Nine realistic and practical tips to help you with your journey of healing from an unwanted divorce.
There is a saying in psychology that “All relationships end. Someone either leaves or dies.”
If you are wondering how to get over an unwanted divorce, this may be small, if any, consolation. Especially if you have been deeply invested in the relationship, it may actually sound dismissive.
In a general comparative sense, divorce is similar to death. Both are final losses, whether of people, dreams or both.
If you have been left holding the grenade of an unwanted divorce, you probably have some “yeah, but’s” to add to that argument.
“Yeah, but death doesn’t mean you still have to see the other person.”
“Yeah, but death isn’t done ‘to’ you.”
“Yeah, but death doesn’t leave you feeling unlovable.”
Being left to figure out how to get over an unwanted divorce can also leave you feeling shamed, isolated and rejected. Your emotions will run the gamut of anger, guilt and a willingness to do anything to save your marriage.
What you may not expect is the difference in the empathy and support received in the case of death versus an unwanted divorce.
While you feel the same degree of pain in both losses, your support system can be divided, even somewhat judgmental, when it comes to divorce.
Knowing how to get over an unwanted divorce starts with accepting that the marriage really is ending. Even though it is only natural to feel shell-shocked and to react out of anger or desperation when you learn your spouse wants a divorce.
Crazy as it sounds, you may want nothing to do with him/her again, while prostrating yourself before her/him in a plea to work things out. Heck, you may actually think that death would have been the better option.
The end of your marriage may not be your choice; but how you navigate out of it unequivocally is. So buckle up. Expect some turbulence...and set your sights on a new destination.
Tips on how to get over an unwanted divorce:
- Expect to grieve.
The nature of the loss doesn’t matter. It’s a loss. Your dreams with this person have been yanked out of your heart forever, and the sting is real.
Allow yourself to process through the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), but give yourself a time limit. Pretending to be “over it” too soon will only suck you into stuffing your feelings and repeating old scripts. Putting no limits on your grief will keep you stuck in self-pity and isolation.
- Do not expect time to heal all wounds.
While it is imperative to embrace the grieving process, expecting to come out the other side with an “all’s forgotten” new take on life is unrealistic.
Yes, time does extend the grace of healing for many wounds. But some are always going to be there.
The gift of time is to diminish their sting so that you can shift your perspective on the pain. One day you will appreciate it as an opportunity to learn and grow.
- Love thyself.
Focus on self-love. Of all the expert advice you will receive, none will be as important as this.
So let me say it again: Love thyself. Remember that you are worthy of love.
Your self-esteem has taken a beating, and you may feel deeply scarred as unworthy and unlovable. But your life going forward has to reflect that you can find true happiness without relying on someone else. You do not need to be “completed” by another person.
- Remember who you were before your marriage.
It is easy and natural for spouses to surrender much of their individuality to the joint identity of the marriage. Go back and contemplate who you were before you did that.
What did you dream of doing for yourself? For the world? This is a ripe time to foster those interests in an assertive, enthusiastic way. Take classes. Travel. Redecorate. Make bold plans. Honor your individuality.
- Get reacquainted with yourself.
In addition to remembering who you were prior to your marriage, nurture your intimacy with who you are today. What makes you happy?
Perhaps your marriage helped you to discover new sources of joy. It is a wonderful element of healing to be able to identify those things and bless them as you bravely explore your new life.
Not everything has to be thrown out just because it grew out of a marriage that is now over. The important thing here is to respond affirmatively to the calling of your own spirit.
- Build a support system.
Surround yourself with dependable, compassionate, non-judgmental people to help you through this time. Turn to people (family, friends, a therapist, a divorce coach) who will motivate you to work on yourself, and stand by you as you do.
- Take care of yourself.
The magic of this otherwise painful journey is that you now have the fresh opportunity to become your best self. Experiment. Play. Pamper. Be kind to yourself. And remind yourself what it feels like to be loved and cared for...by the person who does that better than anyone...you.
- Focus on important life goals.
When you are navigating how to get over an unwanted divorce, it is natural to get stuck in the belief that there is no long-term future for you.
Instead, make the conscious commitment to goals that will benefit you in the long term and not simply provide temporary relief. Consider taking classes, working toward professional advancement, and/or taking up a new exercise program.
- Take your time with new relationships.
The more you feel the craving to be connected again, the more you most likely need to focus on yourself. Rebound relationships serve no one, and can just confuse you and set you back. (Although transitional relationships where both parties know that’s what the relationship is can be extremely helpful.)
Give yourself the time to “come into your own” again. Become your best self so that you have something to offer the next person and clarity when seeking someone new.
Divorce is a gut-wrenching time no matter what leads to it. But when your spouse initiates it, to your surprise and/or disappointment, it sweeps another set of painful emotions into the mix.
If you are experiencing this one-sided decision and don’t know how to get over an unwanted divorce, start with the tips above. You will notice that they all have a singular focus: you. And at a time when you can feel incredibly abandoned and rejected, you can experience the cumulative effect of love-in-action by being your own best companion.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn, a divorce and life coach. If you would like additional help in getting over an unwanted divorce, I can help. 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.