherwise deferred to your marriage.
Grief, as unwelcome a companion as it may seem, actually has your highest good at heart. It is, for all its complexity and predictable unpredictability, an agent of cleansing, clarity, and resurrection.
It gives you a safe place to engage the struggle of loss and come out the other side, miraculously resilient and resolute.
And your children, for all they add to your decision-making and worry, will prove to be your greatest gift. They will be your mirror, your compass, your motivation, and your inspiration for new and enduring rituals.
Life after divorce may be hard. But its promise is always waiting to be embraced.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a divorce and life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in putting together the pieces so you can begin living your happy life.