Being newly divorced can feel like you're living in the Twilight Zone.
Being newly separated or divorced is a strange place. It's filled not only with all the physical and logistical changes of living alone, but also with a strange cocktail of emotions that seem to fluctuate wildly. One moment you're heartbroken. The next you're terrified. And then you're elated to be free of the marriage that wasn't really working. Then you slip into guilt about feeling good. It's a positively Twilight Zone existence.
At least that's how it was for me when I first separated from my ex. I felt completely lost, confused and utterly alone. I wasn't sure if what I was going through was normal or if I had lost my mind as well as my marriage.
The worst part was not knowing if I was still sane. Now I know that I was both still sane and a bit crazy, but that it was normal.
Just in case you're wondering if what you're experiencing is normal, I'll let you in on the 11 struggles only newly divorced women understand.
- Wondering if you're still sane. You have incredibly strange, frustrating and even obsessive thoughts exploding in your mind almost constantly. They are incessant and they wouldn't make sense at any other time, but somehow now they do.
- Having fleeting thoughts of suicide. This is one of the most unsettling thoughts that will pop into your mind. (If it's anything more than a fleeting thought - talk with someone about it immediately!) Your mind is on a constant search for a way to make things better and it's throwing everything against the wall to see what sticks. Just let this one fall to the ground.
- Experiencing guilt. It doesn't matter why your marriage ended. There's something you probably feel guilty about - even if it's just that you married your ex in the first place. You know that hindsight is 20/20 so there's no use in second guessing yourself now. Just learn what you need to learn and move forward.
- Having mood swings that make PMS seem tame by comparison. Remember all those strange and unsettling thoughts? Well, it's a bit of a chicken and egg thing with thoughts and emotions - which comes first? Do thoughts create the emotions or do the emotions create the thoughts.? Either way, as your thoughts careen around from one extreme thought to another, so will your emotions.
- Feeling positively giddy about being free to be you again. Except for when it terrifies you because you're not exactly sure who you are right now. But that's part of the true joy of divorce - rediscovering you!
- Figuring out how to do it all. Gone are the days of shared chores, dual income and shared parenting. No more tag teaming. You're it. You're the boss, the housekeeper and the solo parent. You now manage the finances, are the sole breadwinner, have complete responsibility for the kids (when they're with you) and maintain and fix the house, the yard, and the car.
- Living on less sleep than a parent of a newborn gets. One obvious result of doing it all is exhaustion. I'm not talking just physical exhaustion. You're weary to your bones mentally and emotionally too. Divorce turns your whole world upside down and inside out. It takes a sh*t-load of work to get your life working much less set it right again.
- Experiencing profound loneliness and pain. This is how you become emotionally drained. You grieve a million and one losses - some big and some small - as it sinks in a little more with every breath that your life will NEVER EVER be the same again.
You lose not only your spouse and their family, but you lose friends and having your kids around every day. The sense of rejection and shame that come with divorce combine with the loneliness to produce soul-crushing misery.
- Creating a new relationship with your ex. If you're one of the lucky ones, you don't have kids, or pets or a business with your ex. You can just walk away as soon as that decree is signed.
But it's usually more complicated than that. You want nothing to do with them (most of the time). But because they are your kids' other parent you're going to have to deal with them for the rest of your life.
Figuring out what that relationship needs to be now and how it needs to change in the future is one effing monumental headache. (And having fleeting thoughts of how much easier life would be if they just keeled over and died is fairly common.)
- Redefining who you are. As a spouse and parent, you made sacrifices and compromises for the sake of your relationship and family. Now that you're no longer your ex's spouse, you feel betrayed and used. And of course now you also feel enraged.
Instead of staying stuck with the anger, use that energy to try new things, have new experiences and redefine who you are because you're no longer their spouse. Now you're a person who just happens to be a terrific parent too.
- Dealing with the confusion of dating. Starting to date again is just plain weird. Sure there have been others you've noticed or even fantasized about over the years, but now you can actually be out there. Are you excited? Curious? Terrified? Conflicted?
If you're being completely honest, the answer is YES to all of those questions. You'll feel like you're cheating the first time you go out. People you've known for years will suddenly start looking at you in an entirely different way. You'll experiment with online dating. And your heart will be broken - again. But you'll get the hang of it.
There's nothing simple or easy about divorce. No one can begin to adequately describe the struggles, frustrations, fears, and exhaustion unless they've been through it themselves.
But those of us going through it (or who have been there in the past) get it. We know. And despite how you might feel at this exact moment, you're not alone and you're still sane.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and personal life coach helping people just like you who are dealing with the stress and pain of divorce. You can join my newsletter list for free weekly advice. And, if you're ready, you can take the first step toward working with me as your personal coach by scheduling a private consultation.